A few short weeks after Elie entered the army, his commanding officer (named Or), came to visit us to explain what Elie would be doing in the weeks, months, and even years to come. It was a visit that touched me very deeply and I listened to each word, questioned, and marveled that I actually understood.
Or stayed as Elie’s commanding officer for the first three rotations – through basic training, advanced training, and the commander’s course. Only when Elie himself became a commander, did Or move up and on to another position.
Elie called yesterday, to tell me that the army had informed him that after the next rotation, he will be pulled back to where he first started when he was inducted into the army. Only this time, like Or, he will be taking command of new soldiers as they enter the army. They will call him “Commander,” not Elie. They will look up to him, listen to him, try to be like him. He will take a group of boys and run with them, push them, and demand they find within themselves, the men they will someday become.
Elie is enjoying commanding others (which is no surprise, he’s been doing it to his brothers and sisters for years). He likes analyzing aspects of a situation and finding solutions – he always has. His next rotation, starting in the next few weeks, will take him to a checkpoint near the center of the country, where he will be responsible for guarding and securing part of the central region of our country, where so many terrorist attacks have occurred.
In the last few months, Elie has trained and guarded our northern border. The enemy there would have attacked with missiles and tanks and planes. The enemy there would, for the most part, fight army to army or, if they attacked on a smaller scale, it would be to attempt to kidnap yet another soldier. Again, army to army, force to force.
The enemy Elie will face in the next few months is more insidious. Elie is not his target. They do not have the courage or training to face Elie soldier to soldier. Their goal would be the innocent, Elie’s younger brothers or sister would be so much more a target. Buses and malls and cafes. The unsuspecting, the unarmed, the untrained.
And, as Elie told me this week, after this next rotation, he’ll be going back to his first training base. It was then that I thought of Or. Elie is following in the path Or himself took as he made his way through the army. It’s hard to believe, in all of this, that Or is only a year older than Elie. He will leave the army this coming March. Like Elie, he did the basic training, the advanced training, the commanders course. Like Elie, he led a unit for one rotation, then was called back to the same training base where he became Elie’s commander. He came to our home, as Elie will go to the homes of those in his command, to explain to the parents what the army has planned for their son, to include them, to calm them. Or took my son through basic, advanced and commanders courses. Soon, Elie will take someone else’s son on this same path, through the physical challenges, the training and learning, the discovery of the inner strengths they each have, and finally, a commitment to our country and all it stands for.
Or means “light” in Hebrew – may Elie continue to follow the path of light, and may Or, and Elie, and all our soldiers follow that path safely.