We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
A little country counts its dead heavily. Below Maariv's banner (our N.Y. Times) today runs the photos and names of all nine killed in the fighting over the border: Yiftach, Ohed, Alex, Asaf, Shimon, Idan, Shimon, Ro'i ("my shepherd"), and Amichai ("my naiton lives"): dead. I wish I could show you their photos, these non-soldier soldiers.
A trick one of my soldiers teaches me. Before each major action, they take a group photo, an odd one. They stand in a row, at arms's length, a good bit apart from each other, unlike the usual group photos of soldiers, crowded together, hugging and mugging. Once, a mother spied this "group photo" and asked about it. Here is what he did not tell her: they stand apart so that should one gets killed, they can cut out his photo to give to the news. Practical fellows these are. Death is not that far from their ken.
They make up preliminary teasing obituaries. They know about all the nice things said at the funeral, so they make up their own teasing obits. For a lapsed Orthodox buddy, who thusfar has hidden his cheeseburger trespasses fromhis family, they will say at his funeral that he ate tref and looked at Playboy magazine. He insists that if they tell his parents this now, they will kill him first. For another, they will state solemnly that they will miss the unique aroma of his feet in the tent. And another, that they won't notice that he is missing. Dark humor for dark moments. In fact, they adore each other, watch each other's back. Literally.
Most of the dead yesterday were Golani, named after the brigade that fought on the Golan in '48. These are the toughest of the tough, proud. But they are still citizen-soldiers; when in active service, they are boys-too-old, too soon. When they are in reserves (until their fifties), they are fathers, husbands, sons, lawyers and mechanics. They are incidental warriors, incidental to living in this country.
Myron, my kibbutz buddy, tells me how they tried to inform a father of his son's death yesterday. His son fell on a grenade to protect his buddies. The father had been called up for milu'im, reserve duty.Then the father tried to reach his other son -- who is serving in Gaza.
While things are hot in Lebanon, Gaza is also boiling. And our "cousins" across the Green Line seem to take the opportunity to try for more bombings in Israel. Last week, I was called by the citizen police force to help track down a bomber from Tulquarm (the local burg a few kilometers away). We had information: a 1988 Audi, grey. We stopped all traffic into and out of Ra'anana. The Mall was shut down. The bike patrol (myself and three others) plied the cars parked on the highway, trying to keep order (but people were remarkably patient for hours) and checking I.D.'s. Of course, it makes sense that bombers would take this opportunity. Caught the guy in Hod Ha Sharon, the dusty impoverished town just south and west of us, with a memorable schwarma spot. We were busy.
But, the nine killed yesterday are not busy, are nothing, or eternally young. Now they will become memories, ripped fabrics of their families. Their deaths initiate a cataract of mourning. They are simply dead.
I truly feel for these Israeli soldiers. Only an Infantryman can appreciate how difficult a task they have. They face a well-supplied and equipped enemy in very rough terrain. Hezbollah has had six years to dig in deep, prepare fall back positions, lay mines on the approach routes, etc…
The media acts surprised that the Israelis can’t just roll over them. I’m shocked they have made the progress they have. Unfortunately the U.S. has retired their most effective conventional weapon against entrenched troops, fuel air-explosives bombs, for political reasons. I doubt the Israelis have any or the big thermobaric bombs like we do – but I’m sure their developing them now.