Long time no talk, time for an army update. [Disclaimer: several parts of this email are copied from an email to my immediate family, so sorry for any re-reads. But there are additions and changes, too...]
Unless something radically changes, I will be joining the Nachal Brigade (חטיבת הנח"ל) of the IDF on Wednesday, November 23rd (three days!).
My host dad (abba me'ametz; and maybe mother, too?) will drive me to the processing center in Tveria on Wednesday morning where I will then sit for several hours as they process me (whatever that means), give me army gear, and mostly just sit. After this, I will part ways with whoever may or may not show up to see me off (Maybe a couple Regba dudes?) and then I will get bussed down to what will become my new base for the following several months, Ba"ch Nachal (בא"ח נח"ל). There is no ceremonial aspect to the enlistment: no live streaming, no big hullaballoo. Just hugs to whoever is there and a 'see ya soon.'
Basic training for Nachal is several months and is located at Ba"ch Nachal, near Arad. For me this means taking a 3 hour train ride from Nahariya to Beer Sheva (the full length of the Israeli train system) and then another 40-45 minute bus ride to Arad. All things considered this is an excellent commute because most Tzabarnikim complain about having to take 3-6 buses and it taking a loooong time to get places (two guys in my group going to שיריון, or Tanks, have something like 8 hours of transit to and from base). I've known all along that living by the train was gonna be huge no matter where I serve and I think it will immediately pay dividends (3 hour naps to and from base sound great to me). After that I will be stationed at a base 5km away from there for another several months of advanced training. So I'll be conceivably making that commute for the next solid amount of time.
Towards the beginning of basic training, there will be a tryout that everyone is invited to for the elite unites within the Nachal Brigade. [Now, my plan was to try out for the elite units within צנחנים (Paratroopers), but since they didn't take me (oh well, their mistake), let's go Nachal baby. When it's all said and done I'll have done every tryout possible!] If I get into an elite unit in Nachal (going for either the פלס"ר/recon commandos or the פלח"ן/explosives specialists), then I'll have another, even more extended period of advanced training. After training my base will be near Netanya (on the train line, easily accessible by train) and from there we'd go to different places and guard/do missions.
Nachal has a great reputation and is known historically as the place for kibbutznikim, moshavnikim, and other youngsters from youth movements. Today it also takes a lot of immigrants so there will definitely be a good number of Garin Tzabar folk interspersed throughout the various Nachal divisions and units. On my manilla I put Tzanchanim and Nachal as tied for top choices, and I know it will be a good fit based on what I have heard from EVERYONE I've talked to. Specifically from my garin, I will be enlisting with Tomer and Shai, both great guys. As of last week, 4 girls in my garin have enlisted (out of 6), and almost all of the guys will enlist this week at some point into various units.
Basic Nachal websites to check out at your leisure:
If this was not a crazy enough day -- indeed a day I've been dreaming/contemplating/worrying/philosophizing/debating and ultimately gearing up for for the past 5 years, it also will mark the day of my older sister Talia's baby boy's ברית מילה (Brit Milah/Bris)! So I will be charged with a personally dually emotional task of being there with my family in New Jersey in thought and spirit while also mentally preparing to join the army. I knew the day was coming where Talia would give birth and more recently I realized that I would enlist around the same time. I knew it and I prepared myself as best as possible to miss this incredible שמחה in my family's life but even so, it still truly -- for better lack of a work, sucks to miss it (just as it will be really tough to miss my cousins Kim's Bat Mitzvah next month and well as my sister in law's childbirth בשעה טובה in a couple months and so on). A friend consoled me though and reminded me that though I might miss this one in person, there will be plenty of celebrations and gatherings in the future that I will be able to get to. Amen to that. In the meantime, מזל טוב (MAZAL TOV!) to my sister, to my brother Gabriel, and to all the extended Liben and Yarmush clans. Believe it or not my thoughts will be with you that day! And yes, our family grows once more :)
שבוע טוב ומוצלח לכולם,
Wishing everybody a good and successful week,
P.S. My beard is currently longer than my hair! Just had to put that out there.