Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern – A Look Back at Ten Years as A Soldier’s Mother

Paula R. Stern – A Look Back at Ten Years as A Soldier’s Mother

On February 13, 2007, I decided that I wanted to experiment more formally with this thing called “blogging.” There was no WordPress, no other real blogging platform other than Blogger. I decided to go for it and with the first screen, I was stuck.

It asked me the name for the blog I wanted to create. I didn’t know what to write. There were two major things happening in my life. One I was anticipating with such joy; the second I was intentionally trying not to face.
My daughter, first child, was getting married. She was (and is) beautiful and ecstatically happy. Her future husband was (is) so gorgeous and sweet and I love his family. But what would I write about – the wedding was one month away, most of the planning done and anyway, how much can you write about a wedding long after it happens.
The second was my oldest son, second child, being drafted into the army. That was to be for three years, involved more unknowns and so I chose that as the topic. I would be, whether I wanted to be or not, a soldier’s mother. And so…ten years ago today, I started writing.


The wedding was amazing but it left me with nothing else to focus on, nothing left to delay me from facing reality.

The first picture when he came home was of him smiling and I began to think I might survive this thing called the army.

He became a Commander. He went to war and I thought I would die of fear. I cried. I prayed. I wrote…

And then the war ended and he came home and he was fine. Really fine. “We did what we had to do,” he told me and his only complaint was that he felt the army had ended the war too soon and would have to go back.

Elie finished the army and began to think about his life after this service the same week my second, Shmulik went in.

Shmulik served in Kfir and after a while was assigned to be the Base Commander’s personal driver.

I loved him working with this man, this leader and knew he would teach Shmulik and watch over him and the years passed very quickly. Towards the end of his service, still a soldier, Shmulik got married and his whole unit came and danced at his wedding. Things settled down. Shmulik finished his army service and settled nicely into married life. Amira had her first son and I learned the wonder of being a grandmother to her amazingly beautiful son.

Elie got married and I got a break of a few years when I was a soldier’s mother, but not really. A few months later, Elie’s prediction came true. Israel had not done Hamas permanent damage and they were up for another war. Elie was called in, but thankfully, this time, it ended more quickly.

 Two weddings. A grandson. Then a granddaughter as Elie and his wife had a baby girl. Then another grandson, when Amira’s second son was born.

The break was too short. I started dreading Davidi going into the army weeks and weeks and weeks before he went in. He too agreed to go into a combat unit and though I wanted him to go into Artillery, he wanted something else.

He was given the choice of Givati and he took it and so for the last year before this 10 year “marker” as a soldier’s mother, I’ve had a Givati son.

The day I took him to enter the army, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry in front of him, and I didn’t. A few hours after I dropped him off, he sent me the first picture of him in uniform and it was then that I broke down and cried.

He’s been in the army more than a year now…and mostly he’s doing great…and I’m doing okay.

That’s his younger sister. She was just 7 years old when her oldest brother went into the army, too small to be afraid, or so I thought.

And yet…

One day, a soldier had been shot in the north in a training accident and she overheard and thought it was Elie. In a terrified voice, she asked if Elie was okay and we quickly reassured her – not Elie, not an attack.

And we were more careful around her. Today, she listens to the news and keeps herself aware of what is happening. She’s very proud of her brothers, as am I.

David was 11 when Elie went in. He was a month short of 13 when Elie was called to the front and we weren’t sure that Elie would be home in time to celebrate David’s bar mitzvah with him.

But he was – he came home the day before looking strong and happy and safe.

I had my three boys there, all smiling and my world seemed so much calmer. David was adorable; Shmulik so big and  heading to the army too soon. Elie was home and that simple fact freed me to enjoy the day.

Along the way, Elie brought Yakov home. Yakov brought Chaim, and suddenly we’d adopted two brothers who became ours.

Yakov married and has three daughters.
We’re still waiting on Chaim but he’s done really well for himself and so I’ll leave it to his mother to nag him about bringing home someone special.

At one point, both Elie and David were going to base. Elie had been called for Reserve duty; and David was in his first year. Without shame, I forced them to post for a picture together and I didn’t really care that they weren’t too happy with me (more like benevolently accepting that they had to let me take the picture.

We all get together when we can, though it’s never often enough.

A few weeks ago, Shmulik’s wife gave birth, and now we have little Lavi, sweet and precious, and we’re watching him grow.

How do you sum up 10 years that changed your life again and again? Ten years. Over 2,000 posts, Over a million visits.

But more…Three marriages. Three sons, two adopted sons and one son-in-law into the army, all but Davidi already out. Four grandchildren. A house sold, a house bought. Cars bought and sold. Trips taken, even the dream of a cruise.

A lovely 7 year old child, now a beauty of 17. Three wars. How many missiles? How many UN condemnations? How many betrayals by nations of the world…but how many miracles.

I think the answer is that you don’t sum it up and you accept that every day is a gift; every day a miracle.

If I have learned anything in the last decade, it is that you have to spend every day being grateful; never taking it for granted. You look at the pictures; you hug your grandchildren, knowing how fast they grow.

And you pray with all that is inside of you that they will all continue to smile, all continue to live their lives in health, in safety – as a family, as a community.

As a nation, a people. As a world. At the end of the day, look at your children and pray, as I do, that the day closes and opens with them smiling.

Thank you, God, Thank you for the miracles of the last ten years.

NOTE: At the request of their very wise parents, no grandchildren were displayed in this post. And if some day way in the future, they come here and read this words – to them I say…it’s not my fault. Ask your Ima and Abba. They said no…if it was up to me, a day wouldn’t go by that I wouldn’t show your picture everywhere, to everyone.

To Top