The Hebrew of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is very different from the kind I was taught at synagogue. Wounded soldiers are “flowers.” Dead soldiers are “oleanders,” “their dicks were broken.”
“Lebanon,” for the Israeli writer Matti Friedman’s generation, means not just a country—but also the muddied experience of their youth as military conscripts. Basil, Crocus, Cypress and Red Pepper were among the floral names the IDF gave to its outposts in southern Lebanon, a territory it occupied from 1982 until 2000. The Pumpkin was one of those forts and the one in which Friedman served.