“A Seed of a Cactus” – is the literal translation of “Garin Tzabar”, the IDF lone soldier program. “Garin” can also mean ‘a core group’, but as native born Israelis are often referred to as “sabres” (cactus), I’m beginning to see more meaning in referring to my own child(ren) as “seeds of a cactus”… This past Sunday was the send-off ceremony of this amazing group of teens as they are heading to Israel this summer. Here’s my speech:
As I was thinking about this evening, I remembered, about 5 years ago, I was asked to speak at a Tekes Garin Tzabar. At the time, I worked for the SF federation. Garin tzabar was part of my department and this all seemed like a “great and very worthwhile program”.
Fast forward, and meanwhile, I’ve become a parent to one Garin Tzabar soldier, already in Israel, serving as tatzpitanit in the Shomron, and another one here, on route.
It’s hard not to notice the irony of life. I’m guessing, most of us, did not imagine that we will speak with our children in English, and that davka, thousands of miles away from what we – still and in spite of everything – call home, they’ll opt to go back and walk in many of our footsteps.
Back then, 5 years ago, I spoke to the parents, the behind the scenes heroes of this adventure; now I get to speak AS a parent, and as such, how about a few words of advice to you, our dear children (yes, you’ll be soldiers and for us, you’ll be our children, sorry!).
First, we have a special gift for you: a sharpie. It looks silly right now, but you too will soon be introduced to the famous army tradition of hashlamat tziyud. This means, that when you find you’re missing a helmet, you borrow someone else’s. This also means that anyone can borrow yours. With this important tool, at least you might see yourself coming if your helmet is on someone else’s head. Alternatively, one day when you’re the chief of staff, a new tiron – soldier in basic training – might be walking around proudly with your name of his stuff. Shortly, claim your territory and write your name on everything, starting with the plastic bag your sharpie is in.
Second: Hebrew school was nice and Ulpan is nice too but the army doesn’t speak Hebrew. Therefore you need to familiarize yourself with terms like chapash, tash, afutz, nadbar and more, which can be found on tzahalopedia – a page on the website “shavuz”, which is also an acronym that if you haven’t, I can’t tell you here what it means but you’ll soon get to know.
3. If you come across a word you don’t know and can’t read, chances are it’s in English. Like kitbag, check-post and After. Remember, they are pronounced in Hebrew accent. This is also the case for car parts. So, for example, the front axle is called – “back axle kidmi” [literally – front back axle].
4. Get a good packing list. Leave the un-essentials: your guitar and ipad can stay in the kibbutz for basic, but do remember kafkafim / flip-flops, headlamp, pocketknife, a good book – yes, pen and paper to write on – also, yes, and “talc”, which you know better as baby powder, and which you have no idea why would be on this list and don’t want to be without when you need it.
5. Remember that list of things – all I ever needed to know, I learned in kindergarten? Most of it is still good for the IDF too: nap when you can, wash hands before you eat, and share. Nothing’s worse than someone eating crunchy bisley alone, or worse, dunking vaflot in leftover cold coffee so their friends don’t hear them consume the package they got from home. We know to send extra. Be there for each other. Be there for each other, and each of you will be stronger that way too.
6. We know how smart and strong you are and still, in the right place and time, ask. Ask – in both meanings of the word: don’t assume. Ask questions and find out what you need to know. And ask for what you need. Oftentimes, “no” is only the beginning of a conversation. So ask. No one will guess it for you. Asking is its own wisdom and strength.
7. Last: know that we think – It is very admirable and we are so inspired by your choice and motivation to follow your heart and be a part of the IDF. We have faith that this unique experience will contribute to your success in your future.
In the words of the famous Israeli song:
עוף גוזל, חתוך את השמים
טוס לאן שבא לך
רק אל תשכח, יש נשר בשמים,
Fly, little birdie, cut through the sky
Sly to wherever you feel like.
Just don’t forget, there’s an eagle in the sky, and please, take care.
We wish you much hatzlacha and all our love.
p.s. along with the sharpie, we’ve placed “kisses” and a golden nugget: Kisses – obvious, and the nugget so you also don’t forget this golden state, where you’ve come from, and what we think of you. Inside the nugget, there’s “stuff”, so you remember, it’s not always how it seems from the outside. Stay open, and look around. We wish you best in your journey.