The Life Of A Soldier........

This is Sharony and me at the good-bye party we had at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv. She is from Australia and made Aliyah with her family.
Here is the bulk of everyone that came to the good-bye party. From left clockwise: Daniel (Gila's boyfriend. His parents are American but he was born and raised in Israel. BTW his dad is from Syracuse!!!), Gila from Canada, I forget this next girls name but she is the one who is 24, then me,then Sharon, Brit from Australia, who has Israel parents, Inbar, whoa lso has Israeli parents, Chile (I actually don't know her name, cuz everyone just calls her Chile, Rebecca from France,and Dinah from the US with an Argentinian mom and Israeli dad.

Yah, yah us again.

OK I'm going to try something new, that being actually writing!!!! It is Satrurday morning and I will start, unlike what I usually do which is scribble a few things on Saturday night at like 12 when I am tired and packing my bag for the week.

My week:

On Monday, on 3 hours of sleep I woke at 5am and schlepped my two bags (they told my friend Julia that we would be on the base for two weeks, not true, so I brought everything but the kitchen sink so I could leave things there, which turned out to be a bad idea on so many levels! First because it was so much to lug around all over Israel, second we didn’t stay for two weeks, third we are living in tents and we can’t leave things on the base, forth because I got another bag from the army so I had three bags to figure out what to do with!) I was supposed to be in Tel Aviv at Tel HaShomer at 9am. And thank God Israel works late and not thank God because you end up wasting so much time for no reason. I didn’t get to Tel HaShomer (the base that does all the processing of soldiers in Tel Aviv) till 10:30 and didn’t get to the actual place I needed to be till 11:130 and when I showed up, nothing had been done, there were just a million girls all sitting around waiting. I met a really nice girl that is also in my course named Bat-Chen (which translated means: daughter of beauty. Great name.), and Julia who was from my Hebrew course. We sat around and talked, slept and just waited. At about 3pm we finally began doing stuff to get ready to leave. We got new uniforms. It’s so cool because now I have the guys uniform!! OK, girls that are in combat or semi-combat situations get the boys uniform. Now all this time I thought to myself: self, I like the way that uniform looks so much more and it looks so much more comfortable to me. And well, I was right. It doesn’t give you constant wedgies like the girls and everything just hangs better. Plus I got combat boots that to my surprise are incredibly comfortable. The pants fit like a glove the shirt is huge so sometime I will get it fitted. But having the guys uniform is one of those things here that is cool because it gives you a status. I mean as an Israeli you are seeing soldiers in uniform EVERYWHERE. And you are always looking at their tags and uniforms because you can figure out what they do and what not. So to be a girl with the guy uniform you get some props and respect, because well, it is cool. I had to give back my girls uniform, which was a bit of a pity because I just got it tailored for me, but luckily it was not expensive. But still.

At about 5pm we left for the army base that is south of Be'er Sheva. So it took a long time to get there. The land is so different in the south. I am used to looking out and seeing mountains, or hills, or something that is land. But everything is so flat there and very colorless. All you can see basically is the sky. And the sky seems so big there. I don’t even think the sunrises are as beautiful as in the north. We slept on the bus and also filled out some paper work about ourselves. Except for a handful of girls like me, all of them are new to the army. And wow, all of them except for a handful are truly Israeli. I think I am the newest to the country and for sure the worst Hebrew speaker.

After a just a week, I feel like my last two months were not really in the Israeli army but in this weird holding cell of the army; a kind of Russian army within the army. I shouldn’t be so critical and judgmental because I did learn so much Hebrew, but I really realize how much Russian I was hearing everyday. Now all I hear is Hebrew 24/7 and to be honest it is a bit overwhelming. I feel for the first time in the year and a half that I have been here that I am truly immersed in the language and culture. At this moment it is hard, but I know this will only lead to really mastering the language because frankly for the first time I will have to. Its do or die at this point. Meaning, if I can’t swim in this pond I will be sent back to the processing base and given a much lesser function. And that is not what I want at all. Because this seems to be such a cool role in the army.

