Monday, August 29, 2016

An Apology Deserved

There is a concept that is "holy" to those of us who grew up in the west hold dear. It is, in many ways, the foundations of the difference between "us" and "them. It would be great to believe that there is no "us" and "them" but we all know there is - so let's stop playing that game.

There will be an us and a them until one of two things happen - either they overtake us and overpower the values we have; or we convince them that life is better than death, light is better than darkness, peace is better than war, love is better than hate. It really really really is that simple. Until one side is victorious in convincing the other that their way is correct, there will always be an "us" and a "them." Perhaps from the time of Cain and Abel; perhaps from the time the ancient Egyptians enslaved the ancient Hebrew. Certainly from the time the Romans believed they had the right to overpower and exile, there has been an "us" and a "them."

I don't believe I will ever think that murdering innocents is correct; that firing on a city is justified. I will never accept that the only way to live is to force others to think my way - and I will never find justification in the use of a suicide bomb, opening fire in a restaurant, entering a home and stabbing a child to death.

Perhaps, they will never accept that these things are abhorrent, wrong, unacceptable for any and all reasons. One of the fundamentals of Judaism is the concept that my life has the greatest does yours. If you threaten me, try to take my life, I am completely justified in taking yours first, or killing you to save myself.

What I cannot do, is kill another to save myself. That is not allowed in Judaism. If murdering innocents is the only way to get what I want, what I need, even to save my life, I am not allowed. There, that is it. That is the difference. That is the basis upon which we have built our world.

An extension of that, in a way, is the belief we have in ourselves and in each other, that we will all choose life, that we are all innocent until proven guilty.

A few months ago, a soldier named Elor Azarya shot a terrorist. According to a distorted video, part of the story came out. It would seem, from the misguided and morally bankrupt video of a B'tselem activist, that the soldier shot an innocent man - we know that to be false. The man on the ground had just stabbed a soldier - innocent, he was not.

It would seem that the man on the ground was not armed. This too, the soldier could not have known at the moment the terrorist was shot. So says, finally, senior military experts. What they are now admitting is what I noticed from the start.

The commanders did not secure the area - their mistake. The commanders did not neutralize and check the terrorist - their mistake.

Into their errors, entered a young soldier. What that soldier thought and did cannot be judged lightly by others - certainly not by those who were not there, those who rely on a manipulated video that tells only part of the story. It is wrong for those people to judge, especially wrong for them to slander the soldier, to say that he should "rot in jail" or that he is a "murderer."

Within days of the incident, an Israeli military judge put aside any claims that this was murder. They thought, at best, it could be termed manslaughter.

Today in Israel, the trial continues - and commanding officers who were there are coming forward to verify that there was justification, that there were concerns.

Two things have to happen now.

First, media outlets such as Haaretz and the Times of Israel, and specifically, journalists such as Gideon Levy and Sarah Tuttle Singer have to apologize to the soldier. Their words were a declaration that the soldier was guilty until proven innocent - and that is outrageous. And now, not only outrageous, but wrong.

Second, the Israeli government has to free the military to do what it has been trained to do - to fight the enemy and while doing so, monitor itself to be the moral compass of our nation. There is no military in the world that is more moral than the Israeli army. We do all that we can to eliminate injury to civilians but we are fighting an enemy that thrives on terror and pain - even that of its own people.

If they place their missiles inside their cities, that does not lessen our moral obligation to protect our cities. We have no choice but to fire into that building, that city. What of the concept presented above, that I have no right to save my life by taking the life of an innocent person?

There is no contradiction. If we warn the civilian population in Gaza that we are about to bomb a target or an area and they choose to surround it and protect it with their lives and the lives of their children (which happened several times during various conflicts/operations/wars), they are no longer innocent bystanders. With their bodies and their lives, if they choose to protect terrorists, they forfeit the right to be called innocent.

Elor's commanding officers are appearing in court to say that they too had concerns, given the way the terrorist was dressed, that he could be hiding explosives, that he could post a threat. That fear, and the terrorist movement triggered Elor to shoot. If he was wrong than what we have is the wrongful death of a combatant in a war situation - a war triggered by the very man who was killed. That Arab chose to stab a soldier in Hebron. Had he not attacked the soldiers, he would not have been lying there; he would not have been shot. Elor did not open fire in cold blood to kill an innocent man; he opened fire on a confirmed terrorist who could have been armed with an explosive and was moving in an area where other soldiers and medics were around.

