One of the fighters, accompanying the convoys during that period, tells his personal story:
There was a commotion in the yard of Kibbutz Hulda. Many soldiers were trying to find a place on the trucks and their shouts filled the air. The personal gear of the soldiers’ who had climbed on hastily had been left behind near the trees. The convoy was so long – 150 vehicles - that there was no contact between the beginning and the end.
I was still arranging a comfortable position for myself on the truck. Remembering my first convoy only a month earlier, it included four armored busses crammed with civilians fromJerusalem who wanted to go down to Tel Aviv- to the other Israel, on the other side. Only two vacant seats remained on each bus, on either side of the driver, for the Palmach ‘angels’ who guarded the convoy..
On my first convoy I was at the left window and Rina, my partner on the mission was at the right window. One of the passengers opened a Book of Psalms and was murmuring its passages ceaselessly – a talisman for us to get through safely. At the curve where we entered the Shaar Ha-gai pass, we took our weapons out of their hiding places and immediately, heard the first thud on the armor of the vehicle. We were being shot at. We opened fire through the gun opening and heard our comrades in the other busses doing the same. We knew our fire wasn’t worth much, except to make the passengers feel safe. We passed Shaar Hagai, the mountainous area ended and the gunfire stopped. It had gone well that time and everyone was in good spirits.
The truck’s engine noise interrupted my reminiscences. We were setting out again, this time in the opposite direction, driving through the open hilly space with the mountain pass ahead of us – Shaar Ha-gai. The trucks drive between the high peaks and we are instantly like mice in a maze, under the surveillance of anyone standing above us. Well-aimed firewas directed at us from among the rocks. One of the trucks ahead of us was hit and I saw its driver jump down to the roadside, abandoning the firetrap. The narrow road was blocked and someone tried to guide us out of our now stalled truck to the road’s edge. The traffic jam made it easier for the Arabs. They started advancing, and the damage they inflicted increased by the minute. Several wounded were taken off the vehicles and given first aid by the nurse in a ditch at the side of the road.
It was then that Slutzky came running out from among the stalled trucks. He waved to us to get down and join him. There was no chance of overpowering the Arab emplacements on the high mountains, but Slutzky couldn’t stand feeling helpless.
At his command we started climbing from one rock ledge to the next towards the source of firing. The rocks protected the Arabs while we were totally exposed as we clambered towards them.
At noon, the reinforcements that silenced the Arabs’ fire arrived. Seven cars were no longer fit to move and they remained, burnt out by the roadside. Other trucks were hitched for towing and we gathered all the rest of the equipment. Twelve dead were brought up from the Wadi. Among them Yaakov Slutzky, our commander, who decided to do something and had met the fate of those who go first. That afternoon, the convoy reached Jerusalem.
*Adapted from memoir passages in the book: The Palmach Book, Vol. II, Zerubabel Gilad (ed.), Publishers: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1953. The story was presented as part of “In the Footsteps of Warriors”, published by the UJA.