Friday, May 22, 2009

400 Posts, Two Years as A Soldier's Mother

I just looked at the control panel (dashboard) of the Blogger platform on which I write these posts and it says that this is the 400th post. It's been a bit over two years, it is Erev Shabbat (Friday afternoon, the eve of the Sabbath). Elie is on base this weekend and will be commanding the operation of a checkpoint "somewhere" in central Israel.

Next week, he'll be home. It's a quiet Shabbat with my three older children away and just the two younger ones at home. We are invited to friends tonight and so I took the lazy way out for tomorrow lunch and just bought various deli meats and some salads for a "fancy" sandwich lunch for everyone after we return from the synagogue.

Shabbat is fast approaching but because I didn't cook, it is missing the smells of the soup simmering, the chicken roasting, etc. and yet, it still feels like the quiet is coming, peace is just a few hours away.

When I wrote my first few posts, I was not yet a soldier's mother - but a woman living in Israel facing the arrival of a reality she had chosen to all but ignore for years. I knew from the time I landed in Israel, almost 16 years ago, that my sons, first Elie and then the others, would join the army. I had no illusions that there would be peace around the door and no need for my son to serve. In that, I was perhaps more realistic than some of my Israeli friends who said they believed that when they served, they did so in part so that their children would not have to. Now, as they become mothers of soldiers, they wonder how it is possible.

In those first posts, I didn't know what was to come and in some ways, perhaps most ways, the fear was so much worse than the reality. I have watched and continued to watch as my son grows into a man who brings me great pride and honor. So many traits that he has developed and intensified - not just those you would expect - his sense of leadership, physical capabilities, strength and endurance, but even more - his sense of patience, his sense of humor. He is more aware of the world around him and the history of our land and region than he ever was before.

So, on my 400th post as A Soldier's Mother, I'd like to do two things. One, I do very often - that is to wish you all, and all of us, a peaceful and quiet Shabbat. And the second thing, is I'd like to offer my gratitude to the army of Israel, not just for the training you give to our soldiers, but for the care you give them as human beings, the gifts certainly, but the trust, the faith, and the pride you give them. All this will go with Elie all the days of his life and through Elie and my other sons, through me, all the days of my life.

Each week in the synagogue, we say a prayer for the soldiers. There are two in our synagogue who choose not to stand for this prayer, while all others do. They are angry about past actions the army has taken, and so take their anger out on today's soldiers by refusing to give their support for this important prayer. I watched them in anger at one point, wondering if one who has not yet had a son in the army will still sit when it is his son's turn to sit on a border and protect our nation. The second has lost a son, killed accidentally by the army in a case of mistaken identity. His anger I can understand, though I believe it too is misdirected.

But each week, I listen and I stand - for Elie and for all the soldiers. The army has made mistakes in the past and will likely make mistakes in the future. No doubt one of its worst mistakes was in allowing itself to be used by the government for purposes beyond which an army was designed. But this has nothing to do with Elie and most of the soldiers who today serve in the standing army.

More than any other arm of the government or establishment, I believe the army has learned from past mistakes. It has to learn, and it does. It learned from the mistakes it made in Lebanon and so fought the Gaza War accurately and effectively, and it learned how to take boys and find within them the sparks they use to turn them into amazing men. This is what I never imagined two years ago...that Elie would have found a sense of justice, of balance, of maturity.

So another week ends with Elie in the army. He's on patrol - no time to wish him a good Sabbath, so I'll wish it for all of us instead. Shabbat Shalom, Israel.

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