So you've made Aliyah. Mazel-Tov!
However, you find that the Zionist-pioneering spirit which brought you here in the first place is not yet satiated, so you decide to take the big plunge, and join the army.
This short guide will attempt to take you through the steps of joining the army and being recognized as a "chayal boded" if you are have no immediate family in Israel. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide. The information presented here is based on personal experience. Your individual case may differ.
Every Israeli citizen is obligated to do national army service. In the case of new immigrants, the duration of service is dependent on the immigrant's age upon the date of arrival in Israel, but can also be affected by prior visits to Israel, their duration and the length of time between each visit. If this is an issue and you want to serve as little as possible, then it is advisable to speak with a shaliach aliyah about your particular case. S/he will be able to suggest the right time for you to make aliyah.
You must become an Israeli citizen to join the army. If you are not a citizen, but would like to get a taste of army life, or you would just like to contribute your part, then there are a number of programs which include army experience as well as volunteer programs for the army.
Probably the most realistic and challenging of army programs for non-Israelis is the "Marvah" Program. Marvah is a three month program which introduces Israel, Israeli's and the IDF, emphasizing discipline and basic training in a military environment. It is also a great way to improve your Hebrew, (especially army slang) and get into shape! And the three months that you spend in the program can be applied toward your required army service if you serve for more than a year.
You do not need to do anything special in order to join the army. Once becoming a citizen, the army will send you notices and information about your service. You will probably receive such notices a year or so after making aliyah. If you have to leave the country for any reason you will have to notify the army. This will result in opening a file on you earlier, which can mean an earlier induction. If you are interested in joining the army sooner that later, then you have to show up at your local army induction center (Lishkat Hagius) to open a file. Before going to Lishkat Hagius, you will need to get a couple of documents from the Ministry of the Interior (Misrad Hapnim).
Olim who have no immediate family living in Israel are eligible to be recognized as a "Chayal Boded" or "Lone Soldier." As a "Chayal Boded," you are eligible for increased rights and privileges designed to make your life a little easier considering the fact that you don't have any family here to do your laundry, cook for you, send you packages, or listen to you 'kvetch' on your weekends off.
Let's face it, Israeli soldiers with family in Israel get spoiled while they are in the army. See separate FAQ sheet on Chayal Boded for special considerations and privileges which you are eligible to receive.
As a general rule, let everybody who you come into contact with in the army know that you are a "Chayal Boded." Attached to your base there is somebody known as a "Mashaket Tna-ei Sherut." Special circumstances or problems with the conditions of your service are dealt with by this office.
Upon arriving at your base for the first time, make an appointment to meet with somebody from "Mador Tash" (short for Tna-ei Sherut) and let them know about your status as a "Chayal Boded." It is their job to ensure that all the privileges you are entitled to are given to you. However, they may not be aware of all the privileges that you are entitled to. Be sure to pick up a guide explaining your privileges at Lishkat Hagius, "Mador Prat" - as described below. The guide is available in English, Russian, Hebrew and may be available in other languages as well.
Step 1 - Misrad Hapnim
Prior to opening a file at Lishkat Hagius, you are required to go to Misrad Hapnim in order to obtain the following document(s):
- DAF or ISHUR KNISOT VE'YETZIOT: (actual name may differ) Basically this is a document which lists all your prior visits to Israel including the duration of the visit. Only visits which occurred within the past eight years will be listed. In order to obtain this document, bring your Teudat Zehut and your most recent foreign passport (the passport which you used prior to making Aliyah). Expect to pay a nominal fee for this service.
The army wants this document in order to determine the amount of time you are obligated to spend in the army according to the law. It is the only official document which the army will recognize in making such a determination. Your passport(s) will not be accepted as a valid alternative by Lishkat Hagius.
- DAF MATZAV EZRAHUT SHEL HORIM: (actual name probably does differ) You will need this document only if you are applying to be recognized as a "Chayal Boded." This document attests to the fact that your parents are not Israeli citizens nor have they ever been Israeli citizens.
You will need to get two separate forms (one for each parent) from the information counter. You will need to fill out each parent's name including your mothers maiden name, as well as their dates of birth. It would also be helpful if you could list any prior visits which your parents had in Israel. If your parents are Israeli then this could affect your status according to Israeli law as well as the amount of time you are obligated to serve in the army.
Once you are at Misrad Hapnim, it is a good idea to update your Teudat Zehut if you have not yet done so since you last moved residences in Israel. They will not change the card itself with the picture, rather they will replace the computer printout listing your address in the lower section. Be sure to bring your most recent housing contract. If your Teudat Zehut lists your current address, then don't worry about this.
