It begins, properly, not with the first day of the war, but what was happening at the time - the reason why Israel launched Cast Lead, the name used here in Israel for the operation/war. Elie sent me the link and said I could share it on the blog. He recognizes the voices and faces of many of the people, and even learned something. It seems his unit was the last to fire on Gaza during the war. And yes, he takes pride in what he did, what he had to do, what he would do again, and what we all hope he never has to.
In the last few years, southern cities have once again known rocket fire coming from terrorist organizations that are controlling Gaza. The rocket fire continues, even in times of "relative calm."
(the video shows the rocket fire and then returns to a map detailing landing points)
The news report lists some of the Israeli cities and towns that were hit by rocket fire in November and December of 2008. Ashkelon....Shderot...Netivot....on and on - up to 60 rockets in a single day.
"On the 27th of December, the Israeli government gave a "green light" to begin an operation against Hamas.
The goal of the operation, explains the video, are:
To strike a major blow to the Hamas government in order to bring about an improvement in the security situation for a period of time, to the areas surrounding Gaza.
Dragon Brigade Presentation (this is Elie's unit)
It shows the cannons firing - and then "Operation Cast Lead"
December 31, 2008 - Under fire in the capital of the Negev Desert - Beersheva under fire - 5 rockets hit the crowded city - including one that hit an empty classroom. Has Israel not canceled school in the south, a major tragedy and many casualties would have resulted.
Then it begins by showing the work that Elie and his soldiers were doing when they were relocated to fight the war. It shows them checking cars and the base where they were. Elie pointed to one of the soldiers, "that's one of my soldiers. I didn't like him so much," he says with a grin.
Just before they arrived (not shown in the film), a rocket landed in the field where they were to take up positions, "Put one cannon there," Elie's commanding officer ordered, "they'll never hit the same spot again!"
I haven't really had the time to listen to them speaking. I know that one is the commander of the division; another Elie's commanding officer; others are friends of Elie's. There are a few times we think we see Elie - it's hard to know.
I like the video - because it shows me the life he had during those frightening and intense weeks. I heard some of it over the phone, some in his voice. I saw some when I traveled down there; heard it, saw it. It is interesting to learn the things I didn't know - like there was a "ceremony" at the end - sort of a large gathering in which they spoke to the troops. I was looking for Elie in the pictures. He isn't there. Only now did he tell me that he missed the ceremony by a day.
What he didn't say was that he came home a day earlier than they would have released him - after giving up numerous opportunities to take a 24-hour leave. His brother's bar mitzvah was on Thursday. I picked Elie up on Wednesday afternoon so he could be with the family.
His younger brother had asked me to tell Elie to try not to take a break so that he could save it and come home briefly for the family celebration. I told Davidi I couldn't do that - how could I tell Elie to stay in a war zone - and yet, that was exactly what he did. Each time he was offered the chance to come home for a 24-hour leave, he gave it to someone else.
The pictures show me a piece of the other side of the phone. They are "cleansed pictures" - no, not from the point of view of what happened in Gaza. That is another story and not the purpose of this video. But I remember the exhaustion I heard in Elie's voice; I know about the times their unit took cover against incoming rockets. It is a piece, only a piece - but it is nice to see the faces, to know that Elie was, even at that time, among brothers.