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Danita Aziza and husband Michel


Reflections on becoming the parent of a soldier

By Danita Aziza, October 27, 2010

If there was such a thing as a “control freak” club, I’m sure I would be on the executive committee.  Self- realization of my control issue came at 35,000 feet when I was about 25 years old.  On a business flight from Toronto to Chicago, I suddenly developed an incredible fear of flying. I’m sure the dose of turbulence thrown in with the bolts of lightening that were visible through my small window had a role to play, but I think it was more related to the fact that I had abdicated control over my life to a complete stranger and had absolutely no knowledge of how the flight would go or what the outcome would be.  I had to trust the expertise of the pilot and assume that he truly had my best interests and that of his passengers in mind as he maneuvered the plane through rough air. 

Living in Israel some days seems like I’m back on that flight to Chicago.  While there are many things about my life here that I feel completely in control of, there are many things that are truly outside my domain; far more so than when I was living in Canada.  About two weeks ago I started to become very worried about Benji’s upcoming Tzav Rishon (army testing) that is actually taking place this week.  As I lay tossing and turning in bed one night, I came to the realization that for the past 18 years, Michel and I have had a fair amount of control over our son’s life.  We made decisions, some right and some not so right, for him and, although a willful boy, we have basically been able to steer him in directions that we deemed to be in his best interest.  All of a sudden, I feel that I have no control over what he will be doing, experiencing and the life that he will be living for the next three years. This will all be determined by his physical and psychometric testing and from an interview that will be conducted by someone from the IDF in a span of a few hours on a day where the only role his parents can play is to ensure that he is well rested, well fed and arrives at the base on time.

You don’t necessarily need to be a control freak and need only be a parent to realize that in Israel, you have very little control over the destiny of your child from the moment they begin the process of joining the Israel Defense Forces.  You can’t really control whether they will have a profile that determines if they are fit for combat or not, nor can you intervene in what their military experience will be.  It is an unbelievable feeling for sure, but one that you realize is part and parcel of living in the country where children must fulfill military obligations to the State.

I observe with awe friends here who have children currently serving in the army and I try to take mental notes and learn from them how we should handle the experience when Benji’s time comes.  The incredible pride people feel for their children’s service is tempered by daily concern for their safety and well-being whether they are doing guard duty on the borders or working in the kitchens of a base or stationed in a remote location monitoring security television screens.  Overnight you go from telling your children what time to come home at night to not speaking with them for days on end and not knowing where they are or what they are doing.  Talk about abdicating control!

I realized pretty soon after arriving in Israel that the complexity of life here defies control to large measure.  If you are religious or even a person of faith you deal with this conundrum by believing that G-d has a hand in everything and will ensure that ultimately things will be according to his will.  If you are less dogmatic, you adopt a more fatalistic approach believing that somehow everything will be all right. There is so much to worry about here, so many things beyond your control that the only way you can possibly survive is to believe “yiheye tov “ or it will be good.

Last week I took the dogs for a haircut to the dog groomer in Pardysia  which is a small moshav near us.  Sarit, is an exceptional woman with not just a love for dogs but a passion for life.  As a Sabra, she has experienced all that the country represents, both good and bad.  Her outlook is exceptional and we always tend to somehow manage a philosophical conversation before discussing how to trim the dog’s fur.  She works so hard and has been through so much and yet she remains hopeful and optimistic and contends that there is simply no use in wasting time wondering and worrying for what will be will be.

What will be will be is hard to grasp and internalize when it isn’t your nature.  I’m learning, however, that to live here and to be healthy and happy doing so. You need to reprogram yourself and develop more of a optimistic, fatalistic, faith based mindset.  I believe this philosophy and this way of viewing life is fundamental to Israel’s existence and the strength and heart of her people. You have to believe most completely here that somehow everything will be O.K. or you live half your life fearing and fretting and missing all the good that comes with the package.

Michel and I are definitely nervous for Benji and despite all efforts, we’re worried just short of sick.  There is not much to do, but to see all the good that this experience will bring him and to hope that he will be blessed with the ability to serve the Nation in the best and safest way possible. As parents, we no longer have control and just like when I was at 35,000 feet, I have to put my trust in the hands of complete strangers and hold steadfast to my faith.  There is nothing more to do than that, for… what will be will be.

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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