I have a short M16, a Belgian made FN Mag machine gun and a radio with which to prevent any incursions into Israel, large or small. I am living in a bunker that can best be described as a mixture between something out of WW1 and Doctor Who. Trenches and steel are built into the side of this mountain to keep me safe from a bombardment that is unlikely to occur anytime soon.
I have a panoramic view down at both Israel and Syria. On the right is the Druze village of Majdal Shams, on the left is some dead ground rising into a small hill upon which sits a UN outpost, further to the East is a small Syrian Army post where they are doubtless watching me watching them. I can see far to the East, deep into Syria from my position, the nearest Syrian village is Hudder and there are many more moving off into the distance. To distinguish where the border is all I have to do is watch for where fertile green turns to arid brown and I know that I am looking at the fault line between our two countries.
Occasionally I can see through my night vision bursts of gunfire as Syrian kills Syrian far away from their once war torn border with Israel.
Things are tense here, despite my low expectations of combat. My weapon remains constantly loaded and ready to fire, a tunnel network that would make any decent Viet Cong go green with envy ensures ease of movement and the static of multiple radios keeps me company during the lonely shifts that I spend sitting here watching for infiltrators or whatever it is that I am looking for. Code names like Indigo and Sunrise get thrown around on high power radio sets that link together to form a lattice work of defensive border emplacements.
I am standing in perhaps the most expensive real estate in Israel in a fortress that was built by Israel after the capture of the mountain in 1967, then taken back by the Syrians in 1973 during a helicopter assault and then retaken by the Golani in 1973 after they crawled up the mountain in silence to surprise the Syrians.
I often find myself daydreaming about the what it must have felt like to be sitting in this spot almost exactly 40 years ago and see thousands of tanks and tens of thousands of soldiers on their way to kill me with artillery falling all around. Such thoughts make me grip my rifle that much tighter despite the ineffectiveness the weapon would have against such a horde.
Someone sitting in my spot last year gawped as he witnessed 90 buses pull up opposite Majdal Shams and disgorge thousands of people who promptly made for Israel. They formed columns as they moved so that the front person would be the only one to be blown up when they trod on a mine and all those behind could keep moving towards the Zionist entity. At some point snipers opened fire and people started dying, that ended the story pretty quickly.
I can see the new fortifications that have been built to prevent a repeat performance and I have ample to time to wonder whether or not they’ll work.
It has been a mere week since I threw a few uniforms and my Old Spice “Scent of Courage” shower gel into a bag and took the bus North but a feels like a lot longer. The army is an all consuming force that makes me feel both comfortable and secure in its embrace and utterly trapped within it at the same time. I’m here with many of my friends from my regular service and a bunch more that I have met since. We swap stories from our old army service and regular life. I look at Yehuda’s amazing comic book art and pictures of Glick’s kids. Natanel fills me in on his studies for the Bar exam and Elad is on the end of the phone every day telling me that yes he is coming but no not today.
The smell of mould permeates my concrete enclosure, particularly around the bathroom area and the occasional mouse scuttles around our makeshift kitchen. There is a huge, industrial hob with 4 surfaces for cooking although only one of them can be used at a time since using more kills the electricity.
They have set us up with YES television and I fall back into my old army routine of finding sleep of paramount importance and scoffing at the idea of a shower a day and brushing my teeth when I wake up and when I go to sleep. The shower is a tap set high up on the wall for if the army made shower heads then…well…there would be some on their showers, alas the army does not make shower heads therefore a high up tap will suffice and suffice it does, for this is the army not holiday.
These are the 30 days a year for which I cease to be Marc Goldberg and become 5489872 First Sergeant. I’m here with people of all different backgrounds and political opinions and for perhaps the only time in the year politics becomes the most boring conversation going as we all simply agree with each other and then go and vote our respective ways regardless.
This is the month a year where I discard my personal politics and say just maybe those generals and politicians that I love criticising so much really do know what they’re talking about. My country has called upon me to stand on the line to defend it, how can I say no?