A Snowy Road Trip

Not many countries can boast both sandy desert and snowy mountains within a 6 hour car ride and this is one of the many reasons that makes Israel such an incredibly unique place to call Home. Last week, following a spontaneous decision on a cold Thursday evening in a Jerusalem bar, I headed in a northern direction on the train from Jerusalem to Binyamina and after about 2 hours, arrived at the station where I was met by two go84040022_470555370303698_4911002375184973824_nod friends from base. We travelled further up north and after 2.5 hours of loud music, terrible singing and lots of laughs, we entered the village of Neve Ativ where we came to the chalet that we would be spending the following couple of days and nights. After being denied access to go further up the mountain to see the snow as it was too late in the day, we enjoyed a meal in the nearby town of Ein Zivan.
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The next morning, after a restless sleep due to the excitement and anticipation of the following day, we set out at 6:30am with the aim of being one of the first to get up to the mountain. We had been warned that despite the site only opening at 8am, it is important to get in line early or you could be waiting for hours just to get up the mountain as there is only one road.83445751_2959035807450433_1523955564575457280_n

82849811_177236940171189_2952106931516342272_nWe were delighted to be one of the first 30 cars and despite the pouring rain, we kept our fingers crossed that the site would be kept open for visitors. At about 7:15am, the first gate was opened and we drove up for another half an hour and slowly but surely we began to see icy patches and piles of fresh white snow.82949600_483255179003609_3735524806146129920_n

We soon came to the main entrance to the site and after entering were lucky enough to get a parking spot in the upper parking area. Next, we eagerly went into the main building where we bought our ski passes and paid to rent the equipment (skis/snowboard, boots, poles and helmet), which in total came to 430 shekels for a days access to all slopes. By 9am we were already flying down the slopes and before long travelled up in cable cars to the highest point of the mountain where we were able to admire the incredible views of the Golan Heights, including the stunning Kinneret.

82881978_166583941277722_6749295957520678912_nAt various points in the day we stopped for hot chocolate and food breaks at the little huts scattered around the slopes. It is important for me to say at this point that the Hermon site really needs to work on it’s hot chocolate! Any frequenter to the slopes will agree that the highlight of a cold, tiring day out skiing is 82834036_605584583563291_928743667957497856_nsitting down to a steaming, rich, creamy hot chocolate but the powdered chocolate with water that was available at the Hermon was certainly not up to the standard that I was naively expecting… So be aware of this vital piece of information!

I am only 21 years old and relatively have not had the most life experience but I can safely say that in my humble opinion, the sensation of icy snow whipping at your bare cheeks as you speed down the fresh white slopes, is one of the most refreshing feelings to be experienced. In those moments where gravity takes over and all that you can do is breathe in the crisp, mountainous air with nothing but beauty and silence surrounding 82499677_493458374635923_5153647080853471232_nyou, you have zero responsibilities and zero ability to feel stressed.82810719_471238886885668_8947232616411561984_n

Before saying goodbye to the snow, we took a ride on a rollercoaster that is located a 5 minute walk from the main building. It was exhilarating to end our day of fun by speeding along the tracks down the mountain. The day passed by dishearteningly quickly but it was incredibly rewarding and I hope to have the opportunity to return before the ski season of 2020 82793918_766152530534567_3023292522639130624_ncomes to an end, which is fairly unpredictable in Israel and varies each year. 

Before heading out on this trip, I tried to research as much as possible regarding the ski resort but there was not a great deal of easily available information so here are my top tips for skiing at the Hermon this winter:

  1. Aim to arrive by 7am at the latest in order to avoid long traffic jams and keep in mind that the site is only open from 8am until 4pm
  2. Avoid being there on Fridays and Saturdays as it will be packed
  3. Check on the Hermon website in the morning that the site is actually open as it is often closed due to weather conditions
  4. You can rent appropriate clothing at the site but it will add to the expenses of the trip and means wasting valuable skiing time waiting in lines
  5. If possible, buy the ski pass and equipment rental pass from the chalet owners, which can then very quickly be switched out for a proper ski pass at the site to avoid standing in lines
  6. Don’t expect it to be like skiing abroad – there are amazing views and great slopes but there aren’t that many slopes and the snow has a slightly unnatural, icy, bumpy feel to it in some areas
  7. Book your accommodation a good few weeks in advance to get a place as near to 83179032_569973843859534_7413284462529609728_nthe resort as possible for a good price
  8. Prepare for the hot chocolate to be disappointing!

Thank you for reading and I hope we all have a very snowy Winter!

 

Making the Most of the Freedom

And here we are, my military journey truly is coming to an end. Who would have thought that firstly this stage would come where I am writing about the last few weeks of my service. Mostly I feel in impressed shock that I managed to kee61836114_2316261895359335_8212077456790650880_n.jpgp the blogs going all this time and taking the time to flick through everything I have written from the start of the rollercoaster until now, it really is incred62066462_333796503975233_5796472727216848896_nible to be reminded of everything I have been through, the great times, the tough times and each and every experience. Despite the part of me that still feels the pain that I did not get to truly make the most of my service and that is gutted this journey had to end prematurely, I am starting to be able to see the excitement that comes with getting released. My official release date and the day I cut my army ID card in half is on 10th June so until then I do not have to be on base and I am essentially on vacation, which means I have had my last day in uniform. 

