I guess my journey to becoming an Israeli started when I decided to make Aliyah. The initial plan became started to materialize once I opened my Tik Aliyah, my Aliyah file, with the Israel Aliyah Center in Los Angeles, and I finally saw it as a reality when I booked my one-way ticket on El-AL (which was paid for by the State of Israel!). The day I booked my flight was when it fully sank in that I was really, truly, making Aliyah. My journey continued through the packing process and saying goodbye to friends and family. The beginning stages of my journey came to a close at LAX, when I said goodbye to my family and boarded my flight.
The next part of my journey could only be accomplished once I got to Israel: the process of settling in and taking care of setting myself up. All the things that I have written about so far, the things I have been taking care of or at the very least trying to get done up until now, are part of this process. When I wrote about getting my Teudat Zehut, my Israeli identification card, I said that I had become an Israeli. Technically, that was the moment that I officially became an Israeli. But I don’t feel Israeli. That was a big step in my journey, but I feel that in order to really be Israeli, there is a lot more to it than just an identification card. There are so many things that I will experience, conversations that I will have, and people that I will meet, that all together, I believe, will make me an Israeli.
On Monday, October 15th, exactly one week after I landed, I had one of those experiences. I did something that every Israeli does at least once in their lifetime. I partook in a common experience that all Israelis share; I went to the IDF draft office, the Lishkat Giyus. I woke up early and went to Be’er Sheva. I had an address for the office, so I asked around for directions. Apparently everyone knows where it is, so I had no trouble getting directions. I found the building and was ready to go.
Before the door, there was a soldier standing for security. He asked me for my Teudat Zehut, which I proudly pulled out of my pocket and handed to him. Then he asked me for my “zimoon”, my summons. In order to get into the draft office, you have to show your draft summons that the army sends to you in the mail, informing you of the day and time you need to appear to begin your draft process with initial tests. Since I just got here a week ago, I did not have this paper. I told the soldier that I was an oleh chadash, a new immigrant, and that I was coming because I want to get drafted. He didn’t quite know what to do with me, so he pointed me to the direction of the front desk. I was happy I made it in through the door!
I went up to the soldier at the desk and told her that I was an Oleh Chadash and that I wanted to be drafted. She asked me for my Teudat Zehut, which I showed her, and then told me to go upstairs to a specific room. I went upstairs, knocked on the door, and said that I was told to come upstairs, I’m an Oleh Chadash and I want to be drafted. They took my Teudat Zehut and told me to wait in the hallway. Knowing that the army is extremely slow in getting things done – prime example of Israeli bureaucracy – I came to the Lishkat Giyus expecting them to take my contact information and tell me that they would send me a summons in the mail. I was wrong. Ten minutes after waiting in the hallway, the soldier came out of the office with my Teudat Zehut, which he handed back to me, and a file, MY file! He told me that today I would have my Tzav Rishon, literally meaning first summons, which would include all the preliminary tests. I was so happy and relieved that I wouldn’t have to wait and come back another time.
He showed me downstairs to the first station. I had to wait outside in the hallway for them to call me in. After waiting for about half an hour, a soldier came outside and called me in. Inside the room there were lots of little cubicles. I was told to go into an adjoining room, where there were more cubicles. I sat down and the soldier sitting at the computer smiled and introduced herself. She said that she was going to ask me a series of questions about my family, my background, and myself. I answered questions from what I did last year, to where I went to school in 6th grade, to what is my mother’s maiden name. Everything was in Hebrew. She asked me lots and lots of questions and continued to repeat the information back to me and ask me the same question multiple times. But she was very sweet. At one point, she stopped asking me the questions from the computer and just asked me questions about myself, but for her own curiosity – why I made Aliyah, how it is that I speak Hebrew so well, etc. After all the questions, she asked me to explain some Hebrew words, using other words. This wasn’t too difficult. Then she asked me to read a few sentences and explain them. I didn’t understand more than 4 words in each sentence! It was very hard Hebrew, that I doubt most Israelis would understand. But non the less, she asked me to do my best explaining them, so I did. She said that I did very well and told me that I would have to go upstairs for the next part. That was the end of the first station.
I went upstairs for the second station, the medical station. I gave a urine sample, they checked my vision and then an army doctor did a quick check up. I passed with a 97, the highest physical profile you can get. After that, I had an “interview”, which I think was a psychological interview. The soldier asked me lots of questions, but more about me as a person – how many friends do I have, how often do I see them, what was I like in school, what was a challenge you faced and how did you get through it, questions like that. It felt like a college essay, except instead of writing it all in an essay, I said it in an interview.
After the interview, I was sent downstairs again for the final step: the computer test. I went in and took two logic tests on a computer. I had the option of taking this test in English. I figured that since it was a timed test, I didn’t want language to possibly get in the way, so I tested in English. I finished the day around 5pm. Everyone had already left when I got out from the test. I went back to the bus station and took a bus back to Sa’ad.
I thought I knew the meaning of being tired after my long flight and jetlag. I had no idea that the fairly simple, seemingly easy act of sitting and waiting in offices all day could drain the life from your entire being. I was wiped out, but also very happy that I had started the draft process. Now, I’m waiting for a form in the mail that will tell me what options I have for my army service. I’ll keep updating on the process as it moves along.