For the past fourteen years, we knew that this day would eventually come. Somehow, I did not imagine that it would be like this. When we decided all those years ago to make our home in Israel, you were only 6 years old. The notion of you becoming a soldier in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) seemed so far removed from the reality of our everyday lives. We were living in the post-Oslo period, which gave us all a false sense of security that peace was about to break out in the Middle East. The advantages of moving our lives to the Jewish homeland, seemed to far outweigh the disadvantages. This was true even when we considered the fact that you would be obliged to serve in the Jewish army. Now that your draft date has arrived, I find myself revisiting those decisions taken on your behalf, and the events that have occurred since then.
Over the years, we have discovered that the hopes that we all had for peace, were simply a false facade for the duplicitous dealings of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. We have been forced to endure wars, terror attacks and continued threats to destroy Israel and the Jewish people. We have witnessed how any young man or woman in the IDF uniform has become a target for attack or kidnap by our enemies. All of these things contribute to making your service in the IDF a much more dangerous and risky prospect than was previously the case. In a perverse sort of way, it is also these events that make your service of greater value and importance to Israel and the Jewish people than before.
During the course of your schooling in Israel, you have learned about the numerous attempts to annihilate the Jewish people. You have visited Auschwitz and other death camps in Poland where millions of Jews were put to death, only because they were Jews. You understand very well, the context of the service that you are about to render in the IDF. You know that 6 million Jews would not have lost their lives in the Holocaust if a Jewish army had existed at that time. You also know that new Hitlers arise in every generation. Given the chance, Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah and others would follow in Hitler’s footsteps to try to wipe the Jews off the earth, even in our day and age. There is only one thing that stops them from doing so, and this is the IDF. The IDF not only ensures the safety and survival of Israel and her citizens, it also gives freedom to Jews around the world to exist as Jews in relative safety, freedom and security. As a soldier in the IDF, you will continue to protect all Jews around the world against the numerous enemies that seek to destroy the Jews. You understand the importance of agreeing to serve in order to ensure that the IDF continues to be a strong force and protector of the Jewish people, even in the future.
Even though the big picture is clear and a great motivating force, it does not necessarily make the day-to-day realities of military life any easier. You feel unsure of what the future holds for you, and are not clear what your task in the IDF will be or where you will serve. We feel nervous with you and for you, as you contemplate this great unknown venture ahead of you. We all know that the army cannot necessarily accommodate every individual’s needs and requests, and place each person in the position that is best suited to them personally. The army’s needs come first, and you will be forced to undertake a role which is not one that you would have chosen for yourself. In spite of all of this, we have watched you approach your military service with tremendous maturity and a positive attitude. You have done all that you can to guarantee that your rights are protected, and to try to find your way to a role that will keep you interested and well-utilised. We have equally seen your willingness to do whatever is needed, even where this does not necessarily match what you want.
Today, as I watch these events before my eyes, and contemplate the next three years in which you will be a soldier in the IDF, I feel a tremendous pride. I am enormously proud of the fact that you and your friends are willing to sacrifice three years of your life to serve your country and your people. At a time when only one in two eligible Israelis are actually being drafted, every man and woman counts for a great deal. You have stood up and been counted. I am extremely proud of the fact that you are determined to undertake a role that will keep you challenged and allow you to make a real contribution. Many have decided that they prefer to lay low and do as little as possible to allow the three years to pass in any uneventful way. This is not for you. You are determined to have a job that will keep you interested, and will allow you to make some use of the tremendous talents and skills that you have. I am proud of the fact that you understand the necessity for you to play your role, at a time when many others are finding ways to escape this.
You have benefited over the past fourteen years from all the good things that Israeli society has to offer its children. You have had the opportunity to walk the streets in relative safety whenever you wish, and to learn the independence that is typical of Israeli youth. You have explored all corners of Israel, and connected to the Jewish homeland that was inhabited by your forefathers. You have celebrated Jewish festivals and Israeli national holidays amongst your fellow Jews. You have explored and developed your technical skills in an environment that is amongst the most technologically advanced in the world. You have represented your country in an international competition, bringing great credit to your country, city, school and family. You have volunteered to help underprivileged youth, and experienced the difficulties that so many people in Israel are suffering. And now you are ready to take this further in making a commitment to safeguard your country and your people.
We wish you success and happiness during the time that you will serve. We hope that you will find a way to make a meaningful contribution, and that will allow you to develop yourself in the process. We pray for your health and safety, in mind and in body, and for the safety of those serving alongside you. No matter where you are or what you are doing, we will be supporting you all the way, and eagerly awaiting the hours that you will be allowed to spend with us at home. May Hashem guide and protect you in all that you do, wherever you may be. I am extremely proud to be your father.