Archive for the ‘Guard Duty’ Category

Winding Down

Posted: May 6, 2012 in Guard Duty, Imun
Tags: , , , ,

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I can’t believe it’s come to this point. I’ve been putting off writing about this time. Just when I am really starting to feel like I’m fitting in more and am able to deal with all of the army’s problems, it’s coming to an end.

I decided to write this now (while I’m on base), around two weeks before my last days, so that I’ll have a chance to update then as well (out of the army!). I am typing on a tiny iPhone screen so please forgive any spelling and/or grammar mistakes, it’s much harder editing here than on a big shiny laptop screen!

My last post, which was dreadfully long ago, was a bit of a downer and I apologize for that. It was how I felt then though, and thinking back, I still understand why I felt that way. Maybe it’s because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe I’ve put up with enough crap up until now that it just seems normal, or maybe it’s just that the sun has finally started bronzing my pale, winter frozen skin, but I’ve finally begun feeling a little more relaxed in the army.

I know I’m impatient with others and can easily lose my cool so there have been tough times here. Sometimes I could have acted differently, but under the stressful circumstances, I’d say many of my reactions have been plenty justified. Whichever way you want to look at it, I feel much more at ease now than ever (could it be possible it’s all this herbal tea I’ve been drinking recently? [Aunt Jonnie aren’t you proud?!?])

As a bit of an update on location and what we’re doing, we finally finished our 3 months of imun (training) and have moved onto guarding the northern border of Israel with Lebanon. Won’t say where exactly, because I’m pretty sure it’s one of those things we’re not totally supposed to disclose, but let’s just say it’s on a mountain and it’s windy and cold at night.

Imun was hard. 6 of the hardest days of my life were included in imun. Our Targad (short for Targil Gdud, Battalion Drill) was lengthened from 4 days to 6, on the day we were supposed to leave. It rained 5 1/2 days of the 6. It snowed one morning. We slept one night (Shabbat). The rest was composed of trudging through mud all night resting every few hours to catch a quick 15 min cat nap. Days and some nights were drills in the field. No sleeping bags, no change of clothes and a 60 lb bag on our backs at all times (not including combat vest and gun). I could write a book about that week, so let’s just leave it at this: I have never, and never want to ever feel like I felt that week again.

Our new base is small and close knit, not like the other places we’ve been. I think this is part of the reason I’m adapting more easily here. I love all but one of the 7 other people in my room here. We’ve really started to get along great the past month and a half; sharing glasses of tea or coffee, fixing our gear together or just plain ironically being equally annoyed at the inequalities present in work loads.

I’ve hated this place for so long and now I feel like I’m going to miss it a lot when I’m done. I could sign on more time, but I know it’s not the right thing to do. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do here, but it still has been an interesting and memorable experience.

I’ll be happy to put down my gun, but I know I’ll miss the pride I’ve had in carrying it.

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Has it really been close to 3 months since I last wrote a blog post?!?!?! Wow, I’m sorry to you (readers) and to myself. As much as this is a help guide to wanna-be lone soldiers, it’s also a chronicle for myself and others about what life is like in the IDF. I update a lot on Facebook (which if you’re a fan, you know is quite a bit), but I also should have been updating more here as well. With blog posts I can go more in detail and make sure my memories aren’t lost!

I’ve been back in Israel and on base for 2 weeks and already a ton has happened (or not happened). I’m home at my kibbutz now alone because my girlfriend was lucky enough to be selected to be a soldier on a Taglit (Birthright) trip. She’s traveling all around Israel for 10 days with a bunch of 20 somethings from the Philadelphia area, being their companion and guide through this holy land. She helps them with their questions and introduces them to Israeli idea’s and things they probably wouldn’t see or hear otherwise, along with answering the dumb question here or there of “HAVE YOU EVER SHOT ANYONE?!?!?!?!”. Contrary to popular belief, no, we soldiers in the IDF do not just walk around shooting people for the fun of it.

