Text size

Although the president and chief of staff said important things, it was not the speeches that were the most touching moments Monday evening, when the residents of Yesha (the Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza) saluted the Israel Defense Forces at a special event at Jerusalem's conference center. It was 11-year-old Shaked, who expressed her deepest feelings when she said, "While you are watching over us we can play, dream, learn, dance and love. And when I sleep ... did I say sleep? I'll tell you a secret: Lately, I have not been really sleeping. I keep waking up and am a bit afraid. Yes, that has happened a lot lately. But then I have a secret weapon, a precious weapon that is right beside me day and night. You."

Then the audience, no doubt, after 42 months of terror, applied those true and innocent words to themselves and their families.

The other emotional moment was when the IDF orchestra played their opening piece, the march, "Zemer Haplugot" (Song of the Field Units), and were joined by the audience, which sang, in great solidarity, the lyrics of the song, which most of the players probably did not know. Thus, on the background of the plans to uproot settlements, which the singers view as surrender to terror, the words "for not in vain, my brother, have you plowed and built," took on real meaning.

Sixty-five years ago, at the height of the Arabs' great war of terror - the first one - against the Jewish community in the Land of Israel, Nathan Alterman wrote "Zemer Haplugot." Despite the vulnerability of the small Jewish settlements in the heart of the huge Arab majority, no one back then thought about halting the settlements, certainly not about a "unilateral disengagement."

Daniel Sambursky, who also felt that during times of war it was the artists' duty to raise the spirits of the people and not depress them, composed the music for "Zemer Haplugot" as a march, that would surely help the song to become a kind of anthem, even many years after it was written and composed.

Even though that event was not intended to be a current affairs discourse, the two main speakers, President Moshe Katsav and Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, did not bury their heads in the sand. The army must not become involved in politics, said the president, and in the same breath added that we must accept the difficult decisions with love. He also said that religious soldiers must not be forced to participate in evacuation operations, for reasons of conscience.

True, the army must not be thrown into the political maelstrom. My advice to the president is to remind Prime Minister Sharon - who is about to involve the army in the deepest political dispute - of his opinions and his behavior, during the first settlement attempt at Hawara in 1974.

Back then - just a few months after the Yom Kippur War, when the soldiers, who saw him as a hero, were torn between their duty and their conscience - he called on soldiers to refuse an order. He also clashed with them physically. How is it possible, Mr. President, "to accept with love" the uprooting, if it comes: particularly when the decision is made in such an astonishing manner and in total contradiction to what Sharon the uprooter has said, believed and preached throughout the years.

Not only this, but on the background of what has lately been revealed regarding the quality of the prime minister's judgment in other areas, heavy doubt must also be cast on his "plan" for fleeing under fire - "disengagement" in media lingo. It is interesting that while the media are casting doubts on Sharon's integrity, motives, wisdom and judgment in almost every area, when it comes to uprooting Jews from their land, the media changes its tune and cooperates with Sharon.

There can be no exemption, Mr. President, for religious soldiers not to participate in every action involving secular soldiers. That statement is not in line with the officialdom that the president is supposed to represent. Indeed, the chief of staff cautioned against a situation in which every soldier would decide, as the refuseniks are demanding, which tasks are fitting.

The solution, then, as the president and many others have suggested, is not to give the army, secular and religious soldiers alike, political tasks. It is the duty of the general staff - whose chief believes that a red line must be drawn regarding what is forbidden and what is permitted for soldiers - to convince the decision makers that the participation of the army in the uprooting of settlements is a red line that must not be crossed.

"Zemer Haplugot," on the background of this never-ending war for survival, is a sad reality. Precisely because this war has been going on for years, we must be strengthened by it and not despair. "For not in vain, my brother, have you plowed and built/ This war is for our home and soul / We will not go back and there is no other way/ There is no nation that will retreat from the foundations of its life / Field units, it is not over, not over, this battle!"

Since "Zemer Haplugot" was written there has been no change in the attitude of the Arabs toward the Jewish people's aspirations for sovereignty. The only change is the decline in the will of the Jews, partly due to the deterioration in their sense of their justness in establishing national sovereignty. The way out of this situation is therefore a return to the inevitable awareness that "the battle is not over."