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A tale of snow and fire

It was a tale of Winter. Nothing more.

A great snowstorm was approaching Israel. Some of it has already arrived in the far reaches of the North of Israel, where a special soldier (we will call him “H” for this story) serves. H serves in the far North near Majdal Shams There the snow can block roads and prevent public transportation from their appointed routes.

The army, all too aware that when the snow will pile up that there will be no way to extract the soldiers stationed at H’s base, decided to release them all early, on Wednesday morning instead of on Thursday, as usual.  The army, not so aware that when roads close because of snow, then public transportation doesn’t exist, did not consider that the soldiers would need some type of transportation to get out from their base, and therefore did not make any arrangements for them.

“Abba” H called his father, “do you still have connections with Uzi from the Golan Regional Council from when you planned public transportation in the Golan?”.  Not really.  It has been about ten years and the connections aren’t that great anymore. Abba thought (which he does occasionally), and came up with a name:  M.L..  M.L. is, or was, (for I think he has progressed in the ranks), responsible for the lion share of public transportation in the Golan (don’t ask about the regulatory aspects of the public transportation if you are driving or using heavy machinery). Abba knows M.L. from a public organization (NPO), or AMUTA called Public Transport Users Association in Israel – “Transport Our Way”.

Abba reached out and asked.  M.L. replied that I should contact him again in the morning to ascertain what are the state of the roads in the North Golan.

The next morning at 07:00   Abba was on the phone and WhatsApp trying to arrange a bus to hire from H’s base to civilization (in this case Kiryat Shmona).  M.L. said that maybe by 10:00 he could have a bus at H’s base if the roads were clear.

But alas, the roads were not so clear. During the morning the snow resumed with some gusto, blanketing the hills with ever increasing layers of white fluff.  Could the bus make it?  M.L. said that they would give it a try. A bus and a driver were allocated and sent off, a direct connection was established between H and M.L. and Abba sat at home wondering and worrying.

Of course, an obvious question is why it was and always is so important for Israeli soldiers to come home every two or three weeks when in other armies, soldiers go off and don’t see their home for months at a time. Another Shabbat at the base, especially one in a magical white environment of snow could not be that much of a disaster. But Israeli soldiers are different. They are tied to their homes, to their parents and siblings and their friends.  The fire of family and friends burns within them motivating them to do all that is possible for another weekend home. They are adolescents who have responsibilities thrusted on them, but they remain at heart youth.

By 11:00 the bus was still not at the base.  In fact, there was no way to get close to the base at all.  The diver (a Bedouin from the Galilee) said he was ‘stuck’ some four and a half miles away. It was snowing. Luckily, H was able to divert a snowplow to clear some of the road, but still the closest the bus could get was still about two and a half miles away from the base. No worries. H and his friends are true (but not so tested, B”H) combat soldiers and about two and a half miles is what they do before breakfast. So off they went in the storm, enveloped by snow, trudging with cold feet and a fire in their hearts to the waiting bus.

In all, it was a special experience. The excitement of the prospect of being released early, the plans made to make the most of their leave and the disappointment of discovering that there was no way to get home. And then, unexpectedly, the hope of some private initiative of swaying the balance. Even the increasing drama of uncertainty as the bus winded its way to their base only to blocked by piling snow and the final trek in the snow to freedom, added to the tale.  Kudos to H for the resourcefulness, to M.L. for the greatly appreciated favor, and to the Bedouin driver for his resilience (H gave him a tip after collecting amongst the soldiers).  One officer that accompanied the trek said that he had never experienced such a tale around going home in his entire service. I’d be surprised if he had.

B”H, H is now home from the army, after traveling from Kiryat Shmona to Ariel from where he was collected on Eagle’s wings (or is it a Subaru model 2007 white sedan) just before heavy snows closed our roads. His parents, brothers, (including newly minted officer A) and the faithful dog Orca awaited his arrival. His story can be multiplied by the other thirty soldiers who instead of spending their weekend in the cold and snowy landscape of the Golan (by Thursday morning some four feet of snow blanketed H’s base), are instead enjoying the warmth of family and friends at home.

It was a tale of Winter. Nothing more?

It is a tale of Home.

About the Author
Shlomo Toren has been a resident of Israel since 1980, and a transportation planner for the last 25 years. He has done demand modeling for the Jerusalem Light Rail and Road 6. He is married to Neera and lives in Shiloh.
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