Friday, 17 September 2010

Understanding why I'm here

It has been a very eventful week for me; after returning to Israel and having some "post-being home" depression, I went back to the army for a couple of days, experienced a nightmare journey home yesterday and also re-found that passion and determination that I was looking for, following a difficult return to Israel. I am now back on my kibbutz for Yom Kippur and am pleased to be reunited with my garin friends who I hadn't seen for a month.

Surprisingly, I was actually looking forward to be going back to the army at the start of this week. Partly to see my friends from the army and to get back into the swing of things, but mainly because I knew that going back to the army would distract me from feeling low and that my mind would have to concentrate on army stuff and not be thinking about leaving home. And I was right. I was back in the army by Tuesday evening (after landing in Israel on Monday night) and it definitely made me feel better, or at least helped me to forget about how I was feeling before and how I was missing home. I was only in the army two days this week, before we went home on Thursday, but quite a lot happened. I was welcomed back to the news that most of my good friends in the army had gone to commanders' course and the company that I had been in since the start of my service, that of boys from November '09 draft, had disbanded. Don't worry, the disbandment happens to every company once it reaches the end of its first year in the army. The ramifications of finishing my first year in the army (a year consisting of training and qualification) and the ceremony that we have to commerate this event, will be explained properly next week and I'll also explain which company and platoon I have moved to and what that means exactly.

By moving platoon and company it means that I'm with people that I've never been with before(within a platoon) and three brand new commanders, a new samal and a new platoon commander. Thankfully, all my commanders are really great guys and my platoon commander especially, is a real 'gever' (dude). I have also quickly bonded with the boys in my platoon and I already have had multiple offers to stay round at their houses. After joining my new platoon, I got straight back into business; I recieved a new gun (an M4) and within an hour of coming back, had to do a 'madas' (P.E.). The madas was 4km 'easy', easy for the rest of the platoon maybe, for me however, after doing no exercise for a full month, it was a bit of challenge to try and catch my breath! The army did make me feel a lot better and all the feelings that I had at the start of the week were but a distant memory. By the way, thanks to everyone who made me feel better with messages of support, it felt good to know that people wanted to help me get through that difficult time.

This Thursday, before leaving to go home for Yom Kippur, we attended a very special ceremony, an annual memorial service for all the paratroopers who had died while serving the country. In attendance were the families of the soldiers who had perished, as well as the IDF Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. It was a very moving ceremony, but I spent most of the time trying to look for a way home, getting back to Kibbutz Ortal from Rehovot at 8pm is quite a mission. In the end, disaster struck for me, when I missed the bus back to the north and I had to take an alternative journey back home, a journey which spanned nearly six hours!!! It was a nightmare situation and I broke down a little bit, returning to what I was like earlier on in the week. Luckily for me, my amazing kibutz mum, Netta, came to pick me up at 1.15am and I did manage to get back to my kibbutz. This weekend has reitterated for me the stresses of being a lone soldier and living in the extreme north of Israel, not only did I get back so late on Thursday, but I also have to leave the kibbutz on Saturday, straight after the fast, in order to arrive to base on time on Sunday morning. Despite being in this manic situation, I am not feeling depressed because of what happened on Thursday...

In trying to get back up north on Thursday night, I managed to get on one of the buses that was taking the families (of the fallen soldiers) back to their homes. Amidst all my panicking, I realised how pathetic all my complaining was, due to the company on the bus. How could I be complaining about arriving home late, when these families were mourning their loved ones. It was then that I re-discovered the determination and drive that I was missing at the start of the week. To be in the IDF and help to defend the borders of our homeland and the people who reside there, is the perfect way of showing that those young men did not die in vain. That is exactly why I made aliyah, why I joined the army and why, even after an simply faultless visit back home, I can return to Israel and the army with the same drive and determination that I came here with a year ago. I felt honoured to be on the bus with those who had lost fathers, husbands, brothers and sons in the name of our people, and I was proud to be wearing the uniform of the Israeli army and the red beret of the Paratroopers brigade.

To be at the end of a week like this is very relieving and I feel it is fitting that today was Yom Kippur. I said my sorries, successfully fasted and saw Spurs finally find their feet in the Premiership (!), and I do now feel mentally stronger (having passed and conquered a very low point), purer (following Yom Kippur) and more motivated (after spending time with those families). It has been an exceptionally hard week, but one that I am happy to say I have experienced as a learning curve, on which I have built on to feel happier. I hope everyone fasted well and, as they say in Israel, 'hatima tova' (may you be inscribed in the book of life). I will hopefully be home next weekend for Succot, so I will update you all with my upcoming week.

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