My First Miluim

Let me be honest with you- I am not having fun. Over the past couple of days I have searched the entire room, every centimeter and inch between the 19 beds we have crammed into the battalion clubhouse, looking for something inspirational to write about. Couldn’t find it.

It has been six days since I received the call, swapped my girlfriend for her picture on the background of my phone, tossed all of my clean underwear into a bag, and reported for an indefinite amount of time to my first stint in the reserves. An “unnatural beginning,”  as one of my comrades put it.

Up until fifteen minutes ago, I was sweaty, tired, and frustrated. Thank G-d, hot water has been one of the more reliable commodities during this campaign, so after a shower I am now only tired and frustrated. This might come as a shock to those who know me. My friends can attest that throughout my active service I raved about the hard work and the fulfillment I felt in getting my hands dirty.

In all honesty, when the rockets started raining on Tel Aviv, I was ready to pack my bag. I did not want to sit around my house listening to the news. The next morning, my tzav 8 emergency draft notice was left on my voicemail, and my wish was granted.

An emergency draft means that no matter how much both you and the army prepare, something will be forgotten. You will inevitably forget to bring flip-flops and contract athletes foot. The army will forget where they put their extra cots and force their freshly picked soldiers to sleep on the ground for their first night (which according to Murphy’s Law will be a Friday night). Or maybe it will be trivial things, like a lighter, knife, and permanent marker in your case, and maybe pots and pans in the army’s case, leaving you both searching for ways to improvise.

The worst part though, is the confusion.

It starts with time losing both value and relevance, and continues with the slow crumble of your carefully crafted plans. You will miss celebrating your girlfriend’s birthday with her, and you will not eat Thanksgiving turkey at your friend’s wedding the following day. Your personal schedule will transform into a haze of question marks, a soft mist that threatens to evaporate with every divine laugh or, more likely, falling rocket.

This all leads to a split personality. During the day you will pray that the ground invasion will happen quickly, so that your having replaced an active battalion will have been part of an overall effort that returned you quickly to a safer home. At night, you will lie in bed whispering a desire for a cease-fire as you try to comfort your girlfriend whose brother is waiting to enter Gaza. You wait, dressed like Rambo, in full gear, for some 16 year old stone thrower to come so you can tackle him and feel useful again. At the same time you mourn the death  both innocent Palestinian and Israeli children.  Multiple days will be spent babysitting a West Bank road from said stone throwers, and all the while you will cry over the days you had time to sit in your room and cry about the fact that you were doing nothing.

Today I sat above that road and scanned the green patches on the hill for potential threats. As the reports of the terror attack in Tel Aviv trickled in over Facebook, SMS, and company radio, I felt my frustration spike and my confusion grow. Where do we go from here? Why does it seem that both paths of the road lead to stone throwing of some sort? And good Lord, what am I doing here dressed like a soldier and pretending to be useful?

My hands searched my gear harness for solace, and pulled out something that I did remember to pack. Slowly, I fingered the brown corners of my Israeli flag, stained with dirt from various  concentration camps, and waited for feeling to return.

There are a thousand and one places that I would rather be right now, but, as hard as it is to admit and understand, I am where I need to be.

About the Author
Yoni Zierler moved to Israel in 2004, for his last year of high-school, and officially made aliyah a couple of years later. He is a licensed Israeli tour guide, who loves connecting others to the beauty and history of the land. Yoni is a proud alumnus of the StandWithUs fellowship, who loves reading, music, and playing harmonica in his spare time.