- Gabriel Stern, one of the more decent - though lesser known - journalists in the history of Israel journalism, once told me of a traumatic but formative experience that occurred during his military service. He was thirty-five at the time, having come to Israel from Germany a decade previously. He had studied Middle Eastern Studies at Hebew University and participated in Judah Leib Magnes' and Martin Buber's peace activism. Stern was not a pacifist, but he was extremely fearful of any form of violence. In 1948, during Israel's War of Independence, he was drafted and posted on guard duty at the Italian Hospital, located in close proximity to what would later become the line dividing Israeli West Jerusalem and the eastern, Arab part of the city. As he wandered aimlessly around the deserted hospital one day, he suddenly came face to face with a uniformed man armed with a rifle. The man was standing at the end of a long, dim corridor. Stern did not know how the man had got there, but he sensed his life was in danger: One of the two was bound to open fire. Stern looked the man in the eyes; the man looked back at him. Stern raised his rifle; the man raised his, finger on the trigger. It was clear to Stern that he who shot first would live. The other would die.
He pulled the trigger. The bullet penetrated the figure standing in front of him and shattered it into a thousand fragments glass. It was a large mirror. Stern had shot at himself. He never fired a gun again.
(This book is a collection of chapters by different contributors, that I saw at a store this evening. I looked at the list of contributors on the back, and some names jumped out at me, particularly: Shulamit Aloni, Meron Benvenisti, Amira Hass, David Grossman. Then I read the foreword. Then I bought the book. I haven't read it yet, but you can consider this a recommendation.)