(photo credit: none)
This year, my wife Trudy and I went on a five-day
vacation to the Isle of Rhodes right after I finished my 12 days of
volunteer reserve duty in the IDF. I preferred that order, having a
restful vacation after sleeping on a cot with four other snoring men in
the room. But Trudy says that she would have preferred a vacation from
me after being on a vacation with me!
stint in the army reserves brought me to the center of Samaria, to a
little base manned and womanned by soldiers from the Home Front
Command. These young soldiers are primarily trained for search and
rescue operations in case of emergencies. But in the meantime, they
perform vital security tasks along the Green Line.
I was sent with four other volunteer reservists to help them.
Mostly, the pleasure was all ours. These were the best of Israeli
youth, doing an incredibly responsible job.
A few brief observations:
While not fully an "equal opportunity employer," the army is still
taking progressive steps. The young man giving out equipment at the
reception center was a uniformed soldier with Down's syndrome. He was
no less responsive to our complaints than any other soldier in the
• The integration of women into the army - at least in this
unit - is full and complete. On three of my assignments (one involving
48 hours in a very cramped "pillbox" watchtower), the commanding
officers were 19-year-old girls. For the guys under their command,
their officers' gender was irrelevant.
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• The pillbox watchtower where I stood guard
overlooks a military road which is off-limits to all civilian traffic.
One morning, I saw a white minibus speeding toward us. When it passed
the tower and stopped at a nearby Arab house, our female officer went
over to tell the passengers they were not allowed on the road and had
to leave. Through my binoculars I saw that some of them started a
vehement argument with her before they finally got back on the bus and
When our officer returned, she was in tears. "It was a group of
left-wingers from Tel Aviv." she sobbed. "They said what we were doing
to the Palestinians was worse than what the Germans did to the Jews! We
sacrifice two years of our lives to serve our country, and that's how
they talk to us?"
I tried my best to calm her down, with little success. But I
was also thinking, "If this is what the Israeli left has become - a
spokesman for our worst enemies, expressing their contempt for young
people who exemplify Jewish affirmation, then it's no wonder they
collapsed in the last election."
• The figures are just in that 2009 has been Israel's quietest
year in the last decade. This was not a decision made by the
Palestinians; this was a decision made by Israel to stop them. To do
this, we need to gather accurate and up-to-date intelligence on what is
happening in the West Bank.
On one of my assignments, we set up a roadblock near the border
of an area under Palestinian control. Our job was to stop every car and
bring the identity cards of all men to a team of plainclothes
personnel. They would then tell us which of the passengers should be
"invited" over for a short talk. I don't know what was discussed. But I
do know that this was the nuts and bolts of intelligence gathering that
goes on continually - and that is why our years are quiet again.
• The privilege of serving in the IDF still moves people across
oceans. Within my little group, there was one volunteer from Seattle
and another from Frankfurt, Germany, who came here twice a year to do
reserve duty. Among the young soldiers on the base, there were two
girls who came from the US without their parents to serve in the army.
Each one felt the need to help Israel in a tangible way. I stand in awe
of such motivation - but I tried not to let them know.
AFTER MY reserve duty, we flew to the Isle of Rhodes. We
enjoyed roaming through the Old City and the ruins of the island's two
acropolises, and a tavern night of Greek music, song and dancing. One
morning I swam in the icy waters of the "wine-dark" Aegean Sea (as per
Homer), along with a handful of crazy Greeks who start every day like
On a day trip to the town of Lindos, we had a local guide, a
young woman, born on Rhodes and well versed in the island's history.
Like Israel, Rhodes has had a parade of conquerors. After achieving
fame as part of the Greek empire, when the wondrous Colossus was built
in the harbor, Rhodes has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs,
Crusaders, Ottomans and Italians.
After the guide went through this two millennia procession, she added, "And after World War II, Rhodes was returned to Greece."
These old ears perked up. "Wait a minute," I interjected. "What
do you mean,' returned'? The island wasn't ruled by Greeks for over
"Ah," she answered, "but there were always Greeks living on
Rhodes and they never gave up their dream of living under Greek
sovereignty someday." With a grin, she added, "And that is why we have
to sympathize with Zionism."
The writer works in advertising and direct marketing in
Jerusalem. He claims that doing volunteer reserve duty (since 2002)
helps keep him young.
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