Today, Syrian President Assad allegedly met with the Foreign Minister of Turkey and allegedly told him, “I won’t need more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets to Golan to fire at Tel Aviv.” It reminded me of a conversation I had long ago with Elie about the Golan, his being stationed up there, and how a war could start at any moment.
It’s frightening having a son moments away from a border, seconds away from war. One night, several months into his active service, he called me to tell me he wouldn’t make the morning bus as we’d thought he would. He wouldn’t be home for his father’s 50th birthday party. He couldn’t leave base. He wouldn’t tell me why, only that he was on alert, all bases were on alert, and he couldn’t leave. He ended the conversation – at 4:00 a.m. or so, by saying, “Don’t worry.” It was the night Israel attacked the beginnings of a Syrian nuclear plant (you can read about that night here). At 4:00 p.m. – 12 hours after he had awakened me, concerned that he’d be too busy to be able to call me at a normal time, I heard reports that Syria was claiming we’d bombed them.
Something had happened, that was clear, and Elie was stationed right there. Only days, weeks, and months later would he tell me about that night, about being on alert, waiting for the attack that didn’t come. Elie came home a few days later when it was clear that all Syria was going to do was make noise. No war that time.
While he was home, then and other times, we talked about what would happen if Syria attacked. I don’t want to write about what he told me, but the gist of it was that Syria could get in one good attack at most – if they were lucky, very lucky, and then Israel would flatten them. Their army, air force, artillery, are completely and entirely outclassed by Israel. Elie spoke of their training, of their terrain, of their motivation, of their equipment. In short, even dismissing the arrogance of youth, Syria is not what we worry about.
Elie mentioned a number – how long it would take Israel to respond. I remembered that number when reading Assad’s claim that in six hours he could transfer hundreds of rockets to the Golan. What makes that man so stupid to think Israel would give him six hours? Not even one.
In a period of time measured in a fraction of that time, Israel would have taken to the air, to the borders and beyond. A few days ago I heard someone talk about the three things that make you an Israeli – one of them was having lived through a war here. I’ve been through more than one. They are terrifying days without a break. Fear for the people in the area, terror for the soldiers. Agony with each loss. When your son is in the war, you go around in a haze of terror. You are afraid to sleep – I slept more than one night holding my phone in my hand in case he called. You are afraid to awaken in the morning, knowing that you have to listen to the news and find out what happened while you were asleep.
You have to smile for people when they try to comfort you or tell you that you have to have faith and not be afraid, while your heart is screaming so loud…and yet no one else hears it.
I know there will be another war – sooner or perhaps later. I don’t know if my sons…which of my sons…will be involved in it and as a statement of our reality here, I don’t know which border it will be on. Lebanon, Syria. Gaza. Sinai. Perhaps even Jordan. The only great certainty is that it will be.
We’ve been warned by our leaders, and theirs, that the next war will include missiles on Tel Aviv, that all of Israel will be open to attack. These thoughts paralyze me with fear and make me wonder how I will gather my children/ Which is a silly concept because at least three of them…and Chaim…and Yaakov if he is back here by then…are too old to be gathered. And yet that is what I will want to do.
But those are thoughts I push away because they offer no comfort and no control. And so I return to today. Assad’s words today don’t scare me, don’t send me into a panic. They are the words of a leader whose people are rebelling, an emperor without his clothes. They are also the words of a very stupid man – six hours…no, Syria – rest assured, you won’t have six hours to move missiles into position.