In the last two weeks or so, I have been approached by several journalists (and those claiming to be journalists), who want to hear about Elie, an Israeli soldier involved in this war, and his mother, who is writing about it, often in "real-time."
I've considered which ones to answer because really, my focus isn't on convincing the journalists of the world. They are, all too often, more interested in their personal agenda than in reality. They want "the" story; "the" picture and they'll step on or over anything and anyone to get it.
There are great pictures in Gaza for journalists. All that rubble; all that blood. That the blood comes from a terrorist who has just fired a rocket towards one million people is not their concern. Now, if the rocket were to actually HIT a good portion of those one million, we'd have more blood on our side, and so the journalists would, for the most part, leave the man lying in a pool of his blood and run to our side of the fence to take pictures.
A woman huddled in a bomb shelter with her arms carefully, desperately holding her children to her as she waits those horribly long seconds to see if she can hear the explosion doesn't rate, even if it has happened thousands of times in the last few years. So, knowing this as I do, I listen, I read, I research, before I answer a journalist's questions.
About a week ago, Faisal Assegaf contacted me. His email subject said, "friendship greeting from JAKARTA" and told me he was a journalist. You ever have this feeling that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, fishy near the coast of Finland, or implausible in Indonesia?
So, I decided to play it safe and asked Faisal to send me his questions in an email - we'd conduct the interview in writing...or not. Faisal was quick to respond with some interesting questions and after reading them, I was left with one question...
How stupid, Mr. Faisal Assegaf, author of a blog called HamasLovers, do you think I am?
The danger and the wonder of the Internet is that you cannot hide nearly as easily as you think. It wasn't hard, once I'd discovered Faisal's blog, to understand that his questions were certainly not innocent.
Here are his questions...and the answers I would have offered him, had I thought he was worth the effort. The colors below are mine (red to indicate his questions, black to indicate my responses. The spelling mistakes and incorrect grammar...those are all Faisal's.
1 Can u tell me wahat is the full name of Elie, how old is he, and since when he took military service?
I would prefer that you refer to Elie only by his first name. This is a common practice in Israel and especially wise given the internationally recognized problems of sharing too much identification information on the web. Since this was accepted by the New York Times and other journalists who have shown an interest in my blog, I assume this is acceptable. Furthermore, as it is likely you are considering Elie typical of most soldiers, nothing else is needed.
2 In what unit Elie has been deploying? and since when?
Hmmm....now why would a journalist need this information? (a.k.a. - there you go thinking we are stupid again)
Elie is 21 years old (read the blog). He entered the army when he was 19 years old (read the blog). As mentioned in the blog, Elie is in artillery.
More than that would probably not be smart to divulge and more importantly, Elie's story is really the story of every Israeli soldier. His exact unit or task is not nearly as important as the fact that he has a mother who adores him, sisters and brothers who are worried about him, and a father who prays for his son's return as quickly as possible.
3 When did u know Elie will be deployed in war zone? How was ur reaction?
Elie called me last Thursday night to tell me that his unit had taken up positions within the "war zone." It's a silly thing to call it because really, over 1 million Israelis live in this "war zone" and have had to deal with daily rocket fire, but that's where Elie is now as well.
My reaction when he told me he was there was predictable. I told him that I loved him, told him to be careful. I said goodbye, closed the phone, and then started to cry.
4 Before leaving to war zone, did u make farewell party for him? Did u spent all the night before he went?
A farewell party? What kind of a society do you come from?
There is no celebration for Israel in going to war. We've never handed out candies when our enemies die - as the Palestinians did on 9/11 and as they do regularly when there is a suicide bomb attack, so no, I never considered celebrating the fact that my son was going off to war. Elie was on another base before he was moved to the war zone and so we did not spend the evening together. The weekend before, we had all been together and, as always happens when Elie is home, I just relax and enjoy having him home. On Friday night, after lighting the Sabbath candles, I watched my husband bless his children. The last part of the blessing asks God to grant the child "peace." It's an especially important prayer you offer a son who is a soldier and I always feel very touched to watch my husband bless his son this way.
5 What kind of Elie's personal thing that he brought to the war zone?
I have no idea what Elie brought with him to the war zone. I'm sure he brought his prayer book and his tefillin (phylacteries that are used to pray every morning). Beyond that, I don't know what he took.
6 Can u tell me where and what Elie's duty in the war?
Maybe you want me to ask the Chief of Staff to send you the war plans? Sheesh...
No, I can't tell you where Elie is now. First, because I don't know, I didn't ask him and second, it would not be at all smart to release such details.
Same answer regarding what task he does. Again, the specifics are not really what is important. What I would say is that Elie does what every Israeli soldier does - he defends his country.
7 Can u tell me, what Elie did in his relaxed time during the war? How often he call u? And what usually he asked from u?
From what I can tell, Elie has had no time to relax during this war. He keeps his phone closed to save the battery. He asks nothing, sends his love to his family, and does what he can to fulfill our goal of ending the rocket fire on our civilian population.
8 Did Elie say u have to be ready for getting bad news about him? What u and ur family do for Elie's safety during the war?
Why would Elie suggest that we would hear bad news about him? What a strange thing to ask a mother. Hmmmmm.......
Elie didn't really have time to tell me too much and again, I didn't ask. While the Israeli army isn't happy to go to war, much of Israel is just hoping that after eight years and 10,000 rockets and mortars, we can finally achieve quiet for our people. The only thing we can do for Elie during this war is pray and try to help others understand. This is not a war of our choosing. The Palestinians chose to fire on our civilian populations. They have been firing rockets and mortars for months and years. No country in the world would have accepted what we have for so long.
9 Has Elie got married?
No, Elie is not married. (read the blog)
Don,t forget to send me Elie's picture in military uniform. By the way, how old r u Mrs Paula. I would like to thank so much for ur complete answers. Please give me too Elie's mobile number.
I don't take many pictures of Elie in his uniform and our western cultures allow women to withhold their age. He's my son and when he comes home from the army, the first thing he does is take off his uniform.
I can't give you Elie's phone number (duh...) for several reasons:
1. I wouldn't want anyone to be able to trace his location.
2. His phone is off now and will stay off as much as he needs so that he can conserve the battery.
3. It isn't his place to speak to the media. He is, after all, a young man in the middle of war for the first time in his life. He's dealing with enough.
I did look at his site. It is with great pleasure that I tell you it is in Indonesian - thus most of the world will find it as inaccessible as it is irrelevant. I had sections translated - they are as filled with hatred as I would expect a site proclaiming its love of Hamas to be.