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      A Soldier’s Mother
      by
      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 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.