Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chanukah in the Army

Chanukah in the army is definitely no chanukkah with the family. On Tuesday night we got back to the plugah (company) area and were given 30 seconds to make a chet (a hebrew letter with an opening at the bottom and two straight legs with a flat top) in the back of the company area. There set up was a menorah and our mem'mem (PL) waiting. We then light as a group and sang tougehter as a group. However not everyone was so clear on the words and our mem'mem made us all right out the words that night and turn them into our mefakdim.

Then on Wednesday we had a plugah wide candle lighting, on a large menorah they had built that day. We had a large spread of donuts, thanks to our moshakit tash (NCO who ensures we get our rights). So we lit the candles and our whole machlakah had the words already for the songs so our mefakdim were circling us making sure we were singing and loudly and correctly. It was a thing of pride for them that there machlakah was the best there and the loudest.

After that we just lit as a machlakah and sang together. It is nice to break the stress and rigors of the day for 5-6 minutes to sing act a little free, before having to go back to being a piece of crap in basic again. Its great to know for 5 minutes what you are doing in the army. To see the candles and know I am standing in the Israeli army, the one which has once again taken up the torch which has been passed on from king David all the way to us. To know we carry the same torch of the Maccabees's of Chanukah's is a cool thought as well.

Friday, December 11, 2009

IDF Special Forces try outs

So after a week in the army I had my chance to try out for the Golani Brigades special forces unit. There were two parts (out of three) taking this draft. The Palsar (recon) was taking one platoon, and the Orev (anti-tank) was taking 2 platoons, the Chan (explosives) was not taking at all.

It all began at 1600 Sunday afternoon. We march out of the base to the site specially built for the try outs. The site is an old shooting range stripped down to the bed rock, and covered over in sand. The moved dirt is built into big walls on three sides of the site and we are located on the top of a hill which means all ways there are up. At 1600 we are sorted into groups and are turned over to our Squad leaders for the try outs. We form up around them with our assault packs (army back packs), 2 canteens, and a shovel all in hand. The Squad leaders then hand out sand bags and tell us to fill them. When filled each one weighs 20k or 45 pounds. These are then places in our bags along with our canteens and shovels. We are now ready to begin.

We begin with our bags on our back, and sprinting, with us lining up by who finishes first. We do this for a while and then we move to a new location where we spring some more, we crawl, and then are given the task to big a hole as big as possible in 10 minutes. For most of this they are only really trying to wear everyone out, they take our numbers rarely and often just have us run again immediately after we finish a sprint. This continues on for 5 hours till at 2100 we get dinner and then are sent to bed. Everyone crawls right into bed and falls right to sleep. But at 2200 they barge into the tent screaming for us to wake up get our bags on and form up out side. Once outside we take out a canteen and chug it all down in a minute, with the empty canteen upside down over our heads to prove we drank it all. We then head out for a masa (ruck march) with is for this is also our stretcher folded up, and our jerry can filled with water. The squad leader heads off at a near run and we have to keep up or we will double back and have to recover the ground again. This goes on for about an hour till we get back to camp and are put back to sleep.

Monday morning starts of with an early wake up, prayers, and then luck us another masa. Here they start even faster and the pace was really grueling. We hit the turn point and start back up the hill, and keeping up became a real challenge for our group but we finally get to the top and we all are thanking god it is over. Then we form up and the squad leader tells us we did a piss poor job we have to do it all again. Right there and then we have one guy quit. So we did it again and as we finished this time the hill back up was littered with people who had quit. This hill literally broke almost 20 people in 5 minutes. As we came up to the end point we actually had to drag the guy carrying the jerry can to the finish because he could not do it him self. The rest of the day followed a similar path with us running, crawling, or competing to get under the stretcher loaded with sand bags. This all went on till about 1700 when we stopped for a quiz on navigation and then back to getting raped physically. This went on till about 2000 when we got dinner and got to go to sleep.

Tuesday morning at 0430 we were up again, and following prayers and breakfast we were back to our physical annihilation. By now I had crawled off my left elbow and the wound was full of dirt and sand mixed with dried blood, I had fallen on the Monday morning masa and was feeling twinges in the knee from time to time, and my legs were so tired I could not stand up on my own. But on we went till about 1100 when we moved on to group challenges. This went on for a blessed 2 hours till we got lunch, and then after lunch it was back to running. Then at 1400 we were formed up and given a map and missions, each in a brown envelope. We had the stretcher and jerry can with us as well. We headed off and got to point one on time, there we opened mission 2 and it said to load the stretcher with our bags so we placed 5 (100k or 220 lb) and it also said none of our gear can touch the ground. For the next hour we run from point to point to make the times, and as we get to the last point we then have to return to the try out site which is up a huge hill so we just go all out screaming and pushing, trampling thorns, we get to the top and there we are told the physical part is over. I cant remember being so happy in a long time. The next day was just question airs and an interview and then Thursday we had a large formation and there we all learned where we were going, and who passed the try outs. They called the people heading to the regular infantry units first, and then they called the SF guys. So as the room emptied more and more I got more and more excited knowing I had a greater and greater chance of getting the SF unit. Finally they finish calling the regular infantry units and I k now I made SF. Now its just a question of where. In the end I made Orev (the anti-tank) unit and am really happy.

