Today was the third and best day of Gadna. We rose nice and early, and after a rather traumatic ‘field breakfast’, we headed off to the shooting range. We lined up, hearts pumping and hands shaking. Holding the powerful, deadly machine in our arms as we had been trained to, we took aim. Most shots hit the sandy bank behind, but a few tore through the cardboard targets. Afterwards, we went into the field. Faces covered in mud and branches sticking out from our clothes, we learnt the different crawls and walks. It was all very fascinating and enjoyable to learn! We then had a lesson on grenades, and I discovered my talent in life – running away from grenades! 16 metres in 4 seconds, we ran across the desert floor and dived into the ground, often landing on rocks and barbed wire. But although we were left bruised and battered that day, we were also left with smiles on our faces and glowing memories which we would treasure for years to come.

Today was the last day of Gadna. After the closing ceremony, which took a bit too long, we went off to clean the guns we had fired yesterday. It was very interesting to take the guns apart and see all the different mechanisms that create such a deadly weapon. We then talked with our mefekedet, but as a friend rather than a commander. This was really nice, and we know we will stay in contact with her. Peeling of the dusty khaki uniforms we had worn for the last 4 days was a moment of relief. With our
civilian clothes underneath, it felt like we were human once again. We left the base and arrived at a plaza, where we took the supermarket by storm. On the way back to campus we stopped in Be’er Sheva to see an ANZAC memorial. It was interesting and important for us to see our nation’s involvement in Israel. Afterwards we were able to chill out in the park which was a great way to recover from Gadna.

Today was the first day of our open Shabbat. Some of us stayed at campus and some of us stayed with family or friends in different places all around Israel. I went to my family in Yavne. They took me to some beautiful places such as Jaffa and Haifa. Jaffa was especially stunning, with its cobbled streets, sea breeze and atmosphere. On Saturday night we all returned from our various places and rejoined as a group.

Sunday was a very intense and important day. It was the day we visited Yad Vashem. All of us knew about the holocaust and many had relatives who had been through it, but this was still such a shocking and heart wrenching experience. After exploring the museum itself, we had a talk by a survivor. Hanna was an 87 year old woman from Germany who had survived Birkenau as a teenager. She was also very close friends with Anne Frank. That night we had a change of atmosphere as we went to a Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game. It was a good end to an intense and emotional day.

On Monday we spent the whole day on campus discussing the holocaust in our classes. It was good to debrief on yesterday and also learn some new information. That night we watched the movie ‘Defiance’. It added to the emotional intensity of the day. All in all in was a very emotional and upsetting day but it was definitely very important for us to understand the complexity and extent of the holocaust.

Today was a refreshing change. We rose early to go to Atlit beach and re-enacted the arrival of Jewish refugees. We also went to a DP camp and a prison. It was fascinating to learn the history of these places. To end the day, we went to a stunning Grotto on the border of Lebanon. It was sunset and the golden sunlight reflected beautifully off the aqua water. It was a very action-packed but exciting day!

It’s been a great week, full of action, education, emotional and experience. Many new memories I will never forget were made!