Day 1: I awake to a bright and sunny morning in Tel Aviv with a mixture of feelings from anticipation, excitment and a few fears, not knowing exactly what I will experience on the program. The guide I received informs me that the work will be varied, accomodation will be basic. Whatever the case may be it will be something different and certainly unique.
I make my way to Ben Gurion airport and arrive at the Swarovski shop. She places a sticker on me with the name of my base on it. There are a few people there already, some are repeat volunteers. There are people from all over the world, Caada, USA, The Netherlands, Finland, France and Australia.
We assemble on coaches that takes us to our bases. I am on a logistics base near Tel Aviv and it is one of the largest logistic bases in the country.
Upon our arrival we meet our Madrichots Dashi, Adva & Ci. After a small de-brief we obtain our uniforms from a large warehouse toward the back of the base itself. It takes time to see if its a good fit, some sizes fit, some do not. It was entertaining watching 15 volunteers try on the various items, but we get there in the end.
We have lunch and refreshments which consist of chicken, hummus, a large aray of salads and soup. All delicious and very filling.
We are then taken to the warehouse that we will be working in and meet Shai, the manager of the warehouse. We are required to sort, count, and re-package tank parts that have arrived in the country or have come in from other bases for re-distribution.
Though the work is not technical, the need to be precise with the data we record (lot numbers, BIC numbers, Israeli mecrat numbers and the quantities) is vital. If we record that 200 items are in a pallet but there are only 187 for instance, it could have quite a negative impact. Occasionally we would lose count and then have to start again, but we have confidence knowing that we were recording things correctly.
We finish work and meet again with our madrichots and are issued with our Sar-el lapells. Now we are really in the army!
Impressions of day one: The madrichots and group of volunteers are all interesting and warm hearted. The work in interesting and the soldiers really appreciate your assistance and presense. The grounds look well maintained and the food is amazing and living conditions are clean and comfortable, certainly not as basic as I expected. There are gum trees and little gardens around the base which are really pretty. It is dusk and I see the sunset illuminate the sky with dazzling orange and see it fade beyond the trees around.
Days 2-15: All but one day, breakfast consisted mostly of an omelette sandwich with tomato and cucumber, 2 yoghurt (one Greek style & one chocolate).
I work between a few bases, working not only in the warehouse checking and sorting the various parts but also working on a different base 4km away where I did some painting, gardening and cleaning.
We each take it in turns to raise the flag with one of the permanent soldiers.
Dining with the soldiers is nice, speaking with them about their lives and hearing about their ambitions for the future and sharing about our lives is rewarding.
Lunch comprises mainly of chicken, beetroot salad, tomato and cucumber salad, eggplant salad, peppers (capsicum), potato & carrot salad, beans, bread and soup.
Dinners comprised mainly of pasta rice, salads, salads, salads and bread.
Our evening activities were very interesting. We learnt about the formation of the IDF & Sar-El, the different sections of the IDF, a small Hebrew lesson and how the language was revived, some ‘slang’ Hebrew (sababa = cool, no problem; nashema = my darling; magniv = awesome/magnificent); learning about the Israeli flag and emblem, the national anthem, locations within Israel; a small overview about various positions in the army and how soldiers continue on to be an officer and commander.
The actvities are very interesting and informaive and I attempt to note down as much of them as possible.
On the final day, we return our uniforms and say goodbye to our new friends.
3 weeks flew by and living on the base was not as bad as i imagined, in fact, i miss it. It was a deeply rewarding experience, one that I will never forget. I have the urge to do another one again soon.