I barely slept last night; my stomach remains tied in knots. It’s a “national” thing now, not a “maternal” thing. Elie is safe, tens of thousands of citizens in Sderot and areas close to Gaza are not. Our soldiers are not. Throughout Israel, Arabs threw firebombs, rocks, and more. An Arab attempted to run down a policeman in Jerusalem – even a car and a tractor have been turned into weapons here. My middle son drove into Jerusalem to drive my daughter and her husband home after the Sabbath. Rocks and firebombs were thrown in the village that overlooks the old road and so I told him to take the new tunnel road, built as a by-pass option.
I went to sleep and woke to the news that the world, or much of it, rushes in to condemn. Our enemies claim deaths in the hundreds without bothering to explain that these are the very gunmen who have aimed rockets at our cities for months. They will not clarify that most of these deaths are the very ones who brought about this military action. Did they think they could shoot at us without our hitting them back? Obviously, they did.
I spoke to Elie late last night. Essentially, he knows nothing. Where he will be sent in the next few days is anyone’s guess, including his. Ground forces are amassing on the border with Gaza, according to early morning news reports. Mothers all over Israel know little of where their sons are. The illogical part of my brain wants to ask how they can take a son without letting us know. Silly – it has been part of Israel’s reality for 60 years and less than a generation ago, when there were no cellular phones, mothers knew nothing at all.
I can call Elie and he’ll probably answer. But he’ll tell me what he told me last night. He’s safe on base; he doesn’t know more than what he knew last night. In the next days, he was to have moved north for training. He might still go north, though now there is the question of what Hizbollah will do, if anything, and so the north doesn’t seem quite the same as it did before. A week ago, there was a tiny part that of me that envied him. It snows in the north; bitter cold this time of year. But they give them very warm coats and Elie has a hat and gloves and how I love the snow. It is one of the few things I truly miss about America.
Now, the north doesn’t seem so ideal a destination, but it is still preferable to Gaza. That is the mother in me and shames me when I think of all the mothers who have sons already stationed near Gaza. They know, as I do, that anyone stationed near Gaza is within rocket range. As an artillery soldier, Elie will likely never leave Israeli soil. What he needs to do, he can do from here – every combat mother’s dream. But our enemies like weapons that fly over the heads of our ground troops and slam into civilian areas. They know our greatest secret is that we are a nation commanded to choose life. We don’t relish death; we don’t worship it; we don’t crave it, sanctify it, or work towards it.
Our goal is to teach our soldiers to defend, and return, to be safe. No operation is planned without a counter plan to get out safely. Elie told me once that this is something Syria, for example, doesn’t do. Our soldiers know that our success in a military campaign is directly tied to their returning home safe. We do not target civilians in war, as we do not want our civilians targeted. We do not launch rockets into areas where high concentrations of civilians live and so our enemies insidiously hide their weapons and rocket launchers in these very places, in hospitals, in schools, in mosques. How wonderful it looks when they can claim that we targeted a mosque…so if you hear that we have done this, ask yourself why. The answer will be found in the size of the explosion when the mosque is destroyed. It will be in the explosives they hid there, the rocket launchers they pulled out from inside.
Their weapons reflect their culture – a rocket that cannot be aimed. It is as likely to hit a school as a military base – more likely because we place our military bases far from civilian areas while our schools are in the middle of their primary targets – our cities.
“Why would they want to aim at a small base in the middle of no where?” Elie once asked me when we talked about Gaza and rocket fire. He’s right though that doesn’t help much because they simply point and launch those things and then, like us, wait to see where it hits.
So dawn has come to the Middle East. Israel is calling this a military operation and not a war. The difference in a name is defined by how long it will take. As I lay in bed listening to my husband getting ready to go to work, fighting off the need to get up and check the news for just a few minutes more, I wondered what name would be given to such an action. They are calling it “Operation Cast Lead” after part of a Hanukah song. Today is the seventh day of Hanukah, a holiday in which we celebrate our military success against an enemy so much more vast than we were.
But I think the government was wrong to go with the poetic when they should have gone with what is so real. It should be named “Operation Stop the Rockets” or “Operation Protection” or simply “Operation Rockets.” Because that is what this is about. The Arabs will try to twist this around, and there will be nations and people who will fall for this. But this began because they chose to fire rockets at our cities and our children and no nation can allow this.
Dawn is usually a beautiful time, peaceful and quiet. Israel is not peaceful or quiet today, but it is beautiful. Outside my window, the sun is just touching Jerusalem in the distance. The mountains outside my dining room are somewhere between gold and orange. And I know that today, people will die. Palestinians will die because they chose to elect Hamas, a terrorist organization that cares more for power than for its people.
I can pray for them, but only that they do what is right. Let the civilians move out of the areas we are likely to target – they are really simple to identify. The infrastructure of the government they elected; the areas from which they target out cities, known addresses of their leaders and their gunmen.
For now, I will pray for our people. For those who will spend the day in or near bomb shelters, for our soldiers, our pilots, our sons, my son.