Friday, July 31, 2009

Anger's Victory

Years and years ago, when I was dating my future husband, we went into a store. It might have been a restaurant, it could have been a parking lot. I don't recall, and it happened more than once. Something went wrong; someone treated us incorrectly. My future husband demanded the problem be fixed; the behavior corrected.

When the correction, whatever it was, wasn't made, my husband got angry - really angry. I was young and his anger frightened me. It seemed, to some extent, out of proportion to what was happening. Would this man, if I ended up marrying him, be a wife-beater? Would he swing out of control? He argued his point without mercy and when the salesperson didn't comply, he demanded to see the manager.

And, while we waited, me and my future husband who was so angry, he turned to me and winked. I stared at him and he gave me the sweetest of smiles. The manager returned, and my angry future husband argued his case until the manager apologized, the service was corrected and all was right with the world.

He explained that he was able to be angry, but it wasn't directed at me. It was justified, in light of what had happened, and yet not out of control. I have always loved that about him - his ability to control and compartmentalize that anger that so frightens and yet demands attention.

Elie took a week of vacation from the army to help us move. If all had gone as planned, we would have moved during the beginning of the week and had time to organize and unpack but life is full of unknowns and this too is a lesson we all learn. So, Elie's week off came and went. He helped us pack; he helped us prepare the new house, but we couldn't actually do the big move until a few days after he went back to the army.

In the move, not all things were located in the new house as we needed. Boxes clearly marked went to other rooms and Elie's desk - the one that had been in his old room and was to go to his new room, ended up at the foot of the stairs. The movers felt it didn't need to be taken apart...only to find that it couldn't go upstairs without being taken apart - or so they thought.

So the desk was one of the casualties of the move and since my husband and other children have been spending most of their time repairing the old house and removing things that were left behind in preparation to return it to its owner, Elie's desk remained for the last two weeks here in the entryway.

Today, Elie decided to get angry about it. He and I had tried to lift it, but I'm simply not strong enough to handle my end of it and so he decided he would try to move it himself. My husband is the chief fixer in the family; Elie is a close second. As my husband has been busy emptying and fixing the other house, the closets here remain in pieces, having been disassembled for the move.

Elie's desk presented him with a problem. He knew he couldn't move it alone and he wasn't 100% sure that if he managed to take it apart, that he'd manage to get it back together. And so, Elie threw a temper tantrum. Simple as that. He pushed boxes out of the way, said he was going to take it apart or break it and who cares.

I looked at this 22-year-old, commander in the artillery forces in the army of the State of Israel and thought - this is the boy who entered the army. I was even a bit scared - he's a lot stronger now. He's not the 7-year-old boy that I could physically restrain while he would shout and cry and wave his arms, and he wasn't the Commander I've been dealing with for so many months now.

My husband came downstairs when I called him, anxious to have him talk to Elie and reason how to get the desk upstairs. His middle brother came down and saw how angry Elie was, "the army's done him a lot of good," Shmulik quipped.

My husband started measuring; Shmulik went upstairs to clear a path to Elie's room, and Elie came into the kitchen and smiled at me and said, "now it will get done."

I couldn't believe it. It was his father's smile, wide and happy and completely in control. The true victor in any argument is the one who can control his anger. Elie's desk is now in his room - Elie and his brother managed to lift it up and around the turns in the staircase with some help and lots of guidance from my husband. And no one, except me, saw the smile on Elie's face. I wonder if my other children will learn that from their father; I wonder if Elie's future wife will realize what a gift that anger...and that control...can be.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

N95 vs. M16

So...have you ever wondered about how battles between inanimate objects would go? Elie's life is filled with lessons. There was the time that the ball met the glass vase - yes, with predictable results. Then there was the pillow versus the glass candlesticks. Now, this one might be a close call, so I'll have to explain that the pillow won.

There was the tape on the curtain versus the picture frames. That was a no-brainer, as Elie gently tried to remove the birthday decorations that someone had taped to the curtain, upon which someone had placed several pictures. Suddenly realizing his error, Elie simultaneously tried to catch the glass frames as he said, "Not good, not good." It was actually quite a successful attempt and only two frames were smashed, but if you could have seen the horror on his face and heard the tone of his voice, you would have laughed too.

