Saturday, 21 May 2011


It looks like my run of luck of getting out all the time has hit a bad patch. Despite being home this weekend, I will be closing the next three weekends in a row! This is practically unheard of for a man of my oketzing calibre, but sometimes you just have to put in the work, to seep the rewards at the end.

After going back to the army following yom ha'atzmaut, I closed the weekend in the west bank in preparation for the yom ha'nahkbah protests that took place last Sunday. For anyone who doesn't know, yom hanakhbah (day of the disaster in arabic) is the day Palestinians use to commemorate Israel's independence in '48 and the start of the mass Palestinian refuge. On yom hanakhbah, an annual event, demonstrations against Israel normally ensue and this year was no different, if anything was even worse than expected. Of course the protests that happened on Sunday at our borders with Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the west bank, made headlines around the world and we came out as the 'bad guy' once again for preventing people trying to get into our country, while the terrorist attack in tel aviv was quietly swept under the radar. In England, for example, the country is praised for keeping those trying to get in out, but here the anti-Israel press, as per usual, took advantage of the spilled Palestinian blood. As you can tell, it was very annoying for me to read the news on BBC and Sky when I was partially involved in the action and saw things differently. My experience wasn't anything too crazy but I did partake in some protest dispersion and was able to comprehend the instigating and violent nature of their demonstrations.

Resting behind the "wall", in preparation for the protests.

This week in makim marked the 2/3 point in the course, meaning there is just over a month to go, how time flies!! I feel that I have come to an understanding about the course itself and what it tries to instill in us. As much as it attempts to do, the course can never really prepare anyone for the colossal task of being a mefaked (commander). It has, at times, felt like we are merely going through several processes, like this week for example which was guerilla and anti-guerilla warfare, to say that we have learnt it and can therefore tick the appropriate box. I would say, though, that the course does prepare us very well in our professionalism of being a soldier. What I mean by this is the heavy emphasis that is put on becoming experts on all of a solders' criteria; whether that be general fitness, education (history of the army and Israel), combat & warfare and knowing in-depth all the weapons and shooting them, to name but a few. By teaching and training us to be the best soldiers, we can then pass on that knowledge to our own soldiers, and it makes sense that the best soldiers are the ones who are leading others. However, the real way to learn how to be a commander and to take the responsibility for ten soldiers, can only be through experience.

Just because I'm in makim, it doesn't mean the hard, slave-like work has stopped!

As I said beforehand, this week was guerilla/anti-guerilla warfare, something I have done before but was still fun and interesting. Also this week was my turn to be the practicing commander of one of the platoons in the course. This is something that they do as a way of preparing us for what is to come and was something I was quite apprehensive about, since talking in front of and having control of fifteen other soon-to-be commanders is no easy task. However, I actually really enjoyed the week; having some responsibility, knowing the schedule before anyone else and speaking in front of the platoon with confidence that everyone was listening. It was my first real taste of any sort of 'tafkid' (leadership role) in the army and I executed it fairly well, despite it being a major headache dealing with soldiers' problems, chasing after people and having little sleep due to late night meetings with the officer of the platoon. This week has given me confidence and my general opinion on being commander has changed gradually in the duration of the course. Whereas at the start I was more interested in doing the course for the experience and not really thinking about the aftermath, now I have started to properly think about maybe being a commander once I've finished 'makim'. I also led a 4km run this week as part of my duties the practicing mefaked and even though there were a lot of people who were in better shape than me, I finished the run without breaking a sweat, making me realize that it is a lot easier sometimes to lead than to be led, especially in physical exercises since you are distracted from the exertion due to concentrating more on other people.

A very recent edition to my morning routine...

I also wanted to write about something that has been present in my army service practically from day one until now: 'ma'azin'. 'Ma'azin' is the guard in the pluga who watches over the company area and keeps an eye all all the equipment. The 'ma'azin' is obviously a 24 hour post and while those doing company duties occupy it during the day, in the night everyone needs to chip in. Normally, each mahlaka takes it in turns to do ma'azin, meaning on average you do it once every three of four nights at 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Every kravi soldier who has suffered those nights of being woken up to do ma'azin knows exactly what I'm talking about now but you may also find it interesting and amusing too. Now, of course, the best time to be ma'azin is either at the start or at then end of the night; meaning you get a full, night of uninterupted sleep. Being second or second from last is also great as it too means uninterupted sleep, while if your the penultimate ma'azin it means you can get ready in the morning ahead of everyone else without rushing. Being bang in the middle of the night can also be preferable; you sleep well beforehand, guard for a bit and then go back to a sleep for a lengthy period (and by the morning you don't even remember you guarded!). But, when you look at the list for the ma'azin and see that you're third from the end, it doesn't get much worse than that! You sleep well (but still not enough), get up to do your guard duty and then attempt to go back to sleep for an hour, whilst still in uniform because it's too much hassle to get undressed and then re-dressed again. Of course, when you wake up you feel terrible, like you haven't slept at all and it sort of ruins the rest, or at least the start, of the day. The fight for getting a good position in the list is always a constant feature of the pre-sleep routine and the guy who writes up the list is always bombarded with people begging to be the first ma'azin. I could go on and on about this subject; how sometimes miracles happen and you don't get woken up at all (!) or how it is literally impossible to wake up some people, but this can wait for another blog.

Posing with a good friend, with the West Bank as our backdrop.

I couldn't finish this blog without telling about what happened yesterday morning. We were supposed to be leaving early in the morning of Friday, like always, but because of a certain planned event on facebook, there were fears of more protests by Israel's borders. Due to these fears, that were soon publicised throughout the media, the army put a lot of soldiers on standby, including my company in makim. This meant that getting let out to get home was delayed until 9am, which is not as early as one would like to leave base. So by nine o'clock, we were all on our 'aleph' (travelling uniform), sitting on the bus with our bags packed and ready to go. However, beacause of the ongoing fears our exit was delayed even further to 10, then to 11 and then to 12.30. By this time, it was understood that the chance of us getting out at all was very little and everyone, including myself, was beyond depression. To be on aleph, ready to finally go home after two hard weeks in the army and then to be told that you need to close is like having a dagger plunged in your chest. As I've explain numerous times, going home is the most important thing for any soldier, but especially kravi, since we are away from home for such long periods. Eventually, by 1.15pm (ridiculously late), we didn't need to be on standby anymore and we were let out. In all my army service, I have never seen a reaction like it. A massive roar, followed by pure jubilation as every single soldier in the pluga embraced each other (this is meant very literally; I was even kissed on the lips by one of my friends from the mahaaka!!!) in the news that we would be allowed to go home. It did make me appreciate this weekend more and I am happy in the fact that there was no trouble but getting home at 3.30 on a friday afternoon was unacceptable. O well, that's the army and the life of a kravi soldier for you...

Back to the army tomorrow and I'm now going to be closing for the next three weekends in a row, with Shavuot somewhere in the middle as the only break away from the army. This next three weeks will mark the final stage of the course and I will be sure to blog about it when I'm home for Shavuot.

1 comment:

  1. Sam

    Ive been following your blog for a few months and would to thank you for all the effort you've put into it. As someone who is making Aliyah in aug and hoping to serve in the paratroopers when the time comes I've found your blog to be chock full of information I didn't know before.

    D. from California