Over the last few years, and most especially in Gaza, the picture that has emerged is that for all that Elie is in one particular division - Artillery - he is part of a greater machine - the Israeli army. This is one of the key lessons that the army seems to have forgotten during the Second Lebanon War and one that has been hammered home ever since.
United, they went into Gaza and united they defended each other as they accomplished what they had to accomplish. Part of the reason they were able to work this way was the training they continue to do at times when things are more quiet here. Several times, artillery has been called to participate in exercises with other units - sometimes firing live ammunition.
This week, Elie and another commander, along with several soldiers, will go north to take part in another exercise. There will be no live ammunition from the artillery units. Instead, Elie and the others will "talk" on the radio. They will be told to shoot at a position and then, in all seriousness, they will announce that they are firing on that position. No loud booms, no deafening explosions. No incoming rockets, no fear of war.
After more than a month at war, this is nothing on the scale of things and even provides me with a few days in which I don't have to wonder where he is, what dangers he might be facing. I'd much prefer knowing that he is sitting somewhere talking on a radio, "yeah, hit that too" and "sure, no problem, we're shooting - boom, boom" than standing on a road searching cars for guns, explosives and knives. I would rather he be speaking on the radio to other Israeli soldiers than be interrogating or arresting or searching.
No, this practice this week isn't a joke. It is very serious and Elie isn't playing. He will, in all sincerity announce that artillery is aiming at the target area; that artillery is firing; that artillery has successfully eliminated the enemy and the tanks can move in. He will "fire" his weapons, his smoke, and all that he must do so that should the day come when Elie's artillery, and the tanks and the planes and the ground forces must again go in, they will do so with confidence.
Elie will finish later this week and come home for a much deserved vacation. I am overwhelmed with details of things I have to do, things I have to take care of while my husband is away and yet still, through even these busy and stressful times, I somehow still have that part of my brain, that part of my heart and soul that remains pre-occupied with where Elie is, what he is doing.
On Friday night, I lit the Sabbath candles and closed my eyes and, as I always do, wished each of my children and husband well. It's a ritual I follow...well, religiously. To think of each and wish them safety through the week and a certain level of peace comes with knowing that next week Elie will be home.