I meant to write a post about the cemetery in Nablus, but while looking at army photos, I found these from a little bit earlier, taken in Lebanon, so this is a short Lebanon story instead.
But it's not an early Lebanon story. This story takes place near the end of my disservice. I've already been to Lebanon three times by then, lost any hint of trust in my superiors and in what they said I was supposed to do there.
The romantic idea of being a part of a fighting unit in another country was long gone. I knew Lebanon too well, knowing, for example that these green hills were treacherous; that every step in those hills would mean a new cut on my flesh. The trees and the bushes were filled with thorns, and walking there on our way to another ambush, to risk our lives for something that never made sense, meant hours of pain.
But the country, at least from a distance, was beautiful. No doubt about that.
So again, they sent us to Lebanon. But this time, I was rewarded for simply being around that long, with a new position. I would no longer go with the grunts into Lebanon, but stay on the border and be in charge of driving the officer's van.
This meant that one day I was told I had to drive one of the girls serving with us (and I don't mean to sound sexist. After all, I was still a boy) to visit houses of dead soldiers' families.
This is how it goes: I drive around for a few hours while she looks at the map and plans our route. We knock on a door. They open, pleased to see us. We come in, chat with the family for a while. This is his little sister. She also wants to join Golani next year, after high school. He has a brother in the Paratroopers now, but what can you do? That's what he wants to do. But if he was alive to see his little brother joining the Paratroopers he wouldn't have been happy. All he cared about was Golani... We drink coffee, have some snacks. We give them something. Some kind of medal, I think, maybe a commemorative plate. Or a book. I don't know.
And that was a good house. The family will never overcome their loss, but they continue living. But then you have the shrines, the houses where time stopped.
In one of the houses, an elderly mother opened the door and let us in with a short, "Come in." She then offered us fresh lemonade. While she was in the kitchen, I looked at the walls. They were filled with pictures of her son who died in Lebanon. In one of them, a picture very much like the one of me below, her son was standing young and happy in front of the Lebanon landscape.
And I said, when she came back from the kitchen, because looking at that poor young man who lost his life for the worst thing in the world, nothing, standing so proud and so alive and so doomed, and because I knew that the beauty of this breathtaking landscape was fake, that this was hell, and because I thought about all that but didn't know how to say it, I said, "Lebanon is beautiful."
And she looked at me with shock and then with tears that formed so quickly, and I suddenly realized what I said, that what was for me just a symbol of contradiction was for her the most important place in the world. She didn't need to know the green landscape was thorny, and she didn't need to know about long climbs up rocky mountains. This was where her son died. And this was where she stopped living. And then she simply said, "Lebanon is not a beautiful place." And she gave me a glass of lemonade and sat down, crying.
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