My Independence Day - 1983: The parade that wasn't
It was the end of October 1982, four months after the invasion of Lebanon, a few weeks after the Sabra and Chatila massacre. The excitement was evident in N.'s voice. "I have to see you today," he said. "It's not for the telephone." I barely recalled what he looked like. The last time I had seen him was in the early 1970s, when we were neighbors in the student dorms. I had heard that after school ended, N. had signed on with the standing army.
Late in the evening, a bearded officer knocked on the door, a major's stripes on his shoulder. He slipped in quickly and looked around to make sure no one else was in the house. Once he calmed down, he asked me to promise him that I would never reveal his name. I promised, of course. I agreed that after I examined the document he wanted show me, he would rip it up and flush it down the toilet.
N. took a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to me. It was a photocopy of a letter that had been sent a week earlier from the office of the chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, to a small number of senior officers. The letter was brief and dry: "In accordance with the prime minister's orders, a full military parade will take place on the 35th Independence Day." Lower down, it said that the route of the Jerusalem parade would be planned by Central Command and that "emphasis would be given" to the achievements of the IDF in Operation Peace for the Galilee - the accepted name for the Lebanon war at the time.
N. added that the soldiers had been told verbally that the purpose of the parade was to raise morale and increase public support for the "operation."
"Do you understand the madness?" asked N. "Every day we bury more young men, the soldiers on the front are falling off their feet, the world is shocked by the massacre in the refugee camps and the kitty is empty. And what [Prime Minister Menachem] Begin and Raful [Eitan] are thinking about now is a military parade."
N. took the paper from my hand and took it into the bathroom. "You have to do something," he said as he left.
The article that appeared the next day, October 22, 1982, a Friday, on the front page of Haaretz, was short, but it contained enough to raise an uproar. The article reported that the parade would cost NIS 400 million - a fortune, especially at that time. That night, Channel 1 - the only TV channel that existed at the time - opened its news broadcast with a report on the parade. Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek was invited to the studio and expressed adamant disapproval for the march. The opposition and the media, which had just begun their belated repudiation of the war, began to protest. A few days later Begin gave in, and the idea of the march faded away.
N. called again on Independence Day eve. "We did it," he said, and hung up.