July 30, 1982
To Rafi Falk, Jerusalem.
...it's as if we're living in the maze of courtrooms in Kafka's "The Trial". Fate has reached a verdict in our case and there's nothing left to do but keep moving ahead, pulled along by fate in a tug-of-war. How far we've come since our youth, when we were naive and believed that each of us could change the world. But despite all the criticism of the 30 years the Ma'arach [the alliance of the various Labor parties] was in power, I'm still proud of the values and the egalitarian way of life we developed here on my kibbutz, Ein-Dor. But I become frightened when I see the quarter of a million Jewish people at the Malchei Yisrael plaza [a large square outside of Tel Aviv's city hall, it is a staging ground for Israel's large political demonstrations] rhythmically shouting "Begin, King of Israel", and then "Peace Now -- knife in the back". With whatever strength I have left I try to summon up just a flicker of faith that something might be done for the cause of peace and respect for the rights of the other side, and to oppose violence, killing, pain, and bereavement...
August 1, 1982
To Eli Geva [a maverick brigade commander who resigned his post when ordered to participate in the controversial artillery shelling of populated West Beirut],
I don't know you and I'm not asking you to agree with me. All I want to say is this: Having lost my son Yaron at the Beaufort, your choice of the most difficult course imaginable has restored my faith that we, human-kind, still can and still must direct the course of events towards the ideals which we were taught and which we teach: The sanctity of man is the ultimate goal to which all else must be directed; it's never the other way around. Remembering that a human being is a human being even when he or she is an Arab.
There may not be anyone else in the country who could have done what you did, and that doesn't make it one bit easier on you. I read that your father asked you to go on trying, from within the IDF, to win support for your beliefs. He's comfortable with your views, but not with the course you've chosen. You should be happy to have such a father.
Nevertheless, the fact is that right now there's no way to persuade the army command. Your bold act may nonetheless bring about a change for the good, for greater humaneness and dialogue, and respect for the rights of the other side. For although one can agree or disagree with your actions -- no one can ignore the moral aspects of this war any longer. And that's a great privilege.
I lost my son and nothing will ever take his place, for Yaron had the right to live and build his future here...when Yaron died, the lights went out, and I was smothered by rage and tears, by sorrow and despair. They didn't only take away our son, they tried to take away everything we believe in.
And days went by, and people came, and they wrote letters and took action, and with all my might I try not to despair as I seek the light at the end of the tunnel. And then you came and contributed one more spark of hope -- that true heroism, self-sacrifice, and the struggle for a moral and meaningful existence here are not passe.
Thank You, With Love and Tears
January 23, 1983
To Moshe Gershoni,
I didn't understand your cry, your outcry, until death reached my home. Not the bloody plates on the floor; nor your painting with the words "Shalom Soldier" in red letters. At the close of the Tel-Hai 80 Contemporary Art Meeting [in the Upper Galilee], I heard you sing a favorite song of mine, "Lay Down My Child, Lay Down to Rest". Hundreds of times, I've sung this song and played it on harmonica for my boys and girls, including Yaron of course.
Only now have I begun to understand you and to "love" your work.
It's so depressing. There's so little we can do about the violence, the hatred, the strong-armed policies, but we just have to try and prevent the militarists and fanatics among us from stamping out our dreams for this country.
Moshe, thank you for your outcry. If only the sparks would all come together and form a giant flame.
With Greetings and Pain,
January 31, 1983
To Yigal Tomarkin [a prominent Israeli artist],
Blind and cruel is fate. A few years back, I sent you some photographs of the war memorial in honor of the soldiers who were killed in the Bikah [Israel's eastern border]. It was there that a young man from my kibbutz was killed. His name was Avner Lord and he had been a pupil of mine. In a metal-work sculpture, you called out to the heavens, and it touched me. But now that my son has been killed in the Lebanon War, I no longer seek war memorials. I seek to yell and scream so that everyone will hear and see and understand that "A Homeland is not an Altar".
