Next month I will become the mother of three chayalim bodedim, lone soldiers. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around that statement. Two of our sons proudly serve in Golani Brigade and a third son will start his training in Michve Alon. Although all three will be in at the same time for only a few weeks before the first one starts down the miluim (reserves) road, I can’t help but think that as our next son signs on for three years of service, so, in turn do we. Three more years of incredible pride; three more years of incredible worry.
How did it happen that three of our sons made such an amazing commitment? Where did this incredible love of Israel and the need to protect her come from? How am I going to sleep at night?
The answers are, in no particular order, don’t know, really don’t know and I have no idea. I know that this is an unusual situation for an American mom but am I really any different than Israeli moms? We both are proud of our children for serving and we both worry for them. They regularly send their kids into military service, and have multiple kids serving, aren’t we the same?
Of course the real difference is that I’m doing it across an ocean, thousands of miles away. I don’t get to see my sons on their Shabbat off, I can’t tend to them when they’re sick or celebrate with them when they’ve achieved something. I save my pennies to spend on plane tickets. I plan my trips well in advance hoping they coincide with a special event like a tekes or a holiday. And when I get there I hope they’ll be given extra time off. I am never without my phone lest I miss a whatsapp text or a phone call. I scour pictures of lone soldier events hoping for a glimpse of my kids and wish that they had better wifi connections so we could skype.
So while I can’t be there to mother them I look to those in Israel to take care of them for me, and they have. There are wonderful organizations like the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levine z’l’, that recently provided a place for one son to live. And other wonderful organizations that give my sons everything from advice, army gear to gift cards, and even a flight home. We have been blessed that our boys have been “adopted” by AMAZING families. The fabulous Israeli’s have made our sons a part of their family, giving them emotional and physical support. They feed them, going to their tekesim even when we cannot, take care of them when they’re sick, the list is too long for me to begin to cover what they’ve given of themselves to my children.
Then there are the strangers, people who have anonymously paid for my son’s meal in a restaurant or for their groceries. Or those that meet them on the bus or train and offer a Shabbat meal even though the only thing they know about them is that they are a lone soldier. My sons have experienced incredible generosity, like when after a year and a half since seeing us one was able to get two weeks leave to come home. Then one week before departure he was told that the army wasn’t going to be able to pay for his ticket because his leave was for less than the required 21 days. Before he even had a chance to call us, his mefakdim (commanders) immediately pitched in and gave their own money to buy him a ticket, and when that wasn’t quite enough a fellow chayal’s father went to his office, collected the remainder and booked his ticket, that was almost two years ago and it still makes me teary.
Each of our sons has made this journey to Israel in different ways, and each has inspired the other. People often ask us what did we do? How did we raise these children? The honest answer is I really have no idea. Of course they were raised to be Zionists and have a strong love of Israel, our homeland, our refuge. Was there something else we did? You know as you’re raising your children that you have no idea if you’ve done anything correctly, I’m glad that it seems we did, in fact, do something right. These same people often ask “aren’t you worried” or ” how do you sleep” ; I know they’re well meaning, but how can I answer? Of course I worry, but as any mom of a chayal would say, I can’t worry consciously all day or I’d be catatonic. People also thank us for having sons who are protecting the land of Israel. I say it’s not us who should be thanked, our sons made this incredible decision; it’s something they feel strongly that they wanted and needed to do and they are now living their dream.
My heart swells with pride as often as my eyes do with tears. My sons are taking care of Israel and Israel, she is taking care of my sons.