Marva (Hebrew: מרווה) is a two-month Israel Defense Forces basic training program for young Jews from the Diaspora which offers an opportunity to experience the IDF and Israeli life. The program is based at Sde Boker.
Marva, originally affiliated with Gadna, which is now part of the Israeli Education and Youth Corps, is open to young adults aged 18-25 fluent in English or Hebrew. The majority of participants are 18-20.
Every week, the program focuses on a different aspect of Israeli army life. Participants travel around the country visiting IDF bases and experiencing the life of a soldier while learning about the army itself. The program costs 1650 USD and is non-refundable. Medical coverage does not apply to out weekends, which are every two weeks. Should a participant need time off during the course a letter must be written to the commanding officer in Hebrew. Also all orders are given in Hebrew, however due to it being understood that the course participants are not fluent in Hebrew, all orders are translated.
Participants are also assigned kitchen and guard duty. Marva is characterized by a greater focus on discipline than on physical fitness compared to basic training for combat units in the army. A former graduate Mike Steinbach has credited his experiences in Marva for helping him write his books "Torah and Zionism?" as well as Pirkei Avot A Zionist approach"
Week 1: Induction Participants are taught the basics of discipline and get a weapon after a short hike. They also learn the theory of shooting and practice shooting positions.
Week 2: "Field Week" The week is spent outside living like a soldier on the line. Participants sleep in tents, eat army field rations and learn the basics of field techniques (camouflage, movement, etc.). Participants also undergo target practice with an M16 rifle.
Week 4: Navigation Week Participants learn the basics of map-reading use the knowledge learned in the classroom in the field, in small squads.
Week 5: Sport Week Participants spend a week at Wingate Institute, Israel's leading sports training facility, training with army sports instructors.
Week 6: Combat Week Participants spend a week at the home base of one of the IDF infantry units, Nahal. Participants learn how combat soldiers live, and practice shooting with an Israeli-manufactured rifle, the Tavor.
Week 8: Final Week The week begins with a hike up the snake path of Masada to watch the sunrise. On the last day of the course, at David Ben-Gurion's grave, family and friends are encouraged to come and watch the participants receive a ceremonial pin, the Marvaton. This pin however while cool has the symbol of a combat soldier together with the Gadna symbol which for any Israeli aware of Tzahal symbols is akin to saying "I went to Harvard for kindergarten"