Living That Bodedah Life, a blog run by Avital Weisinger, from Adventures of Avital, highlights the ups and downs of life as a Lone Bat Sherut. Bnot Sherut share their experiences and perspective on the blog to shed light on what it means to be a Lone Bat Sherut in Israel. By Michali Mazor, Bat Sherut Bodedah, originally from Boca Raton, Florida.
“You know, that’s so funny. It’s kind of like you’re helping yourself.” Laughter erupted.
I heard this “joke” countless times. A Lone Bat Sherut working in Bishvil, the organization that supports Lone Bnot Sherut. Hilarious.
I laughed along. I didn’t correct them. I didn’t even bother to sigh. They were not aware of the countless hours I spent on the phone talking to Lone Bnot Sherut who cried about the difficulties they experienced as they began their service. They were not aware of the time I spent writing informational pamphlets, or finding used washing machines, or dealing with governmental bureaucracies on their behalf.
They were not aware of the time I spent speaking with, and being interviewed by, various media, or welcoming and sending off Bnot Sherut at the airport at all hours, or traveling around the country to meet and support Bnot Sherut. They were not aware of how often I visited their apartments or handed out care packages.
My purpose was to be there for them. Just to be there.
My phone was never off; the line was open to all girls from the moment I opened my eyes to late at night. I was distressed with the ever-present concern that I was not doing enough for these young women, who were here alone without their families and away from all that was familiar. Yet, despite phone calls at all hours, despite the occasional deliveries of chocolate chip cookies to a girl feeling down, despite more and more successful ventures into Misrad HaKlita, I never felt I was doing enough. I could never do enough.
There was a Lone Bat Sherut somewhere that felt alone.
There was a Lone Bat Sherut somewhere who was sick, with no one to accompany her to the doctor or make her hot soup.
There was a Lone Bat Sherut somewhere whose apartment was infested with bedbugs and had nowhere to go.
There was a Lone Bat Sherut somewhere traveling with a bag of laundry on her back with no access to a washing machine.
And I? I couldn’t reach “that girl.” She didn’t know that there were people who cared and valued her service. She didn’t know that I was just a phone call away, that I would have loved to hear from her. I fell asleep, troubled.
People here in Israel don’t understand what it means to be a Lone Bat Sherut. Some think they do and claim to understand. They claim to sympathize. Yet, they say things like “Bnot Sherut don’t do much” or “They’re not really serving.”
There are plenty of statistics that show the value of National Service. Bnot Sherut staff short-handed hospitals, man ambulances on call, develop software for hospitals and non-profit organizations, help immigrants settle. They visit, help, and bring love to the lonely elderly. They contribute to the education of Israel’s children. This is but a short list of the amazing things Bnot Sherut do.
The Lone Bat Sherut, who leaves behind a supportive family, friends, and everything that is comfortable and familiar, to foray to a land with a different language, culture, and attitudes, is making an incredible sacrifice. Couple that homesickness with dealing with a lack of appreciation or even worse, dismissal and disrespect. Add to that the difficulty of surviving on a tiny budget, while cooking and keeping house, all while acquiring a new set of skills for an often challenging job.
Having been involved in the stories of eighty Lone Bnot Sherut who still choose to stay here and live their life in our amazing homeland, I recognize the importance of their service and will continue to do whatever I can to help. We should all do whatever we can to support them.
There have been a few changes in the attitude of the government toward Lone Bnot Sherut, though there is much more to be done. But this blog entry is not directed at them. I am speaking to you. The readers. Israelis. The natives and the Olim.
We, the Israeli people, should recognize the sacrifice and devotion of these incredible girls. We should cherish them. Lone Bnot Sherut deserve our respect, our love, and our gratitude.
It is our job to support them. And we aren’t doing enough. But someday, we will.