Eilat is a different world from most of Israel - they like it that way; they want it that way. But more and more, security is coming down here. My overwhelming memory of Eilat remains that one visit, four years ago, on our 25th wedding anniversary, when Elie's unit came under terror attack in Jerusalem as they were walking to the Western Wall days before Rosh Hashana. If' you've been reading this blog a long time, you might remember my post, It Could Have Been Elie.
Elie wasn't there that night. He told me he was on the check point, and then laughed at me years later when he asked why I would think they would change shifts at that ridiculous hour. He was on an operation in an Arab village going in to arrest a known terrorist. More than I could have handled at the time, for sure.
I love Eilat for short periods of time when it is just me and the sea, the fish, the glorious heat of this city and, to some extent, the innocence of believing there could be a terror-free zone in Israel, or there should be.
So, since I've written it already, I'll just repeat it here -
Reflections on Eilat
There are vacations and then there are vacations. We take vacations with our children - fun trips camping and kayaking and hiking. And, not often enough, my husband and I slip away for a few days together. It is so necessary, so important. We waited years and years until our older children were responsible enough to be left with the younger ones. We would carefully divide up who would walk the dogs, care for the birds and finally try to find the time, a few days, to be a couple.
I dream of taking a vacation outside Israel. I dream of Scotland, Ireland or Italy. I can't explain why, other than that I have heard they are so beautiful. Short of taking up a collection, that's going to stay a dream for a while. I'd love to go to England, where we speak the language and where it rains a lot. I miss the rain, have always loved it. But I've come to miss it even more since since moving to a country where it rains sometimes during a four or five month period and then not at all for the remaining seven or eight months.
The last time my husband and I slipped away, as we sat in an Eilat restaurant celebrating, I learned that there had been a terrorist attack in Jerusalem...a few hours later, I would learn that it was Elie's unit...that it could have been Elie.
So this past week, with Elie about to start on an engineering degree and Shmulik about to return to his studies as well, we again slipped away to Eilat. It's close; it's convenient; it's relatively inexpensive and it opens the door to a whole underwater world that enthralls, delights, and calms, all at the same time.
This time, just a few weeks after a series of terrorist attacks that killed 8 people and wounded more than 30 others, Eilat was a little bit different, a but more somber, a bit more reserved. There is an anger among the people. Anger at the government, at the Arabs. Anger.
"We didn't feel it here," said one cashier in the supermarket. And yet it was on her mind enough to discuss it.
I spoke to a young man who works on the beach, attending to tourists. He sets up the beach chairs and umbrellas, assists however needed, and cleans the beach at the end of the day, and he too is angry.
"Did you hear about the rocket that hit Ofakim three weeks ago?" he asked me.
"I hear about every attack," I said to him. "Was your house damaged?"
"No, it hit down the street," he explains. "We're a messed up country, that we don't stop this!"
"What will be in September?" I ask him. What a funny world that I am asking someone Elie's age what he thinks the future will be.
"We'll hope for good and know we have the ability to stop them all, but will we?"
He heard sounds of explosions coming from the Egyptian side of the border and looked up, "what were those booms?" he asked. I had no answer, and never found out. The entire three days of our vacation, an Israel naval ship.
Several years ago, while vacationing, I saw the navy ships in the Red Sea, but I had never seen one stand, as this one did, every day, all day.
"How long have they been here?" I asked the young man.
"They've always been here," he answered, "and they always will be."
Maybe that's the part that got to me. So young and already he knows - we have always been at war, and we always will be. We have always needed our young men and women to protect us, and we always will. And most important, we, the Jewish people, have always been here, and we always will be.