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Monday, August 15, 2005

It couldn't possibly hurt

I usually drive to Beer Sheva on Sunday mornings with a very full car.  Between the students / academics going to Ben Gurion University, and the many soldiers that need to reach their bases in the south, every seat is usually booked up by Thursday evening.

However, yesterday I left Efrat with an empty car.

First of all, university is not in session and students are off doing whatever it is that students do during summer break.  Secondly, yesterday was a fast day and many people who didn't absolutely have to work took the day off.  And lastly, because of the disengagement and associated security concerns, very few soldiers have been given weekend passes to come home.

Still, it was odd to walk out to my car on a Sunday morning and not find the young woman from next door (an IDF spokesperson), or the young paratrooper from across the street, or the young lieutenant from a few doors down, all waiting patiently on the curb.

During my drive to Beer Sheva I listened to the news on the radio and heard that several soldiers had been injured in an 'incident'.... four lightly and one (an officer) seriously.  All had been taken to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva for treatment.  No further details were given.

An hour later, while I was sitting in my office, the news was reporting more details of the incident and the condition of the soldiers. 

Apparently a Palestinian sniper had been firing into Kfar Darom (one of the Gaza settlement s scheduled to be evacuated in the coming days) all night from a multi-story building. 

This unprovoked attack set two independent responses in motion:  A squad of soldiers was dispatched in an armored personnel carrier towards the site... and a tank was instructed to fire on the sniper's position.  Apparently due to poor coordination between these two responses, one of the tank shells hit the armored personnel carrier as it passed near the building. 

The four lightly wounded soldiers were treated and released from the hospital... but the officer, now being reported as a 22-year-old lieutenant, was in serious condition with multiple system traumas.

By noon I had decided that I'd had enough of my office... I had a headache from fasting (no coffee!)... and I just wanted to stretch out on my couch.  As I was leaving Beer Sheva Zahava called me in the car to ask if I had heard the terrible news.  Before the next sentence had even left her mouth I knew who the wounded lieutenant had to be... it was the young man from a few doors down who frequently hitched a ride with me on Sunday mornings. 

The young soldier who lies unconscious in the ICU at Soroka just a few minutes from my office is not just a blurb on the news or a helpful statistic to balance some even-handed article in the international press. 

He is a handsome young man who lives down the street and always smiles and says hello when he passes me or my kids. 

He and his father join a bunch of men from the neighborhood every Saturday night for an impromptu minyan (prayer quorum) outside my garden gate so we don't have to walk the extra 200 meters to synagogue. 

He is the polite young man who, no matter how many times I tell him to come to the house and wait in our kitchen on Sunday mornings because I'm always, always, always running late... invariably sits patiently on the curb next to my car leaning against a backpack full of freshly laundered uniforms and some of his mother's home-baked snacks for the week ahead.

As I listened to the morning news today I cringed to hear yesterday's tragedy being referred to as a 'friendly fire' incident.  The callous terminology doesn't have any effect on the health or welfare of the young man who's head and body have been savaged by shrapnel.  But the term 'friendly fire' gives the mistaken impression that only friendly forces were involved... and this is simply not the case.

Yes, I am aware that friendly fire happens in war all the time... but the term still bothers me because it removes the incident from the context of who actually set the events in motion!

This wasn't some training accident (of which there are, unfortunately, too many). The Palestinians have been promising all along that they intend to make sure the withdrawal takes place under fire... and that is precisely what they have been doing.  Mortar shells, kassam rockets, roadside bombs, infiltrations... and sniper attacks have all continued (and increased) as the disengagement draws near.  It is obvious that the Palestinians intend to claim a military victory on the eve of disengagement... and so they should.   

Whether one is pro- or anti-disengagement, there is no denying that our 'partners for peace' would be blind not to see disengagement as a big pay-off for years of terrorism. 

We're not talking about some fringe group within the Palestinian camp misreading the signs here.  The 'grand pooba' of the PA himself has spent the past two weeks making speeches about "First we take Gaza... next we take Jerusalem!".  There isn't much ambiguity in such a statement.

You can mark your calendars boys and girls, this is the big kick-off for the next Intifada... and this one will make use of all the lessons they've learned so far from our 'measured' approach. 

Instead of kassams and mortars falling on Gush Katif and Sderot... they will begin raining down on Gush Dan (greater Tel Aviv) and Jerusalem.  This is the big push, and the PA will be pulling out all the stops to make sure the next concession they force from us will be a big one.

