The Security of My Son

A few times, very well meaning friends, relatives, and readers have suggested that for security reasons, I should be careful. I want to assure you that I am. I never post where Elie is – other than to say north, south, on the Lebanese border, close to Syria. There are miles and miles of border and dozens (if not more) of bases.

Where Elie was (note the past tense), he was well aware of listening ears and often spoke to me in ways that I knew that he knew – someone was listening. No matter – it is no secret that we have troops on all our borders, covering all areas, protecting against every threat.

By the time I posted that Elie and his battalion had a day off, they were likely already back up north. In any event, while in training, Elie is not responsible for watching the border. I did not identify the location where they were to meet, other than, perhaps, to say it was a central location (which again covers thousands of points, dozens of cities, intersections, and more).

Nothing is more important to me when writing this blog than the safety of my son and the soldiers around him. I weigh each piece of information carefully, but know that there is little doubt our enemies know way more than me. I asked Elie’s commanding officer at one point if something he was telling me was confidential. He was explaining the path that Elie would take through the army, the months he would be in training, advanced training, etc.

Or smiled the most charming smile and said, “if I’m telling you, it isn’t confidential.”

At one point, I wrote about how Elie had overfilled the water bottle that he brought to the table, causing his grandmother to spill a little simply by lifting the bottle. I told Elie to be careful and asked why he’d put so much water in. Habit, he explained. In the army, you don’t want to fill a bottle part way and have the water sloshing around, making noise while you are on maneuvers.

I wrote about the filled water bottle and, in the same post, I explained that Elie had gone back to base early Sunday morning. Again, I didn’t write where that base was, only that Elie left early to get there.

My brother-in-law, who has always had a soft spot for Elie and reads each post to help bridge the huge geographical area that separates him from us, wrote to say he was concerned that I was giving away too much. I had no idea what he was talking about and so I asked him to explain.

No – telling the Arabs that Elie was going back to base Sunday morning is no secret. The army sends as many of its soldiers home as it can. Those who are not in combat units often have the weekends off when all but non-essential tasks are postponed in honor of the holiday. The key there, is that our borders remain well protected, our cities, our streets. But there is no training on the Sabbath, no exercises done for the sake of learning or practicing. It is a proper fighting force that guards our country, while those who are not needed get a much deserved chance to rest. On Sunday, it is back to full operation and that means all those who went home have to return. The soldiers are on the move – from every point to every point. No secret there.

But the water, he challenged. It made me smile and so I explained. You fill the bottle, so the Arabs can’t hear you coming. What difference does it matter why they can’t hear our soldiers – only that they can’t hear them. Are we teaching them something that they don’t know? Arabs that attack us with rockets and mortars on a daily basis do so from within Gaza and don’t carry water. Those that try to sneak into our cities to blow up a bus or a mall worry about how many bullets and bombs they can carry, not how much water. They try to appear as one of us, relaxed and not about to commit murder. And, in the north, Hizbollah units may try to infiltrate to kidnap more soldiers as they did two years ago. They too understand that they are not likely to return and most definitely don’t worry about carrying water with them.

In all of these cases, they have glorified the act, calling it martyrdom and they fully expect to die. Success to these terrorists is not returning home to victory. There is little thought to actually returning home. They are bound for the heaven in their minds and the promise of 72 virgins awaiting them. They will make their way as quietly as they can, but water is not an issue for them. Long before they can experience dehydration, they will be dead. The only question will be if they succeed in murdering Israelis before that death occurs.

There are secrets in the army – but like Or, Elie knows the lines and knows what he can tell me and what he can’t. To say he is in the south is to describe a vast geographical area, well patrolled and guarded and completely meaningless to anyone seeking to decipher great military secrets. To say he is on the Lebanese border says nothing beyond what is known to Hizbollah and the Syrians. It is no secret that we keep our soldiers there and no secret that the Arabs know where these bases are. For this too, our army is prepared.

I have said Elie is in the artillery division, but never written what he does within his unit. I have never said the name of his unit, its symbol or how many serve. I have said Elie is part of a g’dud – so is every combat soldier.

