Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

A Warrior?

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Imun, Tzanchanim
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sikat Lochem (Warrior's Pin)

As of yesterday, I’m a Soldier, a Fighter and/or a Warrior. Or at least that’s what the pin on my uniform says. The Sikat Lochem (Lit. Warrior’s/Fighter’s/Soldier’s Pin) is given to soldiers after they complete their “Maslool” or Course. This course encompasses all of basic training, advanced training, sitting on kav (border guard duty) and for us in my unit also some more imun (training). I personally don’t feel any different, nor do I feel any more like a soldier now than I did two days ago. Maybe that’s just my own mind being accustomed to the things we do every day. It’s totally normal for me to go sleep outside for 3 days at a time, shoot a hundred bullets in 20 minutes and run up and down hills all day.

Am I what I thought I would be over a year ago? That’s a difficult question to answer. I’ve done things I never thought possible (ie. Masa Koomta, our 65 KM hike to get our Beret’s), but then I’ve also done some of the most mundane tasks ever (ie. washing dishes for 15 hours).

Am I some super soldier running around like Rambo? Definitely not, but I think it’s been a good experience over all, even if there was a lot of stressful times and just plain wasted times…

I only have a few months left, and like I just recently explained to my Mefaked Pluga (Company Commander) in a closed meeting at the beginning of the week, I really don’t have any reason to sign more time. I explained to him that I wasn’t offered any interesting courses to learn more, and I haven’t had a real tafkeed (job) in the army. I’m just a simple soldier (chapash). The Negev machine gun that I had been trained on was eventually given to someone else in my squad and I never got trained on anything else. I explained to him that I wasn’t being treated the way I had been promised and that I was growing tired of the lackadaisical attitude of both the other soldiers and of the mefakdim (commanders).

While in this meeting he kept saying how he understood where I was coming from and that he was upset to hear how I felt and how I was being treated, but meanwhile he repeatedly checked his phone during the conversation. I understand he’s a busy guy (in charge of over 100 soldiers), but if you’re going to try to tell me you care… put down your damn cell phone for 15 minutes. He wanted me to see the big picture he kept repeating, which is the problem… I do see the big picture, and I see that it’s flawed.

I say all this because I feel like I’ve been stuck in a rut and I can’t get out. I just made aliyah and all my mefaked had to say was “great, now get back to base” instead of the “Mazel Tov! Congratulations!!!” I was expecting. Side story: I met a friend at Nefesh B’Nefesh also making aliyah at the same time. I overheard her conversation with her commander in karakal (the unisex combat battalion), and her commander was ecstatic and happy and had no problem with her coming back to base the next morning instead of rushing back that night. So hopefully you can see why I’m a bit down.

Adding to this whole situation while everyone else was taking a month long course for an advanced rocket system, I was in the kitchen and doing guard duty with just 6 other people. Then this past week and next week I’ll be in the field with a different machlakah (platoon) than my own. The reason for this? They don’t have enough people and they need someone who hasn’t taken the course that everyone else did… so basically I’m just getting screwed over again. After this weekend we will be closing 21 days on base, something everyone said would never happen during imun (training). Everyone said we’d be getting out most weekends, and now we’ve been closing most… To add to that, we’ll be in the field every week of these 21 days.

Shetach, The Field. Where we Eat, Sleep, and Walk in the blistering cold.

We've finished training! Now we're allowed to light our tuna on fire to make it taste better!!!

We had one nice day last week – our Tiul Sof Maslool (End of Course trip). We traveled around the Golan Heights a bit to a bunker overlooking Syria and heard some old war tales. And then went on a really nice hike to the river El-Al (yes, like the airline), and finally ended the day with a couple hours at Hamat Gadar, a built up establishment with natural hot sulfur water. As amazingly relaxing as it was at the end of the day, all I could think about was how 202, and 890 (the other battalions) both got 3 day trips… and we got 1 day. Sorry for the pessimism.

View on the way to the river at the bottom

went swimming in that water for about 30 seconds... WOW IT WAS COLD!

