Major Orian Pundak is the commander of an observation company in the Gaza Division’s Northern Brigade. Her soldiers keep a close eye on the border, preventing attacks and protecting the quiet.
All hours of the day, seven days a week, the Gaza Division’s Nesher Observation Battalion keeps a close eye on the Gaza Strip. Major Orian Pundak, a company commander in the battalion, admits that there are no shortage of challenges when it comes to being the IDF (Zahal)’s eyes in the field. However, after two years in her position, she knows that her soldiers’ work has prevented attacks and kept the civilians in the region safe.
For soldiers who spend every day watching the Gaza Strip, it is clear that the picture has changed since Operation Pillar of Defense. “The [Gaza] Strip appears very bucolic and placid, but even amid the calm we search out those who intend to attack,” Maj. Pundak said. “The challenge is to understand what will happen in the future. Even during the relative quiet, to understand that on the other side there will be someone looking to violate it.”
The feeling among the observation soldiers, according to Maj. Pundak, is that the quiet in the sector depends largely on the work they do every day. “Everybody wants to feel that what they do is important, and [the observation soldiers] truly deserve that self-recognition. When you are stationed at an observation post, you are responsible for ensuring that the civilians in their homes can live in quiet. It is a great responsibility but also privilege to say: I have defended my state,” she said.
In the course of recent years, the IDF (Zahal)’s observation capabilities have seen significant technological upgrades. Among the changes have been the implementation of surveillance systems that integrate firepower capabilities, and the introduction of cutting-edge new radar systems.
The IDF (Zahal)’s Granite Tactical Vehicle
“Our surveillance apparatus is growing and becoming more powerful in light of the fact that its centrality in the battlefield is well understood,” Maj. Pundak explained. “The observation soldiers should be the first to raise the alarm about every unusual incident in the sector. We need to remain alert to every minor change in the field – to always think about where the next attack will come from or where they will try to infiltrate. We are always prepared for the next incident, there is no time for rest.”
Despite the advanced technology, there is no replacement for human eyes. “No machine will be able to determine whether a shepherd who crosses every day is planting an explosive. You need the person behind the machine, who will operate with understanding and exercise judgement – the person who will be able to see what is different from day to day and if something appears to be not quite right,” she said.
“In Operation Pillar of Defense, in the time of war, we faced many great challenges,” Maj. Pundak recalled. “Suddenly we saw our work during an emergency, how we could assist so many forces that needed us. I felt that the hard work paid off and that we were ready to face those challenges.”