By Lydia Aisenberg
In September, 1997, 12 members of Israel’s naval commando unit Shayetet 13 were killed as they set down on a southern Lebanese beach.
The deaths of the elite commandos sent shockwaves throughout the country as the news filtered through to the general public.
Under the command of Lt-Col Yossi Korakin, the unit had entered southern Lebanon via the sea with the intention of planting explosives alongside the main Lebanese Tyre to Sidon coastal road.
As they landed on the designated beach head powerful explosions took the lives of 10 of the navy seals and also that of their commander, Korakin.
In a heroic rescue, the surviving four navy commandos and the bodies of their fallen comrades, apart from one who was later returned to Israel in an exchange with Hezbollah, were brought back to Israel.
In that operation, another commando, a doctor, died during an exchange of gunfire. The devasting Shayetet 13 operation is an ongoing controversy in Israel to this day.
From time to time, varying theories have been proffered, ranging from a well-planned Hezbollah ambush through information gleaned from a downed Israeli drone, to surmising that explosives being carried by the commandos themselves were accidentally activated.
One of the 12 Israeli commandos who died that disastrous day in 1997 in Lebanon was 22-year-old Raz Tebbi.
Yardena and Nachshon, the parents of the young Navy seal, relocated in recent years to the rapidly developing city of Harish in central Israel where a heart-wrenching and impressive memorial to their fallen son Raz is set in a new children’s playground which was recently inaugurated.
Harish is situated 110 metres above sea level on the Israeli side of the Green Line (1948 Armistice Agreement) opposite the West Bank town of Qaffin, the Israeli coastline and the ancient port of Caesarea just a mere 20 minutes drive across country from the rapidly expanding town, a small part of which until the mid-1980s was an Israel Defence Force base, later the site of a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz by the same name, but which floundered and disbanded within a decade.
The memorial garden, playground and recreational area in the name of Raz Tebbi is laid out on a hill where visitors directly look over a portion of the Cross-Israel Highway below, the rooftops of Kibbutz Ma’anit, the outskirts of Hadera and on most days, it is clear enough to gaze out to sea.
An enormous black marble stone is adorned with a photograph of Raz in his Israel navy uniform, the insignia of Shayetet 13 depicted alongside his name in Hebrew, underneath which the exact date and where he fell in action participating in the ill-fated operation.
In the lower portion of Gan Raz, as the area is now known in Hebrew and the ‘Raz Lookout’ in English, a white marble sculpture and the Shayetet 13 emblem planted in flowers centred on a lawn nearby.
As children scramble up the climbing frames or swing high to and fro from that level of the play area, they soar above the memorial below and can see even further out to sea.
For visitors who want to know more about the young man and the mission to Lebanon, an illustrated display board points out each community and town visible between the site and the coast below and also provides audio information in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Amharic about Raz, his comrades and that particular mission.
The site is surrounded by new three and four-storeyed apartment blocks, built in white stone and with attractive balconies.
On the fourth side of the inviting recreational area and Raz Tebbi’sal impressive memorial, is a stunning view across the narrow waistline of the State of Israel and out to the Mediterranean sea where the young Israeli naval commando and his fellow navy seals trained, and from where they sailed for a final time in 1997.
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