I hate to sound like such a depressed “shavooz” person, but that’s where I’m at right now. I’m just trying to get what I have to do done, and carry on. I’ve started drinking more coffee during the day from my nice new Pakal Cafe (coffee kit) I got from NBN which helps quite a bit ­čÖé

Seriously... Thank you Nefesh B'Nefesh - this gets me through my day.

As I think about the beer I’m going to drink later tonight I smile and hope that the coming very difficult weeks will pass quickly and without too many stress wrinkles forming on my forehead… A toast from my fraternity in Buffalo which seems fitting for the people around me and the situation I’m in:

Here’s to you, Here’s to me, Friends forever we shall be, But if we ever, Cease to be, F&CK YOU, Here’s to me!!!

Dear Kids in the USA,

I know you’re not really “kids” but it seemed like a good title so it’s staying. For those of you who are confused, this is an open and public letter to the young ladies and gents at Solomon Schechter Westchester. This letter has been a long time coming, but if you read my blog regularly you should know that I’m a pretty busy guy. This weekend alone I went to a wedding, a bar mitzvah, shopping at the supermarket and mall, spoke on skype with my parents and two friends, watched a movie AND wrote this blog. I’d like to take a second to congratulate myself on spending my time wisely. Congratulations! ::pats self on back::

I would normally use this time to write about what I did in the army this week, but it can be summed up in a sentence or two so I’ll do that now before my letter starts. We re-learned everything we learned at Mikveh Alon. We wasted some time. And then we learned more. All week long we had lessons on guns, hand grenades, bullets, doctors, dentists, ranks of commanders etc. etc. I could write a lot about it, but that would take away from what I’m really here for now; also it’s probably not that interesting unless you’re there in person.

My good friend from school teaches Hebrew at Solomon Schechter and will apparently be following my footsteps and joining the IDF soon?!?! That’s another story for possibly another time. Besides that though, he was in Israel with his class and visiting friends around a month ago. He brought me letters from all his students in class. So finally without further ado, here begins my actual letter:

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to all of you for the letters! It really means a lot to me to receive personalized letters from people in the states who truly appreciate what I’m doing. It makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile and reminds me after a hard week of why I’m here. You are all amazing! It seems that some of you know more Hebrew than I do at this point… maybe you can give me lessons?

I think it’s great that your growing up learning Hebrew in the States and learning at a school like Solomon Schechter. I say in all honesty that I wish I had gone to a school like yours when I was younger. I can’t complain too much because the public schools in my area are great and I learned a lot there. But even with going to Hebrew School I didn’t get nearly as much education as you all will be. Please don’t take it for granted! Learn as much as you can while you’re there, you never know what you’ll want to do in the future!

And here’s a quick rant for all of you – I don’t know what they tell you about Israel in school, but don’t listen to just one person’s opinions. Read the news, and I don’t mean one website, get the whole story. Read the NY Times, Read BBC, Read CNN, Read HaAretz, Read the Jerusalem Post and so on and so forth. They all report, but they all have their biases. Love Israel, but know the facts. Don’t hate Palestinians, hate terrorists. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is black and white. I’m not here because I’m a diehard zionist, I’m here for dozens of reasons that are spread all throughout this blog and will continue to unfold in the future. Sorry if I went on a tangent that you didn’t like, but I thought I should put that out there.

Hopefully some of you will be back in Israel at some point and I can show you around, I’ll be here for a little longer ­čśë

Love to all the USA,
Me.

I got into the 101st Airborne!!!

My time in the army, although short in the grand scheme of my service as a whole, has taught me enormous amounts already. I appreciate everything outside the army as if I were a baby taking his first lick of an ice-cream. Life is sweet, and far too few people are tasting it!

Listening to music has become a privilege, not a necessity, as it seemed to become throughout my time in university. If music wasn’t playing while out of class, and sometimes even in class, life seemed quite and boring. With that thought in mind, I realize now that everyone listening to music 24/7 is missing out on all the beautiful auditory nuances of everyday life. I’ve also become aware that on top of what everyone’s missing out on, listening to music ALL the time also dilutes the meaning behind the very music we care so dearly about.

