Some where during Elie’s three years in the army, I stumbled on the idea that the army, or at least a mother’s relationship with it, is like a roller coaster ride. Perhaps even one you take with a blindfold. When things are going well, what I called the flat of the roller coaster, you are calm, accepting, patient.
This is the time when you believe all will be well, that your son will come home on a regular basis, you’ll spend some time, he’ll go back to base with love and cookies…all to be repeated in a few weeks. You don’t even notice when the roller coaster begins to climb, to set up the next fall. Most often, it was a gradual climb – or it was a sudden jerk but you thought it would be fine anyway. These climbs are the times when something happens – a rocket from the north; many rockets from Gaza; a series of terrorist attacks; an Israeli military operation gone right (or wrong).
If we succeeded in eliminating a terrorist, there would be a revenge attack; if we responded to incoming rocket fire, but civilians were in close proximity of the launch site and got hurt (or didn’t get hurt but the Palestinians claimed they did), there would be a revenge attack. If we cracked down on violent protests, there would be a revenge attack. Even if we didn’t crack down, there would likely be a revenge attack.
The climb of the roller coaster isn’t so scary – but when you realize that tensions are rising, you begin to worry. It’s a subtle ache in your stomach, a denial that springs out of your heart.
And finally, there is the fall. That dizzy, horrifying realization that things are beyond your control; that you don’t know where your son is, what he is doing. You trust he is safe for this moment, but in the next second, you are back to worrying. I can’t describe the fall in enough detail to make it clear how terrifying it is.
When Elie left the army and then when Shmulik transferred from a combat unit to a combat driver assigned to S., I thought the roller coaster was behind me. This weekend, as I listened to reports of incoming rockets throughout the day, I remembered how I felt in the days before the Gaza War. It was the climb of the roller coaster; the knowing that the fall was coming.
Chaim will be finishing the army in the next few days; even if war comes, Shmulik’s job won’t change and he is assigned near our home. It is unlikely he will have anything to do with a Gaza War. Elie is scheduled to do reserve duty this summer…I don’t know if a build-up in Gaza would involve his being called up. And even if he is called, there is no telling whether he would be called to fill in other areas while those soldiers are moved into Gaza or if his reserve unit would go.
But if it won’t be my sons from birth…it will still be mine that will fight in a war we don’t want. We did not ask for this. Let the world finally admit this simple fact. We did not start the war that is coming; did all in our power to avoid it, but no country would accept 120 rockets fired in the space of two days. No one, no where.
Israel cannot ignore these endless attacks. We will not. We cannot allow our enemy to target our children – as they did last Thursday with a missile, and as they did a month ago in Itamar with a knife, and as they did a few weeks ago with explosives.
The one great truth of the army, I learned long ago, is that we all live on a roller coaster and a roller coaster, by its very nature, involves not just the flat times, but the climbs and worse, the horrible, stomach-clenching falls.
As each rocket hits, as we climb higher and higher, I know that the fall will be that much worse. If we are to tumble into war, as I expect we will, I can only hope each soldier will carry into battle a picture of little Hadass Fogel in his mind to know how barbaric our enemies can be; and a picture of Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar to remember that our enemies are well equipped and will use these sophisticated weapons with cunning and deceit. This is our enemy, they must know – beings that can cut an infant’s throat; shoot a missile at a school bus. This is what we fight.
For much of Friday, my stomach was in knots. It calmed over the Sabbath simply because I was busy with family. Saturday night, as the Sabbath left us, I turned my phone back on and within minutes, the phone went wild beeping the incoming messages that had been blocked throughout the day.
At some point, I realized that I knew this feeling, had experienced it before. Like last time, there is the realization that it is that feeling of being on the roller coaster, of having the earth move beneath me and the comfort of knowing that on this trip, as in the past, I am not alone.
All of Israel rides this roller coaster – the mothers and fathers of soldiers, brothers and sisters, and the soldiers themselves. All the people who live in the south and spent the Sabbath in or near bomb shelters. We are all on a roller coaster and Hamas will determine how high we climb.
We climb knowing that even now our army is preparing. When the army goes to war, not if, but when, we will accept the downward plunge with the hope that this time, the army won’t stop until it finishes the job, until it cleans out Hamas. To do this, we need the height because the higher we climb, the greater will be Hamas’ downfall.
We will return to the flat of the roller coaster, as we always do, but for now, there is work to be done and no army in the world is better than the IDF in dealing with Hamas. We know what they have, where they are, what they hide and where they hide.
The sons of Israel are ready. They are swifter than eagles; they are stronger than lions.