Like most young men his age, Elie loves gadgets and electronic devices, cars, computers. Like his father, he is a master of the mechanical, quick to fix things, figure out how they tick. As his room fills with the new "toys" of his age, the boy's things are handed down to his 12 year old brother. The broken cars, pieces of cherished toys that I would throw in the garbage become a rite of passage.
Elie got in my car in Haifa after somehow guiding me to the location to pick him up last week. Getting out was almost as confusing as finding him in the first place, and so he quickly turned to Jason, our family GPS. Jason is the narrator with the American voice, as opposed to Thomas who announces distances to roundabouts in a heavy British accent that we find difficult to take seriously.
Both are continually confounded with new roads and need to perform a "route recalculation" at regular intervals and sound extremely strained when "GPS signal is lost." I, a technical writer for more than a decade (and, with all modesty, I have to admit I'm respected in my field here in Israel), have yet to read the manual. I figure it's part of being in Israel, this getting lost or challenged with new roads and directions and take it with as much humor as I can. Thus, Jason and his friends become a way to keep the kids occupied while I try to figure out where we should be going. During daylight, I try the oldest of all methods - if the sun is there....we should be...oh.
When in Tel Aviv or near the coast, the Mediterranean is my friend - I want to head to the left when facing the sea, until it should be to my back. It may not be neat, but it works. Coming back from Haifa, Elie took Jason out and began pressing the touchpad. He enjoys telling me how inaccurate Jason is, compared to the GPS units the army has trained him to use. HE wouldn't get lost, is the message that comes through loud and clear. Yes, my love, you wouldn't, but I don't care because I'm not in a rush to do much but spend time with you anyway, so who cares? No, that won't work with Elie, so I duly make the left turn and right turn until we figure out where we are.
The GPS is a grownup toy, or so Elie would have you believe. But mid-way on the way home last week, Elie asked me about a PSP. I'd never heard about such a thing, but Elie has. He doesn't ask for much and I'll probably order it and ask his aunt or uncle to bring it with them when they come for the holidays.
It seems it is the latest version of a PlayStation - hand-held device more sophisticated than a GameBoy. You order games (you can even show movies on it or play music), but it was the games that interested Elie. One of his jobs as a commander is to monitor the radio for certain periods of time to be aware of what is happening all around and be ready to order troops into action if necessary. You can do anything, Elie said, except put earphones on or go to sleep. A hand-help gaming device is perfect. It requires little real concentration, but helps pass the time.
But even more, what it means is that inside this mature young man the army has helped shape, is the boy I gave them. They can give him a gun, dress him in a uniform, teach him all sorts of things and give him a disciplined, ordered existence, but deep down, there he is - my Elie, who loves all these gadgets and games and whirling, spinning, racing, flying things.