Rockets, Readiness, and Realization
I didn’t expect my first post to be about this. I didn’t anticipate things would escalate this far, this fast.
I had just finished a post about my recent enlistment into the IDF- my faux pas, troublemaking escapades, personal sentiments, all included. But I couldn’t bring myself to hit the publish button. Not here. Not now. I forced a smile upon seeing pictures my friend put up on Facebook from our Tekes at the end of our 3 week training course for Olim Chadashim heading to be combat soldiers. Seeing myself in olive-green, gun clinging to my side was supposed to be liberating. It was to signify a rebirth, an induction as a citizen of a country which I could finally call home. It was a continuation of a legacy, an emulation of the sacrifices my grandfather z”l made to help the Jewish nation endure. But while it may have been those things, it didn’t feel like those things. When our platoon commander notified us on Thursday about the escalation in Gaza and that our direct commanders were being called back, I drifted elsewhere and stayed there. My minds eye witnessed people fleeing to bomb shelters, lips moving in prayer, hands clutching hands, eyes gazing skyward. The realization blared suddenly, an air raid siren piercing my consciousness. How could I celebrate at a time like this?
It is said there is never a dull moment in Israel and it’s times like these that I wish there were. In 2005, I sat on a hotel bed in Jerusalem, shifting nervously as I watched the disengagement unfold. In 2008, I struggled to explain to my 12-year-old campers that two kidnapped Israeli soldiers were returned dead and one was still missing. In 2009, I stood on Mount Herzl, crying with 1000 strangers at the funeral of a soldier who fell in Operation Cast Lead. And as I write this, in 2012, rockets are plummeting 17 km away from my room on Kibbutz Beerot Yitzchak while Jerusalem residents just heard an air-raid siren for the first time in four decades. But now things are different. The feelings of anticipation, angst, and reassurance, pulsing through this nation feel innate; I’m no longer an artery… I’m a vessel in the heart. For me, as much as I tried to feel part of Israel’s struggles, as a Jew living in America I would be on the outside looking in. As a citizen and soldier of Israel, they’re an indelible part of reality.
On Friday, I was asked if I was going to be sent into Gaza. Rest assured, I replied: after three weeks in the Army, I’m still attempting to master the art of opening manot krav tuna cans (you try opening them in the dark with a can opener modeled in like 1877) But 8 months from now—after basic and advanced training—who knows what will happen. The calculus here is constantly changing, for better and for worse. But what doesn’t change, for Israeli’s, is their amazing ability to adapt and continue life as they know it. Since schools in the south decided to cancel classes, the students on Kibbutz will show up at 6 am tomorrow to work the land. Tomorrow, businessmen will hold meetings in Tel Aviv, the Western Wall will bustle with tourists, and citizens nationwide will exchange verbal blows with a taxi drivers over a 10 shekel price difference, and then, when all is agreed upon, drive off and discuss life like old friends. It’s this “business as usual” approach, this country’s stubborn trust in its army, its elected officials, and its people that makes it persevere. And it’s the thoughts, prayers, and encouragement from those who don’t live here that help us push on.
Tomorrow I head to the Bakum to find out what unit I’m going into. I’m not entirely sure which unit it will be. But whichever one it is, I’ll definitely feel proud to be a part of it.