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An ordinary day in a Tsahal fighter's life
by Tal Belo (translation : Amichai Kronfeld)
12 Feb 2002
Tal Belo (I hope I transcribe his last name right) is signer number 152 in the Tsahal reservists "Fighters' Letter." As you know, some of the signers added a statement to their signature, which are accessible in the petition's website (www.seruv.org.il). Most of them discuss why they think their act is justified. Tal Belo, however, chose to include a short story, which I translated.
Tal Belo (I hope I transcribe his last name right) is signer number 152 in the Tsahal reservists "Fighters' Letter." As you know, some of the signers added a statement to their signature, which are accessible in the petition's website (www.seruv.org.il). Most of them discuss why they think their act is justified. Tal Belo, however, chose to include a short story, which I translated. See below. I find the story very powerful and moving. (...)
A personal note, if I may: the narrator in this story serves in the Nahal, as I did from 1967 to 1970. Some things never change, apparently. For example, it turns out that the soldiers of today still listen to the Doors.
Other things have changed quite a bit. Although hashish was certainly around in my time (after the '67 war) and was smoked among students at
Tel-Aviv University (and also in my kibbutz), I was not aware of anyone who smoked it in the Nahal. The idea of a soldier drinking whisky in the Nahal Corps was simply too exotic to contemplate. It was literally unheard of.
But those who have read about the Vietnam war (and surely those who have been there) would recognize the symptoms of an army slowly disintegrating under the pressure of its own immoral objectives and methods. There is no doubt that eventually, the settlements will be dismantled, the army will withdraw from the occupied territories and an independent Palestinian state will struggle with its own problems. The question is how many more lives, on both sides, will be ruined before this happens.
Go Figure Why You Are Alive (by Tal Belo)
That night, I was a bit drunk. We sat around drinking in honor of Daniel who came all the way from France and made aliyah so he could faithfully serve the country, the army and Tali the female military social worker. We uncorked a Johnny Walker that Tali’s brother gave her, and we were listening to the Doors while smoking some hashish. You can’t be a real Nahal Corps soldier without drinking Johnny Walker, listening to the Doors, or smoking hashish. And the select few partake in all three… We’d just gotten back from Lebanon, and after a week of R&R we were sent right to the territories, to Gaza.
There’s no place like Gaza. With its blue sea and excellent hummus which even if you include a ton of pita bread, cracked olives and French fries won’t cost you more than 10 shekels, you’d even get back some change. Let me tell you about these Gazan olives. First of all, they are the most bitter ones in the entire world. Gaza people say that the olives get their bitterness from life in the Gaza strip. From the pressure of our occupation and the previous one and the one before that. And not only are these olives bitter, they can also drive you crazy with their saltiness. And that is because of the tears of the Gaza women. Tears they shed in the olive groves seep through into the olives.
The Gaza women were the true heroes. While the men were busy tending to the miseries of life and looking for ways to liberate themselves from this or that occupation, the women were busy taking care of the kids, preparing the food and working in the groves. In the groves they had quality time. All alone there, they cried for their youth and for their dreams; for the sons who were killed or sent to prison, or for the sons who will be killed or will be sent to prison.
And the olives – they took it all in, which – contrary to general opinion – made them taste great and go very well with Whisky. Suddenly I thought about my mother who doesn’t sleep at night.
I tried to explain to her that all we did was drink Whisky and eat cracked olives. But she didn’t believe me, my mother, and began to cry.
She said she was scared. That she had bad dreams. Mom and her dreams. I told her not to worry and not to cry because if she did, the water in the Israeli aquifer would get salty and it would be her fault. This is what happened in Gaza and that’s why they are oppressed and occupied. It did not help, though. There’s no one like mom.
Tali said that Jim Morrison was King and started dancing. She was so beautiful, Tali! With her direct manners and her flat stomach and her breasts with the nipples that stood up like two small hills in the prairie.
Daniel joined her and they kissed. I sat by myself and thought how Daniel was a victim of life. A human being whose life got screwed up and no one was paying attention.
Last week, during the demonstration near the green Mosque, Daniel accidentally fired some shots into the crowd and some pregnant Gaza woman was killed. I ran to her trying to provide some help, but she was already dying. She gave me a sad look and had tears in her eyes. She had a fifth month belly, and I knew she’d lost the baby. She was bleeding heavily from the abdomen and it took me a while to insert the IV and start the transfusion. Then she died at 6:00PM. Roni, the MD, and I began to cry.
Manny, the driver, mumbled that she was just an Arab. Dead, so what? But he too was sad and I could see he was having a hard time with it. I kissed him on his forehead and told him to drive to headquarters. No one said a word to Daniel.
There was an investigation and it was decided that this had been a mistake.
An accidental bullet. But no one talked to Daniel. I told Roni that Daniel needs some time off, that we need to talk to him, that he seemed strange.
But Roni was busy and we were all busy: there were more demonstrations and more people got killed and I felt as if I was slowly going crazy. They taught us to fire our rifles, to set up ambushes, jump from an airplane, carry our gear, run, fall, run again. They forgot to teach us to talk, cry, forgive ourselves. Daniel looked at Tali, gave her another kiss, and said that he was stepping out for a second to take a leak.
I asked him if he wanted some company. Nah, he said, stay here and keep and eye on Tali for me. I stayed with Tali.
After a minute, we heard a shot.