I am sorry this post is so long, but in truth I barely even scratched the surface of what happened. Its hard to explain an experience like this to those who have not even gone through this. It is really a once in a life time experience.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A new beggining

So in another 9 hours 51 minutes and 25 seconds I will be inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces, to the 1st Golani Brigade. This means first of all my blog posts will be lest frequent as I will only be getting out of the army every 2-3 weeks on average. Second it means I will not be able to talk about all my experiences, and may have to change details. I will tell you if I have to change details, worry not. For your easy listening here is Goalni's song.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The door opens, my head is back, feet tucked below the plane, and then off we go. From staring at the planes ceiling I am now looking at a rapidly approaching Israeli beach, and a deep blue Mediterranean sea. As we fall I open my arms and you can feel the air rushing past you, faster and faster. If only you could have seen the smile on my face … there is no feeling in the world quite like free falling 8000 feet. As you are falling you can see the Israeli country side stretching out for miles, and miles, and miles. In the other direction the Mediterranean seems to go on in straight into the sun. As you fall time seems to stretch on into an eternity, and seconds seem to crawl, yet you do not want it to end. But all good things must come to an end, and with out warning out pops the chute, and up we hop. When the chute opens it literally pulls you up a good 100 feet or so into the air. With an open chute our decent is much slower, and we can really see the view now. After about a minute of chute time, the jump counselor hands me the chutes reigns and we begin to circle over the coast taking in the view. As we approach the ground he takes them back my legs come up, and we come for a nice soft bump with dear earth.

I must say I hope I get a chance to do something like this in the army. It is quite an experience.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A crack in the wall

So this past sunday I found my self in Jerusalem, and so of course I went to the Kotel (wailing wall) to daven. There while I was waiting for a minyan to catch up to me I watched as group after group of people came into the plaza and approach the wall. I noticed two habbits with people here. One is in pictures people had this obsession with touching the wall. It almost seemed to me they felt they had to touch it for the whole experience to feel real. Maybe by touching they felt they could come a bit closer to touching god. For what ever their reasons people really seemed to like touching the wall especially in pictures.

The second thing I noticed was notes. People be they Jewish or not love to place notes in the wall. As I thought about this strange habit I came to realize through out all of Jewish history we would pour out our prayers and hopes to god, and at the wall it is no different. In the past we would have times of trouble and persecution, cracks in our history if you will, and into those cracks went all our prayers. When the rest of the world came for us we would always go for god. Today we do not just have a spiritual crack in which to throw our prayers and hopes, today we also have a wall, a wall with a connection to god, which we continue to pour into and fill with our aspirations, hopes and dreams. They say god keeps a cup of tears which is filled every time we cry over the bitterness of our exile and when the cup is filled the redemption will come. I cant say if the story is true, but maybe when we will fill the wall with enough of our prayers, hopes, and aspirations go will send us our redemption as well.

They say history repeats its self, but each repetition can be a bit different. Today we have a crack in the wall, hopefully tomorrow we will have the whole temple too.

Days till the Army: 4

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Driving and Diving.

The program has wound down its official schedule leaving us free time, and time to get ready for the army. For me I spent most of this time getting my Israeli drivers licences. Now to do this I had to go through a lot of steps.

1. Several weeks ago I had to go to an optometrist, but not just any optometrist there is only one company which can do it. There you have your photo taken and then you get a green paper, and they also check your eyesight. This costs 50 shekels.

2. You must have a doctor sign off on your form saying you are healthy and fit to drive, this cost me 65 Shekel.

3. Then I had to go to one of two offices in Israel set up to permit you to switch your American licenses over to an Israeli one. They too sign off on your form, and its ... FREE!!

4. Then you need to take two lessons minimum, I took 3 so I would be more than ready for the test, it cost a total of 315 Shekel.

5. Then came the test which is its self 350 Shekel, and then you have to pay to use the driving schools car, which the law obligates you to use, and that was 67 Shekel.

