March 31, 2016

From Army Boots to Naots

From mefakedet (sergeant) to a twentysomething...
Last week, my daughter finished her army service. She arrived at base in uniform, then changed into civilian clothes and walked out the front gate. Just like that. (Of course there were many offices she had to visit and lots of paperwork involved…bureaucracy and the IDF are solid roommates!)

I asked Aviva how she felt and she looked at me, her voice quivering, then she broke into tears. I try to understand but I am an olah, an immigrant to Israel --and she is too. Yet I never served in the army. My daughter’s army service helped to develop an intrinsic part of who she is today. Her service was formative in attaching her to this country and in helping her to grow.

She started her army service in tears and she ended it in tears. I remember, just two years ago, looking at her army uniform arranged neatly on her bed. I wrote a posting about her new life called Cut From One Cloth.

The first tears were about adjusting to hard physical work, to a lack of sleep and to a rigorous schedule. These recent tears are about leaving this tight framework, of working hard and knowing that each minute contributes to the greater good. Her tears are all about the lifelong friendships she has made, the laughs, the hardships and the deep bonds she has forged from being part of a something greater than herself. These long, hard, meaningful days are over. And what is next?

I hold her hand and sit silently. There is nothing I can say. I know she will eventually adjust to civilian life. The army helps every soldier after they are released; they know it is hard to simply transfer from being a proud soldier saluting in uniform, standing at attention, to that woman at the grocery check out, leaning on a shopping cart, standing in line.

The army offers a seminar to help soldiers decide on what path they want to take next. They give them a Maanak Shichrur, money after they leave to help them get back on their feet. They give you a Pikadon, money they have seven years to use to study, buy an apartment or start a business.

She will find her way and she will learn how to navigate this huge expanse of time before her. When she was an army sergeant training soldiers, her day was neatly arranged in 20-second intervals. 

Getting back on her feet Israeli style...from army boots to Naots.
And now…well, now life is one vast ocean. We all know this and we must all steer a path, with ourselves at the rudder. She will do fine; the army has taught her great life tools, the gifts of giving, leadership, discipline, wisdom and of reaching deep down when life get tough.

She will sail smoothly. I wish her much success and am so, so proud of her.

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