Home August 2012 Update on Ezra

Update on Ezra

Preface: My story (in the form of an open letter to Hadassah President Marcie Natan) about how Hadassah hospital successfully treated my son Ezra for nasopharyngeal carcinoma will be published in the organization’s centennial book, Thin Threads: Real Stories of Hadassah Life Changing Moments (with some of the proceeds going to Hadassah).  Note to Ms. Natan: Can we call it even now, in light of this shameless plug?
On May 17 my son Ezra enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces as a volunteer.  The IDF provides releases from service for various medical conditions (such as deafness and celiac disease).  Once you are released from service you can with a clear conscience put the army behind you.  However, each year hundreds of these released youngsters petition and sometimes claw their way into the army through its volunteer program.  Other than your insurance being covered by the National Insurance Institute instead of by the army, the role of the IDF volunteer is fairly indistinguishable from other non-combat positions (although normally volunteer service is for two years, in certain cases, including Ezra’s, the army asks for a three-year commitment). Ezra told us that he was surprised that of the 90 men and women who did volunteer basic training with him, only he and two others had been released because they had cancer.  Sarah and I just looked at each other.
Five days after he started it, Ezra’s basic training came to an end.  Ezra was disappointed by the brevity and physically non-demanding nature of the training, but he understood that the training had to be designed to include all members of his varied group.  Sarah and I drove out to Rishon L’tziyon to attend Ezra’s swearing-in ceremony at the huge Tzrifin military complex.  After such a short basic training, I hadn’t expected to be so moved by Ezra’s ceremony.  But I was.
At 17:00 sharp, the cadets were called to attention.  One of the soldiers in charge of the basic training read aloud the IDF’s oath of allegiance, with the cadets repeating it line by line.  Though we were a good distance from Ezra, we could clearly hear him shouting out the oath, which concludes with a commitment “to devote all my energies, and even sacrifice my life for the protection of the homeland and liberty of Israel.”  Then the announcer said, “Company, Swear,” and the cadets shouted “I swear, I swear.”  (Some religious soldiers prefer to say “I affirm, I affirm.”)
Afterwards, one by one, each soldier was given a Bible, placed it on a rifle and saluted the base commander.  The new recruits are supposed to hurry ahead when their turn comes for this ceremony.  I got choked up seeing one of the young men, with seriously handicapped feet, do his best to shuffle forward.  A different soldier, when her turn came, held the Bible in her left hand apart from the rifle in her right hand.  The commander stopped the line and insisted that the bible be placed on top of the rifle.  I thought, yes, that’s right: not Judaism separate from the modern state but integrated into it.
The commander of the whole Tzrifin complex then addressed the group (Tzrifin is so large that it contains many different bases).  He gave the group tremendous credit by saying, “At this time, when many in Israeli society are debating who should serve in the IDF, you people know the truth: if you are able to serve your country in some capacity, then you do it.”
Private Ezra Weinberger is now on a base somewhere near Hadera.  His job has something to to with military intelligence.  If you can get Ezra to tell you more than that about what he is doing in the army, please let me know.

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