Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Misread Motives of a Clan Culture

A mounted patrol; inside an armored Jeep, just rolling around the city, looking for trouble. Tired, as usual. Bored, but waiting for that sudden adrenaline rush, as usual. Making our way down the main road, heading to a volatile intersection. Playing on Facebook, alert, but letting the front-seat commander take the helm. Waiting. As usual.

Commotion up front. "What the hell...," I hear. Pulling over to the side of the road. "ROCKS!" Stopped on the shoulder.

I swung open the rear doors, which I face in the Jeep. BOOOOM! BOOOOM! An enormous crashing sound shocks me; a deeply explosive reverberation causes me to jump in my seat. Sparks fly from hulking pieces of metal, the metal itself sailing into the air no less than five feet. They slam down, throwing more electric white sparks in all directions. An absolutely devestating direct hit.

Just as I opened those doors, two large cars, one a van, and another a truck, hit nothing less than boulders on the main highway. It all was happening less than fifty feet away, directly across from me. Cars whizzed by on one side of the road at 60 miles per hour, and on the other screeching brakes rang through the late autumn night. Time to go to work.

I finally breathe.


For an entire week, someone was placing large rocks, very large rocks, on this main highway which connects al-Madina al-Muqadassah to the rest of Israel. It is an arterial road, and it travels from Israel-proper into the West Bank, and back out again. The route is shared by Jews and Arabs alike, but runs through largely Arab villages around this area. As you would imagine, our first instinct in a case like this is that the Arabs were trying to disrupt Israeli travel, as well as simply being basic vehicular vandalism.

The first instance of this attack came about four days before my aforementioned experience. I was sitting around our base when I heard on the deputy company commander's radio that there was a "road accident." As usual, all types of forces jumped to the scene. When they returned, we had a briefing about the situation, especially since it happened in close proximity to an outlying Arab neighborhood that had quickly become our most troubled and violent zone. The basic assessment was what you'd imagine: crude terrorism.

But night after night, even with our increased security on that road, whoever it was began upping the ante. It started with a couple rocks on the road, ones they obviously could have thrown from the ditch. Then, there were massive rocks, one that even the World's Strongest Man competitors would have sighed before. After that, on the third night, they got really smart. We found that they had covered those boulders, which they must have rolled onto the highway, with cardboard boxes. They figured that cars traveling at night, at high speed, would rather run through cardboard then screech and bang off the side-rails.

It was high time for us to catch them in the act. We sent a squad in at night to sit on the opposite side of the road, night vision goggles (NVG) and thermal and all that, and just wait. The perpetrators were acting in just about the same place every time, so we felt fairly confident that we'd at least see them. And if no one blew it, we could even sneak up on them and bag 'em. Why would this night be any different, after all, since they had already felt emboldened enough to go out three nights in a row?

And sure enough, they appeared. I'll repeat what my friend said to me, who was on that mission. "We were sitting out there and our commander told us to take off our vests. We wanted to be able to run and catch them. I had the NVG, so I was just sitting there staring at the road. Our boy in the security tower behind us was watching with thermal. Man, when I saw them come out I got so excited! I was sitting there not taking my eyes off the road for about two hours!"

"Don't you get kinda too relaxed and discouraged after the first hour," I asked.

"Yeah, but we KNEW they'd be coming. They had to. Why not? So I was watching, and sure enough, there they were. The tower was talking to us, real quietly, whispering, telling us exactly how many there were, what they were doing, you know. It felt like a movie. I thought I was in a movie, man. I was watching them stand in the ditch and toss the rocks up onto the road."

"Were they kids?"

"No! They were big. I was surprised as hell. They were like mid-20's, I'd say. Not kids, and not little guys either. Someone obviously sent big guys so they could throw big rocks. Or at least that's my guess."

"So you busted on down there, right?!"

"Well... My commander told me and one other guy to take off our vests, take a few magazines and put it in the pouch of the bullet proof armor, and start sneaking down to the road. It was me, our sharpshooter, and the commander. We were in a straight line, all of us with NVG, sharpshooter with his magnified night vision scope of course so he was just itching, just crawling down this hill. Man, it was a ******* movie."

