Two Different Worlds

If you’re 49947773_780834025611304_2921329092793991168_nwondering 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 t49828882_1084205741750969_1955464692512063488_nhe 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, Germa50019027_829660904092728_7587299649552121856_nny 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 returning50014552_287911915251533_8752137820094595072_n 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 a50026273_326994938150909_789100069117755392_ndventure 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 catch50720459_2260035207369693_4678145642286022656_n 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 school50020361_345141112997679_6757740760872779776_n 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 50250692_327967581148439_318062643464110080_nand exciting and I just couldn’t find that same excitement and adventure in dull, grey England and so when it came 50560289_2237760649805116_1221740268101828608_nto 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 he50422597_2391238480903443_7868202570978689024_nad 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 doi49348333_329652231213177_5130990771884785664_nng 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

49947322_2002444896508869_1609717746419892224_nto 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, at49947077_2446746472064159_1590080984143888384_n 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 co49348284_1407409186060493_4477501511999422464_nuld 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,49947185_279887996029621_255970485949431808_n 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 rig50074620_1310118565806499_359794255109029888_nht 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 product50104915_141543060073547_2830475536457793536_nive, 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 t49898098_554332728383489_8572041736770027520_no 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 49666842_283585638946572_9018520139993186304_n-e1547550037163.pngon 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 a50297789_607181209714884_1722355372586434560_n 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 tomorro50405211_2106433229402889_6868669398077407232_nw 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 – rprais@outlook.com

Number – +972 58 732 3434

Ronit Prais – רונית פרייס

 

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New Places and New Faces

Since drafting to the army almost a year ago now, I can safely say there are certain things I have picked up and learnt along the way about the dynamics and internal mechanisms of the large, confusing and comp46384918_1916970945085303_7557540547007610880_nletely illogical structure that is the Israeli Defence Forces. A main aspect that has struck me over the past two weeks is that nothing in the army stays the same for too long. After 8 months of being forced to integrate and bond with the specific group of people I happened to be placed with for training, I was finally beginning to feel a connection with them and to find my place amongst them. I found myself excited at the prospect of finishing training and meeting lots of new people but the small part I did not prepare for was the fact that there would be many friends I would not be seeing 24/7 as had become the norm. Arriving at the new base on Monday to find an established group of soldiers who had been together for the majority of their service and who had been in the army for significantly longer too, I, along with the few others who I arrived with from training, found myself a little in what Israelis love to call “shock”.

During first week on this new base I felt like everything I had worked for socially over the past eight months had been for a complete waste as once again I was in a place where I felt like a nobody and once again had to prove myself as a person and a46331506_191804495083776_3701705598002266112_n לֹוחמת (warrior). Within my first few days I discovered I had been chosen to stay on base for Shabbat along with about ten others to carry out guard duties whilst everyone else went home. This was not so bad for a number of reasons. Firstly it meant I didn’t have to bother with making the 5 hour long journey home on Thursday night. Secondly it meant I didn’t have to get up at 5am on Sunday morning to make it back to base on time. And lastly it was partially exciting for me as I hadn’t been allowed to do any proper שמירות (guard duties) for the past five months due to my shoulder injury. The only downside was that it meant getting through the following week without clean laundry, which was not so fun.

46387079_2257111461226530_4331849464365973504_nThe first week was fairly boring as it entailed a lot of tidying up, cleaning up, painting containers with oil-based waterproof paint that really is waterproof (even from skin) and a lot of sitting around being told off for sitting around. On one occasion, after spending the morning switching between tidying and cleaning the same rooms to wandering around looking for non-existent rubbish to pick up outside, I found myself sitting down before being approached by one of the מפקדים (commanders) who told us to get up and do something. After a response from me that unintentionally was considered to be on the cheeky side of things (me? cheeky? who would have thought it?), I found myself facing a punishment of leaving a day later than everyone else the next week. The remainder of the week I had many discussions with my מפקדים (commanders) about how I didn’t agree that I was deserving of the punishment (honestly I still don’t) but what it has taught me is that a lot of the army is not logical and you won’t always agree with consequences of your behaviour but now I can look back and see it as another life lesson.

After spending the weekend on base, I got to know some of the people who were with me a lot better and I am finding that it is significantly easier to connect with all the new people than it was when I started my טירונות (basic training) 8 months ago. I don’t know if it is because of the improvement in my Hebrew or because I have more in common with them now or simply because I am feeling a lot more confident in myself but I do know that I am very happy to be with the גדוד (battalion) and I feel a lot more like myself once again. The weekend was spent sitting around and chatting to people, sleeping and carrying out about 25 hours of guard duties! The שמירות (guard duties) are not so bad because it forces you to take time to be alone and think because there isn’t much else to do. I have learnt to always be prepared for anything though because once I had a shift in the mi46197010_546233669180734_7774963753015050240_nddle of the day and made an experienced assumption that it would be hot so did46377020_2154970564766142_7342377516000083968_n not take my jacket. About half way through the shift, I see a group of angry, black, viscous clouds rolling over the open skies in my direction. Then the rough winds began, blowing dust and dirt in every direction, basically blinding me whilst also making the warm midday air very cold. The wind was joined shortly by thunder and following that some lightning. All in all it definitely livened up the shift and was very cool to watch from my post. Eventually at about midday on Sunday everyone returned from their time at home and joined us, meaning the guard duties would be a lot less frequent. Unfortunately on one of my shifts, the מגד (battalion commander) came to do a

46441042_183852869223053_5608639754229776384_n check on my post and although it wasn’t my rubbish, the post was very dirty and messy and because I happened to be there at that time, I received the scolding for the state of the place!