Three week62047924_601338770362484_732863631359737856_ns ago, the realisation that I was so close to getting released kicked in as I spent a week waking up each morning at 5am in order to travel from Jerusalem to Rehovot for a course in which we are split into groups and ess61617844_325394898156098_5034349266080890880_n.jpgentially taught how to live in the real world. The week is from Sunday to Thursday ending each day at about 4pm and the lessons range from learning how to pay bills and taxes to practicing how to behave during job interviews. A lot of the time we felt like we were sitting in a therapy session due to the way the week was carried out and much of the time it was boring. Luckily I was with a lot of friends I hadn’t seen since I first drafted so it was a great time to catch up with people and we even found the time to head to the beach one evening. The course happened to fall during t

61771660_315790539350895_8814439855481159680_nhe week of the intense heatwave that hit Israel with temperatures reaching close to 50 degrees celsius in some parts of the country.   

The week following the course, I had to go to my normal base near the city of Ariel where I had to61625476_681208062318386_7129653459481001984_n return half of my equipment that I had signed onto when I first finished training. In theory this could have taken a total of half an hour to return everything and get all of the right forms signed by the right people. However this is the Israeli army we are talking about so after about 7 hours on base, I 61526770_660103481121579_8796641098689675264_nfinally got out although I was told I had to go back again two days later to somehow return the equipment that had been stolen from me when I was on leave after my surgery. In a panic not to receive a fine for the missing equipment, I went on a scavenger hunt around Jerusalem until the early hours of the morning hunting down kind soldiers or ex-soldiers who were willing to donate various pieces of equipment to me. Luckily I managed to collect everything and quickly returned it all to base before finally being sent off for freedom.

61073059_453496102120052_5865205965028065280_nSince the61741198_1325393700972235_6282538655756058624_nn, I have been very busy seeing friends and family in Israel, meaning I have barely had a moment to myself although it has been lots of fun so far. I went to a spring that I didn’t know existed about ten minutes out ofcentral Jerusalem with a couple of friends from base who happened to be out for the day. Two weeks ago a few friends and I travelled to a spring about an hour out of Jerusalem called the Yarkon Springs where we relaxed under the hot sun and there was even a rope swing there. That weekend, I got to spend on my old kibbutz along with several others who used to live

61685183_2752820191400659_2830692625579769856_n.jpg there. It was a really enjoyable Shabbat and I was welcomed by my 61792119_450036048901471_7099639626721132544_nhost family and friends as though I had never even left. Just this past week, I travelled to Herzliya where I went through a day of intense career tests, which I was able to participate in for free due to my status of a lone soldier. It was a long, challenging day with all sorts of tests varying from maths to english to art, which made me realise that it really has been far too long since I sat in a classroom to learn somet62061461_2385798058144801_2065574270863409152_nhing academic!

This Shabbat I hosted a meal for lunch on Saturday with some friends from the area, which went really well and made us feel very mature, which I guess we are now?! Yesterday I received my final pay check from the army so I think that means I should probably get out there and find a job soon but before I get stuck into all that fun stuff of actually going out to earn money and sort out my life, I plan on taking the time in the next few months to travel and enjoy myself. The plan for the upcoming few months begins tomorrow with a hike that I am taking with two friends, which involves wa61629617_1090837234459220_8310365893574000640_nlking from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee. In the current high temperatures it should definitely be a challenging hike but nonetheless we are all very excited. It’s ironic that after an army service spent complaining about all the marches and the walking, we are actually choosing to walk even more! 

In just over two weeks, on the 18th June, I am due to fly home to England for about a month, which will be my first return home as an ex-combat soldier and I plan on making the most of the time to see friends and spend time with all my love61784441_628866620957802_6188478661520261120_nd ones! I am really excited for this trip and look forward to seeing you all very soon! Please let me know if and when you are around so we can catch up!

This is me possibly writing up my last ever blog post unless I decide to do something equally if not more interesting next year…. I’m fairly certain my adventures are only just beginning…

Ronit Prais, almost-released, artillery, combat soldier.

Plans for the Future

I spent the festival of Passover at the house of my cousins in Zichron, which involved a fun and relaxing two days catching up with them and despite it being Passover, enjoying lots of very tasty meals! As the festival is about a week long, after the weekend, I headed back to base, although I luckily managed to catch a ride with a friend who lives in Zichron. That week on base despite being very short as we left to go home on

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Wednesday, was not so fun because there was hardly any food to eat! The most interesting part of my time spent on base was helping to guard over some guys we had arrested for being involved with the terrorist group, Hamas.

