Elie is off with the other commanders in his unit – playing PaintBall. His gun is secured here in my office behind two locks, dismantled and separated from the magazine of bullets, which Elie put in yet another place before he left. He’ll stop back here later to pick up his gun, even if it is after I leave the office because, “you can’t take the gun home.” (No, I can’t.)
He went in regular clothes – jeans and a T-shirt, to meet a bunch of guys similarly dressed. Today, he is…just a 21-year-old having fun with a bunch of guys around the same age. They will divide into teams, run and shoot and fall and play. They will forget that for the past month, they have been involved in a war, that they were given the responsibility to watch over and be ready to protect hundreds, perhaps even thousands of their brothers in arms. Ever ready to protect if something went wrong, they were on alert, waiting for a command to come telling them to fire.
The command came many times over the weeks that they were there – and each time, Elie and his unit fired. The fire and power of the weapons, the sounds of explosions near and far, the smoke, the hours and hours they worked – it’s all in the past today. Far from their minds. They have earned the right to step down, to relax, to have fun.
A siren sounded in southern Israel a short while ago – it appears to be a false alarm. Last night, the air force identified and destroyed more tunnels that are used for smuggling weapons into Gaza. The 7-day truce declared by Hamas formally ends today. Gilad Shalit remains a prisoner in Gaza, a pawn used to terrorize his family.
It’s sunny outside, a bit cool and cloudy at times. Across the street, I see people sitting on the balcony taking a break from work. A car drives down the street and the driver honks at another car that threatens to jump into his lane. In the distance, I can see the trees in an open field gently moving with the breeze.
At this moment, my younger daughter is in school; my younger son is in school. My middle son is studying for a math test later today. My older daughter is either at the university or at her apartment. She and her husband will be coming for the weekend to spend some time with my husband’s brother, who will head back to the States early next week. As of now, Elie will be home for the Sabbath. I will get to watch my husband bless him and pray for peace for his son, all his sons.
It’s quiet. It’s calm. I have nothing to write other than to say that I have to learn to go back to normal…and I’m not quite there yet. There was a trauma, having my son in a war, having my friends’ sons in a war, having my nation at war. There was a trauma in listening to the radio, only to hear a voice-over telling people to quickly go into bomb shelters.
When this happens, the body tenses, as if waiting for a blow. Where will the missile land? Has it already hit? That quickly, did I learn in Ashkelon. Oddly enough, I’m more nervous, slower to calm now, than I was even last week. The anticipation is almost worse than the reality…and the reality was pretty bad. There is even comfort in knowing that the numbers of people reading this blog has settled back down to normal. During the war – at one point, it hit over 11,000 in one day – too many people, I think – too much noise. I like feeling the comfort of a smaller group of people – it’s just you and me again. Well, you, me, and Elie and my other kids and certainly I can’t forget my husband. But that isn’t too crowded – I can handle that. I can handle this post-war, settle back down time.
Each day that passes brings two things: one is a return to normalcy, because that’s what the human seeks. We want today to be normal and so we block all thoughts that suggest things are not as they should be. Where only yesterday people hovered close to bomb shelters, today they want to believe they can run in the parks and not fear being caught outside.
Those who cannot bring themselves to run freely are the traumatized ones, the ones who need help. But those who are outside today enjoying the freedom, leaving their phones behind and their radios silent – these are the ones who are normal, who seek normalcy. It is why within hours of a terrorist attack, the site of the attack is clean and the traffic flowing. We need to believe that we can live normally in our country, and so we do. Until the day comes when we can’t…because something has exploded – a bomb, a rocket, it doesn’t matter what. And so we take it, we deal, we clean, and we strive for normal again.
The second thing that today brings closer, is the knowledge that the next round…and there will be one…is simply one day closer. It may take a week, a month, a year. If we are lucky, it will be even longer, but few believe this. There must be a fundamental change in the culture of the Palestinians; a basic acceptance of Israel and our right to exist here. Even more so, they have to accept we have a right to live. So long as their religious leaders preach violence against the “infidels” (and that is everyone who is not a Muslim), the next war – here and around the world, is only a matter of time.
So long as they raise their children to be martyrs rather than doctors; fighters rather than teachers, the next war is only a matter of time. But today, Elie is playing and I’m sure he is laughing and happy. He is safe, he is among friends, and his greatest worry is that perhaps he will be hit with a small blob of paint. In a world that has been so far from normal recently, I am so glad that for the moment, I have nothing to say, nothing to write.
May we all be granted days full of normalcy, days when our children are safe in school and our soldier sons safe shooting paint balls at their fellow soldiers.