While touring Israel I stopped at a number of battlefields along the Syrian border in the Golan Heights area and I also made a swing south along the Gaza strip. There I visited the site of Operation Black Arrow, where — in 1955 — Israeli paratroopers attacked an Egyptian Army outpost.
Military sites fascinate me, both professionally and as a hobby, so I couldn’t bypass the chance to look into this location. From the slight rise of land where the monument is located the entire area of the operation spread before me, plain to see. More importantly, across the intervening valley I was able to catch one of the best panoramic views of the Gaza strip. Its dense clusters of high rises showing in stark contrast to the fallow land, sandwiched between the demilitarized zone and the Mediterranean Sea.
This pit-stop, nothing more than a quick inquisitive highway pull-off among all the archeological wonders of Israel, suddenly got much more interesting, much more potentially dangerous, and much more NQR, when — lone tourist that I was — I suddenly found myself in the company of an Israeli squad of soldiers. They moved through the grounds of the monument and then dismounted from a troop-carrying vehicle to fan out in the valley in front of me.
While trying to take a picture of Gaza, I accidentally caught them on film. I don’t know if they were training or conducting live operations but seeing them in the empty space between the Israeli settlements and the fenced-off area of Gaza’s high-rises drove home how much more real and immediate the war in Israel is. When combined with the 1955 battle and its memorial, one gets a sense of perpetual and deep-rooted struggle on both sides of the wire.