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One Wide, but a Thousand Deep

November 6, 2011 – 9:07 am16 Comments

Image design: Kovi Rose

By Kovi Rose
When I decided to make aliyah, move from Australia to Israel, and join the army, I based my decision on several things. The immense feeling of belonging amongst the cultural history of my people weighed heavily on my mind, however the notion of having a better life socially and fiscally after maturing in the army made me feel as if my choice was the practical one; not the emotional path that many people assumed. Thus I mentally prepared myself for many of the pitfalls of Israel: the bureaucracy, the language, the economy, and even the theological and political arguments that every Israeli taxi driver demands. Seven months later I find myself looking back with a devilish hindsight that often lures me to ask myself whether I’ve perhaps dug myself a hole which is a metre wide but a kilometre deep.

After finishing my five-month ulpan course to learn Hebrew at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, I immediately joined the Garin Tzabar group at Kibbutz Lavi near Tiberias.

To briefly explain what it entails, Garin Tzabar – translated loosely as the public core – is a program that brings young olim (people who immigrate to Israel) from around the world together to live on a kibbutz for three months in preparation for the army. These lone soldiers are each adopted by a kibbutz family whom they will be able to come home to on weekends for the duration of their army service. This program is designed to help new olim through their army drafting process and to aid them in gaining access to tryouts for some of the more elite positions in the IDF.

Now, more than two months through the preparatory three before the army, I find myself with a list of cons but very few pros to counter them. Most of Garin Tzabar received a form to fill out their preferences for the army a month and a half ago; which, due to a clerical error in my tzav rishon (first draft day) Hebrew test, I never received. Shortly after that, most of Garin Tzabar received notification of which units were available to them, and subsequently several of people have already begun their service. This absurd error has had the effect of leaving me in a pre-army limbo, not knowing when or to where I will be recruited. Yet I am not the only one to be frustrated or disappointed. Many people who wanted infantry were forced into artillery; people who requested to be in the Air-force were told to go to the Navy, and some of those who had dreamt for years of serving in combat units in defence of Israel were told that they were unfit for such service and simply given desk-jobs.

If I were to complain about something that affected me more, it would be Garin Tzabar’s lack of follow-through on issues that they surmised to deal with. The program itself does wonderfully in providing us all a place to eat and sleep and be sociable, however it too often concerns itself with the semantics of having a perfect group who follows their rules. For example, having all signed a form with the programs rules before its commencement, we have recently been forced into signing a document with more rules which border on silly and unfair. This ranges from not being allowed to drink alcohol during the week, to being forbidden from wearing jeans on Shabbat.

In response to any small qualm they might have with one of us, the administrative staff frequently offers the thought that perhaps this isn’t the right place for us, something which I feel is hugely detrimental to the mindset of someone in such a position. In my opinion, they ought to support us with a focus on problem solving, before resorting to punishment and abandonment.

On a day-to-day basis I find myself anxious to start the army, move forward to a new challenge that will push me to my physical and psychological limits. In doing so, I could forget the stultifying bureaucracy of the army drafting process, and additionally the difficulties of Garin Tzabar. I simply pray that I find, contrary to the trend I have discovered in my lack of preparation for aliyah, that achievement and progress in the army are not beyond my reach.

Kovi Rose is a Mount Scopus graduate who made aliyah in March 2011. This is an entry for his aliyah journal that he is writing for Galus Australis.

When I decided to make aliyah, move to Israel, and join the army, I based my decision on several things. The immense feeling of belonging amongst the cultural history of my people weighed heavily on my mind, however the notion of having a better life socially and fiscally after maturing in the army made me feel as if my choice was the practical one; not the emotional path that many people assumed. Thus I mentally prepared myself for many of the pitfalls of Israel: the bureaucracy, the language, the economy, and even the theological and political arguments that every Israeli taxi driver demands. Seven months later I find myself looking back with a devilish hindsight that often lures me to ask myself whether I’ve perhaps dug myself a hole which is a metre wide but a kilometre deep.

After finishing my five-month ulpan course to learn Hebrew at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, I immediately joined the Garin Tzabar group at Kibbutz Lavi near Tiberias.

To briefly explain what it entails, Garin Tzabar - translated loosely as the public core – is a program that brings young olim (people who immigrate to Israel) from around the world together to live on a kibbutz for three months in preparation for the army. These lone soldiers are each adopted by a kibbutz family whom they will be able to come home to on weekends for the duration of their army service. This program is designed to help new olim through their army drafting process and to aid them in gaining access to tryouts for some of the more elite positions in the IDF.

