Photo Credit: Jewish Press

There it was in black and blue. It was addressed to our baby Yisrael Meir. But he’s so young and innocent. How could he be getting a draft notice for the Israeli army?

Even before I was married and had children, I prayed that there would be no need for the Israel Defense Forces because Moshiach would come and restore world order and bring peace. More than three decades have passed since then, and the IDF is still a vital entity.

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Growing up in the U.S., I had little contact with anything military. I do remember my cousin Gerry, who was in the US Navy, coming to visit us. He looked very handsome in his naval uniform. I also remember being present at a small family gathering when my cousin, the late Rabbi Raphael Marcus, informed all of us that he had received an army deferment notice, since he was enrolled in rabbinical school. The relief was palpable among the relatives, although I did not really have an understanding of the Vietnam War, nor war in general.

The reality of being far from any war changed drastically upon making aliyah on my own in 1981. I remember how, during the First Lebanon War in 1982, my then 56 year-old father showed up unexpectedly to volunteer in the IDF. That was, unfortunately, followed by too many wars (even if some were only called campaigns).

When our children, five boys and two girls were young, the notion of serving in the IDF loomed somewhere in the distance. But, as each of the boys turned sixteen, each one received a draft notice. On the one hand, it was a bit worrisome, but on the other hand it was uplifting because we merit to have our own army which protects and saves Jews world-wide.

There was a period of time when we had our three oldest sons serving in the IDF at the same time. Noam Chaim, who, at the time had one daughter and another on the way, served in an air force program for religious men called Shachar Kachol, “Blue Morning,” which trains soldiers to work on plane electronics. Our third child, Naftali Yehuda was in the Holon Hesder Yeshiva program (a five-year program which combines yeshiva studies and army service). He and his yeshiva friends served in the tank corps. Our fourth child, Natanel, did his service in the legal department of Ofer Prison, the largest Israeli detention prison for Arab terrorists.

Our sixth child and fourth son, Eliyahu Yeshaya is in the Ramla Hesder Yeshiva program. He was assigned to the tank corps, and went on to become a tank commander like his older brother Naftali Yehuda.

So far, only one of our sons has been close to battle. Naftali Yehuda was called up in the summer of 2014 as a reservist during Tzuk Eitan, “Operation Protective Edge.” He was stationed in a tank on the Gaza Border. His wife Ora was in her eighth month of pregnancy at the time and their one-year old son was at home with her. One can imagine her fear and worry.

And then, in the middle of the war, Naftali Yehuda called and said that he and his fellow soldiers were going to have an afternoon off in a kibbutz near the Gaza Border. My husband Abe, Ora, her son Dvir Yosef and I traveled down south. We went as far south as civilians were allowed to go and we gained entry to the kibbutz from the back entrance.

Lo and behold we had entered Gan Eden! The tweeting of birds and lush and colorful foliage greeted us as we made our way to the kibbutz family that was hosting the soldiers with a barbecue (not kosher). Some soldiers were resting or sleeping on large mats that had been placed on the grass. Others were eating at picnic tables. My eyes scanned the scene until they found Naftali Yehuda. We were all so happy to see each other.

The scene was surreal. We could hear the battle raging in Aza, but in the host’s realm there was relaxation, conversation, and the bubbly voice of our grandson. (By the way, their second child was named Dovid Amichai. Dovid haMelech, among other roles, was a successful warrior, and my son admires this personage. Amichai means “my nation lives” and this name was chosen because of Naftali Yehuda’s experiences during Operation Protective Edge.)

Wait! There’s another active soldier in the family. Our younger daughter’s husband Netanel is an officer in the canine corps. One of his tasks is leading night raids on Arab villages in search of terrorists and ammunition caches.

How do I feel about all of this army stuff? I daven for the welfare of all of our soldiers. I try not to worry. Instead I work on increasing my emuna in HaShem. I still pray that Moshiach will soon come so that there won’t be a need for our “baby” or anyone’s child to be in the army. But perhaps it will only be the next generation or the one after that who will speak of war as a relic of the past.

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Adina Hershberg is a freelance writer who has been living in Israel since 1981.