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New nation, new love: Israel's first soldiers forged lasting bonds on the frontlines

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While only a few girls had bona fide combat roles, they were intimately involved in the preparations and operations of the elite Palmach forces – and the boys couldn’t help but notice their female comrades. The war, which resulted in the displacement of at least 700,000 Palestinians, was a nakba or “catastrophe” in Arab eyes. But the love forged within the intimate bounds of the Palmach has proven surprisingly durable.

The Ofers have hosted alumni of their platoon every year for 45 years. Among them are Haim Ghouri, one of Israel’s best-known poets, and Elad Peled, who went on to serve as Yitzhak Rabin’s right-hand man and later as deputy mayor of Jerusalem under legendary mayor Teddy Kollek. Almost none of the couples have divorced. Many have marked 60 years or more of marriage.

He threw a love note from ambulance

On May 10, 1948, just five days before Israel declared independence, Mr. Peled – Berman and Ofer's 19-year-old platoon commander - was injured in a battle in the northern Galilee town of Safed. Ofer helped him hobble off the field and after a brief stay in a local hospital, Peled was evacuated to Tel Aviv, where his parents were living. He had no way of contacting his girlfriend, Zimra Flex, who was in Jerusalem and also served in the Palmach.

But when he awoke in the makeshift ambulance en route to Tel Aviv, he learned they were in Pardes Hanna – the town where Ms. Flex’s parents lived.

Peled, who at the time went by his father’s Polish name of Reisfeld, asked the driver to stop and give him a piece of paper and a pen.

He wrote: “To the Flex family: My name is Elad Reisfeld. I am wounded. I am being taken to a hospital near Tel Aviv. If you know something about Zimra, tell me.” With that, he folded the piece of paper and threw it out the window.

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