Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tanks II

Back at the border position, some time after the troops had moved back, a large and ageing van appeared, playing loud religious songs and decorated with hand-painted signs that read Family Purity, Kosher Food, Charity and Love your fellow Jew. It parked among the military trucks and from within descended a dozen ultra-religious Jews, members of Chabad Lubavitch, a US-based Jewish movement.

They ran towards the soldiers trying to present them with prayer cards, encouragement and a reminder of commandments they should follow. One set up a small green table on the roadside and placed on it a bottle of Coca-Cola and a long, sliced cake. Few of the troops seemed to take any notice.

"Our mission," said Haim Nevo, 50, a tall man with a long, grey beard, "is to save the soldiers, to give them spiritual power." It is something he and his colleagues have done in the past at times of conflict in Israel.

Mr Nevo fought in the Israeli army during the last invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and was even deployed in Beirut. He had an uncompromising view of the justice of this latest war and blamed only Hizbullah for the civilian casualties inflicted on the Lebanese population.

"We should finish Hizbullah off," he said. "If someone wants to live in peace, they can stay here. But if anybody wants to fight, we have to kill them before they come to kill us. It is written in the Torah."

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