Debbie Wolf Goldsmith

To my daughter, as you enlist to the IDF

To my daughter as you enlist to Tzahal (IDF),

For weeks you have been teasing me that I’m more excited than you are.  It’s partially true.  It’s ok that you do not yet realize that what you’re doing is incredible.  I’m happy that you’re living the moment, not overly stressed, and taking it all in stride.  Having grown up in Israel and watched all your friends enlist before you, today is normal – you finally are joining the club.  But I see the magnitude of your service (and yes, I know you think I’m exaggerating.)

As you boarded the bus this morning, on your shoulders you carried a bag with army-green t-shirts and each item on the packing list (because I insisted you pack according to the list…), but you also carry on your shoulders the promise that was made to our people thousands of years ago, the dream of those who were not fortunate enough to live in the last 75 years of our Statehood, and the future of the Jewish People.

I’ve often told you that I’m jealous of your upbringing.  I first came to Israel when I was 17 years old and I fell in love with this country.  Being here I felt part of our collective destiny and I felt that I belonged.  I felt energized seeing young children speaking Hebrew, young men and women dressed in their IDF uniforms, and being invite by countless people for shabbat meals. I dreamed that my children would become a seamless part of the fabric which makes up Israeli society.

As our lives unfolded over the years, I discovered the depth of my connection.  Nothing beats the view from our patio looking out into the desert, but it’s the people around us and our shared values that I truly cherish.  As I look at you, I see the embodiment of what I love about our beloved nation – you feel a sense of responsibility to fulfill your obligation as a citizen of Israel.  You so deeply wish to contribute to our country, to give of yourself and have a meaningful service in the IDF.  Our sages teach us, “Kol yisrael arevim ze l’zeh” (all of Israel is responsible for one another), and when I look at you and your friends, I know that these words have deep meaning.

A friend recently told me that our job as parents changes when our children turn eighteen – we shift from being teachers to being advisors.  In our case, you’ve also been the teacher for many years as you’ve taught me Hebrew words I didn’t know, opened my eyes to pieces of Israeli culture I didn’t grow up with, and now I’m getting a crash course in the army through you.  It’s been the most discussed topic between us for months.  But you’ve also taught me the power of resiliency as I’ve watched you navigate this process for the last three years in preparation for your enlistment.  Tzahal hasn’t made it easy for you, even before issuing you the uniform (which we will take to get altered immediately, I promise!)  Yet despite the bumps in the road, you set off this morning prepared to do what is asked of you, even if that may be something different than what you imagined.

You recently admitted that you use the excuse “bat shel olim” (the daughter of immigrants) when it’s helpful to you.  I know you mean it as a gentle put-down, but I think you also recognize the beauty in it.  And I think you now know that as I helped you pack, I tucked away in the depths of your bag a piece of myself, the actualization of my dreams, a milestone in my aliya.

Twenty years ago, we shared these words with all those gathered in celebrate of your birth: “In giving you the name Yael Chana, we hope you will grow up to become a person who exemplifies the qualities of strength and courage of the biblical Yael and the generous and loving nature of your father’s grandma Hannah. There is no better way to contribute to the building of a community than through one’s children and we are sure that you will live up to your namesakes and make us proud while becoming an outstanding member of Am Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael.”  You have done just that.  May your courage, strength, and loving nature continue to carry you through this next chapter of your life.

My beautiful, strong, hilarious daughter, may your service in Tzahal be meaningful and safe.

I love you,

About the Author
Debbie Wolf Goldsmith made Aliya in 2001 and is the Executive Director of Aardvark Israel, which offers a variety of gap year and study abroad programs to 18-21 year old Jews from all over the world. In honor of International Women’s Day 2021, she was recognized as one of Masa Israel Journey’s Inspiring 12 Jewish Women Working to Make a Difference. Debbie has an MA in Jewish Education and resides in Yishuv Alon with her three children.
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