Post 50: A Place Worth Waking Up In

Many of you have expressed concern that it seems from my writing that I’m down all the time, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I guess it just feels better to write about the sad stuff. The fact of the matter is that short of convicts, nobody can really sign up for a harder life than that of a soldier. But I have come to appreciate and enjoy this life for what it is: a life of service to a greater cause.

At the end of the day, we are all searching for a different place; as Yoni Netanyahu wrote, “a beautiful and glowing place-a place worth waking up in.” I love the rolling mountains of Israel. The musty smell of forest air on long hikes, and the scent of burning wood when we cook the night’s field rations over an open fire. The sunset over the water on a weekend off in Tel Aviv, and the sunrise over the towering hills of Judea and Samaria on a weekend of guard duty in the West Bank. The blossoming yellow flowers that have sprung up all over my base. The white sea-caps that float gently across the glimmering Mediterranean sea, like a sheet being pulled over the bed of a sleeping child. The heavy mist and deep silence that set over the Golan Heights in the early hours of the morning. Even the desert wind whipping across my face on an early morning run. I am taken by the beauty that surrounds me, both on and off duty.

Of course I would rather walk the mountains of Israel without an ammunition belt and a gun. I would love to watch the sunset with a whiskey instead of a weapon. To walk the streets in sandals instead of boots. To watch the children play in the street, and not from behind a wall of cement. To meet up with a girl I meet on Saturday on Tuesday (an impossibility for a combat soldier who always sleeps on base during the week). The world is such a beautiful place, and there is so much of it I want to see. Sometimes the “menace of the years” written of by William Ernest Henley weighs on me. I worry when and if I’ll have the time to see it all before it’s time to start my life. And yet when I take a step back and look at my life, I am happy. If I could have done it differently, I would not. While it would be nice to trade the army life for a freer lifestyle, all the beautiful things that this country has to offer and all the beautiful people who dwell therein would not exist if not for those wearing uniforms, and so I am proud to count myself in the minority that actively defend Israel. And more than that, I enjoy wearing the uniform, and I enjoy the work that I do while I’m wearing it.

Minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, particularly in the army, it’s not always easy to keep one’s eyes focused on the bigger picture. Yet recently it has gotten easier. In basic and advanced training I was constantly dreaming of tropical vacations. Of cruise ships and cabins. Of physical escape in all it’s forms. But I found out a funny thing recently, having seemingly reached that better place, that place “worth waking up in.” It turns out that the place I was searching for wasn’t a physical one. It’s not a tropical island or a mountain top cabin. It’s a mental place, and it exists in each one of us. A place of mental peace, where we are happy with who we are, what we are doing, and who we are doing it with.

Last week was reputedly one of the hardest weeks of training. For the duration of the week we were forbidden to speak to one another. We were treated once again like we were in basic training: everything was timed. Twelve minutes to wake up, change into uniform, brush our teeth, clean our room, and stand at attention. Twenty minutes to eat. Four minutes to unload a fully packed bus and organize its contents outside a shooting range 150 meters from the bus. When we failed to complete the task in time, half of us held the push-up position on our elbows while the other half finished the task. Each day we had hours of aggressivity training known as Krav Maga. Among the many drills were one that included partnering up with someone of the same size, and for twenty seconds at a time, one partner stood with his hands over his head (wearing minimal chest padding) while the other hit him with jabs and crosses in the stomach as hard as possible. Each day we spent hours at the shooting range. We practiced entering the shooting position over and over and over again, with and without shooting. The week was incredibly challenging. And yet I enjoyed it more than nearly any other week of training I’ve had so far. I didn’t go to bed each night wishing I was in Tel Aviv or New York or some distant tropical Island. I lived in the moment, and enjoyed the moment for what it was. I didn’t dread the Krav Maga. The back and forth sprints with full gear in an area whose width dictated head on collisions reminded me of High School football practice, and I didn’t mind that either. In fact I look forwarded to it (Disclaimer: this may have something to do that I weigh 200 pounds and I hit very hard).

