Passing the Elastic Band…

Isn’t that a silly title? I thought of sword…too violent…and I thought of this weekend, of Shmulik home in his uniform for the first time, of how he spoke, of what he said, of so many images…and an elastic band.

My older daughter’s reaction when she saw Shmulik, “they look so much alike” she said of her two brothers. Others have said they resemble each other…I really don’t think they do. Elie went into the army and got into shape. Shmulik has been running and walking and exercising for years. He lifts weights – he boasts that he may not be taller than Elie, but he believes he is stronger.

They spoke that language over the weekend…rapid fire Hebrew of life in the army and Shmulik deferred to Elie in so many ways. He asked about what to bring, what to leave. Elie checked his boots and told him to switch where the shoe laces began. And when Shmulik indulged my wishes for a few pictures, Elie stopped him as he was putting on his boots…and handed him two black elastic bands to replace the ones Shmulik had.

They were brand new and Elie had saved them for his brother. So far, Shmulik hasn’t done much on base. They haven’t been given weapons…I don’t know when they will. For now, it is more about teaching them – how to dress, when to get up in the morning, how to behave.

Saturday night, the two boys…boys…my two young men…went to buy clothes for Elie. They came home with about 8 shirts but no pants yet. Elie is still finding his way in post-army life…just as Shmulik is finding his way in the army. Each takes tentative steps, not quite sure how to adjust to this new world.

Shmulik and I talked a few times about what he will be doing in the army and each time his answer is the same – “terrorists.” Kfir is tasked with anti-terror operations. Elie tells me it is the same as what he did…Shmulik makes is sound so much worse.

Yes, I know Elie was responsible for finding explosives, weapons, etc. and I know he went into Arab villages when there was a need. And yet, I focused on Elie being artillery. There is no other focus for Shmulik, no other path. In war and in “peace” – okay, not peace…let’s say, when we aren’t actively in war, Shmulik’s tasks are the same – to go in, to stop hatred and murder from getting out.

But these fears are months away – for now, it’s about learning – about elastic bands and tying shoes. Shmulik sent me his first picture from the bus as he was driven to base. Elie took one look and said he was wearing the wrong color undershirt.

When Shmulik showed me his uniform, it was so new, so stiff. There was a discussion about belts and finally what gets returned to the army at the end of the process. Everything Shmulik got was brand new.

If you return your old stuff…but everything Shmulik got was new…who gets the old stuff…and with a smile and a tease, Elie answered “jobniks.”

Shmulik called tonight – these first calls are so precious. They didn’t do much – they only returned to base around 5:00 p.m. Tomorrow, they will “clean the base,” he said – make it nice, clear away weeds. Perhaps tonight or early tomorrow morning, they will patrol the base.

“They gave you a gun?” I asked.

“No, but they said they might. No bullets – just to get the feel of what it is like to patrol.”

Tomorrow, he thinks, they will start training, running. He was assigned a group. Here too there is a huge difference between Elie’s service and Shmulik’s. Shmulik goes in with the Hesder unit – together, as a group, they serve. So he is with all of his friends, the ones with whom he went to pre-military school for the past year and a half and even a few others.

He sounds fine; strong; calm. There are so many fewer unknowns this time around, so much less fear. There are still dangers ahead – danger in training and later in operation, but this time around, I don’t seem to want to be scared right now. I’m not rushing to that state of panic. I know where he is, how he is and to some extent, even what he is doing.

He’s coming home again this weekend and apparently will be home for the Seder. My daughter and her husband will join us; my husband’s sister and brother come from afar. For now, I hear Shmulik’s voice, love the sound of his calls. He is with friends…but more importantly, I have learned from Elie that even if he weren’t with his friends, he’d be among friends.

And a bit more…though they can’t find each other yet, Chaim and Shmulik are on the same base – separated by a fence and different units, but still there together in some way. There is such calm in that too. The army would never let two brothers serve in the same unit, probably not even the same base…and yet, they have, haven’t they?

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