Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Last Day

Today is the last day...of school for my tenth grade daughter.
She is 16 years old, perched on the edge of tomorrow, still clinging a bit to yesterday. She is like most 16-year-olds around the world, and nothing like them in other ways. She goes to school in the Israeli city of Kiryat Arba, located adjacent to the city of Hebron. For months, she has heard the sounds of war, sometimes on a nightly basis. Gunshots, explosions, helicopters searching.
She has called me in tears when her dorm is filled with crying girls. A neighbor has been shot and killed by terrorists; two parents of her neighbor's friend have died in another barbaric attack. Another neighbor has been stabbed; a girl's mother was driving when the car was stoned. The son-in-law of one of the teachers died in an attack. The list goes on and on, each bringing a phone call home, a child in tears wanting comfort. I resist the urge to drive there and hug her. I take a bus to her school when I can, rather than drive. Stoning attacks are common.
Today I will drive there to pick up her books, her clothes, the accumulation of year's worth of things she has collected. She has an awareness of world events because they come regularly to her door. She has come to expect, and nods her head in sad acknowledgment when this time the attack is in Tel Aviv.
And yet, like all 16-year-olds, she is all about scheduling a day to go to the beach with her friends, deciding where she will go or what she will do this summer. It's hard as a parent to allow her the freedom without worrying about not only the normal dangers, but those beyond what one can expect. She knows, as do all my children, that if something happens, they are to check in; and now, as they get older, if I am close to where that something happened, they check to make sure that I'm the one who is unhurt.
David and Aliza at his "graduation"
ceremony from basic training
An Israeli child is a precious blend of so many elements; a facet of the world we live in combined with all that is normal. They want the latest gadgets, the phones that do the most. She cares about clothes and how her hair looks and is forever the sounding board for her friends. And yet, there is that element of Israel in there too. Last week, a letter came in the mail. My hand began to tremble as I looked at it. Too soon. I can't look at this.
The army has invited her to begin the process of becoming a soldier for two years. As a religious girl, she will opt for national service rather than participation in an army unit (or at least I hope she will). My three sons have served in combat units; they can't have my baby too, I want to tell them.
She will serve this nation, and that is what I believe is important. My oldest daughter gave her time working in a children's day care center for children with developmental problems. The nation needs the service; the person needs to serve. It works in two directions - the service is as important to the nation as it is to developing who the person will become. It teaches them from an early age that they have obligations beyond themselves, to the society as a whole.
It is irrelevant to me where that service is done - on the front lines, in an underground, protected base monitoring a border on a computer, cooking for the troops, working in a hospital helping patients and harried medical staff. All these are good, all honorable, all right. All serve the nation at a time in their lives when they can give that service and still go on to lead full lives, to marry, to have children and raise them to do as they did - to serve land and God and country and self.
The paper sits there on the cabinet where I light my Shabbat candles. I can't look at the envelope, never mind what is inside. I have a son who goes to the front lines in just a few days; I've had it easy these last seven months or so. He's been in training for the most part; now he goes out there. He is not even half way through his service to Israel, why are they asking me for another one now?
All this is in my head; in her head is the start of summer and freedom. She is happy it is her last day but I know she will cry as she hugs her friends and says goodbye to some of them for the summer. At this age, two months is a lifetime, a huge chasm of time that seems almost forever.
She is 16 and impossibly beautiful, graceful, young. I want to protect her from the world; she thinks she is all grown up and doesn't need to be protected. She is Israel.

1 comment:

Batya Medad said...

This post is included in Havel Havelim: חי 18 Jewish/Israeli Blog Posts. Take a look at the others, thanks.

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