The Gentlest of Slides

Elie went on Sunday to his base. He took uniforms, a backpack, and honestly, I’m not sure what else. He gave all this to a soldier there and received a small piece of paper – a free bus pass for a return trip for his visit today.

Today, he left early – driving by himself – to the induction center where just a few days ago, he took Shmulik. There, he will give them his military ID…they will shred it in a large device and give him a card showing he is no longer a member of the standing army, no longer a soldier in active duty. He’ll get a Reserves card he’ll keep in his wallet beside another that shows he was a “lochem” – a fighter.

He’ll walk out of the induction center and come home. That’s it. The end of the road that started three years ago. It was a gentle slide into a time of unknown, a time of fear and sometimes internal terrors. It was a call to parts deep within myself to overcome…and mostly, I did.

Elie will walk out the same and yet so much more than he was when he entered. There are physical changes. He was 19-years-old when he entered, more boy than man. He had a temper, a messy room, a way about him that enabled him to think, to analyze, to understand.

In his meanderings through the army, he was given access to computer information and was told or found out he aced the initial tests. Those tests he took even before he entered the army set him a bit apart and determined what task the army would assign to him.

In those first weeks, he learned, he listened, he adapted. That is the test of a good soldier and likely a good commander. Elie finished his basic training, his advanced training and his commanders course. There were so many moving moments in his service – but I will never forget the smile I saw in the distance as his first commanding officer approached to pin on the symbol showing Elie was now a commander. Or took his own pin, removed it from his uniform, and pinned it on Elie’s shirt. The exchanging of pins is a beautiful custom and Or chose Elie.

There were moments I will remember, and ones I will try to forget but overall, as I see Elie gently slide back into life, I am so blessed. For all the fear and worry – the army of Israel treated my son with respect. They rewarded him in so many ways, built him up in so many ways.

What Elie will choose to do in the next few months of his life and in the years to come is still a mystery. He’s great with computers. He wants to take the psychometric tests (similar to the US SATs or other qualification tests) and continue his education. In what field…I don’t know yet. He’d make an amazing engineer but it will be his choice.

He has yet to completely stand down. We go through a checkpoint and he comments about where the soldier is standing “he’s too close to the road” or “he’s not supposed to do that,” when the soldier opens the trunk of the car rather than making the Arab do it and risk harm from what might be inside. He watches, looks around and is ever aware of what is happening. He reads the news and increases the volume on the radio when the hourly news report comes on. I don’t know if this will change in time or if this is a permanent change.

Yesterday and the day before, I sat with a new client going over a new application they want us to document. In the way of all things Israeli, we talked and as it is a large part of my life (and theirs) there was talk of the army. The programmer had been in artillery, recognized Elie’s unit. He was an officer. A connection.

And so it goes. What Elie gained in the army these past three years he takes with him. He is now 22-years-old, even more handsome than he ever was. His room is sadly still a mess but his temper is more controlled. He thinks, he analyzes, he acts – the same and yet so much more. He stands on the edge of all the rest of his life. May God grant him a long, healthy, happy one. He has served his people, his land, his country, his God.

Now he moves on…his brothers remain to take over the tasks he did, to guard, to protect. He slides into a new life, confident and proud. I am so proud of him.

As for A Soldier’s Mother…as you all have probably figured out…it continues. Thank you to all of you who have written to me, seen me through the good and the bad. I wish I could say there will be no more falls on this roller coaster but I no longer believe that. Yesterday, again, the Arabs threatened war, Intifada, whatever.

A new son of Israel steps forward this day and each day. That is the way of things here in our beautiful and holy land.

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