Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Difference Between Reward and Punishment

Rachel and I went to see Ariella, our (Rachel's) first child, officially inducted into the army this evening.

Until now, everything about the army had seemed a little like camp. Buses, hugs and smiles when they went off to the army. Sleeping in bunks, lots of exercise, companionship, bad food, little sleep.

It's so easy to take the world for granted. Armchair generals, couch politicians, so many of us think only of ourselves and our own pleasure, or our family. When we think of our community or country, we shout and argue, but what do we really do when the right course of action requires real sacrifice: our standard of living, ourselves, our children? That's when we run and hide.

The army is not camp. 100 young people have spent two weeks learning how to shoot a gun, stand at attention, and salute their commanders. They sleep little, march, and obey, counting off the seconds.

They speak in code. They have strange laws. They are subject to rules and discipline that we are not.

All of these music-loving, beach-going, smiling young men and women swore an oath to serve their commanders, the army, and their country, though it mean losing their lives.

As I watched them drilling, I thought less of how proud I was of them, and more of the thousands of people who have gone before them. How surely, some of these beautiful young men and women are going to see terror and war face to face. Some will have to shoot to kill. Some will have to save people from dying. Some might lose limbs or life.

If, God willing, none of them ever have to face dire situations like these, each one has been and will continue to be dramatically transformed as their service continues.

None of these people want war or fighting, but neither will they shirk from it. As we sang the national anthem, I reflected on how the Israeli anthem is one of the few that has no reference to war or conquest, only peace and longing to be free.

Last night, Ariella's commander sent them all to sleep at 8:00 pm and woke them at 10:00. While getting ready for their all night activities, the commander said that one of them was going to carry not only their own incredibly heavy packs, but an additional 12 kilo communications equipment backpack.

When they were all ready, the commander turned to Ariella and told her that she was the one.

Not only did she carry the extra load all night, but she had to run back and forth between all the groups. She ran three times as much as everyone else did. By the time night was over, her pants were ripped and she was bruised and bleeding.

Her commander finally told them at dawn that basic induction was over and they were now ready for their three months of training. She then spoke to each soldier in turn.

When she came to Ariella, she asked her "I suppose you know why I asked you to carry the communication gear?"

Ariella said, "No, commander."

The commander said, "Because I knew you could. And I wanted you to know that you could. And when I'm not around, I want you to always carry the extra load, because you can."



Anonymous said...

Oh man.

On the 1 hand, and as a dad myself, I'd feel /proud/.

On the other. What they do to people. /Wrong/. Totally totalitarian.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Mika: Unfortunately, we live in a country where it is crystal clear that army service is not wrong. Every day, soldiers save many lives, sometimes 40 or 50 times a day.


Adelaide Gamer said...

Good luck to her. All pray for a better world in her lifetime.

Yehuda Berlinger said...



Jack Steiner said...

This was outstanding.

Laer said...

Congratulations on your fine daughter. My high school buddy Peter and his wife Rita live in Haifa now. Their daughter has already served and their son probably was going through training at about the same time as your daughter. May God bless and protect them both, and may they be a part of Israel's essential survival.

MaksimSmelchak said...

Hi Yehuda,

Mazel Tov and may she be kept in safety, happiness, and prosperity.