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Correspondence Received

Letters to and from family, friends, and acquaintances.
"Ask the right questions.
That's the only thing you can do for now."

Meron Benvenisti: "The Sling and The Club"

June 10, 1982: A letter sent by Hannah Eshel, Yaron's first girl-friend.

Being a part of a bereaved family myself, I know quite well that there is no consolation, that time does not heal, and that the pain never goes away. That the empty feeling in your heart will be there forever and ever, as well as the glazed look in your eyes. As a child I already knew that this is a land which devours its inhabitants. And since that time, they haven't let us forget it, and now kids my age are suddenly on the battlefield, meeting their deaths in combat. I can only hope that it won't be in vain...



June 10, 1982

We don't know each other, but fate has thrown us together. Our son, Raz, fell at the Beaufort along with your son, Yaron. We felt the need to write you a few words and tell you that we are with you at this time of horror, our hands in yours, tightly grasping. 

In friendship,

Ya'akov and Annie Guterman



June 16, 1982

Dear Yehoshua and Ramah,

Once, in the very distant past (why it seems just like yesterday), when we were weak and few in number and we wanted to believe that we were strong and great in number, we spared ourselves this sense of awkwardness by "whistling past the graveyard". We would sing: "Do not mourn, do not cry at a time like this". We'd try to encourage those in pain and console the bereaved by saying, "we can't find the words".

Total and utter nonsense.

Find the words! Let us cry aloud! Let us know how to let go and find release.

"A voice is heard from on high, a bitter wail and cry...

She refused to be consoled over the loss of her son".

I found out about Yaron's death by chance. I had parked my car and was trying to shield it from the Jerusalem sun by using a piece of old newspaper, a page of the Ha'Aretz newspaper. In the lower left-hand corner, I saw Yaron looking at me, with that sincere look on his face, accepting me just as I am, an acceptance both total and unconditional. But how shall I accept him? How shall I accept you into my family, one which I had so hoped that you would never have to join? How shall I accept your bereavement?

What are we doing in this dark land that casts blinding, yellow shadows (even after forty or fifty years, one sometimes says: "The sun is killing me").

What have we done with the souls that disappear in the mist, with the names, with the eyes that beacon in the forest? What have we done with our beautiful children, with our swift blood? Spilt blood does not turn into tree roots, but it's the closest thing there is to human beings.

I read in one of the newspapers of this dark land that you are not wild about the bombastic eulogies our sons receive. Neither am I, but there's an concealed danger here; I've learned this through my own experience. There's a danger of closing yourself off inside the four walls of private anguish, like in the book of Jeremiah, the writer of great elegies: -- "Make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation".

My brother and sister, please allow me to embrace you, to cry for you; let me deep inside your pain, and we shall all benefit, both you and me. 

With love,

Amnon Hadari



June 20, 1982: A letter sent by Abie N'vo.

For two days now, I've been crying over the loss of Yaron, crying for you. I cry out at the atrocity that tears children away from their parents and family. I cry out at the most awful of all the expressions of human putrescence: War. I know that I'm crying out in a vacuum. I'm sick of all those hollow words, devoid of content, about sanctity and sacrifice. I loathe war in whatever form it appears. And I love those tender children who didn't even get a real taste of life and who are now gone because of man's abysmal stupidity. Because of his bestiality. Because of the irrational way he lives and dies. I cannot console you, for I know no words of solace. Perhaps I have one word of consolation: That you should overcome this atrocity more successfully than I. That you should find a reason for living in the wonderful new generation you've produced -- your children, Tamar, Gilad, and Naomi. Ever since I lost Tal, I've been a broken man, and all my creative work has allowed me to find only a partial refuge from myself and from the atrocity that has haunted me since the one I held most dear went away forever. It is my heart-felt wish that you shall find more reason for living than have I. 

Warmly and lovingly yours,




July 4, 1982

Dear Yehoshua, 

It's been a long time, and I'd like to write you a few words.

