Let me tell you a story. I’m not sleeping anyway, as tonight is my firstborn son’s first night on base, which at the moment I only know is somewhere in…Israel.
We made aliyah 11 years ago, and yet both my husband and I feel that today, January 15, 2018, was our true date of coming home. This morning we did that which all Israeli parents dread and yet anticipate with a mixture of pride and joy; we brought our son to start serving in the Israeli army. This was so big that I almost didn’t see it coming. We knew that this was the date, yet somehow I put it out of my mind, not really thinking about how huge it was. Until I couldn’t sleep last night. I should say we, because my husband and I spent most of last night taking turns turning in bed, until we dragged ourselves up to face the day.
We brought him in, this baby for whom we had made a pidyon haben (redemption of the firstborn son ceremony) almost 21 years ago; we already redeemed him, how is it we now had to give him up? With tears of joy and sorrow, fear and pride, we gave him over to the army, to help our country in whatever way they feel will be best. My heart was not in my throat, but in my stomach with the butterflies that wouldn’t stop. Our son was smiling, although he mentioned some possible concerns in the way only he could. We wished my husband’s grandfather and my father could have been here to see this, and we knew how much his grandparents are so proud of him.
The whole day since has been a blur, thinking about this baby who figured out how to push a piece of furniture across a whole room so that he could climb up onto our piano (before he could walk), who (at 2 years old) told his grandma that he was crying with words when tears didn’t work (so she would take him out of the crib), who asked what flavor I was (dairy or meat) so that he could share his ice cream with me. I remember him with a huge smile and spaghetti (pasghetti) sauce all over his face, happily hugging his baby brother and later his sister, teaching me how to look at the world from an artists’ point of view (the sun breaking through the clouds this morning was exactly how I felt). How he shares and shares of himself, and then looks surprised if you mention it. How he took his role of big brother seriously, even though he may have also wanted to sometimes smack his siblings. I think of the boy with the soap bubble beard who now shaves a real beard, and how it is time for me to admit that he is a man. I also said that I don’t know how parents of 17 year olds are able to do this, sending them off to the army when just yesterday they were learning how to take their first steps.
Many of my friends have been there for me today, and I thank all of those who posted words of support and encouragement, and especially Marcie, who talked to me today and reminded me that it is time (probably past time) for these boys who went the extra mile and got degrees, and already spent time away from home, to spread their wings and fly. It is time for them to find their own way.
I remind myself of what I know, that as soon as they take their first breath they are independent people, and if we do our job right as parents, it means they will leave and start their own lives.
I know, I know, I know. But I also remember how, although I had wanted to make Aliyah since I was 8, when my son was nine months old and we visited Israel, and it hit me that this sweet baby would have to go to the army, and suddenly I stopped thinking about Aliyah for a while. Yet when I remembered sheHakol B’yidei shamayim, that it is all in God’s hands, I knew it was time to go. And now, he has gone. And now, we are on the other side of the divide, a part of those who have given of their own flesh and blood to protect this country, our nation. I deeply hope and pray that he, as well as all our boys, our soldiers who were once sweet babies, will come home safely.
I think about those who say things against our soldiers, but I know that it is not true, and I believe those soldiers who say that they are absolutely taught right from wrong, and anyone who says otherwise is lying or saying things to cover their own wrongdoing. I am so proud to now be a parent of an IDF soldier, the army that protects my people and goes the extra mile to do it the right way.
And now to bed, perchance to sleep. And on this day especially, I hope to dream a dream as big as the one so famously spoken of by Martin Luther King Jr. My dream would be that we wake up tomorrow to hear that, like Simon and Garfunkel once said, “…the world had all agreed to put an end to war.” I, along with every parent of every soldier everywhere, would like nothing more than to hear those words, so that tomorrow night our children too could be safe in their beds, and no longer need to protect us from ourselves.
I am now finding comfort in these words and this song from Yaakov Shweky: “We are a Miracle.”
Goodnight and be well, my child.