One of the major goals I had set for myself in life had been achieved. I was Jewish according to orthodox
Jewish law. Now it was time to become an Israeli citizen and join the IDF.
I left Yavne and went to Kibbutz Alumim, (http://www.alumim.co.il
) which needed workers. Here I
applied for Israeli citizenship and got my identity booklet. About a month later I received an induction
At my first interview the recruiter asked me when I wanted to be inducted. "Yesterday," I said, so he set me
the earliest date possible, January 1977. My first assignment, even before basic training, was to a Hebrew
course. Here I met for the first time the underclass of Israeli society, the Jews from Arab countries who
could barely speak Hebrew. They were rather short on Zionism. "Never mind," I thought to myself, "The
quality will improve once I get into a combat unit." After a month we were sent to the great Base of
Receiving and Distribution at Tel HaShomer, near Tel Aviv. After being assigned to tents our routine was
as follows: After getting up in the morning and having breakfast all the new recruits went to a central area
where we were divided into work crews to do crap work on the base, from painting to cleaning toilets to
digging ditches. This was known as the “slave market.” After several days of this we were finally able to
tell the selection officer what units we wanted to join. I volunteered for Paratroopers, but because of my
extremely myopic sight, had to settle for Golani. They put us on a truck and shipped us out.
We arrived at camp Bezek in Samaria for six months of basic training. We were given a bag of chocolate
milk and a banana upon our arrival then went in for a welcome talk with the Battalion Commander.
At this talk I noticed several of the new recruits whose demeanor was either a ghastly pallor, or a sickly
tinge of green. One of them finally timidly raised his hand.
“Sir,” he asked, “we are supposed to be in the communications unit, why are we here?”
“Oh, yes, I almost forgot,” the Battalion Commander answered jovially. “Communications doesn’t have its
own basic training, so they send their recruits to us for the first part of basic training. After that you’ll be
shipped out to Base of Instruction 3 for your communications training.”
The demeanor of the communications recruits did not improve. “Well, sir,” the recruit asked, “can we
possibly have an officer from communications in charge of us?”
“No need for that,” the Battalion Commander replied. “We have plenty of officers of our own to train you.”
After this greeting we were turned over to our corporals, who immediately expressed their displeasure with
our behavior during the assembly.
“You guys are smoking cigarettes, doing anything you want during the C.O’s meeting,” they said. “You
have a lot to learn and we will teach you.
For a few days we did nothing but crap work around the base while waiting for the rest of the recruits to
show up. Finally the formal basic training began.
Our Company Commander, Lieutenant Uri Feinstein, gave an opening talk to the Company. Fienstein
looked like a character from a Hitler cartoon with his thick lips, jet black beard and low forehead. He had
been in the Yom Kippur War and never ceased to remind us of that fact. Sometimes, instead of a Galil rifle,
he would carry the Kalashnikov he got off of an Arab he had killed
“Now, in this basic training most of the time we will use punishments to get the behavior we want from
you. Rarely will we use rewards, but mostly punishments.”
On that cheery note, we began the process of being issued personal combat equipment, which consisted of
Each soldier was equipped with a Galil 5.76 caliber assault rifle. With this came 8 30 round magazines. The
magazines were carried in a field jacket, a harness with pouches for the magazines, two fragmentation
grenades, two canteens and other sundry equipment. Fully loaded the weight of the field jacket was not
Our helmet at that time was the old WWII model steel helmet with a plastic liner. The strap was modern,
and went completely around the head and it always had to be tightened. The helmet was covered with
burlap and camouflage netting secured with round strips of rubber from a tire inner tube. The whole thing
was then blackened with shoe polish.
