Wednesday, November 18
A cloudy sky was not the only cause of the day’s dreariness. People were coming out of the shelters, only to find more destruction than they could have imagined. Worse, everyone understood that, all too soon, more rockets would be unleashed by the enemy. Israelis were quickly tiring of war even though conflict seemed to be the only state of existence they’d known.
Blake smiled as she ladled hot lentils into a man’s bowl. His eyes revealed the story of a person beaten down by the cruelty of life. His expression was hardly different than any other she had seen all morning. But though the people’s sorrow and suffering tugged at her heart, she refused to allow herself to be dragged into despair. Her joy was too deep, and although she wasn’t aware, that joy was touching everyone who came through the food line. This man felt it and attempted to return the smile.
“Shalom,” she whispered as she patted his wrist.
“And to you, daughter. Thank you. ” He lingered just a moment, but it was enough for Blake to feel his gratitude.
After the man had moved along Ingrid leaned to her new friend. “They really do appreciate your presence,” she spoke softly. “It is not difficult to tell that you are an American. They count you as a blessing.”
“Why? We’re regular people just like them.”
“Yes, but Israel lost hope in America a long time ago,” Ingrid said as she deposited a piece of bread on another passing plate. “These people, in many ways, associate Americans with the American government. To see you and Ty helping restores their hope that they may not be completely alone after all.”
“I’m glad,” Blake replied, “but that isn’t going to get them very far down the road. I just want them to experience Jesus.”
Ingrid smiled. “You forget our Lord’s words. ‘If you offer a cup of water to the least of these, you have offered it to me.’ You are providing them a taste of Jesus’ love every time you fill a bowl with soup. Plus, as you bless them, they can see Jesus reflected through your face. He’s revealing himself through you.”
Blake leaned forward so she could get a glimpse of her husband standing at end of the serving line. He was handing out encouraging words and hugs at the same rate she was dipping soup. Even from this distance she could see his love for people. It was as authentic as the air he breathed. She knew his heart was breaking for them. There was no way they could know he too was filled with grief. He still suffered the loss of his mom and brother, and hurt doesn’t go away just because one changes location. The difference was his grief was channeled into exhibiting the same compassion and comfort he was receiving. In other words, Ty was giving no thought to his inner pain. He was totally given over, completely consumed with touching these people. For that, she loved him all the more.
Ingrid easily read the sweetness of Blake’s glance at her husband. She couldn’t help but smile at the twinkle she saw in those deep blue eyes. “You know,” she said as if she were revealing a secret, “it only gets better.”
Still leaning forward, Blake shifted her gaze from Ty to Ingrid. “Really?”
“In every way,” Ingrid said with a slight tilt of the head.
Blake felt warm blood rising in her cheeks. Ingrid saw the blush and giggled like she hadn’t done for a very long time.
“Oh my goodness,” Blake said. Her free hand naturally began fanning her face. “You’re embarrassing me.”
Ingrid handed out another piece of bread as she giggled. “I’m sorry.”
“No you’re not,” Blake laughed with her.
“No, I’m not, but it’s true, especially for lovers of Yeshua. The Lord will make him more special to you with every passing day, especially in this world of hopelessness.”
“All I know is I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him since the day I first saw him. It’s like God knitted our hearts together from the moment we met. He feels the same way.”
“As he should. You are perfect for one another,” Ingrid cooed.
Blake sensed the Ingrid’s sisterly affection and wondered if she had any real sisters. She imagined Tasha was filling that role, but it was obvious that Ingrid had enough love to take on another. As Blake was an only child she appreciated the feeling of acceptance she was receiving.
“By the way,” Ingrid continued, “I understand you are a marvelous singer.”
“Who told you that,” Blake’s embarrassment grew. She had never liked talking about herself.
“Now who do you suppose?”
Blake leaned forward again and glanced at her husband. Strangely, his eyes locked with hers even as he put his arm around a little grandmother. He winked, causing a shiver of joy to tickle the back of her neck.
“Will you sing for the congregation when we are finally able to meet again?” Ingrid asked with genuine anticipation. “I really hope you will.”
“Is this a set up or something?” Blake laughed.
“Because Ty asked me to sing during tonight’s get together with your group,” Blake answered, “but I haven’t decided yet. I don’t know any songs in Hebrew.”
“Ah, don’t worry about that, dear. You could be singing in Korean and still the people would love it. You are singing for Yeshua. Language does not matter. Besides, most of the people have a good grasp of English. We teach it in our schools, you know.” Ingrid’s encouragement was undaunted.
“I didn’t know that,” said Blake. “In that case, I suppose the answer will have to be yes.”
“Good!” Ingrid exclaimed. And then to all the people in line and around the tables, “Please everyone, listen. This young American woman will be singing tonight at a special meeting in the shelter beneath the Orthodox Church. Come and hear her if you are able.” She repeated the announcement in Hebrew.
Blake’s face reddened again. Ingrid reached over and patted Blake’s arm.
Ramat David Airbase
Wednesday, 4:00 p.m.
“You’re attention please, gentlemen,” Colonel Natansky spoke sharply to the twenty-four gathered pilots of the 117th Air Wing, “Captain Sherod will now give the situation update.
Moshe took a sip of hot coffee from his mug. He had been alert and present for less than half an hour. This was his third cup of brew since awakening. His body always needed a jolt when recovering from an all-nighter, especially when the entire night was spent in one form of combat or another. The fact that he had slept during daylight hours only compounded his grogginess. His body’s timing had been disrupted. Even Rueben was subdued this afternoon. The thought of another intense night provided a dose of reality the young pilot did not particularly care to receive. Moshe felt the same way, but said nothing.
