Imun Choref, Part I
Wanna make a lochem shiver? Just say “imun choref.”
Imun is a training refresher to re-hone your learned skills. This winter, since the army perhaps decided to reconsider its funding of organic Air Force breakfasts and zumba classes (I AM JOINING THE AIR FORCE), budget cuts shortened my imun from the usual 3-4 months to just six weeks. The good news: the imun will be over in no time! The bad news: the imun will be six weeks of hell.
After being shipped off to a base in the north where cows overpopulate people, we’re quickly re-shipped back to the West Bank, probably because it would be impractical to do a targil in the North Pole. There’s less snow in the West Bank, but it’s just as cold as the Golan and has more elevation per square kilometer. Hurray.
The first targil of the imun is a “tarchat,” a brigade-wide war simulation drill in which the ENTIRE Givati, along with the Air Force, Combat Engineering, and Tank battalions- participates in. The Chief of Staff comes to watch, it’s broadcast on the news, it’s a big friggin deal.
The point of the tarchat is to experience war in all its preparation, which, for starters, means carrying a lot more weight. For me, this means shlepping 45 kilo (almost 100 pounds) on my back; through snow; up mountains; in temperatures optimal for preserving Ben and Jerry’s pints (new flavor: shavuz negevist). But I’m not alone in this endeavor- this drill requires heavy artillery, extra munitions and ammunition etc., so everyone’s feet, knees, backs, and shoulders are gonna take a beating.
We get into formation just as the sun loses its fight against the sky. As darkness begins to conquer the landscape, so do we.
“I heard we’re covering 15 to 20 kilometers tonight.”
Sigh. Here we go already with the hanfatzot.
Hanfatzot are army rumors, and there are usually so many floating around that what’s actually going to happen almost always gets lost in an endless heap of unfounded declarations by fellow soldiers. For example:
Guy: The tarchat is cancelled because there’s too much snow!
Dori: Stom stom Guy, ya tambal, it’s happening this Wednesday through Friday.
Dima: Ma ata mevalbel, it’s on Monday and we’re going home for the weekend.
Omer: We apparently need 4 volunteers to stay for the weekend but we may not be going home.
Yoni: I heard that the other machlakot are going home and the tarchat is cancelled.
I learned to stop paying attention to hanfatzot long ago. Things are so subject to last minute change here that it’s best to just let what happens happen when it happens. So, applying the Nava K. formula for Israeli bureaucratic situations (expected time + exaggerated amount of time = actual expected time), if it’s supposed to be 15-20 kilometers I tell myself it’ll be 30-35, so when it turns out being 34 I won’t be surprised and if it’s 19 I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
An hour after the targil starts I’m already reaching for my gloves and neck warmer. It’s really cold, but not quintessentially cold, rather that kind of cold that seeps under your skin, into your soul, through all the moves you thought you could pull to beat it. Like the ones intended to prevent my toes from applying for Sochi citizenship.
Good thing I spent an hour the night before cutting out a space blanket with surgical precision, enveloping my insoles in it, tapering them to a perfect fit, walking away convinced my boots are going to be so insulated that everyone else’s boots are going to be all jelly cuz there’s nooooooo way I’m going to have to think twice about keeping my feet warm!
Oh, why don’t I put just hand warmers in my socks instead!
I’m smuggling in my twin brother Moshe to switch me for the remainder of the tarchat.
Deciding what warm gear to wear for a tarchat is an unwinnable judgement call. It’s either freezing, boiling, beezing, froiling, call it what you want but it’s never comfortable. As such, movement during this targil becomes a vicious kind of Petito Principii:
I am a popsicle.
I put on my gloves and neck warmer.
We traverse a wadi.
Now I’m shmoiling.
I take off my gloves and neck warmer.
We stop for a rest break.
Did you ever see the movie ‘Frozen’?
I put on my fleece, gloves and neck warmer.
“On your feet!”
The rest break is not really a rest break.
I take off my fleece and keep on the gloves and neck warmer.
We move through an open field.
The wind is biting, freezing the still-dripping sweat I worked up before the fake rest break.
We stop to check something, I put my fleece back on.
We march up and uphill.
I feel like I’m sitting in a sauna, wearing a parka, eating chicken soup.
I take off my fleece, gloves, and neck warmer.
I am a popsicle.
The hot-cold-confusion cycle is momentarily pushed aside however, as an undefined colossus suddenly materializes.
If you watched GUTS as a child you understand tov tov the epicness that is the Aggro Crag. Now picture its evil expression in nature… looming over you… canceling out the moon and giving you future nightmares.
Ascending this current crag would have been brutal even if I wasn’t shouldering a small country. I’ve done my fair share of intense hiking, but I’ve never climbed something so slippery, jagged, and never-ending in my life. I deserve an honorary doctorate in geology for all the tripping, stumbling, and scrambling I experience while clambering this monster.
After summiting what the magad later fittingly dubs “Amalek Mountain,” we push on, only to find ourselves facing another impossible incline- except this one is covered in snow. Using a muddy pipeline and each other for balance, we struggle upward. And upward. And more upward because there’s unseen upward after the upward. It’s bad news for the Jews. Some guys are crying. My feet are swimming in water. Everyone’s back is breaking. And we’ve only just begun.