Monday, August 1, 2016

A Soldier's Life

Perhaps one of the greatest dangers in a soldier's life is distraction, boredom, routine. You get used to the scenery, expect it to be what it is, and so you don't notice a subtle change, a slight movement there in the distance. The army combats this in a number of ways, one of which is keeping soldiers on the move. Changing their schedule, the times they are on the line, what they are doing there.

Since David moved into a "combat" position, he's done many things. Some frighten me. I'm not ready to have him out there, not that they asked me. But what overshadows all that he does, is who he is with. He has a group of amazing young men, all as dedicated to him as he is to them. They are his family, his brothers. The trust they put in each other boggles the mind.

A few weeks ago, an Arab women approached two of the soldiers in my son's unit with a knife. The two stood, side by side, and met the threat. One was a Druze soldier; another a religious boy that I just found out comes from Maale Adumim (and why didn't the boy tell me that weeks ago???). They stood side by side, these two because that's what soldiers do - complete trust. You have my back; I have yours.

As for the boredom of routing, he goes back today after five days off. I've baked him cookies and brownies and filled three containers full. "If I don't eat them all, there are plenty of guys I can share them with."

And he will. He'll share them with these guys who are his family away from us; brothers, at least for this period of his life. I cringe when he tells me a little of what they do. I don't really want him out there. He tells me Arabic words that they have taught him. I've always believed language is a gift we give to our children. It's such a shame that American children largely grow up only with English and then expect the world to understand...and yes, they usually do, but that isn't the point.

My children all speak two languages; I wish they knew more. Speaking another language opens doors to another world but more, it teaches you that there are worlds beyond your borders. David told me that they caught several Arabs attempting to sneak into Israeli areas without permits. The why of why they are sneaking in could be for work or it could be for terror and so our soldiers are always vigilant. Luckily, these Arabs all were trying to enter Israeli cities for work and so they understood they'd been caught and the game was on.

The soldiers took them to one location; the police wrote down their details and then they were released back to Palestinian areas where again tomorrow, they will likely try to sneak in again. This time, one of the soldiers started speaking in Hebrew and the Arabs all said they didn't understand. So the soldier said, "whoever speaks Hebrew can leave" - and suddenly, David told me with a laugh, "they all started speaking to the soldiers in Hebrew."

But what is missing in the laugh is fear. I don't want David to be afraid and truthfully, if I suggested that he might be, he would laugh again. What he is, is well trained and growing more certain and more confident with each day of experience he gets out there "on the line.

No, not for a minute is he afraid, but I am. These Arabs only wanted to work, to improve their lives and help their families. Why can't we let them in and we'll all benefit without permits and without having to check them? The answer to that exploded in Brussels, shot and murdered dozens in Paris, stabbed Hallel Ariel to death, rammed over 80 people to death in Nice.

Not every Arab is a terrorist - not by a long shot...but the vast majority of terrorists are Arabs, or, at very least, Muslim. Again - all Muslims are not terrorists. There is a growing contingent of amazing people who call themselves Muslim Zionists. Who love this land, love what we do here, and believe that Israel is not only an integral part of the world's future, but a major force for good in this world. They are proud of our accomplishments and hope that other Muslims will learn to recognize the value of Israel, as well as the right of the Jews to this tiny homeland that is ours.

Not all Muslims. But yes, our children are taught to watch; our soldiers taught to be wary. And so they watch, they think.

They give up a piece of their childhood...just a bit, the last vestiges, just a bit too early. They grow up fast but smart. David is back on base, with boxes of cookies and brownies, back in that other world where time is measured in shifts, where to be on duty is to be alert, where he shares a room with a lot of other soldiers, but where they learn another definition of family.

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