Rafi Horowitz pulled the car to the side of the road, reached across me, opened the glove compartment and pulled out a black semi-automatic pistol in a well-worn leather holster. He clipped it to his belt.

“We should stop,” he said, pointing with his chin to an Israeli couple and small child standing next to their broken-down car in Gaza. A group of Palestinian teenagers — not threatening, just bored-looking — had gathered some yards away.

In those days, you just drove into Gaza from Israel. It was not difficult. Israelis flooded into Gaza to buy cheap produce and to get their cars fixed at endless stretches of auto repair shops.

This was 1981. Israel had been occupying Gaza since the 1967 Six-Day War. Things were generally quiet. Israel had other borders it was more worried about. But Gaza was still Gaza, densely populated, poor, restive.

Horowitz, whose mother’s family had lived in Jerusalem for eight generations, had fought in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence when he was 17. He was a colonel in the army reserve but now worked in the government press office, guiding foreign journalists around.

He believed that many Americans could not understand Israelis, because many Americans had never sacrificed anything for their country. “I tell my children, ‘I live with possibility that you might die,’” Horowitz had told me. “Our life in this country is a continuous war. If you have nothing to die for, you have nothing to live for.”

Not all Israelis believed this. 

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