Middle East 5:15 AM 12/10/2013
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Inside Israel 12:14 AM 12/10/2013
Ask the Rabbi
News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah
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:
What came out of this war: A sense of unity, of a well trained army working together.
What was accomplished was done so by the planning of generals who finally focused on their goal, one that had to be done. Politically, it is not easy to bomb a mosque. Militarily, they had every right to do so - it was not a mosque, but an arsenal with a minaret. In this war, the generals won and thus Israel won. We bombed the mosques with rockets, the schools with missiles and for once we held Hamas accountable. If you do not care about your own people, Israel told Hamas, it is left to us to do our best to protect them. So we dropped leaflets warning the civilians to move away from the terrorists, to leave certain areas. I know this to be true - I have such a leaflet with me now because so many thousands were dropped over Gaza that with the wind, many blew the short distance into Israel and Elie caught one.
Sometimes, they did it to destroy their weapons, their strongholds, their "army." And sometimes, they did it to protect our own. To help our boys get in or out under the cover of our artillery. In all cases, their targets were true, their aim proper. Civilians were warned - I have the proof and I will save it for my son.
Elie told me that during the war, hundreds of pairs of tzitzit - a four-cornered garment with strings that men are commanded to wear - were distributed. The army simply could not keep up with demand. Elie told me that five pairs of tefillin (phylacteries - a religious article that is tied to the arm and to the head during the prayers - typically in the morning, that contains parchment with words from the Torah), were donated to his unit and it was in constant use throughout the day. One boy who is not religious at all - put on tefillin every day of the war. These are the shields of Israel, a vital part of who we are and as our sons faced this war, they understood this.
What came out of this war: A sense of pride in being a nation that cares about others...even if this is not recognized.
What came out of this war: Men who were boys; men who had learned war.
I can't write about this because Elie doesn't really talk about it. It is too deep to explain to one's mother; too serious to talk about with someone who can't understand. I've never shot a bullet, let alone a cannon. I've heard the explosion - but only in training or over the phone. Elie heard these explosions thousands of times. More, Elie helped create these explosions. He knows exactly how many times his unit shot. He's brushed off, nicely but firmly, my attempts to get him to talk too much about this aspect. He'll tell me what he did - because there is no shame, none whatsoever. He knows what he shot at, and the results of this shooting. But he won't talk about himself or what he feels.
And again, my son was not in the war in the sense that he was not on the ground in Gaza. He can see the results of what they did - he knows of the destroyed buildings, the devastated neighborhoods and the need to rebuild. But he is at peace with all that he did, all that he was called upon to do because he knows that from these buildings his unit destroyed - his nation was attacked. From these devastated neighborhoods, Hamas choose to fire at Israel. When a vicious enemy hides among his people...how much of an obligation do you have to do all you can to avoid hitting the people? The answer is all that Israel did.
Some people left comments that my son was a murderer. Not even close. My son has never murdered anyone, though in this new reality that Hamas thrust upon us, there is a good possibility that my son killed. He knows this. He lives with it. Not with joy, but with determination. He came back from this war whole in body and in spirit.
And so, what came out of this war: with incredible gratitude to God, was my son and the boys from our neighborhood - and most of the sons of Israel. We lost sons there and many were injured and are still fighting for their lives. My youngest son explained to his little sister that this was a "milchemet mitzvah" - an obligatory war and that even a groom is commanded to leave his wedding ceremony to fight such a war.
And that's what happened. Within hours after the ceremony, Aharon, a commander in the paratroopers, was called for a briefing. He was allowed to return to his new wife for the Sabbath and the celebrations for his wedding. But, in the early morning on Saturday, Aharon was called away from his new wife and went to war.
He was evacuated by helicopter to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tivkah, where he underwent six operations during the course of 12 hours: on his head, his eyes, ear-nose-throat, mouth and jaw, chest, and an orthopedic operation.
Aharon's father, Rabbi Zev Karov said, “In the main wedding blessing, we say, ‘G-d sanctifies His nation Israel via the wedding canopy and betrothal.’ Why don’t we say that He sanctifies the bride and groom? We see that the personal building is a part of the national edifice. This is the main point, this is what we are brought up on, and now is the test when we show that it is not just talk, but it is how we really act.”
What came out of this war is an Israel that is much stronger than the one that went into Gaza a month ago. We are not stronger because our enemies are much weaker (though they are). We are stronger because we conducted ourselves according to "what we are brought up on."
The victory - if there can be victory in war, goes to Israel because, even in war, we continue to fight for peace. When the Arabs can claim the same - there will be peace here in the Middle East.