Monday, October 1, 2007

A Soldier Breaks the Silence

(With thanks to Martin O. Marty [Context, October, 2007, Part A) for passing this on to his journal readers)

Man in the mirror
Reporter Steven Erlanger:

“Michael Manekin, 27, is the director of Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli combat soldiers and some current reservists, shocked at their own misconduct and that of others, who have gathered to collect their stories and to bear witness.

Since 2004 the group has collected testimonies from nearly 400 soldiers (available in English at

“At a recent talk and discussion session, one man stood up and said Mr. Manekin and his friends were hurting Israel, especially its image abroad, in order to salve their own consciences. Many in the audience nodded in agreement. Tall and dignified, about 45, the man said that he, too, has served in the West Bank, ‘and I’m proud of what I did there to defend Israelis.’ It is crucial to intimidate people at checkpoints, he said, his voice shaking a little, ‘because we are so few there, and they are so many.’ Then he said: ‘These people are not like us! They come up to our faces and they lie to us!’

“That was enough for Uriel Simon, 77, a professor emeritus of biblical studies at Bar-Ilan University and a noted religious dove. ‘As for liars,’ Mr. Simon said, then paused. ‘My father was a liar. My grandfather was a liar. How else did we cross lines to get into this country? We stayed alive by lying. We lied to the Russians, we lied to the Germans, we lied to the British! We lied for survival!’ As for the Palestinians, he said: ‘Of course they lie! Everyone lies at a checkpoint! We lied at checkpoints, too.’

“Everyone is afraid of mirrors, Mr. Simon said. ‘We hate the mirror. We don’t want to look at
ourselves. We don’t like photographs of us—we say, “Oh, that’s not a very good likeness.” We want to be much nicer than we are. But there are also prophets who are mirrors, who are not afraid of kings and generals. The prophet says, “You are ugly,” and we don’t want to hear it, but we have to look at the mirror honestly, without fear.’ ”
—New York Times (, 3/23/07

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