After finding myself in a place where I can laugh at our situation and not freak out about our depleting bank account (this is a rare moment), I decided to write a financial army rule book. This is intended to advise other young couples before they begin the army and find themselves in our situation.
At the beginning of our journey, while we were still planning the wedding, we had to reassure our parents (and ourselves) that we had a plan for the coming year. This is something no one tells you when you’re young: adults have to take care of everything! From the bills, rent, groceries, etc. I finally understand why Peter Pan never wanted to grow up. I had already applied for university and was looking forward to starting my first semester in October. (For all your American Jews out there, Israeli universities begin after the chagim. Wise, right?) We already knew my husband was going to be in the army (by the way, no one prepares you for that either!), so we had to make sure we were getting money from somewhere.
Rule #1: Make sure your information is correct when you talk about finances in the army.
I will make this clear for any wife in university: you must be in your second year of learning by the time your husband goes into the army. (Or by the time you get married, and your husband is already in the army.) We were told by many sources that since I was an olah chadasha, we would still receive a family stipend known as tashmash. Nope, that didn’t happen. According to the army, if you have the opportunity to work instead of learn it is your fault that you are not receiving any money.
Rule #2: If you do happen to learn in college, make sure you’re not paying for it.
One of the first times we applied for a stipend, we were denied because they thought I was paying for college. Apparently, if you can pay the 10,000 shekel for a year’s tuition (about two months spending including rent), then you have enough money. Thank God I’m not paying for college (not that it helped anyways), and I had proper government documentation.
Rule #3: Always print copies of every document you have and never give the original, unless it is absolutely necessary.
This is true for anything government related in Israel. I think they still have some files of ours that they need to give back.
Rule #4: If you are working, make sure you’re making at least 4,300 shekel a month.
Once we finally realized we would not be receiving money, I started looking for a job. Because I was still learning, no one wanted to take someone who could only work two days a week. I finally found a job, and at the beginning of my second year of university we applied for tashmash again. I figured they would see I’m a second year student who is also working. This is the response we got:
“Because she is not making a minimum of 4,300 shekel a month and working 40 hours, we cannot grant them the stipend. And she’s a student!”
To this day, I still don’t understand the point of the last sentence.
Rule #5: Try and try again.
I believe this is our sixth or seventh time applying for tashmash. Three times it was because the army lost our file, and by the time they started processing everything, half the documents (mostly bank statements) had expired. The other two or three times were when we heard of a new possibility. This time, I’m declaring myself as unemployed. Supposedly, we heard that works. Although, it also includes every Thursday morning tremping (hitch-hiking) for 15 minutes to print out a piece of paper that tells me to go home. We’re still in the middle of applying, so I don’t even know if it’s worth it.
Rule #6: It depends on your husband’s base and the staff.
This is true, but I’m not sure why. When my husband got out of the army and went back to yeshiva, he was told by other married yeshiva guys that it all depends on the staff and some bases have more money to give out than others.
Rule #7: Patience. Patience. Patience.
I hardly ever abide to this rule, but it is necessary if you want to survive the army. It was a very long year and a half before my husband got out of the army. I’m not saying we’ll actually get the stipend this time, but come next year, we hopefully won’t be in this position anymore.