46456345_320447551894381_1333396172118687744_nThe schedule of the week was a lot more interesting than that of the week before as we would finally be heading out with the rocket launchers once more and working on them as I had become used to after spending the last 4 months doing exactly that. It is certainly strange to be with a new team of people after spending 8 months in the same group and it will take time to understand the new dynamics of the group and where everyone stands but I am excited to see what that will be like. As well as spending time out in the field, we also underwent a lot of talks and lessons focussing on various topics from safety out in society on the road as well as with the rocket launcher out in the field to a revision on basic first aid. On the first night we were due to sleep out in the field, I swapped a friend out on his guard duty because he had had a particularly tough day so for some reason I found myself doing an extra few hours shift in the middle of a very cold night but luckily two of my commanders let me borrow their fleeces!

46404119_545575182581865_9063908465319084032_nOther activities that we carried out over the past couple of weeks include the בוחן פלגה (platoon test), which is a 2km run with full equipment and the last kilometre involves running whilst carrying people on a stretcher. In order to pass, everyone has to reach the end of the run within a certain time limit. On this past Monday, we were endured the team test, which is a day of various competitive stations focused on different parts of the rocket launcher between teams and the winning team earns the reward of leaving base on Wednesday instead of Thursday along with being given the honour of shooting a practice rocket.

I spent the past Shabbat in Modi’in staying with a friend from England and 46377421_345431632681243_2323278081059454976_nher family. It was a really fun and relaxing 24 hours and I even overcame my phobia of dogs so it is now not much more than a mere discomfort! In the end my punishment from my cheekiness, was to return to base on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning, which was actually of benefit to me so at 6:30pm I set off on the 140km journey to base.

Since Monday night at 6pm, I have not been on base due to having various סידורים (affairs) to attend to before

the exciting day of Thursday (today) arrived when I would board the plane to take me in the direction of home! I arrived back to Kibbutz at about 10:30pm after taking 5 buses from my base up in the

Golan Heights. On Tuesday morning, I set off to Jerusalem, where I had an appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon to discuss my shoulder problems and I even made the effort to arrive 45 minutes early to ensure nothing would go wrong because I had been waiting for so many months just to get this appointment. Upon entering and explaining the whole story to the doctor, he requested the disc with the photos from the MRI that I had done a couple of months ago but nobody had told me I needed to bring that with me so to the best of my knowledge, this disc was down south on my old base, about a 4 hour journey from where I was in Jerusalem. The surgeon refusing to do or arrange any further treat46388935_2143319439026000_5140178183672299520_nment without seeing this disc caused many panicked calls to various מפקדים (commanders) and army doctors despite having about 10% phone battery. In the end, I decided to try and go to the base in Jerusalem where I had seen a doctor there, hoping that they could make me a copy of the disc. The surgeon told me he would only be there for another hour so I had to get back within 60 minutes. Upon checking how far away the base was, I ordered a taxi to take me on the 30 minute journey. Sprinting up five flights of stairs, I explained to the woman at the desk what I needed and was met with the response that they had no access to this disc that I needed. Defeated, I headed back to the taxi, on which I had thrown away 100 shekels. My next plan was to contact someone on my old base down south to see if the doctor there could maybe send me a film of the photos or worst case scenario I would travel to the base to get the disc. Of course, there were problems with the computers meaning I was about to step onthe bus to Beer Sheva when my friend said don’t get on the bu46362730_2137913993191686_8994168190820941824_ns, they don’t have the disc here! At that moment, my phone died so my priority became finding a place to charge it. It was during the time I was sitting on the floor of the bus station charging my phone when something happened that would only happen in Israel… A kind man working at a phone store offered me a high quality portable phone charger and told me to wander around and return it when I was done instead of sitting on the floor. Once I had enough battery, I made the plan to travel to the base where I had originally had the MRI because the disc HAD to be there right?! So off I went on an hour long bus ride to a base called Tzrifin. Arriving at 4:30pm, I explained my situation for the millionth time that day and was told they can only print discs until 4pm. If you have read the story up until now, I’m sure you can imagine how it felt to hear that. I think the woman who was working there understood me too becauseshe then proceeded to make a few calls and within an hour and a half, I exited the base with two disc copies of the precious photos!

Heading back to kibbutz after a long but eventually semi productive day, I went to sleep in preparation of getting up early for the busy day I had planned for Wednesday. Leaving kibbutz early in the morning, I travelled to Tel Aviv and after suffering the stand still traffic of the roads going into Tel Aviv at 8am in the morning, I arrived at the Nefesh B’Nefesh offices where I would be collecting my plane tickets t46438439_644616019381252_616385110429663232_no fly home the following day. This whole process took about two hours and I headed straight from Tel Aviv to the hospital in Jerusalem where I took on the brave and ambitious challenge of trying to speak to the doctor without having an appointment. The success of this endeavour proved to me that maybe I am a little bit more Israeli than I thought I was because after waiting outside the door, I managed to get him to check out the photos and sort out my next appointment, which will be a pre surgery appointment the week after a return from my army leave in England. The surgery that they are planning on doing is called an arthroscopy so if anyone knows anything about what that involves, feel free to enlighten me! On my way out of the hospital I saw a sign for blood donations so off I headed in the direction of the arrows. Unfortunately after filling out all the forms and everything, I was told my haemoglobin level is particularly

46273717_576978712724415_3548941617102585856_nlow and that I should probably get that checked out so here I am with another health problem to sort out.

I am now sitting in Frankfurt airport, waiting for my next flight, which will take me home to Birmingham, away from everything I have become used to in the army for a whole month. Despite everything going on in Israel at the moment, I have decided to fly home anyway. Anyone who knows me will know thatI am not a fan of getting caught up in politics and it is a subject that I have always tried to avoid, whether it be in school or now in the army so I do not intend to begin a political blog. However, if things escalate further, which is very possible, I will be flying back to Israel, even if it means cutting short my time at home because there is no way I can sit back in the comfort of England whilst my friends and my people are fighting just to stay alive.

In just a few hours I will be home in Birmingham after about half a year since I was last around for a short trip and I am excited to take that deep breath of real freedom as well as being able to catch up with friends and family, especially those I have not seen in over a year as well as dropping by my secondary school for a visit or two!

