Nearly eight years into our Aliyah journey, there are not many firsts that we haven’t experienced. We are considered to be ‘olim vatikim’– veterans at this immigrant thing. People who are considering moving here actually contact us for advice, which is always a bit startling to me.

But in a few short hours we will experience a huge first. A first that leaves me breathless with the pride I feel, and it is taking all I can muster to write these words. Words that surely have been expressed before and better than I can do it, yet I feel the need to say it myself, so that my own people can hear what I have to say.

Tomorrow our second daughter, our middle child, will be officially drafted into the Israel Air Force.

My daughter is going to be a soldier. She will be a young Jewish woman who will be defending her country against our enemies.

To say that after the devastation of the holocaust, to be sovereign, to have our own country where we make our own decisions and have established an army that can and does defend itself is obvious. But I am not a child of survivors, at least not directly, so it’s not just that. Yet I am a child of a surviving people, who for thousands of years have wandered across the four corners of this good earth, always looking over their shoulders to the Holy Land they were forced to leave behind.

My own yearning for this place began in high school.  It took 25 years for me to get here, and by that time I was dragging my own teenagers with me.  Eight years later; my girls are no longer children.  And while they came late enough that there will always be some ‘America’ in them, they have all adopted the Israeli cultural attitude of serving your country before embarking on your own life’s mission.  My eldest performed two years of National Service; the second will start her Air Force service tomorrow, and my youngest will be drafted into the IDF next Spring.

To me that is astounding.  I am filled with awe and pride at this opportunity, at this priviledge that they have been granted.  I’ve always said that the reason we moved here was because we no longer wanted to be at the periphery of the history of our people; we wanted to be at it’s center, to have front row seats.

And here I am.

Tali, my wish for you as you start this inspiring phase of your life, is for you to learn and grow, and understand the meaning of G-d, Country and People in a way that I never could.  For you and all your fellow soldiers, I pray that you go safely and return safely and that G-d watches over all of you and over our Nation of Israel.

And above all,  I wish all of you and all of us, Peace.