This is for everyone who wrote me off as naive!
Here is some background about me.
I haven’t had a clean uniform in three weeks, a shower for days or slept in 25 hours. When I do go to sleep it will be with my uniform and boots on and with my loaded rifle by my side. Since 0500 the soundtrack to my day has been the distant thump of Syrian artillery.
I am a Paratrooper and proud to serve my people and my country and I am certainly not the only one who does so. I signed up to Orev Tzanhanim in 2002, and didn’t complain when I found myself storming into the homes of innocent people in the middle of the night, throwing young parents out of their bedrooms while ordering them to grab their toddlers and then locking them in a room as quickly as I could. It was fine because I was on the clock, because If I didn’t make it to a specific window in their apartment and have my rifle pointing out of it in time then my friends would be confronting a real terrorist without me covering them.
The first time I came under fire the sounds were a rapid bangbangbangbangbang and I remember thinking that the earth kicked up just like in the films and how curious that was because in the films they always have a line that says “Hey kid, it’s not like it is in the movies.”
I listened to my friend’s much more controlled bang…bang…bang as he fired back several minutes later. It took a while for him to get into a position from which he could take aim at the enemy shooter. Only he didn’t hit the enemy shooter, he hit a young mother of 2 in the neck and killed her because she was peeking out of her window at the wrong time. I looked at him that night and knew that he would have to carry the burden of her death around with him for the rest of his life. It was my welcome into the euphemism known as “collateral damage.”
I remember spending an eternity wondering whether or not I was alive or dead after my friend tripped a mine right next to me. My whole world turned blinding white, then pitch black. I patted down my body again and again in the darkness looking for blood. I was sure that I must be dead. The thick dust that had been kicked up by the blast and obscured my vision slowly thinned out allowing me to see the shadowy bodies of my friends. The high pitched whine in my ears gave way to the sounds of each and every one of my team checking in as ok. Then it was my turn and incredulously I shouted out “Marc Takin!”
That same night we killed 3 terrorists, though we never recovered their bodies to find out conclusively who they were.
Then there was the night we went out on a mission to find hidden weapons and ended up burning a Palestinian family’s house down. It was the sudden shouts of “Allahu Akhbar” that shook me from my reverie while I was providing outer cover. The premature order to withdraw surprised me until my squad walked past the burning house. I saw the family who live there impotently throw buckets of water on flames reaching high up into the night sky. That night the big, bad IDF came knocking on their door and we huffed and we puffed and we burned their whole fucking house down! It was just another one of those things, you know, an accident that comes during a necessary operation. We didn’t actually find any weapons there either but we couldn’t have known that now could we? Of course that didn’t concern the family who had lost their house that night to the soldiers of the IDF.
Just like when we killed or captured all of the top 10 most wanted terrorists in Nablus and surprise, surprise there was still a list of the top 10 most wanted terrorists in Nablus. Neither bullets nor handcuffs would put an end to the conflict. The only thing waiting for us was more nights of being shot at and shooting back, of seeing friends kill innocent Palestinians in the crossfire. Every victim leaving behind cousins, brothers, sisters, parents and friends whose hearts and heads were filled with a newfound hatred for all things Israel. And of course more nights of us risking our necks.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that when it comes to Palestinians there is no “They”, there is no “Them” there are hundreds of thousands of different people all with their own hopes and dreams and ambitions for the future and that very few of them involve blowing themselves up. Even stranger was the discovery that it’s much easier to hate from a distance, much easier to mentally categorise a whole people as having one view when you’re looking at them through barbed wire fences, or on the internet or watching them policed by soldiers than it is when you are actually amongst them, when you are the source of their fears and the obstacle to their happiness.
The other day I dared pen an article with a suggestion for a new way to break the impasse, and I was utterly slated for it on this blog. People told me that I am the problem, that I am naïve, a hypocrite, that I am putting Jews in needless danger, telling me that Palestinians must be “crushed” and that a “Total War” must be fought against them.
I don’t seek anyone’s permission to dream and believe in peace with the Palestinians, I don’t need your approval in order to continue to come up with solutions to this conflict. Maybe I am the only one calling for the release of Barghouti on the thread but at least I am enlightened enough to know that dead bodies only beget more dead bodies, that violence does nothing but beget more violence.
I am not embarrassed by the fact that I was the only one on the thread calling for the release of Barghouti, I am proud that I am the first one on here calling for every possible option to be attempted, to call for every last rock to be upturned in the quest for peace.
It’s not the opinions that I found most shocking it was the utter callousness with which people spoke about ALL Palestinians and how easily people called me naive or a fool or both for daring to hope for a better future and to attempt to create one.
So now I’ll take the accusation of naivete and wear it as a badge of honor. When I hear the accusation again I’ll know that I am headed in the right direction.
There are too many people here ready to simply throw the cream of Israeli youth into the breach time and time again to the point that they aren’t even considering other options any more. Perhaps you are willing to fight until the last Israeli, to scar generation after generation with the memories and wounds of war but I am not.