Monday, October 31, 2005

Getting Started

Like many things in life, (girls, fashion sense, general hygeine) i got into the idea of blogs quite late. I mean the idea of posting thoughts on the web that other peope may be interetsed in is a little presumptious...but then everyone is doing it, and i am going travelling and then making Aliya so its sort of an excuse.

I've done a bit of research on bloggers. Some post most days, others intermittently. Some copy and paste articles (which is sort of cheating no?), whilst other discuss cringeworthy dates. Most have three words tops for their title, but my imagination is not what it used to be and i'm stuck with seven (and i'm not even there for another two months) Hopefully this wont become a forum for rubbish political statements or boring stories about Argentinian bus drivers but instead will serve as a platform to share experiences and images as i enter a new stage in my life.

or then again maybe not; where's that bus stop?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Observing the Conflict

As diplomats were struggling to break the logjam on a ceasefire for Lebanon, The Observer invited four young people - two Lebanese and two British Jews, one of whom has recently settled in Israel - to share their views on the crisis. The following are extensive extracts from their nearly two hour conversation on Sunday August 13, 2006

Fayez Khouri, 32, was born in Beirut but has lived in London since the age of 10, when his family moved to escape years of civil war there. He works as a lawyer.

Francesca Segal, 26, was born and raised in London. She is a freelance journalist and writer who is also completing a PhD in psychology at UCL. Her family has many relations in Israel, including elderly Hungarian-born survivors of the Holocaust.

Karma El-Fadl, 28, was born in London, where her family had moved to escape the civil war in Lebanon, but they moved to Jordan when she was five, and then back to Beirut, where she has spent the last 10 years. She moved back to London last year to complete an MBA.

Calev Ben-Dor, 26, was born and raised in London, but moved to Israel six months ago, where he is about to start work at a nonpartisan political think-tank in Tel Aviv. He was back in London to visit his family and attend a friend's wedding.

They had never met one another before, but in an alcove in a London hotel, they spoke for nearly two hours with only a handful of interventions from The Observer's Ned Temko;

Francesca Segal: When you were speaking about talking to your friends in Beirut, what's the feeling about the Hizbollah presence in Lebanon?

Fayez Khouri: Look, Hizbollah was able to prove itself as a very important force in driving Israel out of the south of Lebanon [in 2000]. After that, Hizbollah became - it is my honest opinion - a thorn in our sides. Because we don't share exactly their values, at least me and my friends don't, and I think many people in Lebanon don't. But now the situation is different. How can you not support a force which you perceive as defending your country? Against an aggression. I have nothing in common with Hizbollah, OK? I'm a Christian, so the religion is completely different. But as Karma was saying, the Israeli bombardment of our country is so far and so wide that the only force defending is Hizbollah.

Francesca Segal: But do you not see it as having been initiated by Hizbollah, that there wouldn't be an incursion if Hizbollah weren't there? Otherwise, I don't believe this would be happening. If it were the other way round and Hizbollah were in the north and it was the Lebanese controlling the south, then the border tensions, I don't believe would exist.

Karma El-Fadl: Hizbollah wouldn't be in the north, because the only reason Hizbollah was created in 1982 was because Israel invaded part of Lebanon.

Calev Ben-Dor: From an Israeli perspective, they withdrew from literally every inch of Lebanese soil. And what was filled in the void was not Lebanese soldiers. And of all of Israel's neighbours, the relationship with Lebanon is very interesting. Because there aren't really any territorial disputes, there aren't really any ideological disputes. I think the Israelis and the Lebanese are relatively Western-oriented compared to the rest of the Middle East.

Fayez Khouri: That's very true.

