Green with… pride

To all of the soldiers recently inducted into the IDF:
For many years now, and especially in the recent past, as you know there has been much controversy over the IDF draft and the so-called sharing of the burden issue. Most of that debate has focused on those wishing to absent themselves from the responsibility of serving their country. What is usually missing from this public debate is the soldiers who are serving or just entering the army. We have heard so many cries from so many sectors that those actively choosing to absent themselves do not express–at the very least–a feeling of hakarat hatov (gratitude) to those who serve.

In that vein, I direct my words to you, the newly inducted soldiers of the IDF. Quite recently, you said a tearful goodbye to your families in Baku”m (the IDF intake facility) as you left civilian life to don the green of the army. By doing that, you accepted the authority of the army over your entire life from that day until the day of your release from the army. That day is gut-wrenching, difficult, emotional and stressful. Yet, it is also a day that was filled with PRIDE. (I recall that feeling vividly, as we watched our daughter make that walk up to the fence and wave to us as she segued into that new life.)

That feeling of pride is born of a few reasons. First, is the inner feeling that you are doing the right thing by serving your country. Your country, not even 70 years old yet, has been defended and protected by tens of thousands of the IDF that came here before you. You now join their ranks and add to that legacy. In addition, your families are sitting at home and now more attuned to the daily rhythm of this country than ever before, and they feel an even closer connection to the land. Furthermore, your entry into the army means that you become an ACTIVE participant in the history of the Jewish People. You are not content to sit on the sidelines and watch as daily events occur. Rather, you become part of those daily events and shape and mold what occurs.

Yes, you put on the green uniform (or tan or blue) and enter a new stage in your lives. And those of us who watch you, our friends, our neighbors, our countrymen, men and women, who take this step–and we beam with pride. Yes, of course, there is anxiety, both your internal anxiety and that of your families. But when you realize that while you are preparing to protect our country that you are not alone, it brings a sense of extreme comfort. We pray every week for you and ask G-d to watch over you as you watch over us. G-d does not watch over only Haredim or Dati Leumi or secular Jews…he watches over ALL of us.He is indeed there with you as you go through basic training, and He is with your families as they sit anxiously in their homes awaiting any updates from you at all.

To all of those who are serving in the IDF…to all of those who have served in the IDF and to all of those just now entering, I say from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU and our profound sense of Hakarat HaTov You do us all proud and we are privileged to have ALL of you in ANY capacity in which you serve.

Wishing all of you Mazal tov on this new phase of your lives and may Hashem be with you ever step of the way.

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.