Looking at the mountains and all of nature when getting off for a weekend is like discovering a new continent. I feel like Columbus (or was it Leif Ericsson?) taking his first step onto the Americas. I am Neil Armstrong on the moon, I am Buzz Lightyear taking first flight. Seeing the same surroundings all week long (even though the base has a gorgeous view) lets me savor and enjoy every sight I see on my brief weekends off.

Smells bring back vivid memories of sweet experiences, wonderful times in the past and the inevitable awkwardness of growing up. Being a child, being a student, being a dirty backpacker. All great things to reminisce about when one has the time to think their own thoughts.

Tasting the crazy foods of the Middle East is a totally new experience in and of it’s own. Most people know me as a garbage disposal eater so I love shoveling down all these new flavors! I eat avocado nearly every day, somewhat of a “delicacy” in the states, where as here it’s just a casual food to throw on a piece of toast…

And who can forget about the sense of touch. Even with my extremely callused hands from countless pushups on gravel, touching something soft is a pleasure unrivaled. A plush blanket, a furry dog, or the gentle caress of a woman…

Change has occurred, which I normally don’t like. I usually like things to stay the same, to be comfortable, but I guess that has changed as well. Life is all about moderation, something I’ve realized in the past, but even more so now. Mix it up and enjoy the good things in life. Appreciate the things you have, because it could be much, much different.

the sweet isn’t as sweet without the sour!

So after a little over a week of being in the army and having two weekends off (since we started on a Wednesday) I’ve finally begun to get into the groove of how everything works. Bakum ended up being EXACTLY like what everyone told me it would be like. Four shots of who know’s what immunizations that made my arm sore for two days, lots of pictures, X-rays and fingerprints. All the imaging was for in case we get some random part of our body blown off – which is pretty much the exact words they used when I asked what it was for… very comforting. We received ID card’s and dog tags, but obviously only after a bajillion more questions that I’ve already answered numerous times before. Bakum was just a long day of BLAAHHHHH. Beyond all the tedious tasks, I did meet some cool people that day that I still see around and talk to at the base, so the time there wasn’t a complete waste. The next week, starting on Sunday morning, was when everything really started up.

My Hebrew obviously isn’t anywhere near sufficient to be a soldier but it’s growing by leaps and bounds everyday.┬áKnowing that the little area in my brain called the┬áleft temporal lobe is terrible at┬ácomprehending┬álanguage I’ve been surprised by how quickly I’m picking up words and sayings. From a young age I’ve always been terrible with language; I couldn’t tell the difference between a “b” and “d” – true story. The schools also told my parents to stop teaching me Swedish because I couldn’t tell the difference between Swedish and English – true story. Knowing this, I still jumped off the high dive into the Israeli Army instead of the US Army. I’m what you’d call a “mefager” in hebrew – a damned retard.

I'm too sexy... I'm too sexy... I'm too sexy for my beret?

Speaking of the US Army – I realize now that I would completely dominate it. Other than my lack of Hebrew skill I’m excelling beyond nearly everyone else at every other aspect of the Army. Our first physical test I maxed out the push ups and sit-ups. I came in 4th in the 2 km run. 76 push ups, 88 sit-ups and about a 9 minute run later I felt like I could do it all over again. Taking apart our M-16 A1 I had no problem taking it apart and┬áreassembling it in under a minute and a half. Clearly I realize I’m tooting my own horn a bit, but for those of you who know me – that’s not something new. The Army has humbled me quiet a bit however, mostly due to my lack of language skills. I need to listen more than speak and I rely more on my skill of understanding than my skill of smack talk. Smack talk is reserved for Adam – my friend, army pal and blog nemesis. Adam if you’re reading this, your blog sucks – come to the dark side.

The M-16 I took apart is an old piece of crap from the Vietnam War that the US basically handed to Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Apparently the US sold them for a buck a piece. Hell I would have bought a couple hundred myself for that price. We’ve had to lug the old thing around the whole past week – you forget it somewhere and you’re screwed. I like my M-16 though, her names ShaNayNay – she’s big and she’s black (meh, I thought it was clever when we were all naming our “neshakeem” aka weapons). Apparently the “onesh” or punishment for forgetting it is automatic shabbat – basically meaning you don’t get the weekend off. Considering next weekend is New Years – I’m holding onto that thing like a fat kid to his cake this week.

man I wish this was an M-16!

