December 13, 2019

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Aliyah, IDF Style- Part 2 (Ziesel R)
A few months ago I asked a friend of mine whose daughter had just made Aliyah right out of high school if she would be interested in writing about her experiences. This is part 2. Part 1 is here.

5 May 2017
It started Wednesday morning April 19th. I get to Beer Sheva with all my stuff ready to begin my new journey. Only now do have a moment to write this down.

I get assigned a bus and we leave for the bakum in Tel Aviv. The bakum is where you officially become a soldier. You get there and are told to take off all your jewelry and put your bags and everything you have away. The only thing I had on me was my ID and bank information. You go through a process of getting your fingers printed, picture taken, finger pricked, cheek swabbed, arm stabbed with shots and so on. Eventually you are given your choger (army ID) and diskeet (dog tags). When all this is done you get the uniform that you will need to wear for the next 2+ years. The first time you put on those crisp green shirts and shiny new boots you feel proud. Proud that you are here and have done everything you can to get to this moment.

That feeling of finally being a soldier is great and overwhelming but after a few days you start to miss being a civilian. It’s hard to always be on someone else’s schedule. It’s frustrating not be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want. However you need to accept your new reality of being property of the army. That might sound like a horrible way of putting it but that is what you are. You can no longer think or do whatever you want. Everything is on your mefakedet’s (commanders) command.

Something that was really hard for me was getting a gun. I’ve always seen soldiers in the streets and thought they were “so cool”. However I no longer see it that way. Now when I see them I feel bad for them. I have an long M16 which is about 3 kg. It hangs on me awkwardly and bangs into my knees whenever we have to run. The first week I was covered in bruises. Slowly you learn how to hold it without it banging into you. But the weight and awkwardness of the gun wasn’t my problem. I was having trouble focusing and understanding the lessons. 

See, everything for me is a double lesson. For someone who grew up in Israel all they need to know is the basic information. But for me it’s a double challenge. I need to first learn and understand all the vocabulary and after that I can learn the actual lesson itself. After practicing several times I now feel more confident. However I needed to first teach myself that asking for help is okay and isn’t a bad thing. 

Next week we are heading to the shetach (field) to shoot our guns. I know I am ready.

This past week was Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. My Yom Hazikaron started on Sunday night when I attended atekes (ceremony) in Sderot about 10 minutes from where I live. Standing there in my uniform I began to think about the bigger picture. This was reinforced even stronger the next day when I went to Har Herzl cemetery for the first time in my uniform. Standing next to the section for lone soldiers I wondered what their stories are. Each and every one of those soldiers in Har Herzl has one. It’s scary to think one day I may know someone buried there. But that is why each and every lone soldier I know is in Israel. They are all willing to risk their lives for our home. 

Yom Haatzmaut was really lively and fun. I attended the BBQ at the Michael Levin Center for Lone Solders in Jerusalem with many of my friends. All the volunteers are nice and friendly. They each want to do whatever they can to help us. It was extremely surreal to be in Israel for Independence Day. I knew that I finally made it home.

Settling into army life is not easy. After my first full week I didn’t want to have to come back. I felt unmotivated and was focusing on all the negatives. A friend helped me realize that I would never be able to do it until I changed my mindset. So this week I did. I realized that the army is just a game and I just need to win the game. Every time we are told to run, I run as fast as I can to be first. Whenever we are told to say or do anything I give it 100%. Doing this has really helped me handle the army better. I’m just a piece on the game board trying to get to the finish before all the other players. Now, this doesn’t always end up working out. Many times I think I’m moving ahead when all of a sudden I get thrown back a few spots. 

For example the other day we needed to take our straps off our gun to put it away for the weekend. One of my friends had arrived late holding two guns because she was asked to take another girl’s gun back. Seeing her struggle I asked permission to help her. I asked in the proper way with the proper Hebrew grammar. 

I was then told to do push-ups. 

Even when you try your hardest to be a team player it sometimes just doesn’t work out. At the end of the day this is the army game, the rules are made up as they go along. All I can do is try my hardest to win.

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