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Waiting for My Reservist to Come Home

Desperate for news of a ceasefire, but true resolution seems nowhere in sight

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Israeli reserve soldiers ride a bus heading to the south of the country after being called up for duty on November 16, 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Last time Israel went to war and Aharon, my partner of 10 years, was called up to reserve duty, I remember checking the news seeking information about how dangerous his unit’s position was, gathering details I thought he couldn’t—or wouldn’t—tell me. Maybe it was because I was new to the experience of an emergency call-up, or maybe I was less politically aware, but the questions of whether the army had a sound strategy or a plan for reaching a ceasefire seemed like something to discuss later, after calm was restored.

The current operation feels different. Coming on the heels of the announcement of early elections—amidst campaigns characterized by a disappointing field of parties and candidates who can barely articulate a position, never mind inspire the public—the strategic and political questions seem all the more significant. Even as rockets fall Tel Aviv and the sirens sound in Jerusalem, the urgency of defense is tinged with long-term questions. Does the current leadership have a plan to bring about a quick ceasefire? What is the plan for lasting calm, if not peace?

The fact that Aharon was called out to emergency miluim (reserve duty) in the middle of Shabbat dinner certainly drives my search for answers. From my wanderings on Facebook, I realize it is unpopular to admit that you want the violence to end just so your personal life can go back to normal, though personal experiences and feelings surely lurk between the justifications of war, the moral critique of violence, and grand messages of support for the IDF broadcast across social media.

On the day after Aharon left, I found comfort in those celebrating the dedication of our soldiers and bemoaning the hardship of running to the bomb shelter (“now we all know what the people of Sderot have been living through”). But soon the justifications for continued violence, the obsession with our victimization, and arguments pushing for a ground invasion as the only way to “show strength” wore me down. Surely, the sooner a ceasefire is reached, the sooner Aharon—and loved ones across the country—will come home.

I seek out and find relief in the Facebook posts insisting that the massive reserve call up may be a bluff or a bargaining chip to show that Netanyahu means business. I break into an anxious sweat when I read suggestions from others that the army is taking its time to retrain the reserve soldiers so they can launch a successful incursion.

News websites updated by-the-minute let me know where a rocket has fallen, how many terrorists were killed by Israeli air attacks, and which world leader is coming to Israel in the next hour—but this focus on the immediate future really isn’t what I’m looking for. I want to know more. I want to know that smart, serious people are calling up the reservists, and that there is a strategy to limit violence. In exchange for this period of anxiety and ache, of obsessively trolling the web and waiting at the window for my reservist to come home, I don’t want to be sold a war of egos or an election campaign slogan. I want to know this repeat experience is going to be the last.

While I scour the web for hints of a ceasefire, I realize what I’m really looking for is a vision. I’m looking for politicians who are not going to take “we have no partner for peace” as an excuse, and who will work for four years to figure out how to build a lasting relationship with our neighbors. We can’t afford to wait passively until there seems to be no choice left but to defend ourselves, again.

I’ve taken solace in a few comments written by lesser-known politicians like Michael Melchior, former Knesset Member in the Meimad party, and Esti Kirmaier, a new voice in the Labor party, who express belief in the possibility of balancing safety and peace. I circle back again and again, hoping to find more.

As I grasp at news of a ceasefire, I wonder whether I can let down my guard. Can I breathe easy knowing that Aharon will be home soon, allowing myself to be proud of his service? Or will this be just another temporary quiet, without the leadership to make it stick?

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I was called up in Operation Cast Lead. My unit was as close to the front lines as any reserve unit. About 1-2 km most of the time. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a completely surreal experience. Now I live in America, and I have my army buddies on speed dial. If we get called, I’ve decided I’m going. I don’t have to. Nobody will pay for my ticket or anything. But if my friends are going in, I’m going with them. It’s hard to explain to those that haven’t been there. You don’t go for a flag, or for politics, or for the ‘greater good,’ or any of that bullshit. You go for the men and women next to you. That’s all it is.

I wish your partner and all the soldiers well. It’s hard to be here in the States and watch from afar. Even if I weren’t called up, I feel like I should be there. Just to support, or do something. Anything..
Stay safe.

What a well-written article. You have articulated the very dichotomy between what seems to be the personal, domestic perspective on the war (the worry and concern for loved ones on duty and the widespread domestic belief that a ceasefire won’t be effective for the long-term), and the pressure from the international community on Israel’s leaders to end the violence. Few of our leaders are willing to admit the inner conflict that you are articulating here, and yet they need to figure out the next steps are. Praying for the safety of your partner, Aharon and for all of the soldiers.

Ilene Bloch-Levy says:

I, too, am waiting for my family members to return home. I pray and hope that there will not be a ground incursion into Gaza, but if there is, I hope and pray that the IDF can finish the job effectively and quickly. While I would very much like to see a ‘vision’ I don’t see how that is possible. Since our vision — regardless of where we are on the political spectrum — is to live here in peace. However, that vision does not and cannot harmoniously live with the vision of the opposing side, which is largely to eliminate the State of Israel and every Jew that is living here. And, so I no longer care about visions, nor do I think that they are even possible to realize when you consider the ‘neighborhood’ we live in. I think about all the money that has been poured into Gaza in the past few years, so much money that every citizen in Gaza could be living in a private home with two cars parked in the driveway. Yet, what have they invested their moneys in? Education? No. Industry? No. Hospitals and social services? No. Arms? Yes.

What do I care about? I care about ensuring the security and safety of the citizens of Israel, wherever they live. I care about seeing my sons and sons-in-law return home quickly and safely. What do I expect? I do expect that we can achieve some kind of ‘quiet’ — not the kind of world peace that so many people talk about — for some period of time. And, I do expect that those world leaders who possess some kind of moral compass are able to guarantee this quiet, because Hamas is incapable of living up to their side of the agreement, because they have not at any point in their short terrorist history lived up to any agreement with Israel. Ilene

To my dear friend Alieza,

Again, your ability to articulate your heart’s yearning allows others to give voice to the profound discomfort of sending your loved one off to war. The Jewish Story continues, only now my younger friends are seeing their husbands, their partners, their significant others go off to war, as well as my friends and their sons and sons-in-laws and daughters and cousins……Am Yisrael, our family, called up, again.

Please know that my while my body is in Beachwood, my heart and soul remain in residence on Derech Bethlechem, as I tell our story to all who will hear. Michael Kovner’s beautiful olive tree which hangs above my fireplace is a constant visual connection with the olive tree that grows in my garden, surrounded by sound, in Jerusalem. I will hold the hope of peace, knowing that it will flow from the Wisdom of our Leaders, praying that our leaders can be wise. Can you please encourage your very wise husband to share his views of our world.

Alieza, to be fully engaged in the Jewish Story is to merge the micro and the macro into your life. As you wait by your window, know that your friend in Beachwood is waiting for your Aharon to walk through your door.

Im ahava –

Fran

Thank you Alieza for this sobering personal view. I hope that Aharon is home and that I can see the two of you when I return to Israel in mid-December. בידידות

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Waiting for My Reservist to Come Home

Desperate for news of a ceasefire, but true resolution seems nowhere in sight

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