Shmulik went shooting last week with his commanding officer. S. let him shoot his pistol; the targets were balloons. A pistol is, apparently, a completely different matter than an M16. Shmulik was a great shot with the M16 but the pistol takes getting used to.
Shmulik missed the first time; nailed the balloon the second time, well, maybe nailed is the wrong word but the balloon was the worse for wear. S. shot many more bullets and got around to hitting the balloon as well. They were shooting with another soldier, a female, who hit the balloon first time around.
S. is, apparently, an excellent shot. After the initial practice, he told Shmulik, "now you command me." Shmulik then issued different commands - telling him where the attack was coming from and S. had to instantaneously fire in that direction, at that object, in that position.
It is a sign of a relationship between the two, a trust, a bond. S. even gives Shmulik advice on life, though I can't say I always agree on what he says. It is yet another difference between our army and probably all others.
When Shmulik transferred out of the combat unit to be S.'s driver, he was days short of receiving his Kfir beret. S. comes from Kfir and so arranged to get a beret in the Kfir colors for Shmulik. Shmulik has also been moved up a rank and is now a Corporal. It seems it is traditional for the commanding officer to give the newly ranked soldier a "box" - a punch or smack on the back.
Elie remembers when he was giving his soldiers their new rank. "After 20 soldiers, my hand was red," he told me. Shmulik was expecting S. to give him a "box" but S. told him, "I'll give it to you when you don't expect it."
There is something wonderful in having such a person in Shmulik's life at this moment when so much is changing for him. In just a bit over 2 months, he will be getting married and setting up his own home; he's looking for work, trying to earn extra money, and doing what he has to do in the army at the same time.
He admires S. and likes him as a person. S. was wounded by gunfire and spent two years fighting his way back to health. He runs regularly, eats healthy, has a wife he adores, and four girls he proudly tells about to parents of his soldiers. He is a martial arts expert and is amazingly accurate when shooting. He is proud of the army, loves Israel, is religious. In short, he is, for a 20-year-old, an amazing role model.
Two weeks ago, Shmulik had an eye infection. His friends told him he could use it as an excuse to get a few days off from the army, "why should I want to," he said to me, "I like what I'm doing."
He does. He travels with S. and they talk; he is coming to know many roads in Israel, many areas of the country. Like Elie, he is gaining a better understanding of what we face in choosing to live in this land.
In short, the army is helping to shape him into a better person, more responsible, more knowledgeable.