* I wrote this article on October 20, 2003
Have you ever seen the Chief of Staff of your country’s army cry on national television?
Most world leaders avoid showing their emotions. In Israel it’s unavoidable. Country-wide sorrows are personal, touching every single citizen all the way to the top.
The IDF’s Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya’alon (nicknamed Boogi) gave an in-depth interview where he talked about his life, his experiences in the wars of Israel and the path to his current position as the head of the Israeli army.
When attempting to explain how it feels to be responsible for the safety of every single person in Israel Boogi told a story about the nanny who raised his children. Her son had grown up with Boogi’s children. Boogi had already become Chief of Staff when it was time for her boy to enter the army. Every time their paths crossed she said: “Boogi, please watch out for my boy, take care of him”. This was a promise he could not keep – the faithful nanny’s son was killed. This woman had taken care of his children but Boogi could not take care of her son.
By the end of this story the IDF’s Chief of Staff, Moshe (Boogi) Ya’alon had tears in his eyes and was too choked up to speak anymore.
Here was a tiny glimpse of the horrible burden that weighs on this man’s shoulders as it did on all IDF Chiefs of Staff. Every life in Israel is his responsibility, especially those of his soldiers. For Boogi this responsibility is not some amorphous theory, it’s personal. Losing a soldier is not like deleting a number or having a robot ruined, it is like losing a son.
On October 4th a suicide bomber ripped apart the Maxim restaurant along with many of the people inside it. The Bahat family (who lost a father and husband and have a severely wounded child in the hospital) are closely connected with the Ochayon-Kasus family who themselves have been hit by tragedy. For the Ochayon-Kasus family, the attack on their friends made their own personal tragedy that much harder to bear, this was not “one more attack” but another act of brutal terrorism that killed and traumatized more of their loved ones.
The Zer-Aviv family lost three generations in this attack: a grandmother, her son, his wife and their two small children. My mother works once a week on the kibbutz where the Zer-Aviv family lives/lived. The entire kibbutz was hard hit, from the kindergarteners who had to be told why their friend was not coming back to play with them anymore, to neighbors and relatives who are now forced to come to terms with the demolition of an entire family and left to pick up the pieces caused by this tragedy.
The Almog family also lost three generations in the attack. Ze’ev Almog was a former commander of the Israel Navy and served as long-time commander of the naval officers’ training school in Acco. One of the first members of the Israel Navy, he was instrumental in bringing the first submarines to Israel. As such Ze’ev personally touched and influenced the lives of many Israelis. Ruth, his wife was killed in the attack along with her son Moshe and two of their grandchildren. Moshe’s wife, his other son and daughter were all wounded in the attack along with his sister in law (whose son was killed). On the news the Almog family was described as more of a clan, a tribe than a family. Little did I know how true this statement was until a few days ago when I found out that I too am related (distantly) to the Almog family.
Why do I write this? My point is simply that this war is personal. It touches the lives of every single Israeli. We are all interconnected. Each attack hits the net that is the people of Israel, affecting all those connected to that point, rippling out to the net’s very edges. No one is immune.
I don’t know how much someone not living in Israel can really care or understand all of this. Still, I believe people around the world should care and actively work to stop the spread of terrorism. Many people around the world still seem to believe that this is a problem for “those people over there” but we have already seen terrorism become a personal problem for people in New York, Washington, Kenya, India, Bali etc.
Today terrorism touches the lives of my friends and family. Who knows who might be affected tomorrow?