"Damn. Why didn't we just let out a warning shot in the air, that'd surely stop all this business."

"What, are you crazy? More than anything, we wanted these bastards in our hands! So we were getting closer, and then through the NVG I saw a car slam into the rocks. It went flying. There were so many sparks, the NVG flared from the light. I just saw the explosion of light, and then white. I had to put down the goggles for a second and let them readjust. It was that powerful. Man, my heart skipped a beat there. I mean, I thought they were going to run, but most of all, it was like a bomb went off under that car. It flew. It was unreal, bro."


"After the car hit the rocks, we started running. We were down there, we were about to cross the street, and they still didn't see us. They just kept tossing rocks. Even after one car hit, they kept on tossing. We couldn't believe it, but everything was happening so fast that no one was talking at all. Besides the chatter on the radio, especially the thermal-equipped guy in the tower freaking out, everything was deathly silent. Anyway, we got to the street, I was about to swing my leg over, and then it all got ruined."

"The patrol Jeep," I guessed.

"The damn patrol Jeep, man. We had yelled at the patrol like two seconds before we were about to go mobile NOT TO APPROACH this area. But when he heard that there was a hit, he couldn't help it. He ruined it. They saw that flashing yellow light, and they took off. We started running too, and I saw them just rounding the corner into a grape field when I crossed the street. Once I rounded the corner, after crossing two railings and checking both sides of the street, I looked with the NVG and saw them so far away. I couldn't believe how quickly they ran. It was basically worthless at that point. There was no way in hell we were going to catch them. That stupid Jeep."

Considering this activity, as well as other problems coming from the nearby neighborhood, upper management decided to do a foot patrol inside an adjacent area that we hadn't operated in for quite some time. It is known as a viciously anti-Israel location, and during the Second Intifada it had sent a few of its own boys to their deaths. We thought that maybe our presence there would let them know that trying to kill people on the road would not be tolerated, or at least that we operated wherever the need arises. If you act cool, we act cool. If you want trouble, we're ready to bust some heads. That's the basic Golani position.

I was on that foot patrol. We had really geared up for this one, since it was a first for the company. Having heard all the reports on previous terrorism coming from this neighborhood, I think we all were even more alert than usual. The M203 grenadiers had their smoke-grenades handy. I was ordered to unwrap my quick-ties if an arrest was needed. It went so far as selecting the larger guys in the platoon, just in case. Sure, we were with our 'slightly' deranged sergeant, but nothing seemed too extreme considering.

And it was a strange patrol. All through you could just tell that no one expected to see us coming. The kids were mesmerized. The old men gave us knowing looks - knowing why we were there, knowing that they hadn't seen us in forever, and knowing that we could almost reach out and touch their hatred for us. The women stared from third-floor windows, which seems to be a positive commandment for them. The teens and early 20 year olds, our main suspects, ducked away into their houses. We had spent a few hours establishing our presence, but nothing solid came from it.

Until the very end, after we had actually exited the neighborhood and were making our way along a dirt road in a shortcut back to base. Our sergeant decided to stop some cars, just to ask questions about the rocks. He figured that since Arab cars as well as Jewish ones had hit those same rocks, they also had an incentive to see the end of this week. It was their road too.

After a few false smiles and feigned ignorance, we stopped a guy on a Vesper. My crazy sergeant seemed to want to ride the thing, though his professionalism kept him from requesting. The driver, however, jumped right off and all but demanded that he at least sit on it. We all watched on, wondering what this eccentric NCO would do, but he politely refused. Starting with what seemed to be genuine niceties, and thinking that maybe this guy would be honest, I turned to the driver and asked him what he knew about the situation.

"Those bastards!," he shouted in Hebrew.
We all smiled at each other.

"Well," I started, "who is it? Don't they realize that Arabs also drive on the road? You know that about half the cars they've hit are Arab?"

"You don't know why? It is a feud."

"What? Between who?"

"An Arab family here is pissed at an Arab family down there," and he pointed over the hill southwards along the main highway. "I don't remember why, but they've been doing stuff to each other for years. I think one of the kids was supposed to marry a daughter, but then.. ah you know, he probably saw her and realized she was a dog and wasn't worth the dowry!"

