It’s funny how we get impressions of things from words people use, only to find that we didn’t have a clue. I went to pick Elie up from his base to begin his shortened vacation. The army gave him five days, but then explained that they needed the soldiers to attend and help with two events – one on Thursday and one on Sunday.
Now, they have decided to pull in additional people so that each will only have to give up one day of their vacation. For Elie, this will be tomorrow. We agreed that I’d meet him at 10:00 this morning outside the base and, as often is the case, I was running a few minutes late. I’d expected him to call and with each passing mile, felt more comfortable.
“I’m on Kvish 6 [Highway 6]” I was going to say, hoping he’d call in just two minutes so I would actually be ON the highway and not within sight of it. Minutes past and I was cruising along – closer and closer.
“I’m two exits away,” was another answer I was ready to give. “Next exit,” I thought to myself with relief. I was now 10 minutes late, but Elie still had not called. As I exited the highway, I finally called Elie to find out that he was actually still at the shooting range somewhere, waiting for the bus to bring him back to the base.
“You’ll get there before me,” he told me when I explained where I was.
“Do you want me to come get you?”
“No, you can’t. But the bus will be here soon. It’s not really a bus…more like a SWAT vehicle.”
And there in my mind was the image of the large black vehicle I’d seen in my younger days, with the big SWAT letters on it. It would have those huge black doors with the shining chrome in the back that would swing open to allow the SWAT team to jump out. They were the cute actors that never got hurt, always saved the day and did it all within the allocated 60 minutes including commercials and promotions.
Give me five minutes and a laptop, and I’m fine. I’d planned in advance and brought along the computer so a delay was like a gift, found time for me. I parked the car, opened the windows, shut the motor and turned on the laptop. Though I thought it rather absurd, I decided to check if there was free wireless. To understand why this is ridiculous, you’d have to see that I was parked atop a hill, overlooking miles of open space. There were some houses in the distance, a Jewish village about a kilometer away, and this army base right in front.
Ever the optimist, I searched for a network and found two that were secure (probably army) and one from nabielya (I assume one of the Arab homes in the distance) that was not secured but the signal was weak.
So, with no wireless, the backup plan was to open Word and clear my head and write. (Take a peak at PaulaSays and you’ll see how often I write things not related to Elie.)
As I was sitting there, my brain full of thoughts, things I need to do, conversations I just had, the book I’m in the middle of reading, who I invited for what upcoming meal, I saw (and heard) this large, square, green, heavily-fortified vehicle pull up and enter the base. Without any real confirmation, I just knew that Elie was inside.
My first thought, as I tried to catch a glimpse of Elie through the small narrow windows that were not only very thick, but also covered with metal gratings, was that it didn’t look like a SWAT vehicle, at least not any I’d seen on TV. A few pairs of eyes peer out – too quick for me to see which, if any, were Elie’s. There was a place on the side with some sort of device that can be rotated. Even with my lack of training I can tell it’s for the soldiers within to shoot through if they came under attack.
There’s no question this thing is bullet-proof and probably more. I’m sure Elie’s been in it hundreds of times already. It’s funny that it should leave me feeling so…what is the right word…so impressed? No, that’s not it. Not surprised either. Intimidated? No, not in the least.
Serious. Maybe that’s it. It’s another reminder that this is not a game my son is playing. He isn’t just dressing up. To need such a vehicle, the army must feel that the threat against its soldiers is serious. No, I’m sure they don’t come under attack on a regular basis and using this vehicle is probably more for prevention. I think that’s the point of using it. It tells those who would think of trying to ambush them that there is really no reason to even try, no benefit. Why bother? It is seriously fortified, seriously bullet-proof, serious protection for our soldiers. The message has been delivered – see our soldiers in this vehicle, strong, sturdy, impenetrable. I can live with that.
This big green vehicle entered the base, a place I cannot go, while I waited outside. There was a gentle breeze; uncharacteristically cool for the season and the sky was almost solid clouds. It had rained on the way there. The base is located at a high point, as most bases are, and the view is outstanding – for miles around, I could see the beautiful land. Not a bad way to spend a few minutes.
The holiday of Sukkot, the one we are celebrating now, is very much about getting outside and understanding that no matter how strong the houses we build, we are, at our core, vulnerable.
During this holiday, for a week, we move from our seriously built homes to the sukkah, temporary dwellings that shake with the wind and leak through the branches that cover the opening to the sky. There is little shelter from the cold of night, the heat of day. We eat and sleep in these temporary dwellings to remind us that we cannot be safe all the time, that ultimately we are, as we have always been, at the mercy of God and whatever He has planned for us. And yet, we move into these flimsy things as a message. We trust You, God. Under Your protection, we are the safest of all.
And that’s when the irony and the parallel hit me. Elie returned from the army today, in a serious, sturdy, strong vehicle that has been tested to withstand all manner of attacks – by man. For all its strength, it is just a vehicle, as our homes are just bricks and cement and wood and whatever.
When we returned home, the first thing Elie did (as he often does) is head for the refrigerator where, to his delight, he found steak and stuffing and more. He warmed it all up, took it out to the sukkah and sat down to eat. There was joy in seeing my son in our family sukkah, having him home safe. And yes, there is joy in knowing that when he needs to be, there’s this SWAT-like vehicle that doesn’t look like any SWAT vehicle I ever imagined. Impressive, serious, sturdy and offering great protection. It is the message of the vehicle the army used to bring my son back to base, and it is the message of the Sukkah that we have been commanded to use each Sukkot.
Happy sukkot – where we learn that the most serious, sturdy protection comes from Above.