The day before Purim, I understood one of the key factors as to why being an Israeli is so significant, especially in the 70th year of the nation. What did I do? At a naval base in Haifa, I witnessed our granddaughter completing an intensive course and becoming a sergeant — three stripes — in the Israeli navy.
My wife, Rita, and I, who have been in Israel a substantial amount of time, four decades, are privileged to watch our grandchildren become a soldier, a sailor, a tank commander and a member of the intelligence corps using filming expertise.
How proud we are because we know that our next generation has been inspired to care for Israel.
As Passover, the freedom festival, approaches, followed by Yom HaShoah, which marks the savage death of our 6 million, and the 70th anniversary of the state, we know that the spring of 2018 will fill each of us with satisfaction and hope, both for the Israelis and for the Jews abroad.
Why do I use the word “satisfaction”? To bring Israel to this point, we all have participated.
Eight million live right here on the soil of Eretz Yisrael, and many of you have helped through financial assistance and lobbying. This partnership has sought to ensure that Israel is not destroyed. Instead, it has become better and better in each of its seven decades.
As the world knows — Jews in particular — Israel had to build one of the finest fighting forces in the world because it is surrounded by enemies. This military prowess can clearly be witnessed with success and sadness.
Who needs this constant demonstration of excellence to provide the protection required? Why should we continue to weep over the loss of life of so many of our citizens of all ages?
Israel is a thriving nation that wants to ensure our existence forever.
Our family is a fighting family. My father, the late Louis Geffen, was a judge advocate during World War II. I was a chaplain during the Vietnam War. Our three children and three of our grandchildren have served or are serving in branches of the Israel Defense Forces. Our son-in-law and two daughters-in-law were in the IDF, and this summer our fourth grandchild enters the IDF.
Some of you may think I am boasting. On the one hand, I am, but on the other hand, we are patriots who want to defend what is precious to us.
At the ceremony at the Haifa naval base, parents and siblings and two grandfathers were present to witness our progeny assuming major tasks. Our granddaughter, like most of those completing the course, is only 20.
Israel’s navy is not large, but its task is to defend the precious Mediterranean Sea along 180 miles of coast. The coastline is one aspect of the navy’s work, but Israel’s territorial waters are important.
Today, Israel must be astute in identifying ships carrying armaments for enemies. Usually carrying conventional weaponry when captured, some of these secret shipments include rockets and even nuclear materials. Israeli gunboats have devices to detect what is dangerous among regular shipments.
From land, Israeli naval personnel are constantly using sophisticated devices to pinpoint what is illegal and to notify our vessels on the sea so they can prevent this weaponry from reaching the enemy.
Today submarines are in a class all their own. Almost all of them, no matter what country owns them, use nuclear power. A lot of future wars will be based on the success or failure of the submarine strikes on land.
So on Purim night at a naval base, Rita and I felt a thrill. A baby girl is now a sergeant dressed in her whites. The thrill will remain with us, and we will continue to pray for her safety.
For security reasons, the IDF does not allow the media to publish photos of active-duty navy personnel