Pumpkinflowers: A Soldiers Story of a Forgotten War by Matti Friedman“Matti Friedman’s haunting war memoir reminds one of Michael Herr’s unforgettable Vietnam memoir, Dispatches. It, too, is destined to become a classic text on the absurdities of war. Evocative, emotionally wrenching, and yet clear-eyed and dispassionate, Pumpkinflowers is a stunning achievement.” —Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and New York Times bestselling author of The Good Spy
It was one small hilltop in a small, unnamed war in the late 1990s, but it would send out ripples still felt worldwide today. The hill, in Lebanon, was called the Pumpkin; flowers was the military code word for “casualties.” Award-winning writer Matti Friedman re-creates the harrowing experience of a band of young soldiers--the author among them--charged with holding this remote outpost, a task that changed them forever and foreshadowed the unwinnable conflicts the United States would soon confront in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
Part memoir, part reportage, part military history, this powerful narrative captures the birth of today’s chaotic Middle East and the rise of a twenty-first-century type of war in which there is never a clear victor, and media images can be as important as the battle itself. Raw and beautifully rendered, Pumpkinflowers will take its place among classic war narratives by George Orwell, Philip Caputo, and Vasily Grossman. It is an unflinching look at the way we conduct war today.
Fifteen years ago it was a war zone. Next to my high school there was a terror attack. Next to the university there was a terror attack. First time I made sex — terror attack. Much of what you see here in is the aftermath of that time, and every election since has been held in its shadow. The attacks, which killed hundreds of Israeli civilians, ended hopes for a negotiated peace and destroyed the left, which was in power when the wave began.
That phrase contains a few important assumptions. That the conflict is between two actors, Israelis and Palestinians. That it could be resolved by those two actors, and particularly by the stronger side, Israel. If only the perfect wording and map could be found, according to this thinking, if only both sides could be given the right dose of carrots and sticks, peace could ensue. To someone here in Israel, all of this is harder and harder to understand.
The line, more than a decade and many delays in the making, is the new Israel. Or at least what Israel would like to be: a place that can look any Western country in the eye. The Israeli train of is shiny, fast and travels in a straight line. But progress has its victims. Like the old Israel, the old train is sporadically functional. It can take four times as long as the new service and twice as long as driving. We pass near the homes of the Palestinian village Bittir, where an old man looks out from a stone terrace.
He is an op-ed contributor for the New York Times. Matti Friedman grew up in Toronto. Between and the end of , Friedman was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press AP news agency. It was believed that many pages had disappeared from the codex during the Anti-Jewish riots in Aleppo when the Central Synagogue of Aleppo , where the codex was housed, was set on fire and badly damaged. Friedman concludes instead that it arrived in Israel essentially intact, and that a particular Israeli scholar whom he names was most likely responsible for the loss. Moreover, contrary to the usual understanding that the codex was willingly given to the state of Israel, Friedman reports the sealed transcripts of a court battle in which the Jews of Aleppo attempted to recover it from the state.