The Grave of the Unknown Civilian

No, it is not good to die. But if nevertheless that is our fate, then it is better to die for our country, which does not care so much about us, and all of this is on the condition that we die as soldiers, and not as civilians.

Anyone who knows anything about the whereabouts of the State Comptroller's Report on the home front is requested to call; it is not urgent.

Another report, the Winograd committee interim report, opens with quotes from two elegies - one by a prophet and the other by a poet. The document's five authors cited the prophet Jeremiah: "Weep sorely for him who goeth away for he shall return no more, nor see his native land," and the poet Yehuda Amihai: "Death in war begins with one man, a young man, going down the stairs." The committee added its own lamentation in dedicating the report to the memory of "those fresh flowers, the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, picked before their time during the Second Lebanon War."

The 39 civilian victims of the war are not mentioned at all. The committee has promised to compensate for this in its final report; those who died without uniforms or ranks will yet receive their turn.

The civilians who were killed in the summer of 2006, who are also worthy of our tears, did not go anywhere; they died in their homeland, in their homes. True, not all of them were young, although all of them once were. They too went down the stairs, even though they did not get a call-up order; they simply went down to the bomb shelter or the grocery store and the Katyusha caught them on their way; they, too, were "fresh flowers," even if not according to our usual definition; true, some of them were old or disabled, or had had a hard life, flowers that had wilted.

It would not have been possible to wait for the complete Winograd Report, and therefore the partial report was published in April. The rehabilitation of the Israel Defense Forces, they explained, could not wait until August; the corrections must start immediately, they are urgent and of the utmost importance. This is true. On the other hand, the report about the state of the home front can wait, and not a word of it has yet been published. When the state comptroller wanted to publish the main points in March, as a kind of interim report, the government and the army collaborated and succeeded in having this postponed; nothing urgent there, they explained. A spokesman for the comptroller's office told me this week that the report will be published, apparently, at the end of July - about a year after the war, as if to mark a yahrzeit. Israel's civilians always were, and always will be, second-class citizens, just regular civilians, not important people from a line of poetry.

A year has passed, but nothing has changed on the home front; it has remained exposed and vulnerable. Much of the damage to communities in the north has not yet been repaired, and is visible to the unaided eye. Indeed we have been promised another war this summer, and Ehud Barak is demanding he be elected to conduct it, but it, too, will take place without the shelters being prepared. The same civilians who were left behind, abandoned and betrayed last year will continue to go down the stairs, yet there will still be nowhere for them to go.

After all, this is exactly what is happening right now in Sderot; the north and the south have become the same flesh, they are both cannon fodder. Six years have elapsed since the first Qassam rocket was fired, and three governments have not managed to envelop the Gaza envelope. It is impossible to know exactly what would have happened were Qassams to fall on Tel Aviv, but it is easy to imagine what would have happened if, God forbid, they had fallen on a military base. The revenge would not have been long in coming. We will not abandon our boys, not even "one man, a young man"; things like this have happened in the past, and towers and fortresses were built in Gush Katif for the sake of our soldiers and our settlers.

Many countries the world over have set up an impressive monument to the Unknown Soldier. Here we do not have a monument of this kind, because none of our soldiers are unknown. We have only Unknown Civilians, whom even committees of inquiry forget. So why should we not set up, as a reminder, a grave for the Unknown Civilian?

No, it is not good to die. But if nevertheless that is our fate, then it is better to die for our country, which does not care so much about us, and all of this is on the condition that we die as soldiers, and not as civilians.