Yoni and I spent a lot of time during that tour singing some of the hits of the Backstreet Boys. I didn't know any of the good war poetry back then, in English or Hebrew, and wouldn't have appreciated it if I had. I was the radioman but wouldn't have known, for example, what to make of this radioman's prayer, part of which I translate here from the Hebrew:

Lord of the Universe

Please, increase your transmission strength
here I
can't hear, don't know
if once again you've stuck a metal flower in the antenna's
You're so gentle. Why
are you so soft, why are you always
Can you hear me clearly, over.
Roger, you too sound cut off, you
sound amputated, you

Are in a valley, deployed three-sixty. Hills
and a different Sea of Galilee. Please
apprise me of your transmission strength, with radar
we can't see your face, why
are you not on treads, why
are you not fighting, should we
send you a mechanized patrol, I
am full of faith
that it won't arrive and won't come back...

A new father and student of economics wrote that before he was called up by his reserve unit in the fall of 1973. He died along the Suez Canal; his name was Be'eri Hazak. And then there were the Backstreet Boys and "You are my fire / The one desire." Whether we knew it or not, as Israeli soldiers in the last years of the last century these were the poetic poles of our existence. It was the latter that Yoni and I had been singing. There as something comforting about it, and we weren't looking for insight.

(matti friedman, from pumpkinflowers)

No comments: