Dorit Sasson

The Power of One Woman’s Quest in the Israel Army: Learning How to Stick with My Military Service

In March 1991, six weeks after completing an intensive Hebrew language course at a military camp in the North of Israel, our garin was suddenly sent to a settlement camp in the Arava desert called Shitim. When we were first inducted, the IDF told us that upon completing our ulpan, we would be sent immediately to our six weeks of basic training.

But then the IDF suddenly postponed our basic training start date to the middle of August 1991 for unknown reasons, and instead, sent us to a settlement camp supervised by the IDF.

Those four months on Shitim was one of the most difficult times in my life. I was dealing with a garin of young newly inducted immigrants from around the globe who didn’t want to go on a soul-searching adventure. They wanted the experience and thrill of firing a gun, doing fifty kilometer marches and going into Lebanon. But since we served as a garin, through the Nahal division of the military, which combines agricultural work with military training, we also needed to learn how work together and especially under this sudden change in our military framework.

Most IDF newly inducted IDF soldiers go straight to basic training, which makes sense. As immigrants to the military, we needed extra training to address the language issues as well as military training. At all steps of services, I constantly had changes to step into a leadership role. Each chapter I change and transform from an unknown soldier who got inducted in the IDF by “accident” to a leader of purpose and passion.

A Lesson in Potential Leadership: The Problem

From chapter 12 – Shitim from my Memoir Accidental Soldier: What My Service in the Israel Defense Forces Taught Me about Faith, Courage and Love

As I understand it, there are logical problems when basic training comes after serving on a settlement. Without the fundamentals of basic training, we lack essentials of gunmanship especially if we were to be attacked by an outsider or the enemy. (We just had a few practice shooting sessions at Eshbal.) But the biggest concern by far is not having the experience of basic training that includes many helpful exercises that culminate in the twenty eight kilometer march around the camp in the center of the country. These exercises are specifically designed to build social cohesion that will ultimately result in making our garin stronger. The problem is that nobody in our garin is interested in really working together as preparation for basic training. They much rather have the work of basic training rub off them like some kind of magic pill. (Truthfully though, we’ll still have to work together to function under pressure during basic training so I’m really concerned with how we as a garin will fare for the next four months.) Most of us rather complain about each other (including myself) than work on our own problems. From now on, Dov and Orna will no longer step in to rescue us. We’re completely on our own.

A Lesson in Potential Leadership: Sticking with It

From chapter 12 – Shitim from my Memoir Accidental Soldier: What My Service in the Israel Defense Forces Taught Me about Faith, Courage and Love

Here’s how I initially try and stick with the situation:

There’s a voice that says continue working from a place of giving and generosity. This ultimately will help me adjust better to this new environment.  My concern is… given my emotional history, how well can I stick with this path? The fact that I’ll still be very much on my own shakes me up. I need to feel connected. The girls are still very much self-absorbed in making sure they are getting “it” right and this robs us from an opportunity to interact more closely and become a more cohesive unit. It angers me sometimes that our garin often misses important opportunities to grow and develop. But if I keep waiting for my garin members to change, I’ll be bitter and frustrated just like when I kept hoping for my Mom to change.

So how would you stick with it? What would you try to change (if anything?)

About the Author
Dorit Sasson is the award-winning author of Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces and the forthcoming memoir Sand and Steel: The Spiritual Journey Home.
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