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      A Soldier’s Mother
      One mother’s journey through the Israeli army with her sons

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      Paula R. Stern is CEO and founder of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company offering documentation services and training seminars. She made aliyah in 1993 when her oldest son was 6 years old. In March 2007, her son Elie entered the Artillery Division of the Israeli army and Paula began writing about her experiences as A Soldier’s Mother. The blog continues as Elie begins Reserve Duty and her son Shmulik is now a soldier. She recently opened a publishing house, helping other authors fulfill their dream to publish.

      Links to the Author's blogs:

      Av 29, 5769, 8/19/2009

      Reading Between the Lines

      A news report can tell you what happened, where it happened, and sometimes even the results. But there is always more, just beyond what you read. It's the "after" that we often never know, the "who" we may never meet.

      You may hear about a rocket attack that injured a child. You'll hear that he lost one leg, that he loved to play soccer, that moments before the rocket hit, he promised his mother he would come home straight after school. His teacher will tell you he is a special and gifted child; you'll see his mother crying and asking how this could be allowed to happen. And then nothing.

      The news moves on and so we move with the news. The boy who was 8-years-old is now 10, he's been fitted with a fake leg and tries to play soccer with his friends. In the two years since it happened, we don't know about the operations he has had, the struggle he has made to walk again.

      It's the same with all things. You may hear about a soldier who was injured but the news moves on and so we don't follow through the years of rehabilitation. The operations to rebuild, to cover, to fix, to get him back to whatever his "normal" life will become.

      A woman was lightly wounded on her head Tuesday evening when a car she was traveling in was hit by rocks thrown by Arabs near Shomron in Samaria.

      Here's another example. Undoubtedly, the owner of this car will now spend hours running around to get their car fixed, the woman won't quickly forget the horrible sensation that comes with the understanding that she is being attacked. None of this will we know because the news outlets are done. She's had her 15 minutes of fame, they will say.

      One more example, more than a year ago, an Arab took his tractor and used it as a terrorist weapon. He rammed it into cars, buses, people. Near the end of the attack, seconds before he was finally eliminated by a brave passerby, the Arab rammed into a Mazda 5. The family in the Mazda 5 was miraculously saved, though the Mazda was seriously damaged.

      What wasn't reported, was the family's struggle with the insurance company and government funding after the attack. The emotional traumas that remained long after the street had been cleaned, the smashed bus removed. The news moved on, and we moved on with it.

      So what that means, for those of us who want to understand, is that we must read between the lines. Years ago, I listened to a Russian Jew, newly released from the Soviet Union, who talked about how he knew, always what was happening around the world. We asked how this was possible when we understood that the Soviets blocked international reports.

      "It's easy," he replied. "I read between the lines. Sometimes, I even read the paper upside down," he'd said with a smile. I thought about these and other things when I saw a small news article today. No, there was no rocket, no child injured - at least not so far today.

      But many of us in Israel have become experts at reading between the lines. There's a traffic jam in the central part of Israel, says the news. This means the security forces have intelligence reports suggesting that a terrorist is trying to get into our cities and the police and army are fighting to find them before they do.

      Today, I saw this on Israel National News:

      Arabs hurled rocks at an Israeli-licensed car near Karnei Shomron and Azzun in Shomron Tuesday. Two people were very lightly hurt by flying glass and did not require medical care or evacuation.The IDF is combing the area.

      There's the name of that village again, Azzun. And "The IDF is combing the area." And from this, I read between the lines - Elie and his forces are driving through the back roads searching. They are in their new jeeps, the ones that are replacing the old Humvees, and they are looking.

      It's very possible, of course, that it isn't Elie. There are other forces in the area. But, you see, to me, "the IDF" now means Elie. My son is combing the area, looking for Arabs who were hurling rocks at Israeli cars. Two people were injured, just as last week another woman was seriously injured. Today, two were lucky, they "did not require medical care." Last week, Fanya bat Asya wasn't so lucky. She's in a medically induced coma while doctors try to ascertain the extent of her head injuries. But that isn't on the news.

      Fanya may need months of rehabilitation; the two who were lightly hurt today will go home and some time soon, they will realize how much worse it could have been. They will contact their insurance company, which will contact the government. Assessors will come out and look at the car and determine the damage. Money will be exchanged, the car repaired.

