Matti Friedman
Apr 1, 2017

There has never been a conflict-free time in Israel. The times between wars carry their own tensions, disputes, incidents and attacks. While there are numerous books about the larger wars and about the relationship between Israel and the Arabs who surround her, little has been written about Israel's presence in Southern Lebanon in the 1980's and '90's. Until now.

Matti Friedman draws from his own and other soldiers’ experiences when writing about Israel’s outposts in Southern Lebanon, in particular, the outpost known as the Pumpkin. These outposts were deemed necessary at the time to protect Northern Israel from attack. Friedman does a beautiful job of illuminating the difference between how actions are viewed when they are happening and when they are over. The advantage of distance can allow one a much greater understanding of events than what is possible during those events.

According to Friedman, the soldiers spent the majority of their time at the Pumpkin waiting for something, most likely a guerrilla attack, to happen. More often than not, when an attack does occur, soldiers (men at the tail end of their teens) end up injured or killed. In the jargon of the army radiomen, flowers are wounded soldiers. Hence the title of the book, Pumpkinflowers. As Friedman points out, all who spent time there were forever changed by the experience. Indeed, he posits that the Lebanon experience foreshadowed the changing nature of coming conflicts.

In his own words: “It was the very beginning of videotaped violence and the media war, which is a war not for territory but for ‘consciousness’.”

Written by Diane H.

Corinth was my neighborhood library when I was a kid.