6. Then came the test, which I PASSED!! But I had to wait till 1600 to find out the results since, once some one was failed and decided to beat his tester, so they changed the law and the results are not published till 1600 of the same day. So I got my temporary licences, and to get my permanent licence I need to mail the form in to the Israeli Motor Vehicle People, and pay 197 Shekel.

So all in all getting my licence cost: 1097 shekel, and about 9-10 Hours.

Skydiving cost 1000 shekel and is a lot ore fun, maybe I will do that next week. What can be a better way to end of my short stint of civilian life then jumping out of a perfectly good airplane?

Days till the Army: 8

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tiyul Giyus

This past week our whole Garin went on a tiyul (hike) before we all start to draft to our own palces in the army. We hikes adn toured the whole Golan heights, but that was not the part which struck me. Sure its beautiful, and sure it my old stomping ground, but it was the lst day which really attracted me.

On Thursday we went to Kineret Cemetery. This cemetery served the west bank of the Kinneret in the early 20th century, mostly for those who were the real true pioneers of the Jewish state. Here the history and stories are endless. You can walk from grave to grave and with each one there is a story, and an experience to share. From soldiers who fell in the War for Independence to the founders of the first Kibbutz, the Hashomer, and more. Ben Gurion's right hand man, and teen agers who were sworn off by there parents for moving to then Palestine. I felt this location was appropriate for our group as well, since one could find many similarities. We as a group moved from our homelands to Israel, we came with a strong feeling of Jewish deffence, after all we are all going to the army, and many of us bring valuable skills and degrees to the country as well.

There was one small event there which I found ironic as well. As our tour guide was speaking I picked up one of those propeller like seeds you see around a lot and tried to crack it open, and I tried, and I tried, and I tried some more. It would not open, it would not crack. To me this was a metaphor for the people who had lived there, an were now buried in the cemetery. No matter how hard, or bad things got they drove on and just kept trying. Just as the nut could not be cracked, these people could not be broken.

Today is exactly three weeks from when I draft to Golani baby!! I also have an interview with Intelligence tomorrow. We shall see how that works out.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

This is the army Mr. Jones ...

Tuesday morning we all rolled out of bed at 0530. Shower, cloths, and prayers followed. We then ate a hurried breakfast and then sat down to wait for the bus. It was late, quite late, what a welcome to the army. We finally boarded and off to Tiveria (Tiberius) we went. There all of our army files were loaded on to the bus after a long wait. Then back on the bus and off to Tel Aviv, and Tel Hashomer, a large IDF base where all new recruits are inducted.

After a 2 our bus ride we arrive and are off leaded into the responsibility of a Mefakedet (female commander) who puts us in two lines and then we march off to turn in our bags and get a hot lunch. As we went from the bus to lunch I realized some kids are gona have a real hard time in basic, some people just can not shut up. From lunch the real stuff began, we formed two lines again and off to the induction center we went. First is photo's. Some people brought white shirts, and tie's for his I did not. Its not my wedding picture, its my army picture. From there they begin to take all sorts information to identify you.They take photo's of your teeth, they fingerprint you, and palm print you, they x-ray your teeth, take DNA, and then give you a few vaccines. From there we went to puck up our dog tags and brand new army ID's.

From there most people would continue on to get uniforms and gear, but we did not. Since not every one knows the location of where they will draft there is no point in issuing gear you might just have to turn right back in. In the end the whole thing seemed a bit anti climatic to me. After all my induction into the US Army was a wild ride compared to this. But worry not November 22nd I will be in the front leaning rest again, Go Golani, Nov '09 KAVOD!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Simchat Torah and a Jewish Nation

In the states Simchat Torah and Shmeni Atzeret are two seperate and distict days, but here they are one and it is a bit weird. So on the first (and ONLY) night of chag we take out the Torah's and begin to dance all 7 hakafot. It was a really nice experience in the kibbutz, and the younger people especially get real into the dancing and singing. Every time the Gabi tries to get up and start a new Hakafah, the youth would pick up a new song and keep on going, with out fail each time. The night of the dancing did not go on too lang and we eat by a reasonable hour.

The next morning we started services a bit early, and we were done with all the teffilot (prayers) by 1030 Everyone then went back to their houses and had kiddush there. People eat a light brunch as well, and then by 1130 people come back to the shul and the hakofot begin. These hakafor are even more lively than the night before. The Kibbutz puts out a table of "schnapps" and people really get into the dancing. But there was one song i had never heard before which really struck me.

"עם מנצח לא לפחד מי דרך ארוקה"

A victorious nation is not afraid of the long path.

