Thursday, 4 February 2010


This weekend is my garin's reunion, which I have been dead excited about all week. Firstly, I got another precious 'hamshoosh'' (Thursday weekend) - I have had so many that I'm starting to feel like a 'jobnik' (non-kravi soldier) - secondly, because it has been another really hard week but, most importantly, since it is the fisrt time that the whole garin will be back here in the kibbutz together and it will be so nice to catch up with everyone, since my garin is like my family here. We have some activities planned for this weekend, one of which is paintballing; after the week I have had, it could be the whole garin against me and I'd still win...

The view from my room - Mount Hermon covered in snow.

As hinted, this week I did lots and lots of shooting, since we were each divided into our roles, mine being 'kala' (sharpshooter). So, I was not with my class at all this past week, instead all the sharpshooters from my battalion were together; as were all the machine-gunnists and grenade-launcher guys etc. At the start of the week, I officially handed back my M16 and received my M4 flat-top, along with both day and night-vision scopes. I said in the last blog that I heard them say the 'Lior' night-vision is worth half a million shekels, well, I completely misunderstood and it's actually worth around $500. This misunderstanding (because of my still very average hebrew) does sometimes happen and it reminded me of a particular incident that happened at the 'tsav rishon' (first draft). In the interview to confirm all my information, I was asked who would get my money if I died (quite a shocking question, but all part of the procedure), so I said my Mum. I remember the soldier suddenly started writing stuff and then asked me "when died my mum pass away?", clearly she had asked me at the start if any close family members had died and because of my mistake, she had to start the whole interview again in order to restart the questions on the computer or something!!!

Me throwing a snowball yesterday with Mount Hermon in the back-ground!!!

Back to this week, I was with the sharpshooters from all three platoons in my battalion, meaning it actually gave me the chance to make some new friends (many of whom already knew me; because of the newspaper article and simply because my name is odd to Israelis and people just know who I am). Everyone thought it was hilarious how I turned up on Sunday with my Austin Powers-style glasses and then went to the shooting range, in order to be a sharpshooter. In fact, I am actually surprised that they let me be a kala, since my eyesight is so bad it nearly caused my profile to be lowered, which would have meant I couldn't have been a combat soldier! This week was spent in the shooting ranges, the whole week, from 8am until 11pm, non-stop, no meals in the dining room - combat rations as a result and, to add to all this, it rained miserably and was freezing. The shooting was fun, especially with the new gun (enhanced vision and tripod legs), and we shot different types of targets, such as, shooting a balloon with one bullet from 300m and moving targets. I shot quite well, especially since all the people there were supposedly the best shooters in the 'plooga' (battalion), and I feel I have earned my right to be a 'kala', confirmation of which is still to be determined by how we performed.
Me with my new gun.

Us 'kalaim' were with a couple of commanders this week, all of whom had been sharpshooters in their early service. In overall charge of us happened to be my 'mefaked samal' (commanding officer), who I have talked about before in the blog. He is an amazing character; small but insanely tough, and he loves to punish us. I both love and hate him because he makes us laugh the whole time but then will give us 40(!) 'smohkum' for being late, a 'smohkum' is a press-up and then jumping in the air and clapping your hands. He excelled in his ways this week, for example, telling us to "go" to the 150m line because we weren't really working, but "go", meant crawling! However, there was one part of this week that I will never ever forget and neither will anyone else who was there. One of the types of shooting we had to do was called 'kriya savlanoot' (patient kneeling), this means being in the kneeled position and shooting 10 bullets over a minimum period of 10 minutes i.e. being ready and fixed on the target as the commander will say "esh" (fire) at any point. The kneeled position is very painful as you sit on your vertical back foot, with gun close to the body and all the time steady with your eye on target. Of course, 10 minutes is the minumum and my commanding officer wanted to make us suffer, so he made us stay in that position for one hour and two minutes...

It's very hard to describe in words what that actually means. After 15 minutes your back leg goes numb and you can't feel your feet. The whole time we needed to be fixed on the target, which meant arms were aching from holding up the weapon and even my eye started hurting from constant concentration. Now this is not my usual moaning of the physical extremes we go through, this was something completely different, something non-human. After one of the bullets, I fell off my back foot and because I couldn't feel anything it was impossible for me to get back up, meaning the gun instructor helped put my foot back into place! It was crazy. I'm not embarrassed to say how at one point I actually cried a little bit from the sheer pain of my legs, shins and feet, and I was not alone, several of these hardcore Israeli boys could not help to shed some tears from this unbelievable sitaution. The battalion medic arrived to make sure we were all ok, as did the battlaion secretary to take pictures of us! Eventually it all finished and when we got up everyone fell back down, since no-one could stand on their feet. We were given about half an hour to do ankle exercises and to try and get the blood back into our legs, I mean, writing about this just sounds ridiculous, but we did it and finished it and I feel great about it now. We found out after, this is the best bit, that the reason for the crazy amount of time was because my commanding officer wanted to break the base record for longest amount of time in 'kriya savlanoot' and we smashed the measly 53 minutes set by Duvdevan a couple of years ago. If you have time just try this position for five minutes and let me know what you think. My commanding officer, what a guy!
This is 'matsav kriya' (kneeling position).

Forgetting all the physical stuff, (which has become increasingly diffcult recently), I am finding the army a really rocky ride. Being away from my parents, family and friends is hard, but just being in the army (especially, combat) is so psychologically tough. No sleep, combat rations (these last few weeks), the language, being timed for everything and the relentless discipline makes it hard for me to always be motivated. Thinking about it now, on the weekend and in civilisation, I am actually coping well, in fact am having a great time, but once you're back on base it all becomes hard again. I am enjoying the army but I just did not realise how mentally tough it was going to be and missing my parents has been extremely painful. By the way, all you people who despise Monday mornings have no idea about the hatred I have for Sunday mornings, it is the worst!

This is my beret pin, which says that I am a foot soldier. This was my prize for doing the 'masa samal' last week.

Next week in the army is advanced shooting (for everyone), which means more long, hard days but that is what happens in basic training, I suppose. I also wanted to say how when walking in Tel Aviv yesterday on my way back up North, it felt so weird holding the gun, because in my head I still feel like that little immature boy from London; and now I am supposed to be this M4-holding, red-boot-wearing, Israeli combat soldier. I don't think I've changed that much in my personality, which I think makes this whole experience so amazing. Today is exactly six months since I made aliyah, in that time I have settled in Ortal, got 3As in my A levels, passed my Israeli driving test, finshed two 'gibushim', successfully arrived at Tzanchanim and 101, and now am well into my basic training. it has been everything I wanted it to be up until now, let's hope things continue like this. Shabbat Shalom.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post! I know things are getting tough, but don't let it get to you. You have to fight your way through all the bullshit, and if you ever find yourself lacking motivation, remember that you are a Jewish soldier now fighting for the existence of our race, with the entire Jewish population behind you. It may not seem like it now, but you are truly protecting the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. I had a question for you, you mention you have bad eye sight but were still able to get into a combat unit. What is your proscription, as I too have bad eye sight and was wondering if it would prevent me from serving in the future? Oh and BTW, I like the poster on your wall. :P