Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hello Midrasim, Goodbye Sandals

Enlisting in a modern army like the IDF does not come cheap. There are laundry lists of extra items--from Under-Armour apparel to the latest in Swiss army knife kits-- that sly salesmen and sensible veterans insist are critical for the modern soldier. I am a few months away from deciding what if any of these pricey items I will purchase. But I made my first investment shortly after returning to Israel from Beijing in late July. Today they arrived, a personalized pair of orthotics (midrasim), custom molded to the shape of my feet by a friendly American-Israeli physical therapist named Lisa who doubles as a fellow garin member's distant relative.

Wearing orthotics , Lisa informed me, is a lot like glasses. After my feet get used to them, I will never have a reason to remove them and worsen the posture and leg strength I have developed through wearing them. I was never a big fan of being chained to a pair of specs. But my sore knees need whatever help they can get. So if that means adding a slice of plastic and foam to my feet for the rest of my life, so be it.

The real challenge came later when I discovered that the orthotic do not fit into my pair of Columbia hiking sandals. These sandals have accompanied me on my travels over the last five years, trekking across the temples of Tibet, earthquake ravaged western China, and more ruins and vistas in Ethiopia and the Middle East than I can remember. They have also been my constant companions in more relaxed settings, serving as my go to shoes in Washington and on kibbutz.

Suddenly I was asked to place them aside. To reject two of the most steadfast companions one could ever ask for. They had never failed me. I had failed them.

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