Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Learning to live in Israel

One of the things I will not get to do is be a soldier in the Israeli Defense Force-- Tzahal. It is something that I want to do, considered doing, and then realized that I can contribute more as an occupational therapist and MDA volunteer.

I was 24 when I made aliyah. The army wasn't drafting me, because I was over 20 (21?). I could have volunteered to join, but I made aliyah in December. The next draft date was March and I most likely would not have made it for that one. March is followed by August and November. The earliest I could have gone in would have been August, at which point I would be 25. 25, going in to something that most people start at 18. I also would likely be in for 6 months; I could request more, which would enable me to get a better job within the army, but I would want to do Paramedics...not...just not matim for me.

Being in the army is kind of like...a crucible, if you will. The people get heated up, melted, and then have the chance to be re-formed into something new. EVERYONE is in the army-- excepting many people. So not really everyone. But it's something that I always knew about and thought about.

I knew about the "post-Army trip" where so many go backpacking around the world for 6 months or a year. What I didn't know was really how much the army puts life into limbo. I was dating someone in the army and the first weekend I got back from America we were supposed to see each other; he was supposed to be out, I would be home. Nice plan. We were really excited. I land...and because of the shooting in Chevron, he was going to have to be on base for Shabbos. Then he was getting out. Then he wasn't. Then he was-- he was getting ready to go to the bus to come into Jerusalem...and they called everyone back. He got out on Sunday- fine, nice. But...this is what it means to be Israeli.

To not plan because something is going to happen to change the plans.
To learn that even though someone "official" told you something, it means nothing unless you have it in writing with the name and signature and stamp of the person who said it, and even then it might not be acceptable.
The bureaucracy is more then in your mother country and it's in another language. Even when you ask for someone who speaks the language you want (say, English), you will get, "Ken [yes]?" when they answer the phone.
People here dispense with polite behavior. There is nothing wrong with someone cursing out the bus driver's (and his mother) because he did something the person didn't approve of. And when the other passengers get tired of the yelling at each other, they will tell the passenger and the bus driver to shut up. The lack of polite behavior is not meant as an insult-- it might even be a compliment. Which leads me to my next point:
Everyone here is family. You can yell at your family members-- and that includes the bus driver. Oh, the garbage man who put the bin back slightly to the left of where it was before. This means that, as family, everyone has rights to comment on everyone else, no matter the situation. This also means that people look out for each other and will often try to help (or what they see as helping).
Israelis like olim-- immigrants. They think we are crazy, but they love us anyway.

More on this later.

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