I dropped our youngest daughter off yesterday at the military recruitment office in Jerusalem.
Not the peace corps, but the IDF — mandatory military service for every Israeli. No post high-school decisions on best college campus or which fraternity to join, how far to live from home or what my major might be. The conversation here is what unit you’ll join, how to qualify to be a combat soldier.. Or in the case of our daughters, how to combine military service and the desire to be involved in Israeli society, as a religious person.
Our Israeli army-of-the-people has figured out ways to offer so many ways to serve. It’s mandatory, so that’s a good thing. Women serve in almost all areas of the IDF, and this is par for the course, as in many aspects of Israeli life.
Our own girls, rather than opt out with the religious exemption, found wonderful, full two-year military programs that respect their boundaries. Our oldest lived in a southern town, working with underprivileged (tough!) kids whom she grew to love and to believe in. She encouraged them to believe in themselves and to strive higher, to graduate high school and join their peers in meaningful military service – a huge stepping stone for life in this country. Our second served in high school dormitories provided for kids who could not live at home, for many heart-breaking reasons, helping them achieve their diploma and go on to serve. And now their sister will embark on her journey for meaning, in army-green.
We are so proud of these girls, for their service and ongoing dedication to those who have less than they do. ‘Understanding their privilege’ seems to be the current American trend for this – but Israelis have been giving back to those around them for all the decades of our young existence, with a feeling of collective responsibility and a purposeful nation-building.
May God bless them all and keep them safe.