Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Cost of War

Today was Memorial Day in Israel, Yom ha-Zikaron, which abuts Independence Day, which begins in a few minutes. I've participated before in Independence Day here, but today was the first time I visited a military cemetery on Memorial Day.

We came after the big crowds who participate in the formal morning ceremony, culminating in a 1-minute siren at 11 am. We came at 5 pm, and the Kiryat Shaul cemetery was still full of families, still dotted with mourners at hundreds of graves. The amount of flowers on display was truly overwhelming.

At one place I found the grave of a major general, in fact, a former Chief of Staff, the highest rank one can achieve. He was born in Jerusalem, served his country nobly for many decades, and died at the age of 65, not from war. Next to him was the grave of a private, born in the United States, the son of Nancy and Abraham, who died at the age of 18 in 1995 (probably somewhere in the West Bank or in Gaza? -- the marker did not say). At the foot of the grave, in rare English, carved into stone: "We love you, Oren -- Mom and Dad."

In an earlier blog this week I cursed out an anonymous Israeli soldier who cavalierly pointed his assault rifle at me at a checkpoint in the West Bank. I cursed the wrong thing. I really meant to curse this damn conflict. I meant to curse the fact that the naive and joyful act of visiting a microbrewery -- in the US nothing more than a leisure-time diversion -- is here an act of political adventure. I meant to curse the miserable & pathetic "leaders" who have not done enough to bring this misery to an end. I curse the fact that this conflict has produced very little other than row after row of beautifully manicured graves -- not just in Kiryat Shaul, but also in Jenin.

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