Archive for the ‘Mikveh Alon’ Category

“Wow, what did I get myself into?!?!” “Why am I doing this to myself again?” “My muscles are searing in pain, my lungs are on fire, WHY?!?!?!” “run faster… you’re being a little girl!” “BIGGER, FASTER, STRONGER!” “JUST DO IT!”

Those are just a few of the things that were going through my mind as I was at the gibbush (tryout) for Tzanchanim (paratroopers). There were doubts in my mind, my body hurt – but it made me feel alive. I’m here, once again at my girlfriends writing a blog, but this time I’m enjoying writing about my experience because it was a truly interesting one. One that I won’t forget, and I’ll surely remember when I’m being pounded on for 3 months through basic training (and then even longer through advanced training). I’ll remember because this is what I asked for and what I came here for. Training to make myself better, training to make myself physically and mentally stronger than the average human. I’ve always considered myself a pretty average joe, but always working toward improvement (that could be a whole blog by itself so I’m gonna stop now).

The gibbush took place at Bakum, the same place I was my first day in the army. It’s a base for all the new people in the army, as well as a type of sorting ground for people going to new units. We arrived around 8-9am after sitting on the bus from Mikveh Alon for around 2 1/2 hours, not really sure why it took so long – army busses are slow… always. The first day at the gibbush seemed like a big joke, we got there and were split into groups and were told to start cleaning dishes in the kitchen… seriously? I thought I came here to test my physical and mental aptitude for an elite group of paratroopers in the Israeli Army??? Oh well, I guess I’ll scrub the living hell out of that plate… and the next one… and the next one. While washing plates, utensils and other cookware, we clearly got a bit tired of the tedious work and started screwing around a bit. Luckily the guy in charge of us was all for it and we all ended up pretty wet in the kitchen.
A delicious lunch (Bakum food is amazing… and that really is not sarcasm), and some hours of usual army waiting around later, we eventually got around to changing into sports clothes. We were about to be doing our “Barour” (a basic test of physical strength). While there we found out that they wouldn’t be including the pushups and situps portion of the test, just the run. I didn’t like that very much because I can easily max out the 75 pushups and 86 situps required, where as my running ability is a bit lacking compared to some other peoples. Oh well, I guess I’d just have to put everything into the run.

The run was 2km – the same as what we had practiced at Mikveh Alon the week prior, this time however it was on rolling dirt, gravel and sand hills – oh ok. I knew it would be a little harder than running on a nice paved road, but also knew I needed to run faster. I was shooting for around the same time I had gotten on my first attempt (7:47) so I ran behind the same guy I did at Mikveh. Igor is quite a bit faster than me in long hauls so I knew I’d need to push myself. The first kilometer went easy enough, hardly a strained breath at all. The next half kilometer I was sweating and pushing myself, but it wasn’t until the last 500 meters that I really started to feel myself breaking. Igor began to pull ahead one stride at a time, but I didn’t put too much thought into it – just thought “keep on running”. I struggled to make myself sprint the last 100 meters or so but to no avail, I felt as if I was still moving the same speed.

I stopped my watch and told the register table the number written on my arm so they could record my official time. By my watch I had gotten 7:54, a bit slower than my previous attempt but good enough for me as I saw plenty of other people lagging behind. I was happy with my time considering I was still under 8 minutes and it was a much rougher course. For the rest of the day we didn’t seem to do much, just ate and wasted some time. We went to sleep extremely early and were told we would be need to be outside our tents in uniform at 3:30AM. Oh, so I guess that’s the time when I was going to start hating myself right?

After sleeping in my uniform, since we had heard we might get woken up in the middle of the night (we didn’t), I arose to a chilly and dark dawn of the day. We waited in formation for our mefaked (commander) for nearly half an hour… someone must of overslept – and it wasn’t us. First things first – chug your entire water bottle. 3/4 of a liter? No prob, I used to do this with beer in college every weekend. Yum, stale water out of an old plastic canteen. They say it’s to prevent against dehydration during the day, I guess we’ll be working out? Next was to take off our undershirts – bare skin against uniform. They say it’s to prevent against heat stroke during the day, I guess we’ll be working out hard?

