I wrote this last year, when we first got Gilad back. I find it still resonates now, even meeting him this week. Was it the right thing to do? Maybe. All I know for sure is that I’m happy he’s home and I’m happy he gives strength and hope for so many.
You’re waiting on a crowded line to order a slice of pizza.
But not just any slice of pizza. A Sbarros’ famous slice of pizza. And that olive slice looks really very tempting. You smell it baking as you tell the kind lady which one you’d like to order and hand her some money, suddenly realizing you’re short a few shekels. You turn to ask your friend to lend you the difference when suddenly there’s a bang, screams and smoke. And then your friend’s not there.
You’re ducking for cover, barely able to breathe or see in the smoke. Your ears are ringing. And that’s when you feel it. A striking pain in what you imagine to be your left thigh. And that’s when you see it. Blood. Lots of blood. The same color as the tomato sauce used for the slice you were about to order.
And that’s when you throw up.
A day later you’re lying in a hospital bed, unsure if you’ll ever again gain use of your left leg. But you’re not so much dwelling on that. You’re more focused on the shekel in your hand that’s from your friend from the pizza store. That and the fact that you’re missing her last few seconds above the ground. That friend’s funeral. Since she wasn’t lucky enough to be ahead of you on that Sbarros’ line ordering that olive slice of pizza.
And you want to throw up again.
Jump ahead ten years later. You’re still walking with a cane, but you’ve defied most of the odds. You’re twenty-five, a successful creative director at Aleph Marketing Communications. You still visit your friend’s grave from time to time, but it’s less painful now since ten years has healed.
You still won’t eat at that Sbarros, though. You actually won’t eat any pizza at all. It disgusts you. You once were on a first date that took you near the notorious Sbarros and before you could stop the man you were with, he walked in. And you freaked out. Needless to say, there was not a second date.
Shoot back roughly five years. You’re a young soldier stationed at the border in Northern Israel. But you’re not in a position of high risk, since, well, you were injured in the Sbarros bombing. You start to hear rumors about terrorists abducting one of the border guards down South. You know you have a few friends stationed down there, but these are just rumors right? What’s there to worry about?
That night, your commanding officer comes to your post just as you’re about to light a cigarette. He tells you and your comrade that indeed, Hamas abducted a soldier down south. And now the official rule was that, in the event that a soldier seemed in danger of being abducted, you were to do everything in your power to ensure that this did not happen. Even if it meant opening fire upon your friend.
You look around at the room with about ten other young men and women. You can’t imagine shooting any of them. But then again, could you imagine any of them being stuck in those terrorists’ hands? Let alone yourself being stuck? Gosh, what would they do to him? And hey, who was abducted?
But no. You shake your head. You don’t really want to think about this. All you really want to dwell on is how you’re seeing Pitbull live next time you have a weekend off. Which is in two weeks right? You can barely remember.
Those few weeks fly by, and by now you’ve pushed aside any of the thoughts of the abducted Gilad Shalit. Because that happened in the South, near Hamas. You’re stationed in the North, near Hizbullah, and they would never dare to consider kidnapping Israelis, would they?
Anyways, you’re ranting about the Pitbull Concert to your comrade and, now, close friend, Eldad. Your commander comes over and asks who would be willing to drive the Humvee to the other outpost, a little further up North. Eldad volunteers and tells you he’ll talk to you later and hands you an extra cigarette he says you look like you need. And that’s the last time you see him. Alive that is.
Because Hizbullah did dare. And they kidnapped not one but two of your infantry. You just hadn’t been lucky enough to volunteer to ride in that Humvee. Eldad had to go.
And now you’re stuck at your outpost hearing rumors about war and invading Lebanon or Gaza. You’re only nineteen. But they have your friends. They have your brothers. Who knows what they could currently be doing to those brothers?
And that’s when you light Eldad’s cigarette, quickly extinguishing it since the smell seems to make you want to throw up. That, and the fact that it may be the last thing you ever get from Eldad. Since he might be dead.
And that’s when you run to the trees to actually throw up.
Go ahead two years. You have just completed your three-year army service and have served in two wars. You feel relief. You’re now free to travel the world, and explore all that you’ve tried to protect. You’re free to go home.
With a sigh, you know that Eldad isn’t. And neither is the other soldier, Ehud, captured with him. Israel doesn’t know where they are, or if they’re safe or anything. Hizbullah has been very uncooperative. But Hamas isn’t any better. Gilad Shalit also is undiscovered and his condition is unknown.
It’s a week later and your commanding officer calls you up, asking you if you’d like to attend a soldier’s funeral out of respect. You agree to go and ask whom it’s for? And he answers Eldad and Ehud. We got their bones this morning.
You don’t cry at this news. Because at least now you know for certain. There is no in-between. They’re dead.
You attend the funeral, seeing Ehud’s young wife weep consistently throughout. Your heart tears. But in some way, you feel you’re giving Eldad the respect you never were able to give your other friend. And finally now, you’re content that Eldad’s and Ehud’s parents and families can put their bones to rest and have some semblance of closure. You, too can actually have closure.
I mean, you haven’t picked up a cigarette since you threw up Eldad’s. Which some people will consider a life saving thing, but for you it’s not a voluntary thing. You still feel sick to your stomach at the smell of cigarette smoke. You tend to shy away from bars for that reason. That affects your social life to a degree. Which bothers you immensely.
Jump back to 2011, when you’re the twenty-five year old creative director. You still keep the memories of your two lost friends. You still keep that shekel and that barely lit cigarette. They’re in a box in your apartment.
You also carry the trauma with you. You sometimes hear the screams from Sbarros at night. You sometimes wake, frantic to see if you still have use of your left leg. You turn and reach for your gun at a birdcall in the night, afraid it’s Hizbullah signaling, about to get you as well.
But you’re okay. You try to be as best as you can.
And that’s when you begin to hear the rumors seemingly too good to believe. Gilad Shalit alive? A deal with Hamas? Unbelievable! You thought those terrorists always killed us Jews. We were worth nothing to them!
Oh but we worth something. A price. A hefty, unspeakable, immeasurable price.
1,027 people with blood on their hands.
That’s 227 more people than the population in Vatican City as of 2010. This was madness.
But Gilad Shalit was alive. One of our own was alive. That never happened. He has to come home finally if he’s alive. We can’t just let him rot in Hamas’ dungeons if he is still breathing.
Like so many Israelis, as well as the rest of the world, you just couldn’t wrap your head around it. What nation has the audacity to ask for such a high price? And what country in their right mind would give in to such extreme a demand?
But that is an ethical debate for a different time.
You make yourself a cup of tea, contemplating as you start hearing the nightly news anchors read off the list of some of the terrorists to be release. You hear “Ahmam Tamimi.” You know that name. Your world suddenly turns into ten years ago. The pizza, the screams, the booms, the blood. You drop your cup.
No. Not her. She killed too many. Injured too much. She could do it again. She’s young enough to still hate and do it again.
Your world’s now spinning.
But Gilad Shalit’s alive. Isn’t it worth giving her up if we don’t need to bury another one of us in this senseless war?
But she killed your friend!
The debate in so many people’s heads now encircled yours. And your life.
We all know how this story ends.