Calev Ben-Dor: And so theoretically, there shouldn't be any reason for a battle. But from an Israeli perspective, what Israelis see is: we withdrew from every inch and instead of the Lebanese army, being a state, and being a force in the south, what filled the void was - whether it's a terrorist, militant or guerrilla, or maybe all three of those organisations - Hizbollah, which had tens of thousands of missiles pointing at Haifa, or threatening a third of the Israeli population. It's an organisation you can't compromise with, because it's quite totalitarian and fundamentalist and wants to see Israel destroyed. When you were talking about the feelings and the thoughts in Lebanon, what was so strange is they're very similar. We're not out of fuel. We're not out of electricity. But everything else is very similar. People get killed, and you think, I know someone in Haifa, or I know someone who has just been called up to the reserves, and when ten people get killed, I think maybe my cousin was there. The thing is, wars are not good for anyone. And it's destroying a huge amount of your country and quite a large proportion of mine. The real question is where does it go. And you say that since it started, Hizbollah support has gone up?

Karma El-Fadl: Support, not as being affiliated with Hizbollah, but as sympathising with them as being the only group or body that is defending Lebanon… Hizbollah has declared, Nasrallah has gotten on TV and said the he is pro a ceasefire once Israel stops bombarding Lebanon. But if you look at the scale, the threat to Israel is now more or less confined, up to now, all the way up to Haifa, yeah? And it's all limited to Hizbollah Katyusha rockets - 2,000 men with 10,000 Katyusha rockets - and Israel is going over a whole 10,000 square km of a tiny country with air, missiles, big bombs. We have nothing to defend ourselves. Look at the Lebanese army. What is it? We have three tanks?

Francesca Segal: But the thing is that Hizbollah are actually setting out to kill civilians.
Karma El-Fadl: Where is Israel bombing? It's not bombing homes? Bridges with people on them? It's not bombing innocent people who are fleeing?

Calev Ben-Dor: I've grown up here, I'm British educated. I'm Western value-oriented. I don't like seeing destruction. I don't like seeing people killed, I certainly don't like seeing civilians killed. I think we all agree on that. But what gets me is that I don't know any Western government that has ever succeeded in fighting a war, fighting against a disparate group who are hiding among civilians, without hitting civilians at the same time. Now I don't think that necessarily justifies it, but how do you do it? Once Israel has decided to fight Hizbollah, which it feels is threatening its whole northern area, a third of the country, how can it do it?

Fayez Khouri: Don't do it. This is not the way to deal with Hizbollah.

Calev Ben-Dor: You've had six years to disarm them.

Fayez Khouri: No, the Syrians were there for five of those years. We've had one year, and the Lebanese government started a national dialogue to disarm Hizbollah. And we were getting places. It takes time. In Lebanon, the history of our civil war meant that we can't do this quickly. We cannot start fighting Hizbollah to create another civil war.


Calev Ben-Dor: What you seem to be suggesting that Israel should have done is nothing.
Karma El-Fadl: Not nothing - nothing violent. But not nothing. If land is no longer occupied, if they go back and enforce the 1949 peace agreement, and Israel leaves what is has taken, then Hizbollah's presence is no longer justified.

Francesca Segal: But if you can see it from Israel's perspective, that they feel behind Hizbollah the looming presence of Iran pointing potentially nuclear weapons at a state they intend to destroy.

Fayez Khouri: Why are you guys being so paranoid?

Calev Ben-Dor: If you had our history, you'd also be paranoid.

Karma El-Fadl: I think your history is part of our history.

Calev Ben-Dor: I just don't want a terrorist organisation on my doorstep pointing 10,000 rockets at me, that's all.

Fayez Khouri: We don't agree with Hizbollah, that's my point. But this is not the way to get rid of them. You said something very clever, that you don't want a terrorist organisation on your northern border. Two things to that: we don't want an organization that is armed, separate from the Lebanese army, in our country either. The second thing is don't you think we can call Israel a terrorist country after everything that has happened to us now? You don't want a terrorist organization on your northern border? We don't want a terrorist country on our southern border. Israel exists, and we are happy with Israel existing.

Karma El-Fadl: I mean all this year, in the MBA, of my closest friends, three of them were Israelis and they're back there and we talk on MSN. I mean we're individuals. Fine, our governments don't agree, the parties have problems. But there is a way that we as human beings, who are smart, have brains, to tackle this issue. But not by force.


