Friday, October 12, 2007

Waiting for a Decision

It's Friday morning here in Israel. It's a time of anticipation - the Sabbath is coming and that means a chance to shut the world out; to forget about pressures of work and the worries of finances and schedules. Twenty five hours, from sunset tonight to tomorrow night, when we don't think about anything other than this time with our families and friends.

Friday morning is all about preparation. What we do brings in the Sabbath and fills the house with warmth. We clean our homes or make sure everything is in order. We prepare the table in advance with the best dishes and place the sweet Challah bread in the center, all for that moment when you come back from the evening prayers to a home filled with peace. We cook our favorite foods on Friday and keep them warm over the Sabbath. So Friday means the house is filled with the most wonderful smells of soup, roasting chicken, perhaps a cake or two. Walk down our block on Friday morning, and everyone knows, the Sabbath is coming.

And when it does, we stop. For 25 hours, we shut out the world. No telephones, no computers, no television. No cars, no radios, no stereos. Few cars on the street, but many people strolling around, not in a rush to get anywhere. It's Shabbat, our day of rest and our minds and bodies are conditioned to breathe, to relax, to accept the moment and not worry about tomorrow. Until Saturday night, and then we are back to our regular fast-paced lives...rushing, working, doing it all, and waiting until we are graced with another Friday morning like this one.

Elie is up north, waiting too. Will he be allowed to come home for the weekend? Next week, on Sunday morning, they move on to their next assignment so there's really no reason for his unit to remain up north. The artillery equipment has all been cleaned and prepared. His bags are packed. They are waiting for the approval of some high level army official.

Two weeks ago, while Elie wasn't home, I created a new recipe that I know he is going to love. Should I make it for him or will he again not be here to enjoy it? Should I buy the drinks he likes...they won't go bad, would be my mother's advice. Should I clean his room (even though he won't expect it)...well, it won't get dirty again while he's away, right?

So, I'm waiting. Elie's waiting. What the army might put the unit on a bus to begin the long journey south. This is what they did a few weeks ago with the rest of the group - the time that Elie came home early to see Re'em. They gave them instructions to drive to a particular location and wait there. This way, they were closer to home if they got the expected approval, and close enough to come back, if they didn't. When approval still hadn't come through, they were told to travel a little further on the way.

It reminds me of the Entebbe hijacking rescue in 1976. Years later, it would come out that the government was still debating whether to approve the mission or not, to risk flying hundreds of miles to chance a rescue of over 100 Jewish passengers and the brave French crew that stayed with them after terrorists performed a Nazi-like selection process and released the non-Jewish prisoners. Should Israel fly that far? Could the airforce and army successfully attack the terrorists and rescue the hostages so far from our country, in the midst of Uganda?

The government couldn't decide and time was running out. If the mission didn't leave by a certain hour, they would miss their narrow window of opportunity and arrive at the wrong time of day. So, they got approval to fly out of Israel, but not launch the mission. Somewhere above the skies between here and Uganda, the planes received the go-ahead.

Nothing so grandiose here, just a bunch of boys who want to come home and a bunch of mothers trying to figure out what to cook. Soon, they will be on a bus, waiting for the go-ahead to come home. Will Elie be home this weekend? Stay tuned...

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