Friday, 25 December 2009

Radio Man

Today is the 25th of December, exactly one month ago I joined the army. I have passed through one of the thirty months to come in the Israeli Defence Forces. It has been a fantastic month; I had my first taste of the army when sleeping at the Bakkum, I finished the gibush for Tzanchanim special forces, I got into exactly where I wanted to (Gdud 101) and am now into basic training. Although having never celebrated Christmas at all, it was always a big day in the calendar for me. Mainly because living in England meant that the whole country stood to a standstill, meaning no school, good television and family meals. However, when I woke up this morning at 4.15am on base, it was just a regular Friday, and I found it weird to look at the date on my watch.

Another weekend off, the fifth in a row, which is a luxury I am getting used to. Yet, this is about to stop as my class is going to be closing now for 21, two straight weekends, on base. For me, however, I will only be closing for the first weekend, I'll explain why later. This week was rather hard physically as we did a loads of 'madas' (P.E.), our seocnd masa and, generally, a lot of shlepping (i.e. moving heavy things from one place to another all day). For three straight days this week we were in the shooting range, which got really boring and is very repetitive. My shooting has got worse, probably because I lost all my concentration and patience after continually shooting for so many hours. As I said, we had quite a lot of running and physical activities as part of our 'madas' (literally translated as sport clothes but basically means P.E.). We ran 3km twice, as well as doing sets of press-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. By the end of this week, I was sore all over and but the physical stuff is only going to get harder as we continue to train to be 'kosher kravi' (combat fit).
Our second masa was a major part of the week. This week's one was 7km, with the final kilometre being completed by carrying an open strecher filled with sandbags. Luckily I didn't have to carry the strecther at all, unluckily, though, the reason for this was because I was with the 'kesher' (contact) i.e. radio man. Before the masa started, my mefaked asked me how I found the last masa, I lied by saying I found it fine, so he chose me to have the radio. Being 'kesher' means carrying the radio, extra kgs on top of all your normal gear; vest, gun etc. Also, it means having to walk next to the commander at all times and passing on messages from him to the rest of the class, for example, "Speed up", "No talking" and "Don't look at your watches". It was a long hike, around 45 minutes, and was quite difficult, in terms of constant walking and jogging with all the weight on your back. I remember trying to name old Tottenham teams as a way of passing the time and not trying to think about the pain in my 'shrir masa' ("hike muscles", the shins). It felt good to finish together as a class and we sprinted the last little bit. This July, I climbed three mountains in Yorkshire with a few of my dad's friends for chairty and I'll always remember how they said to me at the end that whatever I do in the army can never be as hard as what we did that day. Well, I can safely say that I've barely started basic training and have already done things, like the masa, that have been harder. What also makes it hard is because after the masa I had to wake up in the middle of the night, dress in all my combat gear (gun, vest, boots) and do half an hour of guard duty. Not quite like the hour long bath I had after climbing those mountains!
A couple of added things this week, which I want to mention. Firstly, it has been a good laugh in the army so far. Whether it's seeing the commanders desparately trying to keep a straight face when something funny happens or just the general banter in the room or in the showers. Halfway through this week I also had my first haircut in the army. To squash the rumours, it's nothing like what you see in the movies, e.g. the first scene of Full Metal Jacket, in fact, the guy actually gave me a good haircut. Not only did he ask me what number I wanted, but he also used the clippers on my sides and back! Since I am a lone soldier I have the right to do my washing in the army, so in trying to take advantage of this benefit, I gave a packed bag of washing to my mefaked on Wednesday. The next day he gave it back to me; clean, but not folded, no-one's perfect (!), I still can't believe that my mefaked; my taskmaster and teacher, is cleaning my dirty pants and socks!!!

On the 7th of January I have my 'tekes hashba'ah' (swearing-in ceremony), which for Tzanchanim, is performed at the Kotel. It's a big deal, not only is it the official way of showing one's decleration of commitment to the army, but on that day, we officially receive our gun and are allowed to go home with it. It's something I have been looking forward since I first heard about it, especially, since it is at the Kotel and will be a perfect way of giving my oath; in full IDF uniform, with the Western Wall in front of me, shouting 'ani nishba' (I swear) and then collecting my own M16 from the platoon commader. My zionist vision is actually becoming a reality. What makes this day even more special for me, in fact the reason why I am so excited, is that my parents are coming all the way from London to attend. I can't even begin to imagine the emotions they will feel when they see their son getting his gun at the Kotel, in front of hundreds of other Israeli parents. While my class have to stay on base the weekend after the ceremnony, I will be spending four days with my parents in Tel Aviv. Obviously it is nice to have a little break from the army but mainly I am just itching to be with my mummy and daddy, since I've been missing them a lot since going into the army (despite speaking them every day, sometimes even twice a day). It will defintely be a memorable couple of days and I am getting excited just thinking about it now.
This week is kitchen duty and guarding (the worst week of basic training), followed by staying on base for the weekend, which is then complimented by 'sada'oot', the whole week spent in the field, (the hardest week of basic trianing). However, then I have the ceremony and a long weekend with my parents, so things aren't that bad. Will not be back here in Ortal for three weeks, sad to not be with friends and missing New Year's Eve, may try and write a blog while in Tel Aviv but may be to busy cuddling my mummy!!!


  1. Good luck in basic man! Just wanted ya to know someone is reading and enjoying your blog.

  2. Dear Sam, every time I read your blog you bring tears to my eyes. So proud I know you! Kepp up the good work you are an awasome young man!
    כל הכבוד והנצלחה בהשבעה!

  3. Sam - I was in your shoes about 30 years ago - the lone soldier - from America. If I wished one thing for you, it's that your Hebrew is better than was mine. My heartfelt best wishes to you. Ron

  4. Hi Sam,
    I was moved and touched to read your blog!
    You are wonderful!

    I will make sure to read all your entries from now on.

    Judith BT, London

  5. Hi Sam
    I enjoy reading your blog.
    Sorry I didn't get to see you and your folks
    during Pessach.
    All the best.