Posts Tagged ‘Mikveh Alon’

“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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So after a little over a week of being in the army and having two weekends off (since we started on a Wednesday) I’ve finally begun to get into the groove of how everything works. Bakum ended up being EXACTLY like what everyone told me it would be like. Four shots of who know’s what immunizations that made my arm sore for two days, lots of pictures, X-rays and fingerprints. All the imaging was for in case we get some random part of our body blown off – which is pretty much the exact words they used when I asked what it was for… very comforting. We received ID card’s and dog tags, but obviously only after a bajillion more questions that I’ve already answered numerous times before. Bakum was just a long day of BLAAHHHHH. Beyond all the tedious tasks, I did meet some cool people that day that I still see around and talk to at the base, so the time there wasn’t a complete waste. The next week, starting on Sunday morning, was when everything really started up.

My Hebrew obviously isn’t anywhere near sufficient to be a soldier but it’s growing by leaps and bounds everyday. Knowing that the little area in my brain called the left temporal lobe is terrible at comprehending language I’ve been surprised by how quickly I’m picking up words and sayings. From a young age I’ve always been terrible with language; I couldn’t tell the difference between a “b” and “d” – true story. The schools also told my parents to stop teaching me Swedish because I couldn’t tell the difference between Swedish and English – true story. Knowing this, I still jumped off the high dive into the Israeli Army instead of the US Army. I’m what you’d call a “mefager” in hebrew – a damned retard.

I'm too sexy... I'm too sexy... I'm too sexy for my beret?

Speaking of the US Army – I realize now that I would completely dominate it. Other than my lack of Hebrew skill I’m excelling beyond nearly everyone else at every other aspect of the Army. Our first physical test I maxed out the push ups and sit-ups. I came in 4th in the 2 km run. 76 push ups, 88 sit-ups and about a 9 minute run later I felt like I could do it all over again. Taking apart our M-16 A1 I had no problem taking it apart and reassembling it in under a minute and a half. Clearly I realize I’m tooting my own horn a bit, but for those of you who know me – that’s not something new. The Army has humbled me quiet a bit however, mostly due to my lack of language skills. I need to listen more than speak and I rely more on my skill of understanding than my skill of smack talk. Smack talk is reserved for Adam – my friend, army pal and blog nemesis. Adam if you’re reading this, your blog sucks – come to the dark side.

The M-16 I took apart is an old piece of crap from the Vietnam War that the US basically handed to Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Apparently the US sold them for a buck a piece. Hell I would have bought a couple hundred myself for that price. We’ve had to lug the old thing around the whole past week – you forget it somewhere and you’re screwed. I like my M-16 though, her names ShaNayNay – she’s big and she’s black (meh, I thought it was clever when we were all naming our “neshakeem” aka weapons). Apparently the “onesh” or punishment for forgetting it is automatic shabbat – basically meaning you don’t get the weekend off. Considering next weekend is New Years – I’m holding onto that thing like a fat kid to his cake this week.

man I wish this was an M-16!

ShaNayNay is heavy and a royal pain in the arse to run with but she/it’s also the coolest thing we’ve gotten our gritty hands on so I guess it’s worth it. This coming week we’ll be doing target practice with lasers??? Whatever, I guess I came to the army just to go to a high tech LazerTron. Apparently we’ll be doing live shooting in two weeks though – I’m really looking forwards to that, mostly because I know I’m gonna be awesome at it and it’ll make up for the fact that everyone else in my unit knows more Hebrew than I do.

ma baby girl

Tzevet Tesha – or Unit 9 is my unit. A bunch of freaks, but I love em. Tzevet Tesha is made up of: a couple of Ruski’s that speak barely any English, a Ukrainian kid Demetri who’s speaks English and quite a bit of Hebrew, a chill Venezualan named Josh who speaks English, Spanish and Hebrew, a Brasillian, and a few Americans. I get along with everyone pretty well even though some of them can be complete idiot’s sometimes. I just don’t think they’ve realized they’re in the Army yet. I’ll update on my unit more as I get to know them better. I’m trying to keep an open mind… key word is trying.

“Trying” is the name of the game during training in the IDF, as I’m sure is the same in most other civilized armies in the world as well. They don’t really care if you’re number 1 or not – they’d rather see that you’re motivated and putting your effort into the game. I call it a game because that’s really all that “tironut” or training is. Tironut is glorified pledging all over again.

I pledged a fraternity in college (won’t name which one, but you can probably guess) which didn’t have an “I’m gonna beat the shit out of you” hazing process – but it also wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine either. Eating gross stuff, push ups, sit-ups, wall sits, running, getting yelled at – that sort of harmless stuff. And I say harmless because although I recognize that it technically is hazing I really don’t think it affected me adversely in any way. What I do believe is that it made me a stronger person mentally and physically. It also prepared me for how I’d be treated during the Army.

All day long we get barked at by 20-25 year old women who clearly have some inanimate object stuck far up their asses. EVERYTIME we move somewhere we have to count down from 10 in Hebrew the last 10 seconds of the time we were allotted. Otherwise it’s pushups and running. Or maybe it’s just running for the sake of running. Or maybe it’s pushups because they purposely didn’t give us enough time to get to where we were supposed to be going. I think you can understand where I’m going with this. If you don’t get it, it’s probably because you haven’t pledged or haven’t served in the Army. I won’t say you’re better off, because I know pledging was interesting and the Army sure as hell seems entertaining enough.

More entertaining is what happened this weekend. This weekend I went to another kibbutz with one the soldiers from my kibbutz called Maagen Michael which is supposed to be the nicest in the country. The stories are true. This place was amazing. It’s made all of it’s money off of some plastic factory that makes toilet parts – random. Whatever they do, they do it right. They’re a 10 minute walk from the beach, there are crazy exotic plants growing everywhere and the food is FANTASTIC. Best thing is, if you live there – you don’t pay for didily squat, it’s a kibbutz. Long story short Elan (my friend) and I passed out cold before we went to the party were were supposed to go to there. We slept around 14 hours – I really needed it. Shit happens, oh well. I met some more cool people though and Josh from my Tzevet lives there so I got to meet up with him. I met a Jewish, Swedish girl who just made aliyah and speaks Hebrew… WTF? For friends of mine, you know It was like seeing myself but in hot girl form. All in all, a relaxing interesting weekend even though I missed out on a party – there’s always next weekend that’s already in the planning…

Maagen Michael

I have to wake up in about 5 hours to get back to the Army tomorrow so I’m gonna cut this entry a little short. I have some other things written down that I had wanted to write about but I guess they’ll either just have to go on Facebook or wait till next weekend. I created a Flickr page for my phone pictures so check that out in the meanwhile (there’s only a few for now). Sorry guys I know how much you want to read about my awesome 19 hour pledge fests, but I have another one to prepare for tomorrow so it’ll have to wait.

L’hetraot” (See you later)