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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 – rprais@outlook.com

Number – +972 58 732 3434

Ronit Prais – רונית פרייס

Official IDF Combat Soldier and Proud

The start of the past couple of weeks were strange in that we had not completely finished training but there was that kind of vibe in the air. Since I last wrote, to summarise, we had our final week out in שטח (the field), training on how to use the various equipment related to rocket launching and we were treated to a full week of time off from the army known as רגילה (Regilah). Whilst most chose to request permission to leave Israel and fly to various parts ofEurope, I decided to travel aroundIsrael to seesomeof the sites I have not yet seen. BeforeI bore you with the details of my fun week of holiday, let us back track to the final fullweek we spent out in שטח (the field). One thing I forgot to mention in my last blog is that my last week began slightly earlier than it should have because I along with several other girls from my פלגה (platoon) were ordered to return to base on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning as a punishmentfor not wearing t shirts under our uniform! This meant arriving back to kibbutz at midday on Friday and then returning the very next evening. All in all it was not so bad because I knew that they would give me a day to go home shortly after as I am unable to collect my laundry until the Sunday morning so I took slight advantage of my lone soldier privileges and managed to leave base on Sunday evening before returning on Tuesday morning.

I spent my day off doing all those important things lone soldiers have to do because they have no parents around, such as going to buy abicycle, which I can proudly say was the first time I have made such a large purchase, just speaking Hebrew. After returning to base, I called my מפקד (commander) to tell him I want to go and join everyone out in (the field), which he was able to get me permission for so off I went in the hummer to join everyone in the vast, hot, s

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andy desert. The day consisted of a lot of sitting around chasing the sun in order to permanently be under the shade of the rocket launcher, followed by a bit of playing around with the buttons on the computer of the launcher (a lot safer than it sounds). Eventually darkness fell upon us and we began our field routine for night. This meant arranging the rocket launchers in a certain formation, building up the nets to sleep under and being briefed on the dangers of night time. The interesting thing about sleeping in the desert is that despite the negative parts that the fine, ground up dust sticks to everything and just causes a general mess along with temporary breathing difficulties, it does make for a semi comfortable bed situation. I was given a 2am שמירח (guard duty), which mostly involved ensuring jackals didn’t come too close since the night before several people had woken up to the not so pleasant experience of a furry friend lying on top of them.

In the morning, after polishing our boots, which I promise you is a very difficult activity when they become covered in a layer ofdustjust seconds after being polished despite not moving a millimetre, half of us returned to base where we began to work on taking down all of the parts of our base we had built as we were heading off for a week of holiday. On Wednesday night after everyone had returned from the field and we were all as comf

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ortable as possible in our beds, my מפקד (commander) came to our room and told my whole team to get up and meet at the rocket launcher as quick as possible. When we arrived he told us that having reached the last week in the field, we had earned the right to write our names on the inside of the rocket launcher – something I had been pestering him about for ages! Thursday began with a very early wake up followed by a bus rideto the officer’s training base where there were about 3000 soldiers all meeting together to take part in a fun run type of race. It was an incredible sight to see so many people in one place and I managed to bump into a few people I know. The rest of the week involved a lesson about road saf

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ety given very professionally by one of the girls in my group, which I think was the first lesson during which nobody fell asleep. We also returned all of our equipment from the rocket launcher, which is a lot of very heavy strange pieces of metal that I still don’t know the purpose for.

Leaving base at 6am on Friday marked the beginning of our week long break from the army before going back forthe last few days and ceremony of the end of training. Whilst most of my fellow Israeli soldiers spent the week out of Israel soaking up other countries and cultures, I decided to spend my time in the country I am protecting but as a citizen rather than a soldier. Therefore, I used up my days of freedom meeting up with friends, both from the army and from home, eating a lot, doing a lot of shopping and hiking around the North of Israel, in a stunning place called Nahal

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haShofet. I absolutely love the Northern areas with all the natural beauty so different to the bustle of the big cities and the dust of the desert in the South. On one of the days I chose to take out my newly purchased bicycle and tackle the long ride from Petach Tikva to Ramat Gan where I heard there is a stunning national park. After two hours of challenging up hill riding, I took a break to read a book in a playground before cycling back to kibbutz. The route back to Kibbutz was interesting as I followed directions that would take me through the fields alongside the busy highway that leads me home. I encountered all kinds of terrains on this journey fromnormal road, to forest land with huge trees or sticks at every turn, to beach-type sand – which by the way is impossible to cycle on. After the many obstacles of this route including a point that involved throwing the bicycle followed by myself over a barbed wire fence and running up a sa

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ndy hill with my bicycle away from the farmer’s dog who thought I was stealing his crops, I made it back onto the r

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oad next to Kibbutz to discover two punctured bicycle wheels. A not so great end to a fantastic, adventurous day! My week break also allowed me to beable to go to my friend’s ceremony where I could be there to see him receive his unit’s beret -a really special event!

The end of this week holiday led me into the last week of training where we returned to Shivta on Sunday to an evening bonfire with the platoon. Wesat around the fire and played various compliment games in which we went around the circle and each person said what they respected about someone or learnt from them overthe course of the training. Despite the discomfort and cringe-worthiness of the whole principle of the game, it was really nice to hear people complimenting each other and to be a part of it. This was followed by a BBQ before heading to bed. After four hours of sleep I got up to leave base for an appointment in Jerusalem for my shoulder torn ligament.

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To cut a long story short, I am preparing for surgery to fix the tear, which will probably take place in Jerusalem after my month army leave in England. Tuesday brought final clearing up and lots of summary talksfrom different מפקדים (commanders), both individual and group talks. We were also given lots of memorabilia such as about five different t shirts, a neck warmer, a velcro patch to stick on the back of our helmets and bucket hats with our names on. Along with all this, one of my מפקדים (commanders) is being released from the army within the next month so she gave away to each soldier f

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rom the פלגה (platoon) various equipment that she no

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longer needs and I received the ידית (handle) from her gun, which is a real honour!

