A visitor to the agricultural school of Mikve Israel, just south of Tel-Aviv, who would walk from the visitors’ centre through the eucalyptus copse and up the sandy road bordering the botanic garden, would eventually reach a small monument to the side of the road. Under a metal statue of a young man dressed in a farmer’s clothes and holding a hoe, on a stone plaque shaped like a scroll, are etched the names of twelve of the school’s students, members of Hachsharat Geva and men of the Palmach who were killed in the battles of the 1948 Independence War. Under this list, one name was added a few years later. Oved Ladejinsky, a fellow member of the Hachshara and a brother in arms during the 1948 battles, who was killed during the Sinai campaign in 1956.
When the paratroopers company he was commanding was parachuted near the Mitla Pass in the heart of the Sinai Desert, Ladejinsky had already to his name several acts of bravery performed during retaliatory raids against terrorists and enemy positions. For one of them, breaking alone through an intact barbed wire fence and clearing a Syrian bunker near the Sea of Galilee of its men, he received the Mark of Praise from the then Chief of Staff Major General Moshe Dayan. The moshav boy, whose reputation as a farmer preceded him to the point of being invited by the then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion to serve as an agricultural instructor in the Negev, chose to accept another invitation – Ariel Sharon’s invitation to join the 101 commando unit, later amalgamated into the 890 paratroopers battalion, as a platoon commander.
The battle to clear the Egyptian battalion that was holding the fortifications on the rocky slopes bordering the Mitla Pass on both sides raged all day and resulted in many casualties. As night fell the Egyptians were still dug in their positions. Ladejinsky led his men on a night attack on these positions when, whilst climbing the slopes, his deputy Chaim Matzliakh was shot and killed. When the attackers reached the bottom of a fortified Egyptian bunker Ladejinsky tried to throw a hand grenade through the bunker’s hatch but the grenade hit rocks piled there by the Egyptians and rolled back down the slope towards his men. Ladejinsky, who was in a relatively protected position, did not hesitate for a second. He grabbed another soldier who was exposed to the danger and pressed him against the rock wall, covering him with his own body and saving his life. The exploding grenade injured him gravely. He ordered his men who were trying to assist him to hold on to their positions and whilst trying to move back he collapsed and fell down the slope.
For this act of bravery which cost him his life, the Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan awarded Ladejinsky’s parents a second Mark of Praise. These two commendations were later converted to Medals of Courage. After his death the family’s farm in the moshav fell into neglect and disuse. His elderly parents dedicated the rest of their lives to the commemoration of the fallen soldiers of the Paratroopers Brigade.