I was invited to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Golani Brigade memorial site. Perhaps you were also in attendance? It was an extremely trying day for me. I don't know how I was able to stay there as long as I did. For what purpose did they spend millions on slabs of concrete made to look like bunkers on Mt. Hermon? So as to bring Israeli children there and teach them how we continue to fight, to kill and be killed; instead of building centers for wide-ranging activity between Jews of divergent origins; like the joint Jewish-Arab center in between the Rehavia and Katamon neighborhoods [of Jerusalem], in every conceivable place there should be centers for rapprochement, understanding, tolerance, acquaintance, mixed games and sports, mixed choirs, theater, et al. As I see it, any money spent on iron and concrete war memorials holds within it the seeds of the next disaster!
And on that mournful day, something occurred which continues to shock me even now. With the best of intentions, they had put together folders for the more than 1,000 brigade soldiers who had died in all our wars. Each soldier had his own folder. But they put all the folders on long tables, arranged alphabetically, the way they lay out books on stands during Hebrew Book Week. Everyone wanted to get to their own particular folder, and people pushed and shoved in an uncivilized manner (and that's an understatement) to find their own precious folder. Such little respect was shown for the dead, and for the living.
Plastic beverage cups were strewn all over the place. The Army Rabbi gave a speech that seemed as long as our years in exile. What are we, the bereaved parents, to blame? Is this what we deserve?
Of course, in no way do I hold you responsible, but as a person who has created war memorials, I wanted you to know that what was once ceremony has been turned into a picnic. I enclose my montage: "A Homeland is not an Altar". Use it as best you see fit.
With Greetings and Pain,
February 2, 1983
To Mark Gefen, editor of the newspaper, Al HaMishmar.
...dear Mark, I hope I'm maintaining my sanity. Terrorists are now running the country and I'm trying to deny them any respite, deny them a peaceful night's sleep, because of blood that's been spilt.
Consequently, I think that any time a soldier is killed or wounded in Lebanon (of course, it's already been written as well for any child or citizen killed or wounded in the West Bank or Golan Heights), reporters should be sent to the house, to interview the parents, and put his picture on the front page; to tell about him, his plans, anything whatsoever that will rekindle his image -- as much as possible, to try and let everyone understand that his life was a thread that was severed in the middle. And if he was wounded, let them understand that he will be disabled from this day forward and for the rest of his life because of a war that should never have been...while "we", the uninjured, shall we go on living like normal? Occupied in agriculture, industry, and the stock market?
February 2, 1983
To Naomi Tzur.
...I'm trying to get something going with the idea of the "A Homeland is not an Altar" postcards. Have eight possible captions printed on the back of the card where the mailing address is usually located. Peace Now's Tzali Reshef said he'd use them; I sent some to Rafi Lavi of the Morasha seminary, and to Asher Oron of Bezalel [art and design school] as well, and I asked him if they'd be willing to make this the "theme" of their students' design projects...to give various forms of expression to the idea that, indeed, "A Homeland is not an Altar".
I am naive, but I try, hoping that something will come of it...and I'll ask you, too: Would your classes and your photographer friends not consider giving expression to our wish to go back to a saner Israel?
But don't get more involved in this than you're really able, and don't put added pressure on your life and your work. Perhaps the way you can be of greatest assistance is by hearing what I'm doing or trying to do, and giving me feed-back derived from a more objective and germane perspective. Because I am so deeply involved that I can't be certain whether I'm going about it correctly.
February 3, 1983
To Avital Geva, Kibbutz Ein Shemer.
I had a talk in my house with Ra'anan of Kibbutz Gazit, a friend of Yaron who has seriously wounded at Beirut Airport. He was unconscious for two weeks. Now, he's working, reading, getting along quite normally, except for some hearing loss. I asked him whether he'd be willing to face public exposure and raise his voice against the injustice done to him. Here's his reply:
"A. I don't think that anything I'll say or do will have an affect on `the system'.
B. I'm not comfortable with the idea of exploiting the special status given me because I'm a casualty. The ones who came back in one piece should do the talking!!
C. And, really, what would I say? At the time I was injured, I didn't feel a thing. Later, I regained consciousness. They kept me drugged up enough so that even then I wasn't in pain. But the attending psychologist cautioned me that during a time of unconsciousness, a person is fighting for his life, and experiences an intense fear of death, which is repressed deep down, but generally the day comes that the feeling explodes to the surface and then you're in deep trouble if you're not aware that this might happen and don't call for help right away!" And then I recalled what Amia Lieblich had written in her book, Tin Soldiers on Jerusalem Beach. She pointed out that of those wounded in battle, and even of those who just fought there, few were capable of discussing the war and their experiences until approximately one year had gone by. They shouldn't be pushed and prodded, unless there are those who wish to talk, in which case it is vital to hear them out.
