Category Archives: army

Let it snow, let it snow

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For readers who are knee high in snow at the moment, look away now. We in the Med see very little of the cold white stuff, in fact here in the coastal plain snow just doesn’t fall. Last weekend on hearing the news of a snow fall in the Jerusalem area and the Golan, our childers understandably wanted to make a snowman. Therein followed a long two and half hour journey to the foothills of Mount Hermon, an hour  of frolicking before the badly equipped munchkins became thoroughly wet, cold and slightly tearful before we bundled them back into the car and drove two and a half hours home.
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Luckily, hubby was well prepared and had not only stocked the car with kid friendly snacks he had also remembered a tot for me.

The last part of the journey North was slightly fraught as the childers failed to understand how we could have arrived in Ramat HaGolan and still there was no snow, until in the distance we spotted this,

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I should point out that apart from at 3 months old, our twins have never seen snow in the flesh and come to think of it on that particular Christmas visit to the UK the tiny tots actually didn’t see the snow as they didn’t leave the warmth of the living room.  No. 1 son, then aged two and a half did sledge, build snowmen and make snow angels, however, he has no recollection of it whatsoever (I am so glad I made a special photobook of that holiday to capture memories otherwise lost).  Therefore the excitement as we arrived to the white was steaming up the car windows and sending the noise levels to deafening levels.

Their excitement, their smiles and awe at stepping into the snow for the first time, at throwing snowballs at Daddy and finally the long anticipated building of a snowman was worth the noise, the seemingly never ending journey and did I mention that we did all this after school and nursery finished at midday on a Friday and I don’t like snow?

Sadly iphone batteries died before I could capture the snowman and the ‘body of snow’ (literal translation) that the childers insisted we put on the bonnet of the car (in front of the passenger windscreen) for the journey home – unfortunately it didn’t make it all the way back.  I will however leave you with a selfie, not something I have done before on the blog but I like my eskimo look.

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Every teardrop is a waterfall

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Our recent Sukkot holiday found us in one of the most beautiful areas of Israel. In the foothills of the Golan a series of rivers snake through the cliffs and canyons providing welcome relief to the searing heat in the summer and dramatic deluges in the winter and spring. The Hermon is Israel’s highest mountain, bordering Syria and at the edge of Lebanon. It’s hard to believe that this beauty and majesty is the backdrop to wars and terror. The fields in this area are fenced and signs warn of unexploded mines from past conflicts. Disused buildings are peppered with bullet holes and the army presence is hard to ignore. But on a beautiful day, when the sky is blue the colours are alive and fish and crabs that live in the clear waters swim peacefully it is good to take a breath, drink in the scenery and try to forget man’s cruelty and the sadness it brings and let nature do the talking.

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Never Forget

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It’s a week of armies and war and soldiers and remembrance and the childer’s have reacted in a what I can only call a big muddle.

Their Dad is spending the week in the miluim which is the army service that all males do until around the age of 40 to 45.  He’s training which means in essence walking a lot, usually at night with a huge backpack.  To be honest I don’t know what he’s doing but I know he is carrying a gun and wearing army fatigues which in itself turns my blood cold.  The childers, sorry rephrase that, the male childers in our family think this is rather cool.  Daddy in uniform, with gun – yay.  Hmmm maybe not. Unfortunately for hubby he also turned 40 this week and what better way to spend a landmark birthday than tramping in the desert with a load of other nearing middle age sweaty men.

This week was also Holocaust Day in Israel where at sundown all stores, restaurants and places of entertainment close as a mark of respect for the millions of lives taken in the Holocaust.  The following morning businesses re-open but at 10am a minute siren is sounded throughout Israel and the country comes to a stop.  Everyone stands in silence, where ever they are.  Cars on highways pull over and drivers stand by their cars, buses stop, streets are silent.  It is a moving and awe-inspiring experience that I often believe should be replicated on war remembrance days around the world.

The government and Yad Vashem released new guidelines to teachers on how to answer children’s questions about the siren and what the Holocaust was and for the first time the recommendation was that State nurseries should also be included. So that is where my almost 6-year-old and twin 3-year-olds learnt a little about Hitler, Germany, anti Semitism and remembrance.

In reality when they came home and I asked them what they did at nursery this is snippets of the conversation we had:

Number 2 son (age 3) – we know about Eeeetlerrrr.  He drank poison and died.  He’s dead.

Daughter (age 3) – yes and he drank poison and he was a baddy and he was called Eeeetler.

son (age 3) – and and and and Joan (not her real name) the nursery teacher’s grandpa and grandma had to hide in the woods and he got shot in the leg and there was lots of blood.

daughter (age 3) and they didn’t have any plasters

son (age 3) – and they were on the roof

Me – who was on the roof?

son (age 3) – the soldier who shot him and they  tied his leg with material and they ran away

Me – and then what happened

both – he’s dead, he drank poison.  he was called Eetler.

other son (age 6) – who’s Eetler?

Yes indeed.  That is what happens when you try to tell history to children too young to even begin to understand.   I did  tell them that their teacher’s grandfather was not Hitler, at least I am presuming he wasn’t. I then let the subject drop rather than try to right the story.  I will wait for any questions to explain more.  Right now it seems like they think it’s an adventure story. There was no mention of remembrance or the siren, or paying our respects.

