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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘soldiers’

Disconnect Israel’s Interests from America’s

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

I do not understand the Israelis who are eager for a U.S. attack on Syria. They are confused, willing to be at the receiving end of missiles and, down the road, the object of tremendous diplomatic pressure – to “prove” America’s balanced approach to the Middle East – just to preserve the U.S. hegemony in our region.

These people suffer from a blurred sense of identity. It diffuses their ability to identify an Israeli interest that is independent from, and not contingent upon, an American interest. I have the utmost respect for the U.S., but Israel must be able to look in the mirror without seeing stars and stripes.

Yitzhak Shamir, of blessed memory, was perhaps the best Israeli leader since David Ben-Gurion. Nonetheless, Shamir made a serious strategic mistake under circumstances similar to those we are currently facing. Five years ago, I wrote a column explaining why his actions were so detrimental to Israel. That 2008 column (see below) provides fresh insight into Israel’s current position. (The column was translated from the Hebrew version, which appeared in Makor Rishon.)

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Shamir’s Blunder Nobody really expected Israel to react to the rockets fired on the town of Shlomi last week. And they were right. Israel is not going to retaliate.

From the end of the War of Independence in 1949 and until the First Gulf War in 1991, Israel’s civilian population was out of bounds. Israel had created a balance of fear that dictated that shelling its civilian population was not an option and would lead to all-out war. When the Syrians shelled Israeli towns in 1967, Israel retaliated by conquering the Golan Heights.

But in the First Gulf War, under intense pressure from Israel’s Left, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir reversed two strategic principles that Israel had carefully preserved until then. The first principle was that only Israeli soldiers would be responsible for Israel’s security. The second principle was that the attack of Israel’s civilian population is completely unacceptable. When Iraqi Scud missiles rained down on Israel’s cities, Israel opted to hide behind the broad shoulders of the American and British soldiers, move U.S. Patriot missiles into strategic locations, and, of course, to instruct its citizens to cover all windows with sheets of plastic and masking tape.

Shamir enjoyed the support of the media, academia and Left for a time. No commission of inquiry was established to investigate the mistakes made in that strange war. By the grace of our Father in Heaven, there were very few Israeli fatalities and nobody criticized Shamir’s strategic turnabout. There were no bereaved families to point an accusing finger at the leader of the Right who had sacrificed their dear ones’ lives in vain. There were no reserve soldiers to stage hunger strikes outside Shamir’s home and not one Knesset member or public figure demanded that he resign.

I claimed then – and support that claim even more so now – that Shamir’s blunder was even greater than Golda Meir’s in the Yom Kippur War. In that war, Israel did not lose its power of deterrence. But by the end of the First Gulf War, Israel found itself facing new rules. Israel had entrusted its security to foreign armies and it soon had to pay for its mistake in hard currency. The Madrid Conference, to which the Left pushed the hapless Shamir to attend, was in effect Israel’s unofficial doorway to recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Shamir still attempted to stick to his principles by speaking only with Yasir Arafat’s representatives and not with Arafat himself. But the Israeli public – justifiably – did not bother with the nuances and elected Yitzhak Rabin to succeed Shamir. The Oslo process was on its way.

Approximately 1,500 civilians have already been murdered in the Oslo process – more than all the civilian terror fatalities that Israel had suffered from the establishment of the state and in the pre-state days. Oslo placed a question mark over Israel’s very right to exist. It was only a matter of time until missiles, mortars and rockets began to rain down on Israel’s towns and cities.

Since Shamir’s blunder his successors have followed suit, criminally ignoring the fact that Israel’s neighbors are arming themselves with strategic missiles. They have brought Israel to its knees, waiting for the merciful final blow of tens of thousands of conventional and non-conventional missiles that will lift off simultaneously from launchers in Syria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Gaza.

Humility…

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Humility is realizing that you have to ask for help and worse, you have to accept it.

Humility is having people ask for your Hebrew name and knowing you should give it.

In Judaism, while we are alive, our name is a combination of our name and that of one of our parents. When a man is called to the Torah, he is called by his name and that of his father. When he stands before God and asks God to bless those he loves, again, they are blessed in the name of their father. And when a person dies, they are forever remembered by their name followed by their father’s name.

In life, however, our mother’s name is associated with us more than our father’s name. When someone is sick and you say a prayer for their well-being, you use their name and their mother’s name. When we pray for Israel’s missing soldiers, again, we use their names followed by their mother’s name.