Calev Ben-Dor: Does Hizbollah operate in civilian areas, have rockets in civilian areas?

Fayez Khouri: Of course. Where do you want them to be, in the middle of fields where they can be hit by Israeli warplanes? But we're talking about old people who are trying to leave their homes.

Francesca Segal: There are old and sick people trapped in their homes in Haifa as well.

Calev Ben-Dor: Someone hits Haifa, someone hits a city, a jointly Jewish-Arab city where people get on, with a third of the Israeli population, Israel's response is going to be pretty big. Every single other country in the world: you hit Birmingham with Katyusha rockets... What I'm hearing from you so far is that everything that has happened so far is our fault. What's your responsibility? What's the Lebanese government's responsibility?

Fayez Khouri: We have lots of responsibilities. We are so divided in our country, 18 religious sects in a country of 4 million people and they don't work together. And that's why we're having a civil war problem and that's why we couldn't disarm Hizbollah as fast as everyone wanted us to. I agree with you. That's a big problem. I agree with you. But guys, a country which could have been very much on side of Israel in the future, not now definitely, has now turned completely against Israel.


Francesca Segal: Israel has said from the very beginning that all the territory they've gone into now, they want it to be taken by an international force. They just want security. We don't want Lebanon. We don't want Israeli forces in Beirut.

Fayez Kouri: No, we don't either.

Francesca Segal: Of course, nobody does.

Calev Ben-Dor: We do want one thing, though - a guerrilla organisation to stop being on our border. What's a 'proportionate response' to a third of your country being under threat? That's what I don't get - an organization that wants to destroy us.

Fayez: Let the Lebanese Army go down to the south.

Calev Ben-Dor: I've been waiting!

Fayez Khouri: It's happening.

Calev Ben-Dor: Great. I really hope so. Because you know, they weren't queuing up to do it before this war started.

Fayez Khouri: Of course not. They were trying to do it in another way... Our common ground is that we can't go on like this. Hopefully, it will force us to reach a compromise which is suitable for everybody and which eradicates any extremism that exists within our society. But what is happening now is not helping at all.


Calev Ben-Dor: I think many of your premises I don't agree with, and there are many of them that I agree with, we just have different ways of viewing them. The only thing I ask is whether you agree with it or not, that you understand where we're coming from. On our side, it's a tiny country surrounded by many Arab countries, many of which want to destroy us. And I don't mind, I understand you have your narrative. The question is whether you understand ours. You said something about our being paranoid. Maybe we are. But you know what? I don't know whether my grandchildren are going to live in Israel, because I don't know whether Israel is going to be around, I genuinely don't know whether Israel is going to survive. When you have that insecurity, many things follow on from that. Maybe we won't agree, but I would like to think you understand. There's clearly a lot of pain because of the destruction, and its difficult to maintain personal relationships, but what we're doing makes a certain amount of sense from where we're standing, and you're not standing in the same place.

Francesca Segal: It was interesting you said: why are you guys so paranoid? I think it's really important understanding one another's perspective. Perhaps it is paranoia, and there is nothing behind it, but you have to see that in Israel there is a very real belief that with the Iranian stance this is a very really beginning of a second Holocaust. Perhaps you're right it's only paranoia, but it's a very real belief among some people.

Karma El-Fadl: It's not just about paranoia. It's always depicting yourself as a victim. You're not always a victim.

