Dear Future Bnot Sherut,
I would just like to start off by congratulating you on deciding to do sherut leumi! Kol HaKavod to you, for using your year to give back to others and to help the country. It’s really a huge step, and so many organizations would not be able to function or run without incredible bnot sherut like yourselves!
I currently am finishing up my final days in sherut leumi, and let me tell you - it was definitely an experience. I learned so much about the israeli government, bureaucracy, "typical Israeli-ness" and some of the most incredible friends, which I had the amazing opportunity of meeting. But most importantly, I learned so much about myself.
When you come to this country, you want to give back (at least in my own opinion, I did). You want to feel a sense of accomplishment in the work you did, and many, if not all of you, came here on your own without your families. That in itself is amazing.
In your first few days of work, you are going to feel a rush of excitement and maybe a little bit of fear - but trust me, that is totally normal. It's going to be hard at the beginning, as everything is at first. You might be nervous about your living accommodations. Whether you are put in a dirat sherut of other bnot sherut bodedot (I was put in the same apartment complex as other girls like me), or being the only one in your apartment to speak English. It may be a hard transition, but you'll get through it.
Plus, there are many many things to look forward to this year! The biggest tip I want to give you is to take advantage of everything! Of the place you work, the connections you make, the people you meet, the fact that you get to live in a country with such amazing things all around you! Also, travel this country! If you get free transport, use it! Go up North, or way down South. Take a day off and go to the beach! Sometimes, just look up and just take a moment to reflect - I wish I had done more of that. Don't forget to take time for yourself.
There will be some days when you question and ask yourself, "why the heck am I doing this? Why did I make this choice?" But at the end of the year you'll look back and hopefully see, this is why.
Personally, doing sherut leumi at Nefesh B’Nefesh, I found myself asking those questions. However, this past summer when we welcomed home our 50,000th oleh I realised why I made this decision. Every time someone tells me how much Nefesh B’Nefesh helped them, I think to myself that I may have impacted them too in some small way. You too will come to that conclusion.
The people that helped me most, were the people at work, and the other girls who I met along the way. Become friends with people in the same predicament as you - because they can relate to you best. Call up a friend and just vent. Sometimes that’s the best thing to do when you're stressed. They will be there to help you through.
And if you are trying to navigate through Israeli bureaucracy, YOU CAN DO IT! We have all been there. Just go in to an office, and don't leave until they give you what you need, or a number of someone who will help you.
Reach out to other people who were in your place a few years ago, people who are older than you, because they have been through the same process you have and can give you advice to get through it.
Go to events and meet people! Have a crazy chavaya! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Looking back, I am definitely glad I did sherut leumi. I cannot say it was the easiest thing, but I definitely learned SO much about myself, about an office environment, about other people, and really just about Israel as a whole. I gained so much experience and learned incredible skills for the years to come. I am most definitely glad with my decision, however hard it may have been.
It IS going to be hard, you may face a lot of challenges. The biggest one may be the fact your thousands of miles away from your family. But just know for every bad day, there are so many more good ones. There are so many people out there who will be more than happy to bend over backwards to help you with anything you need, and who will become like your family. You are doing such an incredible thing this year, doing national service, and don't forget all the reasons WHY you decided to do that! Remember to always take a look around, realise where you are, and how you got here.
Again, I just want to say kol hakavod, and remember that anything can be turned into an adventure, it just depends on your outlook of the situation!
With all the best of luck,
Devorah Goldson is originally from Saint Louis, MO. Almost exactly a year ago she made aliyah by herself and began her year of sherut leumi at Nefesh B'Nefesh. Next year She will be living in Givat Shmuel and studying Communications and Political Science at Bar Ilan University.