A Message to Israel’s Soldiers…from a Mother

Before you say anything, let me explain. I’m now the mother of my third combat son (fifth, if you take into account the two we adopted and love as our own — huge wave to our Yakov and Chaim).

I get that you have to do this; I understand. No, wait, I don’t. I do respect that this is a macho thing. It’s a boy/man thing. It’s stupid. Honest to God, listen to me, it’s stupid!

Wait, let me explain to the non-Israelis who may read this. We are speaking of tradition here. We are speaking about something that has been an integral part of the Israeli army since the first time Ben Gurion went to visit the troops (which was probably in the summer, but never mind); the time that Ariel Sharon stood with a bandage around his head in short sleeves (oh wait, that was summer too).

In Israeli society, or at least in the army, soldiers are united by a sense of serving together, of love for their fellow soldiers. My youngest son entered the army six weeks ago. He is working hard and comes home tired. My youngest daughter asked him why he didn’t let some of the other boys carry something or do something more while he did a bit less. My son looked surprised at her question and then realized he needed to explain.

“Haven’t you ever heard the term “mishpachat Tzahal”? The Tzahal (army) family? That is it in a nutshell. He won’t work less so that others will work more. He will carry what he can, do what he can. I’m very proud of him. He’s an idiot.

No, he’s not. What he is…like his brothers before him…is a combat soldier.

As united as the army is, they are also divided into units — this serves the army as each soldier is trained within a unit to do what the army needs as a whole. They don’t only need ground forces or artillery, tanks or an air force. They need it all and so the boys (and girls!) are sent to units, each having a particular job during war…and during the non-war periods (because, in 68 years and counting, we’ve never had peace).

In a larger sense, the army is divided into two categories — kravi and jobnik. Kravi means combat; jobnik means…well, non-combat. It’s a silly way to define the largest part of the army; there are way more jobnik positions than kravi and way more soldiers who become jobniks rather than are able or choose to go to kravi.

Each of my sons was asked — will you serve in a combat unit…each answered yes…I’m very proud of them…and they’re all idiots.

No, they’re not. But my son is on his way home in what is likely the coldest, wettest storm of the year so far and I’ll bet you anything he isn’t wearing a coat. You see, dear friends, there are things that kravi do and things that jobniks do…

Jobniks pin their beret to their shoulders rather than rely on the loop of the uniform to hold it in place. Kravi don’t do that because…well, they’re kravi. Um…I’m with the jobniks on this one.

Jobniks have subtle differences about their uniform — many don’t have to wear combat boots…which makes sense because those boots are heavy (and expensive) and they aren’t really needed if you aren’t working with heavy equipment, at war, might drop a gun on your foot, whatever.

And apparently, “only jobniks wear coats” over their “dress” uniforms. Dress uniforms are worn for ceremonies, but they are also worn to and from the home. The army looks its best when it travels on our buses and the uniforms they wear are made not to wrinkle, are thinner rather than the normal uniforms they wear on base – stronger, thicker, meant for working in, etc.

Jobniks wear their sleeves unrolled in the winter to keep their arms warm…what a concept. Kravi wear the sleeves rolled up (or most of them do)…because…because…because they’re idiots.

No, they’re not, but I’m still with jobniks on this one as I sit here with three layers on and all my sleeves rolled down.

And they are given two coats — the dress one and the fleece one for when they are on base. So,today, if you are brave enough to risk the wind and the rain and the cold, you’ll see a whole bunch of kravi soldiers shivering as they rush between the rain drops to get home. They’re idiots.

Yes, they are. It’s cold out and you’re coughing. You’re killing me here, David, please, I love you. Put on the damn coat!

About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.