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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Close to home ...

On Thursday the 18th of August a complex terrorist attack began on the border between Israel and Egypt 150 kilometers from Gaza. The attack began with the terrorists opening fire on a civilian passenger bus on its way to eilat. The bus driver was wounded but kept the bus going attempting to reach the IDF check point, while soldiers on the bus returned fire with their personal rifles. Dozens were wounded, but the word got out and the quick reaction force was on its way. The quick reaction force was from my unit Orev Golani, the parallel team of mine from draft November 2009. They were on site in minutes and as they arrived they hit a road side bomb, but kept going. The first terrorist was run over by the multi ton vehicle and died on the spot. The soldiers then began to exit the vehicle to kill the remaining terrorists. As the platoon sergeant left the vehicle and began to move towards the terrorists he took two rounds in the neck and went down. A sharpshooter shot down a second terrorist and then the squad there began to deal with its wounded. The platoon sergeant was dead and two more lightly wounded, and their vehicle was out if commission after both the bomb and gun fight. By this point a larger response had activated and anti-terror units had arrived and slain a third terrorist. The rest of the day had another few portions of the attack play out and a total of 7 terrorists were killed and another soldier was killed in addition to the one my company lost. The rest of the attack is not my focus though its the reality the loss brought home.

A member of my company was dead, it easily could have been our team and not the parallel team. His funeral was on Friday on Har Hertzel, the Israeli military cemetery. At 1000 stood all those from the company who could come, many being needed to stay back and fulfill the operational mission. The cemetery was full with not only soldiers, but civilians, friends and family.

At 1000 the body arrived, a simple wooden coffin draped over it an Israeli flag. His friends from his team took the coffin and hoisted it to their shoulders. While once they had carried stretchers together in training, today his freinds carried him in a coffin on their shoulders. Before him marched his honor guard, made up of soldiers he had trained as a squad leader in basic training. Behind his coffin came the family, a weeping, sad family. But as sad as they may be the family was not broken, for thrones their son died with honor. He did not go like an Amy Whitehouse with a needle in the arm, but rather in a charge on terrorists while protecting innocent civilians. There son was a true hero, under enemy fire he still jumped from the protection on the armored vehicle to lead his soldiers in combat. What came out in his funeral over and over was how he did everything all the way, and never half assed. Even in his death he went all the way. At the finish of the funeral the honor guard gave a salute of three rounds, each one sending a shiver down my spine. Each bark of the rifles, each time a new round was charged and a shell casing fell to the ground, a shiver went down my back from anew. Each round seemed to add a new level of finality to the whole event. The total finality sank in at the grave side, with the fresh dirt on it. It easily could have been my team, or even me there.

Today rockets are still falling on the south, on a school, on a shul, on houses. Many are calling for a fresh whipping of Hamas even if it means ground operations. After the loss the company suffered we are ready and eager, in the words of Ehud Barak "he who messes with us will have his head separated from his neck."

Rest in peace Moshe Naftali, you will be missed by all. The IDF lost both a great solder and commander, and the rest of us a great friend.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nearly Two Years

I will shortly have been in Israel two years now. I wanted to reflect back over the past two years and see how far I have come and how far I have to go. I first arrived in Israel on August 4th 2009 in a haze of emotion and excitement. From the plane ride which ws far top exciting to sleep on, to the arrival ceremony and receiving my Tudat Oleh (Immigration Certificate) from Bibi Netanyahu, Prime Minister and war hero, I was just not sure it was all real. But after the ceremony and getting in the taxi to head to the kibbutz I encountered the first change in who I was. The taxi driver with a devilish smile asked me where I was from, and I at first out of instinct said “America”, and then instantly said “No! I am wrong I am an Israeli!” I felt so proud being able to say those words.  

After the airport came the kibbutz and the start of Garin Tzabar. Two years later I can say the kibbutz has really become part of my home. Be it my loving family here who takes care of me to all my friends in the Garin who are there for me or just to hang out with. I have really built a strong set of lifelong connections here. The kibbutz at first was a bit daunting for me. Coming from a Ronald Regan Capitalistic household and belief system to a socialistic commune is a big step. But I was quick to see the kibbutz had become mostly privatized, as have most kibbutzim in Israel, and no one was hanging up pictures of Marx or Lenin anywhere so I was good. 

On the kibbutz we began with our process of learning Hebrew, and while I had some basic foundations I was far from fluent. I remember my first cell phone bill, and wondering if I would have understood it better in Chinese. I was comforted only by the fact it was fairly low so I was pretty certain no one was trying to rob me blind. Then came the bank and mounds of papers in Hebrew, and a million lines to sign and a handful of words I understood. Thank god our Garin director was there to help us or I am pretty sure we all could have signed our first born children over and never known. Today the shock of a bill is only in its size occasionally. Now newspapers were also a challenge. In America I would read the paper every day from cover to cover keeping up to date on all the news. But suddenly I opened the paper and struggled with the smallest most inconsequential story. It would be months till I successfully read a full, real article in the newspaper and understood it. Today while I can open a paper and understand all her articles the extra effort needed for the Hebrew often requires the article to be quite interesting for me to put forth the concentration. 

