Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Son Going to War Soon

You'd think after having so many sons go into the army, I'd know everything there is to know and yet I am constantly learning more. A few months ago, I started hearing about "Shavua milchama" - translated as "War Week."

It is something that comes right near the end of the second module of basic training. They put the "new" soldiers under "war" conditions, deprive them of sleep, force them to carry rations with them and live, day and night, as it would be in war. The thinking is, if they can expose these young soldiers to the worst conditions they can expect, in a real war, there will be other surprises but at least the soldiers will adapt more easily having experienced this short, intense experiment.

"What happens if it is too much?" I asked David. He gets headaches sometimes if he doesn't sleep enough. Mistakes can happen. I'm a bit frightened by the whole thing. If I could write a note to his commanding officer to get him home, I'd have used up a notebook of paper already.

"You keep going," David answered.

"But what if you can't?" I asked him again, fear creeping into my voice.

"Then you keep going."

Today, Elie also left for a week of Reserve duty. Again, I have two soldiers in. Elie is taking part in a huge training exercise up north; David has gone south into the desert. Both will sleep outside and deal with the heat of late Spring in Israel. Elie took brownies; Davidi took sandwiches but thought he wouldn't have room to take anything else.

Neither is going into battle.

This feeling in the pit of my stomach, nerves mostly, is silly. I have told so many people - the goal of the army is to train these young men and women and turn them into a cohesive, strong fighting unit. In the first three months, their goal is to instill a sense of discipline - orders. Everything is regulated. The goal of these past few months is to ensure that they are trained to the level needed to release them into the army as a full partner and working element. In the first part, they tried to "break" the old and in the second, they work hard to rebuild the "new".

David has lost weight but gained so much strength. He looks taller, though he is already the tallest in the family. "It's the boots," he responds when I ask if he has grown. But boots or not, he walks taller and is so much more confident of his abilities.

He is adored by his little niece, who runs to be held by him. She does not like beards and so will even refuse to kiss her own father at times and yet, she doesn't hesitate to hug and kiss David. On Shabbat, I had several good hours playing games with three of my children and one of theirs. We ate. played with little Michali and enjoyed her endless comments and orders. We are putty in her hands, to the amusement of her father and mother.

And then this morning, it was back to work, back to the army and a son going to "war" leaving me grateful that at least in this war, I don't have to listen to the radio, pray each moment that a missile has been fired and search to find out where it landed or if anyone has, God forbid, been hurt.

This is a war my son wages mainly against himself - to show himself and others that he can function on almost no sleep, in terrible heat, in buildings and in the field. I hate the army for putting him through this...and I am grateful that they do. It is the "final" test that he has to get through. He and his unit will be walking over 100 kilometers in the coming days...much of it carrying stretchers because an integral part of the Israeli army is that we do all that is humanly possible to bring our wounded out.

I've been to "war" twice - one of my greatest prayers in life is that I never have to go through this again...happily, this is the first time I was made aware of this "shavua milchama" - and as Davidi is my last solder, this is the last time I'll have to endure this particular worry. So, for the next bit, I'll type and document and email and be so grateful that this is only an exercise...that later this week, Elie will return, later next week, Davidi will return. Grateful that no civilians will be running for cover; no missiles will be launched, God willing, at Israel.

Soon, in the coming hours, my youngest son will go to war...please, please God, may it be the only war he ever knows in his life; may he come home hot and tired and sweaty and even hungry...but safe, and sound.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

God Bless all of the precious soldiers of the IDF, and keep them safe and well!!! Jan

Shira Salamone said...

Amen!

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