At this point, we were all in hysterics. This guy had a foul mouth, and I'm softening it up a lot, but you get the point. For soldiers exhausted after a long and stressful foot patrol, a little bit of cursing goes a long way. We were all in shock, however. All along we had thought that this was obviously some case of terrorism, or vandalism, or call it whatever you want, but it seemed to be violent activity from Arabs against Jews, with innocent Arabs thrown in collateraly. However, it was totally backwards! Arab clan versus Arab clan, with Jews thrown in either from indifference, or as an added incentive.

After checking his story out with other passing motorists, who would never volunteer something on their own but are always ready to confirm a presented story (cash payout, they might be hoping for?), we headed back to base feeling pretty good. It didn't take the General Security Services (Shin Bet) to crack this one, just one goofy American-Israeli kid and a bug-eyed sergeant aching to ride a scooter.

My initial happiness gave way to anger. I mean, don't they realize that a car hitting a rock at highway speeds can kill people? Innocent people! Out of the hundreds of cars that pass on that road, how many could really be from the rival clan? From my experience, these clans are huge. Just about every ID I check has this one family name, but when it comes to a main road, so many random people are thrown in that I doubt that the one or two cars that have an impact are really the desired targets. Don't they realize the stupidity in this?

Having uncovered the truth doesn't really change our operations, but it certainly gives you a different perspective on the whole matter. My own tactical coldness gave way to frustrated disbelief at the backwardness and ignorance of this clan-culture. The boys in Iraq see this kind of stuff every day, according to Iraqi War blogs I've read. And I certainly felt that same vexation - the irritation of trying to keep the sensible peace when everyone else is deliberately upsetting it for nothing.

A day later, after yet another attack, my squad was sent in for yet another ambush. This time, however, I had a feeling that the rock-emplacements had stopped. I just knew it, for some reason, and I can't explain why. Maybe it was because of the massive amounts of forces that responded to the most recent incident. Maybe it was because we now knew the story, and once we find something out, their well-hidden secret is known to everyone. News in those closed-communities spreads like wildfire. Either way, we were ready for anything, and I especially, being the designated marksman, was specially briefed on rules of engagement.

I was set up right along the road, hoping to eliminate the distance between the seating position and the road that the first ambush had to deal with. Snaking along the grape field with my commander at the front of our force, I spotted exactly where I figured the perpetrators had emerged from and escaped to. Following my advice, he set up most of the force along a rock wall, just next to the foot path between rows of vines. He took my back, and I sat in the ditch from where they were previously spotted.

I spent two hours scanning, vigilantly but pessimistically, with my night vision scope. Every time I spotted someone along the other side of the road, usually making their way up to a small group of houses on the hill, I informed the commander and stayed locked in on the suspect. Nothing happening, however. I knew no one was coming, and when I heard helicopters overhead, my heart sank. What idiot would come out to do the same attack five nights in a row, knowing what kind of force has previously responded, and hearing choppers buzzing the sky?

Well, they never did come. These people might be confusing in their disruption of civility, but no one should ever say that they are stupid. I certainly wouldn't have made another appearance that night, and they obviously felt the same way. And who ever knows what happened to their feud, because with that night the rock attacks stopped. That was over two months ago, and it hasn't happened even once since.

As quickly and abruptly as it all started, the end was anti-climatic and immediate. That seems to be the nature of this conflict. Out of nowhere there is an attack, and into the cold and anonymous night they disappear. No trace, no warning, no news. If the incident stops, that's it for us. Maybe Shin Bet or some other FBI-style group has their eyes and ears on it, but as far as we're concerned, it's almost as if nothing ever happened.

I wonder when we'll start moving forward, sometimes. Both sides. Let peace reign, resolve old disputes, and take that step in the right direction. I don't know what that step is, and from this soldier's perspective I can only be a reactive element - reacting to these types of incidents - but someone out there has to be brave enough to be civilized. And putting boulders on a highway certainly doesn't seem to me to be courage, but rather cowardice. If this is the natural way for them to deal with a dispute, I'm not sure there is any hope for a broader development.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Time Passes Like A Demon In The Night

(I'm really putting myself out there on this one, in terms of one of the pictures. And I've had a hard time writing, so I'm gonna be experimental. So, you better enjoy it.)


