I hear it said so often, that simple word, “Achi” – my brother, in Hebrew, and each time, it does something to me. It is a greeting Shmulik uses with his friends, his fellow soldiers…and more, it is a greeting they use with him. I heard it in several conversations this morning as Shmulik spoke with his friends. I can’t explain what it does to me to hear it; the affection I hear in his voice and today, as he was speaking to his friend and he put his friend on the speaker so we could discuss where to meet the bus that would take him to his base.
As they closed the phone, his friend agreed to speak to the bus driver to make sure the bus would stop and pick Shmulik up on the side of the road, and there it was, “See you on the bus, my brother,” his friend said to him.
It’s just an expression. I’ve heard Elie say it to others; others say it to Elie and now to Shmulik. Just an expression and yet it says so much about the relationships people build here in Israel. It is there to see in how our soldiers greet each other. There in how they speak.
Last week, I took two international guests on a brief tour of Masada and the Dead Sea. As we left the Dead Sea, I stopped at the gas station. As I got out of the car, there was a soldier there. I explained to our guests that he was in the tanks division, and how I knew it. While they sat for a moment in the car, I started to fill the tank with gas and heard the soldier ask the other driver at another pump a question.
“Do you need a ride?” I asked the soldier. When he heard we were headed to Jerusalem, he was thrilled and joined us for the trip. As we drove, I tried to explain the relationship our soldiers have with one another; how they give each other that hug/pat on the shoulder as they leave to go home, and again when they return to base. It’s a brief touch of the hands, a pat on the shoulder – and often the simple words, “Achi” – my brother.
They say soldiers are “brothers-in-arms”…here in Israel, often, they are simply brothers.