Jerusalem Magazine
July 28, 2006  Day 17 of the war
Maj. Roi Klein 31, is a genuine Hero. He was one of the soldiers killed in Lebanon. When a Hezbollah fighter hurled a hand grenade into the midst of his platoon as they fought in Maroun Al Ras, Klein immediately fell on the grenade to protect his troops. According to his commanding officer, Klien’s last words to his troops, as he lay dying of his wounds, were to keep on fighting.
Can you imagine that act of bravery, that complete and utter self-sacrifice? Would you do it? Would I?
Roi Klein was buried on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem’s military cemetery. He’s not far from the graves of the leaders and other heroes of Israel’s struggle for survival.
Roi Klein left a wife and two children. He lived on the West Bank Village of Eli. He was a “settler.” For now those labels and distinctions have been dropped. Now all of Israel is one clenched fist battering Hezbollah.
He wasn’t the only death that day. Eight other soldiers were killed. All three of Israel TV’s stations ran stories about the soldiers who died. All went into the homes, interviewed the families. Families who in their sorrow still managed to express amid their tears the same thoughts Roi Klein had as he lay dying, “Keep on fighting.”
One of the other boys, who died, Asaf Namir, 27, had come back from Australia, where his parents had moved when he was twelve, to serve in the Army. He was due to be released from the army next Monday. He went to his commanding officer and volunteered to stay in the army.  And was killed.
Another soldier, Shimon Adgah, 20, was a new immigrant from Ethiopia. Another, Captain Amichai Merchavia, 24, was a fighter in a paratrooper unit killed in Maroun Al Ras. Amichai was a young neighbor of Roi Klein, both came from the same village of Eli. Each story on the news was more moving than the next. Each of the nine boys was a hero to Israelis.
Eyewitness reports from soldiers in that battle at Bint Jbail, the Hezbollah stronghold in the South where Roi Klein was killed, say the platoon in wasn’t ambushed, but actually opened fire first. The unit was moving along the narrow streets when a Hezbollah soldier appeared, and was shot down. Immediately other Hezbollah soldiers poured out of buildings or opened fire from rooftops. Eventually the Israelis who survived the exchange fought their way to safety, suffering heavy losses. But they did manage to destroy the four missile launchers that the Hezbollah fighters were defending.  Some report that Hezbollah wanted to kidnap more Israeli soldiers.
I find the fact that an entire nation mourns over these deaths very moving. That the TV stations took the time (Israel TV’s channel 1 took nearly 25-minutes of their broadcast)  to cover the families of the fallen.  This when battles were raging and bombs were falling. It says something about the moral fiber of the nation, and what is considered important.
The news we all watch around the world shows the Lebanese displaced from their homes. Yesterday Israel’s air force bombed a Hezbollah missile command center in the city of Tyre. The headquarters was destroyed. But where was the headquarters? In a twelve floor apartment building. Hezbollah puts their headquarters and rocket launchers in the midst of civilian populations. A clever but ruthless strategy.
Israel is hesitant to bomb civilian populations, both from an internal moral compunction, but also the higher standard the world holds Israel to. Hezbollah can hide in civilian neighborhoods, but Israel is blood-thirsty when those neighborhoods are attacked in order to stop the over 100 missiles a day from falling on Israel. (110 fell on Israel Thursday.)
Now the Syrian government, which left-wing Meretz leader Yossi Belin has said should have been attacked rather than Lebanon, is starting military maneuvers, threatening to go to war if Israel gets close to Syrian borders. Both Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister have stated plainly they have no intention of attacking Syria, only Hezbollah. But the Syrians are nervous. They’re making noises of war.
So Israel had to call up three divisions of reserve soldiers. Toto prepare for a war with Syria, but also a larger ground invasion of Lebanon. As many armchair generals suggest, it would be easier to just carpet bomb Lebanon into rubble. Destroy each home, each street, each road, each bridge. Clean out an open area 25 miles across and five miles deep along the Lebanese border with Israel, where nothing moved but dust.  Perhaps the Syrians would do that. After all they killed 25,000 of their own citizens in an uprising a few decades ago. Saddam Hussein would do that, he tested chemical weapons on the Kurds in his own country killing about10,000 of his own citizens. But Israel can’t do that. Israel. Like that commercial for rye bread in New York, Israel is held to a different standard.
