Someone (or more) in Hawaii and the Canary Islands; deep in the heart of Russia, and China, Australia, New Zealand. Central America. Way up in Alaska and deep into Canada.
If you zoom in, you can see the individual countries - the size of the red dots indicates the relative number of visitors.
It helps answer a basic question - Who would want to read about one Israeli soldier and one Israeli soldier's mother? The answser, amazingly enough, is quite a few.
Sure, some of those dots in the eastern coast are probably Elie's aunts and uncles (and maybe a few cousins), but certainly not all. Some have written to me and so I know there are several parents who regularly read the blog. Like me, they have a son in the Israeli army. They too worry about where their son is, what he is doing, if he is warm and safe.
There are mothers and fathers of American soldiers in Iraq - sharing an experience, a worry. They too worry about where their son is, what he is doing, if he is warm and safe. I've gotten comments and notes from former Israeli soldiers, telling me very politely that I don't have to worry so much and then telling me that if I was anything like their mother, I'd keep on worrying anyway (yup, I will and so did your mother).
Beyond the obvious readership in Israel, there's a whole bunch of red dots along the Iraqi border and in the Gulf - I imagine these are American soldiers, comparing their adventures to Elie's and wondering if their parents too are as concerned and proud (they are).
There are a bunch of red dots in Vietnam, China, and South Africa - these are perhaps the result of Elie's grandmother's visits to these countries. She is the proud grandmother of an Israeli soldier and is quick to tell others.
More dots throughout Thailand and the beautiful Southeast Asian islands - I imagine these are Israelis who have finished the army and stumbled across this blog as they travel and explore new worlds, away from the pressures of Israel and army life. Perhaps this blog reminds them of what they wanted to get away from - or perhaps it reminds them of home. In this group, perhaps, is Elie's cousin - may you all be safe, come home safe.
I have no explanation for the many red dots in South America and the many clusters in Europe. I know only that there are thousands of hits, thousands of visitors to this blog and I can only guess that beyond the story of one soldier, one son - this blog touches people...and it touches me that people care enough to visit and leave such wonderful comments.
And the close to this is that of all the readers there are...there is one I know there is not - Elie himself.
"I don't read it," he said almost proudly on the phone to someone who asked recently. And therein, perhaps, is where I get the freedom to write. I don't know if Elie knows this. I don't know if he will ever read it. But I am secure in the knowledge that now he isn't reading it, doesn't know how much I share him with others and conversely, he doesn't know how much I am amazed by him, how proud I am.
More than an occasional, "I love you" - I have to let him and his brothers grow and be free to explore. His youngest brother is just young enough (at 12), to remember to say "I love you" back. Elie and his middle brother smile or say, "yes, yes" or shrug it off...but I know that they need to hear it, hopefully as much as I need to say it. His sisters have no problems expressing and enjoying these emotional statements. Despite all the studies on gender, mothers know that girls are girls and boys are boys and in this, nothing changes. It is a simple fact of life - that 18 and 20 year old males take pride in holding their feelings inside and of choosing when and how to show them. It's there, but you often need a mother's heart and eyes and ears to hear and see and feel it.
To get a hug or kiss from Elie or his middle brother often requires bribery, begging, negotiations and compromise - in short, Elie is normal. Deep down, I know that they are all very secure in knowing that I love them deeply and beyond reason. It is a security they carry with them, a safety that lets them know there is nothing they can ever do to change how I feel, and the knowledge that they can call me for anything, any time, for any thing.
When they were young, I learned all about Dr. Spock (and a generation raised on a theory that has long since been dismissed). I firmly believed that you can never hold a baby too much and was a major believer in the idea that the more love you give a young child, the more independent and free they will feel - safe in the knowledge that home is always there waiting for them and that home is a place of unquestioning love. A place of trust that won't be betrayed; of support that is unconditional.
As I write this, Elie's picture and those of his siblings stare down at me from the top of my computer monitor. They ground me; they remind me that all in life is small in comparison to the most basic reality - family.
It's the picture of Elie smiling with that look in his eye that just sums up his personality. No, Elie isn't reading this blog and for now, I'm glad. I think I hope someday he will read it, if only to sit back and realize how much I adore him and how proud I am of all that he does, all that he is. He would never sit and let me tell him, so maybe, years from now, he'll read it and understand. Probably only when he has children of his own, maybe even a child about to go into the army. Or perhaps not - having gone through the army, he will understand so much more of what I didn't know; he'll accept so much more as ordinary. Hopefully, he will worry less.
But that's way in the future, for now, he'll continue serving in the Israeli army - a soldier, a commander, a Jew and an Israeli and yes, a son. And I'll continue writing, I've decided, sharing a piece of what Elie is and what he does and I'll look at those red dots and know that others know Elie too.