Today is Yom Hazikaron, the day on which Israel remembers those who fell in its wars—and that serves as the prelude to Independence Day, which begins this evening. For this occasion, Ofer Aderet tells the story of Yaakov Fadida, a Jewish boy from Tiberias who was only fifteen in 1948, when the War of Independence broke out. The local Haganah commander Nahum Av repeatedly rejected Fadida as too young when he tried to enlist, finally telling him that there weren’t enough guns to go around. But Fadida, eager to join his older brothers in fighting for his nascent country, persisted. (Free registration may be required.)
The next day Fadida came back with a pistol. “Since I heard you didn’t have enough guns on your hands, I laid an ambush at the entrance to the Arab neighborhood and when an armed Arab came by I surprised him, threatened him with a knife, and took his gun from him,” Fadida told Av. After Av took away his pistol, Fadida once again took a pistol from its Arab owner. “Having no choice, Yaakov was added to the group of fighters,” says Av.
Av described one of the heroic acts attributed to little Fadida as “saving a number of fighters from certain death.” This happened when an armored bus carrying equipment to a besieged position in the city ran over a landmine. The bus caught fire and Arab fighters began shooting at the occupants.
Fadida and his comrades were sitting in a nearby position and could see what was happening. The fifteen-year-old . . . collected hand grenades from his fellow soldiers, climbed over the roofs of the nearby houses, approached the Arab positions, and began throwing grenades at them. “A panic broke out among the Arabs, the shooting stopped, some of them were wounded and the rest abandoned their positions and fled for their lives,” Av recounts. “When the shooting stopped, Yaakov called on our guys to come out of the burning armored bus and directed them [to safety].”
Fadida was killed in battle on April 22, 1948, possibly by friendly fire.