I'm once again at the end of another 17:4 and am back in Ortal, before I return to the army tomorrow to start it all over again. It was another regular '17', packed with interesting episodes of which I will describe in this blog. Also, I had a simply fantastic weekend in Tel Aviv, releasing all the steam that built up during the 17, by going out with all my friends. I'm now relaxing on the kibbutz, sorting out stuff for the next 17, like packing my bag and downloading movies for my iphone.
During the 17 just passed, I really experienced, for the first time, 'action', as they call it, and first-hand accounts of and personal participation in real security work being done on our border with Gaza. Describing to you in detail some of the crazy stuff that happened is obviously going way beyond what I can talk about as part of the security protocol, but, using my own judgement, I can hint at what sort of things I was involved with, in this last 17. All I'm going to say is that, relatively speaking the border with Gaza is considerably quiet and that the IDF is fully in control of protecting the civilians on our side, yet, incidents do still happen and, being a 'lohem' (fighter) on the 'kav' does mean that I am heavily involved in preventing and dealing with these incidents. One particular incident will forever stay in my mind as it was my first piece of real action and my first live contact with those on the other side of the border. Without talking about what is forbidden by the army intelligence, I will say that I was involved in a sort of "chase and catch" experience, which was definitely the real deal. This all sounds so surreal and I know that I have said many a times before that "I can't believe that me, this North London mummy's boy, is doing all this stuff" but now it has been taken to a new level! When all this action was going on and I was really in the thick of it, I have to admit that it wasn't thoughts of heroic zionism and powerful determination to defend the country that was going through my mind, I was, instead, a little scared and nervous about what was going to happen. Saying this though, the adrenalin was insane and I did enjoy the whole experience, in terms of finally doing something real and meaningful that effectively contributed to defending our country.
Grenades. Enough said.
Life on 'kav' is somewhat enjoyable. Despite the ongoing notion of being a 'toran' (duties, like kitchen and cleaning), which are very annoying, and substantial lack of sleep (I'm averaging about 20-25 hours of sleep a week, no exaggeration!!!), despite all that, I'm having a ball. Playing playstation and watching movies with the guys in my platoon in our surprisingly extensive free time, is all the more fun since we're in the army. These guys are really becoming very close friends (as are the commanders, especially my legendary MM), especially when you can consider that I'm with them for the best part of a month for 24/7 and am experiencing with them this 'kav'. So life in the army, is pretty much better than ever before, I think the fact that there is no shetach or physical challenges improve the morale! Personally, there are also the little things, which give me a morale boost, and help to making an epic 17 day period more bearable, for example, my football team Tottenham's wonderful recent form (I could spend a whole blog on this subject and how when receiving the news about the Arsenal result while on guard duty, a response team was almost sent out to investigate the source of screaming and shouting at the guard tower!!!).
The best bit of the 17 was wihtout doubt when I managed to see my mum, who was here for a week as part of a work trip. Since my parents surprised me at my tekes kumta, I decided to take a little revenge and, after explaining to my mum how there was no way I could take a night off from the army, I turned up at her hotel lobby and got the expected tears! I managed to spend a lovely evening with my mum and ten women from England, to who she was showing Israel and the projects of the charity (United Jewish Israel Appeal of Britain) where she works, in order to raise more money for the Galil region. Although just a short reunion, it was a much needed meet-up, since it was the first time I'd seen my mum since I've been home. Luckily, I won't have to wait much longer, as my parents and grandparents are coming to Israel over the New Year period to see me, and my two weeks holiday to be with them has already been approved by the army. A less-so enjoyable moment in the past month was when I got burnt on my arm from an oven door, while doing kitchen duty. The fact that I will have a scar on my arm from my army service is not a problem, the fact that it is from kitchen duty, instead of something more meaningful is what really got me angry.
Me with my mum (whose arm is around me) and the rest of the women on the trip.
This wednesday was the 1st year 'pazamoledet' (draft anniversary) of the Nov '09 draft, meaning that we have been in the army for a year now, I have actually been a soldier for a little longer due to the Garin Tzabar programme, but November 25th 2009 was the day I received my uniform and went to the tzanchanim training base. A year in the army... wow, how time can fly and yet, I've done so much, I don't want to do a blog reminiscing about all I've been through, as I've done that before, however, it is definitely worth mentioning that I've spent the past year of my life as a soldier. For the rest of my platoon, it was a celebratory night, they'd got through a third of their service, however, the celebration quickly turned to depression as they came to terms with the fact that two years still remain. One needs to understand that as much as the majority of Israelis are happy to give and contribute their part towards the country (this is apparant mainly in 'kravi' and, especially in Tzanchanim, as they are both voluntarily conditioned) the army is still a massive chore; a three-year pause to an Israeli's teenage life, instead of enjoying the supposed best years of your life, they are subject to three years of restricted freedom, being away from home and tough times. This explains why, as much as we (yes, me included) can enjoy our time in the army and understand the importance of what we are doing, we also cannot wait 'till its finished and we can get back to being free!!!
Our 1st year 'pazamoledet', also means that Nov '10 drafted and our sons (children equals a draft a year below you, grandchildren two years!) have finally joined the army. I wish good luck to all those who just joined the army; those in Garin Tzabar, to you Robin and those coming to tzanchanim. I both envy you (because I know what a fantastic year I've had) and am pleased to be where I am now. This week, for the first time, since joining the army, I changed my army boots; giving in my old, worn ones and receiving a new, hard, uncomfortable pair. I was very reluctant to give in my old pair, mainly because of its nostalgia. In those boots I did everything; the gibush for elite tzanchanim, jumped out of plane with them, walked in them for hundreds and hundreds of kilometres including my masa kumta and slept in them for hours and hours. The new boots are very hard and uncomfortable, and wearing them in will take time; one popular method of speeding that process up is to drive over them with a car!! Also, I just wanted to mention how in the IDF olympic games this week, which of the infantry brigades finished in first place... tzanchanim!!
The new boots - not a sratch on them.
That's about all my news from this past month. I've got something coming up next week, where I am being filmed on television because of my personal story, with the blog definitely being an apsect of that. In fact my blog has become quite known in the army and in my company, I remember how the company radio man wanted me to post his mobile phone number on the blog as a way of getting American or English girls! It's another regular 17 on the horizon, once I'm back from that I will write another blog of course...