Nearly a year ago, in the beginning of advanced training, I had a conversation with one of our new commanders about what it's like to have finished the first year in the army. We were pulling guard duty together in the middle of the night, at the front gate of the training base. I was super-green in the army, only about four months in, and he was a brand new commander. I wondered who this guy was, and what he could tell me about earning the coveted Warrior's Pin.

In the Israeli Army, you have what is called a maslul. That's your training path, and "path" is the literal translation of that word. Every unit differs in their training cycle. For some jobnikim, they only have basic training for a month or so, and then a month and a half course, and that's it. Within a few months, they're "full soldiers." Short and sweet.

For us combat soldiers, however, we have to suffer a little longer. The infantry maslul is about a year. For the brigade-level special forces guys, it's just a few more months, and the elite SF have much longer. It all depends on the unit. But whether or not you're suffering for a year, like us, or two years, like Sayeret Matkal (Delta Force/SAS), you're suffering all the same. In terms of the niceties of life, a soldier in "training" will soon forget that they even exist. Breaks for free time are rare. When you eat, and who you eat with, is strictly dictated to you before each meal. Privileges are hard to come by, and easily retracted. Essentially, the comfort level is minimal, as you can imagine.

That's your first year. Or it's supposed to be. My platoon, because we were sent to a special company and are qualified for a unique and complicated weapon, got to basically skip the final four months of our maslul because that weapon comes with a long training course. We call that "Danny-Luck" where I come from. But either way, when you're a rookie, you're a rookie, and that's been the essence of this introduction.


I was standing in the middle of the night with that fresh out of commanders' course kid, just a 19-year-old, and wondering out loud what it's like to finish the training cycle. Having just started advanced training, and knowing that it was going to be the hardest, most physically and emotionally demanding months of my life, not a small amount of worry and stress drove me to explore his reality. I asked him what it "felt like" to finish the cycle.

"Wow. You don't know yet, but advanced training is BAD. Lots of guys aren't going to make it. You've never ran so much or carried so much heavy gear in your life. It's almost impossible. And then the four months after that, when you leave the training base but are still "in training," you're just itching to finish. It's amazing. And you know what? When I go home after a hard few weeks, and listen, we were in the commanders' course for 35 days or so when Operation Cast Lead broke out, so we were going a little crazy... I go home after a couple weeks on base, missing mommy and girlfriend, and take off my dress uniform. I hang my shirt up, and just admire the pin. It takes a while for it to set in and seem real, but that pin..."

He trailed off mid-sentence as the late February winds whistled mist off the walls of our stucco guard shack. I couldn't help but stare at this kid and marvel at his innocence. On the one hand, as far as I knew, he had suffered through a nearly unbearable advanced training course, and that was commendable. At the time, I was amazed at anyone who had finished what I had heard was hell. But really, on the other hand, the right hand, the hand of my own experiences in life, I knew that he had only really lasted for a year in a strictly-controlled environment. A year, to me, is nothing. It's a wink of the eye. A year in the army is slightly different, but time passes no matter where you find yourself.

And so, while I kept his positive perspective and motivation in the back of my head during the worst hours of the War/Hell Weeks, I also remembered how I felt standing next to him. He was no more important than anyone in the army, certainly no more experienced, and he had simply survived for a year longer than me. For what? A pin? Trust me, I wanted that pin just as badly as anyone: To walk through the Tel Aviv train station on a Friday morning with an "I Am A Real Golanchik" sign on your chest... You can sense that desire in this post from January 2009. But still, at the time I was too far away from getting that pin to really feel some sort of yearning. It was just too far.

Father Time had only just flipped his hourglass.


