First Person

Jewish World Review August 6, 2002 / 28 Menachem-Av 5762

I'm still haunted by the face of Arab soldier I killed


By Uri Geller


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | ON A rocky hillside amid the despair and devastation that has been the West Bank for untold generations, I lifted my rifle to my shoulder.

I could see the terror in the face of the Arab soldier a few yards in front of me. He had already shot at me twice and was out of position and firing wildly about him as my unit advanced. We were both bad soldiers. He should have been retreating-I should have been diving for cover.

Instead I turned and for what seemed a long time I stared at him. My most vivid thought was: "You have a moustache. You are not like me."

Then I took aim and squeezed the trigger.

It is 35 years since I killed that Jordanian in Ramallah-the scene of so much bloodshed now.

TORMENT

I was an Israeli paratrooper sergeant fighting in a war against a crushing Arab coalition.

The father I hero-worshipped was fighting too. I was so proud to be in his army. So proud to be ready to lay down my life for my country. Now I look at the pictures of my homeland on TV, the horrific images of death, and my nightmares flood back. For many years after the Six Day War, all through the height of my spoon-bending fame in the 70s, I was tormented by a recurring dream of the soldier I killed.

He always stepped out of a barren, silent battlefield to seize my uniform, and he was always sobbing. His face was nothing like the blank, terrified mask that I saw when I killed him.

His voice was full of agony and confusion and anger when he shouted, "Why did you kill me? Why me?"

I always woke then with a heavy weight on my soul because I could not explain to him: "I had to kill you. You were going to kill me." Less than 24 hours before I fired that shot I had seen my friend Avram Stedler die with his left leg torn off by a shell. I hauled him from the wreckage of his armoured car.

I was shouting into a radio, calling down medics in helicopters, hiding from Avram the bullet holes which had reduced the handset to junk.

He was staring at his massive wound as his blood turned the ground to mud.

HOPE

I wish I could say Avram died in my arms. But I had to get my unit away from the shellfire. In the end, we all die alone but I know some day I will meet my friend-and the Jordanian brother I killed-on the other side.

Must this current awful conflict destroy the lives of every generation in the Holy Land? The children of my old friends in Tel Aviv are now of National Service age. I would do anything to save them from having to kill and see their friends blown to shreds. A Muslim family, also Israeli, who are dear friends, phoned with wonderful news this week that shone like a ray of hope: their baby had been born, Hassan, a brother to three little sisters.

Surely to G-d, by the time Hassan is grown, there will be peace in the Holy Land. Won't there?

Recently, Colin Powell flew out of Israel, declaring that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat can no longer equivocate. "They must decide, as the rest of the world has decided, that terrorism must end," he said.

And so it must. For the awful waste, not only of lives, but of the most beautiful and spiritual place on our planet, fills me with a fathomless sadness.

All people, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, could be working together in a Paradise-instead, it is a Hell.

"Peace"-Shalom in Hebrew or Salaam in Arabic-is the first word on my lips when I wake and the last as I go to sleep.

I believe somewhere in the universe a Divine Being superior to all beings is listening. Call Him what you will - but call to him.

And for the sake of everyone dragged into this bitter conflict, pray for peace.

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© 2002, Uri Geller