Shaul Afek: Last hero of the Night of the Bridges

Afek (originally Pinchuk) was born in Ein Harod and who later moved to Kfar Yona, near Netanya.

Technion–Israel Institute of Technology (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Technion–Israel Institute of Technology
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Shaul Afek, another of the heroes of the founding generation of the state that sabotaged the British Mandate authorities and later fought in the War of Independence died on Tuesday, aged 92.
Afek (originally Pinchuk) was born in Ein Harod and who later moved to Kfar Yona, near Netanya.
Like so many adolescents of his time, Afek joined the Palmach when he was only 16. A year later, he participated in what is historically known as the “Night of the Bridges,” a Hagana operation aimed at destroying eleven bridges to foil the transport routes of the British Army.
Afek was part of a small Palmach group from Kfar Yona tasked with blowing up the Nahal Akhziv bridge which ran over the railway between Palestine and Lebanon.  That particular operation failed and 14 were killed and five wounded and of that group, Afek was the last survivor.
In May 1948, he led a small group of soldiers against the 5th Iraqi Brigade. A ceasefire brokered by the United Nations was due to go into effect on June 11, 1948, and the Arabs wanted to capture as many Jewish settlements as possible before the deadline. A force from the Iraqi Army was asked to help in this mission and was intending to conquer Netanya which was both a harbor town and an economic hub. Had they succeeded, they would have split the fledgling country in two.
En route to Netanya, they decided to capture Kfar Yona.
Afek had only seven bullets at his disposal, but he was apparently, a very good shot, and aimed them at the Iraqi ammunitions supply which blew up, and stopped the Iraqi brigade in its tracks.
The Iraqis could not know the size of the force that had faced them, and under the circumstances, they abandoned their plans and did not proceed.
For some time afterwards, Afek remained in the army and was sent as a military attache to Brazil. Later, after entering civilian life, he was a representative of the Technion in Canada.
He was called back into the army and became a deputy commander of the Golani Brigade. With the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967, he was a senior officer in Central Command and was among the troops who entered the Jerusalem’s Old City.
Like so many Israeli soldiers who fought in wars not of their making, he was essentially a family man and a man of peace. His son-in-law, Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog, described him as “a wonderful father and grandfather.”
Afek died barely a month and a half after the death of his wife, Zvia. For their daughter, Michal Herzog, two grievous losses in such a short time, was extremely painful, but with the grief was the realization that her parents had been so close to each other for so many years that they simply could not be apart.
She drew some comfort from the knowledge that they are together again.