Archive for the ‘Before Deployment’ Category

So now, I know I left you on a bit of a cliffhanger last time – but ya know my fingers were getting tired of typing and I was in the mood for a bit of Facebooking. That being said, I left you off on the question of “What is Bakum?”.

Bakum is a base that all new soldiers are sent to outside of Tel Aviv to get poked and prodded for hours on end. We’ll get immunizations and we’ll get uniforms. We’ll get dog tags and ID cards. We’ll get pushed this way and that by other impatient new soldiers and have no idea what’s going on because it will likely all be in Hebrew. That being said – this could all be a lie, most of what I know about the IDF is from reading online at various sites along with word of mouth from others.

I have idea’s of what to expect but in the back of my mind, I know to expect the unexpected. This is not just the army (something I’ve never experienced before), but also an army in another country. I know enough Hebrew to order my falafel or shawarma with all the stuff I like on it… agvaniot, betzal, salat, chips, ketzat chareef etc. etc. (tomatoes, onions, salad, fries, and a little spicy); but let’s be serious – ordering lunch and preparing yourself for the army are two completely different ball games!

Apparently we’ll be provided with a large duffel bag and we’ll be filling it with tons of stuff the army gives us. Assorted clothing such as T-shirts, underwear and socks to personal items such as a toiletry kit. I’ll have to carry around all this stuff in addition to my large bag that I already have. And as of right now I’m still homeless. Thankfully I should be moving into a place next time I have off.

Tzvika who I sort of introduced you to in my last post has set up a place for me to live on a kibbutz in the North called “Beit Keshet“. The name literally means “House of the Arrow”, not sure how much more bad ass that could get… OH WAIT, it gets seriously more bad ass! Beit Keshet was founded by Palmach members. Palmach was the original special forces unit of the Haganah – the underground Jewish fighting force before Israel’s independence in 1948. I hope the kibbutz is as cool as it sounds, but we’ll see, I’ll be taking it all day by day.

Beit Keshet is about 45 minutes away from my friends kibbutz, and it’s quite a bit further away from the bigger cities of Israel, but I guess that doesn’t really matter considering I’ll probably just want to sleep and watch movies on my time off. That being said, if anyone wants to donate a computer to me, that would be fantastic. I’m writing this entry on my friend Adam’s laptop, but after this one, I will likely have to resort to my iPhone for typing up entries slowly but surely. Hopefully I’ll be able to get all my things in order in the next week or two. I still need to straighten out some details of my cell phone that I just got as well as make sure that my Israeli bank account is functioning the way it’s supposed to.

My payments from the army are supposed to be direct deposit into my bank account so that should be nice once those start rolling in. Unfortunately as of right now I have no way of accessing any money from that account because I still don’t have a bank card! I will need to go to Tel Aviv to pick up my card at some point. I’m less nervous about the army now, and more so just stressed about taking care of everything in an orderly fashion. When I do have time off, it will usually be off on the weekend, which is when everything is closed. I will likely have to request an afternoon off from the army to take care of personal matters (which I’m allowed from time to time thankfully). Right now I’m off to have a glass or two of wine, shower and shave, pack up my things and get ready for tomorrow morning.

Thank you to everyone who has been sending me well wishes and keeping me in their thoughts. I’m sure not everyone understands or agrees with what I’m doing. Hell, I don’t even understand it myself sometimes. All I know is what I’ve said before in another blog post:

I Love you all, and if any of you are wondering why I’m out here doing what I’m doing it’s because when I’m old, gray and wrinkled on my death bed, I’d like to be able to utter these two sentences:

“I’ve been there and I’ve done that.
I’ve seen more than most and experienced life to its fullest.”

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It’s two days before I have to report to the bus station that will eventually take me to Bakum. Now obviously unless you have some sort of odd knowledge of the Israeli army system, or you’ve done this before – you have no idea what Bakum is. So let’s start with a quick rundown of how my army paperwork has gone so far:

  1. I spoke with a man who helps Lone Soldiers – his name is Tzvika. He gave me some pointers on what I should be doing to get into the army.
  2. I got a letter from my Rabbi proving I’m Jewish, I got a letter from my doctor at home saying I’m in good general health and I got a hold of my original birth certificate.
  3. Had a meeting with a guy at the MoD (Ministry of Defense) named Yuval. He gave me a few more pointers which were generally the same as what Tzvika told me.
  4. I took my letter from my Rabbi, my passport and my birth certificate and brought it to the Jewish Agency. There they copied everything and said I should hear back in a few days. As is the case with most offices in Israel, when they say they’ll call – they won’t. I went into the office a week later and asked what was going on, I told them I wasn’t leaving until they fixed it. They had winded up losing all my paperwork and I had to recopy everything. I sat and watched them until they finished my paperwork – with all the signatures and stamps it needed. That’s how you get work done, make them do it.
  5. From the Jewish Agency I took my proof of “Jewishness” and went to the Ministry of Immigration and got myself a fancy sticker in my passport. Isn’t it pretty?

    not sure If I'm supposed to post this? EDIT: removed image (decided it wasn't the best idea...)

