Like most Israeli families, living here in Israel means having relatives in the army. My in-laws are unusual, in that every one of their children have served, and a majority of them have served in combat forces. I currently have two brother-in-laws and a sister-in-law in the army. It is very much a part of daily life here, since men and women are drafted into the army at 18. My sister-in-law chose to do national service at the beginning (religious women are allowed to forgo the army service in favor of national service- like working in a hospital), but now she works at an army base directing troops. My eldest brother-in-law (the second eldest boy in the family) is currently a high ranking army official in a special unit. He has seen far more action than I can ever imagine, and was even filmed during the last war. His goal is to get to the US as a representative of the Israeli army, and he may get to do that in the next year or two.
Tal, the youngest boy, is currently in the army. He served in Magav, the army police unit. Near the end of his service he decided to increase his time, and joined the officers course. He underwent basic training (again) and then started the first course on his way to becoming an officer. Today was his graduation. Every level in the Israeli army has a ceremony, so we headed down to the desert to watch him receive his stripe.
Army ceremonies always impress me. The majority of the soldiers were 20-22, and its so hard to compare them to Americans at the same age. These boys (the ceremony was only for boys this time) spend their days in drills, learning how to shoot guns, find their way through the desert without a map, defend themselves and lead others. They will come out of the course in a couple months as Officers, ready to lead others into battle (or at least behind battle lines). They are still teenagers in a lot of ways, but they understand that there is something bigger than themselves. Its impressive to watch. The ceremony always ends with HaTikvah, the national anthem... which is a post for another day. I am proud of my youngest brother-in-law, who today joined the ranks of the army officers, and made his own mark