I returned home from Israel this past Saturday, but I wanted to file one last post regarding my trip. As I’ve already written, the presence of armed soldiers is but one discomfiting aspect of the greater picture of unrest to be found in Israel.
On the parenting level, though, when I wasn’t looking at soldiers or being frisked by soldiers or answering questions from soldiers, I was watching Israeli children playing in the streets and parks, and thinking: some day that kid is going to be a soldier, and he or she could be killed because people kill each other here.
I’ve often thought that my generation in the United States lost out in some way because we weren’t asked to perform compulsory military service. I’m by no means a pro-Army sort—my father missed the Vietnam War as a college student, and I’m fine with that—but I suspect that the discipline and character development that comes from being in the services can’t help but benefit young people.
Everyone serves in Israel, which, given what I’ve written above, I should view as a good thing—a nationwide exercise in character development, right? Only I didn’t feel that way. I reacted to the thought of young people being asked to carry guns not as someone viewing their own potential involvement in it, but as a parent imagining his son or daughter being taken off to war.
It’s enough to make you a pacifist, I tell ya.
Note: to those kind souls who shared their best wishes on my leaving Harper’s Magazine, I just wanted to pass along my gratitude. It was swell to see so many friends, people I’ve worked with and for, and yes, a fair number of total strangers, taking an interest in my life. It’s great to be supported in tough times, I’m humbled by the expressions of solidarity and condolences, and I’m glad you’re all out there. Cheers, Theodore.