Reflections of a Soldier on Guard Duty

Considering I’m now two years into my army service with a six month race to the finish and too much thought to put to paper – I think it’s fair enough to say the time has come to become a blogger – share a little, live on the edge, write to the world – ‘cos I’m a risk taker like that.

As your average combatant soldier of the IDF knows, serving the country can get pretty tough at times. You hardly see home and don’t get enough sleep. You spend too many days going without a shower and too many hours exposed to the elements of nature. You deal with all kinds of missions and unexpected attackings. It’s kinda tiring stuff and it’s easy to lose track of things and – speaking for myself – I often feel like I’ve lost that sense of purpose and I’m stumbling in the darkness, looking for my way in some twisted forest of confusion, while tripping on tree trunks in the process. With time, my service has become a blur of of moving from border to border within the West Bank, doing the same patrols, guard duty, house arrests and whatnot – and it’s very easy to lose sight of where I’m going. I’ll find myself sitting on some mountain between a Palestinian village and a shared highway thinking about where I want to go while waiting for Ahmed to finish his tea and venture out to throw some mini-boulders at passing Israeli vehicles- you know, as he does. Most of the time I’ll just be waiting, or my day will be quiet- slightly boring – my head buzzing with questions of ‘what am I doing here?’, ‘when will I have a life as a civilian?’ and ‘why did I feel the need to enlist in the first place?’ and whatnot… thrilling thoughts – I know – but in the hours and days and months and years of guarding, they’re the type of questions popping into my mind.

Rabbi Akiva Tatz writes that inspiration is that flash of lightning in the darkness. It’s the fraction of a second when your path is lit up and instead of grappling with the blackness around you in confusion and distress, your whole way is zapped with this crazy flash of light and you’re struck with a powerful sense of direction, fulfillment and understanding all at once. The problem is that the lighting flash is just that — a millisecond of clarity followed by the same dark confusion you’ve been dealing with your whole life.

I’m very much stumbling in that haze. My service isn’t your average trip-to-the-park. Don’t let my facebook selfies fool you — the ones where I’m in my military gear looking into the distance like I’m fulfilling the Zionist dream and everything I do has meaning to it. The truth is — well firstly the truth is that I like to take cool selfies (#yolo) — but secondly that mostly I’m surrounded by these questions and this thick cloud of confusion; I’m stumbling on a road in the dark, uncertain of my whereabouts and wondering whether I need to turn right or left ,or take a step back in the direction I just came from.

But then it lights up. I’ll be in the middle of an eight hour patrol and suddenly I get struck by the realisation that I’ve been given and have taken the opportunity to do something great. I threw a spanner in the works by joining the IDF but it’s changed my life in incredible ways. I’m living a ridiculously blessed life with my amazing family in the land promised to our forefathers and I’m serving a nation, people and country that I belong to and belong to me. It’s as sharp as lightning and as powerful as clarity on steroids. And I love it. So though the flash is just that and my darkness will consume me again — I walk with the knowledge that all this is for a purpose. I’m doing what I’m doing because it’s something bigger than myself and it’s a means of creating a closer connection to the land that I’m crazy about, and a people who still exist despite all odds against us. I know as I keep walking that this has and will continue to contribute to my better understanding of who I am, what I stand for, why I find myself here in the service that I chose and why sometimes stepping out of your stereotype and challenging yourself in every way while walking forward to an unknown destination can be the best thing you can do with your life.

Anyway — those are just my thoughts based on the bursts of light I’ve seen thus far — in the meantime I’ve returned to my dark road, probably took the wrong turn and just tripped over another branch in the process. I’ve gone back to join the rest of those people out there grappling in the darkness on paths of uncertainty leading to who knows where and waiting

for lightning

to strike.

About the Author
Just your average ex-Australian olah chadasha, currently serving in the IDF, who enjoys expressing thoughts and opinions based on daily life experiences and the ups-and-downs of living in a land of milk and honey.
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