We go to a meeting area where everyone else is, and eventually get re-split up into smaller, different tzvatim (groups) of about 20 people each. It seemed like almost everyone in my tzevet was from Mikveh Alon, I guess they wanted to keep the coloring book kids together? We received two jerry cans of water, a stretcher and a few back packs. We also each received tags for our uniforms that identified us with a number. Although I remember what we did and mostly in what order the details after this won’t be exact because my mind sort of just went somewhere else for a couple hours…

We stretched for a while with our mefaked and did a few short warm up laps around the perimeter of the area we were in. A decent enough warm up, but the sun still wasn’t out so it wasn’t like I was sweating from it. We were told to pick up a sand bag from the pile on the side and walk with the mefakdeem, at this point 4 other guys had joined our head mefaked. I immediately noticed that the sand bags were no where near even. Some looked to weigh around 50 pounds, while others couldn’t have been more than 15 – if this was on purpose or not, I’m still unsure. As we were walking the sun began to spread some light over the terrain we were going over. We passed a few other tzevet’s and eventually got to our area we’d be calling home for the next hour or so. We placed everything down on the side, and the mefaked had me place a sandbag about 35 meters (a hundred feet or so) up hill from where we were standing. Shloshoht! (lines of three) He said a bit in Hebrew that I wasn’t really paying attention to, and then said to run there and back in 14 seconds… GO! And we ran. And ran. And ran again. Every time we’d get back he’d say to run again. In the beginning we’d have 5-10 seconds between each run. After a while, it was just get back and run again. We were doing this for around 20 minutes. Then they added an interested variable into the equation… the stretcher. The stretcher filled with 7 sandbags.

Now every time we returned from the run we would have to run another time, unless you were one of the “lucky” first four people. The first four would be running again, but with the stretcher on their shoulders. Although It doesn’t sound good, it is good if you’re carrying the stretcher, because that means you were first, you were standing out, and the mefakdeem would be writing down your number. We did this for around another 20 minutes. I got the stretcher twice, not as many times as some people, but more than many. I had a secret…

Although I was working hard this whole time, I wasn’t putting in 100%… probably closer to 80%. Some of the “sprints” were more of a run for me, not a full out sprint. I was still gasping for air, but not like a lot of the people were. I knew we were going to have a lot in front of us so I didn’t want to kill myself in the first hour. Whether the mefakdeem noticed or not, I’m unsure – but It was fine with me because I had energy for later.

Next we would be holding sandbags over our heads. I unfortunately grabbed one of the bags that was closer to 50 pounds. Normally this is something that is very easy for me since I used to work out a lot with weights, but I guess it’s been a while.  I completely failed during this part of the gibbush. I was the second or third person to drop the bag from above my head and was told to stand in the center of everyone there. I had to put the bag back up, and I kept on dropping it – but every time I hoisted it back up. If I was gonna fail, I was gonna fail trying.

We put the bags aside and ran a few more times. Then we got the bags again… This time I made sure to get a little lighter bag and didn’t drop it once. It was a much shorter amount of time than the first but still made me feel a little better about my battered self esteem.

Almost done? Not even close. We set our water bottles down, oh yea, by the way, we were sprinting with full water bottles in our hands this whole time. Full because we weren’t allowed to drink from them. With water bottles aside, we were told we would be crawling up the hill to the point we had run before. YES, something I’m good at! Army crawling, for whatever reason, I’ve always been good at. I was in first or second every time we crawled… which was around 5 times. Just a warm up for later.

At some point when we were there we had a group discussion about whether we thought women should be allowed in combat roles. Positives/Negatives, that sort of thing. My opinion is that it was for two reasons; 1. To give us a 5-10 minute break. 2. To see how we think under stress. Sorry if things get a bit mixed up in the time line, The gibbush was over a week ago at this point (this blog was written at two different times).