Personally, I am beyond caring.  We will certainly have to respond on a massive scale...  probably much more widely than operation Homat Magen in the spring of 2002.  And when we do the world will scream bloody murder that we are targeting civilians (aren't they all civilians?) and perpetrating a massacre.  In a sense they will be right.  Many people on both sides will die.

As heartless as my assessment may sound, I actually think I am understating the next phase of the Palestinian 'war of phases'.  But Sharon says he knows what he's doing... so I guess we'll find out one way or another since we don't really have a choice. 

I really don't care.  I'm concentrating on the small victories just now.

I want to come out to my car on a Sunday morning some time soon and see a handsome young lieutenant sitting on the curb, leaning comfortably against a backpack filled with freshly laundered uniforms and his mother's home baked treats.  That's the victory I'm looking for.

So, if you go in for such things, please include Elroi (pronounced 'el-rowee') ben Galia Glynis in your prayers. 

And if religion isn't your bag... please just say his name quietly to yourself and think good thoughts.221_16_5_45 This is one of those situations where it couldn't possibly hurt.

Posted by David Bogner on August 15, 2005 | Permalink

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It couldn't possibly hurt

I usually drive to Beer Sheva on Sunday mornings with a very full car. Between the students / academics going to Ben Gurion University, and the many soldiers that need to reach their bases in the south, every seat ... [Read More]

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Comments

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Of course, David. Lt. Elroi is now the newest on my prayer list.

Posted by: Rahel | Aug 15, 2005 12:43:26 PM

I occasionally go in for such things and will for Elroi ben Galia Gladys. And the rest of you. Thanks for sharing this story.

Posted by: Kay | Aug 15, 2005 12:50:41 PM

It's so unfortunate that everyone always has to know SOMEONE who gets injured...or worse.

Of course we'll daven for him.

Posted by: Pearl | Aug 15, 2005 1:21:54 PM

It’s clear to see..... Upon taking over land considered bare/useless and only strategic for Arabs attempting to destroy the Jewish state, this pieces of land have been turned into agricultural ‘mines’ by settler pioneers. Now that the land is being given back to its "owners" for the sake of peace they want the process to appear as if it was a heroic conquer over the ‘infidels’ and foresee their lifelong dream of one day taking over Jerusalem…. in the process or as a result of, the likes of Lt. Elroi (in my prayers), are seriously injured.

Let’s hope everything goes according to the leadership’s plan, should there be more casualties (G-d forbid)…..I can only bite my teeth and wish I was in the IDF.

Posted by: kakarizz | Aug 15, 2005 1:37:01 PM

I am thinking healing thoughts for your young friend.
be well
peace.

Posted by: lisa | Aug 15, 2005 4:58:50 PM

"First we take Gaza... next we take Jerusalem!"

At the risk of sounding like a cowboy, they have tried this before, more than once, and had their collective asses handed to them.

More importantly, I know that not one of these brave young men and women is merely a "statistic" to you, and I'm sorry to hear that your friend was injured. He is in my thoughts.

Posted by: Tanya | Aug 15, 2005 5:28:05 PM

he's in my thoughts. thanks for your post. hope your car is full of soldiers and students soon.

Posted by: timna | Aug 15, 2005 6:04:51 PM

Very moving...although Tisha B'Av is over, I am still crying today after reading this and thinking about all that is going on in Israel. There were many powerful videos shown yesterday in the US. Libi B'mizrach....

Posted by: Essie | Aug 15, 2005 6:05:39 PM

My thoughts are with him.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 15, 2005 6:16:56 PM

I am so sorry, David, so sorry. I'll pray for him, of course I will. May he be one of the lucky ones.

I think one very wonderful thing will come out of this. The Israelis will have withdrawn from Gaza - and nothing will have changed on the Arab side. Nothing. And I will enjoy seeing CNN and BBC, almost the whole world frankly, struggling to justify it. Oh well, there's the West Bank still. Do you think the media will next address the refugee camps in Lebanin and Jordan? No? Me neither. People ask me how I feel abt the Disengagement. To tell you the truth, I've been most effective at not thinking abt it at all. Too tired of it all, am burying my head in the sand right now and skipping all news. Frankly, I see so many avoidable deaths in our immediate future, I cannot quite digest it all. I think you're right, it will be very bad. I think it will be war. Yet again.

