Excerpts from Part 3
On April 13, 1975, an armed attack on Christians occurred in the Christian Beirut suburb of Ain al Rummaneh. Six people were killed. Believing the attackers to be Palestinian, Christian militiamen avenged the assault by attacking a busload of Palestinian civilians traveling between two refugee camps. Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed.
A simmering Lebanon erupted into a vicious civil war.
Muslims fought Christians...Palestinians fought Lebanese...Druze fought Maronites... With no single group strong enough to defeat all others, the government of Lebanon collapsed. Syrian intervention brought Israelis into the conflict.
In 1977, Menachem Begin was elected Prime Minister of Israel. Having lost his parents and a brother in Nazi concentration camps, Begin saw the face of Hitler on any enemy of the Jews. Taking an uncompromising position toward the Palestinians, Begin came to see opportunity in the Lebanese War...an opportunity for Israel to defeat its Palestinian enemies. Using the June 3, 1982, PLO attack on Israel's ambassador to Great Britain, Shlomo Argov, as an excuse, Begin ordered the Israeli Military to invade Lebanon on June 6, 1982.
August 12, 1982
At her home in Jerusalem, Ester Gale pulled the curtains and opened the door leading onto the small balcony. The light had seemed dim from inside the room, but Ester could see that the sun was already bright yellow. She decided the day was going to be hot.
While waiting for her husband and daughter to return from the post office, Ester busied herself in the kitchen, brewing strong coffee. They had not heard from Michel in over two weeks and Ester was worried. The disastrous war in Lebanon was proving deadly. Ester knew that neither she, nor Joseph, could survive the loss of another child.
Ester heard the front door open and hurried to see if a letter had arrived from Michel. Without asking, she knew the answer when she saw the satisfied smiles mirrored on Joseph's and Jordan's faces.
"Joseph! A letter?"
"Yes, darling." Joseph held out the unopened communication for Ester to see. "A nice fat letter."
Even after forty-four years of marriage, Joseph felt his face grow warm at the sight of his wife. In spite of the horrific conditions she had endured during World War II, Ester was still a beautiful woman and looked a full ten years younger than her sixty-two years.
Jordan nudged her father on his back. "Open the letter!" she demanded. She hopped over to her mother, giving her a quick hug, before saying, "Pop refused to open the letter before we got home!"
Ester smiled up at her tall, vivacious daughter, whose face was glowing in anticipation. She stroked Jordan's long red hair. "Come into the kitchen. I have coffee and rolls. We'll read the letter together."
After pouring three cups of coffee, Ester settled into one chair and propped her feet on the wooden prongs of another. With Joseph and Jordan looking on, she opened Michel's letter. Ester frowned in disappointment when she saw there was nothing more than a one-page letter accompanied by a stack of photographs. Before studying the pictures, she read aloud the nearly illegible black scribbles her son had made on the white paper.
August 1, 1982 at 11 PM
Dear Mom, Pop, and Little Sister,
Remember that old saying, it might be easy to get into a war, but it's not so easy to get out of it? That's Lebanon! I feel we have been in Lebanon for two years rather than two months. Trying to clear out the terrorists is a lot more difficult than I had imagined. The slums in West Beirut are filled with Arafat's fighters and until we can go in and clean out the nest of the viper, nothing will be resolved. We know that Shatila and Sabra are teeming with terrorists, so we are concentrating our efforts on the camps. Today, our pilots flew over 120 sorties. Plus, our ground forces are moving in from the West and the South and the good boys of the Navy are bombarding PLO positions.
I've asked myself a million times, why don't the Palestinians just give up and go away? There is no longer a place for them in this part of the world.
I won't bore you with war talk. I'm fat and sassy and no longer in any danger. Actually, to the Lebanese Christians here in East Beirut, we are heroes and even the little girls throw flowers in our path. (Don't tell Dinah, but the big girls make us feel welcome in other ways!)
Seriously, if we can only make the Palestinians vanish, Lebanon would be a terrific neighbor. So, maybe this war will accomplish something when all is said and done.
I'm sending Swiss chocolates and Danish cookies by one of my pals who has a minor leg wound and is being sent home. You would be astonished at the goodies I have purchased: Christian East Beirut is like one big shopping centre. It's hard to believe these people have been embroiled in a civil war for years!
So you see, there is no need to worry about me. I am quite safe. See enclosed pics to prove my point! A big kiss to you all...
Your loving son and big brother,
© The Sasson Corporation • Rights to publish Ester's Child owned by Windsor-Brooke Books, LLC.
Excerpts from Part 3