The mere fact that I was having an interview came as a surprise to me. As far as I had known the gibush was over the moment we were told that we had made it to the end. Once it was all over the men who had been instructing us and making notes on us shared a little about themselves and dropped the barriers that had existed between us over the past 3 days. Most importantly for me they told us what units they had been in and when they had served. I knew that they were impressed with me and that my lack of Hebrew hadn’t harmed my chances but had enhanced them as they knew it added an extra element of difficulty to my gibush but the prospect of an interview scared me far more, I wasn't prepared, I didn't know what kinds of questions they were going to ask or what answers they wanted to hear.
I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to impress a bunch of hardened soldiers sitting across a table from me. I could barely speak, I didn't even know the Hebrew words for knife and fork, how on earth was I going to be able to explain to them that feeling of emptiness I had felt back in Manchester when I found myself unable even to enter the recruitment fair? Would they even care? I didn't know the answers to these and the other questions that kept popping into my head, my eyes kept closing of their own free will and I dreamed of the metal cot I had left three days ago. When my turn came to be interviewed I was led away from the guys I had been with for the past three days and told to sit on a bench in front of yet another canvas tent. There was a dark skinned kid with bushy eyebrows already there waiting, we sat there next to each other looking into the emptiness of the desert. There was enough time for him to tell me that his name was Avi before he was called into the tent and I was left to wait on my own.
The only other interview I could remember sitting through was to work in Sony selling TV’s for a summer, I doubted that experience would be of much use. I sat there on that bench watching the sun drop ever further down towards its Mediterranean resting place "You're almost there Marc", I told myself, "just this one last hurdle and you're there" the adrenaline was storming it's merry way through me while I sat on a bench, watching the sun drop ever closer to the desert floor, waiting to be called into an anonymous green tent where my fate would be decided eventually the gesticulations of a reservist shook me from my reverie, it was my turn to enter into the dreaded tent.
Waiting for me inside were five reservists, a representative of each of the units looking at the new recruits. One of them had been running my team on the gibush. He was the very big, very bald man who now for some reason was wearing a ridiculous cowboy hat. The others all looked a lot younger. They were tough though and good looking. Some of them wore T-shirts with their unit insignia on them, though I didn't recognise which units they were at the time. The interview began when the cowboy leaned forward and said “Marc what can we do with you? You don’t even speak Hebrew?”
I have to admit that a part of me had been expecting them to bow down in admiration at the fact that I had come all the way from London to put my life on the line for their country. Unfortunately with that first question it was clear that was not going to happen, it appeared that they might consider me more of a burden than a solution. I was unprepared for the line of questioning and after what felt like a very long silence I simply blurted out “within a couple of months of army service I’ll be fluent” my voice sounded very loud to me, I could feel a bead of sweat trickle down my back. I instantly regretted the outburst though before I could dwell on it someone else leaned in with another question. “But why are you here at all?” This clearly wasn’t going well. Surely it was obvious that I had arrived to serve in the army, was I really going to have to search my soul and start talking about England and my feelings of teenage angst? I answered that it had been my dream to serve in Sayeret Tzanhanim. He dismissed this with a flick of his rather large wrist, “Why is that your dream, Marc?” He asked quietly. They were all looking at me, I didn't know what to say.
Every soldier I had spoken to since arriving in the country had told me about how he couldn’t wait to get out of the army, how could I tell these guys that I had come to Israel with visions of glory and to become the ultimate Jewish warrior? I had to say something that made sense to them. The problem was I had been so focused on getting into the army that I had never really asked myself why I wanted it so badly. With suicide bombers blowing themselves up in Israel’s heartland I hadn’t expected anyone to wonder what I was doing there, certainly not anyone in the army. “This is the best army in the world, the only one that is willing to look after Jews”. Was the line I came up with, I looked at their faces and I could see that they were unimpressed with me; I shifted uncomfortably on my seat once again. “So do you just want to kill an Arab or something?” said a wiry, thin soldier. He was wearing a cap with one of the unfamiliar unit insignia on it. “No” I blurted out, painfully aware that the very people I wanted to impress were starting to wonder if I was a psycho. “If I'm going to spend 2 years in the army I just want to make sure that I serve in the best unit that I can,” I said with as much confidence and authority as I could muster. The mood relaxed somewhat and the big guy gave a small grin and looked at the soldier to his left who gave one too. Perhaps they were smiling at my naiveté. Perhaps they felt awkward too, perhaps they just thought that a young man who had no idea what he was getting into had just walked into their tent.
Then they started with questions about my choice of unit. “Why Sayeret Tzanhanim Marc? You know there are other units too, would you consider going to a unit other than the Sayeret?” I told them this was the unit I wanted, the best unit in the army and the reason I had come to Israel. But inside I wasn't so sure any more. If I answered in the wrong way they might not send me to any of the units, “Sayeret Tzanhanim is of course my first choice but you guys are the ones who know most about the army and I will go where I am sent.” I said. Heads around the table nodded and I felt pleased that I had finally said something that provoked a relatively positive response.
After a couple more questions they released me, I walked out of the interview with a sick feeling in my stomach. Their questions had caught me off guard, especially the one about just wanting to kill an Arab. I hadn't even considered that I might actually have to kill someone before. The interview marked the end of the gibush the adrenaline in my system was gone and my eyes attempted to close themselves despite my brain telling them to remain open. I was in the hands of the army now and they would decide my fate.