April 22, 2019

Trading in a role for a mission

It could have been any bus station on a sunny morning. A fresh spring day. A Thursday. 

Guys came in jeans with duffel bags slung over their shoulders. Families arrived: mothers, fathers, little brothers and sisters, girlfriends and grandparents. They joked and chatted and took pictures and ate. Ethiopian families, Anglos and Sephardim all stood together. Busses arrived, then left.

A group of young guys gathered in a circle and started to sing and dance. And then this group picked up their bags and lined up for their bus.

Despite the songs, there was tension in the air and these families milled about nervously. One girl hugged her boyfriend and, in tears, she left. Mothers held onto their sons’ hands, fathers gave blessings. 

This was the liskat giyus, the place where young soldiers draft into the IDF. And this sunny Thursday marked the moment when the army takes  responsibilty of the child away from the parent. It is the moment when the young adult gives up civilian freedom for close to three years.

As this was a religious draft, all boys wore kippot and tzitzit dangled from under their shirts. After finishing high school, they had all studied for a year or two at yeshivot before drafting. 

They were learned in Torah and had a deep love for Israel and for the Jewish people. So much so, they sang and danced to mark their draft.

My younger son was one of them.

This is in stark contrast to my last blog post where I wrote about Hareidim protesting the forced army draft, screaming that they would rather die than serve.   

Yet being at Tel Hashomer that Thursday morning renewed my pride because young religious men are happy to serve their country. Many of these soldiers will go into Hesder units with other religious soldiers and others will do a full service.

Ethiopian parents.
There is a place for everyone in the IDF; be they Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Druze or Christian, new immigrants from Ethiopia, India, Russia or the US, or young adults with special needs

 The army is a place where these new recruits will be challenged and will grow. It’s not an easy transition going from being a kid with no responsibilities to a soldier, but the army will teach them all important life lessons.

Although they are putting their freedom on hold, they are privileged to be a part of the IDF.

The inscription on the building (pictured below) bears this quote by Shimon Peres:
The essence of life is not what to be but what to do
There is no such thing as a role - there is a mission.
 To Shaya and to all of the boys who went in, I wish them all much success, positive growth and a sense of mission in their army service.