April 2, 2014

Cut From One Cloth

A baby girl!

I remember the bubbly joy and excitement of this day well. After having a baby boy two years earlier, I could now dream in pink, shop in pink and dress ‘her’ in pink. I picked out baby bows and lacy headbands, frilly dresses and cute baby tights for Aviva’s chubby baby feet.

As my daughter grew, I continued to choose delicate girly dresses, velvets and silks, ruffles and lace, proudly draping them across her bed. And Aviva would march right past them, pulling on summer T-shirts in the middle of January and corduroys in the heat of the summer. 

She was fiercely independent, knowing what she liked and wanted at an early age. The only time she ever wore a Princess dress was when she took out her tricycle for a spin, tearing down the sidewalk and dunking her Barbie’s head in muddy puddles.

Monday night, nineteen years later, I sat on Aviva’s bed. A different outfit was strewn across her bed. Khaki green. Stiff. There was a skirt, a buttoned shirt, a pair of black shiny boots, a thick belt, pants and a Leprechaun green beret. This was the army uniform she would be wearing for her two-year army service.

I watched her pack and as her rucksack filled up with bed sheets, woolen socks and plain, white cotton shirts, I too became filled, brimming with pride. Here was my Aviva entering a new phase in her young life. Discarding freedom and spontaneity, qualities that are taken for granted by most youth around the world, she was trading them in for something much larger. She had decided to dedicate the next two years to help secure the future of Israel.

As a religious girl, she had a choice. She could have either declined service altogether or she could have done a year or two of national service, working in hospitals or needy communities. She considered her options carefully and decided that the army was the place for her.

Her high school discourages the idea, and even some families in our own community look at this option nervously. A religious girl in the army? This is new, scary territory for many, but not for Aviva. And not for many other observant girls here in Israel.

Our religous soldiers-to-be
The number of girls entering the IDF is on the rise. In 2010, only 935 religious girls drafted; in 2012, some 1,503 girls entered the IDF; and in 2013, 1,616 girls went in. There are many options available for religious girls, including the seminary learning track. Aviva chose this and spent the last seven months learning Torah in an inspiring environment.

And just yesterday, she joined 30 seminary girls at the Bakum where they were inducted into the IDF and started basic training. It was all smiles yesterday as these girls gathered with their large bags, excitedly taking photos, hugging and chatting as they awaited the start of a new way of life. 

It may not be easy, but it will be meaningful. These girls will grow stronger both inside and out. They are religious pioneers who will prove that service in the army is available to all. Being religious female soldiers demonstrates that we can be one nation. 

It does not matter what our ‘outfit’ is or what our religious beliefs are; what matters is that we are unified in a respectful way. 

As Aviva related to me last night, “On the bus ride to our army base, I sat beside a girl. We were wearing the same uniform so she did not know I was religious and I did not know her background. It did not matter and that’s the way it should be. No judgments. Just respect. And it was so beautiful because we were all equals and, for once, unified.”

Cut from one cloth.

Maybe my toddler racing on a tricycle with a muddied Barbie was foreshadowing. And maybe I will now be dreaming in green. The one certainty is that I am a proud mom of a daughter who races to carve her own tracks.

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