This really struck me because I had never heard this song before, and even more I realized this is a song unique to the Israeli experience. In America Jews have no conception of what it means to be a nation, a Jewish nation. they may know what it means to be a minority group, even a power player in the states decisions, but they have never and never will know what it means to be the nation as a whole, to be not just an actor in the decision, but also the one making decisions.

But even further this song embodies even more of the Israeli spirit which many American Jews lack. Many American Jews enjoy their lives, they might know or say Israel is great and their homeland but it is too much of a bother for them to do the right thing. Its easy to sit in their large house, in a quite suburb, and send a yearly check to the JNF. So they do because they don't want to have to get a smaller house, in a city where every cafe has a security guard, where their children will have to go to the army, and they are part of all the decisions of the nation. But its sad because these people can not see past their own selves, they cannot see the long path. It may be a harder path, a long path but it is also the one which will ensure your grand kids are Jewish; it is the one which ensures the rest of your nation a safe haven for ever. So yes this song is it its entirety Israeli and yes every Jew in America is missing out on it.

Judaism does not believe in taking the easier path in life. Torah is meant to be worked for and is meant to be a lifelong toil, not an easy fruit to be pulled of a tree. It is sad the American Jew has let this idea fade away and be lost. While this may not apply to all Jews it applies to many, and if it does not apply to you maybe it will jar you enough to move someone else to action as well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Sukkot on the kibbutz is an interesting place. First of all, besides for every one building a succah we also built a communal succah which the garin aided in completing. While we were helping to build the succah one of the kibbutznikim gave us a demonstration of whittling a mezuzah cover.

Within the kibbutz we have some very interesting succot as well. One family builds an interesting succah every year. This year the walls are built from hay bales with wooden farm accessories in the widows and on the walls. The door way is built from a trunk of a date tree cut in half. The scach is from the leaves of the date trees. In fact all the succot is the kibbutz makes use of the branches of the date trees for schach. `

The garin will also be putting on a play and dance to “introduce” ourselves to the kibbutz. This is not my idea at all, but its tradition (this place is starting to sound like West Point a bit) so we have to. While I may not enjoy this stuff I will at least try and pretend I care at all.

But once the painful part ends we have a group hike on Mount Gilboa on Wednesday which should be interesting. The mountain commands an imposing view upon the entire Beit Shean valley and beyond into Jordan. Thursday will be a bike day. My original plan was to go from the kibbutz, around the entire Kinneret and back, but I was asked not to out of safety reasons. So instead me and several other people from the garin will join in a group from the area to bike a 25k loop. Not quite as interesting but still promises to be fun.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Such is the Army

Today is Yom Sayerot, the first step in trying out for the top elite units in the IDF. I had been told to go just ensure you get a 97 profile (the top profile) and you are good to go. So I got my 97 with a sayif (asterisk) for my glasses which s far as I knew only excluded me from pilots course. So I have been getting ready to go to Yom Sayerot and getting my mind ready for passing the hardest gibushim (physical test of will and strength) in the IDF. But last week I was told since I have glasses I can not come to Yom Sayerot.

Most people here would explode, and start to yell and scream. Me I was calm, because nothing will change this decision and therefore I will not worry about it. There is no point wasting your life away worrying about what you can not change. When i spoke with the head of the Mechina (Army prep school) I went to he said the big three units (Matkal, Sayeret, Shaldag) do not take people with glasses, so I could not fight to go. Since I could not change this I did not worry about it so instead I will train even harder for the Golani Gibush and try to get into either Egoz (an irregular warfare unit) or Palsar Golani (the brigades reconnaissance unit) which is like the very tip of the spear which is Golani.

So never forget the Army will always try and screw you. You cant change this so don't worry about it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Arba Minim

As Sukkot nears we had to order our sets of Arba Minim (The four species for more information see When we got the sign up sheet there was a moment of sticker shock. In America a set can cost between 40 and 80 dollars easily, for us the best of the best cost 41 Shekel or about $10.65.

This cost reduction really comes from our kibbutz producing all the four parts. We grow lulavim here. They grow them by placing a constraint on the palm branch every so often so they grow straight and together. In a day a lulav will grow 3.5 cm so they can be cut many times a year. In total 70-80 thousand lulavim are cut and sold by the kibbutz a year. As for etrogim these too are grown are trees here on our kibbutz. When we saw them for the first time I was surprised to see there are thorns are the etrog tree's baranchs. There were some amazing and beautiful ones growing on trees here. The aravot tree is litteraly next to the storage unit for the lulavim. so its a short walk from getting one to the other. The haddasim I did not see today but we apparently grow these too.

