Meir in the Middle

Hi, I’m From Maslul and I Have an Identity Crisis

Finishing training means becoming a man. But not man as in, check out my increased ability to grow facial hair and make mature decisions, man. Man like, I can now keep my cell phone in my pocket instead of leaving it all day in a bullet box, man.

Pretty Manly, I’d Say.

Becoming a man means moving up to the ‘g’dud’ where you eventually join up with the rest of your battalion. And until March ’13 replaces us, being the youngest means doing the most dirty work. Think of us as the interns- just replace fetching coffee and photocopying with lots of kitchen and guard duty.

This path from the start of training till the highly-anticipated end of this youngin-ness is translated as “maslul,” and that’s even what we’re currently called. “Path.” Like anytime I go anywhere and they ask me which platoon I’m in I have to say “maslul,” even though I know exactly which platoon I’m eventually going to and have already been placed in. Being maslul means identifying as an identity-less identity; It’s a discomfiting avowal that I’m not really where I am. Kinda like when tourists ask me where I’m from.

Where’s Ben Yehuda Street: America!? What state?

Meir: New York.

Where’s Ben Yehuda Street: Really? What part?

Meir: Uh… New Jersey.

The point of maslul is to familiarize us with the area and ease us into the operations we’ll be doing there. The “good news” about maslul was that we have our own zone. Sounds great: no older guys to haze us and real responsibility over the safety of an entire area.

The bad news about maslul is that we have our own zone.

Since “we’re not totally ready yet,” our daily functions are mostly limited to static guard posts, a checkpoint nearby, and drills conducted in and around the yeshuv we’re currently guarding and are stationed at. (I say mostly, because, to be fair, if something actually does happen in our zone we do take care of it- but there are just less occurrences where we are).

Those not doing stuff are needed in the kitchen, to help “garden” the “garden” (by garden I mean random patches of grass and a mess of plants and bushes), to squeegee the floors of the briefing room, to re-make our re-made beds, to do something, anything besides chilling or hanging out, because, after all, it’s just us here and there are only so many soldiers available.

Being maslul also means having the worst yetziot. Since Givati is broke as a joke, I pretty much went home every other weekend during training. Amazing. Now, just because my commanding officer feels like it, he’s decided to give us the worst yetziot possible: 17-4- 17 days in the army 4 days at home- as opposed to the rest of the battalion which is doing 11-3 and the other Givati soldiers in maslul in the other batallions who are either doing 11-3 or 16-5. Awfulness.

But although it’s really difficult, tiring, and frustrating, I will say that maslul has helped my optimism. Take prisat kelim for example- a dreaded every-saturday night activity- that I sometimes hide in the shul for the beginning half of :D- during which we have to clean, wash, and scrub down EVERY THING in the kitchen and dining room and arrange it neatly on tables for individual inspection. If it’s not spotless it gets cleaned again. This starts around 10 pm and usually takes around 3.5 hours to complete. Bad news if you have guard duty at 2. It’s brutal. But something as bad as this forces you to realize that it can’t get any worse and, if you’re having a good day, can evoke the attitude of let’s enjoy this somehow. It’s a dogma you learn in the army and try to perfect in life. My buddy Dori knows exactly what I’m talking about:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzp31T8jUR0 

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