I felt that a couple of paragraphs would not have given the gibush enough credit for what it is. As explained previously, this past week was not the start of basic training, one of the reasons for that was because no-one was in their permament units or groups. Instead, there was a gibush (physical and mental test) for certain special units either within or connected to tzanchanim. The gibush was for Maglan (weapon experts), Palsar (reconnaissance), Palhan (special combat engineers) and the famous Duvdevan (who are known to infiltrate Palestinian areas). However, only some people were chosen to participate in the Duvdevan gibush, which was done in conjunction with our one but quite a bit harder.
So, I was contemplating doing the gibush not because I wanted to be in a 'sayeret' (elite) unit (the general reason for doing this gibush) but for a number of other points. Firstly, I wanted to experience it. Apparantly it is the fourth hardest gibush after Shayetet, Yahalom and Duvedevan; even harder than the five day Sayeret Matcal gibush, which is less intense, according to someone I met who finished both. So, I really wanted to know what it was that gives this gibush such a formidable reputation and was interested to see if I could handle any of it. Also, anyone who didn't do the gibush had to spend the three days doing work on base, like cleaning and meaningless work for tzairim (newbies in the army). I have never wanted to be in an elite unit as I don't feel that I suit the serious and competetive lifestyle that is an elite service, instead, I really want to have more jokes, fun and friendships that come with being in a 'gdud' (regular fighting battalion). I went into the gibush with the aim of just trying it out and seeing what it's like and if I could do any of it.
Anyway, on Tuesday morning at 5;30am, after being put into groups, having a small warm-up and being passed onto our mefaked for the gibush (a miluimnik i.e. someone who was in an elite unit and who's reserve service is to take gibushim), the gibush started. With our gibush equipment on our back (a bag containing a tent, matress and a 10kg sandbag), my group of 25 set out on our first 'masa' (hike). The mefaked took us out the back gate of the base into the 'shetach' (land) and started walking up and down these steep sand dunes. After about 5 minutes I was already struggling to keep up with him and the rest of the group, what with the early start and the heavy load on my back. I remember thinking how I wanted to quit already but forced myself to see through the first exersize at least. The masa lasted about 45 minutes and was tough, especially since the mefaked would taunt us by striding up the sand dune, turn around to the bottom and then climb once more. I lasted that session, but that was just the start. The rest of the morning was filled with sprinting continuously, drinking our water canteens quickly (causing some in my group to be sick) and, worst of all, crawling. I can't explain how hard I find crawling. About two hours into the gibush, he told us to crawl from one point to another (around 20m, uphill, on rocks) and count how many times we can do it. He didn't tell us to stop until after about 40 minutes, by which time I was physically exhausted.
By about lunch on the first day, my group had shrunk to about 14 people, with some dropping because of injury but most who found it too difficult. The physical challenges continued until the evening with more crawling, sprinting, some group challenges and a killer masa. The masa must have been at least 4km, which doesn't sound much, but for this masa we opened up two strechers (each carrying 7 sandbags), as well as jerry cans full of water and our other gear. Under the stretcher it was very hard and going up the steep hills, which our mefaked did consistently, needed everyone to get involved and help push the people who were carrying the strecher. The first day was really, really hard but I just kept telling myself to carry on and make it to the next session, whether that was until lunch or until the end of a particular sprint. Within the group I was very average, as I wasn't interested in trying to impress the scouts from the different units (who were constantly watching us and writing down our specific numbers). The mefaked pressured us the whole time to come first in the many competitions, but I sort of blocked off the competitiveness and just concentrated on trying to continue.
Every meal during the gibush, breakfast, lunch and dinner, was 'manot krav' (combat rations), which included: tuna, vine leaves (disgusting), sweetcorn, chocolate spread, jam, pineapple chunks and bread. For meals the mefaked would give us around 20 minutes to eat from this box of rations and, trust me, even by dinner on the first day, I was sick of tuna sandwiches. During the night we had to do 'shmira' (guard duty), which meant being woken up in the middle of the night by the guy before and having to stand in front of the tents for twenty minutes. I must have only done ten minutes at most, as I didn't have a watch and just guessed when I was finished! About an hour after going to bed on the first night, we were woken by the screaming mefaked, telling us to get ready and prepare for a masa. We couldn't get ready in time (30 seconds) mainly due to the laces on our boots, resulting in many press-ups as punishment. Eventually, once ready, with stretchers and jerry cans prepared, he told us to go back to bed. What an absolute...
Day 2. Wednesday. More crawling, sprinting and masaot, all just as hard, all just as long. Right before lunch we had to run up and down a sand dune as many times as we could with the sand bag on our back. It lasted for 45 minutes and everyone was struggling for air by the end. But wait, the mefaked then told us to do it again, to see if we could improve on our score. The day continued on in much the same way. This blog doesn't explain effectively how tough those two days were. There were plenty of moments when I just wanted to quit and stop running to and from a rock as fast as I could for 20 minutes on end, but I kept carrying on. The second evening came and we went to bed, everyone was exhausted and most needed help getting up or sitting down. That night I slept with my boots on, in preparation for the likely mid-night masa, but, luckily, it didn't happen. On Thursday morning we were woken to be told that the gibush was over and I felt over the moon that I had succeeded in what I wanted to do by finishing.
Once the physical aspect of the gibush had finished, the interview followed. Like in the gibush to get into tzanchanim, they want to see what type of person you are and to see if you can impress to get into the unit. Now, as I've said from the start, I never wanted to be in these units and just did the gibush for the experience. So, after questioning my commitment for elite units, I told these officers how I don't actually want to be in sayeret. They were surprised to hear me say this, obviously as everyone else went in there and tried to show how they really wanted to be in sayeret (elite units). However, I told them how I did the gibush for the experience and they were happy, even proud, that I had shown the spirit to finish this physical nightmare without actually wanting to succeed. I came out of the gibush feeling fantastic, I had taken everything they had thrown at me for two long days and then politely told them how I don't want it, even if they would have offered it to me on Monday. Soon after, my story became relatively famous amongst all the soldiers and, while some thought I was mad to say 'no' before finding out if I would even get in, most were impressed and in awe of the fact that I finished the gibush and still decided to request gdud. People came up to me and congratulated me, it's something that hasn't really happened before and I didn't do it to be original, but because I genuinely don't want to be in an elite unit but still wanted to try and finish the gibush.
So on Monday, we find out which unit we will be placed in, whether that will be a gdud or a special unit. I have requested to be in gdud 101, which has a great history and is normally really good for olim. I know some people in that unit, who all say that it's a great experience with great guys and lots of fun. Hopefully I will be placed there and know that some of the other boys from my programme have also requested that unit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_101.
This week, tironut (basic training) starts on Monday once we are in our units, with the guys and commanders who I'll be with for the next 8 months at least. I am excited to start basic training and all that it entails, although I do know that it is going to be very diffciult. The first week may not be so exciting, more standing in line being shouted out than actual training, but, nonetheless, it all starts this week. I am not sure if I will have next weekend off, if not, then the next blog will be filled with the experiences from the first two weeks of tironut and with confirmation of where I am in the army. Need to get some sleep, it's a big week.