I drove Elie and his older sister and brother-in-law into Jerusalem, each to begin their week. It would be too close to an admission that they are all grown up to say that I drove them to begin a week separate from mine, so I won’t say that. We left a few critical minutes later than we planned – as proven by the traffic we hit climbing the hill to Jerusalem, and the traffic we experienced in the city.
We entered an intersection and joined a long line of cars waiting to enter a tunnel.
“Why are they getting stuck here?” I asked aloud, a bit frustrated to be hitting traffic earlier than usual along the route.
“The light at the end of the tunnel,” Elie answered.
And there began a discussion of the difference between men and women, the literal and the figurative.
“I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” I answered and again realized how funny that sounded.
Sure enough, it was the literal light at the end of the tunnel that was delaying the traffic and sure enough, it is the light at the end of each tunnel that we face in life that leads us forward, calls to us. We all have that light, something we desperately want and know that we have to keep working towards, even if we can’t see it.
We celebrated my middle son’s birthday this weekend. He turned 19 and already the army is part of the discussions we have. I urge him towards artillery – it’s a known world for me and for the most part one that takes place behind enemy lines. I already know in my head that I won’t be that lucky next time around; that this son will go in, where Elie bombed from outside. He talks of many units and possibilities; artillery does not interest him. He does not want to be Elie’s little brother, even though the army is not like school.
“Ah, Elie’s brother,” he’s heard in the past. No, he won’t follow Elie. Perhaps it’s the fatalist part of me, but I already know that next time around, I’ll have to find a way to breathe even with him insidea war zone. I don’t know if it will be in ground forces, tanks, paratroopers, or some special unit. I just know, deep down, I won’t be lucky enough twice to know that my son is outside the most dangerous areas.
Like the mother I was two years ago when Elie entered, the one who couldn’t imagine functioning while a son was actively at war (even on the outside perimeter), I can’t imagine this second son entering into Gaza or Lebanon or Syria and doing what so many of our soldiers did just a few weeks ago. So many mothers were so brave; functioned and did what they had to do.
I can’t imagine having their grace and courage; no, I am not like them. I’ll try to be; I want to be. Or maybe I don’t. Maybe if I can convince God (forget trying to convince my son or the army), maybe God will have mercy on me and arrange for another artillery assignment. Yes, that is my best bet – I can “handle” artillery. God knows the army…He can do this. Yes, that’s where I am going to concentrate my energies! God, please, please put Shmulik in artillery too!
“I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” I told my children this morning and in a very real sense, this is true. I have one son in the army – he will leave the army in about one year from now, but there is no light there because by then, the second son will likely already be in basic training, at least.
There will be about three years in which I’ll probably have no son in the army – but up to six months of the time, I’ll have one or the other doing his annual reserve duty (one month or so per year for a combat soldier, potentially more if/when there is a war).
God has given me a gift, three gifts (OK, actually five gifts and six if you count my husband and more if you go outside this inner circle). These three particular gifts have all been blessed with healthy and strong bodies. Two already have the highest profile given in the army and it is likely the third will (God willing) as well. Two have already agreed to join combat units; one has not been asked yet. One has already served two years; the third is likely to enter the army within the year.
Somewhere around the age of 40, Israeli men are no longer called to the Reserves – that is 27 years from now, till my youngest son reaches 40. Of course, as is the way of things, it is hoped that God will grant me grandchildren and as my mother is the grandmother of two Israeli soldiers (Elie and his cousin…also in artillery), so too, God willing, will I be the grandmother of Israeli soldiers. With each blessing, the tunnel gets longer, the light farther away.
Two years ago, I decided sanity rests in focusing on the tunnel, on each day and step you take and not looking for the light at the end.
“I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” I told Elie this morning. Elie thinks in the literal sense and knows the traffic will move and we will reach the end of the tunnel soon enough. In the physical world, he was correct, but in the metaphorical world in which mothers imagine all scenarios, it might well be that we have to learn to live in the tunnel and accept that someday, though the light may well be there and we may reach it, we will miss so much if we hurry there.
For now, the tunnel leads back to the north for a few weeks, until Elie again joins the family to celebrate the Passover Seder and a holiday that reminds us of our freedom.