Armed with these documents you are now ready to open up a file which will commit you to army service in Israel. Once you open your file, you become property of the army. Any trips out of Israel will require special permission which you should request at least two weeks in advance.
Step 2 - Lishkat Hagius
It is at Lishkat Hagius where you open a file, have your medical checkup, take your intelligence tests, and take care of special requests like applying to become a Chayal Boded, extend your service or move up your induction date.
In the various offices of Lishkat Hagius you will be able to find out how long you are obligated to do army service for, and when your induction date will be, and other information about your army induction. It is also at Lishkat Hagius where you have to apply for permission to leave the country if you are planning to take a trip outside of Israel. You will be asked to show your teudat zehut at every station which you present yourself, so keep it handy!
As with many other administrative offices in Israel, you can expect to wait a long time at Lishkat Hagius before somebody is available to see you. The corridors are usually crowded with young Israelis waiting to be called into one office in order to be sent home or to another office. Bring a book, a walkman, newspaper, magazine and a friend, or any other item that will help you pass the time.
The first step at Lishkat Hagius is to open your personal file. At the information counter you will be directed to the proper office, where you will be asked for your teudat zehut and other personal information. All the information will be taken down by hand and filled out in special forms and put into a large cardboard folder with your family name and identity number written with thick marker on the outside.
Once you are finished opening your file, you will be sent home and told to wait for a notice by mail to show up again. If you do not want to wait a long time before receiving this notice than you can ask to have your application processed as quickly as possible because you would like to join the army soon. If you ask for the notice to be sent quickly, you can expect to wait approximately two weeks before receiving the notice.
Steps 3-? - Lishkat Hagius (Again)
Upon receiving a letter from the Army, you will be instructed to return to Lishkat Hagius. Try to go as early as possible so that you can get several things done during this visit. One visit will probably not be sufficient to accomplish everything, and you will probably have to go back several times.
Your first step will be to get registered into the computers. You will be directed to wait outside a room with a long queue of booths with computers for your name to be called. It is here that your personal information is recorded on computer. If you have anything to add or if any information changes than you can usually change this information by phoning Lishkat Hagius rather than returning to the offices to wait in line.
The next steps may not happen in exactly this order. You will be called to complete the next steps depending on the time of day and availability of resources at the same time. All of the following tests and procedures occur in Lishkat Hagius.
After registering by computer, you are given a form which allows you to enter another room where you will be asked for a urine sample. This is fairly standard as most are already familiar with the procedure.
You will also be taken into a room and given (intelligence?) tests. This is not a test of general knowledge. The test involves various shapes and forms and sequences. It is multiple choice, and there is a time limit for each of the two tests. You can take the test in the language of your choice and there will be soldiers on hand to help if you have trouble understanding the instructions.
At the end of the two tests you are given a questionnaire to fill out. I doubt that it is legal to reprint any of the questions of this questionnaire, however suffice it to say that among other things, it is on this questionnaire that you will be able to inform the army if you've ever heard voices talking to you which nobody else heard, or if you ever felt that you were not in control of actions which your body committed.
At one point you will be taken for a physical where you will be asked about your medical history and then taken into a room for a full examination. If you have impaired vision then you may also be sent to see an eye doctor.
For non-Israeli born citizens, you will be invited to an oral Hebrew test which you can repeat as many times as you want. The army realizes that your Hebrew will improve as the time you live in Israel increases, so don't worry if you feel that you did badly on this test; just ask to take it again in a few weeks or as time permits.
After completing all these tests, the army will send you by mail a notification of when you are due to serve and for how long. If you want to be inducted in the army at an earlier date, or if you want to be inducted for a longer service time, then you can register a special request at 'Mador Prat' in Lishkat Hagius. You can only ask for an early induction date after receiving your official date given by the army. At Mador Prat you will be given an interview asking to explain the reasons for your request. Your request will take at least a month to process and probably longer.
If you have no immediate family living in Israel, you are eligible to be recognized as a "Chayal Boded" whose benefits are described above. In order to apply, you should go to Mador Prat and fill out the proper forms. It is at this point that you will need the official transcript you received from Misrad Hapnim, regarding the status of your parents.
You can apply at any stage during your time at Lishkat Hagius so try to visit the office every now and then to catch them when they are not busy. If your application is accepted, then you will be sent a letter in the mail which you need to bring with you when you actually go into the army (in 'Bakum', as follows). With this letter you will be able to get a card which identifies you as a Chayal Boded and entitles you to receive your privileges.
Once you have completed these stages then you can expect to receive by mail or phone further instructions pertaining to your induction date. You may receive a letter explaining the different options available to you in the army, or you may be invited to try out for various units depending on your qualifications.
