On any given day, there’s a decent chance you’ll hear something about Israel in the mainstream media. It’s a hotbed of conflict and religious extremism. No matter how you look at it, Israel is in a constant state of war. My co-worker, Steve Balestrieri, just published an article about Israel possibly “removing” a Syrian General. Stories like this are sprouting all the time.

Several years ago, I and a handful of Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCCs) had the opportunity to go to Israel to spend time with the maritime special operations community of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), the Shayetet 13. The purpose of the trip was to learn from one another by discussing tactics, operational standards, and training regimens. International relationships are important; we were to represent the Naval Special Warfare community in a dignified manner, effectively maintaining a professional relationship with the IDF Shayetet 13 community. On the first day, we kicked it off with a circuit workout, followed by a friendly soft-sand jog, and finished off with swimming sprints in the bay — and let me tell you, it paid to be a winner.

The day to day life of a special operator in the United States compared to an operator in Israel is starkly different. For us, there’s a hard line between being at home and conducting training versus being on a combat deployment. In Israel, that line seemed to be heavily blurred. One day, operators may be training and the next day, they’re going down the road or out to sea to conduct a real-world, high-risk operation. That type of lifestyle seemed exhilarating and extremely stressful all at the same time.

While I was there, we stayed in Tel Aviv, an energetic coastal city. In my opinion, we were completely safe there. We went out on runs, worked out on the beach, and spent some time being tourists at the local restaurants and bars. The wild part was knowing that not far away was a combat zone and places filled with people that wanted to destroy Israel. While spending time on an Israeli military installation, it was very obvious that they were just as busy training as they were actively defending their nation and waging a coordinated war effort against the country’s enemies — and as we know, Israel has its fair share of enemies.