  6. Now that I had proof that I’m allowed to stay in the country for two years I headed back to Yuval at the MoD and gave him EVERYTHING I had gathered, including my letter from my doctor saying I’m nice and healthy.
  7. From here Yuval was great, he worked behind the scenes and got everything ready.
  8. I went into the Lishkat Gius (Enlistment Office) in Haifa and had a medical examination, Hebrew test and IQ test. This is called “Tzav Rishon” or “First Order”.
  9. A week after my tests I went into the Lishkat Gius one more time to essentially wait in line three hours just to sign one piece of paper. I’m not even sure why I had to go, but anyway that was a “fun” waste of a day.
  10. From here I went home for 2 weeks and proceeded to miss a few phone calls from the army (oops?). Also while I was away I received a letter in the mail telling me my enlistment date. Eventually when I got back, I got in contact with the army and made another appointment (which I went to today). And so, without further ado this is where I am:

    rain at kfar masaryk

    flooding at kfar masaryk

It’s been raining for days and it’s disgustingly cold, for Israel that is. Everyone here loves it, not sure when the last time they saw rain was, so I guess it’s understandable. Through all of it I trudged through the rain puddles, pushed myself through the blistering wind and eventually, soaked, I made it back to the Lishkat Gius.

Instead of waiting for hours like last time I was here, I only waiting five minutes or so. On top of that I got to sit and talk with a very cute Israeli girl. She took me through some basic info and had me sign a few more papers as well as talk to her about where I’d like to live on my time off. I’m trying to stay on a kibbutz that some of my friends are on, and so hopefully they can make that happen. While waiting for a phone call to come in to confirm some info for me we wrote notes to each other, I wrote her one in Hebrew, and she wrote me one in English:

note

I think we're a match made in heaven.

And so today was a pretty good day. I made it to my friends kibbutz safe and sound. After napping, relaxing, eating and watching a movie I feel good and back in the groove of things. I still need to get a cell phone at some point, but that will be taken care of soon hopefully. And so now when you thought I forgot about it, onto Bakum.

I’ll tell you about Bakum tomorrow. BAZINGA!

I realized that with the numerous comments on the prior post and the split between old blog and new – it made the most sense to create a new post with my responses.

These responses are to the post https://thelonesoldier.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/to-israel-or-not-to-israel as well as to http://europetowhat.com/2010/11/12/to-israel-or-not-to-israel.

Mike: You are correct in saying that the Arab-Israeli conflict started long before most people believe – therefore it is even more complicated than the majority of people think. The modern incarnation of the conflict (post 1920) is only the most recent uprising. It is ingrained in the way each society is brought up, and only grows stronger as time goes on. The longer peace talks go on without a solid negotiation, the harder a compromise will be to achieve.

Nick: Many of those reasons you listed ARE the reasons, all enveloped by a desire to protect the beauty of a country only recently founded (1948) and just as recently trying to be destroyed. A country which before the Jews/Israelis came was mostly arid lands and after which were transformed over time. It’s a desire to serve and preserve the hard work put into changing these lands for the better.

FormerLS: I agree that I will assuredly have a changed outlook after my service. I hope to never lose my morals and ideals however. As much as Gaza is an example, what about the Sinai peninsula? Israel gained peace with Egypt only after giving up that LARGE piece of land and withdrawing all troops and civilians from the land. I think giving up land can potentially work, but only if a stringent plan for both sides is set in place prior. I’m not saying to give up more land than Israel already has, but at some point the settlements will go too far and infuriate the Palestinian government and people. Clearly this is a debate that could go on for ages – and it has. I don’t have the answer and obviously there isn’t one yet, otherwise there would be peace. Please continue to comment as I would love to hear more from an informed veteran as time goes on!