By October of 2009, however, our turn had come to become Israel's newest full-Golani infantrymen. I, like that new commander I had months before, had survived the first year. There were no fireworks in my heart, and no great wave of emotion swept over me. I lasted. We had our Pin and End of Maslul Ceremony, where my roommate and two good friends were present, and went home. I hung up my dress shirt, and stared at my newest, and final accruement to my uniform. It just was.

Don't get me wrong. When my commander stuck those sharp pins into my skin, as is customary for most combat units, I was ecstatic. I'm not sure that I was so happy for the pin, as much as I was for the ability to strut like a peacock in public. It all seems so silly, and I know I'm way too old for it, but you can't help showing off when you've worked your butt off for a little piece of metal on your chest. This form of motivation lends itself to vanity.


I almost forgot where I was going with this! Ah, what a difference Time makes! That fact of life seems to be a constant theme of mine, like Doestoyevsky's redemptive suffering, or Thoreau's solitude and nature. I've grown so much in the army, from an inexperienced foreigner to a front line 'warrior.' Just look at this picture taken the first week of the army:

And now, after exposing a picture that I promised myself would stay locked and hidden away from any eyes besides mine, feast your eyes on what a real soldier looks like. This one was taken right around October, when I received my pin:

Those two snapshots in time, one taken for novelty, the other taken for prosperity, reveal pure and raw growth. When I had that first picture taken, I thought it would turn out like the latter. I was sadly mistaken, and quickly realized that once viewing it on the full computer screen. The second, however, was taken by a friend after a foot patrol that left us all feeling like dogs, totally exhausted, but alert for our next mission. It was not planned or choreographed. It simply was.

And so, Time, that demon in the night, the passage between then, here, and another then, unravels itself before us at the most unexpected moments. We have to grasp it, the moment, and hold it however long we can. Like a man clutching a loved one hanging from a cliff for dear life, we have no option but to last as long as possible, to not let go, to savor this exact point in time.

"Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends." As true as Shakespeare says, there is no more important heartbeat than the one that beats now. I look at these photos, and I look at my pin fastened onto my dress shirt, and know that I have captured a moment to the best of my ability. I shy away from giving imperatives, but I know this now to a degree that I never expected from simply being a soldier, just a number, another helmet:

If you wait, and if you do not chase the present with an eye to the future, you'll never move forward.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What It Means To Be A Workaholic

"I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality." Martin Luther King, JR.

Having almost a week off from the army sounds like some great, wonderful vacation. A whole week off from waking up early after getting just a couple hours of sleep. No 80 pounds of bulletproof armor, heavy night vision gear, and bulky combat vests. That constant companion, your assault rifle, finally finds its spot in your closet. Instead of a sweatshirt over your gun, you actually get to sleep with a pillow! And of course, the best bit of being away from the army: doing whatever the hell you want.

For weeks I was salivating over what I'd do during the 6 days we were to receive. Maybe I'd go out to Tel Aviv and call up some friends. Or I'd even go somewhere like Tiberias, and the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret), rent a nice hotel room, and spend my time looking out at that enchanting blue lake. There were many options, but the best one I could think of was the easiest. Just do nothing. Relax. Let that angry shoulder heal up. Catch up on sleep. Knock out some needed blog posts. You get the picture.

But here I am, sitting on my laptop at midnight, the night before I go back to the army. I wrote none of those blog posts I meant to. I slept crazy hours, like 5am to 7, woke up and played on the computer for 30 minutes, and finally went back to sleep 'til 12. I ran three times on the crazy Jerusalem hills, essentially making myself feel asthmatic and out of shape. And my shoulder still kills.

I realized last night, while explaining my frustration to a friend, that I am addicted to the army. A year and two months have passed, and it's still the only thing I get excited about. I get excited about the stupidest stuff, like shooting a machine gun. I love getting to a guard post, placing my helmet to the side, and radioing in to HQ for a sound check. The crackle of the incoming reception, radio waves bouncing all through my head and vibrating my bones, followed by an unexpectedly loud, muffled voice coming from a mouth too close to the receiver...

Crackle. Hiss. Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. "Guard Post, this is HQ. Copy that sound check."