So, it seems Elie has spent his life learning physics and how objects interact. It's actually quite appropriate that he was sent to artillery, if you think about it, as he has now learned the science behind the things that he has sent flying through the air. He's learned the concepts of friction, of weight, of air and wind and how to calculate so many things.

And today, he learned another thing. When you match an M16 rifle against a Nokia N95 cellular phone, yes, indeed, the rifle will win. The good news, as Elie points out, is that the army will have no complaints against the poor phone. Not even a scratch can be found. But alas, the N95 cannot claim the same. It seems that our cellular provider will be asked to replace the screen...well, at least the parts that are now blank.

One of the secondary reasons I keep this blog running beyond my own selfish need to write, is that I can sometimes offer advice to others. So, allow me to offer this note for mothers and fathers with sons and daughters about to enter the Israeli army (and perhaps other armies as well).

We want our children to have cellular phones - we need them to have it. How mothers survived even 10 or 15 years ago without their soldier having a phone is beyond anything that I can imagine and yes, I know I am quite spoiled in this. But beyond the fact that we want them to have a phone, the army actually needs them to have a phone, if at all possible. It isn't a requirement, but it is definitely an advantage. Elie communicates with the army and the army communicates with Elie via his personal phone.

It is a fact of life here in our army and likely in other armies around the world as well. The army knows these phones are not secure; the boys know what they can and cannot say, when and where. Anyway, back to my advice - if you send your child to the army...and you should...and if you send your child with a cellular phone...and you should...please, please - get insurance on the phone!

Oh, and tell your child, if they are in a combat unit and they are issued an M16 - it's a no-brainer, no matter how good the Nokia phone is, and it is a great is not going to survive a meeting with even the handle of an M16.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Our Agony and Yours

Bowe R. Bergdahl was serving with an Alaska-based infantry regiment earlier this month when he vanished, just five months after arriving in Afghanistan. He's now been held over one month by Taliban extremists. Bowe comes from Idaho and is only 23-years-old.

Gilad Shalit, aged 19, was kidnapped from Israeli soil as part of an infiltration/attack which resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and Gilad's being dragged across the border into Gaza. Since then, Hamas has refused all attempts to allow international agencies such as the Red Cross to see him.

They were kidnapped by the same enemy, held against their will. Video and transmissions are used not to reassure the families that their sons will soon be home, but to torture them, leave them unsure and bereft.

Gilad and Bowe both deserve their freedom. They were doing nothing wrong when they were captured, other than serving their countries.

In a few short weeks, Gilad will turn 23. He's in his fourth year without his family. In Israel, the government contemplates and then pulls back from the idea of denying Palestinian prisoners visitations from their families, as Gilad is so denied.

These prisoners - caught after violating laws or held for security infractions have brought attention to themselves because they did something - they attacked army patrols, threw rocks or fire bombs or crossed into areas without permits. Gilad did nothing - nothing but enlist in the army, finish his basic training, and take up a position near Israel's border with Gaza.

Palestinians came into Israel, crossed under our fence in a tunnel they dug to enable them to attack Israel...and this is what they did. They dragged a 19-year-old boy into Gaza and then held him for more than 1125 days. They torture his family, suggesting Gilad is hurt, suggest he will die if we don't immediately agree to trade 1000 prisoners...prisoners who were not innocently sitting around doing nothing when Israel came and grabbed them and dragged them off.

And then, when Israel says - ok, we are willing to release hundreds, but show us that Gilad is us he is well. Follow international law and let the Red Cross see him, talk to him. Let his mother talk to him. Be human beings, for once in your life. We allow wives to speak to their husbands, mothers to their sons. Their conditions are known - many have access to television, computers, even phones, though these are not allowed in the cells (and even then, many have them). Gilad has nothing - be human beings and allow a 22-year-old boy to speak to his mother...and then we are yet again met with a wall of silence.

With the taking of Bowe, America is thrust into the same agony as Israel; Bowe's family into the same horror and worry as Gilad's family.

May Bowe and Gilad come home soon - safe, and healthy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Who's Name is Z'vah?

