Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Soldier's Run

Elie's coming home today for the weekend. He is currently on a base along the northern coast of Israel taking a two-day course on the human side of being a commander. Israeli commanders have two main responsibilities. They are the experts among their men when it comes to tactics, munitions, and actions. They lead in a way that few (or no) armies in the world do. Israeli commanders say to their men, "Follow me."

They decide so many things, lead so many things, do many things. The large machine gun on top of the armored personnel carrier that Elie has learned to drive can only be fired by a commanding officer. He, and he alone, is responsible for knowing how to install it, how to take it apart, clean it, load it, shoot it. The commanding officer is responsible for helping to guide the driver, and so much more. These are the things that Elie is learning.

Beyond that, Elie is now learning the issues related to human relations. He is learning how to command men, even under stress. To accomplish this more human task, the army takes the course away from the base in the south, to a more relaxed setting. Catered meals, nicer rooms, easier schedule.

Elie called me early this morning to tell me what time he was coming home today and then he told me that they took the soldiers for a long run today. It's important to keep them in shape, even when they are off base. They told them to dress in sports clothes and sneakers and took them on a run. They ran for a while - till they got to the beach, and then they ran on the sand beside the waves.

I thought of Aliza playing not too far from that beach a few short weeks ago, and how I'd missed Elie. It feels like a wrong has been righted; that Elie got his chance by the waves. I don't have a picture of him running, as I do of his sister, but I can close my eyes and see a whole unit of strong, young men, running along the beach's edge. This is why I wanted to come to Israel to live here, I think to myself. It's all there in the thought of Elie running on the beach in the early morning hours before going back to base, getting dressed in uniform, and continuing his lessons in being a soldier of Israel.

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