I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home

I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home
By: Yishai G (reserve soldier)


While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away. I am that someone.

I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.

I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

I spent many days in your home. You and your family’s presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife’s perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children’s toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.

I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and lay them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth. I tried to put back the clothes that fell when we moved the closet although not the same as you would have done, but at least in such a way that nothing would get lost.

I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places.

I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.

I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.

Therefore, I am sure you know that Quassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities.

How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say “enough”?! Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?

I can hear you saying “it’s not me, it’s Hamas”. My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about “occupation”, you must certainly reach the conclusion that the Hamas is your real enemy.

The reality is so simple, even a seven year old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).

Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful but very easy to explain.

As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children’s education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas.

I swear to you, that if the citizens of Gaza were busy paving roads, building schools, opening factories and cultural institutions instead of dwelling in self pity, arms smuggling and nurturing a hatred to your Israeli neighbors, your homes would not be in ruins right now. If your leaders were not corrupt and motivated by hatred, your home would not have been harmed. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier. You don’t have money, you tell me? You have more than you can imagine.

Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians was used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates – your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people – your situation would be very different.

You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip, it is considered the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?

My friend, I would like to call you by name, but I will not do so publicly. I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. However, I feel your pain. I am sorry for the destruction you are finding in your neighborhood at this moment. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible.

In my opinion, we have a lot more in common than you might imagine. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. I have no desire to be in your home wearing a uniform again and I would be more than happy to sit with you as a guest on your beautiful balcony, drinking sweet tea seasoned with the sage growing in your garden.

The only person who could make that dream a reality is you. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your people, and start to take control of your destiny. How? I do not know. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Jewish people who rose up from the most destructive human tragedy of the 20th century, and instead of sinking into self-pity, built a flourishing and prospering country. It is possible, and it is in your hands. I am ready to be there to provide a shoulder of support and help to you.

But only you can move the wheels of history.

Regards, Yishai, (Reserve Soldier)

[Originally published in Hebrew in Maariv January 2009
Translation by Yona Cymerman]


58 responses to “I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home

  1. Compelling…inspiring….

  2. There’s nothing to add, is there?
    Hope you’re ok.

    • Thank god, I am okay. I just wrote a piece on what has been going on with me personally. And meantime, we have a cease fire again, and there is hope for peace. There are many things I could say about this conflict, but I am very pessimistic about our ability to influence public opinion or an attempt to counter all the propaganda that has been broadcast about the conflict.

  3. Thank you for putting a human face–and heart–to this conflict we only know through images and diatribes.

    • And thank you too, for reading this. It’s not only the diatribes… there is a lot of false stories circulating… a lot of propaganda… and I don’t know if it is at all possible to get past all the prejudice involved in this story.

  4. Reblogged this on one person singular … and commented:
    Please read, please reflect, and please understand that things are never what they seem to be. Thank you my friend Shimon for posting.

  5. The letter is very, very moving, and acknowledges the deep hatreds that mankind is capable of. While there is such hate and corruption I wonder how peace can be achieved. I have watched the situation with horror over recent weeks and really hope the peace holds. I’ve missed you Shimon and wondered how you were doing, I think of you now when I see these images on television and I’m glad I know so much more about your country and it’s culture.xxxxx

    • Yes, it’s a terrible situation, and you’re right… there are some deep hatreds and a lot of evil involved. I usually don’t write about this, because it is just too painful for me. I’ve explained what has been happening with me in the next post. I do hope to get back to blogging now, and to read the blogs of my friends. There is so much that has piled up on my desk. I don’t know how long it’ll take. Thank you very much, Dina.

  6. I am impressed. I just wish and pray for peace… Peace and peace… Thank you dear Shimon, I hope you are fine, I miss you too. Thanks and Love, nia

    • Thank you very much, Nia, for your prayers. How tragic that people have prayed for peace generation after generation… and it is still out of our grasp. But there are those of us, who are able to overcome the prejudice, and to relate to human beings with love… and I very much appreciate your own path, and your influence in our cyber community.

  7. Thank you for sharing this, Shimon. The heartfelt words from years past are still potent and the plea remains the same. Our hearts and prayers remain with you.

    • Thank you, Nancy, for your generous thoughts and words. Let us hope that the combined prayers of many who do want peace, and to live and let live, will win the day, and that we will have the joy of celebrating better times. I appreciate your comment.

  8. Pingback: I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home | one person singular …

  9. I have been thinking of you. Thank you for posting this. It helps to redress the media imbalance. I will share it.

    • I appreciate that so much, Gill. The whole story is so painful for me, that I usually refrain from adding my voice. But I am aware of the stories going around, and the propaganda that many are exposed to… and sometimes, I feel that even a private citizen has to speak up. Thank you for sharing this with others.

