Itai Carmeli


Still Here.

It’s been I don’t know how long. I can’t tell the days apart anymore. I can’t tell time. But I am still here. Among my new “army friends” and new “army enemies”. I still have great love for everyone fighting with me. I still don’t know who they are. I never saw them with their children, I never met their wives. All I know, is that they are still here with me, away from home.

Still There

Tel Aviv. Haifa. New York. Los Angeles. Paris. Milan. Rio. Accre. Bombay. Sydney. I still yearn to be there. Thoughts of a post army trip are resurging. I thought I was finished with that. I thought I did that already. Deja vu. I want to be far away from all this. Find some corner of the earth (I’d even settle for Mars), where I don’t have to think about this war. Fly far away where everything is new. Where I can be a stranger, and the world around me can be strange to me. I did my wandering. I had my “find yourself” years. Still, now I feel I lost what I found and need to go out searching for it.

Still Night.

But they rarely are still. Drones, tanks, hummers, gunfire, explosives, jets, RPG’s, radios, Bulldozers, tunnels, donkeys, boots, soldiers. They are all still humming, still running around, still moving, in the still of the night. I just don’t notice them anymore.

Still Day.

Hurry up! Wait. Hurry up. Wait. The pattern stays the same. Our missions have become routine. A new armory to blow up. A new tunnel to explore. Cover your rear, cover your head, lock and load. It’s the same each time. But that’s what scares me the most. Routine is a soldier’s worst enemy. My soldiers are strong. My soldiers know what they are doing. But still, not all of them are coming back.

Still Asking.

What’s next? What happens after? Still, I can’t tell you. I don’t know what the future holds, neither for me, for my people, or my country. I don’t know who I am. It used to be simple: a student. Now I am a soldier, a reservist, a Jew, an Israeli, an oppressor, an occupier, a savior, a hero, an aggressor, a wimp, a reason to worry, a reason to stop worrying, a symbol, a person, a human, a demon, an angel. Still, I don’t know. “My people” has become a term that bares questioning as well. Who are my people now? People who have the same religion as me? But what if I don’t really believe in that religion? People who have the same citizenship as me? But what if that citizenship is based on that religion that I don’t really believe in? I still don’t know. And what of my government? Are they still serving the best interests of the people? Are these interests short term or long term? What about the blame? What about the credit? Still, I have so many questions, and no answers.

Still Answering.

Yes, I’m ok. Yes, I’m fine. No, there’s no need to worry. Still I give the same responses to my family. Still my mother asks me if I have clean clothes to wear. Still my father asks me if there is any equipment I am missing. I love them, and they just want to be close to me, to give me comfort. But there is a limit to how much comfort they can give. Not because there is a limit to their love, but because maybe its not love that can give me comfort now. Maybe its camaraderie. Who says one is greater than the other. I am willing to die for my fellow soldiers just as I am willing to die for my family. So I give them the answers they want to hear, knowing that they won’t be able to understand the answers I want to give.

Still Mind.

Its strange. At times, I feel like I’m on auto. Give me my mission, I’ll take care of it. Give me the coordinates, the explosives, the tanks and the bulldozers, and I’ll get it done. Like clockwork. The training kicks in, and I don’t need to think about it. It just gets done with…stillness. But sometimes my mind races. So much to do and so little time, in it all the way. Like a wave with an infinite frequency, which is just a line, a still line. So whether my mind is off or on, its the same.

Still Body.

Freezing up doesn’t happen much, but there are times when I just can’t move. Waiting to hear the condition of your friend who got hit by shrapnel over the radio, my body stays still. Listening to the countdown to reach 0 after laying the explosives down, my body stays still. Looking at a stranger and hoping he isn’t hiding a gun or a grenade, my body stays still. It’s not fear that grips my body, but rather the feeling of not being in control. Not having control of the situation or the environment, but rather being a slave to it, is not something I am used to. Still, I must.

Still Dead.

We can’t bring them back. Those we lost on October 7th. Those who are buried under the rubble of the buildings. There was so much loss, and still, all I can think of are my friends. The ones wearing the same uniform as me. The one that was in the tank and got hit. The one that was standing by the entrance and got hit. The one that was supposed to come to school with me, and got blown up. I can’t bring them back. I can’t.

Still Alive

I am. Should I be thankful? Should I be happy that I get to go home and hug my mother, while others never again will? I know there is such a thing as survivor’s guilt. And I tell those around me that they shouldn’t feel guilty just for being alive, but still. I am reminded of the philosophy that our purpose on this earth is not to simply be alive, but rather to live a life worth living. Am I doing that? Is my staying alive worth the sacrifice that others have given? It feels as though every day that passes, a little bit less of me stays, and a hollow shell is forming. A shell with the outskirts of a uniform. A shell that wants to forget. So yes, technically I am alive, but still.

Still Faithless.

I gave up on believing in God a while ago. Sure, he can exist, but if he’s not intervening, then what does it matter? I’ve seen too much destruction to expect him to come down and magically fix everything. At this point, I don’t want him to. There is still blood flowing. Still tears bursting. Still there is suffering all around, of young boys, of kids, of babies. And where is God. If this is his help, we are still better off with him leaving us alone.

Still Faithful.

Despite my reservations of staying in Israel before the war, I remain faithful to it. I am still serving in its name. I am faithful to the vow I took to protect it. I am faithful to my duty of my rank. I am faithful to a country that I have long been critical of. The people are aggressive, the politics is a mess, the food is spicy, and still, I am faithful to my country. I call it my country because we share the same ideals. Not because of the land, or the religion, but because of the belief that a homeland for the Jewish people is a necessity in this world. History has shown that. Still, I have faith that this country that I serve can one day live in peace.

Still hopeless.

I have no hope that people want peace. They don’t. If they did, Hamas would give up the hostages, lay down their weapons, and stop building tunnels. If they did, Israel would let aid in, stop burning homes, and start taking care of the injured, regardless of their citizenship. But they don’t, so they don’t. I have lost hope that the people will one day wake up and feel butterflies in their tummies and start smiling rainbows to one another. They are stuck. Stuck in their thinking and the stubbornness of their beliefs. It is not a world that provides a bevy of support for the hopeful. And still…

Still hopeful.

Yes, I am hopeful for better days. I am hopeful that Israelis and Palestinians can rise from the ruble of this war and one day maybe, just maybe, shake hands. I have no idea why I feel this way. Nothing in the time I have been in the army (nor in the time before that for that matter) has shown that there is reason to hope for a peaceful future. Still, I do. Call it the idealist in me, or the ignorant in me, but regardless of what it is, I am still going to fight this war, and when I am done, I am going to fight for peace.  I am still going to be here. We are still going to be here. And I would rather continue fighting with a hope for peace and be wrong, than continue fighting without hope.

About the Author
Itai Carmeli is originally from New York. After high school, he made aliyah to join the IDF and served 6 years as a combat officer. He is finishing his degree at Haifa University for Political Science, Philosophy and Economics.
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