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October 13, 1978 - Image 21

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1978-10-13

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A 28-Year-Old Immigrant Joins the Zahal


World Zionist Organization

though I had been in the
country for four years, I
didn't consider myself truly
Israeli until I had served in
the army. I was fluent in
Hebrew, was married to an
Israeli girl and was offi-
cially a citizen. But I still
felt left out on the many oc-
casions when the army
came up in conversations
with my Israeli friends and
Therefore, when my draft
notice came, when I was 28,
my sentiments included
both pleasure and pride,
even though it meant a
one-year interruption in my
My service began a win-
try day in February, 1977,
when I was taken by char-
tered bus to the classifica-
tion center just outside of
Tgl Aviv.
It rained all of that day
and we had to stand outside
in line after line until we
were issued uniforms. A
chill ran down my spine
when I was handed the new
suit of clothes. I'm still not
sure if that was the result of
the excitement of being a
soldier in the Israeli army,
or just the touch of my
rain-drenched shirt against
my back.
I was part of a group of
30 draftees assigned to a
20-year-old, blond
sergeant, who forcibly
deepened his voice as he
barked commands at us.
He also singled me out for
condescending jokes, be-
cause of my bushy mus-
That night, I shared a
leaky tent with seven other
men. Four of them wanted
to get into the top combat
units, one wanted to be a
driver and another was bent
on being a "jobnick" (one
who keeps away from corn-
bat and goes home daily).
In the morning, we were
led to a huge parking lot
nicknamed "the slave mar-
ket." There, thousands of
draftees waited to hear
their names and serial
numbers called out, sending
them to assembly points for
dispatch to various training
Although I had asked the
captain who interviewed me
on arrival to send me to the
army spokesman's unit, ar-
tillery or anti-aircraft, I was
put in the combat engineer-
ing corps.
The training base in the
West Bank was a hol-
dover from the Jorda-
nian army. It had huge,
drafty barracks with
kerosene heaters, which
were also used as toas-
ters, and beds that had
been captured from the
Syrian army. During my
first two weeks, I trained
with 18-year-olds and
was then transferred to a
platoon of older, married
men, which had just
The 100 older men were
divided into three squads.
In my group there were
Americans and Indians who
were torn weekly by the cry-

Israeli army soldiers in training.
* * *
ing of lonely wives who staunchly refused to lock
wanted to return to their his duffle bags or put his
native countries. There radio away when he left
were Argentinians who the barracks. When no
could not return to Buenos one touched his gear, we
Aires because they feared all began leaving our duf-
arrest for leftist sentiments. fle bags unlocked and
Mostly there were Rus- leaving personal effects,
sians, some of whom had including wallets, on our
brothers in Soviet prison bunks. Throughout basic
camps for demanding the training there was not
right to immigrate to Israel. one theft in our squad.
There were also Russians Simon was the antithesis
who wanted to use Israel as of the stereotyped Georgian.
a stepping stone to the He had a degree in math
United States. and his wife was a teacher.
My wife was not as lonely More important, he was
as some of the others be- concerned for the weaker
cause her family lived in men in the unit, always
Jerusalem and insisted that staying behind on forced
she move in with them for marches, to help the
the duration of my service. stragglers.
But she still had to contend
The ones who kept the
with our mortgage and morale ,up were the Argen-
utilities payments on one- tinians, Pablo and Enrique.
fifth of our former combined They were able to find
salaries (the army paid me humor in everything from
about $25 a month for my blisters and sore muscles to
year of service). the cleaning of toilets. They
Early in the program, were both a bit chunky and
we learned that our called each other "gordo"
squad was unique. Si- (fatso in Spanish).
mon, a huge Georgian,
The young drill sergeants

had their hands full. We re-
sented being yelled at and
refused to run up and down
hills as punishment for
minor infractions. We also
had serious family problems
that had to be solved at cru-
cial times in the program.
Our NCOs also had a
difficult time adapting a
program meant for 18-
year-olds to our
capabilities. Therefore,
there was a rash of in-
juries including a hernia,
wrenched backs, broken
bones and minor com-
plaints. At one time, 19
out of the 35 men were out
of commission for health
Although the army had
sent most of the group to an
ulpan (language school) be-
fore the basic training,
there were still those who
had not picked up Hebrew.
Some of the men also had to
adapt to basic hygiene.
They had come from primi-
tive villages along the
Russian-Turkish border
and were not used to shoes,
toothbrushes or showers.
In the end, the major aim
of the program was
achieved. We all knew how
to operate and care for the
weapons in the Engineering
Corps arsenal. We also
learned how to fight as a
Equally important for me
was the exposure to the very
many different cultures
that are now being absorbed
into Israeli society. Al-
though the service could not
hope to solve the social prob-
lems caused by mass immi-
gration, it did make the men
in my squad more tolerant
of each other.
It also gave most of us a
new sense of self-respect in
that, even though we might
speak a broken or accented
Hebrew, we were now really

Lay Leader Holds Tie to Jewry
for Guantanamo Jewish Military


(From the JWB Circle)

Cuba — Mild-mannered
and unassuming, Howard
B. Schero of Lauderhill,
Fla., the bearded Jewish lay
leader of the sprawling U.S.
Naval Base at Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, speaks in a soft
"This has been a great
week for Jews here in
No, it wasn't Hanuka or
The Navy rabbi from
Norfolk, Va., was visiting
the base, the only U.S.
military facility on Com-
munist soil. A rabbi
hadn't visited Gitmo, as it
is commonly called, in
To Jews throughout the
world, seeing the rabbi is a
weekly routine, but for
Navyman Schero and his 25
fellow worshippers, this was
a very memorable occasion.
Schero escorted the rabbi,
Lt. Cmdr. John Rosenblatt,
on his visits with the Jewry
of Guantanamo Bay.

"Chaplain Rosenblatt
conducted a prayer service
for us and was a tremendous
help and inspiration to me,"
says the leader.
In addition to his lay
leader duties, Operations
Specialist Schero is a
radar supervisor at the
Guantanamo Bay Anti-
War Warfare Center
Although he was tight-
lipped about the specifics of
his job, he states, "Our pri-
mary function is base de-
fense early warning."
A routine statement of
the center's missidn reveals
that men and women work-
ing there provide radar air
surveillance within 100
nautical miles of the Guan-
tanamo base, a key defense
mechanism necessary to
ensure protection of the site.
In 1975 Schero was trans-
ferred from the Naval Re-
serve Training Center in
Miami to the Norfolk, Va.-
based amphibious assault
ship USS Guam, and visited
Spain, France, Italy,
Kenya, Egypt and Greece.

In 1977, the 27-year-old
sailor re-enlisted and re-
quested duty "back home
in Gitmo."
While Guantanamo Bay
may not offer the day-to-day
luxuries of life that Schero
enjoyed while living back in
the United States, he's not
living in total isolation.
Guantanamo is self-
supporting and has been
since 1964 when the Castro
government cut off the
water and electricity
supplied by Cuba.
The base also has a
modern, fully-equipped
hospital, dental services,
a color television station,
AM and FM radio sta-
tions, a bowling center,
several free movies daily,
restaurants, one commis-
sary (supermarket) and
two base exchanges (re-
tail stores).
Summing up his feelings
about Guantanamo Bay, he
says, "I love it here and now
that the rabbi is planning
regular trips to Gitmo, the
one open link in the chain
has been closed."

Friday, October 13, 1918 21

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15 well known Canadian Artists in paint-
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