There are many reasons for this but I wanted to write about the feeling more than the reason. I have been very blessed to be relatively healthy. I can’t think of a time when I ever asked for prayers or had people ask me for my Hebrew name so they could pray for me. And that in itself is a blessing.

Now, in the days and hours before my operation, many of my friends, even strangers that I meet, are asking me for my name and when the operation will be. It is so strange, so humbling to be on this end of the prayers.

My mother’s Hebrew name is Sarah, though she uses her English name. Apparently, I was not given a Hebrew name at birth. Though my grandfather told me I had one, my parents said that I didn’t and so before I married, I consulted a Rabbi, who told me to choose a name and then, he named me before the congregation. He was called to the Torah and gave me a blessing, which included the name that I would be called. I choose Penina because it was nearest to the name of the woman from whom my English name was chosen. Penina is the name that appears on my Ketubah, my wedding certificate. Penina is the name that would be used to bless my children with health and safety.

So, my Hebrew name is Penina bat Sarah. Penina, the daughter of Sarah.

The operation is tomorrow…using two kinds of anesthesia – general and regional. What the doctors will do is kind of cool…especially if it wasn’t me they were operating on!

What they will do, apparently, is insert pins to “pin” the torn tendon to the bone. I should be better informed, but I’m trusting the doctor. In the next six months, the tendon/bone will reattach itself over the pins in a natural healing process. They can’t do this now because they were torn from each other and the tear is too large to fix itself. (More below.)

My first thought when I heard this was of security. I asked if I would be ringing all the metal detectors every time I walked into buildings. Kind of funny that this was my first concern and I hated the idea of this happening. It’s silly the things we focus on, but somehow the idea of the metal detectors going off each time I walked through them was just more than I was willing to face. No, the doctor explained. The pins are not metal and will disintegrate in about 6 months and therefore won’t even have to be removed.

The upside to this whole thing is they expect a 100% recovery. The downside is that it will likely take months to get there. I’ll probably go radio-silent for 2 weeks…maybe less, knowing me…but then again, not knowing the operation results…it could even be longer. I do know that I’m not supposed to move the arm at all for the fist 2 weeks.

So – I’ll wish you all health and safety and happiness in the weeks to come. I’ll ask you to remember to bless our soldiers and our country and if you spare a kind thought or prayer for Penina bat Sarah, I’ll thank you for that as well.

Trading In Maryland for the Mediterranean

Monday, August 19th, 2013

When Sergeant Brandon Berry made aliyah (immigrated to Israel), he did not come looking for the easy life. If he wanted that, he would not have left his hometown of Potomac, Maryland to serve in the army of a foreign country half a world away from his family.

Sgt. Berry also was not looking for an easy job in the IDF – he wanted to serve wherever he was most needed. He wanted to take his talent and drive with him to contribute one hundred percent.

Sgt. Berry passed all the tests to serve in the prestigious Paratroopers Brigade. Instead the American immigrant took to the sea as a member of the Israel Navy’s Dvora-class patrol boat squadron.

It is not everyday that a young man from Potomac, Maryland travels for tens of thousands of miles to join the Israel Navy. “It was clear to me that I was destined to serve in the Navy,” he said. Sgt. Berry, stationed on a base overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, is able to indulge his love for wide-open spaces every day of his service.

Aside from his thick American accent, Sgt. Berry is indistinguishable from the other soldiers at his base – completely at home on a boat with a tan to match. He credits the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers for helping him through the entire enlistment process.

“The work the association does is a blessing,” he says. AWIS helps soldiers in a number of ways, which included providing assistance to lone soldiers, running soldier homes and recreation centers, and providing support for bereaved families.

Sgt. Berry says that even though he grew up with a strong Jewish identity and attended a Jewish day school, he always felt like something was missing. Now, as a soldier for Israel, it seems he has truly come home.

Visit IDF Blog.

Creme De La Creme: How the IDF Picks its Most Elite Units

Monday, August 12th, 2013

After another round of nationwide enlistment, the time has come to find soldiers for the Israeli army’s most elite units. In order to be selected among the truly great, soldiers must pass intensive examinations – both mental and physical. We approached Major Danny Ben Dov, the man in charge of physical selections and unit placement for infantry and paratroopers, to learn what it takes to be listed among the best of the best.

elite7 You’ve heard about the units: the Yahalom combat engineers, Duvdevan – the unit responsible for conducting undercover operations against militants in urban areas and Oketz – the elite canine special forces unit. Behind these special units lies a complex placement process. Whether you want to curl up with a German Shepherd, maneuver an advanced UAV, or operate behind enemy lines – the path to achieving this goal is laden with potential pitfalls.

