My name is Ben. I’m a new immigrant from the United States, and it was always my dream to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. I’m proud to say that I just finished basic training.
My first day in the IDF (Zahal) was long and tiring. I spent hours in a base known as the Bakum, which is where all new IDF (Zahal) recruits are sent on their first day. I went through a few medical tests, signed a lot of papers and received uniforms and equipment.
New IDF (Zahal) soldiers arrange themselves for their first line-up. The sign reads "Welcome, Kfir Brigade."
As soon as I had gone through all the stations, I boarded a bus and headed directly to my basic training base. I knew that it was going to be a tough experience, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for everything to come.
I should emphasize that I went through basic training for non-combat soldiers, which only lasts one month and is different from the training the combat soldiers must endure. Nonetheless, I can offer some simple advice that I think any new IDF (Zahal) soldiers could use.
Here are four simple tips:
- Keep a low profile Don’t talk back to your commanders! The people who suffered the most in basic training were those who misbehaved. Keep a low profile. Only speak when you’re given permission. And never be late!
- Bring snacks While the army will provide you with three meals per day — as well as occasional snacks of bread and chocolate spread — let’s just say that the food won’t taste like mom’s home cooking. Pack energy bars, nuts, chocolate, etc. — you’ll be able to eat it during brief breaks throughout the day.
- Prepare mentally
The transition from civilian life to army life — going from complete freedom to no freedom — is a dramatic change. You no longer get to decide what time to wake up, what to eat or when to go to sleep. It takes time to get used to this. The loss of control over your daily routine is the hardest part of the experience, but in the end it’s what makes you the best soldier you can be. Prepare yourself mentally in advance, and you will be fine.
- Use Your Phone Wisely
Do you check Facebook around the clock? Then you’ll hate to learn that you can’t use your phone during basic training except during specific times. In fact, you only have a total of one hour per night when you can charge your phone. This hour also includes time for showering, brushing your teeth and getting ready for bed. That’s why you’ll need a good phone strategy. Mine was to go to the synagogue every day — I charged my phone while praying.
A new IDF (Zahal) recruit puts on his military boots for the first time.
New IDF (Zahal) recruits in the Givati Brigade line up in front of their commander for the first time.
What are your tips?
Overall, basic training is an incredible experience — one that you will remember for the rest of your life. If you have any basic training survival tricks, feel free to share them in the comments.