I guess I need to clarify some things so that people understand a few key points:
1. Elie's name isn't really Elie. I mean, that's what we call him...but that's like his nickname. Like calling someone Betsy when her name is...something else. So, it's no military secret that his name is Elie...and, on top of that, Elie is a pretty popular name in Hebrew. Oh, and it's a shortened version of his name - not even his full name.
2. Artillery means shooting a missile or rocket quite some distance. Israeli artillery is quite precise. The artillery that Hamas is shooting at us...is quite not precise.
3. Because artillery is shot long distances (no, I won't tell you how many kilometers), artillery units are positioned behind the front line. During the Second Lebanon War, Israeli artillery units never even entered Lebanon.
4. Gaza is a small strip of land bordered by Israel on one side, the Egyptians on the other, and the Mediterranean Sea as well. It is, by the way, not the "most crowded place on earth," though many Palestinians have tried to claim this in recent days. It is crowded...but there are many areas of wide open space - I was there and have pictures. That the Arabs choose not to develop these areas is another matter.
5. The Palestinians love to refer to refugee camps...why, almost three years after Israel completely withdrew from Gaza...do the Gazans keep their people in refugee camps? And, while we are asking questions...where DID the 10 billion Euros donated to the Palestinians in the last decade or so go?
6. Most important to the readers of this blog (and to me), is that Elie isn't IN Gaza. He is positioned...no, I won't say where...but NOT in Gaza itself. Since Elie isn't in Gaza...I don't really have to worry about some Arab who has been reading my blog, recognizing Elie and ... I don't know what.
7. If Hamas wants to know where Israel's artillery units are...they probably just have to stand on a roof and look. They don't need to read my blog (though again, I haven't mentioned where Elie is...other than that he is "south" ... that's kind of common sense if you look at a map, and ... outside of Gaza...which the Palestinians know as well).
6. Soldiers going INTO Gaza, do not take their cellphones. Elie's cellphone and other cellphones are typically off. Even if they were on - the thing about this war is that it is being fought amid populations. What you have to understand is that Israel is a world-leader in cellular telecommunications technology. We know what they know...and what they do not.
Remember the terrorist leader who was blown up as he talked on his phone? Every Israeli soldier understands that what he says, where he is, etc. can and is probably being heard in Gaza. But at this time, the chances of anyone tracing Elie via his phone is a bit unlikely...ok, not just "a bit."
Elie, for all that he is so incredibly important to us...is not important to Israel's war effort above any other soldier. He is, as so many have written, very much "an" Israeli soldier.
I started this blog for me - I needed a place to write down all the stuff filling my head so I wouldn't drive Elie crazy. At some point, I began to live with the army as part of our lives; I accepted it...and in many ways, it accepted me. The army has been very good for my son and to my son. If you read back through this blog, you'll see how far Elie and I have come on this journey.
I'd settled into a good place, a couple of months back. Elie was good, coming home often, and things were relatively predictable. During this time, the blog became a way to explain Israel to many people who only hear about Israel as a place where a bus explodes or whatever buzz words are associated with my country. I sort of knew at the time that it couldn't last, but I enjoyed this period of time where things were "relatively" calm.
But the situation in the south wasn't calm - Hamas continued to do two critical things: first, they continued to fire rockets occasionally and second, they continued to dig tunnels deep under the ground. These tunnels are used for smuggling - drugs, weapons, women...and in the past, have been used to attack and kidnap a soldier.
So, Israel found a tunnel that was already inside its territory. Knowing that it made our soldiers vulnerable to another kidnapping attack, Israel destroyed the tunnel (and the house that was sitting on top of it). Its occupants knew about that tunnel, and had let Hamas dig this tunnel inside their house, a few hundred meters away from Israel. The tunnel...and the house...are no more. Hamas said we violated the "relative calm" when we destroyed the tunnel. See, apparently in the small print of the agreement, it didn't specifically say Hamas couldn't PREPARE to attack. Hamas used the "excuse" (that WE had broken the truce) to begin firing dozens of rockets at Israel.
Elie called me one day, weeks ago, and told me that it looked like he would be ordered down near Gaza. Almost immediately, the order was rescinded. Israel did not want to appear to be escalating things by sending artillery near Gaza. Through all known channels, we asked Hamas to stop. We told them what we would do if they didn't, and ultimately, when Hamas continued to fire rockets at our cities, in ever-widening circles, we went to war.
Hamas didn't care about the escalation, but Israel does. We had arrived at a point, long past the point, actually, where our residents simply can't take it any more. And so, as Elie was moved to where he is now, the blog returned to its roots, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that the two branches merged.
I draw tremendous comfort, first simply by writing. It's an amazing thing I learned long ago about words and writing. When you put your greatest fears on paper (ok, on the computer screen), they don't seem nearly as imposing as they are when they are in your head. I write to stop myself from calling Elie, from driving down there and pulling him into the car with me and driving away. Secondly, I feel that I am explaining to others a world so different from the one they know. There are mothers of other Israeli soldiers who read my words and think - yes, that's what I feel too, and there are mothers of American soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere who read and say, yes, me too.
What I can tell you, what I have to tell you, is that Israel is an amazing country. Small, but so incredibly beautiful. Its people are warm and giving. I went to an evening program tonight - it was an evening of song and prayer because even in times such as these, we seek light and blessings. It began with a prayer for the State of Israel. It continued with a special prayer for our soldiers. Then, the entire book of Psalms was read - split among all the women in the room. And then a special prayer asking for the speedy recovery of the injured was recited and women called out the names of soldiers who have been wounded.
All the money from tonight's event was donated to offering events for the residents of the south. For the last few days, the organization has been bringing busloads of mothers and children out of the rocket zone and taking them to the zoo. Such a simple day, and yet the mothers are brought to tears as they explain that their children have barely been out of the house for the last two weeks.
It reminded me of what happened yesterday...and what I have, amazingly, been unable to write about yet. I'll do that next. But to return to the point, I am trying, with whatever part of my brain isn't focused on Elie, work, family, my son's upcoming bar mitzvah, and whatever else I have distracting me, to show so many people what my country is like.
This is hard at a time when the United Nations passes yet another anti-Israel motion. We have the distinct honor of having THE most resolutions against our country. We are, according to the UN, worse than the Libyans, the Syrians, the Iranians, Saddam Hussein, and likely Adolf Hitler. Israel, and Israel alone, is condemned on a regular basis. You could probably set your clock to how often this happens. And so it is little wonder that we were condemned again.
The funny part is that the United Nations voted for a ceasefire...I didn't actually know that they were firing at anyone (or that anyone was firing at the United Nations)...but I'm glad at least their war is over. Ours is not.
I didn't know what war was like in such a personal way before this. I didn't know what it was like to walk around with this lump inside that amazingly enough produces tears at completely absurd times of the day, without warning and sometimes without cause. A song, a question, anything can bring it on. So this blog has also returned to providing me a place to write. I can't reach Elie enough to actually drive him crazy, but writing soothes and so I write.
So, as a final word for this post - let me assure you all that there is nothing on this blog that our enemies do not know...other than how to show compassion for their own people, and ours.