Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rockets to the North; Rockets to the South

It was a wonderful Shabbat though Elie wasn't home. It was one of those great days where the weather is miserable (thank God) and so you don't mind staying home...and you don't even feel guilty. It rained. It stormed. It poured. We need the rain so badly. At some point in the morning, just as my middle son was about to leave for the synagogue, his phone beeped.

I asked him who would be calling on the Sabbath and he told me it was a message coming in. A few minutes later, my phone beeped as well. I'm calmer; Elie is in the north not in a war zone. We've been getting hit by a rocket-a-day for a few weeks now and I assumed that was the message.

Later, after the Sabbath ended, I checked the news. Two rockets hit Ashkelon; a school was damaged. Rockets hit several other places as well. About 90 rockets have hit Israel in the last month since the "cease-fire" was declared. We are back to the world ignoring these attacks. It isn't so bad, is the message they are sending Hamas. We'll tolerate one or two or three long as you don't hit anything major or hurt too many people at any one time.

Great - great message.

Last week, rockets were found in Lebanon (again). Hezbollah announced today that they are now ready for war. Wonderful.

Iran is announcing that their nuclear plant is ready to come on line...another wonderful bit of news. It's like Israel is a giant pressure-cooker and someone is putting up the pressure bit by bit. Where this all likely another round of war. When is anyone's guess. Whether Gaza will blow up before Lebanon...or Lebanon before Gaza; isn't known yet.

Elie isn't concerned; he feels that Israel can handle both Hezbollah and Hamas. It is the difference between being the mother and the child; a woman in her middle years versus a boy on the brink of manhood or perhaps a man, still hovering just past the edge of his boyhood. Either way, there is a confidence in the soldier that the mother of the soldier cannot feel. They handled Hamas as it needed to be handled; they will handle Hezbollah this time the way it should have been done...and yes, had it been done properly a few years ago, this past round with Gaza and this next round with Lebanon might not have been necessary.

But it leads me to another thing. The last time Elie was home, or perhaps the time before that, he showed me the pins he has received and a change. He was given a pin after he completed his training. When his commanding officer, Or, went to give Elie his pin, he did something amazing. It is a tradition that the commanding officer picks one soldier and rather than simply give him a pin, the officer removes his pin and exchanges it with this "special" soldier (see Exchanging Pins). So, for the last year or so, Elie has worn Or's pin and it has become his.

After returning home from the war, Elie and his fellow soldiers followed another tradition. They outlined the edges of the pin in red. This means they have seen combat; it is a rite of passage too many of our soldiers pass through. I was thinking about the red color and so many thoughts came to mind. Red is the color of blood; but it is also the color that stands out most prominently. From the red pens we use to emphasize; to the red lights that alert us to stop; to the Code Red that sounded today in some of Israel's southern cities - red is a color that demands we pay attention.

Elie now wears the emblem marking his participation in war - he and the latest generation of soldiers with little hope that he will be the last. It is a sad and sobering thought. The world ignored thousands of rockets fired against Israel. Israel went to war and when the Palestinians cried out that Israel was unfairly attacking them, even the Egyptians answered them with disdain. What did you think was going to happen, the Egyptians and others asked?

It was so obvious...just as it likely will be again. Last week, Israel was hit by rockets from the north and from the south. Tomorrow, many children in Ashkelon will not go to school. What will Israel do? The answer, if the rockets continue, may well come in the form of another decisive act by Israel. The world can avoid this...or it can continue to be silent.

A school was hit today - thankfully because it was the Sabbath, no children were inside. Tomorrow, if the same thing happens, we may not be so blessed.

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