A friend of mine, named Rami Levi, recently returned from a year of study in the United States, at Harvard. Rami directed S. Yizhar's short story, Hirbat Hizha, as well as other films which probe society's ills, including the problem of Jewish-Arab relations. My first contact with him was when I read what he had to say following the Yom Kippur War: When he got back and wished to get involved -- to raise his voice against the blood that was spilt -- he got permission from a friend of his who was suffering from shell shock. He went to his house, began to film his story, and already had a sizable portion of the would-be movie...until his wife spoke up and said, "Enough is enough!". She could not allow a million pairs of eyes to invade their private life...and she put a stop to the film. Rami then understood how hard it is to document the things that really need to be said.
What I'm asking is -- can this footage have an impact on people? Move them towards peace? Convince them of the horrible price we pay? By and large, who'd want to see this footage?
February 14, 1983
For Rabbi Goren [then one of Israel's two Chief Rabbis].
Is it true, as reported in the Al HaMishmar newspaper of February 13, 1983, that you would not allow Emil Grunzweig's [the Peace Now activist killed when a hand grenade was thrown into a movement rally in Jerusalem] funeral to be held on a Friday unless you gave the eulogy? If the item is incorrect, please issue a denial in the press. Otherwise, please explain to me what right you have to do this? I attended the funeral and as I heard the crowd's angry response to your words, I was gripped by trembling. It would have been better had you not spoken.
February 16, 1983
To Ze'ev Schiff.
...Dear Ze'ev Schiff. I've come to terms with the fact that Yaron won't be coming back, but I shall never forgive the ones who sent him off to this war. Publicly demonstrating why this war should never have been fought is cruel, I know, and it's so hard on all those parents who wish to console themselves in the thought that at least there was some meaning to their son's death. But if we wish to try and make this nation sane once more, and take action to avert the next war, exposing the whole truth is the only chance we have. And it goes without saying that the ones to blame must be held accountable. In all my pain, sorrow, frustration, and hope, I'd like to express my thanks once again.
March 7, 1983
To A.B. Yehoshua [a prominent Israeli writer],
...Might I ask you to take a few minutes of your time to read the material that is going into Yaron's memorial album. I know that Yaron was neither a writer nor a poet. He wasn't at the head of his class, and he was a very mischievous lad, to say the least. But he loved to write. On my postcards, I quote one particular father whose remarks were most harrowing: "My son was only given to me in trust for eighteen, twenty years..." Is this everyone's feeling and is that why people save their letters? I know that only the finest literary works stand the test of time and perhaps that's how they're truly defined. But I ask you: In these times, as every day more casualties are registered amongst our young men in Lebanon, could the simple, human remarks Yaron made on joy, suffering, and his desperate quest for love, could his straightforward poems, and his true-to-life photography, could they not touch the hearts of young people? And maybe, if they could get but one message across: This young man, so full of life, deserved to go on living and not be sent off to a war that didn't solve a thing, certainly not for our [Arab] neighbors.
June 13, 1983
Dear Ro'i, Shalom.
In spirit I'm there with you all at the protest vigil in front of Prime Minister Begin's residence. When I see the huge impact of a small act, with people and large organizations joining ranks with you and your young friends, it's vital that you yourself know, and maybe even let others know, how much one individual can still accomplish in our (still democratic) country.
Notice how far you've come since that day last year in our house when you were deep in despair and you implored us, saying: "We soldiers have our hands tied, but why don't you civilians cause an uproar and take action to put an end to this war, and to the non-stop killing of our sons and ourselves?" And you did it: You stood up, you and the others, and you took action. I guess there's a power in the spoken word that can't be denied.
