May 10, 2012
Making every moment count
It was our first Masah, our first forced march. We were barely two weeks in the army, and Itzik, a sadistic little first sergeant who had made it his mission to make us, or rather, break us into soldiers, owned us for the night.
We were based in a miserable little hole not far from the Mediterranean shore and, unfortunately, this meant there were lots of sand dunes for them to run us through. As we soon discovered, running in sand dunes is an exercise in futility. For every two steps forward you end up taking one step back, and the weight of the sand pulling against every foot is an ever-growing agony.
In addition to our regular gear, I was carrying a twenty-liter jerry can on my back, and this dead weight added to the agony. I will never forget that feeling of despair, struggling to reach the top of a fifty-foot-high sand dune that seemed endless, the jerry can threatening to pull me back down the hill.
And I still remember the look of sheer misery on my closest buddy Pinny’s face, when we reached the top of that dune, with the illusion that we had somehow made it, and there, stretched out before us as far as the eye could see, was an endless sea of sand dunes just waiting for that sadistic drill sergeant to march us through. I was sure this was the darkest point of existence I could imagine; it couldn’t possibly get any worse. I was wrong.
What seemed like hours later (I had long since lost track of time…), we finally came full circle around the never-ending base fence, and could suddenly see the main gate to the base ahead of us. Itzik began to run us double time towards the base and we could sense that salvation was at hand. As we drew near the base gate, our first march now seemingly under our belts, we actually began to sing! And just as we were feet away from entering the base, tents and showers almost within our grasp, Itzik screamed out those two terrible words that I will remember forever:
“Yeminah…P’nei!!” “ Right… Turn!”
We turned along the outside of the base, exactly where we had started our ordeal hours earlier, and proceeded to do the entire thing all over again.