The Pit in my Gut

As the date and the day of my induction came ever closer, so did the level of my apprehension.

I had made the decision to remain in Israel, returning after an almost 18 year absence.

My Kibbutz friend, my Kibbutz “brother” Yigal, had told me many tales of his service as a paratrooper, his service along the Suez Canal, his service during the War of Attrition with the Egyptian forces.

I was fit. I was strong. I was ready to make the commitment. I reported to the draft offices. I wanted to be a paratrooper.

On the day of my induction, the trials and the required physical, a blistering heat settled on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

I did everything the drill sergeant commanded, fast, furious, again, again and again.

And, then I passed out.

When I came to, I was in a tent attended to by a military medic, with an IV stuck in my arm.

A paratroop officer came by, and told me that I had passed all of the trials. When the medics released me I met with the recruiting officers of the IDF’s paratroop unit, the red berets, the red boots, the IDF-issue olive drab shirt- untucked.

I needed to sign a consent form because the mandatory basic training would last 14 months and at my advanced age of 20 I was required to serve 12 months.

I asked permission and I was granted permission to return to my Kibbutz to discuss this issue with my then girlfriend. She promptly said that if I did agree, our friendship would end. Do what you have to do, she said. Don’t volunteer.

I returned the next morning and apologized to the paratroop recruiter, but I did ask him what in his opinion would be an appropriate front-line warrior unit for me.

Golani, was his one word reply.

And, so it was that I got on the bus to take me, along with more like-minded warriors to be, and some less so, to the basic training base of the Golani Brigade’s basic training camp somewhere between Akko and Nahariah.

And, six months later, as I joined the 13th Battalion of the Golani Brigade, meeting Uri the Brigade Commander, meeting Eitan the Company Commander, and meeting David the Platoon Commander along with the sergeants and the medics and the future brothers-in-arms.

I had explained to Uri that I would not go to the various commander courses, even though I had finished my six months of basic training at the top of my class. I had to serve one year. Twelve months.

As the end of September 1973 drew near so did my mandatory military service in the IDF.

And, on October 6th, 1973, Yom HaKippurim, and a Sabbath to boot, everything changed.

As I sat there that night, waiting to rejoin my squad in outpost 104, watching the Golan Heights aflame from Rosh Pina, my apprehension grew stronger, turning to real and tangible fear of the unknown.

The pit in my gut grew and grew, stronger by each passing explosion I saw up in the Golan, stronger by each of our aircraft shot down by sophisticated Soviet missiles, stronger by each report on the small transistors we listened to, reports of the terrible successes by the Syrian and Egyptian troops during the first few hours of the Yom Kippur War.

Needless to say, I survived.

Scarred slightly by shrapnel, scarred psychologically to this day by the sights, the smells, the losses, I survived.

I trained months later to become a tank commander on captured Soviet tanks.

I would remain a warrior, on a different front, with different tasks, many of them unpleasant to me personally, as they involved the basic policing and patrolling of Palestinians in the South, at first in the Sinai Peninsula and later in the Gaza Strip. There is no comparing the duties of a soldier defending Israel’s borders with the duties of a soldier required to police and patrol a refugee population.

That, however, is a discussion we can save for another time.

And, so it is that I write about another time of uncertainty, one much more recent, one we first heard of in January and February of 2020.

With each passing day, as we find out more and more about this very dangerous and deadly novel coronavirus 19, my apprehension and unease grow. In parallel my apprehension and unease grow more strong as we near the November 3rd 2020 election day here in the United States.

America elected, in my opinion, a man not suited for the highest office of the USA. This man’s lies are constant and deliberate.

This man’s mismanagement of the pandemic endangers the lives of every single American citizen.

This man’s ambition to become the absolute ruler of the greatest nation, the most powerful nation in our world now leaves me with that familiar pit in my gut.

It leaves me with that familiar fear of the unknown.

Forty-seven years have gone by since I have felt this feeling and I fear that this feeling will grow stronger by the day.

I don’t want to leave you without hope, because, after all, hope is what we cling to. So, just as I survived, bruised, scarred, wounded psychologically all those years ago, it is my hope that we will survive this also. Perhaps wounded. Surely scarred, but we will, I hope, survive.

About the Author
Born in Israel, Yuval emigrated as a baby to Austria and then Canada. He returned to live in Israel in '71 until '91. His military service was in Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion (including Yom Kippur War) with reserve duty as a tank commander and later a liaison officer in the IDF Liaison Unit. He now resides in Pennsylvania, USA.
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