My first day of the army was pretty much a hell storm of excitement and anxiety which was good because I don't think I could have gotten through it without the extra energy. We were all told to meet on Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem at 7:30 am. I arrived early intending to embrace the the military stereotype of punctuality but things don't always go as planned. By the time all the recruits showed up and everything was in order it was after 9 am. Watching other recruits being sent off by their family and friends was a little discouraging but thankfully, Tziki and his team of angels from the Lone Soldier Center, were there to hand out snacks, help out, and boost moral.
After we all hopped on the bus they took us back to Lishgat Giyus recruitment office because some of the recruits didn't have all their papers in order. We sat on the bus for almost an hour as they called up specific recruits by name to fill out last-minute paperwork. To my surprise they called my name. "Where have you been??" one soldier asked as I walked off the bus. "We've been calling your name for a half hour now!" It was either a gross exaggeration or a down-right lie because I didn't hear anything but apparently I had kept everybody waiting because immediately after I signed the form (something about army insurance) the bus left to the Bakum registration base.
Bakum was a long day of waiting, filling out forms, taking tests, getting examined, and waiting some more. When I finally got my dog-tags and army issued uniforms and boots it started to kick in that I was really joining the military. After everybody was present and accounted for with all their gear we packed into busses to go up north to Michve Alon base for my language course. We were travelling on the bus for about an hour when things started to look surprisingly familiar: we were right back at Bakum! The reason? They forgot our sandwiches and returned to pick them up. There was a lot of groaning mixed with laughter from all of us. I thought for a moment that maybe they did it purposelyjust to mess with our heads but turns out someone just genuinely screwed up.
Michve Alon is a military base that is part of the Education Corps. Soldiers come from all over the country to take courses and use resources for training. From training commanders and new recruits, to housing elite combat soldiers during drills (you can see their drones flying above - very cool!) they have everything in Michve. I've even seen US Marines on the base. About 2000 people representing 30 different countries are in Michve at any given time. Because I am an immigrant and my hebrew is not up to par, I am required to take a remedial language course in the IDF. Once I arrived, I quickly learned that the course is unofficially a remedial program for behavioral issues as well. Turns out that when you bring in new recruits from different cultures who are not quite used to the military structure, things can turn sour. I'll be here for about 3 months doing basic training and learning Hebrew - wish me luck!