Shmuel Shilo was born in Lutsk, which was then part of Poland. During the Nazi occupation in the second world war, when Shilo was just a child, he was incarcerated in the town's ghetto.

After escaping the death squads, he eventually made his way to Palestine where he lived on a kibbutz and fought in the Israeli army.

"I had a happy youth, a very happy one, until the war, until the Germans occupied the area.

After three days they killed my father. And then they put us in a ghetto. From day to day we starved. You could see people on the ground - they starved.

Then in August, in the summer, they surrounded the ghetto - the Ukranian police and the Germans - and they took all of us to the graves to be killed.

I escaped. It's a long story to tell you how I did it and I was only 12 years old.

'Right to live'

After the war we began, like birds, to fly to Palestine. They killed my parents and they killed my whole family. Maybe because of psychology, myself and the whole town were sure the only place we wanted to live was Palestine.

The Promised Land?


Watch part 1 of The Promised Land? - Pioneers

It took two years until I went from Italy to Cyprus and from Cyprus to Palestine.

I met with one sister. I did not know that she was alive, but she also escaped, and we met together and went together to Italy. But after one year she, with her husband, went to the United States.

They wanted me to go too but I refused. And I did not speak with my sister for two years because she arrived to America and not here.

Because I wanted to live in my country. I wanted to be here because this is the last place that is mine.

You know sometimes I thought when I was a child that I had no right to live in the world because of the Germans. All nations, they have a right to live, but me - no, because I do not have my own land.

When I came here the feeling changed completely. Now I feel I like am a human being, like everyone in England, or in France or in Russia. I have the same rights - the right to live.

I was born with Zionism, with Eretz Israel like every child. Most of the Jews from my area, we dreamed to go to Eretz Israel, to Palestine.

When I was a child, maybe seven or eight years old, I was sure that one day I will be in Palestine. The old stories, the bible, everything to do with my education comcerned the old Palestine.

When I came here it was not strange for me. I was in Tel Aviv in my mind, I was in Jerusalem in my mind.

Ready to defend

I would prefer to die than to go back to Poland or the Ukraine. I would go to visit, yes, I was there with my son. But to live? No, I am ready to [shoot myself] here. Here I know my children are free, like all people in the world.
 

Shmuel Shilo joined a kibbutz because he believed
it was the best way to build a country

I am ready to defend my country. I have a rifle, I have a tank, I have a pilot, and I can defend my children. My father didn't. And there's a very great difference - the difference of life.

I do not think everybody understands our position. They think it all began in 1948 with the Jewish army. No it began in the 18th century with the first pioneers.

When I came here there were under 600,000 Jews - more young than old. I was proud because among them I found relations and people from my town who had come here in the 19th century.

The Hagganah [Jewish paramilatries] organised the ships. English ships - they discovered us and they took us to Cyprus. When I was on the ship at Haifa, I saw Haifa and the mountains, and I thought 'this is mine, it's my home'.

When I met with the Jews from Palestine, I start to believe in the human being.

I understood that they [Palestinian Arabs] were angry and that they fought. But this is my life.

There are seven Arab countries. Why they seven, and I nothing? It is like my brother has a big house and a lot of rooms, and I have to live on the street. We are brothers - give me one room.

For me I was not in another land. For me it was my land, not only in the mind, but in the heart, and the soul, it is my land. It is here I want to live - not another place. I don't want to be a citizen of another country. Why not, you have a country, he has a country, she has a county, why not I?

I think the Zionist movement was the most right in the world, and in history.

I do not hate Palestinians and I believe our country cannot be without Arabs, because they are a part of this country, but when I have to I am ready to fight like I fought before.

I was a simple soldier - not a hero. What the officer sent me to do, I did. And I think I did my duty.

I was sure that we would not lose. We were not necessarily strong in terms of weapons, but we were strong in our soul and in our mind.

To read every day that four, five, six, 10, 20 soldiers had been killed, was difficult. Every war is difficult, but this war was very, very difficult.

I didn't think back then that there would be peace so soon. I thought then, like I do now that maybe it will be 20 years until we have peace. It is 60 years later and we still do not have peace!

But I am proud. Israel is the best land, the best country. Other countries are worse. And I love this country, and I like the people, and I know that tomorrow will be better."

Watch Part 1 of The Promised Land? - Pioneers