Fayez Khouri: But it's interesting that this is what they feel. And it's up to us, I think, to show them that we feel the same, exactly the same way. We feel that Israel, because of what's happening now and also because of things before. We would be doing what you guys do in Tel Aviv, at the beach, preparing to go out, and then coming home late and going to sleep and when the sun is rising, this is punctuated by Israeli jets flying over and doing these sonic booms and we'd say to ourselves, you know maybe we're not supposed to have fun. You guys say the whole paranoia thing, and we say the whole paranoia thing, and I think if we understand each other's reasons why, and actually dispel that - that you guys shouldn't be paranoid and we shouldn't be paranoid, we're getting somewhere. But after what's happening in Lebanon right now, the paranoia is on full alert.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

4 Mothers & Ari Shavit

(this article appeared in Haaretz during the early part of Israel's war with Hizbullah)

Four Mothers was probably the most influential protest movement in the history of Israel. It was founded immediately after the 'disaster of the helicopters' - the collision of two Air Force helicopters carrying soldiers to Lebanon in February 1997, leaving 74 soldiers dead. The movement never amounted to more than a few dozen women (and several men). However, within three years it swept the country and fomented a shift of consciousness that led, ultimately, to Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. About two weeks after the outbreak of the second Lebanon War, as Katyusha rockets continued to fall across Galilee, and Israel Defense Forces brigades were immersed in slow and bloody fighting in Bint Jbail, three Four Mothers members met for a lengthy morning conversation in a shaded apartment in Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov Ihud. Zohara Antebi, from Kibbutz Geva, a resident of Kahal and principal of a school in Upper Galilee, was in Four Mothers almost from the start. Bruria Sharon, from Ashdot Yaakov Ihud, joined the movement a few weeks after its creation. Orna Shimoni, also from Ashdot Yaakov Ihud, joined the struggle about half a year later, after losing a son in Lebanon. Did Nasrallah's offensive cause the mothers who vanquished the military establishment to engage in soul-searching? Are those who counted the dead of the IDF's presence in Lebanon now counting the dead of the renewed entry into Lebanon and feeling some sort of responsibility? Do they support the antiwar struggle that is developing tardily in Tel Aviv? Do they have any oppressive doubts now about their burning faith in unilateral action?
Four Mothers broke up in fairly ugly fashion in the summer of 2000. The movement's founder and chairperson, Rachel Ben-Dor, packed her bags and left the country. So that the three mothers who met for a tempestuous and contradiction-ridden conversation in Bruria Sharon's kitchen did not speak in the name of any protest movement that existed or now exists. They spoke in their own name. Their Israeli anguish at the outbreak of another war. Again Galilee in blood and fire.

Orna Shimoni"I heard [the playwright] Joshua Sobol say on the radio that he feels how in this war one layer after another is being peeled from him. That is exactly how I feel, too. I see how in every war, another layer is peeled off. As a girl I remember the Sinai campaign [of 1956]. I remember that we hitchhiked to see the expanses of Sinai. Nitzana, El Arish. And then we gave back Sinai. And in the Six-Day War [1967] I already had children of my own. The fears start when you have children. My husband, Uzi, was in Dotan Valley, a company commander in the Armored Corps in the Dotan Valley. The fear that he would die on me. The fear that someone would die on me. It's an -incomprehensible fear.

"In the Yom Kippur War [1973], I was already the kibbutz secretary. On the kibbutz ,the secretary is the one who breaks the news. And I couldn't do it. We had five who fell in Ashdot Yaakov. One of them was a friend of mine. A friend of my youth. Yoel. When the announcement comes, it is impossible to describe it. I am standing outside the room and I can't do it. That darkness. To this day I can't shake it off. The darkness of Yom Kippur. A no-way-out darkness. Of death. Loss of the Third Temple. Not in quotation marks, not as a metaphor. For me, 2,700 killed is the loss of the third national home.

"Yalik was born immediately afterward. In '75. We call him Eyal, which recalls Yoel. But he knows nothing about that. He is an after-the-war child. A child of love. Of hope. But the layer of fear had already peeled off. I already had the feeling of no way out. I understood that they want us in the sea. No matter what we do, they want us in the sea.

"And when the Lebanon War breaks out [1982], that feeling erupts again. The feeling that we are bringing perdition and there is no way out for our home. And I have five children at home. And two sons-in-law who are also army officers. And Yalik grew up with the war. With the arguments at home. And slowly I understand that the emperor has no clothes. That the army is being blown up in Lebanon for no reason. To protect itself, it is being blown up. Here is a Safari truck and 12 children come back wrapped in the national flag. And there is no protection of the north. No protection of the north. And I feel that if I do not get the army out of Lebanon, everyone will die.

