By Sloan Salinas, Bus 1 Participant
I had never felt certain about doing the army. Some people are positive that they’re going to go into the navy or the air force or some branch of the military. While I hadn’t ruled out the possibility, I was never one of those people. So when I was going over the NFTY in Israel registration and saw Gadna, a simulation of Israeli military training, as an option for my week long activity, I was immediately intrigued. After going over the other options (sea to sea hiking and social action), I decided that military training was an experience I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Also, how cool is it to say now that I’ve gone through military training?
When we first got there, it was a bit of a shock; people were yelling at us (mostly in Hebrew). We were told we had ten seconds to line up or create a chet “ח“ (half circle) shape, and nine girls (including myself) would be sleeping a room slightly larger than a minivan.
After the initial shock was over, it was a bit easier to adjust. Everyone learned the Hebrew phrases, and standing at attention became easier. Now, don’t get me wrong, nothing about this experience was easy. The long sleeve uniforms were very hot in the Middle Eastern summer heat. We were cleaning our room, the bathroom, and the kitchen for hours at a time, and the food was, well, army quality to say the least. However, despite all of this, I actually had a lot of fun. Whether it was laughing as my friend bought her 4th ice cream of the day because she couldn’t eat another piece of bread, or painting our faces with mud and hiding in olive trees, every little thing we did enhanced the experience. I got to do things that I might have never been able to do otherwise, such as learn how to react to a grenade and carry a stretcher on a silent march; all while wearing the uniform of the Israeli Army. Throughout the four days on the Gadna base, we got to learn about the values of the Israeli Defense Force. The different roles for soldiers who aren’t combat units, how to handle and shoot weapons safely, and so much more.
While the experience wasn’t an easy one, I can say wholeheartedly say I am so glad I chose to experience Gadna.