Mother Jones interview

By Max J. Rosenthal

May 21, 2016

In 1999, a Canadian-Israeli teenager named Matti Friedman went to war as an Israeli soldier. He manned a small hilltop outpost called the Pumpkin, one of a string of Israeli bases that stretched across southern Lebanon and served as both a defensive buffer for the towns of northern Israel and a magnet for attacks by Hezbollah fighters. But while thousands of Israeli soldiers served at such outposts in that “security zone” during the 1980s and 1990s, Friedman says their war has been forgotten—not just in Israel but in the United States and other countries that would soon find themselves in similar conflicts.

“People lost friends, they lost limbs, they lost kids—and basically no one’s talked about it since it ended,” says Friedman, who is now a freelance journalist in Israel and the author of Pumpkinflowers, a newly released memoir of his time at the outpost. It’s both an instant-classic war diary—Friedman’s intensely self-aware writing captures all the flavors of boredom, humor, and occasional panic that marked life in Lebanon—and a brief, fascinating history of Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. The second part is necessary, he says, because Israeli society is allowing the conflict to simply fade away. He points out that the war in southern Lebanon hasn’t been given “a name or a military ribbon or a monument or a history.” Even his term for it, the “security zone war,” is one he coined himself.

“It left very deep personal memories for people but it left basically no collective memory,” Friedman says. “When I was doing research I was constantly trying to explain to people what [war] I meant.” Pumpkinflowers, he hopes, will convince Israelis—and others—to start “writing about it and thinking about it as a period that’s worth remembering.

“It left very deep personal memories for people but it left basically no collective memory.”

Friedman recently spoke with Mother Jones about the book, which was published on May 3.

(Read more here.)