So now, where was I before I was sitting at my new computer eating strawberries from the shuk (market) in Tel Aviv? Where was I before two weeks of guard duty on the border of the West Bank? Why I was at home of course! Home in beautiful New York eating lox and cream cheese bagels, amaaaaaazing pizza and having the “occasional” beer or 10.

they're just as good as they look 🙂

Home was great. Really, I couldn’t have asked for much more. I saw my family and friends, I caught up on sleep, rode my motorcycle a few times, I ate A LOT, partied a bit too much and generally just did all the things I can’t or don’t have time to do here in Israel. There’s not much to explain about being home, you can’t explain the feeling of returning to a place that you’ve known for 23 years after a year of being gone. It’s just that, returning home. Most things are comfortably the same, with a few changes of the local stores. It’s nice that most things don’t change. It’s reassuring that there are things that don’t change every day. Keeps me sane at least.

Returning to Israel a couple days later than I was supposed to due to a screw up on the army’s behalf was a pretty good bonus for once. Apparently they were beginning to think that I had run away, until I showed up and explained what had happened with my plane tickets. Long story short the army sent me to get my plane tickets the day before I was supposed to leave, so obviously there weren’t any tickets left, so the travel agent just added the lost days onto the end. Returning was bittersweet. I liked that I would have something to occupy my time with again, but I missed home the second I was on the plane. It was hard knowing that the next time I would be home would be a minimum of another 6 months or so. All is well now though, I’ve come to peace with finishing up here and doing my duty that I have signed up for. June 15th is the day I’m done, unless they give me some really good reason to sign extra time? an interesting course or something maybe?

For those of you out of the loop, since finishing my training at my original base I’ve been stationed between the Israeli settlement of Tsofim and the Arab city of Qalqilya, Check out the area here on a map. We do various different forms of guard duty there. I can’t go very in depth here, but it ranges from guard duty on base, to patrols and lookout towers on the border of Israel and Qalqiliya which is part of the West Bank. It’s very tiring work and after being on base for 2 weeks all anyone wants to do is go home and sleep. Some shifts go up to 12 hours… and in one location you sleep there for several days on end, taking turns guarding with the other people there. No showers, no change of clothes, and you make your own food there!

Next week I’ll be moving bases again… but that’s for next blog. For now, I will give you a short photo essay to sum up my last month or so. I wish I could post more, but remembering our chats during training – I probably shouldn’t post some pictures that I have in case they got in the wrong hands, and that’s weird that I actually think like that now.

I got to see tons of family including my niece (Helen) and nephew (Sam, pictured here). It was great to see them after such a long time. I think Sam liked my motorcycle as much as I do! P.S. Don't worry mom's around the world, this motorcycle was never moving with him on it!

how I missed unkosher deli sandwiches. sorry but I don't think I can ever give it up!

My grandparents had their 64th anniversary while I was home!

Ben Gurion Airport... Returning to the land.

We built our own army Chanukiah for Chanukah!!! What do you think?

Thought it was a cool looking view while I was guarding...

I know this sorta looks like a Hess truck from the holidays, but it's a real truck the police and soon the army will use here! It's a Ford that's been heavily customized by an Israeli company!

SUFGANIOT!!!! Our Battalion commanders father was kind enough to buy/donate a ton of donuts for all of us during Chanukah... WOW they were good!

Another view from guard duty. Barbed wire isn't always the nicest thing to see, but it's unfortunately needed in a lot of area's around the border. I liked the contrast with the natural surroundings for this picture

A checkpoint near a border to check ID's of Israeli's and Palestinians alike crossing the border. A public area so I felt it ok to show. Many people cross this border every day to go to one side or the other to work.

I recently got an upgrade from my old Vietnam era M16, to a much nicer M4! Very happy about it. Now I fit in with everyone else 🙂

If you made it to here, Thanks for reading, thanks for looking at my pictures and if you’re a regular, sorry for the long wait for a new post! I hope to post more frequently now that I have my own (new) laptop, and have gotten a little more back into a regular schedule. Hope you’ve enjoyed and make sure to like and share my facebook page, that’s where the most frequent updates are! Till next time, enjoy!