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A Rainy Night, A Lightning Strike, and Israel

By Paula Stern
12/12/2009, 12:00 AM
This past week, I strained my arm...I don't really know when or how...only the resulting pain whenever I moved it, up, down, sideways...agony. I felt it Tuesday; suffered with it Wednesday and finally surrendered Thursday. My husband and kids were amazing. I told them I couldn't drive home; I'd sleep in the office. The thought of driving a car was more than I could face.

My middle son refused to let me curl up alone in an office; he drove our second car into the city and the next day my daughter and husband retrieved the first car I'd left there. My daughter came to my house on Friday and spent the day with the others cooking, cleaning and preparing the house for the Sabbath. She took me to the doctor, brought me drinks, helped rearrange the pillows on my bed, ordered the younger children to do things. It was...for a mother...a humbling experience. Not the caregiver, but the receiver; not the homemaker, but the served; not the doctor who mothered, but the mother who was doctored.

My husband and middle son moved furniture around to clear space before the window in the dining room. Part of the holiday of Chanukah involves lighting the menorah, a nine-candle candelabra, each night of the eight day holiday adding another candle. But we don't just light it for ourselves, we light it for all to see, to publicize the miracle of the holiday (which I'll write about next).

So, with the pain in the arm and the preparations, I didn't have time to call Elie and I guess he didn't have time to call me. After Shabbat ended, I called him to  find out how he was, what was new, when he thought he'd be home.

He's fine. He doesn't yet know when he will be home next and it has been raining non-stop in the Golan for more than 24 hours. His base is strategically placed higher on the side of a mountain...there are rivers of rain flowing down the sides.

It was noisy in the background. "What's happening there? Are you having a party?" I asked.

"Yeah, sort of," he told me. It sounded like a really nice sort-of party to me. There was music and voices - it was nice, warm, lively.

"How was Shabbat?" I asked him.

"Very nice," he told me. And then he added...around 9:30 last night, lightning struck the communication antenna on their base.

"What happened?" I asked quickly...already thinking of it falling on someone or exploding, or I don't know what.

"It set off the alarm," he said.

What that means, he explained, is the entire base began to move. Those that were already dressed, ran to the weapons - getting soaked in the process. The first wave had already grabbed clothes and were already running in the rain as well. Those who were supposed to call and find out what was happening, made their calls. Elie and others were getting dressed in the few seconds it took to realize it was a false alarm.

It had happened before, he told me, when someone tried to cut the fence on the border and they all mobilized. "It doesn't mean a war has started," Elie explained, "just that something happened." Ah, I see...okay.

So, within minutes or less, they had realized it was lightning. Those who had started to dress, went back to bed...those that had run to the nagmashim (APVs and cannons) came back in - all laughing at themselves for the sudden and unexpected drenching they took.

It was such a pleasure to all of them that it was nothing more serious than a burst of lightning and a bit of rain and excitement. Two years ago, this group sat in a field in the Golan, expecting that Syria might attack after Israel had taken out a building being prepared for a nuclear facility (or so the newspapers claim); almost a year ago, this group sat beside Gaza in the midst of a war...

With great pleasure, the dry and the wet among them went back to sleep last night after a much preferred lightning strike drove them from their beds for a short while.

And tonight, up there, high on the Golan, my son and his unit lit the Chanukah menorah to publicize and remember a miracle, a victory of our people over another enemy, long gone. It is what makes our people what we are, here in our land...then, two years ago, last year, last night, tonight, and for all the tomorrows that will come, with God's help.