Friday, 30 July 2010

Life in the Gdud

It's good to be back in Ortal after a fairly hard week and a half in the army, which was the first time I've actually done something in about a month!! This is because since my masa kumta, I spent a long weekend with my parents in Tel Aviv, had two weeks of ulpan at the old base, which included sleep-ins and hamshooshim, and finally, when I finally reached the 'gdud' (battalion) a couple of weeks ago, I was sent straight back home for my regila (a week holiday that a kravi soldier recieves around twice a year).

I didn't do anything particularly interesting during my regila, as opposed to most Israelis, who normally travel down to Eilat for a week. Instead, during my three-day holiday, I stayed on the kibbutz and watched a lot of movies. One significant thing I did do was travelling down to Tel Aviv and getting my plane ticket to London (only two weeks to go!), which the army is paying for - this is a lone soldier right, where we are entitled to one free plane ticket home during our army service. The time came, however, for me to go back to the army and get back into the swing of things, and I have been on my new base with my gdud 101, for the last fortnight. I did manage to get out 'hamshoosh' (Thursday weekend) yesterday, which was the 14th hamshoosh of my service and is certainly some sort of record in terms of how much hamsooshim a kravi soldier can get in one year!

The difference between the previous and current base: 'plooga' (company) area.

In short, being in the gdud at the moment absolutely sucks. There are a lot of reasons for this; firstly, the base is a complete dump and the transition from being at one of the best bases in Israel to makeshift tents and showers is a bit of shock. From having 8 showers for a platoon (around 25 people) to now having 4 showers for the whole company (around 80 people). This is kind of problematic, especially when everyone goes to shower at the same time after P.E. This base is 15 minutes away from my kibbutz in the Golan Heights, which is absolutely fantastic as it means I can wake up late on Sundays and get home earlky on Fridays, however, the conditions are pretty bad and, for these past weeks, it has been like a sauna there. In addition to this, my company is now the newest and youngest of the four companies in the 101 battalion and, in tradition to army culture, we get treated the worst. Since we are 'tzairim' (young ones), we are given all the guard, kitchen and cleaning duty round the base, and are whistled and cursed by all the 'vatikim' (old ones) of the gdud. It's not such a gdud life!

The difference between the previous and current base: my room/tent!

My battalion's time in the Golan is part of its summer training, which will last for the next two months, before we move on to 'kav' (literally translates as line), which is the general guarding of Israel's borders. This training involves all sorts of activities in the shetach, at both company and batallion level, and even one giant exercise, which will involve the whole Tzanchanim brigade. As part of this training, this week was 'Shavua Milhama' (war week), meaning shetach and combat exercises at a company level. Yes, that's right, despite having our first war week just over a month ago on base, we were now subject to another one. To be honest it wasn't so bad this time, it was only a couple of days and the atmosphere was much more relaxed with all the commanders. I did, however, carry a ridiculous amount of weight though, not only was my bag filled with water bottles and all my perosnal equipment, but I also was left to carry extra ammunition for the 'negev' (a light machine gun). Despite all my complaining in this blog, being in the gdud does have some benefits and the most notable one is the change of attitude around the company. A lot of rules that were related to basic training have now been dropped (e.g. we are now allowed to walk around the company area with t-shirts instead of standard army shirts) and the distance between soldier and commander is all but non-existent. This makes things more fun and I am really enjoying getting to know my more senior commanders as human beings and friends, rather than taskmasters.

The difference between the previous and current base: the showers.

Next week I have 'imon svach' (training in bush-like terrain) and I will be closing next Shabbat, as well. The following week is shetach with battalion-wide exercises and then that weekend will be my last in Israel before I fly home for a month that Sunday. I am going to write another blog tomorrow about my upcoming one year anniversary of being in Israel (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) so stay tuned and carry on reading (and commenting) my blog in general, I really do hope it brings inspiration to people and some sort of insight to the aliyah experience and to the life of a lone soldier in a combat unit of the Israeli Defence Forces. Thanks for reading so far....

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