Anyone who has visited Israel knows that just about any place you go in the country you are likely to see chayalim (soldiers) walking around with their rifles. Unlike the U.S., this is not only usual for Israel but I think it makes us all feel a bit safer and very proud.
Ordinarily these rifle-bearing soldiers are in uniform. But we didn’t bat an eyelash as we were getting off a bus in Jerusalem and noticed that the guy in the t-shirt sitting on his duffel bag in the stairwell was also holding a rifle. I couldn’t help thinking about the panic that would have caused if it was on a bus back in New Jersey!
A different out of uniform rifle-toting soldier that my daughter spotted, however, made her do a double-take as he was wearing a “Batman” tee-shirt. She never thought about chayalim having the same interests as her friends. Then again, most soldiers are not only just a bit older than she is, but they are all superheroes.
Another time we were waiting at a busy Jerusalem bus stop when my daughter walked away. As I followed her with my eyes, I became very proud. She had been holding a rose in her hand (I don’t remember where she got it) and quietly gave it to a soldier who was standing on the other side of the crowd. I would have never noticed him.