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June 21, 1991 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-06-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ISRAEL

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An insurance deductible paid for a
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will also satisfy any deductible obligation
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replacements in the same insured vehicle,
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or length of time expired since the original
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Commander America
On Patrol In Gaza

Reserve duty can be a rewarding break
from the grind of civilian life.

STEVEN MARCUS

Special to The Jewish News

I

n Israel, official govern-
ment mail arrives in
brown manila envelopes.
And that's where one recog-
nizes one's reserve call-up
orders.
When you spot the
envelope, you often curse
about the disruption to your
family life, your studies or
your employment. But
underneath it all, especially
if one is being assigned to a
permanent unit, there is a
feeling of nostalgia and a
yearning to see one's
buddies, retell old stories
and new jokes and, in gen-
eral, take a breather from
the 1 1-month grind of
civilian life.
After a year and a half of
readjustment to civilian life,
following two years in the
regular army, I recently
received the envelope. My
worries, however, were not
those of a student, family
man or independent earner.
I was more concerned with
other questions: Where will
we be sent? Will our com-
pany commander be a nice
guy, a nudnik or a wimp?
Will the guys be right out of
the army, young fathers,
middle-aged or a mix? Will
they have served in the in-
fantry, as I had, or will they
be drawn from various
units?
My questions are an-
swered soon enough.
As I am signing out
equipment at my home base,
the guys start to drift in.
Each is met with a cheer and
a few back-slapping
bearhugs. One, a bearded
kippah-wearer, is greeted
with, "Hey, here's our com-
munications liaison!" — a
reference to the fact that his
praying may intercede with
the POwers Above.
My unit of second-line in-
fantry is composed mainly of
men from their early 30s to
mid-40s. I am one of five
under 30. Most are ex-
infantry, with a smattering
of various other combat
and semi-combat unit veter-
ans. Our company com-

Steven Marcus made aliyah in
1985. This article first ap-
peared in the Bridge, a
quarterly publication of
Parents of North American
Israelis. Copyright 1991, Jew-
ish Telegraphic Agency.

mander has all the leader-
ship value of a springless
couch, a crucial flaw in an of-
ficer.
I am the only new immi-
grant and the only Ameri-
can. My name becomes, at
various times, "Stevie
Wonder," "Steve McGar-
rett," "Steve McQueen"
and, most popularly,
"Steven Austin." Almost
anything, that is, but my
real name.
Our first day in Gaza, we
are rudely awakened at 4:30
a.m. by the muezzin at the
local mosque calling the
faithful either to prayer or to
incitement. Usually, it is
both. I decide to counter this
intrusion on my precious
sleep. I stroll up to the dirt
embankment of our base and
bellow out, "Good morning,
Gaza!" a la Robin Williams
in the movie, Good Morning,
Vietnam. It has since become
my calling card in the ter-
ritories, although it does not
ward off stones or Molotov
cocktails.
My first time on the two-
way radio I hear: "Who's
this? The new American

Although the sun is
strong in Gaza, the
exposed position
can be chilling.

guy?" The use of names is
frowned upon in radio com-
munications, so I answer:
"Affirmative, this is the-
`American Soldier.' " Later,
in deference to my rank of
sergeant and position as
squad leader, I accord myself
the radio name of
"Commander America."
(Unfortunately, "Captain
America" doesn't work in
Hebrew and, besides, few
Israelis have heard of the
comic book hero.)
In our zone of responsibili-
ty, a long main boulevard
runs through two pre-1967
neighborhoods and two refu-
gee camps, which are more
like slums than shan-
tytowns. Along this
boulevard we maintain
three rooftop observation
posts, four guys to a roof,
from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. In that
time, one can eat a zillion
sunflower seeds, play dozens
of backgammon matches,
catch up on a lot of z's and,
as I did, go through 10

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