Posted by: Lioness | Aug 15, 2005 6:37:10 PM

(I don't know how close to the family you are but if you could let them know we are thinking of him, and we are praying for him... It helps to know strangers in foreign lands are doing what they can as well. It's not hopeless you know, so I can have hope that he will be all right.)

Posted by: Lioness | Aug 15, 2005 6:40:06 PM

Lioness expressed it so well. David, my thoughts are with them too.

Posted by: Jaime | Aug 15, 2005 6:57:24 PM

Oh David, what terrible news. My husband lost his best friend in the middle of a war in a "friendly fire" accident, there was nothing friendly about it. I pray for Elroi, too, and will ask others to join. Please tell his family that all over the world people pray for him. (Just look at this impressive row of flags you have...)

Although my own opinion (let's be honest and call it a whole bunch of opinions) is different and I see the logic of the pull out, I see your point, definitely. I can only hope you are wrong but... Anyway, I wish I would never again see a sad face in this country, it is heartbreaking. To see soldiers and evacuees crying is terrible.

Posted by: Lila | Aug 15, 2005 7:46:15 PM

Despite the fact that this is quite possibly one of the most political posts you have ever written - the comments you got were those of support and empathy. I guess that's what makes being a Jewish people so special. Even though there is a wide spectrum of ideas, there's always someone to lean on.

Posted by: tmeishar | Aug 15, 2005 7:56:07 PM

oh gosh...i will be iyH (God Willing) davening for elroi too.

Posted by: Tonny | Aug 15, 2005 8:41:38 PM

Rahel... I should have known you already had a list. Thank you.

Kay... Thank you. A good thought from the Southern Hemisphere will certainly help.

Pearl... Perhaps the only thing that compares with the pain of knowing someone who is hurt in this ongoing war is the guilt that comes from hearing about an incident and being relieved that none of your friends or relatives was injured. Quite the double-edged sword. I appreciate you davening for Elroi.

Kakarizz... If you listen to any of the interviews with the PA officials in the international media, every other phrase seems to be about "the Israeli defeat and surrender of Gaza. Not surprising though... they have talked themselves into the idea that they won all the wars with 'the Zionist entity'.

Lisa... Thanks. Good thoughts from good people are always welcome/helpful.

Tanya... As I mentioned to Kakarizz, the Arabs have come to believe their own PR. They actually have holidays to mark their victories over the 'Zionist entity'. However, they are smart enough to know that they can't really win a conventional war, so they have become experts at 'low intensity conflict' (i.e. terrorism) and pretending to play the diplomacy game. For some time now they have realized that so long as they don't actually admit defeat, they can will be rewarded for simply showing up to the negotiating table. It boggles the mind. Thank you for thinking of Elroi.

Timna... Me too... thanks.

Essie... It is your choice to be b'sof ma'arav. Of course, as the LZ song says: There's always time to change the road you're on. :-)

Jack... Thanks.

Lioness... That's what everyone said about Oslo. That's what everyone said about Barak's offer at Camp David. It seems that the world has unusually low expectations for the Arab world... and unreasonably high expectations of Israel. I went to visit the family in the hospital this afternoon. I spoke with his father for about 10 minutes and he told me that Elroi had undergone another surgery. apparently the most troubling injury was a bit of shrapnel to the back of the head that has gone in or dangerously near the brain stem. So far he is still in a very deep coma and none of the doctors are making any predictions. When I go to see them again tomorrow I will mention that strangers around the world have their son in their thoughts and prayers. I'm sure it will be a great comfort.

Jaime... Thanks so much.

Lila... We are now past the point of debating the wisdom of disengagement. Now comes the test. I've already mentioned my pessimism of about the results.

tmeishar... I didn't mean to be political. But you're right. One of the things I love about the people who come here is that they don't need to always stake or defend a bit of turf while expressing themselves. There is a time for everything and people seem to be sensitive enough to know that I was not marking turf with today's rant. I hadn't realized it until you pointed it out... but now that you have I am relieved beyond words that people showed restraint.

Tonny... Thanks. If you could have his name added to the list of 'cholim' I would appreciate it.

Posted by: David | Aug 15, 2005 9:35:22 PM

Oh, David, that is absolutely miserable.

Add me and my wife to those wishing Elroi well. I emailed my rabbi a link to this post too.

