There is something about me that I don’t think my children know. They probably wouldn’t be surprised, but they never had reason to come across this information. The “secret”: Their Mom used to be a pacifist, holding real membership in the Israeli pacifist “Peace Now” organization. (That membership almost cost my roommate in 1974 a good job with the Israeli aircraft industry, but I assured the security check officers there that my membership had lapsed, and was not about to be renewed.)
I had spent my years of college/nursing school on a pacifist bent, reading Joan Baez tractates on pacifism, and the like. However, the Arab countries surrounding Israel convinced me, in their unprovoked attack on Israel in 1973 (Yom Kippur war) that not everyone operates on a Western mindset. The brutal murder of helpless people along the Golan heights during the first hours of the war showed me very clearly what I still feel today to be true:
(Over) Kindness to evil people is hurtful to the innocent. If you let a convicted rapist-murderer get away with his crime, you are partly at fault for what happens to his next victim(s). I suddenly realized that pacifism sounds nice on paper, but in the real world, it is simply stupidly allowing people with no sense of the holiness of human life to wreck havoc.
Still, there was enough pacifist in me to make toy guns pretty much taboo in our house. Even water pistols tended to “get lost” rather quickly, usually with a bit of “help” from Mommy. I don’t feel that war games are things that children should play. [Unlike our Arab neighbors....]
So this morning, how did I feel hugging my son good-bye as he left home to report for his draft induction into 3 years of service in the Israeli army?
I was proud of him.
If he was a Torah scholar, I would have wanted him to stay and study in the halls of learning, providing spiritual protection for his people. But since he was not worthy or inclined to that direction, I feel that he has no right to a deferment, as much as I initially feared that the army may make him even more non-religious than he is today. I am proud that he is willing to stand up to his responsibilities.
I DO have some qualms about him serving (besides a mother’s normal fears**) but these are only due to the fact that the army section he is serving in, by his own choosing, is a totally secular environment. (I am hoping that he just might end up in a group of National-religious soldiers and come out more religious than when he went in….) My submerged pacifist tendencies have no compunctions about him serving in the army. As much as the Western press loves to demean the Israeli Army, there is NO force in the world that is as concerned for civilians as this one.
I do hope that the Arabs do not force us again into a situation where my son will have to kill in order to defend himself, his country, and its citizens. But he is prepared to do so, if needed. I trust that he will be a person with the knowledge that all people are created in the image of G-d… but with the courage to act if and when action is needed.
**As I tell my Lamaze childbirth students, fearful of any complications that could arise:
“Worrying about your child is a part of being a mother. We worry about our children from conception until, G-d willing, the day that we die.”