I have spent nearly four weeks in Israel. Thankfully it has been a quiet summer. A year ago, we were in the midst of a war, and every day was tense. The effects of the war still linger on, however, in the memorial ceremonies that mark the first yahrzeit of the soldiers who fell defending the State. Friends, family, and complete strangers showed up to express their gratitude, solidarity, and words of comfort.
Shortly after we arrived a few weeks ago, we were permitted to visit Avi, our son, on his base. His commanding officer could not be more accommodating. As we entered the gate to the base, it felt like visitor’s day except that we were the only visitors. One by one his friends came out and greeted us warmly. They were happy to see that we brought with us a few kilos of “regulach” and gummy worms from Machaneh Yehudah.
They invited us into their living quarters, a makeshift caravan that was poorly lit and appropriately messy and looked strikingly similar to a camp bunk. The boys showed us a video of one of their unit’s final training missions last year where they proved their stamina and strength. Even after watching, I found it hard to imagine these kids are fighters. They are way too kind, polite, and playful. Even the flies buzzed around their beds without fearing harm. On our way out, we met Avi’s commanding officer, who, continuing the metaphor, was the “senior counselor.” He was an articulate and personable young man who had only the nicest things to say.
Shortly after our visit to his base, Avi showed us a letter that one of his commanding officers wrote to each of the families in the unit last summer after the war. It was addressed to us but we only saw it now. “To the Buckman family: In the recent weeks of Operation Protective Edge, you were full partners in the war effort. The worry, understanding, and confidence that you exuded strengthened the fighters. I pledge that we did and will continue to do everything in our power to return the country to a state of security, all of which is due to the courageous and strenuous work of the members of your family. We, the IDF, stand with you today and are proud of the support that you provide from home.”
The IDF may be one of the strongest armies in the world. But its greatest strength lies in its humanity and kindness. The army continually reminds me that we are one family with a shared future and fate.