Yesterday I had the completely unplanned opportunity to watch again, after 50 years, the film “West Side Story” which describes the war between youth gangs in New York City. The members of the “Jets” gang, sons of veteran immigrants from Europe, try to block the settling in the neighbourhood space of the “Sharks” gang, which is made of the sons of Hispanic immigrants from Puerto Rico. What starts as verbal provocations, racist expressions and childish pranks develops into pushing and hand fights and reaches its climax in an organised fight between the leaders of the gangs in which, despite the handshakes and the words of honour, the knives come out. The leader of the “Jets” is stabbed and killed and his friend, who arrives at the scene to moderate and prevent the fight, finds himself picking up a dropped knife and killing the leader of the “Sharks”, who is the brother of his Hispanic girlfriend. He himself is later murdered by a gun shot. The real tragedy in the film is that at no stage does anyone intend that things will go so badly out of control, but before anyone gets a chance to understand what is happening, things do go out of control, and young boys are killed, leaving behind their sobbing lovers.
When the film ended I could not but think again of what happened early on Saturday morning in the “Bubble” pub in Kfar Giladi. Two groups went out on Friday night for a good time in the pub. One was of younger men from Kiryiat Shmona’ and the other of older guys from the area’s villages who went out to celebrate the birthday of one of them. The exact details will, hopefully, become clearer when police will complete gathering evidence and examine CCTV videos, but a few things are already clear now. The members of both groups drank alcohol, and probably not a small amount. Some stupid argument developed between them which continued into a fight. The village men came out of the pub and tried to leave the place in their vehicle but the youngsters did not let go of them and came after them to the car park trying to continue the fight. In the heat of events a 19 year old boy from Kiryiat Shmona was run over and killed.
Nobody came to have a good time in the pub looking for trouble. Nobody intended that someone would get killed. The alcohol refuelled the blood, and before anybody understood what was going on words were said, hand were raised and things went out of control. The lives of two families were destroyed. Enough young men die during their military service, in operations and in training. I lost my best friends this way. Enough young men die in car crashes and in trips abroad. Enough young men die of malignant illnesses. How tragic, unnecessary and pointless it is to add to this sad count young men who die as a direct result of the curse of alcohol and uncontrolled drinking.