GAZA STRIP, Palestine – With summer in full-force, Israeli soldiers, tired from months of mandatory drills and training, are once again returning to the Gaza Strip—just over a 12-foot high wall from Israel—for what has become a regular vacation extravaganza. Soldiers say they love visiting all the old haunts and reliving experiences from years past, but also enjoy marching into new territory and taking in the sights.
“It’s just nice to get away for a while,” said Jamin Sachar, an Israeli Defense Force army corporal. “Israel’s kind of a small county, so it can get a little claustrophobic—and my money goes really far here, what with the abysmal economy or whatever.”
Israeli forces have entered Gaza in large numbers three times in the last decade. On Thursday, to the surprise of many, they began crossing the border once again.
“Last time I was here was 2008, and it was a real blast,” Sachar said. “Night-time air raids are better than the best fireworks, and have you ever tried Ramallah Golden Arak [a Palestinian liquor]? Shit will blow your mind!”
Others admitted that in Gaza, with 1.7 million people living in an area about 139 square miles, it can be difficult to relax, but said they love making the excursion regardless.
“Yeah, it’s a little crowded—but then again, all the best vacation spots are, aren’t they?” said Lieber Baum, an IDF private. “This is where all the action is, baby. Where else can you stroll along the beach and unload an Uzi on a group of Hamas at the same time?”
While many echoed Baum’s sentiments and said they enjoy Gaza for the excitement, a minority say they make the trip for aesthetic reasons.
“I’m a romantic at heart, you know?” said Radha Nina. “I love places with old scenery and maybe some squalor, like especially crumbling walls, and there’s definitely a lot of that to see here. It only gets better the longer we stay! Makes you feel alive, you know?”
Although the last few vacations “ended too soon,” as many soldiers put it, Israeli military commanders say that this trip is open-ended, and that the rank and file will have “as much time as they see fit to unwind until coming back to the real world.”