In a previous post I pondered what this Gaza conflict, Operation Cast Lead, would mean for my army service and training. I wondered whether or not the atmosphere on base would be different, if the commanders would be uberserious and scary, dark and terrible. I wondered if we would get an inside briefing on the situation. I wondered if they'd even tell us what the hell was going to happen to us.
Despite all my wondering, none of the above have turned out to be even remotely necessary. The operation began on a Saturday and we returned from Shabbat off on Sunday. I figured it'd be an odd day, but it turned out to be just like any other day. We got into our work uniforms, ran around a little like chickens with our heads cut off (read: basic training), ate lunch, learned about some weapon or something, did a lot of pushups, etc etc etc, went to sleep.
Not a word about the war was said. I was waiting all day for one of the commanders to say something like, "How are you goofing off when we're at war?!" But no, that guilt trip was never used. They never said, "Stop complaining! My friends from basic training are all in hell right now, literally!" It never happened.
In fact, Sunday was a normal day filled with kicking our butts, plenty of smiles and laughter from all parties, commanders and us greenhorns alike, and an average level of training. That normal Sunday, the first Sunday of the Operation Cast Lead, has turned into a normal three weeks.
The commanders have discussed the war three times, exactly. I'll list them here:
1) The company commander (the officer in charge of my entire group) mentioned the operation, saying something or other about what could happen. I didn't understand what he was saying, so I figured it was a language issue. We got back to the room, however, and all the guys, Israelis, bursted into confused exasperation. They had no idea what he said either, and when they asked our squad commander, he also had no idea. So, the first mention of the situation was worthless.
3) The platoon commander said in passing that Gaza, and I quote verbatim, "May affect our training."
Ah.... you notice I skipped number two, right? Well, I skipped it because our platoon actually had a meaningful conversation about the 'war,' the way the world sees Israel and our treatment in the media, and about Israel's enemies in general. While in the field two weeks ago for a week of learning battle tactics, a normal part of basic, the squad commanders had us sit in a semi-circle. They pulled out a day-old newspaper and began reading the headlines.
It's been too long for me to really recall all the details of what was said, but essentially we had a very open, very fair discussion about the conflict. Echoing the mass of the Israeli public, it seems that the guys are widely in favor of the operation seeking to end the rain of rockets into Israel from Gaza. Similar to me, they also feel no small amount of vexation over Israel's unfair treatment in the media. Most importantly, I heard a genuinely united voice calling for peace.
We read the entire stories of each of the soldiers who by that point had been killed, and though no one knew those boys, I could see real grief in my friends' faces. Good, young kids have been killed, and us Israelis want none of that. But for all of our desire for peace and quiet, our respect for all life, we just can't endure the threat and danger of rockets any longer. Though we all talked about peace, it is (was) a time for war.
So, there has been very little discussion if any about this war. There has been no information given that wasn't read by the commanders ten minutes earlier in the newspaper, if they give that. We don't even know what it would mean for our training to be suspended or modified in some way. We just don't know what's happening, at least to any degree more than you do. Nothing.
But it seems the operation is coming to an end any second now...
And I ask one question that is a poll on the upper right hand corner above the Google Search field here... Should Israel have a cease-fire without the return of Gilad Shalit?