"And then, in February 1997, the helicopters disaster. And I cry. For two weeks I can't stop crying. I call Eyal, who was then an officer at Training Base 1, and he asks me, Why are you crying, Mom? For what are you crying? I'm alive. Listen to me, I'm alive. But then he arrives in the middle of the funeral of Avner, who was a good friend of his. He is so beautiful in uniform. A beautiful officer in uniform. And he, too, does not stop crying. It is impossible to make him stop. And suddenly I understand that expression that was in the papers then, the weeping officers.

"And the next day, when I see an announcement in the dining room about mothers organizing against the war, I am the first to sign. And what a tongue-lashing I get from Yalik. Mom, do you know what Four Mothers is, he says to me. Do you have any idea what they are doing to the IDF's motivation? You just don't get it, Mom, he tells me. If we leave Lebanon, there is no Northern Road. No defense of the north. Hezbollah will enter the infants house in Misgav. Hezbollah will shell Kiryat Shmona. Hezbollah will sweep across the north.

"He is killed in September. In Reihan. It was only then that I started to become more active. How could I not have been active earlier, I asked myself. Where was I. If I had acted, maybe Eyal would still be here. The feeling that then existed among the public that the IDF was established to protect civilians, so it is natural for soldiers to be killed - drove me crazy. Because the IDF is the Israel Defense Forces but the soldiers are our children. And every child that fell, I had a kind of feeling that he was my child. That I had not protected him.

"That's a feeling that's with me all the time. It's part of my womanhood. To envelope, to protect. And when we were accused - Four Mothers - of operating from the womb, I said that we operate both from the head and from the womb. We studied the subject. We did a rational analysis. But we also worked from the womb. We knew that the outcry of the womb would get through. Because the womb is the place that gives life. And we were out to protect life. If we had not spoken out in the name of the mothers, we would have melted like marshmallows.

"Today, too, within this new war again, I do not think we were wrong. The exit from Lebanon was one of the boldest and most correct and most just actions done here in the last generation. The way it was done was also right. With no one killed and no one wounded. I do not accept the argument that this caused the intifada. I think we have no choice but to take our fate in our hands. We cannot sit and wait for the other side to mature.

"But from the moment the firing began two weeks ago, my stomach has been turning over. It's a feeling of being faint. Of no blood in the hands. Everything is cold. Because war is death. War is dead people. And children dying. I have a feeling that my children are dying. They are all my children, whom I do not succeed in protecting.

"This is an existential war. A war over our actual lives. For a long time I have had this feeling: What will happen if one day the IDF comes down with a virus? Nothing serious, the flu. But even with the flu and a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius and no strength, you can't do anything. So what will happen if the IDF gets the flu? If all our soldiers have a temperature of 40 degrees.

"Today I know what will happen: there will be a slaughter here. We will not be in the sea, because we will simply be slaughtered. Not one person from the nation of Israel will remain. If the IDF comes down with a virus, no one will defend us, including our friends in the United States. So I feel that despite the terrible pain, this war is just and necessary to protect our lives. And I think that even when we remove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in Lebanon, that is not only right, it is also moral. Because I do not want them to be killed in our shelling. But we have to shell. And we have to fight. Because this time, it's not over the security zone [in southern Lebanon], this time it is over our lives.

"That's why it makes me so angry to see the extreme left now demonstrating and breaking the consensus. Because the left is me. Shulamit Aloni is me. And the extreme left says that even now, even after we withdrew to the last centimeter in Lebanon and even after we withdrew to the last centimeter in Gaza, we are to blame. And to say something like that, is to say that we are to blame because we live here and not in Uganda. And then the extreme left is actually saying that we are to blame until we are in the sea. Because they will not accept us in Uganda, you know. Or in the United States, or in France. So the extreme left is now giving me a certain feeling of hatred. Because then, too, no one cared what happened to the Jews. No one prevented slaughter. And today I'm undergoing an experience of slaughter. More than ever before, I know that if the IDF comes down with a virus, the next day the State of Israel will not exist."

