Paula R. Stern is CEO and founder of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company offering documentation services and training seminars. She made aliyah in 1993 when her oldest son was 6 years old. In March 2007, her son Elie entered the Artillery Division of the Israeli army and Paula began writing about her experiences as A Soldier’s Mother. The blog continues as Elie begins Reserve Duty and her son Shmulik is now a soldier. She recently opened a publishing house, helping other authors fulfill their dream to publish.
Links to the Author's blogs:
Iyar 29, 5770, 5/13/2010
Shmulik is undergoing the hardest part of army service - the basic training. There is no leeway given to soldiers, no extras. Though the army watches them carefully...and watches out for them, they give the soldier the impression that they do not care, that the soldier is merely a part of a great machine.
This time around...I expected more from the army...and in return, the experience is worse. For a variety of reasons, this is coming harder for Shmulik than it was for Elie. This is actually funny because Shmulik went into the army in better physical condition. Years ago, when he was around 14, he was a bit pudgy (is that a word?). I wasn't concerned because I was sure he would grow out of it as Elie had...as my husband had when he was the same age.
Not only did Shmulik grow very quickly, but he got in shape. He started exercising and strengthening his muscles. But more, he went on a diet and lost weight. So much so, that I was afraid he was too thin and took him to the doctor.
“How do you feel?” the doctor asked my son.
“Fine,” Shmulik answered. The doctor turned to me and asked what the problem was. I explained that he’d gone on a diet and lost weight…but I thought it was too much. He throws up sometimes, I explained, and I was getting nervous.
The doctor weighed him and measured him…and asked him if he was forcing himself to throw up. Shmulik looked a bit surprised at the idea and answered that he wasn’t…it just happened sometimes.
The doctor asked him what his favorite foods were. “I don’t know,” Shmulik said with some hesitation, “Pizza? Ice cream?”
“He’s normal,” said the doctor. “Leave him alone.”
That was years ago. Since then, Shmulik has been into exercise and food. He eats well, sometimes snacks too much, balances it out. I thought he’d sail through the army as Elie did. It isn’t happening.
So that’s the update on Shmulik, who is still complaining of headaches but is hopefully settling in and, in any event, coming home on Friday morning.
As for Elie, the explanations, the decompression continues. Yesterday came yet another really funny story. He was explaining how the army takes new soldiers out into the field. It simulates battle conditions – less food, less sleep. And, as part of this, it collects all of their watches. From the first, they are taught the importance of time…to the minute they are given tasks to do…and then suddenly, the minutes still count, but the time of day is gone. After a little while, they return the watches set to 12:00. They’ve already been out in the field for hours. They can’t tell any more what time it is. Time of day has no meaning…the hours blend together, the days. It is meant to confuse you, disorient you…and it probably worked…
well…sort of…once upon a time…
This is where modern technology defeats the old army way. The concept of taking the watches and resetting them was created at a time…when there were likely no cellular phones. Or, if there were…they made phone calls.
Apparently, the army overlooked this flaw in their logic when Elie’s group was taken out to the field and so they held onto this anchor. The goal of the army is to make you improvise, make you follow orders, but thinking is valued too.
I'd say that one went to the soldiers!
Iyar 11, 5770, 4/25/2010
My daughter spoke those words this morning as I drove her to school. She was talking about our visit to Shmulik's base. We arrived after a long drive, parked the car and walked past a table of female soldiers who "registered us." They asked the name of our soldier, checked it off, handed us a note about what we would see, a business - size card with the name and phone number of the head of the Kfir division (including office and mobile phone numbers) and a rose for the mothers. A beautiful red rose...can you imagine?
We walked along a pathway until we got to a large gathering of chairs. As we walked around the curve, we saw perhaps a dozen soldiers, in full combat gear and guns, laying on the ground "hiding" behind the small hill just to the side. We sat and almost immediately, the event began.
The Kfir division commander introduced himself. He gave his name and position and then explained. He lives in Maale Adumim (where I do). He is married, and gave his wife's name. He is the father of four daughters, named them and gave their ages, "yes, four daughters," he said with pride, with a smile and a laugh, and people clapped for him.
He wants to show us what our sons will be learning in the months to come. When we first told them they would run three kilometers, he said, half of them had a heart attack. Now they do it easily. By the end of the training, they will be able to travel more than 40 kilometers on foot, he told us - carrying stretchers even. And then he directed us to look at the mountain just behind him.
A man in black stood crouched about half way up, "there are two terrorists that have been spotted," the commander said, "don't worry - they will be firing blanks only" and again, people laughed. At first I saw only one "terrorist" as he rose and began firing at us. A unit of soldiers went into action as the commander explained; as we heard the unit commander ordering his troops. They spanned out, as another terrorist jumped up and fired.
The soldiers rolled to the ground, in a coordinated effort, soldiers fired as one among them rolled and then advanced...and thus they moved into position until they fired and took out one of the terrorists. The young man fell, raising his legs in the air as he "died" - gaining another laugh from the audience...an actor he will never be.
