Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Is it enough to be stronger, older, faster?

During his first week in the army, David's commanding officer's commanding officer spoke to the new soldiers. He told them a truth that we all know, but do not want to face. With the green uniform that our sons now wear comes a very scary reality - they are now targets. Of course, as hundreds of Israelis can tell you, we are all targets.

I am a target not because I live in Maale Adumim, as a woman suggested many weeks ago. She lives in Raanana, the site of two terror attacks in a single week. My children are targets, my parents, my sister, her family, my husband, my friends, my neighbors...every Israeli but somehow hearing my son tell me that his commanding officer told them they are targets nearly broke me. But the next words turned my pain into anger.

You are also a symbol, he was told - a soldier who is supposed to protect. Terrorists won't know that you are a new soldier, the commanding officer continued. "I'll tell them," joked one young soldier to his friends. And so, my son who has, as yet, almost no training, no gun, no means to protect himself, was told, "you are stronger, older, faster. Fight back."

The first rule when there is an attack is to get yourself away from it, if you can. Obviously, if you have a weapon and the training to use it, go forward but if you don't - get out of the way...

The good news was that after hearing this from their commanding officer, the new soldiers were given better advice during their early lessons in basic self-defense. They were shown videos of recent attacks and were told what the security forces did right and what they did wrong.

But the words that stuck with me long after Davidi had gone off to bed...was the explanation that most of the terrorists have been young - 11 years old, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 years old. You are stronger, older, and faster, the commanding officer told them. Remember that and fight back.

In a few months, Davidi will be trained. He will have a weapon and know how to use it...that, as far as I am concerned, is soon enough to fight back. But the commanding officer was right, in some ways, though as a mother that is not easy for me to admit. MY first instinct would be to tell my child to run and run fast but after days of thinking about this, I'm slowly understanding that there were two parts to the message the commanding officer was trying to give to his new soldiers.

The first is one we all know - you are targets. You were targets but now you are more so than ever. The second was less about the comment that they should stand and fight and more about the simplest of messages. Be confident. You are now soldiers of Israel. You are stronger, faster, older...and smarter and braver than those who attack children and innocents with knives.

Stronger. Older. Faster.

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