Thursday, 23 September 2010


It's generally never a good idea to volunteer in the army; it could result in you carrying something heavy or working in the kitchen for a day. So when they needed volunteers to close this Shabbat (and obviously no-one volunteered to openly give up their free weekend), the commanders started to volunteer people and, since I was away for a whole month, I was volunteered to close this Shabbat...

It's not so bad though, I have been back on my kibbutz for the first two days of Succot and, despite going back to the army tomorrow to close the weeeknd, I will be out again for Simchat Torah and will get a long weekend next week, which I've been craving for. It's nice to spend the chag on the kibbutz, especially after another one of those weeks, where my physical limits were reached and my mental strength was challenged. This week was 'Tarchat', which was a semi-war week, but for the whole of the Paratrooper brigade. I thought that battalion war week was a big deal, with a lot of resources and money put into it, but that was like a preview show to what went on this week. To understand how big of an operation this exercise was, is quite difficult to explain, just imagine that planes, helicopters, combat engineering units, military veichles, armoured hummers and a whole tank division were used to support the tzanchanim brigade in this operation. The 'hativa' (brigade) itself comprimises of four 'gdudim' (battalions), within each 'gdud' there are four 'plugot' (companies) and then within each 'pluga', there are around four 'mahlakhot' (platoons). Basically, lots and lots of paratroopers. Amongst all these high-ranking generals, experienced lieutenants and the commander of tzanchanim himself... was one little boy who is speaking to you now.

I won't go into detail about the exercise itself, partly because I don't think it's something that needs to be publicly published on the internet, I can, however, tell you about my personal experience of this gigantic operation, which, by the way, was overseen by the Chief of Staff. I returned to the army last week just as my new platoon had nearly finished preparing for this 'tarchat' and, as a special present for not being in the army for a full month, they had kindly left me to take the 'pakal mayim' (water canteen) on my back for the duration of the exercise. In case someone didn't notice the sarcasm there, the pakal mayim was by far the heaviest of anyone's combat bags and I reluctantly carried it on my delicate back for three straight days. In addition to, what felt like a fridge on my back, we wore bulletproof vests, as well as our regular combat vests. The reason for the bulletproof vests is in preparation for the upcoming months, something which I will explain about when I write a blog next week. As I said, I carried all this stuff for the entire exercise and it really stretched my physical limits, especially when we walked for 12 hours straight, through the night, on the sand dunes of the Negev desert!!! There are little words to describe how one can continue to walk like that, but, as per usual, one always seems to be able to, especially when in the atmosphere of the army. I literally broke my back this week for the good of the platoon (in fact, I've been having some serious shoulder and lower back pains since) but at least my hard work was noticed, as my new commander applauded my effort in front of the whole platoon, in this week's pre-weekend meeting, saying how I "carried like a real man".

Dressing up with a couple of my friends from the garin, before Yom Kippur last week.

Things have definitely gone back to how they were, post-holiday, and it feels strangely comforting to be back on the kibbutz in this "broken body" state that I have become used to as part of the combat soldier lifestlye. No, I'm not a sadomasochist who likes being in pain, it's just that having a sore back and my feet in a real mess is something that is normal and routine to me now, something that I was craving a little bit when feeling very foreign and out of routine last week. Anyway, I am feeling very happy now, a complete contrast to this time seven days ago and this has been mainly due to being in the army with my new friends and new commanders. My new samal, especially, who enjoys speaking English with me (something often highly discouraged in the army) has started to call me 'Sammy', which I would normally hate, but he does it in such nm adoring way that I don't seem to mind it. Also, just a quick note, I'm quickly becoming known within the company (of which my platoon is brand new to) as that english-speaking Tottenham fan, alhtough I wasn't so proud of that fact the other day!!

I want to quickly talk about my new company, of which my platoon has just joined. Firstly, I have really settled into my platoon, a mish-mash of people from my old company, guys who I knew but was never in close contact with them, like being in their class or platoon. The guys are really great and most of these people, I will be staying with for the duration of my service, that's quite a significant statement; considering the kind of experiences I will be sharing with them and generally being with these boys 24/7 for the next year and eight months! As a platoon, we have joined a strong, fighting company of battalion 101 of the tzanchanim brigade, called 'Plugat Ha'mivtsayit' (literally translated as Operational Company). It is full of amazing guys and some exceptionally inspiring officers. Each platoon within the comapny has a individual role and speciality (I already know my platoon's role, but will wait to reveal it to you guys, once we start the course for it; it's a rather exciting thing to learn). Anyway, the company is, like all the companies in batttalion 101 and tzanchanim in general, a fantastic one that has performed professionally and successfully in its history of wars and missions. In fact, my company was voted "best company of the brigade" last year, so there are some big expectations to live up to!!!

The sign for my new company.

I'm leaving to go to a reunion of my original platoon tonight, some of whom our now in commanders' course, some of whom are in another company within 101 and a few who are still with me. I'm extremely looking forward to seeing all my old friends and will be a nice way to end the chag, of which has been very enjoyable. Not only did I have good fun with garin here in the kibbutz, but I also had an interesting experience today, where, after receiving a flat tyre last night whilst driving one of the kibbutz's car, I needed to go to the nearby Druzi (non-Muslim arabs who reside in Israel) village to go and get a new tyre!!! I will be back home next Wednesday and will definitely need to write two blogs, one regarding all the interesting things going on this week, and one regarding what's happening in the nearby future, something hugely significant, probably the most exciting and scariest experince I will have, since making aliyah... Hag Samaech to you all!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, my daughter (21) announced to me yesterday she wants to make aliyah. I was googling items pertaining to that and your blog was on the first google page. May I just say what a wonderful young man you are, and you have my admiration, particularly for being so honest and writing well. Your friends and family must be so proud. Well done and G-d bless.