Friday, January 11, 2013

Taglit Mayanot Day 3: Soldiers

I just got back from Israel and I am transcribing the journal from my trip day by day. To start at the beginning, click here!

December 30, 2012

Hebrew word of the day: Yalla (יאללה) = Get going
Shira has put together an awesome mix CD for the bus. It includes "One Day" and "Jerusalem" by Matisyahu, "Salaam" by Sheva, a cover/remix of Bob Marley's "One Love" by Shai 360, and a Hebrew cover/remix of the Numa Numa song. *This Numa Numa song turned out to be a song called "Rebbe Nachman." I heard it at all the bars we went to; it seems to be pretty popular in Israel right now.*

We picked up our eight soldiers today! The way Israel works, every man and woman serves in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) when they turn 18. Men serve three years and women serve two, followed by reserve duty until they are 40. In the US, it's fair to ask someone who is embarking on another phase in their life (usually graduating high school or college at this age) what they're planning to do next, but when I asked our soldiers what they want to do after the army, they just looked confused. Apparently, the way it works is that after their 2-3 years of service, they work for a year to save up some money and then travel the world. After traveling, they work a year or two more to save up for college. In the US, 20-year-olds are halfway through college and panicked about picking out a career. Here, the 20-year-olds are so far from college and lifetime careers that it hasn't seemed to seriously crossed their minds at all. It must be nice to have time to explore the world without being pressured by society to figure out your entire life.

After picking up the soldiers, we went for a hike along the Banyas river, which feeds into the Jordan. It was absolutely gorgeous. I feel like I can't say "gorgeous" enough to describe Israel. In the north alone, they have mountains, lakes, valleys, rivers, and waterfalls. I can't believe so much beauty has been packed into such a small country.

Banyas River
Jeeping after the hike was fun and gave me time while holding on for dear life to chat with one of our soldiers about her life. From there, we drove up to the Lebanon border to Misgav Am, the "kibbutz at the end of the world." It is the northern-most kibbutz in Israel (and thus, in the world) and sits on the border with Lebanon, surrounded on three sides by the border fence. There, a kibbutz member named Yosef told us about the origins of the kibbutz movement, the founding of Misgav Am, and about their relationship with their neighbors in Lebanon. Apparently, Israel and Lebanon had a good relationship until Hezbollah moved from Jordan into Lebanon in the late 1960s. In the 1970s, a group of terrorists broke through the fence and snuck into Misgav Am in the middle of the night. They took over the children's building (full of children age 9 months to 2 years), where all the kibbutz children slept and took the children hostage, killing one kibbutz member and one child in the process. The IDF anti-terror unit and military dogs managed to take the terrorists out after a few hours. One IDF soldier died and two were wounded in the rescue. Yosef said that it has been quiet recently, though they were afraid last month that Lebanon might join in the fighting. On a separate level, the kibbutz is threatened by an aging population and trouble attracting or retaining young members. It's too bad, because their kibbutz is beautiful. It is on top of a mountain and it felt like were were at cloud level.

View of Lebanon through the clouds from Misgav Am
Tzaft is awwwesome.  Here's why!