Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gadna II: הכי בשר שאפשר

!דוד, מלך של שטח, חי חי וקים

Day two of Gadna brought us out of the base and into the field. It also brought our garin, growing closer by the minute thanks to Gadna, a new leader in the person of David, a garin member from Chicago who was named 'Melech HaShetach,' or 'King of the Field,' by our mifakedet (female squad commander). After our mifakedet showed us how to camouflage our faces with mud and our bodies with weeds and thorns, David honed our ability to avoid enemy attack with a relentless (and hilarious) exercise that had our garin throwing ourselves into the weeds to avoid imagined grenades.

Our day in the wild also brought our garin a new nickname and a moment of true glory. At lunchtime all ten garinim were given deli, bread, corn and a few vegetables with orders to design something with the food before our commanders gave us permission to start eating. While every other garin simply laid their food out in a basic, two-dimensional design, Garin Tiryat Zvi obliterated the competition by designing a three-dimensional recreation of what our kibbutz looked like in the 1940s. With bread as our tower and stockade, peppers as our date fields, and even a peeled olive representing a nude Order Wingate, the seniors officers who came to judge each garin's design could do little to disguise their awe out what we had created. It was not long before our company commander announced the winner of the lunch design competition by shouting out the slogan of the Tirat Zvi meat-packing plant: "הכי בשר שאפשר," The Best Meat There Can Be! We had adopted the phrase as our garin chant earlier in the day. After our convincing demonstration of culinary dominance, it became our trademark.

Our second day in Gadna also brought further time for the sort of discussions that had so impressed me the day before. During lunch I posed the following question to several of the guys in my garin: You are out on a mission when suddenly the lives of a nearby civilian and one of your fellow soldiers are placed in jeopardy. You can only try and save one; the other will perish (no Batman Forever heroics here!). Whose life do you save? What duty takes priority? The responsibility to fulfill your unit's military objective, a task that requires your fellow soldier and so makes saving his life the higher priority? Or your immediate responsibility to defend the life of a citizen of Israel, regardless of the strategic risk this may pose to your mission?

I was surprised when most guys came down squarely on the side of saving the soldier. Jeremy, a garin member from Cleveland, explained this decision most persuasively when he argued in wartime, the mission of the group must take priority over the needs of the individual. Well said--to a point. I remain less sure, concerned that my peers are ignoring the raison d'être of military service: to be prepared to sacrifice our lives in defense of the state. True, fulfilling the larger objectives of the state [aka, protecting your fellow soldier to ensure the success of your mission] may sometimes require the occasional individual to be sacrificed. But when individual freedoms are sacrificed so freely, one can only wonder what the sacrifice is for.

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