Shmulik came home for a long weekend (the normal Shabbat plus Sunday and Monday, which are the eve of the last day of Passover and the last day itself). He’d spent two days on base, during which time they began shooting lessons. He didn’t bring his gun home.
I don’t know if he realizes yet the freedom he still has, but is about to lose. Soon, the gun will be a 24-hour a day responsibility, soon, he will take it everywhere, sleep with it, know where it is…soon.
For now, the “big” story in the family was that he has begun to learn to shoot and the three kilometer walk at a fast pace, is now up to 4 kilometers. They did this in under 18 minutes…so it begins.
By the time he ends his training, he’ll be able to walk and run so much farther. Again, there were long discussions with Elie, quick discussions sharing the realities of basic training. He’s quieter than Elie was, less talkative and yet the funny thing is that in what he says, I learn more from both. Elie had no one to share experiences with and so he shared only his own.
Shmulik tells of something that happens; Elie shares a story; Shmulik tells another, and Elie responds back. Another story comes out. Weeks ago, there were several attempted stabbing attacks in the Hebron area. One after the other…Arabs approached soldiers or people and tried to kill them. In each case, alert soldiers stopped and apprehended the culprit. And then it stopped.
It turns out, one of Elie’s last operations was to go into a village not far from his base and arrest the one ordering these attacks. “He looked like he was 12-years-old,” Elie said.
“What?” I asked.
“Well, he was 17.”
I think that’s a sad commentary on Palestinian society – that a 17-year-old has already ordered 3 people to murder…and that those three were ready to comply. People often condemn Israel for the situation here, ignoring the simple reality of historical fact. The United Nations offered to divide the land, each people getting less than they wanted. The Jewish population agreed and set about creating the infrastructure it would need. The Arab population refused, and set about creating the reality of 62 years of warfare.
Our 17-year-olds finish high school and prepare to enter the army, where they are trained in how to defend. Our army is called the Israel Defense Forces – to defend our land. And meanwhile, mere kilometers from where we live, are their 17-year-olds, who train and order attacks.
This past week, a man was sitting in the backseat of a car between his two children when a rock was hurled through the back window of the car as it was driving along a road. The back window smashed, the rock slammed into the back of his head and fractured his skull. By the grace of God, his children were not hurt.
Yesterday, a rocket was fired at Israel, by the grace of God, it landed in an open field and no one was hurt. On Thursday, a bus carrying dozens of worshippers was traveling to a holy site when Arabs bombarded it with rocks – damage, several treated for shock, but no physical harm…by the grace of God.
This is how we live, by the grace of God. And as we do, Shmulik and thousands of new soldiers take up where Elie and thousands of others left off. A shift of responsibility…a new soldier. Shmulik and Elie are home this holiday; a 17-year-old Palestinian boy is in jail because his parents didn’t teach him that murder is wrong, didn’t teach him that you can gain more from talk than from violence, more from peace than from hate.