Tuesday night soon arrived and after finishing up my final summary talk with my מסו׳׳ל (company commander) at about 10pm, I was able to head off to sleep before waking up at 1:30am. After the very early wake up, we finished tidying up everything and by 3am we were on the bus to drive to the starting point of our final march of training. At 8am the march including every גדוד (battalion) in my unitthat is finishing training, began and so we set off in detached groups of approximately 400 soldiers and מפקדים (commanders) in total. Since it was already daylight, and it was a particularly hot day too, the walking was challenging and with the fast pace and difficult inclines and declines, there was nothing easy about it. Near the start of the march I began to experience intense pains in my shoulder and I even thought for a moment I wouldn’t be able to finish the march but the thought of not finishing the final march of training alongside everyone hurt more than my shoulder and so I found the mental strength to continue.

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Arriving to the end point in Latrun, near Jerusalem, sweaty, tired and rather dehydrated, I was simply happy. After hanging around for a bit and finally eating some semi-decent food after 3 days of eating not much more than a plate of grated carrot due to a lack of food on the base, we got back on the bus to head to the Kotel for our final ceremony. Being able to shower before the ceremony would have been nice but we dealt with the conditions of sinks in the Kotel toilets as nearly 100 of us changed into our smart off-base uniforms amongst the angry tourists who simply wanted to use the toilets that were permanently engaged by smelly so

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ldiers.

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After getting ready for the טקס (ceremony), I was elated to find my dad and sister who had come to see me receive my סיכת לוחום (warrior pin) at my final ceremony. I spent a bit of time catching up with them and then the טקס (ceremony

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) began. Emotions were high at the ceremony for multiple reasons. The biggest being that it was a mark of the end of 8 months of hard work, sweat, sand, blood and tears and there could be nothing more special than standing side by side with the only people who can really understand what you went th

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rough because they went through it all with you. When it came to the time to remove the tape from our pins to mark the official event of us becoming לוחמים (warriors), I was honoured to find my מפל׳׳ג (platoon commander) head in my direction before removing his pin and positioning it on my left shirt pocket instead of the new one I had been given. I can imagine I will remember the rush of emotion that surged through me as he stopped in front of me and smiled whilst presenting me with his pin. At the end of the ceremony, I had th

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ought it could not get much better until I was met by seven of my מפקדים (commanders) from my old base Michve Alon along with too many members of family and friends to count on both my hands. It was an incredibly special event and I cannot explain how lucky I feel to have been given the opportunity to finish this training and earn the pin that signifies all the hard work.

Before my dad

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and sister made the return journey home to England after approximately 24 hours in Israel, I spent Thursday with them in Jerusalem before returning to Kibbutz to get ready for my end of training party with my company. We celebrated by renting out a villa in Petach Tikva, complete with a heated swimming pool, open bar, amazing DJ and almost everyone attended including all of my מפקדים (commanders). It was most certainly an eventful night and I can definitely say there is no longer the uncomfortable distance between מפקד (commander) and חייל (soldier) within my סוללה (company) but what could you expect to happen in a situation like that with soldiers who finally feel free after 8 long months of intense training.

On Monday, I will begin the next stage of my army service up North in Ramat haGolan with about half of the people I have been with so far along with many new faces. I hope you will continue with me on my journey as I have so much enjoyed having my readers with me so far!

Please get in touch with me, I’d love to hear how you’re get

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ting on!

Email – rprais@outlook.com

Missing everyone back at home in England, please let me know if you’re planning a trip to Israel as I’d absolutely love to see you.

Ronit Prais – רונית פרייס

Boredom Before a Big Boom

Sitting on my bed in Kibbutz with clean sheets and a tidy (ish) room without any rush to go anywhere or do anything, I am finally able to take a moment to breathe and consolidate the whirlwind of experiences I encountered over the past two and a half weeks. The past three weeks was time devoted to temporarily moving bases to the base where the battalion is currently stationed in the West Bank where we were given the mission of carrying out some of their guard duties in order to help out where they were struggling due to not having enough soldiers. Due to my shoulder I was not allowed to accept any guard duties but it meant I spent those few weeks doing a fair few kitchen

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Shower

duties, emptying lots of rubbish bins and talking to people. The conditions of our temporary home were not particularly welcoming, especially after the discovery that the pipes coming out of the wall (a.k.a showers) only provided freezing water. This was accompanied by the choice of an open door with a view of the road outside the base meaning everyone who drove past also saw you or a shower in darkness due to the absence of electricity. The sleeping arrangements were not much better with 9 girls squashed into a space fit for maybe 4, thus resulting in regular arguments and disputes, although at least the air conditioner was partially broken meaning there was one thing less to argue about!

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Air Conditioner…

Luckily I was able to be on Kibbutz for Yom Kippur (25 hour Jewish fast day), which although was not particularly a fun holiday to be off base for, meant a much easier fast than had I been on base. After the 24 hour break from base, we were told to meet in Tel Aviv as we had a culture day in which we went on

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Some Down Time in Tel Aviv

a tour around the area of Neve Tzedek before having some free time in the Carmel Market. Whilst most of the group returned to the temporary base, a few of us went to a base nearby to collect our guns, which we had left there and due to the lack of public transport in the area, we had a very cool experience of riding on the open back of a hummer army vehicle, waving at everyone we drove past resulting in smiles, waves and even honks in return. One positive of the temporary base we found ourselves in is that right outside the gate is a ישוב (settlement) where the inhabitants welcome the religious

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Riding to Base on the Back of a Hummer

soldiers to join them in their synagogue for prayer services. This meant I was able to feel a slightly more familiar atmosphere during Shabbat away from the crazy vibe of base. My Shabbat was partially interrupted by being put on kitchen duty because personally sweeping up piles of ants, both dead and alive, from a dining room floor is not my idea of providing a Shabbat atmosphere but someone had to do it. The ants were certainly problematic when it came to hygiene but they made a fun game of trying to eat your food before the ants did. On the first night of Succot (Jewish festival), a small group of us requested permission to head out of base to the nearest town where we had been told there was a big Jewish community and after a very sweaty, mountainous walk of about 25 minutes, we arrived and located the nearest synagogu

