MEM 137: Another Tekkes
I cried. Despite my sons and daughter’s beliefs to the contrary, I blub only when touched by meaningful stimuli. Authenticity is one such inducement. The truth-based people, images, and emotions I witnessed at my soldier son’s latest army ceremony created a new need for me to get teary.
Consider, first, the kinfolk that were there. Rather than cringe at the notion that they were celebrating the combat readiness of their children, grandchildren, friends, fiancées, and husbands, the audience cheered. Whereas our political representatives might seem cowardly at the international negotiation table, we, the nation’s feet on the ground, i.e. we “common” Israelis, are made, apparently, of sterner stuff. A long time ago, in “Biblical Times,” more exactingly, we accepted that, sometimes, we have to fight to maintain what is ours.
We Israelis are correspondingly soft, though, when it is suitable to be so. Not a single soldier left the dais, where pins, awards, and other military paraphernalia were handed out, without being hugged by at least two commanding officers. After the soldiers saluted their superiors, each higher-up, in turn, reached to shake their enlisted men’s hands, to slap them on their backs, and, finally, to hug them. The solidarity expressed was both real and pervasive.
Furthermore, upon returning to their places in the auditorium, those intrepid youngsters, the ones whom had already been clasped by their officers, embraced each other. No one in that division was too fierce, too skilled, or in any other way too superlative, to forget his place in our defense force. The recruits know themselves to be among guys like themselves, some of whom might, at a later date, become brothers-in-law, school chums, or work colleagues.
The unit’s support system, too, was respectful. No matter their social station, the family and friends that attended the tekkes enacted gratitude. The simple berekas, fruit, cake, and soda, which beckoned from the reception table, were genuinely welcomed. Overall, so united was that community with their soldiers and with each other that I even heard a few of the women comment, as though they were visiting the homes of sisters or girlfriends instead of an army hall, on just how clean and well stocked were the bathrooms.
Beyond the veracity that was the soldiers and their loved ones, was the veracity that was the event’s show. Like the majority of Israeli citizens, IDF soldiers and their backers seem fond of flashing lights and resonating chimes. At all of the military ceremonies, which I’ve attended, either live bands or recorded music played. Speeches and either large scale drills or video montages, likewise, were part of those happenings. As for the tekkes that marked the end of my son’s unit’s first year of service, the affair was, accordingly, grand with pictures and music.
Even before the hall had completely darkened, colossal representations of our boys in camouflage, crawling through various kinds of foliage, while armed with lethal gear (the names of some of which I’ve come to know through “heart-to heart” talks with Older Dude), filled the wall behind the podium. Concurrently, songs blasted louder (or so it seemed to my midlife sensibilities) than sirens, allegedly rousing the audience’s fidelity to our state and to our army. The clips we saw and heard portrayed our soldiers as youth in their prime who are prepared to fight for Israel and her people. After the show, a portion of the audience was so filled with esteem for our young men that they did not bother sitting down. Whereas Missy Older, my married daughter, had to cup her hands over the ears of Baby Baby, my first grandchild, and then had to remove him from the proceedings, all together, so great were the display’s decibels, the rest of the audience seemed enraptured.
Israelis understand that although we older and younger sorts regularly jockey among local cab drivers for road positions, elbow besides grannies and pop-pops for shuk rights, and watch, in dismay, as little children disregard traffic safety rules, in none of those illustrations are we on the front line. Our boys, however, do serve in the most dangerous of places. It follows that we appreciate them more than any human communication, except for tears, can convey. It’s of little wonder that some of their families and friends refused to sit for the rest of the tekkes and that when it was time to sing Ha Tikva, the entire group stood at attention and sang out the words.
Not only did they stand and sing, but those others cried. I did, too. We were, during the tekkes, not merely rank and file, not merely soldiers and civilians, not merely parents and children, but an extended family.
I gratefully report that I wept at the tekkes’ visual and audio reminders that every Israeli has his or her duties, that I oozed tears because the people around me were emoting, and that I blubbed because I found myself among noble men and women. Later that night, I found another reason to cry.
After my family dropped off, at a bus station, an associate of our son’s, and after we made sure that our dear soldier was fed and that he and his laundry had both undergone cleaning, I anticipated sitting quietly with my fatigued offspring, taking delight in observing him test each sofa pillow and each item in our fridge. My plans went unfulfilled.
BH, it remains the case that our nation’s military might comes not from fear, but from faith. Our highest ranking officer is The Almighty. As such, we do not battle for retribution, but to retain what was given to us, thousands of years ago, by Him. Subsequently, that our troops are able to do what has to be done and then can put their responsibilities into perspective, while suffering little emotional fallout, makes sense. To wit, not only does my son, like most of the rest of the IDF, expect no banners or treasuries of leisure (albeit, he’d love fewer chores), when he’s on furlough, but he also comprehends his service as part of an average Israeli’s ordinary path. More specifically, that night, after getting clean and eating an almost normal-sized meal, he insisted on “going out on the town” with his buddies.
Note; such “rowdiness” as might be assumed to take place among trained killers that are assembled to socialize, in most instances, amounts to nothing more than a gathering of friends, at whichever coffee shop is most central to the majority of the people that want to meet. The boys congregate to reinforce camaraderie. They sip, snack, and, in a minority of cases, smoke tobacco cigarettes. These soldiers’ get togethers, additionally, often place our young men, both figuratively and literally, among clusters of siblings; In Israel, army IS family.
The next morning, upon debriefing my child, I cried again. The “wildings” of our land’s defenders are disciplined; their coffee-fueled meetups are conducted with good hearts. Sometimes, there is news of an engagement, or of yet one more way to employ duct tape. Other times, a night’s excitement consists of a few fellows experimenting with drinking their coffee blank or with eating a new sort of pastry. Always, there is laughter, friendship and good spirits. How could a mother not sob?
Now that Older Dude’s training is over, save for any leadership education he might receive, I anticipate regarding Israel’s armed forces with a constant wet eye. Going forward, I plan to cry at every tekkes.