Options 2 - Gadna - Tessa Price & Sophia Taibel
We went into Gadna with the expectation that “it would be pointless and all we would do is stand in a chet (ח)” however, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Gadna began when the head of the whole base known as the מ׳מ came onto our bus and gave us an explanation as to what is expected of us for the next 4 days. We were then ordered to exit the bus with all our belongings following our commanders in two straight lines. The commanders led us to the main square, where we would meet them after every break during the week. The סמלת who is below the מ׳מ, arrived to organise us into lines and explained the way we have to stand, with a full water bottle next to our left foot, a hat on our head and standing in הקשוב (hands in a diamond behind your back and feet with heels together in a ‘V’). The tediousness of moving from lines to a chet then back to lines was exhausting! After our lines were perfect we were split up randomly selected into groups which was great because we got to be with people we don’t normally talk to.
Surrounded by 8 other Israeli groups, we felt out of place but ready for an experience of a lifetime. We received our uniforms which really made the week feel real, set up our tents and were shown the rest of the base while running in 2 lines and stopping every 10 seconds.
During the opening ceremony, we were welcomed to the program with the words of our commander explaining how we need to work together as a team through through the next 4 days and use the values of friendship, respect and honesty.
Before bed we were given time to get ready and then 3 minutes to set alarms and get into bed. If we talked after the time was finished we would have to stand outside in הקשוב for 4 minutes, the next person to talk would have to do the same with their uniform on and the punishments got worse but fortunately we all went to sleep straight away. I think it was because we were all so scared to get into trouble!
After a much needed uncomfortable sleep, we got up and met our commander standing in הקשוב in a chet with our drink bottles full, hat on and jacket behind our legs. Today was full of lessons about the rifle and the steps to follow at the shooting range. We learnt about the parts, the steps soldiers took before they shoot someone if need be and the importance of listening to every instruction. At Gadna, every team has a responsibility, ours for the night was to serve and clean dinner which we were all pretty excited for because the boys did it earlier. This involved cleaning plates, cutlery and pots, throwing buckets of water on the floor and sweeping the water out while blasting music. After around 500 people finished eating dinner and left the dining room it was 2 hours later and little did we know there would be 2 hours to go so we could clean the floor. Finally after finishing we had an hour to get ready and chill before bed. The day was extremely tedious however supplied us with an emended amount of knowledge that we would soon be using to shoot the rifles on Wednesday. Without this knowledge we wouldn’t of known the first thing to the last about what the commanders were saying as the commands, majority, were in hebrew. As well as this, the knowledge of the physical gun was extremely interesting and added more meaning to the shooting of the gun. As there were 26 of us the cleaning took around 4 hours rather than 7, which was a good but bad end to the day.
The army routine started to settle in as once again, we woke up at 7 and met our commander in a chet. We went to breakfast after rolling up our tent walls and then left the base for an ‘in the field’ experience. We ran after our commanders in our two lines and learnt about camouflaging and did it ourselves. We were having so much, putting mud on our face and some put on their teeth and put leave in our pockets. We learnt the 3 shooting positions and put them into action here and after lunch. One of our favourite parts of Gadna was a training drill that took place in the courts where we learnt commands of getting ready to aim at the enemy. Although it was meant to be serious we all made it very enjoyable and continue to sing the commands after Gadna.
By the time it was dark we were onto our last activity for the day. Gibushon, a physical but more mental test. Our department met in a chet with the סמלת ordering us. we formed 2 lines in 7 seconds and began an hour and half of the hardest test most of us had done. We ran back and forth, crawled on rocks, sand and gravel, planked time after time and held our arms by our side and above us. The commanders watching us, a mistake and you had to leave, too slow you were gone and if you gave up you failed. Many had the willpower to make it to the end and truly deserved medals. Throughout the Gibushon the sargeant kept saying to us 2 things; the first was you can sit out whenever you want, and the second was what is your reason for reaching the test, your not in the army so why are you doing it? This made us all think of the answers, and by the end we all had our reasons. Without those reasons the ones who made it to end, made it because of them.
After a hard night we had dinner, free time and an early bed time as tomorrow was the day to shoot, it was time to put everything you’d learnt and the discipline to work.
Waking up early became second nature to us as we started our final day on Gadna. We packed the bus with breakfast and water for the shooting range, i (tessa) personally, was so nervous to shoot a gun after realising the power it holds after pulling a trigger and the responsibility we each have. It can kill someone in a second and we were about to use one. We were in a position of an Israeli soldier in the army, making a decision to shoot the gun without the actial treat. I couldn’t imagine what would be going through the heads when making a decision to shoot or not to shoot. 11 people at a time went in and shot 5 bullets out to targets. The bullets force was so strong when it left the gun there was a sudden pressure on your shoulder and the smell of gun powder sharpened your senses. The surroundings shook as we shot and there are no words to explain the feeling. When we got back to the base we did a debrief of the gun shooting about how we felt and why. After the lesson we packed up our tent completely, had our closing ceremony where 5 people from IST received awards and packed away our uniforms that we would never wear again. I (Sophia), felt so proud to have worn a uniform that had been served in and completed a week i didn’t think i was ready for. Long awaited we finally met our commanders informally, they told us about themselves and smiled for the first time in a week. We said our goodbyes and made our way onto the bus awaiting a 2 hours bus ride to meet up with the rest of IST. although we were leaving, i know we will always have the memory of Gadna cemented in our minds. The respect and appreciation we all have from this experience for soldiers in the Israeli army will always be carried upon each of us.