A Search for Home

Around four months have passed since I left the kibbutz I love in search of a new home away from home. I didn’t want to leave and don’t particularly want to get in to it here, however I was struggling there and I saw the signs that it was time to go.

I set off with two friends who were each in situations like my own in hopes of finding an apartment in the beloved city of Jerusalem. We scoured high and low, but expensive rents and building issues kept this dream at bay for months. Slowly we each called it quits and searched as individuals. The others found success. I found myself no where.

Then I turned to the army. I believed they would help a past lone soldier such as myself, however, I have spent the last three months in a battle over my status.

For those of you that have grown up in the States, you may be accustomed to sending your children away for University, or depending on the community options, also to high school. In my house, my independence was praised and encouraged. It was normal for me to spend late nights with my friends out at the park or bowling or whatever else us country kids came up with as a pastime. I had my own bank account from birth and started working in the local preschool at the ripe age of fourteen. Whatever I wanted I bought for myself. I learned the value of a dollar and how to call people on the phone without hiding behind a text message. In school, I worked hard and the rewards were plenty. I started driving from the age of fifteen and was driving other people’s children by sixteen. I can safely say I am responsible and self sufficient.

I can only state that I was surprised to see that Israel had a different mindset than I did. The army interrupts a child’s plan to move away from their parents because who has the money and who would want to when they can have their laundry done and their food cooked on the weekends? By the time they get to University, they continue to stay at home in order to prolong the expirience. Therefore, I became an anomaly to those around me. They felt sympathy, but even more so, an incomprehension of my autonomy. When my parents moved to Israel, even Americans I knew started asking me if I was going to move in with them. “Well, you have your parents here now, you’re fine,” they said. As if my parents presence was an automatic “get out of struggling” card. I decided to embrace my adulthood instead. My relationship with my parents would continue to thrive under my mature attitude and physical separation from the more supervised phase that ended after high school. I would not live with them because that is not what I could handle after almost three years apart. As a fiercely independent indiviudal, I knew I could not be like the Israelis around me who were content with the doting lifestyle.

It was then time to explain to the army that I needed help. Still months without a home, I began to suffer emotionally. The home equals stability. It means a place to ground us and a temple where we hang our morals and values on the walls. The term בית נאמן בישראל or a trusted house of Israel, which we wish to couples on their wedding day, is one of the most important missions we have in this world. To build a home that represents us, our beliefs, and our customs. For me, my home on kibbutz was always a place I felt relaxed, down to earth, and peaceful. For a soldier especially, those feelings are essential to our survival. As a religious soldier, Shabbat in that environment meant a recharge to my G-dly soul and a preparation for the weeks ahead. As a budding adult, the independent home becomes the treasure chest of the me that I will present to the world and the kind of values I will bring into my future בית נאמן בישראל with my husband and children, please G-d.

I cultivated the hope that I could explain why I couldn’t then live with my parents. How I was on my own and how my parents, in their modest one bedroom apartment, would not be able to accommodate me because I needed a more permanent establishment. How I needed the extra money that lone soldiers receive for everything from housing to food to clothing because my only salary was 900 shekel every month and I was supporting myself. I shared the worry every time I had to find a place for the weekend, the frustration of having my stuff packed in boxes sitting on my kibbutz and the difficulty that came with having clothes scattered amongst my friends’ apartments.

What I received was an application for an army supplied apartment. One accompanied by no money, no status, and an unpromising waiting list. The permission process has taken almost two months (and counting) after four preliminary months of repeated begging for assistance. The deal includes no apartment for religious girls, but not to worry, if I bring my own pots I can assemble myself a kosher kitchen.

I was banned from lone soldier events serviced by the army and told I don’t get to receive money to help with expenses such as food. I am still waiting for an answer as to whether I will have a place to live in the near future.

I have discovered there is no way I can explain it so they understand. “Your parents live in Israel,” is all I heard. They are correct. I am an American, my parents don’t belong in Israel if I am an American. Native Israelis, on the other hand can be lone soldiers for certain reasons even if their parents live in Israel. I am an American. I am not a native Israeli. I may not receive assistance.

So I live on a bus now, with the journey to this place or that consisting of my whole existence and most of my weekend. The 900 shekel comes in like clockwork every month and I find ways to save. I sign my off days to be able and visit my family and friends in America. I wait for my בית נאמן בישראל. I will not shake off my adulthood. I earned it and I deserve it. There may come a time when my childhood can reign free, but that time is not now. At this time, no one has the means to allow me to resort to that way of life.

My environment continues to pick away at my resolve and at least once a week I am blamed for something by my commander. My base weighs new protocols and new leadership and I remain fighting daily for respect. It is what it is, as they say.

The smile remains on my face because I am trying to go through the motions until the true joy manifests. I sit and I wait, because this world that I’m in has no place for good deed, good consequence. There is only deed and consequence. Most of all, I pray because prayer is the only method my arsenal advertises. I pray for my own trusted house of Israel.

About the Author
Shani Weinmann was born in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up in the Jewish community of Toco Hills. She attended Torah Day School of Atlanta and Yeshiva Atlanta before coming to Midreshet Harova and then joining the IDF. She now works as a Madricha in the Midrasha and is studying Dance.
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