Leaving base on Wednesday, before I even headed home to my apartment, I went to meet my grandparents with my cousin, Gideon before we all went out for supper. It was really good spending time with them. I finally arrived at my apartment at about 10pm before a friend from Engla59305791_818931865145490_4917849553782177792_nnd dropped by for a catch up. The following day I made the all to familiar journey from Jerusalem to my old Kibbutz, which I moved out of about two months ago. I spent last w59039453_590395614802380_2405627297206894592_neekend and the last few days of Passover there and it was a lot of fun but also sleeping in my old room and going to my host family for meals, I felt as though I had never moved away. Finally after the long festival of not eating any bread ended, we ordered burgers to the kibbutz, which was a perfect way to end the festival. We also watched a documentary about a man who free-climbed the vertical rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, meaning he climbed it without any ropes or p59576574_301753097407981_2033973426212831232_narachute at all. It seems to me like a crazy, absurd thing to do but it definitely inspired me to get out into nature and do something wild. 

On Sunday when I was waiting with my friends for the bus to take us to base, I received a phone call from the army telling me they were bringing me a cupboard for my clothes the following day to my apartment. After requesting permission to leave in order to be at home to let them in, I found myself leaving base on Monday morning less than 24 hours after having arrived for the week.

59402220_406733903254979_1836936982555525120_nDue to finding myself with a lot of spare time on my hands, I have been able to devote myself to easing myself into working out and increasing my fitness once more. Since the surgery I have found it difficult to do many physical exercises without experiencing excruciating pain in my shoulder. I have begun lifting light weights and doing certain exercises although I may have slightly overdone it this week and am now feeling the effects.

Over the past week on base, I began doing some59462798_286228988932443_736481402572242944_nbasic studying for the psychometric exam that is required for applying to most university courses in Israel and it felt good to be finally using my brain after two years lacking in mental stimulation. I also began to think about my post army plans, which so far involve flying home to England for a few weeks, going to Italy to visit a school friend and going on a month long backpacking trip around Vietnam. Immediately after my release, m58784942_350781089118472_4932860881093525504_n-e1556815658768.jpgy best friend from nursery is coming to Israel for a few days, which I am really excited about. In the days leading up to my release date, I receive a bit of time of vacation days and so I plan on doing the famous hike called yam l’yam (sea to sea), which is a hike of approximately 90km that can be done across 3-5 days and takes you from the Mediterranean sea to the Sea of Galilee, meaning you cross from one side of Israel to the other. 

In the long term, before I 57098936_523181721545641_7039537413454036992_nhopefully begin studying in University in September 2020, I would like to take 6 months or so to do some volunteering with Magen David Adom (the Israeli equivalent of the British Red Cross). This is incredibly important to me because due to my injury I do not feel as though I had the most meaningful military service and through being a part of the intense and life-saving work of MDA I think I can really make a difference and properly serve this amazing country. 

Last night to mark the beginning of Holocaust Memorial Day, I headed over with my fellow soldiers to the settlement that is right by our base where we joined with the civilians in a ceremony to mark the day. It was the strangest memorial I57099042_2104076229640937_1456719268895784960_n have ever been to as it involved individuals telling the stories of their parents and relatives however it was expressed through both a narrative and a visual reenactment. I felt it a bit over dramatic and felt as though I was in a theatre production but at the end I realised it had been done very tastefully and was actually a very professional way of marking the day. Right at the end I found it most meaningful and I found myself feeling a bit emotional as I felt the sense of pride standing amongst everyone with my beret on my head singing the Israeli National Anthem followed by the very meaningful song ‘Ani Maamin’ (‘I believe’). This weekend I have made plans to spend Shabbat with a friend from training so I spent a few hours today cooking – it is nice to be able to cook for Shabbat in my own kitchen!

Today I received my Teudat Lochem, which is a card that goes alongside your normal army identity card to show that you are a combat soldier. It also means I can travel for free on buses without the need to be wearing my full uniform so in the vacation days before my release I can travel on normal clothes! Despite finishing all of my combat training, I feel as though I am not fully deserving of this card and I am still disappointed and I think also in denial that my short military journey is coming to an end.

Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you all have a very good, relaxing weekend!

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

 

Coming to a Standstill

Three weeks have passed since I last posted a blog update and this is due to two simple reasons. The main one being that it has not been a particularly exciting time recently and the second reason is that not doing much seems to have made me quite lazy. 

