Israel is such a small country, barely the size of New Jersey, and an even smaller population. There’s a war going on and thousands are involved in this war effort. Beyond the fact that my son is there, one of my writers came into my office almost in tears. She’d called a client and was told that some had been called away. Even the main engineer with whom she has been working might be called as well.
What this means is that people are missing from our daily lives. We feel a part of normal has slipped away to some corner of this land to fight a war, but we feel that they aren’t here. Every company is effected in some way – this is truly a land where everyone knows someone. There are at least six boys from our neighborhood. Someone spoke to the mayor of our city and when they started reading off the names of the families, the mayor shook his head. He knows the families. We all know the families. We are the families.
I had a meeting this week with someone. Every few minutes, his telephone would beep and he would go check it. The meeting would stop while he did this. Some might find that rude. I always close my phone when I go into a meeting; putting it on silent so that it won’t disturb anyone. It wasn’t my place to tell him to close his phone and truthfully, most meetings in Israel are so informal that it didn’t really bother me, but obviously, he noticed the way I stopped talking each time he went to check his phone.
“Tzav 8,” he said. That’s all he said, and it was enough.
Tzav 8 is an emergency call up of troops – most often in cases of war. It takes men from their families, from their jobs, from their lives with almost no notice. They get the command and they go – from day to day, even hour to hour, perhaps even minutes. It’s sort of a national cry, “come now, we need you.” And Israeli men respond immediately.
“You have to go now?” I asked him.
“No, I’m doing Tzav 8 now.”
Clearly, I looked confused. We were sitting in our conference room discussing his company’s technological solution and a new joint venture to offer our clients a unique and wonderful e-learning solution. The sun was shining outside the windows; cars and people hustling along in a completely normal way. How was that Tzav 8?
“You don’t want to know,” he said, and he was right. I didn’t want to know. He told me and it was enough to put me on edge for the rest of the meeting, nervous each time he took out his phone to check it. His job is to help prepare bodies for burial according to Jewish law; no, I didn’t want to know and I didn’t want him to ever leave my offices. The longer he sat, the more it meant that no Israeli soldier had been killed.
So, what does this earlier meeting have to do with “Newspaper Delivery,” the title of this post? The answer is that I just got an SMS on my phone explaining that today’s newspaper would be delivered late because the man who drives through my neighborhood at around 6:00 a.m. each morning, and especially on Fridays when THE newspaper of the week is delivered, has been called to the army.
The company apologizes for the inconvenience and is at our service.
It’s another way in which wars in Israel differ from other places. We have a standing army – boys who are drafted at 18 (or sometimes 19 or so) as part of their compulsory national service and released three years later, now around 21 years old or so different than they were when they went in. But they aren’t done – having given their three years, especially those who go to combat soldiers, they will spent the next 20 years of their lives doing regular reserve duty each year.
And, at any moment during those 20 years, they might receive a “Tzav 8″ and be called back to serve their country more. Several have already given their lives during this war. When taking that against a late newspaper, it makes me want to apologize. It is not the newspaper company’s fault that the paper will be late today because ultimately, it isn’t the company that is at our service, but the men who are now in and near Gaza, fighting so that one million Israelis can sleep at night in their beds and not fear missing a siren, so that children can go to school and play outside, so that mothers don’t have to calculate how far their sons and daughters can run in a mere 15 seconds.
For this service, our country is honored and blessed. I hope my business colleague stays home and at work and does nothing more during his Tsav 8 than interrupt meetings to check his phone.