The Right Thing?

Sometimes in life, you watch your children make a decision and from what they do…you realize that somewhere, somehow, you’ve done well. Elie called me last night to tell me he was on his way home. He explained when he got here that he had an interview set up at a major army base in the center of the country.

After Israeli boys finish their national service – the obligatory three years they must serve – they continue to be in the army’s Reserves until age 40. Each year, they are called away from family and work for one month. It might be two weeks and two weeks; it could be a whole month straight.

It is a part of society here. You work in hi-tech, you make an appointment, and then the man says, “I have miluim [Reserve duty], and can’t meet you.” You call your lawyer – “Call me on Sunday, I’m in miluim.”

From the minute they finish the army, they are given one year “off.” And then, for the next 20 odd years, they will leave all to serve. If there is no war, they can get out of it for extenuating circumstances…a wedding, a birth. In war, as happened last year, they may be taken from their wedding; they may miss the birth of a child. It is life here in Israel, a part of the society we accept.

Elie was being called for an interview “about miluim.” It took a few minutes for me to understand they weren’t scheduling miluim for him now (the first thing that popped into my head). Elie explained that even before they leave the army, they know what they will do when they get the letter in the mail telling them when to show up for their annual responsibility.

He wasn’t sure what they were going to offer him, but he already wanted to refuse. The commanding officer of his battalion had already tried to refuse the job for Elie and for another commander and was told that he didn’t have the power so he told Elie to go to the interview…and tell them himself he didn’t want it.

It was, the officer felt, a waste of a good commander. Elie went…listened…and turned it down. He was back on base in an amazingly short period of time.

“What did they offer you?” I asked and then listened in quiet amazement as I understood the magnitude of what he had done. What they offered him was safety, security. An easy job in which he’d never be in danger. Little travel, little time, little responsibility…for the next 20 years. And rather than serve four weeks per year, he would only have to serve four days.

Four days – one day every three months of the year…and he would be done. He would go back home, while others served a week or a month. Four days, not four weeks…but he didn’t want that job; it would be a waste of his talents and skills…and so he said no.

He’ll serve his four weeks, probably having a similar job like he has now. it means he will probably see war yet again in his life; know danger; continue to serve at a checkpoint or something similar. He likes the idea, the challenge of it, the new information. A new unit, he said.

Did he do the right thing? I found myself very proud of him. He could have chosen to serve four days instead of four weeks for the next 18 years of his life. He could have…and he didn’t.

He could have chosen the safe road but life isn’t about safe, is it? It’s about doing the best you can, doing the right thing. Yes, today I’m feeling good. I believe there are many factors that go into how children develop. There’s their schooling, their friends, the community, the country – but somehow, some way…whatever my husband and I did as parents must have also had an impact and is reflected in the children we have raised…and yet again, I marvel at them all.

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