I spoke to Elie this morning, after seeing him for a few brief moments yesterday and that was what he told me, "Ima, the guys say thanks." That brought a smile to my face, one that may well last me through the day.
I had to go to my client in Netanya yesterday and so I asked Elie if he wanted anything. He had forgotten his PSP (Personal/Portable whatever Sony PlayStation) and asked if I could bring that...and some frozen ice tea.
"Do you want some cookies or brownies?" I asked, calculating if I had enough or had to start baking a new batch.
"Sure," he said.
"What about Doritos? I have an unopened bag."
"No," he said, "that's ok. Could you bring another bottle of ice tea; the one with the green cap?"
So, I popped two bottles of ice tea into my freezer, checked the cookie/brownie supply, and put his PSP into the bag for the next morning. I had to go to the post office before leaving for Netanya, and as I passed the bakery in the mall, I remembered how much Elie likes a particular pastry.
So...I got a bag of those. Then I thought of the other guys there, and pulled another bag from the shelf and filled that with a variety of other pastries. They looked really good. It's a long drive to Netanya, a long day sitting in front of that computer, a long drive home. I took another bag and popped in three more of Elie's favorites (which became Elie's favorites after he stole them from me...because they are mine too) for me.
I got to the checkpoint, handed Elie the bag with the PSP, the brownies/cookies and the ice tea. Then I handed him the bag with his pastries in it. He opened it right away and smiled, "wow."
Then I took the second bag and said, "these are to share with the others here." He smiled, I gave and got my quick "Ima-I'm-in-front-of-the-guys" peck on the cheek and left to return to the main highway, first driving through a smaller secondary checkpoint that leads back past Elie's base before circling around to the highway. Traffic through this checkpoint is mostly restricted to those coming to and from the base, and those going to the nearby town. Others are questioned and either let through or not. Elie called ahead this time, as he did last time - my mother, gold-colored Honda Civic, let her through.
As I approached the small checkpoint, I unrolled the window, took my last bag of three pastries and handed it to the soldiers who were sitting there, "it's ok," I told them, "I'm Elie's mother."
They took the bag, but I wasn't sure they'd eat the pastries. I called Elie, "call them and tell they can eat the pastries."
So, today, Elie sent me their thanks. There are many types of pastries in Israel - hundreds, perhaps more. There are also "burekos". I don't know if that is a Hebrew name or not - it's a dough-covered pastry containing potatoes (if they are square), mushroom (if they are thick, small triangles), cheese (longer, bigger triangles), or spinach (circles).
The pastries I handed to the soldiers were triangles, thick and small. One thought it was mushroom until he bit into it and was happy to find that this one was filled with sweet chocolate that oozes into your mouth as you bite it. It's a surprise when you expect the non-sweet (but still tasty) mushroom mixture.
"Ima, the guys say thanks," Elie told me, and so the smile. There really is so little we can do for them.
Another thought crossed my mind - this morning, as I often do, I drove my elderly neighbor to the synagogue on my way to driving my younger daughter to school. It doesn't even count as a favor because the only "special" part I am doing is pulling the car to the side of the road. I signaled him when I saw him come out of his house, ready to make the long walk up the hill. My daughter had not yet come out of the house, so I explained that I had to wait for her, but would be happy to drive him after that.
He smiled, thanked me, and told me that my daughter often comes to visit his wife. This was the first that I had heard of this. Drawn in by their young granddaughter (my 8-year-old loves babies), my daughter has visited and sat with this man's wife a few times. I asked my daughter about it after my neighbor left the car and my daughter confirmed that she'd gone there to visit.
"She gave me melon," Aliza explained. I felt a quiet sense of gratitude that at some point when Aliza must have needed to reach out or have some conversation, this woman cared enough to sit with her and treat her to some melon and a drink.
That's what I did for the soldiers - I gave them a small treat. They probably won't tell their mothers (as Aliza didn't tell me), but it was a moment that gave them pleasure. Thinking of the soldiers biting into the chocolate pastry and suddenly realizing the joy of that bite makes me smile. It is very much what Israel is all about - you do for my son, I'll do for yours.
I'll pass through a checkpoint and wish your son a Shabbat Shalom (a peaceful sabbath) and, if you can, please wish Elie a shabbat shalom for me.
Shabbat shalom to all the soldiers of Israel - this week and every week. May your days be filled with safety...and chocolate pastries that make you smile. You are most welcome for the pastries, and thank YOU for all you do.