Immigrant reservist in Lebanon describes 'a war like one sees in the movies'

IDF troops lebanon 29888 (photo credit: AP [file])
IDF troops lebanon 29888
(photo credit: AP [file])
"The fighting that I have been doing is surreal. This is a war like one sees in the movies. But in reality, you can't say time-out or put it on pause," said Sgt. J of his general experience serving in a special demolition reserve squad in a paratroop unit which has been sent to Lebanon. Not all reservists, however, are being sent to Lebanon. Cpl. A, who made aliya from Johannesburg in 2002, is currently doing reserve duty near Ramallah. "We are replacing the unit that is regularly here and has been called up to Lebanese front. We do things like guarding the base and patrolling the streets," he explained. A has mixed emotions about his reserve duty, because "while I am absolutely not enjoying myself, I am in no way resentful about being here. If we weren't here, then the previous unit would not be able to protect us up north." J, who is from Orange County, California, described the general morale of his unit preparing to enter Lebanon as "very high" and said that "people realize why they have to be here. "Once you're a combat soldier, you're always a combat soldier." However, there is a distinction between younger and older reservists. "I am part of the youngsters. We are all geared up for a fight. But then there are older reservists who have families at home who technically have more at stake," commented J. He has heard "maybe one person in my few weeks in the reserves question his purpose for being here. This is personal. These are our friends. We are going against an enemy that is shooting missiles at people we know and at places we live in." J made aliya in January 2002 and volunteered to serve in the army for two years. His regular army service was based near Netanya and consisted of policing and protecting the northern West Bank. He decided to join the army because "the army is the most Israeli thing that one can do. All different types of Israelis are there. You really get a microcosm of Israel." However, the military that he is serving in now is fighting a very different enemy than it was fighting four years ago. "We were fighting terrorists dressed up as civilians, who were neither disciplined nor organized. Now, we are going against a professional army of well-trained jihadists who are willing to sacrifice their lives and who embrace their death in combat. When you are fighting an enemy who has made that level of commitment, it also demands a sacrifice and commitment on the parts of the IDF soldiers," he said. A difference in location also plays a significant part in J's thinking. When he was fighting in the West Bank, "no matter what happened, we always knew we were in greater Israel. Help was always very nearby. Now we are fighting in a foreign land, where help is not right around the corner." Similarly, differences exist between A's current reserve duty and his previous military service. He served in the in the Mahal unit Nahal Brigade during his time in the army. He was based near Bethlehem and near Mount Dov, a site of current intense fighting. "It was generally quiet during the three months I spent near Har Dov. There was one day when I was on guard duty and Hizbullah shot over a few Katyusha rockets and Israel responded with about 10 times as much firepower," he said. At the time, A viewed this as an isolated incident and said that "the months of quiet when I was there were more of the norm than the exception. However, now I know that they were more the exception than the norm." J thinks that his reserve service is "a personal test and I just want to know for myself how I'll act on the battlefield facing the enemy. This is what I signed up for and what I was looking for. I just think back to when I was in ulpan and we would take tours of Mount Herzl military cemetery and, even though I obviously do not wish to die, I could not think of any greater honor than being buried on Mount Herzl."