Now, more than two months through the preparatory three before the army, I find myself with a list of cons but very few pros to counter them. Most of Garin Tzabar received a form to fill out their preferences for the army a month and a half ago; which, due to a clerical error in my tzav rishon (first draft day) Hebrew test, I never received. Shortly after that, most of Garin Tzabar received notification of which units were available to them, and subsequently several of people have already begun their service. This absurd error has had the effect of leaving me in a pre-army limbo, not knowing when or to where I will be recruited. Yet I am not the only one to be frustrated or disappointed. Many people who wanted infantry were forced into artillery; people who requested to be in the Air-force were told to go to the Navy, and some of those who had dreamt for years of serving in combat units in defence of Israel were told that they were unfit for such service and simply given desk-jobs.

If I were to complain about something that affected me more, it would be Garin Tzabar’s lack of follow-through on issues that they surmised to deal with. The program itself does wonderfully in providing us all a place to eat and sleep and be sociable, however it too often concerns itself with the semantics of having a perfect group who follows their rules. For example, having all signed a form with the programs rules before its commencement, we have recently been forced into signing a document with more rules which border on silly and unfair. This ranges from not being allowed to drink alcohol during the week, to being forbidden from wearing jeans on Shabbat.

In response to any small qualm they might have with one of us, the administrative staff frequently offers the thought that perhaps this isn’t the right place for us, something which I feel is hugely detrimental to the mindset of someone in such a position. In my opinion, they ought to support us with a focus on problem solving, before resorting to punishment and abandonment.

 

On a day-to-day basis I find myself anxious to start the army, move forward to a new challenge that will push me to my physical and psychological limits. In doing so, I could forget the stultifying bureaucracy of the army drafting process, and additionally the difficulties of Garin Tzabar. I simply pray that I find, contrary to the trend I have discovered in my lack of preparation for aliyah, that achievement and progress in the army are not beyond my reach.

One Wide, But a Thousand Deep

When I decided to make aliyah, move to Israel, and join the army, I based my decision on several things. The immense feeling of belonging amongst the cultural history of my people weighed heavily on my mind, however the notion of having a better life socially and fiscally after maturing in the army made me feel as if my choice was the practical one; not the emotional path that many people assumed. Thus I mentally prepared myself for many of the pitfalls of Israel: the bureaucracy, the language, the economy, and even the theological and political arguments that every Israeli taxi driver demands. Seven months later I find myself looking back with a devilish hindsight that often lures me to ask myself whether I’ve perhaps dug myself a hole which is a metre wide but a kilometre deep.

After finishing my five-month ulpan course to learn Hebrew at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, I immediately joined the Garin Tzabar group at Kibbutz Lavi near Tiberias.

To briefly explain what it entails, Garin Tzabar – translated loosely as the public core – is a program that brings young olim (people who immigrate to Israel) from around the world together to live on a kibbutz for three months in preparation for the army. These lone soldiers are each adopted by a kibbutz family whom they will be able to come home to on weekends for the duration of their army service. This program is designed to help new olim through their army drafting process and to aid them in gaining access to tryouts for some of the more elite positions in the IDF.

Now, more than two months through the preparatory three before the army, I find myself with a list of cons but very few pros to counter them. Most of Garin Tzabar received a form to fill out their preferences for the army a month and a half ago; which, due to a clerical error in my tzav rishon (first draft day) Hebrew test, I never received. Shortly after that, most of Garin Tzabar received notification of which units were available to them, and subsequently several of people have already begun their service. This absurd error has had the effect of leaving me in a pre-army limbo, not knowing when or to where I will be recruited. Yet I am not the only one to be frustrated or disappointed. Many people who wanted infantry were forced into artillery; people who requested to be in the Air-force were told to go to the Navy, and some of those who had dreamt for years of serving in combat units in defence of Israel were told that they were unfit for such service and simply given desk-jobs.

If I were to complain about something that affected me more, it would be Garin Tzabar’s lack of follow-through on issues that they surmised to deal with. The program itself does wonderfully in providing us all a place to eat and sleep and be sociable, however it too often concerns itself with the semantics of having a perfect group who follows their rules. For example, having all signed a form with the programs rules before its commencement, we have recently been forced into signing a document with more rules which border on silly and unfair. This ranges from not being allowed to drink alcohol during the week, to being forbidden from wearing jeans on Shabbat.

In response to any small qualm they might have with one of us, the administrative staff frequently offers the thought that perhaps this isn’t the right place for us, something which I feel is hugely detrimental to the mindset of someone in such a position. In my opinion, they ought to support us with a focus on problem solving, before resorting to punishment and abandonment.

On a day-to-day basis I find myself anxious to start the army, move forward to a new challenge that will push me to my physical and psychological limits. In doing so, I could forget the stultifying bureaucracy of the army drafting process, and additionally the difficulties of Garin Tzabar. I simply pray that I find, contrary to the trend I have discovered in my lack of preparation for aliyah, that achievement and progress in the army are not beyond my reach.

