Elie hasn't been home now for two weeks...and won't be coming home until the end of this week. It's another relatively long stretch and during this time he's been very busy up north, unable to call quite as often. I've sent him messages; he's called to tell me what's happening. He sounds tired at times and the hot weather isn't helping.
It's tense up north, but the general feeling is that we have made it through the summer and the chances of war in the immediate or near future have diminished significantly. To some extent, Israel is standing down from its earlier speculation. Syria, though still belligerent, simply isn't ready for a war at this time and unless something stupid or accidental happens, we seem to have avoided "the bullet" this time. It is good to know that they understand what we have known all along - no one wins in war.
I spoke to Elie on Friday and asked him in general terms what was happening. They are still training, learning how to communicate as a unit and how to work together to target a specific location whatever, whenever, wherever that location will be. Pinpoint accuracy is a major issue for artillery, air force, and all units. Though much of the world would have you believe that Israel would indiscriminately aim at its enemies, the reality is far from this absurd claim. In reality, the Israeli army goes to great lengths to avoid civilian injury...and this is done by making sure that when we must target something, we do it as accurately as possible.
Typically, the training for the artillery division involves a combination of simulation and live fire training with one, some, and then all elements of the division that is posted with him. Elie told me that because of the sensitive situation with Syria, his unit is not training with live fire. "What's important is how we work together, loading and aiming," he explained to me. For my part, having heard the sound of these large vehicles shooting artillery (during the Tekes Kumta), I'm more than happy to know that Elie isn't near those huge explosions.
The other good news, at least so far, is that it seems Elie will be spending Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) at home with us. This year, it falls on a Thursday/Friday, which means we will have 3 full days with him - even a little more, as he will have to arrive home on Wednesday to get here before the holiday starts.
For now, we have settled into a routine where Elie is still relatively safe in training. He's learning about the terrain in the north and how to maneuver and respond in this changed environment. The north has always been our vacation land, the place we go almost every summer to camp, to relax, to hike, to swim.
Years ago, we spent 3 days in the north, and during that brief holiday, Hizbullah shot a katyusha rocket into Kiryat Shemona, a few miles away. Elie's father and I heard the booms (outgoing and incoming) and knew what it was, what it meant. For Elie, it was a new and frightening experience. Many people on vacation immediately decided t cut short their plans and return to the center of the country, out of missile/rocket range. We talked to local residents and decided this wasn't necessary and that we'd stay the planned period of time. We stayed because we believed we weren't in danger and running would hurt the local economy, ruin our vacation, and send the wrong message to our children. We stayed because we didn't want our children to believe that retreat was the answer. At first, Elie wanted to go home. We spent the night sleeping on mattresses in the center of a house in an area with no windows. By morning, the army gave the "all clear" sign and we decided to stay in the north.
Now, years later, Elie is back in the north, a few miles away from where we vacationed, learning how to help protect the north from similar attacks. It is, in its way, a circle. Elie isn't frightened any more - he is a soldier. He knows the answer isn't to run from aggression and so the Israeli army continues to train in the north and Elie's unit will continue to study and practice...and I'll spend the week on ordinary tasks - getting kids to school, work...and thinking about Elie coming home next weekend.