Last Tuesday and Wednesday was the gibush tzanchanim at Tel Hashomer base in Tel Aviv. I managed to finish and complete the gibush but do not feel confident at all, if I impressed them enough to obtain a place in the paratroopers unit. We find out the results any day now and if I don't get in, which is probably the case, then I will be joining the Nachal unit, which I am more than happy about.
We (Alejandro, Omri and I) arrived to Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning and for about two hours we filled out forms, were dictated the rules of the gibush and got our tent ready for where we slept. If I haven't explained already, a gibush is an elimination process, whereby the army tries to pick the right people for specific units based on their perfomances on physical and mental challenges. We had lunch and medical checks, followed by the Bar-Or test, once our food had gone down. The Bar-Or test is a 2km run, which the army uses on a general basis to test fitness. Surprisingly I did quite well within my group of 40, coming 4th and feeling fairly strong and fit. Although I probably got a reasonably good time, they only use this score to place us into appropriate groups for the real physical stuff the following day. Also, I haven't properly explained how this gibush was made up of 200 eager boys; 40 from my specific programme, about 100 from Michve Alon (the army ulpan i.e. immigrants from all over the world, mainly Ethiopia and Russia) and the rest were Israelis. This meant that the majority of people had really high motivation and could claim leaving their parents behind, which explains why the competition was so intense.
Anyway, that was pretty much the first day. We went to sleep at about 8:30pm, the reason for it being so early is because they legally have to give us seven hours sleep, which means..... yes at 3:30am the following morning we wore woken for the physical part of the gibush. We were put into groups of about 25 and were given a number (mine was 22), which was constantly being written down by the 'scouts' for all the good and bad things we did during the following four hours. Those four hours were physically the hardest four hours of my life at the time, but looking back at it now I really feel that I could have put in more effort towards the end, which is why I am not feeling confident as to whether I got in. The gibush was made up of four 45 minute long excersizes:
1) Firstly, sprinting 20 metres and back, on a narrow trail with 24 other guys pushing you in order to get back first and have your number jotted down. Between each sprint, we were ordered to take a heavy sandbag and raise it above our heads until the next sprint. This was unbearable. We did about 15 sprints, which meant about 15 minutes of sandbag lifting. Hell.
2) Didn't get much better, around 12 crawls across sandy rocks. Apart from the pain of elbows and knees hitting the stones (both areas show the scars, with scabs everywhere), it was the sheer effort of dragging my body time and time again that really was tough. More hell.
3) Sprinting again. But this time, trying to finish first, in order to get the 7 sandbag-filled stretcher, which although was heavy, looked good for the 'scouts'.
4) A hike with multiple stretchers and jerry cans (massive water bottles).
Between these excersizes, there were a number of team games, which was hard for me to show any sort of leadership skills because of the language. However, in one acitivity I definitely excelled and was about the only point during the day, which I did well in. Our mefaked (commander) randomly picked people to talk in front of the rest of the group and scouts for 30 seconds about whatever they liked. The first people who spoke were quite boring and stuttery, so I sort of moved forward so the mefaked would pick me next to speak. It worked and, after getting permission to speak in English, I spoke for about 2 minutes to everyone all about Tottenham. It was brilliant, everyone seemed interested and it would have definitely impressed the scouts. I found it funny how White Hart Lane managed to get a mention in the gibush for the paratroopers of the Israeli army. Also, JFS made an appearance at the gibush, as I wore my JFS P.E. shorts to do the 2km run (the rest of the time we wore uniform).
Towards the end of the physical part of the gibush I felt like I was trying to finish rather than trying to succeed, which may cause why I don't get in. It finally finished at around 8am and after getting changed, everyone is given an interview, which went OK for me. So, I've had another taste of army life, this being very similar to what I'll be experiencing physically and mentally during basic training, and I can at least say that I survived. As I said, I will find out what happens in the near future.
Tomorrow, I have my driving test, which is another milestone of my aliyah journey. I've had about 3 lessons and feel fairly comfortable driving in Israel and Tiberias, which is where I will be taking my test. I still find the difference between the English and Israeli style of learning so funny. For example, in today's lesson, the instructor encouraged me to cross hands when turning the wheel and even suggested that not crossing hands could cause me to fail the test. Wish me luck for the test, hopefully I can do the double, and pass first time in both England and Israel. Will do another blog soon with results from the gibush and the driving test.