My name is Avi and I am 37 years old. I live in Hod Hasharon and have three young children. I work in Tel Aviv for a high-tech company. I grew up in Haifa, but despite its being a “mixed city”, I did not meet many Arabs.
I was conscripted to the army in March 1997, a month after the helicopter disaster, and was stationed in a small infantry unit which had lost 22 soldiers in that tragedy -- almost all of them from the same crew. In the two years between 1996 to 1998, 30 soldiers from my unit were killed in Lebanon. My conscripted service was in Lebanon. During an ambush, two very good friends of mine were killed and almost one half of the crew was injured, requiring a prolonged rescue under fire.
Throughout this period a group called The Four Mothers was actively demanding the army’s withdrawal from Lebanon. At first they were ridiculed and were accused of hurting the morale and endangering the soldiers; but they were adamant and public opinion began to shift. During the elections, Ehud Barak promised to withdraw from Lebanon, and in 2000 the Israeli army withdrew from Lebanon indeed . At that time I was on my “discharge vacation” and the last APC to leave Lebanon was carrying my friends, after having demolished the outpost at Beaufort.
As a soldier I was unsure whether the Israeli army should withdraw from Lebanon, but my friends and I felt the futility of our presence there. I was joined the army as Four Mothers was being established, and discharged just as they accomplished their goal. I saw history in the making, and realized that a handful of activists had brought about change.
I felt the urge to be active because of the friends I had loast. I do not act on their behalf, but rather because of them; and I got my belief that we can bring about change from The Four Mothers.
During reserve duty, I served in the Occupied Territories and was exposed first hand to the wrongdoings of the Occupation. After a single day at a checkpoint, I asked to be stationed in a watch tower far away from people.
Few years later, I moved to the United States with my wife, and my two older daughters were born there. We had a good income and led a very comfortable life. One of the reasons we decided to return to Israel was a feeling we had that the situation in Israel was worsening, and something had to change. I realized that during the 6 years we stayed in Boston and Philadelphia, I had had conversations with many more Arabs than in the 21 years I had grown up in Haifa -- and Haifa is a “mixed city”! So I decided that upon my return to Israel, I would be active in a “mixed” movement -- this is how I ended up in Combatants for Peace.
In today’s public atmosphere, even the “privileged” cannot feel safe.This is a time of crisis. I feel that we are re-living history, but this time the mission is greater by far than the military withdrawal from Lebanon. A handful of activists will not suffice. You and I are both needed for this mission. We must all act.