“What It Means To Be A Lone Soldier” -Julia Spiegal, Kibbutz Hanita 2015
"I love my life here. For the good and the bad and everything in between, I love it."
Being a lone soldier is really fun. Living with 17 other lone soldiers is a blast. Meeting new people all the time from different parts of the world and Israel is fascinating. Living in Israel is exciting. Joining the army is an extreme growing and learning experience. Reflecting on the life I’ve created for myself here is empowering. Following my dreams is fulfilling.
I love my life here and there is not ONE SECOND that I truly doubt my decision.
With that said, I knew when I made this decision that it wouldn’t be easy. I knew that the army would be hard and that every single little tiny thing would be a fight. I knew I would miss my family and friends and the comforts of America. I knew this because everyone warned me. I knew this because between the “wow, I’m so proud of you” and “mazal tov on making aliyah” and “you’re such an inspiration for following your dreams” I was also reminded that “you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into” and “you’re crazy for doing this… living in America is the dream”.
Until the moment comes where you feel lost in the system of the army and you’re not getting what you’re “promised” (the army makes the rules and can also break the rules),
Until the moment comes where you feel the hole in your life when your friends from the army are going home to their parents and siblings and you don’t really know the next time you’ll be seeing yours,
Until you realize that although there are jobs in the army that are meaningful, the majority (although they are important to the army as a whole), are filled with tons of bureaucracy, stress and boredom,
Until the moment comes where you really wish your laundry would just be done without you having to wait for the other 15 people who also need to use the laundry machine finish using it or that a home cooked meal would just appear in front of you,
Until the moment comes when you realize there is a culture gap between you and the people you spend the majority of your week with and no matter how hard you try to explain to them why you’re here, they’ll never ever get it,
Until then, you don’t truly understand what it means to live in Israel as a lone soldier. It doesn’t matter how ready you think you are or how much people warn you, you don’t understand it until it happens to you.
There are also days and moments of immense joy and success.
There’s that moment where you wake up in the middle of the night and start half sleep talking and half speaking consciously in a language, that one year ago, you could barely put full sentences together.
There’s that moment when you gaze out the window of the bus and although you’ve drove on this road a million times, you’re in complete disbelief because you can’t believe how beautiful this land is.
There’s that moment when you look in the mirror and are so impressed by the strong and mature soldier that’s staring back at you.
There’s that moment when you walk into the house of your adopted family and your adopted siblings run up to you and give you the biggest hug and your sit and drink tea with fresh mint that your adopted mom picked from the garden outside the house.
There’s that moment when you drive into the kibbutz after a long week in the army, take a deep breath and feel at home.
There’s that moment when you go up to the tatspit on the kibbutz with your pakal cafe and listen to israeli music shel pa’am and later that night, go to the pub and dance like there’s no tomorrow to your favorite horrible Israeli pop songs that are so fun and you love and know every single word to (even though no one wants to admit how much they love them).
There’s that moment when the siren goes off during yom hazikaron and every single person feels the same but different feeling of pain and mourning at the same time and together as a country.
There’s that moment when you’re sitting in a restaurant and a waiter drops a glass and the whole restaurant cheers and claps and screams mazal tov in unison.
There’s that moment that on your 20th birthday you get lifted in a chair 21 times because being lifted in a chair isn’t just reserved for bar mitzvah’s.
There’s that moment when you read the meme that someone sent to חיילים מצייצים and you laugh out loud because you couldn’t agree more, because although everyone’s experience in the army is different, there are so many things that every single soldier understands.
There’s that moment when you go to the mall and start talking to the sales lady who hears your accent and you tell her you’re a lone soldier and she invites you for shabbat.
There’s that moment when you get off the bus on Friday morning and the driver wishes you a Shabbat Shalom.
There’s that moment when you’re standing in the morning at misdar hanafa and even though you sing the hatikva every morning now and stand sleepily watching them raise the Israeli flag, it hits you once again that you get to live in a country that your people have been dreaming about returning to for 2,000 years and you yourself are serving in its army.
There’s that moment of pride and accomplishment when someone tells you “you look/ act/ sound Israeli”.
There’s that moment when you realize that your Sunday morning ritual before the army of eating a fresh fruit smoothie where you watch them put the fruit into the blender and a pita with zatar that you watched them make infront of you from the druze guy next to the smoothie stand and know that this would never happen in your college dining hall.
There’s that moment when you’re in the Beer Sheva central bus station and you see 3 different people you know because it’s truly impossible to be there without seeing someone from some part of your life.
I love my life here. For the good and the bad and everything in between, I love it.
Continue reading: Get to know the Israeli Lone Soldiers here at Garin Tzabar.