On the eve of last year's elections, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, I tried to prevent this war. It was foreshadowed by horror, like a knight before the plague. And came it did, that war, and a sense of shock along with it. And the poem I wrote, its words, what power do they have against all this?

A Poem of Son and Homeland
A son. Love through him A homeland.
All the love A homeland is graves
Every last bit And fields of bread
Even if it mars One grave
And start again Bread always
Until it's all over All mankind.

To You and Yours,
Eli Netzer
Kibbutz Dalia

July 19, 1982 

Dear Yehoshua Zamir,

I'm a 15 year-old girl. I was born a few weeks after the Six Day War. I was six years old and in the first grade when the Yom Kippur War was fought. This is the first war I've experienced as a mature person who understands the meaning of war in all its aspects.

Ever since they published the names of the first soldiers killed and up to this very day, I feel a sense of great pain over these deaths and I find it hard to believe that the lives of these young men, filled with joy, hobbies, activity, future plans, and love and hope for the country, have been cut down and that their families have lost what they held most precious.

When I read about Yaron in the paper and about how you're taking part in the activity of the "Parents Against Silence" movement, I was deeply impressed by your great emotional strength, and by the fact that you're willing to express your opinions in public and take action to stop the war, even during such a difficult period for you and your family. Stopping the war is my own hope and prayer, too, and I also expressed this by participating in the rally organized by Peace Now. I also hope that thanks to people like you and others, the government will refrain from its frightening military aims and concentrate its efforts in the field of diplomacy. And it won't be long before our troops come back to Israel and there will be peace. Maybe that will be some consolation for Yaron's heroic death during the capture of the Beaufort. Please pass on my sincere condolences to the other members of your family. 

Ya'el Kaploon

2 Shapira Street




March 19, 1983

...Your collage, "A Homeland is Not an Altar", expresses the feelings of all those who oppose the war in a succinct and concise manner, hence its great impact on all who see it. The same is also true for the quoted remarks you gathered from soldiers and bereaved parents. I showed them to various people, young and old, and all were shaken. One of them, a friend from Ramat HaSharon, decided to tack up the postcard and letter to the Minister of Defence in his classroom and base a current events lesson around them.



Dedicated to Yaron Zamir, whose T-shirt bore the caption which is the title to this poem.

Take your time.
They don't need it, you do.
It's yours.
Use it as you please
With feet bare,
Not in spiked boots, not
In a flak jacket

In hot sand
Scattered about
A bush consumed
Remnants of a tent encampment
Bones of camel and others

That are liable
To be yours tomorrow.
Take your time.

Natan Zach

August 28, 1985

Dear Ramah and Yehoshua,

 I have enclosed the term-paper I've written on "Jerusalem Under Siege -- 1948". As you may recall, I put a lot of energy into gathering archive material, reading it, interviewing people, and writing it up. Every stage of work held great interest for me. Therefore, I'd like you to also share in my experience by reading my paper.

I finished high school in early July after a grueling year of study.

Now I have some free time to do the things that I like, enjoy, and take interest in. One thing I've been doing is reading a lot, and I've just finished a fantastic book by Ya'akov Shabtai called Past Perfect. I was really struck by the richness of the author's language and by the way he developed his characters. The plot could really have been quite mundane, but in the way he wrote the book, Ya'akov Shabtai broke the story down into small segments and focused on the ongoing psychological development of the protagonist.

I became so caught up with this book that I'm still thinking about it even though I've started reading something new. Could you recommend some other books which you've read lately?

You haven't written about yourselves in a long time. Ramah, are you still working in the sewing room? And Yehoshua, are you still doing photography? I know that each year you do something special to mark the anniversary of Yaron's falling in battle. How did you mark the anniversary this year?

I'm disturbed by the fact that there's a part of the Israeli public which is indifferent to the dramatically important events which affect the life of our nation and that this group has a weak and forgiving memory when it comes to the Lebanon War and the pain it caused. Does Yaron's unit keep in touch with you? I hope that the army displays a more humane spirit than the general public does.


