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  • Writer's pictureTimea Spitka

Trading Lego for an M16

Blog 3 – December 26th, 2021

Amir, looking pale and different with his buzz cut and uniform has been able to go home for his first weekend break. Though home at his father’s house in Jerusalem and not in my new home in Ottawa. I was told that a mother should never leave Israel while her son is in the army. Not for travelling, not for work and certainly not to do the outrageous thing I did and leave permanently. It’s our duty to remain in Israel, be there to wash our son’s uniform, give him a hot meal and any support he needs. Also, to be around in case of a dreaded phone call that something is wrong.

Amir looks exhausted which is not a surprise. With the exception of the one hour between 9 to 10 pm for showers and personal phone calls, every minute is accounted for. There is time off on most weekends though, as due to religious protocol, unless absolutely necessary, solders are not given orders on Shabbat. At 2 am on Friday morning, the sergeant wakes him and other soldiers up so that those who can are able to get home by Friday afternoon. I can see the trip home did him some good as goes to see the new Spiderman film and hangs out with his friends and family.

On Wednesday, Amir received his gun - an MK16 semi-automatic weapon - which will be his to use for the next three years. Apparently a few weeks of training is enough to hand an 18-year-old a semi-automatic weapon. It’s naïve to hope that he will never use it. He has been told that you can’t shoot until you are told to and when you are told to shoot, you have to. He also had a course on ethics of when to shoot the gun and the number of warnings. He tells me that they are teaching such strict gun rules, he cannot see how my claim that Palestinian kids get shot can be true. Perhaps by other units, he says.

I am as fearful of him shooting someone as getting shot, though the second option statistically is probably less likely. I suppose I should be grateful for the policy of protecting the IDF soldiers at all cost. The majority of soldiers who die or get injured occurs from ‘friendly fire’ or suicide. ‘Terrorists’ or ‘targets’ are eliminated from safe distances by drones, missiles, or long-range rifles so that the soldiers are not hurt. Suicide is another terrible fear. There was a story in a Jerusalem newspaper not long ago where a son came home from the IDF and shot himself. The father found him and killed himself as well. The guilt for the parents is too much. I feel guilty for choosing to leave Canada for Israel and wish I could go back in time. I don’t think my anxiety medicine is working, though I suppose with Omicron plaguing the world, anxiousness is as common as bread.

Amir did have the option of remaining in Canada in the summer and chose to go back knowing full well that he would probably not be able to return. I tried my best to convince him to stay but he said he needed to go back to say goodbye and wouldn’t just dodge. I convinced him to leave his huge LEGO sets in Ottawa as an extra incentive to come back. The boy who still loves Lego now carries a MK16. He must be having fun sometime being surrounded by other 18-year-olds and the army cannot, I hope, turn him into something he is not. Last week he told me that he was considering to test for an elite unit. Always the high achiever. There were many tests that need to be passed in order to get into the super elite combat unit. One of them is that two soldiers are sent to the desert with no clothes and have to carry each other. Seems too absurd to be true. Would make for a great beginning to a movie. Relieved that he gave this potential achievement a miss and chose to go home for the weekend instead.

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