A mother’s pride, a daugh­ter’s fight

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - Perspectives - Ashira and Shal­hevet Go­brin

(Ed­i­tor’s note: The fol­low­ing fea­tures a mother and her daugh­ter re­flect­ing on the lat­ter’s de­ci­sion to join the Israeli De­fence Forces.)

When she was born, she was so small and sweet. As a tod­dler, her curly hair bounced as she skipped and played, sang and ex­plored. I mar­velled at her first steps and smiled as she chat­tered a mil­lion miles an hour. I watched her sleep, shed tears when she fell and scraped her knees, ap­plauded at her grad­u­a­tions. We taught her to love To­rah, the Jewish peo­ple and our land, his­tory, phi­los­o­phy and law, our lan­guage, le­gends and heroes. She sang songs and told us sto­ries, formed opin­ions and cre­ated her own ideals. Eigh­teen years flew by at the blink of an eye – and a young woman stood be­fore us.

I was 14 when I knew that I’d serve in the IDF. I grew up in a Zion­ist com­mu­nity and home, and Is­rael is a part of my iden­tity. My best friends in Is­rael have manda­tory ser­vice, some putting them­selves in life-risk­ing po­si­tions to de­fend our home­land. To me, it is home with­out any doubt, so why wouldn’t I be ob­li­gated to serve along­side them?

To most, it was a dream with good in­ten­tions that would pass with time. It was a scary thought and I as­sume a bit of a shock when my fam­ily and friends un­der­stood that I wasn’t kid­ding around. And so be­gan the long and painful process of be­com­ing Israeli and en­list­ing in the IDF.

I see her now, a young woman so beau­ti­ful that some­times she takes my breath away. So in­tel­li­gent that she leaves me think­ing hard to keep up with her ar­gu­ments. Equally at home in high heels and ex­pertly ap­plied makeup as she is hiking across Is­rael in well-worn boots, she has strong val­ues and the lead­er­ship back­bone to stand up for them. She has walked in the foot­steps of her great­grand­par­ents, grand­par­ents and par­ents. She has be­come some­one spe­cial, some­one unique all on her own.

And now, in an­other com­pletely dif­fer­ent set of cloth­ing – the uni­form of the IDF I can see her stand­ing tall and proud like a war­rior, her curly hair fly­ing. I lie awake at night, wor­ry­ing if she’s cold, if she’s eaten enough, con­cerned that she’s tired, alone, in dan­ger. In those brief calls from across the ocean, mother-to-sol­dier, sol­dier-to-mother, I try to get as many ques­tions in as I can in, to hear the strong en­ergy, the de­ter­mi­na­tion, the re­silience and the ex­cite­ment for where she is and what she is do­ing that is so self­less and so mean­ing­ful. It gives me the strength and the courage to face the next day.

Ba­sic train­ing was a pretty big shock. There’s no “ab­sorp­tion cen­tre” or eas­ing into rou­tine, so, like many be­fore me, I was thrown into the deep end. At night we have one hour af­ter din­ner to shower, make our beds and use what­ever time we have left to call our friends and fam­i­lies, be­cause dur­ing the days phones are for­bid­den. We were 40 girls and four show­ers, so I had to run to make it be­fore the mas­sive lineup started.

One night af­ter wait­ing a few min­utes for the wa­ter to warm up, I hopped in to be­gin scrub­bing off the day’s dirt. I hadn’t been in for more than two min­utes when I heard my com­man­der yelling: “hak­patzah, hak­patzah!” That meant that I had to be ready and down­stairs as fast as hu­manly pos­si­ble be­cause we were run­ning a drill.

Soak­ing wet and in­cred­i­bly frus­trated, I got changed at light­ning speed, skip­ping things of lesser im­por­tance such as socks, and bolted down­stairs at a speed I didn’t even know I had to join my team. We were go­ing on a masa, not that I knew what that en­tailed. Each team fol­lowed their com­man­der in si­lence. We ran in twos, look­ing out for any in­jured sol­diers or slow run­ners, help­ing and mo­ti­vat­ing each other to con­tinue, our faces cov­ered in mud. The jour­ney came to an end and we stood in for­ma­tion, the whole unit to­gether to re­ceive our hard earned tags as a re­ward for our heroic ef­forts.

Two days later we had the in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to hear from an ex-sol­dier who fought in the Pal­mach. We lis­tened to him tell his war sto­ries, hang­ing on to ev­ery word he said. Hear­ing about his life and his sac­ri­fices re-in­stilled in me the rea­sons I had given ev­ery­thing up to join the IDF in the first place.

When did our roles re­verse? Each time I look at her now, in her uni­form, I see that strong war­rior-woman, that pas­sion­ate be­ing, that child of mine, that role model to us all.

Go forth on your jour­ney, Shal­hevet, feel our arms pro­tect­ing you like a shield, our words of love whis­per­ing in your ear and our sense of pride fill­ing your heart. Be true to your­self and know how much we love you. And then re­turn to us in safety and peace. “God keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and for­ever.”

Day to day it’s hard to re­mem­ber, while we’re run­ning in the rain, do­ing pushups in the mud, be­ing yelled at in the freez­ing cold. Some­times it’s hard to look back on my friends in univer­sity and see ev­ery­thing I’m miss­ing, or to talk to my fam­ily on the phone and hear how things are with­out me.

But I chose to be here for a rea­son, and even if ev­ery day was as hard as my tough­est day, I’d never re­gret my de­ci­sion. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to ex­plain the strength of the pride I feel in uni­form and the mo­ti­va­tion to fight harder and give more.

Be­cause if I don’t fight for my coun­try and my na­tion, who will fight for me?

Ashira Go­brin is vice-chair of Bnei Akiva Schools and se­nior ex­ec­u­tive at a tech­nol­ogy startup. She sits on the board of The CJN. Shal­hevet Go­brin is a grad­u­ate of The Toronto Heschel School, Ul­panat Orot and the Diller Teen Fel­low­ship pro­gram. She is cur­rently serv­ing as a tank in­struc­tor in the ar­tillery unit of the IDF.

Shal­hevet Go­brin in an IDF tank.

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