Elie told me that some time this week (and probably today) he was going to have to go to the Jordan Valley for some reason (related to the army). For those unaware of the geography of Israel, the Jordan Valley is the land on our eastern border with Jordan. We have a line of mountains on our side; the Jordanians have a line of mountains on their side, and between these two lines of mountains, lies the Jordan Valley. Much of it is desert, inhabited by Jews and Arabs who live in one of the dustiest, driest, hottest places in Israel. It is also physically, one of the lowest places on earth (the absolute lowest point is the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley begins its climb somewhere between the Sea of Galilee and the northern border of the Judean Desert (which essentially touches the northern and western sides of the Dead Sea)...got all that?
The bottom line here, is that Elie is currently "on assignment" close to the eastern most border of Israel. For the last few weeks and for the next few months (unless there is another war with Gaza or Syria or Hizbollah), Elie is stationed in what we call the Gush Dan area: Gush" in Hebrew refers to a group or a block; Dan refers to the descendants of Jacob's son Dan.
I love this reference - it means he is currently in the area that once, long long ago, was inhabited by the tribe of Dan, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. That is so very much Israel - even today, thousands of years after the tribes of Israel returned from slavery in Egypt and settled our ancient homeland, we know what areas we live in. So, Tel Aviv and many of Israel's most populated areas are called Gush Dan and Elie is stationed near there.
However, for some purpose, the army sent him to the Jordan valley today (or yesterday through this morning). He explained this to me a few days ago and even last night when we spoke briefly.
This morning I turned the radio on to hear the 8:00 a.m. news. The first item was that two soldiers had been wounded near Kalkilya. According to the news, a Palestinian Authority policeman fired and injured two soldiers during the night. The soldiers returned fire, hitting the PA officer. Amazingly enough, as soon as the scene was secure, Israel offered to transport the Palestinian policeman to one of our hospitals for treatment. Currently, the news is suggesting it was a case of mistaken identity rather than a deliberate attack.
The clarifications didn't do much to calm me. Two soldiers...lightly wounded. Elie would have called. Yes, but mothers don't use logic in this case and so I called and Elie answered right away. He sounded fine; I said I was worried and wanted to check if he was okay.
"Why?" he asked.
I told him what had happened. "When? Where?" he asked.
"Don't you know?" I asked back.
"Ima, I'm in the Beka'a [Jordan Valley], remember I told you?"
Like a balloon deflating, the fear drained away. Right. He told me. Yes.
"What happened?" Elie asked again and so I told him the little that I knew. We said goodbye and I'm sure Elie went off to check what had happened. I drove to work, marveling yet again how emotions can soar and fear take over, often without cause, simply with a word. For me, for weeks now, the word is "Kalkilya" the name of the large Arab city near where Elie is stationed.
He is there because from this city, residents try to smuggle out drugs, explosives, weapons. He is there because this city sits so close to major Israeli cities; cities that have suffered major terrorist attacks in the past. There is a road that winds close to Kalkilya before ending near a small Jewish village (and Elie's base). A few years ago, this road was impassable and no one was allowed to use it because there were regular shooting attacks. It is the road I regularly take, without concern, when I drive Elie to base, and it is safe today because there is a security fence and an army (Elie's unit) protecting the area, the fence, and the road.
But Elie wasn't there last night, when a Palestinian policeman intentionally or by accident opened fire and wounded two soldiers. Elie was far away, but I'd forgotten in that moment of hearing the name of the city. And one final word - this soldier's mother had nothing to worry about on a personal level - my soldier was far away. How many other soldiers' mothers woke this morning, turned on the news at 8:00 a.m. and called their sons? I don't know the answer to this question...and even if I did, I wouldn't print it here.
What I do know, is that two mothers were called last night. Two mothers were told their sons were hurt. Two ran to the hospital with fear clutching their hearts and tears forming in their eyes. Two were told that this time, they were given a gift - their sons were only lightly injured.
The rest of us send our love to those mothers; our thoughts and prayers to their sons. My heart is settling down; my thoughts turning to work but as always, there is this portion of my brain that remains focused on mine, on Elie, and yes, all our sons.
May they be blessed with safety today and every day and may no mother anywhere be called today to learn her son has been injured.