Monday, February 7, 2011

Misakem Erez Day 2

From our sleeping positions we began to prepare for day two, we filled our water checked all our equipment was present and then got a safety brief. Next we took out a menorah and as a tired yet pumped tzevet we lit candles for Chanukah. Standing as a tzevet together we sang the blessings and the songs one says when lighting the candles and I thought for a moment how lucky I am to be remembering the Macabees (Jewish warriors who rebelled against the Greeks and defeated them in the story of Hanukkah) in the uniform of the IDF with an Israeli rifle in my hand and in the first of five final exercises to enter one of the top units defending Israel and the Jewish people. I really felt there and then that if I looked behind me I would see a line behind me of past Jewish warriors going back to Mickey Marcus, to Moredichai Anielewicz, to Jaboptinski, to the Macabees, to King David himself. Hanukah is essentially a military holiday and I thought there is no better way to celebrate than as a soldier in the IDF weapon in hand ready to defend our land.

As for the final exercise I was released second as I was the second in my team to arrive the day before and quickly got on my way. The first leg of my navigation was to descend from the mountain we had slept on and to enter the Beit Tenoufah valley which is a several kilometer long and 2-3 kilometer wide valley flat as a pancake with Mt. Achim (where I had slept) to its north and Mt. Turan to its south. I descended Mt, Achim and reached the water canal on the northern edge of the valley, crossed over the bridge and started to walk along the gravel road which cuts across the valley towards the south west. I walk straight along the path for 3 kilometers and then walk around the Arab village there from the west and then cross the road before me. Before me is a small wadi with Mt. Turan to the east and another set of large hills to the west. I enter the wadi and head south towards a sharp bend and there I find the fence around a water spout which was point six.

From point 6 I head back to the Arab village and the road, I then follow parallel to the road and Mt. Turan as I head straight east. I leave the village before me and then continue on to the next village and pass it as well. I am now searching for the first path to lead south with 2 buildings, one on either side of the path, at its finish. I find the path and take it all the way to its end which is where Mt. Turan begins to rise upwards. Here I begin to sarch for a cave, my 7th point. The area is incredibly difficult to search though with dozens of barb wire fences as well as agriculture and cow pastures I cant find any cave in the area so where the cave is supposed to be I leave a large pile of rocks and a note and quickly move on. From here I continue east along the base of Mt. Turan and then when I get to a nice cleft in the mountain and began my ascent to the top of the mountain from there. I climb straight across boulders, rocks, and shrubbery till I get to the road about two thirds of the way up and from there begin to climb using roads. I quickly arrive at the top of the mountain, 548 meters. This was not a point for me, but a mandatory check in point. From here I begin to climb downwards now.

I start to descend by heading west and then south on the trail which encircles the mountain top. On the eastern side of the mountain top I head north east with the trail and here I continue till I get to an intersection of two trails. One straight north and the second mine continuing north east. Here for the first time I do not remember exactly where to head or even the way the terrain is supposed to look. I only remember there is an Arab village, a real problematic one too, and then after is the Jewish settlement which will lead me to my 9th point. I decided to continue with my trail north east and made my first navigational error of the exercise. The trail does lead me to the settlement but in a circuitous route and leads me down the mountain and I have to climb back up to get to the access road to the settlement. Once I get to the access road I take it till I get to a trail which leads north west and follow the trail towards a a local peak which contains my next point. I begin to get frustrated though as the trails are taking me around the peak but not towards it so I leave the trail and head into the brush in an upward climb. My point is a power lines pole so I am looking for the power lines as well. I slog my way through thick brush and as I close on the peak I see the lines in the sky so begin to walk beneath the lines towards the peak. I finally arrive at the pole and the peak and almost exploded with frustration when I see the pole is right next to a trail. So I take the point, my 8th, and head north east and descend the mountain.

I now head straight north in parallel to a road and arrive at a Christian Arab town, and from there head up a hill to its east and then north to the peak. From the peak I make my next navigation mistake. I once again do not remember the terrain I need only I need a path heading north and down from the hill and it will lead me to the Tzipor aquifer. There was a path a couple meters to me west but it seemed to lead back to the Arab town so I went east and further along the hill. The path led me towards a Jewish settlement and towards the general direction I needed, but there was no path down so I decided to just cut a straight line down as by now I could see the aquifer. Little did I know this slope was quite dangerous with thick brush and drop offs of several meters. I had several near misses till BAM! I walked on to what I thought was a large bush and fell straight through what was really a tree and a four meter drop off, the tree caught me and slowed my fall so I was not injured but I realized to continue was too dangerous so I decided to stop and wait the 45 minutes to day light. I practically instantly fell asleep when I sat down and 40 minutes later awoke to begin plodding on. I finished the descent with no further injuries and found the trail I needed quickly and began to book it to make up for lost time. My 9th point is a tree located in an open area after an olive grove. But when I arrive at the olive grove and cross it I see the area is not so open it is in fact covered in intense brush and undergrowth and dotted with trees to find this point borders on impossible. To pass the exercise I only need 6 points and I already have 8 so I decided to make up lost time and skip it.

I push along the trail towards the mandatory crossing point of a road which cuts across our area of operations. I follow my trail downwards and when I see the point I simply cut straight for it and arrive quickly. I find out there are only 2 people before me and one passed there not so long before me. So I quickly move out of there and start on the last 11 kilometers of the exercise. Here I enter a deep canyon containing the tzipor stream. The path radio antenna here is difficult to walk along with due to low trees and mud, with the trees being the more annoying as my radio antenna was constantly getting tangled up in their branches. But I push on and after a few kilometers the canyon widens out a bit and I see the trail leading up and out of the canyon to get to point 10 my last. I get to the path and climb it to the top of the canyon form there I walk 200 meters north and before me is the fish pond and I find its gate which it my last point. I take the point and continue along the lip of the canyon eastward with the stream below to guide me. After about a kilometer I finally can see the Kinneret and practicaly begin to cry from joy and the excruciating pain shooting through m legs and the soles of my feet. I push forward though and begin to descend into what is now more of a valley and towards the end point. I head along a road towards Kibbutz Ginosar and when I get to the road parallel to the Kinneret I head south towards the access road to Tamar beach. At the intersection with the access road I get permission and cross the road. From there I stumble the last kilometer to the beach of the Kinneret drop my rucksack and just collapse from exhaustion. 50 kilometers in a single night, and the pain in my feet was unreal I could not stand on them much less walk straight.

After a few minutes of just lying there I joined the other two guys there in a dip in the Kinneret and then we came back to help with the BBQ. After 85 kilometers and only 1000 calories in 2 days I could barely control myself from just tearing into the food like and animal. But oh boy did I eat, and eat, and eat. We would eat till our fill, lay down and sleep an hour, then go back for another round.

1 comment:

  1. Love Love Love reading your life experiences. I know from here it probably gets more dangerous. I hope you'll be able to write often. I'll worry when I don't 'hear' from you. Thank you for the descriptive sharing. I feel I know a little more about Israel's landscaping. It sounds like a place that is very harsh and demanding, but, at the same time, a protector of it's people. Hashem is standing guard over Israel and you!