I am addicted to that positive confirmation. I am addicted to the code words we have to use. I feel like a little kid when I hear one of my friends on the radio, talking to someone important or HQ. With my index finger on the transmit button, I'm just waiting, tapping my boot toes all the while, for my chance to ask my buddy how it's going.

"Guard Post Ari, this is Guard Post Danny."

"Danny, what's up?"

"Hey man! It's cool out here, just hanging out, you know?"

And more than all the silliness on the radio, which inevitably evokes the anger of some officer, and is just a stupid little example, I am addicted to the army life. Even if we're doing nothing but guard posts on base, which is fairly worthless and extremely boring, I am always excited to start my day. No matter how many hours of sleep I may or may not have gotten, I pop right out of bed when that magic minute comes (7:45, not 7:46). I sit up, jump out of my bed, get dressed, put my shoes on the same way every time, grab my toiletries bag, and head to the bathroom. Toilet; wash hands; brush teeth; shave; wash face; flex in the mirror while hoping no one notices.

Every single damn morning. No different. No less and no more. A routine, fixed and set, just as you'd expect from the army. I start the day feeling like a grownup, and more importantly, like a responsible one. An adult with a real purpose in life. Clean shaven and uniformed, I am Superman.

And so, trying to get back to the point, which I feel I lost a long time ago - or maybe never even had in the first place - I am addicted to the army. Being in the civilian world for so many days and feeling the way I do at the end of it all, I am fully able to realize just how much I enjoy that other world. Let me try to explain with one example, as I am becoming increasingly frustrated at how difficult it is to articulate these thoughts.

Earlier today I was standing next to my bed, gazing out the window towards the east. Sprouting up through the maze of apartment and hotel towers were construction cranes lowering metal beams and stacks of Jerusalem stones onto skeletal buildings. Palestinian migrant workers were laboring diligently, building towers for rich Jews from all over the world. An Arab man was welding some metal, throwing sparks in the sky.

And far in the distance, deep in the background of this cozy civilian existence, I could clearly make out the "separation barrier" between the West Bank and Israel proper. From my expensive apartment in one of Jerusalem's best neighborhoods, from my private room with my Winnie the Pooh blanket wrapped around my shoulders, I studied the barricade between here and there.

With my forehead resting against the glass pane, I felt a craving for the other side. I need to be back in the operating area. Maybe I'm addicted to the adrenaline of popping out of an armored Jeep. Do you know how ******* intense it is on the ride over to a terror operative's house before you arrest him? Or a foot patrol with one hand on the charging handle of your gun, and your eyes moving like a Meth freak's from window to window? I don't know which drugs give you a rush like any of the regular activities of the army, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that some soldiers turn to them after the army.

Staring out at the separation barrier didn't simply elicit a hunger for action. What it really made me think of was how nice and pleasant our life is here on the good side. And how much work there is to be done on the other side. That work, the daily patrols and guard posts and checkpoints, all of that is what I am addicted to. I am an army workaholic. Coming 7,000 miles in order to "protect Israel" certainly doesn't sound very realistic, but even after a decent amount of time in the service, I still wake up every day thinking that I have a chance to help that day.

Each and every morning I feel this extreme sense of meaning, a certain voice in my head that tells me to continue despite the exhaustion, the aches and pains, and the annoyance of being controlled like a dog. When I look in the mirror in the army, I see a man who knows what he wants, and who knows what he does for a living. I see a man who is proud, who never feels awkward or shy. I see pride and strength. And most importantly, I feel content. Fulfilled.

I've never felt like that outside of the army. In college I was nervous and agitated, unsure of myself, and very shy. Awkwardness became a part of my daily experience. I covered all of that with being talkative, and learning how to make others laugh. And from that falsity I lost self-respect, and pride. In the civilian world, worst of all, I never felt satisfaction and meaning in my endeavors. I simply survived. A man? Ha! I never felt like a man before.

But now that I do something that I believe in to the bottom of my soul, something that I have given my entire life to, made peace with myself and my mortality, and long ago left the gates of comfort, security, and peace, I naturally and genuinely call myself a man. Boys do not stand up and give themselves over to a cause greater than their own lives.