September 20, 1986

I haven't written in a long time. Nonetheless, I think about you often, in various situations and under varying circumstances. I intended and planned on writing you prior to the anniversary of Yaron's death, but as it worked out I was with you only in thought and spirit.

Last week, I saw the movie, "Ricochets" [originally produced by the Israeli Defense forces as a film for officers' training, designed to prepare them for service in Lebanon, the movie was also screened to the general public; the moral and political dilemmas upon which it focused touched a national nerve and made it a critical and commercial success]. Through the experience of a single infantry company and the events surrounding it, we get a chilling image of how this whole damned war was waged. Our army was led astray, losing its sense of purpose and honor. And aside from the terrible dangers, young men were unnecessarily forced to face formidable moral dilemmas. I hope that the film will awaken the majority of the public from its state of torpor.

I'd like to wish you both a Happy New Year, and a year of health and of peace.

Of course, I would love hearing from you. 




August 8, 1982

Sent by Ruth L., of Kiryat Tivon.

Orea's father used to say that a father's suffering is greater than that of a mother. A mother stores the memories in her heart and her life is illumined by them. A father is robbed of his future. His plans are ruined; the limb upon which he's been sitting is now sawed down. Who's to say? Pain and suffering are personal, private affairs. Where did they come up with that stupid phrase, "I share in your sorrow". Maybe it's our culture's social norms which make it acceptable for a mother to cry. Or perhaps nature was more generous with women and endowed them with the inhibitions of defense mechanisms, while it has left men defenseless.


October 10, 1982

...What did our sons really die for? It's a question we must not ask for we shall never, ever find the answer. It's a question that takes me by storm, takes on a monstrous appearance and lures me towards my ruin.


November 2, 1982

...I became filled with dread today when I noticed that next week is Hanukkah. Couldn't we just erase the holidays from the calendar?


February 13, 1983

...Yehoshua, for you, Yaron was killed in vain, as was Nadav for me. There is no purpose in death. Is there anything in this world for which I would have been willing to give even one limb of Nadav's body? A homeland ceases to be a homeland for those young men who must die in its name, and it has ceased to be a homeland for me, despite the fact that my two remaining children will still be called upon to serve it. And if the war had been a just one, would that have made the pain any easier? No! Absolutely not!...I feel like a person who's had her insides torn out. I don't cry for help because my cries would drive me to my knees before anyone else even heard them. I try to piece together the ruins, to preserve and store within my soul that which has been taken from me physically, and maybe I even project some optimism. That is all I might be able to contribute to society.


July 22, 1982

(The following are excerpts from a letter from Professor George Stoney, a friend at New York University.)

Dear Yehoshua,

 Alas, my dear friend, I wanted in some way to console you and I couldn't find the words.

...Although it certainly must have been painful for you to write and publish that letter to Begin, especially being in Israel, you must know that, in doing so, you opened the eyes of many to the essence of truth and are prompting people to take action to end this madness. If there be words that would bring comfort to you and your family, I am unable to find them.

Indeed, you should know that we ultimately become more humane and more understanding for having shared in your sorrow. For this I thank you.

...Dear friend, until that time when we can talk, embrace one another like brothers, and share a cry, I shall say to you, "There is hope for good in all things".

With Love,



July 25, 1982

A letter sent by Rafi Pollack 

...My youngest son still hasn't reached draft age, but since the moment he was born, I've been living with terrible anxiety, knowing that he's basically been given to us in trust for eighteen -- twenty years. But there's no way to prepare for it, and no way to absorb it.


 March 20, 1983

 A letter sent by Ze'ev Shiff [esteemed journalist and political analyst].

...You're certainly familiar with my attitude towards the war from my columns and my television appearances. I feel frustrated precisely because my forecasts were by and large borne out and because we were unable to have an impact prior to the war so as to avert this catastrophe. The meaning of Yaron's death as well as the others' depends on us. It depends on what we shall do and say to stop the next war from occurring, to bring our troops back from Lebanon, to forestall the rise to power of extremists, and to dam up the rising waters of national chauvinism lapping at our doorstep.


