Rachel Gottlieb

Israel at War: All About the ‘Stache

The indomitable spirit of the Jewish people, October 20, 2023 (Photocredits: Author)

We need to talk. Again. This time about facial hair. You see, there’s this trend going around in Israel. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it. It’s the mustache.

It’s a trend that has been going around among the reservists. Many, many, many (did I say many?) of them have been working on their ‘staches over the last couple of weeks, growing them out, shaping them, caring for them, nurturing them. There’s a lot of mustache going around.

Now, I don’t like mustaches. At all. (Which is why I haven’t grown one myself, of course.) I can’t really explain what it is about the ‘stache, but I associate it with old men and creeps. (And sometimes the old man is also the creep.) And I am well aware of the fact that I really don’t have much (any) say in what guys do with their own facial hair, but I do think I’m still entitled to an opinion based on my own taste and preferences. And my own taste and preferences is decidedly not mustaches.

So last week, when I saw that one of my soldier boys had grown himself a mustache worthy of a 1970s kibbutznik (and/or an Italian mafioso), I called him out on it for hopping on the bandwagon. Because I had to. And his response was everything:

“Rachel, the horrors of what happened on October 7th are hitting us all really hard in all of the Jewish world, hopefully everywhere that humanity is cherished, and particularly for those of us called up. I think that the goofy *cough manly* face whiskers are a way to ease the pain of our current terrible reality with a certain fun kinsmanship between brothers in arms. In addition to the sense of camaraderie, there’s a reason that it’s specifically 70s facial hair which is trending now in miluim [reserves]: This war is most reminiscent of the Yom Kippur War in ’73. A war that we won, against all odds. With mustaches.

Now, we can’t confirm that we won the war thanks to the mustaches. On the other hand, we can’t confirm that it wasn’t the mustaches that led to our victory…”

I’ll give you a second to process. And I recommend you read it again.

Because when I got that message, I read it, read it a second time, laughed so hard I needed to catch my breath, then read it a third time, and laughed yet again. And as I reread it and rewrite it now, it still makes me smile. Because he was right. He was right to put me in my place. He was right that the mustache trend is a fun way to ease the pain and to create a sense of bonding and brotherhood with the rest of the mustachioed reservists. He was right that we should be remembering the Yom Kippur War right now, between the surprise of the attack, the fact that it happened on the fiftieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, the fact that the country mobilized all of its soldiers and reservists to fight the fight of our lives, and—please God—the fact that the Jewish people emerge ever victorious.

But it’s more than that. Because he is also right that we cannot confirm that we won the Yom Kippur War thanks to the mustaches. But we can confirm that the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people, which is revealing itself right now in the “goofy *cough manly* face whiskers,” is our secret weapon. It’s not the mustache. But it is the mustache. It’s the fact that even in the face of horrific tragedy, we can still smile. Even through our tears, we can still laugh. Even through our terror, we can find joy. Even through our pain, we can find fun.

Because we’re in this together. Our pain is one. Our grief is one. Our sorrow is one. Our fear is one.

But our hope is one. Our future is one. We are a people, a family, with one heart, one soul, and one vision for a beautiful life in our beautiful home. And so through our shared tears, we strengthen the ties that bond us. Our reservists grow mustaches, and we laugh at them for it. But we’re also beyond proud of them for it. Because they, as one, represent all of us.

I still don’t like mustaches. I have no plans to grow one in solidarity (for many reasons, not the least of which is that I’d have a harder time trying to grow a mustache than a prepubescent boy). But I love these. I love what they represent. I love the fact that I can see the spirit of the Jewish people written on the faces of these soldiers as they prepare themselves for battle. I love the fact that this one, simple thing means so much more than it seems. I love the fact that it represents me, you, us, and the future we will build.

So I repeat: I still don’t like mustaches. But I do love these. Because while we can’t confirm that it was the mustaches that won the war…well, we kind of can.

And that’s a bandwagon I will always hop on.

Please continue to pray for us, and for the following soldiers, especially:
עזרא צבי יוסף בן אריאלה פנינה
יעקב זכריה בן אריאלה פנינה
אליהו סִינַי בן ביילא רבקה
נַתַּן בן דבורה אסתר
דוד אלכסנדר בן דבורה אסתר
אלכסנדר בן שרה אלישבע
ראובן אליעזר בן אביגיל אסתר
בועז כָּלֵב בן יפָה מרים
יצחק אייזיק בן פריידא
אהרן בן רחל ברכה
חובב בן דבורה אסתר
שמחה בן הינדא ברכה

כי ה׳ אלקיכם ההולך עמכם להלחם לכם עם אויביכם להושיע אתכם. ה׳ ישמור צאתך ובואך מעתה ועד עולם

About the Author
As a combination logophile and Israel-o-phile, Rachel's fingers itch whenever something needs to be shared about Israel, particularly as it relates to the Diaspora. Her credentials include a Master's in English and many years experience as a high-school English teacher, which covers the writing part, and being a card-carrying member of the Jewish nation, which covers the Israel part. Although she currently resides in Suffern, NY, her heart has long since been stolen by Israel herself, and her mind is constantly preoccupied with the capital of the Jewish people.
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