We moved all of our things (stretcher, canteens, sand bags…) to another area to the side. The mefaked had us draw a star of david and then a paratroopers logo on the ground out of whatever we could find. Team work, leadership, creativity were things that came to my mind for why we would be doing this. In the same area was also a big wall, a log, a barrel, and a tire. There was an area of “mines” we weren’t allowed to go in and had to get everyone over the wall with just the log, barrel and tire. Again – team work, leadership and creativity. Interesting stuff, reminded me of scout camp when I was younger…

From here we jogged over to an area with a rectangular bar over head. We all had to face outward with our eyes closed and hang from the bar. The mefakdeem would jump to make it sound like someone else near us had dropped. Eventually I remember being patted on the shoulder by one of the mefakdeem and being told I could get down… I looked around and everyone was down already… oops? We ran to a nearby fence and this time faced each other hanging from the bar. And ran, and hung,  repeat over and over. We were allowed to have 3 people not hang at a time, I hung the whole time. Spit in my grip, a constant stare forwards and I didn’t move once. I was getting into the zone at this point, they couldn’t break me.

Next we jogged over to another area of sandy hills. CRAWL! I don’t know for how long we crawled, but up and down the hills we went, over and over again. My obliques were searing in pain like I have never felt before. Eventually I just stared at the sand below me and kept pushing, I looked down to know I was moving because It didn’t feel like I was. I came in 2nd nearly every time after this guy named Chaim. I may have been in second, but I was crawling low to the ground in proper form… he was crawling high and on his knee’s – he would have been shot if it was for real. This went on for ages. Getting to the top of a hill was such a relief, because then you would have 15-20 seconds of easier crawling/sliding down hill, until the next hellish hill.

When we finished crawling we had another discussion, this time about money in professional sports. All in Hebrew, and a random topic to think about after you’ve been in the middle of no where crawling on the ground for 30-45 minutes. Afterward we picked up all our gear and were to be going on a masa (trek/journey). It only ended up being around 2km, for me it was a nice cool down, for others it seemed like it was a little harder. We ended up back where we had started the day. Our mefaked congratulated us, told us to drink a lot of water, and told us to go with the midrachah (girl guide). We stretched for a while with her and were eventually released.

We had time to shower and relax for a little while before our interviews. The interview was interesting, and wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It was more of me talking than them asking questions. Two officers sitting in front of me writing things down, once in a while asking a question. They asked things such as “What did you do before the army?, Why are you in Israel?, Why the army?, Why do you want to be in Tzanchanim?, Would you be interested in Sayeret? (special forces), Would you be interested in officer school?” I won’t write down all my answers, I’ll leave that for you to wonder about 😉

We helped clean up the base for a couple hours and had a late lunch. Eventually we were on the bus back to Mikveh Alon again. Everyone slept.

Showcase tank at the Entrance/Exit of Bakum


I didn’t find out until this Monday, exactly a week later but… I MADE IT! I was 1 of 3 in my whole machlakah, 1 of 11 in my pluga and 1 of 19 out of all of Mikveh Alon! About 1/3 of the people who went to the gibbush made it. I’m really happy about it and we’ll see what it means for me in the future. So long as they don’t make me sign for more time in the army, I’ll be in Tzanchanim after this Sunday. It’s gonna be a while, but I can’t wait for my tag, red koomta (beret) and paratrooper wings!

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Our Testeem

Posted: February 26, 2011 in Mikveh Alon
Tags: , , , , , ,

As usual I want this blog to be short, but it will likely end up being longer than I originally expect it to be because I’ll slowly remember what we did this week as I type. At this point I despise when I know I need to/should (you know there isn’t a word for “should” in hebrew?) write a blog, especially right now.

