Three things we love: Tzofim, Israel, and Play-Doh!
Erev tov, chetz vekeshet.
You and I, and the segel, have just reached the final moments of a month-long adventure together.
The rhythm of CVK made these tidbits somewhat evasive, but there were one or two things in this program that were of particular value, and that one would be challenged to find in other programs.
For one, this was no summer camp. The military structure of the program—the tzevet, the machlaka, the pluga—put us all in a position where we get to know each other in a rather mature and intimate way.
We were challenged on multiple occasions—planned and unplanned—to help ourselves, and to help each other, and to help each other help one another.
That in itself is of great value, though there is one more thing I’d like to mention that is less noticeable, yet of great significance.
Our mefakdim are active duty servicemen and women in the IDF, and their passion for their job and our county was reflected in everything they did and in everything they taught us. But it wasn’t the ere “hitla’avut” of camp couselors. The boiling passion they showed us—for us, for their jobs, and for their own opportunities in life—revealed to us (the chanichim) an extended peak into a uniquely adult universe: one of responsibility, dedication, hard work, determination, love, and just enough light-heartedness and shtuyot to keep you within the confines of sanity.
So whilst the individual laughs and gaffs and fears and tears sure are something to remember, and the challenges are moreover something to cherish, it’s the big picture—the whole month-long picture you might have missed with your camera—that can teach us the biggest lesson, and turn us into people of deep strength and deeper passion for what’s important in our personal worlds.
On your way home, you naturally start digesting everything that you’ve gone through, and that varies from person to person. But this particular program added an extra dimension to our communal plate and I know that, at least for me, that same big picture will be the greatest source of wisdom in the years to come.
I’d like to thank the mefakdim, the samalin, the mememim, the mempeyim, the mefaked of cvk, and every single person involved in the planning and execution of this phenomenal July.
Thank you all very much, and a safe trip to you all!
~ Yaniv Levy
When I first signed up for the Chetz v’Keshet, I had no idea what to expect for the summer. I was nervous and days before I had sleepless nights. From the end of CVK, I can tell you all that whenever I look back on the trip, I can’t help but smile.
The people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, and the memories I’ve made will never be forgotten in my heart.
One memorable experience for me was Gadna Week. We learnt what life as a soldier is really like. It taught me a lot about my friends, but also a lot about myself. As in charge of tzevet, I had many responsibilities and expectations. Helping the team come together and endure discomforts was no easy task. Every masa (military journey) and activity was challenging, but through each challenge, we got closer. We learned how to sneak around at night and dodge grenades.
I have friends and family waiting for me but I don’t want to leave. When this trip is over, through good or bad times, I will always have these memories to cheer me up. Leaving this program, I don’t think of you as friends, but as family. I know you all feel the same, so let’s look at this not as the end, but as the beginning of life long friends.
~ Gal Moore, Machlaka 4
My name is Adir Even and I’m here to tell you about the amazing experience that is CVK. The main idea it to take American youth and team them up with Israelis and grant them an opportunity to see the land, the culture, and the people of Israel, from Rosh HaNikra to Eilat. We have already explored Jerusalem, travel the beautiful desert called the Negev whose future was predicated by Ben Gurion’s vision. In the strenuous Gadna week that we all loved so much, we learned skills such as navigation and how to shoot a weapon. We were impressed by the luscious Galil and the beautiful North of Israel.
But the most important thing was meeting new people whether Israeli or American. The idea of connecting Israelis to Americans is very special because we have the chance to learn about eachother’s lifestyles, where it’s m&m’s or falafel in the Jewish quarter.
On a personal level, I am glad that I was able to partake in this life-altering journey. I recommend for all who can to participant in this adventure. And of course, nothing would have been the same without our amazing mefakdim who were always making sure that we had fun.
~ Adam Even, Machlaka 2
CVK has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to not only learn about the country my family comes from, but also to learn about myself.
I can’t believe I’ve only know all of these people for a few short weeks, because I feel like our relationships are as good as the ones with my friends that I’ve known for years back home. Driving, laughing, eating and pretty much living together has created a bond between us that I think is really special and not always easy to form.
