Adva Weinstein 88 224.
(photo credit: Wendy Blumfield )
Most young people making aliya on their own might prefer the sheltered environment of an overseas students program or a yeshiva. But the intrepid American immigrant Adva Weinstein jumped in the deep end and opted for Garin Tsabar and at 18 came here to join the army.
Weinstein was born in New York to Israeli parents. Her father's work took them to several locations in the US but in recent years they lived in Alabama. She always felt closely connected to Israel and when she was in eighth grade the family spent a sabbatical year here.
One of 35 recruits in her garin, Weinstein started her army service in the Education Corps and eventually became an officer. She had the advantage of good Hebrew and the support of the garin, but nevertheless she was a lone soldier and sometimes felt isolated.
Although she was stationed in Tel Aviv, her service included field work and as a reservist during the Second Lebanon War, she spent time on the border coordinating communications and supplies for the soldiers going in and out of Lebanon. "It was our job to give moral support and to make sure that gifts and donated items were given to them," she says.
During that period we heard so much about the chaos and poor planning, but one of Weinstein's jobs was to interview the soldiers about their experiences so that feedback could be passed to the appropriate authorities. During this time they also organized entertainment for the soldiers and made sure that they got messages to and from home.
"There were a couple of incidents that were so moving," she recounts. "During the cease-fire, we welcomed soldiers coming back over the border. They had been without their cellphones for some time and were anxious to contact loved ones. It was three in the morning but one soldier asked to use my mobile phone and called home, to be received with great joy and relief.
"On another occasion," she continues, "a soldier who had been invalided out of his unit came to the border to meet his comrades coming back from Lebanon. "He had the great news that one of his friends had become a father the previous night and there was such a celebration."
Weinstein does not minimize the dark side of army service. "I still have to come to terms with some of my experiences, of what I heard and saw," she says.
Asked why she decided to serve in the army immediately after her aliya instead of taking the period of grace allowed for new immigrants, she replies: "Growing up with such a close connection to Israel, I knew that if I moved here, army is an integral part of it."
Although the family spoke Weinstein at home, Adva was not confident with the language until she was serving in the army. But the familiarity with Hebrew certainly sped up her integration.
Weinstein's aliya heralded a return for other family members. Her sister and brother followed and now share an apartment with her in Haifa. Her mother came to study for her PhD and her father, a mathematics professor, visits frequently until he can also find a job.
STUDY AND WORK
She is now in her second year at the University of Haifa studying education and counseling and social community-based theater. She works on the projects within the framework of her study program, but eventually she will be out on her own looking for community centers and organizations that need this very specific activity.
"Projects can take several months," she explains. "First of all teaching theater and running workshops raises personal and group awareness, provides empowerment and the circle is completed by preparing a specific activity or theater experience."
These programs are appropriate for groups of youth at risk, abused women and community centers in lower socio-economic neighborhoods, but she stresses that they can be adapted for any group situation. When she finishes the three-year program, she plans to work for a teaching certificate in theater.
Busy as she is at school, she also works as guide and counselor for Acharai, a non-profit organization which prepares youth for the army. This project is a commune for young people who want to postpone their army induction for a year and spend that time volunteering in the community. "It prepares them for army and for life," she says. "Apart from volunteer work, the group goes on hikes and learns survival techniques. It is a year of transition and gives them a direction for the future."
The project is fully supported by the IDF for when these young people are inducted they have a sense of purpose and are more mature.
HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
"I enjoy my work and studies so much, I don't have a lot of time for other interests," says Adva. "I used to be an avid reader, but apart from the reading I have to do at university, there is not much for leisure material."
She has made many friends and enjoys going out with them. She loves Haifa and thinks it is a great city to live in.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Many young people spend years after army service deciding what to do with their lives, but Weinstein is very confident in her choices and has found a direction that she enjoys. She wants to combine education and theater, and through this to contribute to society.
"Politics does not enter into it - it doesn't matter which party is in power and whether one agrees or disagrees with it. We have to be involved regardless of politics." She does not believe that anyone should opt out of army service because of disagreement with the policy-makers. "We all have to do our part."
Her concern is less about security issues than the rift between sections of the population, discrimination, the gap between the rich and the poor. She sees the lack of moral education as the greatest danger to our society. "Even normative youth do not always get moral education," she says, referring to draft-dodging and drug and alcohol addiction in relatively affluent families.
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