Archive for Soldierisms

The price of coming home again

A few months after I moved to Germany in 2006, palestinian militants tunneled into Israel, infiltrated a military base and seized a 19 year-old israeli soldier by the name of Gilad Shalit. After an unsuccessful attempt by Israel to release Gilad by military means, he remained in isolated captivity for five years and four months, held by Hamas, until an agreement, mediated by Egypt, was reached in October 2011 which would swap Gilad for over 1000 palestinian prisoners, many high-profile terrorists and convicted murderers. On October 18th 2011, the swap took place, and Gilad Shalit, now 25 years old, returned home.

The plight to bring Gilad home greeted me everywhere on my many trips to Israel during the past five years. His face was everywhere – on street signs, posters, stickers and billboards. His parents and activists, many who have never met Gilad, erected a protest camp in front of the Prime Minister’s quarters in Jerusalem. The family’s march across the country was accompanied by thousands. The collective pain by Gilad’s capture was immense and yet, extremely difficult to explain to those who are not familiar with what growing up as an Israeli is ultimately like.

Understanding why Israelis chose to swap a dangerous bunch of convicted killers is a difficult one. So much, to the extent where the foreign media is having a hard time at trying to explain it to their readers. As an Israeli, understanding the necessity of this deal makes almost intuitive sense, even with cognitive dissonance looming in the background.

I explained to someone yesterday over Twitter that Gilad’s return was celebrated in Israel not because he was a “national hero”, but because he was somebody’s son. Israel has national conscription, which means that service in the army is mandatory. Every Israeli goes into the army at the age of 18 and many young soldiers find themselves in situations they didn’t expect and/or didn’t want to be in. I served through the Al-Aqsa Intifada and have lost friends and colleagues to palestinian terrorists. One was shot at point-blank by a palestinian gunman. Another rode over an explosive. One of my brothers served off the coast of Beirut during the 2006 Lebanon war when the INS Hanit was fired upon. He lost some friends that day and it very easily could have been him, on the INS Lahav. A few years later, soldiers from the INS Lahav were wounded when attacked by activists during the Gaza flotilla raid.

It’s an uncomfortable reality, but it’s part of growing up in Israel. Many of us go through our service without seeing combat. Some of us go through it without being confronted with death. Some of us get wounded. Some of us get captured. Some never come home again. Israel’s policy of not leaving it’s soldiers behind comes from the understanding that a soldier is, first and foremost, a young Israeli with friends, family, hopes and dreams for the future. When Israeli soldiers lose their lives in battle or attacks, they are remembered not as military personell or numbers on a sheet of paper, but as sons and daughters.

This is a point which I find terribly difficult to bring across to my non-Israeli friends. In most western countries, military service is not mandatory and those which do have conscription service are not normally under a state of peril. The mentality of “doing your part to protect your neighbor” doesn’t exist (it’s more “doing your part to fight someone else’s war”). On first glance, the release of over 1000 palestinian inmates to secure the return of Gilad Shalit seems irrationally disproportional, but Israelis believed they were fulfilling a moral obligation to bring back one of their own and give him a chance at a future.

This is a strength of Israeli society, and also it’s weakness. There’s no guarantee that the released palestinian militants will not return to terrorism, Hamas played Gilad Shalit as a carefully placed card and took advantage of Israel’s desire to have him returned home at almost any cost. Hamas is widely celebrating the release of the militants, claiming to have demonstrated their superior ability to manipulate Israel. In the meantime, Israelis seem to have developed more of a “fuck you, we’re just happy to see the kid home” attitude, despite the understanding that the entire ordeal may not work out in their favor in the long run.

Personally, I’m relieved to see Gilad home and am excited for his friends and family. I’m happy that Israel is upholding it’s obligation to it’s citizens and am humbled by the great lengths to which the country has agreed to go to in order to bring back one if it’s own. On the other side, I am horrified – not necessarily of the possible direct involvement of the released palestinian militants in future acts of terrorism (although that’s certainly a concern) but the boost that the prisoner release has given Hamas and what this may do to the balance of power in the region in the long-term.

At the end of the day, Gilad is a shy, quiet young man who has probably been through a lot more than any of us should ever have to. And everyone’s just really damn happy to see him home.

My military legacy lives on

While browsing wikipedia and the Israeli Military website yesterday, I came across some stock graphics of military ranks that I did for the army back during my service (which ended in 2002). I was a webdesigner for the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit during my service and if my memory serves, I did these for a presentation.

