Sunday, April 14, 2024

Review: Pumpkinflowers by Matti Friedman

Pumpkinflowers by Matti Friedman (2016-05-31)Pumpkinflowers by Matti Friedman by Matti Friedman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a unique memoir. Friedman tells the history of a hill, called Pumpkin, in the Israel security zone within southern Lebanon. This is where Friedman himself served with the IDF, though he doesn’t start with his service. The first focus is on Avi, a soldier serving at the Pumpkin before Friedman. Then Friedman gets into his service, which was in the late 90s ending with the Israeli pull out of the Lebanon security zone. Then Friedman tells about his fascinating clandestine trip back to the area only a few years later.

The story is intensely personal and poignant. It also gives hints of the world that was to come: IEDs, video taping of terror attacks, the challenges of asymmetric warfare against a civilian embedded enemy. The memoir also gives us glimpses into the debate within Israel about the security zone and how this zone eventually unraveled.

The book is decidedly not political: it’s not about analyzing the arguments for or against the security zone or any other aspect of the conflict. It’s about the soldiers, their families, and their lives: how war impacts and shapes their lives. Though at times brutally honest about the soldier’s experience it is free from hyperbole or dramatics. It doesn’t demonize the enemy and it doesn’t glorify his own side. Like the soldiers on the hill, it just lives in the complexity of the conflict; just tries to survive it.

This is the third Friedman book I’ve read; they have all been amazing. I recommend all of them: Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai and Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel.

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