57274445_433293897420422_7315788524521783296_nJust today during a meeting with the מג׳׳ד (commander of battalion), I was made aware that my request to sign on more time and do a slightly longer army service has been denied. He told me that he knows how much I want to sign and he also would happily allow m57821898_2148014868630451_6776557867295047680_n.jpge to but the decision is in the hands of those higher than him and due to my injury and lower medical profile, I am not being allowed to sign time and in the two months that I have remaining, I am not allowed to return to combat. The news that I cannot complete my army service as a combat soldier isn’t what I wanted to hear but at the same time, after really considering all of my options, I don’t think I am physically in a position where I can carry out my duty as a combat soldier and so it is really for the best, as devastating as it is. It was rather amusing to hear the מג׳׳ד (commander of battalion) summarise to me in the following exact words…

“pew pewאת לא יכולה לעשות שום דבר קשור ל”

“you can’t do anything connected to pew pew”

Despite the regular procedure being to send a soldier in my position to a job in the main גדוד (battalion), my מג׳׳ד (commander of battalion) is allowing me to stay with my סוללה (battery) to help out around the base, meaning although I cannot be sent on physical missions, I can do duties in the חמ׳׳ל (war room), which is essentially the room where all the phone calls and communications take place. I am beginning to accept that my service is coming to an end and not in the way I envisioned it happening although I am beginning to understand that the injury was not my fault and this is just the way things have unfortunately worked out. Now I have to start thinking about what I want to do when I get released in 53 days and how I am going to deal with real citizen life because I have been in the army almost from the mo57548451_324241904949862_3529168541154541568_nment I arrived in Israel.

In the past few weeks since I returned from my medical leave, whilst on base I have not been able to do much apart from waiting and requesting every day for a meeting with  the מג׳׳ד (commander of battalion), which I finally got this week. Since my medical profile has been lowered to a 45 and they were taking their time deciding what to do with me, I spent most of my time sitting around not doing much apart from twice a day57168302_372018580069540_5274795863321870336_n helping to clean up the base, which often involved lifting heavy things despite the whole reason for me not doing any physical missions being that I shouldn’t be using my shoulder to lift heavy things! It was certainly exciting to be back on base with everyone and I definitely did miss a lot of them so it was good to catch up with them. Despite spending a lot of time being bored up to the level of volunteering to help out in the kitchen, I managed to fill my time in ways such as playing football, going on a 4km run to the nearest town, Elkana (after not running for about three months), ordering food, sitting with friends and leaving ba57572688_2319947534943340_7225419650949971968_nse occasionally for physiotherapy and hospital check ups. I have even managed to take advantage of the few days of summer weather by going to the beach twice, although one time since I left base so late, by the time we got there it was quite cold. 

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If I haven’t quite managed to highlight quite how bored I have been recently, it reached a point where I was so bored on base that I even asked one of my friends to open my vein just for the sake of having something to do! After going to physiotherapy the day after only to find that there was nobody there due to it being election day, I didn’t want to go straight to base after a wasted day that I went to a Magen David Adom mobile blood bank to donate blood. It seems that I hadn’t eaten enough that morning and after fainting three times following the blood donation, I headed ba57606662_1140691549437938_6434373901517586432_nck to base after the most interesting day I had had in 57253422_657532471355246_5789016255969099776_n.jpga while! Last weekend, my friends Lucy Benjamin arrived in Israel for a holiday and I was lucky enough to get to spend all Shabbat with her! After a beach trip on Thursday afternoon, we spent Friday preparing lots of Shabbat food and that night for the first time since we moved into our new Jerusalem apartment, all three room mates were home together for Shabbat. We invited a few other fr57467967_1050616721801458_2349018743482351616_niends over and despite the chicken being slightly on the raw side of things, it was a really good evening. The next day we walked to a friend’s house for another great meal and the afternoon was spent hanging out on our large, open balcony eating cold, fresh watermelon under the scorching sun! 

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After arriving on base late on Sunday after physiotherapy in the morning, I arrived in time for a gathering for lone soldiers in the battalion in celebration of the festival of passover and the מג׳׳ד (commander of battalion) gave a short speech and we received gifts of a camping m57541782_853027668376769_8446264212212154368_n.jpgat, some towels and a pillow. On Tuesday I had a 12 week check up at the hospital for my shoulder and I was happy to hear everything is progressing well. Wednesday began with an early start as I left base with two other lone soldiers from my סוללה (battery) and we headed to Binyamina Train Station where we met up with all of the lone soldiers in the חטיבה (brigade) for a fun day. It started with outdoor team building activities, which was actually really funny, especially since I was in a group with lots of Americans I had met during basic training from other גדודים (battalions) , followed by a museum tour in Zichron Yaakov before arriving at a Totchanim base for another lone soldier gathering where we re57319809_433621370776632_3335911071717261312_nceived more gifts and this was led by the מח׳׳ט (commander of the whole brigade). The day ended with a ceremony fo57131080_818797028492236_5813259039957581824_nr soldiers that were being recognised for excellency, which was really interesting to watch and since it was an event mostly for very high ranking officers, it was a high standard of sophistication and there was amazing food. 

I arrived home today and now I need to help clean up my whole apartment for the festival of Passover, which begins tomorrow. I am very lucky my two room mates did the majority of cleaning so all that remains for me to do is my own room and a few other parts of the flat before I travel up North to Zichron Yaakov to spend the weekend with my cousins.

