We’ve got problems in our teeny country. Upon this, we can probably all agree. I read the news and feel like I’m drowning in strife, infighting, hatred and despair. We are attacking each other internally and being attacked, seemingly all the time, by those who want to annihilate us. This builds a feeling of hopelessness, of the never-ending cycle of hatred and mistrust that is simply never going to end.
It’s hard to live that way; it’s hard to find glimmers of hope and to trust in the process; it’s hard to have faith that our sons and daughters, who don the Israeli uniform with so much pride, are being protected and are fighting for something that matters.
And then I spend an evening volunteering at the Pina Chama, at the warm corner in Gush Etzion that is open 16 hours a day offering soldiers free drinks and food. Each time I volunteer, I restore my hope just a little bit more. I receive a glimmer of how things can be right and how things can be righted; I see the hope of a better tomorrow.
Last night, the reservists who’ve been serving in our area for a month were finishing their final night before returning to their homes, their families, their normal lives. At the same time, a new group of reservists were dropping in and familiarizing themselves for the month ahead. About 15 minutes into my shift, a man in his mid- to late-40s showed up with a big smile on his face and his arms wrapped around two young soldiers.
“Do you know who this is?” he asked me, pointing to one of the young soldiers. “This is my son. He’s been here for a month protecting you guys. I’m sending him back to his mom tomorrow.”
We all laughed and I praised him and thanked him for his service to our area.
“But that’s not all!” the man continued. And with a voice beaming with pride he said, “I’m taking over now. He’s going home, and his father is part of the unit switching him.”
You could see the pride this father had for his son (and his two other sons in uniform, as he told me) and the pride he had in himself. And then his phone rang and he said, “Here she is now. The real hero. My wife who can’t wait to hug our son tomorrow, and who just said goodbye to me for a month.”
And he walked off to talk to his wife.
This is where I choose to focus my heart and my energy – on stories such as these. On the multi-generational love of Land; the multi-generational commitment to the country and its people that transcends religious practice, politics and location. This is the Israel that I live in and this is the future that I am making for my children.
At the end of the night, another soldier on his last night of duty came in for coffee. He relayed that he’s anxious to get back home because he’s in the middle of university and exams. And I said that it must be really hard to pick up and come to guard for a month in the middle of studying.
He looked at me without skipping a beat and said, “It’s our obligation. We are here to serve so when we are called up, we come.”
These are the moments that I will return to as I worry about our internal strife, our external dangers and our many entanglements and issues. These are the moments that make up my Israel, and my hope for our future as a nation.