The draft: a dad reflects
Collected the mail this morning. A few flyers and bills. And my son’s draft notice. A quick double take. A flashback to my son playing with plastic dinosaurs. Then I texted my wife, “It’s here.”
A few hours later, my son came home. “How was school? There’s a letter for you on the table.” Opening it, and with a surprising degree of nonchalance, he said, “My call-up.” As if going into the army was an ordinary occurrence. “Ah, yeah. It’s here.”
A few days later, I asked D if I could post a picture of his call-up on Facebook. “Dad, you can’t post this stuff. It’s, like, confidential.” Duh. Of course.
Picked my son up from Jerusalem. He was there for a series of pre-army tests. He couldn’t stop talking about the cute chayelet (army girls). Teenagers!
October 2015-January 2016
D interviewed for various roles in different divisions. None of interest. He wants something air force-specific. My wife and I helped him with a letter to the IAF manpower division. Emphasized
his aircraft knowledge. His love of plane simulators. (How many times did we catch him “flying” instead of doing his homework?) His flying lesson (a 17th birthday gift).
The air force came knocking. Another interview. Another psychometric test. D felt he aced this one (pun intended).
Text message from the Israeli Air Force. Accepted. Not the specific role he wanted but within his window of satisfaction. Excitement. Trepidation. The air force is the darling of the military. Best conditions. High-tech environment. Much to my son’s amusement, I don’t really understand what he’ll be doing.
D called me at the office. Draft date pulled in. “Dad, we need to change our holiday plans – three weeks and I’m in.” New York will have to wait. Improvising, we quickly made other travel arrangements. A week later, we were in northern Italy. My son a reluctant traveler. He’d rather be home with his friends sharing the excitement of the draft.
Took D for a buzz cut. His beautiful golden locks. Gone. I also had a buzz cut. My less beautiful grey locks. Gone. Solidarity.
We threw a draft bash. Lots of friends and family. I toasted: “We are celebrating your draft … into the world’s best air force…. I can’t tell you how proud we are…. You obtained a role – and I still don’t get it – that is meaningful and challenging, with great responsibility and opportunity. Embrace it. Be safe and strong. Keep us safe and strong. D, sweet child of mine. May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe … and establish peace for you.”
Draft day, 2016
We traveled in two cars. My wife. Our daughter. My mother-in-law. D’s friends. His girlfriend. And, of course, the cadet. We arrived at the induction centre at 0800 hours. Despite living in Israel for more than 22 years, I’m still amazed by the informality. Sometimes disguised as chaos. My Canadian self still says lines. Order. Please. Excuse me. The security appeared to be in disarray. Then I remembered I’m on an army base. Umm … can’t get more secure than that.
Hundreds of young recruits. Balagan. Israeli flags waving overhead. Old ladies passing out amulets with the prayer for the Israeli army. Sephardi grandmothers spraying water into the crowd to wash away the evil eye.
Much too quickly my son’s name was called. Won’t forget the apprehensive “I guess it’s my turn” look on his face. Nor the tears flowing from my wife’s almond-shaped eyes. Nor the tears flowing from my daughter’s green eyes. Nor my mother-in-law’s “shouldn’t there be peace by now?” hunched and saddened look. I took D aside. Covered his head with my hand. Recited the blessing for a son. Then, like at a beach party, his friends hoisted him on their shoulders. Carried him forward. Innocence. Bravado. Another generation coming of age in Israel.
He walked the final distance alone. Oversized backpack. Buzz cut. Excitement. Trepidation. Then disappeared into the military transport and his next three years. Actually, two years and eight months, but who’s counting.
Bruce Brown has been living in Israel for a long time and is the proud father of two Sabras, one currently a sergeant in the Israeli Air Force.