Title: Army Fatigues
Author: Mark Werner
Publisher: Devora Publishing
Mark Werner’s engaging text about serving in Israel’s international volunteer military brigade Sar-El (a.k.a. Sherut LeYisrael) is a fun read. Werner clues readers into Israeli slang, military terminology and the stuff of daily life while portraying his work on military bases with “you are there” dynamism in his prose. Werner’s visits to friends and family plus his scenic outings are equally as vivid.
Here’s a look at some of the action in the memoir that readers will probably enjoy: Lifting metal rods to make order of mismanaged hangars, hacking at flammable undergrowth in order to minimize danger to buildings that house combustible munitions, and admirably coping with other hard labor under primitive conditions.
Finessing personality quirks among military commanders and non-military acquaintances is also part of the fun while the author and his Sar-El colleagues relieve active-duty soldiers from scut work. You’ll feel as if you’re alongside the author throughout his well-reported tale.
Educational, entertaining reading, Army Fatigues has one glaring fault. Despite the compassionate hard work that the author invests into his volunteerism, Werner’s insights into the political realities of Israel are discolored by his incomplete knowledge of why a Holy Land exists in the first place.
Gush Katif was not destroyed for altruistic reasons. Arabs do not kill unarmed civilians and everyone else in their crosshairs because they need employment skills or because the Oslo Accords failed. The lines of decency crossed in Israeli society are derelictions of Jewish duty, not charming likenesses of other societies and locales.
And Israelis have not been well served by political “leaders.” The evidence lies in many graves.
Non-observant of halachah, uneducated about the G‑dly mandate to live in the Holy Land, Werner relies on moral relativism and personal opinion rather awareness of the Jewish destiny. Altruism, the Holocaust, the lie foisted upon the world as Palestinian peoplehood and poorly informed personal opinion (see the Introduction, page 131, and numerous remarks throughout the text respectively) serve as Werner’s rationales for his attachment to Israel and his sense of how Israeli life should proceed.
Werner and other Sar-El volunteers are good guys helping overworked, demoralized soldiers while saving Israel’s government lots of money. But the author needs clarity about fundamental facts on the ground.
We’re not Jewish or focused on Israel because of the Holocaust even if a deceased father such as Werner’s was one of its Jewish heroes. The Jews-to-Israel relationship dates back thousands of years: Jews are commanded to be here. Failure to comply is not an option. Parshat Shlach proves the consequences of failing to absorb that Zionist reality. We’re still paying the price for that mistake. Army Fatigues illustrates the enduring nature of misplaced Jewish loyalties.
The land is very, very good. Forgive the name-dropping, but G‑d said so through Calev and Yehoshua. End of story.
Yocheved Golani is the author of highly acclaimed It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: A Life Book for Helping You to Dry Your Tears and Cope with a Medical Challenge (Booklocker Publishing).