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

Email – rprais@outlook.com

57232252_2298454363552143_2730961595181039616_nMissing 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

 

The Part They Don’t Talk About

Nearly nine weeks since my shoulder ligament repair surgery and I am starting to feel like I am entering into a stage of normal usage of my right arm, which is something I was starting to think I would never experience again. I am able to move it into pretty much any position at any angle and although certain things hurt more than others54524482_581780942307615_3159185889179992064_n, the fact is I have the ability. From now, the challenge is to begin to strengthen the muscles, through a continuation of intense physiotherapy. I have already reached a point of being able to smash out some decent sets of push ups, which is definitely a good sign!

Before my mum flew back to England after spending a good length of time with me in Israel, I was lucky enough to head toan Open Day at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where I spoke with a few students and had the opportunity to sit in a lecture given by the Psychology Department. I thoro54731023_418527988910144_3443850660791975936_nughly enjoyed the lecture and am over-the-moon to be able to say that I actually understood a good 99% of what was being said, despite it all being in Hebrew! It is definitely a possibility that I will be starting University in September 2020 in Israel but I am still very much undecided and confused! The last few days with my mum were lots of fun and involved eating lots of good food and just generally enjoying having a mum around!

Over the past few weeks, I have been able to become more familiar with the area that I live in, even discovering some quiet spots of natural beauty just a short walk away fr55759890_1670543233091377_8973193645016481792_nom my apartment. In the Summer, I can already envision h55669497_261421341279258_7981304182462218240_neading out and reading books in the sun or sitting and chatting with friends – it’s just a shame the rain is still sticking around for the time being. We were lucky enough to have one day in the middle of the week where all three of us were home and it was a fairly warm evening so we sat out on the balcony with sna56169737_357762154828511_8203278443190681600_ncks and blankets and watched a movie under the night sky with fairy lights all around – it really was a movie moment!

After having another medical check up with the army, it was decided that I would return to base on Sunday 24th March (yesterday) however due to recent events and change of plans, I was told that my return was 55833027_837099383303386_2085735478711025664_nbeing pushed off by another week, meaning I am now due to go back to base on Sunday 31st March. Unfortunately I am still in the dark about which job I will be receiving however I have an idea in mind of what I would like to request and if everything goes according to my plan, I will be in a position that is as close to what I was doing prior to the surgery and I will hope to be allowed to sign on more time too, with the intention of being released in December at the earliest. I will hopefully know more about what is going on once I get back to base in 6 days.

I have decided that I definitely want to sign on more time if I will be allowed to because although I was originally unsure, a recent shock made up my mind. On Sunday 17th March, at about 9:45am, we heard rumours that there had been a shooting at Tzomet Ariel. This is a junction where my platoon stand on guard to make sure everyone getting on and off buses is kept safe. After hours of uncertainty about who exactly was involved and the extent of the injuries, it was understood that one soldier had been murdered at Ariel Junction and another was seriously injured at a junction further along called Tzomet Gitai, in a critical condition in hospital. As the situation unfolded and we were able to piece together what had happened, we realised that the name of the murdered soldier was Gal Keidan. Gal Keidan was a very good friend of mine from the 8 month long training that I completed before officially becoming a combat artillery soldier. Shock ran through us all and it all felt so unreal and impossible and still, over a week later, it does not feel like it really happened. Occurrences like this are always difficult to deal with and sad to think about but when the victim of such a vicious, inhumane act of terror is a good friend of yours, it really strikes you deep inside.

This is one part of army life that they do not talk about at the enlistment offices.

I wrote a letter to Gal as a way of sorting out the mess of emotion and confusion in my mind and it released something inside me that assisted in making sense of the shock. The letter55600731_281866982749764_7342700248432640000_n is below in both Hebrew (as originally written) and a translation into English below.

גל קיידאן. היום, בערך 24 שעות אחרי שאיבדנו אותך, את המלך שלנו, קברנו אותך. נתנו לך לנוח בבאר שבע בבית שלך. מאז ששמעתי את החדשות לא הפסקתי לחשוב עליך אבל גם לא הצלחתי באמת להוציא את כל מה שהרגשתי בפנים. הרגשות היו תקועים בתוך הגוף שלי. חשבתי לעצמי אתמול, למה אני לא בוכה יותר. אבל היום, שעמדתי בבית עלמין צבאי בבאר שבע וראיתי את ארון הקבורה שלך עובר מול עיניי, הרגשתי הכל ברגע אחד. בכיתי בשבילך היום גל מכל הלב שלי. סיפרו לי על איך היית גיבור בדקות האחרונות שלך ואני לא מופתעת בכלל כי ככה היית כל החיים שלך, בכל קושי נלחמת כמו תותח אפילו עד הסוף. ספרו לי איך שהיה לך מבואס שלא היינו באותו בסיס ב4 חודשים האחרונים ואיך שהתרגשת לבוא אליי המוצ”ש הזה ואני אומרת לך עכשיו… אני הרגשתי אותו דבר. הלוואי והייתי יכולה להרים טלפון עכשיו רק לשמוע את הקול שלך. אני עמדתי והסתכלתי עליך אולי שעה ותאמין לי גל אם הייתי יכולה, הייתי עומדת שם לידך כל דקה וכל יום כדי שלא תהיה לבד. אני אבוא לבקר אותך כמה שאפשר, מתחילים ממחר אבל בינתיים השארתי את הכומתה שלי אצלך שתדע שאני תמיד חושבת עליך כלוחם אמיתי וחבר הכי טוב שהייתי יכולה לבקש. זה גם תזכורת קטנה של כל פעם שניסית לגנוב לי את הכומתה באימון מתקדם . בכל מקום שאני הולכת, אני רואה את הפנים שלך עם החיוך הגדול שלך ואז אני מסתכלת שוב ומבינה שזה לא אתה. אני יודעת שלא היית רוצה שנבכה כל כך הרבה אבל זה כואב יותר מדי גל. כואב שאני לא יכולה לראות אותך, לדבר איתך, לצחוק איתך. כואב לי שהעולם ממשיך ואנשים לא מבינים כמה שכואב. תמיד מתגעגעת, מלך שלנו54729397_673644243052707_1055591017329197056_n

