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Letters and articles by Manuela

8.3.98

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,

Like many parents before us, today we received a letter of condolences in which you write, among other things:

"We won't forget our duty to Jonathan for the sake of all the dear boys without whom we wouldn't have been able to exist here. We won't let go until we achieve security and peace for our land and our country."

These are beautiful words, but what stands behind them? Yoni grew up in a family that doesn't go well with cliches. A family in which the father is a religious nationalist and the mother is secular, the father is a "sabra" and the mother is an immigrant from Italy, the right and the left.

They say that love brings about unity, but so do other things, such as respect, lots of thinking and choice. Unity requires an effort, it's not always easy, but in this family the children grew up to be creative, artistic and free as thought itself.

You write to us that we've paid a high and painful price, that we_ve suffered a terrible and painful loss, and you are indeed right, we have paid a price, but we demand a compensation.

You promised us not to forget your duty to Jonathan. I look at you, Benjamin Netanyahu, with the eyes that have opened up in my heart, and at you too, Ehud Barak.

Do you really know what's your duty to Yoni, to his friends, to all of us? Do you really intend not only not to "forget" you duty, but also to act?

Your duty, the duty of all our leaders, is to think, to be creative, to look for every possible way and to act, to give us hope.

Mr. Prime Minister,

I'm sending you Yoni's picture.

Look him in the eye.

Look him in the eye without turning away.

I demand answers.

Manuela and Avraham Dviri,
Eyal, Michal, Sharon and Miri, Yoni's girlfriend.




14.3.98

Mr. Prime Minister,

Two weeks have passed since Yoni was killed.

A week has passed since we sent you our letter. We are still waiting for an answer.

Mr. Prime Minister, I wanted to tell you how I've spent this past week.

Lots of friends continue to come to our house even though we've gotten up from the "shiv'a." They don't quite know how to behave with us. The conversations are somewhat forced and end with nothing. My husband has gone back to work and so have the children, but I still haven't found the strength and the courage to go back. I get up in the morning, and the hardest job is to get in touch with reality anew, to wake up again to life after the night's break.

How have you spent this past week, Mr. Prime Minister? What have you done regarding your duty to Yoni, to his friends and to all of us? What about the solutions?

We heard about your intention to visit the families of the Palestinian workers. It's an excellent idea. We have no security problem.

How do you fall asleep at night, Mr. Prime Minister?
How do you sleep at night, Mr. Prime Minister?
Mr. Prime Minister,

Once again, I'm sending you Yoni's picture, this time it shows him as a small baby, the age of Yair and Avner. Look him in the eye, and look me in the eye, without turning away.

I demand answers.

Manuela and Avraham Dviri,
Eyal, Michal, Sharon and Miri, Yoni's girlfriend.




Prime Minister
March 10, 1998
reference: li-103; 17

To: Mrs. Manuela Dviri

Manuela, shalom,
I read your letter, and it's not easy for me to respond.

I am familiar with the feeling and the pain experienced by you, Avraham, Eyal, Michal, Sharon and Miri. There is a hidden thread that connects bereaved families. And I know that even if life goes back to routine, there's no remedy for your wound.

I also understand your questions. Like yourself, I frequently ask what is the point of young people dying, and why we've been destined to bury our sons and cry again and again over life that has been cut in its prime. I also repeatedly ask "what is the compensation"?

I could decide to put an end to the spilling of our children's blood in Lebanon via an immediate and unilateral withdrawal. However, ignoring the consequences of such a move would be an unforgivably irresponsible act. I cannot endanger the lives of hundreds of citizens that may get hurt if we withdraw to our border without security arrangements, and I certainly cannot ignore the consequences for the country's future and the possibility that such a withdrawal may lead to war.

There are no easy decisions. Both in my office and in the government, we invest all our energy and time in finding a solution that will lead to a withdrawal of our soldiers from Lebanon at a minimal risk. Until we succeed in doing that, we, the political echelons, give the Israel Defense Forces full backing while maximally ensuring the security and well-being of our soldiers.

Our duty, I agree with you, is to think, to be creative. We will not leave the subject of Lebanon alone until we find a solution. In order to fulfill this duty, the government has recently undertaken several initiatives on Lebanon that hadn't been taken up in years. It's too early to say whether they'll bear fruit. One thing is clear: we do not remain unconcerned. But neither is our duty to abandon the future at the expense of a temporary relief in the present.

