I am a mother. I am an Israeli mother.

I am an Israeli mother of an Israeli soldier.

I came to this country almost 19 years ago, filled with hope and optimism, carrying my son, my first Israeli- born child. I stood at his brit praying that he would grow up in a land filled with peace and hope. I held him in my arms that October as the first rain fell; I walked him through the strawberry fields as we watched the luscious red fruit bloom in the January sun. I showed him the waves of the sea folding the foam in and out of the Mediterranean, and we felt the caress of the sun on our faces as we lay on the Israeli sand. He would twine his small fingers around mine as I walked him to school, and he would lovingly kiss me goodbye as he went on his way.

I watched his blond curls turn brown and his lean, lank body fill out to a man’s. I held him tight when he cried, bemoaning the woes of a child, and I was filled with ecstasy when his chubby face broke into a smile. I covered him at night when he was cold and wiped his feverish brow when he became sick. I am a mother – filled with the love, the hope, the expectation of all mothers. I dreamed of his future, filled with eternal love, and I did everything to make his present fulfilling and rewarding. “This is my son,” I wanted to shout to the world, but the world already knew it.

I raised my son with a love of his home, with the ideals of giving and trusting and believing. I taught him the meaning of a country, of a homeland.

I instilled the belief of duty and respect. I showed him the miracle of Israel, taking him north and south, east and west. I walked him through the ancient and the modern, telling him of a miracle of creation, of the will and fortitude of a people who had no where else to go. I taught him the Bible, and I taught him the stories of the present. I raised him to believe that we are here, that we belong, that this land is ours. I showed him how we turned a malaria-infested marshland into a thriving metropolis; how we turned a desert into farmland. We watched the land grow, painted in colors of blue and green, beige and pink. We planted a tree, and as the tree grew so did he.

I am a mother. And on November 20, I sent my son into the army. I sent him to defend the ideals he came to believe, I sent him to fulfill his responsibility, I sent him as a mother sends her son, with a great deal of pride and with a broken heart. My son is still my child. He now bends down to plant that long-awaited kiss on my cheek when he comes home. His hands have grown and engulf mine, but he still holds on when we walk together. But my son caresses a rifle instead of a girl. He eats combat rations instead of home cooked meals. He spends his nights on patrol instead of watching TV or studying for an exam.

I am proud of my son, but I know that life could be different. Like all mothers in Israel I want to see the children of my son. I want him to live to be an old man and enjoy the love of a woman. I want him to hold his son in his arms and have hopes and aspirations for his offspring. I would never send my son to commit suicide or to kill other innocent children like him.

When you see pictures of these soldiers, you are seeing my son. Look for the fear in his eyes, look for the shy smile beneath the helmet, and watch the long, lean fingers meant to embrace a young girl. Know that this is my son, a boy who wants to grow old in the only home he knows; the only home that he can be free in; the only country that does not discriminate against him. Understand that he would lay down his gun and pick up the plowshare if only the other side had sons with mothers who want them to live.

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