8 Crazy Nights
Chanukah in Israel is such a magical experience. Walking through the Jewish quarters and admiring the light of the menorahs in the windows of all the homes. This is the only place I know which stops all the music at a club to light the menorah.
Friday morning was the day of our IDF weekend. We started the day off hiking, rappelling off a mountain, and rock climbing. My whole body ached, but it was so nice to be outside in nature. Rappelling off a mountain is so unnatural and pretty frightening in the moment — even if you know that you are safe. I honestly feel so calm and at peace when I am outdoors. The feeling of your heart beating in your chest is so powerful because it means that you are challenging yourself — whether it be facing your fears or conquering that tall mountain (or both).
We spent the evening and next day in a Mitzpeh Yericho (translating to the view of Jordan). The view was desert mountains, greenery and the Dead Sea. Over Shabbat we had a panel of people who served or are currently serving in the Israeli Defense Force. They all had different roles — from intelligence, to combat, tp spokesperson, and to volunteering in a school. It was interesting because every individual after high school has to give back to their country (2 years for girls and 3 years for boys). Most people serve in the army, though many people (especially religious individuals) volunteer in schools and hospitals. In a way, I actually really like this concept because you give back to your country and mature during these years and have a clearer vision of what you want to do. As well, once you serve in the army, the country pays for your university. It was really interesting hearing the different political perspectives and hearing everyone’s personal army experience. These people are our ages but are definitely more mature and have gone through so much. This also means that they start university later than we do, so the locals who are in first year are usually 23 years old. Best quote of the weekend from one of the soldiers: “You come to Israel thinking you know all the answers and leave with many many questions”.
In the evening, we went to a place called “Amir’s Farm” and we went on a midnight hike overlooking literally all of Israel. The tour guide pointed to certain cities in Israel and showed us how the borders of Israel would change if Israel would disengage from the settlements. We slept in a 2000 year-old cave which was so sick — there was a wood heater and lights and it was one big slumber party.
Sunday was literally the best and most intense day of my life. We woke up, made pita from scratch and cooked it on the fire.
We picked fresh fruit from the trees and made fresh tea. We then went shepherding!!! SO many goats it was awesome!!
Then — it was army training day. They gave us uniforms and we had a two army commanders. We started off with “Krav Maga” training (Israeli Martial Arts). It was SO intense — we learned self-defense and I was so into it. Our instructor was so tiny but he was so muscular and fit. He taught us moves and before we practiced he made us spin to simulate what it feels like after you are punched in the head. My heart rate was so high and I honestly learned so much about what to do in an attack. Next, we learned how to shoot a gun (with a paintball gun) and we learned the army techniques. Our instructor was so scary and he trains US soldiers. We then had target practice and were then sent to a 2-hour game of paintball which I hated. I am still in SO much pain 2 days later and my whole body is bruised. It was so muddy out and it was super intense. Picture me hiding in a house and then laying on my stomach in the mud to avoid getting shot — too intense for my life. Next was WILD. We had terrorist scenario training. Our “commander” (who isn’t that much older than us) specializes in anti-terrorism. He split us up — half were hostages, one terrorist and one Israeli soldier. The hostages were in a “shopping mall” and as an IDF soldier we had to find the terrorist. He taught us that a civilian’s life is much more important than ours, and he taught us the different ways to spot a terrorist in these scenarios and to avoid getting injured by the terrorist.
It was my turn to be the Israeli solider. He made me run 6 laps, as a soldier in this situation is never calm and relaxed. He then sent me in. There were a few different rooms and so many civilians yelling and screaming and it was my duty to find the terrorist. I hid behind doors, quickly scanned the room, and used the techniques that we were taught. I spotted the terrorist. I was out of breath, and my paintball gun was jammed. I had to fix my gun in that situation and aim to shoot the terrorist. I shot the terrorist, though because of the adrenaline rush I didn’t feel that I got shot in the leg. Even though this was a simulation, this was the most intense exercise I have ever done — and it really gave me a new appreciation for the soldiers who are trained to do this.
We then learned about camouflage and I volunteered. He painted my face in different shades of green, brown and gray and taught us about which colour is associated with each area. He then made me stand in a bush and he stood next to me and said “do you guys see Anna?” and NO ONE COULD SEE ME!!!! Then I started smiling, and people noticed me because my teeth weren’t camouflaged.
This was literally the best weekend ever and I am still in so much pain!
Less than two weeks left!