The Lone Soldier Week 7 – Raw and rugged from Israel’s front lines.
Suddenly, I find myself back on base. I swear, weekends go way too fast.
Little did I know what training I’d done until now was nothing compared to what we we were in for.
It’s ‘Shavua Shetach,’ or ‘sadaut’. The the whole ‘pluga’ (one hundred and fifty guys) spend a week in the field. First we are given these enormous bags and told to pack in all our gear, spade included. Cool thing about these bags is, just when you think they are full, you find another pocket. Once we have all our gear on , I can’t help thinking how much we resembled snails with their huge shells and wondered if perhaps that’s the reason they move so slowly.
We get off the truck that have just brought us into the middle of nowhere. It is dark and it is cold. We split into our ‘kitas,’ making us groups of ten and start our descent down the steep side of a rocky mountain, weighed down by about twenty kg of gear, ephod gun always in hand. We are told not to use torches, so basically your mind is occupied on concentrating as to where exactly you can place your next step without tumbling into oblivion.
We continue up the mountain.
Once Destination is reached, we drop our big bags by a bush. That’s when our ‘mefaked’ tells us to go sleep in that bush. Well, how uncomfortable can a bush be already? So we all jumped in and slept there the night. At daybreak, after prayers, we are introduced to ‘shetach’ food. Shetach food consists of canned tuna, beans, corn, pickles and bread. This is what we would be eating. Three meals a day for a week. But, ya gotta share all the food equally between your ‘kita’ and take turns eating it, while half the group eats and the other half secures a perimeter around them; so you have about ten minutes to cram in all the food you can get.
We take all our gear again for some more walking. It’s rough terrain, but at least we can see where we are goin’. We reach shade and rest a bit. In between walking endlessly accross the mountains, we stopped to master basic maneuver commanded by hand signals and how to fight effectively together as a kita. Each person knows exactly where he needs to stand.
At night we’d learn how to move stealthily, avoid detection, and all that stuff. They make us dig holes on the mountainside and tell us we’ll be sleeping in those. So we’re sleeping in our holes. Then, in middle of the night, they wake us up with blanks and make us run around carrying a dude on a stretcher again. I could barely see where I was goin’. So while my back is caving in, I’m jus’ lookin’ where to place my next step.
We go back to sleep. Just as I’m cooling off and falling asleep again, they wake us again and make us do it again. It feels kinda messed up when you’re not sleeping properly and doin’ physical activity all day.
About the last day of ‘shetach’ week, most guys were feeling ill but it wasn’t over yet.
They drove us out of the mountains a short distance and gave us about an hour to recuperate before a ‘masa’ (hike) we would be doin’ that night. They told us it would be about eight kilometers. We ended up marching the whole way back to base; a good twelve kilometers.
The soldier with the stretcher on his back running, everyone else practically screaming as we push the last five hundred meters and reach the base. And it still ain’t over. We have to run up an uphill stretch ’til we aactually reach our part of the base. When we finally make it up there we are told not to put the stretcher down ’til we are told to. They make us lift ’em straight up five times and only then, we finish.
Feeling absolutely drained as we are given time to shower, our first one in a week.
The feeling after that shower made the whole week seem worth it.
It was the last Shabbat we would be staying on our base where we had spent the last three months of basic training.
What can I say, Shabbat on base is always a great experience. There is plenty of singing and food.
The next week we will be moving to another base to soon begin our advanced training.
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