Will Elie Get Vacation?

Isn’t that a silly way to think of world events? It is, really and I’m even honest enough to recognize that it is a coping mechanism for avoiding the more serious thought that rests just on the edge of my brain.

There are three moments in Elie’s army life that I fear…ok, there are four, but the fourth is more than I can manage at the best of times, so I’ll confess to three of them. I’m afraid of the moment Israel will go to war. No one comes out of war the same as they go in. No matter what happens…Elie will be different. How can you not? It’s very possible Elie will finish his army service without experiencing war. It’s even possible that his brothers might as well…but an Israeli’s army service doesn’t end after 3 years. The three years are really more training and learning than anything else. Much of Israel’s real defense is in the hands of the reserve soldiers who give up to a month of their lives each year to defend the country. Elie will leave the army, in very real terms, only when he reaches his 40s. At 20 years of age, this means another good 20 years. Israel has been through at least 6 wars in its 60 years, more if you count our ongoing war with the Palestinians, terrorism and several other incidents. It will happen…how can it not?

I’m afraid of the moment when Elie might (God forbid) lose a friend or one of his soldiers either in war or in some terrorist action. Elie and his siblings have been touched by terrorist attacks – everyone in Israel has. A teacher from Elie’s school was killed while driving home. Another teacher from Elie’s older sister’s school and his 3 year old child were wounded. Elie’s younger sister’s teacher has just spent the last few weeks nursing her husband, who was shot twice in the most recent terrorist attack in Jerusalem while sitting and learning in the yeshiva library. A boy from where we used to live was shot in the leg while driving home. Some young people in our neighborhood had near misses or were in attacks but not severely wounded. The list goes on; it’s a small country. I don’t know what I’ll say, how I can help him. My friend’s son, who just completed his army service, has lost several boys from his unit – first during the last Lebanon War and more recently in a battle in Jenin. She told me the army doesn’t send the boys home – but let’s them help each other, stick together. But they come home eventually and we have to deal with it. It may well happen and I carry that fear deep inside me.

And I’m terrified of a moment I pray will never happen – that Elie will call me, or so much worse, someone will call and say he’s been hurt. I think it’s a natural fear; I know it is. But knowing doesn’t tell me how I’d cope, how I’d even manage to get myself there fast enough to be with him. So many soldiers pass through the army never getting hurt but that doesn’t help and so I push the thoughts away because nothing is accomplished by thinking about them other than to make me realize that this isn’t really something you can prepare yourself for in advance.

In the meantime, Elie called last night to tell me about the latest goings-on. He’s still on the Lebanese border, at least for another few weeks. This is considered part of active duty, rather than training. In another few weeks, the Passover holiday will be here. He spent the last holiday, Purim, in the army and we were hoping he’d spend the Seder with us, but it looks like it won’t be happening. Elie is more philosophical about it than I am, more able to understand the ramifications of his coming home.

“That means another soldier will have to be here for three straight weeks, instead of two,” he explains calmly and this time, I am the child, desperately wanting to answer back, “so what.” But I don’t. That boy needs to go home just as Elie does. Just an unlucky draw that gave the other soldier two holidays and none to Elie.

But Elie will ask for an extra day for the last weekend of Passover as a bit of compensation and hopefully he’ll get that. Also, the best news is that the soldiers in his command are due for a week-long vacation. With them on vacation, there is nothing for Elie to do, so he too will get a week off, even though he just got one after finishing the Commanders Course. That alone almost compensates for the Seder he won’t be sharing with us this year – another first. Since the time our first child was born, we have never not all been together on this important night. I know how lonely Elie sounded on Purim, when he could call. I can’t imagine how he will feel on Seder night.

Of course, Elie was quick to remind me that counting on a week off, or any vacation for that matter, all depends on “the situation” (as we like to call it here). Anything can change at any time – as we have seen in the past.

So, we said good night. He sounded good. He’s fine. He’s safe. He’s warm. He’s happy. Another day done in the army and my fears remain at bay. And then this morning, as I was driving to work, the radio talked about the Syrians intensifying pressure on the border. THEY think WE are going to attack…and so they are mobilizing their troops, calling up some reserve soldiers and moving them closer to the border.

It could really be that they believe Israel is about to attack…or it could be a guise for an attack from them. The Israeli army knows what it is about to do and what it is not about to do, but the unknown factor here is what the Syrians will do and so we too must be prepared.

Chances are, the army won’t call up our reserves – that may well bring on a war, so it will probably fall to the soldiers who are there already to be prepared and that might mean canceling vacations or home-time. Somehow I can’t get my mind around the idea that we are on the verge of war and that one of my greatest fears concerning Elie might come true.

More likely, this will all blow over – as it so often does…just after Elie loses his planned vacation. So, here’s hoping the Syrians cool down and realize that Israel isn’t seeking war. Here’s hoping things don’t escalate and we can all have a quiet peaceful holiday…and yes, here’s hoping that Elie gets to be home for a week and enjoy some quiet time with the family! And, if I am putting in my wishes…here’s hoping the army finds a way to send Elie home for the Seder!

3 Comments on Will Elie Get Vacation?

  1. I’ve been serving for over 20 years in the reserves. Every couple of months there are reports of Syrian call ups and tension on the border. Usually these reports are politically motivated and for internal consumption. I wouldn’t worry about it. There are people whose job is to worry about it.
    Over the years I’ve spent more than one Seder (and other holidays for that matter) in the army. Although it is initially a disappointment, we all want to be with our families, I’ve never regretted celebrating the holiday that way. The fact that I was celebrating with my comrades provided a different emphasis that civilians don’t always perceive.
    Remember, ours is the only Jewish army in the world. We will be celebrating our freedom with that knowledge.

  2. I guess that Elie has made the decision of a responsible commander and decided that he is able to enhance the Seder experience of his soldiers. An army Seder is different from a home one – a lot depends on who’s there. It can be a “let’s get the wine (although I heard they got rid of “Yayin Patishim” and replaced it by grape juice) drunk asap and the food eaten” to a really meaningful Seder – probably the first for some of the kids who may even discover hidden aspects of their Jewish heritage.

  3. Madam, I feel for you. Unfortunately the only way for Israel to have peace is to destroy her enemies. I hope you do.

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