This is a cross post from Simon Plosker at Honest Reporting
In the interests of transparency and full disclosure, I first met Marc Goldberg, the author of “Beyond the Green Line,” when we both emigrated from London to live at a Jerusalem residential Hebrew-language course back in 2001.
It was crystal clear to everyone that Goldberg’s primary and overwhelming motivation in immigrating to Israel (way beyond attending Hebrew classes!) was to join an elite unit of the IDF. Beyond the Green Line is his memoir consisting of vignettes describing his experiences during his military service as a British Jewish immigrant.
Indeed, the person I knew after his IDF service was a different person to the rather gung-ho and glory-seeking individual who went in with such commitment to the cause of defending Israelis from the terrorism that was destroying lives during the so-called Second Intifada. Goldberg’s book offers a personalized and very honest insight into how the IDF, and the intense experiences he went through, changed him.
Too many commentators and media have already relegated the Second Intifada to the history books, which is premature. For any Israelis who lived through those dark times, it is the terror war on the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere that remains seared in the Israeli consciousness when compromises with the Palestinians come up for discussion. While books have been written about that period, barely any have focused on personal accounts from regular Israelis who lived through it, whether as ordinary civilians or soldiers.
If you are looking for geopolitical analysis of the IDF operations that took place to arrest Palestinian terrorists and prevent suicide bombings, you won’t find it here. What you will find are the honest and vivid thoughts of an Israeli soldier serving his new country while seeking meaning and self-identity.
Goldberg doesn’t make grand judgments when he finds himself in situations that raise legitimate moral questions over how to deal with the Palestinian civilian population while fighting terror. He doesn’t need to. Incidents involving the military takeover of Palestinian civilian family homes in the dead of night or dealing with stone-throwing Palestinian children feature in Goldberg’s musings, offering a human and personal side to the conflict while allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
Many of us, and Goldberg himself, were brought up on heroic accounts of grand Israeli military operations or Mossad-style adventures. Yet Goldberg eventually becomes swallowed in the gulf between that vision and the reality of his service. Disillusionment starts to set in and Goldberg finds himself questioning the purpose of the routine guard duty, jeep patrols and arrest operations that become his world, to the extent that his coping mechanism for leaving that world is to drink himself to oblivion.
The book is highly readable and it is to Goldberg’s credit that the writing flows easily and encourages the reader to invest his or her time in following Goldberg’s journey. You may not learn everything you wanted to know about how the IDF operates and operated during the Second Intifada (and, in any case, would it have got past the IDF Military Censor?) but you will get a real insight into the life of an Israeli soldier as told through the eyes of an outsider now on the inside. That Goldberg is an immigrant from a Western country makes him far easier to relate to for the target audience.
And if his part memoir, part self-therapy puts a human face on the brave Israeli soldiers who give up some of their formative years to serve their country, then this can only be a positive thing.