October 21, 2023
Tonight, a friend and I took the long drive down to the south of Israel with two bags full of army gear in the car. We arrived at 1 in the morning to an army base, my old army base, a place I lived and cried and sweated ten years ago.
The desert smelled exactly as I remembered it. That sweet dankness of post rain dust. The stars clear above. The base lights fluorescent and sharp against the night sky. In front of us, two soldiers standing guard at the entrance. One, a new recruit of two months. The other his commander. I told them I hadn’t been here in ten years. We shared a little laugh.
We called our contact, the Second Company Lieutenant of a friend’s brother’s company. He soon arrived and we shook hands, showed him the gear. Told him where we were from. Two Americans at 1 am with tactical helmets and ceramic plates. Is this real? He took them and gave us a bag of candy for the road back. And then he shook our hands. I gave him a hug. He told us it felt good knowing we were standing behind them, supporting them. I suppressed tears. This man. This kid. Probably no older than 24. 120 boys under his command and he’s probably going to war this week. Has he made peace with the chance of his death? His rank of officer in a combat unit has a much higher casualty rate. In Israel, officers lead from the front. Has he made peace with the chance of his soldiers’ deaths? Is this even something you can make peace with?
24…A kid. He stood there for a bit not wanting to say goodbye. We stood there for a bit not wanting to say goodbye. The night silent. The calm before the storm. Our lives will never be the same after this. His especially. And then we shook hands again and we drove off. And my heart feels like it’s breaking. How can I understand this? How can I understand this? All I can do is feel it.