And here we are, my military journey truly is coming to an end. Who would have thought that firstly this stage would come where I am writing about the last few weeks of my service. Mostly I feel in impressed shock that I managed to keep the blogs going all this time and taking the time to flick through everything I have written from the start of the rollercoaster until now, it really is incredible to be reminded of everything I have been through, the great times, the tough times and each and every experience. Despite the part of me that still feels the pain that I did not get to truly make the most of my service and that is gutted this journey had to end prematurely, I am starting to be able to see the excitement that comes with getting released. My official release date and the day I cut my army ID card in half is on 10th June so until then I do not have to be on base and I am essentially on vacation, which means I have had my last day in uniform.
Three weeks ago, the realisation that I was so close to getting released kicked in as I spent a week waking up each morning at 5am in order to travel from Jerusalem to Rehovot for a course in which we are split into groups and essentially taught how to live in the real world. The week is from Sunday to Thursday ending each day at about 4pm and the lessons range from learning how to pay bills and taxes to practicing how to behave during job interviews. A lot of the time we felt like we were sitting in a therapy session due to the way the week was carried out and much of the time it was boring. Luckily I was with a lot of friends I hadn’t seen since I first drafted so it was a great time to catch up with people and we even found the time to head to the beach one evening. The course happened to fall during t
he week of the intense heatwave that hit Israel with temperatures reaching close to 50 degrees celsius in some parts of the country.
The week following the course, I had to go to my normal base near the city of Ariel where I had to return half of my equipment that I had signed onto when I first finished training. In theory this could have taken a total of half an hour to return everything and get all of the right forms signed by the right people. However this is the Israeli army we are talking about so after about 7 hours on base, I finally got out although I was told I had to go back again two days later to somehow return the equipment that had been stolen from me when I was on leave after my surgery. In a panic not to receive a fine for the missing equipment, I went on a scavenger hunt around Jerusalem until the early hours of the morning hunting down kind soldiers or ex-soldiers who were willing to donate various pieces of equipment to me. Luckily I managed to collect everything and quickly returned it all to base before finally being sent off for freedom.
Since then, I have been very busy seeing friends and family in Israel, meaning I have barely had a moment to myself although it has been lots of fun so far. I went to a spring that I didn’t know existed about ten minutes out ofcentral Jerusalem with a couple of friends from base who happened to be out for the day. Two weeks ago a few friends and I travelled to a spring about an hour out of Jerusalem called the Yarkon Springs where we relaxed under the hot sun and there was even a rope swing there. That weekend, I got to spend on my old kibbutz along with several others who used to live
there. It was a really enjoyable Shabbat and I was welcomed by my host family and friends as though I had never even left. Just this past week, I travelled to Herzliya where I went through a day of intense career tests, which I was able to participate in for free due to my status of a lone soldier. It was a long, challenging day with all sorts of tests varying from maths to english to art, which made me realise that it really has been far too long since I sat in a classroom to learn something academic!
This Shabbat I hosted a meal for lunch on Saturday with some friends from the area, which went really well and made us feel very mature, which I guess we are now?! Yesterday I received my final pay check from the army so I think that means I should probably get out there and find a job soon but before I get stuck into all that fun stuff of actually going out to earn money and sort out my life, I plan on taking the time in the next few months to travel and enjoy myself. The plan for the upcoming few months begins tomorrow with a hike that I am taking with two friends, which involves walking from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee. In the current high temperatures it should definitely be a challenging hike but nonetheless we are all very excited. It’s ironic that after an army service spent complaining about all the marches and the walking, we are actually choosing to walk even more!
In just over two weeks, on the 18th June, I am due to fly home to England for about a month, which will be my first return home as an ex-combat soldier and I plan on making the most of the time to see friends and spend time with all my loved ones! I am really excited for this trip and look forward to seeing you all very soon! Please let me know if and when you are around so we can catch up!
This is me possibly writing up my last ever blog post unless I decide to do something equally if not more interesting next year…. I’m fairly certain my adventures are only just beginning…
Ronit Prais, almost-released, artillery, combat soldier.