Friday, February 18, 2011

Chapter Twenty-four


Fields of Nazir
Wednesday, November 18
4:15 p.m.

Ben held his Uzi light machine gun level to whatever foe he might encounter as he nodded to his companion, Gilad Belfer, at the other side of the doorway. It was their turn to be the lead team in storming the makeshift underground bunker in today’s exercise. The bunker had been designed to simulate, as closely as possible, the layout of the Chapel of the Ark in Aksum; the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
Gilad returned the nod. Ben exhaled then tensed the muscles in his legs before darting around the jam. He knew there would be several target silhouettes waiting for his bullets to rip them apart. He just didn’t know where they would be in relation to the door. His score in this exercise would be determined by the number of rounds that struck their targets. He had to be precise.
Ben darted around the jam and stepped into the room in a crouched position. Three enemy silhouettes were situated around a doorway to his left. Two others were seated at what looked to be a computer console. He felt Gilad enter and crouch to his left. With two quick bursts of three bullets each, Ben dispatched the figures standing in the doorway. Gilad did the same with the two that were seated. In only four steps, both commandos were beside the next door. It was now Gilad’s turn to lead the way into the room. The same scenario was repeated through two more doorways, another flight of stairs, and two more sets of interlocking rooms.
The exercise took roughly three minutes to complete, and Ben was pleased with the stamina his body was developing. He wasn’t nearly as out-of-breath as normal. In other words, progress was being made, thus producing a new sense of confidence. He had also achieved his best score yet; seven kills with only three missed shots. Between he and Gilad, the exercise was a success, but there was still room for improvement.
Ben stepped into the meeting room where the rest of the team had been watching by video. There, Ari Goins reached out and patted him on the back.
“Not too bad for a preacher,” Ari teased. “Your sheep might be afraid of being sheared if they saw you with that weapon strapped to your chest, but I don’t think you are yet deadly enough for the wolves.”
Ari was referring to how the Uzi was clipped to a leather lanyard hanging around each commando’s neck. The strap allowed the soldier to release his grip on his weapon without it falling to the ground. That was very important should any hand-to-hand combat become necessary. One could release his light machine gun and immediately utilize a knife or other instrument. But Ari was also issuing a challenge for perfection. His use of humor only quickened the words. He wanted everyone within earshot to understand that all their lives were in the balance.
“I need only frighten an Ethiopian or two. My sheep know the real me, and this isn’t the real me.” Ben caught Ari’s humor, but wasn’t ready to return the quip.
“I don’t know about that. It appears to me that you are becoming quite adept at dispatching a person’s soul into eternity,” Ari laughed. He then turned to his partner. “Come, Zev, let’s show them how it is meant to be done.” Ari and Zev Tolberg headed out for their turn at attacking the bunker.
Ben shook his head and concentrated on removing the clip from his weapon. He then sat down next to his teammates. All for the greater good, he thought to himself. Up until Ari’s ribbing, he hadn’t spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about what he was actually being trained to do. The reality was now becoming clear.
Gilad, who had entered before Ben, sensed his partner’s inner struggle. “Do not let what we are doing eat at you my friend,” he encouraged. “We are only training for the worst. It may be we will find that our Ethiopian friends are more than willing to present us with the prize rather than fight for it.”
Ben nodded as he started cleaning his weapon. “That’s true, but what if it isn’t the Ethiopians we end up having to deal with?”
“Then by the grace of Yeshua, we will dispatch whoever it is that stands against us,” Gilad spoke matter-of-factly. “This, after all, is his mission.”
“Is it?”
“You are not having second thoughts, are you?” Gilad asked. “It is rather late to be having doubts.”
“No, I have no doubts. It’s just been a very long time since I leveled a weapon at any man.”
“The same holds true for each of us. Yeshua has changed us all, but that does not diminish the fact that we are preparing to do something important in the service of our country,” Gilad continued. “To me, that makes it divinely ordered.”
“I see your point. Just don’t be too gung-ho and get a hole drilled into your head.”
“Gung what?” Gilad asked.
“Gung-ho. It’s an American expression that means to be highly motivated to accomplish a mission,” Ben explained. “Here, we call it chutzpah.”
“Ah,” Gilad chuckled, “well I suggest you find an ample supply of chutzpah to match my own. But then again, a new hole in my head would not be so good.”
Ben smiled. “No it wouldn’t.” He turned to the monitor and studied Ari and Zev as they prepared to enter the first level of the bunker. He was interested to see how professionals stormed a building.

Ramat David Airbase
Wednesday, 4:15 p.m.

Colonel Natansky stepped up to the podium and flipped open a notebook. “Here are your flight assignments, gentlemen. Leopard and Tiger Flights, your main objective will be to seek out and destroy rocket launch points north of the Lebanese border. You will tag-team as long as there are targets. If Hezbollah stays true to form, rocket fire will begin just after dark. Leopard Flight will take the lead. Be up and patrolling by sundown. When your assets have been expended, Tiger will take up where you left off, and vice versa. Laser and Slingshot Flights, you will do the same around the Gaza Strip. Just have your best pinpoint accuracy in play. Hamas will surely be using civilians to hide behind.”
“Slapshot, Jockey, and Dagger Flights will perform a duel role. Captain Eldan will of course be in the lead. You will patrol the eastern border while giving high altitude air support to the Golani Brigade as it moves into Syria. Hammer Squadron of F-15’s from the 106th in Tol Nof will be doing the close-in work. If any Scuds or Shehabs are launched tonight, your job is to find the platforms and destroy them. Of course, it goes without saying; if any bogeys come up with aggression on their minds, send them back to earth in a ball of fire,” the Colonel stated, leaving no shadow of doubt in the order. “The 109th and 110th Squadrons will remain on alert status until you come back to base after the first round. Any questions?”
Moshe’s brain had been working on the larger, more Biblical scenario, including the mention of Egypt and Ishmael in the mix of Psalm 83. Had every angle been thought out by IDF Intelligence? “Colonel, what if the events of last night were a set up?” he blurted.
“What do you mean?”
“Our mission against Hezbollah was designed to divert attention away from the Golan so our infantry could move into Syria. Could Jordan and Iran be doing the same thing with us?” Moshe conjectured.
The question captured Captain Sherod’s full attention. “What are you thinking, Captain Eldan?”
“Okay, don’t roll your eyes on me, but what is about to happen has already been written,” Moshe stated.
Sherod’s forehead immediately wrinkled with skepticism, but he simply nodded for Moshe to continue.
“I know it is difficult to believe, but some ancient prophecies from the Torah predicted a war between Israel and the surrounding nations. Now, it is possible this may not be that war, but if it is, we need to be thinking with greater margins,” Moshe explained. He could feel Rueben’s eyes locked onto the side of his head and could imagine what his wingman was thinking.
“You are talking about Egypt, correct?” asked Sherod.
“Yes, and the Saudis. So far, they have made no moves. Are we sure they are not figured into the plan by the Iranians?”
Sherod thought it through. “You are talking strictly of a response by their air forces?”
“Not a response, but an attack,” Moshe stated.
“They wouldn’t be that stupid,” Rueben grunted.
Moshe turned to his partner, “We didn’t think Damascus was stupid enough to launch a nuclear-tipped missile at us either. We weren’t ready for it, and look how that turned out.”
Sherod stood and prepared to exit, which in and of itself was a signal that an attack by Egypt and Saudi Arabia had not been considered. “All I can suggest right now is that you keep your eyes open. If we see anything that looks like a movement leading to an attack, we will respond. Be ready for any re-tasking that might occur during the night.”
Moshe looked at Rueben again, but this time, there was doubt in the young pilot’s eyes.

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