29 April 2009

Independence Day and gazlans

This picture really doesn't have a lot to do with Independence day, this is just so significant a part of the military lore that every soldier (or ex-soldier) feels his/her heart warming up at the sight of this scene, as inevitable as it is unbelievable.

To explain: imagine that your unit is going through an action-packed week or two of training on one of the most deity-forsaken pieces of real estate somewhere in the middle of nowhere. You breath dust, sleep in dust and eat dust, mixed with some barely bearable elements of combat rations and machine oil. Black coffee (with some dust) is the best you are able to get in the way of delicacies. The water you drink from twenty liter plastic jerrycans is warm and somehow contains more dust than water. You run, you schlep heavy hardware built mostly of sharp corners, you crawl, you shoot and sometimes (by mistake) get shot upon. You are not getting enough sleep, enough rest and you wonder when the heck it will come to an end.

And then, when your unit commander declares a half an hour break and you turn your back to your tank or your APC to take a look at some non-military part of the environment, what you suddenly behold is a miracle. In the middle of nowhere, access to which is prohibited to civilians due to this nowhere being a fire zone, besides the said nowhere being totally inaccessible physically to any vehicle less robust than an APC, you see a dilapidated van, full of things you will normally pass on the street without giving them a second glance but here, in the... you know, being more attractive, seductive and debilitating then any wonder of paradise. That cold Coke, this ice cream, these chocolates, these cookies - oh boy... what can I say? - you don't argue the prices.

This is the gazlan (hawker), the angel, the lonely ray of light, the savior.

One of the other mysterious angles of the gazlans' appearance is the fact that they usually know in advance the location of any specific unit at any given moment in time better that the units' commanders. Obviously there is a tight cooperation between the gazlans and the General Staff, and its' not totally clear who receives the marching orders from whom.

So - happy Independence Day, you all! An less things military, if possible.

The picture by Yoni Kot appeared in the Yediot Aharonot competition. Good man.

Hat tip: Yaacov Lozowick.