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Sukkah on Base

e. Upon entering, as a direct consequence of the members seeing soldiers in uniform, we were greeted and invited by at least 20 separate families to eat with them for the festival but unfortuna

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Pretend Sukkah on Base

tely we had to decline. After a strange first couple of days of Succot, which did involve eating in a Sukkah but was certainly different to the past years I have celebrated this festival, we were told to be up at 4:30am to travel up north to another base where we would be helping prepare and be involved with a memorial ceremony for families of soldiers in my unit who had been killed. This essentially meant a night in a clean, larger room with hot showers! Despite having been just with my platoon on the temporary base, we were reunited for about 24 hours with the rest of the battery. For some reason this lead to an increase in discipline as we had become slightly too relaxed over the past few days apparently. The girls were given a st

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Ceremony

rict warning about always wearing a t shirt under the uniform shirt and we were forced to go and put on if we were without, which meant due to me not bringing any with, I had to borrow someone else’s dirty top – not fun! Eventually after the boredom of helping for the ceremony, which mostly involved setting out chairs, clearing up rubbish, lots of marching, picking up stones and dust from the floor (yes this li

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terally happened) and general sitting around doing nothing, we travelled back to our hole of a base by public transport, arriving back very late at night after a group of us were denied entry to the bus everyone had gotten on because there was not enough space.
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This brought me to my second Shabbat on this base, during which I was lucky enough to be able to have a home cooked meal in a real family Sukkah with a family who are very good friends of my parents. Everyone was told during Shabbat they were allowed to have family and friends drive to the base to take them out for a few hours if they had no missions to carry out so dragging a friend from base along with me out of pure lack of wanting to do the boring 25 minute walk alone, we had a good time and left with a bag full of yummy food – the frozen ice pops being most appreciated and I was even able to borrow a few books to pass the time on base.

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Sink Laundry

The remainder of the stage of training that was spent on this base consisted of doing laundry in a sink that probably made my clothes dirtier than they were before I washed them and another trip to the nearest town to celebrate the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah, which concluded in a hot and very delicious meal in the house of a family who warmly welcomed us. Since this was a very small base (you can walk from one side to the other in approximately 45 seconds and do a walk of the whole circumference in about 2 minutes, it makes going on a run a bit boring so instead I made use of the fact the base is built on a mountain to do a few sprints up and down. Finally, we were ready to move off this base to return to our very familiar base back down south. The main thing I do not miss from the temporary base is that every night about half an hour after supper,

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The Black Marks on the Tray on the Right are Groups of Ants

everyone on the base is called to the ant-cat filled kitchen to wash up all the pots, clean the tables and throw out the bins. This is work that would take significantly less time and mess if they didn’t try to have 100 people doing the work of 10.

Leaving the base at 5am with my group of about five with my מפלג (platoon commander), we took a detour to Har Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem where we met the family of a soldier who lost his life fighting in the Yom Kippur War. I was even able to have a chat with a man who sleeps outside the central bus station in Jerusalem who I used to see all the time when I temporarily lived in Jerusalem.

Arriving back to Shivta, we waited around doing nothing for the rest of the day followed by a day of sitting in a classroom. Essentially, everything was pretty boring.

Until…

I was called over to my rocket launcher where I found my מפקד (commander) waiting to tell me that I received permission to go to the swearing in ceremony of the draft after me, which was taking place on my base the following day,as I had requested to go to be there for a friend who is also a lone soldier. Upon hearing this, I was very happy but he had not finished yet. He proceeded to tell me I had to choose whether I would rather stand and watch her in the swearing in ceremony or whether I would prefer to be inside the rocket launcher and shoot my first and possibly only rocket in the shooting display to end the ceremony. I was in shock as most people in my battalion do not shoot a rocket at all in the whole of their service and so I knew this was a huge honour and very quickly accepted.

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Swearing in Ceremony of my Friend

The following day straight after breakfast, I travelled out to another part of the base in the rocket launcher with my מפקד (commander) and another girl from the group and we stayed out for the remainder of the day, picking up the rockets, carrying out various checks and practices and preparing for the exciting moment. We were ready just as the ceremony began at around 4pm (having left at 8am) and everything was set. However, in the last couple of minutes before we were scheduled to shoot, we were struck with a technical problem. Despite many attempts to fix it, there was nothing to be done without reprogramming everything again which can take a bit of time. We could see out of the window that the other battalions had already begun to shoot and that time was of the essence and at the same time we had the מסול (company commander) telling us to hurry up over the radio and that we had one minute to get sorted and shoot. Being the least experienced in the rocket launcher, my friend and I tried as best as possible to stay out of the way but with no space to move, this was difficult. I can honestly say that was the most intense and highly strung environment I have ever been in and I have never seen such a wide range of emotions from one human being in such a short space of time as I saw from my מפקד (commander), which was quite understandable as we knew there were about 600 people watching and waiting for us to shoot. Finally, after what felt like a lot longer than it was, we were ready. I will never forget the words of my מסול (company commander) on the קשר (radio) as he called out ‘seven, four, two, FIREEEEE’ and that was our cue to flick the final switches that would release the rocket after 12 hours of programming and working for this moment.

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MY FIRST ROCKET LAUNCH !!!

(Video of rocket being launched is available on Facebook or special request)

Overall, what went from being quite a boring few weeks, transformed intome having one of the best experiences of my life. Now I am heading into my final full week of advanced training before we are given a week break where I plan to hike and see more of this amazing country that I am protecting.

Please get in touch with me, I’d love to hear how you’re getting o

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The Israeli Desert has the Best Sunsets!

Email – rprais@outlook.com

Missing everyone back at home in England, please let me know if you’re planning a trip to Israel as I’d absolutely love to see you.