Everything within us was tested during Gadna week, and I think we came out stronger and closer than we did going in. We supported each other through all the tough times and I especially remember being literally pushed up the mountain during the night hike when I thought I couldn’t take another step.
Besides the hard times that we help each other through, there are equally important times spent together when we are just relaxing outside before bed; playing music and enjoying each other’s company. Even though we didn’t have any organized activities during these times, they contributed a lot to the trip and really allowed me to get to know everybody better.
Finally, I want to talk about something very personal that I’ve experienced, through CVK. It’s that feeling of self-pride when I’ve accomplished something especially difficult such as climbing the Masada and and received my own dog tag with my name engraved on it.
Overall, I’ve had a really special experience on this trip, and I know I won’t ever forget all of the memories I’ve made here.
~ Yaell Livni, Machlaka 1
The South wek was very challenging but really bonded our Machlaka together. The heat took a tole on us but made the experience much more worthwhile. The climb up Masada was the most meaningful to do, side by side with th new friends we’ve made. The feeling after Masada was indescribable — you really feel a sense of accomplishment and relief. Sleeping in the desert, under the stars, was a memorable experience because it is unlikely any of us would be willing to slep on the rock floor again. The hike the next morning was extremely difficult and long but worth it because the view of Syria, Jordan and Israel was incredible. In general, South Week was great!
~ Ashley Tempstet and Sandra Perl, Machlaka 3
The North week began after our first free weekend following Gadna. All of my friends and I were glad to escape the army and enjoy a week of touring in northern israel. During the week we visited one of the Druze villages. It was nice to be able to see the way in which these villagers live, eat, and practice religious customs.
The following day consisted of Arab/Jewish discussion and cave rappelling. The Arabic girls and my American peers compared customs in our religions, one being dating. Their parents do not allow the girls to date until they leave for college. We were also told that some of their classmates secretly have boyfriends and girlfriends. Although it would be difficult to follow these Arabic customs, I respect and admire them.
Water rafting in the Jordan river and the Banyas hike occurred later in the week. I personally love hiking, but the unbearable heat made the hike more challenging.
A BBQ was prepared for us as soon as we arrived at the kinneret, as well as a beach party at night. After an eventful night, we fell asleep under the stars. I woke up the next morning with eleven mosquito bites- most of which have unfortunately not yet gone away. The Mefakdim finally allowed us to enter the water and take part in the extreme water sports. Hiking in the Magrase river concluded north week.
~ Michelle Abramov, Machlaka 2
North Week in CVK has been such an experience to remember. I have rappelled down cliffs and rafted down rivers, ate with Druze and had a dance party like them. I have seen an ancient city with more history than I can fit in a week and crawled through caves. Although at times the lectures could feel like alot, I can honestly say that I am proud to leave Israel with more than I came. Sometimes the program has been hard, like in Gadna week, but I only feel like I grew from it.
~ Ofir Elyakim, Machlaka 4
Letters from Israel: Army Life
“One of the main reasons I decided to partake in CVK was Gadna week, as I wanted to experience what I was unable to in America, yet knew was one of the most important parts of Israeli life and society. I thought I was prepared for five days of intense military training, as I had participated in the Boy Scouts and Karate classes for six years, yet I now firmly believe that nothing short of attending military school could have prepared me for what I experienced. About four days of learning to embrace dirt, count from eser to echad, and help my fellow soldier, later, I now know the true purpose of Gadna training: to form a unit. I discovered this only after I had compiled every lesson we were taught into a single thought, which was that no one could get through such a week of rigorous training alone, and so we all depend on our unit and our unit depends on us to help accomplish our goals. Although this is what I believe the I.D.F’s basic training is about, when each lesson is thought of individually, they are still as important as the one true goal of basic training.
