In the informal division of labor in this blog, Haim normally handles the issues of army service. He’s the one who wrote Company C, after all. However, in the week when my son became a soldier, it was hard for me to write my column for the American Prospect about anything else.
A friend has volunteered to drive. He’ll drop us off in a suburb outside Tel Aviv, near the entrance of the Israel Defense Forces induction center. My son and I will talk, with our eyes on our watches, and I’ll hug him, and he will swing his duffel bag over his shoulder and walk in. I’m writing beforehand. You are reading this after the event.
For my son, as he has described his feelings, that gate marks the precise physical location of the end of childhood. For me, it marks the end of the countdown that began with his birth. It is the line between one type of anxiety and another, shaded in a deeper gray.
Let me add quickly: I’m not writing about physical danger. After enduring all the army tests that Israelis his age undergo instead of filling out college applications, he has received an assignment that isn’t likely to include being shot at. But it’s militarily important and imposes that small, weighty fragment of responsibility — like a speck of an ultra-heavy radioactive element — that an individual soldier bears for what an army does.
Indirectly, I know that I actually imposed that responsibility. It is the end product of a chain reaction that began before he was born, when I made the decisions to live in Israel, rather than in the United States, and raise children here. After I arrived as a student, one reason I stayed is that Israel was a place where political passion never went out of fashion, where strangers argued politics on the bus, where it was rude to phone a friend during the evening national news because the news mattered.
Now, because of one of those parental decisions that predetermine a child’s life, my son is becoming a soldier. This is the moment when politics — of Israel, of the Middle East — becomes absolutely personal…
Read the full column here, and feel free to return to SoJo to comment.