Ronit Prais – רונית פרייס

Happy Jewish New Year

I contemplated beginning this latest blog with the whole new year new me rubbish but then I thought in reality nothing much is changing. I am very much the same me and I am most certainly doing more or less the same thing I have been doing for the past 9 months. This might sound negative but when I look over the past year of my life, I think about just how far I have come in terms of how much I have been challenged by and how many incredible experiences I have had and despite the fact 4 months ago I may have disagreed with what I am about to say, I can now safely say I would not have changed my journey even if I could. I think as easy as it is to say I wish everything had gone smoother and I wish I had not had as difficult a time as I did during my טירונות (basic training), what would life be without a few stumbling blocks?

My past two weeks have been rather lacking in difficulty if I am being completely honest as I somehow mana

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ged to be off base every single day even if it were just for a few hours. After leaving on Thursday just over two weeks ago to be able to spend Shabbat with my parents, I returned on the following Tuesday after a fun Shabbat and my cousin’s wedding on Monday night, which I am truly grateful I was able to get off base for as it was a long time since I had seen my cousins and it was really special to celebrate such a happy occasion with them, along with a genuinely exciting discovery of my new favourite alcoholic drink – melon vodka!

The next morning was a bit of a struggle to get up for but I managed to get myself back to base to find my גדוד (battalion) at the end of a two day תרגיל (exercise) in שטח (the field), which I felt a bit left out of but was still good to hear from them how it went. The next day, my מפקד (commander) told me I would be leaving that day despite only arrive the day before because the next day there was a small event for all the lone sol

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diers in the גדוד (battalion) on a base further up North. So myself and another lone soldier lef

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t base at about 8pm on Wednesday before travelling to this event where we received all kinds of presents to celebrate the New Year including adressing gown, a set of four towels, a water bottle, a sports bag and many other useful things. After a long weekend including a night trip to a beach in Tel Aviv, a few hours in the Kibbutz swimming pool, some tasty meals with my Kibbutz family and a journey to a stand up comedy bar nearby with someone from my base, I headed back to Jerusalem on Sunday ready for the New Year festivities.

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Sunday was spent travelling to Jerusalem where I spent a few hours in Machane Yehuda Market where I met up with a friend from England before catching up with a couple of my commanders from my first base, Michve Alon. From Sunday till Tuesday night, I stayed with my cou

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sins in Jerusalem with my parents too and here we all brought in the Jewish New Year with apples and honey in the hope of having a sweet year.

After spending two days on a random base undergoing various talks and lessons as preparation for the guard duty we will be doing for the next three weeks, I headed back to Kibbutz on Thu

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rsday evening. Despite arriving after 9pm, my day had only just begun! A spontaneous decision to take out two cars and drive to a beach in North Tel Aviv was made so out we headed, a group of seven lone soldiers who found themselves with a lotof energy and nothing to wake up early for in the morning. Arriving to an almost empty beach at 11pm after making a descent down a mountain to get there (there was definitely an easier way down), we spent the following 3 hours swimming in the sea, building sandca

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stles (soldiers like to have fun too), listening to music and generally enjoying the serenity and sense of freedom of the night. The night would not have been complete without ordering burgers so off we went to find the nearest open restaurant to enjoy our meal before finally getting home an

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d settling down to sleep at about 3am. I can certainly say despite the simplicity of the idea, it was one of my most enjoyable and memorable nights since I drafted.

I am starting to try and get my month army leave to spend time at home in England organised but unfortunately these things aren’t always so easy to get sorted. Fingers crossed all will go well and I will be home around November-December time but it is the army so anything can happen.

Another major thing that has happened is that I received the results from the MRI for my shoulder that I waited over 3 months for and the good news is that they know what is wrong but the bad news is that from what I understood from the medical Hebrew on the piece of paper, I have a labral tear in the glanoid cavity of the shoulder. Typically, due to the many Jewish festivals over this month, the orthopaedic surgeon does not work so if anyone knows what that means feel free to help a soldier out… Hopefully I will get an appointment soon and it will be sorted out because I’m starting to feel pretty useless and frustrated on my base now as I am not really allowed to do much that involves using my shoulder, which means I have not had any practice in the shooting range for over 3 months and I have also noticed a decrease in my fitness levels. Especially now as we are beginning to start guard duties near villages and on borders, there really isn’t much for me to do as I cannot participate in any of this and I am desperate to get involved again as I am already in my second half of my army service and I know the time is going to fly by.

It’s strange for me that a whole school year has passed since I left and that a whole new year of students are heading off to university and that I am still in the army whilst all my friends who took gap years are finished and beginning the next stage of their lives but it is all for the good as overall I am having an amazing time and I need to remember every day when I wake up that this is the path I chose and I must appreciate my freedom to finally be doing what I strived to do for so long.

Please get in touch with me, I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.

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Email – rprais@outlook.com

Missing everyone back at home in England, please let me knowif you’re planning a trip to Israel as I’d absolutely love to see you.

Ronit Prais – רונית פרייס

Some Sick Days and Some Shetach (field)

I am genuinely apologetic for not having kept up with my schedule of a blog every fortnight so this blog will cover approximately the last three weeks of my army life although in as few words as possible. Back tracking all the way to Saturday night 11th August, I went ou

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t with a few friends from Kibbutz in search of a good night and we stumbled upon a stand up comedy bar in the nearby town of Yehud, which is not especially known for it’s night life but turned out to be a fun evening despite the challenge of the comedy being in Hebrew. Back to base the next morning took us straight out into the field where we began further work on the rocket launcher. After a few lessons on Monday, I was approached by my commander who told me I had a יום סידורים (day given to lone soldiers once a month to carry out any errands) the following day so I needed to go and get ready

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because I had a bus to catch. After surprising my mum who had arrived that evening, as she thought I was still on base, I spent the Tuesday with her aro

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und and about in Jerusalem, ending the evening at cafe Rimon with some family before the journey back to base on Wednesday morning. Upon arriving, I joined in for the last half of שבוע שמירות (week of guard duties) that we were carrying out on base, meaning long four hour shifts of standing and doing not much else.

