Daniel Bettini
Daniel Bettini
Photo: Yedioth Ahronoth
IDF soldiers on the eve of the 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon

Remembering Lebanon in lockdown

Perspective: The coronavirus crisis has been tough, but a new Facebook group called 'Stories from Lebanon' reunites old friends who served together 20 years ago and has given us a nostalgic sense of unity during forced isolation

Daniel Bettini |
Published: 05.22.20 , 18:28
The quarantine, the curfew and the variety of other limitations imposed on us during the coronavirus epidemic will surely leave us with social, economical and mental scars.
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  • The complete absence of sporting and cultural events - experiences that bring us together - has also made day-to-day life more difficult.
    IDF soldiers on the eve of the withdrawal from Lebanon IDF soldiers on the eve of the withdrawal from Lebanon
    IDF soldiers on the eve of the 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon
    (Photo: Yaakov Ben Alfi/GPO)
    Daily routine will simply not be the same until these events return and we can stop reliving past performances and sports games on YouTube.
    On the other hand, the family experience has strengthened during this time, courtesy of the many hours at home together, cooking, playing and learning.
    And then, something happened that may have never done if not for the coronavirus, something that took over my life and that of many others.
    It started with the Facebook group "Stories from Lebanon," which commemorated the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon 20 years ago.
    אמא יצאנו מלבנון. אחד החיילים מדבר עם אמו לאחר הנסיגהאמא יצאנו מלבנון. אחד החיילים מדבר עם אמו לאחר הנסיגה
    Israeli soldiers after the IDF's withdrawal from Lebanon
    (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
    This Facebook group brought thousands of us now in our 40s and 50s back to this fascinating, almost forgotten period, and triggered a wave of nostalgia for our time serving in the IDF in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
    The group was started about two weeks ago, with the intention of evoking memories and reconnecting old friends who served in the legendary 433rd battalion of the Armor Corps 500 Brigade (Kfir).
    I have since found myself journeying back to this moving experience of the not-so-distant past. So much has changed since then - but some things have stayed the same, such as the amazing friendships that somehow lost momentum over the years.
    תא"ל בני גנץ, מפקד היק"ל בעת הנסיגהתא"ל בני גנץ, מפקד היק"ל בעת הנסיגה
    Defense Minister Benny Gantz in uniform during the withdrawal from Lebanon
    (Photo: Aviahu Shapira)
    Hundreds of photos have been uploaded to the group (scanned, of course, because there were no smartphones, WhatsApp or Facebook back then). It's almost as if time stood still.
    These pictures remind us of the scenarios and the stories, the jokes, laughs, nicknames and the total pandemonium.
    The group includes officers and infantrymen, commanders, fighters and technicians - all there to connect and reminisce about those meaningful years.
    Groups such as ours help many reconnect with their time in the IDF, which for some ended 20 years ago.
    Battalions and brigades are resurrected, and with them the bittersweet nostalgia.
    גבול לבנון גבול לבנון
    The Israel-Lebanon border
    (Photo:Aviahu Shapira)
    My brigade was disbanded many years ago, and so during my reserve duty I served with veterans of other brigades. I also formed a long-lasting connection with them, but it's simply a different era.
    We always knew we were a high-quality brigade, formed from the finest human material.
    We were a form of Israeli microcosm, a multifaceted slice of our society.
    Our legendary master sergeant, we discovered, became the deputy mayor of Nes Ziona and our beloved deputy battalion commander became an officer.
    The veterans of my brigade became top television journalists, one became a senior football referee in the Premier League, another is a musician, and yet another a well-known theater and television actor.
    Unfortunately, we were also informed that a beloved member of our brigade passed away just a week ago. So many feelings, so many connections recreated.
    So for some, the time of the coronavirus will also be remembered for the positive things that it brought to many lives - a chance to relive past glories, revive old fellowships and celebrate our dear ones who are no longer here.
    Long may these new-old friendships continue.
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