In any case, fill in the form carefully, noting your preferences in order. If you do not get such a notice in the mail, don't worry, a placement officer will discuss your options with you once you reach 'Bakum' (see below). As your date approaches you will be invited to an orientation meeting at Lishkat Hagius where you are told what you need to bring with you on your first day.
These are the basic instructions like get a short haircut or one will be provided for you etc. You will also be given a short introduction to the army and the different jobs available. The last thing to remember is that the official date for induction into the army can be changed. Do not make plans to go anywhere for extended periods of time right before your induction date. In any case you should be given plenty of notice if your induction date is changed.
Prior to your induction date it is a good idea to open a bank account. You will need the bank account number in order to get paid. The army will automatically deposit your salary into your account on the 10th of every month. You should also become a member of a 'Kupat Cholim', a health insurance group. Although once in the army, the army will take care of all your health needs, you need to be a member of a health group in order to receive the benefits of that health group after leaving the army.
BASIS KLITAH UMIUN ('BAKUM') -
The letter which states your induction date also lists an address in the city where you live (or one close by) where you have to meet. You will be taken by bus to Bakum, a base near Tel-Aviv.
Bakum is the name of the base where all soldiers are processed before being sent out to the various bases or units where they will eventually serve. It is here that you get your shots and uniform, and where you will start to get yelled at by temporary commanders ....
Do not bring sunglasses, you will not be allowed to wear them during basic training and sooner or later your temporary commander will yell at everybody wearing them. Otherwise, everything you go through at Bakum will be explained very carefully and there will always be soldiers around to explain everything to you if you get confused. In fact, the first thing you will do at Bakum will be to view a video explaining everything that you will be going through.
After viewing the movie you will be given a page with a with stickers containing your name and number. These stickers are very important. At each station you must make sure that the soldier dealing with you takes one of the stickers. If a soldier at any station does not take one of your stickers then the fact that you visited that station will not be inputted into the computer and at the end of the procedure you will be forced to repeat the station which forgot to take your sticker.
Your first station will take you into a room where you will be paid 140NIS (oct 95) cash which represents one half of the monthly salary a regular soldier receives per month. This sum will be deducted from your first pay. Paying you first is the army's psychological, and legal way of showing you that they own you - you are an officially paid employee. In addition, you will receive a free telecard with 20 conversations from the Bezek telephone company.
After getting paid, you will go to different offices where, you will be photographed for your ID, your teeth will be photographed as well as X-rayed, and you will have your fingerprints taken. Then you will be led to a computer room where a soldier will verify that all your personal information is correct. If there were any changes or additions, it is here that you can correct the information. You will also be asked to give the name of a person who you authorize to take care of your affairs should anything happen to you.
Next you will be taken to have your immunity shots. You will be given three shots; one in each arm and the last where it will make it difficult for you to sit. It is important that you refrain from scratching the places where you got the shots for at least three weeks, no matter how irritating they are. If you have serious problems then ask to see the army doctor.
Prior to receiving your uniforms, you will be sent to verify that you have completed all the stations according to the computer. If anything is missing, then you will be resent to the station. Here you will receive your 'Teudat Choger' (army ID card). You can also give in your letter confirming that you are a Chayal Boded (if you are eligible) in exchange for your 'Teudat Chayal Boded' (Lonely Soldier card).
Note this card is different from your 'Teudat Choger'. If for some reason they cannot give you your Teudat Chayal Boded, then you will have to keep this letter and present it to you Mashaket Tash on the base where you are eventually sent (see above).
Finally you are sent to get your uniforms and miscellaneous equipment. You will receive the following:
- A kit bag
- Two towels (medium size)
- Three pairs of underwear, three undershirts (white) and five pairs of socks (gray)
- Three pair of army pants, shirts and one belt
- One Beret
- 2 pair of boots
- A bag full of miscellaneous equipment
- One sweater
- One winter jacket
Make sure that everything fits, especially the boots. If anything is the wrong size or broken, immediately change. Once you are ready and checked, then you will have to sign for the equipment. If something is broken or doesn't fit, you will not be able to change it after signing for it.
Once you have completed these stages, anything can happen. If you are only serving for a very limited amount of time, then you will probably be sent to a basic training course lasting three weeks, and then you will be told what your options are. If you are serving for an extended amount of time (at least a year) then you will be directed to see a placement officer who will discuss the options available to you in the army. Make sure you understand all your options. If something is not clear then ask!
At every stage of your process remember to be patient and to ask if you don't understand everything clearly. The people at Lishkat Hagius and Bakum are friendly and helpful providing that you are patient and your questions and requests are reasonable. In any event you will find that the whole process will be a unique experience in your life, so try to get as much out of it as you can. Most importantly, always keep your cool, and remember that when all else fails, there is really nothing more to do than laugh.