Its interesting to see all these plants which we are commanded to use and how they are all natural to our land Eretz Yisrael / Israel. They are not natural to America, or Europe, or Russia. Only to Israel, maybe its god giving us a hint?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Please Remove Your Self From the Jean Pool

I saw this article the other day and it really pissed me off. For one they are skiing out on their service to their country. They can speak out like this because others are defending their way of life, and their lives. But these girls can only think of themselves and are so selfish they are putting their convictions before the lives of their family of friends. If you do not agree with a war, or an a section of the army you do not have to serve there. There are plenty of army jobs which do not require you to leave Tel Aviv and you work a desk all day, and you even can go home each day. But instead these girls placed their own convictions before their family, friends, and my safety.

But this is not the only part which bothers me, it is one thing to conduct a campaign in Israel to change your own nations policy but to go on a speaking tour of another country is unconscionable. This tour serves no purpose other than to make Israel look bad, and to give ammunition to our enemies. This tour will change nothing, and will only serve to enflame college campuses which are already full anti-Israel hate and lies. Israel would be wise to refuse these girls right to return to the states.

But this does not end here; this speaking tour is also being joined and sponsored by Code Pink. This organization is disgusting they support the killing of america soldiers, and proudly so. If they were going to go abroad and sling mud at Israel they at least could have not joined with people who support the killing of their own nations young men. So in conclusion I ask these morons to remove themselves from our jean pool to prevent their idiocy from being communicated onto the next generations.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wedding In Chevron

When I was in mechina in Ramat Hagolan (the Golan Heights) I had a family on the moshav who adopted me, but since I returned to Israel I had not recontacted them. However this past Tuesday I got a message from them, their daughter is getting married in Chevron in the Marat Ha'Machpelah (the cave where the patriarchs are buried) and they wanted me to try and come. Now normally making a wedding is not too hard, but when the wedding is on the same day you get the message it is a bit trickier. So I immediately called them and began to work out how I would be able to make the wedding.

The wedding began at 1830 and i got the message at 1330. They told me there was a bus coming from the Golan, and someone from a nearbya Kibbutz was meeting the bus. I got the families number and arranged to ride with them to meet the bus. So I Tremped (Israeli hitch-hiking) to the families kibbutz and met them, we arrived at the meeting point with the bus the minute they arrived too, and we were on our way. We arrived in Chevron at 1745, plenty of time to spare.

The wedding itself was beautiful. Both the bride and groom were from Avne Etan, so there was a large number of people I recognized from the Moshav. The brides receptions was set up in a fashion I had never seen before. She was in a low white chair, with a high white back, and before her lay a carpet stretching out from her as it swept away from her. on either side of her sat her friends who being below her gave the impression of her as a queen sitting upon her throne. Her friends playing instruments in the background only added to the effect.

When it came time for the Chuppah, the fathers escorted the groom and the mothers the bride to the Chuppah. The happiness radiating off the two of them was so infectious I am pretty sure if your pet cat was run over you right in front of them you would still be smiling.

When the bride and groom returned from the Yichud room, the dancing and joy which followed was absolutely lovely. The most interesting part was when everyone started to do a Yemenite dance. In all honesty I could not figure out how to do it, its back forward, leg up, step right, or some mixture of the above.

Since the wedding was at the Ma'arat Ha'machpelah I also had the pleasure of davening (praying) there twice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tsav Rishon and Pain

This past Thursday began my induction into the IDF. I had to wake up early in the morning, grab an early bus to Tiveria (Tiberius) and then report to the Lishkat Giyus (Enlistment office). There you begin your induction into the IDF. It starts with your background information, your family details, and your history. They than administer a Hebrew test to see your level of understanding and mastery. This test is a ridiculous one, it involves reading and translating several sentences in Hebrew, except half the words are words even Israeli's have never heard of before. But I think I passed the Hebrew test as the next step was a 2 hour personal interview. This is not done for all people, and they would not chooses someone who could not communicate his answers so I answered the weirdest questions in Hebrew for two hours. We spent a solid half hour on being late to class, where, when, and why.

After my interview I had a medical examination, and an eye examination whish is used to give you your medical profile, which dictates where you can go in the army. I received a 97 which is the highest profile there is. This means I can go where ever I want in the army. Following this I was set up as a Chayal Boded (Lonely Soldier) and then had to take an intelligence test. The intelligence test was not too hard it’s a lot of pattern recognition and shape comparisons.

