Elie is on his way home for the weekend. He’ll be here shortly. This is the second week in a row that he is able to be home for Shabbat. I cherish it because I already know that next week he won’t be here. This is the week he will complete yet another phase of his training. It’s been a long and dusty week for him, spending much of it out in the desert with his unit, his armored vehicle, and the supplies they need.
Unlike the earlier training sessions where they had to carry what they needed on their backs, now they travel in a vehicle that is roughly the size of a tank. All the water they need, the food, sleeping bags and more are within the tank. Last weekend, knowing what the week would bring, Elie asked me to make a double batch of cookies. Usually, this is something I do when he will be gone for two weeks, so it was a strange request.
Elie explained that they would be able to pack the cookies into the vehicle and sure enough, when I spoke to him on Tuesday (after his returning to base on Sunday), one box of cookies (roughly 120 cookies) was gone already. By the end of the next day, the second box was gone as well.
When I jokingly asked if I should perhaps make 3 huge containers for the coming week, Elie responded almost seriously, “perhaps four.”
It is no secret that relations between Israel and Syria, never good, are now particularly strained with almost daily news bulletins on whether or not war will erupt in the coming weeks. In addition to all his other studies, Elie is learning about Syria.
“What are they teaching you?” I asked him.
“Everything,” he answered. Of course, he has learned about Syria’s army, but he has also learned about its government, its leaders, and history. This too is something of value that the army gives to our children.
And last night, Elie’s middle brother and I went shopping for the food we needed to prepare for Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath). Israel is a small country in so many ways and having a son in the army makes it all that much smaller. As I approached the cashier, my groceries loaded on the checkout counter, I heard the customer ahead of me ask the cashier about her sons (she has twin 20 year old boys – one in tanks and one in artillery).
When I approached and the cashier began processing my groceries, I mentioned that I too have a son in artillery – this is the way things are in Israel. She asked what base he was on (her son is already in the north), and I remembered Elie telling me that most of his larger unit was moving up there for training while his group remained in the south a little longer.
In the end, it turns out she was there during the Tekes Kumta, equally touched by the special ceremony. She too found it difficult to locate her son among the hundreds of soldiers that approached the parents quickly. She told me she’d made a big sign and held it up as he approached and that she’d frozen ice popsicles to hand out to the soldiers as they passed her. I smiled and explained that this was my first real encounter with the army and I was still learning. A big sign…and ices – smart, I thought to myself.
And as I drove home, I wondered what it would be like to have twin sons in the army at the same time. It is hard enough having one son in at a time, I think. My heart is always divided between Elie on one side, and another part here in the present with my husband, my other children and my work and responsibilities. I can’t imagine it being divided into yet another direction at the same time.
For now, though, I put this all aside – Elie is on his way home…a few more minutes and he will be here. A weekend with my heart back in one piece and everyone together. That is the most precious Shabbat gift of all.