My Dear Noam

16/01/2012 Aaron Barnea

 My Dear Noam,

For seven long years we do not meet and the letters to you, these oneway letters, are growing further apart. This is a special letter since it is designated to be read by others, as opposed to the previous letters.

On the 16th of June your birthday passed very quietly, without a cake,without balloons and without a present. As usual your mother and I visited your grave, actually the last place on earth where you were expected to be. You would be 29-years-old by now if only... if only... It is maddening to think what could and should have been if only... Time after time I return to that terrible day - the 12th of April 1999, the eve of the Holocaust Remembrance Day. Within 5 days you should have been a free citizen; ended your army service. The end of the Lebanese nightmare. Your mother gave you the Four Mothers' badge ---To Leave Lebanon in Peace--before you left the house. We are a rational family and yet a sort of good-luck charm, a prayer that would accompany you although you said you weren't entering Lebanon this time. After your death we got the whole picture. You entered Lebanon out of a feeling of duty towards your comrades. You did not want to be left with a debt. The burden had to be split equally. At least within the unit. You didn't believe in the necessity to be in Lebanon. You made this very clear to your commanders when you stood on your right to wear the badge before going on your last mission. Your right to demonstrate your opinion even against the rules. And the commanders yielded because...? Would they have given you up? The most experienced fighter in the unit? Let him demonstrate if he wants to! And so you went and led your force to the foot of the Beaufor, professionally, carefully. Fact is that they were not hit, no one was wounded except you. Several days later your commanders returned the badge, which they had removed from your uniform, soaked with your blood, and the broken camera, which you had on you, which I had given you before your last mission in order to document the last week of your army service. And with this image of you, thesmiling youth, undaunted, vibrant and wise, the intellectual who protests his love of peace we set forth to the public. First we were alone, thenwith the Parents Circle. We set out to prove, apparently it is necessaryto do so, for to many it is not obvious, that the sanctity of life is not an empty phrase. We said: imagine what was interrupted by Noam's death,how much potential was not realized. Multiply this by the hundreds and thousands of more lives that were cut short because the leaders of both sides lack the imagination, courage, daring, vision and responsibility to end this insane conflict. For me you have become a symbol, a flag, in this never-ending struggle for peace. I talk about you, write about you and draw you. Do not forget you for a moment. I try to bring others to identify with your image and my pain to stir them from apathy. However, your image did not only spark those close to you, the last fallen soldier in the 50th year of the State of Israel. Following your death Sylvie Keshet wrote in her column in Yediot Achronot under the heading ‘The fallen soldier number 18,939':"As time goes by the heart bleeds, and anger increases in the face ofthe tragic policies and insensitivity which led to the march of folly, toseveral unnecessary wars: the Sinai War, which was imperialistic, theYom Kippur War, which could have been prevented if not for Golda and Galili and Moshe Dayan's policy that it is better to have Sharm-el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm-el-Sheikh. And the stupidestand longest war in our history, the War of Lebanon. Without belittling the memory of the thousands of fallen, the mind rests on the 18,939th fallen soldier, Noam Barnea, in all the splendor of his youthful radiance whowas killed with the badge 'To Leave Lebanon in Peace' on the lapel of his military shirt."

Now the film 'Beaufor' based on the book by another newspaperman,Ron Leshem, ('If there is a Paradise'), is being filmed and is dedicated to you and another soldier, Zachi Itach, who fell on the same cursed mountain, the Beaufor. Ron Leshem wove your story into his book, based on what he was excitedly told of you by a fellow soldier who met you in your last days. He had accompanied you in the battle from which you did not return. It is astounding how you captured the hearts of soldiers who knew you for only a short while and caused them to feel that you had a major influence during their army service experience.
And at present it seems that all that we experienced and learnt during that stupid war, the war of Lebanon, has been completely forgotten. Once again there are trumpets of war and again the primitive idea that power will overcome all. Again human lives are being sacrificed with intolerable ease!

So you see, my son, our mutual struggle is not yet over! I'll return to you time and again to draw spiritual strength from you. Yours, with never ending love,

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