And before I moved to Israel, I didn’t much think about it.
Of course, my oldest child is not even 9, but still, any mother will tell you that time passes quickly when you are raising children. As I consider how quickly nine years has passed since I was pregnant with my first child, I become very present to the fact that nine years will be here before I know it. And if we’re still living in Israel, my son too will leave for the army. So will his classmates, his girlfriend, his buddies, the kids he now rides the bus with or plays soccer with. The kid who sits next to him in math class. The kid whose mom packs him hummus with pickles in a pita. The kid with the glasses. The one who still doesn’t know how to ride his bike. The boy who likes Legos. The girl who still sleeps with a blankie.
Little boys and girls now. Soldiers some day soon.
They will all serve. The smart ones and the dumb ones. The ones with their faces in books and the ones who prefer TV. There’s no profile of soldiers in Israel. There’s differentiation between units, of course. And there are also exceptions to the rules. The teenagers with really bad eyesight or asthma get excused or you can register for office duty instead of active combat. Gilad could have avoided combat duty because of medical issues, apparently, but he chose not to.
I have many mixed feelings through this entire process, like most Israelis, like most Jews, like most human beings.
I am thankful that this event is getting international coverage and sparking conversation. I know that I will always remember this day and my experience as a new immigrant in this country — the celebration and joy. The anguish and heartbreak. The confusion. The frustration.
And crying for all of it. Tears for the reunited family embracing on tv and tears for the childless parents who must face the darkness that accompanies the knowledge that your child’s murderer has been set free.
Mostly today I will remember being a mother. A mother who doesn’t see a soldier returning home, but an emaciated boy who was forced to grow up too soon.
I pray for you Gilad. I pray that you will find love and light in your life. That you will find a pathyway to healing. I pray for your fellow soldiers, for your friends and your former classmates. For the children running around in adult clothing.
I pray for those still missing. I pray for those who have fallen.
I pray for understanding and for empathy.
I pray for humanity, for a miracle, for peace.
But mostly, in this moment, I pray for the mothers. My heart, today, is with the mothers.
Jen Maidenberg is is a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. Visit her website at http://jenmaidenberg.com/. This column was originally posted on Oct. 18, 2011.