Nathan Landau

When I look back today at my encounter with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I think that most of my childhood was sterile in a sense: I saw Palestinians in the Old City market and in the news, or from time to time if someone on my street was renovating their house and had hired a few Palestinian workers.

However, over the years there have been several points at which the conflict broke into my peaceful life: attacks that took place in Jerusalem, and acquaintance with friends who knew grief more intimately.

Being drafted to the army was, for me, a stage that placed me far more directly in the face of the conflict. The characters you see on television become people you arrest, and I found myself almost every night arresting people in Nablus, Jenin, and the surrounding area.

Our routine was operating at night, almost every night, then sleep in the morning, and by noon we received a new order about a guy who had to be arrested and removed from his house. Almost every night the story was similar; but the general feeling was that I was doing something that could save my family at home.

If I try to put my finger on an event that cracked something in me, it was one of the operations we did in the Nablus area. During the operation, we entered a family’s home, and while the snipers settled in front of the windows, my job was to guard the family. It must have been around 4AM, and I was standing with a gun and a helmet on my head, in front of a family in their pajamas, and in a moment — one of the little children wet his pants.

It was the kind of moment that everyone prefers not to be present in – neither I, nor the parents and the child who was too old to wet his pants; but this situation threw him off balance.

On the way back to the base that night I thought a bit about this boy, and who he would grow up to be. I could not help but think about this endless cycle of violence, and about the boy who wants to take revenge, and my son who might be on his way to arrest him in a few years.

It’s been a decade since I finished my service and that boy is probably 18 now. I see his face every time I meet with a group of young Israelis who come on a tour with CfP and are a moment before conscription.

 

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