Ukrainian Jew moves to Israel, enlists in an elite Israel Defense Forces (IDF) combat unit, returns to Ukraine where he puts his military tradecraft to work leading a street fighting unit in Kiev as the country reels.
Sound like the outline for an action thriller? Not quite. It’s the reported story of a man known only as “Delta” who has described his contribution to Ukraine’s protest movement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency [JTA].
Delta said that he came by his combat skills in the IDF reconnaissance battalion known as Samson’s Foxes (Shu’alei Shimshon) which is part of the Givati infantry brigade that he joined when he was recruited into the military after moving to Israel in the 1990s.
Now back in Kiev, he has led some 40 men and women who called themselves “the Blue Helmets of Maidan,” as they faced government forces.
While Delta would not provide his real name, JTA wrote that it confirmed his story with several Ukrainian Jews including one of the country’s chief rabbis. TheBlaze is unable to independently confirm his story.
He's apparently not alone, however. In his group there are allegedly four other Ukrainian-Jewish veterans of IDF service.
Delta told JTA that he joined the protesters on November 30th after he saw government forces attacking student protesters.
[sharequote align="center"]“I saw unarmed civilians with no military background being ground by a well-oiled military machine..."[/sharequote]
“I saw unarmed civilians with no military background being ground by a well-oiled military machine, and it made my blood boil,” Delta told JTA. “I joined them then and there, and I started fighting back the way I learned how, through urban warfare maneuvers. People followed, and I found myself heading a platoon of young men. Kids, really.”
He described the worst fighting he saw on Institutskaya Street last week.
“The snipers began firing rubber bullets at us. I fired back from my rubber-bullet rifle,” Delta told JTA. “Then they opened live rounds, and my friend caught a bullet in his leg. They shot at us like at a firing range. I wasn’t ready for a last stand. I carried my friend and ordered my troops to fall back. They’re scared kids. I gave them some cash for phone calls and told them to take off their uniform and run away until further instructions. I didn’t want to see anyone else die that day.”
He said that last month his unit helped prevent a mob from burning a building holding Ukrainian police officers.
“There were dozens of officers inside, surrounded by 1,200 demonstrators who wanted to burn them alive,” he said. “We intervened and negotiated their safe passage.”
Delta and his Blue Helmets are now reportedly focused on conducting patrols and preventing looting.
Protesters carry their comrade who was injured during clashes with police at the Institutskaya Street close to the central Independence Square in Kiev on February 20, 2014. (Photo: AFP/AFP/Getty Images/Dmitry Serebryakov)
One might call it the ultimate revenge for the victims of anti-Semitism in a country rife for centuries with the sentiment. On the other hand, Delta and his Jewish cohorts are being criticized by other Jewish community members for appearing to throw in their hats with Svoboda (Freedom), the Ukrainian nationalist party, which has played a vocal role in the protests – and has itself displayed anti-Semitism.
For example, Svoboda supporters last year held a demonstration wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan “Beat the dirty Jews.”
Delta told JTA that he takes direct orders from activists with Svoboda.
“I don’t belong [to Svoboda], but I take orders from their team. They know I’m Israeli, Jewish and an ex-IDF soldier. They call me ‘brother,’” Delta told JTA. “What they’re saying about Svoboda is exaggerated, I know this for a fact. I don’t like them because they’re inconsistent, not because of [any] anti-Semitism issue.”
He said he has not seen anti-Jewish sentiments expressed during the protests. At the same time, he conceded he feels different as a Jew.
“If I were Ukrainian, I would have been a hero. But for me it’s better to not reveal my name if I want to keep living here in peace and quiet,” he said.
Delta described the criticism of him – an observant Jew who wears a yarmulke - from inside the Jewish community.
“Some asked me if instead of ‘Shalom’ they should now greet me with a ‘Sieg heil.’ I simply find it laughable,” he said.
Delta is now working with Jewish community leaders to airlift 17 non-Jewish wounded protesters for medical treatment in Israel.
Read the entire interview at JTA.