ט״ו באלול ה׳תשע״ט (September 15, 2019) “Yes, Commander!”Jonah Werbel and Noah Juravsky (May 2019)
On April 29, we stepped off the bus for Gadna, a four-day simulation of IDF training for high school students. After forming two perfect lines in front of our mefaked (commander), we put on our IDF uniforms, ready to embark on a new adventure. All of us began at the same level, with the same chances and opportunities to succeed in our basic training experience.
Thanks to Gadna, we have gained a new appreciation for IDF soldiers. Being a soldier takes immense patience and motivation, and it is those requirements that brought all of us closer together as a group over the four days. It didn’t begin this way, however. It took time and discipline to turn us into a true team. When we didn’t follow a command properly, we would do it again. Through this discipline, we learned to listen to our commander’s orders and we grew closer together as a group.
Whenever our tzevet (group) moved anywhere on the base, we almost always ran in two straight lines. But our mefaked never told us exactly where we were going; he just pointed in a direction and gave us 10 seconds to get there. After the command, we responded in one collective voice, “ken hamefaked” (yes, commander!) and began running. It’s almost impossible to describe how the collective responses and our crisp, sharp actions gave the entire week a true army vibe.
The week had not just an army vibe, but also specifically the vibe of the Israeli army. This was most obviously so in that everything was in Hebrew. The commands from the mefaked, words spoken by higher ranking soldiers, our lessons, and basically everything else was in Hebrew. The first day, we were definitely struggling. No one was even able to pronounce “hakshev hamefaked” (the words we used to address our mefaked), let alone understand what he was saying. But throughout the week, our Hebrew improved and we began understanding most of what he said.
Gadna was obviously all about the IDF. But the IDF is part of a larger mission, which is Zionism. The IDF defends the Jewish state, and we focused a lot on what that means to us. Our discussions revolved around Israel’s strengths and how the state is important to us. But we also focused on Israel’s flaws and problems. They made it clear that not everything about Israel is perfect, but we discovered our own reasons for loving the only Jewish state. Our lessons taught us the facts, but our experiences in the olive green uniforms connected us to the country and helped us develop a deeper passion and love for the place that we’ve called home for the past three months.
While we may not join the IDF and serve the country, Gadna taught us a lot about Israel and ourselves. Physically, we became more disciplined and orderly, as well as much more tanned (or burned!). We also became more mentally trained and knowledgeable about how the IDF functions.
The night we returned from Gadna, we reverted to old habits and were 20 minutes late for curfew. Our discipline may have lapsed a bit, but “ken hamefaked” still remains in our minds.