If he was wrong in shooting - blame the commanding officers who did not secure the site; blame the commanding officers who did not protect the perimeter. This is Israel, where the commanding officers step for forward and lead the way. I personally know of an incident in which a commanding officer took responsibility for neutralizing a terrorist who died of gunshot wounds fired from no less than three different directions and more than a dozen angles. One officer stepped forward and said that he killed the terrorist. Elor's commanding officers must do the same.

On March 27, 2016, I posted an article to the Times of Israel condemning an unnamed journalist/blogger for  rushing to condemn an Israeli soldier before any facts were in. Four days later, the Times of Israel proved the post. Their claim that they are the "marketplace of ideas" was a lie. I was accused of "threatening" and "endangering" the life of the woman who had called for our soldier to "rot in jail." No threat was made; I didn't endanger anyone. All I did was share what she said (and show how it went against democracy, against decency, against Israel).

Today and in the months since her cruel words were published (and yes, another of my posts from the Times of Israel was rejected because I had "published" it on a closed group on Facebook, so I can use the term "publish" when speaking of a Facebook post), she has continued with the rhetoric against this soldier, never once accepting that she lacks the knowledge or the right to determine the outcome of a trial without making a travesty of justice.

The Greatest Threat to Israel Today remains those who want us to surrender, to weaken ourselves, to hold ourselves to a standard above all others, even if it means paying the price for that standard with our blood and the blood of our children.

An apology is deserved. That it will never be delivered (at least not in a sincere and honest fashion) is the greatest of insults - not to Elor Azarya, but to the very foundations of the country we have built here.

Each day, more and more, I believe that Elor will walk away from this horrible time in his life, stronger for having had the courage to deal with the pressure placed upon his young shoulders. The only open question is whether Israel will walk away nearly as strong.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What a Vacation Should Be

A vacation can be a group thing - sometimes a family thing, sometimes a romantic couple thing, sometimes an individual thing. Sometimes it's meant to help you find something you've lost or are missing - time with your spouse, moments with your children, who you really are deep inside the person you show the world. It helps sometimes to stop your normal routine and simply contemplate. Or not. That's the beauty of a vacation. It can be what you make it.

Sometimes, it's about seeing exciting places, new and different from what you see every day. It always amazes me when I go away that this exciting thing I'm experiencing for the first time - is someone else's every day reality. And the reverse. I meet people all the time, so enthralled with being in the holy city of Jerusalem and while I still and hopefully always will be enthralled myself, without question I take it for granted to a certain extent.

Not its beauty, never its beauty or the kindness of the people. Never the holiness, nor the fact that it is mine and an integral part of my life, but the fact that I believe it will be there tomorrow...and next week, and next month and next year. At some point, I won't be, but Jerusalem is eternal as no other city on earth can be.

I've gone to Jerusalem on vacation but somehow it's harder to relax because it is so connected to my daily life and so vacation is something more distant, less familiar.

Some people dream of a vacation in Jerusalem, others in the Judean Desert near my home, the Dead Sea just 20 minutes away. For me, different might mean traveling a few hours away. Often the north - the Golan, near the Sea of Galilee, or the coast. Sometimes Eilat with its coral reef, beautiful sea and vacation atmosphere.

And once in a while, Safed - Tsfat. It is a holy place, a mystical place, friendly people. People walk through the streets and bless you; sell you pizza and bless your child (or grandchild).

They stop you in the street as if you are a long lost friend, and you answer, because, of course, you are.

Sometimes, a vacation is just about resting, relaxing, reading, writing, walking, swimming. Not being a tourist exactly but having fun. For someone who is connected to the computer, it's such an amazing experience to unplug yourself from it. I do that regularly each week for 25 hours over the Jewish Sabbath, but to to it for a few days is just heaven.

So, we went north, my oldest child and my youngest. My son-in-law, two grandsons, my husband and my sister-in-law, who is visiting. We went to Tsfat (Safed) and did...nothing. Really, nothing. We rented a house. Someone's home that became our vacation getaway. Each morning we had breakfast; at some point, we went into the small pool. At our most energetic, we walked within the old city of Safed, ancient alleyways and beautiful synagogues and wonderful,

It was a lovely time - with my husband, my older daughter and her family, my younger daughter and sister-in-law. What was missing was on my mind - my three sons. One was still in the States visiting his dear and wonderful in-laws; one is..well, it's complicated; and one lost the chance to be with us when the army switched his break time. It was so hard not having him there after switching the dates specifically so that he would be with us.

Many times in the days before the vacation, I kept thinking it would work out and something would change. It didn't. During the week, I kept expecting him to call to say he was on a bus and coming to join us. He didn't.

