"Today, when I look towards Gaza City, I long for the day when I would be able to sit with people my age there and talk about their and our experiences." Liora Eilon writes of her Memories from Yom Kippur War and of the hope for s different future
Liora Eilon, 17 September 2013
During the Yom Kippur War, 40 years ago, I worked as a volunteer at Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheba.
I did everything I could, young as I was, to ease the nurses' work. I changed sheets, helped feed soldiers who could not eat on their own and wrote for them their letters to their sweethearts.
Those were the first days after the ceasefire. One day, a wounded man arrived at the hospital and a riot broke out. He was escorted by Military Police and a crowd of people followed him, shouting. It soon turned out that he was a resident of the Gaza Strip who had been injured while preparing an explosive device. The people who went after his bed wanted to kill him, hurt him, and take their revenge on him. The Military Police did their best to stop the crowd from getting to him.
I watched what was happening. The Arab youngster looked almost a kid. Younger than I was. strangely, I felt compassion towards him. But most of all I was taken aback by the rage of the crowd that followed his bed, and not in order to comfort him. This incident has been etched in my heart and my mind as the first time I had seen the Arab-Israeli dispute through the eyes of an adult. The first time I experienced its complexity.
The helplessness of the Arab youngster reflected to me the helplessness of the people who had tried to hurt him. In his vulnerability I recognized our vulnerability. Through his attempt to fight for what he perceived as a war over his homeland, I saw our fight for the right to live securely in our country.
A few years earlier, a year after the Six Day War, I was a young girl scout in Beer Sheba. Before Independence Day, in the spring of 1968, I was proud to participate in a rally entitled, "From the City of the Tombs of the Patriarchs to the City of the Patriarchs". We marched, dozens of young boy and girl scouts from all over the Negev from Beer Sheba to Hebron. I recall hundreds of eyes watching us as we walked and I didn't understand. I just felt a discrepancy between the great pride I felt as a child marching across an ancient road, and the gazes that accompanied us throughout our journey. The sad, worried, angry looks of the people of Hebron, Dahariya, of the residents of the villages along the way. And I didn't understand. The realization came later.
Today, when I look towards Gaza City, I long for the day when I would be able to sit with people my age there and talk about their and our experiences. From then until now. And we could all say to ourselves: Thank God, Inshalla that everything is behind us, that we can just sit here, on Gaza's beach, and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and watch the sunset together.
A prayer for Yom Kippur.