We were a company of 30 tanks on an exercise right near some kibbutz .
Estreicher , our commander , spied a bunny coming out of a lettuce field , frightened by the racket we were making .
We were practicing Shooting on the Move , and Estreicher suggested we use the rabbit to represent the enemy .
Estreicher: Hero Unite : Hero Command here . One hundred meters to rabbit target . Forward attack ! Over .
The rabbit didn't give up easily . She continued running in a mad dash to get away from our onslaught and managed to hop over and outrun us .
Until the tanks closed in on her .
She stood there frozen and one of the soldiers bent down and picked her up .
She was breathing so fast , like a little fur - covered heart . She shuddered , and then suddenly she breathed her last .
Igal: We cried like babies .
Woman: Snuff her , then sniffle over her .
Woman: I know Igal from my café in Tel Aviv . I always read his articles about treks to places I'd never dare go myself : masked men in Gaza, armed guys in a cave near Nablus . I'd arrived in Israel for Christmas vacation . The weather was fabulous , the cappuccino as good as always . And then the war in Gaza broke out . Far away - meaning , an hour from Tel Aviv . I called Igal and asked him to take me down to the towns close to Gaza .
Gaza , December 2008
Igal: You see that ? They put a picture of Gaza in the background .
NEWS OF ISRAEL
HALF A MILLION ISRAELIS UNDER FIRE
Igal: The tragedy is over there , but they're not letting us in , so every cat that goes missing over here gets a bigger headline than a hundred of their dead do .
By the time we got down to Ashdod , forty km south of Tel Aviv , the road was almost empty . The rockets make it up here from Gaza .
Igal: Over there you can already see the smoke from " Gaza in Flames . "
Everything is so small here , and the whole of Israel from the Mediterranean in the west to the Jordan in the east , them and us , ten million of us in all we're crowded together on a piece of land smaller than New Jersey .
Igal: When I was in Netivot a week ago , the first place I went was a building damaged by a rocket . There were some girls playing around with a rabbit in the courtyard . They told me their brother Yakir had dreamed of starting a bunny farm to make a little money and go with his father , a crane operator , to see Manchester United . He bought a male and a female , and when his mother chased them out of the apartment , he built them a place in the building's empty bomb shelter , and for years he waited for the next generation's population explosion .
Igal: But on Saturday afternoon , there was an air - raid siren and a neighbor who was watching the Gaza bombing on TV ran out to the bomb shelter , took a piece of shrapnel to his heart , and dropped dead right there in the courtyard . Yakir's sisters told me that all the other neighbors ran in panic to the shelter , and the female rabbit fled ....
Old woman: It's hell out there !
Old man: One rocket , and you're all crying like babies . In Stalingrad , it was worse !
Sheltered person: Hush , Grandpa ! Shoah !
Mom: You're going outside now ? Are you nuts ?
Yakir: I've gotta find her .
Little child: Mommy !
Mom: Yakir !
Sister: Don't you worry my brother will bring you back your wife .
Mom: Get that rat out of here .
Sister: You're the one who wanted him to kick them out of the house and into the shelter . Now al of us are here with him .
Yakir: Bunny , little bunity rabbit !
Yakir: Where are you Baby ? It's dangerous out here !
Rishon LeZion , Israel
Worker: Nadam ? Are you all right ?
Gaza The Palestinian Authority
Worker: You guys are killing us . Yoram . You're destroying everything .
Ground Worker: Are you in a safe place ?
Worker (on the radio): I'm on the crane .
Ground Worker: What're you doing on the crane right now ?
Worker: I came up here with this completely crazy English photographer who's paying good money to take aerial photos of Gaza .
Worker: Whoa man they just hit something right next to us . How about you ?
Ground Worker: Building a mall . Just a sec . the wife's on call waiting .
Mom: You and your bunnies ! Now Yakir is running after her ! Out in the missiles !
Ground Worker (on the phone): What ? The rabbit ran off ?
Mom(on the phone): That's all you care about ? I can't take this anymore ! Get back here right now !
Ground Worker: And who's going to make a Iving ? Who's going to build the mall ?
Ground Worker: Don't step foot out of the shelter . We can see the smoke from here . I'll be back this evening .
Igal: I went there a bunch of times to check out what was happening with the neighbors , the kid and the missing rabbit and to let my readers know , but when I was there I was thinking about Gaza . In the past , when the border was open , every time I went down there I came back depressed . It's hospitable , poor and Sisyphean - where this Cinderella - like sense of hope keeps blooming all the time anew . And then Cinderella turns to ash or commits suicide and we do too , right along with her . It's as if we share the same circulatory system .
In the end we're gonna die together .
Igal: So now I'm stuck here on the one side with the war and people being bombed to death and here on the other , people being scared to death . People are quaking in shelters too , and go argue with the fear of a refugee . It's as everybody's got a never ending exhibition of the painting " The Wandering Jew " in their heads .
On both sides of the border , we're all refugees or the children of refugees , tribes crazy with suffering , just shooting at one another .
Europe Jews 1941
Israel Palestinians 1948
Shmuel Hirsherberg was a painter in Lodz , Poland in 1900 , during the pogroms . He painted the Eternal Jew fleeing a Valley of the Shadow of Death filled with corpses and crosses unto the hope of a national homeland as the only solution for the Jews . And here we are .
Igal: Look , every hill is full of television crews from all over the world filming Gaza from here .
Igal: And here they are next to the Monument to the Gaucho with the Horse and the Dog .
Igal: Another one who dreamed there'd be peace and steak for everyone here .
Woman: Hey ! Igal
Igal: What's the matter ? I almost had an accident !
Woman: I just thought for a second that there was a rabbit in the monument too .