      Cuts and abrasions will heal; fear will diminish. Or perhaps, each time they pass the same spot on the road, they will remember the sound of rocks hitting their car, a window smashing and glass flying all over. They will feel the sting but when they look, their arms will be whole and the sensation will pass around the next bend...until the next time they travel that same area. We will never know their struggles; their time in the news has passed.

      With God's healing grace, hopefully Fanya will be allowed to awaken and the doctors will be relieved that her brain didn't swell or sustain permanent damage after being hit by a rock and shattered glass. And as with the others, we may never know, because the media is covering new stories.

      I'll call Elie later to see how he is; perhaps he will mention that he was out searching, or perhaps it wasn't his shift. I find, as the months pass, that I am less likely to ask Elie what he's doing - rather leaving him to tell me. It isn't that I am less interested, but more that I am beginning to realize there is a world of things he is doing that I don't know about, and may never know. And right now, I'm not sure I could handle knowing without even more of my heart and mind being diverted to worrying about him. Now, he is a slow burn deep in my mind; a worry that niggles at my heart. Never out completely; rarely, except when he was near Gaza, all consuming.

      Sometimes, in a passing comment, he'll describe fancy homes in Kalkilya and fast cars driven by the Arabs. He laughs when he thinks about how the world has been duped into thinking of the "poor" Palestinians, including the ones driving the fancy black BMW, the high walls that surround some of the houses and modern security-coded systems that guard them.

      And I begin to read between the lines.

      When Elie first went into the army, his commanding officer came to our home to tell us what Elie would be doing for the next three years of his life (The Uniform and the Visit). Or specifically told us that outside of war and training, artillery units hold the line outside Arab villages when units go in for various operations. Wasn't I lucky? I thought to myself. Blessed that I didn't have that to worry about Elie actually going INTO the village to search, to find, to arrest, to confront.

      But it isn't true. Elie says Or didn't lie, but rather the army shifted its practice. Whatever the truth is, the bottom line is that Elie, like most combat soldiers, is sometimes called to search for weapons and explosives within Arab villages and Arabs have been known to booby-trap houses, attack Israel forces with rocks, firebombs and guns.

      When Elie talks about what he has seen inside Arab villages, it doesn't take much to realize what he was doing there and the possible dangers he faces. Like today's news items, often there is a world of knowledge between the lines we read...and the hardest thing for a soldier's mother is that it is what is between those lines that challenges our sons, endangers them, and long after the news has moved on, that "between" is the real world in which our sons and daughters find themselves every day - even when the news doesn't report anything.

      May Elie and all our soldiers live safely between the lines and be blessed with success in their missions.

      Av 27, 5769, 8/17/2009

      Unconditional Beliefs and the Virtue of the IDF

      Sometimes all it takes to make a post is a comment - so here's one. SK writes:
      What I find so cringe-inducing in this blog is your unconditional belief in the virtue of your son serving in the IDF. There are things worth dying for, but I posit that maintaining the status quo in Israel is not one of them. I would take no pride in having a son of mine be a pawn in a political game.
      Cringe-inducing? I have to remember that one, but let's move on to the main points:

      1. I don't know that I like the phrase "unconditional belief in the virtue" of my son "serving in the IDF." To be honest, I'm not sure I even have unconditional belief in the virtue of my son, though I will deny I wrote that, suggest some horrible mother hijacked my blog and anyway, it was a mistake. I have unconditional belief in God and in the virtue of His actions, decrees, rules and promises. I believe, with complete faith, in the coming of the Messiah...hey, someone should make that into a song! I also believe, with complete faith, that God rules this planet, all who inhabit it, all that happens here, and all that will happen. I also believe that we are all God's children - Arab, Jew, and Christian...no matter what order Obama uses. And finally, I do believe, long ago, that God took a special liking to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob. And, for that matter, to Moses as well. I believe He promised to them and to their descendents, a beautiful, holy land and that our living here is the embodiment of that promise, the fulfillment not only of our dream, but of God's plan.

      To live here, we must be honest with ourselves and with our neighbors. Honestly, they don't like us living here. They really want us to leave, preferably by way of the sea, and without boats or ships or submarines. Certainly, were we to agree and ask to use planes, I am relatively sure they would provide them...with enough fuel to get us to the middle of the ocean. So, given the realities of the Middle East, I believe unconditionally, that we need an army, a strong one. The IDF serves as a deterrent more than any other role.