I distinctly remember one morning, having slept outside due to the non-existent air conditioning in my shipment container (bedroom), waking up with the feeling of the sun burning down onto my exposed feet and face. This is an experience that I hopefully will not be experiencing in the near future as just this past week we were granted with the magical addition of air conditioning units as well as electricity YAY(!).

The week ended with an early morning sport session before I headed in the direction of Jerusalem to spend what I will call a semi-relaxing albeit highly enjoyable Shabbat with my mum and cousins. Although it is Summer meaning Shabbat goes out rathe

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r late, I arrived back on Kibbutz on Saturday night ready to welcome my מפקד (commander) in the morning as I was told I was having a ביקור בית (house visit) before going back to base. The visit went well although admittedly I am disappointed I forgot to show him the Kibbutz cows!

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Waking up in שטח (the field) on Tuesday morning after a long, tiring day on Monday, during which we had a slight shortage of water, practicing various exercises relating to the rocket launcher such as understanding the way different cables connect and how to programme various systems, I felt a funny feeling in my throat but brushed it off, hoping it would be okay. After a welcomed relaxed, air-conditioned lift back to base with my מסו׳׳ל (company commander), I was told I

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had a lesson with the משקית עלייה (Hebrew teacher) so I headed off however on the ten minute walk over I felt so unwell I actually had to take a rest stop and sit down for a moment. To cut what could be a very long story short, the following days were spent with me lying in bed, pretty much unable to eat anything or get up until I was finally able to see the doctor on Thursday who sent me home. The weekend that followed mainly consisted of sleeping in the hope of feeling well enough to tackle the upcoming stretch on base. After missing the bus from Petach Tikva to our meeting point because for some reason this week every soldier decided to take that particular bus, I had an extended journey to base meaning I arrived 3 hours late, to the wrong location.

The first part of my past week was fairly uneventful apart from a short one-on-one with the new מג׳׳ד (commander of the battalion) who wanted to get to know us, during which I discovered the doctor on my new base is English, which means at least one person on my new base will understand me. One my fever had completely gone down and I was feeling better, I was able to join my team in the field (after couscous Tuesday lunch on base of course). On Tuesday night, I slept for approximately one and a half hours, partially because I thoughtlessly positioned my sleeping bag under the exhaust pipe of the rocket launcher, which proceeded to pump toxic, hot, black gas in my face and

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partially because of שמירה (guard duty) for an hour in the middle of the hours of sleep time. As a sidenote you may be wondering why I didn’t just relocate my sleeping bag but if you’ve ever been in שטח (the field), you’d know that once you’ve reached a state of semi-clean after changing your socks whilst being surrounded by sand and your sleeping bag being the only area of safety, it takes a lot to persuade you to get up and sacrifice those precious hours of clean, dry feet. The next day we began a 24 hour exercise, which meant 24 hours of sitting three people inside the rocket launcher at very close quarter, with close to no breathable air, driving from place to place carrying out various practice missions. Th

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e only escape from the claustrophobic cabin was being sent up the nearest mountain (yes mountain) to stare through binoculars at sand for what could be up to two hours at a time. Despite the not-so-fun conditions, those 24 hours were perfect for getting to know one another a bit more becausequite simply there was not anything else to do! I honestly found it a struggle with the Hebrew because obviously it is a challenge at the best of times so when you put me in a rocket launcher with lots of buttons and things that need to be done quickly and correctly with a helmet and walkie-talkie to be given directions, it can become a little more on the stressful side of things.

Finally, the exercise finished midday on Thursday and upon reaching base, sweaty, tired past exhausted and smelling worse that ever before, I was told I had a bus to catch in 20 minutes because I had an appointment for an MRI for my shoulder that afternoon. From situations like this, I learn never to be surprised by anything in the army because even when you think something couldn’t possibly happen, the army will show you it can.

After a very much appreciated call from my מפקד (commander) to tell me to stay home until Tuesday and be with my parents who are now both in Israel, I spent the past few days relaxing in Jerusalem and eating lots and lots of good food. Despite the fun I have been having, such as having a beach day on Friday, spending Shabbat w

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ith a friend from my מכינה (pre-army

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preparation programme), taking a day trip up North to visit my old base, going out for my grandpa’s birthday and visiting the כותל (Western Wall), I definitely feel somewhat bad for my friends back on base.

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As this is probably my last blog before ראש השנה (Jewish New Year), I would like to wish everyone a more than Happy New Year and an enjoyable few weeks ahead. In connection to what I said earlier, just as the army can show you that anything can happen, another valuable lesson I am learning is that even when you think you are not capable of something, you will proceed to show yourself that you are.

Please get in touch with me, I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.

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Email – rprais@outlook.com

Please let me know if you’re planning a trip to Israel as I’d absolutely love to see you.

Ronit Prais – רונית פרייס

The Need for Sleep is a Myth

I have been incredibly fortunate over the past three weeks to have been allowed to leave base every weekend. Although this is great because it means more free time, it also means time on base passes a lot slower and the challenge of slipping back into army routine is faced once a week rather than once every two weeks… but who is complaining, there are definitely positives about being off base every Friday.

Two weeks ago, I arrived back on base full of energy, very much ready to get back into the swing of things and have a good, productive stretch on base. Since my shoulder is still causing me a few problems, which are being dealt with through physiotherapy sessions and an MRI that is booked for the end of August, I was only able to participate in half of the run on the evening we arrived and instead of running the second half, I joined in with a strength workout instead. I’m starting to worry now that I am falling behind fitness-wise because I haven’t been able to run with my גדוד (battery/squadron) recently due to my shoulder. The next day brought a day in the מטווחים (shooting range) with our new guns but despite doing a bit of whining to my מפקד (commander), I wasn’t a

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llowed to shoot, once again due to my shoulder. Whilst everyone was out in the field, a few of us were left behind on the base and as a result of my boredom, I found myself voluntarily washing giant slimy, black plastic bins in the showers, which turned out to be an incredibly sickening activity. That evening broug

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ht a couple of hours of practice on the combat obstacle course, which meant I spent a few hours offering encouragement whilst enviously watching people climb the rope and swing from the monkey bars.