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16 Comments »

  • R B says:

    Well, there are many Israelis who are drafted – and, unlike you and your friends, they are drafted by conscription and not by choice – who are not given the roles that they wanted. Gar’in Tzabbar members should not be different, and should not have a priority over their Israeli mates in having their requests fulfilled.

    However, above all, I wonder why young Australian Jews are so enthusiastic to spill their blood for a state, which claims to be Jewish, but its commitment to the Jewish people has come under doubt recently; which more and more of its young men and women dodge conscription – why should you do the hard jobs for them?; and, which ruling elites detests people like you – i.e. Zionist and frums, or “Dosim” as they are slurred in Israel.

  • Ari says:

    The IDF is the best in the world – at beauracracy! Utterly frustrating at times(even more than Misrad Hapnim!) – but well worth the effort. Sounds like you need a little more vitamin P.

  • Kovi Rose to R B says:

    RB,
    Firstly, you make it sound as if no one in Israel drafts to unit of their preference – this is not true as all Israelis are given the chance to select where they wish to serve in the army. My qualm is the same as that of many others who draft by conscription.
    To answer the second part of your comment simply, i hope in my heart of hearts that the youth of Israel are affected by seeing other young Jews coming voluntarily to serve; i.e. that it provides an awakening or boost to their zionism,

  • lombard says:

    what really makes you think that having matured in the army you will be better off fiscally….compared with Australia??

  • letters in the age says:

    ……. “I wonder why young Australian Jews are so enthusiastic to spill their blood for a state, which claims to be Jewish, but its commitment to the Jewish people has come under doubt recently….”

    Ethnocentrism amongst many factors and selfish nationalism to answer that question.

  • R B says:

    Kovi,

    Read my comments – Many (not ALL) who are drafted do not have their requests fulfilled. Also, keep in mind that those mtes of you, unlike most of your Aussie mates, will have to serve in the reserve corps until the age of 40, what means being out of their homes 30 days a year, at inconvenient timing and (sometimes dangerous) conditions.

    Re the second part – I am afraid that your approach is innocent. You’ll understand that when you meet Israelis who live out of the Zionist, patriotic bubble of the religious Kibbutz where you stay now.

  • Hi Kovi,
    Firstly, Kol Hakavod on your decision to join Garin Tzabar.
    As you probably know, Nefesh B’Nefesh provides support to Garin Tzabar kids from North America and the UK. Give me a call and I’ll see how we can help you with the army contacts.
    Regards
    Danny Oberman (orig from Caulfield)
    Nefesh B’Nefesh

    02-6595871

  • Kovi Rose to All says:

    lombard – i feel that starting a life alone in israel will allow me independence and an ability to succeed based almost entirely of my own merit, as opposed to the bubble of the melbourne jewish community (similar to many diaspora communities) which ensures that its children continue to be financially dependent on their parents
    R B – i may be misinterpreting this, but your tone comes across as somewhat conscending (and entirely too asumptative considering how little you know me.
    Trust me i am not the naive religious kibbutznik you perceive me to be
    trust me i do not live inside a bubble
    And you can be certain that i have spent a large amount of time surrounded by, arguing with, and befriending israelis from all different areas of the political, patriotic and religious spectrum.
    Danny – thanks, i’ll be in touch :)

  • jljl says:

    @RB
    Whats your story? Where are you coming from with your insights?

    Kol hakavod to Kovi. HE CHOSE TO MAKE ALIYAH AND HE WILL ALSO END UP DOING MILUIM TILL HE IS 40! AND HE DID ALL THIS OF HIS OWN FREE WILL. Read between his lines…he really wants to do this, despite the stumbling blocks that have fallen in front of him! I DOUBT VERY MUCH THERE ARE ANY FAIRYTALE MISCONCEPTIONS THAT ROMANTICALLY ENVELOPED HIS MIND OR ZIONISTIC BUBBLES THAT YOU CAN BURST. HE SEEMS WHOLEY AND SOLEY COMMITTED TO ISRAEL AND IS DOING WHAT MANY OTHERS HAVENT GOT THE GUTS TO DO! He is not just talk! At the grand age of 18 he packed his bags and left his family and the comforts of Caulfield as he says and dropped himself independently into the much less comfortable kibbutz lifestyle inorder to help the country that makes the rest of us comfortable in our boots almost where ever we are.

    So who is living the romantic fairytale?

  • R B says:

    jljl,

    I Kovi continues to live in Israel and does Miluim till he is 40, I have no claims. However, the statistics show that most young Olim that come to Israel by themselves at the age of 18 and join the IDF, go back to their countries of origin after they finish their service – and unlike the native-born Israelis, they have this option. Read my previous comment – I referred to this type of Olim in general and not to Kovi in person.

