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Rami Sherman



 
Rami Sherman, the Operations Officer under the Command of Yoni Netanyahu z'l during the famous Raid at Entebbe delivers Mezmerizing Address at Tarbut

Sherman drove the injured Yoni Netanyahu to the Hercules plane and then led the hostages out of the Entebbe airport in Uganda

by Rhonda Spivak, November 15,2022

 

In 1976, when an Air France plane was hijacked by German and Palestinian terrorists and rerouted to Entebbe, Uganda , Rami Sherman was the Operations Officer of the elite unit, (known in Hebrew as “Sayeret Matkal”), under the command of Yoni Netanyahu z”l . Sherman’s elite unit was sent by  Israel to rescue the 105 Jewish hostages who were  at the old airport terminal in Entebbe, along with the Air France crew and captain.
 
Speaking without a note, Sherman, gave a riveting two hour opening address that was mezmerizing, describing fascinating details of the Operation, which has been the subject matter of  at least two Israeli movies and two Hollywood movies. Sherman spoke as part of the Rady JCC's Tarbut Festival of Jewish Culture to a very appreciative audience of some 35 people.
 
On the first day the hostages were taken to Entebbe, a convoy made up of black Mercedes and two Landover jeeps arrived at the airport terminal, whereupon the ruler of Uganda Idi Amin “ came out of the Mercedes,” to visit  the hostages.  Amin and the terrorists subsequently freed the  140 non-Jewish hostages that were in the Air France Flight, forcing the 105 Jewish hostages to stay in the old terminal. As Sherman relayed,  since Amin had been an ally of Israel from 1965-1972,  the old terminal where the Jewish hostages were located under dirty, cramped conditions, had in fact been built by the Israeli company, “Solel Boneh,”( meaning Israel had the plans for the old terminal).
 
The terrorists demanded the release of “53 freedom fighters” and 5 million dollars, indicating that hostages would be killed “beginning with children” if their demands were not met. As Sherman stated, “Israel’s policy was we fight against terrorists and we don’t negotiate with them.”

“There were Holocaust survivors who thought they’d be killed and they tried to escape” from the terminal, but “the terrorists brought them back,” Sherman, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, recounted.
 
Sherman recalled how Israel's then Chief of Staff Motta Gur was against military action since he did not believe Israel had “enough information” on what the situation was on the ground at the terminal at Entebbe. On the other hand, Sherman said that “Defense Minister Shimon Peres favoured military action because one important reason Israel existed was to defend any Jew in the world.”
 
On July 1st 1976, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin announced that he had decided to open negotiations with the terrorists, which delayed the ultimatum given by the terrorists to kill hostages.
 
Dan Shomron was chosen to be the commander of the overall Operation. "‘Peres and the Deputy Chief of Staff pushed for a military option and Rabin said ok you can prepare for an attack,” Sherman indicated.
 
Sherman then recountedd how “a Mossad agent took a small aircraft from Nairobi, Kenya to Entebbe and told the Ugandans he had mechanical problems and he had to land there… The Ugandans said OK."  The Mossad agent circled the airport and “took many photos.” Sherman elaborated that “He was the first Israeli to land at Entebbe.. but he left after he couldn’t see the hostages…[Then Chief of Staff] Motta Gur said the photos were very helpful in supporting the mission.” 

Sherman then emphasized that it was decided to surprise the terrorists and Ugandans by arriving in a black Mercedes with two Landover jeeps, to make them think Ugandan leader Idi Amin had arrived. These vehicles would be in the Hercules planes the Israelis flew to Entebbe.
 
As Sherman recalled, "We told the Mossad we needed a Mercedes. On Friday at 6 p.m. we went to Tel Aviv to take the Mercedes to our army base. It was a white Mercedes, the engine hardly worked...and there were no wheels.” He then relayed that they convinced an Israeli just before Shabbat began to open his shop and give them four wheels. "We painted the car black and prepared a Ugandan flag.” Sherman noted.  One Israeli soldier observed that in Uganda they drove like in Britain, with the steering wheel of the car being on the right hand side, whereas the Israeli Mercedes had the steering wheel on the left hand side. However, as Sherman explained, "nothing could be done about this.”
 
According to Sherman, Rabin said if there were more than 25 hostages killed as a result of the rescue mission he would resign.
 
Sherman was on the first Hercules plane flying to Uganda, “with  three cars, no seats…no windows, and no air conditioning.” He added it was a "very noisy nine hour flight with no toilets." The soldiers urinated in “empty Coca Cola bottles.” 

"The Israeli soldiers wore Ugandan uniforms that were sewn in Tel Aviv,” Sherman stated.
 
Sherman indicated that his Commander Yoni Netanyahu told the soldiers, “We are the best soldiers on the ground...The fight will be different than what we have planned…you should be thinking independently.”
 
According to Sherman, Yoni gave an important message, saying “ It is the mutual responsibility of Jews to help each other.”
 
Sherman emphasized that when the Israelis got to Entebbe, “the four Hercules planes with 240 soldiers flew in a tropical storm. I thought we were going to crash on the ground. The plane moved from side to side like a matchbox,” but then the storm stopped.
 
Before landing, Sherman “was seated in the Landover jeep behind the black [Mercedes] limousine." The Israeli pilot told the Ugandans that they were British, which the Ugandans accepted.
 
"The airport was full of lights…The Hercules I was on stopped, the back door opened and 33 soldiers went out to the night in Africa...We drove to the old terminal. About 200 metres from the old terminal there were two Ugandan soldiers...Yoni decided [it was necessary] to kill them... One escaped into the dark."
 
Sherman recalled how when they arrived to the old terminal “it was quiet” with “hostages asleep on the floor.”
 
”We divided the 33 soldiers from the Hercules plane I was on into three teams. My team’s duty was to be outside in case a Ugandan force would come from the back…Yoni was at the front...he was hit...only the doctor stopped and tried to control his bleeding.”
 
"Two German terrorists prepared to shoot the Israeli soldiers. In seven minutes the terrorists were killed along with 20 Ugandan soldiers,”Sherman noted.
Unfortunately, two hostages were killed in the crossfire.
 
”I came with a car and drove Yoni to the Hercules plane,”  where a team of medical professionals were waiting. “Yoni was alive but after some minutes he closed his eyes and died,” Sherman recalled.
 
“My last duty was to lead the hostages out of Entebbe…Some of the hostages thought we were Ugandan and that we’d kill them, ” Sherman remembered.
 
"Some of the hostages were walking out of the terminal with duty free bags in hand,” Sherman recalled in a lighter moment.
 
Sherman indicated that they decided to walk with the hostages to the Hercules plane. "The Air France crew and pilot had decided it was their duty to remain with the hostages," and they too were now freed.
 
The Hercules planes took off. "We landed in Nairobi with only seven minutes of fuel remaining," Sherman recalled. They refuelled and landed safely in Israel.
 
Upon returning to Israel, Sherman continued to serve in his unit, and was a Special Operations Commander until 1980. After he was released from active duty, he helped establish the reserves unit. At age 50, he was released from doing reserve service.
 
Sharman is married, has two daughters and is grandfather to five grandchildren. In 1990, he finished his studies is physiotherapy at the University of Tel Aviv, and since that time he has worked as a physiotherapist in various positions, including, among other things, as a physiotherapist for the Israeli Olympic team. In 1993, Sherman, and his family moved to Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, where they still live today.  Sherman grew up on Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan, which is in the north of the country and was on the Syrian border until the Six Day War in 1967.
 
In 2016, on the 40th anniversary of the storied rescue at Entebbe  he began speaking about it, and has since then been invited to speak about it all around the world.

 

 

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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