Caught in a maelstrom
It was to be expected that the prolonged domination over another nation would cause moral damage to the occupying Israeli. And did we mention Yeshayahu Leibowitz? What was less to be expected was that the entire country would be caught up in the maelstrom. Would become disabled. Would sell out.
It was to be expected that the prolonged domination over another nation would cause moral damage to the occupying Israeli. And did we mention Yeshayahu Leibowitz? What was less to be expected was that the entire country would be caught up in the maelstrom. Would become disabled. Would sell out. It's no longer only the large number of shocking instances of hard-heartedness in the territories; it's a state of mind in which the criteria are becoming distorted, from the top echelons down to the grass roots.
We can begin with a minor example: The case of Major General (res.) Amos Gilad. The head of the political-security branch in the Defense Ministry is claiming a 65 percent physical and emotional disability. There are efforts at compromise on his issue, too; the State Prosecutor's Office has agreed to 50 percent. Thus, Gilad has become an embarrassing symbol of a country that is spinning out of control. He attributes the damage to his body and his soul to the days when he was involved in controversies over the Lebanon War and to the "fateful decisions" he has been forced to make under pressure since then.
Gilad, shamelessly, wants upgraded disability and money. When did the physical and mental disability of the exhausted officer begin? When he was head of a research division in Military Intelligence? When he was the coordinator of government activities in the territories? When he dizzyingly made his way up to the throne of the "national explainer" during the first war in Iraq?
Should one laugh or cry? Why did Gilad continue to fill these sensitive positions while his body and soul were being crushed into severe disability? Why didn't he warn us in time that we were dependent on hands and a mind that were disabled? The Gilad case is about the fact that the criteria in this country have been undermined to such a degree that during all those years, neither his superiors nor he himself, of course, suggested he quit for a less pressured job in the civilian sector. Because anything goes today, even a general whose medical file - which he prepared himself - perhaps should have long since received the label used by the Israel Defense Forces: "permanently disabled."
And Gilad's case still can't be compared to more serious ones, such as the "freaking out" of Border Policemen who are now standing trial for Iraqi-style abuse of Palestinian youths. Their case is quite rare. Usually, such acts are buried somewhere between their direct commanders and the chatter of the IDF spokesman, the chief of staff and the defense minister, who utter nonsense about exceptional cases. That's why several dozen combat soldiers in the Nahal Brigade decided they would "break the silence," which is the name of an exhibit of photographs and testimonies they opened this week upon their release from prolonged service in the West Bank, primarily in Hebron.
"I had a friend," said one of them, "who used to like to shoot [tear] gas. For no reason, when he saw a group of guys standing and talking in the street. He liked to see them suddenly running and coughing. He found it very funny." An entirely different friend said at the exhibition, "I don't want you to run away from what I do."
It's no longer simply escapism. The issue has become a presumably unavoidable part of the daily menu of a nation that is becoming twisted. Some 64 soldiers and officers in a reserve paratroop unit, who recently concluded service in the Gaza Strip settlement Netzarim, added - in the wake of their predecessors, and the imprisoned refuseniks - a reminder that dissipates too quickly here. They wrote this week to the prime minister that they have no desire to commit suicide because of 60 families in Netzarim.
But the entire farce of the disengagement plan fits in well with the systemic breakdown in Israel. Let's see if Sharon carries it out. Meanwhile, it is entwined in hands and minds like those of Amos Gilad: extreme right activists, who if they are not dismissed today by the prime minister, it's only because he, who in the past was willing to sacrifice his life in battle, is today protecting his backside from any scratch, "covering his ass," as some of the Nahal soldiers testified about themselves.
And while this storm of evil was still wailing above our heads - in the words of a song sung by Israeli youth movements eons ago - what were the rabbis mourning over this week? About the proposal by former chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron to allow civil marriages. Not one of them broke the profound silence of the guardians of Jewish morality over what is happening to this morality - between the Land of the Philistines (Gaza) and Hebron, City of the Patriarchs, in a country that is increasingly spinning out of control.