I’m laying in bed with my girl watching the Big Lebowski… BREAKING NEWS: she just said she want’s to play Resident Evil on playstation with me… seriously, she gets more awesome every day. She listens to Guns & Roses and Pink Floyd. She watches family guy, two and a half men, 30 rock and the big bang theory. What is going on… stop kissing me… this isn’t fair.

Let me stop for a second and excuse my blog for being terrible this week – it’s Rotem’s fault. But Rotem is also being great and letting me write this in the first place so let’s all give her a round of applause. ::clap, clap, clap::

The title of this entry has nothing to do with genitalia – although I’ll admit, being in the army has forced me to see more penis’ than I’ve ever wanted to see. From Bear’s casual drop of his towel for no reason, to this kid Ben’s massive penis… I digress. I don’t know where I was going with that. Testeem is actually what the commanders call our tests, it’s always hilarious when they attempt to translate an english word into hebrew. The real word for test is “Meevchan” but for us stupid kids at Mikveh Alon, they say testeem.

We had our Hebrew test this week to see how we’ve progressed in the course as well as a physical called a “barour”. I think I did okay on the Hebrew test, not “mooshlam” (perfect) but good enough. I spoke very well, but royally screwed up the reading and writing part. oh well. It’s ok because I destroyed the physical. 80 pushups, 86 situps and I ran the 2km in 7:47. BAM!

Here’s a “quickie” about this weekend –  I started off in my kibbutz, went to Tel Aviv with my adopted family to see a flamenco show, saw my good friend Edan who may be joining the army as well? Went to Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk to see my friend Liana who extended her birthright trip a whole week just to see me! Today (Saturday), Rotem picked me up from the kibbutz and I had dinner with her at her house. Tomorrow it’s back to the army…

I have my gibbush (tryout) for Tzanchanim (paratroopers) on Monday and my Teckas (ceremony) for the end of Mikveh Alon on Wednesday. BARUCH HASHEM!!! (praise g-d… for you non-jewsers out there) I’m so glad this course is finally over and I get to go to the “real” army.

Well, I could have written more but I’m seriously getting distracted by all the awesome things going on around me… playstations, family guys and a certain girl laying next to me.

Peace out guys and gals, till next time.

It’s been two weeks on base. It’s Saturday night at 9pm. I have to wake up at 6am tomorrow. I don’t want to write this blog.

That being said, here goes an extremely quick recount of the past two weeks that hopefully I will be able to elaborate upon next week. If I don’t have time… sorry, it’s just one of those things that will be stuck in my memory for me to enjoy reminiscing about.

Again, that being said, my headphones are lost and/or stolen. I annoyed everyone for the whole week about it. Sorry tzevet chamesh (unit 5), I just really don’t like losing things. We did shmeera (guard duty) for the first time, it’s not half bad. If you do it with someone else you get to talk to them for 2 hours, if you do it by yourself, you get to talk to yourself for 2 hours…

We’ve all, especially me, begun to get fed up with our mefakdot (commanders). They’re 18-19 year old little girls. They seriously don’t know how to do their jobs half the time, plus we’ve realized that they have very little power over us unless we do something really bad. If we do something dumb, it’s just pushups or running – which at this point I need to do anyway (dad, if  you’re reading this, I just fixed “anyways” to “anyway” – thanks for always yelling at me for that!) to workout for my gibbush (tryout) for tzanchaneem (paratroopers). Gibbush Tzanchaneem is 8 days away and I’m excited and a little nervous about it. Until then I’m working out and continuing the stupidity that Mikveh Alon has turned into.

Buffoons

Since we’ve gotten bored of everything we tediously do throughout the day we find little things to jazz up the place. Two weeks ago it was us leading up to “ehser shniot” (10 seconds) by yelling “eeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhHHHHHSER shneeoht”. Now this past week I made up “EXTREME SHNEEOHT!”. Twenty Seconds in Hebrew is “Esreem sneeoht”, so it was obviously the next logical step of buffoonery for us to take. We got yelled at by our Somelet (platoon leader) for both of them… onto find out the next thing to annoy them with…

We went to Jerusalem – it was cool. I could write a lot about it, but I’m not going to now. We went on two “Masoht” (journeys/hikes). I’m also not going to write about those.

