As day faded into the darkening skies of the early night we made our way along candle-lit paths leaving dwellings behind and reached a grove of trees on the hillside – more candles sent their flickering light upwards etching the shapes of the surrounding trees and vegetation and illuminating the memorial stones. Stones carved with names, names of those who gave their lives for the State of Israel; some who had fallen defending these slopes and the valley; others who had met their death in one of the skirmishes or wars that call upon our soldiers for never ending sacrifices. We gathered in pensive silence and the wail of the sirens of remembrance echoed out across the land. There were our young, the next generation to don khaki, standing erect, proudly holding up the Star of David flags that flapped softly in the evening breeze. The sirens faded into silence and the sweetness of a woman’s voice rose into the night with the song “Sea of Tears” –ים של דמעות.
This is our new home, part of the community extension of Kibbutz Maayan Baruch, founded in 1947 mainly by young members of HaBonim from South Africa and America, just a stone’s throw from part of the Lebanese border and a few kilometers from the once Syrian border. It was one of a number of young kibbutzim in an area where the Palmach also trained in secret ready to defend the settlers whose aspirations were to build a new and dedicated society of young Jewish pioneers. Many of these Palmach volunteers stayed to make their lives in one of the kibbutzim.
On these rocky slopes many lives were taken and given – the families of each kibbutz, each moshav, each small town have suffered losses and personal tragedy from which those who have lost a loved one never recover. For centuries this land has been stained by the blood of the fallen who sacrificed themselves; stories too numerous to relate in one article, although one haunts me now – that of 18 –year-old Zalman Winter, then a new conscript, who died saving the life of 6 year old Shmuel by shielding him with his own body when their group was attacked, as they tried to evade Arab infiltrators, on one of the paths leading towards the newly established kibbutz.
Sadness filled my heart and brought tears as a succession of thoughts filtered through my mind – thoughts that exist in the minds of many. Sixty years have passed since the State of Israel was officially recognized by the United Nations and given the right to exist and yet the losses and the sacrifices in life continue in order to defend and to live on this minute piece of land. These lives that we honor and remember will tragically not be the last, yet we are condemned for taking the steps we must to protect our people. Surrounded by such fanatical hatred how will it end?