My own Christmas/Holiday truce

Mt. Avital in the snow.

In the winter of ’75-’76, while serving in an infantry brigade in the Israeli army, I was stationed on Mt. Avital, a mountain on the Golan Heights. Well, actually, it was one of the several extinct volcanoes that dot the heights along the eastern side, next to the close to abandoned Syrian city of Quneitra.  We were tasked with guarding the radar and communications facilities at the top, and patrolling the border below 2 times a day, and lived in stone bunkers. The weather was cold, windy, and at that time, had been snowing for three days and nights. On the third night, it stopped snowing, and my squad wandered out of our bunker to a sight of magic and beauty. As far as we could see, the Heights were covered with a blanked of snow. All of the mine-fields, barbed-wire, military bunkers, outposts, and bases on both sides of the border were covered by the pure, white cover of snow. There were no clouds, but rather a sky filled with the infinite diamond points of stars, punctuated by the silver brightness of a full moon that blinded anyone curious enough to look directly at it. Born and raised in a snowless Los Angeles, I was in awe of the views. Being a soldier, I was in awe by the fact that within three days, all signs of war were hidden right in the open.

Soon, all of the soldiers not on duty in the bunkers were out and about, walking around, looking and enjoying this moment of magic. The stars and moon lit up the fields of war like daylight- we could see everything, and knew that the Syrians were doing the same. Everything on top of the snow was visible, as far as the eye could see. We could not sneak up on them, and they could not sneak up on us (after all, we were up high and looking down). We were too far from being able to get together to play soccer and exchange gifts, but we all knew that an unofficial truce was in effect. Everyone on our mountain, and in our fields of vision was awake and enjoying the weather-induced truce, something that never happened before (we patrolled in the rain, mud, sleet and every other act of the weather).

Well, nearly everyone was enjoying the peace. After a while, the mountain commander came out of his bunker, saw us and started to scream (no surprise there, since he only knew how to scream) at us, to return to our posts , return to duty (odd, since no one on duty had actually left their posts), and go inside. So ended our unofficial truce. But the magic and peace of the moment did not return to the bunker and has remained in me ever since, and I do believe it has stayed with everyone that was there.

Peace to us all.

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