Lone soldiers have the potential to be well looked after in the IDF. I write potential because for all the stipulated rights and aid organizations designed to assist lone soldiers--defined as a soldier whose parents reside overseas--an unsympathetic commander is enough to ruin the whole setup. One of the highlights of Lone Soldierhood is the Yom Kef, that magical day on the calendar when foreign conscripts are packed off on a bus to spend the day at the pool or beach. While all the lone soldiers in Nachal enjoyed their first Yom Kef this week, I remained on base on the advice of my commanding officer. Far from unsympathetic, my officer asked me to stay in order to participate in Parents Day, the army version of parent teacher conference or summer camp's family visiting day.
Missing out on the pool was tough. Yet the real sacrifice was being unable to attend the swearing in ceremonies [tekes hashba'ot] for my garin friends in Golani and the Paratroops. Meeting all the parents, and comparing the guys I know with their fathers, mothers and girlfriends, almost made the sacrifice worth it. The true equalizer was the presence of my kibbutz parents. I showed them around base, introduced them to my various commanders, and, perhaps best of all, started the weekend in style by leaving base with my kibbutz parents Thursday evening.
Getting out of the army on Thursday night may not receive the attention of a Yom Kef or Tekes Hashba'ah. But ask any Israeli soldier and they will agree that nothing beats waking up at home on a Friday morning. The feeling is nearly impossible to describe, a feeling of freedom, of lightness, perhaps akin to skydiving except surrounded by a pillow, warm sheets and a down blanket.
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