We're in our new home, enjoying the chance to re-organize our things, find places, make it ours. I've been unpacking boxes, filling bookshelves, rinsing and storing dishes and just loving the chance to start in a fresh place that we own, after renting for 8 years. Elie is home for the weekend, as is my second son.

My husband is busy packing and setting to right the place where we were, while I am fixing up this house. I'm desperately trying to leave things uncluttered, open, and airy. Piles of clean laundry have been folded and I've left it to my youngest daughter to sort by person. It's easier for her to complain, at 9 years of age, than it is to quickly sort through the piles.

She keeps asking me who is "L" (those are Elie's clothes, I tell her). "Who is S?" she asks.

"That's Shmulik's," I tell her. She laughs when she tells me that her youngest brother (who is four years OLDER than her), wears a size 14.5, while she is wearing a size 18. I've decided not to explain that he, at the age of 13, has grown so much he's now wearing a man's size, while hers is still measured in little girl sizes.

"Where should I put the towels?" she asks. She carefully sorts a pile for small towels and another for large ones. "Is this a small towel?" she asked next.

"Who's name is "Z'vah?" she asks. The army of Israel is known as Z'vah Haganah L'Yisrael - Israel Defense Forces (IDF) - but the order of Hebrew sentence structure is different than in English. In English, you say "blue table" while in Hebrew it would be correct to say "table blue" - I know it sounds funny in English, but it works in Hebrew (and the English would sound equally funny to Hebrew ears). So "forces" or army is actually the first word in the name of the Israeli army, and not the last.

Elie's uniforms are stamped with the word "Zahal" - an abbreviation equivalent to IDF, or "Z'vah" meaning army/forces.

"Those are Elie's," I answered her automatically.

"Of course, everyone knows that," she answered. I smiled back at her and thought - she's sweet...and she doesn't have a clue that in less than a year, it will be Shmulik's uniforms she folds and sorts, not Elie's. For her, now, it is all so clear. All this time, I have thought of myself as a soldier's mother and given only passing thoughts to her role as a soldier's sister.

"Of course" she feels, everyone knows that her brother is a soldier, that he wears this uniform and that the uniform is his. He's back home to tease her now, order her around and give her jobs. Soon the Sabbath will come and bring with it a break from boxes, packing and unpacking. Already, the house is full of the scents of Shabbat. Soup, fish, chicken, salads, are all prepared. I have to close the computer so that we can set the table - I'll do that now.

Yesterday, a rocket was fired at Israel and heard in some of our southern towns - with great mercy from God, it hit in an open area and no one was injured. I no longer contemplate whether the open field hit this time was one holding our soldiers only a few short months ago. Today, an Arab was arrested with a knife, a soldier was attacked while on guard and his gun was stolen. There were incidents of stoning and rioting and yet, with Elie home, I have the luxury of pulling inside my beautiful new home, allowing my family to gather and welcome the Sabbath peace.

Shabbat shalom - may it come in peace and bless all who rejoice in it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm Back...

I'm back on duty as a soldier's doesn't that sound funny?

Yesterday, Elie returned to base, back to patrol, back to the responsibilities he carries with him. He's spent his vacation day sorting through the contents of his room, an accumulation of about 8 years of his history. He came as a 14-year-old boy and leaves this house as a 22-year-old man. No, the house didn't do much to bring about that transaction; time, natural development, and the army played the greatest part.

The room Elie will have in the new house is bigger, nicer than the one he has here. It's location is better, brighter, with a nice balcony overlooking the neighborhood and the desert views to the east. Between that room and this one, there was a world of boxes, packing, planning. Winter clothes that he doesn't need now are stored in boxes to be packed - and there lies some danger.

A terrorist attack can be averted more quickly based on the speed with which the terrorist is identified. There are "key" things that tip all Israelis off, and even more "keys' that tip off soldiers and guards. And, there are things that throw them off - instantaneous messages that confuse the first impression.

