Raising Israeli/Jewish Girls and Palestinian/Israeli Boys part 3
For those of you who have been following Alice and Goody Two Shoe's joint posts about the trials and joys of raising our children in the Holy Land, we would be remiss in not giving you this last installment: What happens AFTER High School. Enjoy!
The IDF (Israel Defence Forces)
Alice: My kids were born in Jerusalem. At the time, living in Israel was very important to me. Now, it’s become a disadvantage. Because they were born in Israel, they must serve in the Israel Defense Forces at the age of 18.
My husband and I discussed various ways of getting the girls out of here before their 18th birthdays, but nothing ever came of it. Besides, if the girls want to live in Israel, they HAVE to serve in the IDF…Even if they leave, when they come back they will be jailed.
So, what are the options?
You can refuse. At 17, a child would have to make a life-changing decision to go to jail, without knowing for how long and without knowing if it will be part of their record throughout their life (not to mention the suffering part in jail).
You can claim a psychological excuse – I’m too weak; I’m not capable; I’m too sensitive and will collapse…and you then have to prove it to a psychiatrist (not SO hard I’ve heard, but you will also have that on your record for life).
You serve. You do your best. You give 2.5 years of your young life, surrounded by other young men and women doing the same thing – and guided by militaristic men (mostly) who make their living at war.
University must wait. Life must wait. You may meet your potential spouse (as is often the custom here) among people in a traumatic situation at best. You may be hurt. You may hurt others. You may not come back.
After all I’ve invested into these two young, lovely and intelligent young ladies – someone will come and dress them in green and put a rifle in their hands.
Now we’ll see who they are.
Goody Two Shoes: My four boys are not asked to serve in the IDF because their father is Arab (Palestinian). Although the last three years of their schooling in an Israeli high school focuses on the upcoming army service, they graduate from school and are free to pursue whatever they would like to do next.
Their friends, however, get 'called up' for a three year service. They have met some of them at checkpoints. Most of their friends are apologetic and embarrassed, while others are defensive.
My boys travel, volunteer in humanitarian aid service, work and prepare themselves for university.
It is correct to say doing military service is a 'right of passage' for Israelis. There are those 'that do' and 'those that don't'. Mine don't and, although they are free for the three years, they pay a price of their own in lack of mortgages, jobs, university fees, and a stigma that goes with not serving. Even if they did manage to serve in the army, the stigma of being Arab remains.
We, as a family, have discussed the issue backwards and forwards, inside and out, round and round, and we all agree the emotional, spiritual, and mental cost of serving in the Israeli army would be too high on our family’s moral and ethical values. All 6 of us pay the price, but the four boys especially.
With all that said, the boys are happy to be in the group that is not called to serve and bear the consequences that go with it, be it in governmental laws or in institutional and non-institutional discrimination. All the family sleep well at night. We believe in the saying: The softest pillow is a free and clean conscience.
Alice and Goody Two Shoes agree that raising their children has never been so difficult and costly as the years after school. They refuse to let governments dictate their friendship and repeat the mantra: TOGETHER WE STAND; DIVIDED WE FALL.
Whether it be in the good times or the bad times, at the checkpoints or in the marketplace, we put our common faith first and refuse to be enemies and agree to be friends. May we be an example to our children and may they forever seek the way of peace.