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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘soldiers’

Storm of the Century in Israel Claims 4 Lives

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

The bodies of two youths from the southern Bedouin city of Rahat were discovered Saturday afternoon in Tze’elim River. The bodies were discovered by family members and police who had conducted a search in the area. The two victims had left their home midweek with their 4-wheel-drive vehicle and disappeared.

They bring the count of victims to 4, in the “storm of the century” that spread as far south as the Sinai peninsula and Egypt, covering Cairo in snow for the first time in 100 years.

Earlier today, a 13-month-old infant perished in a fire that started in his Lod home, probably from a faulty electric heater. And last night, a 30-year-old man died falling off the roof of his house after climbing there to repair a leaky pipe.

Three days following the beginning of the storm, many towns in Israel are still under siege due to the heavy snowfall, especially in the Jerusalem mountains and up north. Millions have spent the Shabbat without electricity in temperatures that hovered around 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

The IDF has been utilizing hundreds of heavy bulldozers and armored personnel carriers to clear the highways. The Defense Ministry has transported 35 tons of salt to Jerusalem and Tzfat.

The IDF has delivered thousands of hot meals to residents without electricity.

Jerusalem District police chief Yossi Pariente said today, following a meeting with Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich, that by Saturday evening all the isolated towns and villages in the region will be reconnected to the highway system. However, Rout 1, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem remains closed, possibly until Sunday morning.

Keep the Hebron Show Going

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

It happened again.

In 2002, on the first day of the huge Sukkot celebrations, early evening, an Arab terrorist opened fire near the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. As a result, Rabbi Shlomo Shapira from Jerusalem was killed.

Fast forward: Sukkot, September 2013, eleven years later. Almost the same exact time. An Arab terrorist shoots, killing an Israeli soldier, near the “Beit Merkachat” intersection in Hebron. As with Rabbi Shapira, the soldier never really had a chance. A bullet penetrated his neck, leaving an entrance and exit wound. Medical personnel did everything humanly possible. But it wasn’t enough.

Prior to the killing, I could define today as “interesting.” Actually I really don’t know if that’s the right word to use.

More than 10,000 people arrived in Hebron Sunday, filling Ma’arat HaMachpela, walking the streets, visiting the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, all having a good time. One of the day’s highlights was the opening of the Cave of Otniel ben Knaz to Jewish visitors, an event occurring only very few days during the year. This, because the site is located on the “Arab” H1 side of the city.

On holidays, such as today, the 300 meter walk from the “Kikar HaShoter” checkpoint to the holy site is heavily protected, allowing visitors, escorted by soldiers or police, to view and worship at the cave.

But earlier, prior to its opening, I’d received notification of trouble. A firebomb was hurled at soldiers in the area. Rock-throwing, an almost normal occurrence in Hebron, was starting. But the security forces had the situation under control, and dozens and dozens of people walked back and forth to the place.

Me, too. Today was the first day of our special VIP tour. A busload of Hebron friends and supporters visited our newly initiated Tel Hebron overlook, on the roof of Beit Menachem, in Tel Rumeida. They also heard a short talk from Mrs. Tzippy Shlissel (whose father, Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, was killed by terrorists in Hebron), and then, too, participated in the walk to the fascinating Cave of Otniel.

I had the privilege to escort a wonderful woman whom I’ve known for about 15 years, Mrs. Ruth Simons, 91 years young, but you’d never know it. When we arrived at the Cave, she climbed up the stairs on her own two legs, entering the site for the first time in her life.

But, honestly, on the way there, and on the way back, I wasn’t entirely relaxed. I’ve done this many times before, and people here, well, sometimes we develop “antennas” which pick up vibrations in the air. And the vibes were definitely there.

Everything and everyone were in place – soldiers, border police, regular police, but, at the same time, booms from stun grenades and rubber bullets being shot at distant attackers, filled the air. It wasn’t, as it usually is, a quiet walk. I was very impressed by my guests. Ruth and her family, who didn’t seem phased in the least. They took it all in stride.

But my insides, my gut, didn’t like it. It is a disgrace for Jews to have to walk down a street to the tune of stun grenades exploding, not too far from them, on a Jewish holiday. Or on any day, for that matter.

But we did it, and that was that.

Later, our guests were treated to a delicious lunch at the Yeshivat Shavei Hebron sukkah and then visited Machpela. After they left, I recalled, for some reason, Rabbi Shlomo Shapira’s murder, as I walked past the site of that terror attack, back to the office.

A little while later, at 6:30, I received a call from my son, who works with security in a community outside of Hebron, asking about the shooting.

“What shooting?”

“There was a shooting and someone was hit.”

It didn’t take long to get preliminary details, where, when, and the victim’s condition: very critical. Together with a few others, we watched soldiers and police running back and forth, huddling, talking in whispers. Ambulances, their red lights flashing, driving by, in all directions. There wasn’t too much else to do, except wait.

Later tonight we’ll meet, and talk, to discuss our reactions.

The first reactions are easily expressible. First, our shock and pain at a young soldier’s death, as a result of an Arab terrorist sniper’s bullet.

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.)

* * *

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.

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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.

elite5

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.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/idf-blog-blogs/meet-a-19-year-old-explosives-expert/2013/08/08/

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