Friday, July 07, 2006

Gaza, Entebbe & Israeli Weddings

As Israel holds its collective breath for Cpl Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped from his base inside Israeli territory near Gaza two weeks ago, it is perhaps ironic that 30 years ago this week Israel staged one of the most remarkable rescue attempts ever made, where special forces rescued over 100 passengers who had been taken to Entebbe Uganda by Palestinian terrorists. As the hostages came back to Israel thousands thronged the streets in celebration.

The feeling in the aftermath of the operation in which team leader Yoni Netanyahu had been killed was described in a Jerusalem Post feature as being mixed; “...Early the next day, Sayeret Matkal attended with thousands of others, Yoni Netanyahu’s funeral. The state was in a rare moment of simultaneous elation and mourning.”

A couple of weeks ago I went to a wedding of an Israeli friend of mine from my year off called Elad. It was a real Israeli wedding – the hall was in a place I had never heard of (somewhere near Bet Lid), no one wore a suit, lots of people ate and spoke during the ceremony and the photographers got way too close to the couple under the chuppah…

Quite a few friends from yeshiva were there; Roi, Dov, Hed, Adiel, Shlomi, Ori; some with wives, some without. Amongst those I hadn’t seen for a while was someone I used to play football with during lunch time, Yoni Ashchar. After returning from a trip abroad, Yoni had suddenly collapsed whilst playing basketball and fell unconscious for a few minutes. He is making unbelievable progress but no one knows what sort of final recovery he will make. Another guest at the wedding from our year in Ein Tzurim had lost a brother in a army training accident. In addition, the parents of our friend
Danny Cohen who was killed whilst on service in the IDF also came. (Like Gilad Shalit, Danny also had an uncle who was killed in the Yom Kippur War.)

And as I found myself the sole Brit amongst Israelis, I wondered whether my peers at Ein Tzurim were actually in some way representative of Israeli society at large. Because from amongst those who I shared good times and bad throughout our 8 months on a small yeshiva and kibbutz near Ashkelon, one is no longer with us. And from those that are, many carry either physical or emotional wounds from their experiences in this State of ours.

And I started to think that perhaps being in a state of ‘simultaneous elation and mourning’ as the Jerusalem Post described is perhaps not as rare as we may have thought. Because even at the height of joy, there is always something missing, somebody who should be there but isn’t. Even at our happiest moments we remember Jerusalem’s destruction; even at a wedding we can’t ignore those who will never wed. Even Entebbe had its price.

And maybe that’s what being in this country is supposed to be about…never being absolutely complete, but going on and rejoicing nevertheless.

What will happen to Gilad no one yet knows, with some experts saying that staging a rescue operation is even more complicated than that carried out 30 years ago in Uganda. Yet in a week where Kassam rockets hit Ashkelon for the first time, and Israel buried its first casualty since the Gaza incursion, I couldn’t help but be nostalgic for the aftermath of Entebbe, even if its results dictated the emotionally difficult balance of simultaneous rejoicing and mourning.


Anonymous said...

Calev, I did not know that Danny had been killed. Thanks..., kind of... you know what I mean. Baruch Dayn Emet.

Yellow Boy

The Ginrod said...

i like this one. it spoke to me.

Calev said...

Yellow boy - was wracking my brains trying to think if i knew anyone with that nickname on Hach and came up empty...

and any compliment from the lovely ginrod must mean i am on the right track.

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