Until 2 weeks ago it had been 7 years since I had held a rifle, 7 years since I had felt the power of an M4 rifle recoil into my shoulder and 7 years since I had worn green army fatigues. All I have heard of Miluim is that there are endless cups of coffee and BBQ''s but the last 2 weeks certainly weren''t like that, they reminded me more of my time during the first six months of my service when I was learning how to endure hardship and misery in the freezing cold. During my regular service I turned my nose up at the fat, old reservists that I occasionally came across. Naturally now that I am one of the fat, old reservists I feel a little differently.
The moment I saw my old training base the memories came flooding back to me. I walked in with some of my comrades from my days of active service. We soon became just a couple of anonymous figures in the sea of testosterone that had walked into the same base. Soon the friends that I had walked in with were lost among the crowd of people who been called up at the same time as me. I planted myself into the long line of citizens about to become fighters for a short time, we were all there lining up for our equipment.
Every now and then I felt a tap on the shoulder from a familiar face that I hazily placed as belonging to someone that I had come into contact with during my service at the time of the Al Aqsa Intifada. All around me people were having the same conversations with one another. "Hi, how''s it going? Long time no see, what have you been up to..." old friends catching up with one another while waiting for the crowd of people before them to thin out enough to make it to the delivery line of conscripts handing out all of the equipment that we would need to get through the next couple of weeks.
My turn came and I moved down the line being handed knee pads, magazines, a kit bag, combat vest and various other pieces of military equipment. At the very end of the line lay the armoury where I was handed my M4 along with the day and night scope that marked me out as the marksman I was 7 years before. Whether I still warranted the designation remained to be seen.
I was in for two weeks that would test my capacity for fighting as much as anything I had done during my regular service. Night marches with a pack on my back were the mainstay of the training and it was heartening to see these men of all ages rise to the challenges laid down by the army brass. The last night was marked by a particularly long march through the cold air.
All of the same sights, smells and hardship that I had managed to forget from my training returned in unwelcome abundance. More welcome was feeling the same camaraderie that made it possible to get through the endless months of training that I endured so long ago. All of us were going through this together, everyone enduring the same feelings of pain and discomfort and doing what we could to help one another through it.
When looking around at the vast range of guys I was serving with I saw a huge wealth of combat experience. There are men serving there from their early 20''s all the way up to volunteers in their 40s. This was the real Israel Defence Force. Reservists have been the backbone of the every victory the army has ever had and that makes a lot more sense now that I have seen just how motivated these men are.
For one month a year I will be putting aside my life, my politics and my comforts in service of the State of Israel. For 11 months a year I will attend demonstrations and campaign for the direction that I feel my country should take.
This is the life of an Israeli reservist, this is the life of an Israeli.