      Today, war did not break out in the Middle East - that was because of the IDF and only because of the IDF. Yesterday, there was no war, and hopefully tomorrow there will be no war - these too I will credit to the IDF. And so yes, I believe unconditionally, that our sons must serve, all our sons, in some way or another. I believe they should serve in the army, but if they can't - they should serve some other way. That might be as ambulance drivers, even as street cleaners - it doesn't really matter to me. The streets need to be clean, light bulbs need to be changed, children need to be safely crossed across major intersections - do any of these things, but serve your people.

      So you know what, you are right in the end, I do have the "unconditional belief in the virtue of your son serving in the IDF." That doesn't mean I will agree with everything the IDF does, or everything my son will do in the IDF, but the virtue of the service he gives, yes, unconditionally, completely, irrevocably. So, let's not quibble because I believe your main points are ahead.

      2. You wrote, "There are things worth dying for, but I posit that maintaining the status quo in Israel is not one of them." Now, this is a particularly sensitive phrase "worth dying for" and I'm glad you agree that there are things worth dying for...the only thing is, we Jews focus less on dying and more on living. There are so many things worth living for, that sometimes, in order to have that life, others risk their lives and sometimes die. For those who believe in freedom, democracy, justice, there are more positive things in life than negative; more to live for than to die for. But, since we agree that there are "things" (though it is likely we disagree on what those things are), let's move on to the main point of your words. And here it comes, "I posit that maintaining the status quo in Israel is not one of them."

      Well, I guess that about says it all. Our army isn't fighting, Elie isn't serving - to "maintain the status quo in Israel." Sixty-one years into our re-existence here in Israel, we are still fighting for the basic right to be here without being terrorized, attacked, bombed, pummeled with rockets and stones and firebombs. You've posit-ed, so allow me.

      I posit that were it not for Israel, we Jews would likely be facing another Holocaust any day now. Hell, we're facing one even with Israel, if you take Iran's threat to "wipe Israel off the face of the map."

      I posit that what our army is doing is preventing wars more than anything else. Maybe I'm misunderstanding - perhaps you are suggesting that the Israeli army should be fighting an all-out war of aggression; that we should reconquer Sinai, areas of Syria and Lebanon and march towards Amman. Is that what you mean by canceling the status quo? Somehow, I doubt it. Our critics usually blame us for defending ourselves, for not falling in weakness before our enemies.

      The bottom line is that the IDF answers to our government, which, unfortunately, answers to much of the world and so what we do is hold the line, defend what is ours, and wait until the Arabs push so far that we have no choice but to respond. We push back...and as soon as the world sees that we have regained the upper hand, we hear cries of "massacres" and the "poor Palestinians" and all sorts of claims which soon prove to be false, but by then, Israel has already reigned in its army, having taught the Palestinians yet another lesson.

      So, today, there were no rockets, and perhaps tomorrow we will be as lucky. Last week, we were hit by mortars and rockets, but thankfully, no one was killed. Is that the status quo you object to? If so, I agree - I don't believe it is right that any nation should suffer rocket attacks without having the right to respond.

      And finally, your last point.

      3. You wrote, "I would take no pride in having a son of mine be a pawn in a political game." I can agree with you there. I too would take no pride in having my son forced to be a pawn in a political game. So let me assure you, Elie is not playing any political games and he is certainly no pawn. After more than two years in the army, he's risen enough to be considered...well, perhaps not a player, but certainly not a pawn. One of the things I love about the IDF is that the soldiers cease being pawns about three months after they enter the army.

      For three months, they are pawns (though not in any political game). They are commanded to do pretty much everything except go to the bathroom...and I'm not even sure about that. They are commanded to drink, to sleep, to dress, to walk, to run, to eat. And then, three months after they enter the army, having been taught what it is to be a soldier, they are taught more. They are taught responsibility and morality, if they didn't already know it.

      As happened to Elie, his commanding officer stood before his now-trained recruits and introduced himself for the first time. "My name is Or, and I live in Netanya." What Or was really saying was that you are no longer a pawn, no longer someone I will order around without regard to who you are. Tell me your name and use my name and together, we will do what we must. That is the army of Israel.

      If a commanding officer orders you to do something you believe to be immoral, something that goes against the laws and rules that you have been taught is proper for a soldier, you must not follow that order. That's why Israel punishes its soldiers who violate the law. There was a soldier who stole from a Palestinian family during the Gaza War. That soldier has returned what he stole and is sitting in a military jail - can you imagine? He was at war...but Israeli soldiers don't behave that way.

