The two men in this picture are Chief of Operations for the Southern Front Yitzhak Rabin and Southern Front Commander Yigal Allon, in 1949. It’s a cold day somewhere on the dunes east or south of Gaza. Neither man has slept much, which is evident from Rabin’s messy hair.
Alon, four years older and considered deeper than his lieutenant, is looking at Rabin with a kind of fatherly gaze. The burden of war, the weariness of daily engagements, are evident in their posture. Neither one looks particularly happy or even content.
But it’s a beautiful picture in my eyes, because it depicts a moment so suffused with potential in our history. There’s the thinker, Alon, and Rabin, an anti-intellectual if ever there was one, and at that frozen moment in time you can’t yet tell that all their efforts to lead the Jewish experience in the Land of Israel to a benign, normal, familiar, civilized conclusion would crash, one after the other, against the harsh realities of the Middle East.
Neither one of them was a fool, neither one was kidding himself that our neighbors are bursting with joy at the idea of accepting, much less embracing us into their midst. Both died having done everything humanly possible, including countless times putting their lives on the line, seeking that acceptance.
There is beauty in failure. It is quiet, hidden, humble. The beauty of two young men in the middle of a battle outside Gaza, hair blowing in the wind, eyes red from lack of sleep, daring to hope.
The boys and girls of my generation have grown up with that image emblazoned in our retinas as the best that an Israeli person could be.
I’m glad that phase is over. I’m looking forward to images of new, beautiful Israelis, like the famous young paratrooper at the Kotel in 1967. Or, better yet, a young windsurfer at the Olympic games. I’m totally open to suggestions.