Monday, April 07, 2014
It's a Small World After All
Zahava and I started out our married life in an apartment in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. And like many of our contemporaries, when in due time our firstborn came along, once the short maternity leave was over, we had to find a safe, reliable daycare situation.
After some asking around and many interviews, we settled on a daycare in a private home run by a middle-aged widow who called herself 'Auntie Ro-Ro' (short for Rosalie). Auntie Ro-Ro's place was just a few blocks from where we lived, and was immaculately clean and full of toys, books and educational games. Best of all, Ro-Ro had a fixation with safety and security that was somewhere between eccentricity and obsession. In short, exactly the kind of place first time parents dream about.
Auntie Ro-Ro only accepted a few kids at a time, and we felt truly lucky to have found a place with her for Ariella.
Among the other children at Auntie Ro-Ro's was a little girl named Yakira who was the same age as Ariella. Yakira's parents also lived in the neighborhood and, like us, were young and just starting out in life.
Here's a picture of Ariella and Yakira at one of Ariella's birthday parties (Yakira's the little blonde girl):
(That's my younger sister there on the left)
Anyway... life marches on. When GIlad was born, he joined Ariella for a short time at Auntie Ro-ro's. But before long we left New York for Connecticut, the kids got bigger and went to school... and our brief sojourn in Brooklyn became a fond, but faded memory.
We enjoyed our time in Connecticut, but by the time Ariella and Gilad were 9 and 7 respectively, we were off again, this time to Israel.
Ari and Gili quickly adapted to their new surroundings, language and culture... and among the pleasant surprises we found in our new community was that Yakira's family had moved to Israel (directly from Brooklyn), a few years before us.
Fast forward a bunch of years and Ariella was finished with high school and off to the army. She decided to pursue a challenging combat support basic training, followed by a commander's course; all for the small chance to win one of the few coveted spots as a drill instructor at a very special base in Israel's north.
Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that this special basic training base/course was designed by the army to give young men from 'troubled' backgrounds (meaning anything from criminal offenses, to broken families to severe learning and/or discipline issues, etc.), who by most standards were deemed completely unsuited for military life, a last chance to join that great equalizer of Israeli society; the IDF.
All of the drill instructors at this special base are specially trained, hand-picked female soldiers who not only are expected to be stronger,faster, and better than their trainees at every task... but are also required to be hard as nails and as patient as saints.
Unlike most basic training courses, the drill instructors at this base are not allowed to mold their charges through yelling or intimidation. Rather, they take these young men, many of whom have never experienced discipline or success in any form in their lives... and through consistency and sheer force of will, show them how to succeed and become disciplined soldiers.
Naturally some are beyond the reach of even the most enlightened attempts to help them. But most of these soldiers go on to meaningful jobs in the IDF, and some even end up serving in combat and leadership roles. In short, they serve with distinction and finish the army with the abilities and tools to work, study or pursue anything they want...a situation that would have been nearly unthinkable at the time they were drafted.
Ariella was selected to be a drill instructor in this special program, and has now graduated her first group of soldiers.
But the reason I've shared this whole story today is the complete surprise that awaited Ariella when she reported to this special base: Who should be there to greet her with hugs and screams of "Achoti" ("My Sister!"), when she arrived, but Yakira... the little girl who had been her playmate all those years ago at Auntie Ro-Ro's daycare in Brooklyn.
Here they are together on their base (where they continue to serve together):
Obviously, growing up in the same Israeli town, Ariella and Yakira were friendly and had overlapping social circles. But they had been in different youth groups, had gone to different middle and high schools and had no clue the other was interested in this special army program.
So even though we live in a relatively small country, you have to admit that the odds of these two girls ending up being hand-picked for the same job in the army, and end up serving on the same base, is rather remarkable.
It really is a small world after all!