Reservists picnic before battle

Late Sunday night, IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen Avi Benayahu confirmed that the army had begun sending reserve units into the Gaza Strip, answering the question on the lips of many of the thousands of anxious reservists training for the past eight days in the southern military base of Tze'elim. "It's not that we really want to go in," one of the reservists told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday afternoon. "We just want to know what is going to happen with us." While the reservists had been instructed not to speak to reporters, one soldier, speaking on condition of anonymity, was willing to say that it had been a long training session and that "no one knows what it's for." Half of the soldiers training at the mock Arab city at Tze'elim were dressed as Arabs and the other half as IDF soldiers. They used blank cartridges as they practiced close quarters urban combat within a crowded Muslim city complete with mosques, banks and other urban features. "I'm from Ashkelon, so for me being here is a little better than being at home right now," one of the reservists said. "But it's getting absurd. They should tell us what their plans for us are," one of his friends added. First Lieutenant Carmel Davidovich, who accompanied reporters at the base, said that many of the soldiers here have families and jobs they had put on hold. "We are all waiting for the government's decision. This is not an easy situation for them," she said. Nir Kosti, a reporter for the IDF's weekly magazine, spent the weekend with the reservists and said they were all feeling impatient with the training. "They are really bored here when they're not shooting at each other and playing war," he said. Outside the base, reservists were sitting on wooden benches, picnicking with friends and family members who had come to visit, bringing food, candies and cigarettes. But not everyone seemed like they wanted out. Tze'elim's regular soldiers were pretty happy about the fact that they had new friends to hang out with. They were playing the guitar, singing songs and otherwise having a good time between training sessions. Three reservists walking through the streets of the mock city, all dressed as Muslims, seemed like they had had enough. "Yalla," one of them said, "let's go abduct a soldier."