The first lesson we learned during Gadna week was to deal with the dirt. After our first ח, we were ordered to put on uniforms that had been lying on the dusty ground in the sun. We all followed our orders, and by the second day it was clear that we would either have to suffer or forget our normal desires for cleanliness. Most of us decided to suffer, but for those of us that disregarded the smell of sweat and the uncomfortably consistent feeling of thorns in our socks and backs we all but embraced the new, musty lifestyle. After rubbing mud on our faces nearly a dozen times for camouflage, ripping burs out of our hair, and crawling over the earth with our entire bodies, eventually everybody grew accustomed to the lack of showers, though some still looked forward to putting their head in the water truck’s troth and turning the faucet to full blast. We learned that in actuality, even though we always prefer to stay clean, it’s a superfluous action that must be left out of our daily routine if we hope to complete our training.
In order to appease our commanders and not have to do push-ups, we had to form a perfect ח to face them, which meant we needed to form the shape of a ח with a base longer than the arms, arms the same length and perfect distance from the base, and faultless right angles. The purpose of this was to form a shape that provided everyone an opportunity to hear the commander. The catch was that we were timed every time we made the ח, and so we had to count out loud from ten to one in Hebrew (or longer, depending on how many people there were to form the shape), which proved not to be an easy task. The most common mistake was not having equal amounts of people on the arms, but this was still only one of the many mistakes we made. Whenever people were outside the חwhen the time was up, they could be given push-ups. If the commanders didn’t hear everyone counting, they might be given push-ups. If someone moved to make the ח correct when the time was up, they could be given push-ups. If any single person wasn’t standing perfectly in line with whatever part of the חthey were in, they could be given push-ups. We proved to be as uncoordinated during the last day as we were during the first, leading to a surplus of push-ups; yet, besides making us stronger, forming the ח’s had another purpose: it separated the leaders from the followers. In every ח and set of parallel lines we were ordered to form, unless someone took charge and started yelling directions (and people followed them) we were uncoordinated. Not only were the ח’s there to teach us teamwork and coordination, but also to find the leaders in each group.
By far the most important lesson taught during the Gadna week was one of self-discovery. Once we were taught certain techniques the I.D.F used to complete their missions, we started a competition to see who the best in our group was at each one. While the competition to see who could get to the objective the fastest wasn’t that demanding, as it only required patience and careful planning, we felt the pain when we practiced the army crawl. We discovered that the only way to close distance fast during the crawl was to use your knees as much as possible, and although that doesn’t seem like a big deal, everyone was finding it difficult to sit down after learning to crawl because of the powerful tension on our knees. I remember during our race to see who could crawl the fastest, I was tied with someone right next to me just a few feet from our goal and had to make the decision of whether to rip the scab on my hand open, as it had been caught in a thorn bush, and get first, or to keep my hand as intact as it remained at admit defeat. A moment later I was proud of my fresh wound on the side of my palm and a cut across my pointer finger. The purpose of the race may have been to see who was the fastest and to push us to our limits, but it taught me how much I was willing to sacrifice to achieve my goals.
Although I’m happy to be able to replace the layers of caked dirt under my fingernails with sand, it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the experience. In fact, I think even the participants that deny the benefit of the program to them are unaware of the deep outcome that a short four days of Gadna training provided them. We’ve now had a taste of what it takes to become a real soldier, an essential part of a force that protects the wellbeing of us Jews that we’ve fought for two thousand years for. In due course, I know that we’ll all realize the importance of such a program in one way or another; but until then, we’re all just happy to accept beds, real food, and showers back into our lives.”
~ Adam Izik Goldstein, Machlaka 4
For those of you who didn’t know the significance of the words “army training”, ignorance is bliss. For those of you who do know, you will understand the bitter-sweet feeling of hard work and training and the sweet reward of applying new skills.
We learned to navigate and successfully found checkpoints and returned to the bus. We learned how to fire guns and did so with it being the first time for myself and others. We learned how to disguise and move like a soldier, culminating in the great battle of the forrest; where espionage led to the victory and capture of Machlaka II and half of group 12’s flag.
Now I shall reassure you, everything is fairing well and we are almost done. I enjoyied our free time before Gadna Week and will enjoy it all the more once Gadna has finished. Getting that bitter-sweet taste of life in basic training has been something that myself and others will take with us for a long time.
~ Matt Stapylton, Machlaka 4