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The Mountain Ahead

March 6, 2012 – 6:33 pm54 Comments

By Kovi Rose
They say that when climbing a mountain one should never look down; but I think that the danger of looking up, and realizing how much more of the climb is still ahead of you, is significantly more hazardous.

After three months in the Israeli Defence Forces, I can look back on all that I have learnt and gained with a sense of pride and achievement. It is only when thinking to the future, to the hardship that awaits me, that the reality of the next three years proves scarily daunting. I arrived on my draft date at the recruitment office north of Tel Aviv with the naive excitement that only an Oleh Chadash has. We stored our bags and began what would be almost a 10 hour process of interviews, medical checks, paperwork, and equipment reception. At the end of the afternoon, after entering the offices as civilian teenagers, we walked out the door at the other end of the complex as soldiers – ready to be broken down mentally and physically, and eventually painstakingly rebuilt.

The hardest part of the first few weeks was the challenge of being thrown into a melting pot of cultures; ranging from Moroccan and Yemenite to Russian and Belgian. To add fuel to the fire, we were all suddenly forced into a disciplinary framework of formality and mandatory punctuality – down to milliseconds.

After the initial shock wore away, we began to actually feel like soldiers; learning how to shoot from different positions, about Israeli warfare, and spending weeks camped out in the field sub zero conditions without much warm clothing.

Throughout this, I and the other English speakers struggled a bit more than the Israelis. Having to pass tests and learn how to operate weaponry is hard enough without the language barrier. However, one thing that was universally intense and emotional was our swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall. In that moment, I could tell that all of us – almost a thousand new recruits from the Nahal and Shaldag brigades – were feeling the exact same emotions; that being pride in our new positions as defenders of the Jewish homeland as well as a feeling of excitement for the years, ranks, and missions ahead. But most of all, a sense of connection to our history; an understanding that those paratroopers, who liberated the Western Wall in 1967, were just like us – youths protecting and serving for the sake of a tradition that dates back thousands of years.

Thoughts like these are what strengthens and saves me at the toughest of times. I have begun to learn from our lengthy and fast-paced marches, all of one’s strength comes from willpower and mental fortitude.

Another thing that also never fails to encourage me is the support from civilians; striking up a conversation with a stranger on a bus, for instance, and being told how much he appreciates all that combat soldiers do in defence of the State.

At the end of the day, it is very hard to be surrounded by comrades talking to their family constantly, and receiving weekly packages filled with food from home. For Lone Soldiers, talking to family is something that we only get to do on weekends via Skype.

On a larger scale, Nahal itself often struggles to provide its soldiers with things like warm clothing, utility supplies (rope, string, tape, gun oil), and enough food to ensure that everyone is satisfied.

At the request of Nahal’s 50th Battalion Quartermaster, anyone in Australia who would be able to donate any of the aforementioned items, or assist financially, your support would be greatly appreciated. Every dollar and piece of thermal clothing donated could help supply and comfort the soldiers who stand guard night and day, rain or shine, on Israel’s volatile borders.

Personally, I hate seeing people suffer from the cold and not having enough supplies to properly secure their combat vests.
Looking nervously and hopefully forward to the next three years of service.

Kovi Rose is a Mount Scopus graduate who made aliyah in March 2011. This is an entry for his aliyah journal that he is writing for Galus Australis.

For those wishing to donate, please contact the author at kovirose AT gmail.com

Kovi Rose, Platoon 1B, Battallion 50, Nahal Brigade.

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