After this we returned to the kibbutz and then the real fun began. At 2200 we began Liylah Halavan (Literally: The white night). This is in essence an all night smoker. It starts off easy, a few pushups, a bit of crawling, and bit standing and not moving. then it intensifies. We begin a short march out of the kibbutz into the fields. Once in the fields we spend hours running back and forth, crawling, and way too long in Matzav Shtayim (The upright push up position). I really learned to hate crawling, the ground has littered with thorns, rocks, and generally painful stuff, my forearms are now just covered in red welts from all the crawling we did. This all went till 0430 (we knew because we heard the Muslim call to prayer in the distance) and then we got to load up our stretcher with 230 pounds of sandbags and water and then we set off. Every 20 seconds a pair switches in from the back, and the pair on the back of the stretcher switches the pair on the front of the stretcher, and so we went till 0630 when we got back to our building. There we all got under the stretcher and when our "commanders" screamed Ali'ah we screamed Krav, which means something along the lines of "rise to the fight" but also is a kind of motto for those who choose to go to combat units here. We then stripped of our incredibly muddy cloths, showered, and slept for hours.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gadna and brighter parts of life

This past week was spent mostly in Gadna. Gadna is a program run by the IDF to give incoming youth a taste of the army and an idea of where they would like to go. While the idea is great and I am all for the program this week was not fun for me. For one thing I already did a week of Gadna, but mine was done with a real army unit not with an education unit, and second I did a solid year at West point, enough said.

The better part of the week though was when Gadna ended on Thursday and we all got to leave. From there we went to Jerusalem, and after our bus breaking down on the side of the highway we finally got there. We stayed the night at an apartment owned by one of my friend’s parents, and that night we went to the Jerusalem beer festival. First of all I have never in all my days seen so many different kinds of good beer in one place at once. It’s like being a kid in a candy store and in either situation too much means you throw up, don't worry I did not. There was also an Israeli band playing there, and they were really good. Overall it was a great experience.

For shabbat I stayed with a friend from Mechina and Friday night we did a meal with another former Mechina member. Shabbat morning was more interesting as we ate at a friend’s house, his parents had just made aliyah and it was their first shabbat there. Me and several of my mechina friends compromised there first shababt guests in a beautiful but still mostly empty house.

The picture attached is one I snapped just as shabbat was coming in, and the sun was setting over Jerusalem and from my friend’s apartment one could see all of Jerusalem spread out below and a rosy ball of fire painting red clouds over the horizon as it slowly sank into a blissful day of rest.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A ride into the sun set.

On Thursday we took a break from the normal grind of life on the Kibbutz and we took a bike ride. We rented bikes (Nice ones) and we went for a ride. We left the kibbutz and went towards the border with Jordan, and about 5 kilometers latter we stood at the border, with Jewish farms rolling behind us and Jordanian orchards before us. We then road farther north along fish ponds and through freshly tilled fields till we got to our destination, a ma'ayan (Hebrew for spring) and we stripped off our shoes and shirts (for the guys) and jumped in. The water was cool, and the bottom was muddy, very muddy.

After a cool swim in the water we crawled out and but our shoes and shirts back on. We then began our ride back to the kibbutz. As we road we were facing the mountains of Yehudah and Shommron (Judea and Samaria) with the sun crawling behind them as it sets. In America you cant watch the sun set, it moves too slowly, but in Israel tou can and its stunning. Slowly, bit, by bit the sun slipped behind the mountains leaving them a dark hazy outline to ones eye. It reminded me our an expressionistic style painting, except this was real life. Finally as the sun was slipping the last few inches of its head below the mountain line we stopped our bikes to daven mincha (afternoon prayers)in the field. We then picked our bikes back up and finished our ride back.

Its funny really, the only place I have even ridden a bike is Israel. I think buying one here would be a good idea. the ones we used usually go for about 1500 Shekel, but one of our madrich's (counselors) does some work for a bike shop and could probably get me one for less, 1200 maybe? Time to start saving.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Running with Moses

I am a runner, as many of my friends may know, but running here is different. To me running is a somewhat religious experience, it is a moment of life were you are alone in your own mind, you are able to learn new things about yourself, and are able to enjoy nature in a new light. Every time I run it is a brief pause from all stress in my life to just relax and focus on only what is happening in another 30 seconds, when running all out with pain searing though your lungs and calf muscles all other worries fade.

In Israel though, and on my kibbutz specifically, running takes on a new meaning. Every morning when I get up and put on my shorts, shoes, and shirt I know what I will see on my run will amaze me. I begin my run with the mountains of Jordan on my left, and they are beautiful. In the warm, clear morning air you can see their every detail, their rich colors, and majestic beauty. It looks like a painting done by a master, almost too real to be real. But these mountains soon fade as the road curves and the plain of the Beit Shean valley spreads out before me with its vibrant assortment of green and yellow colors spread out below me. In America each tree looks similar to the one next to it, but in Israel each one is distinct and different from its neighbor. The beauty of assortment and variety is too difficult for me even put into words.

