The Soldier Sets the Rules

Having Elie home for a week reminds me of all the little things that I love about him and all the little (and big) things he does for the family. If there was ever a question that the family had changed somehow while he was away, Elie is quick to put us back in place. All in all, he has been in the army four months now. I am amazed at the changes in him…and in us.

In Elie, I see a man. He will think that he left here a man four months ago, but he didn’t. Not really. He is slower to anger now and the anger doesn’t peak as high. He has more patience for his younger brother and sister. He demands more of them, disciplines them in my place all together too much, and then he explains why they have to do something…and for the most part, he successfully makes them do it. They should help washing dishes and they should clean their rooms. Never mind that Elie didn’t always do these things when he was their age and we certainly won’t discuss his room here. Despite that, he is right that these are normal chores and no reason they should be exempt.

He explains things to them and he reads the newspaper more than before. He stays in touch with what is happening and analyzes the political and military situations against what he knows of the army. Will there be a war this summer? No one knows, but if it is to start, it will be soon. Elie explains what that means for him and for his unit. Where they will go, what happened to the same unit in last year’s war.

His commanding officer’s commanding officer (which is in a way his commanding officer, too), belonged to the unit that fired the most missiles into Lebanon last year…it is an impressive record for any soldier, but even more so when you realize that this officer is only 22 years old.

Elie and I went out to lunch today and spoke of his expectations, his analysis, where he will go in two weeks and three weeks and more. Perhaps, as with his siblings, he is “managing” me too, giving me my marching orders. He will do what he must and, in explaining what is happening to me, perhaps he is telling me what I must do.

I wonder if he sees that I have changed too in these past four months. I have always been a news-freak, needing to know what is happening at every given moment. I have always said that with knowledge came a sense of calm, but that is no longer true. I worry less about today and more about tomorrow. I see Elie in every soldier I pass, every soldier I give a ride to…and worse, every soldier I leave behind because my car is full.

In America, I lived in fear. Fear of walking at night; fear of someone taking my children; fear that I or someone I love would become a victim of crime. I moved to Israel and found peace. That sounds so strange to most people living outside Israel, but it is the truth. The crime rate is extremely low here and where there is fear to walk at night, there is fear in the daylight as well. My children are free here to play outside, to live in a world where adults watch over them, even if the children aren’t their own. I have lived this way for close to 15 years now, since we moved here when Elie had just turned 6 years old.

And now, I live again with fear. It is not a rational fear, just a slow burning terror deep inside that something might happen to Elie. That war will come and he’ll be sent to fight. Relatively, as an artillery soldier, he is safer than many. That is what the head of the mother says, but the mother’s heart doesn’t hear. Elie has a special job that keeps him in an armored vehicle behind the cannons that fire many kilometers away from the front lines. Again the heart is not convinced.

And I know that as Elie conquers each challenge the army places before him, I must conquer my worries and my fears so that they don’t touch Elie, so they don’t worry him or become his burden. These are, in Elie’s eyes, probably little things. Someday, perhaps (or perhaps not), he’ll understand that for a mother, this is the greatest thing you can ask – to let you son potentiatially put himself him harm’s way for the greater good. You know he has to do this…and you know that you have to put your concern’s aside.

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