Reserve Service

Posted: January 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: this is personal, war | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Last week I was called to a short reserve service. I am a captain in a civil defense unit. Our main job is to rescue people from collapsed buildings in case of a missile attack or an earthquake.

We were training in a southern army base, not far away from Gaza. It was the same army base where all the reservists who were called for the war were training. I’ve been there several times before, and never saw the place so packed with soldiers. You could hear explosions and gunshots all day long, and the warplanes above us kept waking us up at night. From time to time, there was a missile alarm.

Going there I took the bus, wearing my IDF uniform. People were extremely nice to me. They thought I was going off to war.

Just as we entered Beer Sheva, the bus stopped and the driver told everyone to hurry out and take shelter in the nearest building, due to a missile alarm. It took us some time to get there, and even then, some people stayed out on the pavement and smoked a cigarette or talked on their cell phones as the alarm was sounding. Still, it was a bit scary. The alarm is strange and loud and we heard one or two explosions from afar. It made me remember the missile attacks on my hometown, Ramat Gan, during the first Gulf war. One of the missiles landed not far from my grandparents’ house. After the war, they got some compensation money from the government to fix the damages, and used it to renovate their balcony.

After the missile alarm in Beer Sheva, I went to the mall to grab a bite. There were many cars in the streets, but not so many people. The shops were half empty, but still open. It felt as if people were going on with their lives, but in a more cautious manner. I guess that’s not the situation in Gaza.

Although our base was only a few miles away from Gaza, I didn’t really know what was going on. We didn’t have a TV or an internet connection, so I checked the news from time to time on my mobile. As it turned out, we didn’t miss much.

One night, people started saying that “Golani” Infantry unit suffered heavy losses: six men were killed, including the division’s and one of the regiments’commanders. In the army you always hear about dead soldiers before the media breaks the news. In the morning we found out that it was three soldiers, not six, that had died, and the senior commanders were only injured.

Some of the “Golani” soldiers were staying in the tents next to us. They were very young, practically kids. I remembered the time when I was an infantry soldier myself, in the mid 90’s. Back then, I was lonely and depressed most of the time, but had a strong sense of “doing the right thing”. Now I felt sorry for these soldiers.

I had some conversations with other soldiers about the war. I think I was the only one who was totally against it. Most people were pretty glad that we were bombing the Palestinians, and there were even those who were happy to hear about Palestinians killed, regardless of whether they were civilians or Hamas men. Some people thought it was time to end the operation, before more Israeli soldiers got hurt.

Strangely enough, almost everyone I had talked to agreed with me on one thing: that in the long run, this operation won’t help us. Many even admitted that we will end up talking to the Hamas. But it didn’t make them question the logic of our actions now.

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