So it was a vacation in which I focused on who was there, rather than who wasn't. It was a time to hug grandchildren. Aliza learned to swim after years of wading in pools and avoiding the deep end. It was the perfect pool for that - just deep enough to swim, with the ability to quickly put feet down if needed.

When we arrived, the family told us about a little surprise awaiting us below the house. The city of Safed was nearly destroyed by one massive earthquake on January 1, 1837 and then, after being rebuilt, was damaged once again on November 7th, 1927. Amazingly enough, under the house where we stayed, were another two floors of old housing.

We didn't tour extensively; we didn't see many things. We didn't go kayaking, as we have in past years. But we ate, we slept, we swam, we relaxed.

Sometimes, you can't ask for more.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sometimes it really is that simple...

Some Advice for Donald Trump

Disclaimer: No, I'm not a political analyst; not an expert on any specific political system, government, world. I've never won a presidential election but if it helps, I can honestly say I've never lost one. What I am is a complex mixture of worlds and places and beliefs and these views are mine alone, my advice for Donald Trump on how to win the election...with no guarantees but plenty of hope.

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Donald,

I'm watching what is happening and I'm cringing. I am constantly correcting people - that isn't what he, that's not exactly what he said. What he means is...what he hopes is...despite what he said...

So, my first piece of advice is to shut up. I know I could be more diplomatic about how to phrase that but diplomacy right now doesn't seem to be a strong point of yours and you seem to take pride in that, so I'm going to give it to you straight. You can probably win the election if you just shut up.

Hillary is a walking disaster; probably the worst candidate since Jimmy Carter and she might even be worse because she's a lot smarter than he ever was. She will mess this up, but only if you let her and if you manage not to mess yourself up more.

So far, you aren't managing to do that. In some corner of my brain, I respect the fact that you think you can win by being honest and telling Americans what you think. You can't. They aren't used to that kind of honesty from a candidate. If you offer the logical opinion that it is insane to open America's borders without a system in place to protect Americans from the potential infiltration of thousands of terrorists, you are coming off as anti-Muslim.

Why? Good question and more than I can explain now but basically, Americans view politicians as used cars salesmen. Whatever you say is a fraction of the truth and so they've learned to filter a candidates words as either greater or lesser than the truth. Whatever direction will make you look worse - that's how they'll take your message and put it into that filter. If you say you don't plan to raise taxes, that means you'll raise them some. If you say you want to curb something, they'll take that to mean you plan to cut it entirely.

The reality is, all nations need to protect their citizens and today's greatest threat does indeed come from extremism. And yes, the most extreme nations in the world today are by an large Muslim nations - Iran, Libya, Syria, to name three. But Iran and Libya and Syria aren't just across the ocean to most Americans, they are on a different planet.

Americans are worried more about their economy, their health care and day to day issues. If you're going to talk - talk about what Obama has done to the military; speak about the proliferation of mass shootings - primarily in places where strict gun laws are already on the books. Gun control won't stop a terrorist - it never has; it never will. You want them to focus on who the terrorist is? Good luck with that. They've had 8 years of denial to damage their ability. It's a workplace accident; a man screaming "Allahu Akbar" as he guns people down somehow might not be a terrorist attack. Give that fight up, Donald, and move on. If you're elected, you can begin to correct that by immediately recognizing truth and maybe Americans will catch up to you, but not now.

Reality check, Donald. Half the people you need to vote for you are women. You haven't shown a lot of respect for women as equals in your life and the fact is, other than your daughter, your record with women sucks. So stop trying to defend it. Shut up. Hillary's got Bill on her side and most women find him and their relationship repulsive. So let your daughter speak on that issue or give up.

You want to make America great but you know what, Americans are asking me what you mean by that. I think they've forgotten or maybe they think America still is great. From my experience, most Americans have little understanding of the world outside its borders and despite eight miserable years of Obama, have yet to realize that much of the world thinks America's day has come and gone and this election is just proving them right. Shut up and maybe find a different slogan. After Americans swallowed "Yes we can" - they're tired of meaningless words.

Learn. Speak to foreign leaders and ask them to tell you what they think. But listen. Learn to listen. Show pictures of you in the newspapers being advised by military leaders; congressmen and women. Set up meetings; let them talk and you listen. In every picture they take, show yourself LISTENING, absorbing, interested. Not talking. Not telling everyone you know better.

Understand the differences between the 50 states. What is important to people living in Alabama? Missouri? Idaho? Oregon? Meet with people and sit and listen. Ask their advice and talk about them, if you are going to speak at all let it be to show that you've learned how much you need to learn. Time is short.

