Sunday, May 8, 2011

My son: a soldier?

Nefesh B’Nefesh has a photo campaign called “This is My Israel.” Participants submit photos representing what Israel means to them—images of them posed in cafes, at the beach, etc. My personal favorite was on Har HaBayit; how’s that for Jewish chutzpah?

A memorable photo featured a young mother and her toddler, posed with a group of Israeli soldiers. The caption was something like, “Someday my baby will be a soldier!”

To many Jews, the Israeli soldier, the chayal, is a powerful symbol. A Jewish soldier! After 2000 years of exile, oppression, mass murder, forced conversion, foreign occupation of our land and wandering unwelcome in the lands of others. We are a sovereign entity in our own homeland. We have a defense force.

Today is Yom HaZikaron. Israel grieves for our fallen soldiers—those who lie in somber rows in Mt. Herzl cemetery, and those whose resting place is unknown. Young Holocaust survivors who fought in ragtag bands for Israel’s independence, and graduates of elite military courses. Immigrants from all over the world, and homegrown sons and daughters. Jews of every religious shading, and the righteous soldiers—Druze, Bedouin and others who allied themselves with our people. All fallen, all gone.

And I look at my own toddler, blue eyed and shmooshy-cheeked, and wonder if he will be a soldier one day. If he is called on to defend his land, I hope he will rise to the task with courage and passion. I know I would support him with a full heart.

But I think of the I.L Peretz story, “Bontsha the Silent.” The protagonist endures a life of suffering humiliation and anonymity, and then dies and ascends to heaven. Upon entering paradise, he is shocked to find that his life of silent suffering has earned him great heavenly reward. God Himself appears to offer Bontsha whatever he wants, in all of heaven. Everything lies in front of him for the taking. He considers and decides on his prize: a warm roll with butter for breakfast each morning.

Bontsha is so beaten down by life that he can’t aspire higher than piece of bread.

Will I really wake from the nightmare of exile and say, “What I’d really like is to see my child in uniform, armed with a rifle?” Is that the best I can imagine? Today our sons are soldiers. Must we imagine that they will fight tomorrow, too?

I pray that my children will grow up in their land in an era of peace and resolution, security and calm. I don’t want to see any more headstones on Mt. Herzl. I don’t want to see any more teenagers carrying guns. I want Mashiach to come. I want to raise my children in a redeemed world, a world without terror, threats, and the need for an army. May it be so very soon.

2 comments: said...

beautiful, thanks chaya!

breslevsista said...

This is a great blog, and a wonderful post. I've got four sons, so far...

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