When We Were on the Brink of War

Five years ago…how could it be five years…Israel was under rocket fire, isolated from the world, and waiting to see if war would come. We have lived for 65 years on the brink of war…always on the brink. In many ways, nothing has changed. Last week, mortars and missiles, firebombs and guns and bombs were thrown at Israelis and Israel…last week, last year, five years ago, and sixty years ago.

At this time of year, I can close my eyes and remember so clearly what I was feeling; knowing that Elie was about to be sent to war, to fight. There are moments and events that change your life forever. Good moments and terrifying moments. Good ones are the ones when you get engaged, get married, bring a baby into this world and hold your grandchild for the first time…and so many other moments. But this time of the year, the horrible, terrifying moments come back to me.

Five years ago, I sat paralyzed at my desk and poured out my fears. I was waiting minute by minute for the phone to ring, for Elie to tell me if he was being moved to a war zone. He was stationed in the center of the country, about to move north where Lebanon was threatening…unless they moved him south where Gaza had fired over 120 missiles at us in less than a month.

Each time I spoke to him, I knew the decision was coming soon…I just didn’t know which front and what would happen when he got there. He knew so much more than he could tell me; I remained in the dark until the call I was dreading came.

“I’m not where you think I am,” he said.

I knew enough not to as him where he was, “are you south of where I thought you were or north?”

“South,” he answered.


The day before, I had written a blog post that defined so much of what it is like to be a soldier’s mother. I read it from time to time and remember that feeling of having your world spin out of control. You just want to hold on and beg it to stop.

Five years ago, I wrote these words…in many ways, they remain the truest of all that I have written here:

What I want…and what I’ll do: (first posted December 29, 2008)

What I want…is to go collect my little boy and bring him home. I want to lock him in a room and tell Israel that no, you can’t have him. I’ve changed my mind. No, I’m sorry. He’s not allowed to play with guns and big things that go boom. No, I’m his mother. I gave birth to him and no, you simply can’t take him.

What I want…is to call him and make sure he is where I put him, where he told me he was yesterday. Not in the north, where Hizbollah is promising to burn the ground and open a second front and not in the south, where dozens of rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel, where a man was killed and dozens were wounded.

That’s what I want…

And what I’ll do, is sit here at my desk and keep editing this document for my client. I’ll update the copyright statements and change the installation information to reflect the new platforms the product now supports. I’ll answer the phone and I’ll talk to my accountant.

And what I’ll do, is tell my heart to settle. I’ll tell my eyes to take a moment and look at the next beautiful wave of clouds rolling in over Jerusalem. I’ll sign the papers I need to sign; type the words I need to type. I’ll tell my younger daughter to clean her room and my younger son that he has to study for his test NOW. I’ll tell my middle son he can borrow the car like we agreed, but he has to drive carefully. I won’t talk to my oldest daughter because she’s old enough to see the cracks in my smile and know that outside, it’s all a front.

What I’ll do is answer the phone if Elie calls and I’ll talk to him calmly. I’ll listen if he tells me he’s staying where he is. I’ll listen if he tells me they are moving him up north. I’ll listen if he tells me they are moving him down south near Gaza. I’ll listen, I’ll tell him to be careful, and call me when he can. I won’t for a single moment, tell him that I’m scared, that I have no real experience with this war thing and that I don’t really want him to have any experience with it either.

What I’ll do is continue to listen to the news and pray for our civilians who are under attack, and our soldiers who are risking their lives to defend them.

And most of all, what I will do is dig deep inside where I store my faith in God and in my country and my people. I will do what every Israeli is doing today, hoping this will end soon, but not too soon that we only succeed in putting off to tomorrow what should have been dealt with today. I will do all of this because we are what we have always been, a nation with no choice but to deal with what our enemies choose.

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