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Archive photo Photo: AP
Archive photo Photo: AP
 
 

Too many families being 'notified'

No parent would prefer dead heroes to living children

Yona Berger
Published: 08.13.06, 23:54 / Israel Opinion

It's Shabbat morning, the fourth of this war-without-a-name. Up north there are still katyusha attacks, still miracles.

 

This stiff-necked home-front (stiff-necked and home-front are the same word in Hebrew) has learned to listen to the home front command and to sleep in bomb shelters. People support the IDF and the political leadership. They want south Lebanon destroyed, crushed, erased, cleaned out.

 

Faith in this "war for our homes" crosses the traditional dividing lines between right-and-left and has unified most residents of this country.

 

And fathers mourn, mothers cry, when they receive the bitter news about their sons.

 

'Notifying' families

 

Last Sunday, near the memorial for Israel's first soldier of the modern era – the one who left us the phrase, "it is good to die for

one's country" – more than a dozen reserve soldiers died from a direct hit by a katyusha, fired by heartless fanatics who have no qualms about killing civilians, Jews or Arabs, in their attempt to destroy northern Israel.

 

They, too, believe in the justice of their cause and the legitimacy of their war. But even in Lebanon there is bad news, and there, too, families are "notified" of the bitter news.

 

The morning papers are filled with pictures of young men, fallen soldiers in this latest war; of fathers and sons and mothers and daughters, struck directly by missiles, in their reinforced homes. There are pictures of volunteer paratroopers and our excellent boys in the Golani Brigade.

 

"They were especially tough times" (two or three soldier deaths is now considered acceptable); their photos barely make it to the "top of the fold" on the front page. These are the names, and here are the pictures, of the families who received their bitter tidings yesterday.

 

Season of freedom

 

The summer of 2006 will be remembered as a season of freedom, in which bomb shelters replaced vacation cabins in the north. As we approach Israel's 59th Independence Day, we await only the first and last names of our newest fallen, to add to the memorial at the National Tank Museum.

 

And each year their names will be added to tens of thousands more who have fallen in Israel's wars, their children will grow up orphans and the bereaved parents will grow old and will always feel the pain of this loss, and the loss of great plans for a lost life, of the grandchildren that never were.

 

Heavy knock, soothing speech

 

They will always remember that knock on the door, the heavy step of the combat boots that preceded the moment when the family was notified.

 

And the defense minister soothes them, saying there is no ceasefire and that the IDF will reach the Litani River – have the families been notified?

 

And another minister to send the IDF even further, all the way to the Zaharani River – without even notifying the families!

 

And current and former government ministers, frustrated generals and failed politicians are planning to capture Tyre, Sidon, even Beirut – as if not enough families have been "notified."

 

The right-wing opposition supports the operation and calls for war with Syria, Iran, and we have no problem and no regrets. We haven't even made mistakes – just say "sorry" to the families.

 

Unnecessary war

 

And don't tell me it's a necessity of the current reality, that this tune cannot be stopped. When we are having a tough time chalking up military achievements, we will surely not stop, so as not to damage our deterrence.

 

And don't tell me that this is the price of future peace. This is the price of the current war, a war that should be stopped immediately.

 

And don't tell me that the sacrifice was worth it. There is no justice in the deaths of young men. Nothing is worth the deaths of fathers and sons; we must not kill mothers with their children.

 

Don't deliver the traditional mourners' greeting "may you be comforted from heaven," or that God takes the most beautiful flowers for His own private garden. These families were "notified" by artificial hands, not by angels.

 

There is no condolence in the deaths of heroes. Those who died as heroes are no longer alive. There is no parent who wouldn't prefer his or her child alive and kicking and just a trifle less heroic. All parents would gladly do without the "notifications," if only their children had continued living.

 

And all these leaders and war supporters demanding destruction, death and humiliation, for whom "the families have been notified" is just one more line in the newspaper, would do well to remember the words of Arasmus, the 16 th century Dutch theologian: War is sweet to those who don't have to bear the consequences."

 

Every country must ensure that as few "families are notified" as possible.

 

Yona Berger is a member of the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum

 

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