Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Thoughts of reason

Nighttime, 45 minutes past 2 AM. 9th day of combat with Hezbollah.
I lick my dry lips to moisten the bruises from standing all day in the sun yelling commands to my soldiers, and quench myself from losing temper. After another 2 hour artillery siege on terrorist villages, the battery finally gets command to cease fire and call it a night.
Two single minutes have not past before my whole platoon is sound asleep, reclining one on top of the other inside the Howitzer cannons, squeezing their sweaty, gun powder stenched bodies on the crew cabin floor. Obviously, as being lieutenant, I have to sacrifice these small pleasures for my subordinates' sake and sleep on the turret shelf, cramped between the anvil and the bombshell compartment. "Indeed some sleep would be bliss", I think to myself as I take position in my steel pillowed bed. But I've gotten acquainted with myself well enough during my former army duty to know that I can't fall asleep in these situations. I'm an introspective individual. These surreal situations always send my mind through a vortex of thoughts: thoughts about the essence of living, thoughts about my friends and loved ones, thoughts about the Lebanese civilians who perished in this unnecessary conflict, and thoughts about all of the soldiers' mothers who can't find serenity to sleep calmly inside a bomb shelter in Haifa while their boys, the best boys of our state, are lying in the mud of some god damned trench in southern Lebanon. But it doesn't stop there - being in combat for so many days, all the plots get twisted, all the maps lose a logical scale, and all blockades in your brain disintegrate. Sanity becomes but a mere memory of your life 10 days ago, quietly sitting in a café in Tel Aviv drinking your espresso, responsible for nothing but your own life. Left becomes right, right becomes wrong, and every thought you can imagine becomes reasonable. "Who are we firing at, why are we fighting them?" , "I'd give my left eye to lay in a hammock between the palms of Cancun with a cocktail in my hand right now" , "How does it feel when a bullet hits you and splatters your guts all over?" , "Why in the hell didn't the army manufacture shoes with ventilation openings so that my feet won't burn from the bombshells" - these are just some of the hallucinatory images that pass through your head at these times.

Being a true left-wing adherent, I surprisingly find myself filled with hatred and wrath, fighting my emotional reactions, trying to replace them with common sense and logic.
I didn't want this. My people, my country – we didn't want this. War has been imposed on us by fundamentalist, fanatic Muslim guerilla terrorists who are nothing but blind to any living creature that doesn't have Allah written on its' forehead. We are left with no other choice but to return the token.

As I keep on wondering into the night, my pupils narrow and widen to the changing shades of light cast upon my face by the clouds crossing the moon. At 3 AM the alarm goes off again. "Matrat Sollela!!!" (fire alert in hebrew) I bellow with all that's left of my lungs to wake everybody up as fast as possible. "We have to shoot in exactly 40 seconds or else our infantry forces will be hit!!".

The camp awakes to life, and havoc re-conquers the night. The command center transmits the Hezbollah targets to all crews and my men start to mount the explosives. Seconds from fire authorization, a 60mm enemy mortar shell explodes smack in the middle of my platoon, single meters from my feet, the thrust sending me flying in the air crashing against a pile of ammunition.
Forget about all the thoughts I just mentioned – these are all silhouettes of what we try to percept as an ordinary reality, which are dwarfed at times of war in front of the call of duty.
Only two thoughts now dominate my consciousness – how do I serve my country the best, and how do I accomplish this without getting myself and any of my soldiers killed?
Morning, 9:30 AM. The alarm clock went off for the third time now – I fight my urge to slam the snoozer button again and conclude that it's my queue to get up. As I drag myself to the bathroom I realize it was all a nightmare. Thank god! I've been granted another beautiful morning! No cannons, no booms, no guns – just me and my plain simple life. As I finish brushing my teeth I run back to my room to pick up the ringing phone…
"Good morning, this is the reserves relations office. By government orders, we are drafting your battalion under regulations of national emergency. You are to report to Amiad army base by 14:00 sharp for arming and briefing".

by G. Dotan


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