If you’re wondering why it’s been a while since you read one of my blogs, don’t worry, you didn’t miss one, I have just been having too much fun to write! Since I last wrote, I have been at home in England, turned 20 years old, taken part in a battalion exercise out in the field, gotten into a few arguments with my commanders and finally received a date for my surgery to fix a shoulder torn ligament. If we go all the way back to about two months ago, on November 15th, I was about to board the plane from Frankfurt, Germany to Birmingham, England. Eventually, I touched down in Birmingham and began to make my way to my house. It was certainly a strange experience for the first few days because everything felt so familiar but also so incredibly different. Since my parents were away on a cruise and wouldn’t be returning for a few days I headed to Manchester the day after arriving to spend the weekend with my sister, brother in law and my beautiful nephew. I had a really good time and even managed to find time to catch up with some old friends before travelling back to Birmingham on Monday morning. In all honesty the couple of weeks that followed I found myself mildly bored, uninspired and as though I was stuck in a grey, unentertaining place at a loss of finding something to do. I wanted adventure and people and to be wild and free but with everyone off at work or at university, there was simply nothing to do. So I began to arrange travelling to visit friends in various universities and for them to come to Birmingham to visit me. The rest of my month break included visits to my old High School where I was able to catch up with some of my teachers, which was really amazing to be able to update them on my life in person and to hear what they have been up to as well. The final two weeks of my trip were more exciting than the first as I went to see a lantern show in the Botanical Gardens with my best friend of 16 years, I travelled to Cardiff to see some friends there and I was able to celebrate my birthday with some amazing people. It was really special for me to see my old school friends in their new environments and to see how they settled into their respective universities. I am very happy I had the opportunity to spend a month back at home in England and I had a lot of fun seeing almost everyone I intended to see and also just to grab a bit of time to really rest. However, the whole time I was in England, I couldn’t help missing what I had left behind in Israel. I feel like in Israel I can do anything I could dream of doing. Everything seems brightly coloured and exciting and I just couldn’t find that same excitement and adventure in dull, grey England and so when it came to flying back to Israel, of course I was sad to be leaving my family and friends but I was also slightly relieved to be returning. My route back to Israel was via Zurich, Switzerland and involved landed at 3:30am. As much as I love to travel and to fly, I can safely say that was the worst journey I have ever made. Boarding the plane with aminor cold and slight temperature, I could feel myself getting more and more ill by the minute with the pain in my head intensifying, my nose running like water out of a tap (sorry for the graphic details) and an inability to breathe so I felt like I was slowly being suffocated. Touching back down in England I was so desperate to be able to get back to my kibbutz and just go to sleep and when one of my friends offered to come out to get my suitcase at 4:30am I was so grateful. After trying and failing to sleep because my nose decided it didn’t want to let me breathe unless I was standing up, I wandered around until 7am when I eventually dropped off to sleep. With a temperature of 38.6 degrees, I spent most of Shabbat lying in bed and taking medication, which was not the way I had intended it.
On Sunday morning despite not feeling 100% I made my way to base although I got very lucky because I managed to grab a ride the full 3 hours from Kibbutz all the way to the entrance to my base in Ramat haGolan. It was so amazing to see everyone again and it’s a strange indescribable feeling spending 8 months at intensely close quarter to people at all hours of the day and then not seeing them for an entire month. Despite not originally being chosen to head out into the field for our battalion exercise that was taking part that week, I volunteered to go and after a mess of being told I was doing this, then that, the not going at all, then going, I found myself heading out with the last group of soldiers in the early evening. The exercise was an intense 3 days of mud, stormy weather, sleeping outside in the bone-chilling cold and shooting rockets! Returning to base at the end of the exercise smelly, wet and exhausted, I grabbed the opportunity to jump in a hot shower before everyone else! Unfortunately because I still wasn’t feeling so well, I was unable to participate in the exercise as much as I would’ve liked and spent a lot of the time watching or sleeping on the side – not ideal but I am glad I was at least out in the field with everyone. My most memorable part of the exercise was when it began to pour with rain one evening and since I had a temperature still I was told to sit inside one of the vehicles only to begin to experience drops of rain falling onto my leg and upon looking up realised this vehicle was not completely waterproof and there was no real escape from the rain.
Back on base I was told that I was closing the weekend on base to help with guard duties so despite not having enough clothes with me I embraced the experience. It started with carrying out a guard duty on Wednesday evening because the girl who was supposed to do it wasn’t feeling well and so I offered to switch her out for the shift. The guard duty shifts carried on until the start of the week after where I was sometimes doing shifts of four hours followed by four hours where you have to be in uniform incase there is a call for help somewhere, followed by four hours of rest before another guard duty. All in all it was a rather peaceful Shabbat and there was a good crowd of soldiers on the base with me so I enjoyed myself and it was especially fun guarding at the main entrance to the base during the day on Saturday because lots of families and parents come to bring food for their children who are on base for the weekend so most of the time there was someone
to talk to and food to eat, which makes the time pass a lot faster.
