Just weeks before the Six Day War, Jonathan longed for peace, as he did often in his letters. “I hope it will not come to war. How absurd! Not a soul in Israel wants it. But if war breaks out, I’m positive we’ll come through it victorious, not only because we are strong enough…but also because we have to win.”
He also recognized in the same letter the sense of duty and obligation he felt to fight, if war must come. “If anything should happen, I’m glad I’ll be here and be able to take part. This is my country and my homeland. It is here that I belong.”
In the midst of the Six Day War, he wrote to his lover Tutti — who would later become his wife — of the tragedy of war. “I am eaten up with worry for you. Perhaps in a few days, when it’s all over and we’re together again, perhaps then we’ll smile. Right now it’s a bit hard. When you smile, something inside hurts. Tonight, and maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we’ll be shooting again, again there’ll be dead and wounded. I’ll be all right, but I’m sorry for the others.”
Jonathan entered Harvard in the fall following the Six Day War. In one letter from Cambridge to his brother Benjamin, he spoke of their closeness.
“Even when I was in Israel I didn’t miss anyone at home as much as I missed you. I think the reason may be that you’re the only true friend I ever had, and the fact that I think I reached a perfect understanding with you in nearly all areas,” he wrote.
After his first year at Harvard, Jonathan felt compelled to return to Israel, which was continuing to face conflict with its neighbors. His sense of duty ultimately compelled him to rejoin the army. Writing to his father about his strong desire to defend his nation so it would not be short lived, Jonathan wrote,
“Only if we do that, if we give all we have for the well-being of our country, will Israel remain the State of the Jews. Only then will they not write in the history books that once indeed the Jews roused themselves to action and held on to their land for two decades, but then were overwhelmed and became once more homeless wanderers.”
In a 1969 letter to his parents, Jonathan again made clear his duty to defend his country and the burden that had been placed upon the young men of Israel.
“In another week, I’ll be twenty-three. Time flies, doesn’t it? My years bear down on me with all their weight. Not a as load or a burden, but as the sum of all the long and short moments that have gone into them. On me, on us, the young men of Israel, rests the duty of keeping our country safe. This is a heavy responsibility, which matures us early.”
To his wife Tutti, Jonathan wrote in 1970 of his duty to serve, a duty that would ultimately destroy their marriage.
“Anyone who has something to contribute at present ought to do it. I believe that the Jewish people’s survival depends largely upon Israel – and more than that: that Israel’s survival depends on us — on our capabilities and staying power. It’s enough to read just once all the war slogans of the tens of millions of neighbors, to note their hatred and desire to annihilate us (including you, my wife), to get an extra boost and encouragement for my staying in the army.”
In another 1970 letter, this one addressed to his parents, Jonathan lamented the fact that Israel’s foes refused to sit down and negotiate peace.
“How sad that we cannot achieve peace! For that is all we all want in the end. But the simple fact is that we have no one to talk to. Not one of the Arab states will agree to have peace talks with us.”