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In recent months a new slew of soldiers has reached bases across the country in order to begin their basic training. However, before they could finish lacing up their military boots, practicing telling military time, and getting ready for their first shifts of guard duty, the IDF transfers a select few for special assignments reserved for the very best.

Most units open their doors to potential new recruits, however these young soldiers should take time to seriously consider the proposal, as beyond the acceptance are arduous physical and mental tests specifically designed to push the soldier to the limit.

For those looking to find the secret key to acceptance into these coveted units, the head of physical selections for IDF special units explains which features and attributes assist in weeding out the weak and singling out potential candidates.

“I am responsible for approving all units’ selections based on physical criteria in the IDF,” said Maj. Ben Dov. “Certain elite units have particular standards and requests for potential soldiers. They require special characteristics and have a very specific screening process for accepting soldiers into their units.”

However, contrary to what one might think – that all elite units have the same selection criteria – Maj. Ben Dov clarifies that not all unit classifications and soldier requirements are identical to one another.

“The placement of each soldier is chosen based on the nature of the unit itself and the type of combat soldier the unit is looking for,” explained Maj. Ben Dov. The process itself is intricate and includes discussions with the unit’s commanders as well.

“The commanders build their selection process by consulting with us, and then we go through the military’s professional instructions and general requirements,” said Maj. Ben Dov. “Part of the varying features we look for are determination and motivation.”

Though physical requirements come most immediately to mind when discussing elite combat units, Maj. Ben Dov maintains that physical strength is not the most significant part in the selection process.

“During the selection process, there are sprinting exercises, lifting exercises and other physical tests, but the main thing is not so much the physical part itself,” he said. “We are looking to see the person after the physical aspect, following these tests. There are all kinds of thinking exercises and lengthy discussions, allowing us to see the candidate’s abilities to think quickly and express him or herself clearly.”

Maj. Ben Dov summarized by explaining that throughout the entire selection process, it is imperative for one to be true to his or her personality traits. “It is important for potential examinees to come prepared both physically and mentally, but most important is to be your true self, because, through the various exercises, we eventually peel through the false stories and get to the true nature of the soldier.”

Meet a 19-Year-Old Explosives Expert

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Growing up, it was uncommon for students from Corporal Dylan Ostrin’s International school to join the IDF, let alone stay in Israel. However, she had a specific vision for herself: she wanted to be in the Combat Engineering Corps.

Corporal Dylan Ostrin made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from the US at the age of seven with her family. After moving from Texas and California, Cpl. Ostrin spent much of her school years at an international school where the students were children of foreign residents, such as diplomats, who did not have a connection to the land, history or culture and did not plan on making their lives in Israel. Tailoring to this crowd, her school provided an education devoid of Israeli identity, including the idea of joining the IDF. “My school’s point of view was to graduate and go as far away from Israel as possible for college,” said Cpl. Ostrin.

For her, joining the army was not the norm, unlike most people who grow up in Israel. “I see it as a privilege to be able to serve my country and I was not prepared to give that privilege up.”

Today, Cpl. Ostrin is an explosives instructor in the Combat Engineering Corps. She teaches all things explosive: from how to handle the explosives themselves to utilizing them in operations, such as gaining access to buildings. The soldiers she leads are mainly reservists who come back for their annual duty, ranging in age from 22 to 40 and sometimes more. Cpl. Ostrin loves working with reservists because it is satisfying to see reservists relearn things they might not have done in years.

“[Reservists] come out of their everyday life to do this, [leaving] their family, their work,” she explained. “They don’t have anyone to force them to listen. So I really have to show them how much I know in order to keep their attention.”

Though she loves her job, Cpl. Ostrin has dealt with hardships during her service. First, due to a filing error, she was placed in the wrong course for several months. She fought for what she wanted, including writing letters, making phone calls, begging her higher ups and even spending a whole day trying to convince different placement officers. They finally agreed to correct the situation.

After all the stress of trying to get into the right training track, Cpl. Ostrin received some hard news that would affect every aspect of her life. Due to a job promotion, her parents were leaving Israel and moving to the U.K. When her mother presented the situation to her and her brother, Cpl. Ostrin at first told them they should not leave. However, she later realized she is independent enough to thrive on her own, thanks to the new sense of independence she learned from serving in the IDF.

