Hundreds of IDF reservists celebrated Passover on base

IDF (Zahal) Website joins active reserve battalions as they celebrate the holiday with their ‘other’ family – their fellow reservists, keeping Israel safe

Date: 15/04/2012, 3:40 PM     Author: Yael Livnat

Jewish people around the world spent the Passover Seder with family, reading the Hagadah and eating traditional holiday foods, while IDF (Zahal) reserve soldiers continue to guard Israel’s borders, holding their Seder out in the field.

The IDF (Zahal) website joined four active battalions who spent Passover on duty in Judea and Samaria, and heard from the reservists what it’s like to celebrate Passover with their “other” family- their fellow reservists.

“We just got back from patrol, we took off our combat vests and helmets, joined hands and read the Haggadah,” said Lt. (res.) Benny Kemper, company commander of the battalion stationed in the Ephraim region. “The up side of celebrating the holiday in the reserves is that is that a lot of us served our regular service at the together. A lot of us wanted to celebrate the holiday together anyway, some of us even wanted to close at the base over the holiday.” In one of the reserve battalions on operational duty in the Jordan Valley during the holiday, the atmosphere was one of family.

“Reserve duty is always a break in the routine, but on the holidays especially, the atmosphere is like family. Beyond the daily stress of our work, you always get to come back to friends and good laughs,” said Ehud Hashai, the battalion’s cook. “During the Seder, I had a little twinge of sadness that I wasn’t with my family at home, but you get over it quickly,” said Hashai, who added, “waking up at 6 every morning, I still don’t feel like I got a raw deal. I know we are all in the same boat and that we need to do what’s required.”

Battalion operations officer, Cpt. (res.) Dror Stinitzki, said he is one of three cousins who are missing the family Seder for reserve duty. “On the night of the Seder I didn’t think about my family. They understand the importance of reserve service and support me. Of course they would prefer I was with them but they understand, and even make fun of me sometimes,” said Cpt. Stinitzki. The battalion’s operation is also a testament to the hard work of the battalion commander and the other officers, who manage to keep a festive atmosphere throughout the holiday.

“It’s no simple thing to take reservists to duty over Passover when their families and children are on holidays. It’s also hard on me, to try to work and disconnect yourself from your family during such a time,” said Lt. Col. (res.) Nissim Turgeman, the battalion commander of reserve battalion 9255. “But it didn’t bring us down. We know what our mission is and we are going to do it- you can see it in how tough these people are. We were at more than full strength and actually had to convince people to let us send them home,” he explained.

The commanders of the reserve battalion who recently completed deployment in the Etzion region, made great efforts to and make the Seder as homey and family-centric as possible. They bought table clothes, silverware and flowers all out of their own pocket, invited the entire district, and cleaned the outpost with all the other soldiers for two days straight to make it feel like home. And it did,” said Lt. (res.) Shani Tal.

Lt. Tal said “within 15 minutes after the Seder began the entire room was singing. It was amazing. Many people brought their families. It felt like a real family Seder.” The battalion commander, Lt. Col. (res.) Shachar Sharig said, “The event was a once in a lifetime time experience. The battalion is its own kind of family, and I was so happy to have my Seder with them.” Even with the joyous holiday atmosphere the battalion inspired, events required that they stay on high alert. “The night of the holiday created this nice fantasy. All the cleaning and preparing gave that sense that we were going home. But we understood that we had to reel it in a little, stay on our toes.”