I was pretty excited to go into my recent stint of IDF reserve duty. We were designated to serve on the border with Syria, which was something I hadn’t done before. I was really looking forward to the experience.
Sleeping in my boots and my uniform, and always having a loaded rifle near me, means that throughout my time on Mount Hermon, there is always an underlying tension. Driving past the sign above really gives me pause: This is an area that people cannot usually visit — and for good reason.
This is one of my favourite pictures: the tatty flag blowing in the wind on that rusty gate on Mount Hermon just serves as a reminder that although I guard the gate, not much is expected to come through it.
The good thing about miluim is serving with your best friends, especially when they’re musically gifted. Not as good — trading a double bed for a bunk.
One of the things that I appreciate about being on Mount Hermon is the incredible views.
Without the aid of night vision goggles, the darkness of night is utterly impenetrable. It’s only through the eerie greens that you can see anything at all.
Here’s the view from a position on the base down a road not often traveled, with a MAG machine gun — just in case the wrong person does decide to show up.
There are mines everywhere; some new, but most from the 1960s and ’70s. That’s why it isn’t wise to stray too far off the paths.
This soldier is on patrol at the break of dawn. I jump at the chance to snap his silhouette etched against the lightening sky.
Below us is the village of Majdal al Shams, where the houses stop and no man’s land begins. The zigzagging road marks the border.
Utterly reminiscent of the movie Beaufort, these tunnels are the only method through which soldiers can navigate from one position to another when the winter snows blanket the mountain.
An officer discusses the defenses with one of his soldiers as they take a break during a patrol.
Looking down the side of the mountain, one sees Syria falling away eastward.
Here are two soldiers looking down at a cloud cover over Syria at the break of dawn, as Syrian artillery rumbles in the distance. Their magazines are in their rifles at all time — even when they’re asleep. Such is the state of readiness among the fighters on the mountain.
I couldn’t resist adding this one — I just like it!
Though there is a lot of talk about what the army takes away from those who serve, sometimes it gives back as well. Nowhere else have I ever had the privilege of looking down upon the clouds at dawn while rooted firmly on solid ground.
And the same for the sun rising over the eastern flank of the mountain.
The alpine slopes set against the deep blue summer sky serve to remind that even here there are more powerful forces at work than those of the two militaries facing each other over the border. Reminders of those two military forces are scattered everywhere in the form of bullet and shell casings and other military paraphernalia
Though we are in a closed military zone, it is still Israel, and therefore a father is able to break the rules to visit his son — particularly this father, who spent most of his own service on the mountain. The torch has been passed from one generation to the next.
Preparing to leave — finally. I hitch-hike back on a Hum-Vee. The cold wind gives way to scorching gusts as we drive down the mountain and into the Galilee and finally home. Three weeks is a long time for a reservist to be away from his creature comforts, so I don’t mind admitting I’m glad to get back to the world.