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Hero of Entebbe Sasson Reuven to Mark 40th Anniversary of Raid

Whether the raid on Entebbe is recent history for us or a historical event that we only relate to through viewing the 1977 film Operation Thunderbolt, the story is as gripping today as it was 40 years ago on July 4, 1976. Rabbi Shalom Baum of Congregation Keter Torah is partnering with Rabbi Ephraim Simon of Friends of Lubavitch of Bergen County to relive this historic event with our community. On Wednesday evening, May 25, Keter Torah will host former Israeli Special Forces Commando Sasson Reuven who will share his remarkable story with our community. The hope is that younger members of the community will come out with parents and grandparents to hear the story of this heroic rescue from one of its heroic participants.

A native of Kfar Saba, “Sassy” completed high school in Beer Sheva. He began his IDF service in 1973, the day of the Yom Kippur War ceasefire. He was a member of the prestigious Red Beret/Paratrooper 890 Brigade unit and took part in many dangerous missions throughout his three years of service.

Shortly before his service was to be completed, he was summoned by Lt. Colonel Nechemia Tamari, with whom he had participated in many counter-terrorism missions. He was selected as one of 15 paratroopers in the Sayeret Matkal unit to be flown to Entebbe, Uganda to perform the highly critical mission of storming the air terminal where more than 100 Israeli hostages were being held at gunpoint. Reuven was among the first paratroopers to jump out of the first Hercules C-130 aircraft that landed in Entebbe seven minutes ahead of three additional transport planes.

Reuven recalls the level of sensory alert that he was on during the incredible mission. “This was not just another mission. It was something from above—not only to protect Jews but to rescue Jewish hostages. I felt privileged to be there and very eager to succeed. I prayed that things would go the right way.”

In what many referred to at the time as a nes galui, an open miracle, the mission was highly successful. Israel sent 140 commandos on a 2,500 mile journey to carry out a nighttime rescue operation that freed over 100 hostages in 90 minutes. Every one of the terrorists was killed in the operation. Four Israeli hostages were killed and four Israeli commandos were wounded. Tragically, Lt. Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, older brother of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was killed in the action. Overall, the mission was no less than a miracle.

For the Holocaust survivors among the hostages it had been a nightmarish reliving of their previous ordeal. For the Israelis and Jews from around the world it was another challenging event in the history of our people. For the commandos and IDF soldiers who took part in the mission it was an opportunity to display once again the Jewish pride, strength and determination that keeps our people going. According to Reuven, “Terrorism cannot persevere. Light will always overcome the darkness.”

The community is invited to hear this message directly from Sasson Reuven on May 25, 8 p.m., at Congregation Keter Torah, 600 Roemer Avenue, Teaneck.

By Pearl Markovitz

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