      So they sweep the houses they temporarily occupy, roll up rugs, avoid damaging what doesn't have to be damaged. They have been known to clean the houses - in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Jenin...before they leave - no, I'm not kidding you. Doesn't that sound absurd and amazing? But it's true. They do it because they understand that circumstances have forced them to seek shelter in the midst of a war, but those circumstances haven't turned them into animals.

      In the north, there is a kibbutz that has beautiful fields - and each time Syria or Lebanon goes to war against Israel (or yes, if Israel goes to war against Syria or Lebanon), this poor kibbutz gets its fields destroyed by tanks and armored personnel carriers. So first, the army compensates the farmers for destroyed fields - and it does something else.

      The army sends its soldiers for recreational breaks on a regular basis - little things that help them cope, be strong, unit as a team. They go to PaintBall, as Elie has gone twice; and they go kayaking, as Elie's unit has done as well. And of all the possible places they go, they go to this kibbutz, whose people run a kayaking business. The army uses this kibbutz to repay them again for having to obliterate their fields in times of war.

      And here's another. There are many farmers up in the Golan Heights - and many ranchers who raise cows to provide for Israel's milk and dairy requirements. Cows need space and they roam. The army needs training space and every once in a while, the cows roam into their firing ranges. The army will cancel training if the cows come into the field. The army will call the ranchers, who come right away. The soldiers know that if they have to open a gate to drive tanks through, they have to stop and close the gates so the cows don't get out. This is the virtue of the IDF.

      And, there are times, when the army ends up killing a cow - not on purpose, but it happens...and the army pays the rancher for the cow. This too is the virtue of the IDF. So, going back to your first point - no, I don't have to believe unconditionally in the virtue of the IDF or my son's serving in this army because each day the army proves itself in its actions to our own people, our neighbors and enemies, and even to the cows.

      I take tremendous pride in our army - not all the time, not for all that it does, but for the fundamentals of our survival, for how it has treated my son, helped mature him into the man he has become and likely for the man he will yet be.

      No government is perfect, no land, no army. No son is perfect, no implementation of plans or law. We are not God, nor, I think, do we aspire to be. But I will put the actions of the IDF and its soldiers against EVERY army in the Middle East, against all our neighbors and even those beyond their borders.

      Av 19, 5769, 8/9/2009

      Open Fields and Mother's Nightmares

      During the Gaza War, as I was going about my day with the radio tuned and the phone mere inches from my hands, I would stop each time a rocket came in. The radio developed a new system. As the radio discussions continued, a voice came over and told people in Beersheva or Ashkelon or Sderot to go into bomb shelters. You could hear the regular announcer in the background. It was surreal, it was frightening, it was the reality of being a nation at war.

      In each place, the people knew already how long they had to get there. 15 seconds in Sderot, 30 seconds in Ashkelon. Those seconds go amazingly quickly when you are hurrying into this tiny protected space. You feel safe when they close the door to the shelter, but a closed-in feeling sets in as well. Before you have the chance to think, it's over. Something has hit, or not; damage or injury has occurred, or not.

      So during the war, I would listen constantly to the radio. I felt it was wrong to continue my work day as if part of my country was not being attacked. I felt the same way during the Second Lebanon War. How could I drive without fear, walk the streets, allow my children to play outside in the sunshine while rockets were raining down; The least I could do, I reasoned to myself, was at least acknowledge those seconds of fear, live them with the people in the attacked areas, and learn, when they learned, if we had been spared in yet another miracle.

      At some point, as I heard the radio announce that missiles had landed in "open spaces," it suddenly occurred to me that my son was in one of those "open spaces." Gone was my sense of security.

      Suddenly, with thousands of soldiers filling empty fields as staging grounds for the ground war, there was no place a missile could land. Or, more accurately, no way I could know within seconds whether the rocket had injured people, soldiers, my son.It is no secret to the Palestinians where our forces, our artillery, were based during the war. They could be seen from Gaza, heard, and located and, since they aren't there anymore, I feel safe in saying that for much of the war, Elie was located in an open field "near" Kibbutz Alumim.

      This morning, a kassem rocket was shot from Gaza towards Israel.A single Kassam rocket exploded near Kibbutz Alumim, in the Sdot Negev Regional Council area. No one was injured and there were no reports of damage. (INN Report)

      No one was injured. No reports of damage. With gratitude that it didn't hit a city, children playing and enjoying their summer vacation, I am left with a memory of visiting the area and marveling at how open it was, how beautiful, how unprotected.Elie isn't there anymore; no soldiers fill the empty fields and the farmers have returned to cultivating acres and acres of fields.