Bruria Sharon"Today it's hard to understand this: during the War of Attrition [late 1960s, early 1970s], we were pregnant. We were pregnant the whole time. Either before pregnancy or after pregnancy. And this was at a time when Ashdot was shelled every day. For three years, Ashdot was shelled every day. There were direct hits. Members of the kibbutz hit landmines and were killed. An elderly woman was killed on the lawn. But no one left. No one went. It was a kind of autistic life. Every night we ran to the children's house to take the children down to the shelter. We see the children sleeping in the shelter for three years. And we go on making children. I myself gave birth to three children during the War of Attrition. I was absolutely autistic. I was a total idiot. What faith I then had in the establishment.

"The first intifada was some sort of blow. My eldest son joined the Sayeret [commando unit] and I remember him coming on his first leave and crying. The sights he saw. The people he had to remove from their homes in the middle of the night [in the territories]. And then I also started to demonstrate at road junctions. It is all because of us, I thought. All because we are so awful and horrible.

"The helicopters disaster sent me into shock. I cried for two weeks. And from that moment I breathed, ate, slept and talked only Lebanon. To get out of Lebanon. I remember an illustration in the paper of a mother pushing a baby carriage, except that instead of wheels the carriage had tank tracks. That grabbed me. Hit me. My youngest son, Ofer, my jewel, was then a new recruit in the commando unit of the Paratroops. At the end of his training course, I told him and his buddies that they were taking the oath to the IDF, that they were committed even to sacrifice themselves for the State of Israel, but that we parents have the responsibility to ask questions and not allow anyone to lead our children to death without asking questions.

"I don't know what sets a person afire. But I was suddenly on fire. I was hysterical. Overwrought. I felt I was on borrowed time. That if I did not turn the world upside down, my child would die. I wrote a letter to [prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu saying that if my son were killed he would not be to blame, I would be to blame, because I did not do enough to make sure my son would not die. I let the chief of staff decide about him. I let the defense minister decide about him. I abandoned him to them.

"In the War of Independence and also in the Six-Day War, and even in the Yom Kippur War, a bereaved mother was a heroine. The whole nation looked up to her. The big change that occurred is that I know today that if I am bereaved, then only I am bereaved. That's it. The loss is mine. This is a natural process. A society that is fighting for its establishment needs myths. Needs Bar Kochba. It doesn't matter that he destroyed the Jewish people and brought rivers of blood. But he did not bend his head. He upheld his pride. That is why Zionism adopted him. Because we truly needed heroes. And then, within that context, the death of a son had meaning.

"But today we are a normal society. Even if it is not normal to be a normal society in this place. And because we are a normal society, the death no longer has meaning. And then we are not ready to follow the leader and the state blindly. We don't go to death because Ben-Gurion said so.

"I remember sitting with Orna across the road from the President's Residence in 1999. An older man, someone familiar, came by and asked if there was anything he could bring us. Pizza, we said. He brought us pizza and sat with us, and explained systematically the pointlessness of our being in Lebanon. He explained that we were being frightened for no reason. That Hezbollah was not the PLO. They are a Lebanese movement. They have Lebanese goals. They are fighting for their liberation and will not pursue us if we withdraw. They will become a political party.

"And when we got back home, I saw that Orna was in shock. She did not utter a sound. Because suddenly, because of Reuven Merhav [the elderly man, a former member of the intelligence community and Foreign Ministry director general], she understood that Eyal had been killed for nothing. Eyal was killed for no point or purpose. Because meaning is important. Viktor Frankl wrote that. And when a nation is fighting for liberation, those who are killed are the stones of a building. But not today. Today there is no more meaning, because the wars have no consensus.

