I am sorry for not writing in a while, I would not be lying if I told you that this is the most difficult thing I have ever done.
Besides the long mornings losing myself again and again in the lessons of an alien language that takes me try and try again in order to remotely understand, the repetitive work here in a collective of cold-shouldered kibbutzniks, a temporary stereotype I’ve learned and prepared myself for when I landed here a little over a month ago, and the occasional, stifling loneliness, there is one true preparation I have set my focus on: Tzanchanim (the paratroopers).
I’ve since joined a group of young guys led by a man who has experience training alongside Yahalom sappers (the commando unit responsible for detonating the terrorist network tunnels in Gaza two summers ago) and has completed a gibush, a gruesome “tryout” required to access elite units in the IDF.
Every other evening I end with black nails packed with dirt, peeling knuckles cratered from stones; thorns and bristles chalked across my back and chest, skinned elbows, bloody knees, bruised lungs. The mornings are a routine struggle to raise my arms to wash my own face. I am fighting sicknesses once a week. The raw stress tempts me to quit; but that is exactly what this training is trying to do to me. Kicks in the groin while planking, pepper spray to the eyes before going for a few brief sprints, being dragged backward by my comrades a dozen meters over rocks and tree roots on a final army crawl to finish an exercise. It is all worth it.
In between planks on aggregate concrete and sprints in the scorching April sun, a tan UH-60 circled above our heads with a tough whir. There’s our boys, I thought, with sweat pouring into our open mouths, as salty and dehydrated as rawhide.
You want to join them? our group leader said. Quit being a fucking pussy and get on your knuckles.
I have decided that I will end my temporary stay here with a mock gibush, governed by members of elite units in the army. This is more than necessary for access into Tzanchanim, but I will prove to myself that I am capable of joining a tougher unit if the opportunity arises. After I return to the United States in August, the six month countdown to Aliyah begins.
I am broken, and it fucking sucks, but so be it. That is how this miracle state came into existence and will continue on the shoulders of a chosen people strong enough to keep it alive.
I love my people, and the promise of this beautiful land too much to not stop.