It’s been a quiet week in which I barely got a chance to speak to Elie. He called one evening close to midnight to tell me that he had just been released for some free time, but had to do guard duty for 30 minutes before going to bed. When I expressed some concern, he told me he was lucky. By finishing his guard duty at the beginning of the night, and not in the middle, he would be able to get six whole hours sleep.
Other than that, he’s there in the south learning and preparing. The army has intensified his training. This too is a scary thought. Israel does not want a war; it has never wanted war. But last year showed us that we had been preparing ourselves for the new threat Israel and the world has faced in the last decade, that of terrorism, and had put aside the old threat of more standard warfare. For so long, too long, Palestinians have chosen to sneak into our cities and blow up buses rather than fight against an army. For so long, too long, they have attacked our innocents. Last summer, first Palestinians from Gaza and then Hizbollah from Lebanon crossed into Israel, attacked and kidnapped our soldiers. What started as an act of aggression grew into a more traditional war against our soldiers and a terror war of indiscriminate rockets against our civilians in the north. Last summer’s war taught us that we must be prepared to face both types of threats.
The Second Lebanon War, as it is now being called, was not a conventional war in many ways. Long gone, at least from the Palestinian and Hizbollah points of view, is any sense that civilians are not legitimate targets. Last summer, as Israel entered Lebanon to try to bring home two soldiers who had been kidnapped from our territory, Hizbollah started a war against our civilians. Thousands of rockets later and after hundreds were killed and wounded, we still didn’t have our soldiers, but we had a clearer sense that we must prepare for a new kind of war.
This is the lesson that Israel’s government may not have learned, but Israel’s army did. Most importantly, there is a strong motivation on the part of Israel’s vast reserve army to be ready, to know how to fight this enemy and all others on all fronts and in all ways. Elie is training, almost around the clock, so when the next threat comes, he and his unit will be part of the battle.
As a mother, I would wish differently, of course. I would have him training safely in the desert for three years or more, never to go to battle, never to know of war, never to lose a friend, never to risk injury and harm, or worse. That is the mother in me.
The Israeli in me applauds the army’s initiative, its drive to fix past mistakes so that our soldiers are more prepared. I have no doubt, nor do the Arabs, that Israel’s army is stronger and better equipped and better trained. This is not a secret to anyone in the world. And, an added factor we have always had on our side is that our soldiers know that they fight for their homes, their families, their nation. This is not some distant battle in a faraway land. This is a fight, has always been and will always be, a fight for the existence of Israel.
The Israeli in me applauds the motivation of the troops, regular and reserve, to throw themselves into training, to demand that the army improve and intensify. Not because they want war, but because they want to be able to answer this time, as they were not allowed to last time.
I can’t quiet the mother in me, the fear that paralyzes me into silence or fills my eyes with tears at the thought of what Elie might see or do in the next few weeks, months and years. I can’t protect him, as a close friend of mine couldn’t protect her son when he went into Lebanon last summer, when he fought, when he lost close friends before his eyes. She could only love him, support him, listen to him, hold him, and pray for him.
The Arabs don’t care about the mother in me, but they must know about the Israeli in me and in each of us here. The enemy you faced last summer and in many ways defeated, was not destroyed and never will be.
We had become complacent, spoiled, and unchallenged in victory. That complacency enabled you to come in and take three of our sons (Ehud, Eldad, and Gilad). That complacency enabled you to fire thousands of rockets, burn down hundreds of acres of forest we had lovingly planted, destroy homes and buildings throughout our north and force our northern residents to hide or flee.
That complacency is no more.
The army is ready – not to attack…but to defend. Not to seek war, but to answer aggression and protect our people. Our soldiers are ready to meet all threats to our land. The Givati, Golani and Shiryonim units will do what they need to…and Tot-hanim…my son’s artillery division…will be there as well. If there is to be a war in the coming weeks and months, Elie will be there – with my prayers and fears, but more importantly, with the training given to an Israeli soldier to defend the land and people of Israel and with God’s blessing and help, we will yet show that the Nation of Israel lives. Am Yisrael Chai.
For now, as we once again prepare for the coming Sabbath, once again without Elie who is on base, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all of Israel. Shabbat shalom.