"Four Mothers did not get the IDF out of Lebanon alone. We just led a process of change that took place in Israeli society. And I am not ready to accept that our getting the IDF out of Lebanon led to the intifada. I'm not willing to accept what you say, that the disengagement now brought on Nasrallah's attack. We live in a region awash with blood. It was awash with blood before us and it will be awash with blood after us.

"So I believe in Rabin's approach. That we have to understand that every six or seven years, there will be fighting. Because in this region it's impossible to talk about peace. The maximum is conflict management. So it's not that a unilateral approach brings war. Here, we are always either before or after a war. Unilateral acts are needed so that we can fight the war from within a recognized border. Like now. Look at the strength it gives us to fight a war from within a recognized border. So don't tell me that we defeated the IDF. Don't tell me that we destroyed the ethos of combat. That we transformed Israel into a spider-web society. That's cheap talkback stuff. Nasrallah's bombast. It is true that we were wrong in thinking that Nasrallah would not pursue us into Galilee. We were wrong in our evaluation of what would happen.

"But still, leaving Lebanon brought six years of quiet. That's a done deed. No one can argue with that. Six years is the lives of 150 young men. It's the blossoming and prosperity of Galilee. And even now, being out of Lebanon makes it possible for us to mount this strong response. When we were in Lebanon we could not respond like this, because then we were occupiers, whereas now we are just. Today we are fighting for our home from within the international border."

Zohara Antebi"We were in Peru when Yehonatan was born. I remember bringing my little fledgling to some big party in the Jewish community, and people there said, What a cute baby for the army. So I left the party and took Yehonatan with me and took him home. I wasn't willing to think that this infant softness would be handed over to the army. Would be sacrified for the state.

"Eighteen years later, Yehonatan was drafted into a pilots training course. I remember that I sat with him in a cafe and did not stop crying. Usually I don't cry. But I sat across from him and wept and asked him to forgive me for having made him an Israeli. Because it is not right. Not right. You raise a child and then someone wrenches him away from you. Someone comes and demands that you place that youthful sweetness at the state's disposal. And you have some umbilical reaction that tells you no. No. It is not right for the State of Israel to make use of this innocence for its purposes.

"Maybe that was why I reacted so powerfully to the helicopters disaster. There is something so fantastic about youth. In the sweetness and readiness of young men. And suddenly they fall out of the sky. All those youths dropping from the sky. The womb felt that it was not fair. Not right. I looked at their pictures in the paper and I read the brief account of their lives and I felt that I bore responsibility. It was impossible. Enough. Something had to be done.

"After that it moved from the womb to the head. But the start was the womb. The womb said what a waste. What pain. As the poem says, 'Dewdrops of Hebrew youth fall.' You want to hug them, all of them. You are wild after this innocence that is mobilized into the army without asking questions. And you ask whether the state deserves sacrifice like this. And suddenly, even though you are not their mother, you feel like their mother. You are a lioness mother. And, like a lioness mother, you want to protect them from death. You ask who is this Minotaur to whom the best of our sons are sent year after year.

"And then strength emerges. Strength that cannot be stopped. Because mothers are the only thing in the world that can defeat an army. The mothers of the Vietnam War created the tide against that war and the mothers of the Lebanon War created the tide against the Israeli presence in Lebanon. Because males have their consciousness burned at age 18 and they become obedient. But a mother has the strength to stand by the cradle and tell the infant, You were not born for war.

"Therefore we, the mothers, breached the necessity of sending youths every year to nourish the Minotaur. And we did so because only feminine speech can breach the military speech. But even the feminine speech worked only when there was a great deal of blood. When all that young blood spilled out of the sky. Because we are a very military society. A society whose head is khaki. What is decisive here is blood. And only when the cup of blood ran over were questions about Lebanon asked.

"Like all wars, this war, too is accursed. But this is an existential war at levels we do not yet understand. I think that it is approaching the War of Independence in terms of importance. It will determine whether Iran will control the Arab world. It will determine whether we will be able to survive against extreme Islam. And I hope that everything will be done not to use youth and innocence in this war as cheap raw material. But I heard the terrible booms of the Hezbollah shelling as they abducted the two soldiers on the border. And I understood immediately how terrible it is. And I understood that this is a war of no choice. And when there is no choice, there is no choice. No matter how heavy the heart. No matter how awful the burden.

