Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Benefit of a Small Audience

My mother is worried. If her concern was due only to my impending army service, there is little I could do besides offer reassurance and leave it at that. Such is the unenviable fate for the families of Israel! Fortunately my mother's worry has proximate cause, one that can be readily resolved with a little assistance from readers of this blog.

First, some back story:

Over the long afternoons of Rosh Hashanah, I reread the letters of Yoni Netanyahu and Alex Singer, two of the all too many soldiers that have fallen in defense of Israel. Yoni is a national hero, known to one generation as the courageous commander of the daring hostage-rescue mission in 1976 in Entebbe, and to the contemporary era as the older brother and role-model of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Alex is not quite as famous, though to overseas volunteers like myself his story has a special poignancy since Alex was also an American born volunteer in the IDF (Yoni actually was also a chayal boded [a foreign volunteer in the IDF whose family is overseas], as his family moved to the USA in his first year of high school).

Both families responded to the death of their son and brother by publishing the letters he composed while preparing and then serving as a soldier in the IDF. And so today readers can open the pages of The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu (later published under the name Self Portrait of a Hero) and Alex: Building a Life and explore the heart and soul of two remarkable individuals who gave their lives for a people and a cause they sincerely believed in.

I have read both books dozens of times. Since discovering Yoni's Letters at age ten, I have returned to the book repeatedly, each time discovering new insight from a young man who lived a life of startling integrity. Two years ago, in my third year of university, I chanced upon the story of Alex. The words and sketches that fill his letters are the modest twin to the more celebrated written legacy of Yoni. Alex did not command Sayeret Matkal nor was he a recipient of one of Israel's highest military honors. Yet his insights and tribulations as a soldier and officer in the paratroops speak volumes about his courage and humanity.

One can learn a lot from either young man. The lesson my mother took from observing my reading the memoirs of two of Israel's fallen soldiers was worry. And so when she called me a few days after Rosh Hashanah, my mother urged me to look for a publisher of this blog. Now. Today. That is, before anything untoward possibly happens in the future.

The problem, of course, is that with rare exceptions (and I have read the English language exceptions, like Lonely Soldier, Brotherhood of Warriors and Company C!), few folks are excited to read about anybody until something dramatic, usually tragic, occurs. Shock and awe win readers, even if they do not always win wars.

And so, I explained to me mum, the fact that so few people read my blog (and hence make the idea of publishing a book fairly silly) is just as well. I have zero interest in suffering harm to increase readership. If fewer readers means I am safe and sound, then so be it!

Hence, a new policy: If you refrain from becoming a regular reader, I will not be in the least disappointed. Instead I will understand that you are acting out of a sincere desire to keep readership low and hence assure my loved ones that all is well with yours truly!

1 comment:

  1. I'm afraid I can't do that, I've been reading your blog for a while now, and I'm entering the army myself in a few months. But I still sincerely hope nothing will happen to you! :P