Sometimes, terrorists have been known to wear the clothes of ultra-orthodox Jews, or wear army uniforms that they bought, stole, or found. Many moving companies use Arab workers. It is good for the companies - and good for the Arabs. A perfect societal balance...except in a world where too many Arabs decide to abuse the privilege of work to commit terrorist attacks and so guards are on alert, people watch, soldiers are wary.

And so, Elie's spare army uniforms and winter clothes have been locked away in the new house. It is yet another of those abnormal experiences, unusual thoughts we have. It is not enough to worry about the move itself, we have to remember that some sensitive things could fall into the wrong hands and cause more harm.

So Elie cleaned his room, packed his boxes, and moved many of them to the new house himself. He'll come home next week - to a new room, a new house. He's back to being a soldier, and so I am back to being a soldier's mother. It was a nice break, short though it was.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stupid Decisions and Gilad Pays

I'm not a diplomat and while I can sometimes be diplomatic, other times, I clearly lack the needed finesse to deal with manipulations and negotiations. It's a good thing I'm not part of the Israeli government; I have no patience for hypocrisy. I am simply unable to understand the logic of allowing a young man who did nothing but agree to serve his country to sit imprisoned after being kidnapped from our soil...while releasing Hamas leaders who are guilty of planning attacks, instigating terror, and so much more.

These are stupid decisions while Gilad Shalit pays. This news is being released throughout Israeli media channels, including this report from Israel National News:

( Israel released Ibrahim Abu-Salem, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Authority parliament on Monday, after he ended his 38-month sentence in Israeli prison, Hamas movement said in a statement. Abu-Salem was one of 40 Hamas legislators arrested after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas and its allies.

Two weeks ago, parliament speaker Aziz Al-Dweik was released, leaving 35 other Hamas lawmakers and three others representing other factions in custody. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with al-Dweik last week to present a plan for forming a Palestinian unity government, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, to the Chinese Xinhua news agency. The sources stressed that it including five Hamas members.

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.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Accepting Strength

The stronger my children seems sometimes, the weaker I get. I'm usually the first person to load myself up with packages to carry. It is completely foreign to me to stand back and watch "the men" grab all the packages and bags while I stand there and carry nothing.

I have seen this all my life - watched other women stand back while the men do the heavy lifting. In many ways, they are perhaps smarter and yet, next picnic, barbecue or major move...there I am lifting again. One of the strangest passages that occurs in your life, it seems, is accepting the passing of the strength - that time when you look at your sons (and daughters) and realize they are physically stronger than you.

More and more, I let my sons carry the heavier things and more and more, as I lift something, one of my sons comes forward to meet me and take the burden. It is natural for them and so strange for me. Yesterday, we went to buy paint for the new house. I went with Elie and my youngest daughter and following the stereotyped preferences, picked a light blue for the boys' rooms and sure enough, my little one started paging through the pinks.

When the older man at the store came to assist us, we discussed paints and colors while Elie went and picked out rollers and accessories. He measured by what was comfortable for him, already assuming he will do much of the painting. The store clerk and I agreed on various containers, including one that contains 18 liters of white base paint and is quite heavy.

Without hesitation, he turned to Elie and asked him to lift it and without hesitation, Elie went over and began moving things aside to reach the specific container.

"Do you need help?" I asked stupidly and thought, no, silly, of course he doesn't need help and if he could you help him? Easily, he picked it up; easily, he placed it on the cart. He has no trouble accepting what his body can is yet another, on top of so many, lessons I must learn - to yield to his physical strength and accept it not as a sign of my weakness, but a glorification of his reaching his truest potential in yet another area of his life.

My he go from strength to strength, always on the path of right and light and health.

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Things that Make a Mother Twinge

There's this feeling - I don't know how to describe it. It's sort of a twinge in the stomach...a sick little feeling that in a better world, this wouldn't be necessary. One of those things, for me, has always been dog tags (and WHERE did they get the name "dog tags" from?). When Elie first showed me his tags and told me where they are kept, I felt sick.

Tags aren't needed when a man can say, "this is my name", right? No, they are for when the unimaginable happens, when your world comes crashing down around you. I went to pay a condolence call to a family that had lost a soldier a few weeks ago. While I was sitting there with his parents, some of his friends came over and handed a set of dog tags to the soldier's mother. Suddenly, the air felt so thick - and I finally understood that strange phrase. It means - when you suddenly can't breathe, when your mind freezes and you can't think of a word to say.

