I receive A LOT of questions from wanna-be/future lone soldiers. I really don’t mind the questions and I love helping others when I can so they can get the best experience possible and hopefully not make some of the mistakes I made along the way. I’m writing this just to get some of the more basic questions out of the way and will continually update it as often as I can with new Q&A. Please remember that this is just my advice, what I’ve learned, and my opinion on the matters, everything is a personal choice and this is YOUR JOURNEY! If you have any specific questions that aren’t answered here, you can always contact me at

Included here are these questions:
– Should I do Mahal (volunteer) or Garin Tzabar (make aliyah)?
– How do I get set up in Israel? Cell Phones, Bank Accounts, Living situations oy vey!
– Do I ever get to visit home?!?!

  • Should I do Mahal (volunteer) or Garin Tzabar (make aliyah)?
    This is a question I get a ton so I’ll get straight to the point on it. I did Mahal, and after about a year or so wished I had done Garin Tzabar. I didn’t actually know what Garin Tzabar was until after I was already in the army so unfortunately it wasn’t an option for me. Garin Tzabar for those of you that don’t know is a program to help Jews outside of Israel make aliyah and do their army service. They help you a lot since you will be doing the whole process with a bunch of other people at the same time, and will always have leaders to help you along the way.Mahal is really the “do-it-yourself” route. You are a volunteer, and honestly, completely on your own. You do all your own paperwork, deal with your own problems and do everything yourself. The key point here (as you can see that I bolded it) is that with Garin Tzabar, you have to make aliyah. For most, making aliyah will mean a military service closer to that of a normal Israeli.

    With Mahal you will sign on (usually) for between 14-18 months. If you don’t know Hebrew, you will go to Mikveh Alon (an army base) for 3 months and learn basic hebrew (you will also do this with Garin Tzabar if your Hebrew is not up-to-par) and then continue the rest of your service after that (total of 18 months). If you already know Hebrew adequately you will still go to Mikveh Alon, but only for 3 weeks and then continue with your service (total of 14 months). There have been instances when people have been made to sign more time for Tzanchanim (paratroopers), but it seems to be totally random. I was not made to sign more than my 18 months, but I have met others who had to sign more. If you try out for (and get into) a Sayeret (Special Forces) unit, you will sign for their minimum, which is usually 3 years.

    I’m sorry for so many numbers and confusing details, but the whole thing is a bit confusing.The real choice here is if you want to make Aliyah or not. I personally made aliyah while 3/4 of the way through my service with Mahal. For me I did not have to sign any extra time due to my age (24). My opinion is that you will have a more enjoyable, fulfilling service with Garin Tzabar, but you have to be willing to sign that extra time. It’s at least a whole year extra, and you will have made Aliyah. I personally would have done it if I were younger so I could have done a sayeret (special forces) but this is a choice I cannot make for you!

  • How do I get set up in Israel? Cell Phones, Bank Accounts, Living situations oy vey!
    A lot of these things will (or at least for me) just kind of work themselves out, mostly out of necessity. I will say that the first thing I got was a temporary phone number. I bought a prepaid SIM card for my phone and topped it up when it got low. This is not something that you want to do for too long however, since it’s way more expensive and you don’t get any data service like you would with a contract. During this time I guess you could use international calling through a foreign carrier, but mind you it will be expensive, and I have heard of people having problems with it not working. If you have an unlocked phone, definitely use a prepaid SIM. For International calling I have (and will always) use Skype. It’s only a few cents a minute (or free if you’re calling someone else using Skype!), and I rarely have service problems.

    Next I got my bank account set up. For me, I wanted to get one of the bigger banks so that if I were to have a problem, the nearest branch wouldn’t be too far away. The two biggest banks in Israel are Bank HaPoalim and Bank Leumi. I chose to go with Bank HaPoalim, solely because it was the closest to where I was staying at the time. I haven’t had any major issues with them and have generally been happy with my business there.

    Once you have a bank account, you can get a cell phone contract. The main companies are Orange, Pelephone, Cellcom and Mirs. I originally started with Cellcom, and as much as I would have liked to try to keep this unbiased… I had a lot of problems with Cellcom and eventually left them. I have had for the past year a “soldiers’ plan” with Orange. Most companies have some sort of plan for soldiers, which basically amounts to a cheap “pay as you use” plan. I got mine with 5GB of data for internet (which is far more than I ever use). I talk and text an average amount, and pay between 140-200 shekels a month [about $35-50]. It’s really up to you how much you spend since it’s all what you use. I set up payments so that the charges come directly out of my bank account, I never have had to deal with bills or anything of that sort.

    So where will you be living during all this? This is the hardest to answer, as everyone will find their own solution. I personally lived in a hostel for around a month and a half until I had everything set up. I stayed at HaYarkon 48 while I worked a small off the books job etc. etc. I’m a very independent person though and had no problem not having anything permanent set up. Everyone is different. Eventually after meeting with the army you will discuss where you want to live. You can have the army pay for an apartment for you (up to 1046 shekels), or you can live on a kibbutz. Kibbutz living will be FAR cheaper and easier. Kibbutzim are all different though, I moved from my first kibbutz to another and ended up liking the second way more than the first. The only reason people live in apartments is so that they can be closer to a big city, they will end up paying for it in the end though as it’s rare to find any apartments that fit into the army’s budget.

  • Do I ever get to visit home?!?!
    yes, you do! As a Lone Soldier you will be entitled to a Mayuchedet (special leave) for one month, once a year. Depending on unit, training, commanders etc. You may not be able to go EXACTLY when you want to unless you have some very special reason. Also, as happened to me, they tried to lie to me and tell me I could only go for 3 weeks. When I and all the other lone soldiers complained they changed it back to the month. If you are serving a year and a half obviously you will only go back once. If you are serving three years expect 2 or three times. The army will pay for one trip, meaning that if you are serving 3 years and get three leaves, the army will pay for one of your trips.
  1. Good Info!

    I was also wondering about getting a phone and bank account.

    Which bank account did you use, and do you know of any with good deals for international wiring?

    Also, do you know if its possible to keep my US number and use it in Israel? Or is Skype reliable for international calls, or Verizon? Again, what did you use?

    Oh, also, is there a time given to visit the States during our service? If so, when?


  2. Thanks! Also, should i expect that what i get paid from the IDF will cover the phone bill or is it not enough?

  3. kirss says:

    how much was the wage you got as a lone solider ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s