ShaNayNay is heavy and a royal pain in the arse to run with but she/it’s also the coolest thing we’ve gotten our gritty hands on so I guess it’s worth it. This coming week we’ll be doing target practice with lasers??? Whatever, I guess I came to the army just to go to a high tech LazerTron. Apparently we’ll be doing live shooting in two weeks though – I’m really looking forwards to that, mostly because I know I’m gonna be awesome at it and it’ll make up for the fact that everyone else in my unit knows more Hebrew than I do.

ma baby girl

Tzevet Tesha – or Unit 9 is my unit. A bunch of freaks, but I love em. Tzevet Tesha is made up of: a couple of Ruski’s that speak barely any English, a Ukrainian kid Demetri who’s speaks English and quite a bit of Hebrew, a chill Venezualan named Josh who speaks English, Spanish and Hebrew, a Brasillian, and a few Americans. I get along with everyone pretty well even though some of them can be complete idiot’s sometimes. I just don’t think they’ve realized they’re in the Army yet. I’ll update on my unit more as I get to know them better. I’m trying to keep an open mind… key word is trying.

“Trying” is the name of the game during training in the IDF, as I’m sure is the same in most other civilized armies in the world as well. They don’t really care if you’re number 1 or not – they’d rather see that you’re motivated and putting your effort into the game. I call it a game because that’s really all that “tironut” or training is. Tironut is glorified pledging all over again.

I pledged a fraternity in college (won’t name which one, but you can probably guess) which didn’t have an “I’m gonna beat the shit out of you” hazing process – but it also wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine either. Eating gross stuff, push ups, sit-ups, wall sits, running, getting yelled at – that sort of harmless stuff. And I say harmless because although I recognize that it technically is hazing I really don’t think it affected me adversely in any way. What I do believe is that it made me a stronger person mentally and physically. It also prepared me for how I’d be treated during the Army.

All day long we get barked at by 20-25 year old women who clearly have some inanimate object stuck far up their asses. EVERYTIME we move somewhere we have to count down from 10 in Hebrew the last 10 seconds of the time we were allotted. Otherwise it’s pushups and running. Or maybe it’s just running for the sake of running. Or maybe it’s pushups because they purposely didn’t give us enough time to get to where we were supposed to be going. I think you can understand where I’m going with this. If you don’t get it, it’s probably because you haven’t pledged or haven’t served in the Army. I won’t say you’re better off, because I know pledging was interesting and the Army sure as hell seems entertaining enough.

More entertaining is what happened this weekend. This weekend I went to another kibbutz with one the soldiers from my kibbutz called Maagen Michael which is supposed to be the nicest in the country. The stories are true. This place was amazing. It’s made all of it’s money off of some plastic factory that makes toilet parts – random. Whatever they do, they do it right. They’re a 10 minute walk from the beach, there are crazy exotic plants growing everywhere and the food is FANTASTIC. Best thing is, if you live there – you don’t pay for didily squat, it’s a kibbutz. Long story short Elan (my friend) and I passed out cold before we went to the party were were supposed to go to there. We slept around 14 hours – I really needed it. Shit happens, oh well. I met some more cool people though and Josh from my Tzevet lives there so I got to meet up with him. I met a Jewish, Swedish girl who just made aliyah and speaks Hebrew… WTF? For friends of mine, you know It was like seeing myself but in hot girl form. All in all, a relaxing interesting weekend even though I missed out on a party – there’s always next weekend that’s already in the planning…

Maagen Michael

I have to wake up in about 5 hours to get back to the Army tomorrow so I’m gonna cut this entry a little short. I have some other things written down that I had wanted to write about but I guess they’ll either just have to go on Facebook or wait till next weekend. I created a Flickr page for my phone pictures so check that out in the meanwhile (there’s only a few for now). Sorry guys I know how much you want to read about my awesome 19 hour pledge fests, but I have another one to prepare for tomorrow so it’ll have to wait.

L’hetraot” (See you later)

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,┬á 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.