The Kotel

Top of Mount Arbel... Our second Masa

We have a test coming up this week to determine our level of Hebrew. Great idea for the army to test us after we haven’t had classes for about a week right? I thought so. Dumbasses. Everyone I spoke to about Mikveh said this time would come, and I’m saying it now, I’m not very happy with Mikveh Alon at this point. It’s like second semester senior year, I just want out and I don’t care how I act anymore.

It’s not all bad though, Mikveh Alon is almost over. Soon I’ll be in the “real” army getting my ass beat by my real commanders. Oddly enough that isn’t supposed to be sarcastic, I really am looking forward to the real army. I’ve got a girl by my side, a great adopted family and everything in Israel is at it’s greenest. Life is good, but nevertheless, fuck you Mikveh Alon.

There are a TON of new pics from the past two weeks, so check them out on the Lone Soldier Flickr Page. Pictures will have to tell the thousands of words I didn’t feel like typing this week. The Lone Soldier Facebook Page always tells the quick anecdotes I don’t have time for here, so become a fan over there!

p.s. Hebrew word of the day: מדהים – Madheem – (Awesome!)

p.s.s. I just looked back at my Flickr pictures and realized how much I did in the past two weeks…

This is gonna be quick and to the point. I felt like I needed some sort of update since I’m gonna be on base for 2 weeks. We have guard duty over the weekend so we need to stay there the whole two weeks!

If you want to see a lot of what’s been going on the past week or two check out Flickr. I’ve teamed up with another guy on base who’s been allowed to shoot pictures with a real camera… The pictures are fantastic! Thanks Benny!

This past week and coming week I’ve been designated as the Mefikedet’s helper/ personal bitch. It’s supposed to be an honor, but I really think it’s a punishment. All I’m doing all day is keeping track of everything for the commander. It basically just makes her job easier… ugh.

I feel like I’m taking a shit after showering, I’ve had a great, refreshing four days off and now I’m just dirtying myself up again. The shame! Apparently we might be doing a trip to Jerusalem to see Yad Vashem and some other things so that should be really interesting with the army. I’m not totally sure if that’s know or the week after though. I haven’t known our schedule since the first week…

I’m gonna miss a lot of things these two weeks, namely sleep, home cooked foods and a particular Israeli girl I’ve been seeing – those are in no particular order… I know I’m gonna come back drained and ready to do a lot of nothing in two weeks.

I’ll try to post some pics and updates on the Facebook page while I’m out – definitely gonna have some from guard duty which could be cool!

see ya on the flip side.

My time in the army, although short in the grand scheme of my service as a whole, has taught me enormous amounts already. I appreciate everything outside the army as if I were a baby taking his first lick of an ice-cream. Life is sweet, and far too few people are tasting it!

Listening to music has become a privilege, not a necessity, as it seemed to become throughout my time in university. If music wasn’t playing while out of class, and sometimes even in class, life seemed quite and boring. With that thought in mind, I realize now that everyone listening to music 24/7 is missing out on all the beautiful auditory nuances of everyday life. I’ve also become aware that on top of what everyone’s missing out on, listening to music ALL the time also dilutes the meaning behind the very music we care so dearly about.

Looking at the mountains and all of nature when getting off for a weekend is like discovering a new continent. I feel like Columbus (or was it Leif Ericsson?) taking his first step onto the Americas. I am Neil Armstrong on the moon, I am Buzz Lightyear taking first flight. Seeing the same surroundings all week long (even though the base has a gorgeous view) lets me savor and enjoy every sight I see on my brief weekends off.

Smells bring back vivid memories of sweet experiences, wonderful times in the past and the inevitable awkwardness of growing up. Being a child, being a student, being a dirty backpacker. All great things to reminisce about when one has the time to think their own thoughts.