      But Israel went into Gaza half a year ago because Hamas continued to fire rockets at our cities. For some reason, the Israeli government found that it could tolerate a rocket or two, here or there. A major hit would be required before the government felt it could justify military action. A major hit or a major increase in the daily number of attacks.

      In late December, Hamas complied and starting firing dozens of rockets into Israel and the government finally allowed the army to do what armies have been charged to do for thousands of years - defend its land and its people. This morning, a lone rocket hit an open field in Israel. I doubt the government will respond; I doubt the United Nations will condemn.

      So Israel waits until some mother's nightmare comes true - until there is a major hit or a major escalation. Until then, apparently the army waits as well.

      Av 18, 5769, 8/8/2009

      Hey, I know him....

      Sometimes, I can be very silly and embarrass my children. I've done this before and will likely do it again. I remember clearly times when my mother embarrassed me ("this is my daughter. She's 14 going on 40" was one example). I doubt there is a parent alive who hasn't, with the best of intentions, accidentally caused their child to squirm in front of their friends.

      When they are lucky, they don't find out about it. Those are the best of cases - and a most likely circumstance when you have a son in the army. There was the time I walked over to a soldier at a rest point on the highway going north and began talking to him - only because he had a turquoise beret like Elie's. I did the same thing to another soldier at an engagement party - only he actually knew Elie and we had a nice conversation about where Elie had spent the war (near Gaza) as opposed to where he spent the war (in the Golan).

      There was the time I told the soldiers sitting at the checkpoint that I was Elie's mother and I was bringing him hamburgers; and the time I told the soldiers that I was Elie's mother, so it was okay for them to eat the pastries I was handing them.

      A few years ago, we opened a Training Center in Jerusalem, there to offer courses on technical writing, marketing writing, QA Software Testing, Translation, and so much more. Elie was "in" on helping us set up a lot of the workstations. He worked for hours to build desks, put together chairs and cabinets and computers. The one thing we didn't do at the time, was set up an Internet connection on each workstation. We rationalized that people would be distracted, check their email, play games, and so we didn't run the wiring.

      Our "neighbors" in the building teach people how to play an online game. I don't understand the mechanics of it, but they give sessions to teach people how it works. The only thing is, only the teacher has a computer most of the time. So, at some point they came over and asked if they could run a few sessions here in our computer center. We agreed in principle and all was well...and then a few days ago, they came over and asked if they could have the sessions "tonight."

      I explained that I didn't have Internet access, which was critical. I said we could have...but we don't. So they sent over one of their computer people and we began figuring out how we could run wires and connect as many workstations as we could. We actually did quite well and got 14 stations up and running and connected.

      As we finished each one, I clicked the browser icon and navigated to www.cnn.com to test if we were really online. It seemed simple enough. Honestly, I'm not a great fan of CNN, but you can rarely find a shorter URL address. At one point, the computer expert sat down and started to type in www.cnn.com, explaining that he would use my chosen website.

      I said, "well, if you want my choice, go to my blog." I opened the browser, typed in the address and a second later, the blog, with Elie's picture, opened up.

      "Hey, I know him," he said to me.

      "Artillery," I said and was amazed to hear him mention Elie's brigade number and division.

      "You really do know him. How?"

      "I taught him how to shoot," he said.


      "Yes, I was his instructor during basic training for shooting."

      No, heYitzchak (the computer expert) doesn't remember how well Elie did or much about him other than his face, his group - but it was still a wonderful feeling to connect with someone who knew Elie in that world he goes to when he leaves home.

      It also proves, yet again, what an incredibly small country this is, how interconnected.

      Av 16, 5769, 8/6/2009

      A 22 Year Old is Not a Boy - Except to His Mother

      I love comments from readers. I even sometimes add a "comments on comments" post to my blogs because I want to respond to them. In general, comments fall into two categories - those that support, and those that attack. Rarely, does a comment actually fall into both categories, though this next one does:

      A 22 year old is not a "boy." he is a man who at 19 was doing a man's job. Three years later and you don't understand a soldier's life and purpose? All this hand wringing, emotionalism and sentimentality is just what our enemy wants to see. why they keep dangling the prospect of returning a probably already dead son to his parents for outrageous concessions. This outrageous display of "poor me, poor us" is just what they hope for. If this is Jewish values, then Jews don't deserve an IDF nor do they deserve to be free from tyranny. Stand strong, rely on Hashem for comfort and stop feeding the enemy so they can become engorged on our shame.

