Well, it isn't exactly tomorrow, but Elie has a younger brother who is 17. When I first started this, I thought that I would write it to follow Elie through, God willing, his three years in the army. Somewhere along the way, I realized that it's likely that this will continue as my oldest son leaves the army and my middle son enters. It might be interesting to see how the army is different the second time around. The things I've learned should keep me calmer, right?
So, this past weekend, Shmulik's friend came over to visit and I innocently asked him what he would be doing next year when the boys graduate high school. I am encouraging Shmulik to go to one of several pre-military programs that help prepare the boy to become the soldier. They are so much smarter going in, knowing what to expect. Shmulik's friend's father was in the army and currently works for the Ministry of Religion, so I was pretty sure his son wouldn't go directly into the army. I thought his answer would encourage, but soon found I was wrong.
Shmulik's friend is talking about going to America to work for a few months and then maybe finding his way out of the army. Certainly, he doesn't want to serve in a combat unit. There were many comments about this as I tried to absorb his reasoning.
"If all of Israel felt this way," I told him, "there would be no Israel." He couldn't argue; he had no answer.
After his friend left, I asked Shmulik about the discussion. It was so hard for me to believe that this boy felt this way, that his family approved of him not serving. It was then that Shmulik told me about his father. As I'd guessed, he once had been in the army. He'd served in the Six Day War in the tank division, when his tank was hit. He managed to get out, but his friends did not. He heard them die. He saw them die, and worst of all, he smelled them die.
For a year after, his wife couldn't make meat in the house because the smell made him sick. This is a gentle man I've greeted many times. He always has a smile and a kind word. He dotes on his children, helps others, and deep in his past has this horror. "You have to understand," Shmulik said to me, "they are afraid."
I understood. Though I still think it hard to imagine this boy not serving in the army as all his friends are preparing to do, I do understand. It was then I thought about this blog and knew that I am at the start of a long road. One son is in the army now. He'll help teach me what I need to know to make the way easier for his brother. And, by the time Shmulik comes out of the army, I'll have my youngest son hot on his tails. I'll have a little over two years to get used to the idea, maybe even three.
So now, maybe I'll stop thinking about tomorrow and concentrate on today, when Shmulik is safe in school with his friends, my youngest son is safe in his school, and Elie is somewhere patrolling the security fence, not too far away and yet still out of reach.