Enough doom and gloom. Forget about useless proximity talks, hooligan uber-Zionists, rabid settlers, the Israel lobby foaming at the mouth over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Instead enjoy some good old-fashioned foot-stomping Israeli pop music. Oh, damn. Here I thought I was going to give you some unalloyed fun entertainment for a change. Even that seems impossible. After you hear this wonderful song, you’ll also hear how even such auditory delight is fraught with political angst Israel-style (Hebrew).
At any rate, Israeli pop artist Aya Corem attended music school with Yonatan Shapira with whom she apparently shared some good times. She wrote a whimsical song about him as her imaginary lover and showed it to him. They laughed over the preposterousness of it all. Shapira was flattered undoubtedly. Never once did he believe he’d be hearing his name blaring from radios all over Israel, the subject of a raging pop hit. Now wherever he travels he hears a song describing him as irresistibly cute and sexy, while in his heart he knows he’s been fired from his job for his political views and that he may be forced to leave the country to earn a living.
The story begins with an intrepid IDF helicopter pilot, very good at what he does, experiencing pangs of remorse when he hears that Israel has dropped a 2,000 lb. bomb on a residential apartment building in Gaza, killing not only a Hamas leader, Salah Shehadeh, but his entire family and everyone else in the building–18 civilians in all. At this, Shapira decided he could no longer fly missions in which he might kill civilians. In 2004, he became a refuser and joined 27 other pilots, the cream of the crop of the IDF officer corps, and wrote a public letter announcing their intent. As with all other such refusers, the IDF sees them as dangerous to morale and prosecutes them to the fullest extent. Eventually, Shapira affiliated with Israeli peace groups like Yesh Gvul and Combatants for Peace.
In the meantime, he went to work as a commercial helicopter pilot flying flying for an Australian company that did maintenance work for an Israeli electric utility. At first, all went well. He was a trusted and respected pilot and employee. He was called upon to train other pilots in some of the most dangerous types of helicopter maneuvers and maintenance work.
Then he announced he planned to attend an academic course in Europe during the summer and that he would only be available to work for a portion of the season. The company, whose executives had expressed hostility to his political activism within the IDF before, notified him that there was no more work for him. They claim he was the equivalent of a lazy employee who thought he deserved summers off. When he asked for a letter of dismissal to prove he had been fired, the CEO tauntingly told him: You want a letter of dismissal, get one from Arafat!
Shapira sued the company with the help of distinguished human rights lawyer Michael Sfard. His former employer claimed they love Shapira and that he’s a swell guy. They just couldn’t find work for him. Other pilots working for the company said they’d be happy to switch schedules to allow him to complete his course. You decide who was telling the truth.
In the meantime, Yonatan Shapira just wanted to work at the job he loves. He wanted to remain in the country he loves. He wanted to continue his activism on behalf of peace. But unfortunately the small-minded and petty were irked by his independence and iconoclasm. They’d rather have a pilot who completed his IDF pilot’s course, did his job, didn’t rock the boat, bombed who he was told to bomb, came home and kissed the wife and kids afterward, etc.
What can I say. Life is complicated. Especially in Israel. Hopefully, since the song and Haaretz article were written a few years ago and Shapira does still live in Israel, some aviation company hopefully appreciated having a pilot about whom a wonderful pop song was written. And Yonatan Shapira went back to being the Israeli he’d like to be. In the meantime, don’t get this get you down too much. Enjoy the song. I assume things worked out for Yonatan and he enjoyed the joke and the song as much as we do.
In the meantime, Shapira is an accomplished musician in his own right and has written this devestating faux lullaby, Sleep, Sleep, to imaginary Israeli children coaxed to sleep as a handsome Israeli pilot plans to drop his bombs on some unsuspecting Palestinian children (possibly):
So come to us, airplane
With a one-ton bomb
Little children will go to sleep now
Up there in the sky
It’s all so good and nice
The angels of death are approaching
So good night, Tomer
Good night, Ilan
Good night, Nati,
Good night Dan
H/ts Ron Kampeas, Dimi Reider, Ori Nir.