Last night we went to visit my parents. They moved to Israel several years ago. I envy them many things (retirement that lets them sleep in the afternoons sometimes, freedoms that come with age, and the joys of knowing your children are settled and safe, and most of all, watching your children's children grow), and I don't envy them having to live in one country knowing that some (or one) of your children (and grandchildren) live far away.
At first it was them on that side of the world and us here; now it is them here with us and my brother and his family there. So, feeling that they needed this visit as much as Elie, we packed into the car and went to visit them last night. Elie and his two younger siblings and I.
My mother made us dinner, including a salad. The salad contained the dreaded tomato, the bane of every child's existence, it often seems. I told my youngest son to eat his tomatoes. I told my oldest son to eat his tomatoes. And suddenly, Elie and his youngest brother began trading tomatoes. More accurately, each tried to dump his tomatoes in the other's salad bowl.
This is a soldier, I thought to myself as I watched Elie dump three tomatoes. He'll never win, I thought of my younger son as he tried to slip two tomatoes into Elie's bowl. This is a man with a gun sitting in the corner of the room, I thought as I watched Elie block his younger brother and slip another tomato into Davidi's bowl.
There was, as there often is with a soldier at the table, talk of war and missiles and planes. We talked about Syria and Iran. Elie knows no more than most Israeli soldiers, or possibly Israelis in general, and yet he lives and breathes the army environment and so we listen when he gives his opinion. Will Israel attack Iran? How strong is the Egyptian army? The Syrian army? It was a brief conversation mixed in among talk of checkpoints and questions about his siblings and discussions of other family members.
My mother stepped in and settled the tomato conflict by accepting everyone's tomatoes. Elie was laughing. His brother was laughing.
These are some of the most precious of moments life has to offer.