“If my parents would have told me they were leaving before I entered the army, I don’t know how I would have dealt with it. But the army teaches you certain skills that force you to become your own person and be independent,” she said.

Since her parents moved, Cpl. Ostrin has been getting by as a lone soldier, especially thanks to her fellow soldiers. She said have become more like family than just friends. They have invited Cpl. Ostrin and her brother over holidays, weekends, and when she was sick, her fellow soldiers picked her up from to take her to doctor appointments.

Now that things have settled down, Cpl Ostrin is enjoying every minute of her job. She has already begun receiving job offers to work on bomb squads and similar security-related teams both in Israel and abroad, but is focusing on the present. “Serving in the army, in a job I wanted to do, is more rewarding than anything else. I’m doing it for the good of the people around me and the good of the country.”

Hezbollah Claims It Ambushed Four IDF Soldiers

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Hezbollah claims it “ambushed” the four soldiers who allegedly crossed the Lebanese border between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and suffered light to moderate wounds from two explosions. An IDF spokesman told The Jewish Press on the report, “No comment.”

The Hezbollah-linked Lebanese Al Akhbar daily reported Thursday, “The enemy blundered when they violated the border with Lebanon, and fell into a trap that only the resistance could set. Only Hezbollah can make bombs that blow up Israelis.”

The claim can be discounted to a large extent because it was issued 24 hours after the incident, and Hezbollah probably took advantage of the information vacuum to score propaganda points.

On the other hand, the IDF’s silence leaves open the possibility for speculation. The most desirable scenario is that the elite combat soldiers were on a patrol beyond the border fence, which in some places is several hundred feet inside the border or at a disputed area. It is heavily mined, and the land mines that exploded may have been planted long ago instead of being part of an ambush.

The Lebanese army stated that the “Israel enemy had infiltrated  approximately 1,300 feet beyond the fence, and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said there was blood at the scene.

The IDF unit, which UNIFIL said was comprised of 10 soldiers, retreated with the wounded soldiers and with the aid of light flares, and were rushed to a hospital in Nahariya, on the Mediterranean Coast.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented after the incident, “Our soldiers defend us and our borders, which is what they were doing last night. We will continue to react to defend Israel’s borders.”

Lebanon said it will file a complaint with the United Nations Security Council for a “blatant violation of Lebanese sovereignty and of UN resolution 1701”, which ended the second Lebanese war in 2006. Hezbollah was supposed to have been disarmed, according to the same agreement.

Female IDF Officer Upgrades Diet & Exercise

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Speaking at the International Women’s Conference sponsored by Stand With Us, IDF Officer Lieutenant Colonel Shirly Subul, a resident of Tel Aviv, said she had the aspiration to serve Israel in the armed forces since age 4. She currently serves in the IDF combat fitness department, where she has personally transformed the Lifestyle Branch, which is responsible for army athletics and encouraging Israeli soldiers to live a healthy life-style, into one of the most influential branches in the IDF.

She was a professional athlete as a teenager but put her athletic dreams on hold in order to serve the State of Israel. In March of 1993 she served in the intelligence unit and continued on to officers training course. Later on she served in the foreign relations department of the intelligence department. During the Second Lebanon War, Lt. Subul’s best friend Anat was murdered in a suicide bombing and she spent five weeks in an underground bunker as the head of the operations division. Her army career took a different direction when she transferred to the combat fitness department. There Lieutenant Colonel Subul sought to combine her passion for serving Israel with her love of athletics and sports.   

Lieutenant Colonel Subul places special emphasis on IDF commanders, believing that their physical condition has a great effect on the army as a whole. Subul is also known for whipping high ranking officers into better shape and has even put obese Israeli commanders on a six month program of diet combined with exercise. In order to keep Israeli soldiers in shape, she has organized four marathons and is planning a fifth. Subul also organizes swimming and bicycling sessions and has special programs for women.

Subul also has a BA in gender studies and sociology from Tel-Aviv University and was a pioneer in this field. As a female IDF officer, Lieutenant Colonel Subul emphasized that women serving in the IDF enjoy full gender equality, stating that 92 percent of the positions within the IDF are open to women, nearly 59 percent of Israeli women enlist to serve, representing 33 percent of the IDF’s manpower, and that the number of female IDF officers continues to rise. Israel is the only country in the world to have mandatory military service for women. “There are so many opportunities for women in the Israeli Defense Forces,” she claimed. Israeli women can be found in the artillery corps, armored divisions, infantry and intelligence units.

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