Sunday, November 09, 2008

From A Soldier's Mother

In a few days, not more than a week, Elie will once again move to the southern training base far from home. He knows the base well. He spent almost 12 months there already. This time, he returns as an experienced commander, ready to take on the training of newly inducted soldiers. This time, the army has confirmed that there will be only boys in his unit.

Once again he'll spend two weeks preparing for the new soldiers, going over what he learned, only this time from the perspective of the teacher, not the student. After he welcomes these young men to the army, he'll teach them what he has learned. They will call him "Commander" and not Elie. They may not know anything about his family, where he goes when he comes home. They'll complain about him to each other. They might even assign a secret name (as Elie and his friends called one commander "Blondie" and another "Solomon") and Elie might hear the name, but not know to whom they refer.

Elie will force them to run, but he will likely run at the front of the group. He will teach them about shooting and the first time they see him shoot, they will be amazed because his gun has been calibrated to him and so he'll shoot with amazing accuracy. He's probably stronger and faster than they are right now, having spent the last 20 months of his life training and strengthening his body. That first time, he'll run only a half a kilometer with them, while he himself can easily run many times that amount. Even if he's tired, he won't show them.

He'll let them sleep only six hours, while he himself will likely sleep even less. He will teach them to respect the gun they are given, to make it a part of themselves. He will insist that they know where it is at all times, even in sleep. To make sure he succeeds in this lesson, he will likely try to "steal" a gun. If a soldier "forgets" his gun on his bed when he runs to stand in line to be inspected in the morning, Elie will hand out a punishment.

Elie will be counselor and trainer to these boys, but never quite a friend during this time. That will come later, not now. For some of the days, the army will take these boys on cultural trips, to teach them about Israel. Elie will accompany them on some of these trips, but unlike these other soldiers, Elie's gun will be loaded. They'll walk through the city of Jerusalem, but Elie will be watching around him. After so many in his unit were hit by a terrorist driving a car in Jerusalem, Elie will be even more alert.

On at least one of these cultural days, probably several, Elie won't go with his soldiers. Rather, Elie will leave this team and go visit each soldier's parents. There, he will explain, as Or once did in our home, what their son will be doing in the months to come. They'll ask him questions and he'll explain. So many questions, but also so many that won't be asked.

"Can I tell others what you are telling me, or is it a secret?" one mother might ask hesitantly, thinking of her son's grandparents and what they too would want to know.

"If it were secret, I couldn't tell you," Or had smiled and answered back patiently, when I asked. REST OF POST


Ahuva said...

What a beautiful post. For some reason this really gave me goosebumps..thanks for sharing

the sabra said...

Of course it gave you goosebumps-it is an unreal reality. The honesty and forthrightness of her writing and of her situation is startling and perspectivizing. I'm glad you read it and were affected (comment there!).

Can I ask how you found my blog?