Elie has been home for the last week, mostly doing nothing. One interesting thing was the amount of time he spent with his little sister. He drove her to school some mornings, was there each day when she came home. Last night at the dinner table, Elie was particularly playful with her...and she wanted to be left alone.
Elie teased her mercilessly. He seemed to not be able to get enough of her, pretending to bite her ear, her hand. She laughed till she cried and laughed some more. Elie said he didn't want soup so he waited while the rest of us had bowls of steaming chicken soup. And, as his sister was eating away, Elie reached over, dunked his bread into her bowl and tasted it.
"Mmmmm," Elie said.
"Do you want a bowl?" I offered again.
"No," Elie responded with a smile as he dipped his spoon into his sister's bowl and tasted it again.
"Hey," yelled his sister as Elie grinned and dipped his bread in again. In some ways, he is simply incorrigible.
It was a nice week, a funny one, a relaxing one. He accomplished nothing, did nothing...nothing but the most important thing, which was to relax.
Much of the time, Elie was in a great mood. "Elie, can you hand me my glasses?" I've started wearing reading glasses - something strange for someone who has always had perfect eyesight. It happens to all of us, it seems and my day has come. If I want to read...I need reading glasses. "They're in my room, next to my bed."
"Granny glasses, granny glasses, ba la la la la," Elie sang out as he went off to get them. Of course, he still got me the glasses, so I can't complain. Of course, it cost me much of my glass of diet cola...filled to the brim with ice. I can't really complain. For the most part, I have given up drinking it so if I cheat a little here or there, I guess I can't complain if Elie sneaks a bit.
Tomorrow it is back up north for him. I told him of a report that Hezbollah is re-arming, massing missiles again and I'd seen an article discussing the possibility of war in the near future.
"Not in the winter," Elie told me. Hezbollah knows better than to attempt a war in the winter when Israel has a clear advantage. We talked of the other Arab nations.
"Egypt has a strong army," Elie told me.
"What about Syria?"
Elie laughed. "They have a lot, but they aren't good at all."
In a matter of minutes, Syria could launch a massive attack. "And then what?" I asked Elie.
"Then nothing." Syria doesn't train its soldiers; they have no great plans of war. Elie believes that they could get in one good attack...and then lose ignobly and most quickly.
"And Jordan?" I asked, interested to hear what Elie would say. Elie isn't impressed with their army. Lebanon doesn't scare him. Egypt is the only one with a strong army, disciplined and trained but not really a serious threat at this time.
It is youth, I think, that gives courage and youth that lets him come home and turn it all off. When I picked him up, we gave another soldier a ride. That soldier didn't have a gun, having turned it in before coming home. Elie explained that the commanders decided it was safer to send the soldiers home with no guns for a week. "they'll end up getting stolen or left somewhere."
"So why do you have a gun," I asked. He was planning on visiting somewhere and felt it was safer if he traveled with a gun. It has become a part of him, a weapon of defense that he knows how to use and feels more comfortable with than without in some cases. I can't explain what that does to me, to think of it in those terms. But by his own accounting and from what I have heard of others, Elie is trained. Elie knows how to shoot and is quite good at hitting his target.
He goes back tomorrow to being a soldier in training; I go back tomorrow to being a mother with a soldier near the front. Last December, I knew it was Elie's unit that would be in the Gaza front, if there was a war. This winter, I know it will be Elie's unit if there is a war on the northern front. That's what Israel is - a country with many fronts and it is the luck of the draw as to where your son will be when a particular "front" turns to war.
Elie leaves the army in less than 6 months. One war behind him...I can only pray he doesn't have a war in front of him, that he can come home again and again and tease his sister (and his mother) as he did this week.