Wow, it feels a very long time since I've been out of the army, 17 days to be precise, which explains why I'm only able to do one blog a month now, so I suppose I better make it a good one. I've successfully survived my first closure of 17 days; something that I'll have to deal with for the duration of my time in Gaza, i.e. the next six months.
Despite being in the army for such a long period, it was actually rather enjoyable (mainly due to interesting episdoes, good company and addictive games on my phone!) and, relatively speaking, I felt the time passed pretty quickly. I go back to the army tomorrow, after having the 4-day weekend, which I used to party in Tel Aviv and relax in Ortal, I am actually not dreading going back and have already got used to this new routine of 17:4. I actually want to go back to the army tomorrow as I'm quite stressed about a number of things here on the outside, mainly being the future of my garin, as many have started to leave the kibbutz and I'm not sure where that leaves me now. I don't want to get into the whole dilemna at the moment but it's causing me to worry insanely and I know that going back to the army will distract me from this problem that could have major consequences for my life here in Israel. It's not that I'm trying to run away from my problems, just that the army is an excellent antidote to worries in your private life and, currently, the army isn't so bad and I'm happy to go back (soldiers across the country will be spitting blood when they read that comment!!!).
No, my feet aren't infected. This is just what happens when you work in the kitchen and your shoes get soaked, causing the red of the boots to stain your socks and feet. Disgusting.
I'm warning you now that this will probably be a very long blog but I'll try to wet your appetite since you've been waiting three weeks since the last one. So I'm now settled in on my new base and have started 'kav Gaza'. The initial never-ending, labour work that I was subject to in the first two weeks has generally died down, but I still have to do kitchen and company duties every so often. Apart from that though, life on base is very relaxed, when not doing something (like guarding or a patrol) then we pretty much have free time, which we spend together as a platoon watching movies or playing on the playstation. Despite this relaxed atmosphere in the company, we have started to do all the work that is needed to be done in the defense and guarding of Israel's border with Gaza. Obviously, I am unable to delve into the details of what that exactly entails but I can say that I have been doing some mounted patrols and other things of the sort. This all sounds very exciting and dangerous and at the forefront of the world's most delicate conflict, and you know what, it is. It definitely is all those things, however, after doing it all solidly, even for just the last three weeks, it has already become just a day's work and the norm of what we do over there. It is surprisingly easy to make the switch from being on a patrol, where one is disciplined, aware and poker-faced, to going back to the rest of the platoon and joking around.
This was a really meaningful day. I filled bags with sand!!!
Despite all this talk of being professional and how any of this stuff hasn't fazed me, I must admit that when we started doing things, I was like a little kid waiting to get his birthday present. For the past year we were in training and now we finally have the chance to put to effect all the things that we've learnt. Aside from that though, for me personally, it was sort of an expectation finally being realised, as when thinking of making aliyah and joining the army, I really wanted to do my part one day and actively help defend Israel, and that is certainly what I am doing now. I can say that during this past 17 alone, I have seen and done some things that will contribute to making sure the residents of the kibbutzim in the area surrounding Gaza will go to bed safe every night. In addition to all this, it's so cool!!! To be part of a mounted patrol, ready to strike upon any threat to our security is a life experience that only a few will ever go through. What I'm doing now, in comparison to my friends at university, really emphasises the gulf between our lives and to think where I find myself after a year's long journey in the army is quite incredible.
This was the final result after two hours of scrubbing a pot in the kitchen. Another really meaningful day!
Like I said, 'kav Gaza' is serious business, which is done professionally by the IDF and it's meticulous standards, nevertheless, in my time in Gaza so far I have noticed the very Israeli 'touch' that is put onto all the work we do out there, I'll explain. Amongst everything; the professionalism of carrying out missions and the seriousness of the work we're doing, there are those moments where you see something and think to yourself "only in Israel"!!! There are many examples of this and I have to share a couple with you guys. Like how in a night patrol, sitting down and drinking coffee is actually part of the routine and even written down on official army schedules!!! What about the time when we had a briefing for a particular patrol, which was then interrupted by half the company who entered the briefing room and turned on the television to check the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball score!!! Or how when on a patrol on Friday night, everyone was called together in the shetach and we did kiddush together. Those sorts of moments will live with me forever, especially the latter one, since it reminds me of who I am and why we fight so hard for our land.
What a difference a year can make! A year later and I definitely look a more assured soldier (with better equipped vest, gun and hat!!!).
I have been very happy within my platoon, making friends with my fellow soldiers and my football-loving commanders. Of course, everyone in the company knows me and there is not a day that goes by where someone doesn't say, in a terrible english accent, "would you like a cup of tea?". I am also known as the Spurs fan, especially since I walk around the company area in a Tottenham shirt, sing Spurs songs in the shower and, like I did last week, go absolutely mental when we win. Recently, I was feeling very confident with my level of hebrew, but since the start of 'kav Gaza' my confidence has defnitely taken a bit of a battering. What with all the new place names and codewords, I'm struggling a little bit to keep up and at one point, needed to take round with me a little notepad and pen to make sure I knew what was going on. So, a message to you MM (company commander) and to you SMP (deputy company commander), I was listening, I just didn't have a clue what you were talking about for a week.
This is my company singing songs and insulting another company in 101. Great moments.
There's a lot more to talk about, but time is precious and I better be going; 4 days at home every month is not a long time. I tried to enlighten you all about what life is like on the 'kav', and I hope you can see that life in the army is really good for me at the moment. I have still been missing my family and friends quite a bit but I'm settling into this new routine of 17:4 and I'm sure everything will be alright. I start 17 again tomorrow, which means the next blog won't be for another three weeks, so check it out then, but continue to leave comments. Shalom.