Mom of an IDF Soldier
Blog #1: The day of drafting
December 6th, 2021 the day I have dreaded yet never thought would come to pass. Day 1 of my eldest Amir’s draft to the IDF. Amir – purposefully given a name in Arabic and Hebrew to draw bridges, not walls. As I go through the day, preparing to teach my class tonight on conflict resolution, it seems surreal.
How did I get to this point? In the winter of 2002, I left Toronto and arrived in Jerusalem, pregnant with soon to be born Amir, a Canadian/Israeli husband by my side and quite excited to begin a new segment of my life in the so called ‘promised land’. Being a former journalist and having worked for the UN in Bosnia, I was fascinated by the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and we planned to remain for a couple of years. I would have never predicted that 19 years later, I would be back in Canada, a mother of four who had naively been raising her children to become soldiers. In hindsight, I arrived ignorant about the complex reality in Israel, uninformed about the Occupation and the conflict and naïve about the propaganda war and my own ability to determine the future and the mindset of my children. As a mother, I believed that over the years I would have greater influence on my children then their friends, their family in Israel and the society they lived in. Naively, I did not foresee that my eldest, 18 years later, would have to make the terrible choice between serving in IDF, spending time in prison or attempting to flee into exile. I did not foresee that my 17-year-old Ariel, who attended bilingual Arabic/Hebrew school in Jerusalem, who was part of Kids for Peace, Jerusalem Peace Builders, Jerusalem Youth Choir, Model UN might still feel the obligation serve in IDF.
Since they turned 16 1/2, both Amir and Ariel have officially become the property of the Israeli army. If they hurt themselves on purpose, they would be destroying property of the IDF and thus could be sued for damages. Normal and unquestioned by Israelis, as the IDF is the most supported and trusted institution in the country. More than the Parliament, more than the Presidency, IDF receives unquestioned loyalty and Israeli Jewish, Christian and Drew children are raised to serve and parents are expected to support this duty. My children, all born in Israel have had this duty instilled in them almost since birth. I remember when Amir was still in kindergarten a soldier coming in to speak to the 3 to 4-year-olds about the IDF. He brought copies of a map with him where there was no Gaza or the West Bank and distributed them to the eager kids. After kindergarten, I sent the kids purposefully to Jerusalem’s Hand in Hand school where every classroom had an Israeli and Palestinian teacher and curriculum was taught in Hebrew and Arabic and in dual narrative. Still, it being under the Israeli educational system, there were things which were taboo and not discussed. Nakba, the term used for Palestinian tragedy in 1948 is an illegal term and could not be uttered in a classroom in Israel and there was no mention of Israel’s military Occupation. But at least there was learning about the other and hatred, for the most part, stayed out of the classroom.
Today, Amir not only joins the IDF, he has sadly been drafted to one of the main combat Units – the Combat Engineering Corps. Ranked highly as strong physically and coming from an excellent school, initially, there seemed many options for Amir. Studying Law or engineering first and then IDF, teaching cadets how to parachute but one by one these options fell through and a few weeks ago his date was moved up and he was given no choice but to join the Combat Engineering Corps. I would have preferred that he serve time in jail but can one really blame an 18-year-old for not wanting to spend time in prison? If it was just a single sentence but the refuseniks go in and out of jail, disrupting every aspect of their lives. I dread the possibility that he may get hurt, I dread the possibility (and given the task of the IDF - the probability) that he may be given orders to hurt someone. I think of all the Palestinian kids and teens on the other side of the wall being born into the military occupation with few options but to resist. I think about all of the teens his age on the other side of the wall that may throw rocks at soldiers not considering the potential consequences. Military occupation of civilians has a price tag for everyone. I don’t know what will happen or how I will manage my own daily life for the next three years. I came back to Canada last year primarily to attempt to avoid this inevitable path for my children. Today, I wish I had never gone to Israel and remained in Canada. I wish I did not know as much as I do about what the IDF does and had just passively swallowed all the propaganda. I just hope and pray that he will be ok and that he will not do anything immoral that he would regret.