Each soldier carried two personal bandages and "pocket accessories" consisting of a pack of matches
wrapped with plastic and sealed with black tape, the whole thing wrapped with an extra shoelace. A razor
blade with one half-wrapped in tape was inserted into this package and an additional one into the rubber in
the helmet. Finally, our Geneva ID card was sealed in plastic and tape and placed in the pocked of the
BDU's. Our dog tags consisted of one perforated piece of metal. It had to be covered with camouflage
cloth, and the chain inserted into a shoelace. Two additional dog tags were provided, to be inserted into
special slots in your IDF boots. This was because in the Yom Kippur war, many Israeli tank commanders
had had their heads shot off by enemy tanks (Israeli tank commanders always fight with their head out of
the tank in order to see better, and the enemy always aimed too high, it would seem.). The dog tags of these
headless KIA had been lost and it was difficult to identify the body, hence the additional boot dog tags.
This was long before DNA testing was common.
We were issued this equipment and worked far into the night preparing it according to the corporal’s
instructions. We were checked and re-checked, and they always found something wrong. Finally, after
many hours of work, the equipment distribution was finished and the training began.
Now it became clear what the CO had meant by punishments. Infractions in behavior on our part were met
with the following punishments:
Writing punishment. Straight out of elementary school, if you committed an infraction you would have to
write a line a specified number of times. For instance, if you forgot to say “Yes, Sir,” you would be
required to write “It is necessary to say ‘Yes, Sir,’ and ‘No, Sir.’ 100 times. Some repeat offenders would
have to write 1000 lines, and would not be allowed to sleep until they finished them.
“To the rear, jump.” Upon receiving this command, we were forced to jump up in the air, spin around 180º,
and come down facing the opposite direction from when we had begun. This seems stupid and ridiculous,
but it shocks feet and a body that are already tired.
“Fall on your asses.” Upon receiving this command at the word “Ap” you were supposed to fall straightlegged
on your bottom, in effect spanking yourself. In reality most people lowered themselves to a sitting
position as quickly as they could. You then were told to get up again immediately. This could get very
annoying if repeated often.
Encumbering: This simply was being required to carry specified equipment, usually helmet, weapon, field
jacket, and, if the infraction was serious, two duffel bags (the “war duffel bag” and “peace duffel bag” each
had different equipment in them). You had to perform all of the activities wearing this equipment,
increasing the effort during runs, etc. “Another minute you are here, field jacket, weapon, helmet, two
DUF-ul bags on you,” the corporals would chant gleefully when administering this punishment.
Running. Usually a collective punishment, a target, such as the garage or PX was selected, and we were
given a certain number of seconds to run around it, when one soldier called out the time every five seconds
in order to increase the pressure. If we failed to complete the run on time, the slowest among us would be
declared “wounded” and we would have to carry him and run again.
Wounded: We were taught early on how to raise another soldier across our backs and carry him. Since the
IDF doesn’t leave dead or wounded behind there was practicality to this punishment. Depending on the size
of the carried soldier, this could be difficult.
Cancellation of liberty Most frequently administered to those who slept during guard duty, this meant
giving up your free weekend and having to stay on the base. Since getting away from the base was the only
way to avoid the relentless pressure, this was a devastating punishment.
Stockade From 7 to 28 days in the base lockup. You are forced to wear the ridiculous prisoner’s uniform, a
parody of the regular uniform, consisting of unbloused pants, the old kind of field jacket, unbelted, with
empty, dangling pouches, and a helmet devoid of the usual camouflage wrapping. The prisoner’s “weapon”
consists of that ubiquitous Israeli device known as the “squiiegee”, consisting of a broomstick with a
crosspiece of wood at the end with a strip of rubber embedded in it, used to move water around a floor. On
this is hung a jerry can, and the prisoners march from the lockups to the latrines to clean the toilets. The
squeegee soon smells like s---, and is the constant companion of the arrested soldier.
Prison A sentence of 35 or more days in one of the Army prisons. What life was like there I don’t know, as
I was never sent to one.
This was a list of the most common punishments, but by no means all of them, as the continuation of the
narrative will show.
