Yes I know, I’m lazy; I haven’t written anything in far too long despite Adam’s numerous protests… But the army is hard work! I get back home and I’m tired and I have to catch up with people and sleep and… play XBOX and… sleep. All these things are both time-consuming and important so blog updating has fallen a little behind. Nothing to fear though, I am back.
So, first of all, here is a quick update since my last post. After months of various meetings, interviews, and gibushim (tests) before I enlisted, I ended up in a commando unit attached to the infantry. I’m extremely happy to be there and can’t wait to find out what it is all about. I had two weeks of Trom Tironut (a sort of pre-basic training phase), which I talked about in my last post. Since then, I’ve started basic training with the unit and have been there for about a month and a half. Everything started off easy enough but, pretty quickly, it has been getting more challenging. There’s plenty that has happened but, since I can only write one post at a time, I’ll start with one interesting story for now.
Shavua Sadaut (שבוע שדאות) is a week that everybody goes through during basic training. It is an introduction to surviving and fighting in the field. It is a notoriously tough week and my experience with it was no different. Sunday morning on base consisted of several hours of organizing equipment. Everything ranging from clothing to tent flaps, shovels, and camouflage materials was packed into bags, loaded onto trucks, and sent on its way. After not too long, the same was done with us. We drove north for about an hour until we got to the lower Galil – a mountainous area with some beautiful views. We drove up one of the larger ranges and got out at the top. We quickly unloaded all of our equipment, put it all on our backs, and started walking the few miles to where we would be spending the next several days. On the rather difficult hike, I noticed a few things which, little did I know at the time, would come to characterize the next few days. Everywhere around us there were thorn bushes, thistles, and other painful looking plants. In addition to the thorns, we were also walking amongst hundreds of cows and, literally endless amounts of cow droppings.
When we got to our destination, the peak of the range, we quickly set to work clearing out an area with our shovels (hacking at thorns and moving cow poop) and setting up tents. Two people sleep in each tent and, thus, every soldier gets exactly half of the equipment to set up a tent: one of two tent flaps, four of eight spikes, and one of two poles. A never-ending problem in the Israeli army (I say never-ending not because of my own experience, but because my dad talks about exactly the same thing) is that half of the tent flaps are Israeli, with buttons that fit into holes, and half of them are American, with buttons that connect to each other. After frantically looking for who has what kind of tent flap and setting up the tents, it was time to get to the day’s activities.
We started with geographical surveys of the area and then many different lessons: how to find north, how to measure difference, ways to avoid being seen in the wild, and plenty more. The lessons were actually very interesting and I find myself now obsessively finding where north is and what time it is using the sun just because well… it makes me feel cool (what now, Bear Grylls?).
The week was also our introduction to crawling, carrying wounded, and Hakpatsot (הקפצות). Now crawling may not sound so bad and, on its own, it isn’t. We however, didn’t just crawl, we crawled over some of the most painful thorn bushes I have ever experienced. If you were seen crawling around a bush, you would be told to roll over onto it and then keep crawling. If you were a particular offender, a commander would come over to you, point to a particularly large bush, and yell ‘MANGA!’ When this happens, you get up, run as fast as you can, and dive face-first onto the thorn bush. Needless to say, everybody finished the week covered in cuts and filled with thorns.
Every night we had ‘hakpatsot.’ We would go to sleep for an hour or two – just enough time to get into a really deep comfy sleep – and the commanders would start yelling ‘Hakpatsa!’ This is meant to simulate a surprise attack. The commanders time you and you have, depending on the mood, between one to three minutes to get out of your sleeping bag, get dressed, get your equipment together, and get into your position laying down outside of the tent, gun pointed at the would-be attacker. The week was also my introduction to combat rations. We got bread, canned tuna, canned olives, canned halva, and canned chocolate spread. The meals weren’t even bad, the only bad part was that we got all of this three times a day, every day, for the whole week. It took me about a week before I could look at a can of Tuna again afterwards.
The week culminated in out Masa Samal – a grueling, extremely fast paced five mile run / hike up one of the mountains near us while wearing all of our equipment. The Masa started off with a quarter mile sprint and continued with a mix of running and fast walking up the face of the mountain. I can honestly say that I have never done anything as physically or mentally difficult as that Masa. This sentiment seemed to be shared across everybody else in my group and everyone had stories of nearly passing out, starting to see black, and barely making it to the finish line.
All in all, it was a very difficult week (which has been followed by many others which I will talk about later on), but also a satisfying one. Things are starting to feel much more serious and much more real. This makes everything harder but also more interesting. More when I get back!