A Military Family

My grandson Daniel has just concluded his final weeks in the IDF, sweltering in a bunker on the Golan Heights during this summer’s heatwave. He remarked, in a posting on his Face Book page “I’m witnessing a Syrian fox making aliyah… Welcome to Israel… You’re in a mine-field…”

I can easily visualize the scene.

Fifty-four years ago, at the end of October 1956, during the Suez campaign, I was lying in a shallow dugout at the perimeter of our position just west of the Jordan river, facing the Golan Heights. We were on guard against a possible attack by Syrian commandos. At two or three in the morning, after hours of boredom, I froze, sensing a rustling in the nearby thickets. I reached out to my sergeant to alert him. After a moment he chuckled. “It’s only a wildcat,” he said. “Welcome to the Holy Land.”

No war broke out in the North that year, and we sang victory songs on the way home; but we fell silent when we learned that a couple of friends had been killed in the battles in the South.

Are we a military family? I don’t think so. But my father spent four years in the British army in WWII. (I only served a couple of weeks, and contracted polio immediately afterwards.) Two of my older children have served in the IDF, one during the first Lebanese war. And now my granddaughter Enya has just begun a period of voluntary national service before her formal enlistment in the army.

When will this ever end?

Shall I list the names of friends who died in Israel’s wars? Shall I mention the sons and daughters who also lie in the dust of our military cemeteries? Can I talk of our apprehension as the next generation, our beautiful young grandchildren, prepare to do battle?

O God, when will this ever end?

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