January 10, 2008: Idiot

You grew up in a typical dati neighborhood in America. Let’s say Potomac, Maryland. The community was not so huge, and you pretty much got to know everyone who lived there. Every week, your parents invited friends over for Shabbat, or you went out to their houses. You become close friends with the guys you saw in shul, in the soccer league, and around the Shabbat tables of the community.

You also were taught certain values as you grew up. You learned about the Torah, not from school, but from how people lived their lives. You saw that the adults in the community looked out for all the children, and that you always had a place you could go and someone you could talk to. You knew you could ask Rav S. for advice about anything. Your fondest memories were stopping by Mr. R’s house to shoot some hoops, or Mrs. F’s where there were always some tasty cakes out on the counter.

You remember coming home one day and seeing your parents with tears rolling down their cheeks. On the television, the Trade Towers and the Pentagon were on fire. You heard the announcer say that thousands of people had been killed. The husband of someone from Potomac was missing and presumed dead. Everyone in Potomac was crying. Inside you burned with anger at those who would murder innocent people.

After you finished school, you decided to enlist in the Army. You never forgot how you felt on 9/11. You wanted to do whatever you could to punish those responsible and stop all others who wanted to kill innocent people and attack your nation. You wanted to dedicate your life to preventing more terrorist attacks. You were ready to go to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran – anywhere America has enemies.

In the Army, you volunteered for every elite unit, every dangerous assignment. You were shot at so many times that you lost track. You saw friends killed in combat, but never for one instant did you regret your decision to join the Army. You thought of all the people back home in Potomac who could rest easier because people like you were fighting America’s enemies.

Then one day you received unusual orders. For some reason, the President had ruled that your old community was to be evacuated. The people who lived there decided that they would not simply abandon their homes. Your unit was assigned the task of evicting them. You were handed a list of homes that were to be cleared and then destroyed. In disbelief you saw Mr. R’s house and Mrs. F’s. You were marched to your Rav’s house where his family, the kids you had babysat for, stood crying, pleading with anyone who would listen not to throw them out of their home. You saw your fellow soldiers going into the very houses where you had hung out on Shabbat afternoons and dragging people you knew out into the street.

You looked into the eyes of the people who had helped you all your life. You remembered all the values you had been taught and your reason for joining the military. You looked into the eyes of Rabbi S. and saw tears streaming down his face, shaking his head.

You turn away, hand your gun to another soldier, and tell your commanding officer that you cannot be part of this, you cannot follow these orders. You are arrested and taken to a military jail. You are broken. You sit wondering where the Rs and the Fs and everyone else are going to live. You wonder what you will do now. You wonder if anyone thinks you made the right decision.

When you write for a living, it is not unusual to receive feedback. Sometimes people agree with you, sometimes they don’t. The organization I work for is currently promoting an educational trip to Israel. Someone who had read Crossing the Yarden sent the following in response:

“God forbid, how could anyone partake in a trip by an organization whose staff leadership advocates Israeli soldiers disobey orders, en masse, and looks forward to a religious military usurping the authority of the elected civilian leadership. That would be Jordan Frankl, proof that idiots can make aliyah.”

Unlike the fellow who wrote the above (from his home in America), I will one day have children in the IDF. I know I will worry about them all the time. I will also be proud that they are participating in the defense of the Jewish homeland. Yet I will feel even prouder if G-D forbid, they are one day given immoral orders, and they say no.

If that makes me an idiot, then I accept that title with honor.

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