July 18, 2017


Over the past month, our family has been part of a ‘countdown’; we are counting the days our son Ariel has left until he’s a civilian.

After serving over four and a half years, he’s getting out of the army – today. Following his army adventures over these long years, I too can say this is a big deal. 

Moms in Israel cry when their sons go in, shedding tears of pride and of fear. At night, Israeli moms tend to leave their cell phones on, just in case.  After a leave, when our sons and daughters depart in uniform, we hug them goodbye, but our thoughts are never truly settled.

So Ariel has done his time, way more time than most soldiers who serve 32 months. Twice I have counted down his time left to serve and then ‘reset’ the marker after he signed on for additional months of service.

After being army property for over four years, what does ‘shichrur’ (army release mean?), especially for those who have never served?

We all take freedom for granted. And as an average free person, we can do the following without blinking:
- We can make our own schedules and arrange our own priorities;
- We dress according to our mood in the colors we like. (No worries of punishment if our shirt’s not tucked in just so);
- We press the snooze button just one more time if we’re tired;
- And if we can’t cope some days, or if it’s too rainy or snowy, we could decide to stay home for banana pancakes;
- Yes, we eat the foods we love and grab our go-to comfort food when we’re hungry;
- We hang out with people we like and if someone bugs us, we could tell them where to go or just leave;
- We can hop on a plane on a whim, go on vacation or sit and daydream about where the next one will be.

The average Israeli goes into the army at the age of 18 or 19 so there’s no option to discover the world after high school or go to college. In Israel, there are obligations and expectations and so, freedom is put aside for another cause – security and protection of the country.

So Ariel put freedom on hold to serve his country. He may already be tall, but in the army he ‘grew’ even more; he expanded as a person, matured and learned a lot about responsibility, obligations and teamwork.

I’ve written about Ariel’s army experiences over the years, starting with his giyus, or army draft, in November 2012. The army was new territory to us all and Ariel went in with a good attitude, having to navigate the waters all on his own. I’ve since learned that having immigrant parents who know nothing about the workings of the IDF is a real disadvantage. 

Nonetheless, he did very well and was promoted to a commander in October 2013. He took courses, moved to a different base, worked with new people under stressful conditions and took on more responsibility. He discovered a new strength called leadership.

He did so well, he moved onward to becoming an officer in January 2015. He faced more competitive training courses, was again moved to a new base, had even more difficult bosses plus added stress and responsibility. 

He hardly slept, came home exhausted and hoarse and could never leave his phone, even when he was off duty. And if a dangerous situation erupted during his precious time home (which it did), he would get into in a wet uniform straight from the laundry, wake up his soldiers, grab his gun and they’d all head back for duty.

He never complained about being tired or hungry or stressed. He simply did his job and gave all to the army and to the country.

His last advancement was to the rank of captain in September 2016. As captain, he was leader of the officers, the commanders and all the new recruits. He took on a very un-Israeli approach to leadership; he never raised his voice and was very approachable. 

Every evening, the espresso machine was on, his office door was open despite his workload and the soldiers were encouraged to drop in and talk. Many soldiers came to his office to chat. Ariel got to know them well and was able to advise them with their issues on a one-to-one basis. For both Ariel and the soldiers, this was invaluable time.

We once asked Ariel why he wanted to sign on to do extra years of army service with increased responsibilities. He did not flinch with his answer, replying, “These soldiers will one day be my children’s teachers and bus drivers, our bankers and our politicians. Here’s an opportunity to teach new recruits respect, develop selflessness, and give them a love of Israel and knowledge of responsibility to society and our country.” Over the years, Ariel was also able to inspire other recruits to follow the same path and take on army leadership roles.

There will be adjustments to be made as he enters civilian life.  It may be puzzling for him at first when he enters a room full of people and they don’t immediately leap to their feet.  But that’s OK, humility is one of the first and most lasting lessons that he’s learned in the army.

As of next week, he’ll pamper himself with a taste of freedom; a long backpacking trip where he’ll let go of time, abandon strict timetables and forsake worry. He’ll be in flip flops, cut offs and simply chill. He’ll decide to get on a bus or a plane or to just stay put. He will spend time with people without obeying orders or giving commands. He can try everything on the menu and order more food if he’s still hungry. He can be just like us.

Ariel, with our countdown over, you’ve cut your ID card and are finished your service. We’re so proud of you and of the huge commitment and sacrifice you’ve made for Eretz Israel.

Happy adventuring, happy freedom!


  1. Absolutely beautiful, Nicole! You have much to be proud of.

  2. Kol HaKovod! thanks for sharing


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