Tag Archive | soldiers

Soldiers Are Just Kids in Uniform

This is a post I wrote in the middle of Tzuk Eitan (Operation Protective Edge, this past summer) and never published.

The first time I came to Israel, I was twelve; I came for my cousin’s wedding and it doubled as a bat mitzva trip for me.  When I saw soldiers they were cool and practically grown up.  Definitely with a lot of responsibility.

The next time I came, I was post high school, studying in a one-year program that would count as part of my degree when I got back.  I remember looking at the soldiers and thinking that we were the same age but living in completely different worlds.  I wasn’t sure which world was preferable; I did know that I owed them a lot and in many ways they were more mature than I was.  I remember thinking that we were so different, but still so much alike.

I’m not the same age as the soldiers anymore; I have a brother who, if he lived in Israel, would be just starting, or about to start, his stint in the army.  I see soldiers, I see high school boys and girls – and I see kids.  Young and innocent, immature, sweet, kids.  I wonder what they want to do with their lives.  I wonder what they’ve been through already.  I wonder, especially when I see soldier couples, if they were neighbors or met during their service, and if they will marry when they get out of the army.  I wonder who will go to Thailand to find himself and who will start studying for a degree.

I look at my youngest brother in law, a year and a bit older than me, and think about what the army has done for him.  Maybe he’s chronologically older than me, but he’s still just a kid.  And being in the army has matured him – a lot.  He’s not all for fighting, like he was at first.  And there are other changes, but I won’t write them.

I look at the kids finishing high school and know that in three years, when they finish army, they will be different people.

Unfortunately, thanks to Tzuk Eitan (Protective Edge), I’ve seen way too many pictures of soldiers on the internet.  Most of them, if not all, were of soldiers who are no longer with us.  Smiling faces of kids, young and innocent.  Kids who were engaged, kids who were two weeks before their weddings.  Kids whose younger siblings are still in grade school and asking the prime minister why this had to happen and why there was a ceasefire.

Kids who had plans for the future, who had their whole future before them.

Of course, some of those killed weren’t kids.  Some of them were career soldiers, or reservists; officers with wives and children.  Some of these career soldiers left behind children who will never know their father – because their father was killed a short while before they were born.

I’m not sure what’s worse – a dead kid soldier or a dead soldier who leaves a wife and five orphans.

I do know that when I see the faces of these kids, smiling faces full of life and hope, I can’t help but smile.  And then I remember that they’re not here anymore.  And I have to ask why.  They were kids!  Kids barely out of high school.  You see it in their jawlines, in their attitudes, in their crooked pubertal smiles and disproportionate noses, in their optimism, in their barely-there facial hair.

Kids.

Like any other kids.

High school kids in uniform.  That’s what they are.

Why did they have to die, and why can’t we respect their deaths, and their families, and make their deaths worthwhile?  Those are questions I don’t have the answer to.

I wish I did.

And I hope and pray that by the time Shlomo finishes high school, we won’t need to fight anymore, because we will have quiet.  Peace – probably will never come.  King Solomon didn’t have peace – the countries were afraid of him.  We don’t have peace with Syria – Syria is afraid to start up with us.  With Egypt we don’t have peace, either – they just hate Hamas, and so do we.  When Jacob’s sons fought and killed all of Sh’chem (Nablus?), they didn’t make peace with their neighbors.  No one came to kill them, because everyone was afraid.  That’s not peace.  But it is the only way we’ll have quiet.

I know that this hope, and prayer, may very well be in vain.  Those who fought in 1948 had the same hope and prayer for their children.  It didn’t happen.  Those who fought in 1967 felt the same way, and prayed that their children would never have to wear an army uniform.  That didn’t happen, either.  Every parent in this country, every soldier in this country, every reservist, hopes and prays that the fighting of today, that the soldiers of today, will be enough, and that the next generation, my generation’s children, will not have to wear uniforms and will not have to fight.

This is what we hope.  This is what we pray.

But as Golda Meir said, “We will not have peace until Hamas loves their children more than they hate us.”

Hamas hasn’t gotten there yet.  And as long as they turn their children into suicide terrorists, we will have to fight them, and so will our children.

I hope, I pray, that the world will wake up, that we will wake up, and that no more innocent high school kids will have to die.

To Jerusalem for Jack

Yesterday was my “kid” brother in law, Jack’s, swearing-in ceremony.  Jack made aliya a few years ago, wanting to join the army.  Secretly, we think he made aliya to prove that if Yitzchak could do it, so could he.  I call him my kid brother in law because:

1) Yitzchak has three older brothers and one younger brother – Jack.  Since I’m married to Yitzchak I tend to think of myself as older than Jack even though

2) Jack is a year older than me.  But I gotta say, even though he’s a good kid, he really is still a kid.