Connie: Thanks for your continued support! A positive attitude is the only way to go through life, climb and strive for more; there’s no point in wallowing in a pit of sorrow when you can be basking in the light of day. Peace is attainable, but only when both sides come to the realization that compromises must be made…

P.S. I never ending up drinking at the airport… was far too exhausted from the travel time. I slept on a bench for 3 hours though!

Hansel: Firstly, let me thank you for your well thought out and well written response. Luckily I saw it in time before I published this response post. As much as the settlements are “meant to be” part of Israel, and many of them may well be included, many of them will also be dissolved into Arab land. I should have phrased that sentence to say that “not all would be included as Israeli lands”. The outliers will likely be turned over, and only those closest to East Jerusalem and other predominantly Jewish settlements/towns will remain in Israeli hands. It’s similar to when Israel was founded, with all the kibbutzim which set the general territorial lines.

I agree with you when you say that the Arab negotiators are using the settlements as a point to delay the talks, but they have the right to. They are trying to get what they want. Regardless of whether Israeli’s withdrew from Gaza as well as the Sinai peninsula, the West Bank and Jerusalem is a much more delicate area with more being at stake. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but according to Palestinians it’s also their capital. Even though many of their main operations are out of Ramallah, how is that different from Israel and Tel Aviv?

I know that there have been plenty of peace treaties that should have been accepted (like the one with Jordan concerning the West Bank), but the fact is that they weren’t. Unfortunate, but the current talks need to start from square one and IMO shouldn’t bring up old talks – it’s just like bringing up old beef with someone you have a new problem with, it never ends well.

As for how many Arabs choose to fight, I obviously do not condone their actions and methods. I can understand how people think of them as “dogs”, but I also realize that it’s not all of them; which is why I specifically labeled terrorists as dogs, and Arabs as people. I believe that most stereotypes and generalizations come from some sort of truth,  but they can also lead to hate which is not deserved by all. It’s because of this that I thank you for your strength in holding your tongue, even against such adversity. Be better than those you don’t respect, otherwise you’re only lowering yourself to their level – but from reading your response, it doesn’t seem like I need to tell you that.

EVERYONE: I’m not sure If I responded to every point you all made, but I tried. Please keep reading and responding, as I love the debating and correspondence. I know I’m not always right, and I would love to learn from others that know more than myself. In the future I may not have as much time to respond, but rest assured I am definitely reading your responses.

Remember: for the latest updates, be sure to become a fan on The Lone Soldier Facebook Page.

Tonight at 7:30pm I’ll be on a Virgin airlines flight to London. At London Heathrow I’ll spend several hours trying to get as drunk as possible for as cheap as possible considering I have a 5 1/2 hour layover there.

In my inebriated state I hope to gain some more insight into why I’m doing what I’m doing other than for shits and giggles and the fact that I’ve got nothing better to do with my time. I’ll talk to people, try to convince them to buy me drinks as a “send me off” and eventually spark up some friendly political debates, hopefully it will pass the time quickly. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ve always got my handy dandy iPhone games and reading.

From London my El Al flight heads over to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, due for arrival at 9pm on Tuesday. Super stoked for 14 1/2 hours of travel time. Should be AWESOME. At least I’ll be back in the warmth of TLV tomorrow night, it’s still in the 70’s during the day, and high 50’s at night. Not too shabby considering I’m looking out my window at some fluffy snow gently blowing around right now.

Time to start packing up my bags, haven’t started that venture yet – and I’m leaving tonight on a jet plane.

This is a re-post from my old blog “EuropeToWhat?!“. As it pertains more to this blog than the old one I’m re-posting it along with the comments. My replies to the comments will be in the comments following the post.

The Debate (slightly edited for grammar and ease of understanding):

“The Head of United Nations in Gaza said today [10/12/10] that the purported easing of the Israeli blockades 5 months ago are only political, not real, and have not shown any improvement in the ability of 1.7 million Gaza residents to receive aid. Gaza’s industry has been devastated over the last 4.5 years since that border has been blockaded. -from BBC World News today”

My Response:

I searched the entire BBC site and can’t find anything referencing that. But nevertheless, if it is true, it’s also still true that the blockade has accomplished it’s goal of limiting qassam rocket attacks directed towards southern Israel. The occasional rockets and mortars which still continue to hit Israel are usually smuggled through Egypt.

I feel bad for the residents of Gaza who are doing nothing wrong, yet at the same time you must understand that the territory is being “governed” by a terrorist organization. Why is Hamas trying so hard to smuggle in rockets and weaponry instead of bringing aid to their own people?

