More than a year out of Elie's service, the stories of his time in the army continue to come out at the strangest of times, small snippets of stories, events, comments. We were all talking over the Shabbat table about food in the army. Our guest, Adopted Daughter #2 was over and said, "I know all about army food."
Something in that comment got to Elie, who was sure that he knew more. He then went into detail and explained that at the bigger bases, where thousands of soldiers were served food each day, the overall quality of the food was lower than those smaller bases where the cooks were able to spend more time per soldier. Nothing new in this, I had received this same explanation and remember that I often asked about the food each time they switched basis.
"But you ate best during the war, didn't you?" I joked with Elie, remembering the many times he had told me about the food he was eating and hoping he would share this with the others. The truth is, as horrible as that time was, as frightening, as sad, it was also an amazing example of the best that is Israel. It was a time when many Israelis felt compelled to show their love and support.
One day, Elie told us, "all the pizza places in the area got together and delivered pizza to all the troops." It was the first time I had heard about that one. Another tidbit, another slice of his life, another memory to cherish, I thought. Remember that these very same pizza places were in the war zone and had been for many, many months. And yet, in the middle of a war, this gesture was something important to them and to the troops.
I remembered the time a father had managed to bypass the military police to get near the soldiers - with a jeep full of meat and a professional barbecue. The soldiers ate steak and hamburgers that day. I did a bit of prompting, and that story came out as well. And that was when Elie told me another story - another I had never heard.
I knew the beginning, it seemed, but not the end. One day during the war, an organization donated warm supplies to Elie's unit and I was able to drive it down to them. I described the visit down there, the rocket attack during my Ashkelon stop, and finally seeing Elie in a post called Two Sirens and Seeing Elie.
Only now, more than 15 months after his leaving the army, did Elie tell me more of what happened that day. After he left us, his army jeep and driver was stopped by military police. Elie was incredulous that they'd even stopped him, but he understood...for a moment.
He identified himself, only to be told, "You can't enter here. It's a closed military zone."
Elie tried again, "Let me in," he warned the guard, and was again told he could not enter. This second time, knowing his unit needed him, Elie lost his patience. I'm not sure if he called the soldier an idiot, but he certainly referred to him as such when he called his commanding officer and explained that he could not return to the battle field because a soldier was stopping him.
Less than two minutes after Elie closed the phone, the other soldier's phone rang. The commanding officer of the commanding officer of the commanding officer of the soldier was screaming so loudly, Elie could hear him calling the soldier an idiot and telling him to let them pass immediately.
I don't know why this story "tickles" me - I don't know if it is the thought of Elie saying, "let me in!" or just the fact that it is another story at a time when I begin to think I've heard them all. Whatever the source, I have to admit, it was entertaining.