- This is a unique document. It was published in Yediot
Aharonot, Israel,s most widely circulated tabloid paper, on May 31, 2002.
It is the first absolutely sincere Israeli eye-witness testimony on what
actually happened in Jenin, by one of those who did it and are proud of
- After publication - and in spite of it - the unit
to which the man belongs received from the army command an official citation
for outstanding service.
- "I made them a stadium in the middle of the camp"
- I entered Jenin, driven by madness, by desperation,
in the worst condition possible.
- I told my wife: "If anything happens to me, at
least someone will take care of you".
- The funny bit was, I didn't even know how to operate
- Within two hours, they taught me to drive forwards,
and make a flat surface.
- I tied the Beitar, football team flag to the back of
the tractor and told them: "Move away, let me work.".
- For three days, I just erased and erased.
- I kept drinking whisky to fight off fatigue.
- I didn't see dead bodies under the blade of the D-9,
but I don't care if there where any.
- By Tsadok Yeheskeli Yediot Aharonot (Daily Newspaper)
- Moshe Nissim, nicknamed "Kurdi Bear",
the D-9 operator who became the terror of the Jenin refugee camp inhabitants,
speaks with no censorship about his time of glory.
"I entered Jenin driven by madness, by desperation, I felt I have
nothing to loose, That even if I get it,, no big deal.
I told my wife: "If anything happens to me, at least someone will
take care of you!".
I started my reserve service, in the worst conditions possible. Maybe
this is why I didn't give a damn. Not about explosive charges, not about
"My life was in deep shit for the past one and a half years. For
almost half a year I am suspended from work as a senior inspector in the
I worked there for 17 years, till that cursed day, January the 20th, exactly
my 40th birthday, when the police came and arrested me.
They said that I and my colleagues in the inspection unit are suspected
for being bribed by contractors and other business owners, that in fact,
we are a corrupted bunch.
"This is a terrible injustice. I am a very friendly guy, and in this
job you mix with people you inspect. But bribery? Me?
I am in debt for hundreds of thousands of Shekels long before all this
story. Had I taken bribes, I would have money, but I couldn't even pay
the lawyer. Since then I am suspended. My wife was fired as well, and I
have four children to keep.
"This was not the first blow. A few months earlier, I was injured
badly in my back, my wife was fired, and my son got run over and had to
be operated to save his leg.
Today he is OK, but his big dream, and mine, that he will once be a player
in the Beitar Jerusalem team, this dream is probably gone forever. Pity.
He was really talented. I have already promised him to get him into the
children's Beitar team.
"For two years, it is just one blow after another. I haven't got
a cent, but I love people. I cannot be indifferent. Every holiday, I distribute
food packages for the needy. The same at Passover. I ran around like crazy.
And just then, I started getting phone calls from the guys: "Kurdi",
they said, "we are all being recruited to do reserve service, but
you are not called."
"Truth is, that I understood my commanders. Hey, I,ve been doing
my reserves duty for 16 years now, and I was useless. I did nothing but
"During my obligatory regular service I was constantly sentenced
to prison, because I refused to be a vehicle electrician. In my unit as
well, in the tractor unit, I was supposed to be an electrician, but actually,
I did nothing, just messed around. I would come to the unit, and immediately
open a card table, open a bottle. If any officer would dare send me to
guard duty, I would send him first. Kurdi always did his thing.
If I felt like going to a Beitar football match, or going home, no one
could stop me. I would just start the car and go.
"Truth is, they didn't even know me. When I am given responsibility,
I can act differently, In the "Versailles" disaster I was
in charge of all the inspection team on location. When I was seen by
one of the guys of my military unit, he was shocked.
He said: "In the army you can't tie your shoelaces, and here you
are a big chief!"
The truth is that when I finally decide to do something, I am one stubborn
guy. I will go for it till the end. This time was one of those moments.