The unit continued to fire and advance, taking out the second of the terrorists. "They continue beyond this point," the commander explained, "to determine if there are more terrorists." A third we had not known about stood to fire and again was "eliminated."
"These are soldiers who entered the army in November, 2009," the commander explained as the parents clapped for the soldiers. "Just four months ahead of your sons."
They will learn to master weapons, the commander explained. He directed us to look to his left - targets had been set up. He introduced the weapons our sons will use - guns and grenade launchers...
They fired each of the weapons. Each came with a ping as they hit their target, up to a boom and a small explosion. They set part of the field on fire - "Don't worry," the commander said, "we are prepared for this too." And we watched as a group of soldiers ran out and put the fire out.
"Look on the mountain," the commander told us again. There was a house there, a small structure with Hamas and Fatah flags on it. This too, our soldiers will do. He explained that a wanted terrorist is inside and we watched as those soldiers we had seen when we first arrived, came over the small hill and began their advance. It was like a play-by-play of a football game, only this was too real.
As the soldiers secured the position...we heard the terms they use. They surrounded the building. "Notice how they are alert to all directions. Imagine this was a house in the casbah" - the market in the center of an Arab town. "Enemies can come from all directions, shots from any window." More than a mother wants to imagine.
Part of Shmulik's unit includes trained dogs who can sniff out explosives, or take a terrorist down. They threw in smoke bombs and the "terrorist" emerged and began to run. The soldier playing the part was heavily padded - the dog attacked and brought him down. Quickly the soldiers surrounded the fallen terrorist. "First we secure the situation," the commander said, "then we call off the dog." The dog quickly was removed but watched at attention as the soldiers checked the "terrorist" and led him off.
The house was still a threat, the commander explained, directing our eyes back to the the small structure. It has to be checked...and so the unit continued.
With the fears of a child, I learned today, my daughter thought perhaps that the terrorist in the house was real. For me, perhaps the most chilling part of the day was not the actions these soldiers took but the commanders next words, "remember, these soldiers are just four months ahead of your sons. In four months, it will be your sons doing this for another group of parents. You aren't invited, though," he said with a laugh.
In four months...less even, because part of that time has already passed. "Time is short," the commander had said when we began the event. Yes, it is...four months....
Iyar 2, 5770, 4/16/2010
I was, reluctantly, reading an article published in the Haaretz news site about Anat Kam, the idiot woman who stole 2,000 secret and top secret documents while working for a top level military commander...and now wants the world (or at least the courts) to believe she didn't do anything wrong.
Kam you get any dumber than these statements?
She said she stole sensitive military information because: "certain aspects of the IDF's conduct in the West Bank that I thought were of interest to the public." Really, this naive, stupid 20-year-old girl thought she had the right to decide what was of interest to the public? Amazing, the arrogance.
Anat Kam says she turned to Israeli journalists (as opposed, one would assume, to Israel's legal system) because "the censorship would not allow the publication of information classified as top secret or that is dangerous for publication." Gee, can you imagine? A country not allowing the publication of top secret and dangerous for publication items...who would have imagined that?
She talks of her wish to "serve" the nation: "I didn't have the chance to change some of the things that I found it important to change during my military service, and I thought that by exposing these [materials] I would make a change." Gee, again...here I was thinking that the purpose of national service was to SERVE the nation...not change it, not reform it into the nation you, in your incredible ignorance and arrogance, think it should be.
It is nice to see that at least one judge realizes the seriousness of what Kam did and that she must be stopped. The more I hear, the more I am convinced that she should be charged and convicted of, at least, espionage, theft and whatever else is possible and, once convicted...based on her own admissions thus far, she should be sentenced to the maximum penalty allowed by law. Kam must learn SHE does not decide for the nation of Israel. SHE was not elected, selected, or chosen in any way. The one trust we gave her, she betrayed. Now it is time for justice.
According to the Haaretz article (www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1162458.html):
The state has decided to prosecute Kam for the most serious crimes of espionage: passing on classified information with the intent of harming state security, charges which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Kam faces other charges, including gathering and possessing classified materials with intent to harm state security, which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
Presiding Judge Ze'ev Hammer wrote that "in order to inform the public of several aspects of IDF action in the West Bank, or to investigate war crimes in the West Bank, there is no need to gather and steal thousands of classified documents from the IDF which deal with the various military planning and action."
"Kam admitted during her investigation that her computer is not guarded and that she did not take interest into where the Haaretz reporter Uri Blau would store the documents or who would have access to them," Hammer added.
"She disrespected their [the document's] safekeeping and the importance and secrecy of the information," Hammer added.
Nisan 24, 5770, 4/8/2010
Anat Kam calls herself a journalist. Her interest is in telling a story and selling copy. The more she sells, the more her editors value her.
Anat Kam is a 23-year-old Israeli woman who betrayed the position she was given during her army service. She served as the assistant to the bureau chief of OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh between 2005 and 2007. During that time, she copied or stole some 2,000 classified documents that, according to the Jerusalem Post, "contained top secret information concerning General Staff orders, personnel numbers in the Central Command, intelligence information, information on the IDF doctrine and data pertaining to central sensitive military exercises, weaponry and military platforms. The files also contained details on what the Central Command does in the event of a major escalation – how it deploys forces to the West Bank and where it stations them there. (http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=172658)
What she did with the documents is even worse. She gave them to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau, who is now hiding out in London, refusing to return other documents he is suspected of holding. This in itself is a crime - holding stolen, property...no?
