By Lilli Martin
In 2001, Israel experienced one of its worst civil disasters. During a ceremony at the Versailles weddinghall,aportionofthethirdfloor
fell through, killing 23 people and injuring 380.
In times like these, the Search and Rescue (SAR) Unit of the Home Front Command is called into action.
Their mission: Find and save trapped civilians. Last summer, I decided I wanted to learn more about the IDF and SAR, so I applied for a specialty Birthright trip that included a three-day boot camp at a SAR training facility. We Americans were going to learn about what it meant to serve in Israel.
We arrived at Bahad 16, the SAR training base in Tzrifin, and were introduced to our new military life by Sergeants One, Two, and Three.
Within ten minutes of arriving on base, dogtags were given out and rules were set. No laughing, no talking. Remain in a straight line when walking. But most importantly there is no “thank you” in the military— although we failed miserably on refraining from thanking people. It’s an American trait, I believe.
After settling into our barracks, we were sent to class for basic lessons and tool training.
Spray “>>” on rubble for air cavities, “X” for no entrance, “+” for sliding. Communicate with your team—if they need you, don’t hesitate. Someone’s life depends on it.
On a few occasions during training, alarms went off—requiring us to evacuate into storage rooms. We Americans looked and felt embarrassingly nervous; the Israelis seemed nonchalant about the whole ordeal.
The abrupt wake-up call on Day Two set us up for non-stop training. With our new uniforms and protective gear, we set out for the destructed training field, and searched for soldiers hiding within the rubble.
I’ve never been in a fight before; so when we were told to attack a packed sleeping bag full force, yelling, “Get the terrorist!”, I was surprised by how much strength I actually had.
Day Three. The final test before our training was officially over. Objective: Save a wounded civilian trapped inside of a blocked off room.
Our first obstacle was to break through a metal wall. This required the use of a power saw; which, after only two days of training, made me want to stay as far away as possible from any person holding the tool.
Once we broke through the metal barrier, we were faced with a concrete wall. For this, we were given jack hammers. As I drilled through part of the wall, I felt as if I was actually rushing to save a person.
We snapped the metal wires within the concrete wall and were able to finish our rescue. Bringing out a stretcher, we maneuvered and secured our person onto the cot. We finished with a lap around the site, switching positions to hold the stretcher above us.
I realized then that I took my carefree life back home for granted. I talked to many soldiers who loved what they do and are proud to serve Israel; I’ve also met soldiers who couldn’t wait for their service to be over.
I will admit that I was one of the only people who enjoyed the training; however, I think everyone gained perspective.Three days was just a small glimpse into the two to three years