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Reading Between the Lines

By Paula Stern
8/19/2009, 12:00 AM
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.