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Kobi Tanzer

Shira Waldman, Z"l

In Memory of Shira Waldman: Something about a Man in Uniform

Marianne Tanzer, written February 12, 2012


This Tuesday, 21 Shvat, marks the 15th Yaertzheit of Shira Waldman, Koby’[Tanzer's] mom. Her name lives on through our eldest daughter, and her spirit endures in a collection of articles she wrote over the years, mostly about her boys. The one below was crafted while Koby was in the army, just like the cozy blue blanket she knit to keep herself busy while Koby was away. They both continue to keep us warm.

"Sitting in the lobby of the Jerusalem Sheraton on a January afternoon, I sip my coffee and anxiously await the arrival of my son Koby. I scan the people coming and going, meeting friends and relatives, looking around for a glimpse of olive green, or sergeant’s stripes a grey beret. Koby will be coming down from his base in the north and will be traveling in uniform – its cheaper to travel that way. Duty calls and he is unable to make it to the airport at dawn. Thus my lobby vigil.

"I spend my time rehashing history, thinking about how Koby went from regular middle class North End kid to Sargent and squad leader in the Israel Defense Forces. Koby, who could be playing at life in North America is living his commitment to Israel by being a combat soldier for three years. A daunting choice for a teenager to make, especially when it is a choice and not an obligation. I’m proud of his decision and am also curious as to how I produced this person who has such strength of conviction. We’ll have to talk.

"I find out what he is doing after the fact. A click of the tongue and a pause tell me not to ask. Its an agreement I have made with him. At the beginning, it was a novelty – the two of us playing G.I Joe and his mom – but as time passes, the joke wears thin. Koby does is job with fervor, dedication and a gritty determination. He is trained to be rock solid both physically and emotionally and he in turn trains his soldiers to follow his example. My son is now a man who leads other men. Perhaps my greatest adjustment is not to the danger of his task but in seeing him as a soldier and realizing that my apple cheeked little boy is but a memory. I say a silent prayer in hopes that his humanity remains intact and that some essence of my baby remains despite the daily pressure of living with a gun in hand.

"I glance up just in time to see Koby coming through the revolving door. He sees me and continues around the circuit ending up outside again. At least his sense of humor remains. He comes towards me, dusty after five hours of buses and tramping and with a weary grin he says “Hi Mom. Whatcha bring me?”

I can’t take my eyes off him as we go up to my room. I notice the callouses on his hands and feel the strength in their grim as he holds mine. I search for a sense of who this soldier is. Will I ever know?

As we enter the room, I expect Koby to head straight for the shower, but he makes a bee-line for the root beer and cheezies that I have carried from Winnipeg. As he sheds his shirt and boots and tucks into his treats, I catch a glimpse of my apple cheeked youngster and know that the uniform and the gun can’t disguise my son. He may be different now, but what remains of who he was is the best of who he is now.

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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