I recall my letter of July 9, 1982, written to you and your friends in Golani reconnaissance. I wrote it on the eve of the ceremony on Ein-Dor marking 30 days since Yaron's burial. "And what about you? Who's going to console you? Who's going to give you the strength to push on and not take the easy way out? I'll tell what's been on my mind. By choosing to be a reconnaissance soldier, you have stated a fact. You're willing to give up that which is most precious, for the nation and land you love. But, when you complete your tour and each of you goes back to where he came from, will you be willing to give up even a fraction of your lives for the sake of peace, so that we won't have one war followed by another? Isn't that the most important thing to do? I don't know what path each of you shall choose, but from by brief acquaintance with you all, tragic as the circumstances may have been, I am convinced that if only you wanted to, you could move the peace process forward here, in Israel".
Think about it, how many gruelling training exercises have you been through so that you'd be physically fit for battle, and tell me the truth, how much thought, time, study, reflection and inquiry have you given to finding the paths and roadways to peace? To a more just society? To a life of substance and meaning?
This country doesn't need any more war memorials. What it needs is more people making real, human contact. And the sooner, the better.
June 21, 1983
To Rachel Manor, Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek.
...I'm right now holding a few really powerful letters written by parents left bereaved by Israel's wars and I don't know what to do with them: They're have the power to stir people to take action, but they're so personal and painful. Do I dare publish them? And yet?
June 17, 1983
Dear Natan Zach, Shalom.
I heard what you said on your radio program a few days ago; I've read your poems; and one of the books on my dear Yaron's shelf is North-Easterly. I randomly open the book and read your poem of October 1977 entitled, "Song for the Days of Awe".
"...Shelter us from the silent heroism that does nothing
Shelter us from owing a favor to ourselves, not even to you
In the troubled days ahead, in the trial approaching".
I didn't shelter Yaron, we didn't shelter him, and he didn't shelter himself.
We didn't read the writing on the wall, not enough, not in time,
Our sons', my son's, blood is spilt by others
And I know not how to find solace, for there is none.
Nonetheless, I wish to tell you that your poems, your words, and your courageous spirit give me the strength to go on, to not fall into total despair, knowing that there are people out there for whom human sanctity is the value most sublime, and knowing that while taking our sons, we simply cannot allow those others to also take away our hopes for the future. Even if it's a feat as hard as Hell.
Hence, it is with pain and love that I send you a copy of my son's memorial album as well as the speech I gave at his graveside at the memorial ceremony, one year since his death.
June 25, 1983
An excerpt from a letter to Dan Shavit of Kibbutz Kfar Szold.
...I wouldn't be writing you again, were it not for your warm, sensitive, touching letter. I must admit, it was only after Yaron's death that I began to read many memorial albums in general, and not only those of the young men of my community, Ein-Dor. There are few memorial books on library shelves, and few who read them. An older member came up to me in the common, gave me a hug, and said that she'd spent the entire day with Yaron's album and had a confession to make: She read on and on and felt guilty for not feeling sad! Only at the very end, where Yaron tells of his plans for after the army, did she feel a boundless sorrow...
A young girl doing the final part of her army service on my kibbutz who hadn't said a word to me previously, told me that she'd planned to steer clear of the kibbutz on the day of Yaron's anniversary. But, since the memorial album was in the kibbutz library, she went to look through it, and ended up reading it in its entirety. She decided not to stay away from the kibbutz on that day because Yaron had been brought so close to her that he felt like a brother.
Need I say more? People who read the memorial album seem to open up. The album lowers and removes that most awful of barriers, the terrible guilt we feel that we go on living when he is gone. And his story, with its charm and truthfulness, his grappling and searching, gives young people the right and the feeling that it's okay to be moved, to express themselves, and not bottle it up inside.
I don't know why or how, but people who were incapable of approaching us the entire year, not knowing what to say, have now come over to us thanks to the album. It's as if our Yaron was trying to help people even after death. It's so very sad.
With Pain, Yours Truly,
June 28, 1983
To Amnon Barzel, Art Curator of "Tel-Chai 1983".
Don't you think that an artistic event should give expression to the call for peace?
I know that the regime in which we're living is that of the government that precipitated and waged this miserable war. I know that Tel-Chai is not far from Kiryat Shmona [Israel's largest town on the Lebanese border], many of whose citizens still support the war, pleased that the shelling has not yet returned to their town...