One day later number 1 son had been taught his teacher’s version of the government’s guidelines.  This is what he told  me:

‘Israel was at war with Germany and they used to be the baddies but now Israel is good friends with Germany. Germany put the Israeli’s in the prisons and some of them died and then the English decided to help and they opened the prisons so that the Israelis could go to Israel.  Some of them died and that’s why we have a siren and stand in silence so we can remember them.’

I have paraphrased as it was told to me in Hebrew but the particular use of Israelis and the English ‘deciding’ is word for word.

Since Holocaust day we have had 3 nights.  All 3 nights number 1 son has screamed out and shouted in his sleep – what he is dreaming about I don’t know.  He has told me he doesn’t want me to get old, he doesn’t want me to die, that he doesn’t want to grow up, that he loves his life and his family and he wants it to stay the same forever.  He has told me that when he finishes school he will have to go to the army and he wants to because soldiers have guns.  He also asked what do soldiers actually do and that there are bombs in the ground that blow tanks up. To say his brain is muddled is an understatement.  I think that Daddy is  a soldier at the moment added to the bits and pieces of what he learnt about Holocaust Day have merged and he is trying to make sense of it all.  Interestingly when he asked me why we need soldiers and an army I told him they were there to protect us and keep us safe and he said yes we need to defend ourselves from the baddies. “Who are the baddies?” I asked him (dreading the answer) and he looked at me like I was crazy and said “the other States who want to kill us and the robbers, the baddies” – duh silly Mummy.

I don’t know if his new fascination with death and old age is related to what he learnt.  I don’t know if the fascination with soldiers and armies and wars is due to the absence of his Dad or what he learnt.  I don’t know what he dreams about that makes him sit bolt upright shouting in his sleep.  I do know that it started this week and as a parent I have little or no control over what he has been taught or told in pre-school.  I hope what he told me is all he heard.  As for my babies I can categorically say that I think it is wrong that they were even taught about it at such a very young age.  I think personalizing it with tales from her own family was wrong of the teacher and the fact that they mixed her grandfather and Hitler rather suggests that it was too big a tale to tell.  At the very least the guidelines set down should have been adhered to more strictly and the same amount and type of information should have been given to all nursery aged children.

I didn’t grow up here, I am not Jewish so I have no point of reference by which to navigate the waters of Jewish history. I can only hope that I have dealt with their questions well. To remember and to respect and to never let the facts of the Holocaust be forgotten is incredibly important for everyone, Jewish or not. However, at the tender ages of 3 to 6 children’s imaginations are wild and the difference between fact and fiction isn’t clear.  As they grow they will develop the emotional intelligence to understand, for what purpose do they need to be taught about it now?

 

In remembrance of all those who perished in the Holocaust and during the Second World War.  We must never forget.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on this tricky subject.  Was the government unfair to the teachers? Are the children to young?

 

 

It’s life Kate, but not as you knew it

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My friend is a teacher back home and her Remembrance Day assembly this year is how wars affect families.  She asked me to write about my family’s experiences, she actually suggested I make a video to which I snorted and said no, although seeing as she is an English teacher I am a bit scared about the grammar mistakes I have made.  Anyway, here’s what I wrote.

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Until 9 years ago war was something that happened on the news, to people in the army and in history.  Then 9 years ago I moved to Israel and war, or at least the constant threat of it has quickly become a part of everyday life. Now I am the not so proud owner of my own gas mask and my home has a bomb proof safe room.

The first time I experienced war first hand was 18 months into living here when the 2nd Lebanon war broke out between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon.  My husband as a serving member of the Israel Defence Force was called up to fight.  In Israel all able men from the age of 18 to around 40 are either serving in the army or are reservists and so despite my husband being a chef and more attuned to baking on a daily basis he also has to be trained and ready to fight as a combat soldier.  When war broke out we knew there was a chance he would go, we thought as a reservist he would be needed to take over from the positions of the career soldiers whilst they went into Lebanon.  Not so.  He called me from the barracks after a week and told me in code he was going in.  That was the last I heard from him, or about him for over a week.  It was my first taste of the real fear that it really could happen to us, that it wasn’t just news and it was truly terrifying.  Life continued as normal in Tel Aviv and if you ignored the fighter jets and choppers flying overhead you wouldn’t know there was a real war going on just an hour’s drive North.  They called Tel Aviv the bubble, a bubble that on his return from whatever he experienced seem unreal and difficult to comprehend.

We now have 3 children and this time last year when the Gaza conflict broke out and the sirens were sounding throughout the middle and south of the country it affected us in a different way.  This time we heard the explosions, saw the soldiers and tanks on route to the South and had to prepare for possible missile attack.  We are lucky enough (so far) to live in the centre of Israel so a few hours from the North and South borders where, in my experience, the missiles fall.  One day during last November my kid’s play park was full of young female soldiers handing out leaflets of what to do to prepare and how to react if the siren sounded.  It also gave clear guidelines on how long each area of Israel had from the alarm sounding to detonation.  We had 2 and a half minutes.

