By Bar Heffetz

One day in May in the western Negev, 3 km from Gaza.

In the morning, 32 men and women came out of the rubble and looked around them at their destroyed village. For the past 24 hours they were under heavy attack by artillery, tanks and infantry. Dug in well enough and armed with a few guns, they lost 7 of their friends and killed 40 enemy soldiers.

As a result of the shelling, only a single wall was left standing. On it was written in large letters: "The tank shall not win over the human spirit." The wall belonged to what used to be the dining hall, and the writing on the wall a remnant from the May Day celebrations a few weeks earlier.

At least that is how I imagine it, the aftermath the Egyptian army's failed attempt to conquer Kibbutz Nirim in 1948. Nirim is where I grew up, the place I call home. We grew up on this real-life myth, between potato fields, Ofakim¹ and Gaza.

When I grew up, I went to the army.

It was exactly one month after Rabin was assassinated. I enlisted to a tank unit and became a tank commander. Last January I did reserve duty in Nablus.

We sat on the tank on a hill between the Arab villages of Kafr Thil and Asirah Al-Kabaliah, manifesting our brave presence while freezing from cold. Through the tank telescope we could clearly see people of all ages and sizes, children, donkeys. A few things became clearer to me than ever before.

Tanks and F-16 jets cannot fight kids with stones. All the armor and steel in the world will not make us any less wrong and the Palestinians any less just - those who fight justly for their lives, their homes, their human dignity, will fight until death, even against tanks. And they will win.

If we are unable to listen to our own morality, maybe we will at least listen to common sense. And if we are so eager to be proud of our 2000-year history, maybe we should learn some lessons from it as well.

If in 1948 at Nirim the tank did not win, but man, human spirit, we must understand (and believe) that the war of people against steel in Gaza, Nablus and Hebron has a single possible ending. And so, perhaps it is worthwhile to idle the tank now, before we all go up in flames.

Bar Heffetz


¹ A small Israeli town midway between Beersheba and Khan Younis.