It's a very strange feeling, not knowing where your child is. It's midnight here in Israel, just a little cold. Saturday night, clear. Yet another storm is heading towards Israel, this one coming from Russia. They are predicting snow for many areas that haven't seen snow in a long time. It will be very cold, but it's a relatively small front, not expected to last long. The storm isn't expected to hit until Monday, so for now, we are in a clear period with cool nights, star cover above us and a gentle breeze.
At this moment, Elie is out there, somewhere. To test him, they have taken him far from his base. He's learned much about terrain and tracking and navigation in the last few months. By now, his base and the mountains that surround it are well known to him. He thinks he could almost find his way with his eyes closed. And so, for this last night of tracking, they are taking him far from that base, to a location he has only been to once before and a trail that is unknown and new to him. No doubt he is dressed warmly - but yes, I'm concerned about him being cold. He will have rested over the Sabbath on base - but yes, I'm worried about him being tired.
This time, Elie challenges the desert without a map in a new area - and yes, despite having faith in him, I'm scared he'll get lost. The rational part of me knows that he can be in contact with the army via the communication equipment he carries with him; that he isn't alone and that he has excelled in finding all the points the army has tasked him with finding so far. And, according to what he has told me, faster than most others in his group. Others have sometimes found only two points, he consistently has found all three.
He's good. He's strong. He's rational. He's calm and he's determined. He's warm. He's fed. He's rested. He's armed.
And me...I'm nervous and a bit scared. I'm feeling lonely, thinking of him out there in the dark. Yes, he has a flashlight if he needs it but that requires the mind to think when the heart only knows it is dark outside. In short, I'm being...perhaps not irrational, but most definitely a mother.
Tomorrow, he probably won't even think to call me to tell me how it went. In his mind, it will never occur to him that I'm even sitting here wondering and perhaps worrying just a little. They don't have a clue, and it's better that way. Their minds need to be clear to focus on learning all that the army teaches them. It could save their lives and the lives of the men they may command in the future. By the time he comes home next weekend, I'll probably remember to ask him how it went, and he'll likely say "fine" or "no problem" or "it was easy." And it will all be dismissed as yet another part of his training.
He's good. He's strong. He knows what he is doing - the army has trained him well to find himself, his location, his goal. It's a circle, a balance - Elie will do what he must...and I'll do what I have to and if not for my writing these words, no one would ever know that there was a moment that I worried, that I hesitated, that I was pre-occupied.
Apparently tonight, I have to walk around with this uneasy feeling inside my heart, wishing I could know now that he was safe and warm and back on base. In some ways, perhaps this evening is a test for me too. In a few weeks, Elie will leave the Commanders Course and all his training behind.
The options for the next phase in his army life are varied. If the army assigns him to train a group of incoming soldiers, I'll know where he is and what he is doing for much of the next four months. If they assign him to another task, I may not know at all. Either way, whether now, in four months, or at some point in the future, like tonight, there will be times when I won't know exactly where he is.
My friend's son is in an elite fighting unit. She knows nothing of where her son is and what he is doing for much of his time in the army. Perhaps this is how it begins - one night at a time. Tonight, I do not know where he is. I know only that he is out there, somewhere. Tonight, I have the luxury of knowing that he is "only" challenging the elements and that the army is right there watching over him, protecting him by knowing where he started, where he is heading. Perhaps the really frightening part is knowing that what he is really doing is preparing himself for the time when the army will send him out for real.