Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A War Ago and a New Reality

On January 3rd last year, I switched to a news channel and a new reality. Artillery had begun firing into Gaza; a ground initiative was anticipated. Israel was at war.
It often amazes me how I open a post to write about one thing and end up writing about another. I wanted to write about a journey of faith, but switched, as I often do, to a window with the latest news. According to most news sources, artillery began firing into Gaza today. You don't have to be a military genius to realize that there is a purpose to this operation, including the use of artillery.

YNET and others will tell you the news; I can only tell you that what this means is that my son has gained a knowledge I will never know and hoped he would never know as well. Today, my son learned what war is closer and more personal than anything I could have imagined.
The next day, we lost our first soldier, Dvir Emanuelof. It was painful to write about Dvir, to recognize that war really meant losing soldiers and sons in battle.
The one thing we all knew going into this military action that has yet to be called a war, is that there would be soldiers who would fall in battle. We are not a country that worships death, nor do we believe it is preferable to life. We do not want our sons to be martyrs or heroes, only that they live long and healthy lives. And yet we have no choice but to give them the responsibility to protect our land, and in so doing, we know that sometimes, some will be asked to make the most horrible of sacrifices, the greatest of gifts to our land.

Tonight, Dvir will be buried, the first to fall in a war that has no name, but one for which all of Israel stands. Friends called today to tell me of other boys from the neighborhood who are down there as well. As I did yesterday, today I spoke to other mothers of soldiers. We comfort each other and find no real comfort. I haven't spoken to Elie all day. I have to leave it for him to call me.
The next day, I spoke to a journalist, who asked me how I was spending my days.
I told her I was glued to the computer and the telephone. I'd like to say that I spend most of it doing normal things, but that isn't really true. They are bombing my country, you see. Rockets hit this morning in many cities. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands are living in a few meters of space, knowing that they take their lives in their hands if they venture too far from shelter. Children haven't gone to school in over a week - they can't even go outside to play.

She made one comment about the hardships of journalists covering the war but I chose to ignore it. The harder it is for the journalists to report the movements of our troops, the safer our sons will be. This is not a game to our soldiers, they fight for their lives...and ours. Yesterday, Palestinians dragged a soldier into a tunnel, attempting to kidnap him, as they did Gilad Shalit more than 900 days ago. This time, with his strength and bravery and the grace of God, the soldier escaped.

Only weeks later would I learn more about that event from Elie. He spoke of the determined effort made to reach out and help the units on the ground safely bring that soldier and others home. Artillery was a key factor in providing the safety net to many soldiers entering and exiting Gaza. The war was on. From the air, on the ground, from the sea - it was a war brought on by those who believed they had a right to fire into our country, dozens of rockets were falling each day; almost a million people had to run for shelter and yet it was a time of great support for our troops and for the parents.

Day after day, friends called to ask how I was doing; where Elie was. When the war was finished, a new reality had arrived in Israel, a sense of disgust and frustration with the world. No country, I wrote repeatedly, would accept incoming rocket fire - 124 of them in November, more in December. More than 10,000 in the last 8 years. No, no country would accept it themselves and yet so many expected Israel to allow this to continue.

Today, for the most part, our children play freely outside; parents are more relaxed and ready to allow their families to enjoy, to live. A year ago, Israel fought a war to allow the people in our southern sectors freedom to really live. When it was over, Elie's unit was given the order to stand down, to return to normal.

Now, a year later, Gilad Shalit has been held captive not 900 days, but 1,290 days. For him, there is no end in sight...for me, day by day, the end is coming near - the time when Elie will stand down. He was home last night, a special gift from the army that allowed him to attend his grandfather's memorial evening; as he came home12 days ago for his grandmother.

Both were Holocaust survivors. They'd lost their parents and grandparents in another war, another time. They left Europe to go to America, to build a new life, a new reality there. They had their children and raised them...and watched as my husband chose a wife. They celebrated the birth of each grandchild and watched as those grandchildren moved across the sea to another life, another reality. In one of our last conversations, my father-in-law told me he would come to Israel to visit us. It was a visit he never made; as illness came to him only weeks after we moved.

Elie came home last night to honor them, to stand near as his father recited the mourner's prayer. He returned to the army this morning but will be home this weekend.

In a bit over a week, he's going to a special seminar - a full day in which the army explains what benefits he will receive upon discharge...what the army and country will do to thank him for these past three years of service.

Elie is quickly heading to a new reality, a new life.

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