June 4, 1983

A letter sent by Janet and Taisir, from the Arab village of Kfar Kana.

Greetings to our friends Yehoshua and Ramah!

A whole year has gone by since your beloved Yaron fell in battle, and we are still in pain over your sorrow and share in your mourning. It's beyond my comprehension that young men are the ones made to suffer; they're cut down at a tender age, having never hurt a soul. And why should a bereaved parent's heart break and fall to pieces because of the sins of "world leaders" unable to resolve problems through peaceful means?! It is my hope that Yaron's passing as well as that of the many other young men will contribute in no small way to the cessation of aggression of hostility still prevalent in our region; perhaps this could be of some slight consolation to you, in which case we, too, shall be consoled, knowing that your burden has been eased, even slightly!


July 25, 1982

A letter sent by Rafi Pollack

...My youngest son still hasn't reached draft age, but since the moment he was born, I've been living with terrible anxiety, knowing that he's basically been given to us in trust for eighteen -- twenty years. But there's no way to prepare for it, and no way to absorb it. 


March 20, 1983

A letter sent by Ze'ev Shiff [esteemed journalist and political analyst].

...You're certainly familiar with my attitude towards the war from my columns and my television appearances. I feel frustrated precisely because my forecasts were by and large borne out and because we were unable to have an impact prior to the war so as to avert this catastrophe. The meaning of Yaron's death as well as the others' depends on us. It depends on what we shall do and say to stop the next war from occurring, to bring our troops back from Lebanon, to forestall the rise to power of extremists, and to dam up the rising waters of national chauvinism lapping at our doorstep.


June 4, 1983

A letter sent by Janet and Taisir, from the Arab village of Kfar Kana.

Greetings to our friends Yehoshua and Ramah!

A whole year has gone by since your beloved Yaron fell in battle, and we are still in pain over your sorrow and share in your mourning. It's beyond my comprehension that young men are the ones made to suffer; they're cut down at a tender age, having never hurt a soul. And why should a bereaved parent's heart break and fall to pieces because of the sins of "world leaders" unable to resolve problems through peaceful means?! It is my hope that Yaron's passing as well as that of the many other young men will contribute in no small way to the cessation of aggression of hostility still prevalent in our region; perhaps this could be of some slight consolation to you, in which case we, too, shall be consoled, knowing that your burden has been eased, even slightly!

I received your letter yesterday and I'm glad about your activity in the newly formed movements calling for a true peace in our region. You all have my wish that your efforts shall bear fruit and shall not be in vain, this in spite of my gnawing skepticism that the imprudence of those in charge -- the savage politics of our Middle East -- will make your mission difficult, and well nigh impossible.

Fifteen years ago I nearly lost my faith in political action and I believe we've discussed this at length at each of our meetings. But I now hail every step taken to change this extremely dismal, sorry state of affairs that turns us all into hardened pessimists.

Until the next time,


Taisir and Janet Elias


July 2, 1983

A letter sent by Aliza Amir of Kibbutz Baram.

It's three o'clock in the morning and I've just finished quieting Alon, the newest baby in the kibbutz baby house. Alon's father is going off to reserve army duty in Lebanon tomorrow. A few hours ago he was here with his baby; there was a kind of tension and sadness about him that's given rise in me to an unbearable sense of guilt.

For the third night in a row, Yaron's book has been keeping me company, and he's become so familiar, so well known, so special and unique, and yet so much like the his contemporaries and peers here on Baram. They go back and forth, into and out of Lebanon, their parents living here among us, tense and taciturn.

And I hear you in Yaron's book saying those words of pain, and as I walk alone at night amidst the slumbering children's houses, all my defenses tumble down, my shell dissolves and I become engulfed by despair, unable to find even one note of solace. You quote Frankl quoting Nietsche, saying that he who knows a "why" for living, will surmount almost every "how", and I sense that it's this point which makes Yaron's story more horrid than I can bear.