I know that a lot of funding is needed for the Tel-Chai '83 project, and each of the political factions is liable to have an influence on the way the budget is allocated.
I know that among the artists there might also be those who don't see eye to eye with all I've said and written. But even so, I feel that we need to seek the widest common denominator agreeable to all: The need for peace, the sanctity of human life: The terrible danger inherent in violence: The need to let our sons live...
July 18, 1984
To Shulamit and Aluf Hareven,
Shulamit, I'd like to thank you for the letter you addressed to that soldier named Eldad and which appeared in the "Yediot Achronot" newspaper on July 15, 1984. At a time in which everyone is keeping quiet about the terrible injustice we've suffered due to the Lebanon War (the most odious of all our wars), I want to thank you for your straightforward remarks, for the encouragement you gave to all those soldiers who, instead of completing their service in Lebanon and returning straight to their happy homes, came first to Jerusalem's Midrachov [the city's downtown center] to try and break this conspiracy of lies and silence. One of those soldiers is Boaz, a young man from our kibbutz.
Aluf, I've meant to write for some time now to thank you for the indefatigable work you do in the Van-Leer Institute, promoting education for democracy and Jewish-Arab understanding.
"...They who make peace their top priority, rather than absolute justice, are looking to the future. They know that that which has been done cannot be undone. They realize that the past has not been good. And that it's unalterable. They're not willing to forget it - it's not good to forget - but in the interest of the future, they're merely willing to shift the emphasis, to give greater a weight to future considerations than to those of the past. Upon reflection, a person such as this will say: I strongly identify with the grief and anger. But it is all in the past. And I can't make it change: My question is, what comes next. Where do we go from here. And can all this evil be prevented in the future.
...No family shall cancel its private memorial service and no one shall forget, nor does anyone expect them to forget. But perhaps we, as a people and a nation, shall finally learn to lay down the last of our flowers and get out of the graveyard."
Shulamit Hareven: Israeli daily newspaper `Yediot Achronot', October
April 30, 1985
To Ron Vered, Tel Aviv.
We've just received your letter and we're not angry. Does it hurt? Yes. Are we in tears? Yes. And mostly we keep on trying to figure out what's happening to us -- to all of us -- in our one and only land of horrors...When we buried Yaron, we were robbed of a son, and a great deal of our faith went along with him.
...The harrowing concept that someone, somewhere, keeps sacrificing our sons to Moloch -- sending them to war -- instead of taking risks for peace -- and manages to do so partly because of the defeatism of the world's most defeated army -- the bereavers army. If I had my way, I'd make a law that you could only draft 40-60 year-olds, people who had already lived a life...maybe that would keep the next disaster from occurring. Fanciful ideas like these frequently pop up in my head...and I know it won't come to pass.
My dear Ron, I wanted to write and say that as long as young people like you are able to relate to us and to Yaron's death (and maybe, truthfully speaking, everyone has his own individual Yaron -- because you can't comprehend death as a whole nor can you make generalizations about it -- from all those that have died)...Ron, it seems that in your mind and in your soul, your letter was already written many years ago. I remember you embracing Nesta when her husband, Rafi, was killed in the Sinai during the Yom Kippur War -- because of the arrogance and stupidity of the victors of the Six Day War. The passing years do not cause us to forget the pain and injustice felt at the taking of a life so young.
I cannot, and need not, understand, how, out of all the possibilities, our Yaron became "your Yaron". I'm just glad you remember him -- the way he was to you -- and by so doing you enrich us with another friend -- warmth -- and words -- they're no substitute, but they are a bridge. The words make us feel that we haven't been abandoned -- haven't been forgotten -- and that there's another young, sensitive person who hasn't lost all hope -- who's searching and trying to do something in his own fashion so as not to lose a semblance of human decency, trying to reach out for an embrace, even if from afar.
...nor do I know how to conclude, either. Maybe by making another attempt at explaining how it is that we keep on going. Is it thanks to our acquaintances, friends, family, and children who, ever since that fateful hour, have surrounded us with love? Are we also to thank, for surrendering ourselves to that love which must always go two-ways? Is it because we were able to cry, to feel pain, to go through the mourning process in its entirety, and to extricate our pain from within us -- by weeping and crying, through words, even through frightful rage, and by fighting against the war, but never at the expense of kind, human, fatherly memories of Yaron? Is it because we were able to reach the understanding, not only intellectually but on a real emotional plane, that there comes a time when grief must give way to a process of emotional healing -- if it's at all possible.