A major goal of mine was to start reading books in Hebrew. I often pushed this goal off till I simply ran out of books in English. The challenge at first was to find a book in Hebrew which was both interesting enough, and of a high enough reading level I would not feel insulted by reading it; while also utilizing a level of Hebrew I could read and understand without having to pause to often to look up a word. The first book I started was fine for the first 10 pages and then took a turn into very high level Hebrew and I put it down. A month later I got the perfect book. Letters to Talya, the book was interesting, an intellectual grabber, and written in plainer Hebrew. From there I progressed onto two more books of a similar or slightly higher level. Today I have taken the leap to the next step with a book whose Hebrew is a bit more complex but I am going strong 35 pages in and loving it. I real feel this is one of my greatest feats in Hebrew to date and biggest steps to really entering Israeli society. Speaking is not enough reading is crucial as well.   

The central part of the past two years for me has been the army. I can honestly say I have gone through many changes in these two short years. From a know nearly nothing private to a sergeant after training in the Golani Recon Battalion, with operational experience, and time spent training with the unit. While I have the pins to show for it, my real accomplishments to me are not ones I wear on the chest. They are the things I feared or hated and yet overcame. Be it my fear of heights right before I jumped from the plane, or my dislike for fighting right as I sank my fist into my first opponent in my final act of Krav Maga, or the first steps on a solo 90 kilometer, two day navigation. It’s the knowledge I can overcome any obstacle or barrier, mental or physical. It’s the knowledge I have accumulated in my profession from training and experience. Now that I have also taken the first steps onto the road of command I feel almost as if I am starting my Army Career over again. Over the course of the next year I will go from a simple Israeli soldier to an Israeli officer, in the IDF. It is hard for me to imagine a more Zionistic pinnacle than to realize this goal.   

But now that I have looked back on these two years I must also look forward to the next year as well. Aside from the officership I am perusing I have several more goals I would like to realize. I would like to see myself moving to Jerusalem. This is both a spiritual and Zionistic goal. Jerusalem to me is both a Jewish religious center, and our nation’s capital. To live there is to join with the central nerve of both Israel the state and region. It’s to live in both the nation’s capital and gods house. I also want to make a real effort to learn this country better, and to this effort I want try and take more trips around the country to places I have not been. In my Hebrew I want to continue to build it up with my new focus being on grammar. I want to keep reading in Hebrew and to see the improvement in my vocabulary as well. 

As a closer when I was going back to America to visit my parents last February I had a stopover in Paris. As I was boarding the plane they were checking passports and I presented my Israeli passport. The lady looked it over and asked me if I was in the IDF I thought for a moment and said yes. She smiled at me and said it must be hard and I told her it definitely had its moments, she said “good for you” and I moved on.  As I boarded the plane I saw her check the passport of an American soldier who had been behind me, she also asked him if he was an American soldier and he said yes. But that was it, no question and no compliment. It made me proud to see the respect my army and thus my nation was given in comparison to the US Army. On the flight I though on far we, the Jewish nation, have come in 65 years from Auschwitz to the modern IDF; a powerful and respected army, guarding both our boarders and Jews everywhere.   

