Joel Chas­noff (The 188th Cry­ba­by Brigade) has been blog­ging for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil on his Jew­ish Book NET­WORK tour. Missed the first two? Check them out here and here.

I’ve done quite a few of these book events now – half a dozen through the Book Coun­cil, and anoth­er ten or so after my stand-up com­e­dy shows – and some­times it feels like they all blend together.

But then, every once in a while, I’ll have an event where some­thing tru­ly incred­i­ble hap­pens, guar­an­tee­ing that I’ll nev­er for­get that par­tic­u­lar night.

Last Thursday’s read­ing at the Pos­nack JCC in Davie, Flori­da was one of those unfor­get­table evenings.

It all start­ed when a guy in the front row asked me about the title of my book. I explained that The 188th Cry­ba­by Brigade” was actu­al­ly a nick­name that my offi­cer gave to our pla­toon dur­ing basic train­ing. I told the crowd that in my unit we had a num­ber of mama’s boys who faked injuries to get out of guard duty and lit­er­al­ly broke down cry­ing dur­ing hikes in hopes that they’d get a ride back to base in a jeep. Hav­ing grown up on the myth of the invin­ci­ble Israeli Army,” I explained, I was quite shocked by the sheer wimpi­ness of some of my comrades.”

Right then and there, an old woman raised her hand and shout­ed, Excuse me, you!”

I looked at her, star­tled. Uh…yes?” I said.

The woman stood up. She was short, and thin, with dyed red hair that matched her poly­ester jump­suit – a typ­i­cal South Flori­da bub­bie, and with the spunky ener­gy of Dr. Ruth.

The bub­bie shook her fin­ger at me. You are the cry­ba­by!” she wailed.

I chuck­led. Part of me want­ed to dis­miss her. But I was curi­ous. And she was entertaining.

And why am I the cry­ba­by, Ma’am?” I asked.

The woman stepped for­ward. There are no cry­ba­bies in the Israeli Army. Israeli sol­diers are the bravest in the world. The only sol­dier who’s cry­ing is you!”

Half of the crowd shout­ed at her to shut up. The oth­er half – most­ly the old­er folks – cheered her on.

Whoa, whoa, wait a sec­ond,” I hushed the crowed. Ma’am – with all due respect, I’m not say­ing that Israeli sol­diers aren’t brave. I’m just say­ing that, in my pla­toon – my expe­ri­ence – there hap­pened to be quite a few kids who, quite frankly, didn’t want to be in the army and tried every trick in the book to get out.”

The woman shook her head. Not in the Israeli Army I know!” she bel­lowed. Her sup­port­ers cheered.

I was warned that, soon­er or lat­er, this kind of thing might hap­pen on my book tour. Israel is an extreme­ly emo­tion­al top­ic. I knew peo­ple would react to my book in ways I couldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly predict.

Not that I ever had an agen­da. In writ­ing my book, I did not set out to praise Israel or to dis­par­age Israel. Instead, my goal was sim­ply to tell my sto­ry as hon­est­ly as I could. At times in my book, I express admi­ra­tion for the IDF – for exam­ple, when our offi­cer sits us down dur­ing basic train­ing and leads us in a dis­cus­sion of bat­tle­field ethics.

Oth­er times, like when I describe our lack of train­ing before deploy­ing to Lebanon, I’m crit­i­cal. But I was always hon­est and, in my mind, fair.

The fact is, how­ev­er, that there are many, many peo­ple out there – usu­al­ly old­er ones, but some younger ones, too – who sim­ply refuse to believe that the leg­endary Israeli Army is not per­fect. This South Flori­da bub­bie was one of them.

I explained to the woman that I was not the first author to write about Israel’s imper­fec­tions – in fact, in Self Por­trait of a Hero, Yoni Netanyahu’s posthu­mous auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Yoni him­self describes the cry­ba­bies in his unit and how these guys hold back his pla­toon. Or, I sug­gest­ed, the woman should check out the movies Waltz with Bashir and Beau­fort – both of which are Israeli made, were nom­i­nat­ed for Oscars, and present less-than-per­fect images of the Israeli Army.

But the woman and her cohorts refused to back down. She sim­ply couldn’t han­dle an Israel nar­ra­tive that diverged from her own.

After the event was over, the red-head­ed bub­bie approached me. I feared anoth­er shak­ing down. But instead she said, Keep up the good work, young man.”

Okay,” I said, sur­prised. But what about – ?”

We need peo­ple like you,” she cut me off. We need you and we need your books. Oth­er­wise, we Jews will have noth­ing to argue about.”

Joel Chas­noff (The 188th Cry­ba­by Brigade) has been blog­ging for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil on his Jew­ish Book NET­WORK tour. Be sure to check back for his next post for the JBC Blog.