Avi Latner 

Hod HaSharon
My name is Avi and I am 37 years old. I live in Hod Hasharon and have three young
children. I work in Tel Aviv for a high-tech company. I grew up in Haifa, but despite
its being a “mixed city”, I did not meet many Arabs.

I was conscripted to the army in March 1997, a month after the helicopter disaster,
and was stationed in a small infantry unit which had lost 22 soldiers in that tragedy —
almost all of them from the same crew. In the two years between 1996 to 1998, 30
soldiers from my unit were killed in Lebanon. My conscripted service was in
Lebanon. During an ambush, two very good friends of mine were killed and almost
one half of the crew was injured, requiring a prolonged rescue under fire.

Throughout this period a group called The Four Mothers was actively demanding the
army’s withdrawal from Lebanon. At first they were ridiculed and were accused of
hurting the morale and endangering the soldiers; but they were adamant and public
opinion began to shift. During the elections, Ehud Barak promised to withdraw from
Lebanon, and in 2000 the Israeli army withdrew from Lebanon indeed . At that time I
was on my “discharge vacation” and the last APC to leave Lebanon was carrying my
friends, after having demolished the outpost at Beaufort.

As a soldier I was unsure whether the Israeli army should withdraw from Lebanon,
but my friends and I felt the futility of our presence there. I was joined the army as
Four Mothers was being established, and discharged just as they accomplished their
goal. I saw history in the making, and realized that a handful of activists had brought
about change.

I felt the urge to be active because of the friends I had loast. I do not act on their
behalf, but rather because of them; and I got my belief that we can bring about
change from The Four Mothers.

During reserve duty, I served in the Occupied Territories and was exposed first hand
to the wrongdoings of the Occupation. After a single day at a checkpoint, I asked to
be stationed in a watch tower far away from people.
Few years later, I moved to the United States with my wife, and my two older
daughters were born there. We had a good income and led a very comfortable life.
One of the reasons we decided to return to Israel was a feeling we had that the
situation in Israel was worsening, and something had to change. I realized that
during the 6 years we stayed in Boston and Philadelphia, I had had conversations
with many more Arabs than in the 21 years I had grown up in Haifa — and Haifa is a
“mixed city”! So I decided that upon my return to Israel, I would be active in a “mixed”
movement — this is how I ended up in Combatants for Peace.

In today’s public atmosphere, even the “privileged” cannot feel safe.This is a time of
crisis. I feel that we are re-living history, but this time the mission is greater by far
than the military withdrawal from Lebanon. A handful of activists will not suffice. You
and I are both needed for this mission. We must all act.
Share on whatsapp
Share on facebook

Share this story

MORE OF OUR STORIES

Personal stories of Palestinians and Israelis who had been a part of the violence or witness to it. Yet they all made the choice to walk the path of non-violent activism and partnership.
Personal stories of Palestinians and Israelis who had been a part of the violence or witness to it. Yet they all made the choice to walk the path of non-violent activism and partnership.