When he was drafted in 1987, in the beginning of the first Intifada, Chen Alon found himself a proper nickname: “Faculty of Occupation graduate”. What that meant for him was - being anywhere, completing any mission he was given. That’s what he was educated for at home, a home filled with Zionism, and with the trauma his father suffered in the Yom Kippur war. The Israeli sense of justice was natural to him, until he joined the army.
The hardest operations, for him, were the arrests. One night, when they were supposed to arrest a wanted terrorist. Inside the house they entered they found a family sleeping on mattresses. The security officer who joined them woke someone up and took him to the jeep. It was a ten year old kid. He was the “wanted terrorist”.
When the second Intifada broke in 2001, Alon understood that this time it’s not clubs against stones - it’s tanks against firearms. One after another, the surrounded Palestinian villages turned into prisons.
In all this entanglement, one moment turned to be especially important. It happened at the entrance to a checkpoint where sick Palestinians waited for transportation to hospital. Just then, Alon’s wife called and said she had some difficulty picking up their child from kindergarten. The stark opposition between the situations seemed cruel and absurd to him.
That night, they received commands to demolish a Palestinian house because of an illegally built balcony. The operation turned violent, but Alon also knew that for him - this is the last operation of this kind. Shortly after, he signed a petition initiated by soldiers and officers refusing to serve in the occupied territories. He spent the years after, trying to convince the Israeli society of the occupation’s immorality, and trying to move people into civil disobedience.
Once, when he was telling his story to a group of Palestinians in Ramallah, an audience member defiantly asked him: “are you asking us to forgive you?” “no”, Alon replied, “I cannot forgive myself. The issue is not forgiveness but taking responsibility”.
To him - he can only forgive himself once an alliance of nonviolent struggle against injustice and oppression is formed with the Palestinians.