Yoni, like thousands of others, fell while fulfilling his duty of defending the state. These are cold words, perhaps even a cliche. But the fact is that 20 thousand people have sacrificed their lives to defend the State of Israel. The compensation for their lives is the establishment of the state and its survival, and this is no cliche.

When I think about them, when I see these thousands of people, these troops, in my mind's eye, I'm shocked to the depth of my heart. But I'm proud of them, proud that we have sons like Yoni, and proud that we have families like yours, who reveal courage and lucidity even in the most difficult moments and who want to act, to do something in order to spare others their suffering and pain.

I'm convinced that our way is correct. In the past four years we saw that it's easy to inspire hopes by agreements and ceremonies, but very difficult to realize them. We will bring about true peace not via an addiction to illusions and false hopes, but via caution, reasoning, resolve and wisdom.

And when that happy day comes - and come it will - we'll salute to Yoni and his friends. And then we'll tell the bereaved families: it is thanks to our dear ones who fell that we've achieved peace.

Greetings,

Benjamin Netanyahu




25.3.98

Mr. Prime Minister,

We received your long and well-argumented letter. I have chosen to relate mainly to one aspect - your promise to do everything creatively in order to get out of Lebanon.

I also promise to do everything creatively so that you don't forget your promise!

In the past month, there has been intensive political activity with respect to Lebanon, the Palestinians and Syria. I want you to know that I'm not taking my eyes off you, and that I ask that this be genuine activity.

We believe that you can bring about peace if you choose the difficult way, which demands courage, resolve, creativity and leadership.

Complicated problems require intelligent, complex solutions making use of the best of minds.

As a bereaved mother, I don't only want to look back onto the pain and the past - I want to look forward, I want you to turn hope into reality, so that the baby about to be born to our daughter Michal can grow up in a more quiet, undisturbed country that is at peace with its neighbors.

Mr. Prime Minister!

Remember Begin and Sadat. They rose above themselves in a dramatic gesture that was larger than life. At a personal risk to themselves, they brought about the first peace treaty and in doing so erased the differences between the left and the right and the disagreements between the people of two countries.

Our region, which is brimming with strife, and our era, which is brimming with communications, require such grand gestures. Mr. Prime Minister!

I believe that you too can do it!

Manuela Dviri



WE, THE PILLAR OF FIRE

The time has come for Israel's minority of the bereaved to get organized and speak up, with power and authority

by Manuela Dviri

(translated from "Ma'ariv," September 29, 1998)

There is a photo of a dead boy in the newspaper. A boy of twenty, handsome. This boy came out of my womb.

I'm the father who mumbles "kadish" by the grave. I returned to work after the "shiv'a" [mourning week] but haven't accomplished much since.

We are the father and the mother moving like shadows in the street, you glance at us stealthily and awkwardly keep your distance.

I'm a serial number in the archives of the Ministry of Defense. I'm the one who doesn't always understand what the clerks are telling her and grows even more confused when they become short-tempered. I'm the one who leaves messages on the answering machines of the officials from the Defense Ministry's Rehabilitation, Welfare and Employment Departments, after being told that I'm gradually becoming a nuisance, that I'm not the only one, and that there are thousands like myself. I'm the one who doesn't get a seat at the Remembrance Day ceremony because their excellencies the dignitaries and their wives have taken up all the front seats.

I'm the one whose son, by dying, bequeathed upon her to live in refuse.

We, the bereaved family, are the most forgotten and neglected community in the country. Our rating is growing constantly and continuously, from one week to the next, from one war to another. And yet, any group of workers with a trade union has greater power than us.

Every minority in Israel has its own representatives: the new immigrants, the totally secular, the national religious, the ultra-orthodox, the left and the right and those in between. The minority of the bereaved has no mouth, no teeth and no representation. In a country with a limited supply of grace and compassion, an unrepresented minority is as good as dead. The truth is, we do receive pity in commercial quantities, but the ruling establishment knows all too well that the bereaved families have no troops, and therefore we can be fed the crumbs of the national cake.

Watch and see: a country that has been characterized and permanently accompanied by bereavement since its establishment has no deputy defense minister for the affairs of bereaved families, and the handling of these affairs has been passed over to a committee of officials who have made up their minds that they're not going to be the ones to get the short end of the stick in the tough negotiations with the bereaved, and that it's the lot of the bereaved to live in a strict regime of forms, approvals and receipts, until they breathe their last.

