Our masa this week was 2km and is the first of many to come in the next eight months, leading up to the final 'masa kumta' (beret hike) at the end of advanced training, which for tzanchanim, is a brutal 74km finishing on Jerusalem. I can't even comprehend the difficulty of the later 'masaot' at the moment, as this week's one I found quite tough, even though it was only 2km. Now that may not sound a lot (5 times round a running track) but with all the gear on and the nature of how we have to do it, I assure you that it is hard. We wore our normal uniform and boots, which makes running difficult and also gave me blisters on my feet from the constant rubbing of the boots. I also wore my 'fod' (vest), which contains two full water canteens, my helmet and six magazines, each filled with 29 real bullets. The 'fod' is really heavy and was pressing down on my shoulders for the whole hike. Also, the gun was around my neck, which firstly is not light at all, but was also uncomfortable, both holding it and the strap around the neck. As you can tell from the description, during the masa, the gear is both uncomfortable and heavy, the reason why these 'masaot' so tough.
Before the masa started we all got ready and our 'mefaked' (commander) painted our faces with camoflauge, it really felt like we were going to war or something. They taught us songs, some specific to tzanchanim and some for battalion 101, and as we sang them (I wasn't singing that much, more shouting along, as I didn't understand the words!), and we all got pumped up for the masa. The masa itself was hard as I've said, you walk as a class (i.e. 11 of us), in two single lines behind your commander and try to keep up with his fast pace. It's pitch black and silent, no-one is allowed to speak more than a whisper. Due to the commander's quick strides, every 20m or so, we all had to jog up to stay close to him. For me, I tried to jog as close to the commander as I could, in order to be able to walk and rest for a couple of seconds. However, it seemed that for the whole masa we were just desparately running to try and stay directly behind him. Although it was hard, it was also really meaningful and we had a special ceremony afterwards to commerate the first masa.
As a reward for completing the first masa, we received the covers for our dogtags, which has the battalion 101, November '09 draft sign on it. It's the first of many things that we will get as part of the joruney towards having a complete uniform. Also to come will be the watch cover, the gun strap, the pin for the beret, the shoulder tag, the pin for being a fighter, the wings (after jumping) and, finally, the red paratroopers' beret. The mefaked called us one by one and presented us with the dogtag cover...
The reason why I was able to leave on Thursday this week, rather than Friday, was because we did a special run for Hannukah and were able to leave home straight after. Only tzanchanim, and within tzanchanim only battalion 101, were chosen to participate in this event, which was called 'Mirootz Halapid' (the torch run). Basically, each soldier ran 2km as part of a route from Modi'in to Ramat Gan, which was connected to the route the Maccabees took in the story of Hannukah. In my section, I ran with my commander and four other guys, from the suberbs of Rehovot to Rishon Le'Zion. It was a fantastic experience. We ran along the streets, with the commander holding a torch and us soldiers carrying flags of Israel and of Tzanchanim. All the cars on the street were beeping us and people were shouting encouragement as we ran passed them. I also got a t-shirt from it, another first of many.
Going to the army tomorrow, as per usual. Getting up at a ridiculous time, 4.45am, in order to get there on time! This week I hope will be as good for me as the last two have been. I've heard that we will be shooting all week, which is supposedly hard mentally, due to being in the shooting range from morning to night. Actually am excited to go back to the army and be reunited with all the guys. Hope everyone had a good Hannukah, my first in Israel was defintely something to remember.