The Author


Deeply proud of her son’s decision to serve, a staunchly Zionist American-Israeli shares her innermost thoughts on her son’s induction into the IDF as a lone soldier. 

I made aliyah in 2006 with a husband and two sons. In 2014, I remarried after being widowed and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas; we brought my 16-year-old son with us (my eldest was 24). I married a man who is a great and serious Zionist, who spent years living and studying in Israel, but whose rabbinical work is in the USA. How difficult it is to live outside of my beautiful Israel!

A small part of me was relieved, though. I admit that I was truly divided, both relieved and a bit guilty for it. Our move meant my youngest would be permitted exemption from army service due to living and schooling abroad. I had one soldier son already, and I buried a beloved husband in the soil of my precious Israel. Still, I was not ready to let Israel have my youngest… selfish. Man plans, G-d laughs!

The first inkling that things weren’t going as I planned was when we got a text in the summer of 2014 from my eldest in Israel. It read: “Mom, I am okay. In the Mamad (shelter). All is well. Don’t worry.” We were touring the state capitol building and getting to know our new home. We had no idea that Hamas had begun to bomb Israel. So, this was how our first summer began, outside of Israel. We spent our summer with the Red Alert app going off like crazy, watching our friends and family on Facebook snapping selfies in the safe room.

My younger son went to school. It was a good Jewish school, and deeply Zionist. The teens weren’t like my son, who grew up in the wonderful world of childhood that Israel affords its children, quite free and independent. We were seriously considering the different university opportunities, touring campuses and taking college entrance exams.

One day, my son quietly said something that put a fear in me: “Mom, I want to go back to Israel and serve in the army.” I am ashamed to admit it, but I told him to forget about it. No way. No.

‘I Have to Go Serve!’

The second and more persistent event happened in the autumn of 2015… stabbing and car rammings and attempted kidnappings of anyone in Israel who the terrorists set their sights towards. My son said, “Mom, seriously, I have to go serve!” I said no, but this time he said it in front of my husband, who said ,“Good for you! You have an obligation to serve, you know”. And boy, was I unhappy. Then I started bargaining. “Okay, just go after you’ve completed your first degree. Go between the first and second degrees. You’ll still be young and you’ll go to college. Best of both worlds.” He didn’t like that very much. In fact, not at all.

lone soldiers

Lone soldiers arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport in August 2015. (Flash90)

Then, the Paris bombings, and more terrorist attacks… I lost. He was sure. He was going and that’s that. He took High School exit exams early and passed them all with excellent scores. And while he was doing the testing, I contacted the embassy in New York with the Meitav (IDF) representative), to see about when we should send our son to Israel for his tzav rishon (first interview) and all necessary IDF stuff. Three months of back and forth, and then…she called me back. Four missed calls. Uh oh. They don’t try so hard, unless it’s really important!  So we finally connected, and she said, “Send him as soon as possible! He missed his tzav rishon and is considered AWOL!” (We were already out of Israel, and they just sent a notice to an old address, anyway!)  I’m sorry – huh? My husband tried reasoning, but he learned that it was futile. So we booked him a ticket for the third day of Passover. We weren’t ready to send him sooner… so much to do!

So, here I am. One week before he leaves. I’m in groups for Chayalei Boded (Lone Soldiers) on Facebook and What’s App. I have contacted Nefesh B’Nefesh, as we came with them and they’ll help somehow. I am not sure of everything. My son has an excellent backpack, good insoles and all the basics that I remember supplying for my eldest son when he was inducted. Our dear friends are going to be his “Lone soldier family” in Israel. We have cousins in Israel, and they will look out for my son, having him join them for the Shabbat and holidays when he is on leave.  We have our old communities who know and care about us. And today, I have come to acceptance. My son is going to postpone his university studies for the honor of giving three years of service to the country we love. And I am more proud, than I am sad or scared.

‘Still, I am his Mother…’

Truthfully, my son is exactly who I raised him to be – a loyal, tenacious, brave, thoughtful and caring Israeli Jew. I understand that if he is going to stand up and defend anything, Israel and the Jewish nation is precisely where his attachment must be. And with my son’s choice, he is honoring his father’s memory. He is honoring his stepfather and me. He is honoring our people.

Still, I am his mother, and no Israeli parent sends their child to serve in the IDF without feeling a bit of sadness in the reality that: 1. We live in a world where Israel is still in danger. 2. We must send our children to defend against those who seek to destroy us. 3. Our precious child will come home for shabbat after the first week in basic training more a man/woman than a boy/girl. 4. I will miss his tekes (induction ceremony) and more, because he will be a lone soldier.

We protect our children all their lives, and one day, they become our protectors. We never want any harm to come to our children, we want them safe and happy and unscathed. But the world is not allowing it. The incidences of anti-Semitic activity on college campuses are increasing. BDS is falsely accusing Israel of Apartheid. The UN singles out Israel, with false accusations of anything they can throw at the Jewish state. And I won’t begin to rail against the biased media…

So my son is going to do what he can, to be the best IDF soldier he can be. We will bless him at the airport, we will kiss and hug him and wish him safe and good travel. We will cry when he departs. We will wait for his calls – day and night – our phones will never be off. My prayers will be for his well being and positive IDF experiences. Most of all, we will be so very proud that for the first time, Little Rock, Arkansas, has a family who is sending a son to Israel to defend her. We are so proud of our son Ziv. Even if my heart is breaking, just a little.

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Article by Shoshana Winnick

Shoshana Winnick made Aliyah from Los Angeles in 2006 with her husband and two sons. Her eldest served three years in the IDF and her youngest currently serves in a combat unit as a "lone soldier." She was widowed and remarried, and so came to relocate to Little Rock, Arkansas. Shoshana is a complementary medical practitioner, a nurse and a rebbetzin.