Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hi, I'm back! :)

After a long stint in reserve duty around the Nablus area, I'm finally home. While I'm hoping to write two longer pieces about it soon, here are a few highlights since the last post:

* One of our assignments was to guard a base on Har Gerizim, which overlooks the city of Nablus. The view was absolutely stunning, especially during sunrise and sunset. I only wish I had had a camera with me so that I could share some of the views of the city, her bustling center and Joseph's Tomb.

* One of the lads in the unit writes a Torah scroll once a year. Thanks to him, I accomplished the mitzvah (Hebrew for commandment) of writing a letter in a Torah scroll.

* Despite the fact I support the need for the checkpoints, I struggle with the difficulties they impose on the Palestinian population - be it the canine checks (There is a religious probelm with dogs), or the delays for ID checks. I still do the job - but try to be as respectful and understanding as possible.

* On Wednesday, we had Israeli visitors. Naturally, I feared the worst. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was approached with cake, some cold drinks, a flag and a thank you note. An Israeli group (the name escapes me) goes around the Territories' checkpoints showing solidarity with the soldiers. It's nice to know people can understand and show unity with us - considering the difficulty (for many reasons obviously) of the job at hand.

* A day later, we had a visit from the lovely ladies of Machsom Watch. When we saw them approaching, I went up to them with another soldier and explained to them that they were not to cross a rather visible line, but could stay here and observe what we were doing. As I turned my back to leave, I asked them to just be honest about what the wrote. One of the ladies then responded, "Does the fact you're wearing a kippah and I'm not wearing a mitpachat (Hebrew for a head covering, which ironically she was halachically ok due to her rather funny looking hat!) give you the right to say that?" Before I had a chance to get into a proper conversation with the woman, my friend pulled me away and said good bye. Had I had a chance to respond properly, I would have made a comment about how the group's 'good intentions' (Despite some of the unnecessary agitations they force on both soldiers and Palestinians, I do believe they want to improve the way soldiers handle the checkpoint duty) shouldn't be mingled with hypocritical anti-religious sentiments.

* I got home in the early evening today ... It was lovely to see wife and son. My wife ... well ... she's still the same gal I left behind almost a month ago but my boy ... well ... he's changed quite a bit, and is now waving, kneeling and even standing ... Sheesh, they do grow up fast.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Understanding Asim

As an active member of, I've had many interesting debates about a whole host of interesting subjects. The one I've found most challenging has been the Israeli-Arab political debate, one that tends to pit myself and other Israeli and/or Jewish posters against mostly British Muslims. One of these Muslims I've befriended is Asim, and as our 'relationship' has developed, so has our interest in each other's faith and 'take on the story'. One thing that always stood out to me was when Asim would bemoan the constant negative press showered on Islam. The positive stories were constantly missed, or sadly ignored.

Why am I bringing this up now? Ever since the Gaza War, I've become more active in debates with 'Progressive Zionists.' While they often highlight very troubling issues within Israeli society that need to be addressed, I find their need to only focus on the negative issues within our country very frustrating to deal with, especially when they admit to thriving "off chronicling the bad judgment of some of my fellow Jews." In Ethics of our Fathers 2:5, Hillel is quoted as saying, "Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place". I guess I can now finally understand, and relate to, what Asim was complaining about all this time.


A few tid bits from the reserve stint so far:

* I think the Palestinians have taken the lead over the Israelis in the 'World's Worst Drivers' sweepstakes. In the few days I've been with patrols, we've almost witnessed 10+ accidents due to horrific overtaking attempts. Thankfully, not one accident so far ...

* The one guy that really impresses me every time I see him for a reserve call up is a 64 year old. Yes, you read that right. While reservists 'retire' at age 42 (the current retirement age has now dropped to 40) from active reserve duty, this man has volunteered for the past 22 years (& counting) since his 'retirement'! To think a man who serves in my battalion was born in 1945, or fought during the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War, is just crazy. I don't even know what to call it ...

* It really isn't easy to leave your family behind for such a long time. I still look at Miluim as a privilege, but I still struggle with the idea that until I'm 40, I'll spend 30+ days a year away from my family. I guess that's the reality I've chosen -


My great uncle, Uncle Arthur, passed away today ... May his dear soul rest in peace ...