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מאת: Edyn Waldman

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There is no doubt that during your military service you will have to get used to new conditions as well as "closing Shabbat" among other things. So, what does it actually mean? How many Saturdays do you close during the basic training? And what are you allowed to do to pass the time in the most delightful way? Don't worry; we are here to help!

"Closing Shabbat" - you have probably heard of this pair of words at least once before the enlistment day. So, what exactly does it mean?

Instead of going home on Thursday or Friday, you will spend the weekend at your base. In order to do so, you must pack a bag for two weeks, because the next time you will head home will be only a week later.  

How many times will I stay for the weekend during the basic training?

The number of times you will close Shabbat in the training depends on the Riflemen level - What is the difference between basic training 02 and basic training 05?) training that you will receive. The Riflemen level will determine the length of the basic training period you will go through, as well as the amount of Saturdays you will close at the base. For instance, in Riflemen level 02, that lasts about 3 to 5 weeks; soldiers will close usually 1 or 2 Saturdays.

Can I not close Saturday?

No. Staying at the base for two weeks is one of the main contents that you will acquire during your initial IDF training. Whether you will be placed in a home front role or a combat role – Closing Shabbat will become part of your military service routine, therefore it is important to be prepped. In some cases, if you won't close Sabbath, it is considered as not passing the basic training successfully, except for exceptional cases.

What to do throughout the weekend?

On the weekends in any base, except during an emergency, a protocol called "Nohal shabat" is applied. This protocol contains various rules and regulations, some of which prohibit non-critical activities on Saturday, for example training, lessons with the commanders, ranges, cleaning formations, adhering to the schedule etc. The only activities that are essential for continuing the maintenance of the base and those how are in it are the kitchen and guarding duties ("Almash"). In addition, the clinic will also work on Saturdays for emergency situations only.

Can I listen to music or talk on my cell phone on Saturday?

Although group activities are forbidden on Saturday, private activities are allowed as long as it does not hurt the feelings of the religious people that are "Shomrei Shabbat" ("Sabbath observer'). For instance, if you want to go for a run, read a book or watch a movie on your mobile device, no one will forbid you from doing so, as long as it is done with the consent of your fellow company friends. Make an effort to respect the feelings and beliefs of others, so, for example; you decide to listen to music on Saturday, it's best to do so with headphones.

What religious services can I utilize as a believer?

In each camp there is a rabbi in charge of a local synagogue at the base. Each Saturday, all customary prayers of the Jewish tradition are held and sometimes the unit's rabbi Torah lessons for anyone who wants to take part. In addition to the prayers, there will be a festive dinner every Friday that includes, among other things, kiddush as part of the beloved Jewish tradition in which every soldier in the base can take part. All the IDF kitchens are kosher and the military rabbinate is the one responsible for this. Therefore, you can rest assured that all the food you are being served on Shabbat is cooked and heated according to all laws of Halacha and tradition.

When can my parents come to visit?

The answer varies from base to base. In most bases, Saturday visits are allowed only during regular service duty and not during the basic tainting or short trainings. However, at bases in which the basic training takes a long period of time and the amount of Saturdays that the recruits close at the base is relatively high - parental visits will sometimes be permitted.

How can I pass the time smoothly?

Shabbat is a great opportunity to take a break from your hectic lifestyle and not be subjected to any tight schedule. With the exception of guarding duties and attending meals - you have no obligations. You can use your spare time to spend with your basic training friends, take care of all the arrangements you didn't have time to do and of course, prepare yourself for the upcoming week.

There is no doubt that closing the weekend in the base is a challenging and not an easy part of the basic training. Although you are far from home and friends, one thing is for sure: Staying at the base on Saturday is not as difficult as it seems, and it may even end up being the most enjoyable part of your experience during your basic training period and a way to create new friends. This is a great time to relax despite the longing for your home- you will see that it will pass quickly and with joy.

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