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This book is a Special edition for OURBOOX,
based on, and including parts of the original book
DOVES OF LATRUN
which was published by The Armor Corps Memorial of Latrun.
Poems and prose translated by MEL ROSENBERG
“Reunion” and articles translated by MIKE KISCH
Editor SHAUL NAGAR
Design and illustration Studio Ira Kern
“The Armor Corps Memorial Site”
The Armor Corps Memorial Site at Latrun is the site which commemorates the fallen soldiers of the Armored Corps who gave their lives in the wars fought by Israel from the Independence War until today. Latrun is located on the main road to Jerusalem, in the Ayalon valley, which witnessed some of the most significant events in the history of the Jewish people, starting from the original settlement of the land by the Jewish people in biblical times under the leadership of Yehoshua Bin Nun, on through the War of Independence and raising the siege of Jerusalem until the liberation of the Latrun area in the Six Days’ War.
Every visitor to Latrun, seeing the Wall of Names on which are inscribed the names of thousands of our fallen soldiers, understands the heavy price paid by the State of Israel, the Armored Corps and the bereaved families in order to achieve the independence and survival of Israel.
In addition to commemoration of the fallen, the site is a study centre where the traditions of the Armored Corps are kept alive and stories of heroic fighters are recalled. These are passed on to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, especially to young soldiers as well as to boys and girls on whose shoulders will rest the responsibility for the security of the State of Israel in the future.
This booklet shows The Armor Memorial from the point of view of the poetry of Shulamit Sapir-Nevo, who in her writings and poems has succeeded in giving expression in a specially sensitive and perceptive way, to the commemoration of the fighting soldiers, their unique tradition and the universal desire for peace. Visitors to Latrun who read the poems and the prose sketches and who glance at the pictures will perhaps better understand the real significance of The Armor Memorial.
General (Res.) Chaim Erez,
Chairman, Armor Corps Memorial Association
On the tank tower standing high on the hill
One hundred old grey doves
Sing with metallic voices.
There on the hill
They watched the war
And turned pitch black.
And when the tank’s heart ceased pounding,
Perching on its heavy shoulders,
They waited for the spell to pass.
A Day at Latrun
The Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway is only a stone’s throw away. Cars hurry along in both directions, but at Latrun, overlooking Joshua’s Valley of Ayalon, time stands still.
I slowly approach the stone, the metal, staring at the long wall etched with thousands of names, countless letters, rows of soldiers in their columns. A long silence stretches from one end to the other, the silence of commemoration. Even the metal becomes human, drawing out of its body a kind of sadness. There are those who come so close that they can breathe the names of their loved ones, pass their fingers over the names, stroke each letter and letter.
From afar, the forest begins to peek through, the blossoming cyclamens weaving through the memorials and the treads of the weapons of war. The flowers ask no permission, disrupting the order, the harsh hues. They spread a caressing soft pink, trying to approach the Wall of Names, to touch each name. This is the Armored Brigades Park. A sea of cyclamens bow their heads.
From the Wall of Names we move on towards the Hall in which the names are brought to life – eyes, lips, face. One after another, the pictures appear. As if here they are, walking through the door. We can see each one of them. They come and are quickly gone like a breeze one tries to catch and comprehend. We stand and watch and look for a familiar face; there are those who wait until the image of the one dearest to them appears.
Our steps bring us to the Armor’s Tears Tower and when we reach the entrance – we halt. The first sensation is the biblical “Take your shoes from your feet because the place you are standing on is holy earth”. Like the burning bush which is never consumed, the tears in the Tower rise and descend and are eternal. However here, one may and must draw near, walk on the glass floor above the spring, reach out to the walls of the tower. One sees the broken heart and the tears, which know no rest, pouring down its face and onto your own facial reflection. What an exciting creation of the artist Danny Caravan. Taking two opposites – steel and tears – and juxtaposing them. Here, even someone with a heart of steel would shed a tear. And this is where we all are united, even those who are mercifully not among the bereaved.
