Four years ago, in the same month of a different year - November, 2008, the number of rockets hitting Israel increased dramatically. It was, we all knew, only a matter of time before Israel would have to do something. Elie was in the army, stationed at a base in the center of the country. He was days away from the next rotation that would send him north...where Hezbollah was threatening to start another war.
But that was only if the south remained quiet. Until he moved, his unit was on call to go south, where Hamas was firing rockets. It was really only a question of which front would end in real war, and where Elie would be when it happened. Daily, I was checking with Elie, asking him where he was. Each day, he would say the same thing, "where you left me" - the base where I had driven him to after his last visit home. The pressure, the worry, was building and after one of those conversations, I just sat down and started to write about what I wanted...and what I was determined to do. Three days later, Elie's unit was moved south...near Gaza and two days after that, the war began.
Four years ago...and so little has changed.
What I Want...and What I'll Do
Monday, December 29, 2008
What I want...is to go collect my little boy and bring him home. I want to lock him in a room and tell Israel that no, you can't have him. I've changed my mind. No, I'm sorry. He's not allowed to play with guns and big things that go boom. No, I'm his mother. I gave birth to him and no, you simply can't take him.
What I want...is to call him and make sure he is where I put him, where he told me he was yesterday. Not in the north, where Hezbollah is promising to burn the ground and open a second front and not in the south, where dozens of rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel, where a man was killed and dozens were wounded.
That's what I want...
And what I'll do, is sit here at my desk and keep editing this document for my client. I'll update the copyright statements and change the installation information to reflect the new platforms the product now supports. I'll answer the phone and I'll talk to my accountant.
And what I'll do, is tell my heart to settle. I'll tell my eyes to take a moment and look at the next beautiful wave of clouds rolling in over Jerusalem. I'll sign the papers I need to sign; type the words I need to type. I'll tell my younger daughter to clean her room and my younger son that he has to study for his test NOW. I'll tell my middle son he can borrow the car like we agreed, but he has to drive carefully. I won't talk to my oldest daughter because she's old enough to see the cracks in my smile and know that outside, it's all a front.
What I'll do is answer the phone if Elie calls and I'll talk to him calmly. I'll listen if he tells me he's staying where he is. I'll listen if he tells me they are moving him up north. I'll listen if he tells me they are moving him down south near Gaza. I'll listen, I'll tell him to be careful, and call me when he can. I won't for a single moment, tell him that I'm scared, that I have no real experience with this war thing and that I don't really want him to have any experience with it either.
What I'll do is continue to listen to the news and pray for our civilians who are under attack, and our soldiers who are risking their lives to defend them.
And most of all, what I will do is dig deep inside where I store my faith in God and in my country and my people. I will do what every Israeli is doing today, hoping this will end soon, but not too soon that we only succeed in putting off to tomorrow what should have been dealt with today. I will do all of this because we are what we have always been, a nation with no choice but to deal with what our enemies choose.
They chose to shell our cities with rockets and so we must stop them. They chose the path of war, so we will set the scenery around this path. Our scenery will include our air force that will knock out their launching pads; our scenery will include our navy and tanks. We'll eliminate the tunnels they use to sneak into our land and those they use to smuggle weapons and terrorists to harm our people. We will change the scenery of Gaza, so that their training camps will no longer exist.
The world may forget that it was Hamas and Islamic Jihad who chose rockets and mortars and missiles with which to attack us; they may fail to recognize that we use our air force, our tanks, our ground forces and our artillery to protect. For once, Israelis are united in one simple reality. We cannot afford to bend to the world's will, if that means our children live under rocket fire, if that means people are forced to run for shelter with mere seconds to alert them.
We are, above all things, a nation that chooses life. Today, we choose to protect the lives of our citizens. Maybe deep down, what I want is to hide inside myself, but what I will do is what every Israeli is doing today - having faith that we are bringing a better reality to our country by taking its safety into our hands. Our soldiers have our faith, they have our prayer, and they have our love.
May God protect the soldiers of Israel and watch over them as they do what they must. They cannot be defeated because where they go, they will not be alone. They have with them the Defender of Israel.And four years later, I'll repeat the same words - this time for other soldiers. Elie is at home with his wife. They are mobilizing units, calling them south. I don't know what that means. I don't know if they'll call him and even if they do, I won't know if they are simply calling him as backup to be ready in case this latest operation turns into a full-fledged war. I don't know about Elie, but I do know at this moment, we have soldiers in the air and soldiers in the ground who are on guard, on patrol, fighting and flying missions. And so this prayer I once wrote with Elie in my mind, I now write again - for now, it is for the others...
May God protect the soldiers of Israel and watch over them as they do what they must. They cannot be defeated because where they go, they will not be alone. They have with them the Defender of Israel.