It is heartbreaking to read about what happened in Hebron last week. A young soldier is being vilified and judged for killing a terrorist who had come for the sole purpose of murdering Jews.
Should the soldier have acted differently? Did he perhaps avert a larger tragedy if the terrorist, even immobilized, was wearing a suicide belt?
How can the hearts of every parent whose children have served in the IDF not go out to this young soldier’s family?
One of the most difficult things about making aliyah was knowing our four children would have to serve in the IDF. After all, it was our decision, not theirs, to leave the safety, security, and comfort of their birthplace, Australia, to make a new life in Israel.
That was in 1971, two years before the Yom Kippur War erupted. But we stayed after the war and they grew up here knowing it was a duty, even a privilege, to set aside their ambitions temporarily and devote a few years to serving their country. They became Israeli gradually and, by the time they were 18, regarded army service as a natural rite of passage.
The years passed. Our sons and daughters enlisted. One son fought in Lebanon. They went to university, married, had children of their own.
It was lovely to be grandparents of babies, toddlers, and then young children. But now most of them are grown up and following in their parents’ footsteps. Some have completed army service, some are still doing it, and some will soon reach that significant age of 18.
Nevertheless, as a mother, I always found it hard.
I will never forget the trauma of standing on the beach at Palmachim (near Ashkelon) with the other parents and watching our younger son make his first parachute jump. Forty young paratroopers jumped that day. Because of the high altitude of the planes, it was impossible to see their faces until they were about to land. We watched breathlessly as the parachutes opened, one by one. I thought each paratrooper was my son – and I finally came to the realization that, indeed, they were all my sons.
We have attended numerous ceremonies where we watched hundreds of boys take their oath of allegiance. We have sung “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, with that catch in the throat you always get at moments of high emotion. We have laughed with them as they threw their caps in the air, signaling the end of formal proceedings.
We were so proud of them, and so afraid of what they might be called to do, what decisions they would have to make.
Just like that young soldier in Hebron.
They are all our sons.