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Purity of Arms

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Nachal Boot Camp - 24th April 1958  E-mail
by Luke Lukovsky

I can still remember clearly my first days in the army. On Thursday going through a thorough medical examination, and on Sunday already reporting to the induction centre to be signed up and to receive all my kit which would have to last me two and a half years. Then, being whipped off to boot camp where I was to spend the next five longest and hardest months of my life.

As the truck drew up outside headquarters, we all made for the opening to catch our first glimpses of what was to be our home from home, and the first thing that struck me was the fact that nobody there was walking. In all directions soldiers were scurrying to and fro, each with his rifle in his hand. I began to wonder at this, and to speculate as to when we would be issued with rifles.

Well, it did not take us long in finding out. The truck had not yet stopped for half a minute, before a tall, wiry -bearded sergeant suddenly appeared and in a tone full of contempt for us rookies told us that we had half a minute to be off the truck and lined up in threes with all our kit. It was here that we had our first lesson in army methods. When he said half a minute, he meant it, and we soon had another half minute to climb back onto the truck and try again. It was after climbing on and off about six times that we eventually got it right and I began to realize why nobody was walking.
At his next command, we hoisted our kit bags to our shoulders and followed him at a quick trot to our tents, but the only snag was that there were no tents there, and again we wondered what next! Well, once again it did not take us long to find out, and before five minutes were up we were busy pitching our tents. After finishing the job, putting in our beds and trying to catch a couple of minutes rest, the sarge (the sight of whom we had already begun to hate) suddenly appeared and very calmly asked us if we were enjoying our holiday. Before we could answer he was already telling us to sweep out, line up the beds, tighten the guy ropes, dig up, water and clear an area of ten feet right around the tent, line this area with stones (in straight lines) and white wash these stones. Of course this all had to be done in the remaining hours of light as the next morning we were already to start our training.

After supper, with the job half done, we all had to report to the company stores to receive our remaining
kit, among which, of course, was a rifle which we proceeded to examine on the spot.

Darkness had already fallen and everybody was looking forward to getting a good night's sleep, but as we were all standing in a square, on the floodlit basketball field checking our equipment, putting it together and adjusting it to fit. It was here that we learned that our rifle was to become a part of us, that we were to eat with it beside us, sleep with it in the same bed, and have it accompany us wherever we went. In fact we were "married" to our dear rifles, never to part through thick or thin.

At about 2.30 a.m. we eventually got to bed, everybody looking forward once more to a "good night's sleep." But once more it was not to be so. At 4 a.m. on the dot, our "beloved" sarge again materialized telling us that we had five minutes to be lined up on the road with full kit. This time we took him at his word and four and a half minutes later saw us lined up on the road shivering in the morning cold wondering what was to come next and longing for the warmth of the beds we had just left.

The following two months, although they were tougher, seemed to pass much faster, as by then we had become more used to conditions. We had learned to exist for days without sleep, and last but most important we had become used to the night. As we were to find out later, the Israeli army loves the night and everything that can be done at night (except sleeping of course) is done. I remember times where morning, afternoon, evening or night had no significance to us - they were just periods in the twenty four hours that we had at our disposal, and eating, sleeping and training were just fitted in at the most suitable times. So that it was nothing to have breakfast at 8 p.m., walk the whole night, have supper at 6 a.m. and then sleep till 2 p.m., have lunch, train till 11.30 p.m., have supper, sleep till 5.30 etc. Then of course, there were the times that we saw very little of the sun at all for up to ten days - sleeping all day and training all night.

As the days ran on, we began to lose track of time, every day being the same except for Saturday when we had our well earned rest. Before we knew it, we were practising for our graduation parade when we would be discarding our rookie badges and receiving our Nachal tags with infantry badges. This is what we had sweated and suffered for, for three months. I can still remember how proud we were that day, when we could say for the first time that we were soldiers of Nachal and no more rookies.