Fifth Tour in Gaza
Many of you want to feel you are one with us. I forward this slice of real
life by my good friend and fellow writer Andrea Simantov. It moved me with
so many complex feelings: sorrow, pride, frustration, fear, longing...This
is how we live, who we are.
As we drove away from the hilly neighborhood of Mitzpe Nevo in the town
of Maaleh Adumim, the heat was still surprisingly strong. It was, after
all, ten o'clock at night and, even for late July, there should have been a
respite. Happily succumbing to my daughters' complaints, I turned on the
air-conditioner, full force. At least there was a way to cool the car. I
knew that our Jerusalem apartment would be unbearably hot and the ceiling
fans I so arrogantly installed the previous autumn would provide little
Although I'm ordinarily hesitant about picking-up hitch-hikers,
lately I've become more relaxed about sharing the trip with a soldier or
two, especially on the longer rides which take me through back roads. So,
just before we made the final turn onto the highway which would lead us back
to the city, a lone soldier caught our eye and Yael said, 'Mom, let's take
After I quickly cleared the back seat of an accumulation of
beach towels, newspapers and food wrappers, he opened the door and, at the
same time, asked where we were going. When we answered, 'Jerusalem' he
hopped in and asked if we'd be passing the Central Bus Station. No problem.
But before I could completely pull out into the left-hand lane, a big, black
jeep cut directly in front of my car and honked. A handsome man of about
forty-five jumped out of the vehicle and came directly to my window.
"That's my boy you've got there! Thank you. Really. Thanks."
He then ran to the passenger side, opened the door and, leaning in, gave his
son a powerful embrace. I was faintly aware of the mingled odors of
shampoo and after shave and, for some reason, felt suddenly sad.
"Bye, Boaz. Be careful."
Yael and I had lots to talk about and, from experience, we know
that most soldiers don't go for our garden-variety chit-chat. And yet,
after a while we did learn a thing or two about our passenger.
His father lives in Maaleh Adumim. His mom has a home in Tzur
Hadassah. He has been in the army for a year-and-a-half and has a
year-and-a-half to go. When eight-year-old Tehilah asked him if he's
"scared of his gun" he answered, "It's become my best friend." When she
continued, "But I'm scared of your gun," Boaz smiled (he's very handsome!)
and said, "That's because you are smart. Always be scared of guns. They're
supposed to be scary!"
We also learned that Boaz was on his way to Gaza. Not for the
first time. Not for the second time. He had come to visit his father in
Maaleh Adumim for only four hours so that he could sleep in his bed and tell
some jokes with his dad. He was returning for his fifth time to Gaza and
didn't expect to return alive this time. We were stunned.
"How can you talk like that?" I ask, valiantly trying not to
reveal my personal horror at such an ugly-premonition being voiced by a
He said, "Everyone talks about 'five' being the number which you
can't pass. Even the commanders. It's like Russian roulette. My best
friend was killed two weeks ago. Fifth shabbos in Gaza. Now it will
probably be my turn."
Yael stared out of the front windshield as I spat out familiar
platitudes relating to 'making your own mazel'; having a responsibility to
your family and other loved ones; to stay alert and 'believe in our
God-in-Heaven' and He will believe in you; how important it is to know that
we appreciate everything he is doing for us, how terrific and brave he must
"Really? I'm beginning to think I'm an idiot."
The awkward silence which filled the car was less uncomfortable
than the weight of Boaz's honesty. After all, he wasn't saying what we
wanted to hear. He was turning out to be less of a poster-boy than we would
have liked. He wasn't mouthing the belief-system which I would have
ascribed to him. He was, in articulating his simple fears, forcing me to
explore other truths which will certainly, in time, prove very uncomfortable
should I choose to explore same.
Pulling up in front of the Israel Convention Center, across from
the Central Bus Station, we waved goodbye and blah-blahed the rest of the
drill. "B'Hatzlecha!" "Nice meeting you!" "You'll be fine!"
The door slammed shut and we couldn't even follow-him with our
eyes. Instead, both Yael and I began to howl. Real tears, meaty and fast.
Our cries, although separate in origin, blended as we shared a moment which
we couldn't define. It was, perhaps, just a release of sadness, a key to
our own fears, and an outcry due to the impotence we experience as we remain
mired in seemingly hopeless conflict with an inexhaustible enemy.
His name is Boaz. Boaz Ben Yosef.
Certainly he'll come back. Five is only a number. I told him
that there is nothing to worry about. I did. Wouldn't that make it true?
Shouldn't that make it true?
If only it were true . . . . . . .
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© Copyright 2002 Joel Orr.
Last update: 7/30/02; 7:01:33 AM.