  10. Thank you for blogging this…it IS a heartfelt message to a neighbour that hasn’t taken the responsibility due another.

    • This is such a tragic story, Linda… and I have lived with it so long, that I’ve grown very pessimistic about ever seeing a resolution of the problem. But now and then, I try… and always, I hope. Thank you very much for your comment.

  11. I only realized at the end that this was written 3 years ago. It’s funny the world changes so quickly and some things never change (unfortunately). Golda Meir’s words resonate with me and are as applicable today as they were decades ago…”there will only be peace when they love their children more then they hate us.” Thank you for posting this Shimon and I’m glad you’re safe.

    • Yes, that is part of the tragedy, Edith; that we have to see these nightmares over and over again. I like the quote you remembered from Golda Meir. Those that are filled with hate, don’t realize how it cripples them, and keeps them down, when they could be enjoying this life. Let’s hope that they learn to love both themselves and their children with greater passion, and that we all will learn to make the best of this life and this world… there is so much to celebrate in this world.

  12. Wonderful article.

  13. War is never easy, is it? My own dad was a soldier. He was a peaceful and kind man. It wasn’t easy for him to take up arms against other human beings, but he did it to protect his family. My boss’ daughter is at sem in Jerusalem at the moment and I know that I can tell that he has been very concerned about her. I pray that peace will come to the region and that people will be spared the senseless deaths of their loved ones. Take good care of yourself Shimon.

    • I pray with you, Jacquie. I have had many opportunities to get to know the Arabs very well, and have learned that they have many gifts and talents. It breaks my heart to see this tragedy going on and on. It is not just the deaths and destruction that we see. Many lives have been wasted in hatred and falsehood. Let’s hope that we will live to see better days.

  14. This is a highly reflective man who wrote this. The letter could easily fit was has been happening in 2012; I really hope it won’t be the same story for much longer. Political solutions with so many vested interests and so much oppression, are never simple are they.

    • No, there is nothing simple about this nightmare. Even the most fortunate among us, live just a while in this world… and then we’re gone. And the world is beautiful, and there is so much to enjoy and appreciate. I pray that those who are filled with hate will realize some day that life can be a wonderful joyful experience.

  15. I’ve thought often of you these days Shimon. I’m glad that you’re back and sharing your wisdom and insight. Your post leaves me silent, sad and thoughtful. It leaves me starring for a long time at my computer screen.

    • Thank you very much, Chris. In my next post, which I just posted, I’ve explained what has been happening to me personally. But meantime, I have come back to my usual world, and there is so much on my table. I hope to catch up soon.

  16. i don’t know how to post this on my blog but would like to. Most impressive! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  17. Very thought-provoking letter..but does it tell the longer story, from the viewpoint of the other people involved in the conflict or is this the shorter story told from one viewpoint?

    • No, as you suggest, this does not tell the longer story, which is a very long story, going back all the way to the bible, when Abraham sent his mistress Hagar away, with their common son, Ishmael. It is a story that is well worth learning. And I would also recommend, to anyone who cares, to learn the history of relations between Arabs and Jews in the last hundred years. Unfortunately, there is a lot of false propaganda that has been manufactured for many different reasons… But those of us who love the truth, and enjoy studying, can find all the information available from reliable sources. Thank you for your comment, Prashant.

  18. It’s hard from afar to comprehend all the little hurts and gaping wounds that finally create a war, but it also can help us to examine where, in our own lives, we harbor resentment, remain blind to culpability, and withhold forgiveness. Thank you for encouraging this and great and gentle peace, Shimon.

    • It seems to me that there are quite a few different things that can lead to war. In principle, I believe that two essential factors in life are productive work, and self awareness, which includes, of course, soul searching and self criticism. But sometimes, two cultures can be so far apart, that it becomes very hard to bridge the gaps. In this case, I have known both sides very well. From a rational perspective, I could see a way to live in peace and friendship. But because I see the Arabs entrenching themselves in their early culture (which was quite successful, by the way), and becoming more attached to their roots, I fear ever greater conflicts. At the same time, the Israelis are becoming more westernized all the time, and this only aggravates the problem. I thank you for your wishes of a gentle peace. It’s what I hope for, with all my heart.

  19. This is an incredibly powerful statement, because it is a personal one. As is always true, when we strip away the politics and propaganda we see that war has a very human face, and a very personal toll. If only all could see that peace is the answer. Maybe someday? Will there ever be a time when everyone is willing to say, enough of war?

    • Yes, it is a powerful statement. And I thought it gave a better perspective to people who do not really understand what is going on here. But I do not agree with everything that Yishai said in his letter. And after watching the conflict continue all of my life, I’m pretty pessimistic about the chance for peace… even though sometimes, it seems a hair’s breadth away. It’s not really that either side likes war (though some individuals do). It is more a conflict between cultures. What is for one person, a sign of freedom, is for another an affront. And this is very complicated. Thank you for your comment, Josie.