But as I round another curve the view changes to the mountains of Judea and Samaria, as they too rise with their own majestic beauty. Their sharp curves and dusty detail are a sight to behold each morning. Then as I round yet another curve palm trees obstruct my view and I get to soak up the view of the milk and honey of the earth. As far as my eye can see spreads out the wealth of the earth, and the sweat and toil of Jews in their own land becomes apparent.

Each and every morning the scenery takes on a new view or meaning. Either the Jordanian mountains are covered in mist or a single tree stands out in the valley more than usual, but without fail the scenery is an inspiration making running a religious experience on a whole new level.

As a note writing this piece is hard for me as I feel I am not doing due diligence to the places I am trying to describe, the beauty is nearly beyond words for me. While West Point and the Hudson River may be beautiful, Israel is beautiful on a level no other place in the world can compete with. I am not sure I even know how to capture the full beauty with pictures, but I will try.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Wedding on the Kibbutz

Israeli Weddings, are different. Today on our Kibbutz we had a wedding; both were born and raised on the kibbutz. This wedding is nothing like any you will experience in America. It begins with dancing and l'ichaims with the bride and groom separately. By tradition the week before a wedding Jews do not let the bride and groom meet or speak till under the Chuppah. (Jewish weddings are conducted under an awning known as a Chuppah). Then everyone files outside to the grass where the Chuppah is erected, and the trees are lit up with lights. The ceremony does not drag on forever like American weddings tend to, and everyone stands except for a few elderly people who are on chairs in the front row. The Wedding was beautiful and livly, and then they had one heck of a pimped out van with ballons and streamers take the bride and groom to their house for their Yichud time. (Jews have the bride and groom spend a short amount of time together alone after the wedding and it is called Yichud, from the hebrew root for sinle/one meaning they are alone)

While the bride and groom spend their time together everyone else heads back to the mess hall and there a lavish meal is served, at this wedding for the teens and young adults they had Asian style tables close to the ground with mattresses to sit on. It was quite nice, as per usual the food is amazing and they had beer on tap, a huge plus. and then the bride and groom return. Here the kibbutz had a special chair for them which sits two and has handles off the sides so people carry them, and the grooms friends carried them in, to the dance hall where every one comes in and dances together, well sort of. Religious jews do not do mixed dancing so men dance with the groom, and women with the bride though the bride does come over to dance with the groom at times. this goes on for quite some time, and people get really into it.

After the dancing subsides people return to finish the meal, and have desert. This takes a while as the bride and groom eat and people sit around and talk a lot. Then everyone says Birkat Hamazon (Grace after meals) and the family puts on a skit for the bride and groom, and all can watch.

One interesting thing about this wedding which is common to many Israeli weddings is the guys in attendance. The groom is an officer is Duv Devan (for info see and many of his friends from the unit were there. This meant there was a small armory worth of M4 Carbines with sick scopes, pimp sticks, flashlights, and all sorts of other gear on them. Before the wedding one fo my freidns saw one of the guys heading to a house with 8 rifles so they would not get in the way of dancing. others kept there weapons on them for the wedding. I would post pictures of the wedding, but i would probably inadvertently out probably a dozen operators. But when one looks at these kids you do not see that American/Hollywood stereotype of a special operators. Most of the guys are 20-21 years old, they do not have bulging muscles everywhere, and they come from all walks of Israeli life, from religious settlers with big knitted kippot, and long curly peyot (side locks) to unreligious Tel Avivian's with jeans and printed tee shirts. This wedding is definitely an experience of a life time, and lucky me there is another one in three weeks. This time the groom’s family is marrying off a daughter. As a side not I am now an official Israeli, I got my Tudat Zehut (Israeli ID card) finally!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Life On A Kibbutz

Till I draft to the army in November I am living on a kibbutz, Tirat Tzvi. It is located in the Beit Shean Valley about 10 minutes from the Syrian border. It is actually weird for me to be living on a kibbutz, being a fierce advocate of Capitalism, and the Free Market. But a kibbutz is also an interesting palace to live.

First of all the place is gorgeous, absolutely stunning. There is nothing like coming out of one’s house to run, and being greeted by warm air, peacocks running about, and a beautiful and I mean beautiful vista of mountains and fields. I must note however while the mornings may be warm, the day is HOT. In my room the AC is on 25 Celsius, that is about 77 Fahrenheit and it feels cold, quite cold. A cool day here is only 100 degrees.

