Gibush Tzanchanim, Part III
“You. With the tire. Over the volleyball net.” Oh, so we‘re playing Israeli Clue now. Wonderful. Our task: get the tire over the volleyball net using a long wooden pole and fire barrel, while remaining on the court’s perimeter. In 35 seconds. After failing three times in a row (that’s 125 total punishment push-ups/sit-ups and one giddy Colonel Mustard) I realize that that’s the point. The officers are more interested in our interactions in failing the task than our completing of it. We need one strategy to succeed in this assignment yet everyone wants to pursue their own method. במקום שאין אנשים השתדל להיות איש Hm… I try to take the lead and suggest that we hear three strategies and collectively decide. Yet this is met with more arguing because the prospect of another’s opinion becoming more important that one’s own is a notion my group refuses to roll with. Thanks, Pirkei Avot. To put a method to this madness, the Colonel decides that the chorus of voices and opinions is to be conducted by one person and one person only. And, just like at airport security, I’m the one who’s chosen.
All the times we didn’t succeed have given me a pretty good idea of how to, and try number four is looking optimistic. With one voice directing traffic, we work effectively. I position a bunch of guys to push down on the end of the pole while the others help direct the brave soul I send to climb to across and drop off the tire. Slowly he begins to inch his way over. It’s happening. Tire aloft. YALLLAHHHHH!!! we cheer. He’s moving. He’s doing it. He’s- he doesn’t get there. Nope, not even close. Why? Cuz Colonel Mustard decides after 22 seconds that time’s up and “you failed, again.” Someone get me Professor Plum, with the lead pipe. Sniggering like the Israeli Grinch who stole Hannukah, the Colonel wastes no time planting us for more pushups, mocking our efforts as the numbers climb aloud.
After the volleyball debacle, we’re each asked to provide two answers to the following question: “Which is better: living in Israel, or New Zealand?” If I had an Aliyah genie, I would wish for three things to be brought to Israel: customer service, manners, and sarcasm. The first time I was formally asked to provide reasons for living in Israel was at my first Jewish Agency consultation. And after my answer of, “Oh, that’s totally not something you ask everyone, right?” was met with, “No, we ask everyone that. Why wouldn’t we?” by my Sabra interviewer, I quickly realized that irony is something more appreciated by anglos. But now, at an IDF tryout, when the answer is so obvious, distinguishing myself seems more logical, ironically. So while most of the others choose to take the non-ironic–“Israel-because-it’s-the-mainstay-of-Jewish–identity-and–it’s-the-land-of-our-forefathers-blah-blah-blah route,” I choose to answer ironically, declaring: “New Zealand, because the nature is amazing, and the lack of Jews could help strengthen your identity as one.”
The final part of the Gibush’s physical element is a 3k hike with a stretcher and two jerrycans. In an effort to show the commanders they’re the toughest, the four people under the stretcher and those carrying the jerrycans refuse to let others take a turn. Since I got to the stretcher a lot during the running, I decide that helping those who are having a tough time is more worth it than fighting with the jerks who won’t play fair. Throughout, Colonel Mus-Mus gives us times which make as much sense as the Israeli political system to get to places he arbitrarily designates. And, after we don’t get there on time, he sneers, “did you get there on time?” and sends us off running again. After about an hour we’re back where we started the day and asked to line up according to who contributed the most during the hike. I don’t know how it happens, but I get pushed to the front of the line at the last second and before I can shift we’re told “that’s it, stand in place and don’t move.” Being the guy who ‘contributed the most’ is uncomfortable, because truthfully I didn’t and they know this. But now, with exhaustion kicking in and the no-switching-places rule established, I just decide to go with, “yes” when they ask me if I think I’m standing in the right place. Whatever.
For humanitarian reasons, we’re all required to shower before we have our personal interview. With dirt lodged into my every orifice, the prospect of a shower is magical. On the way to the showers I see my German friend Dan walking out, looking somewhat horrified.
Me: “How’s it in there?”
Dan: “It’s like they’re giving out free Iphone 5’s to anyone who takes their clothes off, dude.”
As I walk in I can hardly believe my eyes: At least 30 butt-naked dudes pack like sardines in line for four showers, soap and shampoo spraying in reckless abandon. The floor floods over and sinks gush out as guys who don’t feel like waiting butt-plant themselves inside. At this point, with smudge lining my teeth, aches piercing my joints, and sleep clouding my eyes, my standards for normative behavior are totally gone. So with barely a shrug I strip off my clothing and join in the frenzy. When my turn comes I have no problem that the water is freezing. Picking up a filthy shampoo bottle from the floor and using it? Nbd. After some guy who I’m prob never going to see again lets me borrow his wet towel to dry off, I head back barefoot to my tent to get ready for the interview. But as I fumble through my gear I realize that our commanders forgot to mention, “clean set of clothing” when they told us what to pack. Crap. My uniform and sneakers are nasty so no chance I’m putting those back on. All I have left are thigh exposing black running shorts, a tight-fitting military hat, a bright–green running t-shirt and bulky black military boots. Perfect.
Everyone knows that to make a good first impression at an interview you’re to come well-mannered, groomed, and presentable. I show up to this one looking like an athletic ninja turtle with dominatrix-like tendencies. But apparently that doesn’t seem to matter to my interviewers- another milumnik and a psychologist- as they get right into the questions without commenting. They ask me to tell them about myself, why I want to join Tzanchanim, why I chose to be a fighter instead of using my degree, if I spoke hebrew at home before making aliyah. I answer confidently and talk about my connection to the Old City, motivation to serve my country in a way which I find meaningful, and how I sat with a notebook while watching Ramzor to better my hebrew. I think I impress them with my hebrew as they ask me at the end if I’m sure I didn’t speak it at home with my parents. “My mom’s Spanish-Morrocan and my dad’s family is as gefilte fish as they come. Def no hebrew,” I respond with a smile. Then I’m done. Breakfast and we’re free to go. Pita and shoko b’sakit in hand, I plop down by a tree where some of my friends are sitting and savor each bite. I’m tired. I’m famished. I look like a pizza-loving stripper. But guess what? I’m satisfied. So, to cap it off, it was Colonel Mustard, with the Nestea, at the Bakum.