Shevi Zeff
Shevi Zeff
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Olim Chadashim: The ‘suckers’ of the IDF

The wholesomely stupid young fools -- she's one too! -- who gain so much in the army that it's worth the hectoring

The classic oleh chadash soldier story goes as follows: oleh chadash thinks joining the IDF is top sh*t. Oleh chadash says, “Count me in!” and enlists to Tzahal. Oleh chadash goes for combat because it’s the top of the top sh*t. Oleh chadash is given a gun and uploads a photo because now he is living the dream… and has become that much cooler next to a gun. Oleh chadash has no idea what anyone is saying. Oleh chadash realizes, after one day of getting shouted at in words he doesn’t understand, made to run laps around base, drop to push ups for any mistake, and eat canned rice-stuffed vine leaves that taste like butt — that he’s made a huge mistake.

It hits him that he could have been on some beach drinking from a coconut in Bondi, Sydney — and instead, he’s chugging a mimia (water bottle) in preparation for another masa (long intensive hike) and being timed by a commander who is at least a good three years younger than he is, yet holds all the power.

And that, folks, is why all olim chadashim are friyarim (suckers). That’s more or less the joke that goes around in relation to those ignorant beings who decide to enlist to the IDF and serve this small desert country in the Middle East.

The number of times I’ve been called a sucker in the past two and a half years are probably not countable. Heck, the amount of times I’ve called myself a sucker for joining the IDF are probably equally not countable. The truth is that any dude who leaves a country of chilling and beachsides and nature and no worries in order to eat sh*t in Israel’s IDF is a totally and wholesomely stupid young fool.

But you know what — I’ll throw in a twist at this point with my good throwing hand (the right one in case you were wondering) — speaking for myself, being a wholesomely stupid young fool has shaped my life in such a positive and significant way that even if you asked me in hindsight and knowing what I would go through if I would join the IDF again, I wouldn’t even blink twice — I’d choose to enlist every time.

Well, I hope you’ve come prepared for this because I’m gonna open up a can (left handed — I like to mix things up) of reasons why stupid olim chadashim like yours truly gave up on the good life for the Defense Forces of this little desert country.

*hem hem*

Number one is the fact that Israel is the country that keeps us Jewish folk alive and athrive (that’s not a word, but it sounded good). Honestly, knowing our history of being stepped on, pursued, slaughtered and beaten down — the fact that we have this God given country as a country of our own is a means for us to stabilize our existence in this world. And when a country keeps us going, we reciprocate and see the need to keep it going… and I reckon finding that means of giving back through the IDF is a pretty good start, in my humble opinion. We have Israel, Israel has us.

Continuing on in that direction — even if the individual in his service simply eats shite and guards borders non-stop without any real action for the duration of three years — the very fact that he has given of his time and sleep and freedom for the good of making sure things stay quiet on the homefront is significant enough for him to know that in the time that he served, he played his part to the best of his ability for the holistic good of the nation. And, as olim chadashim, that sense of connection to a land we weren’t born in, but defended with our lives — it builds a strong relationship between ourselves and our homeland that doesn’t always come naturally to your average new immigrant.

Another game changer is Israeli Culture: an oleh chadash’s army adventure opens up a world of culture, language and experiences with a richness that can’t be spent on the market. Said oleh chadash will master the tongue of the people …after making a total fool of himself for a good few months (or years). He’ll be blabbering Israeli slang and cranking up arsi music and pretending that he can sing with the intonations of mizrachi singers. He’ll be cursing his friends in Hebrew and writing “חחחח” in place of “lol.” He’ll be going out to hummus bars on Fridays and smoking nargilla on the beach in between games of matkot and bites of fresh watermelon with Bulgarian cheese (I still don’t get it — but it’s kinda delish). He’ll hit up Israel night life with army friends who have become, with time, blood brothers to him.

He’ll see himself ease into the culture around him like a hand in a glove and his sense of belonging to this land and its people will feel completely natural to him. The barriers between his English-speaking background and new Israeli life will dissolve around him with time and he’ll become a part of something greater than himself — of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. And this sounds cheesy as Gouda, but it’s really a thing — or at least speaking for myself — that eases through a culture, and throughout my IDF service has felt so natural and given me so much in these critical foundation years of my life in Israel… And I can only be grateful for that.

And my final point for the day (because if I don’t stop here I’ll just keep digging up new reasons and you’ll be reading this till your eyes get tired… or alternatively will stop reading, heaven forbid) is what said oleh chadash gets from the tafkid (role) he plays in his service. From being pushed to the limits and then pushed further in intensive training, to finding solace in the silence of 12-hour guard duty on the side of a highway in the Shomron — the experiences a soldier receives from his service are like no other and the things he learns from these experiences are so significant to his building of a sense of self. Oleh chadash will join the army as one person, and leave it a changed person — because the nature of the service is so. It shapes who you are, teaches you your limits and capabilities, and a million other things you didn’t know about yourself — and becomes a part of you. I think for me, even when I get released, there’s no doubt that my service has impacted my life tremendously and thank God it’s been (mostly) for the positive.

I really honestly could keep writing because I’m on a roll here — but I think my point has more or less been made for you, Mr. or Mrs. reader. My point is that the totally stupid young fool who joined the IDF when he could’ve been frying a shrimp on the barbie and slurping down a Tooheys New in the calm, peaceful terrain of Byron Bay, is not in fact an entirely stupid young fool. His pursuit for something greater than himself, and inner desire to give of himself for the good of a nation, country, religion and people is so significant of an act. It’s a life-changing service, a roller coaster of heaven and hell; an eye-opening, mind-challenging, physically intensive and completely significant period of time that shapes one’s identity and feeling of belonging as a citizen of this crazy beautiful country in the Middle East. I know for me, despite all the hard times and moments of “why the heck am I doing this?!” I can only be grateful for the service that was my gateway to a fantastic life (bli ayin hara) in a country that I can now wholeheartedly call my own, a country that will always remain for me a land flowing with milk and honey.

Happy Monday okes and folks!

About the Author
Just your average ex-Australian olah chadasha, currently serving in the IDF, who enjoys expressing thoughts and opinions based on daily life experiences and the ups-and-downs of living in a land of milk and honey.
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