Meir in the Middle

Olam Tash Yibaneh

While on the surface the acronym Tash, (lit: t’naei sherut) means conditions of service, in the IDF it means so much more. Soldiers, especially combat soldiers, tend to jump at the opportunity “lachtor l’tash:” to get hooked up with better conditions than one normally experiences. Whether it’s getting sent to an interesting course (where there’s enough food in the chadar ochel that you don’t have to go back and get a new plate to pretend you didn’t get firsts yet), being relocated to a base with good accommodations (e.g. a swimming pool, normal mattresses, athletic fields that are actually athletic fields, dumpsters with more manageable numbers of cats) or any kind of sweet upgrade to your situation that will make your army friends jealous.

But there’s tash and there’s tash olam: where conditions are so good it’s almost like experiencing another army world.

Like when my friend Eden gets sent to the sports training school Wingate to learn krav maga:

Yo this place is freaking awesome. Amazing food, rooms with a/c, and we get out every Thursday at 2. Also, there are so many hotties. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like they announced at the bakum: HAKSHIVU NA HAKSHIVU NA: ALL KUSIOT DRAFTING TODAY REPORT NOW TO BUS NUMBER 5 TO WINGATE. Tash olam, achi.

Or when I experience it firsthand.

While serving in a combat unit does unsuspected wonders for your conversational hebrew, there’s not much time to work on your hebrew writing skills. So after making some moves (fact: Toblerone changes army realities) I get myself sent to ulpan for 3 weeks on a jobnick base in Be’er Sheva.


Seizing the opportunity to dust off my parietal lobe and rest for 3 weeks after busting my body for the last 6 in the shetach, the majority of my new knowledge having been garnered from and restricted to Buzzfeed quizzes? This, new draftees, is lachtoring l’tash 101.

A bunch of my friends already did this ulpan and the scouting report is chaval al haz’man: we get to go home every day at 17:00 pm (I tell time like an Israeli now, deal with it), the teachers are awesome, plus they have napkins at lunch time.

NAPKINS AT LUNCH TIME?!? You kidding me? I’m already on the next bus to Be’er Sheva.

Arriving at the Southern Command for the first day of school (so much for impressing your peers with a cool new outfit, everyone’s freakin wearing the same exact green shirt and pants) I immediately feel as if I’ve entered an unknown world. And after my first lesson, that thought is only further confirmed.

Learning hebrew here is akin to exploring a foreign army planet with a team of Russian astronauts; the place I’ve arrived at is vastly different from the one I just left, and literally everyone (besides myself, two other Americans, and an Ethiopian) is Russian, speaks Russian, and acts very Russian, BLEHHT. You know some serious Rooskie bizniz is going down when there’s a Natasha taking attendance, a Vladimir calling out during class, and a guy named Oleg seated on your immediate right and left. 

Just us on the official IDF twitter account NBD

Just us on the official IDF twitter account NBD

What’s so different?

For starters, I’m in a classroom all day- not in a jeep, not in a guard post, not in a kitchen, not in a Palestinian village. Secondly, the strict discipline of sitting in classes in infantry (where if you fall asleep you get to spend some nice quality time with your samal outside) doesn’t exist here. The environment is super chill, we have a guaranteed hour break for lunch (once they even make me stop mid-way during a test I’m taking to make sure I get to lunch on time!), they’ve very correctly presupposed our attention spans so we sometimes listen to Israeli music (Arik Einshstein, Idan Reichel, NOT EYAL GOLAN) or play games in class (Mafia FTW) and always get an added ten minute break every hour during which we all hang out and make tzchokim at the pinat ishun blehht.


After a few days I can already totally get used to this being a jobnik thing. I start spending the latter half of my lunch break sunbathing on the lawn, for once I have consistent cellphone reception, and the only toranut I ever have to do is squeegeeing the bathroom before we go home for the day- which me and my new buddy Roman usually help the others with b’rabak. Except for that one time when Artur refuses to do toranut on his turn so we join the whole class in a rebellion against him, landing him a sha’ah b’yetziah. WHAT NOW, ARTUR?

Roman and I geting stuff done on the Ulpan Scavenger Hunt in Sde Boker

Roman and I getting stuff done on the Ulpan Scavenger Hunt in Sde Boker

So I’m living up the tash and my army buddies are super jealous (Leibovitch is even asking me to land him some Russian lady phone numbers). But this begs an obvious question: If you have the opportunity lachtor l’tash why would you ever not?

The problem with lachtoring to tash is that if you do too much of it you’ll become an oketz: a ditcher. It’s one thing to la’akotz (to ditch or get out of something) but another to be labeled an oketz. You’ve gone too far if it’s become your essence. Too many courses, too many absences, too much time spent getting out of the usual work and drills your comrades are doing and now have to work harder to complete because they’re now short one guy, means being looked upon in a negative light. Instead of being happy for you, guys won’t want include you anymore. I know of an instance where this guy ditched so many things that no one wanted to share food with him in the shetach or switch him on shmira. Thaz bad.

Like everything else it’s a balance. So def go ahead and tachtor l’tash, we all encourage it. Just make sure the good situation you’re getting yourself into doesn’t turn things bad when you get back.





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3 thoughts on “Olam Tash Yibaneh

  1. Josh on said:

    These are really great posts, just finished reading them from day one till now and you are both a brave soldier and gifted writer! Enjoy the remainder of your time in Tzahal

    • rangerz5289 on said:

      Thanks, Josh! Glad to hear you enjoyed them, it’s a pleasure to write them.

      • Josh on said:

        It is certainly a pleasure to read them. I am a sixteen year old living in Philadelphia, and I know I am joining the army at some point in my life, (before or after undergraduate is the question.) Do you think I could email you with more specific questions? Only if you have time, and thanks again for writing such an engaging and informative blog.

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