Our Aliyah Chronicle
By Shmuel Katz
I had prepared myself to write an article all about our annual Tishah B’Av experience at the Kotel for Ma’ariv and Eichah (for video, see http://bit.ly/2f5lpch). I had prepped the video and planned to write something in the afternoon after coming home from shul. Yet events decided this would not be my normal Tishah B’Av column.
When we got home from shul on Tuesday morning, I saw that we had some mail. I grabbed the four or five envelopes and was casually glancing through them when I froze for a second. I had mentally known this envelope was coming, but certainly did not actively expect it: our son Mordechai had gotten the first notice of his draft to the army. (One of our neighbor’s sons got his as well, so I guess they were sent as a batch.)
It is tough to describe the many emotions that ran through me as this first official notice arrived. Nothing has changed. We are the same people we were yesterday and last week. This is not a surprise. On the other hand . . .
On the other hand, this is the first tangible milestone in the process of our son entering the army. Our girls all chose national service instead of military service, and there is nothing wrong with that. They are serving in their own way. Our daughter Batya was closest to choosing service in the army, deciding only a couple of months ago that she would go to Sherut Leumi.
Mordechai, however, has no doubts about what he wants. When we first made aliyah, he was terrified to think of going to the army. We had to explain to him that there are non-combat jobs as well. He could fix tanks or something like that and still fulfill his duty to the country, an approach that helped him view military service a bit more calmly.
Then, perhaps five or six years ago, he changed his mind. I think that as he became more and more integrated into his peer group and identifies more as an Israeli than anything else, he became much more receptive to—even eager about—the notion of being a combat soldier. He currently has his eyes set on being in a special combat unit and has been training for a couple of years to pass the screening tests.
How can we, as parents, be anything but supportive? His is an example of a terrific absorption. He fits in with his friends and is thriving in the life we chose for him here in Israel. We have, by our actual life choices, shown him what our priorities are, and military service or national service (where appropriate) are high on that list, certainly for someone like Mordechai, who wants to live here.
On the other hand, he wants to go to a special combat unit, and those units often face extreme danger. We look forward to his army service, but there is definitely a huge sense of trepidation that accompanies it. And all we got was the draft notice. He is at least two years from actually being drafted.
I am sure that our feelings will continue to develop. We are certainly not unique. Tens of thousands of parents face this situation every year here in Israel. And I am sure they experience many of the same feelings. We’ll do what we have to do. And that almost brings me full circle.
I usually close this annual article with a prayer that I have made my final trip to the Kotel for Eichah. From now on, I pray that we’ll be going there to celebrate the chag of Tishah B’Av established with the geulah. And this year, I have one more reason to pray that the geulah comes now.
Shmuel Katz, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July 2006. Before making aliyah, Shmuel was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.