Aliza is reading my book.
A few months ago, I turned my blog into a book – starting at the very beginning, six weeks before Elie entered the army. As I’ve written many times, I started the blog for me, and kept it going because I found it an interesting challenge to examine my feelings and write them in words that could not be denied later. At some point, once the army and I had made peace, once I realized that their goal and mine were on somewhat of the same path, I didn’t really need the blog so much.
I had needed it to be calm, to put one foot in front of the other, to function on even the most basic level, as I watched Elie become a soldier. I was sure the army would crush him before they rebuilt him – instead, they found within him the strength to lead, and to lead well. They challenged him again and again, and never forced him to cross the lines within which he lives his life.
But a strange thing happened in those early months. I learned that others were reading my blog and enjoying it. More, other mothers were taking support from it, finding comfort in it, and wanted to help support me in return. Fathers were sharing their feelings; ex-soldiers enjoying the view from the other side of the worry line. I developed, in “blogger’s terms” – a following. And so, as I have always loved Israel, the blog became a mixture of posts for my readers mixed with posts for me. It was fun to meet so many, to touch so many, to build friendships.
I enjoy sharing my family here and though sometimes it is a challenge to present issues from various angles, I have enjoyed the challenge too. In a lot of ways, I laid Elie’s and Aliza’s special relationship out for all to see. She was a darling 7-year-old, he was her 20-year-old brother and they were amazing together, often still are.
Then Elie went to the war, and again the blog metamorphosed back into an outlet for me. It was write or scream; it was share or cry. I didn’t scream, other than deep down, internally, but I did cry a lot, so maybe the last part wasn’t right. Maybe it was share and cry.
And now, Aliza wants to read it and rather than leave me with a warm feeling, it concerns me more than I thought it would. I shed so many tears writing and then re-reading this blog. I thought it would be easier to read it here from the safety of the other side, knowing that at this moment, Elie is safe and asleep upstairs; that Shmulik rose this morning, left the apartment he shares with his wife, and went to work. I thought so, and yet it isn’t true.
Aliza is only 11-years-old now; her reading level in English is quite good for an Israeli kid, but certainly not up to the level of a native English speaker. Perhaps she will stop before she gets to the war; perhaps not. Those were such hard times for me as a mother – do I really want her to know how deeply terrified I was? And there were other posts – other times I had succeeded in frightening myself, like the night Elie called by accident from the north (Night Terrors) or the night Elie’s unit was in a terror attack (It could have been Elie).
I always felt so free to write because I knew Elie was not reading, the Shmulik wasn’t interested. It’s funny to know that first my older daughter started reading it and now Aliza is starting. I hope they find comfort as they read because truly the army built their brothers without destroying them; it found a way to support them. It took them to places I never wanted them to go – and I live with that, but it returned them to me stronger and better than ever before.
Somewhere in all of this coming to terms with being a soldier’s mother, I guess I never really considered the role of a soldier’s sister or a soldier’s brother. I hope that I portrayed much of this from the point of view of a parent, so at least I covered my husband’s worries, but yes, a soldier’s brother or sister walks along this road.
I’ll let you know if Aliza says anything – so far, she says she likes it…but then again, she has only started.
I guess this is a good time to thank those of you who have walked with me on this long road. I’ll keep writing – though it will be a bit strange now that my older sons are out of the army and my younger son won’t be going in for some time. The roller coaster has pulled into the station to rest for a while – it’s been running non-stop for more than four and a half years. It is, like me, happy to rest.
Tonight, my sons do not guard the borders of Israel – but my oldest nephew does, and another nephew will start in the coming months. My son-in-law supports the army in his role in the air force technical division and my neighbors’ children, my friends’ children, my city’s children – all guard. It isn’t my son on the border tonight and yet the collective soul of Israeli mothers is a force to be considered.
Yes, my sons are on the borders now, though Elie sleeps peacefully upstairs. He has earned this right, this rest. Shmulik returns to his yeshiva to learn; to enjoy life as a newlywed and begin building his family. My son-in-law returns each evening to his wife and baby son.
I can close my phone on Shabbat now. I can breathe deeply. I know that the roller coaster has pulled into the station. I also know that it will run again. It will climb to the heights again and yes, it is likely to fall too. So – I guess I’ll try to continue writing and I’ll hold on to the name “A Soldier’s Mother” with pride in what my sons have done, in what they will do.
For now, I wish you all – you and me, my country and the world – a peaceful Shabbat. May it come in peace and quiet and safety for all.