And what about my other children, and my grandchildren, and the other members of my family? Don't they deserve something from me? It's definitely a combination of all these reasons -- and a great many more which I still can't grasp and will never comprehend...
January 25, 1986
To David Green, Tel Aviv.
Two weeks ago, I heard you give a lecture at a conference of bereaved families from the kibbutz movement. The topic was: "Bereavement and Rehabilitation in the Kibbutz Movement".
You believe that the parents left bereaved by Israel's wars comprise the highest risk category in this country. You claim that, for reasons unrelated to war, it generally takes the bereaved parents and families a year to pass through the phases of adjustment to loss. Each, of course, at his own pace and as much as he is able. After the shock and the numbness comes the "task of grieving", a phase which according to Freud and most other researchers is both natural and essential in order to finish the process and return to productive living. This, you say, is achieved as the period comes to a close through the acceptance of a `new identity'.
It is your claim that the situation of war-bereaved families is different because of the nation's customs, its ceremonies repeated year in, year out, its various commemorative days for the fallen soldiers, and the general public's complex and ambivalent attitude towards the bereaved families. On one hand, the public demands that the bereaved go back to being like everyone else, while on the other hand, it is harshly critical of widows who find a new mate, a new father for their fatherless children...and with all these factors combined, bereaved families are never allowed to complete the "task of grieving", and clearly never enabled to accept a `new identity'. And the next memorial day to arrive...is an incessant and permanent reminder of their identity,...eternal mourners.
David Green, your hypothesis is an interesting one, but it least most bereaved parents nonplused. Can we go on paying the price of "eternal" homage to the fallen soldiers and the wars -- here in Israel -- when there's no end to the wars in sight? The heaviest cost is born by families who continue to pay an additional emotional price, because of the never-ending ceremonies, memorial services, commemorative occasions, etc. Can a happy median really be found? Perhaps through a far-reaching campaign to educate the general public as well as the bereaved families, including siblings, so as to create a situation in which one does not stop remembering but is still able to accept that new identity -- and be rehabilitated?
May 17, 1988
To Meron Benvenisti, after reading his book, The Sling and the Club.
...How have you helped me through these times? Through your book, The Sling and the Club, you've helped my mind gain a better grasp and my heart a better sense of the crux of the [Arab-Israeli] problem. Just by reading the book over a few times, writing up my own synopses and reactions, and giving extensive thought to the preparation of this letter, I've been able to grapple with some of the questions by which I've been troubled and preoccupied. And perhaps, as you put it, it's enabled me to learn to ask the right questions. And for this, I'd like to express my gratitude once again.
January 30, 1989
To Tzipa and Rami Levi, my warmest greetings,
In spite of our physical separation, thinking about you always makes me feel good. I'm not sure whether you're aware of it, but, just as waves roll to the beach, so does you're warmth and friendship reach me. Lately I've realized once more how glad I am to have friends like you, especially at times like these, when it's so hard to put up with the state of affairs our country is in.
Besides My Testimony, I've begun to work with material from my photograph archives. I was surprised to discover that the years 1967-1977 were the ten years in which I devoted all my time and attention to photography, especially in black and white. And I have tens of thousands of negatives, and thousands of prints from that period -- mostly of the kibbutz, but also of the surrounding region: Of Yardena, which you're familiar with from my book, I Am Kurdish, as well as of the neighboring village of Kfar Masr, the town of Ma'alot-Tarshiha, and a variety of other subjects from around the country during those years. There's no doubt in my mind that these years, especially the opening of the Six Day War, were the incubation period for everything that's now going on with us. I try to check my first-hand photo-documentation and wonder whether, living on kibbutz, we were aware of what was really transpiring? Can my photographic documentation give us more than just a picture of what was? Can it also supply clues that may help us understand why things today are so different? I've started looking for material on that period, be it written or any other kind. Paraphrasing the "Ten Days that Shook the World" in the Soviet Union of 1917...these were "Ten Years that Still Shake Israel..."