This silence is torn by the auditorium exhibit of the Armor Corps. Commanders and soldiers man the tanks and rush towards you and from you from every flank, conquering the desert and the mountains and crossing the Canal. What amazing power these giant tanks have, and an even greater strength in the hands of the soldiers who control them. We are gripped by a festive pride, happiness and sense of security, these wonderful and brave ones who guard us and thanks to whom we have our country.
We exit to the grounds where tanks of all modern wars stand at attention like an honor guard, opposite the Wall of Names. And on the hill, the tank atop the tower overlooks all the others, as well as the magical Ayalon valley beneath. Grey doves fly around the tank, some perching on it as if they were ranks on the tank’s shoulders. The strongest and noisiest war machines of all – the tanks, parked now so silently in such a green tranquility, in a valley of dispute which has known bloody wars. To the east, we see the vines hoping that the grapes of wrath will turn into the grapes of peace. After seeing and touching all this, the poems began.
The bright metal draws
Out of its long body
The names of all those who have fallen
And in the woods nearby –
Each one has a cyclamen
That grows and cries for him.
THE SEA OF CYCLAMENS
The sea of cyclamens at Latrun
Weaves modestly around the metal beasts
Peering down with their black eyes,
Softly adding color to their stone-hard faces,
Between rocks and treads,
Gently bending pink heads.
The Forest of Generations is asleep,
In a few years it will arise,
Spread its leafy hands to the
Rain and light and blue skies.
The wind will whistle through green trees and tanks,
The indelible legacy of the Family of the Armored Corps
Stationed at Latrun, blossoms in the Ayalon valley.
The Latrun March
Send their little green fingers,
Bursting through the fence to touch
The winding mountain road.
Up the path march cypress and pine trees,
Thistles and stones extend their sharp bodies
And a wildflower flaunts its color.
Migrant birds nestle in song
And a tortoise carefully crosses the field.
The laughter of children rises through the forest trees,
Songs of soldiers embrace the mountain
And the love for this land
Reflected in the faces of the backpackers
Flying with the wind over
A trail tasting of lemon and pineapple.
She doesn’t want these lumps of earth,
She doesn’t want these fresh flowers,
She doesn’t want a sea of people hugging her right now,
Trying to mend her torn heart.
Silently, she gazes,
Silently, she cries
She doesn’t want to hear such words as
“Your son was a hero, he gave his life for his homeland”,
She doesn’t want to hear “Your son was”.
Long-haired, a rascal,
Sailing through school,
Laughter filling the house.
And all too soon, armed, in uniform,
Returning home, he would pounce, famished, upon her table,
Drawing her to his broad shoulders,
Promising her that everything would be okay.
She doesn’t understand now
Tall words such as bravery and homeland,
She only wants to go far from here,
To take his hand once more
And keep him
Far from these people,
Far from these clumps of earth.
There are no More Great Miracles
There are no more great miracles
They have vanished from the earth
There are only small miracles
With tired and dusty eyes
You can see them almost everywhere
And you can laugh with them
And love them so
These small miracles
Are the children
Guarding the wonders
Of this land.
How can the wind caress
This metal face
Whipping the first,
Weaving dreams in the second,
And in the third,
Drying the tears.
The priests and the prayers pass silently
Between the rocks and fence
Searching for angels.
The watchful skies, changing hue,
Take it all in
And the earth gives blessing.
Vines, not yet having cheered the hearts of men,
Olive trees, not having yet unfurled the dove of peace.
Distant birds anchor here,
They have never seen
Such a valley,
Spreading its hope
Over the Tower of Tears
And waiting in anticipation.
War is at the doorstep
So I’m told
But I keep sweeping it away,
Casting a spell
To drive it far
From the castle.
I have padlocked the gate
Love sentries stand guard.
The angels know
That where there is love
One dare not fire.
At midnight, when people are there no longer
All the Tanks in the square join in friendly discussion
To share a beer or perhaps something stronger
Speaking Hebrew and English and (some of them) Russian
Here in a half-circle at Latrun on the hill,
Good friends, although made from the hardest of steel,
While engine and tracks creak loud in the night,
Each one has his tale of his crew and his fight.