Logically, it made no sense that this friend was handing the soldier's mother his dog tags. He was wearing them when he was killed in action; clearly, the army would have them, not some friends. But that logic didn't penetrate that awful moment of silence and hesitation.

Almost as if they realized what they'd inadvertently caused, the friends quickly clarified that even though the string and holder were "authentic" (and can be bought in numerous places), the tags inside were a joke. Someone had given it to the soldier as a joke and the friends were now giving it to his mother, as many often bring letters, pictures, and stories to the families of the fallen. As soon as it was clear that the dog tags weren't the real ones, everyone relaxed, Noam's mother took the dog tags, and the frozen moment passed.

Those twinges, those moments, come and go throughout your life as a soldier's mother. They are there in the news when you hear the name of a place where your son is, or was, or will be. It comes when there is yet another of those "it could have been" moments, that you know will come without warning.

Yesterday, Elie called to tell me that he was called back to the army for a drill, then he told me as part of the drill, they were being moved up north (they got up north, turned around and came home...go figure that one out)...and there came that twinge.

"Elie, is something happening?" I asked, trying to hide the sudden worry/terror I was feeling. No, nothing happened - this is part of the army; a lesson they teach them from the start. In this, it is not for you to ask, not for you to know. Get here fast, and then we will tell you what is happening, if anything is happening. In this, you do not think. If we really need you, we won't have time to explain. Move now, come, you'll know soon.

And today, as Shmulik was leaving, I asked him how yesterday went. I wasn't able to speak to him last night because while I was at a wedding, Elie called and told me he was on his way south...but they were taking him back to his base. Since I was close by, I was able to wait (longer than I expected) to bring him home around 2:00 in the morning. So, today I asked and got my answer.

"Fine," explained son/soldier number two. He's never been one to share openly, without prompting.

"What did they do?" I asked.

What they did was make him officially a soldier, give him a military ID that allows him certain privileges, and, what they did was give him dog tags. And there goes that mother's twinge again - that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, that here-we -go-again and oh-God feeling.

So, I'll go back and follow my own advice and take this day as it comes. Elie is asleep in his bed. Shmulik has gone to take a test in one of his courses. Two kids are in camp and my daughter is at home in her apartment. My husband is far away, but coming home soon.

I'll take the blessings God has given me this day with gratitude and love. I'll accept the twinge and pray it is all I ever get, and maybe, maybe I'll go take a nap.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Break...Takes a Break

We were supposed to begin physically moving tomorrow. Now I am not sure what will happen and when. My oldest daughter and second son have tests tomorrow and Sunday, my third son has an "important" trip with camp, and this morning, Elie called me while I was on my way to a meeting to tell me that the army had ordered a drill.

"What sort of drill?" I asked, already dreading his answer.

"They want to see how fast we can move."

"Tell them, really fast," I tried to joke as my mind began to whirl with details and how I would accomplish this without Elie. Already Sunday, the army has told him that the commanders will be having a "fun" day with PaintBall. These days are important - they help solidify the connections they have, their working together as a unit. It is less conventional than standard training and thus, in many ways, as effective - coming from a different angle.

So Sunday, when we are to move - Elie won't be for tomorrow....well, Elie has been ordered to a central point, from which he will be collected with other commanders and moved to another point...from which, having assembled and proven they can reach a specific location within a specific period of time, Elie will be able to come back home. Better than we thought this morning, when he told me he was packing a backpack for three days, but still - on such a hot day when he was supposed to finish packing, it amounts to another day going in circles, accomplishing...I don't know what.

"Do the other soldiers get called in too?" I asked Elie.

"No. They figure if the commanders can get here from all over the place, so can the soldiers." Their part was "fictional." They were called and had to respond to the call within a short period of time, but simply reporting back to their commanding officers counted as if they were able to show up.

