The last time I wondered, worried, where Elie was…he was heading south to be stationed near Gaza. This time too, he was heading south – but I wasn’t worried and he wasn’t heading to a particularly worrisome area. They’ve finished the training in the north, leaving the snowy hills of the Golan to join much of the rest of Israel in the often sweltering coastal area.
Once again, Elie and his unit are stationed on the line between populations, an area where thousands cross each day on their way to work, school, play. Most cause no trouble – but a few try to sneak through explosives, guns, knives. A soldier is a handy target, a holy one, a desired one. But a soldier has a gun and can fight back, is trained to watch and be on alert, so more often than not, a terrorist will try to hit a civilian traveling too close.
But that’s really the nature of Israel – too close. We live mere meters from their homes – just as they live mere meters from ours. We, however, don’t throw firebombs on their cars nor do we send our children to blow themselves up in their cafes. Our wives and mothers don’t celebrate the deaths of their husbands and sons, don’t take pride in the martyrdom of our youth.
And so Elie will spend the next few months patrolling, guarding. He’s in a more senior position than last time. This time, he will be able to make the schedules and assign soldiers to the various tasks. At some points, he will be in command – other times, he is free to do whatever he wants. He can choose to do nothing, or he can put himself into the framework of a patrol.
Already when he explained this to me, I knew that Elie was not the type to sit back and do nothing for long stretches of time. He arrived today at the new base.
“How is it there?” I asked him.
“Nice,” he told me.
“So what are you doing?”
“Nothing much now. We just got here today. Know what I’m doing tomorrow?”
“No,” I lied, of course I know what he’s doing, but there is a game to be played. “What are you doing tomorrow?”
“Going on patrol,” he said and as is often the case, I can hear the smile in his face and imagine the grin.
Oh yes, he loves going on patrol. It’s spring in Israel so that means there are no massive puddles to ram the Humvee through, but there are mountains to climb, roads to travel.
“Where will you be?” I asked him. “In an Arab village?”
“No,” he answered. He then named a Jewish village nearby. It’s a lovely village – with a pizza shop and a hamburger place. Oh, yes, I know my son and tomorrow, he’s going on patrol.