Gal Keidan. Today, about 24 hours after we lost you, our king, we buried you. We allowed you to rest in beer sheva, in your home. Since I heard the news I have not stopped thinking about you but really I also couldn’t get out everything I was feeling inside. The emotions were trapped inside my body. I thought to myself yesterday, why am I not crying more. But today, I stood in the military cemetery in beer sheva and saw your coffin pass by in front of my eyes, I feel everything in one moment. I cried for you today Gal from all my heart. They told me how you were a hero in your last minutes and I am not surprised because that you were your whole life, you fought through every difficulty, even until the end. They told me how you were bummed out that we weren’t on the same base for the past 4 months and how you were excited to come to mine this coming Saturday night and I’m telling you now, I felt the same. I wish I could pick up the phone just to hear your voice. I stood and looked at you for maybe an hour today and believe me Gal, if I could, I would stand there next to you every minute of every day so that you would not be alone. I will come to visit you as much as possible starting from tomorrow but meanwhile I left my beret with you so that you will know that I am always thinking about you 55587640_570126940166147_3771210997918859264_nas a real warrior and the best friend I could’ve asked for. It is also a small reminder of every time you tried to steal my beret in advanced training . Everywhere I go, I see your face and your big smile and then I look again and I understand it’s not you. I know that you would not want us to cry so much but it hurts too much Gal. It hurts that I can’t see you, speak with you, laugh with you. It hurts that the world carries on and people don’t understand how much it hurts.

I always miss you, our king. ❤️

Although I am beginning to come to terms with what has happened, the thought of Gal is constantly in my mind and I will never forget what an exceptional friend, and real warrior he was. He is always going to be present even if not physically.

55450392_574546899732652_7284405310159060992_n

It has been a tough past week but everyone has really come together and despite the details of the terror attack, the importance of people has really struck me alo55764219_564526227381208_4546428186547716096_nng with the extent of kindness of the human heart. It was the Jewish festival of Purim this past week and since I was understandably not in a particularly wild mood, I headed to my old Kibbutz where we had a relatively relaxed evening chatting and being in each other’s company. On Saturday evening, we had some friends over in place of what was supposed to be54522760_282144482686163_5137644578169421824_n a moving in party. We considered cancelling the event in light of recent events but since Gal was supposed to have been there, we decided to go ahead with it with him very much in mind. It is also a very important time for people to be together so that is exactly what we did and I know it was helpful for multiple people to have 55549664_564740957370936_1831438612667826176_nthat time to breathe a bit with others who understand the pain.

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

 

My First Apartment

It’s been about three and a half weeks since I last wrote up a blog post and about six weeks since I had my shoulder operation to fix a torn ligament after a train53160330_2267932086805885_2670078921931751424_n.jpging injury. Despite not being on my base with my platoon for a very long time, a lot of important and exciting things have happened to me, some of which involved making very significant decisions. A few months ago my room mate from my kibbutz and myself began to talk about possibly looking to move together away from the kibbutz to a new apartment. We only briefly mentioned this to each other and began to look around for openings in apartments. It was very lazy searching and we did not put a huge amount of effort into it as we were not quite ready to move away from53218898_350805175775860_3268386613796798464_n the kibbutz yet and we didn’t even know which city we wanted to relocate to. We were scrolling through apartment listings in Jerusalem online and came across a really nice three bedroom apartment within our budget and as I happened to be going to Jerusalem the next day, we decided to contact the landlord and have a look around.

