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Cartooning in Conflict
Chicago Nov. 4-6


The Last Good-Bye

Aharon Barnea


   Our youngest son, Noam, died in April 1999 at the foot of the Beaufort outpost. He too, like Lior Wishinsky, was a staff sergeant in the unit for special assignments in the combat engineering troops. Noam served in a unit to defuse bombs. Five days separated the day he fell and the day of his discharge from the IDF. We could not visit the place where he died, the IDF did not let us, it was too dangerous. The IDF was barely protecting itself, while its mission ostensibly was to protect the north from inside Lebanon. This was an unnecessary war. Our stay in southern Lebanon was needless. We never bought the arguments of statesmen and officers and others who said being  in southern Lebanon is essential to our security and the security of the residents of the north, certainly not after the death of our son.

   Noam fell in vain and no pretty and lofty words of the kind said on memorial days will help. We live the loss of our son with every breath we take. I still remember the place where he died as a reserve officer called up in the Peace for Galilee war in June 1982. We will want to see the place where Noam closed his beautiful eyes. I believe with my whole heart that one day we will.  I believe that a day will come and there will be peace in our region and we will again visit Lebanon. I will go and light a candle near the Beaufort in memory of my son and all the other sons who fell, leaving a wounded nation and broken families behind.

   And now history repeats itself. We are about to leave a contentious area. This too is an area that is not ours. We are leaving exceedingly late. Some of us haven fallen in love with the place, that is only human, but it does not make our being there more logical, more legitimate or any wiser. Beyond the fence where a few thousand of our citizens live, a million eyes of hungry people look out, for whom the area that we will leave means actual existence. Most of us knew this long ago. Our governmentsall of themknew this long ago, but preferred to ignore it. At a cost of enormous investments that we all paid, and the terrible price of the lives of the soldiers sent their on our behalfthey bought quiet, and ostensibly bought time.

   I know that that there are families in Gush Katif who lost their loved ones to a cruel enemy, but found some solace by living there, even if this was an illusion. My heart goes out to them. They lived and will live by their faith, and their loss became a banner and a slogan.

   If there is any compassion in my heart it is for those families who buried their loved ones in the service of a pointless idea. Families and soldiers who did not believe in the wisdom of fighting for this piece of land, and nevertheless went and looked death in the eyes and could not overcome it. My heart cries with them, and I am with them, and I hope with them that a day will come when they too can return and visit the place where their loved ones fell, as free and proud citizens of a country that lives in peace with its Palestinian neighbor.

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. B7) by Aharon Barnea (op-ed) -- The author is a member of  the board of the Parents Circle, a forum of bereaved families for peace, reconciliation and tolerance





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