Daily Israel Report
Start a blog

Blogs Zion's Corner

The Letter...and Those Precious Moments

By Paula Stern
6/11/2009, 12:00 AM
Once I'd started the blog, there was no getting around the future, no denying that the day was coming. Only a week after I started the blog, amidst all my daughter's wedding plans, Elie got a letter from the army. I wished they would let me get used to the idea, but I knew we were on a roller coaster - or maybe a large Ferris Wheel. Either way, we were going around so fast, and all paths were leading us to that one moment when Elie would go, and I and the rest of the family would stay. I cherished those last few weeks, afraid that life would never bring me back to the same moment with my family together in just that way.

The "Letter" - February 21, 2007

The final draft call letter has arrived. The list of items the army will provide is a startling reminder that my son is entering the army. They will give him a set number of shirts, undershirts, socks, underwear, pants, shirts (uniforms), etc.

You wouldn't expect any different, but for a mother about to send her first son off to the army, you can't help wondering who will give him love and warmth. Love and warmth. It is something my son takes for granted and would certainly scorn if anyone expressed the idea that he would need such things. He remains, before the army, a teenage boy. I have no doubt the army will turn him into "a man," though I will mourn the loss of the boy.

Already, as a frequent and "mature" volunteer in the local ambulance squad, he has seen things that I have never seen. I have (thank God), never had someone die in my arms or beside me as I tried to save his life. I'm not sure I'd even know what to do and yet Elie handles it all with grace and leadership. I believe he will do well in the army (if they don't crush him first...and perhaps even if they do). The army is known to crush the individual within you in many ways - it is the nature of an army, any army, all armies, and the Israeli army is no different.

But the Israeli army is known to build you back up - better than you were before, stronger, more decisive. I have no doubts that Elie can handle the army and will probably even love it, as many boys do. He is, at 19, so incredibly self-sufficient. He cooks - he's one of the best in the family. Rice, chicken, omelets, noodles with sauces - whatever it is, Elie is not afraid to try cooking. He does his own laundry (doesn't trust me not to lose his socks).

But there is, within me, the concern for the person deep inside him. Elie doesn't need to share his emotions and so I try to pull them out of him at times. I guess one of my fears is that no one in the army will be there to do that.

His commanding officer is scheduled to come to our home Saturday night. He will talk to Elie in preparation for what is to come. This is so typical of the Israeli army - the personal touch, the outreach. I am hoping that it will help me as well as Elie adjust to what is to come.

Perhaps the greatest injustice...and mercy...in this whole process is that my oldest daughter is getting married just two weeks before Elie goes into the army. This helps me focus on other things, but it also doesn't allow us all to focus completely on Elie - for the good and the bad.

Precious Moments - February 24, 2007

As the clock ticks down towards both my daughter's upcoming wedding and Elie's entering the army, I find each moment is that much more precious. Today we gathered for our "last" Shabbat meal together as the family unit we have been. In another two weeks, even a little less, Haim will be joining our family and two weeks later, Elie will enter the army.

Much of what Elie is feeling is kept private - it is his nature both to keep things private and to keep things in perspective. As a mother, that is much harder for me to do. I could discuss and analzye this forever, and the result would be the same. With all the wedding plans, we have yet to address the things Elie will need. The closest we have come to figuring this out was when my husband bought me a present - a wind-up flashlight that I'd heard about. Elie saw it and thought it was useful and I realize that I'll want to get one for him as it is much more reliable than battery-operated flashlights.

So, for now, we are in a holding pattern - enjoying these precious moments, knowing change is just around the corner.