What is interesting to me is the glorification of this woman, this thief who ran to the media after betraying the trust she was given. Perhaps even more interesting is how quickly her lawyers and others want to claim that accusing Anat Kam of treason is a betrayal of all Israel's media and that she is honorable...no, she is not.
According to Yuval Disken, Chief of Shin Bet (Israel's military intelligence organization), the leak “posed a direct and real threat to the lives of IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens.”
I came home from work today full of anger at this woman's deceit and the idiocy of those who run to defend her without knowing much of the facts. Only Kam and Blau, those they showed the documents to, and the investigating teams know the full extent of the damage.
I sat with Elie to speak of other things and then we discussed this. My son summed up my feelings beautifully and so I present a message to Anat Kam from the soldiers of Israel...whom she betrayed, "I hope she goes to jail for ten or fifteen years."
Yes, I do. I do not support Anat Kam. If she felt that the army was doing something wrong, she had other avenues besides prostituting herself to the media. She is a "journalist" - no, she is a wanna-be journalist.
Her lawyer says she is a "young Zionist." I'll give you the young...but no - Zionism is about the dream of fulfilling and maintaining the Jewish homeland of Israel. What Anat Kam did was all about fulfilling and maintaining Anat Kam at the expense of our soldiers, our sons, our future.
If she is guilty of what everyone suspects she has done...I hope she gets a good, long sentence to contemplate her crimes.
Nisan 23, 5770, 4/7/2010
I'm so glad I started this blog...
Yes, I'm happy for all the comments and support I've received.
Yes, I'm happy for the support I seem to be giving others.
But I'm happy for me too. When I go back and read the start of Elie's service, I remember, I hear, I feel what I felt then. Sometimes, I'm embarrassed a bit; sometimes I smile and wish I could reach back and comfort that mother the way other mothers are reading this and learning and feeling and understanding.
Last night, Shmulik called during his free hour. They were camped out "somewhere" in a tent, in sleeping bags. They'll be awakened at some point, and start shooting practice. I asked him all the right questions, if he was tired, if he was cold. He has a coat they gave him and a sleeping bag. He's out there in the desert...though a different one than Elie was...and I smiled.
Gone was the fear, the worry. He'll be okay. It will toughen him. Even if he's a bit cold...that's really okay. He's okay. See how far I have come, I thought to myself. I didn't think of rocket attacks, of Arabs sneaking up to the encampment. I didn't think of Bedouins and wild animals...I didn't think. I just asked him if he would be home this weekend, smiled when he said he thinks he will be, said our good nights, and went to sleep.
I really did. Look at me. I am the mother of an Israeli soldier and I'm good. I didn't worry. This is what it is all about, I thought to myself this morning. This is where so many were, when I was so afraid last time. They smiled at me, tried to reassure me...and now I understand. It is something each mother must feel...and overcome.
Just as Elie learned the night; just as Shmulik felt the cold...I have to conquer the fear and worry. I have been given perspective and it is liberating. It is so different the second time around.
I can be there for Shmulik in a way I never could for Elie because I was following Elie, pointing out worries and concerns and unsure what to expect. Each time he left, it was to an unknown world...now that world is more known to me. No, I don't imagine I can understand so much of what Shmulk is feeling, but I can listen to him with a different ear.
I question him to give him a chance to explain to me; not with the same blindness I had before. I know they set up guards; I know it wasn't really that cold. I know that if this boy can sleep in his underwear in his room in the winter, he can sleep in a uniform, a coat and a sleeping bag in a tent in the desert and be safe.
That mother has grown and I'm not really laughing at her...I envy her the journey she took. It was a hard-won battle filled with real terrors. My fears were not unjustified or wrong. They were right - an outpouring of my love for Elie just as my understanding this time is a show of my love for Shmulik.
In many ways, comforting me helped Elie gain perspective, gave him a support line behind him. He knew that I worried, that I was there. Shmulik is such a different child, always has been. He's the sweet one who bought me those endless presents on his way home from school - the flowers he'd picked that were flattened and half dead; the earrings (when I didn't even have pierced ears); the "gold" necklace that was chipping off even before I'd put it on.
He was the "cuddler" while Elie was the tougher one. Shmulik has gotten tougher too now, stronger, more sure of himself. And yet, Sunday when I drove him to the mall to catch the bus, it was Shmulik who leaned over to give me a kiss, where I always had to corner Elie and give him one.
Last night, my second son slept in the deserts of Israel with a gun. No, he doesn't know it well enough to use it, has only begun to learn and yet, and yet...
May the God of Israel watch over our sons and daughters as they sleep and as they defend and may He grant us mothers the wisdom to learn, to grow, to love, to trust our children as they serve our land and our people.
Last night, Shmulik slept in the cold...but his heart is warm, his home just a few days away.