Pic: Yaki Assaig

If I were a captain

If things continue as they are, it’s not entirely certain you’ll find someone who is willing to be the captain of the commando unit

A 26-year-old army captain with unruly chin stubble because after all I am in the commandos and army fatigues that look like I’ve slept in them. I may be a young officer but I completed my service once already, six months between Thailand and Vietnam, didn’t like India at all. And if we are already talking about likes and loves, well, there is Sagit who I call Sagi. I know the wedding is supposed to freak me out. It totally doesn’t.


I know that I look like the new army everyone talks about, with the GPS in the Palm and the Power Point program briefing the guys and the constant bickering about who gets to drive the Hammer next time out. But that’s all nonsense because in the end, army is army. You are standing behind a wall and hear someone trying to get his breathing under control. You smell your own sweat and hope you are about to do the right thing.


That is what it's all about: Doing the right thing. Taking responsibility for the lives of young men (I know I am young as well, but they are even younger) to act as if nothing can happen to me, to run every morning because it’s about time to break my personal record for the 5,000 meter, to express my opinion from the last row of the briefing room even if it rubs someone the wrong way.


Who cares?

If I were a captain, I would know that in two months time I would be summoned for a talk. It’s always the same talk. “You have what it takes to be a chief of staff,” they tell me as if the position requires some kind of chemical formula made in a lab. But this time it’s different. They are worn out and so am I. They don’t sound entirely convincing and I am not convinced.


We all read the same newspapers, and we’re all a little fed up. Sagit is already studying towards her master’s degree and I am stuck with my grades from my high school physics matriculation. I am not sure anyone appreciates this commando unit outside of the unit itself. If someone does care then it’s worth the effort.


That is the risk you take, an insane dance with the devil: There are the sources who leak to the media and the never ending petitions to the Supreme Court; the army appointed commissions created for the sole purpose of telling them that if heads don’t roll the commission isn’t worth the paper on which they are writing; the arrogant commentators and self promoting NGOs; the watchdogs of democracy who are suddenly rabidly drooling.


It’s true that there will always be someone who wants to be the prime minister or defense minister or even the head of the tax authority. But if things continue as they are, it’s not entirely certain you’ll find someone who is willing to be the captain of the commando unit.


A message from the date palm

In the year 73 CE , a Jewish warrior sat on Massada, legs dangling over the edge of the cliff as he watched the Roman legions commanded by Flavius Silva sweating to death as they struggled to build the ramp that will lead to – three months later – the fall of the second Jewish empire. The fighter ate a date, his mouth filling with dust and the sweet juices. (In the first century, Plini the Elder wrote that Judean dates were the best in the world.) When he finished the date, he threw the pit in a jar.


2,000 years later, in the 1970s, the vessel was discovered during archeological excavations conducted by Professor Ehud Netzer. Two years ago, the pit was carefully removed and given to Dr. Sara Salone of the Hebrew University who gingerly transported it to the Arava Institute’s plant nursery at Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev.


There, surrounded by medicinal herbs and other plants, nurtured with fertilizer, water and other enhancers, and after two months, it miraculously sprouted its first leaf, followed by many more. Now there’s a young 2000-year-old sapling.


Haaretz was the first to report on the wonder. The reporter said that the cautiously flourishing date palm in the Arava holds a world’s record. In China, they were able to sprout pits which are 1,200 years old, but no one ever dreamed of succeeding with a 2000-year-old pit. The sapling is also different from those with which we are familiar. The palm frond is much longer.


Dr, Elaine Soloway of the Arava Institute who received the ancient date pit said that she kept the young sapling in isolation in a plant nursery for two years to prevent it catching some disease from the 21st century. But she said that now it seems to be strong enough but it would be a while before we would know the flavor of the ancient date. It already has a name: Methuselah.


So Methuselah lives but I made up the Jewish warrior. Tat is because the story of mass suicide of the Jewish zealots on Massada, at least according to archeological indications, never happened. The Romans did not document it nor the Mishna or the Talmud. In addition had 1,000 people committed suicide atop Massada someone would have discovered their bones.


Even the well known quote from Massada Governor Eliezer Ben Yair: “To death we were born and to death we give birth and not even the happiest of souls on earth can escape it,” isn’t really his but the flowery prose of one Yosef Ben Matityahu. My friend Yonaton Geffen says it is better this way: “Because if the story of Massada is true, and all the heroes committed suicide, that means that we are all the offspring of cowards."


Why did I even bring up Methuselah this week? We’ve resumed those never ending rounds with the Palestinians during which we demand their recognition of our existence. There is something downright insulting if not pathetic when strong, successful country with date palms that go back 2,000 years and Jewish myths that go back 5,000 years acts like it needs a permission slip from its enemies to exist.


The prophet Muhammad was born 500 years after the Methuselah date palm. Recognize us, don’t recognize us, what difference does it make? We don’t need their permission.


פרסום ראשון: 02.28.07, 00:42
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