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Hearts and Rockets

By Paula Stern
10/28/2009, 12:00 AM
The phone beeped, signaling an incoming message as I got into my car tonight. No time to stop and read it. My oldest daughter was waiting for me to pick her up; my youngest daughter wanted to see me before she goes to sleep. I like hearing news. I'm a news-aholic, but it isn't polite and I haven't seen my daughter in a few days so I left the radio off and we talked.

When I dropped her and her husband off near their apartment, I turned on the radio as I drove the short distance home. I can't remember the words I heard, but the message was clear. They were examining the location of an incoming rocket that had been launched against Israel from Lebanon. They debated who shot the rocket and agreed that nothing could be fired without Hezbollah's approval.

Why now? Clinton is on her way here; things with Iran may be getting more involved. Maybe they are jealous, thinking Gaza is getting all the attention. I don't know the reason why someone in Lebanon thought he had a right to fire a rocket at our civilians.

What we know - the rocket hit northern Israel causing a factory, but luckily, no injuries. A short time ago, a second explosion was sounded. It could be nerves; it could be real. Nothing has been confirmed yet.

What I know - is that Elie is in the north, far from where the rocket hit, but still there. When he was in the center of the country and Hamas fired more than 120 rockets at Israel in November of 2008, I knew that if it continued, we would go to war. I spoke to Elie and understood that based on where he was located, if war came, he would go. And he did.

He was home this weekend and once again I found myself asking him the same questions. It's a need to understand, to prepare for the worst.

"If there's another war in Gaza, will they call you?" I asked him.

"No," he said. Another unit would go. Elie's been told that he will be a commander for a short pre-commander's course in a few weeks. He will be involved in training the commanders who train the commanders (got that?). Once these officers are ready, Elie will go back up north to rejoin his unit and those soldiers will welcome a new group and begin training them.

"If there's war in Lebanon, would they call you?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said. As soon as the Syrian front was secure, he and his unit would likely be moved to handle Hezbollah and Lebanon. There is no comfort there, so I ask my next question.

"But you don't think anything is going to happen, right?" When did I become the one seeking comfort and my son the one to offer it? When did he become the one with the knowledge and I the one seeking it?

"No," Elie answered. "Hezbollah isn't going to fight in the winter. They don't stand a chance."

These are the words of youth. It's been quiet for over an hour. I've gotten two messages from a friend - nothing to do with Elie or the north. Both times, I went quickly to my phone. In my head, I have no doubt that Elie is correct. Hezbollah is not looking for a war - not yet, not now.

It is clear to Hamas and Hezbollah that the world will allow them to shoot a certain number of rockets at Israel, provided they don't kill too many people. This rocket caused a fire, scared tens of thousands of people in the north, and caused a blip on my roller coaster scale. It's a small up and down, nothing too earthshattering. All acceptable according to the world's tolerance scale...when it happens to Israel. France wouldn't allow someone to shoot a rocket within its territory, neither would Russia or the US. Only Israel will allow it; only Israel will accept it.

My heart is settling back in place. People in the north are shutting down, sleeping in their beds tonight because they know in their heads that sleeping in a bomb shelter is not necessary, not really, and they don't want to over-react. It was just one missile - and it missed, as it most often does.

Just one rocket shot at hundreds of thousands of people - and it missed. Elie is hopefully asleep or going to sleep soon. I'll give him a call to see how he's doing. Maybe I'll mention the rocket, maybe I won't.

I won't tell him that once again the thought of his being in war filled my mind with dread and made me remember what it was like less than a year ago.

Maybe I'll tell him about the kind note I received on Twitter from @FreeMountaineer who wrote, "You stay safe over there & give your boy my best. Here's one Christian who wishes he could join the IDF."

But most of all, I won't tell him that there is a world out there that doesn't care that one missile hit Israel tonight, that much of the media won't even bother covering it because with the help of God, no one was hurt. I won't tell him that after the rocket slammed into our country, my heart slammed into throat and I felt sad and depressed and worried.

I will tell him that I love him. I will tell him that I'm fine. My heart is back in place, my smile firmly planted. My stomach has settled, my nerves quieted.

For a moment, the briefest of seconds, I forgot the simple truth of Israel. It was only a second - less than a second on the scale of things so I will share with you our greatest truth and our least kept secret: the beauty of this country lies in its sons, its people - its resiliency.

Tomorrow, our sons will guard our borders, our people will rise and go to work and school, as they did today and as they will the day after tomorrow too. That is our message to Hezbollah. Your rockets may stop us for a moment. We are, after all, only human. But that moment has passed. You accomplished nothing, even less than nothing. You missed - as you usually do - and we returned fire immediately. Our soldiers, Elie's friends in artillery responded to your rocket without hesitation.

Tonight, Israel is defiant. Resilient - proud of who we are and where we stand.

Am Yisrael Chai - the people of Israel lives and in that is our victory over rockets.