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Afternoon Target Practice

In the 1980s and 90s my husband Emanuel and I were members of Eilat's Mishmar Ezrachi (Mash"az) Civil Defense, commanded by the late Menachem Hofen. He was regular police, but also directed our Magen David Adom station. Among other things he attracted at-risk youngsters to become MDA volunteers, giving them a 'club house' to do homework, be safe, or chill-out. This also attracted smaller fry who became an amazing 'Baker Street' dozen.

Most volunteers were past reserve duty, some did both, and some were retired. Most had additional skill sets. Eilat's position, as an isolated population center wedged between two then-hostile borders, made CD important and vital; emergency backup from 'up north' was not realistic.

Also, Eilat's history lent itself to a 'frontier' attitude; old-timers knew the locals, often defusing situations that might have ended badly, thereby reducing regular police work – who were ambivalent about it. Nonetheless CD mounted two jeep patrols most nights, manned stakeouts, and were no-nonsense backup and crowd control.

Periodically, we re-qualified on the target range with obsolete M1s - infinitely better than mule-kick Mauser '98s. Range visits were opportunities to instruct, review orders, evaluate... and occasionally take the gloves off.

At one time Beer Ora's Gadna target range was used, but it was too far. Then the in-city Naval Base range, until it was permanently decommissioned: a rifle bullet lodged in a desert cooler in a high rise a kilometer away - following a CD exercise. Emanuel was jocularly blamed for it as a reputedly bad shot. Once, at Beer Ora at night, the range-master ordered him to hold fire on his last shot until a plane was out of sight. When re-examined the target's only shot was the last – dead center the bullseye.

So we had to use the Army range - when available - in the back-of-beyond.

In 1992, three heavily armed terrorists swam from Aqaba to Eilat. One disappeared, but two landed on the Inter-University Marine Laboratory's beach at 6am. Miraculously, the attack resulted in only four injured and two dead: a terrorist and the laboratory's night watchman. Only one hour earlier a pop concert ended a few hundred meters south, and one hour later the beaches would have been swarming.

Though CD were not involved, Menachem gave a range talk both pithy and graphic: in such a situation we were not to be heroes, or marksmen, or use hand guns; we were to use our rifles to pin opposition down until the professionals arrived – and we were never to leave our vehicles without our rifles!

One breezy spring Friday noon, a year later, a score of us headed for the hills under Meir, Menachem's second-in-command. One snafu followed another: it took nearly an hour to get the keys from a duty officer at an army base and, after another half-hour drive, none of the keys worked! If we didn't re-qualify then we might not get a chance for several weeks... and would be barred from going on patrol.

About to go back, someone suddenly piped up: "We can lift the gate off its hinges." The double hinges were open at the top. Nor would it be breaking-and-entering, because we were supposed to be there. A dozen of us lined up, grabbed the bars and heaved. The right-hand leaf came off its hinges and we lifted it inwards, making room for the van and cars to drive through. When all were in we re-hung it from the inside and headed for the range out of sight of the road.

Cheered, we quickly set-up, went through procedures, then settled down to business. An hour later we were finished and the results in: I was the only woman – and had scored highest. "How did you do it?" Meir asked.

What to say to a score of veterans I'd just out-shot? There was no cover of any kind for a long way: no boulder, outcrop or shrub. "I was in a hurry," I admitted, "I need a bathroom." Everyone cracked up. In an aside Meir said "That's the best you've ever shot." Later it hit: he must have seen my stats going back to 1968, when I won Gadna bronze for shooting.

We were in great spirits as we took down targets, collected equipment and stowed everything in the van, then made our way out the same – unhinged – way. Cars peeled off down the road to town as the van turned in the useless keys at the army camp.

We were home in time to prepare for Shabbat.

- - -

September 2020: an unarmed Jordanian was arrested near where the 1992 incident occurred; he swam or dove across from Aqaba, claiming to be in despair at the economic situation and looking for a better life.

 

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Thursday, 29 February 2024

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