Elie’s unit has been moved north into the Golan Heights for a new phase in training. The terrain is very different than in the southern desert. In the Negev, the large armored vehicles crush the soft stone into a fine powder that at times was more than ankle deep. It filled the air, coating their backpacks, their beds, their faces and their guns with dust. They learned to cope, to cover their faces and wait out the dust storms, to take shelter, to clean their guns and know that the cool desert night would compensate.
The north is lush with trees, the air during the day cooler. The ground is covered with ancient volcanic rock and the armored vehicles react differently on the hard ground. This they must learn. The nights aren’t as cool but the days aren’t as hot. The base is closer to the border, the conditions more primative. The “dining area” is a tent, not a building and there is no airconditioning. The meals are a combination of combat rations and some extras thrown in, not hot cooked meals with a choice of selections.
They are now trained soldiers. The armored vehicle that Elie can drive had a problem – a cable had disconnected and something wasn’t working correctly. Elie reported to his commanding officer who contacted the unit mechanics. When the mechanics arrived and asked the commanding officer what the problem was, he sent them to Elie. Elie watched as they fixed it, and the next time it happened, Elie just fixed it himself. It reminds me of the hours and hours Elie has spent fixing our cars with his father.
At first we thought Elie would be home this weekend, but in the end, it turned out it is Elie’s turn to remain on base and patrol. Next weekend, the entire unit remains on base and so we are in for another 3 week stretch without seeing him. The physcial distance to the north is not much different than the physical distance to his base in the south…it might even be closer, and yet it feels so much further.
The situation with Syria is tenous. It could remain as it is…or get worse at any time. We may be months away from war, weeks, or days. Few think we are years away and almost everyone agrees there will be one.
Early on in the summer, it seemed war was imminent and almost a certainty to be this summer. Now that we have gotten through the summer, it appears the immediate threat has lessened. That doesn’t mean the army is any less prepared or any less on guard, but it allows us, the mothers and fathers of soldiers, to breathe a little easier, to sleep a little deeper and to hope a little more.