Anticipated return trip for Elie is now close to midnight. It reminds me of years ago, when I was a teenager and spent a weekend with friends who were in the army. This was back in the late 1970s and there was trouble on the Syrian border. They called in the soldiers - got them up north, only to send them back home. By the time they arrived at the Kibbutz where I was staying, it was already the Sabbath. The boys came in dirty, tired and starving. The kibbutz people jumped up and brought them all food and drink and though we had finished our meal, no one left the room - somehow, everyone wanted them to feel relaxed and "normal." It is a custom to sing at the Sabbath table. There are many beautiful songs and melodies.

At one point, someone began to sing "Yom Zeh L'Yisrael" - "This day is for Israel" and the newly returned soldiers laughed, stopped eating, and started singing and clapping to the song. That day had been for Israel.

Today, one son began a journey and another will travel for hours - yes, this day is for Israel.


Hebrew is a beautiful language built on relationships between words. Core letters from the root; adjust the various tenses, and new meanings are created. A three letter root (aleph, bet, daled) - means "to lose." Someone who commits suicide, is said to "meet-abed" - which essentially means "to lose oneself." Thus, committing suicide is losing oneself. I've always taken that to mean a spiritual or emotional loss even more than a physical one. The "meet" part is reflexive, to do something to yourself. Thus there is a word for dressing someone, as opposed to dressing oneself. I hope I have this all correct - I'm not a language expert, certainly not in Hebrew.

And so, last week when my second son came over and told me that next week (today), he would "meet-hayel" - I wasn't really sure what that was. He explained that it meant the army would take him through the steps of being inducted today. I spoke to Elie and Shmulik (second son) until I finally began to understand.
My Son the Soldier

Well, the day has finally come - arriving with a mixture of so many emotions and unspoken fears. Elie packed his bag last night - as ready to go as he has been for some time now. Perhaps over the weekend, he was a little more playful, a little more "around" us than usual, but this morning, it was all business. - Induction Day for Elie, March 25, 2007
Shmulik is following a different path than Elie - he is attending a Hesder program that combines years of study with military service. These religious soldiers serve in units together and special attention is paid to their religious needs so that they can serve the country without compromising their beliefs and practices.

Today, Shmulik officially becomes a soldier but there were no bags to pack and no separation to anticipate. Tonight, he will sleep in his bed, here in his home. He goes in his regular clothes, and will return in them. Today, he was taken to the same induction center where Elie began his journey more than two years ago. Like Elie, today my second son will receive the medical exam and shots he needs; he will be given an official military card...and then, a few meters later (unlike what happened with Elie), it will be taken away and filed until March when he will officially wear a uniform, get a gun, and be inducted into our armed forces.

The night that Elie joined the army, he was given a uniform and taken to a distant base. He was told to call his parents and so he began the days and weeks and months and years I have written about so often. Tonight, Shmulik's journey remains as it was - something coming closer, but not yet here.

The word "meet-hayel" means that today, my son, my second son, "made himself a soldier" of Israel. He's on his way home now - so different from when Elie did the same thing. Then, I drove him to the meeting point, knowing that soon I would allow myself to fall apart
There is no ceremony, no great moment, just a gentle slide into a new world. He went in his direction without hesitation; I reluctantly went in mine and I tried all day not to think of where he was. Or, more importantly, I tried not to think of where he wasn't. From the time my children were born, almost without exception, I have known where they are. Perhaps not to an exact location, but close enough to know that they are within reach, within a short drive or call away. Now enters a time when more often than not, I won't know where he is, what he is doing. I will have to trust that no news is good news, that he is ok. -- Induction Day for Elie, March 25, 2007
Someday soon - too soon, I will write these words for Shmulik.
My son is a soldier in the army of Israel. Why that makes me want to cry, I can't explain when it is something that I have accepted, something in which I feel pride. For now, the fear and worry that threatens to push the pride aside will be my personal battle in the next day and week and year. My son is where I have always wanted him to be, doing what he must do. It is something that Jews have been unable to do for thousands of years - to defend their land and their right to live here. My son is a soldier in the army of Israel. -- Induction Day for Elie, March 25, 2007
May God watch over my son Shmulik, and my son Elie - both soldiers for Israel. May He bless them with safety and life and health, them...and all the soldiers everywhere who fight for what is right and decent and free in this world.

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