It rained today. Poured, actually. My husband and youngest son walked our guests home and as they returned, the heavens opened above them. As they walked, they saw young teenagers in the streets, running and then sliding on the street because this was the first rain and the roads were treacherous for cars, heaven for children.
We returned from the synagogue this afternoon and sat down to lunch. My oldest daughter is with her husband in Jerusalem. Elie is on base. My middle son is at his Hesder yeshiva for shabbat, and we are, for the first time in 18 years, basically a couple with two children at home. It is an astounding shift that I have yet to understand. I need to learn to make less food on those weekends when we have only the two “little” ones (or invite more guests).
As we sat for lunch, the skies again opened and we watched the road to Jerusalem as cars in the distance drove slowly and carefully. The first good rain of the season brings out all the oil that has accumulated and drivers that normally zoom down the highway far below our living room window slow to a crawl.
Personally, I love walking in the rain. I love watching the rain from inside a warm room. In short, I love the rain and never tire of its beauty, its strength, its promise. We stopped our lunch to step outside and get wet, to watch as the skies poured down. “I love the smell,” my young daughter said as she put her hand outside the door and caught a few raindrops.
In Israel, it barely rains (at least by American standards). If it is a good year, we have rain fairly regularly from around late October to the end of March. Give or take a few weeks, but I don’t remember a good solid drenching like this one in September ever happening. We’ve had four bad years, one more will be a huge problem for Israel’s already depleted reserves.
Rain is very different here in Israel than in most countries. With the freedom of abundant water, people in countries like England and most of the US are free to curse the rain as an inconvenience. Nasty weather puts a damper on carefully made plans.
In Israel, the rain is celebrated, well, mostly. We’ll say something like, “it’s miserable out there, thank God.” The almost constant response in Israel when someone says it is raining is “Baruch, HaShem” or God is blessed – essentially meaning that God has blessed us.
In the end, Elie could not come home for Shabbat, but got permission to leave Saturday night instead of Sunday. To help soften the blow, I told him I would come and pick him up from his base. What would have taken him several hours to get home over 3-4 buses, would be accomplished in a third of the time, in an air-conditioned car. I called him after the Sabbath had ended to check when I could leave. He was not in a happy mood, “I have to complete some reports,” was all he said. “I don’t know how long it will take.”
I told him I would leave and get there when I could and he shouldn’t worry if I waited outside the base. He was exhausted when he finally came to the car, uptight, hungry, dirty, miserable. There’d been a problem with food so instead of getting a good hot lunch at the checkpoint, they brought them a melon, some yogurts, a loaf of bread and some hummus. They thought it was a nice treat, until they realized that was all they were getting. They’d skipped breakfast and eaten Bamba (Israel peanut-flavored snack that kids love) and not much more.
I told him we had rice and chicken and meat strips waiting for him at home and that seemed to cheer him to some extent. Food and home was getting closer by the minute as the miles zoomed past. We talked about the terrorist attack. He told me that the army was sending the boys who had been there to counseling to make sure they are OK.
“Are they OK?” I asked Elie.
“Mostly. It’s good when they are on base. During the day, they have too much to do to think about it and at night, they’re too exhausted to dream about it.”
I asked him if he knew that the car had been bullet-proof (the terrorist’s family bought it used from the American Consulate in Jerusalem). No, he hadn’t known that, but it didn’t matter.
“What does bulletproof mean?” Elie asked, and then answered it immediately. “It just means that a bullet will crack the glass instead of shatter it. It can’t hold up against an M16.”
He told me about how the commander had fired through the back window. We spoke of the family’s complaint that the terrorist could have been neutralized without killing him and Elie said the army rule is that so long as there is potential for additional harm – and there was – the kill was just. His words. The terrorist had injured almost two dozen people in a deliberate attack. So long as he moved, he had the ability to put the car in reverse and do more damage. People were on the ground and couldn’t be moved fast enough. The commander followed the rules of combat, and combat this was.
He fired only while the terrorist was moving, when he could have put the car in reverse to kill and injure others. We spoke of the family’s claim that it was an accident and not an attack, “Ima, he swerved the car deliberately into the people. He aimed the car. It was no accident.”
We talked about many things, including what he’d done that day and several recent incidents that required him to write a report (an Arab refused to show him his identification, an Arab demanded that Elie allow him to take his truck through the checkpoint even though he had no permission).
We drove and once again, for no good reason, I chose to take the old road out of Jerusalem. Late at night, it’s usually clear and when I’m tired, it just seems easier than driving through the city. In the last 5 months, I have not gotten stuck on the road once. Back then, I was with Elie and the reason was a car accident (you can read about that one: Don’t you trust me?). This time, again, almost at the same place, we saw there was a long line of cars.
“What is it about going with you?” I joked with Elie. “You aren’t going to go out again, are you?”
“Maybe,” he said with a smile as he too remembered. He straightened up in the seat and lowered the window. He was listening for an ambulance, but we didn’t hear anything and suddenly it opened up and began moving. In the end, we passed a truck rolled on its side. Clearly, the driver had taken the turn too fast. No ambulance and the delay was caused by a tow truck maneuvering into place. At first he asked me to pull over so he could see if he could help, but quickly realized this was the post-accident clean-up stage. No reason for Elie to get out of the car.
We got home and Elie went straight to his room to dump his stuff, then down to the kitchen for food. I sat with him for a few minutes while he ate. I told him that I wanted to leave early for work the next morning because he needs me to drive him to Herzilya to pick up the inserts for his boots and this way I could put in a full day and still take him. We talked of the rain that had come over the Sabbath. I told him that his younger brother had left his bicycle chained to the school.
“It’s still out there? When it rained?” Elie asked and when I confirmed that it had indeed been out in the rain, Elie said, “I’ll go with him and get it and then I’ll spray it with the oil I use for my gun.” I thanked him for his concern – how sweet, I thought to myself, though of course, I wouldn’t dare accuse him of being sweet to his face.
“Wake me up and I’ll drive the kids to school,” he volunteered. “I haven’t seen them for a while.”
How I love this child. That last admission went straight to my heart. The “kids” are Elie’s two younger siblings. There was a six year break between my third and fourth children and so the older three refer to the younger two as the “kids.”
“I haven’t seen them for a while,” is as close to an admission that Elie had missed them as I’m likely to get. So, I have one day of work until I go home to my family for the New Year holiday. It’s a celebration of a new year, of being together, of pulling into ourselves and being so grateful. They say that how you begin the year is a sign of the year to come. Many people don’t sleep during this holiday, afraid that their luck will sleep as well.
Personally, I hope it will be a year of rest, but more importantly, we begin this year together and I can only pray and hope that this is truly a sign for the whole year; that we will have many times to be together, to relax and enjoy each minute.