A lone bat sherut, but not alone

Lone soldier (photo credit: REUTERS)
Lone soldier
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sherut Leumi, Israel’s National Service, involved two years of my life, during which I gave all that I could to serve the country that has become my home.
If I would have known what my future would look like five years ago, I would have laughed. When I moved to Israel, I completely changed the course of my life, and boy, has it been a roller coaster ride! The highs have given me the strength and ability to smile through the hardships of everyday life. The happy, exciting and special moments root within me a deep feeling of trust that I am living my dream and that this is where I am meant to be. The downs test my mind and make me doubt my decision to make this my current reality.
Living in Israel, away from family and the comfort of home, brings great challenges every day, but even on my hardest days, I know that I wouldn’t trade being here for anything. As a volunteer medic for Magen David Adom, MDA, Israel’s national emergency and ambulance service, I have seen how the hardships during my service have made my experience that much more special and rewarding. I mean let’s be real, if waking up at 5:30 in the morning to run around in the heat all day was enjoyable, then everyone would be doing it.
Most people have heard of lone soldiers. They understand the amazing sacrifice these soldiers go through in order to serve their country. They leave their lives and family behind to come make a difference in our homeland. The term less understood is lone bat sherut. Just like lone soldiers, we have left all that we know in order to come serve our country. It may not be with a gun on the battlefield, but we too are giving all that we have to serve Israel and keep civilians safe.
Being a lone bat sherut means when the apartment empties out for the weekend, and everyone returns home to their families to sleep in their beds and get a home-cooked meals from their mothers, we need to empty the apartment and search for a place to spend Shabbat, week after week. Don’t get me wrong, I love experiencing Shabbat all over the country. Countless people have opened their hearts and their homes to me, and I am eternally grateful to them, but as welcoming as people are, it’s still not my bed or the comfort of my own family.
Just when it starts feeling too difficult to deal with and I question my decision to be here, I see messages of appreciation and care that make it all worthwhile.
I chose to do my service with MDA. When choosing my line of service, it was very important for me to feel as if I was truly giving my all and making a difference. I don’t think that a day has gone by where I have not felt just that. After intensive training, I became a certified medic. My daily requirements for the past two years have been eight-plus hour shifts on the ambulance, running the international volunteering program in Jerusalem, restocking equipment, teaching courses when needed, and helping out in the first responder office. There was always something to do or somewhere to be, and I was always ready. I came here to give my all to this country and that is what I did every day.
BEING A medic is not only physically exhausting but emotionally draining as well. No-one can prepare you for what it feels like to do CPR on a lifeless baby. No one can explain what it will feel like to treat victims at the scene of an overturned bus with lifeless bodies inside. These experiences have changed me as a person and have given me a different outlook on life. I have grown to appreciate the little things and am constantly reminding myself that nothing can be taken for granted
As a medic, I was also lucky to experience joyous and happy moments throughout my service. Hearing the sound of a baby’s first cry, or watching a man take in a breath in his previously lifeless body because of the help we were able to give him, are moments that keep me going and help me realize that what I am doing is important and this is where I am meant to be. To have had the opportunity to take part in such an amazing organization is truly humbling.
I made the choice to make aliyah. I made the choice to do Sherut Leumi. I made the choice to come and make a difference in people’s lives. I thought I was choosing my future, but in reality, I had no say in how these experiences would change me. The One ruling all of my choices is a force more powerful than myself. I have spent the past two years trying to understand this concept, and whenever I am forgetting it, I am met with a case where I see someone whose life has changed in the blink of an eye, and I am reminded.
We plan and plan, but at the end of the day, we land up miles from where our blueprint had us. Even though this is not how I envisioned my journey, all of the disappointments that I thought were going to ruin my plans for the future landed me in the best of Sherut Leumi jobs with the most amazing staff around me, meeting supportive people that have become friends and family in Israel.
It is hard to think that I am moving on from this point in my life and beginning something new. My service has been everything I knew and thought about for two years, and now my identity is changing. Happiness, sadness, fear, excitement; there is so much I am feeling as I move on to the next chapter of my journey. As overwhelming as it is, I am ready to see what’s in store for me and can’t wait to continue experiencing and writing my story here in Israel.
The saying goes, “If you choose a job you love, you will never work a day in your life.” The past two years have been incredibly challenging, rewarding and exciting, and I have experienced disappointments, miracles, healing and joy. I would not change my experiences for anything.
The writer was born and raised in New Jersey, and at age 15 made the decision to start a new life in Israel. She did her national service as a lone bat sherut in Magen David Adom from 2017-2019.