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AFTERWORD was late for my meeting with 1 Ofer because I suddenly found myself at the remains of Jerusalem’s Moment Cafe, where a suicide bomber had attacked days before. Passers-by stopped to light memorial candles; dark-skinned workers cleared the rubble. Across the street, Peace Now held a vigil in front of the Prime Minister’s residence, keeping a tally of combined casualties Israeli and Palestinian. A month later, as his troops were reportedly opening fire at close range against Palestinian civilians, Sharon would reveal his horror of such “mixing.” After the suicide bombing at an Arab-owned restaurant inside Israel, he spoke in the Knesset about the “victims of coexistence, those whose worlds fell apart while eating at an Arab restaurant in Haifa, their blood mixing with the blood of Israeli Arabs who were sitting beside them.” The Peace Now banner at Sharon’s resithe Territories: Return to Ourselves.” My first reaction was to be cynical about the slogan’s over-simplicity. But speaking with Ofer was a reminder that “separation” can be on the racist, blood terms of a Sharon, or on the terms of those bordering each other in mutual recognition and dignity. Ofer Beit Halachmi is one of the more than 1,000 Israeli “refuseniks” reserve officers and soldiers who, since September, have refused to serve in the occupied territories. Over 400 of these whose open letter declares that while they will “continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] in any mission that serves Israel’s defense,” they will not “continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve, and humiliate an entire people.” In March, Ha’aretz columnist Israel Harel dismissed “the tiny refusal-toserve movement, which the media inflates beyond any reasonable proportion to its true significance”a sure sign of the group’s growing influence. Knesset member Yossi Sarid of the leftist Meretz party recently decided \(according to that it would be political suicide to give official support to Seruv; nevertheless some Meretz members have publicly expressed their sympathy with the movement. Meanwhile, the IDF is taking a harder line: As of April 13, Seruv reports that 39 officers and soldiers were in Israeli prisons for their refusal, more than the number jailed at the height of the Lebanon war, when the refusal movement began with the group Yesh Gvul Ofer is a rabbinical student at Jerusalem’s Hebrew Union College, where we meet. We speak in English. A third-generation Israeli, he was born two years before the 1967 war. His parents were Polish, anti-religious Zionists. They taught him about his “right to the land:’ and about their wish for Jews to come to Israel. “This was the vision:’ Ofer explains quietly. He grew up in Katzir, the town that would become newsworthy in 2000 when the Israeli Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in favor of an Israeli Arab family challenging the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency’s policy restricting settlement of its properties to Jews. Growing up, Ofer would take walks which might lead him into territories occupied by Israel in 1967, but he never felt that there was a border. After all, it “was not mentioned,” he explains, “and was not visible.” Then came the Lebanon war and what Ofer calls the “first crack.” He entered the army in 1984, going into Lebanon as part of the occupying Israeli army after the principal fighting was done. He was stationed near the Syrian border. Two things happened that winter, both of which have resonance almost 20 years later. First, he realized that nothing he was doing in Lebanon was related to defending Israel. “I was across the border without any real meaning:’ he says. Then the first known suicide bomber struck against a bus of Israeli soldiers. After that, “I found myself defending myself and not defending my country.” Such distinctions threatened to break open the “vision” his parents had instilled, in which individual, military, and state are all one. Israel itself was supposed to be a family. \(Of course, as post-September 11th American boosterism makes clear, simplistic notions of family and nation the old lessons: “Obey the country, obey the government, be a good soldier because it’s the IDF, Israel Defense Forces. . . . We call it tz’vah ha’am, the military of the people.” In 1984, Israel announced its withdrawal from Lebanon. “We decided, `we'”here Ofer shrugs at his own usage, then revises it. “The government decided” to withdraw, but of course to remain in the so-called “security” zone created in southern Lebanon. The withdrawal was simply a lie, as Ofer sees it. Even as he recognized this, he entered his fourth year of army service to begin officer training. In 1985, he was sent to Ramallah and Nablus \(he calls the latter by its Hebrew name, Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip. “I found myself without any visible threat, walking through the streets,” he says. Under orders to “stop what I saw as innocent people,” he would inter Borders and Cracks BY MARK DOW 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5/10/02