Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bikinis and Paint

Many people are impressed by the difficulty and length of my unit’s training schedule (maslul). What they do not realize is that training (in the Israeli army, at least), no matter the weight balanced on our back or the fear swallowed during aerial adventures, is really a glorified summer camp. Birthright in green, if you will. Sensible rules in place ensure that nothing we do can really endanger us. So the whole experience, of bundling off every week to drill something new in another forgotten corner of the country, has the disconcerting feeling of an all male summer Israel program.

If I had any lingering doubt that my maslul was not a summer camp, a in-house “Sports Day” recently settled the question. For no apparent reason, everyone in the unit was bused off to a nearby pool for a day of casual competitive sport and lounging in the sun. Most of the trainees, fighters and jobniks (army slang for non-combat soldiers) skipped the sport events and tried to stave off naps in order to ogle the opposite gender. Harder said than done considering how (a) little sleep we get and (b) the ridiculous high number of bombshells in my air force unit (don’t pity the girls, they have more than their fair share of good looking and obviously in shape guys to look at).

The rest of the week saw us back on base, sprucing up our camp and gear for a twice a year inspection by senior officers. And so it was I spent most of the week with a paintbrush in hand after taking responsibility for improving the look of our kit. I was the right man for the job. Not only was my grandfather a professional painter but following the 2006 Lebanese War I had joined forces with other volunteers to paint bomb shelters in northern Israel. The idea then was to reassure northern residents through beautifying the structures that defended them against enemy attack. The idea now is more or less the same. Strange how after seven months of training to commit violence, I find myself, paintbrush in hand, in a similar position from years past.

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