Far too long a day - after 6 hours sleep I was woken to take command of the morning patrol. Kicking off at 6 a.m. it's glorious to see the sun rising and the world coming to life - just a little hard to appreciate when you're still half asleep. We ran from one Yishuv to the next, accompanying buses and carrying out various other daily chores so that the 8 hour patrol seemed to go by relatively quickly.
Just as I was anticipating getting back to base and relaxing the afternoon away with a shave and shower in time for Shabbat my phone went - the caller ID showed by friend the RASAP - Rav Samal Plugati - literally the Company Sergeant Major who makes sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. We had a shortage of armoured jeep drivers - would I be prepared to drive a mission later this afternoon? I wearily agreed, knowing there was no-one else in better shape to do the job and resigned myself to a ruined Shabbat and a further tiring session in the saddle.
Almost as an afterthought, as we left the base, I stuffed a prayer book into my webbing along with my spare magazines, water bottles and other gear. We headed for one of the local Yishuvim where we'd be doing a look out for a couple of hours, from there to another Yishuv to do the same.
The view from our position was breathtaking - Jerusalem in the middle distance on one side, hills and wadis and further off the Judean desert on the other sides - a panoramic 360 degree view of the holy land - old and new together, the sinking sun painting everything in warm shades of pink.
I took several steps aside and facing Jerusalem, took out my prayer book and began saying Mincha, the afternoon prayer. Away from a prayer quorum and with the beauty of creation spread around me, I found myself inspired to prayer with an unusual fervour. The afternoon prayer joins neatly into the welcoming of the Sabbath. I sang lustily in the wilderness, feeling a spiritual connection the likes of which I hadn't known for a long time.
So often Friday night davening is simply a means to an end; words uttered and songs sang so that you can get to shmooze outside the synagogue and move on to dinner. Praying out in the open, with nowhere to rush off to, I found myself comtemplating my words, gathering my thoughts and thinking about all the wonderful things for which I should be grateful.
It was an odd but incredible Shabbat experience - not one that I'd wish for every week but certainly one that I'd recommend once in a while.