I know what I'm supposed to say to you. I know. That we must make sure that Yaron's fate will not be that of the four-month-old baby, Alon. But faith, from where shall I draw the faith that I may pass it on to you and keep you strong, that I may give you the "what for" that might help you endure the horror?

A few weeks back, we held a gathering here, on Baram, to commemorate the death in battle ten years ago of the first child born on the kibbutz. His name was Amit. On this occasion, a friend of Amit and member of his kibbutz age-group recounted the feelings she felt the day he was killed. "I felt that we'd been duped, that the adults had not kept their promise. They didn't take care of Amit. They let him get killed".

Looking back, I realize that this may have been the day it dawned on me that I have no one to depend on, no longer have anyone to wait for, and that I'm obligated, personally obligated, to not allow Amit's fate to be that of his friends and younger brothers.

So I read tonight, read about Yaron, read what he wrote, read the energy and the fervor, the tenderness and the humor, the poems and the searching and the hope and the fear. As I read, I feel a terrible sense of failure. No different than with Amit, we were unable to prevent Yaron's pointless death.

The sky has already taken on a rosy color. It's an early dawn, fresh and pure. The world keeps turning.

Yaron's face smiles out at me, two points of light shine in his eyes. Contemplating, I look at him and know that despondence is a luxury which we cannot afford. We are charged with the responsibility of transforming it into a dogged and bitter struggle for the lives of Yaron's friends and their younger brothers.

I have no words of condolence, Yehoshua. I embrace both you and Ramah, and my heart weeps for you.

Natan Zach

64 Zionism Blvd.



July 20, 1983

To my most dear Yehoshua Zamir,

What can I say, your letter was moving and stirring. And the memorial album, it doubled the pain. Such beauty and youthful innocence and righteousness and courage and eloquence. And all of this is gone, a loss irreparable.

How do we express condolence to bereaved parents. In the past, we did so by saying it was "for the cause" of building the country. Today, as the country is being destroyed right before our eyes, we can only say that we won't lend a hand to those responsible for its ruin, and that we'll even fight them with all our might, whether it be great or small.

One more word of condolence, half a condolence, less than half, but still of some condolence: In spite of everything, it is still possible in these times to turn out young people such as these, and one of them was your son, yours and Ramah's. The apple falls not far from the tree.

Thank you for your remarks. I, too, sometimes need to find the strength to go on.

Please listen to the next edition of my program on Army Radio. It's dedicated in its entirety to your son. In addition, take a look at the poem to be published on the first page of the next edition of Alei-Siah ["Literary Conversations", the literary magazine of the Kibbutz movement].

The words speak for themselves, just as they speak -- with such force -- in the memorial album you sent.

And maybe we'll yet manage to meet in person some day. 

Together in spirit with you and Ramah,

Sincerely Yours,

Natan Zach

Various Songs for My Parents
Sorrow doesn't leave a mark
It's not true what they say
Sorrow doesn't leave a mark
Sadness doesn't just appear
It's not true what they say
Sadness doesn't just appear
People don't live forever
It's not true what they say
People don't live forever.

Natan Zach
Dedicated to Yaron Zamir, may he rest in peace
Son of Yehoshua and Ramah Zamir

June 12, 1984

From the desk of Guli Arad, Tel Aviv.

...Women have apparently become a symbol of war. There's something that bothers me about this, because men -- fathers and sons -- don't feel any less pain. But in our society, it's considered more legitimate for women to display "weakness" and pain. It's true for Argentina, Central America, our country, and everywhere that mothers bury their sons. For two years now, our saturated soil receives the sons being killed in battle and laid to rest. The mourning and sorrow darken the shining sun and turn the blue skies gray. If we could only be given peace.


April 24, 1985

A letter sent by Ron Vered on Memorial Day.