Tasting the crazy foods of the Middle East is a totally new experience in and of it’s own. Most people know me as a garbage disposal eater so I love shoveling down all these new flavors! I eat avocado nearly every day, somewhat of a “delicacy” in the states, where as here it’s just a casual food to throw on a piece of toast…

And who can forget about the sense of touch. Even with my extremely callused hands from countless pushups on gravel, touching something soft is a pleasure unrivaled. A plush blanket, a furry dog, or the gentle caress of a woman…

Change has occurred, which I normally don’t like. I usually like things to stay the same, to be comfortable, but I guess that has changed as well. Life is all about moderation, something I’ve realized in the past, but even more so now. Mix it up and enjoy the good things in life. Appreciate the things you have, because it could be much, much different.

the sweet isn’t as sweet without the sour!

The Then.

So I haven’t updated for 2 weeks again… and it’s due to two factors, one I won’t discuss because I’m not jinxing shit at this point – the other is Jersey Shore. I’m watching it right now while I’m writing, and if there is one way to feel at home and hate home at the same time – it’s watching Jersey Shore. There’s no better way to spend a weekend than to culture bash Guido’s.

Last weekend I watched about 10 episodes of Jersey Shore with Adam and Steph, fittingly this week in the Army was full of Adam making stupid references to the Shoooore. I’ve now acquired Mike from the show’s nickname… “The Situation“. What can I say, I’m sorry I don’t have the body of a 12 year old like you Adam. If this entry has a lot of cursing and terrible grammar, don’t blame me, blame the Shore.

I try to take notes throughout the week to  remember what to write about, but most of that usually get’s mixed up with my other Hebrew notes. In the  end I get a mixture of important Hebrew words I should know and dumb anecdote’s about things that most people just won’t understand. Being in the army is a combination of an N.R.A. sleep away camp, a fraternity and a club for masochists. We’ve got guns, make stupid immature jokes, and enjoy the pain of wind sprints and push ups.

Most of us have come to the realization that while in “Course Evrit” (Hebrew class’) we get to do one fun thing a week. Last week it was Krav Maga, and this week it was watching some guy drive around in an Armored Personnel Carrier. While seeing the A.P.C. in action was cool, Krav Maga totally kicked it’s balls. We learned a couple moves, and practiced on our makeshift punching bags made out of our army bag filled with our sleeping bag. Fun times,  I hope we’ll have another class this week – probably not though, they tend to keep the fun down and the learning up.

Armored Personal Carrier... I forgot the name in Hebrew...

The past two weeks tons of fighter jets and helicopters have been flying over head, pretty crazy stuff. I always ask my Hebrew teacher “Efshar, Ani tzareech lelechet leshuruteem” (If possible, I need to go to the bathroom), which for me actually means “Can I go outside and giddily watch the jets flying over head?”  I couldn’t get a picture of the helicopters, but here’s a decent shot of one of the jets:

F-16 flying overhead... This photo does it no justice...

How I wish I was born with perfect eyes and could fly a jet. Speaking of which, this week I had the pleasure of having some disgusting infection in my “eyein” – seriously, that’s how you say eye in Hebrew. Basically I had “zombie eye sickness” for half the week and had to wear my glasses. I probably got it from constantly dutch ovening my self at night. What can I say, the food doesn’t agree with me and I sleep in a sleeping bag. I refuse to provide a link for “dutch oven”, you can google at your own risk. After a combination of conventional medicine (the kind that works) and my adopted mother’s crazy herbal remedies (the kind that maybe work), I now have perfectly normal, functioning “eyeineem” again…Normal in that I’m still blind without glasses or contacts.

The Now.

Time has been flying by and instead of counting our days till our weekends off we’ve been counting meals. Our schedule is very predictable and very much the same every day (once in a while we’ll have something different – rare and very appreciated). Wake up at 5. Waste time cleaning and making Chet’s (a simple formation) until breakfast at 7:30ish. Learn Hebrew till lunch time at 12:30. Learn more Hebrew and/or some random stuff about Israel until Dinner at 6:30ish. Learn some more, run, and do push ups because we messed something up. Have an hour to an hour and a half of Shetash (break). Go to sleep around 10-11. Rinse, Reuse and Repeat.