...I'm preparing an exhibition of 100 of my photographs juxtaposed to the works of other photographers from the first 100 years of photography. This is also a way for me to hold a kind of dialogue with other photographers, many of whom have long since passed from this world, but whose works live on. In some of my works, I pay them tribute, and in others I give an ironic or humorous reply.
To Yaakov Sharett, after reading his book, "Israel is No More"
Yaakov Sharett, warmest greetings to you,
After our discussion, I reread your book from beginning to end. I'm now convinced of the importance of making this material accessible to a wide audience. As you noted on the book jacket, one can agree with you or take issue, but at a time such as this, no one may ignore the points you raise. The truth is, the basic paradox in what you have to say can be found in the very decision to bring the book to publication. For if all is lost, then what point is there in attempts at persuasion?...My dear Yaakov, the things you said to me came through loud and clear -- that I have to believe that a way out can still be found; that not all is lost; that there's still a chance: that my son Yaron's death was not entirely in vain. I must confess that it's awfully hard on me, seeing all the ideals I spent a lifetime trying to realize now being smashed to bits every day, all around me, and in the West Bank especially. And each passing day brings some new development that really gives you the chills. Now there are "containment areas" in the city of Petach Tikva (?!) [The city established enclosures for the Arab laborers coming from the occupied territories to work there. Fearing them as a source of terrorist action, the city prohibited them to leave the enclosures except to be driven by their employers to and from work. The name "Petach Tikva" loosely means "ray of hope". The author finds this an oxymoron, thus his "(?!)"]. And the West Bank town of Ariel has instituted identification badges [for the Arabs who work there]. And the army is unable to restrain the [vigilante] militias fielded by the West Bank settlers.
...And you dedicate your book to your wife, Rina, an irrevocable optimist!
June 18, 1989
Dear Edy Kaufman, Shalom ["greetings" and "peace"]
I can't write the word "Shalom" without tacking on the sad phrase from the Bible: "Shalom, Shalom, but there is no Shalom". On Friday, June 16, 1989, I read Uzi Benziman's article ("Death Behind the Plow") in the Ha'Aretz newspaper with a mixture of anger, tears, and love. Anger, over the injustice committed in my name, in my country; tears, for loss of life and the family's bereavement; and love, for you and your family, who had the physical, emotional, and moral strength and courage to stand firm in their demand that elementary justice be served; and an awful frustration, over the acts being perpetrated against me -- us -- my compatriots -- the Jews. Like in the song we sang in our younger days -- Begin and friends have sent him to his grave, to join my son, Yaron, there since the senseless Lebanon War. And also along with our dreams of a land "in which all our hopes would come true". In January, 1948, my friend, Dov Zeligman, was murdered at the age of twenty-six. Dov came with me from the United States, making Aliya so as to realize the dream of an enlightened, sane, and democratic homeland, which would treat all its inhabitants justly and humanely. He made it safely through the Second World War, and was murdered here while plowing one of the first furrows on Ein-Dor land. Now, 41 years later, death has found Salab Ismail Mubarak -- he, too, twenty-six years of age -- while out in the family fields, "working the land, a donkey pulling his plow". And ever since May 30, 1989, the Border Police [the quasi-military wing of the police force, it is held in notoriety by some for its excessive use of force] has been holding an internal investigation -- and of the all Mubarak family members who were at the scene, not one has been asked to give a deposition. And the father, mother, and children have not received an answer -- nor have we.
And thus the cycle of violence and hostility goes on, and so few people keep up the fight. The ones who sounded the alarm bells are beginning to lose hope -- take a look at Yehoshafat Harkabi in his book, "Fateful Decisions", and Yaakov Sharett in his "Israel is No More"...
Consequently, it is so very important to encourage every one who is fighting for the betterment of our country and for the preservation of its sanity. Important to bolster the conviction of the ones already convinced who are still fighting. And once again, I'd like to thank you for setting an important personal example.
Hopefully your group's struggle will bear fruit and justice will see the light of day.