"Dear Ramah and Yehoshua,

 Today is Memorial Day and I'm in Tel Aviv, far from you and from Yaron's grave, yet I feel close to both you and Yaron. And I feel a need to write you, so I can open up between us a line of communication, of pain, of benevolence, and compassion as well.

Compassion not just for you, not just for Yaron, but for us all, we who inhabit this pitiful land, so harsh and cruel, a land that leaves such little chance for those still alive to experience joy and happiness. And especially for those who still live day after day as if nothing has changed, without comprehending, without stopping the mad headlong dash, lacking aim and direction, detached from ourselves blind and entirely unaware of the cruel and painful fate that awaits us in this abominable land, our only home. 

I find myself talking to you ever since the end of last night's siren [evening sirens are sounded nation-wide to mark the beginning of Memorial Day]. You don't know, because you obviously can't hear what I say, basically no one knows or hears me, only I hear myself going on and on to you, and I'm not done. It's already the afternoon of Memorial Day and I keep on talking to you and crying for you and it's becoming more and more intense. That's why I said in the beginning that I had to open up a line of communication between us, because this conversation is causing me a great deal of pain.

But I know that when Yaron was killed some basic part of me was shattered. I wasn't aware of this when I first heard he was killed, but when I came for the funeral on Ein-Dor and stood with everyone in the cemetery as they buried Yaron, all at once I had this feeling that something inside of me had shattered; that after Yaron's death, I wouldn't remain the same Ron I had been; that in dying Yaron had left me in pain and that this pain would never leave me.

This is what happened to me with Yaron. I never knew that Yaron held a part of me inside of him until I said good-bye, and I might never have known it had things not turned out as they did. But they did turn out that way. And the thing that hurts the most is that in his death, as I said good-bye to him, Yaron and I were joined together in a kind of tender, loving embrace that shall never be parted. He doesn't know it nor did he know, and only I keep on holding him, but he can't find any warmth inside this embrace. Standing on his grave, I sensed all these things without understanding why.


The following is a column, entitled "The Cypress Tree", by Amos Kenan. It appeared in the Yediot Achronot newspaper on July 4, 1986:

June 6, 1986


Dear Amos Kenan,

It's been four full years since my son Yaron's death at the Beaufort, and I send in gratitude the photograph of the cypress tree at the foot of Mt. Moses. Your book, Your Land Your Country, was sent to us along with the rest of Yaron's belongings. It was the last book he read. I read it, too, four years ago, but I guess that reading through the tears, I received a different impression. At the time, I sent you Yaron's memorial album and a letter, and even though I didn't receive a response, I knew inside that you had given me assistance.

Yesterday, I reread your book from cover to cover, and you helped me once again. Through your walks with people through the country's scenic beauty, I was taken back to the trails I took with Yaron -- and to how we almost lost our way on Mt. Meron going to see a very rare species of peonies. I, who has been here since 1927, found myself along with you, in a quest for roots.

Time passes since Yaron was killed in a senseless and wretched war that brought nothing but misery, and I've been asking myself over and over again whether I made a mistake? I'm becoming more and more convinced that I wouldn't choose any differently if I now had to make the choice again. Up until my arrival on Ein-Dor, to help plough the first trench encircling the kibbutz, I had moved 25 times, but since 1948, this is my home, here I settled, put down roots, cast my anchor.

On this day, I am inundated by questions for which I have no answer, but for one of those questions you were with me, and for this you have my gratitude. 


Fondly Yours,

Yehoshua Zamir




Heretofore, your letter. How shall I reply? I get letters. A great deal of them, especially in the last few years. There are others besides yours. There are times my eyes are filled with tears, and times they are dry. Sometimes I feel choked by rage, by powerlessness. I never reply to any of these letters. They haunt me and on occasion I'll reply through a column in the newspaper. Perhaps through the book that has yet to be written. That's not the point. It's not about me nor the person that asks the questions. It's about the questions themselves.

...The cypress tree has its roots in the soil and it seeks answers in the heavens, and herein lies its beauty. Who among us is still worthy of being asked the questions? I'm not sure. But I am sure about who needs to be given the answer and I know what shall come to pass if the answer isn't found. I seek the answer. 