Our children are still very young so were seemingly unaware, although my eldest did ask me why ‘they’ wanted to throw rockets at us.  Tricky to explain the intricacies of war to a 4 year old especially as there are always 2 sides, not always one right and one wrong.  The conflict was mercifully short but the ‘bubble’ that Tel Aviv had lived in was well and truly popped.  We are not really safe anywhere.

This summer’s tensions in Syria brought a new wave of panic as the real threat of chemical attack once again reared its ugly head. We were advised to buy bottled water, to ready the safe room and to make sure our gas masks were in date but for now, that threat has lessened and I hope never becomes a reality.

Since 2004 when I moved to Israel the terrifying terrorist war has quietened down, the bus bombs and unexpected attacks on the general public not so common.  But there is always the fear and you are never far away from armed security and army personnel, nor from those whose friends and family have been injured or killed.  We are vigilant and we try not to panic.  I choose not to talk to my children about it, others tell theirs everything. For me, as a Briton, it is something that I didn’t have to deal with growing up and I want to protect my little ones from the fear for as long as possible.  If we stay here then it will all too soon become part of their everyday life anyway.  My children, like all Israelis will join the army at 18; the boys for 3 years and my daughter for 2.

Although not strictly speaking a war-zone at present, life here is tough; the threat and fear is real and constant.  When the sun is shining and the Mediterranean sparkling it’s hard to envision the ugliness of war.  I cannot imagine how it must have felt to be a mother in Gaza city or Beirut, Iraq or Afghanistan in recent years.  I hope for my family’s sake that we and all families affected by war around the world experience some peace.

A Tale of Two Bootcamps

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We are a house in recovery, I am recovering from my first sports injury, my husband is recovering from a gruelling week in the army and the children are re-adjusting to having daddy back home. I would say that I far prefer my bootcamp to hubby’s.

Mummy bootcamp.  So to the injury, not only is it my first injury it’s also from the first bit of sport I have done, in my life, ever.  Unless you count a small dalliance with popmobility (how 90s) at university, I have never been one for sports, exercise and perish the thought exercise classes.  PE lessons at school were dreaded and consisted of perishing on a Northern England all-weather pitch with a hockey stick – not sure why it was called all-weather because as I recall there was only one kind of weather; cold, rainy and sometimes snow.

Having struck 40 I thought it high time to bite the bullet and try to exercise my sagging limbs and even saggier stomach (carrying twins for 9 months has left me somewhat in credit on the stomach skin front).  So off I trotted (having toyed with the idea for 6 months) to bootcamp.  Twice a week. For an hour.  Every week.   To say I was petrified before lesson one is an understatement.  I did warn the instructor that I wasn’t concerned about being slow, I was more worried that they may have to take me home by ambulance.  Luckily 2 months in I have survived, so far, and dare I say I enjoy it.  Shock horror.  Have I missed a trick for the last 20 years?  Could I be an athlete disguised for the last 20 years as a lay-about?  Probably not, but I am not as crap at it as I had imagined and yes I really do actually like it.

Due to my inexperience in the world of exercise I quickly sustained my first injury due to my trainers, ill-suited to the rigours of bootcamp.  It came as quite a revelation to uninitiated me that there were different shoes for different types of running…hmmm.  Equipped with a new pair bought at great expense to the management from a store that filmed the backs of my feet running on a treadmill – yes really – I am quickly recovering and awaiting the arrival of muscles.

Daddy bootcamp.  Now this is the real deal.  Every year for a few days , weeks and sometimes a month the young men of Israel are summoned back to the army to train and serve as reservists.  I say young but it rather depends on what you call young, for some this holiday/ordeal/bootcamp goes on til age 45 and for some, beyond.  In my husband’s case it’s until age 45.  This past week his unit has been walking up and down hills carrying 40 kilos in the boiling heat, hiding in bushes, orienteering and generally practising for something  I would rather not think about.  Like his dearly beloved (that’s me), hubby is no sportsman.  He likes sport, if he can watch it on the TV and when I say sport I am talking every sport from rugby to basketball, darts and snooker to bull riding (yes really), but like yours truly he doesn’t take part, not recently anyway.  I should add (to keep him sweet) that he does work 6 days a week and is on his feet for 99% of the time so the opportunity (time) to play is limited.  Take this into account and you can see that army training for him is all the more gruelling.  No sleep for 3 days and hiking through the mountains must certainly put his non too active body through its paces.  He is not alone of course, most men in combat units do it to keep them battle-ready.  Sad really that it is necessary.

Now he is home and the kids and I are getting used to him being back.  He is full of thorns and blisters but seems chirpy enough, I do believe he quite enjoys it .  No doubt like me he is happy that he completes it without too much ill effect, possibly he is as surprised by his physical prowess as I am by my own (prowess is perhaps pushing it).  His next bootcamp is a few months off, mine continues as I endeavour to train my  lazy limbs.  Can’t wait to see what I’ll look like when, for the first time since I was around 15, I can say I am 100% physically fit.  Here’s hoping.

 

If you are based in or around Tel Aviv and fancy a go at bootcamp visit http://bootcampisrael.com/