One thing I look forward to every Friday is the Mefakedetohts (women commanders) in Aleph (dress) uniform. When the only women you see all week long are wearing gross, baggy Bet (secondary) uniforms, it sure is nice to see a tight uniform at the end of the week. My standards in women have dropped significantly since I’ve gotten into the army, but thankfully I don’t need to worry about that right now. As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, I’m not mentioning that because I’m not jinxing shit at this point. Maybe next week/entry I’ll mention it. That’s supposed to be confusing, so just say “huh?” and continue reading.

This coming week I get off on Wednesday! what what!! I can’t wait to have more than a day and a half off! I need to go to the bank to see if the lazy army has paid me yet and take care of some other errands so I’m really looking forwards to Yom Siddureem (our extra day off). I’m officially off the US Dollar and I sure hope I have some Schmeckels in my Israeli piggy bank to spend on some Goldstar for the weekend.

Today I went for a random trip with my adopted family up to the Golan Heights. We stopped at Kibbutz Naot Mordechai, home of my adopted mom’s brother’s family (my uncle?) and the Naot factory. It was weird winding up there since I had been there 2 1/2 years ago with Birthright/Taglit… not much has changed, they still make shoes. After that we continued up, and up, and up into the mountains and stopped at a couple places along the way. As I feel like I’ve done every week, It’s time to cut this blog awkwardly short. I gotta finish up watching Jersey Shore now so I’m  just gonna leave you with some pretty pictures… remember you can always see more pictures on my Flickr Page.

P.S. I do feel bad about cutting this blog short, I’ll make it up. Pinky swear! hopefully next weekend I’ll have some shenanigans to write about…

Last week I thought I’d be staying this weekend at base, but apparently that’s not until next month, so you do get an update!

I can hardly believe it but it’s been a month already, one down and at least 17 to go. The time has been flying by spectacularly fast for me. Every day lasts around 18 hours and we’re constantly doing something throughout that time so I don’t have much time to contemplate what’s been going on around me. Weekends are for contemplation, seeing friends and doing a lot of NOTHING. Nothing feels like such an amazing thing to do after a week in the army.

This week was a pretty short one at that; if you read my last update you know that I had off on Sunday – which already made for one less day in the week. On top of that we had our “Tekas” (Ceremony) this week for our swearing in. Basically we swore our allegiance to Israel and the IDF. The ceremony took place at a historic jail in Acco that is now a museum. It was a pretty nice place, and we got to go on a short tour of the museum while we were there which was an enjoyable change of pace.At the ceremony we received our first tag for our uniform. It looks pretty cool, but in the grand scheme of the army, we look like total n00bs. The tag means we’re tied to the part of the army dealing with education. Great! I came to the army to get away from college and normal life and now I’m in the equivalent of kindergarten!

We started our Hebrew courses this week and I’m a little disappointing so far. As for now I’m a bit above what they’re teaching, but I guess review is good. Myself and two of the other guys in my unit complained to our Hebrew teacher because we are, and she knows, much higher in our Hebrew knowledge than the rest of the class. She said she would give us extra work to do, and she has already. It’s nice that she’s trying to help, but at the same time I still wish I was in my old unit being taught a higher level of Hebrew. Instead of being taught more I’m just working harder to learn more…

Like I said the week was pretty short and generally uneventful. Same old sprinting and push up punishments because of the jackasses in my unit constantly screwing up. Myself and two others got out of half of the punishment since as our mefakedit (commander) said, we didn’t do any of it. We tried to make her let us stay, since as everyone knows, you’re unit is supposed to act as one in the army…She wouldn’t have any of it. After a bit of arguing she threatened us with court, so that was the time to give up. We got out of punishments, but at the same time I still feel like we just looked like suck-ups to the commander. As I say over and over again: It’s pledging a fraternity; hazing, pledge-masters and all. Since there wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary going on during the week I struggled to plan my weekend instead of really paying attention to what we were doing.

