Today I had my first experience with the Israeli army. I had to pick up my teammate Rave (pronounced Rah-Veh)promptly at 7:50 AM and then head out to Haifa to start the days festivities. Rave is a great guy but his English needs a lot of work. As we were driving he told me that most soldiers have to be at the base an hour earlier, but he has a “connecticut” with someone in charge that buys him some time.
The base was nothing like I was expecting. I imagined a fortress like structure with regal looking guards and impeccably clean facilities. Instead it is a non-descript building that could stand to have some work done tucked away in an Arab part of town. Speaking of Arabs, on the walk in I asked Rave what he thought about Obama getting tough with Israel. His response: “Obama is a Muslim pest. He does nothing about Iran.” Woah, that was to the point. Apparently that is the consensus opinion out here. When I mention that Bush was so awful the people wanted to elect the person ideologically furthest from him, he simply replied that Bush was better. Food for thought.
So we enter the facility and the first step is to get interviewed by a soldier. Once again my expectations were off, because I imagined a huge, angry looking bald guy trying to test my toughness, and I got a nice, tiny girl who could not have been older than 20. Also, instead of being sequestered in a dimly lit room with two steel chairs I was one of about 15 people crammed into a noisy room with a bunch of tiny cubicles. Once my interviewer established I could not speak Hebrew I assumed the interview would continue in English, but there was a detour first. She brought over a more intimidating lady who proceeded to speak to me in Hebrew. Phrase after phrase went in one ear and out the other with me offering nothing to indicate I had any idea what was going on. Eventually she was satisfied, decided I was not lying about my lack of language skills, and mercifully left me back with the other girl. After what seemed like an unnecessarily long look back at my education history in which she was stressing over the year I started kindergarten, I once again had to go through the “is he lying and secretly fluent in Hebrew” gauntlet. This time not only did two people talk to me in Hebrew, they also decided to test my reading and writing. They brought out a text and began to point at words:
Can you say this?
What about this?
Then they gave me a piece of paper and asked me to write my name. I of course said that I couldn’t, so they just told me to put an X. They then went through a litany of words and just told me to put an X if I couldn’t write them. My pleas to skip this section based on my clear Hebrew ineptitude went unanswered. So, I had to sit there like a complete idiot making my little x while they listed off words. It was quite demeaning.
Once that was through there was a final questionnaire where they asked stuff such as:
“Do you hear voices?”
“Do you get an uncontrollable urge to hurt people?”
“Do you think that life has no meaning?”
I was tempted to bubble in some crazy answers so that in the off-chance they tried to make me serve they would second guess taking someone who swears he is always being watched and often sees ghosts. But as usual I chickened out and answered honestly. Once this was complete I had to sign a paper, which was of course only available in Hebrew. “Don’t worry,” the girl says “it is just saying that you agree to be a part of the army and that if you leave the country you have to be back in three months.” Whaaaat? I didn’t really have any other options but to sign and hope that my situation would work out like the many players before me who go through this process and never set foot on a base again. It was still kind of nerve-wracking though. As for the three-month thing, all she could offer up on that was if I left for more than 3 months “it would not be good.”
Another aspect of the interview involved her asking me who I would give my assets to in case something happened. She then confirmed that I had no relatives or close acquaintances in Israel. So I came up with this gem: “Uhh, can’t I just be the beneficiary?” She then informed me that would not be possible because we were talking about something, very, very serious happening. I could take the hint. So, with relatively few options I bequeathed everything to my coach should I die on the battlefield. If that can’t get me some more playing time I don’t know what can.
Next up I had to meet with the Doctor. Not much of note happened here other than me being awestruck at how this guy typed. It is kind of hard to describe, but he curled his entire left hand up around the escape key, placed his right hand at an odd angle, and then pecked about using between 1 and 3 fingers. How someone came to get comfortable typing in this manner is beyond my comprehension, especially for a guy who has to use a computer on a daily basis. I guess it is kind of like a typing equivalent of a Chuck Hayes free throw. (He is an NBA player but has the most god awful free throw form I have ever seen. Youtube “Chuck Hayes Free Throw” for a good laugh. We’ll see if this link works, I’m not good at this stuff. Gahh just copy and paste it how lazy are you? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wQq9YWZ568
The final part of the day was a test on a computer. I had to look at a bunch of shapes and select the shape that would best complete the pattern. I breezed through a few questions, but then they got kinda hard. Which meant it was time to randomly click on answers to get the test over with as soon as possible. It was a skill I honed during a lot of pay for participation psychology studies at school, and I was done within 10 minutes. (Side note: Maybe its just me, but I rarely trust the results of a psychology study after having half assed my way through so many. There was no one faster at filling out a form without any regard for what they were asking. Although one time I realized that the questions all had to do with how racist you were, and I had inadvertently selected some very questionable choices. Thank god those things take privacy so seriously. Anyway, I may have single-handedly skewed some of the most prominent and groundbreaking research in the world, but I was generally tired and had practice soon, so whatever.)
That concluded my day with the Army. It was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. No running through the desert, no guns, no pushups. As for basketball, we had a game tonight and 3 of our guards were injured. I got to play the majority of the game and responded with my best game of the year in a win. Who knows what will happen when people return to the lineup, but it was satisfying to finally get a chance and to play near my potential. It was also fun when their American went to the line after a drive and I told our big guy to back off and make him shoot, cause there was no way he was gonna make it. He responded with a curt “You must not know me!” Which he was right about obviously, maybe he was a great shooter, so I politely said “Well I’m just going off a one quarter sample size.” I think this logic vexed him because I got nothing but a blank stare in return. Anyway, this marks the first non-depressing Tuesday night in roughly 6 months, so I am happy about that.