Part II - Hard Lessons Learned
in the Promised Land
January 26, 2000
The next autumn, while returning to Ginosar for the weekend, Yael fell asleep on the bus and missed her stop. As the bus pulled into its final station in Safed a young officer named Ami gently shook her awake. Yael found herself stuck waiting for the evening buses out of Safed and was delighted to follow Ami on a grand tour of this picturesque, mountain hideout where he was born and raised.
Over the course of the next few months Yael spent her weekends alternating between visiting her home at Kibbutz Ginosar and an exciting, new relationship in Safed. The notorious cold of the Safed winter did not detract from the warmth Yael received by becoming Ami's wife and she was released from the army several months before her full service ended. The two moved into an apartment only one block from Ami's parents who came by often to visit the young couple. Ami, or Captain Levy as he was known in the Israeli Airforce, was a brilliant young pilot, one of the few in his class who passed with almost no apparent difficulty. The captain's intellect never ceased to impress Yael and he glowed with the confidence of having arrived at the country's most envied military position. Keeping with Ami's more traditional upbringing, they ambitiously talked about having a large family, one that began with the birth of Ofer in March of 1972.
On October 6, the entire country fell into the annual silence in observation of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism. It was on this "Day of Atonement" that the coordinated attack by Syria and Egypt began at 2pm. Israel was attacked on both fronts, and unlike 1967, this force was comprised of large numbers of greatly improved tanks, artillery, infantry units, and rockets recently supplied to them by the Soviet Union. They were determined to take back the Sinai and the Golan and enjoyed the element of surprise during the opening of the war. Over 120,000 reservists were called from their homes and were mobilized to the fronts within 24-48 hours.
Ya'acov was sent up to reinforce the positions defending the Golan, not far from where his father had fought when Israel first conquered it. Max, who had recently celebrated his 50th birthday, was no longer called up for reserve duty which disappointed the part of him that still wished to see some action in defense of the Zionist state. Menashe's office at Kirya worked overtime while fury erupted over who would take the blame for this grave miscalculation of military intelligence which had allowed Israel to suffer the surprise attack.
Captain Levy was transferred down to the Sinai where he was to fly several missions taking out Egyptian bridges over the Suez Canal and providing air coverage for Israeli ground troops. On his first two runs he managed to avoid the surface-to-air missiles that blew nearly half of the planes in his group to pieces. Immediately after take off on his third run, however, his aircraft suffered technical difficulties which made him an easy target of enemy fire. As he struggled to outmaneuver an Egyptian plane following close on his tail he was chased straight into a stream of missiles shooting up from the ground and both he and the enemy craft behind him were destroyed.
By the time Israeli forces turned the tables around, chasing the enemy deep into their own territory, thousands of soldiers, officers, pilots, tank men, and paratroopers had already been reported dead. The deaths of even 100 men didn't come close to the loss suffered by Yael. The only trace of Ami she still had was their son Ofer and two short years of memories. Now a widow, she decided to move in with Ami's parents whose love and traditional home was of great comfort to her while in mourning. Her in-laws helped her raise Ofer as they had once raised his father in the same home.
The country no longer basked in a feeling of invincibility and the sense of national loss seemed to overshadow the eventual victory on the battlefield. The death toll on all sides brought people to their senses at least for a while. By 1979, a peace treaty was signed with Egypt, one that Yael saw as coming six years too late. Yael prayed that this would mean the end of wars like the one that claimed her husband's life. With this treaty and the return of the Sinai to Egypt she saw hope for Israel's future.
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Kavitha - Pieces for Peace
Kevin - Tomb of the Well-Known Soldier Part I - The Birth of a Nation
Monica - Seeds of Peace
Monica - 15 year-old Liat: A Young symbol of the Future
Monica - The Other Side: Young Israelis and Palestinians Struggle to Understand Each Other
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