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Palseret it’s the combination of two Hebrew words Palsar and Seret. Palsar is its self an abbreviation of Plugat Si’ur, Reconnaissance Company, and Seret is the word for movie. Thus, the connotation of the word Palseret is another Hebrew term chai b’ (seret, meaning literally “living in a movie.” The meaning being a lack of connection to reality and living in a fantasy land. Now putting all the above together the term Palseret means the Palsar is living in a movie or a fantasy. So what does this have to do with anything?
            The Palsar of the Golani Brigade was one of the first elite units established in Israel. Set up in 1950 by Ariel Sharon it was the source of the first officers for the unit Sayeret Matkal, the IDF’s version of the SAS and top land unit. The unit participated in every major war and operation the IDF has conducted to date including Entebbe. She has operated alongside Shayetet, the IDF SEAL’s, and Sayeret Matkal. Her past commanders have gone on to lead the Golani brigade and to places much higher. The unit has much to be proud of in its past, that no one can argue. Today however, she is a different unit.
            Around 2005 the General Staff ordered that all brigades take their special companies, the Palsar (Reconnaissance), Orev (Anti-Tank), and Chan (Sappers) and place them together in a recon battalion. Some brigades already had this set up and some like Golani did not, with the Palsar being a unit of higher caliber and longer and harder training. Needless to say the Palsar by us was pissed and the order was largely ignored the first year. The framework was there but no one was really listening. This went on till just after the Second Lebanon War in 2006 when the army cracked down. A new battalion commander was sent in with orders clean house or else. He did, there was one pin now the battalion pin with all company pins removed and even shirts bearing there likeness banned. The Palsar fought but lost, badly. The Orev and Chan went along but reluctantly. They too lost things along the way but in the end of the day their training and standards were raised.   
            One standard of training was set up for everyone, and differing only in the courses for their specialties. I arrived at the unit in 2009 when this was the way things were. The Palsar was not even considered the best company the Orev was with a strong team from the November 2007 draft pulling us up. Shortly after my draft the company pins were returned though.
            Now this all ties back to Palseret. How? Because the Palsar still walks around with their nose in the air and attitude of WE ARE BETTER. I can’t stand it either! They still think they are one of the premiere units in the army and the Orev and Chan are just some lower level of existence. Today in the battalion there is a fierce competition between the companies and I do everything to see the Palsar lose. If I can’t stand them thinking they are better then I will also show them I really am better than them. Be it posting the best time in the unit on a run, or my team having the best run time average in the unit. Be it who finishes an act first, or god knows what, just don’t let the Palsar get their first! 

I got one week left in the prep-course (where I have the highest marks) and then Thursday its out to leave for a week! Pumped! 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Smattering of Events

Over the past few weeks a few big events have occurred for me.

One is I ran the best time in my whole unit (not just company the whole damn unit) on the past fitness test. Let me clarify I did not run the best time ever, meaning no record set but for this iteration I ran the best time. The run is 3000 meters and I completed it in 10:05. For you Americans who have no understanding of kilometers this is 200 meters under 2 miles and is a 10:35 pace for 2 miles. My next goal will be to get under 10 minutes.

The next big occurrence for me is I am going out to the IDF's Infantry NCO course. I will be doing the one for Infantry Reconnaissance units. The preparatory course of 3 weeks starts Monday and I am really pumped! For me to reach my final goal of officers course I need to pass this course and with the best marks possible. The preparatory course takes place at our brigade training base and the NCO course its self takes place at the Infantry School down in the Negev. The course is three months long so before the year is out I hope to be a certified NCO in the Israeli army!

As a note on how the IDF operates while I may currently hold the rank of Sargent I am not a certified commander. Here ranks our set by time served. Corporal after 8 months, Sargent after 16 moths, and Staff Sargent after 26 months. Mandatory service is 36 months. For officers anyone still in mandatory service is a 2nd lieutenant and once one enters professional service he is automatically promoted to 1st lieutenant. the importance in the IDF is less on who is what rank, and rather who knows what and has been trained on what.

Finally this Thursday one of the members of my team is getting married! the whole team is getting released and will be present. The wedding promises to be a blast and I am real happy for my buddy! I guess I have given away what my next post will be about too.    

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Al Nakba

Sunday May 15th was Al Nakba day for the Arab world. Al Nakba is the Arab world’s day of mourning over the establishment of the state of Israel. It literally means “the disaster.” In preparation we were forwardly deployed to the area across from Maroun A’ras. Maroun A’ras is a large hill top overlooking Israel (over 400 meter climb) with a large boardwalk around the top and bread and breakfasts. As we got in closer for the day the first thing we saw was a Palestinian flag waving from on top the hill. Within an hour we began to see little dots of people forming up on the top of the hill. Being a sharpshooter and having an ACOG 4x sight was able to see a bit better and we could see the people differentiated by their shirt colors. As the day moved on towards 1300 the crowd began to swell immensely and sporadic gunfire began to pepper the air. Hezbollah was providing free buses and food. They had ordered something to the tune of 500 buses. Since Al Nakba is already a day off, so it was not hard for them to convince people to come out and join.    

At this point we had a quick review for an upcoming operation and when we came back outside things had gone from worrisome to bad. There was a string of people, looking like a string of ants at our distance, moving down from Maroun A’ras towards Israel and the fence between us and Lebanon. At this point Arabs had already broken the fence on the Syrian border and mass deployments and gunfire was reported there. We ran to the secure room holding the screens for the cameras watching the fence and Maroun A’ras and what we saw was scary. There were angry mobs moving on the fence, throwing stones, but not the small ones you skip on the lake, ones the size of cement blocks, at the fence. S they closed in on the fence the Team 1 who was the Tzevet Konnenut (Readiness team or in US Army speak QRF – Quick Reaction Force) were called and within a minute were on the vehicles on their way there. We stayed back to view on the cameras a bit. The mob had now closed on the fence and there was one man in a black tee shirt and army pants on the Lebanese side attempting to hold them back and doing a very poor job. The mob were pushing up on the fence and still throwing blocks at the fence, but now with people in close they were hitting their fellow Arabs with blocks. At this point the man in the black shirt gave up and they Arabs began to climb on the fence. At this point we were all ordered to the bus and to get on vests and equipment. We ran like we ha never run before and were in moments on vests, and I being the radioman had my radio up and running and was getting all the reports from the fence as it happened.

