Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Choosing the Purple

Within an hour of returning to Israel, I was back in line at Tel Hashomer. Waiting, or so I thought, to commence a week of interviews that would finally find me a new home in the army. Interview week in mid-November is scheduled every year for anyone who has fallen from an elite unit in the past few months. My trip to America was cut short because I needed to be back for these interviews. Imagine my surprise then, when an officer informed me that the powers that be were sending me to another base (known as Mazi, Mifakedet Zeruat Yabasha) for reassignment.

"So since I am not taking part in interview week," I asked the officer, "I could have stayed in America longer?"

"Sounds about right," he replied.

A few days later a far more efficient lady officer at the new reassignment base was telling me that neither Maglan (a special forces unit akin to my former unit) nor the Paratroop Brigade would take me. Maglan was not a surprise. Despite landing an interview with them a few days earlier, everything I had heard indicated they simply do not take guys from my former unit. Getting rejected by the Paratroopers, however, came as a shock. No different than any other infantry brigade save for their red berets, funny dress uniforms and illustrious history, I could not follow why they would not take me.

"The Paratroops, unlike the other brigades, are allowed to choose their soldiers," explained the lady-officer. "You only have ten months remaining from the two years you initially volunteered. The brigade would rather take a native Israeli with two years left of service time. You simply are not worth their time."

I could not deny the logic to her words. Except that the Paratroops has always taken lone soldiers who only serve a total of 18 months, that is eight months of training and ten months of service. Just like me, I told the officer.

"If you sign an extra year, right now," she countered, "you can go to the Paratroops." Please. Commit to an extra year to serve in the regular infantry? The only suckers who sign extra time are candidates for elite units or officer courses.

"Why are you doing this," I asked the officer. "why are you ending my life?"

"What," she exclaimed, "what are you talking about?!"

"You want me to give up a year of my life," I continued as a smile slowly snuck over my face. "What you are really doing is taking a year off my life, just the same as if you signed a deal with the devil to lifespan a year shorter. Except you are not demanding a year when I am old and frail but even worse, a year in my twenties." Shaking my head sadly, I looked her in the eye and asked how could she do this to me.

There was silence. Then we both laughed for a few minutes. Finally catching her breath, the officer asked me which infantry brigade I want.

Kfir does not have a great reputation, Nachal would feel like I am returning to the ranks where I began my training and the Paratroopers won't take me. That left Givati or Golani.

Give me Givati, please. Why did I choose the brigade known for being home to many minorities and a long history in Gaza? I went with Givati because I like the purple color of their beret, the feisty red fox on their emblem, the diversity and underdog status within the ranks, and the chance I could serve alongside one of the two guys from my garin that are in Givati.

This is not the first time I chose Givati. Last November, as I waited to hear if I had been accepted into my elite unit, I considered my backup options and concluded I would request to serve in Nachal or Givati. Having served in Nachal already, the time has come for Givati. Skol Vikings!

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