Magash HaKesef – The Silver Platter

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 April 2010 03:53 Written by bryfy Sunday, 18 April 2010 10:09

On this Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day) I want to recall an episode from my first trip to Israel, 20 years ago. It was on Kibbutz Yizre’el, where I lived for 6 months, that I met the members of Garin Shakuf (Transparent) – a group of 18 year old Israelis who had volunteered to extend their army service by working both on a kibbutz and serving in the IDF.

Our group of Aussies and Kiwis made friends very quickly with the members of the Israeli garin. What was not to enjoy? Here we were a large group of motivated, passionate, largely ideologically driven, virile, long-haired people living and working together for an extended period of time. We toiled in the fields and factories together, ate in the dining room together and danced and drunk in the pub together. For all intensive purposes we were fast becoming friends. And despite some language barriers there was enough in common – as Jews coming together from different parts of the world that united us all.

Until one Friday night where the garin told us that we weren’t allowed to come to the pub before midnight.

There was a sense of frustration, if not anger among us – after all, we had fast become one group and now a group of Aussies and Kiwis were being told that we couldn’t go to the pub until the Israelis allowed us to enter. There was not much we could do – and so we started drinking beforehand and then obediently turned up the pub at midnight.

What we saw is an image that will remain with me forever. As we entered, boisterous and happy as always, we were confronted by a pub full of crying Israelis – and masses of hair on the ground. Some of the garin girls were still standing with the electric sheep sheers in their hands, and the garin boys were all well on the way to being completely bald. This was, we learned quickly, the week of their enlistment into the Israeli army, their first week of training – the last week for a while they we would spend on kibbutz together, and the last time that I, still a long-haired Jew from the Diaspora, would ever be as closely identified with our Israeli counterparts.

We remained friends with the members of the garin throughout the year – but things were never the same. From that time onwards we always recognized that there was always a fundamental difference between us. I don’t think I have ever felt more pride, ambition, guilt, envy, humility and fear at the same time. As much as we wanted to be friends and equals there was always this distinction that was never spoken about, but always present. As Natan Alterman wrote, the members of Garin Shakuf, along with every individual who serves in the Israeli army, will always be our “silver platter.”

And the land grows still, the red eye of the sky  slowly dimming over smoking frontiers
As the nation arises, Torn at heart but breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle
As the ceremony draws near,  it will rise, standing erect in the moonlight in terror and joyWhen across from it will step out a youth and a lass and slowly march toward the nation
Dressed in battle gear, dirty, Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly
To change garb, to wipe their brow
They have not yet found time. Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field
Full of endless fatigue and unrested,
Yet the dew of their youth. Is still seen on their head
Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death
Then a nation in tears and amazement
will ask: “Who are you?
And they will answer quietly, “We Are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.”
Thus they will say and fall back in shadows
And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel

1 Comment

  1. Reuven Werber   |  Sunday, 18 April 2010 at 11:19 am

    And I suppose that there is the almost unbridgeable gap between parents of Israeli youth who spent 3 or more (for officers) years in active combat duty and those whose children don’t serve. The waiting to hear from the youngster out in the field or on the front facing danger and the relief when the call comes through.
    But, alas sometimes the call doesn’t come through and is replaced by the fearful knock on the door of the representative of the army bringing some terrible tidings.
    For many Israeli soldiers and parents, there are are less doubts about the meaning of Jewish peoplehood!

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