Monday, December 08, 2008

Natan and the IDF

I don't even need to report on Natan as he's begun to do his own reporting. Check out his blog at As would be expected, he's long-winded like his mother, dryly acerbic like his father (nobody can be as sarcastic and nasty as Ira) and anally attentive to detail which is a particular quirk of Natan's.

He looks to have been taken into a unit with the interest in using him for his English skills. This would be a smart move but remains to be seen if the army will act smartly. We've been warmed by the range of interviews they've sent him on and the sense that they've gotten that they should use him for more than stamping papers but we just don't know yet and there's a definite sense that he's gotten from his various interviews that if his Hebrew was just a bit stronger it would all be easier. This is not a surprise of course and Natan had been fairly unwilling to work on his Hebrew the past year for sure so maybe now he'll see the worth in improving not just his spoken but his written and reading skills.

It's bizarre to see him trot off in green the past 2 weeks. Each morning he gets up when he should, gets himself ready and leaves for whatever the day's adventure holds - mostly waiting, waiting and waiting. He comes home in a fairly good mood, although understandably bored and cranky at times. But he changes into civilian garb, has a good meal, yakks on the phone, writes notes on the computer, goes out if he can to Yoeman rehearsal, and seems fairly well-adjusted despite the uncertainty. Who would have thunk it?

I've told him for some time that I thought that the army would help him define his place here in Israel. I continue to think that's true although he could still end up in the US for school and work - I would almost anticipate that happening but then again, who knows? School is a lot cheaper here and much of the textbook work is in English so many Anglos do manage school here. But we don't have to worry about that for some time, no?

After Mumbai, Natan and I discussed the whole futility of man, the world, violence against each other, etc. I wondered how I can continue to feel like a pacifist when I know that most people feel that armies and fighting are worthwhile and important. All I know is when I read the newspaper - yes, when I read Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz - whether or not the story is stretched or troubled or problematic, every time I read about some soldier who did the 'wrong thing' or the non-ethical thing, or the thing that we know that they shouldn't do, I'm reminded that they're most likely some 18-20 year old guy who's not enjoying himself and is likely to feel scared and inclined to shoot first and ask questions later. Is that what we want to teach our kids to do? I'm deeply relieved that it's not Natan out there by Hebron, or in Gaza but that doesn't change the fact that some other kid is there doing that work that I'm glad he's not doing. I'm rambling here but you get the existential picture.

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