I've just had the most physically difficult two weeks in the army; jam-packed with memorable stories and frightening moments, all of which I'll talk about in these next two blogs. I never thought I would make it to this moment (not just because of the last fortnight but, also in general), I am currently in my kibbutz for my final weekend before flying back home for a month, there are simply no words to describe my excitement to go back home for a month!
Firstly, however, I want to tell you all about these crazy couple of weeks I've had, where I finally understood and realised that all those hard weeks of shetach on the training base are nothing compared to the shetach training in the gdud (battalion). Last week, I had 'imon tsvach', which is basically the training for guerilla and anti-guerilla warfare. There are many things from this week that I can't really talk about on this public blog, but I can talk about some stuff, which will hopefully explain why last week was so hard. For around four days my gdud, battalion 101 of the tzanchanim brigade, trained in the 'tsvach' and we learnt all about anti-guerilla warfare; this extends my repetoire as a soldier, having mastered both rural and urban warfare (wow, I never thought I would end up talking like some sort of military general but this is what I do as day-to-day life). We learnt how to move and conquer enemies in 'shetach' (terrain) that is very difficult; tall trees, wide bushes, thorns on every corner and all in a tight, compact space. To get us warmed up, our commanders gave us 'aggressive training', where we were made to run through thorn bushes! This actually turned out to be one of those hilarious moments, where seeing each other tangled up in trees and bushes seemed to block out the pain of thousands of thorns pressing into our bodies. Of course, the 'mefakdim' (commanders) were in hysterics themselves!
This is the
'tsvach'. Imagine running through that big bush in the foreground... that's what I did all last week!
On a more serious note, we learnt a lot about the practicalities of anti-guerilla warfare and, therefore, about the terrorist group Hizbullah. Hizbullah are probably Israel's most dangerous active enemy, due to their style of fighting and expert knowledge of their terrain (guerilla), organised army (there are even elite units) and their arsenal of weapons (including some scary types of rockets). As a result, we learnt about the IDF's response to this serious danger i.e. our ways of how to defeat these terrorists and combat tactics in the tsvach. This is obviously the more confidential part of last week, but was incredibly interesting and the exercises themsleves, despite being tiring, were very enjoyable. For most of the week, it felt very much like we were in Vietnam; walking slowly through forested areas and carefully listening to every movement and sound. Why it really felt like Vietnam, however, was the unbearbale heat. I simply can't explain how hot it was in the 'tsvach' (Israel's hottest week of the year) and I didn't think my body was capable of releasing so much sweat, at one point our eyes were stinging so much from the salt of the sweat pouring off our foreheads that we had to stop momentarily. All in all, it was an exhausting couple of days but very rewarding in terms of knowledge and exercises.
This was me last week in the 'tsvach'. Try and ignore the terrible haircut and notice the colour of my shirt. The dark green indicates the ridiculous amount of sweat!!!
Halfway through 'tsvach' week, we heard news of an attack on the Israeli border with Lebanon. As we all know now, luckily it was just a one-time thing that seems to have been a mistake, however, news like that travels fast and, like in all Jewish communities, news is exaggerated, and Israel is no different. We got the news that there had been some sort of attack on our northern border and that war with Hizbullah was imminent; remember, at the time we were learning about anti-guerilla warfare and how to combat in the 'tsvach' of Southern Lebanon. What we were doing suddenly went from standard combat training to last-minute preparations before war, and to be honest I was a little bit scared. I wasn't scared of the enemy or scared of getting hurt, instead, I felt very unprepared psychologically. Coming into the army, the dangers of terrorism and war are obvious, but I've never felt like I am going to be involved in something like that. However, after that incident (that was thankfully just a scare), I feel more ready mentally that if something were to happen in the future that I need to step up to the plate and do what, as an IDF combat soldier, I've been trained to do. I know that sounds like some sort of line from an action movie, but in all seriousness, as my 'samal' said "if something were to happen, we (the current soldiers in the army) have the responsibility to deal with it; as it is simply our time". I understand more, now, the importance of being a 'lohem' (fighter) and the responsibility that comes with that role.
עד עכשיו, אף פעם לא כתבתי בעברית אבל חשבתי שהזמן הגיע. לכל מי שמבין רציתי להיראות לכם איך העברית שלי השתפרה בזמן שעליתי לארץ. הרוב זה מהצבא כי שם אני רק מדבר עם החברים והמפקדים בעברית ופשות אין עוד דרך להסביר את אצמי. יותר נוח לי עכשיו לדבר בעברית במקום ציבורי, או שזה לנהג באוטובוס או למלצר במסעדה. אם הבנתם אז אני מקווה שלא עשיתי כל כך הרבה שגיעות!!!!! י
(if you didn't get any of that, I was just trying to show off my improved Hebrew!!!!).
Being back on base this weekend didn't change the heat. On Shabbat, practically the whole
'plooga' (company) decided to sleep in the common room becuase of the air conditioning!
That was just last week; I will write another blog tomorrow about this week, which was even harder physically and more challenging mentally...