Our emphasis was not on becoming killing machines, as in the Marines, but on technical solutions to
tactical infantry problems. Sleep depravation was one of the aspects of the training, when a war starts the
Israeli soldier must fight without sleep until the end of the war, there are not enough units available to pull
one back for rest while the others fight. So we didn't get much sleep. One day we were in the lecture hall
listening to a lecture on military regulations given by the company commander, a first lieutenant. Of course
several guys began to doze off. When the CC noticed this the following exchange would take place:
CC: "Wake that man, slap him."
CC: (To sleeper) “You are a toilet person, now go climb to the roof of the toilet."
Now, in order to understand the ordeal of these unfortunate soldiers, it is necessary to describe the type of
toilet facilities we had at camp Bezek. Bezek was a captured Jordanian camp. The toilets (for the enlisted
men, at least) were on the Arab model. It was no sit-down commode as we are accustomed to in the west,
but merely a ceramic hole with two raised ceramic places to put your feet. It was intended that you squat
down and defecate into the hole. Now an Arab can do this and score a bulls' eye in the hole every time, but
a Jewish soldier could not, with the result that the feces went everywhere except into the hole. The flushing
system was inadequate, so the feces just dried up around the hole. On a warm winter's day, the smell of
them wafted up until it was about two meters above the roof of the toilet. So you can picture the soldiers
who nodded off in the lecture standing on the roof of the toilet with horrible grimaces on their faces as they
tried to hold their breaths or breathe as shallowly as possible in a futile attempt to avoid inhaling the awful
Great emphasis was placed on having your equipment in proper order. After a day of lessons on how to
prepare our equipment properly, we were told to make sure our equipment was in order, and then go to bed.
We retired, but about an hour later we were woken up for a "battle preparedness inspection." First, you
have seven minutes to get up, get dressed and assemble outside the barracks with all your equipment, in full
battle dress. This night, Phinehas Avizuz was late, and was told to stand to the side by the platoon leader, a
second lieutenant, who than began to inspect our equipment. More and more soldiers were told to stand
with Avizuz as they were found to be lacking water in canteens, lacking bullets in magazines, lacking
cardboard between the magazines in the pouches (to prevent them from rattling against each other and
making noise), and other reasons. Finally, only myself, Yoav Zeeman, and Gueita were left.
"These are the only soldiers I would want to go into combat with," the PL said, indicating us. "You guys go
back to sleep."
We went into the barracks to go to sleep, but the ordeal of those who were not prepared was just beginning.
First of all they had to take out two beds (big heavy metal beds) from the barracks, and onto the beds went
Phinehas Avizuz and another soldier who had arrived late. The beds were hoisted onto the shoulders of the
rest of the platoon. Then the corporal began asking questions about battle preparedness that the soldiers had
to answer. Finally, carrying the beds and their lazy cargo, the platoon started trooping up the hill towards
the water tower, so that "those that have no water in their canteens can fill them," the corporal said.
One of the first ceremonial things we had to do after getting our equipment in order was to go on our
“Swearing In March.” This is the famous march where, at the end of the march, you receive
(ceremoniously) your rifle and a bible. The Paratroopers end their march at Masada, Golani ends their
march at “Golani Junction,” site of a battle involving Golani during the War of Independence.
We were trucked off somewhere and dumped, and began the march. Our Platoon Leader led us and set a
relentless pace. Every few miles we would stop and do stretches, then start marching again. We were
marching around the base of Mt. Tabor, and soon left the road and were marching overland. Many soldiers
were coughing and wheezing with the unaccustomed effort, especially the soldiers from Communications.
Finally we reached “Golani Junction” and prepared for the swearing in ceremony. It was getting dark, so
torches were lit. We assembled and heard speeches from several high ranking officers, then were
administered “the oath,” I don’t recall the words. Then we went to a table where we had previously turned
in our rifles and received them back, along with a cheap Bible. We were now “officially” Israeli soldiers,
but we still had a long course of training ahead of us.