I enjoyed the shooting drills. I looked forward to the challenge of each coming day. To the feeling of running on empty and pushing myself that extra step. I can’t, as a sane human being, tell you that I enjoyed the pain in the moment. But I enjoyed the knowledge, even in those moments, that I was training to defend something that means so much to me. And so to that end, I enjoy pushing myself to my limits and beyond. Fighting through pain and injuries that would lead others to say, “I can’t” where I said and continue to say, “I can” and “I will.” There is nothing quite like the feeling of finishing something and knowing you have given every ounce of strength in your body. It’s an immense satisfaction that those who are not athletes or soldiers don’t often get to experience, because results are long-term in most day-to-day jobs, and not necessarily the result of intense physical labor. It’s a rush, even a high of sorts. Yet in my life I experience that sensation a lot. I regularly do things most of the population could not be paid to do. Just last Thursday we woke up at 5:30 and ran 8 km. It was under 50 degrees outside with a whipping wind and a steady rain. We were wearing T-shirts and shorts. And a part of me enjoyed it. Perhaps I am losing my inner balance after nearly a year and a half in the army. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve only now found it.

Disclaimer: If you want to donate to the Corey Feldman tropical vacation fund, please mail checks to my address on Ben Yehuda.

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8 Responses to “Post 50: A Place Worth Waking Up In”

  1. Mindy Feldman Says:

    Dearest Corey,
    Thank you for sharing this beautifully written and heartfelt post. I’m incredibly grateful to know that you feel so passionately about (and so fulfilled by) the important work you are doing in defending the state of Israel.
    I couldn’t be more proud of you or love you any more –
    XXX,
    Mom

  2. Steve Oster Says:

    Dear Corey,
    You are a thoughtful and caring person who’s new and exciting life experiences are rightfully causing you to carefully think about these new adventures; comparing, contrasting and cataloguing them in your wonderful brain’s database of experience and knowledge. Again and again you come up with the same answers, the answer that brought you to Israel in the first place, your desire to preserve, protect and defend Eretz Yisrael.

    This unique connection was imbued in your neshama some 3,500 years ago when we were first molded, tested and challenged in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years. As an inheritor of that holy DNA, you have come to truly love Israel. You are the embodiment of our heritage; you are our Joshua, our David and our Solomon!

    May HaShem continue to safely guide and protect you as you share your special, chesed, cochma, bina, da’at and magic with our brothers and sisters in the land which HaShem gave to the our people for all time. עַם יִשְרָאֵל חַי

    Be safe achi.

    Love from Steve & Sandy

  3. Meema Says:

    Dearest Corey,
    Your passion, insight and eloquence are extraordinary and inspirational. Your words are so powerful and touching, no response can do them or you, justice.
    We are so grateful that you are finding peace of mind and spirit, even as you are being phsically challenged almost beyond endurance. And still, your resolve, loyalty and love for Israel remain unshakable!
    Our hearts overflow with pride and love for the remarkable,
    “mentchlich” young man you have become.
    Stay safe and well. We “will love you forever”.
    Meema & Poppa

  4. Bev & Ray Broth Says:

    Dear Corey: Our words cannot describe as eloquently as yours as you relate your daily life and feelings. We, your freinds and family are very proud of you and all that you do and stand for. Our wish is that you stay healthy and that when your time in service is over you can publish your diary so that your words can be read by young people like you. For them to read and learn from your writings and example and from that this world may change and people, all people, could live in peace and harmony and not know wars anymore. May the Good Lord watch over you, keep you safe and well and know that mere words cannot express our feelings in our heart for you and your family….With much love and admiration..
    Bev & Ray and all the family in Sarasota and Atlanta.

  5. Nancy latz Says:

    Corey oure an inspiration to so many people! Thank you for sharing your journey! We love you and are so proud of you!
    Nancy & Paul

  6. Laurie Jaffe Says:

    Dear Corey,

    As I sit here with tears in my eyes after reading your poignant words I’m overcome with emotion and pride knowing you and the wonderful man you are! You truly are an inspiration for people of all ages and all denominations. You are selfless in your journey of making the world a better place for everyone. May God always smile over your head and bring you back safe to everyone who loves you.

    Laurie Jaffe

  7. Laurie Jaffe Says:

    Corey, your poignant words have moved me to tears and I’m so proud to know you and the wonderful man you are! Your insights and feelings are inspirational to people of all ages and denominations. You are a treasure and the way you write is beautiful. May God always smile above your head and bring you back safely to all who love you!

    Laurie Jaffe

  8. Jackie Feldman Says:

    COrey I loved the firt paragrapha t the top seeing as it was because of em you wrote it 🙂 I miss you SOOO MUCH and I hope we get to do another one of those weekends sometime
    xoxoox
    Jackie

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