    Re Zionist “bubbles” – well, I don’t know how old are you, for how long you’ve lived in Israel, and to what extent you are exposed to what is going on in Israeli society in 2011. The reality is that Modern Orthodox groups, like the Kibbutzim where Kivi has stayed, are very patriotic and Zionist – andif you spend there most of your time, this is the impression you get. However, the Israeli society in general becomes less and less such, especially the secular, left-leaning elites, who practically run the country, and have a strong influence on the general public through the media etc.

    Re your claim that Israel is “the country that makes the rest of us comfortable in our boots almost where ever we are” – I disagree with you, I think that the commitment and connection of the Israelis to the Jews who live out of Israel are getting weaker and weaker and you may disappointed of Israel in the future, but this is a subject for a broader, separate discussion.

  • David Gold says:

    Kovi,
    Welcome to the world! You could have volunteered for the same war as an Aussie soldier in Afghanistan and been six foot under today like so many who have served there.

    It is a shock acculturating to Israel, but take up Oberman’s offer to get things done better as a lot can be accomplished by what the Israelis call “protektsia” – that is knowing the right person. Not much difference anywhere in the world.

    Once you are in the army and get through the first three months of tough training you will make friends for life, enjoy yourself and not be a “mummy’s boy” like in the Australian Jewish community. It is quite a shock with the rules but there are pros and cons whereever you go.

    Life for Jews in Australia might seem materialistically perfect, however once families hit school fees the comparison with Israeli life means that you are a slave forever to paying just to keep your kids Jewish, whilst most Israelis have a quality of life as schools are almost free and by age 18 they are independent.

    Keep your chin up and keep smiling.

  • R B says:

    David Gold,

    The level and conditions in Israeli public schools are horrible. There are 40 students in a class, there is no discipline so teachers can hardly teach, many of them do not deserve their jobs, and the requirements from the students are getting lower and lower. Unlike in Australia, you don’t have a private alternative, even if you can afford it.

    Also, although officially there is no tuition and education is free, there are many fees which accumulate to thousand of Shekels every year.

    Quality of life? This not so good in Israel. There is no such a thing named “work-life balance” there. In an average middle-class family, both parents work 10-12 a day, every day, and still find it hard to maintain a decent living standard (in Israeli terms, not Australian terms). That is why many people supported the social protest of the last months.

    It is true that Israelis are mentally independent at their late teens, much more then Jewish Australians of the same age. However, they live with your parents until they complete military service, they just cannot afford moving out and also enjoy being spoiled by Mom and Dad when they come home for the weekend…:-)

  • letters in the age says:

    …..Life for Jews in Australia might seem materialistically perfect, however once families hit school fees the comparison with Israeli life means that you are a slave forever to paying just to keep your kids Jewish, whilst most Israelis have a quality of life as schools are almost free and by age 18 they are independent….

    unless you are a Southwick(insert smirk)

  • Danny Oberman says:

    @RB
    Everything in Israel is controversial and everyone has an opinion, but discussion should be based on fact.
    1.Most soldiers in Combat units (not officers) finish their Miluim requirements at the age of 32.
    2. Miluim is now 21-23 days/year.
    3. In our experience with North Americans singles who make Aliyah and serve in the IDF, (we have over 500 soldiers we are in touch with at the moment), over 90% stay in Israel after completing their IDF service.
    The majority of those who do return to North America, return to Israel within 5 years.
    4.As to left leaning elites running the country – The current democratically elected government is constantly be attacked for being pawns of the radical right.

    Its great to see a discussion about Israel driven by an ideologically motivated young individual like Kovi, who should be encouraged and supported by all Australian Jews.

    Danny Oberman
    Nefesh B’Nefesh
    http://www.nbn.org.il

  • Kovi Rose to All says:

    ****UPDATE: ****
    Just for those wondering,
    Since posting this article, i was allowed to re-sit the Hebrew test at the Recruitment office; passing easily.
    Yesterday I completed Gibbush Tzanchanim (Paratrooper Tryouts) and i am awaiting a letter from the Army within 2 weeks to tell me if i have been accepted.
    If not, i will most likely draft the the Nahal Brigade in the last week of November.

  • R B says:

    Hi Danny,

    Re the Miulim annual quota/age – I checked it with my friends in Israel who are in their mid-30s and serve in combative units. They – and so all their squad mates – will finish at the age of 40, up to 36 days a year. 21-23 days are probably an average which includes non-combative soldiers, or soldiers whom quota is limited to less days like students or policemen.

    Re the elites: Although Israel is now ruled by a right-centric government, many systems and institutions – media, academy, the arts, the judicial system, even some government departments – are dominated by the left-wing elites, which become more and more anti-Zionist, and in some cases even anti-Jewish. They aim at abolishing Israel’s self-definition as the nation-state of the Jewish people, including abolishing the Law of Return, on which Nefesh B’Nefesh bases its activities. True, they are political minority, but due to their dominance in many systems, they have the potential of making their views consensual in Israel – as they did with the recognition of the PLO 20 years ago.

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