Blog Archive

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Penultimate Seminar

Wow ... What a few weeks its been since my last post, I celebrated the Jewish holiday of Pesach with my family, just finished my third and penultimate seminar of the Garin Tzabar program and have just had my last Yom Hazikaron as an Englishman and civilian.

So ... Pesach (Passover), was really amazing. All my family, including both my sisters husband's came out to Israel. We had Seder night in Jerusalem with almost all of my Israeli cousins and it really was a very special night. My Grandpa got to see three generations recounting the story of Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery and I know both for him and for everyone around the table, seeing how we all interacted as cousins living in different countries was perhaps the most apparent form of the freedom of the Jewish people today. I got to spend a lot of quality time with my family and it was a real pleasure to have them in Israel with me.

Last weekend I attended the third seminar of the Garin Tzabar program. Unlike the other seminars which usually start on a Friday, this seminar started on Thursday when we were taken to a forest up north to camp over night. After a relatively long delay and being stuck in traffic we arrived at the camp and wasted no time in cooking 'Poyke', essentially a 'throw everything in a pot and cook' on a bonfire dish - which always tastes delicious. Each garin had their own poyke and we sat around the campfire talking, relaxing, eating and generally enjoying each others company. We were told to go to bed relatively early as we would be up for 6:30 to go on a hike, ending at the Kinneret. We hastily went to bed and then ended up staying awake for a while sharing funny stories and having a good time - a lot of jokes were had. The next morning we went on a hike, it wasn't a challenging one but gave us all a chance to speak to each other and continue the bonding process. We finished the hike in a cemetery overlooking the Kinneret and heard stories of a few people buried there (2 soldiers in particular), we were given a few minutes to walk through the cemetery ourselves.  Upon finishing the hike we traveled to Givat Haviva (where our first seminar was) for the weekend.
Our pots of poyke! 

Friday was a relatively relaxed day as we were tired from the early wake up (what are we all going to do in the army!? ). We had our first Garin Ma'agal Shabbat in which we were all given one sweet and each color of the sweet corresponded to a different preset question which was given to us by our leaders. The questions varied from a challenge or something hard we had done in the last week, something funny or weird that might have happened and so on... The Ma'agal Shabbat happens every week and gives the garin an opportunity to share their experiences from the previous week in the army - the whole idea is to ensure everyone feels comfortable opening up and venting frustrations, hardships and also the good things that happened. In the evening two people from my garin ran an activity which was extremely fun, very humorous and at times somewhat vulgar ... think challenges with cucumbers and bananas and i wont say anymore - and no its probably not what your thinking.

View on the hike of the Kinneret
After that we were told to get some sleep because again we would be woken up at 6:30 in order to go on a 5K run. We were not best pleased. We tucked ourselves into bed, told our 'bed time stories' as usual and then suffered a rude awakening at around 1 in the morning. Our madrichot (leaders) had tricked us and actually came to wake us up in the middle of the night banging and screaming at our doors and telling us to get ready as quickly as possible and get outside. We were walked to the basketball court and split into our garins, we were then blindfolded and our hands were tied to one another and were told to keep quiet ... something I seem to struggle with. We were then led throughout the Kibbutz over and through certain obstacles where team work was the aim of the game. Being blindfolded and having to keep quiet, we all had to help each other and guide each other so no one would fall and trip or get lost. We ended the activity after what was perhaps half an hour and were walked to a bonfire where we were officially 'welcomed' to Garin Tzabar. We sat around with marshMELLOWS (private joke) and awkwardly sang songs from the 90's. One word of advice which I learnt at this bonfire ... try to refrain from peeing on it to extinguish it ... pee vapor really isn't a pleasant smell. To our delight we were allowed to go to bed and were told that we would not have to be up at 6:30 but actually had a sleep in till 10:30 ... a much needed rest.

The following day we had some more bonding activities and activities that got the garin thinking about different scenarios we might come across and how we might best overcome them. Each seminar deals with something specific and really helps you come to the point where you are as informed as can be about your decision to join the army and that you are comfortable enough with your decision to rely on it at times of need in the army. The way each seminar gets people to open up more and more about all of their feelings is really important, the army is definitely something you cannot do without a support group and given that we are all here without our immediate families it is imperative that we are all as comfortable with each other as possible and feel confident enough to speak freely.

The biggest news that came out of this weekend is where our garin will actually be living! After much hearsay, and my prediction that we will be living in a City as supposed to a Kibbutz ... my assumptions were correct. Garin Tzabar have created a new initiative whereby they are creating a complex of 3 apartment blocks and green areas which will house 5 different Garins (My Israeli Garin and the other, 2 Russian Garins and the American Post College Garin). The complex will be located in Raannana a city which is in the Central District of Israel and is bordered by Kfar Saba and Herzliya. Upon first hearing this news I was very disappointed. I had got myself excited to live on a Kibbutz, after seeing how friends live on a kibbutz, enjoying the scenery, relaxing with little distraction, being with only your garin which help you through the process etc. it was a shame that I would not be able to experience this. After having 1 year on Year Course (during my gap year) living in tower blocks in Cities in Israel, and then going to university living in halls of residences and then having lived in Tel Aviv in tower blocks for a year by the time I join the Garin I was very much looking forward to getting away from cities and having a much more earthly experience. I also feared that with so much else to do outside of the complex (being in close proximity to Tel Aviv etc), and with so many other garins around us, that this would lead to the demise of our Garin. On a Kibbutz when there is perhaps one bar to go to and only your garin you have no choice but to bond and spend time together - in Raannana however, I fear this wont be the case. There was of course many questions, some for and some against the idea and a long question and answer session ensued. The reasoning behind this new project is actually fairly simple and logical ... when people serve in the army all the way in the desert and there Kibbutz is all the way in the North with one bus every blue moon, people drop out of the garin and move to cities ... Garin Tzabar feel that in order to combat this and in actual fact keep Garins closer together, by putting us in a central place whereby its easier for us to return on our weekends off base, then the garin will naturally stay together. I can only hope that with their vast experience and knowledge they are correct! After splitting off into our garins we all aired our opinions on the matter and I have warmed up to the idea somewhat ... ultimately, for me, I want to be wherever my Garin family is because these are the people I want to have support me through what will be the hardest years of my life and wherever they are I want to be. I believe our garin is a truly special one and the bonds we all have are real and strong and so, we should be able to stick together and not succumb to external distractions too much which allows the insular, family setting to fall apart.

All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable seminar and I am really excited to see what the future holds. My next blog post coming up will be about my amazing and emotional time over Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut.

Hang in there, its coming right up!

No comments:

Post a Comment