In fact, roughly half of his acquaintances in the Palmach fell in love and, like he and Berman, ended up getting married. Some 65 years before US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta opened the door for American women to fight in combat, teenage Jewish girls were ferrying weapons from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in their bras – a crime that carried a five-year prison term. They also provided first aid and operated radios that provided crucial coordination between units at a time when even parents didn’t know their own children’s whereabouts for months at a time.
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.