I was young, 19, four months in the army, three at the Nablus headquarters. My first new year’s eve as a soldier just passed, and there was relative peace after the 9/11 attack. It was early, and I am not a morning person… we just got word that the P.L.O. arrested some fighters of the Islamic Jihad that were planning an attack, and I actually thought I will not see fighting and war.
Suddenly my lieutenant entered the room with a smirk on his face, most soldiers in my unit did not like him, he was brash, he was smart and even a bit cruel but he and I got along. Maybe we are a bit alike, and said to us: “Raed al Carmi was killed in Tulkarem”.
My mind started racing. Did I know the name? No, but he obviously has importance. What happens now? I was not sure, but a question started pecking on the back of my head…why now? Then, what now? I never got an answer to the first question. I asked my officers, the lieutenant answered with a smile, but his smile made me worry even more. A second officer called me a leftist, and the commanding officer, a religious man, just looked at the horizon, to Nablus, to the tomb of Josef. Years later, I even got a chance to ask Benjamin Ben Eliezer, who was the defense minister at the time, why it was done, why break a cease-fire, but he just nodded away.
Sadly, the answer to the second question was much easier to find. That same night, fighting erupted throughout the West Bank, with hundreds of casualties on both sides. Three months before that night, a cease-fire started, three months after, operation “defensive shield started” and I saw my war.
I am not saying that we are the bad guys, nor that we are the good guys. Both sides shed unnecessary blood, both sides kill, both sides lie. And maybe that was the meaning of the lieutenant’s smile. He, unlike the commanding officer was not religious, he was not right winged, he was liberal, and he was not delusional about what was going on. However, I think that he liked it, like a wolf on a hunt.
Is that human nature? Men are wolves? To some extent, looking at the situation here, where the obvious answer is so simple, but no one agrees to it, the answer is yes. But we see human comradry, we see caring people who help those in need whomever they may be.
More than 15 years later, this moment clings to my head and keeps me wondering: is there any hope?For Israel and Palestine? For peace? For the human race? With people like Trump, Netanyahu, Putin or Sinwar at the helm, the quick answer is no. But still the hope lingers for a better future. Maybe optimism is also a part of human nature.