“They are on the fence!” “They are climbing over, OMG!” “Company Commander: Silence, sharpshooters only move up to the tree line (which was next to the fence) and be ready for orders to shoot” “Brigade Commander: Knees down anyone on the fence, at the Company Commanders discretion” “Company Commander: 7,4,3,2, - Fire!” And from the bus we hear the times and simultaneous fire. This happens a few more times and then we get our marching orders from the mem’peh (Company Commander) Within 5 minutes we are on site and in formation to move out.

Now before I continue I will need to paint you a picture of the terrain. On the Israeli side there are rows of orchards running parallel to the border fence, and between the orchards and the fence is a row of tall pin trees. The fence its self is made up of a road for Hummer’s a sand path north of it and then the fence it’s self. On the other side of the fence is Lebanon and immediately after the fence is a land mine field. After the land mines are open fields which stretch back about 200 meters and then begins the rise up to Maroun A’ras for about 800 meters. When we arrive we are east of the major action and begin to move parallel to the fence towards the major action. We realize we have arrived at the center of action when a not so gentle rain of rocks begins to pour upon us.

The Arabs on the other side are going nuts, screaming, ranting, throwing rocks and boulders at us. They even have sling shots are attempting aimed fire, and in some cases succeeding. The hate they are radiating is tangible, it can almost be tasted in the air and the tension is in the air. Every so often an Arab attempts to get onto the fence and a crack of rifle fire sends him backwards and off the fence. (ROE is anyone on the fence will be shot off at knee or lower by order of mem’peh or mafkat’z (Platoon Leader), any one armed, with intention, and capability can be shot at knee if possible and if not then center mass; again only with permission unless there is an immediate threat to a soldiers life) At first my team is put in the orchard in the back as they assess the situation. Then they call for two sharpshooters and I begin to get up to run to be the first one there but my mafkat’z tells me no since I am the radio man I must be with him. So I stay back and one of the two who went comes back with an X or a kill. There is a tradition to place an X on the butt of a weapon when it has been used to kill an enemy.

By this point we are redeployed to be along the tree line next to the fence and under heavier rock fire. I now have a clearer view of the situation and can see the protest or as it can more accurately be called mob quite clearly. I also can hear them quite clearly. While most of what they shout is in Arabic there are a few shouts in English of “Fuck You Israel!” and “Fuck You Jews!” The rage here is ridiculous they eventually run out of throw able rocks so they start to smash large boulders together to create more ammunition to throw. The screams and curses pierce the air over and over. Then on the radio one of the camera observer’s reports a “protestor” has picked up an anti-tank mine and is running towards the fence. I instantly go into my sites and start to search for him, I want the shot. But before I find him I hear the crack of a rifle off to my left. Someone else found him first. About 10 minutes later in the forefront of the large mass of protestors someone begins to light a torch and begins to wind up to throw it into the tree line we are in. A clear danger with intent and ability I try and line up a clear shot but the trees block me so I move a bit right and then crack once again someone else beat me to the shot.  

After almost three hours the Lebanese Army finally came on sight. At first the soldiers attempted to argue with the protesters and convince them to leave on their own but the protestors kept going strong mostly ignoring the soldiers. Finally the frustrated soldiers just put in magazines pointed their weapons at a 45 degree angle and let it rip. The protestors started to pack out of there in a real hurry after that. For the next 15 minutes the Lebanese Army shot off something close to 20,000 rounds on automatic as they herded the people back up the hill towards Maroun A’ras and home. We packed up from here and went on back home.

After the day’s events I had some serious material to think about. One is the anger and hatred I saw and felt. One girl stands out in my memory. She was no older than 15 years old and she was front and center and angry. Screaming and cursing in Arabic and English I was shocked and horrified. What was she doing here? What had any of us ever done to her? Who had instilled such hate in her and what parents would let her come to an event like this? I realized that people who say peace is but a moment away in the Middle East are clueless. Peace is generations away as for true peace to exist this hate must stop and it must be untaught. True peace will exist only when people can at minimum respect the other side. I don’t ask to like, love, or even want the other side there only they respect them as human beings and recognize their basic human rights. I also realized I at no moment experienced fear, only an adrenaline high surging through my veins which made the experience quite enjoyable. I am not so sure on what to think on that though …