We just finished hearing the siren for Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. As I stood in my office, looking out at the many Israeli flags flapping in the wind, I thought to myself, I am the mother of five future Israeli soldiers.
I’m not just the mother of five beautiful little boys.
I’m the mother of five soldiers.
Can you imagine?
We picked up our lives from Washington and moved to Israel knowing that we were bringing our two boys into a country where they would serve. Sure, everyone jokes that maybe by the time they have to serve we won’t need an army, but we all know, unfortunately, that it’s only a joke.
It’s interesting to see how the kids here are taught about the army from the earliest of ages. Yesterday, my three year old and five year old had a ceremony for the soldiers and two soldiers came to be part of it with them. The kids had all brought a special treat for the soldiers and had written notes to them.
Last night, what was Yehuda’s homework? He was to work his way through a paper that asked him what the letters of the Israeli army stood for, what the name of the head of the army was, and what a number of the emblems were. He and Matan sat there, identifying unit insignia and discussing what they know about the army. They are 8 and 10.
I remember three years ago going to a performance that Matan’s class did on Memorial Day. They were all dressed as soldiers and they re-enacted a battle scene. I had a very hard time watching the show; these were first graders dressed as Israeli soldiers. In America, the show would have been cute. Here, it was a little close to home for me – and it wasn’t dress up, but the future.
And that’s life here. I’m raising five soldiers who I will, someday, hand over to the State of Israel. And then they’ll belong to their country and to their people. And I’ll spend 10 or more sleepless years hoping that they are doing their job well and defending the homeland that we love, and that we’ve voluntarily brought them to in order to reach that moment.
As I listened to the siren today, my prayer to Hashem was that he should never let that siren be piercingly personal for me. Quite a selfish prayer. And at the same time, I thanked all of the families who have had to make that ultimate sacrifice.
It’s a confusing life we lead here – and one that is full of sacrifice, potential sacrifice, and an ever-present understanding of the realities around us.
Today, I feel like the weighted-down mother of five future soldiers.
But tonight, when the fireworks go off and we all move into a fantastically festive Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day)… Tonight – I’ll be the mother of five beautiful little boys again who have been brought to live in their homeland to celebrate THEIR freedom and their Judaism in a way that no children in the rest of the entire world are able to do so.