Monday, May 16, 2011

Let Me In

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.


ProphetJoe said...

I can't help thinking about the "idiot".

Somewhere, somehow, I'm sure his orders got screwed up and he was diligently trying to follow his orders (no matter how ridiculous they may have seemed). In a way, I'm glad he held his ground and waited for confirmation from his superiors instead of letting a "man in uniform who looked OK" through the checkpoint... think of how bad he would have felt if he had let through a terrorist dressed in an IDF uniform just because the "guy seemed legitimate" and read him the riot act. Just think...

A Soldier's Mother said...

Hi Prophet Joe,

On the one hand - yet more signs that you are truly an incredible person - you are right in wanting to think and believe the best, that this was a case of the soldier holding his ground and wanting to be diligent.


The Israeli army is a thinking one - the concept of "just following orders" is one that is abhorrent to us in Israel and so we challenge and even demand our soldiers to THINK. Yes, a soldier not following orders will be required to explain why...but if he was right, he'll be rewarded, not punished. One of our greatest war heroes is a man who was ordered to retreat with his 4 tanks rather than face the oncoming 200 Syrian tanks in 1973. A young Avigdor Kahalani realized that if he withdrew, all of northern Israel might fall in the wake of the sudden attack on Yom Kippur.

He pretended he couldn't hear the orders - spread out his 4 tanks and told them to make a lot of noise and move - move, shoot, move. Noise on the radio - in as many different voices as they could. The Syrians believed them - and held off long enough for help to arrive. Kahalani broke a direct order - and saved many lives.

In this case, Elie was driving an army vehicle - there is no way someone without orders and permission could have gotten such a vehicle and been in that area at that time.

Elie was able to show his "combat card" - again, clearly identifying himself. You may be correct and had they allowed people into that area without permission...well...

On the other hand...each soldier was armed - the worst someone could do - maybe - was see the massive tanks and artillery in action. One person, a journalist - did try during the war. He managed to get very close, park his SUV nearby and got out of the car to take pictures. Just as Elie and another officer were walking to the journalist to get him to move, the cannons fired - and this guys windows all blew out!

Anyway - I agree, in most instances, we all should think the best. For me, more than the calling the guy an idiot (which wasn't very nice) - is the idea of a soldier "begging" to be let back in to the war zone, of saying "let me in!" - I just love that part!

Thanks, as always, for your comments!


Anonymous said...

Did he tell you the story of the kids who used to come to the bases from the surrounding kibbutzim to bring hot soup and cookies? Those were our children who whilst delivering to the "danger zone" also explained to the soldiers how proud and happy they were to be able to see them defending the children. Those children, mine amongst them, are now about to go into that same army, though not much has changed. It was an amazing time when everyone in the area pulled together and helped each other, but so little was allowed to be accomplished by the politicians.

Anonymous said...

Wow, your son has to be a very important person in the army that the commanding officer of the commanding officer of the guard would scream at him...

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