I didn't want him there. And yet, on Thursday afternoon, I got a call from him. As had happened several times during that week, in anticipation of their moving Elie's unit either north to a possible confrontation with Hezbollah on Lebanon or south to a possible war with Gaza, my first question was always, "Elie, where are you?"
This time, the answer was different, "not where you left me." I had dropped him off at his base more than three weeks before, expecting him to be home two weeks later. Oh God, I thought to myself...be calm.
"Are you north of where you were, or south?" I asked, not wanting to say his location over the phone. I like to think our enemies are stupid - I needed to believe they wouldn't understand this barely coded conversation.
"South," he answered, and my heart fell south into my stomach. Somehow, I finished the conversation with him without crying, without panicking - or at least I like to remember that I did. I couldn't write about it right away - and that, for me, is a statement in itself. Three years later, I still remember the simple word, "South."
Houses of God
Breathe in...breathe out...I've been doing it all my life, so why today does it seem so hard?
In a conversation with Elie, we talked about the rocket attacks on Beersheva. I told him that a kindergarten and a high school had been hit hard - thankfully the buildings were empty.
Of course, they were empty because we would not risk the lives of our children, and the buildings aren't fortified against missile attack. Why should they be? Is your children's school fortified against missiles? Who shoots missiles at a city where hundreds of thousands of people live?
And then Elie said, "that's artillery, Ima." Yes, that's the point. The Palestinians are shooting artillery at us...and we will now shoot artillery back. And Elie, as he has told me in the past, is artillery.
So, last night, two things happened. The first, Israel warned a senior Hamas member to vacate his home. The army knew it was being used as an explosives storage facility. The army issued the warning, allowed time for the evacuation, and blew up the house.
As expected, there were numerous secondary explosions that were triggered by the initial Israeli missile. These explosions, one of which was shown live on Fox News the other day, prove that Israel is hitting explosives, not just empty buildings. Nothing exploded when the school in Beersheva was hit. Part of it just came crashing down.
There was one problem with the hit on the Hamas leader's home. He indeed was not home - but the Palestinians didn't bother to evacuate the building. The man's four wives and eleven of his thirteen children were killed. One son survived. The other child died years ago when he decided to kill himself for the "divine" pleasure of becoming a suicide bomber to murder Israelis. So, this man who stored explosives in his home with his wives and children wakes this morning to a new reality - his wives, his children, and his explosives are all gone. I can't help but wonder what he mourns most.
The second thing that happened last night is that the army of Israel moved my trained son to a war zone to help fight against those who fire missiles and rockets at our civilians. There is no military secret here. The army has already made it clear that artillery and tanks are in place. The only "news" here, is that the name of at least one of the soldiers in the artillery is Elie. My Elie.
This is good. This is why he is in the army - to defend his land and this is why today, amidst cooking for the Sabbath and baking a cake and cleaning the house and doing the laundry, I am going to try, really really hard, to remember how to breathe. It seemed during the night that I'd forgotten, but since I'm still here, I guess I managed it enough to survive...and I will today too.
And you would be so proud of me. I was so calm when Elie told me. Even when he told me he was going to close his phone to save the battery and so I can't call him but have to wait till he calls me. I told him to be careful, told him to call when he can and didn't start to cry or panic until I'd closed the phone.
May God please, please protect my son, all my sons - because they are all mine. Watch over them and keep them safe and guide their missiles to hit only those buildings that have explosives and rockets in them. And please, God, give the Palestinian leadership enough sense not to store their explosives with their wives and children.
Oh, and one more prayer - please take care of those Palestinian gunmen who are hiding themselves and their weapons in hospitals - especially in the maternity wards among the innocent newborns.
Oh, wait - one other - please ask the Palestinians to choose between praying in a mosque and storing weapons there because, if they store weapons there, like the two we have already bombed, we are going to bomb those structures too. A House of God is not an arsenal and an arsenal cannot be a House of God.