by Petra R., NFTY-EIE Spring 2013 Student
To sum up my experience at Gadna this past week, it was five days of reenacting the movie Holes, playing Simon says, and red light green light. However instead of being out of the game when you move, or do not respond correctly, the commander makes you do ten pushups.
For Gadna, we went to the southernmost base in Israel which is in Sdeh Boker. The 85 EIE students were split up into four different groups and we were assigned to one Mifakedet, which means commander in Hebrew. We found out from day one that on the base there is no toilet paper, no soap, no towels, and basically no hygiene. We also learned very quickly how to get to a destination in ten seconds, though it seemed close to impossible at first. For example, we would be standing in a het, which is a Hebrew letter that basically looks like a U shape, and the Mifakedet would give us ten seconds to get to the front of the Chadar Ochel(dining room). If we moved after the time was up, or our water bottle fell over on the ground we would have to do ten pushups.
Each day at Gadna for the most part had a different theme. The first day was getting used to life on the base, and getting all our uniforms, mattresses and sleeping bags. The second day was mostly training for shooting M16s on the third day. We spend so much time mastering all the commands such as when to put your magazine in, change from safety to semi automatic mode, but all in Hebrew. Once we actually got to the shooting range on Wednesday we all felt so prepared and safe because all of high up Gadna officers were there to facilitate the range. Personally I had such a conflicting experience with the gun training and shooting. Guns, especially M16s are such powerful weapons and I don’t feel the need to shoot one again. Though I’m so happy I got the experience to shoot one, and I even had a little fun.
The fourth day at Gadna was field day, and we spent most of the day off the base. This was really fun because for the most part this was the first time we got to see what real soldiers do. Once we got out into the desert, our Mifakedet made us take off all shiny objects or things that would draw the attention of the enemy if we were really in combat. We also used dirt and made mud to put on our face as camouflage. To our disappointment desert sand did not have the same effect on our complexion as the Dead Sea mud. While on the field we learned all the different ways to crawl and walk, and each one had a different purpose. This was one of my favorite days aside from some minor knee complications, but nothing that ice, Israeli pain meds, and some rest couldn’t solve.
I say that field day was one of my favorite days, but the best was the last day. Aside from cleaning for hours, we actually got to talk to our Mifakedet since the program was almost over. We learned that her name is Dana, and we were her little experiment because we were her first group ever. She is eighteen, and has only been in the army for three months but you could tell she was so passionate about her job. She told us she really wanted to inspire kids to make Aliah and to love the IDF and Israel as much as she does.
In all I think Gadna was such a great learning experience and I’m really glad I got the chance to do it.