A lot of people have lost a lot of people since we lost Yonatan. Weve lost others since then, too, because another war broke out and everything got more savage. But more indifferent, too. And whos got enough time on his hands to deal with what happened back then? When it broke out we lost Barnoy. Then another eleven guys. And when the numbers stabilized at nine hundred and twenty and it looked like it was over, we lost Kokas brother, whod followed in his footsteps and enlisted with us. Weve made love a thousand times since then, its not like we havent, and weve laughed a thousand times. We went on to other places, we escaped and came back, we remembered. But quietly. We imagined how well return to the fortress, to our mountain. Therell be a hotel there, maybe. Or a place for lovers to park. Or maybe it will be deserted. Therell be peace. And I will lead her along the paths, well walk hand in hand. Here, baby, this is exactly where it happened. And stone by stone Ill show her. She might even ask if thats the whole story. How can that be the whole story? What made you cry so much, its actually really beautiful and peaceful here, everythings green with trees, and quiet. This is the place where you broke down?
Try to imagine that they stick you high up on a mountain cliff, higher than the roof of the Azrieli Building. How could you not have a breathtaking view? Here its wide expanses of green countryside checkered with patches of brown and red, snowy mountains, frothing rivers, narrow, winding, deserted European roads, and the sweetest wind there is. Zitlawi used to say that air like this should be bottled and sold to rich people on the north side of Tel Aviv. Christ, what quality. So fucking pastoral you could cut the calm with a knife. Our sunsets, too, theyre the most beautiful on the planet, and the sunrises are even more beautiful, glimmering serenity from the roof of the world. Bring a girl or two here when the sky is orange and youve got it made. And dawn, an amazing cocktail of deep blue and turquoise and wine red and thin strips of pink, like an oil painting on canvas. And the deep wadi that twists away from the big rock were sitting on. Try to explain how this could be the place where you broke down.
But from that night I remember the lights of Kiryat Shmona, on the Israeli side of the border, as they recede on the horizon, and everyones beating heartsI swear it, I can hear them as we make our way up to the top that very first time. And from minute to minute its getting colder. Theres not a living soul around except for us, practically not a single village in our zone, either. The convoy crawls along, gets swallowed up in a thick fog, theres no seeing more than a hundred yards ahead. Tanks are spread along the road to provide cover for us. From a slit near the roof of the Safari I try to figure out how far along weve come, silently poring over the map of danger spots and racing through an abbreviated battle history, muttering because no talking is allowed. Where will the evil flare out from? I suddenly have the urge to shout to the commanding officer that weve gone too far, but I bite my lip and remain silent. From this moment on nobody can tell me anymore You havent got a clue what Lebanon is, waitll you get there. Im there, finally, thats whats important. A long line, heavy traffic: a supply Safari, a GI Safari, a diesel Safari, behind these an ordnance truck with a big crane, an Abir truck carrying a doctor and a medic, another GI Safari, the commanders Hummer, the lieutenants Hummer, and an Electronic Warfare Hummer. Oshri asks if Ive brought my lucky underwear with me. I gesture to him that Im wearing them. After all, our good fortune depends on my lucky underwear. Im wearing them, even if that means thirty-two days without washing them.
Excerpted from Beaufort by Ron Leshem, translated by Evan Fallenberg. Copyright © 2007 by Ron Leshem. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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