Friday, January 7, 2011

My Israel

Sometimes in all the rush of describing my life as a soldier's mother, I forget to describe one of the fundamental, constants in my life. It is an interesting day with so much going on. I'm developing a cold...I hate being sick. My oldest daughter is sick, and I hate that too. We have plans for Saturday night - on two fronts. Our Davidi turned 15 and we want to share that event with the more extended family. Secondly, our son-in-law has decided to go into the army.

For the last few years, he's been on a side program for learning. Many, too many, in Israel decide for one reason or another to avoid the army. I would say there are as many secular Jews in Israel that avoid the army as there are very religious ones. But too often, it is only the religious Jews that receive the brunt of the criticism for this decision.

For years, I felt that at very least, the very religious were replacing the army service with another kind of service - praying for the land and our well-being. The longer Elie served, the harder this concept became for me and I don't think I was very good at hiding this at all. I believe we all live in this land; we all benefit from what it has to offer. If you are capable of serving and choose not to, that brings into question your right to be here. I don't care what kind of service you do - whether it be in the army, the national service, or some other organization.

My feeling is that those who serve in ZAKA - and ONLY the ultra-Orthodox do - should easily be recognized for their service to this land. Those who serve in the ambulances and in so many ways that benefit the whole should be thanked. But I no longer feel that only sitting and learning, for the majority of those who choose this path, is the right one. There walk among us some who are truly holy, truly devoted, truly capable of bringing the blessings of the Heavens to our land and so their learning and their prayers, these few amazingly gifted people, should be excused from the army.

But sadly, the vast majority who use this "out" don't really fit those last few sentences.

My son-in-law is truly an amazing young man and we love him dearly. We respect him for his kindness, his patience with our youngest daughter, his devotion to our oldest. We love him for his personality and so much more. He sits with my youngest and helps her learn for tests; he helps our youngest son to prepare short lessons that we share at the Shabbat table. He is very special in so many ways.

The one sore point for me was the issue of the army and recently my daughter told me that he had been speaking with them and would be going in to start basic training this week. He went in yesterday. He'll be home every Shabbat during basic training and then after that, he'll be home every night. I love that he will come to us and share his experiences. I love that he and Elie and Shmulik will have this additional bond. I love the example he sets for my sons - that you can be a truly righteous and learned person and serve the country in the army.

Food will not be a problem for him. There will be time for daily prayer, as there was for Elie and Shmulik and Chaim and there are many concessions our army makes for married soldiers.

Elie was, for a period of time, the commanding officer for a group of 10 married soldiers. "I let them out for almost anything," Elie would tell me. So Haim goes in, another of my sons in the army. He will be in the air force though we don't know what he will be doing and so Saturday night, the family gathers in his honor to mark this moment when he too chooses to serve this land.

Those are the internal events on my mind. I also have a series of national events that touch me. In no particular order, there is the event last week in which the Palestinians attempted, yet again, to fool the world. This time, it was a woman "killed" by tear gas at a demonstration. Only, she wasn't at the demonstration and she died of cancer.

But the forces of confusion and evil are still out there. Maybe she got cancer from the tear gas. And died within 24 hours? How stupid do you think we are? I want to ask. But this is the world who thought the flotilla was a humanitarian mission, so what can you expect? And sure enough, the same poster brought up the flotilla. I am weary of arguing with people who really don't care about the truth. Why bother? But we have to bother.

Then there is the fury of Hamas' most recent propaganda campaign. They have joined a long line of other ignorant people who have denied the Holocaust - Ahmadinejad from Iran, Nasrallah from Lebanon. There is no surprise in this claim, but the anger that rises to choke me is there nonetheless. There are things that are sacred, untouchable, crystal clear and pure.

This is the Holocaust. Don't touch it. These are the few remaining survivors. Do not. Do not dare to defile their history and all they suffered. These are our red lines beyond all other lines. You want to deny our history in this land, as the idiot professor at Barnard College (Nadia Abu el Haj) tried to do? Go ahead, you simply prove how very unqualified you are for any respectable position at any respectable university. It really is all very simple. The forces of confusion and evil love this concept.

