As promised in last month’s post, here are four more vignettes—published for the first time here in my literary website—that were originally published years ago in Hebrew, on the pages of ‘Iton77;’ the literary, cultural Israeli magazine. Next month, I will revisit this reportage, which was titled back then ‘The Absurd Regions,’ and publish more of its lyrical impressions, which I wrote during the First Lebanon War of 1982-85. So stay tune, and here goes:
Yoel The Handsome
Dead. Was killed in an accident on a treacherous road in one of Lebanon’s regions. A meaningless Lebanese accident—just like that. Those demonstrating in front of the prime minister’s home can add his name to the list of the fallen. We spent six months, the entire army’s ‘Combat Officers Course’ together. He was the handsomest among us. In his kibbutz, Ayelet HaShahar (Morning Star) he left behind four orphaned children and a pregnant wife. They, too, are among the casualties of this useless war.
The “Status of the Logos”
On our daily patrol we pass by the spot where three soldiers from the reserved battalion, the one that preceded us on duty here, were killed. One short burst of gunfire slaughtered them all. Luckily, we are still alive. For how long, though, it’s hard to say.
Back at our base, from the radio blaring in our kitchen tent, comes the voice of a scholarly literary critic, talking about the “Status of the Logos,” about the “Sacredness of Art,” and of its “Esthetic Beauty.” It sounds as if the voice comes from a faraway country, whose residents are unaware of what their sons are up to here. “Dust to his feet we are,” so says the critic in regard to the poet he is talking about. And so are we, in regard to our country, our elders. So we climb on our armored vehicles. Load our guns. And off we go.
A Hand for Peace
The local population, so the papers back home had told their readers, received the Israeli soldiers with cherries, flowers, and kisses in the air. The other side of the story is a lot less celebratory, and a lot more depressing. We don’t even receive smiles anymore. Only the kids, inexperienced in war and in politics, sometimes raise a hesitating hand for a wave as we pass on the road. They stand on the roads’ shoulders, littered with burned armored vehicles. Above them, swarms of bloodsucking mosquitos constantly hover.
A Dog Burial
A puppy was killed on the road. For the whole day he was lying dead on the roadside, and was beginning to stink. At the end, we were the ones to bury him. After a short hour, his mother found his burial place. She burrowed and excavated her dead puppy, exposing him again to the rays of the sun and the eyes of the world.
The other day, one of our soldiers committed suicide in a checkpoint. Those who knew him claimed he brought his troubles from home. Another soldier was sent to the “soul-health’s officer.” Those in the know said he brought his “mantel-sickness” from home. Last night, a soldier from the Border Brigade was killed in an ambush. Those who knew him said he loved the army more than he loved his home. His funeral service and burial obeyed the required Army protocol.