On With The Show

Where to start….

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated my blog, partially because I’m not quite sure what to write, partially because being in the army somewhat limits the time I have to myself and my writing.

Here goes the update: back in April I drafted to the army ulpan course at the michve alon army base. The course is designed for new immigrants with lower Hebrew levels to get the necessary help they new to succeed in the army. I was placed in the highest level class they offered, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Part of the course included basic training (not on a combat level, just what all soldiers are required to do) at the end of which I was picked to be “חייל מצטיין” “outstanding soldier” which was a wonderful feeling. Getting something right and being acknowledged for it? Nothing better.

After training, we continued with our Hebrew lessons, preparing ourselves for the final test which decides our Hebrew score which can influence the assignment you’re given after the course.

At the end of our course, we were sent to bakkum, the army induction center, to be assigned to our units. I requested to be assigned to הנדסה קרבית- the IDF combat engineering corps. It took about three seconds until they said okay.

That was a month and a half ago.

The last month has been my first month of combat training, and overall it’s been hard, but great. It’s very different here than it was at the course- I’m the only חייל בודד/lone soldier in my platoon. In the course it was something close to a 1:1 ratio. Here, I’m working with a 1:40 ratio. The people here are amazing and helpful and are attempting to change my classroom Hebrew to something a little more…. Israeli.

Speaking English on a day to day basis doesn’t really happen, but I’ve made a friends with a lot of the English speaking Olim on base, which helps. As my parents have likely noticed when I speak to them, my English has started to go a little rusty. It’s strange, going from being fluent in ones mother language to being semi fluent while at the same time becoming more and more fluent with ones new language. I notice that sometimes I need to think in Hebrew to voice a though in English because I’ve forgotten some of the words. It’s incredibly interesting how quick one can adapt.

Army life is hard enough as it is and I’m now beginning to understand on more than an intellectual level why it’s difficult to be a lone soldier. You go home on the weekend: your mother isn’t waiting at the bus stop to pick you up, your parents don’t do your laundry, you don’t have a car, you can’t just fall asleep the minute you get home: there’s stuff you have to do for yourself. all in all, it’s not the same army experience most soldiers have. BUT. There are wonderful people in this country who understand that and do their best to make it as good as possible. My adopted family on kibbutz welcomed me as if I was one of their own, I have endless invitations for a weekend here and there from an enormous network of family, friends, and friends of friends. The army gives me double the monthly stipend as a lone soldier benefit, and they arranged monthly coupons for the supermarket to help me out with food. Our kibbutz store gives us lone soldiers a monthly budget in the store, and our cafeteria gives us hot meals when we’re at home. There have been countless times when I’ve been shopping in uniform and when the cashier heard my accent and found out I was a lone soldier, they gave me a discount and praise and sent me on my way. No matter how crass Israelis may seem, they have a heart of gold.

This experience is wonderful, and it’s barely started. There’s a lot more to come over the horizon.

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Cease fire? We cease, they fire.

On November 21st, after 8 days of fighting, Operation Pillar of Defense ended in a cease fire. So, no more attacks, no more violence, everything is very peaceful now. Right. Even under this cease fire with Hamas, other factions of the Islamic terrorist community are very active in trying to “kill the Jews” wherever they might be found.

Ahmed Ferhani, an Algerian immigrant, was arrested this week on charges of plotting to blow up a synagogue. In New York City. Mr. Ferhani was arrested when he attempted to buy guns, ammunition, and even grenades, allegedly to use to attack a synagogue. Ladies and gentlemen, just because we may or may not be in the Jewish state, does not mean we are outside of the figurative target area of our enemies. Just pointing that out. This is about being Jewish, not being Israeli.

The Reason Why

I’m positive I’m not alone in feeling the shock resulting from the rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas militants hiding in the Gaza strip. In the past few days, over a hundred rockets have been hurled at Israeli towns and cities full of innocent people. This past Saturday, this same militant group attacked an Israeli army vehicle with an anti-tank rocket, critically wounding two soldiers and injuring two more. In the city of Sderot, mere kilometers from the terrorist-governed Gaza strip, residents have less than 15 seconds to reach shelter in the event of a rocket attack.

This is not the first time terrorists have reared their ugly heads in Israel. Last year, there was an attack in a small town called Itamar. Two terrorists broke into a family’s home and slaughtered the father, Uri, the mother, Ruth, and three of their children: Yoav, Elad, and Hadas. Hadas was only four months old. The terrorists beheaded her. This act of cruelty that two men would behead a four month old baby for the simple reason that she was a Jew – that says volumes about “Peace in the Middle East”. Mainly: it cannot happen. To quote Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu – “if the Arabs were to put down their weapons, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons, there would be no more Israel.” We are fighting a war against an enemy who cannot be appeased with anything less than the complete annihilation of the Jewish state and its people.

This is why I will join the IDF. I feel like I need to be a part of the solution. We cannot let them get the better of us. Golda Meir, the first female prime minister of Israel, said “When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.”  We have no choice but to defend our land.

Just to point this out for you skeptics, it’s called the Israeli DEFENSE force.  Not the Israeli “let’s kill the Muslims” force. All we are trying to do is to live in peace. And it seems like that is too much to ask…..

HURRICANE AFTERMATH

I type this blog by the light of a little candle…… right. Even though I don’t have electricity at the moment, it’s not so bad. I still have my phone and my laptop charged up, so I can both talk and write. Now all I need is an internet connection to post this, but I’m not that lucky yet. Still, we must be grateful for what we do have.  I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has offered us sanctuary in their warm homes, and to tell the power company to hurry up. I know that I’m Canadian, but even us Canucks need warmth.

The power company says that it will be seven to fifteen days until power is restored. At first I was shocked! Seven days without power seems like an eternity to me! Let alone fifteen! But I just realized now – seven days? Seven days is nothing, I have nine months until I get to the holy land. The land for which our ancestors waited for forty years in the desert. The land that we had to wait almost 2000 years to reclaim as our own. And now we’re back. And our goal should be to hold onto this land. The land that was promised to our father Abraham many centuries ago by God. The land that in the past 64 years has lost thousands of souls in its defense. And yet we still stand. A country smaller than the state of New Jersey, fighting for our most treasured possessions – our history and our people. So in the whole scheme of things, a few days is really not that much.

That being said, I still do hope the power goes on quickly. It’s cold.

Reporting from under a mountain of blankets,

Aryeh