Saturday, February 7, 2015

Picking this Back Up

I have not written a post since I got out of the army and its been a few years now but I think its time to go back to writing this blog. It will be good for me to have an outlet for my ideas and creative energies.

As a first post I would like to focus on wine, a good bottle of wine. A great bottle of red wine has a great aroma and a nice flavor when you take those first few sips, and you can feel your self falling in love with it from the very beginning. From there though you grow together as you loosen up and the alcohol takes it hold the wine begins to airate and breath; new aromas arise and flavors begin to swirl and dance creating a new and greater experience when you go back for the second glass. By the time your third glass comes out of the bottle the wine is reaching its maturity, her final flavor have developed her true self is at its peak of expression She can stand on her own and has true strength of character. I think a long term successful Oleh Hadash (New Immigrant to Israel) has a very similar experience as the wine. They come her the person they were before with a long road to ahead to grow on and first few years are like the first and second glass. With the years they grow and develop losing their youth and vibrancy for the more balanced and detailed adult they will become.

to live in Israel the first few years is a love story of falling head over heels and she can do no wrong, but as in all relationships with time you see the small flaws and ticks which bother you. The pushiness or the socialism. Though many of us stick it out and some are even bold enough to try and change things. the more balanced and fine relationship we have with Israel is really a more mature relationship, admitting their are flaws in both of us but in the long run we are really serious about this and are willing to stick it out.

I think I can finally say I am getting to the third glass of wine in my Israel experience.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Who’s the dirty one now?

Before you read the following post please keep in mind there is no racist intent only an attempt at accurately depicting the situation on the ground. Thanks.

            A common stereotype of Jews has been the dirty Jew; well I would like to clarify this error. It is the other half of the Semites which is dirty, and by dirty I mean downright disgusting. Pick an Arab village, anyone and go in. The first thing you notice before even entering is the garbage already littered outside. Trash bags, grocery bags, shopping bags, and we are probably lucky no to find body bags, but by the smell there has been one there for a while. As you enter the first line of houses you see the amount of garbage grow exponentially. There are now smashed cans, bottles, paper products of all kinds, and god knows what floating around. The coating can be so thick you can’t see the floor or grass anymore.
            The smell is at times insufferable. People live with sheds stuffed with animals right next to the house, and at times the animals are in the house too. The stench attaches its self to the people too; when you meet them outside their village the stink follows them. I kid you not when I say even blindfolded I could tell who lives in the village just by the smell. The worst of the smell comes from the burning of their garbage. The smell is that of all things putrid mixed with the horrid stench of smoke, and not any smoke but the smoke of any all things chemical and cancerous. This smell at times can bring ones stomach to want to expel all its contents.
            The worst smell though is the copper scrap yards. These illegal scrap yards located in village centers, capitalize on the high value there is on copper and the difficulty to recycling it from old appliances and air conditioning units. They strip all the wiring from the units, most of it covered in rubbers and plastics and burn it releasing all the chemicals, a horrid cancerous stench, and in the end masses of copper they can sell for a nice profit. The supposed fine for this act is 50,000 shekel, but who is going to give it to them? The PA will not, and we do not have the time or resources to deal with this, so all suffer from another smelly Arab enterprise. The Arabs really do what they want in Judea and Samaria most of the time.
            The great comparison one must make here is between the settlements. A Jewish one is easy to spot, it’s clean, orderly with a set layout usually in straight lines, and fenced in most of the time. Arab villages are just like I described till now, dirty, smelly, and disorganized with people building whatever, wherever, however they want where they want. Even a simple look at an aerial photograph lets one see the stark difference.
            As for why the Arabs live this way let me rule out some “possibilities.” Some people like to try and blame us the Jews, who else really? They say the Arabs refuse to take services from the Israeli’s, yet trash collection in all the villages here is done by the Palestinian Authority. They don’t want their own people to collecting the trash? Who will then the French? If this trash/smell problem was only in a few locations one might be able to claim it’s a problem in those areas, but this problem exists also in Wadi Ara, a long stretch of Israeli-Arab villages in the lower Galil. This problem exists in Eastern Jerusalem where the Jewish quarter is clean and orderly and the Arabs have trash piled stories high under signs saying “please do not dump garbage here.” Seen it with my own eyes. Then you have all of the villages in our areas as well. I leave conclusions to you; I merely point out Israel is not at fault and this is a systemic problem pointing to an internal systemic problem. Frankly my objection today to the peace process is Greenpeace. How could we entrust to anyone land we know they are going to trash and pollute. Pity the land for god’s sake! (No pun intended). Oh and before you yell Dirty Jew please take a whiff of yourself first.      

