A New Way of War

In Pumpkin Flowers, Matti Friedman provides a brief, finely written account of an army outpost in Israel’s security zone in southern Lebanon in the 1990s and the men who served there. ‘Pumpkin’ was the outpost’s name, while ‘flowers’ was the Israeli army’s code word for wounded soldiers. The term, writes Friedman, reflects “a floral preoccupation in our military intended to bestow beauty on ugliness and to allow soldiers distance from the things they might have to describe.” The Pumpkin itself was far from poetic, a “rectangle of earthen embankments the size of a basketball court” where there was “nothing unnecessary to the purposes of allowing you to kill, preventing you from being killed, and keeping you from losing your mind in the meantime.”