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The Draft: A (Canadian-cum-Israeli) Dad’s Retrospective


Submitted by (former Winnpegger) BRUCE BROWN, who now lives in Rehovot, Israel.

Feb. 2015
Collected the mail this morning. A few flyers and bills. And my son’s draft notice. A quick double take. A flash back to my son playing with plastic dinosaurs. Then I texted my wife, “It’s here.”

A few hours later my son came home. “How was school?” I asked. “There’s a letter for you on the table”. Opening it, and with a surprising degree of nonchalance, he nailed it: “My call up” – as if going into the army was an ordinary occurrence. Ah…ya. It’s here.
A few days later I asked D if I could post a picture of his call-up on Facebook. “Dad, you can’t post this stuff. It’s… like, confidential.” Duh. Of course.
May 2015
Picked my son up from Jerusalem. He was there for a series of pre-army tests. He couldn’t stop talking about the cute ‘chayelet’ (army girls). Teenagers!
Oct. 2015 – Jan. 2016
D interviewed for various roles in different divisions… none of interest. He wants something Air Force specific. My wife and I helped him with a letter to the IAF manpower division… emphasized his aircraft knowledge, his love of plane simulators. (How many times did we catch him “flying” instead of doing his homework?)  His 17th birthday gift: A flying lesson.
Our involvement is not unusual. Mothers are known to call their kids’ officers all the time. A Jewish mother is a Jewish mother.
Feb – Mar, 2016
April 2016
The Air Force came knocking (pun intended). Another interview. Another psychometric test. D felt he aced this one (another pun).
May 2016
Text message from the Israeli Air Force: Accepted. Not the specific role he wanted but within his window of satisfaction. Excitement. Trepidation. The Air Force is the darling of the military. Best conditions. High tech environment. Much to my son’s amusement I don’t really get what he’ll be doing.

July 2016
D called me at the office. Draft date moved up. “Dad, we need to change our holiday plans. Three weeks and I’m in.” New York will have to wait. Improvising, we quickly made other travel arrangements. A week later we were in Northern Italy. My son a reluctant traveler. He’d rather be home with his friends sharing the excitement of the draft.
Aug. 2016
Took D for a buzz-cut. His beautiful golden locks… gone. I also had a buzz-cut. My less beautiful grey locks…gone: Solidarity.
We threw a draft bash. Lots of friends and family. I toasted:
“We are celebrating your draft…into the world’s best Air Force…. I can’t tell you how proud we are… You obtained a role – and I still don’t get it – that is meaningful and challenging, with great responsibility and opportunity. Embrace it. Be safe and strong. Keep us safe and strong, D. Sweet child of mine. May God make you like Ephraim and Maneshe…and establish peace for you.”
Aug.  2016 – Draft Day
We travelled in two cars… my wife, our daughter, my mother-in-law, D’s friends, his girlfriend. And, of course – the cadet. We arrived at the induction center at 08:00hrs. Despite living in Israel for over twenty-two years I’m still amazed by the inescapable informality – sometimes disguised as chaos. My Canadian self still says: “Lines. Order. Please. Excuse me.” The security appeared to be in disarray. Then I remembered I’m on an army base. Umm…can’t get more secure than that.
Hundreds of young recruits. ‘Balagan’. Israeli flags waving overhead. Old ladies passing out amulets with the prayer for the Israeli Army. Sephardic grandmothers spraying water into the crowd to wash away the evil eye.
Much too quickly my son’s name was called. Won’t forget the apprehensive ‘I guess it’s my turn’ look on his face. Nor the tears flowing from my wife’s almond shaped eyes. Nor the tears flowing from my daughter’s green colored eyes. Nor my mother-in-law’s ‘shouldn’t there be peace by now?’ hunched and saddened look. I took D aside. Covered his head with my hand. Recited the blessing for a son. Then, like at a beach party, his friends hoisted him on their shoulders. Carried him forward. Innocence. Bravado. Another generation coming of age in Israel.
He walked the final distance alone. Oversized backpack. Buzz-cut. Excitement. Trepidation. Then disappeared into the military transport and his next three years. Actually two years and eight months but who’s counting.

Bruce Brown has been living in Israel “for…a long time” and is the proud father of two Sabras. One is currently a sargent in the Israeli Air Force.

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