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August 27, 2016

I grasped the handle of the hand-held baby-carrier, the swaddled infant swinging from my arm as we walked to the hospital parking lot. Aviv was three days old, and a butterfly descended, fluttering all around us as we looked for our car. A little celebratory angel come to welcome this girl and urge us joyously on our way.

18 years later, Aviv is now a soldier. On Sunday, we delivered her to the induction center and, after last hugs and admonitions, watched her glance back to us as she was swept into the registration hall. Now swinging from her arm is an M-16. Hard to imagine our free spirit standing at attention in a straight row while a nasty corporal threatens the girls with no weekend home-leave if they don’t straighten out. But Aviv’s voice is vital and engaged on the phone, she’s made new friends, some of the training is interesting, some challenging, the food is disgusting but edible. Friday, she came home for Shabbat. In a while basic training will end and she’ll get her army assignment and have afternoons and evenings for learning jazz. (She makes that parking-lot butterfly proud to hear the way she scat-sings on the solos.) The IDF made it possible for her to continue her studies while serving in a limited role. To my relief, she will have no direct involvement in the occupation. But of course, for every combat soldier there are twelve others working behind the scenes, making it possible for him to police the Palestinians.

For now, Aviv belongs to the long, weary tradition of defense in this country. She’s part of it. As was I, until they put me out to pasture. As were her mother (a sergeant!) and her big brother and sister, all of us doing our part for the IDF. Each of us knowing that the uniquely Israeli experience of army service is somehow precious, an essential part of who we become as Israelis.

I remember lying in my sleeping-bag in the dirt outside Sidon during the 1982 war in Lebanon, learning to sleep between the pounding of our heavy mortars nearby, a fresh round going out every 60 seconds, destroying whole neighborhoods of the city half a mile away. We were told that our planes were leafletting the city before bombardments, so the innocent could flee to the beach. Our officers relayed that the PLO fighters in Sidon held some of the civilians captive, preventing their fleeing. We knew not what to believe, just tried to catch some sleep. One morning a guy down the row awoke with a viper in his sleeping bag. I can still hear his screams, though he didn’t get bitten.

Army stories….we all have them. Years later, I remember looking into the eyes of a lieutenant in one of my workshops on reserve duty. We army leadership consultants were supposed to prepare him for his second run as commander of soldiers in the territories. As we dug into the significance of what he and his team were about to do, again, he shared that on his first time in the West Bank villages, he had received an order to give an order fire into a crowd of children rock-throwers, and two kids were killed. The order came by radio, yet he said that opening fire had been unnecessary, the situation had not been life-threatening. His were the eyes of a man, at 20, who knew he would carry those kids’ deaths the rest of his life.

And Aviv is now a soldier. The drab green uniform, not the right color for her, any more than hackneyed harmonies are right for her. She’s got zest! She used to request peace stickers to replace the ones the kids tore off her locker at school. In her class were settlers and lefties and a majority of indifferent teens. She was often called upon to defend her position, sometimes against the most rancorous chorus.

And now Friday night. Picked up Aviv at the bus station, we went for real food at our favorite hummus place and then over to Frumit as she emerged from the studio after a standing-room-only Feldenkrais workshop she’s conducting this weekend. Home to piles of Aviv’s laundry, then ironing her uniforms as she sleeps, so she can have energy to go out to see her friends in the evening.

Aviv awakens to the marinated salmon Frumi’s prepared, with fresh broccoli and a nice rose’ I found this afternoon. Over supper, she enthuses about her new friends and the experience they’re having together. She is mentally putting things in order, and the questions are great….How to confront the self-centered girls who get everyone else punished, without appearing superior? How to fire her rifle at a human-shaped cardboard target when she is sure she would never fire at a human being?

And we adults, sweating our way through this harsh summer, pride in our girl mixing with the anguish of sending yet another generation of youth to be soldiers. What does it mean today to join the IDF? And who are the people in whose hands we have entrusted our children? The former defense minister lost his job after he publicly condemned the wanton killing of Abdel al-Sharif, an already-neutralized assailant, the cellphone film clearly showing his knife visibly out of reach of his wounded body. Ya’alon was replaced by the current defense minister who sent 500 soldiers into Al-Fawar refugee camp, killing one and wounding 32 Palestinians in a move that turned up a few weapons and several “suspected terrorists.” The soldiers commandeered several homes to use as bases of operations, terrifying the residents and destroying the houses’ contents. What is the impact on the Palestinians? What is the impact on the 500 soldiers’ personal development? Several days later, when one rocket was sent from Gaza into Israel, our planes dropped 50 bombs in an all night attack…..”response.” What do our pilots tell themselves as they press the bomb-release buttons?

We are spoiling our soldier-daughter, her bag will be full of goodies when she returns to continue basic training tomorrow. And we will go on worrying as we gear up for another week in the maze that is our once-promised land.

Yoav Peck









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  1. Hard situation – beautiful writing, Yoav

  2. nachshoncarmi permalink

    thank you yoav

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