News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 26, 2006

Former Israeli soldier reminded of past — even during visit to Terre Haute

Former Israeli soldier Leah Zucker traveled halfway around the world to distance herself from her recent past.

But a casual glance at the television prevents her from doing that.

Zucker visited relatives in Terre Haute on Monday during a vacation to the United States intended to take her mind off a stint with the Israel Defense Forces that lasted more than three years. That proved to be difficult as the fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah, a Shiite organization with a stronghold in southern Lebanon, continues to tear apart the region.

“I’m obviously concerned about people I know,” said Zucker, whose military work included patrols along the Israeli borders with Jordan and Egypt.

The conflict has grown, with casualties on both sides. The Associated Press reported that Israeli forces and Hezbollah fighters have exchanged attacks following Hezbollah’s raid on Israeli forces that reportedly left eight soldiers dead and two more abducted earlier this month.

The AP reported that more than 40 Israelis and more than 415 people In Lebanon have died since fighting began.

Lebanon has suffered decades of fighting. Hezbollah was formed when Israeli forces occupied the country in 1982, said Nafhat Nasr, a retired political science professor from DePauw University in Greencastle. The organization became known as a resistance movement and was one of the factors that led to Israeli forces’ withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, Nasr said.

Zucker said Israelis debated over whether or not the military should have withdrawn from southern Lebanon.

“They’re a strong organization,” she said of Hezbollah. “That’s why we hoped we wouldn’t deal with them much.”

Zucker’s oldest brother is currently in basic training, she said, so he won’t be at risk for heading into direct battle for at least several months. Though she is now in the reserves, the Israeli military probably won’t call her to action since she recently finished her service, she said.

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