Things got very hectic, as they often do in the minutes before the Sabbath arrives. We were having friends over for dinner and my married daughter and husband as well. Guests for lunch too. My husband had to get the car fixed; my middle son spent Friday learning math. In short, it was hectic and only in the minutes before I had to light, did I realize that I had not spoken to Elie.
It was too close, too late. I didn’t call. My phone beeped once during the Sabbath (later I would find out that there had been an emergency landing at the airport and a Grad missile had slammed into the industrial area of Ashkelon). My daughter asked me why I didn’t shut the phone over the weekend. I didn’t explain that I leave it open on purpose; only closing it when Elie is home for the weekend.
After the Sabbath ended, after the dishwasher was loaded and running, I turned on my computer and scrolled through the happenings outside my small sphere of life. That’s when I heard about two mortars, three Kassem missiles and the Grad missile all hitting Israel today. And, as happens too often, as the news scrolled by on the website, the name “Azoun” caught my eye. Elie is stationed near Kalkilye, and near the village of Azoun.
A pair of Molotov cocktails were thrown at Israeli vehicles Friday afternoon next to Azoun, east of Kalkilye. No injuries were reported, but one of the vehicles was damaged. Army troops were sent to search the scene.
The damaged vehicles likely belonged to civilians passing on the road when they got ambushed, but “army troops were sent to search the scene” is what caught my eye. Where is Elie? Where was Elie?
I’d wanted to give him space; wanted to let him reach out and call me. It was a game I was playing with myself, not wanting it to appear that I’m an overly protective or obsessive mother. Other mothers in Israel don’t call their sons every day. Neither do I. Other mothers take this army service thing in stride, but many of them grew up with this thing. Their father disappeared for weeks at a time, when there were no cellphones or ways to reach them. I have friends whose husbands went off to war and they sat at home, worried and frantic, with no way to know where they were.
So, I test myself. Israel is at war, in the sense that we are never at peace and our enemies still wish to launch rockets against us, as they did today and as they will tomorrow. But we are not at war as America is in Iraq. There, to step off the relative safety of the base, is to be endangered.
More than 18 months into his service, I can’t really say (with incredible gratitude to God), that Elie has ever really been in a life-threatening situation. He’s had to aim his gun, he’s even shot his gun (rubber bullets), but the crowds or rioting Arabs were throwing stones which can hurt and maim and have caused deaths, but not often.
The Arabs were not shooting and while firebombs do damage, they are quickly extinguished and also rarely are responsible for deaths. No, we have been blessed – Elie has found guns hidden away during searches but has not had one pointed at him. Elie has found things that could be used to create bombs, but no explosives themselves (at least not that he has told me :-).
So I test myself, knowing he is fine – letting him have space. When he needs us, we are here. When he needs to be independent, that too is his right. For him, it isn’t so much a need to be independent, as simply he’s busy, has responsibilities, and things he has to do. And, when he doesn’t have things he has to do, he has his own time, to give where he wants, to do what he wants. If he wants to call home, he will.
I’m probably not explaining this correctly; I’m certainly over-analyzing this, as I tend to do with some things.
So, I saw the news report. Azoun. And my well intentioned plans were quickly ignored. Elie is fine. He’s on base after 12 hours at the checkpoint. He’s coming home at some point tomorrow, unless tensions flare up. There have been more incidents lately and the army is considering canceling the leave of the soldiers about to go home tomorrow.
If he does come home, he wants to go to the mall tomorrow and perhaps the center of town on Monday. Tuesday, it would be back to the army.
“How was Friday?” That was my opening to ask him if he was involved.
“Fine.” Well, that didn’t tell me much so I asked him straight out.
What it came down to was that he wasn’t really involved in the Azoun issue, but rather in another area. The army called and told Elie to grab some of his soldiers and check out a disturbance in an area. When the soldiers got there, they didn’t find anything and so were told to “patrol.” And so, for several hours, Elie and the soldiers patrolled the area in a large, bulletproof vehicle until they finished and went back to base for dinner.
Other than that, the Sabbath passed peacefully for Elie and he’s now ready to come home and get a well deserved break.