Friday, September 5, 2014

The Clock is Ticking

Davidi came home last night for his first Shabbat since starting Hesder nearly two weeks ago. The place is shaping up - they've gotten the airconditioners working - that's a relief to a young man more accustomed to the cooler Jerusalem temperatures and more changes are on the way.

He broke his phone while lifting a closet - the boys are helping to build the Hesder in an abandoned school in an Israeli city that is 25% Arab in general, 55% Arab in his neighborhood. The neighbors are delighted to have these beautiful, strong, dedicated Jewish young men in their neighborhood and often ask how they can help. The man across the street told the boys that he has gardening equipment and wants to come over to help when they start reclaiming the overgrown area in the front of the school.

He was talking to me in general when a sentence slipped out. "I 'mithayel' in November." That's the way it is with my kids - long ago, when I asked Shmulik to speak to me in English as an attempt to keep his English strong, he responded with "Never mind" and my heart froze.

I would like my children to be bi-lingual, I told my husband, but more important is that they talk to me. If they refuse to speak to me in English, let them speak in Hebrew. I'll learn whatever language I need to know to keep communication open. Anyway, isn't that what we do as parents? Spend our lives, from the minute they are born, trying to understand their needs?

I thought Lauren was a bit crazy - she has been signing to baby Michal almost since Michal was born. She would ask Michal is she was hungry - sign to her asking if she wanted milk. At just over eleven months, Michal is beginning to walk...and signing back when she wants to eat or drink. Communication.

So, I'll take this communication in any language - even combinations thereof. And so Davidi spoke...with a Hebrew word in the middle.

Mithayel  (pronounced - Meet-chayel). So here's a quick Hebrew lesson. Hebrew is built on roots - it's an amazing example of the process of thought and I have always loved the depth of meaning to be found in the language. To call someone on the telephone is "l'hitkashair."  "Kashair" means to connect - to make a connection. And that's what we do when we speak. "Lah-bed" is to lose; so, to "l'hitabed" is to commit suicide...using the reflexive tense. Essentially, Hebrew presents "suicide" as the act of losing oneself...being lost to one's self.

Mithayal is the reflexive form as well. A chayal is a solder - mithayel is to become or make oneself a soldier. Maybe this is more linguistics than you need, but the word stuck in my mind, to be filed away until a time that I could think about it.

In November, my youngest son begins the process - becomes a soldier, though not in active training. The Hesder program is for religious young men and combines serving as a soldier with Jewish learning. He will serve two years and learn for two years - compared to regular soldiers (religious and secular) who do regular army for three years.

For those who value army service (as we do) but also recognize that learning Jewish law and tradition is a service to the nation as well, this is a wonderful compromise. So in November, Davidi officially will be listed in the army, while his formal draft will come one year later - in November. He will serve in the army for two years and then return to his Hesder (unless he opts to remain in the army for the fourth year).

What I felt when he said those words was a chill, a reminder that the clock is ticking. No, it isn't ticking down to a deadline, it isn't running out...but it is moving ever closer. It must be my imagination that it is moving faster too.

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