Monday, October 07, 2002

The film "Jenin Diary" was on TV tonite. It was interesting but not pleasant to watch ... The film was made by an IDF reservist who filmed members of his reserve unit as they conducted repeated operations in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield last spring (my weblog entry from then). It's a series of vignettes, starting a day or so after the ambush in the Jenin refugee camp in which 13 of the reservists were killed, and ending when they finally go home a several weeks later.

There's a small amount of context provided for the various clips, but no description of the "larger picture". Everything is shown from a single perspective - that of the soldiers. Most of the clips are interviews with or discussions between the reservists - who mostly come across as very human - or frail even. The themes that are repeatedly dealt with are: what it's like to be in a war, war is hell, what it's like to see your friends die, why were reservists sent to do the work of an elite unit, why were they so poorly prepared, why did they just follow orders.... There's lots of arguments among the soldiers, but very little of it is about politics.... once they are there, the soldiers are concerned about performing their mission and getting out alive.

There's scenes of tanks moving through wrecked Jenin, a bulldozer bulldozing something, soldiers talking over a radio about what to fire at and then firing, and a brief scene that I think was a sighting of Palestinian "militants" over night vision gear. Early in the film there's a fellow saying "If Sayeret or Duvdevan [elite units] were doing this, they would be equipped with ...." followed by a list of military equipment, of which about half was beeped out. Then he says something about how they have a new method - which is to bring in the D-9s (bulldozers) and reduce the risk to the soldiers.

Towards the end of the film, several soldiers vividly describe their experience with urban combat: one describes being perched on a roof and opening fire on 2 terrorists discretely trying to exit a house; another (from his hospital bed) describes being caught in an ambush and hearing voices speaking Arabic coming from the bathroom.

After it's all over, a religious fellow says that he feels he has been given a second chance to live, and that he has to change himself as a consequence. Two hippie-ish fellows both say that they won't come back to serve in a combat unit (though I'm not sure how they intended to decline): one said "there's nothing in this world that worth losing your life for"; the other said "I came hear for Eyal [comrade who died], or rather because of Eyal; other people believe in doing this so let them, but I don't". And a fourth fellow says that he understands and respects those who don't want to come back.

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