My Son, The Soldier
By Judi Felber
If we still lived in America, my son would be "flying off" to college this month – his next step in life. I would be helping to get him ready for this transition. We would be shopping for new bedding, new clothing, new school supplies, and maybe even the latest laptop to do his work.
He might be nervous about leaving the comforts of home and living in a dorm room with people he has never met and who may be quite different from himself. He might be concerned about whether he will make friends or if his courses will be interesting.
Well, we live in Israel, so instead my son is "flying off" to do his civic duty and join the Israeli Defense Forces – his next step in life, as an Israeli. We don’t need to go shopping. The army will provide bedding. They will give him two sets of uniforms, the only clothing he will be permitted to wear for the next 2 years and 8 months when he isn't home. He will be issued all of his supplies, which will include a gun.
He is nervous about leaving the comforts of home and living in a room with people he has never met and who may be quite different from himself. He is concerned about whether he will make friends and how he will do in basic training. However, the concern becomes deeper as it is not just a concern for if he will make lasting memories but the concern for his own safety.
He knows he has to do this. I know he has to do this, but still, it’s emotional and I want to protect him.
I grew up in America and did the American thing – graduated high school, went to college, got a job. I don't really understand the stresses of military life and culture, putting my life on the line. I don't know what it feels like to be faced with life and death situations. I also don't know the pride of knowing that I am protecting my country and my people, wherever they may live (the oath that all Israeli soldiers take says something like: I promise to protect the State of Israel and Jews throughout the world, wherever they may be living).
It's scary to let my little fledgling fly away to the great unknown, with dangers I can't understand. But, I am also so proud that my son will grow into a man with a purpose bigger than himself, with values of altruism and sacrifice for one's people. Although I will be so proud when he comes home wearing his new uniform, the mom in me will always have a knot in the pit of my gut until I see him.
This song by Israeli singer Arik Einstein ז"ל makes me choke with emotion every time I hear it. (Scroll down below the video view the lyrics.)
Judi Felber is a creative writer, editor, educator and development expert who made Aliyah with her family in 2006 at the start of the Second Lebanon War. Combining her strong communication and critical thinking skills with a deep love of Israel, Judi is the Communications Coordinator at Israel Forever.