Amos Kenan.



January 2, 1987: Letters sent by Nira Tal of Kibbutz Machanaim.

 ...I think the issue is pretty complex. For us, kibbutz members, it commences when they leave the kibbutz. For years, we anticipate a scenario in which our children and their families will be by our side. Suddenly, it doesn't work out that way. The children go off somewhere and we begin soul-searching: Where did we go wrong? Or maybe we didn't go wrong at all? It's the way of the world we live in: Children pick themselves up and look for another place, a different kind of place to live. It happens to people who don't live a communal lifestyle, and obviously it happens to people who do, communal living being a more demanding lifestyle and more compressed in terms of the interrelations that go on within it. Here we are, parents, and the children we've raised are so central to our lives that we are more emotionally occupied with them than with anything else in the world; and suddenly they're not by our side. The circles keep getting wider. First they're not right by our side within the kibbutz. Then they move a little farther away into the great big world. And we're left with ourselves, missing them. Suddenly I realize that even when everything is known and logical and thought out, there is a part of us which can't be seen but which contains the absolute truth and our children are this truth. No other occupation or pursuit can take their place. This is how I understood your letter and it filled me with sadness. For I know it, and in some small way feel it, as two of my children do not live with me on Machanaim...and just like you, I occupy myself and my life is full: Through my job, by singing in the choir, by doing intensive listening and working on my voice during voice lessons. That doesn't leave a lot of time for reading the plethora of interesting and intriguing material awaiting me, besides all the other things I haven't managed to do all these years and for which I seem to have time. But when I disengage from all my activities, there are the children, irreplaceable in their centrality!


February 29, 1988

...with things going on around us, feeling impotent as we watch everything come undone, in fear of a new war, and with this horrible state of affairs in which young soldiers are up against stone-throwers, driving them to hatred and to commit atrocities. I shudder at the thought.


October 3, 1989: A letter sent by Miriam Eitan

Dear Yehoshua Zamir,

I feel totally ashamed that I haven't found the strength until now to reply to your most touching letter of June 6, 1989. Ever since then, the fact that I haven't replied has been weighing heavily upon me. Because I'm a poet, the language I used might have been too strong, and I thought I could write a letter pregnant with meaning, but as I face the pain, my hands grow heavy and my heart becomes still.

There is, of course, no way to compare my widowhood with your bereavement. Nothing is more horrid than losing a son in a vile, unjust war.

...As it happens, I'm writing to you during the Days of Awe [the ten days between the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, considered to be a time for moral and spiritual introspection], and at this time of the Jewish calendar we read the Bible portion describing the binding [of Isaac by his father Abraham, commanded by God to sacrifice his son as a test of loyalty and faith]. The essence of bereavement is the directing of blame and rage at God's divine superintendence.

You see, even though the story of the binding ends well whereas your story ends badly, Yehoshua, fathers in the Land of Israel who send their sons off to the army feel just as Abraham did, especially if you've taught your sons and daughters the values upon which you were raised. And this is what Kierkegaard has to say about Abraham:

"But Abraham was the greatest of all, great in strength derived from impotence, great in wisdom derived from stupidity, great in hope in the form of lunacy, great in love derived from self-hate".

Through the power of faith, Abraham left the land of his ancestors and became a stranger in the Land of Promise. He took with him one thing only: He left behind his earthly beliefs and took along his faith, and it was through the power of his faith that he accomplished all the rest, struggling the entire time against that crafty Power, that Enemy lying ever in wait, with Him who outlives us all, until the moment he was told: "Take thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest".

And Abraham had faith in the impossible (just as we have always had). Had he doubted, well then he would have done something else, something to avert the binding.

Certainly this is how all bereaved fathers must feel.

This, then, is the point from which I derive my optimism -- the belief in Good -- which is disconnected from immediate results. My Dov, my sweet, beloved Dov railed against the Lebanon War from the day it began. He had faith in Goodness and he was a martyr for the Goodness and Righteousness in which he believed.

