THE SHORT STRAW: PART TWO
© 2015, Gadi Bossin
P.O. Box 20
Kiryat Bialik, Israel
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
THE SHORT STRAW: PART TWO
It takes us between 30 to 45 minutes to get to the UNIFIL HQ in that village only about 12 kilometers from the Good Fence. This is another detail I simply don’t remember. What I do remember is that for me those 30 to 45 minutes last an eternity as I scan the sides of the road and eyeball every passing vehicle for armed men.
Are they SLA—South Lebanese Army? That’s okay. They fight alongside the IDF. Do they belong to some other militia?
At last, we’re at the village and they’re ready for me. The protocol is for the UN to wait until the IDF officer—in this case that’s me—arrives to inspect the equipment as it is loaded and the men as they climb up into the trucks.
Did I say this is a ludicrous assignment? Yes. Well, it is. What exactly am I supposed to do if there is something irregular or someone suspicious that is going onto the trucks?
I’ve received no instructions or orders to that effect.
So I stand there trying to look alert and authoritative and exchanging a few words with the UN officers who are in fact overseeing the whole operation.
I’m wondering, “Can I trust them?” And I understand that I must.
Do I feel safe in the village in the UN compound? No.
I’m looking around the whole time, my own bodyguard.
But what would I do if I am the target of an attack?
I don’t allow myself to answer my own question.
It doesn’t occur to me that I would be more valuable as a hostage than as a dead soldier. That’s something that will occur to me over the coming years.
Finally, the trucks are ready to roll out. We in the UN MP jeep are in the lead. Ten trucks follow. And another jeep closes the convoy.
Do you believe I am more at ease on the way out of Lebanon than I was on the way into the unknown? No way. It takes us twice as long to wind our way down through the hills back to the Good Fence. And we are stopped twice by armed militiamen at roadblocks.
The first time my UN guys speak up and say, “UN convoy!” loud and clear.
I think, “Yeah, it’s obvious, isn’t it?”
All the vehicles are white with huge letters—U and N are prominently displayed—and blue United Nations flags are flying in the breeze and my UN MPs and all the soldiers and officers are wearing blue UN berets.
Anyone in Southern Lebanon with eyes in his head knows we’re a UN convoy.
But my concern is what those militiamen are thinking about the helmeted IDF officer with the M16 in the back of the lead jeep.
I’m wearing my lieutenant’s shoulder stripes. I hold my breath.
The barrier is lifted.
The way ahead is clear. We drive through the checkpoint.
The second time we’re stopped we’re five minutes from the Good Fence.
A young soldier commands this checkpoint. Him I definitely remember.
He is of medium height. His hair is black and long. He wears it like the early Beatles wore their hair, an olive-skinned George Harrison with a worried look on his face.
He isn’t satisfied with the MPs, “UN convoy!”
He motions to me. I understand he wants me to get out of the jeep and come and have a pow-wow with him.
I climb slowly out of the back of the jeep and walk with deliberate steps over to the young militiaman.
I walk as I’ve seen cock-of-the-walk IDF officers walk. I’m impersonating an officer as I walk over to the Lebanese George Harrison.
My rank is a temporary one that I receive each time I serve in this capacity as a liaison officer, so I’m not really an officer.
But now I know I’m playing for real. I’m praying this is an SLA roadblock. I figure it is considering it’s so close to the Good Fence, but George Harrison is wearing no insignia and I can’t be certain.
He speaks to me in Arabic, too fast for me to understand.
I say as-salām ‘alaykum and then I try a few words of Hebrew accompanied by hand gestures to explain I’m escorting the convoy to the Good Fence.
He shakes his head.
I begin to understand he’s as ill-prepared for his duty that day as I am for mine. I speak politely but in an imperious, officer-like tone.
And then to temper my tone and show fellow feeling I throw in a few words of my very limited Arabic, punctuating them with Inshallah, God willing.
Nothing untoward has happened yet. For sure he’s SLA, I tell myself. He’s bound to bow to the word of an IDF officer. And he does.
He shakes my hand, says a few words and adds Inshallah and orders his soldiers to move the barrier aside.
We rumble by and I wave goodbye to George Harrison.
A few minutes later we arrive at the Good Fence.
Mission accomplished, I hand my convoy over to Major S and one of my reservist colleagues for processing.
It’s 2015, 30 years later.
Looking back I can say, “Nothing, nothing at all happened.”