From beach to war: How reservists left their vacation as soon as Hamas infiltrated Israel

The moment they heard their country was under attack, the beaches, hotels and spas were immediately deserted as they rushed back home and put on their uniforms, ready to lay down their lives; IDF reservists talk about the transformation from leisure to combat

Roy Rubinstein|
A massive line of thousands of parked cars on the sides of Route 40 near the Lipkin military camp is just one testament to the number of forces drafted for the war. Beside the camp, more and more cars are stopping, and people are handing out sandwiches to soldiers departing from there, carrying military equipment on their way to the southern border.
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On Tuesday, we paid a visit to the equipment warehouses of the 55th Reserve Base of the Paratroopers Brigade, where soldiers had gathered to receive equipment and make preparations for combat. According to the commanders, within a mere 10 hours after the beginning of Hamas' onslaught, thousands of recruits had already been deployed to the battle zone near Gaza in various kibbutzim.
"On Saturday morning, I was still enjoying a run by the sea, but by 9:30 a.m., I was already present here, serving as a soldier," said Lt.Col. Ami Sharet, the logistics officer of the unit.
Typically, the mobilization process, including training prior to deployment, takes approximately 16 hours. However, this time it was expedited to a mere two and a half hours. Upon arrival at the unit, each soldier's barcode was scanned at the entrance to the logistics compound. This barcode indicated their assigned destination and the specific equipment they were to receive.
Thus far, around 2,500 soldiers have been recruited into the brigade. Each of them was provided with a personal kit containing essentials such as underwear, socks, shirts and a combat backpack that included protective gear including a vest and helmet, among other items. Additionally, several military vehicle drivers were allocated one vehicle each from the numerous options available in the unit's warehouses. "We carry out daily inspections of these vehicles, ensuring they are always ready for moments like these," Sharet explained,
On the shelves at the rear of the large logistics center there are bottles of water, blankets and donated clothing for the soldiers, all placed side by side. Both of them acknowledged that not everything reaches the base. "We received a delivery of thermal suits for the soldiers, but we are unsure if they meet the required standards or if they are suitable for our needs. Regardless, we face the challenge of managing the overwhelming support the soldiers receive from outside," according to Sharet.
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יצאנו למחסני החירום של אוגדה 98 ב׳מחנה בילו׳
יצאנו למחסני החירום של אוגדה 98 ב׳מחנה בילו׳
The warehouse at the logistics center
(Photo: Shmulik Davidpur)
Although most of the reservists in the brigade have already been mobilized, there are still civilians who arrived to enlist on the fourth day of the conflict. Currently, the logistics center is entering the second phase, which involves completing the equipment stored nearby that needs to be filled. Subsequently, the equipment is transferred to the front lines. "Naturally, our actions are prioritized based on the situation in the field. If we have soldiers who have completed combat duty, they will receive additional equipment before anyone else," Sharet explained.
Within the expansive compound, one can still find a few individuals who recently arrived from abroad to rejoin their units. These individuals interrupted their trips to Thailand, the United States and Europe, desperately seeking return flights to the country. Within hours, they exchanged their vacation attire for uniforms.
For instance, consider the case of Amit Mered from Modi'in, who arrived Tuesday morning after returning from a family vacation in Greece. He explained, "I tried to reach here on Saturday, but our flights were canceled. Eventually, I managed to secure a flight and make it here. Although my parents were concerned, my father insisted that we come because there is no other option, and we have to be here."
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יצאנו למחסני החירום של אוגדה 98 ב׳מחנה בילו׳
יצאנו למחסני החירום של אוגדה 98 ב׳מחנה בילו׳
Trying on the uniform before heading off
(Photo: Shmulik Davidpur)
Similarly, Nathaniel Ben Menachem from the West Bank settlement of Kochav HaShahar cut short his year-long trip to the US with his wife. Although they were scheduled to arrive in Israel in a few weeks, they decided to return upon hearing of the Hamas massacre. Netaniel will likely have conversations with each of his six brothers out of eight who have been called up and will be participating in the upcoming war. "One of my brothers is in the regular army, while the others are in the reserves. So, my primary concern is for our parents. However, this is the moment, and we must step up to fight because our very existence is at stake," he said.
Mai arrived back from Thailand this morning, and his parents are still unaware of his return. Regarding the transition from his leisurely vacation a few days ago to his re-enlistment, he said: "It's a drastic change, but given the circumstances, I couldn't just stay in a hotel. I had to join my friends in the south. Hamas doesn't intimidate us, and it doesn't matter which political side you're on. We are united in our mission to defeat the enemy. The events on Saturday, when you see the images, provide us with motivation. The world is standing behind us. It's painful and difficult to witness, but we, individuals from all political parties, are here to emerge victorious. From the protester in Kaplan to the settler, we are united."
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