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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Flowers & Soldiers

[for my older sister who insists I never update on 'weekends']

Any American over the age of forty encountering this unlikely combination of words is likely to conjure one of two mental images: Either a) College protesters placing daisies into the pointed guns of National Guardsmen during the Vietnam war era; or b) Flowers being placed on the graves of fallen soldiers.

I am pleased that, from this day forward, I will not be able to hear the words 'flowers' and 'soldiers' in the same sentence without conjuring a much more pleasant image.

This morning, like nearly every Sunday morning, I drove out of Efrat with a car full of [what I have come to think of as] ‘my soldiers’ – a fairly consistent group of youngsters returning to base after a weekend home with their families. These sleepy teenagers and early 20-somethings, smelling of freshly laundered uniforms, and toting knapsacks filled with home-baked goodies for the week ahead, settled in for the hour + drive to Be’er Sheva. However, instead of the usual quick descent into slumber, today’s crew seemed more alert…more attentive to the drive.

At first I attributed their wakefulness to the fatal shooting that had taken place on Friday night along our usual route.

[It may not have made the news outside of Israel - little beyond the most horrible bombings makes it into the International news cycle these days - but on Friday night, a young couple left their two-year-old daughter with her grandmother and went out for the evening to celebrate a friend's birthday. A few miles from their home they were ambushed by machine gun-wielding terrorists, and killed instantly.]

However, a few minutes into the drive I was surprised when one of the soldiers (a young paratrooper) asked me if I would like to see something ‘interesting’. Another soldier – this one a lieutenant in another elite infantry unit – added, “Actually, not ‘interesting’…beautiful”. Clearly a conspiracy was underway.

I shrugged and told them to point the way.

We took a mild deviation from our usual route, while all the while behind me there rose a low murmur of discussion about our destination. Considering that snores are much more common at this point in our Sunday morning commute, I allowed myself to be directed, and enjoyed the animated sound of voices around me.

Within a few minutes we crested a rise and I was struck speechless by the scene on the next hillside. A carpet of wildflowers – reds, bluish purples, and a few tiny yellows – crowded each other and competed for our attention. I pulled over to the side of the road and instantly regretted having left my digital camera at home.

The soldiers explained that once a year, usually for a week before the holiday of Purim, these wildflowers (some of which are found nowhere else in Israel) bloom in this particular valley. Apparently, people come from all over the country to see these flowers! The soldiers apologized that the one other place in the valley where there were even more of the flowers was too far out of our way, but suggested that I come back later in the week with my family to see them.

Every time I think I have become acclimated to life here in Israel, something new…usually something small…pops up and turns my head around. In this case it wasn’t just the surprise of beautiful wildflowers…After all, flowers pop up all over the world. No, I was caught off guard by the unabashed delight these soldiers took in the annual appearance of the wildflowers, and the simple generosity of their wanting to share the experience with me.

[Note to self: Remember to bring the camera tomorrow!]

Posted by David Bogner on February 29, 2004 | Permalink

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about College protesters placing daisies into the pointed guns of National Guardsmen during the Vietnam war era....do you know where i can find that picture i would like to research it for a photography project thank oyu
~sarah

Posted by: sarah | Sep 12, 2004 10:56:38 AM

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