I've been waiting to hear Elie say these words for weeks, dreaded hearing them. I know he'll say them soon. All of Israel knows it. Syria and Lebanon know it. Hizbollah and Hamas know it. The only real question is what will trigger it, what will bring the fear to reality and, for me, where Elie will be in his training. Will it be in the north or in Gaza? Does it matter in the end what excuse will be used? Will Elie's training be close enough to completion that with a little help, his unit can be sent into battle? Or will the army decide not to speed up the training and instead to send Elie and his unit to replace other troops guarding Israel's other borders so that they can head into battle?
Elie has been home for the last week, since right after his Tekes Kumta. It has been wonderful. A week together to marvel at how he has developed, to smooth over the normal bickering between siblings, and loving even the sound of their arguing as much as their conversations. Elie has been drawn out by most of us in some way, telling us about his training, the hours he spends learning, and his regular schedule. He's talked about the others in his unit, his commanding officers, the food, the weather, the tents. The weaponry, the rules, the safety mechanisms he is taught and so much more.
We went up north to the Sea of Galilee one day and I watched Elie swim and relax. Temperatures were into the 100 degree range (45 degrees Celsius) and the water was a welcome break. When some teenagers began acting up in the water, Elie called to them and told them to move away, that there were young children around (his sister and brother), and the boys moved. It was the sound of authority, a man telling them to behave. We came back on Thursday and on Friday we all cooked and prepared for the Sabbath. Elie did the shopping, as he started doing not long after he got his driving license and helped cook many of the dishes, though I'm pretty sure he cooked a lot more chicken wings than we ever actually saw arrive at the table.
As always, the candles are lit in the house and peace approaches. It is a restful time when we close the world out, when we are grateful for the time we have with each other. And then, out of no where, late Saturday afternoon, I heard Elie say, "this is war."
I looked up to see him advance to the kitchen and take out a large serving spoon, which he then dipped into the ice cream container he'd been holding. It seems his brother had dared to dip a regular spoon into the cookies and cream flavored ice cream and Elie wanted to horde it to himself. With the larger spoon...Elie quickly scooped up a huge amount and, laughing hysterically, we all set about battling for the ice cream. If only real war could be so silly, so happy, so simple.
Like the moments when we sat by the sea and ate together, and the time we spent shopping in the mall, each moment is precious to me. Part of me wants to freeze each moment and never move on and another part knows that I have to let the moment flow. Elie can never know how much I worry. And yet, he does of course.
Too soon, Elie was packing his army uniforms and preparing to go back to base. The vacation was over, but I can still hear Elie call out, "THIS is war!" in the diabolic sound of a 20-year-old on the warpath! May all our wars be over cookies and cream ice cream, fought with large serving spoons, and end with smiles, laughter, and a promise to buy more.