What haven't I done for them to take me? I sent the guys to twist the
battalion commander,s arm, I phoned the company commander, I drove them
mad. "I promise to work", I pleaded with the battalion commander.
Finally, he agreed to give me a chance.
"I said to myself: "Kurdi, you can't let them down. No more
- The speaker is Moshe Nissim, AKA "Moshe Nissim
In the Jenin refugee camp, he was called, over the military radio: "Kurdi
Kurdi, because this is the name he insisted on. Bear, after the D-9 he
was driving, demolishing house after house.
There was not one soldier in Jenin that did not hear this name. Kurdi
Bear was considered the most devoted, brave and probably the most destructive
A man, that the Jenin camp inquiry committee, would want very much to
have a word with.
For 75 hours, with no break, he sat on the huge bulldozer, charges exploding
around him, and erased house after house.
His story, which he tells openly and with no inhibitions, is far from being
a regular war myth. Medals, so it seems, will not be awarded for it. (Actually,
his company was later awarded a citation for outstanding service.)
- The experience
"The funny bit is, I didn't even know how to operate the D-9. I have
never been an operator. But I begged them to give me a chance to learn.
Before we went into Shekhem (Nablus), I asked some of the guys to teach
me. They sat with me for two hours. They taught me how to drive forwards
and make a flat surface.
"I took it on with no problem and told them: That,s it. Move aside
and let me work.,.
This is what happened in Jenin as well. I have never demolished a house
before, or even a wall. I got into the D-9 with a friend of mine, a Yemenite.
I let him work for an hour, and then told him, OK. I got the idea.,
"But the real thing started the day 13 of our soldiers were killed
up that alley in the Jenin refugee camp.
"When they brought us in, I knew that nobody wanted to work with
me. They were afraid to be with me on the tractor. Not only did I have
a reputation of a troublemaker, but also of a man who knows no fear, and
they were right about that. I really have no fear. They knew I had no
fear, that I don't give a damn, and that I can go anywhere, without asking
questions, without an escort of tanks or APC,s or anything. Once, in
Jenin, I left the tank that escorted us everywhere. I wanted to have a
spin around the camp, see what,s going on. Gadi, the other operator who
was with me, nearly fainted. He started going mad: Get back,, he shouted,
we have no escort!,, but I had to get to know the place better, to find
an exit, just in case we needed one. I was not afraid to die. At least
I was insured. This would have helped my family.
"When we got into the camp, the D-9,s were already waiting. They
where hauled from Shekhem (Nablus). I got the big D-9 L, me and the Yemenite,
my partner. First thing I did was to tie the Beitar team flag. I had it
prepared in advance. I wanted the family to be able to identify me. I
told the family and the kids: you will see my tractor on television. When
you see the Beitar flag, that will be me,. And this is exactly what happened.
"I know it sounds crazy, but for me, to hang this flag was completely
natural. Like eating. Here, look at this Beitar pendant around my neck.
It never comes off. Not off me, and not off the kids. I carry the Beitar
flags everywhere I go. Look at my car, all covered with these flags. This
is the way I am. I always go to the Beitar matches, in a Beitar colored
Galabia (an Arab man's dress), and a big drum of the Kurds from the Castel.
Once, after our first national championship, I took a ride on the roof
of a car, carrying the drum, all the way to Jerusalem.
"Beitar is a kink in my brain. There is no other way to explain it.
After my family, it is the most important thing in my life, and the only
thing that can kill me. In Jenin, I was not scared for a moment, but I
cannot go to the Beitar matches for half a year now. The suspense kills
me, and I am constantly afraid of getting a heart attack. Sometimes, I
can walk around Teddy (the main Jerusalem stadium) with a ticket in my
hand, and I can't go in. In one match, in Beit Shean, I fainted after they
scored a goal. I know how this sounds, but that,s the way it is. Incurable.
At home, they know better than to talk to me if Beitar lost a match.
