my high school musical
If you haven’t seen Waltz with Bashir go quick.
I was in high school when the war started. I had a small transistor radio I used to keep under the table, with an earpiece hiding under my long hair. One ear was enough to follow most lessons anyway. I would relay the news in hand written notes to my classmates.
At first, I was as excited as any any good young patriot should be. We’ve been suffering from the terror of the PLO for so long, its time we made a stand and put things right. But after a few days the numbers started adding up. The casualty numbers, the number of kilometres we’ve gone into Lebanon, and slowly the numbers of civilians killed or driven out of their homes.
I started arguing with my classmates, and before long I was on the streets. Shalom Achsav (peace now) was still far from mainstream, and the Paris sq. Friday vigil never will be. Marching for peace in Jerusalem in the midst of a war does not earn brownie points with the locals or the authorities. Tel Aviv was easier: larger peace crowds, and some sniping remarks from the sidelines. In Jerusalem we would go down Ben-Yehuda street through a torrent of spit, flying beer cans, and angry arms. Pretty soon we developed a formation: the young & strong would lock hands in a chain, encompassing the older and more vulenrable. You can guess where I was.
As the war escalated, so did the demonstrations. But it took the Sabra & Shatila massecre to wake up the masses. Week after week, huge masses congregated in Tel-Aviv, demanding a full independent inquiry. Some say up to 400,000 in one evening – an equivalent of 5 Million in UK terms, considering the population ratio. And eventually, a committee was formed, and its verdict was that although no Israeli troops were involved, Refael Eithan, Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin (then cheif of staff, miniter of defence and prime minister) are guilty. Within a few month the goverment fell and the war ended. It would take another 20 years for the last Israeli soldier to leave Lebabon.
As I said, Jerusalem was different. On February 10, 1983, six month after the massacre, we were marching in the usual formation. A girl from my class was there with me that evening, and when she needed to go home I offered to walk her to a safe distance from the demonstration. At 20:50 Yona Avroshmi, a young Jewish man, threw a grenade at thedemonstrators. Emil Grunzweig was killed and several others were injured.
We saw Waltz with Bashir with a couple of friends a few weeks ago. After the movie, we were dumb and numb with pain.I wasn’t there, but it felt too close to my experiences from Gaza, and to the stories I heard from friends who were a few years older. We went home and gradually started talking. No one could remember when exactly the war started. So we checked on Wikipedia. That’s when I realised that my career as a peace activist started at the age of 15. I guess that makes me a child-soldier of peace.