The Guilt of NOT Being a Soldier’s Mother

The Guilt of NOT Being a Soldier’s Mother

There are so many jokes about Jewish mothers and guilt that I won’t mention them here. I’m very good at feeling guilty because rather than focus on what I did or did not due (the measure of most issues related to guilt), I often think about what I could have done or would be doing, if not for something else.

Today, I could be in tears. I could be literally sick to my stomach with worry. I should be, and a part of me is but deep in my heart, I’m relieved and that makes me feel worse. After eleven years, it isn’t my son on the border. Years ago, it was my oldest son so close to the Syrian borders when Israeli jets flew in to Syria to protect our country. Elie and his soldiers were sent out in the dark of the night and told to wait. Soon, within minutes, our jets would fly home and the concern was what would happen after. Would the Syrians scramble their jets. They did. Would they come into Israel and start a war? They didn’t.

The Syrians blustered back then, threatened, screamed in rage. And the more they complained, the calmer we became. They would take the hit; we could handle their barking. But I remember those 12 hours after Elie told me he wasn’t coming home as planned. When pushed, he explained that the alert level had been raised; all soldiers restricted to base and all leaves canceled. He wouldn’t be home for his father’s surprise 50th birthday (which I quietly canceled because I couldn’t handle partying with my son so close to war). And after those 12 hours, it was even worse because now what I had sensed, the world knew.

Israel had bombed a building in Syria. Later, the New York Times and other media outlets would break the news that the bombed building was the beginning of a nuclear power station. Later. But then, we only knew the basics. Israel had hit something. We know it was justified; we didn’t know what. Elie didn’t come home that day, or that weekend. I cried; I stared at my computer screen and begged it to tell me what was happening, that Elie was okay.

Yesterday, thousands of mothers all over Israel began to wonder what would happen to their sons. The Iranians and their puppet Syrians flew a drone into Israel. Israel responded by shooting it down a bit over a minute after it entered our air space and then we bombed where the drone came from (and other targets as well). Our message was clear. We know where you are, what you are doing. We can reach you; and we can stop you.

There are thousands of mothers doing that today. They know their sons are okay…except for two mothers whose sons were in a plane that was downed yesterday. But they know where they are, and for that alone, they are grateful. And me, I’m feeling guilty because I’m not a soldier’s mother anymore. It isn’t my sons on the border. It might be…even in the coming days but for now, we listen to Syria bark and we encourage them. Bark all you want. You sent a drone into Israel, what did you think we would do?

We did what any nation would do – we shot it down and we took out the sites related to where it was launched. Condemn us, threaten us. Do what you want and know that we’ll do the very same thing again if we have to. And to the mothers, breathe. Focus on this moment. He’s okay now. You know he is. Get through the day and if that’s too much to imagine, get through the hour.

When he calls you, don’t let him know you’ve been crying. Don’t let him know you are scared. Listen if he wants to talk; talk if he wants to listen. There are no easy tricks to get through this other than to just take each day, each hour, sometimes even every minute as it comes.

A little over a month ago, I stood down, as did my son. It isn’t my sons who stand on the borders of Israel. They have served their country, given years of their lives to guarding Israel. Now it is other soldiers, other mothers. I shouldn’t feel guilty. I had my sleepless nights, my worries, my tears. Twice, one son went to war. More times than I can count, each of my sons put himself in danger. In my own way, as a mother, I did my time too – endless sleepless nights filled with fears and prayers.

There are elements of their service that my sons miss – and there are parts they are so happy to leave behind.

But what you quickly learn is that standing down doesn’t mean standing away. My hearts are with today’s mothers and I hope that in some way I can offer you a glimpse of a time to come.

Please Pray for Wounded Pilot

For now, please join me in praying for עודד  בן חוה (Oded ben Chava). He was seriously wounded however condition has improved and his is no longer on a respirator, is breathing on his own, and is stable and in moderate condition. The second navigator, who was lightly injured, has been released from the hospital.

Please sign up to say tehillim for Oded:



One comment

  1. Rivka

    Paula, you never stand down. When Tzuk Eitan broke out, my married sons left 9 children and wives at home to join their brothers in sadir. They are always soldiers. We must always pray for them and the younger men. My last just moved from sadir to keva. One is a ravshatz and most of the others are rapid response. You will always be the mother of soldiers. Let’s just pray that we will never have to be grandmothers of soldiers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *