Here’s a silly one. We drove through the back way to the office today because there’s a wonderful bakery where you can get fresh bread straight out of the oven; we needed milk for the coffee drinkers of the class as well. Israelis are spoiled when it comes to bread. Most of it was baked fresh the same day – very European, in that sense. We saw a bunch of people, including three combat soldiers dressed with vests standing on a corner.
One man was taking a picture of the soldiers, “why are there soldiers here with vests?” Elie asked out loud and began scanning the area. Nothing was blocking us, so we made the left and drove a few blocks to the bakery. Nothing.
And then, just as we pulled to the side, Elie said, “artillery.” A huge line of soldiers was walking on the side of the road across from us. Indeed, they were all artillery. “It’s their Tekes Kumta. At Ammunition Hill.”
There were hundreds of them. Elie kept watching. I was grinning like a fool and snapping pictures. Suddenly, Elie saw someone he knew and said he would be right back. He walked across the street to greet a former officer of his. It was, I knew, Elie needing to show he identified with the soldiers. As the soldiers to the rear began to pass us – they became more energized by seeing the smiles of the people in the neighborhood, the cameras coming out to take their picture. We aren’t their families…they are walking to where they will soon meet their loved ones and share this moving moment when they leave basic training and are formally welcomed into the family that is artillery.
But they felt our love – I know they did. They began to shout and suddenly, swung into the road and began running. I’ll post pictures soon (as soon as I can find the cable for my camera…yeah, I know). At the end of the line walked the group with the flags, and an army jeep there to stop the cars and protect the soldiers from the rear. They were about 15 minutes from the end of their long night of walking.
Ahead of them – lies nights of worry for their parents, months more of advanced training, weeks on the borders. That day I stood on the mountains of the desert waiting for Elie to emerge after a night of walking – that day I had no idea what lay ahead in the future.
Where will these soldiers be in the years to come? Will the road they started today lead them into war as it did Elie? Too much to think about on a beautiful day in Jerusalem so I’ll leave with a prayer.
May these soldiers, and all the soldiers of Israel find peace and not war. May all their journeys be filled with people smiling and cheering them on with love and encouragement and camera snapping away. My heart feels a bit lighter, my smile a bit brighter as I begin my work day. This is the blessing we give to our children – the honor, the pride, the love of serving a land so beautiful.
Congratulations to the new soldiers in the Artillery division of Israel – you join a unit of honorable, ethical, moral soldiers who defend Israel well.