An Israeli woman doesn’t have to frequent bars around an army base to meet a soldier. Instead, they meet naturally, since both men and women are drafted into army service. Just ask Chen.
Nine years ago, when she was 19, Chen Yadid was stationed at the underground military command center in Tel Aviv. “I socialized with scores of guys there,” says Chen.
One soldier, however, went unnoticed. For about eighteen months, Chen would pass Tal Tutnauer in the hallway, but they never acknowledged each other. They remember only one conversation they had during all that time, and even that was not about anything very significant.
Matters changed when a new soldier was assigned to Tal’s position and began to hang around Chen. “That piqued my interest,” says Tal, who speaks English fluently, thanks to the family of his American-born dad.
Soon Tal and Chen began talking. “It all started because of this new guy and much of our conversation was about him, even though we were more interested in each other than we were in him,” says Chen.
“When I talked with Chen about going out, we both thought it sensible to wait until she was discharged,” says Tal. Though Tal and Chen are the same age, female soldiers serve only two years, while guys serve three.
Chen was willing to wait. Since they were together in the same command center, she knew his reputation. “Tal was a good person, and nice to everyone,” she says. “Basically – a chnon (Hebrew for geek),” she adds.
Finally, Chen completed her army service, and on April 10, 2005, they had their first date. They went together for two months and then Chen left for the popular Israeli post-army trip. Lucky for Tal, Chen was gone for only two months, and she was in the US where communication is not a problem. Many young Israelis travel for six months or longer and frequently go trekking in out-of-the way places, where it is not so easy to find a connection to email or Skype.
“This is where many army relationships fall apart,” says Tal. “With the post-army trip. When the couple travels separately for a long period of time, they move apart, and then they start new lives when they return.”
Yet many relationships which begin in the Israeli army do last and result in marriage. This can be compared to the many Americans who end up marrying their college sweethearts.
While Chen was away, she and Tal maintained their long distance relationship by communicating every day. “And when she returned, we just picked up where we left off,” says Tal. As fate arranged it, they also lived conveniently close to each other, near Givatayim, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Tal did not go on a post-army trip, and they both started their college studies at the same time, and each finished with two degrees.
They were a couple again and it was no surprise when they moved in together in 2007. What qualities do they appreciate in each other? “I love how she spoils me,” says Tal. “And I love how he spoils me,” says Chen, “even bringing me coffee in bed.”
Was there any pressure to get married? “My family was getting a bit anxious,” says Chen, who is the youngest in her family, with three older married brothers.
“Most of my family members thought I was still young,” says Tal. “But not my grandmother. She was ready for the wedding.”
One day in September, 2011 Chen came home from work to find their apartment filled with flowers. Tal was waiting and he proposed marriage.
Tal’s grandmother was overjoyed, and so was everyone else in both families.
Tal and Chen were married on May 10, 2012. Mazal tov.