It’s amusing to come across these after so many years, and it’s even more amusing to see them used officially, and on Wikipedia. It’s not so amusing to see them reduced to low-quality GIFs. :(

icky-icky pah-TANG!

one week from today (well, technically speaking, yesterday.) will be my last day at the office, meaning (duh), that this is my last week wearing a soldier’s uniform. the smell of freedom has become so intense that it reeks. I know that I’ll finally be able to wake up in the morning and pick my wardrobe for the day (stripy socks and loafers, thank YOU!), and I’ll have my own say about how to behave and I’ll finally be able to choose a cup of coffee and a smoke over updating a website, but in retrospect, it seems like I’m leaving alot behind. Army life isn’t just about having commanders with @$%# up their &#$@!, the intense schedule and the routine that wears you out, it’s also the people I worked with for the past year and nine months that I wish I could take along with me. I can’t keep in touch with all of them, most chances are that I’ll keep in touch with less than a few, but I have photos, faxes and memories of waking up in the middle of the night, walking down the hallway and seeing three guys headbanging to “Fade to Black”, singing “ziva” while mopping up the bathroom tiles, breaking a plastic fork while stirring green goop, spending 24 hours in detention, parties, weddings, kareoke (from which I learned to never try and imitate Gwen Stephani), exchanging daily emails on the intranet with my group of synthpoppers and relaxing in the sun, lying on the grass in our yard, with the ducks and bunnies. and what afterwards? well, I got a call today from an animation company conducting a course, worth checking out, and hopefully I’ll score a job at more than just folding clothes. Maybe a job at Stuff. Well, anyway, tomorrow I have another Friday shift, and then I’m going to Danni’s piercing place with noA in order to get a brand spanking new 6mm (3ga) metal tunnel for my earlobe stretching, and, umm, coffee. hopefully I’ll have some time to browse the web as well, I’ve so busy working on my own site that I totally missed the fact that morgan, mike and rayne (I can’t keep up with her) have new layouts. I made a pretty titlepic for flora’s new domain, and I’ve been trying (for the past two hours) to make myself a normal-looking 31×88 button for my new layout, and everything I make ends up turning out looking like a cross between countryside roadkill (the worst kind) and the leftover french fries that have been sitting on my desk in a luchbag for the past four days. Aaaack! somebody make me a button! puuuhweeeze! argh. It’s past my bedtime.

do you know what It’s like when your heart stops beating?

The following post has been published.

you get this sinking feeling in your chest, it lasts for a millisecond which seems like forever, and then, suddenly, without warning, your heart starts beating faster. faster yet, and then some. your face gets all hot and flushed, you find it hard to breathe, and then your eyes swell up in tears.
“What do you mean there was a suicide bombing by my house?!?!?!?” I ask the person on the other side of the phone line. after hanging up I start pacing. back and forth and back again.
“Take me home”, I tell my friend, “wait, no. I need to call my mother.”
after I finally get myself to sit in one place, and light a cigarette, my mom picks up.
“your little brother is missing.” she says, “your father is out looking for him”. and then the cellular phone lines go down.
Yoav takes me up to his house. the second he opens the front door I rush to the TV. 15 wounded. I see my street on the little map they sketch out on the screen. Yoav looks at me. I look at him.
“Are you alright?” he asks “I’m going to go make you a cup of coffee”.
My mother is still not answering her phone. I can’t take my eyes off the screen. I call my dad, no answer. I call my mom again, no answer. a million scenarios rushing though my head at once, making me sick to my stomach. a million “what if”s making me want to take the coffee table and throw it against the wall.
It’s 21:00, an hour after the suicide bombing. I’m sitting with Yoav on a bench under his house, making phone calls. the phone lines are back up, but my brother isn’t home yet. My 11 year-old little brother had gone skateboarding with friends, and for some reason he hadn’t come home. I’m worried. I have tears in my eyes and I won’t let them fall, I love the little bugger and won’t let any damned suicide bomber, murderer, take him away from me.
I call my father.
still no sign.
call my mother once again.
I hear high pitched voices in the background.
“mom, is that him?” I ask. “It is, It is. he’s alright.”
That was all last night. this morning I woke up and found out that some family had lost their little girl. She was standing by the opening to the restaurant and was hurt badly. She died on the operating table last night, at the age of 14.5.
I haven’t been to town since last night, which is just a block away from me. The whole situation is too surreal for me, I’m afraid to see it with my own eyes. My friends, my family and I are all safe and well. we all woke up this morning and got on with our lives. This routine has become a disease, an illness. It’s not right. There’s nothing normal and everyday to let these things come to pass the morning after. It doesn’t make sense to me that we can regard a suicide bombing with 20 injured as a “minor” suicide bombing, just as long as no one was killed, or have a bombing like this one, drop from the news just 24 hours after.
but what can I do? I’m just a 20 year-old with an olive green uniform and commanders, I’m just a little girl who feels her nation needs somebody to hold it’s hand. I’m just a single person, being scared into feeling lucky to be alive.