We haven’t seen Jack since July.  We’ve wanted him to come but he’s always too busy on his weekends free.  Okay, fine.  No problem.  But in the past two weeks he called us five (Yitzchak says eight) times to check if we were coming to his tekes hashba’a (swearing in ceremony) at the Kotel.  The last three were on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday (as we were leaving the house) of this week.  So we figured he was pretty desperate to have us there.  Not that we wouldn’t have gone anyways – he doesn’t really have anyone except for us here.

Well, we got to Be’er Sheva and saw a bus going to Jerusalem (we missed the bus to Be’er Sheva by about thirty seconds and had to wait for the next one).  It was full and left.  Then we saw another bus, that takes longer, and Yitzchak went to the bathroom.  The bus got full and left, and another bus came, before he came back.  We were in line to get on this bus (the third since we’d arrived) and when we were almost at the door they announced that there was room for five more passengers.  I was the fifth, but they said that was it, so I got off and let someone else get on.  (I’m not going to get on without Yitzchak and Shlomo.)  Then another bus came and we finally got on.

We were almost to Jerusalem when there was a 20-minute traffic jam.  When we finally got off the bus every traffic light we saw turned red just as we got to the crosswalk.  Then we missed a light rail train and had to wait for the next one.  Then we ran to the Kotel (Western Wall) and thought they hadn’t started yet – only to realize that we’d missed the whole ceremony.  Oh, well.

Jack was happy to see us.  We met his friends, a family who kind of took him under their wing (he’s not religious; neither are they) and his apartment was near to theirs.  The mother, L., started talking and I said, “You sound just like my mother in law!” Two kids, a boy aged 16 and a girl aged 13, who fought like two teenagers are supposed to fight.  A national service girl who who had become friendly with the family and with Jack.

They gave Shlomo a big bag of bamba which I had no problem with him eating, considering that he was getting tired and Shlomo refuses food when he’s tired.  At least he’d have something in his stomach.  Then people started complaining that they were hungry.  We all (all eight of us) found a pizza place, put four tables together, and sat down.  Shlomo refused to eat, which worried me until I remembered he’d had the big bag of bamba.  (We chose the pizza place for the kashrut supervision but no one realized that that was our reason; it was good pizza, no smokers around, and had place to sit.  We were also the only ones who really knew our way around the Old City.  And we were kind of upset because this place had become more expensive since we were last there, although it’s a fair assumption that everyone else had raised their prices, too.)  Two big pies and drinks for those who wanted.  Since neither of us took a drink, they went on L.’s bill, along with one of the pies; we paid for the other.  And everyone who passed by looked twice – a toddler, a chareidi-looking couple, four obviously non-religious people, including two soldiers (the 16 year old is learning in the army academy, not serving yet) and an obviously religious girl.  Haha.  I love making people wonder.  It is kind of an odd group, but none of us felt odd at all.

Mom called Jack, and then L. asked why we weren’t Skyping (Jack’s phone has Skype).  So we all – or at least half of us – took turns talking to the Skype machine.  First Jack, then L. (it was interesting watching them talk), then Shlomo and Yitzchak, then me.  Then back to Jack, who kept showing off his ability to tell people to shut their mouths, and that he’s in charge because it’s his phone, in Hebrew.

We got home really late (like, a quarter to twelve).  We had planned to do a few things while we were in Jerusalem, but as you can tell, we didn’t exactly have time.  Oh, well.

Even though it was a long trip and we came back sore, it was pretty fun.  It was good meeting the people that Jack spends his time around, and I hope that his girl-picker starts working as well as his adoptive-family-picker.  Come on, it’s no fun being the only couple married in both families.  And even though one of Yitzchak’s older brothers is getting married soon, they’re both in their forties so it’s safe to assume there won’t be any kids.  Plus, if Jack gets married here then he’ll stay here, which means more fun and family for us.  And a greater chance that his parents will come.

I can’t say the trip didn’t take a bite out of our wallet, though.  140 shekels transportation.  Another 60 for pizza and another 10 for water.  Ouch!  Oh, well.  I guess it was worth, it, right?

I hope so.

We brought our camera but didn’t have batteries – we had been planning to buy on the way but didn’t have time.  Luckily, L. did have a camera and promised to send us the pictures.

Here’s the invitation that we were sent:

tekes hashbaa, army, israe4li army, IDF, IDF ceremony, kotel, soldiers, israel, swearing in, israeli defense forceTranslation: Dear Families, You are hereby invited to the swearing-in ceremony of the group of November 2013, that will take place on Thursday, 13 Adar 5764, 13.02.2014 at the Western Wall.  On the itinerary: 17:00 – Gathering together 18:00 Swearing-in ceremony 19:00 Dispersal/dismissal  [signed] Aryeh Shachori, segan (vice) aluf, commander, ba”ch kefir.