A recent call-up notice from my army unit once again invited me to join up with brothers - in - arms for exercises somewhere among the dramatic wadis in the sprawling southern Negev Desert.
I was asked to drop everything I was doing at the moment, pick up an oily rifle and a heavy tan duffle bag, and spend some quality time practicing for the big one.
The last few days before leaving for reserve duty are busy: Helping spouses plan the coming stint alone; telephone calls to put off meetings and engagements for work; pulling the dusty military gear down from the crawlspace; wondering what flashlight - radio doodad to buy this time, which novel to stash in the big back pocket of the ammunition-clip webbing.
The last evening at home. Pre-departure tension as I sit alone in the living room, an assortment of camping gear and military odds and ends arrayed on the floor around me; like I'd gone on an L.L. Bean ordering binge - the "Mideast conflict clearance sale" edition. And ritually wondering to myself: "Now, why did I agree to do this again?" And knowing all along I'll probably dump about a third of the cargo back out later near the foot of the bed by my annoyed and formerly-sleeping wife, because everything I really wanted to lug along is just too damn heavy to cram into one backpack.
And finally that last night to softly hold each other in the dark before she is temporarily replaced by a lonely, worn sleeping bag and tools of war.