Zvika Greengold won Medal of Valor for 1973 stand against Syrians

Zvika Greengold was a somewhat reluctant 21-year-old Israel Defense Forces tank commander on leave at his kibbutz in the western Galilee when roughly 1,500 Syrian tanks and 1,000 artillery pieces drove across the border about 2 p.m. Oct. 6, 1973.

The surprise attack helped launch the Yom Kippur War.

Recognizing the signs of war, from plumes of smoke to flying formations of fighter jets, Greengold hitchhiked from Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, near Haifa, to the nearest army base.

Zvika Greengold made a heroic stand as a tank commander in the Yom Kippur War.

Zvika Greengold made a heroic stand as a tank commander in the Yom Kippur War.

The only tanks available were two damaged but usable British-made Centurions, and he quickly assembled a squad to go into battle in the Golan Heights. What became known as the Zvika Force sped to the front line and destroyed an estimated 20 to 40 Syrian tanks.

Under cover of night, Greengold halted the Syrian advance, tricking the enemy into thinking that the IDF reserves had arrived with reinforcements. His heroics earned Greengold the IDF’s highest award, the Medal of Valor, one of eight awarded for the Yom Kippur War and 40 ever given out.

Now 63 and a retired captain, Greengold will speak at The Temple on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at a Friends of the IDF Southeast Region event. He spoke to the Atlanta Jewish Times by phone from Israel.

AJT: How did you get invited to Atlanta?

Greengold: The FIDF contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me if I could give a presentation for people in Atlanta. I said, “With pleasure.” Then she asked me if I will take money for that. I said, “No, this is my mission since I was awarded the IDF Medal of Valor on behalf of many people who died in my brigade.” I look at myself as a representative of that, and my mission since then is to tell the story to anybody who wants to hear.

AJT: How often do you tell people about your story?

Greengold: I’m traveling over the last 42 years — in Israel mainly, but I have come to America before. I talk to students, soldiers and many other groups.

AJT: What should be the top priority for the state of Israel right now?

Greengold: My parents arrived to Israel in 1948 right as David Ben-Gurion declared Israel the home of the Jewish people. They left the refugee camps in Italy and built for themselves a home in a kibbutz and a family. One of the most important issues for our country is to be able to defend ourselves. From my point of view, the army of Israel is an army for the nation. It’s one of the most important things. Israel should not have to depend on anyone for protection.

AJT: Why is it so important for you to speak with people in America?

Greengold: To me, maintaining contact with our brothers overseas is very exciting. Of course, I want all of you to come and live in Israel, but still I think that the society of the United States and the values that you have influence Israel, and for us it is very good.

What: Legends and Heroes of the IDF: Yom Kippur War

Where: The Temple, 1589 Peachtree St., Buckhead

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8

Tickets: $50, or $36 for those under 35 (minimum donation to the FIDF annual campaign required); www.fidf.org/idflegends