Yehuda Werdesheim continued to fight Hizbullah guerillas despite being wounded in the shoulder.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski

From Milwaukee to Maroun A-Ras: Lone soldier up for IDF medal

If it was up to Yehuda Werdesheim, he would do it all over again, including getting shot by a Hizbullah guerrilla during the Second Lebanon War.

A soldier with Battalion 101 of the Paratrooper’s Brigade, Werdesheim, 21, is the only lone soldier who is a candidate to receive a Citation of Excellence from Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi for his bravery during a battle that ended with 10 dead Hizbullah guerrillas and over a dozen wounded IDF soldiers.

Born in Israel, Werdesheim left for the US with his parents as a baby. He grew up in Milwaukee, where he went to high school but said that his parents always pushed him to enlist in the IDF, where they thought he would “get perspective on life.”

Today, he has three months left to his service, a brother in an elite unit and another brother planning to enlist next year.

On July 12, the day reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were kidnapped by Hizbullah, Werdesheim and his battalion were on vacation at a resort in Ashkelon. “All of a sudden we heard about the kidnapping,” he recalled during an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, “and six hours later we are already up north along the border.”

Battalion 101 was one of the first infantry units to invade Lebanon by ground. In the second week of the war, his unit was sent in to the village of Maroun A-Ras and from there to Bint Jbail, where Werdesheim and his comrades killed over 20 Hizbullah guerrillas during a fierce battle that cost the lives of two Israeli soldiers.

From Bint Jbail, Werdesheim’s unit continued on to their next target: the village of Ayta A-Shayeb. Werdesheim and his squad took up a position inside a home in the village where they sat down to eat breakfast. Suddenly, he recalled Wednesday, a rocket struck the home a few meters from where he was sitting.

Werdesheim said he remembers breaking down in tears and not knowing what to do. “Another lone soldier grabbed me and said that this was what we had made aliya for and at that moment I became the soldier I was trained to be,” he said. “I immediately went to the window and began returning fire.”

During the gunbattle, which lasted several hours, Werdesheim took a bullet to the shoulder. The medic evacuated him from the room where he was fighting and tried to get him to board a helicopter that had come to evacuate the wounded. Werdesheim refused.

“All I could think of was that if I leave and something happens to my friends I will never be able to forgive myself,” he said.

Werdesheim then returned to the room where he had been shot, spotted a Hizbullah guerrilla and shot and killed him.

He remained inside Lebanon for another four days with half a bullet in his shoulder. After returning to Israel he was hospitalized for 10 days in Jerusalem.

Lt.-Col. Ariel Yohanan said that Werdesheim’s actions during the war exemplified the values that the IDF tries to instill in its soldiers.

Even though he was wounded, he continued to fight and refused to be evacuated,” Yohanan told the Post Wednesday, “he demonstrated decisiveness, comradery, and loyalty to the mission.