That means that Israel has no choice but to go house to house. And try to leave the houses standing. Bomb only those targets necessary. Even then, the international news covers the sad stories in Lebanon, and they are sad, of families forced from their homes, of city councils from ten towns all meeting in one building in Beirut because their cities are being bombed. It’s horrible to think about. Most of these are innocent people. But still, over 70 per cent of them, in a recent poll, support the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. So what does innocent really mean?
A baby is innocent. But babies tragically die in wars. In conflicts. From disease. Let’s not delve too deeply into the problems of Africa where for want of a budget, because tax dollars and aid donations are usually stolen by the African leaders, the poor villagers die of diseases prevented by simple vaccines every American kid receives for free in school. In Africa the problem is selfishness and greed, on the part of the African leaders, and the pharmaceutical companies. I laud Bill Gates and his foundation for taking on this vital but basic function that the UN and other international bodies should have taken over. I laud Warren Buffet for deciding that he’s got more than enough money, and gave away the excess. And gave it to Gates, who is like a mini-government doing what needs to be done.
But where are those selfless thoughts in Israel? Hezbollah is interested in a Holy War. They are willing to fight to go to heaven. Israelis are willing to fight just to stay alive.
Any Arab, babies included, who die in this conflict are labeled ‘shahidim’ (martyrs) by Nasrallah. (Don’t know how a baby can benefit from the 72 virgins awaiting martyrs in Arab heaven.) Jews don’t have those problems. Jews don’t have virgins awaiting them in Heaven. No enticement to die. Israelis are fighting to save their homes, to protect their families.
 One assumes that Israel wouldn’t put missiles into apartment buildings of civilians. If you lived in a building with rockets stored in the basement what would you do? Ask the building residents committee to get them out! But they didn’t, or couldn’t. Many sympathetic reports state that Hezbollah has moved into these buildings, and into villages and towns, just to take advantage of the fact that Israel wouldn’t strike civilian targets. To use the innocent civilians as ‘human shields.’ But if you lived in one of these buildings when Israel started attacking Lebanon, knowing that Hezbollah had missiles in the basement, or headquarters in apartments all around you, what would you do? You’d run, fast. Or stay and take your chances in a war zone.
If Lebanon and its citizenry had stood up to Hezbollah, or even if the local building residents committees had, they wouldn’t be in this mess, and neither would Israel. When the Lebanese finally stood up to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, the Syrians retreated to the Beka Valley. But the Syrians still are strongly suspected of assassinating those who forced them back, killing anyone who didn’t agree with them. And who are the Syrians afraid of? Israel. The US. The West. Remember, Syria is strongly suspected of actively supporting the insurgency in Iraq. And just yesterday Israeli aircraft destroyed four truckloads of arms and ammunition from Damascus as they crossed into Lebanon.
The game now is ‘Who is King of the Arabs?” Yesterday Al Quida came back on the scene, when Bin Laden’s number 2, Al Zawarhiri, went on Al Jezeera TV and called for a coalition of forces with Hezbollah. This is strange of course, since Hezbollah consider themselves a national liberation organization, protecting Lebanon (even though they brought the wrath of Israel upon them by attacking Israel and kidnapping Israeli soldiers). Hezbollah considers Al Quida a stateless terror group. Isn’t self-perception is very strange?
Nasrallah jumped in to be king of the Palestinians and the Arabs, wresting that title from Hamas, who’d attacked Israel, killed Israeli soldiers, kidnapped Gilad Shalit, then hit Israel with Kassam rockets. Hamas had taken over from Al Quida, the scourge of the West. Who’d heard from Al Quida lately? But they’re back, fighting to retain the throne; talking about joining with Hezbollah. That’s a new one. Shiites and Sunnis fighting together. Iran, the state-sponsor of Hezbollah, still holds hundreds of Sunnis in prison, some linked to Al Quida. Is this a united front we should fear? Sure. I’d check twice if I was on a subway in Boston, Chicago, or New York and saw an empty package lying on a seat. Sooner or later one of these nice freedom fighter groups are going to go back to striking innocent people outside of Israel. Especially if it puts them on the throne of world opinion as the real champions of Islam.
Israel and Hezbollah have been called the proxies of the US and Iran. If that’s the case, Israel better win, or for the next act, all our women will be wearing veils, and the men will be burning a mountain of dangerous Ipods.
July 28, 2006 War in Israel Day 17