      So, let me explain. First - this blog is called, "A Soldier's Mother" - and that's what it is about. It shares, primarily with other mothers and fathers, what it is like to have a son enter the army, even go to war. I understand a soldier's life and a soldier's purpose. I also understand, first hand, a mother's worry. If I were to write to Hamas, I would talk of the strength of our soldiers, their determination, their power and their motivation. I would tell them that they might as well pack it in now because they will never defeat such an amazing group of soldiers. No where do I suggest Israel exchange countless terrorists and security prisoners for Gilad Shalit - dead or alive. My complaints are not even for the Israeli government.

      Rather, I question why the Red Cross manages to provide all sorts of humanitarian aid to people all over the world and yet in three years, hasn't managed to see one young man. I want to know why UNRWA is allowed to continue operating while Hamas is allowed to violate the very international laws that govern the organization sponsoring UNRWA. Beyond that, I disagree from a mother's heart. A 22-year-old, even more so a 19-year-old may be a man in the eyes of other men, in the eyes of the army, the government, his friends, and even the world. But to a mother, he will always be her child, even at 50.

       When I sent Elie into the army at 19, he was not a man. Today, at 22, I believe that he is, though I think these are labels that are largely meaningless. I have watched my son mature in the last few years, take responsibilities, take command - by virtue of his training, his personality, his strength of character, and by virtue of the authority the army has given to him. I have no doubt, none whatsoever, that Elie is richer for the experience of being in the army. Having said that, the blog, when read from its start 2 years ago, shows not only the transition in Elie, but also my own transformation.

      Yes, at the start I was scared, terrified and worried. I was also proud, determined, hopeful and so much more. Those first days and weeks were about learning and adjusting. Within a few months, I'd settled down with a better understanding of how the army works. Then, as happens regularly, the army shifted ground, rotated responsibiltiies, and I had to learn a whole new way.

      Again, after a bit of time, I adjusted, I learned and watched my son being formed into the commander, into the man you say he is. Then, I watched the army take my little boy and send him to war. And yes, he was my little boy (see What I Want...and What I'll Do). And I wrote to myself rather than to my readers. It was once again my sanity versus making my son crazy.

      I wrote that I wanted my little boy home and I didn't want him to play with big things that go boom and yes, it was my weakness but more, it was the mother in me. The Jew in me, the Israeli in me, and yes, even the mother in me answered right away, that despite wanting to bring him home...

      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.

      For those first few days, I couldn't even reach him so, yes, I whined and worried and perhaps the Arabs could see this as a sign of weakness, but honestly, as my son was pounding out artillery shells against key targets in Gaza, I can't imagine the Arabs there were thinking the IDF was weak. There is no shame in praying and there is no shame in having fear. The shame would come if we allowed ourselves to be paralyzed by that fear; if, because of that fear, we didn't act as God requires us, as our nation needs from us.

      A 22-year-old is not a boy when he is standing with a rifle or shooting artillery, flying our skies, fighting our enemies in tanks and boats. But maybe, maybe at 22, all alone in Gaza for more than three years, and most especially if Hamas has killed him already - let the world think of Gilad as a boy. He was taken at age 19 - just a few months into the army. He hasn't gone through the training that Elie has received, hasn't commanded men. No, for all that he's 10 months older than Elie, I can't imagine Gilad as a man.

      Anyway, I believe we come from the same ideological base, you and I. For all that you didn't sign the comment, I imagine that you are not a soldier's mother - I'm not even sure if you are a soldier's father. It could well be that you were a soldier, or perhaps not. So let me explain that my blog is called "A Soldier's Mother" because what it does is open to others what I believe many soldiers' mothers feel.

      Deep in our hearts, as I told my mother-in-law when Elie was only 5 years old...and even then I guess I knew...what we feel is tremendous pride in their strength, tremendous gratitude for God having brought us to this moment to stand back and watch our boys become men. We feel honored and we have faith in their abilities...that is all for the outside world to see and inside, we are mothers and have a right to fear for our sons, we have the right to worry, we have the obligation and the need to pray.

      And, with all that, I will never believe that the Arabs are dumb enough to believe that because we worry, the IDF can't do again what it did a few months ago in Gaza. Our cannons and helicopters, our planes and tanks and artillery speak a language they understand, that they will listen to, or ignore at their peril.

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