Next week, he’ll be on a base learning; the week after, he’ll be in the field shooting. The loud cannons that fire far into the mountains – this time, again, the booms will be his…this time, he’ll be back with a new group of soldiers. These are the men he will accompany through the next 15+ years or so of his life, until he reaches the age of 40 (or so, depending on what the army decides in the years that come) and is discharged from the army.
What amazes me is that this same group will meet up each year and share life’s phases. Now they are single, or perhaps a few are married…next year, or the year after, or the year after that, more of them will be married and then most and then hopefully all. After that, they will begin showing off pictures of their children and talk of how doing Reserve duty gives them a chance to catch up on their sleep. Their sons and daughters will start to talk and walk and then enter school around the same time. Their sons will reach the age of bar mitzvah while they meet up each year and though 40 may be pushing it, one or two might even have a child married during this time. Lives will develop and be lived – shared each year for a few weeks at a time and maybe an occasional get-together here and there. A barbecue, a family event. This is the way it is in Israel – their “miluim” (Reserve Duty) buddies.
In a very small way, it reminds me of a movie I saw years ago with Alan Alda – “Same Time Next Year,” I think it was called. Only there, Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn were having an affair, betraying their families once a year to come together. It was a lovely movie built around a nasty concept. There was nothing right about it – a betrayal of family, of vows. There was nothing holy or honorable. I tried seeing it for the message Hollywood was trying to send, a cute idea, a gimmick, a catchy concept, but never got beyond that sense that despite the lovely relationship they were building, it was wrong. Just wrong. They followed each other through their lives – births of children, school, etc. and with each phase, I felt how wrong it was.
But to follow this to the army connection, the point was that the actors…or the characters they portrayed entered and exited each others lives that one weekend only, quickly catching up on all that had happened. They knew each others lives only through the one’s eyes and laughed and showed pictures and then promised to see each other again the following year.
Elie will go off – perhaps not the same time each year, but likely with the same group of guys. That really is where the analogy ends because in his case, the cause will be noble, honorable, just. He goes not to betray but to serve and the relationships he builds starting next week will be deep bonds of friendship between brothers.
So, by now, Elie is on base, in uniform. He’ll have met his Reserve duty “brothers” and they’ll have asked each other what’s new. Some may be engaged; some will say nothing much. For Elie, since his last time with them, a whole world has changed. This time Elie will tell them about little Michal Gavriella, his precious daughter. And somewhere deep in what he’ll over the next few days is the reality that what he does, in many ways, he does for her.