The hero reservist who disobeyed orders to drive south to fight Hamas

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The hero reservist who disobeyed orders to drive south to fight Hamas

Nimrod Palmach, who engaged terrorists in a kibbutz, says he has now been forgiven by his commanding officer in Jerusalem

IDF Reservist Major Nimrod Palmach has spoken of what he did and saw on 7 October
IDF Reservist Major Nimrod Palmach has spoken of what he did and saw on 7 October

The order from his company commander on the morning of 7 October was to report to his army HQ near Jerusalem, where his reservist search and rescue team is based.

Instead, Nimrod Palmach drove south, to the kibbutzim near the Gaza border, having seen and heard what was happening down there.

Palmach, whose day job involves networking and outreach across the Arab world, got through several army checkpoints, but at a special forces checkpoint near Netivot around 9am, he was stopped from going any further.

A former special forces soldier himself, Palmach felt under-equipped, armed only with a pistol, but nevertheless hopped on a pick-up truck being allowed through and soon found himself fighting alongside an unnamed unit and in harm’s way.

“It was only when I got there that I realised how bad it was,” he says, speaking to Jewish News. “I took a few calls and said ‘if you have a gun come here now, you’ll save lives.’ I said that to anyone who called or messaged.”

As documented in other media, Palmach says his actions – together with those of other Israeli soldiers – saved further deaths that day in places like Alumim. He also says that he will never forget the carnage he witnessed in places like Be’eri.

“I saw the Holocaust,” he says. “So many dead bodies, many mutilated. Hamas terrorists took their time. We didn’t have an army that day. I’ve seen what happens to the Jewish people without an army.

“I saw it all – women raped, dead kids in cars, families burned, some with body parts, some without. And the damage to the buildings, like a tornado passed.”

Nimrod Palmach stands amidst the devastation wrought by Hamas on 7 October

He sought help. “I immediately knew that you cannot not be affected by that. I spoke to people and wrote down what I saw. This helps to process it, to put it in the right place in my mind and in my heart.”

Palmach, who spent five years in the special forces, says he wanted to go into Gaza, but for reasons that may seem less obvious. “I wanted to go not for revenge but to see the Israeli army in a strong position. The army was caught by surprise that day. I want to see the strength and power of the IDF again.”

He has just returned from a trip to the UK where he visited shuls and met lawmakers. “Militarily, I think we’re doing the right thing,” he says. “We’re moving slowly, taking our time. You can’t clean Gaza in a week.

“We’re not shooting then checking, we’re checking then shooting. That’s what we do. We’re obligated in our moral fabric to bring the hostages back. We can strike Hamas to the point where it’s no longer a threat. I think the strategy is right.”

Commenting on the reaction of peers and counterparts from across the Arab world, he says: “First, they sent condolences. Then, when we hit back, they stopped writing. It’s OK, I’m optimistic. It’s not easy to take a stand.”

Asked if he had any messages, he says the events of 7 October “help to show why it’s so important for the Jewish people to have autonomy and to have a strong army to protect us, not to attack others, because antisemitism still exists”.

He added: “It’s a matter of ability. If they [Hamas] had the ability, they’d have gone all the way to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that day. Wherever there is evil, you have to take a stand against it.

“That’s why I flew to Ukraine on the day war broke out. When evil breaks out, it doesn’t stay still. Eventually it comes to your back garden. You have to go and stop it, no matter how far away it is. In Auschwitz, we prayed that someone would come and stop it from far away, and they did.”

Having recently met Conservative MPs and Lords, who he describes as “friends”, Palmach said Israel and the UK “share values of rights, dignity, love, empathy, whereas the other side cherishes death and hatred… We value the same things”.

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