"So now you understand why the Beitar flag was on the tractor in
Jenin. Someone told me that my commander wanted to take it off. But no
way. If I had a say in the matter, there would be a Beitar flag on the
top of the mosque in the camp. I tried convincing the Golani (an infantry
brigade of the Israeli army) officer I worked with to let me go up there
and hang it, but he refused. He said I would be shot if I tried. Pity.
"The flag was the most outstanding object in the camp. Reservists
who went home on short leave came back with Beitar flags, just to imitate
me. It made a lot of noise, my flag. The Golani soldiers were stunned.
You brought Beitar here,, they told me. And I said: I am going to make
a Teddy stadium here. Don't you worry.,.
"On the radio, they wanted to call me Moshe-Bear,, but I insisted
on Kurdi. I told the Golanis, I am Kurdi, and I won't answer if you call
me by any other name., That is how Kurdi Bear, was born. This is my
name, and I am stubborn.
"In the reserves, they already got used to my signature: Moshe Nissim
Beitar Jerusalem,.For a while they asked me to stop it, but finally they
just gave up.
- Going in
- "The moment I drove the tractor into the camp,
something switched in my head. I went mad. All the desperation, caused
by my personal condition, just vanished at once. All that remained was
the anger over what had happened to our guys. Till now I am convinced,
and so are the rest of us, that if we were let into the camp earlier,
with all our might, twenty-four soldiers would not have been killed in
"The moment I went into the camp, for the first time, I just thought
of how to help these soldiers. These fighters. Children the age of my
son. I couldn't grasp how they worked there, were a charge blows up on
you, with every step you take.
"With the first mission I was given, to open a track inside the camp,
I understood what kind of hell this was.
"My first mission, voluntarily, was to bring the soldiers food. I
was told: The only way to get food in there, is with the D-9,. They
haven't eaten in two days. You couldn't poke your nose out. I filled the
tractor till the roof, and drove the tractor right up to the door of their
post, so that they would not have to take even one step outside their
shelter. One step was enough in order to lose an arm or a leg.
"You could not tell where the charges were. They (the Palestinian
fighters) dug holes in the ground and planted charges. You would just
start driving, and you would hit a 3" pipe, welded on both ends.
As you touch them, they go off. Everything was booby trapped. Even the
walls of houses. Just touch them, and they blow up. Or, they would shoot
you the moment you entered. There were charges in the roads, under the
floor, between the walls. As you make an opening, something goes off. I
saw a bird cage blow up in some pet shop, where we opened a track. A flying
birdcage. I felt sorry for the birds. They just planted charges everywhere.
- "For me, in the D-9, it was nothing. I didn't
mind. You would just hear the explosions.
Even 80 Kilos of explosives only rattled the tractor,s blade. It weighs
three and a half tons. It,s a monster. A tank can get hit in the belly.
It,s belly is sensitive. With the D-9, you should only look out for RPG,s
or 50 Kilos of explosives on the roof. But I didn't think about it then.
The only thing that mattered was that these soldiers must not risk themselves
just to eat or drink something."
"I fell in love with those children. I was willing to do with my
tractor anything they would ask for. I begged for work: Let me finish
another house, open another track.,
They, in return, protected me. I would leave the tractor without weapons,
nothing. Just walked in. They told me I am mad, but I said: Leave me
alone. Anyhow, the armored vest will not save me., This is how I worked.
Even without a shirt. Half naked.
"Do you know how I held out for 75 hours? I didn't get off the tractor.
I had no problem of fatigue, because I drank whisky all the time. I had
a bottle in the tractor at all times. I had put them in my bag in advance.
Everybody else took clothes, but I knew what was waiting for me there,
so I took whisky and something to munch on.
"Clothes? Didn't need any. A towel was enough. Anyhow I could not
leave the tractor. You open the door, and get a bullet. For 75 hours I
didn't think about my life at home, about all the problems. Everything
was erased. Sometimes images of terror attacks in Jerusalem crossed my
mind. I witnessed some of them."