Upon arriving I found another female lone soldier checking it out and instantly we both fell in l53092787_409091449660574_7242590281659318272_nove with the place and it turned out she was looking for two room mates – it was all too perfect! The landlord was insistent that first come first served and he was willing to hold the apartment for us for 5 days but after that if someone else came along wanting to sign the contract, he 53879227_396683244475533_2669168818361729024_nwould give it to them. After some discussing and a phone call to my kibbutz room mate who was on base, we agreed to sign the contract to begin from just a few days later. It all happened so fast and then it hit me that I had to tell my all my loved ones on the kibbutz that I was leaving… Despite not wanting to have to move so fast, this apartment really was an amazing opportunity that we could not afford to miss out on.  Back on kibbutz, I told my host family and other friends that I was moving out and explained that I really did love living on the kibbutz and would miss them all greatly but the time had come to move on. I was craving the Jerusalem scene where there are more things to do and lots more p53410281_255982322014770_4450563232305774592_n.jpgeople to meet. It was also important to me to have my own space which means having a kitchen that I don’t need to go outside to get to and being able to store my things in a clean environment. I know I will miss having people right out52914686_304056596924944_3989434983398768640_nside my door if I am bored and I loved having my friends wandering past my door and stopping in for a chat but it was time to move on. Moving on also means suddenly having to worry about bills and doing my own laundry and making sure there is always food in the fridge, but these are all important things to start to have to take care of myself and I am excited at the prospect.

53581830_396534111134691_7528326785050607616_nThe move over has had it’s ups and downs and has been pretty stressful at times but people have been incredibly helpful and supportive, family and friends and also my commanders from the army. I was lucky enough to have three of my commanders drive me from the kibbutz to the apartment on one of their vacation days from the army in order to transfer all of my things, including carrying everything up the three flights of stairs, which I really really appreciated. Since the apartment was totally empty when we moved in as it had just been refurbished, we have been relying on donations from kin53668509_307591909951042_1526308996200267776_nd people. So far we have received new double beds, a new microwave, a second hand toaster oven, a kettle, a closet, a narrow shelving unit, a television screen, a washing machine, a fridge, an oven, a gas stove and a table and chairs…53524762_402775740550739_564603958211903488_n Sofas and clothes closets are still being tracked down! There is still a lot of work to be done but each day it starts to look more like home…

Alongside the move, I have been keeping up with my physiotherapy, travelling three times a week to abase in Jerusalem. Since I have still been struggling to sleep due to the intense pains, I received a very strong painkiller called Tramadex, which I was taking for a week before it stopped working and I was told to take a double dose instead, which I did for the first time last night. I can safely say it takes you to another world, the only negative being the feeling the next day of extreme dizziness and seeing black like you are going to faint every time you stand up or move your head… Due to the terrible side effects, I have been through a period of trialling different medications after finally concluding that 25 drops of Tramadex is right for me, I have realised three and a half weeks on a narcotic drug is not a good idea so I am starting to try to take drops of Optalgin instead. 

I was lucky enough to have my parents come over to Israel in order to be there for the weekend spent in Eilat with nearly all of my dad’s side of the family as a surprise for my G53296975_390942835030283_422677305081462784_nrandma’s 80th birthday. It was great weather, a fantastic hotel and53528452_2233528690230689_4656039007526846464_n a lot of fun to see the shock onher face when she turned up to a Friday night dinner with 25 members of the family instead of just 8 like she had expected. On the Saturday night, we travelled out into the desert for a session to learn about the stars, which was really interesting. On Sunday my dad travelled back to England whilst m53421853_586931561774547_1751005682078842880_ny mum and I stayed in the hotel until Tuesday before we took the 5 hour bus ride from Eilat to Jerusalem.53560133_2301975496690604_6612144229986598912_n

Since arriving back in Jerusalem, my mum has been to see my new apartment and even stayed over for a night, giving herself the chance to clean my bathroom! I even spent last Shabbat at my aunt’s house to take part in surprising my other grandma (mother’s mother) for her birthday, which was a really special Shabbat and I am really glad I was able to make it. It has been lovely spending the past couple of weeks with my mum and a shame my dad had to fly back earlier for w54236864_573355446516343_2780817781711437824_nork. On Saturday evening, I headed out for dinner at תחנה ראשונה  (First Station) before heading to Machane Yehuda Market with a few friends (oh the joys of living in Jerusalem) where we stayed out until the early hours of the morning just sitting and chatting53465104_2321220147890093_3421485245663281152_n and enjoying the busy, exciting atmosphere of the city at night.

Overall the past few weeks have simply been a mess of unimaginable exhaustion, organising a million and one things in connection to theapartment, travelling an hour and a half in each direction to physiotherapy almost every day, going out to buy food for the apartment and suffering the side effects of the medication, which really impacts my daily routine so much that it is becoming incred53406521_2027797553964631_165130703573352448_nibly frustrating. Last night for the first time in the past 6 weeks I was able to catch a solid 6 hours of sleep without waking up in pain at all and although it’s not amazing, it is definitely a good start. I am so incredibly thankful to the girls at ram 2 (the part of the army responsible for injured soldiers), who have worried about me and gone simply above and beyond to make sure everything was taken care of whether that be organising doctor appointments, making the relevant phone calls or shou53403593_330132750955456_4237242063663398912_nting at the people who need to be shouted at. 

