SCENES FROM THE FRONT
Revisiting a War That's Seldom Discussed
Sunday, April 20, 2008
TEL AVIV -- Soon after war unexpectedly broke out on the border between Israel and Lebanon in the summer of 2006, Yariv Mozer, then a 28-year-old Israeli reservist, was called up to the front. With him, he took his rifle and his video camera.
As rockets rained down from Hezbollah guerrillas and as Israeli tanks furiously shot back into the distant hills, Mozer kept the camera tied around his neck with a shoelace.
He videotaped as his fellow troops scurried for cover from incoming fire, as ambulances bearing the wounded raced to the hospital, and as disenchantment grew over a misguided battle plan that left the soldiers feeling, as one tells Mozer's camera, like "somebody fooled us."
The result, a documentary that previewed this month, is offering Israel an unusual chance to remember a war that it would rather forget.
Less than two years after it was fought, the Second Lebanon War is regarded by many Israelis as an embarrassment for a country that has long taken immense pride in its military prowess. Unlike Israel's resounding victories of previous eras, this war's outcome was more muddled: Israel was not defeated, but it did not win, either.
"A semi-military organization of a few thousand men resisted, for a few weeks, the strongest army in the Middle East, which enjoyed full air superiority and size and technological advantages," a government-appointed committee concluded this year.
The war cost Israel 119 soldiers and 45 civilians; more than 1,000 people died in Lebanon, the majority of them civilians.
The fallout from the war included intense criticism of Israel's defense minister and army chief -- both of whom ultimately stepped down -- as well as a public campaign to force the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
No wonder the Second Lebanon War is seldom discussed here anymore.
Mozer's film about the war -- shot, narrated and directed by one of its participants -- is an attempt to restart the conversation.
"My First War" debuted here in early April at the DocAviv Film Festival and will be distributed to theaters in coming weeks. It will be televised nationwide this summer for the second anniversary of the war.
Mozer, who owns a production company in civilian life and is a munitions officer in the reserves, said he did not originally intend to make a movie when he was called up. The camera was intended more for his own peace of mind, allowing him "to separate myself from the reality of war."