The first of our Misakm’im (Final Exercises) is Erez. The Misakem is named after Brigadier General Erez Gershtien former warrior and commanded in the unit d of the unit who was killed in Lebanon by a road side bomb. The Misakem takes place between the city of Akko, which sits on the beach facing the Mediterranean sea, and Tamar beach on the west side of the Kinneret (Lake of Galilee). This is an individually done night navigation carrying no less than 35 kilos (77 lbs.), with no map, and little food. Rest is dependent on the soldier and his ability to navigate. The total distance done varies slightly as each soldier has a slightly different route with different points to find, but my route came out to be 85 kilometers (53 miles). Study for this navigation begins days in advance and the brief each soldier must give before setting out takes hours. One must detail each step they will take what is around them, and where they are going. One must constantly be aware of significant terrain points, and other navigation aids. One must have a full understanding of how the terrain is built and will appear and in which direction water flows. (Water is the number one force in changing terrain and therefore dictates how terrain appears). All this for 85 kilometers.
Monday morning the last soldiers finish their briefs and we go over our equipment for the second and third time. Each jerry can is checked so it’s full, each radio is inspected so all parts are functioning and tied on. Then all the bags are loaded up, each soldier puts on his vest and then adjusts the bags so they are fit to sit just right. No one wants the bag which will bang him in the back of the head for 2 nights straight. As the sun sets we load the bags on the bus and the gather in a tight circle around the menorah and light candles as a tzevet before we all load on to the bus. (It was Chanukah if you have not figured this out yet). In a short few minutes we are at the start point, unload the bags and vests and are now ready for a quick diner and start. Each person is released in 5 minute intervals and I was last, so I had over an hour wait till I got to go, but finally it was my turn to go too.
The first portion of the navigation is over flat agricultural areas with no real obstacles except for water canals. My first point is only 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the start point and I start with a slow run. I quickly arrive at the bridge to cross the first canal and jog another kilometer, but then I have to cross a bog and there is no bridge. So each step I take very tentatively praying the ground is solid enough to hold me and finally I find a dry way across. From there I return to a quick walk and in 20 minutes I have taken my first point already. To the second point I head south till I arrive at a wide canal and then head east along it till I arrive at my bridge. From there I continue east till I arrive at another canal heading south and follow it south. It is along this canal I stop for my first water break; 10 kilometers done 75 to go. From the break I head till I reach my bridge and then I head back east count road intersections, two, and then to my right is an olive grove I continue east till its end and I am where my point, a large boulder, should be. But I can’t find it, then I realize why the corner its supposed to be in has become the compost pile with all the tree clippings pilled as high as I am where my boulder should be. So I leave a huge pile of rocks there with a note and move on (This is SOP for the situation). Point 3 is a good 11 kilometers from here. So I pick up the pace and along the way start to pass people. The next 3 kilometers slide by but then again I run into a problem. The mandatory crossing point for the road before me is not there. I followed by route to the inch and the crossing was not there so I decided to try looking south first but found nothing so I went north and 100 meters north I found the Hummer. With crises averted I report with the hummer and they tell me because there are a large number of Bedouins roving around the next area the next 3 kilometers must be done in pairs so grab a cup of tea and wait for another soldier to arrive.
With a partner to boot I started the next portion of the navigation. Here the area becomes hillier with water flowing into a large river network. (When I say water flowing I refer to when there is rain or during the winter season the rest of the year it’s just a large valley). We cover the next 5 kilometers in a good pace and quickly find ourselves at the gas station we have to cross the road at. From here I for the first time am not sure on where I am. From here I must enter a long river valley which will start by heading south and then turn sharply to the east. My only problem I can’t see the start of the valley. So I take an azimuth of 180 degrees (due south) and start walking and with time the sides of the valley start to appear out of the darkness as they close in. So I walk south further take the turn east and forest to the north, quarry to the south then bam my Y-intersection, 100 meters more and there is my tree. I get the codes off the tree and move off.
From here I need to follow the power lines to the next mandatory road crossing, my only problem is I can’t see the power lines. So I start in the right azimuth and still can’t see the power lines, and then before me is a new settlement which I don’t remember from the maps (It was not on the maps I checked afterwards) but smack in the middle of the settlement is a tower holding my power lines and its all light up from the settlement. So I follow the power lines to the road and the hummer. At the hummer I met one of the mafkatzim (Team Leader literally a Platoon Leader recon units do not use platoons rather they have teams) and he told me rain is coming so get on my rain gear. As I pulled my rain gear out I felt the first drops hit me, so I quickly put it on. From the crossing point I walked with my power lines up the start of the slope of Mt. Atzmon looking for the path which was supposed to cross the ridge line eastward. As I climbed up the slope the trees began to become close together and harder to climb between. And then before me was a trail leading east so I took it, but in a few minutes I realized this was not my trail. So I kept climbing up and the slope was still a hard climb even with fewer trees now. Finally I arrive at the top of the lower peak with my trail upon it, and before me I see the trail running eastward towards the top of the mountain, my point, and as I looked up I could not believe my eyes. The mountain seemed to rise up into the sky and into the heavens. As the slopes rose up they met fog and clouds from the rain; with clouds ringing the peak it fades and appears from view with an almost mystic feel. I begin my trudge up the mountain by heading down the small valley below the lower peak and then rise again towards the middle peak. As I reach the middle peak I find another soldier there looking around and I ask him what he is looking for and he tells me the point at the top of Mt. Atzmon. I laugh and tell him to look east and he looks up at the peak rising into the clouds and fog and almost starts to cry from the climb before him. I laugh and push on towards the top of the mountain. I have to head down from the middle peak and then began to climb the main peak. I feel almost as if I was in the Lord of the Rings and the climb continued, through, cold, fog, and drizzle. The peak finally began to close in and I reached the path which circles the peak, and I went to the south. I followed the path and then when a path lead north I went with it and reached the peak and my 4th point. From here it was downhill as I twisted my way down the mountain towards the valley below. The paths here begin to disappear and change from the aerial photos so I decided to just go straight down and ditch the paths. I finally made it to the valley below and to the old well which was my 5th point, and last for day one.
From here I had to move to my sleeping point on Mt. Achim which was the other side of the small valley I was in. So I began to climb up and then headed east towards my position. I finally get to the turn in the path which leads me to my sleeping point and head up the path till I get to the hummer. I then have to get my sleeping position a bush I was assigned and learned ahead of time. So I head to the corner of the olive grove there, and then north to the first tree, east from there east between two trees and then the tree before me was my position. I get there and crawl under the tree and pass straight out. A little bit of food latter on and back to sleep. I had finished 3rd on day one over all but on time I had finished first.