My mind is filling with curse words as I type. I tried to make another point, but after deleting the same sentence 3 times I realized I'm in no mood for delicate self-expression, so I'll leave it here. Be well.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Aug 15, 2005 11:39:10 PM

My wife and I have 4 cousins serving in the IDF now, and every time we hear about soldiers being injured, we think of them. One of them spent a week here with us earlier in the month.

The world thinks of them as soldiers, but they are our family.

Posted by: psychotoddler | Aug 15, 2005 11:40:40 PM

In my prayers as well. G-d keep them all and bring them home safe to us when their job is done.

Posted by: og | Aug 15, 2005 11:46:07 PM

My thoughts and prayers are with Elroi and his family.

Posted by: zemirah | Aug 16, 2005 2:30:29 AM

I hope you'll update us in the morning with good news. He and his family are in my prayers.

Posted by: Mirty | Aug 16, 2005 4:04:48 AM

I am so saddened to hear this devastating news about your neighbor. My thoughts and prayers are with Elroi. I pray that he rallies and comes out of his coma unharmed and able to make a full recovery.

I have hardly been able to think of much else besides the disengagement the past several days. I always fast on Yom Kippur, but not typically on Tisha B'av. However, in light of what my brethren are facing in Gaza I fasted this year.

Land for peace. Has it ever worked? I shudder to think that Israel seems to give and give and what does she get in return?

Posted by: Stacey | Aug 16, 2005 6:19:38 AM

My thoughts and prayers are with Elroi and his family. I sure hope Sharon knows what he is doing.

Posted by: Toni | Aug 16, 2005 8:29:20 AM

Wishing Elroi Refuah Shlaymah on a personal level and to all of us on a national level.

Posted by: jennifer | Aug 16, 2005 10:46:28 AM

I just still can't believe you have 5 other visitors from Iceland, ehrm..

Posted by: Maria | Aug 16, 2005 11:09:33 AM

My deepest sympathy and best vibes for Elroi. Please keep us posted on how he's doing.

Posted by: Sandra | Aug 16, 2005 2:46:39 PM

This is so sad. Every Jewish life is so precious, I pray for Elroi - may Hashem gives him a complete and speedy recovery.

Posted by: a yid | Aug 16, 2005 7:48:49 PM

Good Lord, have mercy.

I'm so upset by all this. And Sharon said the "disengagement" would never take place under fire.

I pray for all of you in Israel.

Posted by: Cato the Elder | Aug 16, 2005 11:12:38 PM

I am not Jewish, but we pray to the same God. I will start a novena to the Blessed Mother for him tonight.

Posted by: Marie | Aug 17, 2005 1:18:48 AM

David, young Elroi is in my prayers and thoughts, as is his family. I am also keeping everyone being affected by the disengagement(which seems to be everyone in Israel, in one way or another) in my thoughts.

Take care, be well, and may your car be full again soon.

Posted by: Carol | Aug 17, 2005 9:34:56 PM

David, I am keeping young Elroi and his family in my prayers, too. I also pray that Israel comes through the withdrawl from Gaza in good shape and united for the struggle to come.

Posted by: David All | Aug 17, 2005 11:13:30 PM

Doctor Bean... Sometimes curse words aren't enough.

Psychotoddler... The hard part for me is that the sniper who was shooting at the Israelis (and set the events leading to Elroi's injury in motion) was somebody's son. I can't forgive them for filling him with such blind hatred.

og... I can't even imagine when that might be.

Zemirah... Thank you. I have mentioned to his parents that some very nice people around the world have their son in mind.

Mirty... I'll do my best. So far no change.

Stacey... I can't answer your question about land for peace. Israel is the only country in the history of the world that has ever tried it... and so far it doesn't look like a promising solution.

Toni... That makes two of us (at very least).

Jennifer... Amen.

Maria... Go figure! :-)

Sandra... Thanks. I'll do that.

Yid... I would go so far as to say every life is precious... but when our enemies don't even value their own lives, how can we expect them to put any value on ours?

Cato... Politicians say a lot of things. I can only hope that he has a plan B for when the next round of attacks begin.

Marie... As I said, it couldn't possibly hurt. Thank you.

Carol... Thanks. I'd like that too.

David... Thank you. Based on where you're writing from I'm guessing you have a better-than-average understanding of the risks that soldiers take. I'll be sure to share your thoughts.

Posted by: David | Aug 18, 2005 12:37:58 AM

This is terrible news. He will be in my prayers as well.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein | Aug 19, 2005 1:39:48 AM

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