Hebrew is a beautiful language built on relationships between words. Core letters from the root; adjust the various tenses, and new meanings are created. A three letter root (aleph, bet, daled) – means “to lose.” Someone who commits suicide, is said to “meet-abed” – which essentially means “to lose oneself.” Thus, committing suicide is losing oneself. I’ve always taken that to mean a spiritual or emotional loss even more than a physical one. The “meet” part is reflexive, to do something to yourself. Thus there is a word for dressing someone, as opposed to dressing oneself. I hope I have this all correct – I’m not a language expert, certainly not in Hebrew.
And so, last week when my second son came over and told me that next week (today), he would “meet-hayel” – I wasn’t really sure what that was. He explained that it meant the army would take him through the steps of being inducted today. I spoke to Elie and Shmulik (second son) until I finally began to understand.
My Son the Soldier
Well, the day has finally come – arriving with a mixture of so many emotions and unspoken fears. Elie packed his bag last night – as ready to go as he has been for some time now. Perhaps over the weekend, he was a little more playful, a little more “around” us than usual, but this morning, it was all business. – Induction Day for Elie, March 25, 2007
Shmulik is following a different path than Elie – he is attending a Hesder program that combines years of study with military service. These religious soldiers serve in units together and special attention is paid to their religious needs so that they can serve the country without compromising their beliefs and practices.
Today, Shmulik officially becomes a soldier but there were no bags to pack and no separation to anticipate. Tonight, he will sleep in his bed, here in his home. He goes in his regular clothes, and will return in them. Today, he was taken to the same induction center where Elie began his journey more than two years ago. Like Elie, today my second son will receive the medical exam and shots he needs; he will be given an official military card…and then, a few meters later (unlike what happened with Elie), it will be taken away and filed until March when he will officially wear a uniform, get a gun, and be inducted into our armed forces.
The night that Elie joined the army, he was given a uniform and taken to a distant base. He was told to call his parents and so he began the days and weeks and months and years I have written about so often. Tonight, Shmulik’s journey remains as it was – something coming closer, but not yet here.
The word “meet-hayel” means that today, my son, my second son, “made himself a soldier” of Israel. He’s on his way home now – so different from when Elie did the same thing. Then, I drove him to the meeting point, knowing that soon I would allow myself to fall apart
There is no ceremony, no great moment, just a gentle slide into a new world. He went in his direction without hesitation; I reluctantly went in mine and I tried all day not to think of where he was. Or, more importantly, I tried not to think of where he wasn’t. From the time my children were born, almost without exception, I have known where they are. Perhaps not to an exact location, but close enough to know that they are within reach, within a short drive or call away. Now enters a time when more often than not, I won’t know where he is, what he is doing. I will have to trust that no news is good news, that he is ok. — Induction Day for Elie, March 25, 2007
Someday soon – too soon, I will write these words for Shmulik.
My son is a soldier in the army of Israel. Why that makes me want to cry, I can’t explain when it is something that I have accepted, something in which I feel pride. For now, the fear and worry that threatens to push the pride aside will be my personal battle in the next day and week and year. My son is where I have always wanted him to be, doing what he must do. It is something that Jews have been unable to do for thousands of years – to defend their land and their right to live here. My son is a soldier in the army of Israel. — Induction Day for Elie, March 25, 2007
May God watch over my son Shmulik, and my son Elie – both soldiers for Israel. May He bless them with safety and life and health, them…and all the soldiers everywhere who fight for what is right and decent and free in this world.