Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Parental Guide to Sherut Leumi

By all accounts, Sherut Leumi (National Service) is generally a rewarding and enjoyable experience for the young volunteers.

But the application process the year before?

Well, that’s a completely different story. An absurd, ridiculous, and downright inane story. A story that often involves disappointment, frustration, and even tears.

A story that begs for a blog post of its own…Open-mouthed

And thus, we here at Our Shiputzim proudly present:

The Official Sherut Leumi Lexicon

Shministit (שמיניסטית) – Literally, one belonging to the shminit – i.e. the eighth. Refers to a high school senior (fem.). The term is actually a vestigial throwback to the gymnasia system. The first form was the equivalent of today’s fifth grade, and the final – or eighth – form corresponded to today’s twelfth grade.

Bat sherut (בת שרות) – A Sherut Leumi volunteer.

Agudah (אגודה) – Literally, an association. Refers to one of the Sherut Leumi supervisory organizations. There are currently three primary agudot which cater exclusively to National-Religious young women. Each agudah has a separate catalogue of Sherut Leumi positions throughout the country. (Although three agudot may seem like overkill, competition between the three actually benefits the bnot sherut.)

K’sherit/Megasheret/Mekasharet (קשרית\מגשרת\מקשרת) - Literally, a liaison. (Yes, there are – at least – three different names for the same thing…) Refers to the agudahs representative who comes to the ulpanot and helps the shministiyot figure out what they want to do during Sherut Leumi. Each agudah sends its own mekasheret, and thus the shministiyot have to meet with all three mekashrot. The mekashrot are often young and inexperienced (our neighbor’s 21-year-old daughter currently works as a mekasheret in a local ulpanah) and tend to come up with rather amusing suggestions for the girls. (I’ll leave it to A Mother in Israel to elaborate…)

Teken (תקן) – Literally, a standard. Refers to a Sherut Leumi position. Different institutions have different numbers of tkanim. In other words, the number of tkanim an institution has is the number of bnot sherut that institution can hire for the following year.

Popular positions Certain Sherut Leumi positions are considered to be highly desirable. This reputation is largely undeserved and is based solely on hearsay. In practice, this means that shministiyot applying to any of these positions are likely to face rejection…

Sayaret (סיירת) – Literally, a reconnaissance tour. The shministiyot go on sayarot in order to check out potential positions and to be interviewed. Each institution is only allowed to invite a limited number of candidates to a particular sayeret. The precise number is determined by the number of tkanim.

Dirat sherut (דירת שרות)The apartment where the bnot sherut live during their Sherut Leumi year.

Rakezet (רכזת) - The local coordinator or supervisor who takes care of the bnot sherut and the dirat sherut. The rakezet is employed by the agudah.

Website – Where the shministiyot must register for most of the sayarot (except for the ones that require preregistration, advance registration, and/or special invitation…). Registration begins at a specific time on a specific day. In recent years, it’s been at 6:00 PM on a given Tuesday. Which means that starting at 5:30 PM on that fateful day, girls across the country sit in front of their computers, hands hovering above their keyboards, as they wait anxiously for H-Hour to arrive - so they can quickly register for a sayaret at one of the popular positions before all the spots fill up.

“We upgraded our system, and it won’t crash.”- A statement made by an agudah official to a group of parents at a certain ulpanah earlier this year. Note that she said this without the slightest hint of irony – even though this is exactly what the agudot insisted last year… and the year before that… and the year before that… Also note that this year, out of the three agudot, only one’s system did in fact crash – and was down for over two hours - on that critical Tuesday evening: The very same agudah whose official made the aforementioned claim…

“What a crazy system!” – A phrase uttered repeatedly by, er, a certain Anglo mother of my acquaintance over the past few months…


What would you add to this lexicon?

And in conclusion, this blog’s editorial board and writing staff would like to take this opportunity to extend a hearty mazal tov to our favorite shministit, who recently, um, closed on (sorry, but the English just doesn’t have quite the same connotation as the Heblish) a very exciting position for next year IY”H.

