This year’s Memorial Day found me in Ramat Gan, and when the Horn sounded, I had to stop my car in the middle of a busy street, step out, and stand amongst other commuters — a totally random bunch of strangers. One moment of silence, with the memories, the names, and the faces, served as a good reminder for one basic bottom line.

As much as I cannot stand the ritualized Israeli militarism, and as much as I am not comfortable when it serves as a political tool by the evil people who presume to be my leaders, and as much as the old symbols have become, in my eyes, just beaten cliches on the conveyer belt of today’s shallow and neurotic mass media…

Although the pompous national ceremonies mean nothing to me, and the annual lighting of the beacons does not thrill me at all, and the TV broadcasts on Independence Day and Memorial Day are to me nothing but an anachronistic abomination — at least as a viewer — and I have avoided watching them for decades…

As much as the current state of the state of Israel is not a source of inspiration to me, only laments mixed with loathing and disbelief, and as much as I am shocked by the way our elected leadership is leading the corruption and decay of the entire country…

And although there is a huge public in Israel that I will never look upon as brothers, those who befoul our nature, those who burn, trample, uproot, and certainly those who sell pieces of land and heritage for a slice of the pie. They are not brothers, but criminals and ignorants.

Despite all of the above, I shall keep observing Memorial day’s horn & silence ritual, because this is no fake news, these are fuckin human beings who died here, so others may live on, and for the homeland to endure. I knew some of them very well, and others, not so well. I have seen with my own eyes the lives that were taken too soon, the smiles that faded, the parents who died long before they got to their graves.

And today, some 30 years later, am I allowed to wonder out loud, if I had also been a victim, not of some sinister plot, just the inevitable consequences of serving in a fighting military unit. Indeed, I did not participate in the grand wars, only a small battle here, a small ambush there, no big deal. Hey, it does not haunt me in my dreams, or nightmares, and whenever I do dream of the army, it is always about some missing piece of equipment, or a ride I am about to miss. But what of the memory? When I am awake, I remember everything. The shouts of the wounded, pierced organs, the pale face of a young widow, over the rectangular pit at some unknown military cemetery. And the blood, of course, staining the bandage red, soaking the dirt with a dark stain which is no longer red, but a murky, shady brown, and later black, in two phases, the greenish, shiny black of the flies sucking on it, and finally the faded black of a liquid which dried and congealed in the sun. How does a brain look when it leaks out from a crack in the skull? How does a breast injury sound when the victim breathes? Altogether, loads of information, sights and noises you would never want to experience.

And maybe the worst part of it, even worse than those nightmarish moments in Lebanon, there was also an “Intifada” (violent uprising) in our day. Patrols, roadblocks, riots, and mostly the daily exposure to fear and hate. I remember the wide-open eyes of young kids, taken out of their beds in the dead of night, when the G.S.S (general security service, Shabak in Hebrew), searched the houses of suspected terrorists. I remember the dull thump on my shoulder, when for the first time I was ordered to fire a rubber pellet charge into a crowd of demonstrators, consisting mostly of elderly ladies, veiled and dressed in blacks. My whole being was against this action, and I asked the Sergeant if he was crazy. “Just fire it, an order is an order”. So I obeyed the order, or several orders, and I managed to sleep at night, and I came back in one piece, from the freezing nights in South-Eastern Lebanon, and from the routine patrols around the Kalandia refugee camp. A matter of pure luck and statistics. But maybe the facts that until this very day I do not sleep regularly, and I always seem to postpone going to bed, are related to the horrors I was exposed to when I was 19? I guess I will never know, but I have some suspicions. So, in honor of those who did not return, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, I shall keep standing during this annual minute, and reserve cynicism and stinking politics for other days.



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