Uri: Look, you have to realize, it was a fight to the death, and that's how it felt and this was also the historic reality… sure… it was a battle for life. So this was felt also in the Galilee and it was certainly felt [to be this way] in Gush Etzion. So there was no question – it was a question of surviving and building the state or this whole story would end.
Ranin: What orders did you have during the fighting, you said you didn't fight?
Uri: I wasn't in battles where they took villages.
Ranin: But your other friends who were… How was that state of mind articulated in the orders given at the time?
Uri: The orders were to take this or that hill, or that village, capture the village. What do you mean how?
Ranin: What did they do? How did they capture?
Uri: They shot them until they surrendered or fled, what do you mean how? Like you fight.
Geula: When I was in Safed I used to work in the product warehouse, so now and then they would bring products, I asked from where, so now I can't remember too well what they answered me, but now that you're asking this, that they plundered it from the homes of the Arab inhabitants.
Uri: Who had abandoned
Geula: Who left
Uri: Of course we looted, here too. Sure, we were, there was this team, we called it the Dismantling Team. We used to dismantle roofs, sure – from whatever was useful we took.
Ami: Do you know of any villages in the Gush Etzion area?
Uri: No [Palestinian] villages were destroyed in Gush Etzion during the war
Ami: One village called Khirbet Zakkariah, rings a bell?
Uri: Sure, this was a village located right at the heart of the Gush, it exists to this day.
Ami: Are you sure?
Uri: Certainly, sure, they exist, they're there
Ami: No, but during the war…
Uri: They ran off after the Convoy of the Ten [December 11, 1947]
Ami: Why did they run?
Uri: They feared revenge.
There was a huge battle on January 14. The attackers were under the command of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, who was the commander of what we used to call the gangs of the entire Jerusalem and Judea area. They were, experts estimate the number of the attackers at about a thousand. They cut through the Gush, arriving up to the first houses of Khirbet Zakkariah…
Ami: Who were abandoned?
Uri: No, not abandoned, it was held by the student reinforcement unit from Jerusalem, it was the Gush's strongpoint – it was a key strategic location.
Ami: But the villagers were no longer there?
Uri: No, they weren't.
Ami: And how do you…?
Uri: There was no problem, I didn't think there was any problem with it, as I told you before, it was a life-and-death situation, no question about it, they had left, and we made a stronghold here to defend the Gush.
In most cases, they fled due to fear, which intensified after the Dir Yassin incident. Clearly Dir Yassin is a watershed! Indeed, when our prisoners were driven from the Gush to Hebron, what did they shout at them on the way? Dir Yassin! That is Dir Yassin intensified their fear.
In talks with Etzel [Irgun] and Lehi [Stern Gang] people, they told me it was right to do this. That is, I believe they do not justify the Dir Yassin Massacre, but they believe Dir Yassin was instrumental in intensifying their fear and having them run away.
Ranin: Do you know what happened there?
Uri: They got tangled up in this… They didn't intend to commit murder there, they got tangled up in the fighting and in order to extricate themselves from the mess they got into and save themselves, so they slaughtered anyone they could.
A friend of mine who was in the movement with me started talking to me once and he told me that [this other friend] was in Lehi. We got to talk about that Dov Berman, this friend who was with me in HaShomer HaTzair and then left the movement. We knew he was in Lehi and he got killed. The commemorative plaque for Lehi's casualties in the Independence War reads: "Dov Berman – killed on this-and-that date in Ein Karem".
And he told me a story, he said: "Dov and I went to reconnoiter the village of Ein Karem, when it was still populated by Arabs. At one point… we had been ordered to provide information in preparation for an attack planned by Lehi against Ein Karem. At one point we split up and said, each will cover a sector and we will meet here again, and Dov did not return. I heard some shots and Dov did not return. There was no battle and no skirmish, no incident".
He thinks he took his own life, that Dov, and he thinks, this was not too long after Dir Yassin.
To remember what happened and not deny it. This is why I appreciate your work. Not to deny, and see what happened and then move forward. I will not leave the areas to enable the villagers of Kheime to return here.
Ami: What is Kheime?
Uri: A small village most of which land we now occupy.
Testimony by Uri Pinkerfeld, Palmach soldier, Born in Jerusalem in 1928, served in the Palmach's Third Battalion. Filmed with his wife Geula in Kibbutz Revadim
Interview, Filming and Editing by Ami Asher and Raneen Jeries