September 29, 2013
Like any society, Israel has its holidays. There are the usual religious and civil holidays, and then there are those that have been created by war. And right now, we are approaching the 40th anniversary of the October War, known usually as the Yom Kippur War.
(That is because the Arab armies chose that special religious holiday, the Day of Atonement, the day when Israel sits down and thinks/plays, as the day to attack, back in 1973).
Dan Livni is my brother-in-law. He’s been a well-known and appreciated artist and art teacher in Israel for over 50 years. Received many prizes, and his art can be seen ‘all over the place’.
Like any and all Israelis, he has played his part in the wars. He has fought, he has ‘seen it all’, and he’s survived.
That’s the theme of this letter. His art brought us on Friday to Latrun, where the armoured corps museum is located. Latrun is perhaps half way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (that means, about 30 km from either). It is located at the base of the Jerusalem hills, right next to the also fascinating Latrun Monastery.
and some paintings by a new name for me, Lapid….
and how about these cartoons…
And outside, many, many tanks of all sizes, all uses, all nationalities…
Kids can climb on them, play. But most parents also warn, teach and explain. These were not toys. This museum is not for fun.
There were some speeches – about Dani, friendship, lost friends, memories, bravery – one or two nostalgic stories of the battle.
I was watching, witnessing, as I so often do. My Hebrew is still weak, so I was able to ‘drift off’ a little and see the event from a different point of view: mine.
(Note: Netanyahu is off to NY and Washington for meetings, speeches etc. etc. His main task is to counter the moderate words coming from Iranian Pres. Rouhani; to warn the World that we need deeds, not words. So far, Rouhani has been playing the diplomatic game, but he is already appearing to lay down the condition that anything we ‘are forced to’ do, Israel should do the same. He has even said that there should be a world without nuclear arms.
Well, Netanyahu’s problem is that most of the World will say: “Oh, he would say that, wouldn’t he? His message will not be well-received. And yet he was one of the sole voices telling us to ‘wait and see’ as far as the Arab Spring was concerned. This is again the reason I write a letter and not a blog. I want to be a little more believable).
There are certainly many Israelis who died in the wars. Latrun has a Vietnam War-like wall to remind us…
There are surely others who would like to have attended this gathering, but were unable to because of physical handicap or perhaps, are stuck at some home, mentally unable to cope with such events, such public attention. Israel is no exception: it also has a wonderful organisation (called Beit Halochem – ‘House of the Fighter’) which cares for the ‘damaged veterans’.
I have seen wheelchair dancing, table-tennis with no hands and art with no eyes. I was told there are a couple of places looking after those who are officially ‘Missing in Action’, those who voluntarily do not want their families to know they are still alive. War does that to a society.
You all know this, and unfortunately, too many countries, also in the West, have not escaped the scars of War.
So, although I claim to be objective (in my view of Israel), here, I am being subjective. I know other countries have suffered, but I live here.
After those speeches at Latrun, I asked to same some words – quite spontaneously. I told them who I was. I told them I had been ‘among them’ for 40 years, yet have never quite been ‘one of them’. I have hardly held a gun in my hand (my daughter’s). I know so many who have been ‘in battle’. They have seen death, feared the incoming shell and bullet, seen blood and the enemy’s eyes.
Yes, it is true that I have only seen those who are not dead. I was going to say ‘those who were not injured, either physically or mentally. But that of course is not true. I have met some with damaged minds and bodies. So I have met ‘the survivors’, and I have seen what they have built: a very special country, developed, educated, democratic in the extreme, artistic, romantic, and very aware of Nature.
To those visiting, it’s always a surprise: “I never imagined it would be like this”.
Perhaps it’s because those soldiers are ‘our kids’, fighting quite literally for the land they stand on. The enemy?
Well, the Sea is pretty nice to us. But the rest of the borders have enemies on the other side. Throughout the relatively short history of this nation, our neighbours have been trying to destroy us. It is not a case of “Oh, you two should sit down and talk to each other”.
They say they want to wipe us off the map. Because we have suffered several wars against such peoples, we have to believe them: the Iranians and the other neighbours.
This does make a difference.