- The purity of our weapons
"What is opening a track,? You erase buildings. On both sides. There
is no other choice, because the tractor was much wider than their alleys.
But I am not looking for excuses or anything. You must shave, them. I
didn't give a damn about demolishing their houses, because it saved the
lives of our soldiers. I worked where our soldiers were slaughtered. They
didn't tell all the truth about what happened. they drilled holes in the
walls, holes for gun barrels. Anyone who escaped the charges, was shot
through these holes.
"I had no mercy for anybody. I would erase anyone with the D-9, just
so that our soldiers won't expose themselves to danger. That,s what I
told them. I was afraid for our soldiers. You could see them sleeping
together, 40 soldiers in a house, all crowded. My heart went out for them.
This is why I didn't give a damn about demolishing all the houses I,ve
demolished - and I have demolished plenty. By the end, I built the Teddy,
football stadium there.
"Difficult? No way. You must be kidding. I wanted to destroy everything.
I begged the officers, over the radio, to let me knock it all down; from
top to bottom. To level everything. It,s not as if I wanted to kill. Just
the houses. We didn't harm those who came out of the houses we had started
to demolish, waving white flags. We screwed just those who wanted to fight.
"No one refused an order to knock down a house. No such thing. When
I was told to bring down a house, I took the opportunity to bring down
some more houses; not because I wanted to - but because when you are
asked to demolish a house, some other houses usually obscure it, so there
is no other way. I would have to do it even if I didn't want to. They
just stood in the way. If I had to erase a house, come hell or high water
- I would do it. And believe me, we demolished too little. The whole
camp was littered with detonation charges. What actually saved the lives
of the Palestinians themselves, because if they had returned to their
homes, they would blow up.
"For three days, I just destroyed and destroyed. The whole area.
Any house that they fired from came down. And to knock it down, I tore
down some more. They were warned by loudspeaker to get out of the house
before I come, but I gave no one a chance. I didn't wait. I didn't give
one blow, and wait for them to come out. I would just ram the house with
full power, to bring it down as fast as possible. I wanted to get to the
other houses. To get as many as possible. Others may have restrained themselves,
or so they say. Who are they kidding? Anyone who was there, and saw our
soldiers in the houses, would understand they were in a death trap. I
thought about saving them. I didn't give a damn about the Palestinians,
but I didn't just ruin with no reason. It was all under orders.
"Many people where inside houses we started to demolish. They would
come out of the houses we where working on. I didn't see, with my own
eyes, people dying under the blade of the D-9. and I didn't see house
falling down on live people. But if there were any, I wouldn't care at
all. I am sure people died inside these houses, but it was difficult to
see, there was lots of dust everywhere, and we worked a lot at night.
I found joy with every house that came down, because I knew they didn't
mind dying, but they cared for their homes. If you knocked down a house,
you buried 40 or 50 people for generations. If I am sorry for anything,
it is for not tearing the whole camp down.
"I didn't stop for a moment. Even when we had a two-hour break, I
insisted on going on. I prepared a ramp, to destroy a four-story building.
Once I steered sharply to the right, and a whole wall came down. Suddenly
I heard shouting on the radio: Kurdi, watch it! It is us!, Turns out there
where our guys inside, and they forgot to tell me.
"I had plenty of satisfaction. I really enjoyed it. I remember pulling
down a wall of a four-story building. It came crashing down on my D-9.
My partner screamed at me to reverse, but I let the wall come down on
us. We would go for the sides of the buildings, and then ram them. If
the job was to hard, we would ask for a tank shell.
"I couldn't stop. I wanted to work and work. There was this Golani
officer who gave us orders by radio - I drove him mad. I kept begging
for more and more missions. On Sunday, after the fighting was over, we
got orders to pull our D-9,s out of the area, and stop working on our
football stadium,, because the army didn't want the cameras and press
to see us working. I was really upset, because I had plans to knock down
the big sign at the entrance of Jenin - three poles with a picture of
Arafat. But on Sunday, they pulled us away before I had time to do it.
