Twenty-four years after Uri Azoulay fell in battle, volunteers restored the vintage motorcycle he dreamed of bringing back to life – but never got the chance to do.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
In 1996, IDF army officer Uri Azulai bought an old motorcycle he wanted to restore and bought the parts and tools he needed, leaving the bike in the yard of the family home in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona while he joined his paratroopers unit in Lebanon.
But he never got a chance to work on the motorcycle. In a battle with terrorists, Capt. Azulai and another IDF soldier were killed, and the 1980 Suzuki 850 lay abandoned outside the home by a family unwilling to part with a piece of their lost son’s life.
Two months ago, the existence of the motorcycle came to the attention of the Israeli organization “Rescuers of Antique Cars” – a group of volunteers who donate their time and materials to renovate collectible vehicles for disabled patients, those who’ve lost their ability to work and disabled IDF veterans. The group also teaches troubled youth the art of restoration, giving them skills to help them integrate into the labor market.
Last week, 24 years after Azulai fell in Lebanon, his motorcycle was driven down the street in Kiryat Shmona for an emotional return to his family’s home, Kan News reported.
“It’s a type of spark. We still remember him. He’s still significant,” his twin sister Orli told Kan News at the emotional ceremony when a member of the group drove the bike up to the Azulai residence. “It’s [part of] his personal life. It was his love. It’s as if he is still with us.”
“Also for the family it was not easy to pass (the motorcycle) over to strange hands, and for that I offer them my great thanks,” said Rescuers representative Sharon Morag.
One of Azulai’s 10 siblings, Ronen, said it wasn’t a case of just turning the key and going. “They did amazing, amazing, amazing work,” he said of the restoration in which the bike was totally stripped down and many parts refurbished or replaced.
Uri Azulai is still looked on as a local legend. The son of a father who also served as a paratrooper and was wounded in the battle to free Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Azulai was accepted to pilot training, one of the most prestigious jobs in the IDF, but turned it down and joined the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit – the same unit in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fought.
Azulai had a reputation for caring for the welfare of those under his command and teaching his soldiers to remember their humanity in the field. After serving in different elite and top secret positions, Azulai moved to the paratroopers and was selected to go to a specialized anti-terrorism course in the U.S. before getting additional training. He was destined to become a senior officer, but it was not to be.
On Friday, October 25, 1996, while setting out on an ambush near the Lebanese town of Aishiyah, a soldier in his unit stepped on a tripwire, triggering a chain of explosions that killed Azulai and his radioman, Tom Karin, and wounded three other soldiers.
A website dedicated to Azulai’s memory says thatover the years, his family has received hundreds of letters, most of them from people who never met Uri but had come to know and admire him from articles published in the press.