Last night, my entire nuclear family had the zehut, honor, to vibe a little bit higher than we usually do. Specifically, Computer Cowboy, Missy Older, New Chasan, Missy Younger, Younger Dude, and Yours Truly, the dear ones of Older Dude, a soldier of the Givati Brigade’s March 2013 giyus, draft, joined the dear ones of others of the soldiers of that giyus at Yad La-Shiryon, The Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum, to celebrate our troops’ tekes hashba’ah, swearing in ceremony.
In that grand amphitheatre, in Latrun, we, those soldiers’ grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, in-laws, sons, and daughters, as well as those soldiers’ close friends, teachers, and rabbis, gathered together to herald our children’s/husbands’/fathers’/brothers’/students’ evolving status. Some guests brought picnics. Many brought cameras. All of us came there and sat under the purple and white banners of that special IDF branch to help sustain our boys.
The emotional atmosphere of that event was palpable. In fact, last night’s aura was so distinct from the vibe that I experienced at the hashba’ot of other brigades (this Yiddishe Mama, has merited, BH, to witness similar ceremonies for some of her Bnai Bayit), that the difference is worth mentioning. Specifically, the texture of last night’s mood was that of pride punctuated with solemnity; when our boys stood on that dais, they stood there not just as our family but also as our protectors. Integral to their basic training is their incorporation of the core belief that those young ones must, has v’shalom, if necessary, lay down their lives to safeguard the rest of us.
That scary conviction, which feels scary to parents, goes a long way toward group cohesiveness, and, ultimately, toward group safety. We want our sons to integrate it. Yet, concurrently, that principle chills. Those fine soldiers, who were, last night, receiving their personal copies of Tanach and their guns, are also young men who had been gestated, delivered and nursed by their mothers, made to share toys and household chores with their siblings, and doted upon by their grandparents. Some of those boys-turned-men, moreover, have already marched with their brides to the chuppah and have contributed to the newest generation.
Whereas we, the soldiers’ supporters, were surrounded by flag stands, embraced by the music of one of the IDF’s bands, and otherwise contained by the weighty excitement of the other intimates who filled our semicircle of terraced stone stairs, it would have been unthinkable for us not to experience dissonance. Our kids were there to mark a level of completion in their battle training. Computer Cowboy and I cried.
We shed happy tears as our son, along with the rest of the soldiers, sang the Givati theme. We leaked as supporters and soldiers, together, sang Hatikva. We dripped acrid tears as the ceremony ended, and our realization could no longer be denied that the next phase of our boy’s basic training had, as such, automatically begun.
While older members of families shot frames and videos, clapped, waved and cheered our beloveds forward, small children rode wheeled vehicles along the ribs of the bleachers, off duty soldiers ate sandwiches, smoked, and laughed, and various groups of former classmates hoisted, higher and higher, enormous posters, which were scrawled with their friends’ names.
Remembering to inhale, I gratefully observed that the crowd was heterogeneous and, that, more importantly, no one seemed to notice, or to care. There were secular families and Dati ones, Charaedi families, and Bedouin ones, all present together. Missing were the snide glances and the unwelcomed remarks that too often are seen or heard when Israelis of differing backgrounds assemble. For once, as a people, we had gotten our priorities right.
Meanwhile, military leaders gave speeches that acknowledged our soldiers’ risks. Prayers were said for our soldiers’ wellbeing. Blessings were publically thrust upon them.
At the same time as the ceremony progressed, the sun set. Around the periphery of that outdoor theatre, retired fighting vehicles, the essence of that outdoor museum’s tank collection, stood guard. Birds winged overheard, oblivious to the planes and helicopters that buzzed our goings on. The fact of the Shechinah in mundane things was momentarily revealed. Then night fell.
Following the formalities, the soldiers were given a very short (to the sensibilities of this civilian) span to meet with their families. Ingenious Israelis opened vast coolers or fed entire squads from stacks of boxed pizza. Plastic bottles of soda and of water sprouted throughout the arena. I understood the hummus and bread, the chopped salad, and the seemingly myriad slices of mushroom-topped pies as illustrating that even though our need to defend our Holy Land is considerable, simultaneously our ability to embrace all the goodness that constitutes life remains an important and unwavering quality of Yiddishkeit.
It’s nearly instinctive: that picnics ought to accompany the handing out of assault rifles, that wee children ought to make up a significant segment of a population that celebrates soldiers’ passage through the armed services, and that pregnant women, plus other individuals of similarly delicate constitutions, ought to help usher forward our nation’s guardians. Eretz Yisrael is for all of Am Yisrael. Our soldiers protect all of us. All of us need to support them.
Just last week, during Shavuot, we stood together as a single identity. There is no reason for us to splinter now.
Older Dude, as his name implies, is the older son in our family of girls and boys. Consequently, we, his loved ones, are learning about our role as his enthusiasts at the same time as he is learning to soldier. IYH, a few months from now, following his completion of advanced training, and following our gain of another IDF invitation, i.e. following our getting that printed call to our boy’s kumtah, to his receiving of his brigade-specific beret, we will know to bring coolers filled with bottles of juice. At the next juncture of our shared transit, we want our sweetness to flow as easily as does our tears.
In the interim, it remains the case that it’s one thing for us to benefit from physical proximity to: the Kotel, numerous yeshivot, and a great quantity of Torah scholars, and another to release our child to a kravi, combat, role. Eretz Yisrael is acquired through hardship. Nonetheless, no sensible mom (or dad, or grandparent, etc.) ever relishes sending their son onward for more preparedness for war.
As long as deep within the heart
A Jewish soul yearns
And toward the edges of the east
An eye looks out, towards Zion.
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free people in our land
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.