The first was the Cromwell to start the debate,
“Taken” from the British back in June forty-eight,
By British friends. He joined the fight with no fuss.
By now he speaks Hebrew much better than us.
His crew, volunteers from the Second World War,
Experienced fighters in other nations’ Armored Corps,
Fought for our Independence, our justice and our right
And willingly joined in the hard and bloody fight.
Let me spare a kind word for the armored truck,
He says with affection. Without real armor, but “sandwich”,
Wood between steel plates, she fought her way
Through to Jerusalem and helped break the siege.
This Hotchkiss too, says old Cromwell again,
We fought side by side even though he’s so small.
He did his fair share in defense and attack.
The little one blushed at this pat on the back.
“Je vous en prie” somebody shouts from the side.
Proud as general of France – “Hear you all!”
“AMX-13 is my name, the ’56 war was my game.”
Aided by France, Israel reached the canal.
My crew the best of the best, in ’56 we got no rest,
In Northern Shomron we passed every test,
On the Golan Heights too, much fighting we saw
And fought in Sinai in the Six Day War.
The Sherman grinned from ear to ear,
The time had come for all to hear
In the Sinai campaign I arrived before the Infantry
And conquered the dam in one, two, three.
Since then the Armor played the main roll
In land warfare, and proved it to all.
How in the mid-sixties, for the water we fought
And the Syrians, beaten, their plans came to naught.
“They tried to divert the course of the river,
But our long-range fire put an end to their schemes.
The water is ours, when we wish we will drink,”
Said the Sherman, and ended his words with a wink.
Next said the Centurion, speaking in rhyme:
“The backbone of the Armor was me in my time.”
In the Six Day War we were first to attack
And the enemy forces were soon thrown back.
We fought everywhere from South up to North,
The enemy fled as we went on our way,
Forty Km from Damascus at the end of the day,
And believe me my friends, we could have done more …
Even old and battle skilled I’m still ready to fight
If need be, as before, anywhere, day or night.
My hull may be rusted, my engine may rattle,
But I’m waiting until I am called to the battle.
The Patton spoke next “Going in to attack
With the engine they gave me and armor and track,
The enemy faced us, their hearts full of dread,
We blew them to blazes and left them for dead.”
“My friends” he said modestly opening his mouth,
“In the Yom Kippur War we fought North and South.
We knocked out an enemy armored brigade,
And the very first crossing of the canal we then made.”
“We saved the whole country in those bitter days,
And whatever the hardship – we made the best of it.
My crew deserves most of the credit for this,
And the Brigade Commander – he gets the rest of it.”
Two jeeps dashed forward with screeching of brakes,
“We have something to say, we too have what it takes!
We showed you the way to attack by surprise
The unprepared enemy when we were your eyes.”
“In the War of Independence we led you to Eilat,
And over the years led you all over the map
Always in front, the first to break-through,
Without gun without armor but important as you.”
Then came the youngest one, handsome and bold,
“I have listened to all of you, middle-aged and old,
All of you veterans of many a hard fight,
In your honored retirement, here beside me tonight.”
“But I am the Merkava, Israeli from birth.
General Israel Tal – he knows what I’m worth,
For he is my Father, of which I am proud,
So allow me to say a few words clear and loud.”
“Even though I’m the youngest, I have seen a few fights,
Since the war in Lebanon, long days and long nights
In the war against terror, never defeated,
My crew are the best, every mission completed.”
When midnight was close with the hour growing late,
They saluted each other and stopped the debate.
Each one closed his eyes, took a well-earned rest,
And dreamt of his crew that he knew was the best.
With the light of the moon and the stars shining bright,
Looking down on the tanks as they dreamt of the fight,
Up there on the hill, each one taking his rest,
There was no doubt whatever: Each one was the best.
Create the world again, Lord,
This time carefully keeping the dark from light
And do not let us simple people
Set the boundaries.
Divide once more the land and sea,
And keep us apart for good,
So that we do not see and do not lust
To kill one another.
Take a little milk and honey,
And give us some rest,
Do not raise your hand to strike down the children,
Just leave them in peace.
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