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Fathers do Cry

The Herschowitz family at the recruitment center, saying farewell to their son (middle)

I realized that fathers do cry when standing, camera in hand, at the Tel Hashomer 'Bakum' unit where new soldiers are recruited into the ranks.

I looked around at the throng of people and thought, "is it only me shedding tears at having to give up my eldest son to the ranks of the IDF?" I looked from one Sabra father to another and realized that being well accustomed to wars, terrorist attacks and the ravages of living in the highly strung Middle East where the whole world is against you is nothing when compared to having to send your son off to the army. I suppose it is mostly about the fear of the unknown when sending him to a fighting unit and not just to a clerical job. But as my son reminds me, "Dad, you know it is more dangerous driving a car, and you do not stop me driving, right?" It is hard to argue with logic like that, but still the feeling persists.

The kids' motivation level is high and they truly want their service to be a significant one in which they may contribute to the country. Recruitment figures (amongst those boys who are eligible and willing to serve) are sky high at 75% and at the 'Bakum' their motivation really shows. Darbuka drums chant their beat as hordes of friends, parents and siblings, say farewell while clinging to the youth who will soon become a man.

Thinking about the demographics gives me a tight feeling in my chest. Why does it have to be him to go and fight for our country and bear the burden for others that do not? But then I see the smile on his face, his enthusiasm, his sense of belonging and his willingness to give up his comfortable lifestyle for the only country he can call home.

I myself, an immigrant of over 20 years from South Africa, recall my recruitment there in the early 80s. I was not seen off by my family - only a couple of friends came to the Rand Show grounds where the booming music announced "you are in the army now …." I marched into the unknown with very few skills to equip me for what would be a difficult basic training, but fortunately, having a degree in computers enabled me to land an easy job for the next two years.

Today, for me the feelings are more intense. It is far more difficult to send your son off than it is to go yourself. I look at how he is smiling, standing next to the bus that will take him away. It is not his regular smile, but a nervous lopsided grin. I recall my fear of the unknown and realize that this is what is happening to him too. Suddenly there is a real twinge in my heart as he boards the bus and heads toward the unknown. A mother frantically pours bottles of water after the bus in a ritual to bring them back home safely.

Standing next to my beloved wife, daughter and youngest son, I think of Gilad Shalit and his family. I say a silent prayer, turn around and head back to the office. "Life goes on," as they say... 

 

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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

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