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Occupation

My Unit has come to a new phase, we have moved from training to deployment and are now deployed to the Judea area, south of Hebron. I at times may seem short on details, I am sorry but this is an open blog and not everything can be published to the world.

The first thing I want to note is the security fence running in our area. Some have smeared it as a wall, and while yes parts are walls they are the minority and by far. We have one kilometer of wall on over 40 kilometers of fence, and it is separating a very problematic village from a well used road, where in the past there have been shots fired at and stones throwhow bor
n at civilian cars. Today still they attempt at throwing rocks over the wall at civilian cars, but always fail. The fence is there because of Arab misbehavior, and terror, and no other reason.

Next I would like to note how the world has been pressuring Israel to cease building in Judea and Samaria. This pressure comes from the Arab claim it violates the Oslo accords which state neither side will try and change facts on the ground. The Arabs claim Jewish building does this. But then so does Arab building, and they do so and with gusto. I was told to learn a navigation for a foot patrol in a village, with a map 3 years old. I told my officer I will learn but the map and reality are not going to be connected. I was right, the village had been so changed in 3 years I could barely find my way from point to point.

Finally I want to discuss how boring this work can be. Most of the last week was spent on static roadblocks, in the cold. During the day I could go a half hour with not a car going by. On a six hour shift at night I could see only 5 cars, with 3 hours between cars. But these long periods of boredom are broken by moment of adrenaline and excitement. The precious hours of sleep broken by a wake up when two Arabs broke into a settlement. The mad sprint to ones vest, helmet in hand an vest still half open to the armored car, strapping everything in place on the way. Breathing a sigh of relief when while still on the way we are told they were caught and we are to stand down.      

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Geting Ready To Move On

           I have come to the point many an Israeli has reached, the look forward and out; out of the Army, out of the system, out onto a new life. I am ready to step out of the army and into the life as an Israeli citizen. Just a month or two ago, I was far from here. I was fighting hard to go to officer’s course, unwilling to leave the army, and looking for ways to stay. But this has all changed, I realized to be a combat officer here is to give up all of one’s life, everything. Relationships, things you enjoy, you, and all other things go second to the job you take. I simply have too many other things I would like to do with my life to give up another 3 years. The army has also so thoroughly screwed me over I will be happy to leave them behind, at least somewhat I will have 20 years of reserves to do. 

            But its more than that I would like to do more with my life. The people I care about I would like to see, spend time with them, to be there when they need me or have special occasions. When my friends come through I want to see them and not have a quick conversation on the phone trying to explain why the army won’t let me out. I want to see them, and to be there for them.
            I want to do the things I enjoy in life as well. I want to get back into marathon shape and begin to run again. I want to run the Tel-Aviv marathon, the Jerusalem marathon, and I want to break three hours on a marathon. I want to know I am running because I want to and wish to and not because the army makes me, and at their pace. The sense of accomplishment and thrill I go from my first one has been calling me back for some time now. The shape I was in also had me feeling amazing. I would also love o run for Chai Lifeline, and organization which supports kids with cancer, and lifetime disabilities with love and summer camps. To run for them and complete a marathon, as well as know I raised money for such a deserving organization would bring me great pleasure.    

