Some experiences change you. You know about them, read about them, talk about them but only by experience do you enter a new realm of knowledge and experience. Anyone who has stood under the marriage canopy, given birth, or stood on their mother’s grave knows what I’m talking about.
This week my son was drafted into the IDF. No real news. Thousands of Israeli kids do it every year. They talk about it, prepare for it, participate in pre -army academies and go out for runs. My eldest daughter finished her two years with a feeling great of satisfaction and growth. So nothing prepared me for what I was to experience.
The whole family paused work and summer plans to accompany our boy down to Tiberius to the draft office. He registers and waits for his name to be called to get on the bus that will take him to his next three years of his life – to the Army. I wipe my tears and get a grip. Along with us were other mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, friends and girlfriends. Some families brought drinks, boreka’s and cookies – you know the traditional Jewish way of marking something important. There was an excitement in the air. Looking closely I noticed every single mother, father, sibling and friend had shiny, teary eyes like mine. No one made a scene. And when they called the names, the families cheered and called their farewells. From this minute our boys that we raised and protected, are soldiers, learning to be the ones protecting us. We are not naïve, we know the physical, mental and moral challenges that await them.
From that minute I feel I am seeing Israel with new eyes. No small thing for a tour guide and lecturer on Israeli society to admit. I left the parking lot and stopped at a red light and looked at the people in the next car, they drafted their son, they are so brave. We continued to Rami Levy supermarket; I surveyed the shoppers and check out ladies- did this one draft their son? That one must have.
My dear father writes on the family whatsapp group “now I can sleep well knowing he is in the IDF protecting us”. No drama, so brave. In a conversation later he tells me “this is the meaning of being part of Am Yisrael- what everyone goes through, we go through too.
I look around now and am awed by how much love, bravery and emunah -belief- I see everywhere I go and in every face here in Israel.