.....We stopped to explore the frontier post and stare at the ruins of a Byzantine city on an adjacent hilltop. To the banshee accompaniment of two Israeli Phantom jets turning south just over our heads, I read a bullet-riddled metal sign in English, erected by the Israeli government:



THIS VILLAGE NOT [bullet hole] FROM

BIBLICAL KADESH BARNEA IS THE

ORIGINAL SITE OF THE BYZANTINE

CITY OF [bullet hole]

THE TURKS USED THE STONES

FROM ITS RUINS TO BUILD

THEIR ARMY ENCAMPMENT ON

[bullet hole] HILL

WHEN THE BRITISH MANDATE

TERMINATED ON PALESTINE ON

THE 15TH OF MAY 1948 [bullet hole]

WAS SEIZED BY THE [bullet hole] PTI [bullet hole]

ARMY.

IT WAS CAPTURED [three bullet holes in a neat row]

DEFENSE FORCES IN DECEMBER

1948, AND [bullet hole] THE EGYPTIAN-

ISRAEL ARMISTICE AGREEMENT,

[bullet hole] AS DECLARED A DEMILITARIZED ZONE.

AN EGYPTIAN BATTALION SEIZED

CERTAIN STRATEGIC HEIGHTS IN

THE ZONE IN OCTOBER 1955.

THEY WERE DRIVEN OFF BY ISRAEL

FORCES IN A DARING NIGHT

ACTION AT THE BEGINNING OF

NOVEMBER.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS

IN THE [bullet hole] BROUGHT TO LIGHT

SOME [bullet hole] APYRI FROM THE

7TH CENTURY B.C.E.



(From: SINAI, the great and terrible wilderness, by Burton Bernstein, 1979)




[I visited Sinai (and Israel) in 1987, climbing the mountain--still called Mt. Moses in a trilingual (Arabic, Greek, English) sign near the top--in the late afternoon/early evening, spending the night at the top and watching the magnificent sunrise in the morning.

I do not know if this is the case today, but back then there were two Beduins at the top, selling tea and biscuits; about a dozen of tourists spent the night there, climbing down shortly after sunrise. I made friends there with an Egyptian soldier (we actually did the climb together) and a German Religion student who acted as a translator. In an interesting twist, the German student turned out to have an Israeli boyfriend studying Geology in Germany. On the way down she stopped to collect some stones for him. I remarked that her boyfriend would be particularly touched to get those stones from a (formerly) Israeli mountain; not so, she responded, if he was that nationalistic then she wouldn't have dated him :-) ]

[Posted on soc.culture.israel in November 1993]



Jorge Luis Borges' "Israel (1969)"


In Israel I was fearful

of treacherously lurking sweet nostalgia

accumulated by centuries of diaspora

into a sorrowful treasure

in the cities of the infidel,

inside the ghettos,

through the dusks in the steppes

and the dreams;

the nostalgia of all who longed for you,

Jerusalem, by the rivers of Babylon.

What else were you, Israel, but this nostalgia,

precisely this determination to preserve,

through the changing forms of time,

your ancient magical book, your rites,

your solitude by God?

And yet ... the most ancient nation

is at the same time the youngest.

You did not deceive the world with gardens,

with gold and its vanity,

but only offered pain, the ultimate land.

Israel told Man in no words:

You shall forget who you are.

You shall forget what you were.

You shall forget who you were in those lands

that offered you their dawns and dusks

and the places you must no longer long for.

You shall forget the tongue of your fathers

in order to master the language of Paradise.

You shall be an Israeli -- a soldier.

In the swamps you shall make your homeland,

and in the desert you shall build it.

Right next to you your brother shall toil,

a brother whose face you have never gazed at.

We promise you only one thing -- a place in battle.


"At 12:30, [Boneh] called and told us he was in Rambam and that we shouldn't worry," Boneh's mother, Heska, said. "We came here immediately from Hadera. It's very hard for me [to deal] with what is happening. I'm Dutch and I wasn't educated on the army, and it's very difficult for me to deal with the fact that he's a fighter. But I am with him and I trust him as well as the entire army."


"We have no other country and no other way" -- Moshe Merhavia, father of Lieutenant Amihai Merhavia (+ Bint Jbail, 7/26/06 +)





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