The past few weeks have been an absolute blur here. I'll try to break down exactly what has been happening during this time period.
Gadna is a week long army experience designed for Israeli Teenagers to prepare themselves for what the army will be like. The word גדנ"ע in Hebrew is actually an abbreviation for גדודי נוער. Literally this means 'teen brigades.' In the days of the פלמ"ח (Palmach), before the state and the army officially existed, this was a way of training future soldiers. I guess little has changed but the formalities.
My Gadna experience was a bit different as the entirety of the week was spent with only Garin Tzabar participants. Unlike some Israeli teens, our motivation to join the army is not a question. We came here and joined the Garin Tzabar project to be a part of the IDF.
The week was spent getting up early, running from place to place, eating bad food, standing at attention, doing pushups, lifting heavy objects while running, and drinking lots of water. We learned how to stay hidden in nature during our 'field day.' We learned how to properly handle firearms and can now recite the rules and regulations from memory. Most importantly we learned how important it is to work as a team to accomplish goals set forth. My צוות (team) was awarded best in our platoon.
During our last day of Gadna most of us finally got our new cellphones! I haven't had a new phone in about 4 years now. My old Motorola is about dead and it was time to move on. Now I have a brand new Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. It works great, but the best part is Garin Tzabar has a special plan for us which is even cheaper than normal soldier rates!
צו רישון (First Call Up)
August 31st was the date of my צו רישון or my first army call up. Most Israelis have this day some time during sophomore or junior year of high school. It gives them about 2 years to figure out what they want to do in the army, take care of health issues, and make other important decisions. For me this is happening 3 months before I am drafted. It makes the process a bit more stressful. What is the צו רישון?
Sav Rishon is a day of testing...all kinds of testing. All of this testing is done at the local draft office, mine being in Tiberias. You begin by receiving a plastic card with a magnetic stripe. Its your ID for the day. In it is programed your Teudat Zehut number and personal information. Remember Teudat Zehut is the official ID card in Israel and its number is much like the US social security number. With this magnetic card you swipe it through a scanner in a computer and you begin to wait. Most of the day is waiting in between tests.
First I had a personal interview with a lovely female soldier. She asked me all about my life. Where I was from, my parents ages, my family situation, how many friends I have, what my education was like. All of this sounds irrelevant, but they're building a profile of who I am and what kind of environment I'm used to. Here they also administer a Hebrew language test. Mostly listening and reading, but I also had to tell a story to prove I know how to communicate. This whole interview places you on a quantifiable scale called “dapar.” Basically its your social well being number. You don't get to find out what your dapar is.
Next I was sent to another computer...another swipe and I was set to wait for my health tests. A urine test for proteins and general health is followed by a height/weight measurement and eye exam. Next a doctor checks out your health history from medical records and quickly examines your back and feet. This is then quantified into a number as well. 97 is the highest physical profile. Why 97 and not 100? The joke is, no male is totally complete because of the circumcision. Maybe its true, maybe it isn't. Either way the health profiles are: 97/82/76/64/45/30/24. Seems random, but 76 and higher can be combat soldiers. I got a 97 on my physical profile.
The next swipe leads to an intelligence test called the Psychotechnic test. Its a test of shapes and patterns. It can be taken in any language, because intelligence doesn't always mean Hebrew fluency. This test is graded on a scale of 40-56. Again quite random, but 54 and higher means possibility of officer training. A score of 55 or 56 means you have the intelligence to go to pilot school. Like your dapar, this number, called 'caba,' remains a mystery until later.
After this test I had a personal interview with an army social worker. This was to arrange my status as a lone soldier. She explained to me my rights. Specifically my extra salary and my rent assistance.
After this most people have a personal interview with an officer after this. Because I have a degree and a few years more experience than the average 18 year old, this step was skipped. I'd love to tell you more about it, but I wasn't there.
The whole day took from 8am to 5pm and the only perk I got was a free sandwich and drink with that magnetic swipe card. However, now I'm in the army system.
יום סידור (Errand Day)
Today we all went into Kyriat Shmone to run errands around town. It was a day of great accomplishment today. My bank account is now open and has money in it. I also now have a two credit cards in my name from Bank Leumi, my new bank! Next I arranged my new health insurance provider Clalit. I also started the process of switching my drivers license from Wisconsin to Israeli. It mostly involved a picture and an eye test. More will come on that front as the process, like anything here, takes lots of time and many steps.
This weekend is a closed Shabbat on the Kibbutz and I'll be uploading pictures then when some extra bandwith opens up on our internet.