With Greetings and Pain,
September 25, 1989
Amia Lieblich, Warmest Greetings,
I've just finished reading Like Birds In A Cage, which tells the story of our prisoners of war held captive by the Egyptians. I'm trying to figure out why I cried the entire time. I felt love for all the men, their suffering caused me physical and emotional pain, I was gladdened by every scrap of joy they felt, by every small way they managed to preserve a semblance of human dignity. I'd like to share with you a few thoughts that came to me both during and after my reading.
Why does your book, "Like Birds In A Cage", move me so?
The whole time, I suppose, I was comparing myself, a bereaved father who has suffered the trauma of losing a son, with these prisoners who had lost their freedom. I'm aware of the fact that you can never compare different experiences of pain and suffering. Essentially, I belong to an extended family that came into being the very instant our sons were killed that night on the Beaufort; it is our "club". All of us have to try and survive a loss that is never-ending. Even though I didn't undergo humiliating, physical punishment on the outside, and there's no doubt that living day after day with the terrible fear of interrogation and torture is unlike the feelings I had as a father who lost Yaron, still, as I read what the POW's had to say, I couldn't help reliving my own desperate struggle for sanity, meaning, faith,...and, yes, even hope.
I realize another correlation, too -- war. You see, the War of Attrition led you to the POW's and me to Moshav Yardena. In my documentary photo album, "I Am Kurdish!", I tried to discover where the people of Yardena drew the strength of spirit to continue living on our nation's border, the hottest place in the country (and maybe the world), month after month, through nightly bombardments, their children sleeping in bomb shelters, and perhaps just as hard, knowing that all through the long months, the large majority of Israel's population was not directly threatened.
Today, as the Intifada around us burns out of control, every creative artist, each in his or her own medium, is trying to express the tensions and contradictions many of us are living with: Hava Alberstein in her song "Had Gadya"; Yitzhak Ben-Ner in his jolting novel, "Ta'atu'on"; Yaakov Sharett in his book, "Israel is No More"; and recently, Dan Almagor in his poems and writings. And here you come out with your book like a ray of light in the dark that surrounds us. For whether s/he's aware of it or not, from the first page to the last, the reader drinks in the pride of knowing that this is what our young men, our people, are like. Besides which, as I see it, you did the members of kibbutz a great service. Readers will absorb the fact that those POW's who were educated and brought up on kibbutz were at a great advantage. Without it, the experience of being tightly packed together might very well have become more than they could bear. All of this you managed to express subtly, without saying so outright. That's the hidden message I received from what you -- and they -- had to say.
I must confess, I'd like to know whether it's really true that through the entire four years, not one "heretical" notion ever crept into their heads? Didn't any of them consider the possibility that the War of Attrition might have been prevented had we acted differently following the Six Day War. True, I get the sense that what Menachem is saying is that these wars are quite unfortunate: The Yom Kippur War and especially the pointless Lebanon War. But his remarks were not meant as heresy. And I ask you, at times as troubled as these, where do you draw your faith and optimism?
I began to try and examine the possibility of comparing the prisoners' loss of freedom with the loss of a child. I made an outline and listed the sub-headings: The collective and individual agents of survival -- and the "secrets" of survival -- and I realized they have so many things in common yet so much about them is different. The stages run parallel as well: From the first few days when we were also alone in our private grief and the torture it entailed, up until the "club" -- the Beaufort family -- came into being. I'm certain that the POW's also went through the "Five Phases of Coping with Loss", albeit at a completely different pace and intensity. Thus, one may draw a comparison with the Beaufort family which meets every other month, on top of the letter-writing and phone conversations that go on more frequently. It's hard drawing parallels to the appalling emotional and physical suffering one endures undergoing interrogation, and living packed in a single room for an extended period of time. In addition, one must point out that, basically, any such parallels drawn have to relate to each of us individually, each of us being different and unique.
- My Diary - sections of a diary kept regularly since June 6, 1982.
- My Family
Letters to family members.
- The Beaufort Family
The letters and stories of families affected by the incident at the Beaufort.
- Dreams/A Dialogue with Myself
A listing of dreams and their interpretations.
- Correspondence Received
Letters to and from family, friends, and acquaintances.
- Correspondence Sent
Letters to artists, journalists and religious figures.
Testimony to important events which occurred during the period between the Lebanon War and the Intifada.
- Links to related sites.
Please send comments or questions to Yehoshua Zamir