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Friday, August 25, 2006

Home From The North

I'm home from the north, a little thinner and a little tired but in good spirits. Things were different than I expected but overall the trip was good.

We arrived Tuesday at about noon time to a town called Ma'alot. Our group had bonded on the way as we were about 15 people squashed into a van along with all of our big bags. To our disappointment, when we arrived we were told that due to logistical issues (only one room for sleeping in) the girls would be staying in Ma'alot and instead five guys would be joining us at our final destination of Ma'aleh Yosef, a few kilometers form the border.

I spent most of the time (about 20 hours a day) underground, as we were sleeping and working in bomb shelters and underground bunkers. Our sleeping quarters were a 5m X 5m bomb shelter. All twelve of us managed to some how squish into it and sleep almost comfortably on the floor lined wall to wall with foam mattresses. It wasn't much fun though when on the last night our (single) toilet got clogged and began overflowing everywhere. Our showers were in a near by base as was our food. It was no Ritz but we made things work. I've been in worse.

Our days were spent driving along the border and in various Moshavim (like a Kibbutz) going from bomb shelter to bomb shelter clearing out garbage, sweeping and mopping- basically making them habitable. The inhabitants of the various towns we went to couldn't have been nicer. We were given drinks and snacks throughout the day in addition to fruit picked fresh from the tree. When kids passed us on the street we were always waved to and smiled at.

The first night we got a few free hours to go ice skating in Ma'alot (I didn't know there was a rink there). I wish as the resident Canadian I could have at least been the best skater but let's just say there is a reason I had to flee Canada. We all had a lot of fun though, even if we weren't very good. The second night we were supposed to go to see a comedy show but a few girls were lightly injured in a car accident so it was canceled. We made the best of it by going to a local pizza shop (pretty much the only think in the town that we were staying in) and just hanging around talking in the shelter.

We left Thursday afternoon, a little tired, a little sore but with a sense of accomplishment. I'm really glad I got to do this. We are supposed to be heading back on Sunday for another week but it looks like someone will be replacing me as I have a lot to do back on base. Below are some pictures I snapped while up north.

Crater Caused by Mortar Shell in Ye'arah
Crater caused by a mortar shell in the northern town of Ye'arah.

Shrapnel Damage From a Mortar Shell in Ye'arah
Shrapnel damage caused by a mortar shell in the northern town of Ye'arah.

My Team in the Bomb Shelter
My Team takes a break from cleaning in the bomb shelter.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


This past Thursday I got the call. I was home on sick leave for a day due to an injury I sustained to my back while returning to "normal post war preparedness". Nothing big, just a pulled muscle but I was in a lot of pain and pretty much bed ridden for the weekend. My CO was calling to tell me that Sunday I would be heading to "The North" to participate in a humanitarian mission headed up by my unit. I was a little foggy on the details but basically we would be helping the citizens of the north get back to everyday life. We would be helping rebuild, clean and paint schools, bomb shelters etc. It wasn't a hundred percent whether the mission was a go or not, I would only find out on Saturday night, but I was to pack a bag for a week and expect to leave on Sunday morning for my 6 day stint up north.

Saturday night arrived and the mission was pushed of by a day. Sunday we would be getting our briefing and leaving on Monday morning. At the briefing I learned I will be going to a place by the name of "Ma'aleh Yosef". My groups is made up of 5 guys, 6 girls and two officers. We only leave on Tuesday morning, returning Friday AM but I'm hoping to return on Thursday night. We will be cleaning out bomb shelters and there will be no painting or building. This came as a relief to me as with by back still bothering me, I'm a little worried about having to carry heavy things.

I'm really excited to go as I think this gives me a great opportunity to help give back to the citizens of the north. During the war I had told my COs that if they needed to send anyone up north, I would be the first to volunteer. This is letting me do that albeit a little late. I also excited to see what the state of things is up there. I hope not to find to much destruction but I don't know what to expect.

The trip should be an interesting experience and they tell us that there will be "fun trips" in the evening i.e. shows or hikes so I think this should prove to be both a rewarding and a fun week. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Welcomed Cease Fire

The past two weeks have been crazy for me. Upon my return from Canada where I spent two weeks visiting family, I was thrown headfirst into the war efforts. While not fighting on the front lines in Lebanon, you can rest assured that there is plenty for my unit to do. A simple Google search for "Home Front Command" can give you some ideas of what we have been up to, but for security reasons I will not go into detail.

The recently signed cease-fire comes as a relief to me. Not because it means that my workload will go down significantly, if anything it has gotten heavier. Not because I will finally get to go home after a long month of battle, I have not seen battle and I have been home almost as much as before this all started. The recently signed cease fire comes as a relief to me, because I am sick of waking up in the morning to see more of my comrades faces appearing on the front pages of the news papers with the abbreviation z"l (blessed memory) next to their names. I am tired of having to hear the names of recently fallen soldiers broadcast on the radio. It sickens me when I am relieved to not recognize any names because while I may not have known the fallen hero, he was someone's son, someone's brother or someone's husband.

