Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Don't be a fool and die for your country. Let the other sonofabitch die for his."

Monday in Israel was again an interesting experience.
The day startes as what is called Yom Hazikaron (the remembrance day for the fallen soldiers) and then goes over into the Yom HaAzmaut (the day of independence).
Three sirens, one on Sunday and two on Monday followed by one minute of silence marked the day. Many people were wearing white shirts in respect for the fallen soldiers. Flags were on half-mast.

I went to the Mount Herzl military cemetery. Here all the fallen soldiers of Jerusalem are buried, alongside Yitzhak Rabin and Theodor Herzl. The graves are sorted in an interesting fashion, first by company and then by the war. The entire graveyard was filled with relatives of the fallen once. Speakers commented on the heroic of falling for the country, the cause that those soldiers had died for, as Josef Trumpeldor said it, “Never mind, it is good, to die for our country.”
This is not the time of the year to comment on the death of the soldiers, I am told. What do you want to believe in, when your son has died during the last three days of the Second Lebanon War, just because the Israeli Government was not willing to sign the amistice agreement? Those voices were not heard on Monday.
But it was not the graves that shocked me, the people mourning, or even the teenager with flowers in their hands asking me, “Where is the second Lebanon War?”.

What shocked me was at the side of the graveyard. There, behind the graves of the newly buried soldiers, is a space that is left open, unpaved, waiting for the new soldier, who soon will be buried here.
The morning puts me into a moody feeling, I guess also because I was with an Israeli family, who lost a brother, a son, an uncle. But then it gets bizzar. I listen to the Tiqkva (Israel’s National Anthem) for the sixth time that day, they play it everywhere. At the evening is another ceremony at the Mount Herzl. The military marches, parades, the cabinet appears. The day of the fallen soldiers, turns into a show off of the IDF (Israel’s army). The flag is raised from half post to full and now it is Independence Day, with fire works, music and dance show featuring the most beautiful of the army girls. Weird! I conclude what my impression was: The sovereignty of Israel, the independence, relies upon the Army and the death of those soldiers serving in it. Why not emphasize the culture, the multitude of religions and the beautiful nature. If Israel does not want to be seen as an all military nation, maybe it should stop to represent and think of itself as one.

But it also must be noted that Israel is in need of its army on a daily base. Along with the fire works for the Independence Day, people in the Negev could hear and see a few dozen Quassam rockets and mortar shells fired by the Hamas. By breaking the curve with Israel for the first time in five month on the Independence Day, the Hamas once again emphasizes why Israel institutes those measurements that we in Europe criticize as too hard.

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