Sunday, July 5, 2009

Commanders Fun, Commanders Meeting

I wanted to start this post with the startling and attention-drawing heading, "Today, Elie shot his commanding officer," but then realized it probably wasn't a good idea. Today, the army again took Elie and the commanders and officers for a day of fun at PaintBall. This is beyond fun, I realize. This is yet another training exercise - no, seriously. It teaches them so many things.

Teamwork - how to act as a unit under different circumstances than the rigid ones in which they regularly practice. It shakes them up, realigns them and then tests them.
Terrorists threw a pair of Molotov cocktails at an Israeli army force in Deir-Razah, southwest of Hevron Sunday evening.
Strategy - it teaches them to plan, to think, to improvise. Today, their goal was to "shoot" their commanding officer. He wore a bright orange vest and was "attacked" by more than a dozen others. Elie explained that the others quickly took aim, as best you can with a paint-bullet gun, and starting firing wildly. Elie's commanding officer is only a few years older than Elie, but he has already fought in two wars. It's hard for me to imagine him as a boy, as the son of a soldier's mother, but there you have it.

K. is trained to think, to plan, to improvise, to choose the best and safest path for his soldiers and to lead them without hesitation. In two wars, his soldiers excelled and helped lead troops and defend and save lives. K. ran, dived for cover, hid, advanced...while all around him, the others were firing. Elie didn't fire except for a few random shots. He planned, he waited, and when K. came out in the open, Elie released his bullets and "hit" K. at least 5 times.

Speed/Agility - For the most part, Artillery is less physical than the ground forces - at least in real war. In many of the operations that are required while Elie is on patrol during non-war times, this may not be true and he may have to act and think quickly, but PaintBall is a wonderful experience because the stakes are not nearly so high, the outcome not nearly so critical.

Of course, Elie was apparently hit in the forehead and the chest during other battles, but all in all, it was a great day for them all. Elie came back for a few hours to help with the new house, returned to base for a meeting, and is finally home again for the next few days.

It isn't much of a vacation for him - and yet, he accepts that there are things that need to be done and he and his middle brother are the ones most capable physically of doing them (at least until their father returns tomorrow night).
It was disclosed Sunday evening that an Israel Defense Forces patrol was targeted by Gaza terrorists along the security fence next to the Sufah crossing.
It was also interesting to see Elie interact with the Arab workers who came today to paint our house. He was polite, respectful, and firm. We made a deal - and right after they started working, they began to ask for money. I was firm in insisting that I would pay them after the job was done, and no sooner.

When one mentioned that he only had a permit to enter our area through today, I wasn't sure what to do. He asked me to fill out a form, requesting that he get another permit, but I didn't have such a form and wasn't sure what responsibilities that placed on me. As the worker held out the permit to show it to me, Elie heard the discussion and asked, so Mahmoud handed the permit to Elie.

Elie stared at it for quite some time and I could see he was verifying that it was authentic. I would not have had a clue as to what was required, what was legal - and my son knows these things.

"This runs out tomorrow," Elie said to Mahmoud. Yes, as of tomorrow, in this world in which we live in, Mahmoud will have to lose a day of work while he applies for another monthly permit that allows him to enter Jewish communities to work. It means he has been checked and cleared by security, that to the best of our knowledge, this is a man who wants to work, not to kill. This is a man who wants to live for his family, not die for his God.

Mahmoud will have to go with his identification papers and he will be checked against known lists to see if he has done anything since the last time he was issued a permit. And when he is cleared, as he has been in the past, Mahmoud will receive another permit that allows me and others to pick him up at the entrance to our city, take him into our homes, and allow him to work an honest day and receive honest wages, which he will take home to his family.

Today, Mahmoud painted Elie's room blue and my youngest daughter's room pink. Tomorrow, instead of painting, he will again face a security check...but then again, I too face a security check each time I go into a store, a mall, a restaurant. My bags are opened, my glove compartment, my trunk. They speak to me, to hear me speak back to them. Every day - so that others are safe in this land.

It is a harsh reality for a man who only wants to support his family and yet the other side of the picture flashes across the headlines today, as all days.
Terrorists threw two Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles on the Elon route near El Moeir, near Ramallah, north of Jerusalem on Sunday.

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