Elie came home for a nice long weekend, spending all day Thursday through Monday morning with us. There were many discussions that I'll have to organize and write about, but for now, I want to write about where Elie is.
Sometime on Sunday, Elie's commanding officer called and told him that the army had pulled another shift and so, for the next 7 days after they return, his unit (and a few related ones), would be guarding a large base. Instead of the next group going home on Wednesday (as Elie came home last Wednesday), they would have to stay until the following Sunday (meaning that they miss being home for the weekend/Sabbath).
They will be off from Monday to Friday. The next group, that was supposed to be leaving on Wednesday, will leave on the same bus that brings these boys back to base early Friday morning. That second group will return Wednesday morning, meaning Elie will again have this wonderful Thursday - Monday break.
Why the change? Only the army knows. Mainly, their task will be guard duty within the base and its surroundings. Tedious, ordinary, and round the clock.
Where was this base that Elie would be guarding? "Near Jerusalem," he was told, along with the name of the base. We looked on the Internet and the nearest match was somewhere up north.
"That can't be it," I told Elie, "and how will you get there by 9:00 Monday morning?"
"They don't know what they are talking about," Elie told me, "I'll call him back."
As Elie said, the commanding officer didn't know more and so he instructed Elie to be back on base by 8:30 a.m. to travel with the army bus. Even getting to his base at 8:30 a.m. would be difficult, and so I calculated that I had time to do the round trip and still get back for my last class of the current course I'm teaching.
A few hours later, Elie called.
"Guess where I am," he said.
"Ok, I give up. Where?" I responded.
Well, it turns out that the commander was half right in the name, but that half changed the location significantly. In the end, for this week, Elie will be about 10 minutes away. I can actually see part of the base on a distant hill. Despite wasting the better part of three hours driving to his base and back to here, Elie still found humor. If only he had understood; if only the commander had used the name of the base that is known around here. I can't complain though - I enjoyed the conversation, the time, the trip.
Years ago, we lived in a different location. When we moved here, my friends from "there" said, "aren't you scared to live there?" and my friends from here said, "well, no wonder you moved here, weren't you scared to live there?"
On the general scale of checkpoints and locations, Elie is in a relatively secure location during this rotation. Having him so close to home now, on a base that I have passed regularly and seen from my window is so calming. It isn't as good as having him home, but it's nice to feel him close by.
Tomorrow, I'll drive over there and say hello and bring him a few things he forgot. I offered to bring him a hamburger from his favorite restaurant, but he told me they had just ordered from there the night before.
Wave, Elie! And be careful.