Only a heartbeat away

Only a heartbeat away

'He looks like a man now'

For Nancy Friedman of Teaneck, the war in Gaza meant that her son Jesse wasn’t coming home for Thanksgiving.

Jesse began service in the IDF in March. He is a student in the hesder military track at Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem, where he has been studying since he graduated from the Torah Academy of Bergen County in 2010. He finished his basic training two weeks ago, and was scheduled to return for a month’s leave.

“I haven’t seen him since last Sukkot,” his mother said.

But with the outbreak of hostilities, leave was canceled – or perhaps he chose not to take it. “He said it’s not an option,” his mother recalled.

Until now, Jesse and his family in Teaneck would speak by phone four or five times a week. But on Sunday night, as Israel announced the callup of 75,000 reservists for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, Jesse called his mother to let her know that the army was taking away the soldiers’ phones. Jesse is now a tank driver, and “before all of this” he was stationed up north, where Israel borders Syria and Jordan.

When he first enlisted, his mother was nervous.

“But I felt, he fully believes in what he’s doing, I believe in what he’s doing, somebody has to do it. If not my child, then it’s some other Jewish mother’s child.

“Of course, I’m more nervous now,” she said on Monday afternoon. “They could call him down to Gaza. Somebody else could try to be a hero and infiltrate where he is. But I can honestly say I’m less nervous than if he were standing outside of Gaza now.”

She has a cousin in Israel whose son, a medic, was one of the first called to the front line in Gaza. “That’s scary,” she said.

Meanwhile, she’s following the news from Israel even more closely than usual, reading articles from Israel and listening to news on the radio. And she doesn’t know when she’ll next see the son she last saw more than a year ago – before he entered the army.

“Everybody who sees him tells me that he looks like a man now,” she says.

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