Elie came home on Monday, went back for a briefing on Tuesday and returned on Wednesday. He was home for the Seder and holiday on Thursday, and then Friday morning got a phone call. It was from one of the officers in his unit inviting him to a barbecue in the Old City of Jerusalem – he asked if he could go, he asked if he could borrow the car.
I happily sent him on his way; released my middle son to spend much of the day as he wanted, and encouraged my husband to take our two youngest children to the park. With the house to myself, I prepared for the coming Sabbath and enjoyed the quiet of the house. By the time they returned, the table was clear and ready to be set, the candles ready, most of the food finished.
Isn’t it funny, I thought to myself, that they want to get together even when they don’t have to – that they care enough about each other to schedule these “down-time” affairs. Elie went and came home relaxed, having eaten his fair share of all manner of meat. The head of Elie’s division had come with his girlfriend; other officers came as well.
Elie has no choice but to spend the majority of his days with these people. This is where the army has assigned him to be, the division, the battalion, the unit. That he decided, on his free day, to spend time with these same people means he has chosen them in some way as well. For a mother, there is great joy in knowing that Elie cares about these people, that they care about him.
I welcomed the Sabbath Friday night, with all my children gathered around. It came in peace; I don’t even know where I left my phone, nor did I give a thought to what was happening in the world outside. We ate, we slept, we talked of nothing in particular, of nothing important.
Today at lunch, neighbors came over to join us. Two other artillery soldiers were here – all in all, six people in or about to be in the army in the next few years. They spoke of the various divisions, of weaponry of war. There is a comfort to be found in the ease with which these young people face the reality of the conditions of our world and accept the tremendous burden we place upon them. They are normal in every way; speaking of cars and music and computers. They are the defenders of Israel.
It’s Saturday night and already time is running. Tomorrow morning, Elie travels back to the base where they will be in a few weeks to continue the briefing they began a few days ago and prepare for when the rest of the unit comes.
We made plans to go north tomorrow on a family trip. I thought it would be a great way to steal a few extra hours with Elie – that we could drive him to his base and then go relax. The north is a place of great beauty; many people vacation in the north to enjoy the beautiful trees, the waterfalls. The Jordan River, the nature preserves, and so much more.
Elie thought maybe the army would give him a few extra hours and he could join us and return to base later in the day. The plans solidified; meat was bought and all plans set. On Wednesday Elie learned that half the commanders would return to the north; half would go to the base in the center. I was hoping Elie would be sent to the north and thus could ask for those few extra hours to be with the family. In the end, Elie has to go to the central base and so he can’t ask for the time to join us.
We will still go north but Elie won’t be going that far with us. Instead, we’ll drive him to his base – a bit of a detour, but worth the time. Then we will do what we often do on these intermediate days of the holiday – we will take a break from work and enjoy the land. We’ll barbecue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and enjoy some family time together. I’ll miss Elie, but at the same time, I’ll remember that he is with others who he cares about; others who care about him too. They are the defenders of Israel and they stand for us all.May the Defender of Israel always protect the defenders of Israel.