I remember it like it was yesterday.
We were lying in ambush inside Lebanon adjacent to the Jewish settlement of Biranit. It was 1979 and the potential terrorists were around the corner.
We were all reservists – mainly kibbutzniks but also some city folk. It was the night of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). Most of us had young families with children, including myself and we clearly understood our mission.
These were intense and uncertain times and as reservists we felt this was where we wanted to be in order to protect our country.
Only three years later, we would find ourselves serving in the First Lebanon War. Of course, we didn’t know this at the time but we were young, enthusiastic, idealistic, hopeful and Zionist.
On the eve of Yom HaShoah of 1979 we lay ambush inside Lebanon for six hours. Normally we would lie in ambush for six hours and then come back the next day for some rest and relaxation.
In this case the next morning was Yom HaShoah. Only we didn’t remember, as we were disorientated and had lost track of time. Around noon when we arose from our sleep, we began playing basketball and making noise, when all of a sudden a Druze master sergeant began shouting at the top of his lungs that we should stop making so much noise, and he would have expected us to have more respect for the memory of the six million Jews murdered in Europe.
We were stunned into silence. Here was a Druze master sergeant in the Jewish democratic State of Israel reminding us of the six million Jewish lives lost in the greatest massacre the world has ever known.
We had great respect for him.
These are the situations where we are reminded of the great humanistic and Zionist tradition of the fathers of the State of Israel – Herzl, Jabotinsky, Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin. This country was built by the people, for the people, with minorities in mind.
Never is it more important than today to remember those six million. As we get further away from the Holocaust and fewer survivors are still alive to provide first hand witness, the truth can fade and be forgotten, or even worse – be twisted and defiled.
The fact that there are non-Jewish soldiers in the IDF who put their lives on the line to protect the Jewish State and all it stands for highlights just how much the Jewish people have that is worth fighting for.
As a newcomer to Israel, one has this incredible need to create your own family. You start your life again in many ways, and this can come in the form of spouses, children, grandchildren and friends. And as a lone soldier your friends are those you are serving with. Life is simple and immediate and that is why this time is etched so clearly in my memory.
Yom HaShoah will forever bring back that hot, dry day in Biranit, when my Jewish eyes were opened by a Druze master sergeant, in the Jewish and democratic State of Israel.