OK so basically what ever I said last week about what I would be doing in the army, this is the updated version. Because now I know more and I can correct myself on what I said. First of all I am not in a harder basic training. I will not learn to throw grenades. I am in the same basic training as before. Which kind of sucks because I feel like at least if I have to do another basic training I would like to learn something new or do something harder. With training and the course it will be 10 weeks. And what am I really going to be doing? Well, maybe we should be amazed because for once someone listened. I mean Israel is notorious for not giving a fuck about what you say. But actually I was heard (I think) I will be doing photography in the army!! But not in the way I am used to. I will be learning a whole new kind of photography, with special cameras and other equipment. Let me explain because I will not only be doing photography, it is just a part, but I am really excited.

The name of my role is Titspitanit (tit-speet-tan-eet), which is Observer, remember. So the role of the Titspitanit is to be on a boarder; if that will be on the boarder of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, or the boarder of the West Bank, like Jennin. And I will be using all this equipment to “observe” the boarders and find people (terrorists) coming into the country and report it, so that the real fighters can get those bad boys. My officer said that because of Titspitanot (plural) they on average stop four potential terror attacks a day!!! Do you understand? What a cool job to have in the army. I will be in part of the army that is the eyes of/for Israel. I can’t tell you how proud, honored, and humble I feel.

And I think it is considered semi-combat because of the location I will be in. Probably I will be in the North because of where I live. But that is not guaranteed. And they told us that we would probably go home every week or do 10 days on 4 days off, which would be nice I think. Oh and after the course, when I am really in the job I will have a gun, M-16. Which silly as it may sound is one more of those things of having a status. It will suck though because then I have to lug it everywhere in the army, on the bus and what not. And when I go home I have to be very careful because well, I will have a weapon in my house.

They showed us this really brain washing/educational short film this week called: Where is the gun? In this film you see this soldier get on the bus and instead of leaving his gun on him he hooks it to the handle in the seat in front of him. Then an annoying girl soldier gets on and starts talking a mile a minute and he falls asleep. When he wakes up, he jumps off the bus (forgetting his gun). Of course he realizes it to late and then they show the question again: where is the weapon? And then they show footage of Palestinian terrorist holding a M-16 talking into the camera, like they do before they go blow themselves up. It is on the one hand probably true that this is one way that they can acquire weapons but on the other hand it seemed like such a propaganda film. I mean yes, terrorist must get weapons from Israel and no soldier should be so careless with something such as a device to kill people, but it was just the way it was portrayed that bothered me a bit.

Anyway, on to other topics about the army, because frankly that is all that is going on my life. There are over 100 girls in my company. We are all living in tents with about 13-15 soldiers in each one. And there are 3 toilets for over 100 girls. Yes, you heard me right, 3 toilets, and 6 showers. And remember we all have an hour to shower. That’s an average of 4-minute shower give or take. The good thing is that I figured out the secret in my first basic training. That is, that people are stupid and everyone tries to cram in to the showers in the first 30 minutes. If you wait for about 30 minutes there is almost no one and you don’t have to fight the crowds. And if you just saw some of these girls on the street you would think, “wow they are so self-confident and grown-up.” But put them in a bathroom with 3 three showers and no shower curtains and 20 other girls and they are such babies. They will all wait for the one shower that is around the corner so no one can see them, or they will shower in their underwear, or they will have a friend hold a towel up in front of the shower so no one can see them. They may look older than 18 but they act like little girls sometimes. The Russians were not like this at all. They are very open and confident with their bodies, sometimes two of them showering together to save time. Cultures are so interesting. Shower culture!

The food is better. Well maybe in three weeks I will hate it too. But it seems to be less oily and salty. And more variations and tastes. It just got to the point on the other base where everything tasted the same. And also they would use one ingredient over and over, like carrots in everything for a week. And they have tuna in my new base and a lot of avocado, and hot cereal in the morning, which is great because the nights are really cold, especially when you are sleeping outside in a tent.

I can tell you now I am so happy I bought a sleeping bag in the US, it really has come in handy and good use. The army provides you with a sleeping bag but God only knows what is living in that thing. And it ain’t no down sleeping bag from REI. What a spoiled brat I am!!! The nights are really cold but usually in the day it gets pretty warm. But by about 4pm it is getting cold again.

