The following is a true account by an Israeli woman who received a call-up order” from the army. For reasons of security her name has been withheld.

The letter, which had arrived a month in advance, was couched in military terms of “call-up order,” ordinance numbers and penalties for non-appearance. So, exactly at the appointed time, I presented myself at the designated place in order to participate in a two-day first-aid course for emergency duty.

When I found the right room, I saw two others already waiting. By the end of an hour, another nine had arrived out of the twenty-two summoned. The call-up clerk paced the room in familiar frustration; apparently such a turn-out was not too exceptional. By the time we got going, it became clear the average age of the participants was about forty; that Moshe, our instructor, was baby-faced, twenty-five, and that the whole thing was not as formidable as the call-up order had implied.

The first day was fairly light-hearted—bandaging without blood. The combinations and permutations of imaginary wounds and different dressings gave rise to Houdini-like contortions and to some merriment. The easy-going atmosphere caused the exercise to be detached from its object. The idea of bandaging an amputated hand was less horrifying with the bloodless fist still there.

It was the second day that did it. We were in the same room and the faces were familiar now and I even knew some names. We started on an informal note with the prospect of discharge from call-up that afternoon. Slowly, the content of the lectures clouded the sky for me. Gradually, the day darkened, evil seemed imminent, threatening; the exercise was no longer a game.

In the first session we used a life-size dummy electronically equipped for resuscitation training. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is a great deal harder to do than it looks, even on a clean, plastic doll. Every so often the horrific possibilities surfaced. What to do if there is vomit, if the mouth is injured, if the jaw is shot away? What if it was really up to me?

The next session gained our silent and close attention. It was then that the shadow of Gog and Magog began to loom. The incongruity of our largely middle-aged, office-based group learning the dosages of atrophine antidote for use in chemical warfare was grotesque. But more grotesque yet was the reality of it. Who but such as we will face the “silvery rain” of nerve gas and mustard gas, the powders and sprays that nauseate, confuse, poison and kill? The next war will not be an affair just for the armies, we will all be there.

The instructor showed us how to put on and how to check the hermetically-sealed gas mask equipped with charcoal filters. Wearing the equipment, he looked like an insect—long face and huge eyes, black with monstrous green protuberances. It was then that the possibility began to take shape that the whole nightmare could come true. Maybe it was his blue-jeans that did it, or his curly hair escaping from the gas mask. With a gas-mask covered face like his one expected robot limbs that were science-fictional in shape; but no, it was still Moshe, it could still be me.

The moment came when he demonstrated a new gas-proof baby-carriage cot, and how it could be worn on the back. As he stood there, masked, with the “baby” on his back, I suddennly saw the scene. Maybe the city would be unmarked, with only the cruel rain gently falling. All around, there would be those who had succumbed. They would lay contorted and alone. It would not be an easy death. And there he was, the last man in sight, with his child, dependent on the charcoal filters for six hours of good air, and then…and then…

That was when the horror, the pathos of it all hit me, the pain, the emptiness of devastation and isolation. Aghast, I asked Moshe the same question that we had asked a different Moshe thousands of years ago. Then too, destruction had been imminent with no way out visible. Through the long years, desperation continued to call out in anguish: Where do we run, where is it safe?

It was later, at home, that I realized that the answer was the same now as then; unless we run to the mercy of the Lord, we will be destroyed by Pharaoh, by Amalek, by Ishmael, by Gog and Magog. The only preparation for Armageddon, the final battle, is to prepare to meet God, not Gog. Once we’ve had that encounter, our “call-up” is to spread the good news of peace, of peace with God; to prepare the people to receive the victorious King when he returns on the other side of suffering, when the silvery rain will be forever gone.