I am 74 years old, widowed, and conservadox. I recently met a woman who was interested in pursuing a relationship with me until she found out that I had left my wife and child in 1973 to return to Israel (I am American) during the Yom Kipper War. She said she could not love or live with a man who deserted his family.
Background: After serving in Viet Nam as a Combat Special Operations Intelligence Officer (1966-1969) I returned home to what was a country that was not kind to those who served in Viet Nam… this was especially true of the majority of Jews who saw the true heroes as those individuals that fled to Canada. I decided to go Israel where I believed a Jewish soldier was respected. I found this to be true. I had grown up as a Jabotinsky Zionist who was well connected to the Betar movement. I lived on a kibbutz in Israel for almost three years… returning to the United States to marry an American girl that I had met on the Kibbutz. We were married in in 1971 and had two children when the Yom Kipper War broke out in 1973.
By the second day of the war I realized that I had to return to Israel and help in any capacity that I could. My wife who was frum objected and said that if I went she and my children would not be there when I returned. She could not understand how I could choose to endanger my life and the future of our family for a Zionistic belief.
I told her that I believed that without the State of Israel there would be no future and only fear for the Jewish people living in the diaspora. I also told her that I believed that “anything worth living for was worth dying for” and that I could not live with myself knowing that I was capable of defending the Jewish Homeland.
We both kept our promises. I went to Israel and she was not there when I returned home… we divorced. The fact that I went to Israel and was attached to an IDF medical unit in Sinai probably saved scores of lives… but this is conjecture.
A number of years later I remarried. Unfortunately, my second wife died three years ago.
My question is this: From a Jewish or halachic point of view was my first responsibility as Zionist Jew living in America to the State of Israel or was it not to imperial my life as a husband and father for a cause that I believed was more important than life itself… when I realized that Israeli fathers and husbands where defending and sacrificing their lives on behalf of Eretz Yisroel?
From your question I see that you are an ideological person, and Zionism is more important to you than life itself, this is a controversial issue, as many say that it is not one of the three sins that we must sacrifice our life. However this is not really the issue here, and repeating what was done is surely not applicable.
When a person is dating someone who went through a divorce they want to check out is the person’s general behavior and personality, in day to day life. If you are a devoted husband and a good father, then a onetime decision made years ago, shouldn’t affect your marriage.