The following week was rather uneventful, although I did manage to get punished, argue with my commanders and in the end it all worked out quite well, as always. After leaving base straight after Shabbat because I had an appointment in Jerusalem early morning on Sunday, I arrived to Kibbutz at 12:30am, showered, sorted out my laundry and finally went to sleep at 3am before getting up at 6am and travelling to Jerusalem at 7am. The day was spent rushing around Jerusalem and from floor to floor in the hospital, trying desperately to sort out my shoulder surgery. I was able to slide in visits to all my grandparents despite the lack of time andeventually I was on my way back up North to base. Arriving to base at about 7:30pm, I rejoined everyone until we were finally released to go to bed at about 11pm. As I was settling down to sleep, I received a call from my commander telling me I was switching out someone on guard duty from 2am until 6am, which obviously is not thebest news for a tired soldier to hear. After sleeping for about an hour, I got up and carried out theguard duty standing in the freezing cold, struggling to keep my eyes open, praying for the next person to arrive to switch me out. Eventually I reached the warmth of my bed at 6:30am and went to sleep being totally sure that I could now sleep until lunch because anyone who guards 2am until 6am is supposed to receive hours of sleep time during the day. However, at 7am, just half an hour after going to sleep, I was woken up and told I had to get up and could sleep afterwards. After standing around aimlessly until 9am, I finally went back to bed and after 3 hours, I was up for the day. The next morning, we were supposed to be up and ready at 5am after going to sleep at 12:30am but despite setting my alarm for 4:30am, I was so exhausted I legitimately did not hear my alarm and therefore upon seeing I was not up, my commander came over to wake me up and I received a punishment of having to return to base on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning.
After a relatively fun weekend on Kibbutz, involving a trip to the cinema on Friday to see the new Mary Poppins movie, I set out on the 6 hour trip up North and arrived on my base at about midnight. Since everyone was off base for the weekend and anyone who still had any remaining holiday days for the year was taking Sunday off, the base was rather empty so most of the time was spent not doing much at all. On Monday, I received permission to go to the funeral of Tzvika Levy who passed away on the Saturday before after battling with ALS. Tzvika Levy was a man who was known as “the father of lone soldiers” because he made his life’s work into helping and assisting lone soldiers as much as he could and I felt it was extremely important to go to the funeral and stand amongst thousands of people who had travelled from far and wide as a sign of respect for him.
I made the journey from the funeral, which was held up North, to the base we were heading to for the week, which is about 6 hours south of my old base.
On this base, we spent our days training for our upcoming season of guarding and patrolling on borders and near Arab villages. This training included lots of shooting practice (I shot with my left hand due to my injured right shoulder), role play and learning how to deal with different situations that we may find ourselves in as well as group exercises out in the mountains. One thing I learnt is that shooting with your left hand with a right handed gun means you will get hit in the face with the very hot shells from the bullets, which will leave burn marks on your face…
The week was absolutely exhausting as result of the lack of sleep and intensely packed days however I can certainly say it was productive, incredibly interesting and possibly even fun!
After the weekend, we were told to meet in Tel Aviv at the Camery Theatre where we were treated to a performance featuring some apparently well known actors and I can proudly say I understood a solid 85% of what was going on despite it being in Hebrew! From Tel Aviv, we travelled to a place called Kfar Nofesh, in Ashkelon where we were to begin a week of fun and recreation with the purpose of relaxing and bonding with the battalion. This place is a type of base, which contains a large indoor swimming pool, games and equipment including a ping pong table, amazing rooms each with an en suite bathroom and television, a shop on site where it is also possible to buy hot food and organised activities that we were given the option to go to. There were still rules but the discipline was a lot softer meaning we were allowed to be on home clothes most of the time unless we were on guard duty. Each night ended with a party with a DJ until the early hours of the morning and I forgot to mention the site was overlooking the beach! Unfortunately, I was part of the group that had to leave on Tuesday at 6am in order to do guard duty on our previous base up North meaning that I missed out on a lot of the fun.
Whilst I was back up North, I received a phone call from the hospital in Jerusalem to tell me the date for my surgery has finally been confirmed for Thursday 17th January! It has been over half a year since I became injured so this is brilliant news that I finally have a date and so the surgery will be happening just two days from now followed by a recovery period. After leaving from base on Thursday, I was told I needed to be back there on Sunday to do guard duties until Wednesday evening and after persuading my commander that I was having surgery on Thursday morning and I therefore did not see it fit for me to be travelling 9 hours around the country the day before, I was told I would be able to leave on Monday at midday.
So here I am back on my Kibbutz ready to go to Jerusalem tomorrow in preparation for my shoulder surgery on Thursday. I hope I did not bore you with the length of this blog and I can promise I will never again leave myself with 2 months worth of news to fit into one blog!
Please get in touch with me, I’d love to hear how you’re getting on and if you are around and have some free time, it would be great to catch up!
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Number – +972 58 732 3434
Ronit Prais – רונית פרייס