Best wishes to her and her classmates for continued success in all their future endeavors!


  1. Mazel tov! We do the hovering over the computer to sign up for parent teacher conferences. I know the person who wrote the system, and it never crashes. Not sure if the agudah can afford his development fees, however.

    Best wishes to your daughter for an enjoyable, interesting, learning year.

  2. Okay, where was this 10 years ago when I first needed this for my oldest?

    After sending 4 daughters off to sherut leumi the one thing I can add that you haven't found out yet is the girls' salary is dependent on whether you get food or not. My daughters that lived in a dirat sherut (and in two cases, villot sherut) who had to supply their own food got paid a higher salary, while my daughters who ate at the school, maon, whatever, where they were working, got a smaller salary.

  3. In our defense, Leora, I doubt that the parent-teacher conference spots are in as high demand as the SL spots!
    I think I was incorrect about megashrot, if I was your source for that. I have to double check but I think they are mekashrot.
    Love your glossary.

  4. So timely as my oldest is dealing with this now and I don't have a clue as to how the system works. Her school had Masaa Yisraeli last week (great timing, right) and I had to sign her up for an intervew. She showed me how to get to the page, instructed me to set it up before 6 and then refresh until the appropriate icon appeared. It reminded me of hitting redial on the phone to try to win something from a radio station when we were teens.

    BTW, having used both, Leora's comparison to the parent-teacher conference sign-up is a good one. If you aren't quick enough, you end up with conferences hours apart or on different nights.

  5. This does sound complicated! No wonder tears may be part of the process.

  6. Leora - Thank you! B"H, she's very excited about it!

    Miriyummy - Speaking of money, some of the parents here were complaining that although bnot sherut ride free on the buses and trains, the girls have to pay for their own transportation when going on sayarot.

    Mother in Israel - Yes, I heard about megashrot from you. In our daughter's school, the girls call them "k'sheriyot," but at the Erev Horim, the speakers referred to them as "mekashrot."

    Rachel - Wow! Registering your daughter definitely puts you in the running for the Mother of the Year Award! :-)

    Ilana-Davita - "Complicated" describes it perfectly! :-)

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  8. Oh, mazal tov on your daughter closing on her position! How nice to know that going through this whole process paid off!
    I'm still trying to understand the bagrut system - when I've made some progress I'll be sure to come back and reread this. I did like how you casually slid into English terms :)

  9. Toby - LOL and thanks! Check out my glossary of bagrut terms, and good luck to your kids!

  10. Congratulations that she "closed" (so how do you say that in English?) so quickly.

    During the year of the sherut leumi year it is important to keep track of what is happening, not all of the places or supervisors are as good as they are supposed to be

  11. Keren - Thanks. That sounds like good advice!

  12. Teken also means tenure. Maybe that is where it is coming from in this case?

  13. A teken means a legal position or employment. For instance, a hospital has so many "tekanim" for different types of nurses. They can't hire anyone unless they have a teken and the nurse in question has the appropriate qualifications.

  14. Kaila - Welcome to the blog!

    MiI - Thanks for the explanation.

  15. I know I'm really late with a comment. My daughter went through all that last year and this year is very happy at her sherut. She is working really hard, but it's an amazing learning experience. She just "closed" for next year's sherut and the process is alot less stressful--for her and mom!


  16. Baila - That's great that your daughter's doing a second year of sherut! Best of luck to her!

  17. Hi, I've read your blog for a while but haven't commented, I don't think. I just googled "what to do after sherut leumi" and this came up! I was wondering if you had some advice for my daughter.

    She doesn't want to do a second year of sherut leumi (she is working at Shaarei Tzedek this year) and is undecided as to whether or not to go to midrasha or university. She is also considering something like part-time Matan and working in the evenings. Any advice?

  18. Annette - Thanks for stopping by! I really wish I could help you, but here in TRLEOOB (=the real life equivalent of our blog), we haven't yet reached that stage. In any event, best of luck to your daughter, and please keep reading and commenting!


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