Hamas ruled Gaza and Fatah governed Palestinian territories are completely and undeniably separate. Hamas seized power in Gaza by force and is not an organization which has any interest in discussing peace.

I am not an “extremist” Zionist as you seem to believe that I am, but I do believe in Israel’s right to exist. I had a half hour conversation today with a friend explaining to him how wrong he was to hate the people he refers to as “Arabs”, “they”, “Palestinians”, even sometimes as “dogs”. These words cannot and should not be used interchangeably. “Arabs” are people, “they” is a vast generalization, “Palestinians” are the people who we should be making peace with, and “dogs” are the terrorists attacking civilians.

Do I think Israeli settlements in the West Bank are a good idea? Absolutely not, it’s detrimental to the peace talks and totally pointless in the grand scheme of things. The only reason Israeli’s want to build there is 1. Either they are extreme zionists that believe ALL the land belongs to them or 2. Because in case of a two state solution, those settlements would remain part of Israeli territory (which is most likely not the case anyways).

And so in conclusion I, like another lone soldier I’ve been talking to am joining/thinking of joining the IDF because:
1. Military can be a great experience that not many people get to have
2. I have nothing better to do
3. I like it here in Israel (at least for now) and
4. Maybe, just maybe, I can change a few peoples minds about the way they view the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict.

Citations:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/14/world/middleeast/14mideast.html
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas-Fatah_conflict
  4. personal experience and/or knowledge based on prior education

Your Responses?

I would like to hear the responses to my argument, I am open to all words – so long as they are coherently written and backed by evidence. Let me know about your thoughts!

2 Responses to To Israel, Or Not To Israel

  1. Coherantly written: Of course, as you know I do not drink.
    Evidence: Living in Israel and witnessing with my own eyes.

    Now with that settled, I’ll try to keep this brief…

    One can say that the ‘Jew/Arab’ conflict started with Esau and Ya’akov (YisraEl), or even before that, IshmaEl and Yitsak – although the latter Arab-nation founder was a bit repentive to his brother…

    Arriving in Eretz Yisrael in mid-August 2001, it was a week after the gory Sbarros pizza homicide bombing, the charred remains being one of the first sights I beheld as I walked the streets of Yahrushalom (Yerushalyim). Shortly after that, I was with my now grown foster kids near the shuk when a car bomb exploded a few blocks away, and another homicide bomber ripped his cursed body to shreds on Ben Yehuda street.

    If the Arabs that are still in Israel were not being used as political pawns under the auspices of yasir arabfatlips and hamas to follow, then I would say there would be some sort of solution to the ‘problem’ … but alas, the ‘palestinian-Jordanians’ (yes, many hold passports of Jordan) , were turned away by their own countries of origin and feel stuck. Also, purging the teaching from their schools that ‘Jews must die’ and the other miscellaneous propagandic rhetoric from their schools would be a ‘show of faith’ from their leaders.

    The IDF is one of the most humanitarian military forces in the world, too soft for my liking. There are such policies and procedures in place that favor those who would dream of our annihalation.

    I’ll rest it here, for now, with another snippet from the TaNaK: Yehoshua was commanded to come into the land of Canaan and wipe out all if its inhabitants, not to leave any standing. Instead, the ancient Hebrews mixed and mingled with pagans and the locals at the time. Oi vey…

    More on this as your experiences here become lengthier, and I stick to what I’ve said before: wether in the publishing business or the Israel political landscape, the opinions of those without direct experience are laughable.

    -MK

  2. I don’t have direct experience so feel free to laugh at my opinions.

    A military is a military. That’s my opinion. Draw your own conclusions.

    Now for a question. Why is it that so many people I know end up persuaded towards the IDF after living in Israel for a short time? I’m not looking for the typical response of seeing first hand the threat of safety/annihilation, requirements for citizenship, and passion brought forth by the resilience of both the Israelis and their enemies. If those ARE the reasons, fair enough.

    Come back to NY first or travel further around the world before deciding to enlist. That’s my opinion.

    Brought to you by love,

    Nick

The Letter in the Mail

Posted: November 30, 2010 in Before Deployment
Tags: , , , ,

My deployment letter came in the mail today as confirmed by my friends at the hostel (HaYarkon 48) in Tel Aviv. When I get back to Israel December 6th I will be sure to post a copy of the letter in it’s entirety.

This letter makes the process official, all the paperwork and time I’ve spent has been finalized. December 15th I will be a soldier in the Israeli Army. More on this later, for now I’m spending as much time as possible with friends and family in the good ol’ US of A.