I went to a wedding last night. It was beautiful, as hopefully all weddings should be. It was sweet; it was romantic; it was exciting, it was fun and touching on so many levels. There was great joy and honor given to the grandparents and young children playing and having fun.
The food was good, the music a bit loud. The bride was beautiful; the groom so handsome. I was close enough to the family to love watching them; distant enough to feel at times that I could watch from the outside. At one point, a soldier arrived. He was in uniform, M16 strapped to his back. He entered the wedding already in progress, the ceremony long over. His boots were dirty; he looked tired and I have little doubt he came straight from base to join his friends.
He stood for a moment and watched, almost as if he was gathering the strength to join in. Some of the boys noticed him and walked towards him, just as he began to walk towards the dance floor. There was pats on the back, hand shaking, hugging. He walked into the far corner of the hall, beyond my sight and returned a few minutes later without his gun. Clearly, he had found some place safe to stash it, or someone to watch it.
He joined the dancing and within minutes, was hugged by the groom. Whatever strength he was lacking before he began to dance returned. He was with his friends and as the group circled around, I realized that though he was the only one in uniform, these are all soldiers.
I looked at the bride's oldest brother - he was one of my middle son's best friends for years as they grew from childhood to the towering men they are becoming. He was dancing with his new brother-in-law, laughing and having fun, and I realized that although he isn't a soldier now, he will be in just 7 months - he, like Shmulik, will enter the army as Elie leaves.
I sat and watched the wedding, an insider and an outsider wrapped in one. At one point, the soldier left the dance floor with another young man; they moved to the side and began talking. I know enough of uniforms and boots and berets to know that he was a paratrooper; the three bars indicating that he's a sergeant.
I don't know how long he's been in the army, when he will get out, what base he came from, where he serves. I can't tell if he fought in Lebanon or in Gaza, if he has sisters and brothers. He is a nameless soldier, in the Israeli army, hated by many simply for wearing a green uniform; and loved by many others, perhaps for the same reason.
I don't know his name, where he lives, if his mother has a blog, if his father worries. But there was something in the way the soldier and his friend stood there and talked, something in the way their bodies were positioned, their heads leaning towards each other as they spoke. It is an intensity that I have seen in Elie when he talks to other soldiers.
I saw it when he stood on the side and spoke to his cousin, another soldier in artillery. I saw it when he stood with our friend's son, Oren, beside the Sea of Galilee. It's a feeling that I have, that they are "talking army."
They stood there to the side, the soldier and his friend at a wedding for about 15 minutes and then one slapped the other on the shoulder and they went back to dance and celebrate, the green uniform a whirl of color in a circle of past soldiers, current soldiers and future soldiers.