Post 31: A Beautiful Prison

Its 3:15 on a Wednessday afternoon. We’re on a rare and coveted five minute break from one of our classroom lessons, and I take a second to lean out the window of the room and take in the view. My face is instantly enveloped by the warmth of the sunny march afternoon. Before me lies a well manicured grass lawn, the likes of which dot the paratrooper’s base. Towering above the lawns are swaying palm trees, and to my right, fenced in basketball courts (used more for krav maga lessons than anything else). All invoke feelings of calemnity and civility, both of which are notably absent from our training. The base is surrounded on all sides by rolling hills. It truly is a beautiful prison.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of a newspaper that’s been left open to a page advertising flights to various vacation destinations. Sometimes I long to take one of those flights and fly far away from here, to a place where I can lie on the beach and drink margaritas. Where I can wake up to soft music rather than the loud prattle of a training grenade hitting the floor of our barracks. The true irony of my longings lies in the fact that I’m kept here only by my own desire to serve israel- I’m quite literally a prisoner of my own resolve. I came here first and foremost to serve israel, but also to make something of myself. To be more than a good son and brother. More than a college graduate. More than another American Zionist. But after 35 days on base interrupted only by a 48 hour leave, its easy to lose sight of your ambitions, and its easy to be distracted, especially on days when your 23 years of life experience that include four years at a good university are put to use cleaning forks and knives on kitchen duty. And particularly when you’re being yelled at by a 24 year old staff seargeant with a cigerette in his mouth who I’m certain has never seen the inside of a college classroom for mistaking the compost bin for the garbage bin. My kibbutz roomate later told me that the shouting match that ensued between us made his day. Just goes to show you that it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day in basic training.

Ironically, I’ve begun to enjoy some of the things you might think would make me crazy. Washing dishes with a couple friends in the chaos of an army kitchen while screaming out the words to popular songs over the roar of kitchen machinery is actually incredibly entertaining. Thus far I’ve only spent two weeks of basic training doing guard duty and kitchen duty, so you shouldn’t think that’s all I do here. Our time has been occupied by other things as well, notably punishments, which are often harder than the planned workouts. We spent an hour and a half last week from six to seven thirty in the morning running from our pluga up a hill to a distant wall and back, which is how long it took everyone to complete the task in under a minute and thirty seconds. Why you may ask? We were 1.8 seconds late for our commander. To be fair, in our line of work timing is essential. The terrorist will not wait the extra two seconds for soldiers to arrive before he bolts out the back door. Its not pointless punishment. But telling your legs that doesn’t make them hate you any less.

I’ve been in the army for a little over three months now. I no longer live in my own head. Kids on my team have gone from acquaintances to friends. I’m starting to take what I’m doing here more seriously. While at first the army felt more like a summer camp turned horribly wrong, we’ve been given more responsibility and are being treated more and more like soldiers, which in turn makes us act more like soldiers.

Ultimately what gets at me the most Is not what I do here, but rather the things I can’t do because I’m here. I can’t take a train to DC and spend a night with my brother. I can’t eat Shabbat dinner with my parents and sisters. I can’t hang out with friends every weekend in tel aviv, or enjoy an afternoon with Deshe at the shvitz. I’m far from defeated, but its not easy. I’m doing my best to keep a positive attitude and remember why I came here. It’s not easy. But it’s worth it.

March 4, 2011

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7 Responses to “Post 31: A Beautiful Prison”

  1. Tomer Ravon Says:

    Hi Corey,
    I can read between the line a small amount of despair…
    Be strong, It will gett better soon.

    Tomer

  2. Mom Says:

    Dearest Corey,
    Your poignant, honest, and well chosen words allow your readers a small window into your heart and soul. I am fortunate enough to know that heart and soul almost better than I know my own. You have spent your 23 years as a determined, honorable, inspiring and caring “upstander” – one whom Joe Opatowski would have been honored to know. When you are weary, fed-up and waiver in your resolve, remember his words and keep the faith.
    No matter what happens, I believe in you, admire you and love you to infinity and beyond,
    Mom

  3. Amy Says:

    Dear Corey,
    We appreciate your honesty and updates and wish we could make the hard moments easier.

    You are there for all the right reasons, keep strong and know that we all support you and think of you daily.

    with love and deepest respect,
    Aunt Amy

  4. maria Says:

    Awww I love you and miss you! And it will definitely be worth it. So proud of you.

  5. Pete Liebeskind Says:

    Hey Corey….. Thanks for your blog. We look every day to see if there is an update! We are truly inspired by what you are doing – and even more so by HOW you have gone about accomplishing your goals and dreams. We are incredibly proud of you (and of your whole family), and honored to be your friends.

    All our love,

    Pete, Susan, Joe, Sam, Adam and Dara

  6. Rothbort Says:

    “felt more like a summer camp turned horribly wrong.”

    I think those words can best describe our summer as campers under Bob Ives.

  7. Pete Liebeskind Says:

    Hey Corey…. Thanks for your blog. We look every day to see if there is an update. We are truly inspired by what you are doing – and even more so by HOW you have gone about accomplishing your goals and dreams. We are incredibly proud of you (and of your whole family) and honored to be your friends.

    All our love,

    Pete, Susan, Joe, Sam and Adam

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