"I bitched them to give me more work. I would tell them, over the
radio: Why are you letting me rest? I want more work!, All this time,
I was really sick. I had fever. I got back from Jenin wiped out. Torn
to bits. The next day, I went up again. One of the guys was ill, and I
volunteered to help. I got back there. The battalion-commander was in
shock when he saw me. The other operators all cracked up and needed rest,
but I refused to leave. I wanted more.
"I had lots of satisfaction in Jenin, lots of satisfaction. It was
like getting all the 18 years of doing nothing - into three days. The
soldiers came up to me and said: Kurdi, thanks a lot. Thanks a lot,.
And I hurt for the 13. If we had moved into the building where they
were ambushed, we would have buried all those Palestinians alive.
" I kept thinking of our soldiers. I didn't feel sorry for all those
Palestinians who were left homeless. I just felt sorry for their children,
who were not guilty. There was one wounded child, who was shot by Arabs.
A Golani paramedic came down and changed his bandages, till he was evacuated.
We took care of them, of the children. The soldiers gave them candy. But
I had no mercy for the parents of these children.
I remembered the picture on television, of the mother who said she will
bear children so that they will explode in Tel Aviv. I asked the Palestinian
women I saw there: Aren't you ashamed?,
"After I finished the work, I got out of the tractor, piled up some
clothes on the side of the road, and fell asleep. They looked after me,
so that I won't get run over by a tank or something. All the fatigue of
the past 75 hours just landed on me. There was a lot of excitement in
what I did. The fact that I did a good job operating the tractor, the
soldiers who came to me, after it was all over, and said: thank you,. This
was enough for me. I miss them. I,ve invited all of them for Kubeh at
my place. Their commander, Kobi, the one I worked with throughout the 75
hours, was amazed by the invitation.
Do you want the entire company to come over to your house?,
I told him: As far as I am concerned, bring the whole battalion.,
I phoned my mother, from the D-9, and told her that the whole battalion
was coming. She said: no sweat,. I am waiting for them".
"I know many people will think that my attitude stems from me being
a Beitar, and Likud, member. It is true. I am heavily on the right.
But this has nothing to do with what I have done in Jenin. I have many
Arab friends. And I say, if a man has done nothing - don't touch him.
A man who has done something - hang him, as far as I am concerned. Even
a pregnant woman - shoot her without mercy, if she has a terrorist
behind her. This is the way I thought in Jenin. I answered to no one.
Didn't give a damn. The main thing was to help our soldiers. If I had
been given three weeks, I would have had more fun. That is, If they would
let me tear the whole camp down. I have no mercy.
"All the human rights organizations and the UN that messed with Jenin,
and turned what we have done there into such an issue, are just bullshitting,
lying. Lots of the walls in those houses just exploded by themselves,
at our slightest touch. It is true, though, that during the last days
we smashed the camp. And yes, it was justified. They mowed our soldiers
down. They had a chance to surrender.
"No one expressed any reservations against doing it. Not only me.
Who would dare speak? If anyone would as much as open his mouth, I would
have buried him under the D-9. This is the reason I didn't mind seeing
the hundred by hundred we,ve flattened. As far as I am concerned,
I left them with a football stadium, so they can play. This was our gift
to the camp. Better than killing them. They will sit quietly. Jenin will
not return to what it use to be."
Two days after getting out of Jenin, Kurdi Bear, was admitted into hospital,
suffering from pneumonia. As it turned out, the 75 straight hours in the
D-9 took their toll. Some days after he had returned home, a phone call
woke him up in the middle of the night.
"I got home one night, and for some reason, I couldn't sleep. I
Till 4 AM I just wandered about, suddenly the phone rings: Are you Nati's
I sked what happened. Get over here, to the hospital., Tell me the
truth, I told her.
I must know,. She said that: Things are not good. Come,. I speeded
to Tel Hashomer hospital. A nurse and a social worker waited for me there.
They wanted to tell me that my son had died. That he came in, dead already.
Finished. Serious brain damage. They had planned to ask me to donate his
"Suddenly she ran to the surgery, came back and said that they drained
blood from his brain, and that she hopes he will survive. We will know
within 72 hours. We hurried to get an amulet from Rabbi Caduri. It helped
with the Beitar team, when we almost dropped to a lower league. On Friday,
they called us back to the hospital. They were in shock: The kid just
tore the respiration tubes off. He woke up."
20 year old Nati Nissim is lying on a bed, in the fifth floor of the Beit
Levinstein hospital, draped from head to toe in the black-yellow uniform
of the Beitar football team. "Daddy," he says suddenly "Don't
forget. I need to get to the semi finals." Kurdi Bear, with a bristly
chin and red eyes, freezes for a second, and tries to get his son back
into reality. "Nati", he says softly, "I,ve already told
you, Beitar has lost."
Nati laughs. "No way! I am going to the match!" he says and
tries to get up. The father suppresses his frustration, gives up the struggle.
The accident has caused the son to lose his short-term memory. Just like
in the movie "Momento", he can recall, with astonishing precision,
any Beitar goal going ten years back or even more, but forgets within
minutes who he is talking with. "Why am I here?" he asks his
parents again and again, and bows his head with embarrassment when an
acquaintance reminds him of a conversation they had just the day before.
Kurdi sits in the ward and tries to look as optimistic as possible. The
doctors are talking about a lengthy recovery process. They say that there
is no telling if and when Nati,s memory will return to normal. The financial
situation is not brilliant either. He and his wife, Ronit, can hardly
buy gas for his battered Subaru that tries to make the journey from the
Castel neighborhood to the hospital. Kurdi wants to build himself a tent
in front of the hospital. For the time being, he sleeps in the car.
"Jenin has strengthened me," he says. "It helped me forget
my troubles. I had hoped it would be some turning point, until this hit
me. But what happened to Nati taught me what really is important. I am
living now for my son. The rest is really not important."
The friends from his reserves unit are helping him.
"He stood up when it really counted. He was there, in the most trying
moment", says Haim Tamam, a soldier serving with him. "No one
has functioned like he has. And I don't know if any of us could go through
the nightmare he went through without putting a bullet through his head.
We are all amazed by him."
Yeffet Damti, his tractor partner from Jenin, says that one thing is certain:
"On the next mission, I am only going with Kurdi".
Kurdi, for his part, thanks his commanders that gave him the chance.
For the time being, they are wrapping him with attention and sympathy.
They came here, to the hospital, just to be with him. Just so he won't
be lonely. They are talking about raising funds to help him. When they
meet him next to his son's bed, back come the memories from those 75
The chats around the son's bed continue till the management of the hospital
called and begged them to stop bragging about destroying Jenin. There
are Arab therapists who might be hurt, and one of the Arab patients has
-  "Bear" is the army code for the D-9 tractors.
Kurdi means a person of Kurdish origin
 In Israel, men are recruited at the age of 18 for 3 years of obligatory
military service. After being released, at the age of 21, they enter the
reserve corps. The reserve duty usually demands 30 days of service each
year, till the age of 45.
 In January 2001, a building in Jerusalem collapsed during a wedding
in a hall named Versailles. Some 25 people were killed.
 The D-9 actually weighs 48.7 tons, without Armor. The armor brings
the weight closer to 60 tons.
 The operator is referring to the day in which 13 Israeli soldiers
were killed by Palestinian fighters in an ambush in Jenin.
 Two right-wing movements. Beitar, the youth movement, is more nationalistic.
Likud is the major right-wing party.
 This is the size, in meters, of the part of the camp that was totally