I have written that Elie has a license to drive an armored personnel carrier, but never written more about the vehicle itself. And yesterday, when the army gave them a break and took them out for a day of culture, I waited until the day was over and my son and his unit were back where they were supposed to be (or on a bus in that direction) before even saying that they had been there.

Security is very important in Israel. We live with it every day to such an extent that it becomes second nature. I thank “Another Soldier’s Mother from near Gaza” for worrying and caring enough to write. Her concern is justified and something we all must watch.

We must be very careful, as you very correctly write, to guard our sons and what they tell us so that we give nothing away to our enemies and those who would harm them (and us).

But we must balance this with the need to explain to others the fundamental realities of our life here in Israel. Our sons are soldiers, but they are each human beings, our sons, our babies. We must work to help others outside Israel better understand our struggle to live here in our ancient homeland and our modern state. We face an enemy that would rather sneak into a pizza parlor and blow up a family, than risk going to war against our army. They find honor in death, we find joy in life.

Hannan Nasrallah, head of Hizbollah said it so clearly, “We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win because they love life and we love death.”

Nasrallah is right – we Jews love life and they love death. But he is wrong – it is not what makes us vulnerable, it is what makes us invincible. This is the message we must send to our friends (and yes, to our enemies as well).

We accomplish this by showing you a side of our sons that you may not see in the media and elsewhere. But I will never risk the security of my son or any soldier in Israel. Elie is safe up “somewhere up north” and we are all safe throughout our country because all our sons sit where they are and guard us and what you have to understand, those of you who do not know my son and other soldiers like them, is that they are so much more than the uniform they wear, the gun they tote.

That is one of the goals I have set here – for everyone to understand that my son is so many things. He is a Jew, an Israeli. He is a young man at the beginning of his life. He is the son of parents who are so proud of him. He’s got these amazing eyes and a wicked smile and yes, of course, he is a soldier in our army.

6 Comments on The Security of My Son

  1. Most families create an internal family code so that their sons can tell them where they are.

  2. Anonymous // May 13, 2008 at 6:33 am // Reply

    Your blog is touching and very real. My comment was meant to keep you (and all of us) aware of field security. I don’t want to get into a slinging match as to what information could be dangerous – just to keep it in the forefront of our minds.
    אני מאחלת לך ולמשפחתך הרבה כוח.
    Another Soldier’s Mother from near Gaza

  3. Thanks, Another Soldier’s Mother! We all have to live with this and do what we can. Please feel free to call me on any and all things you feel are important. Like many, even after a year, I’m still new at this and know I have to watch and read before posting; read and watch always. I too wish you and your family much courage and strength and safety. Whatever unit you son is in, may he stay safe always!

  4. Anonymous // May 13, 2008 at 7:38 am // Reply

    Hi, she’s in intelligence actually!
    I think that we’ll all remain new at this until well after they’ve finished their service – whether sadir or miluim. Your blog is relevant and touching and very true.
    Another Soldier’s Mother near Gaza.

  5. So first, shame on me for assuming you child in the army was a boy. Second – I’m so glad to hear you have an intelligent child…ok, never mind. Yes, more and more I realize that no matter how long my son (or sons, actually) will be soldiers, I’ll still never learn to let a day go by without that twinge of concern and worry. Please, please call me on anything I post that shouldn’t be there. I honestly don’t think it has happened yet, but if it does, when it does, I’ll count on you and George and a few others who read this blog to tell me quickly. At one point, as I seemed to be feeling calmer, I thought of stopping the blog. I started it for me…because I really didn’t want to tell Elie what I was thinking and worrying about. Now, I do tell him and he smiles and laughs at his silly mother…which really is the best way to handle my concerns. If he were to take them seriously, I’d be more concerned and he’s be less of what he is.

  6. Anonymous // May 15, 2008 at 6:56 pm // Reply

    I hope that you continue writing your blog. As a mother in the United States, and one who has spent a lot of time in Israel, your blog evens out the blogs that I read about life in Israel. My children are your children’s ages and I can imagine that one may want to leave us and complete Israeli army service. Thanks for opening up my eyes to your world. You do it so well!

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