The Lone Soldier Week 4 – Raw and rugged from Israel’s front lines.
So we get seven minutes to change into our on-base clothes, and be ready standing in shlashot. (Just back to base after a tour of the Russian compound.) Next minute we gotta get all our gear on, vest, helmet and gun. Then crawl up and down this hill and wait in push-up position ’til everyone has finished the crawling. It’s a bit like jumping in the deep end when the water is freezing cold, to give you an idea what that’s like. Now we gotta pack sleepin’ bags n’ stuff to head out to do some guarding at an ammunition depot. In the middle of nowhere.
The best part was sleepin’ in grimy bunkers with a ton of flies in my face. And not changing clothes for a couple days. I got off a day early from that, though, ’cause, lucky me, I got some more Ulpan time to do. An exhausting day of Ulpan is from nine AM ’til eight PM. I hear our whole battalion has a 4 hour session with the ‘rasa.’ He’s actually the dude that you gotta be careful around ’cause he is in charge of all the soldiers on base. This guy can make you do anything he wants you to, and he’s not afraid to take advantage of his power. I’m thinkin’ about that while he teaches us how to march for our swearing-in ceremony. We all stand in a massive ‘chet’ and the rasa says “Left, right!” ‘n that, and we gotta just move like he says.
The ‘mappit” didn’t show up, so instead we go back, throw our gear back on and prepare for our first ‘masa’ (march).
When I heard it was only three kilometers, I instinctively asked my commander if I could carry the waterbag. ‘Course he had to let me. All I can say is the three kilometer hike was not that easy. I had to think of ways to mentally convince myself I was a powerhouse of strength so my back wouldn’t snap from the weight. Well, I made it okay. We were rewarded in due course with covers for our dogtags.
Besides for all these somewhat physically demanding, above mentioned events, there are many things that will frustrate even the most laid back of people. Small things, like your glassess breaking. Someone stealing your gunstrap, having to stand in two lines, waiting forever to get into the eating room, while your commander is yelling like a maniac in a really high pitched tone. And what’s more, most of the time I don’t understand a bloody word. Many of these commanders are literally only nineteen. It’s nuts. The only way to not get down by things is by keeping a good attitude and a little reminding of why I’m here, exactly.
So far though when other people ask me how the army is, the closest thing I can compare it to is just a fairly intense summer camp ‘cept with guns. Seriously, our Shabbat on base was very chillin’, much like camp. We still had to guard with guns n’ all, but everyone wears the off-base uniform, and if you really want to they let ya change your green shirt for a white one.
Netzach Yehuda built a huge Sukka for Sukkot, in case you were wonderin’, but we got time off for the first days of ‘chag’.
Back again soon.
The Lone Soldier column is a weekly diary of a new recruit to the Israel Defense Forces following his time in service and beyond. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org