Our first attempt at Aliyah was in 1976, ten years before we actually succeeded. There were many reasons for our change of heart. A large one was my father. As an only child I could not ignore his concerns. One of his misgivings was the army. To this day I remember the confusion he expressed. “During the Vietnam War everyone tried to get out of the army. Now, if you move to Israel, your husband will have to serve for years. I don’t understand.”
I thought I understood. Sending soldiers to Vietnam was a dubious stab at making the world a better place. Serving in the Israeli Army was fighting for the survival of the Jewish people. By the time we moved here in 1986, though, my husband was in his mid-thirties and the army was not too interested in him.
My first experience with an official war was the 1991 Gulf War. Several weeks after Iraq invaded Kuwait my family was in America to celebrate my in-laws’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. At one point my father and father-in-law had a serious talk with my husband. They wanted us to stay in America until after the trouble blew over and were willing to help us with whatever we needed. My husband respectfully declined their offer. He told them our place was in Israel, helping to defend the Jewish people from annihilation. Months later, as we sat in our sealed rooms with gas masks on and I remembered the offer, I had no regrets.
We witness many miracles living in Israel and only one person was killed here during all of the Gulf War. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about the War of Terror. We all became soldiers on the front lines and still there were many miracles. When my oldest son became a real soldier I can’t say I was thrilled to send him to the army, but I certainly was proud.
Somehow, my boys were neither called up for the 2006 Lebanon War, nor for the Gaza War four years ago. This war is different. One son received his call at two o’clock this past Friday morning. He waited to leave until his four children woke up so he could say goodbye. They were proud to see their father in uniform, off to defend the Jewish people.
We were on vacation in Safed when we got the news. I shared my grandchildren’s pride, but I am a mother and I worry. I was thankful he was able to talk to us before Shabbat. He told me he would be having tuna and peanuts for his Shabbat meals. I knew, as I went to Friday night services, that there would be no synagogue for him. That gave a special dimension to my prayers.
I cried as I prayed but those prayers and tears were not just for my son. He is a symbol of all the soldiers. Each one of them is someone’s child and often someone’s spouse and someone’s parent. They are all precious souls.
As I cried and prayed, I remembered my father’s words from so long ago. Had we stayed in America perhaps my son would be having a peaceful Shabbat with his family and looking forward to a delicious Shabbat meal. Had I made a mistake bringing my children to live in Israel?A resounding no screamed in my mind. Although I have no way of knowing how different their lives would have been had we stayed in America, I do know that by living here we have front row seats to all the miracles. With HaShem’s help my children will be witness to the biggest miracle of all, the coming of the Moshiach, and we will merit to help rebuild the Holy Temple together.