Saturday, February 24, 2007

Meet Pini

This story started as Leon was driving to a brit near Bet Shemesh. He was lost and stopped to ask a soldier for directions. The soldier lived near the location of the brit, so he got in the car and off they drove. Leon asked the soldier where he was based, and told the soldier about Yashar Lachayal. The soldier took Leon’s card.
Pini, one of the soldier’s officers, called Leon and that Thursday Leon showed up at his base near Beitar Illit, near the Arab village of Husan.
Six days later Leon and Meir arrived at the base to distribute fleece jackets and wool hats. As we passed the last security barrier, an American couple who live in Beitar Ilit had just been stoned on the same road.
Pini greeted Leon and Meir and began to give them a tour of the base. Leon immediately asked Pini if they have YES for their TV. Yes, they did, but it has never worked. Do they own a DVD player? Yes, but it also is broken. Leon returned to his car and brought back a brand new DVD player and handed it to Pini. One would have thought that we had given him a diamond Rolex watch!
Seventeen (17) of Pini’s soldiers were being discharged after three (3) years of service, so they were having a BBQ to celebrate. As we walked around a jeep arrived in a hurry, a fire bomb having just been thrown at it just before entering the base. It seems like a normal occurrence.
Pini is 24 years old, a tall, dark, thin officer with enough dedication and conviction to fill a black hole. He is also perhaps the most modest person we have met. He explained, "We are warriors. The guys on this base know what they must do, and we do it. There are no complaints here. We have everything we need." (As an aside, they don’t. They have enough bullet proof vests for patrols, but no extra. They have a recreation room which is so small and filled with their gear, there is maybe room for 5 boys to sit. They do not have an exercise room. As mentioned before, no working TV reception, no games, no books, no newspapers. AND no A/C - the boys bring heaters from home.)
Pini continued, "We start each day around the Israeli flag with a salute and Hatikvah. The boys must know what we are fighting for. That’s my job to teach them. I am a Zionist, and so are they, or they will be when I get finished with them." Pini shows us the makeshift memorial he has built for his unit. It is a small fish pond with cardboard posters and pictures of the 11 boys killed in the past 2 years. This is a very active unit, mixed into the middle of dangerous situations. We look at the memorial. It is such a sad moment, and the memorial is equally sad in its simplicity.
Pini then tells us of the last boy who died 2 months ago, from injuries suffered in a terrorist attack. His Father works for Magen David Adom in Tel Aviv. In an effort to try to keep close to the boys and girls in his son’s unit, this Father invites 10 soldiers a week, all expenses paid, to come to Tel Aviv and receive one free day of training in life saving techniques. Pini is so proud not only of this Father, but that his soldiers can get special training not usually available to them.
Pini tells us, "The boys do patrols 12 hours a day. They get back from patrol, we debrief them, and they go to sleep. We let them sleep 6 hours, then we wake them, feed them, and spend the rest of the day on practice, until we go out on patrol again. Free time, not much, and what would they do? But we don’t need anything. We have everything we need." A song we have heard before.
We try to explain to Pini that he is like their Father. He needs to take care of his boys. He needs to create a "base" which is like a comfortable home. Pini explains it is difficult when they move around so much. But he listens.
We sit down around long tables filled with food, for the ceremony. Pini thanks Yashar Lachayal for their fleece jackets and hats. He shows the boys that they even have imprinted on them the new emblem of their unit. There is much clapping and cheering. The boys looked honestly surprised at their gifts.
Pini goes on with distributing the jackets. At that point, the ceremony is interrupted. The captain yells out a code word and eight (8) soldiers jump up and run to the rear of the base. Pini continues talking. We think it is a training exercise. Within 2 minutes the 8 men are dressed in full combat gear and go charging out the front gate. Another car has been stoned, we are told.
It is late so we start saying goodbyes. Pini is so humble in his thanks. Again we ask him to call if he thinks of anything he needs. We get the feeling that he won’t, so we tell him that it is not for him, but for his soldiers. We hope he gets "it." We say goodbye, and drive home. We pass Husan and there are jeeps all around combing the area for the stone throwers. We are so touched by Pini’s simplicity, his modesty, and the fervor and ardor of his commitment to his job. He is a Zionist of the highest degree.
We feel both saddened by the conditions on this base and exhilarated by the high level of commitment of this young warrior. Welcome to the world of Yashar Lachayal.


Dina Elnecave said...

I can't say enough Thanks to you, Miles and Alida and all the volunteers. Toda Raba for giving us a glimpse into this most important and often times difficult journey. Thank you for sharing and giving us the opportunity to make a difference! Yasher Koach!!!

Miles for Soldiers said...

You are also to be thanked, for keeping these great boys and girls in your thoughts!