Thursday, January 19, 2012

A night I cried

Watch the video clip and then read the memories it evoked in manofesto:

When I did this the first time I think I fainted and only "woke up" when the parachute opened. Despite the fact I was pushed out of the plane like a sack of wheat I'm still terribly proud of it, for me it helped to somehow establish my manhood.

However once we landed after a night jump near maaleh Tzeh-aylim I was so tired from nervous exhaustion (we had been sitting on a runway almost the entire day, almost immobilized by our heavy packs and parachutes, waiting and waiting for night to fall and the mind trying to avoid the fear) I had no energy left for what was to follow. Somehow I had been given the body of a Browning 0.5 heavy machine gun to carry on my back (someone else had the barrel and other people the ammunition boxes, which were heaviest of all, I think 14kgs each and I remember someone carrying two of them. My Browning weighed about 13-14kgs, and with my galil and machsaniyot (magazines) and two litres of water and helmet I suppose I was carrying around 22kgs. We began this endless walk on a plain and then reached a steep cliff like ascent which required hands as well as feet to scale. My back and shoulders were aching and it was quite clear to me i couldn't or wouldn't do it. I felt is was unfair that I had been saddled with this elephant on my back, and complained to anyone I could, although many others in the retek gdudi were busy with their own troubles - heavy tripods for the browning, mortar bases, ammunition boxes and the other unnecessary paraphernalia of manouevres and war. I decided that once again Ttzahal (the IDF) had set the bar to high. If they wanted bits of iron manhandled up cliffs in the dark, they could do it themselves.

I asked to be relived of my increasingly crushing burden, concerned at any moment I would keel over and go crashing down the mountain side. No heroic thoughts urged me to stoicly scrabble on up on all fours (which is pretty much what I had been reduced to doing) and not burden some other poor soldier with my trouble. All I wanted was for someone to take the #$%$^ thing away. As a rather soft and protected child it was hard enough for me to conceptually swallow climbing up a rocky hill face in the dark but ok, I had put my hand up for the IDF and so I'd climb the bloody hill...but not with an impossible weight on me which kept on pulling me back and down into the desert air and the plain now seemingly far below.

At a certain point, after my requests that someone else take it "for a while", (as I disingenuously phrased it) had been ignored. and I had been assigned one or two assistants to push and pull me, my legs, already trembling uncontrollably from fatigue, simply turned to jelly and I keeled over and burst into tears. How the not so mighty are fallen! If only the enemies of Israel could see who Tzahal has as their recruit they would immediately attack. I lay there on my stomach, unable and unwilling to move, quietly sobbing "ani lo yachol, ani lo yachol -I can't, I cant". A fine figure of the reborn Hebrew soldier I must have cut. Fortunately if I had been ashamed - and I don't think I was I would have used and subterfuge to get rid of the paralysing weight - it was lessened by a few problems other people were also having. Some of the retek gdudi had sprained ankles, or worse, when they landed, and so other people had had to take their packs and were struggling with them. There were lots of kus amaks and ben zonahs filling the air, and the retek gdudi/chativati seemed to fall further and further behind the main column, and even the officers were cursing the batallion and brigade commanders.

Someone organised that the Browning be taken from me, perhaps given to a "younger" (i.e 19 instead of 22) and sturdier soldier made of sterner stuff than I. I can't remember if I was given something lighter to carry - like a 60 mm mortar or something...but having the browning of my back felt like having my mobility restored and my legs and arms untied. I wobbled to my feet and began climbing again, in the dark, following the soldier in front of me.

I think we walked almost the entire night, through mist and forests that appeared out of nowhere, perhaps passing a Beduin sitting cross legged and silent in front of a few glowing coals (tho this might have been on another occasion) and the gaps between soldiers grew wider and wider so that when day broke, I imagine we stretched out for several kilometers. We plodded on like donkeys (or at least I did) until eventually we came to water trucks and batashiot or whatever they were called...signs that this ordeal was over. Or perhaps we had to bed down in defensive positions and languish there in the desert sun....I remember shade netting and orders to drink so as not to get dehydrated, but I may be conflating several different maneuvers

But to return to the night jump: I could not believe that after pushing us out of an airplane in the dark they were not ready below with medals and hot chocolate. That they actually expected us to walk as well for tens of kms in the dark carrying impossibly heavy pathetic indignation was almost as great as when, in my early forties, I discovered I was supposed to earn a living.

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