Elie has finished up north and is simply hanging around until he comes home tomorrow. It all depends on when the next commander returns so that Elie is free to leave the base. If he comes back tonight, Elie can be on his way home early tomorrow morning. Otherwise, later in the day, he’ll take the trip out of the base on the same bus bringing the returning commander in.
Elie is looking forward to the challenge, to starting fresh. It wasn’t easy commanding soldiers who had entered the army at the same time that he did, ones that he’d trained together initially. There were challenges dealing with commanders, situations, and physical conditions. He grew as a person, as a soldier, and as a commander.
Now, he moves to a new place and a new group of soldiers. All will look to him as the authority; none will remember sharing a tent with him. He leaves behind friends of many months. Or stays up north. But others will be with him again. Yedidyah, Or’s commanding officer when Elie first entered the army, will be on the southern base with him.
Elie will be home on Thursday, through the weekend, and go next week to begin preparing for his next rotation. In the initial phase, he will watch the incoming recruits and decide which ones he wants on his team. He’ll pick about a dozen, with the help of his commanding officer. These will become the more elite unit that Elie will command.
He sounds a bit down, a bit anxious. It reminded me of those days before he entered the army, when all the preparations had been done and there was nothing to do but wait for the day he would enter the army. So, that’s where Elie is.
In a very selfish way, I am in a much better position. Though nothing is known in the army until it is known, this past Shabbat I asked Elie my standard question, “what does this mean for you, if…”
If…for the mother of a soldier, is usually “if there is a war,” but to say the “w” word is to make it real, so we trail off, and they understand.
Training is a full time, year round endeavor for the army. Boys are taken into the army, they serve their three years, and then they are released to civilian life and a yearly commitment to return for reserve duty. At the end of three years, when they are released, a new group must take their place and so, training continues, even during a war.
What will happen in the next few months if there is a war? Elie will likely remain with his new soldiers, continuing training. At some point in the future, I might feel that it is wrong to feel this relief and yet I know that I am being honest with myself in saying that I feel this way. These past 16 months or so have been an incredible journey for Elie, and for me.
I’ve watched as Elie developed, matured, learned. And I too have learned. Months ago, I accepted that we never know what tomorrow will bring, peace or war, vacation or a re-assignment. Now, as we wait for Elie’s new rotation, new faces, new challenges, we do it more calmly. In many ways, as we approach the half way point in Elie’s army service, we have become veterans, even knowledgable ones.
It’s almost midnight here; Elie has long since gone to sleep. Tomorrow will come soon enough for all of us, if we but wait.
One last note. Almost 9 months ago, Elie’s friend Re’em was in a terrible car accident. Elie struggled with the guilt and pain of visiting with Re’em, knowing there was little that he could do. After several trips while Re’em was mostly unaware that Elie was there, we finally visited on a day when Re’em was doing well, was awake, aware, charming and strong. He has a long road ahead of him, but the most precious of all things – his smile and personality, came through.
We are hoping to go visit Re’em on Thursday. This time, I don’t feel the need to go along, to help Elie and make sure Re’em isn’t upset by Elie’s attempting to cope. The last visit was wonderful and I was once again the target of their jokes about my Hebrew. They banded together “against” me, as they always did before. So, if we go Thursday, I’ll stop in for a minute to say hello and then wander off to leave them together for a while. Re’em too had to grow up suddenly, both in the army and now after the accident.
My youngest daughter continues to pray for Re’em, saying his name each morning and wishing him a complete recovery. After the visit, we’ll return home and all be together. My oldest daughter and her husband are coming for the Sabbath and with great joy, I will close my telephone again and enjoy the day. Tomorrows will come when they do – the trick is to learn to accept today and live it. It’s an acquired talent.