Sukkot - A Time for Happiness

Sukkot 2000.
I was in reserve duty stationed at The Erez Checkpoint on the border of the Gaza Strip. I was serving in a unit composed of heavy duty combat soldiers from some of the most hardened fighting units of the Israeli Army. They had all done at least 5 to 7 months of basic training, followed by additional training courses in tactics and weaponry.

I had completed basic training in 2 weeks, and spent most of service on guard duty.

I couldn't shoot, attack an enemy position, drive an armored personal carrier, drive a HumVee, throw a grenade, operate a communications radio, or carry a jerrycan.

But I could do kiddush.

In the Israeli Army one of the hardcore rules is that on every Friday night, or every eve of a holiday, kiddush must be done. Every platoon, unit, and battalion, must do kiddush.

This stint of reserve duty was particularly tough. Several weeks earlier Ariel Sharon and gone onto the Temple Mount, which was followed by Palestinian rioting that became known as The Second Intifada. In our particular base on The Erez Checkpoint we faced daily bombardments of stones by hundreds of Palestinians surrounding our position. It got so bad, that one day when a canister of tear gas was shot at the crowd, they managed to toss the canister back into our base and fill the area with tear gas.

So after all that, on the night of Simchat Torah, the entire unit gathered in the dining hall. Our commander asked me to perform kiddush before starting our festive dinner. I delivered an intense kiddush, with strong concentration and enthusiasm, emphasizing the words 'Zman Simchateinu' (Time of our Happiness).

A few hours later, we were all woken up and instructed to take up positions on the outer rim of the base overlooking the surrounding area. Helmets on, flackjackets zipped, weapons loaded, the entire unit stood poised and ready. A report had come in that a massive funeral procession, going in the middle of the night,  had gotten out of hand, and the crowd was whipped into a frenzy ... and they were coming straight for our position. We had been briefed that the confrontations with the Palestinians were intensifying. The other bases bordering the Gaza Strip further south were taking less hits from rocks and facing live arms fire.

The commander made rounds to everyone in position. When he came to me, he leaned forward and said to me, "Hey! I liked your kiddush!"

An hour later, the alert was called off. The crowd had dispersed and was no longer approaching the base.

Now I can't claim that my kiddush had an impact on these events, but for every subsequent reserve duty that I was called up through the years, I was always asked to do kiddush on Friday night or holiday eve.

Chag Sameach!

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