Carol Megathlin: 'Know from where you come'

September 30, 2013 

She apologized for how she was dressed, settling her slender frame into the chair opposite me. "The grief counselor said exercise would help, so I went to class this morning." She laid a flat tote bag on the table, drew out an old black-and-white photograph and slid it across the table toward me.

Two small children crouched before a pod-like dwelling covered with vines. "This is my husband and his sister on a kibbutz south of Haifa," Susan Timna said. "He was born the same year Israel became a nation, 1948."

On the back, in a bold black hand, were written these words:

Know from where you come and where you are going.

"That's his handwriting," Susan said.

Amos (ah-MOSE) Timna was reared on the Ma'ayan Tsvi kibbutz by parents who escaped the Holocaust. Trained as an electrician by the community, he left to join the Israeli Army at the age of 18. His job in the military, however, proved to be a bit more sophisticated than his responsibility on the kibbutz. Amos Timna was selected to serve in the Sayeret Matkal, Israel's elite, super-secret intelligence unit.

Two particular men joined Amos in the unit: Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The three fought side by side in the Six Day War in 1967. Later, the unit called Amos back to active duty in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War.

After he graduated with a medical degree from The Technion, Israel's prestigious Institute of Technology, Amos completed a residency in Wilmington, N.C., gaining U.S. citizenship along the way. Until six years ago, when a benign brain tumor unsettled his balance, Dr. Amos Timna delivered babies in Savannah, an OB-GYN adored by his patients.

His thoughts were never far from Israel, however, and he visited often. His parents, now deceased, lived there, along with his sister and a younger brother. During a trip scheduled for February, Susan, who is a native Savannahian, planned to investigate becoming an Israeli citizen. "It's a long, complicated process," she said.

"But it's something I want to do. Amos and I were two people who shared one heart."

Throughout his lifetime, Amos refused to talk about his experiences in the intelligence unit. When his family begged for accounts of his adventures, Amos always gave them the same one-word answer.

"No."

Over the years, the unit maintained a mysterious contact. Last year during their visit to Israel, Amos instructed Susan to drive him to a deserted stretch of highway and leave him there.

"Three and a half hours later, he walked back into the hotel," Susan said. Amos declined to explain.

On June 29, Amos climbed a 20-foot ladder to trim a palm tree in his yard. He was excited at the prospect of his family visiting for a Fourth of July celebration. But Amos's balance betrayed him, and he fell.

Frantic, Susan bent over his sprawled form. He couldn't move his legs and was having trouble breathing. "Amos, look at me. Who am I?" Susan demanded.

"You're Susan. You're my wife and I love you," he said.

"It's the last thing he ever said to me." Susan's words were choked with tears.

Six days later, on Friday, Susan gave the OKy to withdraw life support. "He had a living will and I honored that."

Jewish law forbids burying on the Sabbath, so the funeral was scheduled for Sunday. On Saturday morning, as Susan stepped into the car to leave the house, a relative called her back in to take a phone call.

"Tell them I'll call them back," Susan said, waving dismissively.

"It's the prime minister of Israel," came the reply.

"Susan," said Benjamin Netanyahu, "I knew Amos very well. I'm shocked and saddened by his death. I wanted to give you my condolences myself. If there's anything you ever need, let me know."

Susan could only stammer, "I'm so honored you called. So honored."

How had news of Amos's death reached Bibi's ears within 24 hours?

Susan is going to Israel in February, following through with their plans. On this visit, however, she'll call the prime minister to see if he will make good on his offer. What will she request?

"I'm going to ask him if I can become an Israeli citizen."

Carol Megathlin, formerly of Americus, now lives in Savannah where she coordinates the Adopt-a-Soldier program; email, cmega@bellsouth.net.

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