Can these bones live?, the Lord asks Ezekiel. And generations, after each slaughter, they come again, the descendants of the dead to reclaim the hills of their ancestors. Rising like the red flowers out of the soil. Like the bones out of the earth. They come up as slaves out of Egypt and out of the captivity of empires, their tongues as numberless as the earth. Here they come again to set up kingdoms and nations. And there in shadows on the dust, a handful of men fight off a legion; swords, spears and rifles in hand they face down impossible odds. They fight and die, but they go on.
The calendar itself is a memorial. Israel’s Memorial Day, Independence Day and Lag BaOmer; the commemoration of the original Yom Yerushalayim, the brief liberation of Jerusalem from the Romans, still covertly remembered in bonfires and bows shot into the air, all in a season that begins with Passover, the exodus that set over a million people off on a forty-year journey to return to the homeland of their forefathers.
The battles today are new, but they are also very old. The weapons are new, but the struggle is the same. Who will remain and who will be swept away. Some 3,000 years ago, Judge Jephthah and the King of Ammon were exchanging messages not too different from those being passed around as diplomatic communiques today. The King of Ammon demanding land for peace and the Judge laying out the Israeli case for the land in a message that the enemy would hardly trouble to read before going to war.
Take a stray path in these hills and you may find a grinning terrorist with a knife, or the young David pitting his slingshot against a lion or bear. This way the Maccabees rush ahead at the armies of a slave empire and this way a helicopter passes low overhead on the way to Gaza. Like Dali’s melting clocks, time is a fluid thing here. And what you remember; you shall find.
The soldier is not so sacred as he once was. The journalist and the judge have taken his place. The actors sneer from their theaters. The politicians gobble their free food and babble of peace. Musicians sing shrilly of flowers in gun barrels and doves everywhere. But the soldier still stands where he must. The borders have shrunk. The old victories have been exchanged for diplomatic defeats. From the old strongholds come missiles and rockets. And children hide in bomb shelters waiting for the worst to pass. This is the doing of the journalist and the judge, the politician and the actor, the lions of literature who send autographed copies of their books to imprisoned terrorists and the grandchildren of great men who hire themselves on in service to the enemy.
The man who serves is still sacred, but the temple of duty is desecrated more and more each year. Leftist academics dismiss the heroes of the past as myths or murderers. Their wives dress in black and harass soldiers at checkpoints, their children wrap their faces in Keffiyas and throw stones at them. Draft dodging, once a black mark of shame, has become a mark of pride among the left. Some boast about how easy it is, others enlist only to then refuse to serve. They call themselves “Refusniks,” accepting the Soviet view of Israel as an illegitimate warmongering state, but laying claim to the name of the Zionists who fought to escape the Soviet Union.
Some are only afraid, but some are filled with hate. They have looked into a twisted mirror and drunk of the poisoned wine. They have found their Inner Cain and go now to slay their brothers with words.
How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?, asks Balaam. But the King of Moab is determined to have his curses anyway. And today it is to the U.N. that they come for curses. The Arab lands boil with blood, but resolution after resolution follows damning Israel. China squats on the mountains of Tibet, Russian government thugs throw dissidents out of windows and Saudi firefighters push girls back into a burning building. And still the resolutions come like curses.