As much as I enjoyed seeing friends, and eating pizza, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, juicy hamburgers, Mac & Cheese, massive delicatessen sandwiches, and my flatmate's unreal homemade pastries, I'm ready to start my day with the hope that it will be even more meaningful than the day that proceeded it. I don't mind eating the same army crap every day, as long as they let me serve my country - and my people. This domestic, civilian world is beautiful, and it is meant to be lived. Unfortunately, however, there are those of us that have to protect it daily.

All my life I've been told that I am idealistic, and that that ideology is wonderful, but it is the domain of the youth. I am now 25, and I have never been more driven, severe, and single-minded in my life. I see no end to it, though the army will end for me soon enough. When will this ideology wear down? I have seen the good and the bad, moral and immoral, scary and scarier - I am not naive. When will I relax and accept the simple life, that of working and moving along in a quiet life like everyone else? Why does that sound terrifying to me, when entering Gaza and seeing Hamas' hideous face seem only necessary and natural?

I am addicted to the soldier's life, and I would not have it any other way.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spam Comments

Just a note to my readers:

Spam comments started appearing a while ago in my older posts. They are gibberish with a link. The comments were only appearing in really old posts though, and the same few posts were affected.

But this morning, I just received one of these spam comments on a very new post. I'm just warning all that you might see obnoxious junk in the comment section, but your real comments are always appreciated! You just have to pass a little test before your comment goes through. Most of you are familiar with the text verification system used on the Internet. Just type the word that appears in that box near the enter comment box, and that's it.

Sorry for the hurdle.

Monday, December 7, 2009

IDF's Twitter Account... Kinda Scary

I was alerted recently to the greatest thing ever. If you don't know what Twitter is, you're obviously either living under a rock, or you have a real life and don't read 150 characters of text at a time. I have a Twitter account for this blog, but I never check it and don't use it. There is an automatic updater that just makes a little note for my "followers" every time I post a blog here. Hassle free.

Anyway, I don't particularly care about or even like Twitter. Until I saw the IDF's account. Holy crap. In the army, you hear about stuff happening here or there, but it just kinda goes in one ear and out the other. Knife found at checkpoint? OK. Riots in Jenin? Ok. Mortar launched from Gaza? What's new.

But the IDF Twitter Account puts it all in perspective. By seeing about 10 single sentence posts in one page, you get a pretty good picture of what it's like to be infantry in the IDF. And here I was thinking that it was a relatively quiet period over here in the West Bank! Honestly it is, especially if you look at the Second Intifadah, but this IDF Twitter thing is unsettling. Mom, don't look.

I like it though. Let's get the word out about exactly who is creating the violence. I can't say anything at this point, but a blog post is in the works about the IDF's recent move towards embracing the bloggosphere, and the Internet's radically freeform information network. This post is just a little hint of what they're up to! Sorry for being vague, but it's in my own interest for now.

Follow me on Twitter! Click here to see my profile there. I winced as I typed those last two sentences.

Friday, December 4, 2009

IDF-Golani Terrorist!

I met this wonderful Hamas operative while on a patrol in al-Madina al-Muqaddasah. Call him a terrorist if you will, but he was a swell fellow. Hey, if you can't have a sense of humor during an 8 hour recon mission, you're bound to go crazy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Mosque Is Burning

While on guard duty on top of a roof a while back, I stood against a railing and enjoyed the sunset. The 12 Horses pulling Khaga quietly crept down the hill a few kilometers away, disappearing behind a mosque's minaret, making way for Brother Moon. I stood at my post, feeling the winds of late fall whipping away the stale summer heat. Fall's crisp, fresh oxygen energized my soul, and my eyes looked beyond the dying day towards the great Tomorrow of Hope. A new way, a new faith. Faith in something more than the old, failed history.

Electric Sun was illuminating the minaret so vividly that I experimentally put my camera's lens behind my binoculars. Beyond telephone polls and roping electricity cables, I captured what remained of that day. I hope to get an even fuller, brighter, more orange picture in the future. But I know that the way I felt that day on my post - peaceful, quiet, hopeful, excited for life and its full range of experiences - that was a special and spiritual episode.