It is a long time since I have received so many telephone calls full of reproaches and insults as I have over the last week, following publication of what I said about the victims who fell in vain in the battles in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood and along the Philadelphi route.
I know saying that soldiers were killed for no purpose is upsetting. I even find myself reluctant to say it - as if it were not enough that the families' world has been destroyed, now they must also cope with the question of why and for what purpose it was destroyed. I do not make such grave statements lightly, but even at moments of shock and horror, there is no choice but to speak the truth that is in our hearts: Yes, these boys fell for nothing.
How is it possible to see it otherwise, and how is it possible to find justice in their sentence? When even Ariel Sharon and Shaul Mofaz have already admitted that we have no reason to be in Gaza, it is wrong to allow so much as a drop of blood to be spilled for this place. If we have no reason for being there, there is also no reason to be killed there. That is completely clear.
Our obligation to say these things and to fight for them is not only an obligation to our truth; it is first and foremost an obligation to the soldier who sits in his armored personnel carrier, who just a day earlier heard Mofaz brush off the importance of his presence in Gaza like the dust of the earth - and who was convinced by Mofaz's words - and who therefore also asks himself what he is doing in this neighborhood, in this city, in the heart of darkness. And even before he finds the answer, he finds his death.
And now I will explain to you who this soldier is. I do not know him, but he is nevertheless well known to me, and I love him very much, and my obligation is first and foremost to him.
One day, before the 1999 elections, I received a letter from a bereaved father who lives in south Tel Aviv. He wrote that his son had fallen in Lebanon a few weeks ago, and that he, the father, knows whom his son had planned to vote for in the elections, but now cannot: "He planned to vote for you," the father wrote. "I am actually opposed to you and your positions, but I have decided to execute my son's will and cast the vote you have lost in his place."
I was beside myself. I immediately called the father and told him that I wanted to see him, and I met with him at his house. I tried as hard as I could to sway him from his resolution: I told him that he had to vote according to his own beliefs. "I have no right to accept your vote, which I have not earned," I said. But the father insisted. And after the results of the elections were published, I knew that those 250,000 ballots also included the most expensive vote I have ever received.
Public figures are sometimes asked to name the most moving letter they ever received, or the most moving meeting they ever had. I have no doubt: It was this letter and this meeting. I am also certain that I will never receive another letter like it, and therefore I preserve in my heart like a sacred offering. For me, this was the soldier who was sitting in the APC in Zeitoun and Rafah last week, and who wrote his last letter to his father.
I did not deserve the vote of the father who did not agree with me, but I want at least to deserve the son's legacy. I wanted to explain all this to those who cursed me over the phone, but I knew that there was no point: They would not want to hear, and they would certainly not want to understand. So I simply hung up the phone. I have no complaints. I do not even expect understanding. I expect those poor bereaved families to reject my statements with loathing in order to make things easier on themselves: To not only lose a son, but also to not understand the point of his death is too much; the pain is unbearable.
But I have a mandate, and I act on the strength of it. The mandate of a single soldier, which was passed on to his father.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now