At night there are a million stars. Really the most stars I have ever seen. I mean you can see those stars that are just like white fog in the sky, there is no definition but you know they are stars. At night I can see the lights from Be'er Sheva in the distance, but other than that there is no huge light source. And it is so quiet.

I still don’t have security in my Hebrew skills so I am not really talking much, just listening. Which can be hard at times because I am sort of living in my own world. I am confident that this will change soon. My officer pulled me aside and told me that she can see I am new to the language and asked me how I am doing and if I understand everything. She told me to make sure to ask questions if I don’t understand. I think just on first impressions that out of all the officers mine is the nicest. Some of them seem so bitter, like they are really mean and it isn’t just an act. Also I notice all these officers look so much older in comparison to my last officers.

I am closing Shabbat, which means I won’t be home for 2 weeks. In the army we are so cut off from the world. I don’t hear the news, radio, and life outside. And because of the lack of electricity I am not using my phone very much at all. So bare with me but these next two weeks I will be very hard to reach and missing Thanksgiving :(

Oh My Darlin' I Have Grown With You, But My Roots Are On Both Sides Of The Sea

Let's take a look at some pictures first. Please note I didn't take any of these lovely photos, they are all from my friend Gila:
Below: A nice shot of The Kotel and one of the two famous mosques in Jerusalem.

In this one picture you have Americans, Canadians, Frenchies, Russians (and to be quite honest I know that at least one of them is not from Russia, but I don't remember where, and sadly we just group them all together. Eventhough she told me that she had to learn Russian when she came to Israel, because they don't speak it in the country she came from!), and a Holland chick.

This is at The Wall where we had a little ceremony. Everyone gathered around to see and listen, it was a bit embarassing and cool at the same time. I remember coming to the wall and seeing groups from the army and waiting and photographing them and now I am the one being watched and photographed!

This is at the look out point where Israel fought to regain Jerusalem. Walking through the trenches this time I had a whole new feeling than I did 3 years ago when I went there. Now after having to wear just some of the army gear I can't believe how skinny they built them, without the gear you could barely walk through!!!
This is me, Susy, and Gila.

Gila and the Latina's. BTW the girl in civilian clothes beat me in the oldest person in our group to volunteer....she is 24!

Goofing around!!

The second from the left was my Hebrew Officer/Teacher, Neta-Li. She is such a sweetheart. At the end we broke the distance and really got to talk and be normal, she told me how much she liked me and I told her the feeling was mutual. She made me a CD of Israel music that we had studied in class and we had a little cry over my finally getting Hebrew. When I told her how much it meant to me she was like: Oh god I am going to start to cry. Which made me cry! And then she did cry!

And just as we were sitting crying the Mem-Mem (I have no idea how you say her title in English, but she is two ranks higher than an ordinary officer) came by and said: Oh little Elizabeth, you are so sweet don't cry. You were always so quiet (then mocking me kindly) 'Ken ha Mem-mem'

And this is the Semelet who is one ramk below the mem-mem. She is from the Ukraine orginally and I liked to think of her as The Ice Queen. She was so good at disipline because she was quite scary. But I always thought she was so beautiful and I would have loved to photographer her. She just looked like what an officer should be: tough and stone cold. Even when we broke the distance at the end, she had more distance and self restaint than all the other officers.

Well my darlings I finished my basic training/Hebrew course this week and tomorrow I am moving on to bigger and more challenging things. I have recieved my job in the army. It is something within Intellagence called Titzponit. To be perfectly honest I know very little about it but it has mostly to do with guarding the boarders using computers and other instuments, by seeing if people ar trying to tunnel into the country or what not, entering illegally.

My neighbor and both my officers said this is an excellent job and they all have friends that are in it and really enjoy it. It is a lot of secrets, but they say it is a lot of fun too. In the dictionary the definition for my job is observer.

Meanwhile right now I have to take another basic training, this time one level higher which means it is a full 2 months of training. And I was informed that I would learn how to throw grenades. Mom said this isn't something she will tell most people, but I think she should. How many mother's in the world can say their daughter knows how to throw a grenade??!!

Anyway I will be gone for two weeks, unless there is some kind of miricale and we get to go home earlier.