Since June 1982, all the evils in the world have descended upon us. But he, he held on to Goodness and Righteousness until the very last, and this is the legacy he bequeathed me. I try with all my might to connect to the Goodness around us. I try to enhance it, I try to ignore Evil, because Evil cannot be combatted head-on.

I am positive the day will come when true Righteousness shall be seen and then no one will be able to say: The sacrifice was in vain.

I have enclosed my book, The Smile of the Lioness, as a token of appreciation for your letter. I send you and your household best wishes for a happy New Year. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life [traditional greeting at Yom Kippur].

Miriam Eytan


June 1989: A letter sent by Ro'i

Dear Ramah and Yehoshua,

As the years go by, 28 all tolled, I feel a growing powerlessness when confronted with evil, cruelty, and even twists of fate. Should we not regard wickedness, fanaticism, evil desires, and idiocy as part of our fate? Everywhere you look there is pain and suffering caused by the hand of man, so maybe this is the way of the world. Once I believed that education and enlightenment could pose as a counterbalance to evil and instinct, today I'm no longer sure. The educated German nation..Time and again, I feel disappointed, astounded at how intelligent, enlightened, open, and sensitive people turn out to be radical, inhumane ultra-nationalists.

Yehoshua will certainly beg to differ, but I do not believe that things can change. For every step forward, there is a step backward as well. There are countless examples, day in and day out. From within my fatalism, the pain springs forth again. Reasons, causes, and to a large extent even the future have lost their impact. I can no longer find the inherent difference between one disaster and another, between a man-made disaster and an incurable disease. Both are the handiwork of a cynical and cruel God, and they're bound up with the scenes I witnessed this year at institutions of special education: Infants, children, and adults, suffering from cerebral palsy, severe retardation, blindness, deafness, mental illness, the forms of abuse go on and on, the pain and tears are infinite.

Thus, powered by inertia, I find myself attending demonstrations, taking part in the struggle, arguing and debating, mostly because I don't have any better ideas about what can be done. It's as if I already know now that in the twilight of my life, I'll sum it up with a, "True, things didn't change, but at least we gave it a shot". And out of this feeling grows a tendency for seclusion, for going into my snail-shell, as I like to refer to it. It's essentially an attempt to do good by those near to me, Roni, my parents, and others whose path in life intersects with and touches on mine. To give a little happiness to those poor souls that nature let try and create pockets of happiness for the moment, knowing that the existence of evil is already a fact. I make no pretences about the meaning of life. We have been sentenced to life against our wishes, and likewise we have been sentenced to death. If the interim that is life has any explanation or meaning, then it lies within the choices we make in the course of our lives. It's not how much we do, but how we do it. And in a country like ours, how we do things carries a heavy price, too heavy to bear,...but what other choice do we have? Ramah and Yehoshua, this letter comes from the heart, from my constant state of emotional turmoil. I do not believe nor do I make any pretence that my words will ease your pain...I'm not at all certain it can be eased. I enclose a picture of Yaron from April ('82, approximately), outside our quarters at Camp Shraga. For some reason, it had totally slipped my mind that I had it until this year's anniversary of Yaron's death.




"The personal integrity and the courage you had to say that this war was unnecessary stands as a turning-point and as a warning beacon against any future unnecessary wars. I'm sad to say that I've taken part in a great many wars. As a soldier in the infantry, the armored corps, and the elite reconnaissance, and as commanding officer in elite reconnaissance. And as commanding officer of a battalion. After each war, and for a ling time following, we met with families who wanted to be sure that their sons' deaths in battle had meaning, justification, purpose. We, the commanding officers, wanted to believe it as well, and sometimes we lied to ourselves. You two were the first to tell us, the army, the Israeli public. The war was unnecessary. Pointless. For no just cause.

Uri Reemon, in a letter he sent me

Please send comments or questions to Yehoshua Zamir

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