8/16/2005

BBC: Soldier's tale: 'We are not warriors'

Dana, a 20-year-old teacher doing her national service in Jerusalem, was moved to Gaza to help evacuate more than 8,000 settlers from the territory.

She tells the BBC News website how she has prepared for her new role.

Normally I work with teenagers in Jerusalem, but the army came and told me that I need to move down to Gaza.

My job will be to take people out of their houses. For the past three weeks I've been living in a city of tents just outside Gaza.

We eat there, live there, shower there, use the toilet there. Everything. We even have Domino's Pizza. It's become like home, but it's not as comfortable.

My job sounds quite simple: to put them [the settlers] on the bus. After that it's not my job any more. Some of them are going to Nitzanim, others to Tel Aviv.

The soldiers here come from all sorts of places. We are not really warriors. The people I'm with are from the air force, they are technical people.

They took us, me and my friends, all of us teachers, because they believe we have experience and can talk to people in bad situations.

But most of the people here were chosen because they have spent a lot of time in the army. It's not brand new recruits doing this. They have officers, people who have signed up for extra service.

'We have a plan'

We live in two tent cities: A and B. In B, where I am, there are 8,000 people, soldiers and police. In A there are 10,000.

Alongside every 40 soldiers there is one police officer. They are always with us, both men and women. They teach us about how to take people to the buses and advise us on when and how to use force. That helps.

It makes me more calm knowing that they didn't take just any old soldier. Not just people who like holding a gun.

I think it's good that Israel decided to do this, but the prospect of doing it myself stressed me out. I'm not used to using force or power.

When we arrived we were all taken to a kibbutz for training. There were 200 people there playing the roles of the people we have to evacuate.

We were given a story: this is a house with a woman who is pregnant, and we have to evacuate her and her husband. But when we went in we found there were more people than we were told.

The idea was to train us to deal with different situations. Sometimes the people inside said they had gas and they would blow themselves up. In that case we call in a special unit. That's not our job.

From Monday 15 August it's not legal for them to be here. We are going to go and ask them nicely to leave. Then on 17 August we come back and we evacuate them whether they like it or not.

If they don't go we have a procedure. We are divided into small groups of four people. One for the right hand, one for the left hand and one for the legs. So that everyone is comfortable.

If they say they want to go nicely we will go with them, but if they start to hit us, or spit on us, we can grab their arms and legs and take them like that.

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Soldier's tale: 'We are not warriors'

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