"Therefore what appalls me now is the radical left. To me it sounds as jihadist as the jihadist right. I believe that the Jewish people survived only because of its ability to ask questions. To ask the most trenchant questions. When I saw the demonstration of the left, it saddened me. Because the jihadist left is talking to us as though we were warmongers. It is behaving like an autoimmune disease that attacks its own body. My stomach has been churning all during these days. I knew the fighters from Egoz [a commando unit] who fell. They adopted the students of the Democratic School of Upper Galilee, where I am the principal. I see their faces constantly. Their laughter. The way they played basketball with the children. You say we weakened the IDF? You say we removed the IDF from Lebanon but broke its spirit? Maybe so. Maybe we weakened the determination of the gung-ho. But I still believe that the army should be the project of the state and not that the state should be the project of the army.

"I have no doubt about the necessity for this state. I am in Israel, because only in Israel will my child not be turned into soap. I am in Israel because I remember our attempt to assimilate into others for 2,000 years. And it is totally clear to me that all the French bleeding hearts and all the German bleeding hearts and all the Dutch bleeding hearts will not want us in their countries. This is the only place. And this place has to be fought for. We have to understand the complexity. Shulamit Aloni does not understand the complexity. She's like a poster. And what is like a poster slips out of reality.

"But at the same time, I do not want Israel to be Sparta. I do not want to offer up our children as sacrifices. Unless there is no choice. And I blame ourselves as well for leaving the Shaba Farms and the three prisoners like a thorn in our side. And I don't like the bombing of Beirut. I don't like the term 'pulverizing.' What is being pulverized? And I say we have to fight for this place from within the border. Because only then will we be just and good and right and victorious in the end. Only from within adjusted 1967 borders will we win.

"So today I go back to [Prof. Yeshayahu] Leibowitz. I believe that only within the 1967 borders will we be able to survive. To live within our borders is to live within the boundary of justice. If we are not within that boundary, we will not be [just]. But with the cannons now roaring and the Katyushas falling, I remember that the question today in Lebanon is not the question that once was. This war is different. We did not initiate it, we did not foment it.

"Therefore there is no point now in talking about blame. Four Mothers is not to blame, but neither is the government or the army. Who is to blame? Zionism is to blame. The fact that we returned to this land to be Jews here and to establish a democratic Jewish state here.

"So if you are saying now that I was wrong when I believed that it would be possible to ensure far fewer casualties and far more quiet after leaving Lebanon, you're right. I was wrong. I'm afraid of those who are incapable of saying 'I was wrong' in the first person. I lived on the border, in Malkiya, and I saw the small tobacco plots of the farmers in southern Lebanon, and I believed that prosperity on both sides of the border would ensure quiet. That Nasrallah would aspire for his people to have a good life. In that I was wrong. I was definitely wrong.

"And if you argue that in a certain sense our questions weakened the IDF, that is also true. In certain points a democratic society has weaknesses. And it's true that today Israeli society is not capable of handling soldiers who are killed, because of all those years when soldiers were sent to be killed for an unjust cause. That's why, in the first week, the IDF tried to do battle from planes, because they knew we weren't capable of coping with soldiers who were killed.

"And in a certain sense, we, Four Mothers, have a part in this. It's also because of our struggle that we are all Lebanon-burned. We all have a Lebanon scar. Both the army and the soldiers. Because our society really is less and less willing to absorb [losses]. The exposure of weeping soldiers and of soldiers as sons to mothers weakened the country's staying power. It cast the soldier as not being just a war machine. Because this country really is less mobilized. Not everything is army. And leaving Lebanon then was not a military move. It was a civilian move. It was meant to enable us to be Athens, not Sparta. And precisely because of that there is now no choice. Now we have to change the diskette. This time we are fighting for our home. This time we are fighting so that we will have lives here."