A New Experience

In the middle of the night, a few months into his service, Elie called me to warn me that “something” had happened and he wouldn’t be on the morning bus as expected. His base was “shut down” – no one authorized to leave. How close we came to war in those first hours is something we will never know, but Elie’s unit was sent into the fields with their artillery weapons – there to await the possibility of a wave of planes attacking Israel from across the Syrian border.

Hours and days and months later, and perhaps even today we still do not know the full story of that night. What Israel bombed, according to the New York Times, was the beginnings of a nuclear reactor. Whatever it was or it wasn’t, it was the first time Elie was told he couldn’t go home without any clear deadline when he could or would. In the end, he was on base that next day, that next weekend, and a few days beyond. At the last minute, he was allowed home – for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

A few nights ago, terrorists opened fire on a car containing two women and two men. One woman had waited many years to have a child – she leaves behind a young girl, orphaned and left crying for her mother. The other woman was 9-months pregnant with her 7th child. She and her husband were both murdered, leaving six children suddenly, irrevokably alone. Another man was murdered in the same attack – newly married, he leaves a young wife, suddenly widowed.

The next night – another attack. This time, a bit of a miracle. The husband and wife survived, though the husband was moderately wounded and the wife lightly hurt.

The next night – another attack. This time, a young girl driving with her family was moderately wounded when terrorists began pelting her car with rocks. She was hit in the head; doctor’s fear permanent damage from a head wound.

Shmulik’s commanding officer, the officer that he is now tasked with driving and assisting, is “responsible” for the area where these attacks took place. Shmulik came home for Shabbat, but was told to keep his phone with him; that at any moment of the day or night, if there is yet another attack, he will be called and must return to the army. Pack a backpack, whatever you’ll need. The return call would come with only moments to prepare.

Thankfully, the Sabbath passed quietly; as did last night. Late last night, Shmulik received a simple message. Prepare to meet at 6:00 a.m. – we’ll be gone at least until the holidays. It’s Sunday here in Israel, the start of the new week. Even more, in a few days it will be Rosh Hashana, a new year.

Shmulik will not be home tonight, not tomorrow, not Tuesday. I hope, as Elie was, that he will be home for the holiday so that we may begin the next year together as a family. What is new for Shmulik is the not knowing. So far, he has always known, more or less, when he will be home. For now, for once, he learns another part of being a soldier. He goes to serve Israel and will be home only when the situation allows it.

May God grant a full recovery to those who were injured in last week’s attacks and may He said comfort to the families of those who were murdered. May the soldiers of Israel protect our land; and may God protect them.

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