  20. One would hope there are others who ‘care’…enemy or not. Those soldiers/warriors involved in wars are usually ordinary people, like all of us. Doing what they feel they must…in spite of the propaganda, the distrust, outright hatred. It’s difficult to know ‘the truth’ and everyone suffers. My husband was involved in many conflicts; he is a kind man with a compassionate heart. Thank you so much for posting this. Peace, peace…sweet peace!

    • Thank you very much for your comment, Vasca. I don’t know which conflicts your husband was involved in. In Europe, there were some fierce wars, but the peoples belonged to similar cultures. Here, a very important part of the conflict is cultural differences. But, just like you, I pray for peace, and hope I’ll see it in my lifetime.

  21. Thank you for sharing this, ShimonZ. Many people are disheartened by what seems to be the implacable hatred behind the most recent acts. It is easy to despair. I pray that peace can finally come and that you remain safe.

    • Thank you my dear yearstricken. I have to admit, that I often despair during wartime. I despise it. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have much choice, most of the time. I join you in your prayer. Though usually, I find myself a lot more worried about others than I worry about my self.

  22. The personal letter is a very effective way to describe this conflict that never seems to resolve. Hatred is a powerful emotion. I see it all around us. I think it can only be overcome one person at a time. Perhaps, the day will come…

    • Yes, I agree with you, George. The best way to overcome the antagonism, would on a person to person basis. Unfortunately, that has been tried for a long time now, without an convincing results. When I was a young man, I chose to live with an Arab in the same house. We were housemates for a while, and became good friends. Of course, I was an unusual person, and he was too. But there have been many efforts to make peace in the last 70 years… but it hasn’t worked yet.

  23. I do love the concept of peace though cultural clashes make seem a utopian dream. I came across this quote – it reminded me of your post, which I read earlier today: “The reason that people harm other people… is that individuals don’t know or trust or love themselves enough.” -Pema Chödrön The human condition is so complex, and powerful. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

    • Peace is without doubt one of the most important forces in the lives of human beings. Our word for hello to one another in Hebrew is peace, and the same is true of our Arab cousins. It is essential for us within our own souls, and so too, between people, and between states. I know that there are some people who don’t love themselves enough… but it seems to me that this is a modern malaise, and I don’t think that your quote applies so much to what I see in the middle east. Thank you very much for your comment, though, Marina.

  24. To each their own, and this is purely my opinion and how I view the world. I was simply sharing my thoughts in this open forum. Thank you for reading them.

  25. You have a very interesting blog here. I read the next post about the sad loss of your Mother (for which I offer condolenses) and I was very impressed that when you talked about the latest conflict you refered to the Gazan’s as your neighbours. If you and I sat and discussed the politics of the situation we would mostly disagree about things; but on a human level I think you have it just right. So there is hope.

    • Glad your found the blog interesting, Bill, and thank you for your condolences. A lot of the people I talk with disagree with me, so I don’t think you would make me uncomfortable. But if you disagree with me on politics, but agree with me on the human level, we could possibly be friends. Thanks for coming by.

  26. I wouldn’t wish to make you uncomfortable. true humans are already friends. Best regards.

  27. Wow, this was so powerful. I don’t really have a lot to say I just want to…well acknowledge I gave it attention and it impacted.

    • Thank you very much for reading, SighYuki. I think it’s important to see this conflict from a number of different perspectives in order to understand what’s happening.

      • Definitely. I hadn’t heard many perspectives on it that I trusted to be honest. There is just something so human about this that brings a strong reminder of the reality of the situation, well at least for those who aren’t involved or nearby I think.

        • I really appreciate what your saying, SighYuki. I am often saddened by what is published abroad, often by people of good will, and good intentions… but who haven’t really studied the subject, or have some sort of gut feeling, that they stand with the ‘underdog’.

  28. What a powerful piece of writing – thank you for sharing this. I am left saddened by the cycle of destruction, hatred, and fear. I am distrustful of most of what the media has to say. This human perspective was refreshing although it did not supply me with much hope for a future of change and peace. I have been thinking of you and wishing you safety. I have also read your latest post and am very sorry to hear about the death of your mother. Mourning is hard enough but to do so in such a situation I can not even imagine. Stay safe. Stay well.

    • It is very sad for me sometimes, to read the propaganda, and mistruths that are adopted by the media, and accepted by so many in this world as the truth. Usually, I avoid the subject because of that. I don’t want to spend all my time fighting lies. I prefer to share what is beautiful and inspiring in my world. But sometimes… it does get out. I’m glad this letter spoke to you. Thank you for your kind words. I am feeling better now.

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