The next few days were occupied with work on the rocket launcher and all the equipment associated with it. After a day of painting everything the colour of our group with red house paint, which just as a side note is a very viscous, oil-based mixture, which does not come off with water or soap or anything really and will stain your fingernails for a long time and your army uniform forever. After a long day of working on Wednesday, we were ‘pleasantly’ surprised with a notice that we were not going to sleep that night and so work continued into the darkness. Luckily, my tiredness did not hit until the sun began to rise in the morning as we were awaiting the check from the מסול (commander of the battery/squadron). Whilst everyone around me fell asleep I fought to stay awake as long as I could, which was difficult considering the heavy heat from being under the sun in a bulletproof vest, gloves and helmet. After a three hour wait, it was time for our check where we found ourselves overwhelmed with a significant list of problems, which was disappointing after the 30 hours of work we had already done on the vehicle. At about 7am, we were given time to eat breakfast and then the day continued until about 10pm when we were finally sent to sleep after 41 long hours. Waking up at 4am ready to go home was tougher than expected as we were told to wear our on-base uniform and head to the combat obstacle course before eventually being allowed to switch uniform and leave the base slightly later than usual.

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Last Shabbat I made a spontaneous decision to spend in Jerusalem with my grandparents, where I was able to really relax without any pressure of being anywhere or doing anything. Before heading back to Kibbutz after Shabbat, I even had the pleasure of a brief 20 minute catch up with some friends from my מכינה (pre-army p

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reparation programme).

Back to base on Sunday meant a day of more lessons about the rocket launcher, during which I tried to go over the lessons we endured during basic training because incase you didn’t think so already, learning technicalities about rocket launcher systems and programmes is challenging in a language you don’t really speak. On Monday morning, after a Krav Maga session (Israeli defense martial arts), we prepared and headed out to the field with our rocket launcher vehicles where we lived in the sand until Wednesday afternoon, getting to grips with the various cables and programmes in the machinery. Although it was interesting and exciting to get to physically see and play around with everything we had been learning about for the past 4 months, it meant long, tiring days

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in close to 40 degree heat with essentially zero shade and zero chance of a shower. Returning to base on Wednesday afternoon, we were told we would be heading to the shooting range the next morning and so to be ready at 3am in order to avoid shooting during the intense heat. Heading off to sleep at about 9pm (once again outside under the stars because the lack of electricity and air conditioning meant outdoors was preferable), I found myself waking up at 11:30pm to the sound of hushed voices and upon opening my eyes saw all of my commanders in uniform, getting ready for something. This was my first major hint of what the rest of the night would entail. After nothing happening, I must have nodd

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ed back off to sleep because the next thing I heard was bangs on the doors and aggressive shouts of ‘quick, everyone up, get dressed, five minutes full combat gear’ along with ‘why are you being so slow, move, move, move!’ Shortly after the semi-surprise wake up, I found myself standing in formation with everyone, unsure of what was really happening. Word began to spread that we were going on a march, which for me meant I was not certain if they would let me go on the march after how much begging I had to do to be allowed to do the previous march. After a few minutes, my commander called me over and after heading over ready to argue if he told me I couldn’t go, he looked at me with a small smile and said ‘there is no way you are falling over on this march.’When I understood I was allowed to do the whole march, I was elated and found myself one of only six people from my פלגה (platoon) of about 25 who were actually going on the march. We were such a small group because about 8 of the people were on a different base doing guard duties for the week and others had var

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ious medical issues deeming them unfit to do the march. So off we headed with my group being the first of the three since we are group number one. Four boys, two girls, two commanders, one machine gun, a 10L jerry-can of water, a stretcher and a thick blanket. The night was hot at about 25 degrees and it was a night of thick fog, making it impossible to see where your foot was landing. Combined with the challenging terrain of rocky mountains with steep inclines and declines with random large rocks or bushes popping up to say hello, this meant every single person had at least one major fall or for some people, twelve! Bruised, sweaty and exhausted, we arrived in Sde Boker at the grave of Ben Gurion at about 7am after over four hours of marching 17.5km.We were congratulated on finishing a difficult march, which was the march to officially become a part of the battalion and receive the pin of the גדוד (battalion), which I was honoured with receiving the pin of my מפקד ֿ(commander).

Returning to the base, we struggled through a day of cleaning the rocket launchers under the boiling sun and carrying out tests to check all the different parts were in good condition and everything was oiled and ready. After various group talks and a bit of food, we were finally sent to bed with the knowledge that in a few hours we could get up and leave base for the weekend.

Whilst we were busy on base learning and training, outside the base, on the border between Israel and Gaza, things have been heating up with nearly 200 rockets and missiles landing in Southern Israel, causing death and destruction. Depending on how the situation progresses, this could mean many things including a lot more time on base and even possibly being called back to base at any point during the weekend.

The main thing I have learnt over the past fortnight is that sleep really is not always necessary for human functioning. I found that I had hours in a day during which I was so exhausted that lifting my feet to walk was an effort

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and then a few hours later, I was fine and able to run around with full energy. I do not intend to overthink this phenomenon but I can say that the human body really is a mysterious system and although functioning is possible after a week of sleeping in the dusty sand of the Negev with disturbances of שמירה (guard duty) in the middle of the night and getting up in the morning with all your belongings covered in dew, I would be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate arriving back to the cleanliness of my Kibbutz room with the comfort of the air conditioning.

Despite the ups and downs, a relatively enjoyable past two weeks and hopefully the tiredness will ease, my blisters will heel and I will go back to base on Sunday morning ready for another week of army routine!

Please get in touch with me, I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.

Email – rprais@outlook.com

Please let me know if you’re planning a trip to Israel as I’d absolutely love to see you.

Ronit Prais – רונית פרייס