What happened last month in Hebron is heartbreaking. A young soldier is being vilified for killing a terrorist who had come for the sole purpose of murdering Jews. He is now facing charges of manslaughter.
One of the most difficult things about our decision to make aliyah was knowing our four children would have to serve in the Israel Defence Forces. After all, it was our decision, not theirs, to leave the safety, security and comfort of their birthplace, Australia, to make a new life in Israel.
That was in 1971, two years before the Yom Kippur War erupted. But we stayed, and they grew up here knowing that it was a duty, even a privilege, to set aside their ambitions temporarily and devote a few years to serving their country. They became Israeli gradually and, by the time they were 18, regarded army service as a natural rite of passage.
Nevertheless, as a mother, I found it hard. I will never forget the trauma of standing on the beach at Palmachim (near Ashkelon) with the other parents and watching our younger son make his first parachute jump. Forty young paratroopers jumped that day. Because of the altitude of the planes, it was impossible to see our sons’ faces until they almost landed. We watched breathlessly to see the parachutes open, one by one. I thought each one was my son and, finally came to the realization that they were all my sons.
The years passed. Our sons and daughters enlisted, with one son fighting in Lebanon. They went to university, married, had children of their own. It was lovely to be grandparents of babies, toddlers and then young children. But now, most of them are grown up and following in their parents’ footsteps. Some have completed army service, some are currently serving and some will soon reach that significant age of 18.
We have attended numerous ceremonies where we have watched hundreds of boys take an oath of allegiance. We sang “Hatikvah” with that catch in the throat one gets at moments of high emotion. We laughed as they threw their caps in the air, signaling the end of the formal proceedings. We were so proud of them, and so afraid of what they might be called to do, what decisions they would have to make.
Just like the young soldier in Hebron.
To every parent whose children have served in the IDF, how can our hearts not go out to this young soldier’s family?
Every soldier is our son, our daughter.
Dvora Waysman is a Jerusalem-based author. She can be contacted at [email protected] or through her blog dvorawaysman.com.