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From Syrian Captive to Jerusalem Heart Surgeon

09 May 2019

A heart surgeon is not just a heart surgeon at Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, Jerusalem.  In a recent interview, Israeli heart surgeon Binyamin Mazuz tells of his capture during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and how it inspired him to become a doctor.


Deep in the hallowed vaults of Shaare Zedek Medical Centre’s Cardiology Unit, a senior doctor reigns, whose burning desire to help others was born out of a dark and torturous history.


In 1973, while serving in the IDF reserves, Binyamin “Beni” Mazuz, was captured and taken into Syria at the start of the Yom Kippur War. Behind enemy lines, witness to things no man should see, he decided that he was going to help others.


“When I was in Syria, I had to decide,” Dr. Mazuz told The Heart of Israel. “I had to hurt people, take out thorns and the like. Not that I had any training, but I did what I thought was right to help someone who was suffering. It was there that I decided that my future profession would be helping people who are hurting.”


In October 1973, Beni Mazuz was on Mt. Hermon, serving as a reserve soldier in the IDF. Yom Kippur was drawing near, and he was called on to serve as the cantor on base in the Golan Heights.
In the middle of Yom Kippur services, the Syrians attacked. The soldiers fought a pitched battle, and suffered many wounded and dead, but the enemy surrounded them.


Beni Mazuz, and everyone else still alive on base, were taken captive.


They were forced to march 48 hours without food or water. The Syrians moved them quickly, pushing them on a gruelling ten-day march to Damascus, while blindfolded, and with their hands bound. The blindfold would only come off if a man was taken to be interrogated.


“Before I was taken to my first interrogation, I was shaking from fear, and I even said Vidui, (the Jewish text for confessions that are said on Yom Kippur and before a person dies.)


Eventually, after 8 months and 4 days of torture and suffering, the captives returned home.


Once he was home, Beni turned his inner strength toward healing others, and healing himself.


Although still plagued by the shadows of Damascus, Dr. Mazuz began to rebuild his life.


Today, at Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, Dr. Mazuz fights to give each patient every chance at life.  He says that his time in Syria spurs him to treat every moment as a gift.


He adds, “I will never forget my period in captivity. It remains with me as a trauma. I always go about with a feeling that my life is on borrowed time, and that something is going to come out and surprise me…it leaves a mark.”


This article has been adapted with permission from theheartofisrael.org