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Every Hebrew Mother

“.תדע כל אם עבריה שהפקידה את גורל בניה בידי המפקדים הראויים לכך”

“Every Hebrew mother shall know that she has placed her sons‘ fate in the hands of the commanders worthy of it.”

If there is one line, more than any other, that represents what the IDF should be, this oft-quoted one by David Ben-Gurion is it. One of the biggest concerns parents have when their kids are drafted, by law, is who will be responsible for them. However, that is but the last line – the entire quote is a rather pithy description of what a commander should be:

It is not enough that the commander know his job. He must love man, the life of his subordinate must be dear to him, and the soldier sent to him must be dear to him, so that he shall love him. Only such a commander will find among his subordinates the total devotion that will lead them where-ever he may send them. If the commanders arouse trust, allegiance, and love in their soldiers – then every Hebrew mother shall know that she has placed he son’s fate in the hands of commanders worthy of it.

With more and more teenagers dodging the draft, it is more important than ever not to make soldiers feel like they are no more than mere pawns. This is not to say that the army should be anything but a strict hierarchy, whose needs must always come before the individual conscript’s wishes. However, more should be done to increase motivation among Israeli youth, and come as close as possible to truly universal service.

Moreover, when Jews do make aliyah and proudly serve their country, while their families are halfway around the world, they should not be used as propoganda on the one hand, and stabbed in the back as soon as the press is gone. Unfortunately, as reported in Maariv (Hebrew), that is precisely what happened over this past weekend.

Two brothers, new immigrants from the U.S., who were portrayed as model soldiers for their conduct during Operation Cast Lead, were fortunate enough to have their father come visit them recently. One of the two, however, had an unfortunate experience. Although he was granted a few days of leave to see their cancer-stricken father, he asked to spend an additional few days with his father over Shavuot (I am assuming he would make up his duties over another weekend). When this request, too, was denied, he asked to be able to say goodbye to his father at the airport before his Saturday night flight. Again, his request was denied.

Shavuot commemorates the Jewish people receiving the Torah. This is the same Torah that commands to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The same Torah that Hillel the Elder summarized: “What is hateful to you – do not do unto others.” Although full members of the Jewish people, these brothers are new to the modern State of Israel. And on Shavuot we read the book of Ruth. A major theme in the book of Ruth is acceptance, and welcoming of other. It seems these commanders could not have chosen a more poignant time to make such an unfortunate decision.

A father placed the fate of three of his sons (one was honorably discharged recently) in the hands of Israeli commanders, commanders who were not worthy of it. There are many excellent, worthy commanders in the IDF. Men and women whom it would be an honor to follow. It is evident, however, that the IDF has also been blessed with a number of commanders that are very much unworthy.

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