Foreign attach?s defy Kassam danger

Foreign military officers stroll solemnly through Kibbutz Yad Mordechai's Holocaust museum.

yad mordechai 224 (photo credit: Liam Getreu)
yad mordechai 224
(photo credit: Liam Getreu)
While Kassams rockets rained down on the western Negev on Tuesday, a group of foreign military officers defied the danger and strolled solemnly through the paths of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and its Holocaust museum. The field trip, attended by some 30 military attachés from around the globe, was organized by the IDF's Foreign Liaison Department ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, to be commemorated starting Wednesday night. The attachés - including officers from the US, Italy, Ecuador, Portugal, China, Brazil and Germany - toured the battlefields surrounding the kibbutz where outnumbered and outgunned Israeli forces staved off an Egyptian army invasion for five days during the War of Independence. The kibbutz is named for Mordechai Anilewicz, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. "We brought the attachés to Yad Mordechai since the kibbutz symbolizes three different monumental periods in Israeli history," Col. Dan Hefetz, head of the Foreign Liaison Department, said during the tour. "There is the Holocaust museum, the battlefields from 1948 and the current threat today - the Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza." The visit to Yad Mordechai is part of a series of events the Foreign Liaison Department is planning for the attachés as part of Israeli 60th anniversary celebrations. On Remembrance Day for those who fell in Israel wars, the officers will be invited to an air force ceremony; they will be hosted on Independence Day for a celebratory toast at Beit Hanassi (the President's Residence); and will meet several days later with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and other military brass. Hefetz, who spent a year-and-a-half at the French National Defense College before taking up his current post, said the attachés were an important link for Israel to militaries around the world. In recent months, the IDF has held several conferences for the attachés, including on the role of women in the IDF and on Israel's missing soldiers. "Today's conflicts are of a low-intensity nature, spanning sometimes several years, and international relations are a key element needed when managing them," he said, giving as an example the current conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, located just under the kibbutz's hills. Standing under a statue of Anilewicz, Italian Brig.-Gen. Nicola Gelao, dean of the military attachés in Israel, said the foreign officers had much to learn about Israel's history. "It is a great privilege to be involved in these events and it is not so common to know the stories," Gelao said. "There are many points of view and positive experiences to learn from and to share with one another."