59 Welzmann Street , a break between the air raids .
(computer screen window): White female rabbit with brown spots . Eats mostly carrots . Ran away from Shelter 59 . Finder will get 10 % of profits from sale of litter.
Child: We saw Beber get killed .
Mom: Tell your son not to run away from the shelter again . As far as I'm concerned , your rabbits can all go drop dead .
Dad: Yakir !
Yakir: Just a second Dad .
Yakir: Wow that's beautiful just like in the movies ! We're finally kicking the shit out of them !
Dad: You know I've got a friend in there .
Yakir: What ? You know a guy who's in Hamas ?
Dad: An Arab . We called them Gazans . One of them would even come to stay with us from time to time .
Yakir: What ?! Guys from Hamas stayed at our house ?
Dad: You wouldn't remember , you were ittle it was around the time of the Oslo Accorde . Abir , his son was born around the same time as you ... I was at his house plenty of times .
Yakir: You weren't scared ?
We weren't scared at all . After '67 , when we took over Gaza , we used to go there like we were going abroad . We were poor and over there we felt like millionaires . Grandpa spoke Arabic with them like in Morocco . We bought carpets ... we went to the dentist .
I had a great mechanic there ... I wonder what happened to him ...
Sign: 236603 GAZA GARAGE
Loud speaker: RED ALERT !
Igal: The anti - rocket alarm system is hooked up to speakers that wail " RED ALERT " whenever there's a rocket headed this way . They thought that would be less frightening than a siren . But kids are still wetting their beds .
Dad: Nadam and I were sure that by now you kids would be living in peace . Yeah right .
Sheltered Man: Cossacks . We should kill them all .
Yakir: So what does your friend look like ? Is he armed ?
Dad: More like that rabbit of yours . They dig tunnele .
Yakir: Oh sure . They smuggle missiles . To shoot at us .
They're under blockade so they dig . If this building collapsed on us , wouldn't we start digging to get ourselves out of here ? They dig to get gas through , to bring in sheep , food Coke , weapons too ...
Sheltered person: Enough . You're screwing with the kids mind . They're all murderers over there . They should all be wiped off the face of the earth .
Sheltered woman: Shh . There are children sleeping here .
Sheltered person (half asleep):Wipe them out ...
Dad: I met your mother in Gush Katif in Gaza . We worked together alongside the Arabs at the tomato canning plant . Nadam told me : take a look at that hottie over there in the corner . She was made for you ...
Yakir: Mom was pretty ?
Dad: A bombehel . And skinny too . Before the wedding I went to Gaza to get flowers , sheep , and Nadam and his wife .
Dad: He raises bunnies too .
It was quiet for twenty years , but when I saw how we were humiliating them , I knew that one day they were going to explode on us , and that's what happened .
Dad: And I went back only one more time . After the Withdrawal . I didn't see any bunnies . There was only one left , a big one . I asked - what happened ? Nadam told me : Around here , at the moment , we eat whatever we've got . His children loved them so much .
Yakir: I told you they were murderers .
Dad: They were hungry .
Igal: It's all barricaded and closed . There are like a thousand tunnels . It's a family business . A family that has a tunnel lives off it like it's a rental property . An underground world . You can't barricade life .
We've taught bunnies to live above ground and we've driven human beings underground .
And tractors and plowshares have been beaten into destroyers of homes .
Label on box: IDF PROPERTY
Woman: When I'm in England I miss it here , and when I get here , I just want to go back to Sheffield .
Radio: The Air Force is bombing on the Gaza - Egypt border . The Hamas High Command is holed up in the cellars of Shefa Hospital . There are twenty panic victims In Be'er Sheba .
Woman: Well , that's new - now they're counting panic victims here .
Igal: Completely new . Fortunately for us we're on the " miracle " side of the war . " A pre - school was almost hit , " " panic victims , " " rocket hits an empty building . "
Igal: The other side has mostly homemade rockets , whatever they can get through the tunnels or on a dinghy , anything that ' go boom - boom .
We got into Netivot . I'm finally in the line of fire . In some stupid way , it's a relief . As if I'm less guilty, if , ostensibly , I'm in danger .
Nobody'd gone back to school yet , and the kids were spending their days in the shelters . We went over to Shelter 59. After hearing about them all , I was looking forward to meeting the heroes of Igal's stories .
Sign taped to the building: Beber Vaknin Murdered by Terrorists Memorial Service 10am , Shabbat Ohel Moshe Synagogue
Sister: Hey , Yakir ! It's that guy from the newspaper who was down here before .
Yakir: On yeah !
The kids , bored to tears , got used to all sorts of good Samaritans coming by to entertain the poor schlemiels suffering under the missiles .
Sheltered kid: Are you clowns ? Magicians ? Are you here to do an activity with us ?
Igal: To make a comic book about you .
Mr. Balloon: Yoo hoo !
Mr. Balloon: Hello children . I'm Mr. Balloon . Who wants a missile ?
Sister: Make us a Qasam rocket !
Bodyguard: Bring him in . The area is secured .
Sheltered kid: Look ! It's Bibi!
Bibi: Just make sure the rabbit doesn't get into the shot .
Bibi: We must destroy all the terrorist Infrastructures and not leave a single tunnel .
Mr. Balloon: Here - a crown for you , Mr. Prime Minister - to - be .
Sister: She's back !
Bodyguard: Get him out of here , the area's not secured .
Yakir: Come to me , Sweetheart .
Sheltered kid: Catch her !
Sheltered kid: Over here !
Bibi: Just what I need to be seen on TV with a balloon on my head !
Bodyguard: Sir , we're going back to Jerusalem . We've just gotten word that Sarkozy has landed.