Israel – a country sixty odd years young – has already managed to amass a multitude of heroes so vast that they easily outnumber the rockets fired out of Gaza since the forced withdrawal in 2005. This reality is highly unfortunate. No people should have to test the mettle of their greatest with such prevalent regularity.
Granted, every culture and every land has innumerable potential heroes, but most are destined to remain dormant, their services superfluous; how rare it is that dormancy equates good fortune.
This is not the case – in what has become – the land of contention and honey, where war is often synonymous with Tuesday, where our courageous are tested as often as our children in school.
Some of Israel’s legends will remain unsung until well after they’ve expired, a necessary albeit unjust consequence of national security. The focus of this article is to touch upon a group of champions that we have no need to keep secret, yet, rarely, if ever, are they on the receiving end of our attention or our praise.
I pen these words in honor of an alpha pack of American women who incomprehensibly find the strength to allow their offspring to travel across the globe, so that they may partake in a battle they could easily justify ignoring. How they find this strength will forever remain a mystery.
This is for the American mothers of the IDF.
You brought him into the world. You fed, clothed, and picked up after him for nearly two decades. You watched him grow at an alarming rate, and soon, you learned to dread the day he’d leave the nest to attend college. You hoped he’d stay home forever (who needs grandkids anyway?) and not once did you expect him to find his ultimate cause within the ranks of the Israeli Defense Forces.
You are to blame, though. His unwavering resolve to protect the Jewish homeland did not grow like mushrooms on a rock; he acquired his passion from the ideals you instilled in him when diapers were his only uniform. Your morality is to blame, the love and warmth you encompassed him with during his childhood helped assemble him into this proud, virtuous man.
Your young visionary wants to change the world for the better, to protect the innocent. You are left torn between unadulterated pride and a fear for his wellbeing that you couldn’t quite comprehend – not until his verbal decision to volunteer turned to the purchase of a plane ticket, a G-shock watch, and thermal underwear. Suddenly and without warning, the mere thought of separating from your flesh and blood strikes at your core without mercy.
The day of his departure arrives. You find that releasing him from your embrace is more difficult than labor. Iron tight, you grip him against your chest, standing at the door of your Miami condo, your LA Tudor, your Brooklyn brownstone… Somehow you find the strength to let your fingers slip apart, and with your own smile on his face – it’s like looking in a mirror – you watch him shrink as the distance between you grows.
Some of you cry before letting go; all of you shed private tears once he is gone. For nearly two years you pray for his safety, each of you hoping against all reason that these will be rare years of quiet, that your little one will never face danger.
Conflict arises. FOX, CNN, AL Jazeera, the international news becomes your life support. You find breathing difficult without it. Soldiers are dying. Each reported death stabs you like a thousand shards of glass. Each loss feels like your own, and remains that way even after you learn that your boy is still in the fight; you know what that means for another mother, one you haven’t met yet know so well.
Friends try to comfort you. Family remains nearby. Their efforts are futile. They do not and cannot understand that peace, for you, is a foreign concept, that you won’t find any solace until he is back in your arms, until he is close enough that you can again see your smile on his face.
Few know and even less stop to think about the difficulties of being a mother warrior. With the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge, I find it fitting to stop and give thanks.
To the brave sons who protect us: your battle is hard, and we are all indebted to you.
To the brave mothers who sit at home not knowing: your battle is harder; not knowing the fate of a loved one can be scarier than battle itself. For that fortitude, we are all grateful.
For their mothers.