The days of an average bereaved family are filled with dozens of small humiliations and minor miseries - all the evil spirits come visit them every night, but the state, in its infinite grace, has granted us in our bill of rights only half the cost of a "security" door. What proportion of their income must the state's magnates give up so that the state grant us a full door? The door is but one of a thousand metaphors for the bereaved family's seal of wretchedness.

No more. These very days I'm establishing a movement called The Pillar of Fire, which will speak for the bereaved family, provide it with support and bring it from the neglected margins to the center of the national agenda. I call upon my brothers and sisters, my blood relatives, to cease fruitless, hidden lamentations and revolutionize the way the country and its institutions treat the bereaved.

What am I asking for? Only that the misery of those doomed to live in the shadow of death be a tiny bit more tolerable. We'll also strive to put an end to the mediocrity and lack of creativity characterizing the political life of the right and left - as in the endless war in Lebanon - which leads to the silent agreement that we'll always live in a state of war and that 50 war dead a year is a reasonable price for enjoying cheap weekend deals in Turkey. I call upon the general public, the entire people of Israel: don't stand by, don't remain idle vis-a-vis those whose homes have been penetrated by death. You are not responsible for us, you haven't signed any promissory note for us, but look into your hearts and come towards us. Let's lift this burden together.

My name is Manuela Dviri. Once I was a person like any other. The dead boy in the photo was a son of my old age. He is also a son of yours.







A RESPONSE LETTER TO URI ELITZUR

by Manuela Dviri

(Translated from Ma'ariv, August 28, 1998*)

We, the bereaved family, keep growing from day to day in quiet despair. Our lives appear to continue in an apparently normal manner, but we are crippled forever, wrecked, weeping in light and in darkness, our legs wooden and our eyes gorged.

We recognize one another immediately, we have a unique mourning language, a low vulnerability threshold, identifying marks of people who are both dead and alive, and a heartbreaking look in the eyes. The public, which has come to terms with the continuous blood-letting, 50 victims in a good year, participates in our grief, noblesse oblige, and sweeps us into a dark corner. We are such kill-joys and party poopers. Should I hear one more time the moldy idiotic phrase that has become a must in the political jargon, "We extend our condolences to the bereaved families and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded," I will cry aloud in anguish of heart.

We, the sons of the bereaved family, rejected, neglected and forgotten in the national attic, are of no interest to anyone between one Remembrance Day and the next. Please do not disturb the repose of the neighbors. Of all the notables who paid us a visit during the shiv'a mourning week, only a handful, a scarce few, bothered to give us a call afterwards. Many are afraid to come near us, either because sadness is not good for your health or because we, who have buried a son, husband, father or brother, repel them. Our burden is too heavy for them to carry, we are cursed in their eyes. They fear the curse may be contagious.

This is a most surprising attitude in a country where every mother who sends her son to the army is walking around with a ticking time-bomb. We know only too well: the bereavement burst into our life suddenly, in the midst of a day like any other. A moment earlier we were a regular Israeli family. The following day, a father wailing the kaddish mourning prayer over the son of his old age, and our world was shattered forever.

No more of all this. For too long, we, members of the bereaved community, have been sitting in a remote corner, listening to the bureaucrats and politicians tell us what's good for us. We've been obedient for too long. We've remained on the margins of the convoy for too long. If the society wants our sacrifice but not us, if it ignores and alienates us, we'll take care of one another. If the indifferent and hedonist Israel doesn't hear the hushed crying of the bereaved, we'll learn to scream. Our legs may be wooden, but given no choice, we'll learn to stand upon them.

I call upon my brothers and sisters, a huge and vast crowd - generations of military tombstones from the War of Independence until now - to join me. We won't be able to heal the open wound in our flesh, but we'll alleviate the despair somewhat. The suffering will be slightly more tolerable. I also call upon you -- the entire people of Israel - men and women who have a soul and whose hearts are not sealed, to help us. You are flesh of our flesh. It is only by chance that you are not one of us.

Editor's note: Manuela Dviri's son, Yoni Dviri, was killed in Lebanon on February 27, 1998.

*Translator's note: Uri Elitzur is a Prime Minister's adviser who recently questioned the right of a bereaved father to speak up in public.






Friends talk about a bereaved mother [Yediot Aharonot 12 July 1998 ]

Per amore di Yoni

Manuela Dviri - manuela@interpage.co.il



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