Sunday, January 24, 2010

From The Other Side of the Watchtower

My good friend, Doug Greener, published a piece in the Jerusalem Post on his recent extra volunteer reserve duty and sent me the full unedited version from which I bring you some selections:

My stint in the army reserves brought me to the center of the Shomron (Samaria), to a little base manned and womanned by soldiers from the Home Front Command...I was sent with four other volunteer reservists to help them. Mostly, the pleasure was all ours. These were the best of Israeli youth, doing an incredibly responsible job while their counterparts abroad (and others in Israel) are busy advancing their own careers, or partying, or both.

A few brief observations:

...While providing security at a checkpoint on the Trans-Samaria Highway, I expected traffic flow in the morning to be one-directional from the West Bank, with people leaving for jobs in other parts of Israel. But there were just as many cars traveling into the West Bank -- for work, business and study (especially at the huge Ariel University Center of Samaria). In the evening, long lines of vehicles returned with agricultural and manufactured products.

...The pillbox watchtower where I stood guard overlooks a secondary security fence and a military road which is off-limits to all civilian traffic. One morning when I was on duty , I saw a white minibus come speeding towards us. As it passed under me, a grey-haired lady looked up and waved. I don't know why, but a thought immediately flashed through my head? "Oh, this must be one of those alternative tours of left-wing Americans who come here to see how the Palestinians suffer."

As it turned out, I was almost right. They weren't Americans, but Israelis from Tel Aviv. After they stopped at an Arab house close to the pillbox, our female officer went over to tell them they were not allowed on the road and had to leave. Through my binoculars I saw that some of them started a vehement argument with her. She radioed to the local military commander, who drove over and also directed the visitors to leave. After more arguing, they finally got back on the bus and drove off.

When our officer returned, she was in tears. "How can they talk like that to us?" she sobbed. "They said they were invited for a cup of coffee, and the army had no right to tell where they could go. They said what we were doing to the Palestinians was worse than what the Germans did to the Jews! We sacrifice two years of our lives to serve our country, and that's how they talk to us?"

I tried my best to calm her down, with little success. But I was also thinking, "If this is what the Israeli left has become -- a mouth piece for our worst enemies, expressing their contempt for young people who exemplify Jewish affirmation -- then it's no wonder they collapsed in the last election.

...On one of my assignments, we set up a roadblock near the border of an area under Palestinian security control (Area A). Our job was to stop every car and bring the identity cards of all men over to a team of plainclothes men. They would then tell us which of the passengers should be "invited" over for a short talk, after which we escorted them back to their cars and they drove off. This went on for about an hour. I don't know if the men spoken to gave information or were asked to give information in the future; if they were bribed or if they were made an offer they couldn't refuse. But I do know that this was the nuts and bolts of intelligence gathering that goes on continually -- and that is why our years are quiet again...

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