The Letter in our Mailbox from the IDF
Yesterday an official letter arrived in our mailbox from the Israeli military.
I’m used to seeing mail from the IDF, but in the mailboxes of our Israeli-born neighbors being called up for reserve duty, never for us “Amerikaim.”
But I turned over the letter, and my eyes widened when I realized that there had been no mistake. I was holding a draft notice for my 16-year-old daughter Hadas.
I opened the pamphlet inside. Medical examination. Forms. An interview. A military tribunal. Legal consequences.
Hadas Weisberg, you’re in the army now!
I felt my chest clench up, but then I calmed myself down… Hadas is a religious girl, which means she’s exempt from military service, and instead of serving in the IDF she will spend a year or two performing volunteer National Service at a school or an orphanage or something like that instead.
But this surprising piece of mail was still nerve-wracking in that it reminded me that 10 years down the road a similar letter will appear in the mailbox for Yoel, our oldest boy. Chances are most of the boys in Yoel’s class won’t do regular army service. They will do hesder instead, which requires a shorter military service combined with yeshiva study.
But maybe my Yoel will chose, instead, to do 3 full years of army?
And maybe my Yoel will choose to be a combat soldier?
And maybe, even, my Yoel will choose to apply and will be accepted to one of the elite combat units?
Standing there, looking at Hadas’ draft notice an unexpected name flashed into my head: Rumpelstiltskin.
And I remembered the haunting tale of the queen who naively made a deal, and forgot about it until many years later a curious little man returned to steal away her first-born son.
Yesterday I read the incredible story of one of the greatest heroes of Operation Protective Edge.
The Israeli media, which has become completely obsessed with this 23-year-old soldier, has been referring to him simply as “Deputy Eitan.”
In a feature article that appeared about him in Yediot Achronot this past Shabbat, interviewer Yossi Yehoshua writes, ‘He appears to be far from the stereotypical hero. He is thin, almost scrawny, turquoise eyes deep-set in the soft face of a child, and his voice is quiet.”
Like my Yoel, Deputy Eitan is the son of two Jerusalem “Amerikaim.” Suzanne, a psychologist and Simcha, an accountant. The youngest of four children, he attended Horev high school, and then attended Eli’s pre-military preparatory program. In the army, his determination and intelligence have enabled him to rise quickly to the coveted position of Deputy Commander of Givati’s Elite forces.
But what has all of Israel talking about Deputy Eitan is how, when he heard that fellow soldier Hadar Guldin HY”D had been kidnapped by Hamas forces, he risked his life in an attempt to save him. Deputy Eitan made request after request to his superiors to jump into the tunnel and chase the kidnappers who had disappeared with Guldin. And again and again, he was told it was too dangerous.
But he didn’t stop trying. Until the commander of all of Givati allowed him to jump inside one Hamas’ now infamous “death tunnels.” Deputy Eitan knew that the tunnel was almost certainly full of explosives. He knew that there were almost certainly armed terrorists waiting inside the tunnel for him. He knew that almost certainly this decision would mean that his face would be the next one to appear in the collage of faces of the operation’s fallen soldiers under an Israeli flag and a candle.
But Deputy Eitan jumped in anyway, and spent half an hour following the trail of blood left by Guldin, until he had tracked down his belongings and decisive proof of his death.
Deputy Eitan has been surprised by all the attention he has received for his act of heroism.
He explained that what he did had nothing to do with him. He explained that what gave him the strength to do it was, “the spirit of Givati. If it hadn’t been me, somebody else would have gone down into that tunnel. It’s something that any commander would have done. It wasn’t some sort of act of heroism. This is the essence of a soldier, of a commander. I don’t think I’m a hero…”
It was the final thing that he said, though, that really got to me. He explained, “I was just the one who was given the opportunity to do it.”
And all this has reminded me of the hard things that fall into my lap that I do not choose.
The unwanted responsibilities. The overwhelming challenges. The unavoidable hardships.
And how even though I didn’t choose them, I still have a choice.
To feel like Rumpelstilskin has come around. Or to face them head on. With determined idealism in my heart and a prayer on my lips, like Deputy Eitan.