You’re in the Army Now

by Brian on July 18, 2012

in A Parent in Israel,Only in Israel

If you had told me when I was growing up in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s that I’d have children in the army, I’d have said, “no way – get out of here!” Those were the years of Vietnam and the army didn’t exactly figure into our suburban lifestyle.

And yet, here I am, with our son just four months away from his release while our daughter was inducted this morning.

It’s been an emotional week, with a farewell family dinner (steak sandwiches at Rosa), a date with Abba (sushi) and another with Imma (ice coffee and smoothies), and a house overwhelmed for days with Merav’s friends, all of them wishing her good luck and goodbye.

Goodbye? Not really. Barring any military surprises, she’ll be home again this weekend, as new recruits usually are, before beginning three weeks of basic training, followed by a six week course to prepare her for the army position she’ll hold for the next two years (she’ll be working as a liaison to foreign forces who come to visit Israel, or at least that what the army tells her).

“This is the last time you’ll see me as civilian,” Merav said, as if to summon up that burgeoning prick of parental pride…or is that anxiety, it’s hard to tell as you watch your daughter walk through the doors of the meeting hall at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill and onto a waiting bus that will take her to the “bakum” in Tel Aviv. The next time we’ll see her, she’ll be in greens.

I remember when her brother came sauntering down the street for the first time in uniform – for a moment I didn’t even recognize him. I also recall Merav’s reaction. I wrote at the time about:

…the look on Amir’s 16-year-old sister’s face as he walked in the front door in uniform – a buoyant sense of awe and appreciation mixed with a dash of apprehension and followed by a hug that reflected the faint trickle in her eyes.

There’s another difference between civilian and soldier, I realized, and it goes beyond her vital role in protecting the country. For the parents, it means we can’t help her get out of a jam the way we could when she was pre-army. Especially when they’re younger, if your child has trouble with a teacher at school or needs a ride to the doctor or is mired in bureaucracy, we could step in and assist.

Not so in the army. We can’t call her commander and say, “Stop being so mean to our daughter,” or navigate the military medical system. And we know nothing about the inner workings of the army’s rules and regulations – heck, we’re still learning the acronyms that our son is teaching us, like what’s a “chamshush?” (It’s a Thursday – Yom Chamishi – through Shabbat, when you get off the base and come home.)

On Friday night, it is traditional to give your children a blessing. There is a specific formula in the siddur, but I usually add my own words. This Shabbat, I wished for Merav that her army service be meaningful, challenging (but not too challenging), exciting, a time of personal growth and strength, and even fun.

Most of all, I blessed her that she serve her country wholeheartedly and with eminent pride. This is not Vietnam after all. It’s Israel – our country and our only homeland.

I blogged about Merav and the army  yesterday on Israelity.


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