I never served in IDF. When I made aliyah, I was 21 years old, married, and had a one-year-old boy. A few months after moving to Israel, I was called in the draft office. After spending the better part of the day there, I was told that I would not be allowed to serve in the IDF.
Though I was unable to serve in the army myself, for the past last couple of years, I have been able to live vicariously through our adopted “lone soldiers” also known as chayalim bodedim. (In the last post, my three-year-old son wrote a letter to God mentioning some of our soldiers.) Having these soldiers live with us has been a really great experience for the whole family, especially our children.
The kids love them. They consider their chayalim to be members of the family. Nothing in our house is more exciting for the kids than when one of their soldiers gets a weekend off. My two- year-old daughter will have nothing to do with anyone else in the house when one of her chayalim is home. She will only sit next to Sammy. Boomy needs to read the bedtime story. Mordy absolutely must hold her hand when she crosses the street.
The kids ask lots of questions too. What do they do in the army? Why do they have big guns? The children understand the answers. The children understand that God protects us in the Land of Israel, but “God helps those who help themselves.” We need to do our part to protect the Land as well. Lots of the things involved in protecting the Land are dangerous, and not a lot of fun. The kids are thankful for the soldiers. They pray pray for the soldiers’ success and safety.
My wife was putting on my two-year-old daughter’s seatbelt. My daughter asked what is was for. “The seatbelt helps keep us safe,” my wife answered. My daughter added “Also Sammy and Boomie keep us safe.”
A few weeks ago our three-year-old son asked “Where’s Boomie?” My wife explained that he was no longer a chayal and that he would be going to college in the fall. My son was very excited. “Did Moshiach come?” He thought that there was no longer a need for soldiers. When my wife explained that, in fact, Moshiach had not yet come, my son was very upset. “When is going to come? He needs to come already!”
For the most part, the children have a pretty good understanding of what the soldiers do, why we should be grateful to (and for) them, and why it is important to serve in the army. For the most part, that is.
During our trip to the Old City earlier this week, we saw a replica of the golden menorah. I explained to my son that what were looking at was not, in fact, the original menorah from the Temple. He asked where it was. I told him that we didn’t know for sure, but that it might be in the Vatican, along with many other temple utensils. He asked if we could get it back. I told him that a man called “The Pope” wouldn’t give us anything back. My son was indignant. “But we need it!” he exclaimed. Then he had an idea. He began to explain, in his own words, how the chayalim should go to Vatican city, shoot the place up and “take back all of our stuff for the Beit Hamikdash.”
I tried to explain why that wasn’t a good idea, but I couldn’t really give him a good reason why we shouldn’t do it. World opinion is a hard thing to explain to an angry three-year-old. I told him that some people might get very angry, and now probably wouldn’t be a good time for that. He seemed satisfied with that. As he often does, he simply replied “Maybe tomorrow, or maybe later. We don’t know. We’ll see.”