Yehuda Goodman doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. All he did, he said, was recently finish his three-year mandatory military service in the Paratrooper Brigade’s elite Maglan Unit.
His younger brother, Naftali, was also drafted into Maglan – which specializes in operating behind enemy lines while using advanced technology and weaponry – in 2007, and is wrapping up his service as a sniper in a Paratrooper battalion. Another brother, “B,” was drafted a year ago into the elite Duvdevan Unit, which conducts undercover arrests in the West Bank.
A fourth brother, Asher, is training for the grueling tryouts he will go through later this month with the goal of also getting accepted into either Duvdevan or Maglan.
On the surface, the enlistment of four brothers into elite combat units may not be so unique. But Yehuda, Naftali, “B” and Asher are not the first in their family to serve in the military.
Their older brother, Yosef, a fighter in Maglan, was killed in February 2006 during a complicated jump, when his parachute got entangled around the leg of his commander. As both men began to dive, Yosef cut the ropes of the parachute, saving his commander’s life. Too close to the ground for his reserve parachute to open, Yosef plummeted to his death.
In a day and age when many Israeli youths are looking for ways to dodge military service, the Goodman brothers’ decision to serve in some of the IDF’s best units cannot be taken for granted. Until recently, siblings of fallen soldiers were automatically exempted from combat duty. If, despite their loss, they still wanted to serve, their parents needed to sign a waiver in the presence of a lawyer.
“I served in the army like everyone else,” Yehuda said last week during an interview at his family’s home in the Gush Etzion settlement of Efrat. “We have a country to protect, and even though my brother died in the line of duty, I am no different than anyone else who needs to serve his country.”
Recently discharged, Yehuda is studying for the pre-university psychometric exam. In the meantime, he is working at the Pizzeria Efrat, which his father, Mordechai, opened when he moved his family to Israel from New York in the mid-1980s as part of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Lincoln Square Synagogue congregation. At the time, Ann and Mordechai Goodman had two young sons, Shimon and Yosef. Their other seven children – five boys and two girls – were born in Israel.
Ahead of the enlistment of their fourth son since Yosef’s death, Mordechai and Ann provided insight into their difficult decision: to sign the waiver again and again, allowing their sons to serve in combat units.
The story of Miriam Peretz, who lost two sons in the line of duty – Maj. Eliraz Peretz in a clash with Gazan terrorists last month and Lt. Uriel Peretz in south Lebanon in 1998 – underscores the dangers.
“[Our sons] didn’t ask us, but told us that we have to sign since they wanted to honor Yosef and continue what he had taught them,” Mordechai said.
Ann added that the military gave Yosef an unbelievable amount of self-confidence, and that it would not have been right for her and Mordechai to deny their other sons that experience.
“Yosef was for the brothers greater than life,” she said. “He was the first to go to the army, and he shined.”
Ann recommended that young mothers have a lot of children.
“This is something I never thought about when I was having babies, but now it is such a comfort to have a large family,” she said. “Another bereaved mother once called it ‘a cushion.’ The sad possibility of losing a son in the army should encourage young mothers to have more children, so they are not left with one or no children after a tragedy – God forbid – strikes.”
After Yehuda’s decision, the other sons had little room for
deliberation. Naftali went in next, and then “B.” For Asher, the
decision was obvious. When he received his draft order and saw that it
was not for a combat unit, he got scared.
“I immediately called the military and found out
that if my parents signed, I would get a new draft order with combat units,” he said.
Mordechai and Ann said they did not feel any resentment toward the
country, nor regret their decision of over two decades ago to immigrate
“The Israeli people need to feel greater love for
the land, and we have to defend it,” Ann said. “I am proud that this is my country.”
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