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Jewish Journal

Our Soft Underbelly

by Shira Kaplan

May 27, 2004 | 8:00 pm

I am writing you with a broken heart and tearful eyes. Not attempting to propagandize, not wanting to mislead.

Just wanting you to know, because this piece of news was excluded from many news agencies, at the request of Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The pictures were simply too horrific to publish, and though Israel could use it as an effective public-opinion campaign, we chose not to -- in respect of the 11 bereaved families.

I couldn't write down what happened in Gaza, though I tried. Anything I will write will make you take sides. The media makes us take sides all the time. It is not for me to present a biased, one-sided truth, which you will be forced to accept. It is not for me to feed you with slogans. Please find the story yourselves, or give me a few days before I can reflect on what happened.

However, one truth does exist. Eleven dead soldiers in Gaza, literally torn into pieces, buried today on Mount Herzl. Eleven kids who are all between the ages of 19-23; 11 kids who could have been my best friends. My heart is breaking as I am writing these words. I served in the army for two years, and I am writing you as a soldier. These guys could have been my best friends, and they died in a way in which they did not deserve.

My country is torn into pieces. These kids are our soft underbelly. They are everyone's children, because it is we who sent them to the front, and we who asked them to protect us. They are the best guys we have! And they would give anything it takes to make my niece, my parents and myself sleep quietly at night.

These guys did what they were told to do, and were torn into pieces in two explosions. They could have been my best friends, or my brothers. But now they are just pieces of body wrapped with the flag of Israel.

It is a turning point in this war, so they said on the news. It must be a turning point in this damned war. Because we cannot go on like this, we simply cannot -- and neither can they.

Shira Kaplan is a 20-year-old Israeli from Herzliya who attended Seeds of Peace in 1997, 1998 and 1999. She served for two years in the Israel Defense Forces in the intelligence division. She plans on beginning her university studies next year, with a likely concentration in Middle Eastern studies and international relations.

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