Does this mean we can finally breath easy? No. Until Hezbollah is completely disarmed, our northern border is not safe. And that's not to say that their disarmament will lead to safety. With Syria funneling arms to the terrorists and Iran's race towards nuclear weapons combined with its leader's clear and open hate for Israel, Israel's border is far from safe. But I will take this opportunity to catch my breath, if only for a moment. A moment to not leave 20 unreturned messages for my friends in Lebanon, hoping that they are safe and that the only reasons I have not heard from them is that their batteries are dead. A moment where the only names I hear on the radio are those of the artist whose song I just heard, and the only faces in the paper are those of the brave heroes returning to their families.

It is hard to claim victory after such a war. Our soldiers remain captured, and the terrorists that captured them remain armed and strong despite the strong blow we dealt them. Our border is still in danger as are all the civilians of the north as long as Hezbollah remains armed. I don't know what the solution is. I don't know how long this cease-fire will last and I don't know if pulling out at this stage was the right thing to do. What I do know is that I am happy the death, on both sides, has stopped. I'm happy residents of the north are returning to their homes. But most of all I am happy that my friends are coming home safe. Because dying in defense of your country is the ultimate heroic sacrifice; one I know they would do without hesitation. But one I would not want them to have to do.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Neutrality: The Devil’s Mistress

In 1940 Germany, thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Handicaps and other minorities were being executed for being different. No one was safe at the hands of a democratically elected dictator, who with the consent of much of the word, reigned terror. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Says Edmund Burke. And so I ask you- us, Canada: Are we good men?

A recent poll published August 1st in the Globe and Mail found that 77% of Canadians believe Canada should remain neutral in a war between Israel and Hezbollah. The same poll found that 45% of Canadians disagree with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s support of Israel’s action and only 32% support it.

Any country under attack has the right to defend itself. Whether the country is being attacked by another country, or by a terrorist organization, a government cannot tolerate targeted attacks on it’s civilian population, or on it’s military. Israel’s right to defend itself from Hezbollah goes without saying. And yet, 45% of Canadians think Israel should stand idly by as over a hundred rockets rain down on its cities daily. Cities full of innocent civilians, women and children, are being forced into bomb shelters for fear of these summer rain showers they have now come to expect, but will never get used to.

While 45% disagree with supporting Israel, 77% think neutrality is the correct position to take. Sixty-five years ago, if less people had remained neutral, and taken stronger action sooner, countless lives would have been saved. To remain neutral is to support evil, in this case the internationally recognized terror organization- Hezbollah.

When so much hangs in the balance, I am glad that Canada is lead by at least one good man. In my eyes, Stephen Harper proved himself by not remaining neutral, and by supporting Israel. I call on the rest of Canada, and the world, to choose the side of good, for if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Well, I'm back home. The flight home was pretty uneventful. My flight from Halifax to Toronto was on a new Airbus A320. Individual touch screens baby! I started watching "Inside Man" which was a mistake because I only saw the first hour and it was really good.

My plan of updating the blog daily during the trip was thwarted when my computer in Halifax died and I was technologically inaccessable. So here is a quick update on where I was and the highlights of my trip:

  • Went to the Atlantic Jazz Festival (with my father) as a VIP where I saw Hot Toddy and Juan Martin. Martin has been called one of the world's top three guitarists by guitar player magazine. Technichaly he was very good but he plays flamenco style which I wasn't crazy about. The first set was Hot Toddy, a Canadian folk/blues/jazz band- quite liked it. Second set was Juan Martin- flamenco. Third act was them playing together- very interesting.
  • Went to the Casino. Came home 20 dolars richer from playing the slots. Good fun as long as you no when to stop. The casino ruins all the fun of gambling though. The entire place is covered in posters for gambler annonymous. The screens of the slots flash up with the GA hotline number. They replaced that ever so pleasing sound of quarters falling with a ticket that you have to bring to the cashier to get your money.
  • Went go-carting at Kartbahn. It was the first time I went go-carting and it was one of the funnest things I have ever done.
  • Went mini golfing with my sister at a Putting Edge. Glow in the dark mini golf is always fun. I've been there quite a few times but still can't get under par. I'm just not a golfer. It's actually not glow in the dark per se, it's all lit by black light. It's pretty cool.
  • Went with my sister to the Discovery Centre, which is kids science museum. I used to love that place and didn't really find it any less entertaining and interesting. They seem to always have something for all ages. They had this track where you get to race verious people (and animals) to compare your speeds. I was only a tenth of a second slower than Donovan Bailey (who holds the world recor for thee 100m dash). You only run 10 meters so he's still accelerating and in the long run a tenth of a second is a huge amount but look out world, you may have a new sprinter.
  • Saw "Superman" in Imax 3D. Cool special effects but I was never a huge superman fan. He was to powerful and come on, he's a superhero but he can't manage to wear is underwear on the inside! I'm more of a spider man myself. I probably just made a lot of enemies.
  • Went to several bars and hung out with some old friends. Went to a house party for a friends birthday.
  • Did LOTS of shopping.
Well, that's all for now folks. I'll have a post about the current situation here in Israel soon and for some more pics of my travels, you can check out Me and Mo do Israel -my other blog.

My ID and Pass from the Jazz Festival