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West Beirut, the eve of Rosh Hashana, September 18, 1982 – We moved toward the
corner, going into the dawn’s light battle. It was like walking down any city
street, with the sidewalks and the doorways and the storefronts. Only now our
combat boots crushed the crunchy shards of broken glass. Live wires dangled from
above, sizzling and crackling. A few parked cars were smoldering wrecks. Dust
filled the Mediterranean air, filtering the sun as it rose over Mount Lebanon
into the port of Beirut. There were some bright flowers at the door of a house,
growing profusely, the grit of the summer’s battles vainly trying to smother
their sturdy petals and leaves.
We shuffled along in single file, our
assault rifles loaded, fingers on the triggers. One of our 43-ton Merkava battle
tanks rumbled along in the road next to us, its thousand- horsepower engine
coughing like a sick Ford pickup truck. The monster shook the ground and made
the walls shudder.
Its visceral power calmed me.
But the thick air
choked us. The heaving rat-tat-tat of our comrades’ guns sounded nonchalantly
from somewhere down the block. But when the distinct guttural sound of a
Kalashnikov rifle spraying its thick 7.62mm rounds echoed above, we knew our
Palestinian enemy was real and he was waiting for us. This wasn’t going to be a
Louisiana snake hunt.
Half a dozen Israeli jet fighters streaked across
the sky visible above between the multistory buildings. The warplanes were very
high, and howling away into the gray haze toward the Mediterranean Sea. Yellow
streaks of anti-aircraft fire followed but did not quite reach them.
I looked back.
Behind us was the rest of my platoon and behind them my 906th battalion, fresh
from non-commissioned officers’ course. And behind them an entire brigade or
more of the Israel Defense Forces, all waiting for the battle to begin. It was
as if this mighty juggernaut was waiting... for me. I turned back around. The
sergeant was signaling with his hand: “Forward.” I lifted my booted foot. I
turned the corner and literally stepped into my war.Click here to view the complete article, accessible to
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