An Obligatory War Remembered….

Tomorrow, Elie goes into the reserves…it’s going to be hard for him to leave his baby daughter; harder still for Lauren to handle everything on her own. We’ll try to help…but it’s still an incredible thing to have your husband go away for days. It’s another part of Israeli life – one of the hardest for young couples, young parents to face.

My Twitter feeds are filled with posts from those in Gaza who want us to remember the Gaza War, that five years ago, Israel responded to being hit by hundreds of rockets in a matter of a few weeks. Today, Ariel Sharon died – as much as he fought for Israel bravely and fearlessly, in the end, part of his legacy includes having weakened Israel by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza.

That sent the signal to the Arabs that we could be defeated; that we would accept rockets fired on our major cities. Today, again, a rocket was fired at Israel…they want us to remember, and I do.

I remember the rockets they fired – those that killed Israeli children – a small boy whose parents had tried for over a decade until they were graced with a miracle…Afik Ohayon was 4 years old when he was killed by a rocket fired from Gaza.

Ultimately, the war they want us to remember will never be forgotten by Israel. For me, it was my second real war…but the first in which I had a son fighting. One of the posts I remember most from that time was called An Obligatory War.

Davidi who just turned eighteen, was approaching his 13th birthday, a very important milestone in the life of a Jewish boy. His bar mitzvah was all planned…guests invited…we knew who was coming…all except for his brother. We didn’t know until the last minute if Elie would be there or not. The radio was announcing that they expected the war to continue at least another two weeks…but Davidi’s birthday was less than a week away.

He finally asked me the question I had been dreading – would Elie be there? I debated how to answer. I could have held off a little longer, but I didn’t want to lie. So I told the agonizing truth – I didn’t know…and it didn’t look good.

Davidi took it is in silence, but what I hadn’t counted on was little Aliza. She was 9 years old and thought there was little justice in Elie not coming home. She wanted me to tell them…them being the army, I guess, that Elie just had to be here. I shattered inside as I turned to look at her and words scrambled in my head. Before I could say a word, Davidi answered.

From January 11, 2009… An Obligatory War

There is a concept, in Judaism, of an “obligatory war” (known as melchemet mitzvah, in Hebrew). It means a war that must be fought, one where there is no choice. In Biblical times, the term was used most often in connection with defensive wars, when vital interests were at risk. Some incorrectly refer to this as a “religious war” with undertones of Jihad, but that isn’t what the term means at all. There is no glory in death, no martyrdom.

Rather, it refers to a war that we are obligated to fight and as such, no one is exempt from it. Why do I mention this (when in truth, until tonight I’m not sure I ever even heard of the concept)?

I was sitting having dinner with my two youngest children, exhausted from another day of teaching and wondering where Elie was, what he was doing. Listening to news of more and more rockets hitting Ashkelon, Sderot, Ofakim, Ashdod and finally coming home to deal with dinner, questions, a stack of laundry that has to be folded and plans for tomorrow that need to be made.

It was easier to let them talk and remind them, now and again, to finish eating or pass me the ketchup or tell them no, you can’t have soda today, but there’s apple juice. My daughter finished another book. It’s amazing how fast she reads. She told me the story, the whole story, of a mother who walked for hours and hours to get her son medicine. She warned me that it started off bad, even “very bad,” but then ended “good.”

She was getting ready to tell me another story when my youngest son interrupted. “Will Elie make it to my bar mitzvah?” he asked me. It’s funny how he chose today to ask that question. Just this morning, an army officer said that it is very possible the war would last through to the end of the month and his bar mitzvah is before that. For the first time, earlier today, I began to contemplate a bar mitzvah without Elie there. No, I can’t call it off. Yes, it will take place whether Elie is there or not and yes, the idea is killing me deep inside.

 You can read the rest of it…and Davidi’s answer…here.

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