Six years ago, during the summer of 2006 Israel went to war with Lebanon. Actually that is not true. Israel went to war with a terrorist organization called Hezbollah that has its bases in Lebanon. This terror group ambushed a border patrol and took 2 dead soldiers hostage. The Israeli government panicked, overreacted and went to war in order to retrieve the two bodies.
At the time, I was a member of the communications platoon in an armored battalion. We were on maneuvers up near the border when the war started, so we were one of the first units mobilized. I hadn't always been in communications. I had trained to be a tank driver but due to an injury, I was reassigned to a second line position. While I was no longer serving in the tanks, I still had friends that were. One friend was named Kobi. He was picked to by the gunner in the battalion commander's tank.
Kobi was very excited to have been chosen to by the battalion commander's gunner. When the ground invasion started, he would be in the command tank. I remember the night he went into Lebanon, me and him were sitting around talking. He was telling me how energized and nervous he was about the invasion. I remember saying to him "kill some terrorists for me" and I wished him luck. With that we said goodnight.
The next morning, I woke up early and I ran over to the command center to ask if there had been any injuries over the night. I was told no. But not a second later I started hearing screaming and yelling over the radio. I heard people screaming "what was that?!" and many explosions. I was sent away so as to not be in the way. There was a few hours of confusion where no one seemed to know what was going on. I had my cell phone and I called my parents in the US and asked them and their friends to pray for me and my friends. But a few hours later I was told that Kobi had been killed. His tank had drove up onto a huge landmine and was blown apart.
A few days later, I was among the people sent home from the unit to attend Kobi's funeral. I remember having this horrible feeling at the funeral. It was not normal sadness, it was more complicated than that. Since I had been a little kid I had seen war movies and thought they were exciting and fun. I had dreamed of being a soldier. I used to fantasize about leading troops into battle and destroying the enemy. And now I was at the funeral of one soldier and I was surrounded by hundreds of bereaved family and friends. I could not comprehend how this event happens hundreds, thousands, MILLIONS of times over in other wars.
Why is life worth so little? Why are we so quick to send people to die, to volunteer to go die, or to kill some one else? I am not a pacifist, but in many cases it is just unbearably frustrating what people are willing to die and kill over; religion, land, political philosophies, money. I cannot figure out for what Kobi and the other 118 Israeli soldiers that were killed sacrificed their lives. Because a bunch of under-qualified politicians didn't know how to react to a minor incident? Thousands of Lebanese people were killed because some irresponsible, fanatically religious group decided to attack a more powerful country. What a waste.
I have written this before, but I think it bares repeating. When people focus all of their energies on a make believe fairy land called "heaven" that can only be reached after death, they are devaluing their actual lives. When you tell people from the time they are little children that "this life is full of turmoil" but the next world is perfect and amazing, why should they not throw away their lives in the hope of leaving turmoil and reaching perfection? And if you tell them they have an automatic ticket to heaven just by taking down some "heathens" with them, they are that much more tempted.
One of the best things that happened to me when I stopped believing in Judaism is that I stopped focusing on what will happen after I am dead. I stopped being afraid of "god" sending me to hell. I was able to focus on my real life and trying to make that as good as I can. Life is so valuable. People should stop treating it like it is cheap.