After a fun few hours at the y2i event where we got to mingle and catch up with kids from Moriah, Masada, Emanuel and all the of BJE students from various schools, 74 of us who chose the option of Gadna eagerly walked to the buses ready for the basic experience of being in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). As we all spent the next few hours on the bus, emotions for the upcoming few days were primarily nervousness and excitement, with many exasperatedly asking “Why the hell am I doing this?!”
Following a two hour bus ride, we arrived at the entrance and I can assure you, not one of us got up from their seats. When we entered, we received a strict talk from the commander about not to mess around, otherwise there would be severe punishments. It felt like a scene from the movies, we got off the bus, chucked our bags on the floor and stood at attention in the freezing cold temperatures of the Negev desert. We were made to run in two lines while being screamed at in Hebrew, which none of us could understand and screamed back, “כן המפקד - Yes commander”. All of us on the basketball courts, we were all shaking from the cold for around one and a half hours, followed by being split into smaller groups. After running into the cheder ochel (dining room), we had dinner and were then kindly invited to our ‘five star tents’ by running and counting backwards from ten to one in Hebrew, and were met with where we would sleep for the next 3 nights.
Opening the tent doors we saw our metal wire beds which squeaked at every touch, our chilly concrete floor, lights and heaters which were not working at all, our 5cm thin mattresses, tent doors which weren’t hooked to the ground and our 20 shocked faces of the boys who were to be crammed into this tent. After getting ready and organised, we had to be outside and still not understanding what we were being told by the commanders, we were confused and tired then soon released to bed. Finally in our tents for the night, we had a very relaxing and peaceful night with gale force winds and all of us pretty much outside due to the tent doors not having been hooked to the ground. Adding to that, we all wanted to talk and scream, however we had our mefakedet (commander) who had said that if we talked, we have to stand outside in the wind and cold for 3 minutes.
After a wonderful 4 hour sleep and waking up to people saying they didn’t sleep at all and it was the coldest night they have ever experienced, we were all exhausted however it was a crazy, fun night and as Rabbi Benji says it was a “once in a lifetime experience”.