            I would also like to get back to school. I enjoyed the learning at West Point and hope I enjoy it just as much here in Israel. While the studies might be a bit more challenging in Hebrew I don’t think it will be an insurmountable challenge. I am still no sure what I want to study, but it does not matter yet, I have time to decide. I keep bouncing between economics, foreign relations, and engineering. 

            The army was always something I wanted to do, and now have done. I think it’s time now to keep moving forward and check off more of those boxes on my to do list.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


There are some thrills you can only experience in the army, and one of them I had the chance to experience many a time this week. Usually in the IDF when one does an infantry drill you do it first “dry,” meaning shouting bang! bang! and with no magazine inside the gun. Only after finishing the whole exercise this way we then go back to the start, and do it all over with live fire. While being safer this takes away from the reality of the drill, as when we go to war the first time we see our targets it will be the first time an we will be shooting live rounds. But …. occasionally when the right safety percussions are in place we are permitted to go straight to live fire. 
This past week we did a company drill straight to live fire. We started just as the sun was creeping up over the edge of the Golan Heights, and the air was frigidly cold. We began in the tree line and waited for the spray down of the targets by the company’s heavy machine guns. When they finished team one and three began to bound out quickly to clear the “killing ground” before the targets. (The killing ground is the flat area under complete control by fire and observation by the enemy) As they got to the bottom of the hill team four, and my team, team two, began to follow in their footsteps as support. The adrenaline now is pumping, the rounds are flying (I am not shooting yet but that changes nothing), and we are all in the height of Rabak. This is an IDF term which is hard to translate, but its meaning is something along the lines of being really pumped up, into something and full of aggression. We are right behind team one, as their hill tops come under their control we got ready to make a flanking maneuver to the enemies right side. They begin to pour out cover fire, and we start to bound out. The rabak now is really going, as we spread out into our fighting line. We are starting to pour our own fire down onto the targets, and are quickly advancing. Because the targets are so close we are quickly in charging distance and straighten out our line as we rise to charge the hill top. We come up and over the crest of the hill and quickly lay down flat and begin to cover team one as they did for us.                
Now team one does a flanking move and when they control their hilltops we go out for our flanking maneuver on the last and tallest hilltop. Little by little our line is formed as all of us bound out in small groups and the fire increases little by little. Finally we start going up the hill as one group, bullets screeching at our targets. Then we are in charging distance, the order to get ready to charge goes out. Magazines are switched, and then the assault gunners go up on one knee and star to spray down the targets. The fire power is awesome, and invigorating. Then all together we rise and begin to move forward. I am now giving two rounds to each target I see, with adrenaline pumping, breath coming ragged from running up the hill, and hundreds of rounds flying around me. Then it’s over, we are at the top, the hill is clear, and we begin to let off some of the pent up emotion.
There is something about shooting a live round which gives one such a thrill. The knowledge you are in control of something so deadly, and dangerous. The power you hold in your hands over life and death.  It’s an awesome thrill only multiplied wih each round you fire, and is fired around you.

Friday, October 14, 2011


The army often works in mysterious ways, and sometimes it does not work at all, but sometimes the army is frustrating. Since the day I have joined the IDF been telling them I want to go to officers course, I want to be an officer. I have been an upstanding soldier, with good grades, marks, and reviews along the whole way. When my tzevet would be discussing amongst ourselves who should and would go to officers course my name would always come up, if not the first one to do so. I finished training as the number two soldier in my tzevet of 17. I spent time in the company in both training and operational activity. When I finally went out for the NCO's course (the first step to officers course) I was not only one of the best from the tzevet, and company I was experienced. In the course its self I did well, one of the best levels of fitness there, good reviews from my commander, and his endorsement to send me to officers course. Buutttt.... my battalion commander has other ideas.

