Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A day with the IDF

Today, I attended the IDF Northern Command Familiarization Day, a brand new initiative by the IDF to reach out to bloggers.

The two main events were IDF briefings at strategic mountaintops, one overlooking the entire Syrian border and the other one practically surrounded by Lebanon.

Although the information given was not "inside information," it was a good first step. It was interesting to see in person border villages that are very possibly Hezbollah strongholds: lots of typical looking houses, but very few people, no children and lots of trucks going in and out.

We learned about the village of Rajar, which is split in half along the border. The IDF does not want to put up a fence so a strange situation is set up where the residents of Rajar can sort of travel between Lebanon and Israel, the southern residents have residency rights (and jobs) in Israel, and where the border goes literally through some houses. Most interesting was the information that Hezbollah intimidates all the residents of the villages in the area, much like the mafia, and watches what they say to the media.

The bloggers on the trip were a great bunch of people. They included the bloggers for Israel Matzav, The Augean Stables, Honest Reporting, CAMERA (Israel), Jewlicious and Contentions (Commentary.) Many of them know a lot of people and had a very long and candid discussion about the various famous reporters and others whom they know personally. I, on the other hand, don't know anyone, so I pretty much just listened.

Altogether, it was a fun day, and it only makes me want to visit more often!