Elie came home today and since he was arriving in Jerusalem around the time I was finishing work, I picked him up and we agreed to drive straight down to the mall to do a quick errand. On the way down, we spoke of many things, including the ever present rocket attacks against Israel. Twenty over the weekend, another seven today.
"The government is stupid," said my son. Hard to disagree. What other country would put up with these daily attacks?
"They don't know what to do. They'll have to do something," I responded.
"Ima, they went to the High Court and it ruled they can't use artillery. What country asks the High Court if they can use their artillery against an enemy who's firing rockets AT them?"
Well, he's got me there. Of course, the High Court ruled that they can't use artillery and so Elie is stationed far away from where the rockets are hitting.
"Maybe they'll send in ground forces," I offered.
"They'll have to send in ground forces, but first they need the artillery. Or, if the ground forces get in trouble, they'll need the artillery there too."
"Well," I said, trying to think like the government, "maybe the artillery is there. Waiting."
And then he said it, with the most wonderful tone filled with irony and frustration that I wish words could portray, "HELLO??? Ima, I'M the artillery and we aren't there." Had he not been driving, I have little doubt that he would have been waving his hand vigorously as he said the HELLO part!
So, my son knows how to stop the rocket attacks that send our civilians running for cover. It's actually a lot less complicated than it seems. Our civilians hear the "Red Dawn" siren and know they have 15 seconds to find cover because someone in Gaza has fired a rocket or mortar. They run, as this thing flies through the air. Sometimes, it will land in Gaza; sometimes in open fields. Sometimes it will land next to a house and blow out the windows. More than once it has landed in a school yard, once killing a small boy - the dream child his parents had waited more than a decade to conceive. Sometimes, all the time, it terrorizes the mothers and the children. Grandparents tell their families not to visit them and teachers worry about letting the kids play outside.
All of this is an affront to the soldiers of Israel who take it as their responsibility to protect the nation.
HELLO??? My son said in frustration to his government. In a democracy, the army is a tool of the government and no matter how much it wants to act, it must wait for the orders of the politicians. Well, today Israel was hit by seven rockets. Yesterday and the day before as well. Once again, children go to school in fear and mothers don't let their children play too far from their homes.
Stop and look at a clock - watch the second hand race forward and count off 15 seconds. How far can you run in that time? Where would the rocket catch you? Imagine walking down the street doing your shopping while also calculating safe spots, "I need to buy milk today -oh, and there's a good place to hide." How can anyone live this way? And how can any soldier not feel that he is failing his people when they must think this way?
No, I don't want my son involved in war and I don't want him firing artillery into Gaza, but I don't want Israelis in Sderot and Ashkelon living in terror and I don't want the army of Israel to believe it cannot fulfill its most basic directive - to protect.
My son's unit is waiting for the orders to do the job they were trained to do. All Elie needs the government to do is deliver his message, "I'M the artillery." Stop the rockets, he wants to say to the government, by showing our enemies that we are ready to use our army. Stop the rockets, and the artillery won't be used. Or, fire on our civilians, and the artillery and ground forces will have to move closer. It is their job, to protect, so that no mother has to wonder if her child is more than 15 seconds from shelter.
"HELLO???? I'M the artillery," my son told me today. If only the government would listen.