Our final day in Israel. It started with some housekeeping matters- evaluations to fill out, logistics, etc. We then wrote ourselves a letter with our goals and hopes for the coming months. Momentum will send us this letter in 3 months. It should be quite a moment when we all receive these letters.
We then moved on to Ammunition Hill and spoke with IDF soldiers and commanders about their experiences in the military. What was so interesting was that all 4 were not native Israelis. They had either made Aliyah or were lone soldiers. Think about that for a moment. Serving a country that you were not born into — leaving your own country where your family is and committing to defend a country that you now call home. The army is a melting pot of Jews from all different backgrounds, observant, secular, man, woman, Israeli, Jewish, and even not Jewish. All these people fighting to defend a country that they believe in, that they love and cherish, that their ancestors fought tooth and nail for. A country that embraces all Jews. A place we can all call home. It is evident that a nation builds an army, but more importantly, an army builds a nation.
We went on to hear from Alon Wald, the CEO of Ammunition Hill, about his experience growing up without a father. He was a paratrooper in the IDF and was killed in the six-day war when Alon was ten months old. He talked about how, although he had no father, he was supported by so many men who stepped in to fill that void. That’s what people do in Israel. War unites a nation.
Interestingly, a person who has lost a parent in the war is not allowed to go into combat. Only the mother is allowed to overturn that decision. At any time, a mother can renounce her decision and bring back her child from battle. The army tries to minimize the loss for a family, and thus this law exists.
The day ended with a spectacular final celebration, an all-out party Jewish style. By this, I mean cocktails with stations, a beautiful meal, DJ, dancing. The keynote speaker was Moran Samuel, an Israeli para Olympic who became paralyzed from a spinal stroke. She persevered and won many awards in Olympic and world competitions. Lessons learned from Moran were many. You will always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you look at an obstacle as an obstacle, it will knock you down. If you look at it as a challenge, you will overcome and succeed. This she certainly has.
We danced and sang our hearts out-current pop Israeli songs, including our theme song for the trip “Od yavo shalom aleinu”. We ended with over 650 women singing Hatikvah. In the past, I’ve always gotten teary-eyed when I sang Hatikvah. This time I was filled with such pride and love for this country. I understand the history and the fight. This land belongs to the Jewish people.
The emotions were high, but the underlying sadness palpable. We said goodbye to friends that we made from Israel, promising this wasn’t goodbye but l’hitraot, see you soon.
Dr. Leslie Solomon
Montreal, QC, Canada