We are leaving for Tel Aviv in a few hours. Attempts at sleep have, once again, failed. Nerves, jet lag and coffee have ensured that 4AM is no longer a lonely time. So my late night thoughts get the better of me.
Earlier today, we visited the Lone Soldier Center in Jerusalem. Maddie is known there as she has been spending time there and meeting people over the last year because she knows that volunteering is what she truly wants. She did ask me not to get involved in the parent groups on Facebook so as not to embarrass her. She wants to join the military but the old man is still embarrassment. Awesome.
So I typed up this letter in the hopes that it captures a little of what I am feeling, and isn’t too embarrassing.
Hi and I hope all is well with you. I’m visiting you, filling up on falafel and spirituality, then heading back home. I know it is unusual to send a letter while I am already here, but it is even more unusual to write to a country. But once I cross one line, I might as well cross them all. So hi.
Here’s the thing – I bought 2 round trip tickets, but on the way back, one of the seats will be empty. My daughter now has an apartment and is hoping to volunteer for the IDF. After a year and a half of service she will reevaluate if she wants to come back to the US (where she was planning to go to college).
Israel, I’m lending you my elder daughter and I’d like to chat with you about this, so pull of a coastline and let’s talk, why not?
Maddie loves Israel. I guess that that is natural – we brought her up sending her to Zionistic camps and schools. We told stories of Israel and showed her pictures of all of our trips. We imbued in her a respect for her religion which has, at its core, an urge to return from exile to a land of our forefathers. We sent her on a summer trip, we took her ourselves and we encouraged her to study in Israel after high school. We wanted her to love Israel and she does and that’s great.
She’s a special girl. She is passionate, curious, intelligent and independent – all things we tried to instill in her so, again, this is on us. And did I mention she loves Israel? We are incredibly proud – she is living the dream that flickered in me, briefly, in 1983. She is reaching a potential that is admirable and inspiring, so we’re proud. And, we’re scared.
She wants to join the army. This amazes me. The idea of doing anything really early in the morning other than writing blog posts and lying awake wondering how one can actually FORGET how to sleep has always confounded me. Long hikes and other physical exertion never made any sense no matter the hour. And I don’t look good in green – I’m big enough to admit that. But it isn’t just about some generic army. You are facing a constant and existential threat. I was worried enough when she walked through your cities and took buses while there were clampdowns because of stabbings, but now she is donning the uniform and volunteering to be a target because she truly loves you and wants to do her part to protect you. She is strong (more strong than even she realizes) and she wants to be part of something important. As a family member, as a community member, a student, a Jew, she already was, but for her, doing her part as a member of tzahal will make her feel like she is going to be part of something even greater. And I applaud that. But in a country always on the brink of war, how can a parent not worry?
But, and I know this, most of the young people in Israel serve so my worry is not unique. Every parent thinks his or her child is special, so I am not unique. It would be easy to reassure me in this way and tell me to toughen up and deal with my worry because my kid will be fine. But Israel, I need to tell you, that isn’t very reassuring. I know – you can’t give me anything more, but I need you to know where I stand on this. I am proud and I am frightened. I am amazed and yet I expected nothing else. We knew she had to leave the nest and fly but she is flying very high, very far and very quickly, and when I look at her, I still see a baby.
She’s yours for now. Please protect her so she can protect you.
P.S. Sorry if my thoughts are mixed up. Trying to come to terms with this is difficult, but doing so on 2 hours of sleep is even more so.