I found out through the week that some friends from home would be on a birthright trip in Jerusalem so I wanted to try to go see them. My predicament was that I was also trying to visit Haifa again… It came down to the age old problem of friends vs. girl. I tried my hardest to go to Jerusalem and back to Haifa, but both my body and the rules of Shabbat in Israel said no. My body was screaming in agony for me to go to sleep and it being Shabbat meant that all the public transportation stops at around 4pm.

market in Jerusalem

I swear this is going to be the quickest rundown of Friday that I can do, and it’s still going to be long: Wake up at 4am, do some pushups and clean the barracks. pack my bag and get on a bus to the Acco train station at 6AM. Watch a train pull away from the station at 6:30 as I’m getting my ticket. Wait until the next train at 7. Get to Tel Aviv at around 8:45. Hop on a bus to Jerusalem, get there at around 9:45. Find my friend/Hillel director’s cousin’s apartment. It’s now around 11 AM by the time I meet him. Go on a hike?!?!?! yea, we went on a hike. After the hike we went to the market near King George street to get lunch with the other people I know from college. On the walk over to the market I heard my named yelled out randomly… I ran into a friend from high school! He was on a Birthright trip, how crazy! I hadn’t seen him in 5-6 years and now he recognized me on the street in Jerusalem in an army uniform with a shaved head!?!? That was amazing. After that interesting experience we continued on to the market and ate some awesome Iraqi food. yum! I had a coca-cola, it was duhhhhlicious. We walked around the market a little bit and eventually headed back to the apartment, got in the car and went back to the “Tachana Merkazit” (Central Bus station) I caught the second to last bus at 3:45 PM back to Tel Aviv. PHEW!

Now the problem is that I don’t actually live in Tel Aviv… lucky for me my adopted parents called and said that they were randomly going to be in Tel Aviv that night to see some friends – talk about good timing! I decided to walk to my old hostel, HaYarkon 48, since it’s the one place that I know people in Tel Aviv. On my way there I stumbled upon some ridiculous open air market that seemed like it was China Town in NYC… but it wasn’t just Asians, there were also lots of Ethiopians? The one thing I needed to get this weekend was shoe polish for my boots (they’ve been getting pretty scuffed lately). Every other person in this open air flea market was selling polish, but all black – not the reddish brown that I need. I finally stumbled upon a real shoe store and went in to talk to the guy. He said he didn’t have any polish. It was a mixture of English and Hebrew as I got to talking to him, and he was very interested in my story. He told me to wait a minute and he shuffled through a messy drawer he had and eventually found a little container of polish (brand new). I asked him how much it was and he responded that for me, with all that I was doing, it was free and on him. He told me “Kol Hakavod” and “B’Hatzlecha” (All the Respect and Good Luck). I walked out after thanking him with a big smile on my face. I love the generosity that Israeli’s have. They may be pushy and hard asses here and there, but they assuredly take care of their own. It might sound dumb but this one guy and his small gift of shoe polish really made me feel welcome and a part of Israel.

I started walking in the direction of the hostel and randomly started talking to a couple of guys I heard speaking English on the street.  One was German and the other French, both studying at universities in Israel. Interesting the people you meet… I made it back to the hostel and was able to say “Hi” to some of the employee’s there that I had befriended during my stay there. It was nice to be able to see them again. I wanted to stay the night, but I didn’t have any civilian clothes, so I wouldn’t have been able to go out anyways. Eventually I met up with my adopted parents and had dinner with them at their friend’s house. Exhausted after dinner, we drove back to the kibbutz as I slept the whole way. I never made it to Haifa… hopefully next week?

Today (Saturday) has been a nice day of relaxation, naps and nothing. I enjoyed it immensely. The End.