Two more rockets were fired at the southern city of Sderot yesterday. They hit in or around the city after midnight, when most were asleep. No one was injured -but mission accomplished. These are weapons meant to terrorize, and terrorize they do.
I didn’t call Elie last night. I don’t know where he is, though I assume he is still on the base where I dropped him off on Sunday and that he would call if they were being repositioned. There are many soldiers and ex-soldiers that write to me to tell me they read this blog. After reading that last sentence, they are all smiling that smug little smile, thinking, “I wouldn’t have called my mother.”
And I have no doubt that I am deluding myself as well. Elie would call…only if he was supposed to be coming home. Otherwise, no – he probably wouldn’t call me.
“Ima, I didn’t call you until the order had been canceled.” Yes, that’s what Elie told me several days ago. They’d had orders to move near Gaza. Elie was taken off the checkpoint and ordered to go with the some others to check the condition of the artillery equipment that is in “storage” while the unit is manning checkpoints. There are soldiers there who maintain the armored personnel carriers, perform regular maintenance, etc. but if the unit needs to start firing these weapons, someone from the unit (read here Elie and the others) would be sent to check out the equipment.
These orders were canceled after Elie returned to base because the government hoped the rocket firing would stop. But the firing hasn’t stopped and it’s pretty clear to the army (and to those living in the south) that the “relative calm” has ended. Once again, everyone is aware that they need to watch where they go; they have to make certain they can reach shelter. They have, in many cases, a mere 15 seconds of warning.
No, Elie didn’t call last night and I didn’t call him. After so many months in the army, I know that sometimes no call is a good sign. It means he isn’t lonely, has nothing really to say, is doing fine, doesn’t need anything, and isn’t scheduled to come home in the next day or so. I don’t know if he’ll be home this weekend, the next one, or the one after that. He blended into a unit and whatever their schedule is, this is what he will follow.
I didn’t call him because, once again, I need to give him room. I have to let him reach out. My worries are mine alone. Every rocket that hits Israel is a blow to all Israelis. Those of us who live out or range do not hear the loud explosion, but we feel the tremors of the ground shake in our hearts and feel the anger and fear of those who live close by. We share this anger, this fear, this worry. We want the government to do something to stop this. What sane nation accepts daily rocket attacks against its cities and civilians? Only Israel, and only the government, is the sad answer.
But added to this layer of concern, is the reality that if the “government does something” – it might well involve my son. And, if not my son, other soldiers. They are all our sons, aren’t they? I worry about what each rocket means the people in the south – the fear, the terror, the effect on their daily lives, and I worry what it means for Elie and his group, for the paratroopers and the pilots, for the ground forces and the tanks.
And back to the personal, there is actually a combination of fears. There is the one of his being hurt, and the one of his hurting others. An Israeli general was interviewed on the radio today and asked what action he would recommend if his unit identifies a terrorist cell about to fire a rocket at Israel…if that cell was located inside a Palestinian school.
Without hesitation, the general said, “I would tell our forces to fire.” We have an obligation to protect our civilians, he explained. It is the Palestinian government – duly elected by the Palestinians themselves, who have the responsibility to control and prevent this rocket fire. Or course, he qualified this by saying that we would have to be sure we would hit the target; sure that we could do all we can to minimize any damage.
A few years ago, army intelligence pinpointed the location of a known terrorist. To avoid injuries, they warned the Palestinians to move away. What did they do? Mothers brought their children to surround the house of the terrorist. Fathers came with their sons. The army called off the strike.
It is hard to request the “government” of the Palestinians stop the rocket launching…when they themselves are the ones often claiming responsibility for having fired them. And so, if they fire from inside the school, the school is a legitimate target. The general is correct. We must protect our citizens…perhaps our soldiers understand and accept this reality better than we do. Elie has raised his gun and pointed it a few times in the last few months. The army has trained him not just to raise the gun, but how to use it, when to use it. During one of our conversations, he talked quoted the army rule exactly, word for word. When justifiable force is allowed.
If the rocket firing continues, as I expect it will, I can only hope that our soldiers, all our soldiers, will do what they must, and not suffer for having done it. But I hope even more, that the Palestinians will stop firing missiles, rockets and mortars at Israel. No nation should have to accept this. No other nation does.