Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

The University of Michigan Library provides access to these materials for educational and research purposes. These materials may be under copyright. If you decide to use any of these materials, you are responsible for making your own legal assessment and securing any necessary permission. If you have questions about the collection, please contact the Bentley Historical Library at bentley.ref@umich.edu

January 01, 1993 - Image 122

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-01-01

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


`Commander America

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



el Aviv — In Israel,
official government
mail arrives in brown
manila envelopes.
And that's where one
recognizes 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 un-
derneath 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 gener-
al, take a breather from the
11-month grind of civilian
After a year and a half of
readjustment to civilian life,
following two years in the
regular army, I recently re-
ceived 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 compa-
ny commander be a nice guy,
a nudnik or a wimp? Will the
guys be right out of the
army, young fathers, mid-
dle-aged or a mix? Will they
have served in the infantry,
as I had, or will they be
drawn from various units?
My questions are an-
swered soon enough.

Steven Marcus, a native of
Los Angeles, made aliyah in
1985. He served in the Israel
Defense Force from 1986 to
1988. This article first ap-
peared in The Bridge, a quar-
terly publication of Parents of
North American Israe-
lis. Copyright Jewish
Telegraphic Agency.

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 veterans.
Our company commander
has all the leadership value of
a springless couch, a crucial
flaw in an officer.
I am the only new im-
migrant and the only Amer-
ican. 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 Morn-
ing, Vietnam." It has since
become my calling card in
the territories, 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
guy?" The use of names is
frowned upon in radio com-

Serving in the Israeli reserves is a social, as well as a military, experience.

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 my-
self the radio name of
"Commander America."
(Unfortunately, "Captain
America" doesn't work in
Hebrew and, besides, few Is-
raelis have heard of the com-
ic book hero.)

In our zone of responsibili-
ty, a long main boulevard
runs through two pre-1967
neighborhoods and two ref
ugee camps, which are more
like slums than shanty-
towns. 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

Back to Top

© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan