Saturday, July 2, 2011

Workshop Preview of Coming Attractions

A week devoted to discussing life after the army could not have come at a better time. After the turmoil of the past week, I eagerly awaited getting away from my unit and joining a gaggle of friends from my kibbutz at one of the army’s career workshops (sadna shichrur) for lone soldiers. The regularly scheduled week-long workshop in Ramat Gan is provided to lone soldiers in the final months of their service. Each day is crammed with presentations and classroom discussions on what a young adult needs to know in order to get his life on track after the army. While I felt the amount of time budgeted for discussions could have been better put to use providing us with a more detailed timeline of relevant financial and bureaucratic necessities, the workshop was full of positives. At the end of the week my resume was translated into Hebrew, my professional prospects were receiving the assistance of a first-rate career counseling firm whose services are provided gratis for the next year, and my network of lone soldiers had been immeasurably widened thanks to the many new faces I befriended.

The real benefit of the week, however, came through the break the workshop provided from the unfriendly winds stirring in my regular unit. It was a break in more ways than one. Not only were my garin friends with me in uniform for the first time in our collective service but the end of each day’s session at four PM meant there was loads of free time to mess around in Tel Aviv and elsewhere. We went to the beach, ate out every night, and I even managed to sneak in a festive liquor-friendly wedding when an Israeli friend from grad school got married on Wednesday night. The morning sessions and evening chilling widened my horizons far past the narrow concerns that have dominated my attention over my army service.

One of the great ironies, and unfulfilled expectations, of my service is that I enlisted with the stated goal that the army would provide me with the space wherein I would be reminded and inspired of my dearest values and most cherished goals. Personal space, internal and material, is of course a rarity in an army that reduces even the grandest of thinkers to narrow minded tacticians. Peering out the window this week at the sunny skies that await after the army left me with the small comfort that perhaps my two years in the wilderness will spur even greater creativity and excitement upon my discharge.

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