People also do things in a far more communal style than most places. While this Kibbutz is privatizing to an extent there is still a communal dining hall, which people eat in. There is a laundry facility, where each person has a number and they write it on all their cloths and then they turn in their laundry and it is returned to a box with their number on it.

A place such as a Kibbutz can be really hard to understand for people who live in America, or even people who just visit. It’s really a way of thinking about things, it’s more about the group than any one person. Its also a way of life focuses on not letting work get in the way of enjoying life. For instance there is a pool on our kibbutz and at 5:30 every Monday people meet at the pool to swim and relax together and then have a dinner of hotdogs at the poolside.

In my book one of the best things here is what the kibbutz produces, meat. Lots and Lots of meat, meaning we eat lots and lots of meat. Being a Meatatarian this rocks, but it really is not fun for our one vegetarian.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Landing In Israel

So as the plane finally came down to a smooth touchdown in Israel the excitment on the plane was palpable. with the whole plane being full of just olim. (New Israeli Citizens, the Hebrew word oleh means to go up and since Israel is considered the holiest place it is considered as you are going up always, even if you are not going up litteraly. Olim is the plural form of oleh.)

When we landed we stayed on the plane and sutoms came on made sure ourpassports were in order and we then got off the plane. from the plane we took some pictures and then were put on buses to go to Terminal 1 where we were greeted by hundreds of family members, freidnds, and well wishers. After saying hi to our freinds, and exchanging hugs we had a welcome ceremony. I had spoken with the director of Nefesh B'Nefesh (The program I made Aliyah throuhg) and he told me the directors of my Mechina, me, and another member of the Mechina would be in the second row. now on the plane I did not realize what that meant. When I got to to the ceremon I realized this meant I was the row before the Prime Ministers staff. As we waited for the ceremony to begin we were all hanging out, and in came Natan Shiransky, this man had been a Refusnick in russia and had treid to leave the USSR for Israel. For this he was sent to the Gula and even there he refused to give in. When he was released he was ordered to leave and walk straight out of there, he walked out in a zig zag.

After I met him we began the ceremony and we heard from shiransky, the founders of Nefesh B'Nefesh, and then the Prime minister of Israel, Bibi netanyahu, got up there to speak. I was told 5 minutes before me and another girl would be recieving our Tudot Aliyah (Documentation of making Aliyah) from the Prime Minister him self. It has been a long time since Iwas that nervous, standing up there with the Prime Minister, a baggilion cameras going off at once, and then when he hands me my tudah he starts to ask me, questions like what type of officer I had wanted to be in America. It was a nerve racking moment for me to say the least. But when it all ended I got to go upstairs and there I got the rst of my papers sighned and off I went to my new country.

This thursday I begin my program Garin Tsabar, and move into Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi. Getting pumped.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Big Day

As I write this I will leave America in another 13:07:45 Hours. Its exciting, and makes me a bit nervous. When I next get a chance to write on this blog I will be Home and an Israeli citizen. Kinda scary in its own way. I find this a great video to inspire me and keep me on an even keel.

Friday, July 31, 2009

What this is all about

I decided to write this blog so I can keep in touch with my friends and let them know how I ma doing and to store memories for my self. To give a little background on this blog i will explain two things its name and the URL I chose for it.

1. "A Son Returns Home" - Literally I am going home, to my land to where we all came from. Every day Jews pray "וקבצינו יחד מי ארבא קנפות הארץ" "And may god return us from the four corners of the earth," now by my own, all be it circuitous, route am returning home. There are several times in the Prophets were Jerusalem is called a mother and we her sons, I think it slightly ironic my first night back will be spent in Jerusalem.

2. "The Wings of an Eagle" - There are two reasons for this. One is related to the idea (not sure if its from Isaiah or from a Midrash [Rabbinical teachings handed down dealing often with more mystical ideas]) that when the time of the Moshiach will come God will return the Jews "on the wings of eagle. " I am settling for a Boeing 747 flown by El Al. However there is a second reason, Rebbi Nachman of Breslove taught a Jew is required to attach himself to every part of the world ans make it holy. I had a special opportunity to come to a place not many Jews come to and as far as I know no Orthodox Jew has come to and also tried to bring with him all the practices involved. I had a special opportunity to attach my self to a new place and make it holy. I am probably the only cadet ever to be able to claim they procrastinated on their homework so they could study a little Gemarah (Talmud). It was by all means a year I can say I gained a lot from, a year I will value more than most others past or to come, and it was because I was an Eagle. That was the mascot of my company and while I did not stay on I can say I am proud to have been one. Judaism teaches to always show Gratitude for the good you are given I was given a wonderful opportunity as an Eagle and I now get to give my little thanks by acknowledging thier part in getting me here.