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.
Israeli citizens and permanent residents are 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.
Unless you are joining a IDF Mahal program you must become an Israeli citizen to join the army. If you are not a citizen, but would like to serve in the IDF, then there are a number of programs which include army experience as well as volunteer programs for the army, where you will serve shoulder-to-shoulder with regular Israeli soldiers. For information on IDF service contact the website http://www.mahal-idf-volunteers.org/, the leading guide and assistant for all would-be overseas IDF volunteers (non-Israelis and Israeli overseas residents).
The IDF Mahal programs enable young Jews and Zakaiei Aliya from all over the world to strengthen their relationship with Israel and the Jewish people by volunteering for the IDF. The IDF programs aim to contribute to the defense of Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, and to provide knowledgeable and enthusiastic young leaders for Jewish communities. Thousands of young people from more than 40 countries have already joined the IDF through its exciting programs for overseas enlistees. Mahal-IDF-Volunteers.org got the "Jewish Agency Top Site 2005" award.
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 are interested in joining the army sooner than 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 special considerations, 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' (complain)on your weekends off.
There is a program initiated by the Jewish agency called Babait Beyachad ( At Home - Together), that connects Israeli families with lone soldiers. They offer support, friendship and assistance and can be reached at 1-800-22-13-14.
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.
It is at Lishkat Hagius where you open a file, have an interview in Hebrew, have your medical checkup, take a Psychometric test, and take care of special requests like applying to become a Chayal Boded, extend your service or move up your induction date. Note: If you cannot speak Hebrew, you will be obliged to take a Hebrew course in the army.
At Lishkat Hagius you will be given a special Lishkat Hagius card, which you must present at each office of the Lishkat Hagius.
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. 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. Bring a book, a walkman, or any other item that will help you pass the time.
The first step at Lishkat Hagius is to open your personal computerized file. Once you are finished opening your file, you will be sent home and told to wait for a notice by mail telling you when you need 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.
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.
You will be asked to complete a number of procedures and tests in Lishkat Hagius. These steps may not happen in exactly this order and depend on the time of day and availability of resources at the time you are there.
After registering by computer, you are given a form to fill out and asked for a urine sample. Following this you will be given a basic Psychometric test. 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 these 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 a notification by mail indicating 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. 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')
YOUR FIRST DAY IN THE ARMY
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 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. 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' (Lone 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.
Contact Information and Websites
The army has five draft offices throughout the country, each of which is responsible for its local area. These offices have an efficient telephone information service that is manned during normal office hours. In order to use this service, please be prepared with your ID number (mispar zehut).
Jerusalem, 103 Rechov Rashi, Tel: 02-500-7000
Tel Aviv, Tel Hashomer Tel: 03-738-8888
Haifa, 12 Rechov Omar Kayam Tel: 04-860-0700
Beer Sheva, Rechov Yad Vashem 22 Tel: 08-629-8888,
Tiberias, Rechov Elhadif Tel: 04-672-9888.
Army Internet Sites
This is the official army site and all new enlistees are notified of this site so that they can read up on different aspects of the army before they enlist. The website is only in Hebrew.
The official Israeli Army site. In English and Hebrew.
The official Ministry of Defense web site. In English and Hebrew.