 When I sat down to talk to him he told me under no circumstances would he make me an officer in my unit. I instant;y asked why? He told me I had a bad opinion about me from my commander, and I was befuddled. So after speaking to him I went and checked my record in the course, and found my opinion from my commander, and it was excellent. It had high marks in every area, and recommended me for officers course as well. I was so frustrated, angry, and pissed. Why were they lying to me? Why would my battalion, one who has an officer shortage not send me when I was begging to go and was totally qualified? Why was I being treated so poorly? One of my first reactions was to just shoot the bastard and get it over with, but the cooler side of me prevailed and I did not. shoot anyone. Instead I said I will show these bastards. My battalion commander had said "and officer in this unit you will not be," I said "an officer I will be" and was determined not to come out the liar.

I began to work as hard as possible to win. I began to speak to connections, to try and find a different unit who would send me to officers course. I began to talk to my company commander and see what he could do for me and began to draft a letter to the brigade commander in an attempt to have him intervene. In the mean time I have been told I am going back to the brigade training base, and will be a platoon sergeant for the the basic training of the November 2011 draft. I can not lie the position is a good one and gives me the chance to do what I always wanted, make so Israeli soldiers into disciplines American style soldiers. These kids are going to suffer if I go in the end. The problem is it means I can not go to officers course though, as I will be to far into my draft service. The whole frustration of the idiocy here, and the plain old army incompetence is really too much at times. You try and tray give it your all and the army just kinda leans over and craps on you for it. It is really maddening. All I can do now is fight hard and hope for the best.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bochan Gadsar

This past week I passed the bochan gadsar, a combat fitness and combat shooting test. The test is run in full combat uniform, vest with 6 full magazines, a liter and half of water in canteens or in a camelback, and ones personal weapon.

The test starts with a two kilometer run, which opens with climbing over a wall, parallel bars, and monkey bars. The obstacles are but 200 meters or so of the two kilometers. At the end of the two kilometers one is back at the wall, and begins some 500 meters of obstacles. There is again the wall, parallel bars, monkey bars, followed by a 6 meter rope climb, a high crawl, climb up to and a walk on a log two meters above the ground, a pyramid, and finally a low crawl. At the end of the obstacles is an open run of 700 meters to the finish line.

I started the test on a bad foot by struggling to get over the wall, but gave a good sprint to make up lost time on the rest of the obstacles and finished them first in my heat. On the rest of the two kilometers I made excellent time and was over the wall by 10:30. I made it over the obstacles with no problem, and stood up from the low crawl at just before 14:30 on my watch. From here I could see the finish line, and began to give the run everything. Along the way I began to pass other guys, who had been in the heat before me, and the whole way I kept saying to my self just break 17:00 minutes, nothing matters after that. I ran exactly 17:00 minutes, close but missed by a second. My results for the run is excellent, its the second best in my platoon to date and in the top ten percent of the company.

The second half of the test is the combat shooting stress test. After a short break of 10th minutes or less one enters the range and is assigned a target. Once targets are handed out and everyone has placed his magazine before the target we line up outside. We lie down on our stomachs for the start of the test. The test is a 10th meter crawl, 90 meter run, turn around and 100 meters back to the range. We enter the range and return to our target, which is a paper tzevet shaped like a head at 40 meters. We fire three rounds kneeling, and three in the prone position. The minimum numbering hits to pass depends on ones run time. 20:00 - 19:20 is six out of six, 19:20 - 18:40 is five out of six, and under 18:40 is four out of six. I only had to hit four to pass. One who fails the shooting does the test from the beginning, yes running included. The time allotted to the shooting test is 1:40.

I start out strong being one of the first back to the range, but I can feel the deep muscular exhaustion, and exhausted muscles twitch, ruining ones shot. I line upon my target and get into a tight stance and place the red dot right on target, and ham! a good shot, but my bolt does not come back forward like it should, and I quick as possible clear the jam. I am now afraid I don't have enough time, so the next two rounds are quick and miss. I now know the next three in the prone position must hit, and each round gets the time it deserves. All three hit. PASS! What a great feeling hardest part of the course behind me.