a boasting blogging bit – I went on a shopping spree

since I get a total sum of about 75$ per month from the army, I’m the queen of all window shoppers. as the saying goes – “look, but don’t touch”, right? in any event, this afternoon, after cashing a check I recieved from my grandmother for my birthday, I went of the biggest shopping spree I’ve gone on since I got drafted. to tell you the absolue truth, I didn’t really spend any more than 60$, but since I’m a bargain buyer, I came up with some great finds and I’m a happy camper. Let’s see – shall we? A pink vinyl shoulderbag with black plastic corks, a pocked hardcover sketchpad and pen, white wife-beater, black/white stripey knee-high socks, various accessories that I don’t really need and of course, the creme de la creme – Madness’ greatest hits. Noakrank is going to kill me that I went shopping without her, but I believe she’ll understand. It was an urge – I’m female – I’m allowed to have those, goddamit! *eh-hem*, in any event, this week is going to be a little hectic, with a little more office overtime and I’m planning on giving Telecart and Itay HTML lessons sometime during the week, plus, my little skater-kid brother is expecting me to take him to a skateshop in tel aviv, I have no idea how I’m going to be doing this. You know, these should be my problems in 10 years. pffft.

pondering at 02:00am, if I could only see the screen!

I think I’m alergic to Yoav. Is it possible to be allergic to a human being? Besides being allergic to a specific perfume or deodorant, is it scientifically possible to be sensitive to a certain person? I’m doing weekend shift and he came to visit me, and was here for about two hours. The second he came in my eyes started both itching, he’s been gone for an hour and a half now and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better. During the week he took me to Starbucks for coffee, and my left eye started watering like mad, and continued watering for the following 24 hours. If indeed I am allergic to him, I’m not planning on cutting him off, so I’m just going to have to suffer, or bring rediculous quantities of soft tissue paper for the next time we get coffee. The thing that bothers be the most, though, is the fact that I have no idea how I’m going to fall asleep with this manic itching going on. I have to be up by 06:45 for gurd duty at 07:00, another thing that makes me worry is that if the itching doesn’t stop, I’m probably going to be all blurry-eyed while guarding, if someone suspicious enters the building I’ll probably pass him off as “a big lump wandering around the lobby, minding his own business”. I’m going to go slip into J’s and try not to itch my eyeballs out. Yoav, if you’re reading this (and I know you are), no hard feelings, but next time we meet I’d pass on the cologne. And sit across the hallway. We can practice our distance-communication skills. Better yet – get a pair of walkie talkies.

no, I can’t move, thankyouverymuch

well, if you’ve read my last post you already know that yesterday, while doing guard duty, I got up from my chair in order to pick up something off the floor and jammed my thigh into the metal drawer that was attached to the guard table. I was sure it was going to leave a black&blue mark the size of Nevada, but since this morning I could hardly move my entire leg, it looks like I must have bruised the muscle. That means I’m pretty much glued into place for the rest of the day, which will give me some time to scour the fine print of the daily paper for some good news. not much. I was shocked to read that the IDF has ordered it’s platoon soldiers not to accept pizza deliveries from, a website where you could, up until now, donate a minimal amount of money in order to feed those hungry mouths in combat (I posted about this site a few days ago as well, under the subject line “give us your money!”). The IDF feels it has reason to believe that pizza deliveries can be booby-trapped, an therefor soldiers have been told not to recieve the pizza, as well as any other care package, unless it has been ordered by the soldiers themselves. So much for that, I had better stop taking for granted the fact that I have Thai take-away across the street from my base. My mother is supposed to be calling the travel agent this afternoon to book tickets for our flight to the states in August. I can’t wait to go, see family, check out schools, shop. I guess the highlight of my trip, though, is going to be on my way out of the US, last stop in NY, where I’m finally going to be meeting Dina, an Israeli living in NY who I have become good friends with ever since she found me online (turns out we have mutual friends and a common “thing” for shoes). We’re going to be meeting up mid September, I can’t promise that when the time comes I’ll be sober enough to post. I’m off now, to search the offices for a cigarette and some painkillers, hopefully I’ll feel better throughout the day.

I’m here! I’m here! ugh!

No, I haven’t gone to DisneyWorld for the week. No, I haven’t been transferred to Jenin. No, I haven’t gone out to sea. I’m right here. Just, ugh, busy. So busy, in fact, that I haven’t had much time to post on my bbs. I’ve been getting emails regarding my dissapearance from netcivilization lately, so I just wanted to assure everyone that I’m still here, but the army and especially have been occupying my time more than I would like. It’s hard being a webmistress, especially for the Military. So please keep patient, the awards will come, so will your dark glitter button exchange submissions, and bbs image hosting requests. I did, however, manage to find some time to upload a new piece of artwork. Comments, well, you know where to put ‘em. (no, I don’t mean your bum, I’m talking about that link under the post.)

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