Captain Sherod, short, muscular, and all business, began his briefing. As the IDF Intelligence Officer for Ramat David, Sherod brought the highest level of professionalism to his job. Lives depended on it.
“Headquarters has a word for you after last night’s action. Well done!”
Moshe waited for more, but that was obviously the extent of praise his squadron was going to receive. So much for gratitude, he thought.
Sherod turned to the large regional map posted to the wall behind him. “Now, here’s the situation as it stands. We have two rings of threat, one being less threatening at the moment than the other. First are the Russians in this outer ring area.” Sherod pointed toward positions in northern and western Lebanon. “The Russian 7th Airborne has placed itself in upper half of the Bekaa Valley. They are clearing out pockets of Hezbollah militia, and that of course is a good thing. We all have an idea of what their mission will eventually become, but for now, they are staying at arm’s length.”
Sherod moved the laser further north to the Lebanon’s border with Turkey. “Turkish armored divisions are flowing into Lebanon here and here,” he said, identifying two roadways that were on either side of the Syrian border. He quickly moved to a point east of the Bekaa Valley nearer Lebanon’s border with Syria. “Two Russian armored divisions and two Uzbek infantry divisions are moving into Lebanon here. The Uzbeks were to be supported by the Iranian Pasdaran Army and its three mechanized divisions, but the Iranians have gone astray.”
Sherod circled an area of east central Syria as he continued. “The Iranians are holding up at Abu Kamal and seem to be directing the events taking place in Syria and Jordan. They have absorbed the Syrian brigades that survived our little gift for Damascus and now number close to 150,000 troops in strength.”
One of the pilots let out a low whistle.
“That’s not all. Three more Iranian divisions, mostly Revolutionary Guards, have mobilized and are preparing to move into Iraq and Kuwait. At least one brigade-sized force has boarded vessels and is heading toward Saudi Arabia via Bahrain. It will be several days before they become anything like a threat, but we will be keeping an eye on them. You are already aware of the movement of the Sudanese, which I might add, has slowed considerably since Captain Eldan and his cohort surprised a few of their assets in the Gulf of Aqaba. They have ported most of their troops in Sharm El Shaik, Egypt for the moment. Lastly, the Libyans are still strung out in the Mediterranean, although a sizeable number of their infantry has ported in Tartus, Syria and Tripoli, Lebanon.”
None of the information was new to Moshe and the other pilots, but seeing the layout both a military, as well as a prophetic lens was thought provoking. Sherod had used the term ‘outer ring’ in nearly the same way as Pastor Ty.
Captain Sherod continued. “That brings us to an inner circle of trouble.” He drew a line with his laser from Abu Kamal down to Amman, Jordan. “This is our problem, and one we did not expect to crop up so quickly. Jordan has turned from friend to enemy, and it has literally occurred overnight.”
“The Iranians!” spat Rueben Cohen.
“In a nut shell, yes,” Sherod responded without looking away from the map. “Whatever pressure the Iranians brought to bear on Jordan it has led them right into the radical fold. The dominoes have fallen, one right after the other. First was Syria. They were always in the Iranian camp. Then Lebanon absorbed the Hezbollah, or vice-versa. They are one and the same. After that, it was only a matter of time before Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt all turned the way of the radical. With the Iranians bearing down militarily, none of them really have a choice.”
“Sure they do,” scoffed Rueben. “They could unite against Kazimi and the Mullahs.”
“Lieutenant, you are not thinking religiously,” Sherod finally turned to discuss the situation. “This is not political, it is Islamic in nature. And it will remain so until whatever skirmish is coming finds an end.”
“I would call it a war rather than a skirmish, full-scale war, to be exact,” Moshe calmly interjected.
Sherod looked at him, “you are closer to the truth than you realize, Captain.”
“What do you mean?” Moshe asked. His interest in the briefing was fully piqued.
“It appears that the government has made a different decision this time,” Sherod explained. “Israel will not be conceding anything. In fact, part of the mission given to the IAF tonight is to prepare the way to take back some land.”
No one said a word for several moments. Sherod was an expert at the using silence to emphasize a point.
“While you people were holding the enemy’s attention over southern Lebanon, the 1st Golani Brigade repositioned itself halfway up the Golan Heights. One hundred and fifty Merkava MK IV tanks will be moving into Syria during tonight’s mission. They will be joined by the 7th Armor Recon Company, and the Golan Territorial Artillery Brigade. It is being designated as Operation Pile Driver.”
“Oy vey!” exclaimed one of the pilots.
“Well said,” Sherod responded. “This is no skirmish. Northern Command is positioning these brigades as a blocking maneuver. We believe the Iranians have stopped in Abu Kamal as a dare. They are calling us out into the Syrian plains. They want a fight. We are going to satiate that desire.”
“What about the Jordanians? For that matter, what are we going to do about the Saudis and the Egyptians?” Moshe questioned, though in his gut he knew the answer.
“If Jordan wants to deepen their level of infatuation with the Iranians, so be it. We will meet them head on,” the Captain seemed to shrug his shoulders. “Same goes for the Saudis, although any action on their part will come through the air. Remember, they have a well equipped air force. The same would go for Egypt. They don’t have the force necessary for a sustained ground assault, but they can do plenty of damage through the air by both missiles and aircraft.”
Everyone in the room began to stir. Most had an itch to fight. Some realized the gravity of the situation. A few saw extreme danger. Only Moshe understood who was behind it all.
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