A couple of weeks ago I had a וועדה רפואית (medical check) with a doctor in the army who wanted to release me from duty due to the nature of my surgery. I fought with him to let me stay until he agreed to give me a lower profile of 45 meaning I cannot be back in combat. In six months I will have the ability to request another meeting to consider raising the profile again. However, since I am supposed to be released anyway in 3 months, I must decide whether I want to sign on more time in the hope of returning to combat some day or if I should just let go, fight my pride and let them release me…

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

Email – rprais@outlook.com

Missing everyone back at home in England, please let 54346777_855714904766157_7860341659840544768_nme know if you’re planning a trip to Israel as I’d absolutely love to see you.

Ronit Prais – רונית פרייס

 

Stitched up Soldier

This blog post is taking somewhat longer to formulate than previous posts as a result of the temporary loss of use of my right hand due to the shoulder surgery that I finally underwent about half a year after injuring myself in training. On 17th January, I arrived to Shaarei Tzed50813586_630386827383727_5932373936367992832_nek Hospital in Jerusalem at 6:45am with my aunt in the pouring rain. After being signed in and receiving a hospital gown, shower cap type head covering, disposable socks and my personal favourite, the disposable underwear, I sat waiting to be taken off to the operating room. Before long, someone came along and drew a gian50835143_374404626719168_3892990109787619328_nt arrow on my right shoulder so that the surgeons would operate in the right place! After speaking to many different hospital staff from surgeons to nurses to porters, we were told the person who was supposed to enter before me was delayed so I was going into surgery next. Before I knew it, I was whisked off to the operating room where the surgeons were waiting for me. Within moments of the nurse putting the cannula into my arm and injecting the general anaesthetic, all my fears and anxiety of the anaesthetic not working were allayed as I felt my head spin into a deep state of unconsciousness.

The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room with an intense pain coming from my shoulder as well as an incredibly sore throat. After a confusing few hours of lying in bed not really sure what was going on or who was talking to me, I was discharged from the hospital and after finding a cafe in the hospital, I travelled to the home of my Aunt, Uncle and Grandma in Jerusalem. The n51174318_2342222929122147_2614802306285174784_next few days I stayed in Jerusalem recovering from the surgery. The shoulder pain was excruciating and made worse by the other parts they forget to mention before you have surgery. I’m referring to the headaches and the overwhelming nausea and the sore throat and the inability to sleep and the dizziness and everything else that is attached. Despite being sent off with pain medication, nothing seemed to work including the Percocet, which apparently is the strongest they could give me. Eventually nearly a week after the operation, I went home to my kibbutz, where I have been since.  In the past few days I have noticed a definite overall improvement in the shoulder pain and the nausea and dizziness have completely gone, which I am very relieved about. Although there are days still when the pain is unbearable, and I still haven’t been able to sleep a full night without waking up every hour or two hours from the pain since the surgery, overall there is an improvement. I also began physiotherapy this wee50849923_284013365586308_7251842362769408000_nk, which I must go to three times a week for the next few weeks. Just yesterday, I had the stitches removed from the three stitched up holes, which felt very strange but not particularly painful.

I am really appreciative of everyone who hastaken the time to come and visit me at home, offered to help in any way or even just sent me messages to check how I am feeling. I don’t find it so easy to accept help from51214101_2284424515106185_9155232522437656576_n people so it may seem like I am being ungrateful but I really do appreciate it. People ask me if I am bored being off the army but honestly I have not found myself yet with nothing to do.There are always people around to hang out with and running from appointment to appointment, I have never been at a loss of finding something to do. Next week I have a meeting where they will hopefully tell me what will happen to my medical profile and when I will be returning to the army. In theory I am being released from the army in June after returning from my recovery time in April. 51318434_301715867209648_5434879649609940992_n

However, the original plan was to sign on more time and finish either in December or even later than that. If they lower my medical profile, I won’t be able to continue incombat and I will have to find another job in the army or else they will place me somewhere boring in an office, which is certainly not what I want.

In other news, with all this free time I have found myself with recently, along with purchasing and beginning to teach myself to play the ukelele (probably not helping the recovery of my arm) I have begun the process of making Aliyah through the organisation Nefesh B’Nefesh so hopefully within the next few months I should receive my Israeli citizenship, which is very exciting!

51168175_2042721459098619_57722182909820928_nFor now despite the pain and frustration at not being able to carry out basic tasks just as tying up my own hair or needing help to get dressed, I am enjoying watching the cold weather being chased away by the sun and it has even been warm enough to sit outside for a few hours during the day. Tomorrow I am heading back to Jerusalem to have another session of physiotherapy where I will continue with exercises such as basic exercises to move the shoulder joint because at the moment even lifting it slightly in certain directions sends shooting pains like electric shocks through my arm whilst. I have made up my mind that I am going to really commit myself to the physiotherapy exercises in order to avoid ending up in a position where my shoulder will be permanently damaged because I didn’t treat it correctly during recovery.

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

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

 

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