For now, I’m in a place that years ago I never imagined I would be – safe on the other side, looking back. Now, with my two older sons out of the army, with Yaakov safely married in the States and Chaim in his studies, I can be glad they were in. I can say that they grew as people, as Jews, as Israelis, as men, as sons. Now, when it is safe.
Every once in a while, I meet a mother of a son about to go in – a mother not born in Israel, but one like me who came later in life with a son who is now about to begin the journey, or a mother who struggles through this period while she is there in America and her son has come alone. It is a strange feeling to be here, knowing they are just at the start. I met one such mother last night – I’ve known her for years but this time she told me her son was finishing high school and this time, it was across that divide that I began remembering those first days, those first fears.
It’s so easy – as it was for others before me, to be on this side and talk. Of understanding and accepting that you take each day, one at a time; that he can’t call you and you can’t call him whenever you want. Of knowing that just because he says he will be home, it means nothing until he walks through that door and you see him. The memories come so fast; they’ve never really gone away.
Of the times he called and told me he was cold and I thought it would kill me. Of the time he called and told me his head was killing him and he was still out in the field and I wanted to drive for hours to get to him. Of the time I called his commanding officer and said that I wanted to come and take him to the doctor and please, please could they make sure he was okay. Of the time he told he he wasn’t where I thought he was and I knew that meant he was in danger and war was coming. Of the time he called to say he couldn’t come home as planned and I knew something had happened but not what that would mean for him.
Of all the times and all the worries and all the fears. From this side of the divide, with them safe and even married and on to the next adventures in their lives, I know two things, I believe two things and hold on to them.
The first is that soon enough, my friends will, God willing, be standing here beside me, remembering their own fears and worries, and grateful, so very grateful to be here. The time will go fast, I want to tell them, but in truth, time is time and it really doesn’t go faster or slower because want it to.
And the second thing I know is that this mountain on which we stand doesn’t protect you from the next time. As Elie came out of the army, I stood here on this side and yet a week or so later, I was back there on the other as Shmulik began his journey. With lightening speed, the security of this mountaintop can be stripped away from you, all it takes is another son or daughter going in. Now, here I am again on the best of all mountains and this time, I’ve been here for almost a year and I have still more time to rest and be happy.
But more and more I am realizing, in less than two years, I’ll be going back there to where they are now, on the edge of the great divide. It’s a hard place to be, standing there. From there, you can see so clearly to this wonderful place where I am now. You know what it looks like. As they begin, there in that place, they can see me now and a part of them longs to be here with me. But it is as if a cloud has settled over the land between these two mountains. The void is the valley below. The journey from that mountain top of concern to this one of pride and gratitude.
It is a valley through which I would accompany them if I could and yet it is one each mother travels alone. With hugs and love, I can only tell them to have faith, to always look up and know we are here waiting for them to join us.
May the sons and mothers who begin that journey have safe travels all the days in the valley and may they know the pride and gratitude of those of us who wait here on the heights.