I’ve just celebrated my first retirement. At the age of forty I have been released from reserve duty in the Israeli Defense Forces.
All men who are conscripted (and some women) serve in the Israeli military reserves after their initial term of enlisted service is finished. The age at which we are released depends both upon our rank and the type of unit in which we serve. Officers serve longer as do non-combat units.
The frequency and duration of reserve duty also varies. There were
periods when I served a month of duty, one day on-one day off, in 24
hour shifts and then there were years I was not called at all. I did
not mind the service. I enjoyed contributing to my country and being
involved. However, the disruption of my life is something which has
been haunting me for close to twenty years.
I never knew when I would be called to reserve duty or for how long.
As such, my life was constantly in jeopardy of being disrupted:
business projects could be on hold with a days notice; arrangements
would need to be made to get my children to school in the morning;
carpools rearranged; not to mention social and community obligations
I was fortunate in that I served in an elite non-combat unit both as
an enlisted man and in the reserves. Although I was originally in the
unit as an information officer, when the IDF established its Internet
site, I was one of the pioneers in the field who was proud to put my
talents to use in the formation of the first IDF Website at
http://idf.il. I had the unusual opportunity of working in my field as
part of my military service.
As an NCO in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, I had an interesting and
diverse military career. I prepared material for foreign officials
including Presidents, Secretaries of State and General Chiefs of
Staff; I worked within the the General Chief of Staff’s office and was
regularly in the offices of the heads of the various branches of the
military and of the Defense Ministry; I prepared human rights cases
with attorneys from the office of the Judge Advocate General, writing
reports to NGOs such as the United Nations and Amnesty International
in the name of the IDF. Even the boring day-to-day work was usually
interesting as I prepared maps, statistics or reports for press
conferences or in answer to questions we had received fro journalists
or from other branches of the military. During a crisis, I was well
informed and often could put into context the vast amount of
information I was processing making sense of what seemed like chaos.
The army is the army. It is a different world. After years of trying
to make things better and of contributing professional expertise, part
of me is glad that I have left that world.
All of us live in parallel worlds. We have our families, work or
school and the broader community.
Yesterday, I received a call from my son Maytav’s kindergarten
teacher. It seems he too is living in a different world. After a
couple of weeks of him being less attentive than usual, she had a
discussion with him to discover that he has been living in the world
of Harry Potter.
It is a wonderful world. A fantasy that has the possibility of being real.
Osher, my two-and-a-half year old son has also been living in such a
world. Second star to the right, and straight on till morning, he has
been flying around the living room ever since we saw the Jerusalem
English Speaking Theater’s (JEST) production of Peter Pan. He has
watched the Disney movie nightly for a month and we have been reading
him the book as well.
I just finished reading the first Harry Potter book to my older two
boys and now they rush to bed as we begin the second in the series.
Both of these worlds, that of Peter Pan and of Harry Potter, are
captivating because, they are parallel to our real world allowing the
possibility that they really exist without denying the reality we
Harry’s world has the added appeal of magic, while Peter Pan’s Never
Never Land allows boys to be boys without parents or ever growing up.
It is not just children who dream of never growing up. Part of every
parent’s fantasy is that their children will never grow up. In Israel,
this is coupled with the dream that they will not need to be soldiers.
My wife, Alexis, gets very sad on Memorial Day. She fears the day when
we will be sending our boys away in uniform. Until that day comes, I
enjoy watching my boys dream about other worlds and I hope that when
my children are of age there will no longer be a need for them to
enter the world that I just left.