And another aggravation or anger. Chile has decided to recognize a Palestinian state - the borders of which do not exist; the government of which is an insult to the concept of leadership or justice. Yesterday, the Palestinian Authority - the very one Chile thought worth honoring, released six terrorists from jail. One of these animals terrorists was responsible for killing four innocent Israelis. A pregnant mother, in her ninth month and her husband (leaving six orphaned children behind); another mother and a beloved husband.

That horrible, shocking attack of butchery occurred four months ago. Four months, for the intentional, cold-blooded murder of four people? That is the justice system Chile has recognized. Recently, there was an earthquake in Chile. Israel immediately offered to send aid.

In July, 2010, Israel sent a team of aid workers to Chile to teach them how to deal effectively with a multiple casualty incident - something we have learned too well as a result of Palestinian terrorism. So many times in the past, we have offered aid to Chile and other countries.

Chile's actions prove beyond all doubt that much of the world is naive and stupid enough to believe the lies of the forces of confusion and evil. Their meaningless recognition of state that does not exist, to be ruled by a body that has no sense of justice, integrity or honesty, one that feeds on violence, hatred, martyrdom and death is truly a statement against Chile and not for the Palestinians.

I called this post "My Israel" and yet again, didn't write about what I wanted to say. I can't, in one paragraph sum up what this incredible land means to me; how it angers me to hear those who live in lies triumph. Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof once said, "there is no great shame in being poor, but it's no great honor either." Those words make me smile and realize that that innocence is gone from this world. He never existed, except in the pages of books and the flickers of the movie and yet he was a man of integrity just looking for a way to safety for him and his family at a time of turbulence.

There is great shame and no honor in Chile's decision, in Hamas' disgusting and outlandish denial of the Holocaust; in the Palestinian revolving door of justice that frees a murderer after four months. I console myself with two thoughts about Wael Bitar. My first is that I have little doubt that somewhere in Israel, a decision has been made to find him, and this time, justice in this world will be served. My second thought is that even should he escape justice now, he will not escape justice in the next world. He will answer for his crimes and wish he'd served his time in a Palestinian jail because I believe what God has planned for him will be so much more just.

Maybe next week I'll post the one I keep saying I will - the one about Israel and the gift I have given to my children. For now, the anger chokes me and so I'll go away from the words and to the cooking that awaits me. In that, there is honor and peace for me.

Shabbat shalom - may it come in peace and stay in peace for all our families, our people, our land.


Anonymous said...

look, im no fan of avoiding the army in favor of a life of religious study, but israel is the birthright of all jews, regardless. this is one of the great things about israel.

A Soldier's Mother said...

I absolutely agree with you and have always felt that way. It was only after my first son went in that I began to feel that perhaps there has to be a better way; perhaps the country can't survive if so many choose not to defend it.

And most of all, the suggestion - never said, but somehow implied, is that my sons are more expendable, of less value. Why should my sons go to war while others sit back and are protected?

Do I love my son less than some other mother? Is my son of less value? His prayers worth less before God? His learning?

It is a very slippery road and I am well aware of it. I am not against learning - certainly not. I am not against delaying the army to mature and to give those critical years before getting married, to extra learning.

But I do think that all of Israel's young are needed and have an obligation to serve in some way and I hope that all young people - secular and religious choose this path because from all that I know, the army accommodate and there is no reason, none, why a religious person cannot serve.

Avi said...

Wishing Haim much hatzlacha in the army. May Hashem protect him along with Shmulik, Chaim, and all of our soldiers.

ProphetJoe said...

Well said, Paula. I wish America required a national service component in our education system. Serving in the armed forces, border patrol, coast guard, paramedics -- something!

Not only do we not demand their participation in the defense of our country, but we most certainly wouldn't let them be excused to study religion!! Maybe to join Green Peace, or the Peace Corp, but never to study God's Law. Unless, of course, it was a progressive, modern, liberal study of God. You know, the type of study where God rewards everyone equally because she's a good God...

In all seriousness, I was to echo Avi's wishes.

Anonymous said...

There are many more secular Jews in Israel that avoid the army thean religious ones!!
Check it out.

Naomi said...

Paula, just discovered your blog thank you. "learning" vs. serving your country has been a sore point with me. I am not against learning. What I am against is using it as an excuse to avoid responsibility. Every Jew has a responsibility and yes, an obligation to serve the Jewish state in some capacity.

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