Last Updated on November 16, 2021
I was a Lone Soldier – A Chayal Boded
By: Eran Zingman
Lots of unsteady, Zionist motivated, young American adults come to Israel to show their Jewish/Israeli attachment. Maybe it’s just an excuse, and they are searching for their identity in what they presume is a different and friendlier society. In my case, I came to Israel, not because I wanted to contribute to Israel, but because I needed to get away from a hectic way of life in Los Angeles. I was searching for a combination of stability, equality, loyalty, individuality and even similarity. I hoped that my endeavors would propel my personal growth, maturity and purpose in life.
I was single and only 20 years old when I arrived in Haifa. I didn’t do a lot of preparation before I came other than buy a plane ticket and find a friend to stay with temporarily. On my arrival, I had to get my identity card (te’udat ze’hut) from Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of the Interior), my Teudat Oleh (immigrant card) from Misrad Haklita (Ministry of Aliyah & Integration). I had to open a bank account so I could make rental payments and organize a credit card so I could get a mobile phone. Within a week, I had done this all and found a (reasonable) studio apartment to live in.
I was on a solo mission; my parents were too old to move with me. I have family (uncles and aunts) around the country, but I couldn’t depend on them for everything. In fact, I found doing things alone much easier. It was less demanding, I was more mobile, and it was much cheaper. Sometimes it was a hassle getting things done without knowing the language and understanding the process. But sill, I was eager to learn. Tirelessly, I asked locals how to get to places, and where and how to get things done.
Shortly after registering my address at Misrad Hapnim, I received my draft papers to join the army. At Lishkat Gi’yus, (the military drafting office) in Haifa, I completed the rudimentary questionnaires and psychology test. Six months later, because of my Hebrew level, I was sent to an Ulpan unit at a special base near Karmiel. In a 3 week basic training program, aimed at absorbing new immigrants, I was grouped with a bunch of Russians, a few French and American people. During this time, I realized that I wasn’t suited for a fighting unit. Many army coordinating counselors lead me to focus my interest in the Air Force. I was appointed as a F16 Fighter Jet technician and immediately transferred to a base for a 2 month instructional course.
In the army I was registered as a lonely soldier (cha’yal bo’ded), and was appointed a Mashakit Tash, which is a kind of army social worker who was responsible for my well being. She researched my status in Israel and requested on my behalf, aid and assistance from numerous facilities. This assistance was a so important and it really helped me out. I managed to live rent-free from a subsidy I obtained. I received a higher (double) monthly army salary, and I had 3 evenings leave from the base every week. On my evenings off, I worked as a waiter and would return to the base the following morning. As long as I worked part time, it was not difficult to support myself during my army service.
Although my time in the army was aggravating, I found it an enriching experience. It was a comfortable environment and gave me the opportunity to learn, and get accustomed to, Israeli traditions. I found ways to follow orders and later on, give orders. I matured immensely. I would advise any single person who is planning on living in Israel to join the army first. Being patient, observant and open-minded, is a great way of starting over.