Check out these two blogs from Ramah Poconos participants on Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim!
Even before TRY even started, the thought of Gadna terrified me. I have never been a very athletic person, so having to run everywhere within a certain time freaked me out a bit. It’s not surprising that on our first day on the Gadna base, I was not too thrilled to be there.
Upon our arrival we were divided into three “tzevets,” or groups. We were “soldiers” ready for training. As the sun beat down on our backs, our “mefakedet” (commander) informed us on how to talk, stand, and all the rules. The intensity of it all and the fact that all of the commanders acted liked robots scared all of us to the core. As I stood in place with my hands behind my back and my feet parted slightly, the sweat dripped down my forehead. It was hard to stand at attention for so long (what I guessed was around eight minutes). Dehydrated and tired, I became very nauseous and could not stand still. When I told my commander how I was feeling, I was bluntly told, “Drink water.”
That first night, with the commanders watching us as we fell asleep to make sure we didn’t do anything, I cried myself to sleep. I was terrified of where I was and the thought of being watched by “human robots.” All I wanted to do was go home to my family. The tent was cold, the lights didn’t work, my food was constantly frozen, and everyone was scared to ask to go to the bathroom.
The following day was packed with classes to teach us about the guns and how to use them. By the next day we could shoot them at the range without hurting ourselves or anyone else.
As time went on, I found that standing at attention became easier and more natural. As long as you listened and did as you were told, it was easy to not get into trouble and get through the day. Our group figured out how to work together well so that we all were able to get to places on time. We worked as a team and proved to be good and able soldiers.
Sadly, we were unable to fully experience Gadna due to weather conditions. We missed out on some good hikes, however we were able to learn all about the morals of the army instead.
After the four days, we had closing ceremonies. I was honored to be given an award for excellence within my tzevet. In all, the whole experience was positive and gave me a lot more respect for the soldiers in the army.
Last week TRY had four long and exhausting days at the Sde Boker Gadna base in the Negev. We were there to experience Gadna, an Israeli military program that helps young teens prepare for the IDF. When we arrived at the base, we quickly grabbed our bags off the bus, put on our hats and kept our water bottles by our side. The girls and boys were immediately separated and put into three groups called “tzevets.” There was one boy tzevet and two girl tzevets. Each tzevet had a commander called a “mefakedet.”
I was one of 10 girls in my tzevet. We all got along really well, which helped us all get through the four extremely tiring and long days. Our commander led us to our sleeping quarters; all of the girls lived in one tent. The beds were metal and uncomfortable but we had to make do. We were each given a mattress and a sleeping bag. We put our bags down next to a bed, and then we received our uniforms: pants, a shirt, and a belt if needed. Now, we really felt like real soldiers.
Everything was in Hebrew, making it hard for me to understand and communicate with our commander. However, there were girls in my tzevet that were able to translate, which was very helpful. When the commander told us to get into a formation that looked like the letter “chet,” or to get into two even lines, we all scrambled in the ten or fifteen seconds we had to make sure our line structure was perfect. If one of us was out of line, we would have to do three pushups. I’m not complaining because the boys would have to do seven pushups for the same mistake! There were Israeli kids there who were experiencing the same thing we were. For them, going into the army is mandatory. The taste of the army they were getting probably felt more real because in two or three years they will be drafted.
By nighttime we were all very exhausted and worn out. We were given an hour and a half free time before bed each night to shower, call our family, fold our uniforms neatly, fill our water bottles and get ready for bed. After the hour and a half we all had to meet outside and fall into a “chet” formation. Then we were given four minutes to run back to our tents, set an alarm for the morning, get in bed and go to sleep. If we were on our phones, talking, or not in bed, we would be pulled out and punished. Thankfully, this didn’t happen to anyone. I learned that in the Israeli army, time is very important; every second counts.
On one day, wake-up was earlier than the usual 6:00 a.m. so we could go to the shooting range. Everybody on TRY was given the opportunity to shoot five bullets from an M16. Before being allowed to shoot, we had to go through five lessons on how to use the gun properly. Shooting a gun for me was a scary experience. When I pulled the trigger I was in such shock. There was a loud band and smoke appeared. I shot my five bullets quite fast because I was so nervous. After I was done shooting I felt proud of myself. I never thought I would ever shoot a gun; I’m glad I did.
We ended Gadna with a closing ceremony where people received awards and the commanders commended us all for doing an amazing job.