If you stop talking and start listening, you have a chance. Fact is, you've surrounded yourself with good people - show them off. You ran that TV show for years. Important rule in being interviewed is not to bad-mouth others. Stop talking about Clinton. Let her shoot herself in the foot. Now's the time to become Presidential...or lose. Show dignity because somehow Clinton is outclassing you in that area.

That's what's missing in this election - neither you nor Hillary strike us, the common people, as caring about us. You need us to vote for you but you've forgotten that we have brains, feelings, needs.

America needs you, Donald. Not because of who you are but because of who she least, that is the general conception of most people who are currently thinking about voting for you.

If you want to win this election, you need to convince more Americans to be pro-Trump rather than just anti-Clinton. To do that, you need to do two things - listen to the people, Donald. Travel all around America and listen and secondly, shut up.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Hypocrisy of Israel

As a technical writer, I can tell you that the hardest part of documenting a product is when it is a moving target, when the parameters keep changing. As a parent, I can tell you that if your rules keep changing, you'll never really be able to get your children to listen to you. As a voter, I can tell you that the more a politician changes his/her position, the less likely it is that I will vote for him or her.

As an Israeli, I condemn any attempt to deny the followers of a religion access and the right to practice their religion on their holy sites. We as a nation would never enter the Bahai Temple in Haifa and remove all the Bahais. We have never attempted to close the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to Christians (and our police regularly enter only to stop Christian sects from killing each other (as told to me on three separate occasions by Israeli police).

We have only closed off the Temple Mount to Muslims after incidents of violence and even then, for very limited times and usually only restricting access to young males and not the entire Muslim population wishing to visit.

But when it comes to the Jews, our government rarely hesitates to block our access, restrict our rights, humiliate and insult Jewish visitors. And worse, the rules are arbitrarily enforced and constantly changing at the whim of the Jewish police and Arab WAQF who watches and waits to pounce because there is little more that can drive them to violence than the site of a Jewish man or woman whispering a prayer. Even moving one's lips is enough to get you thrown off the Temple Mount...if you are a Jew.

When you expect rules to be followed, but keep changing them, the less respect you deserve, the less likely it is that anyone will uphold them.

The Jewish people have been fighting for centuries, for millennia, to be free - free to live in our land, free to worship our God, free to raise our children and practice our religion. And we have been successful throughout the world. The Soviet Union has collapsed and the Jews can now freely come here and, for the most part, practice Judaism if they choose to be there. Such it is in most of Europe, North, Central, and South America.

Really, it is only in Arab countries, Muslim lands, where Jews are restricted. For the most part, they have left; only small pockets of Jews remain. Syria has no Jews; Afghanistan might have one Jew left. Egypt has less than 40 and Yemen less than 20. There are reportedly around 35 in Bahrain and less than 10 in Iraq.

Only in Arab countries...and Israel, are Jews restricted from where they can travel, where they can pray. And not just pray. In Israel, for Jews wanting to visit the single most holy place in all of the world, the list of what we are not to do is both arbitrary and growing.

Can you imagine a sign such as this one placed at the entrance to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv forbidding entrance to non-Jews?

And the list of things we cannot it least as of an hour or so ago...

You aren't allowed to pray, if you are a Jew, on the Temple Mount.

You aren't allowed to move your lips in silent prayer, if you are a Jew on the holiest site known to our religion

You aren't allowed to whisper, lest you actually be saying a prayer, if you are a Jew.

You aren't allowed to bless your people, your family, your children, if you are a Jew, unless you are a bereaved father who manages to "sneak" the prayer into a speech given during guided tour of the Temple Mount after your child has been brutally murdered, stabbed to death in her bed.

As of this past week, you aren't allowed to cry, even if you are overwhelmed with the holiness of the place and the amazing opportunity to enter this holy place.

And as of today, you apparently aren't even allowed to mourn up on the Temple Mount. You aren't allowed to rip your clothing up there, if you are a Jew, because the guards who honor Muslim sensitivities above all others are Jewish and they know that a Jew in mourning rips their clothes as a sign of their grief.

That's right. Can you imagine? A Jew is not allowed to whisper, cry, rip his shirt in grief. If he does, an Arab will come over and tell a Jewish policeman...look at him, look what he is doing. Get him out of here...and the policeman will.

This is what we have come to? This is the freedom we have in our land? That even our tears are considered enough of an insult to demand our being denied access to OUR Temple Mount?

(Video from 0404 News agency)

Jews Sing...and Mourn...and Pray

Sometimes, even if you don't understand the words, you can understand the emotions.

This video is from the Kotel, singing on Tisha B'Av. The next is from 11 years ago, as Israel stood on the edge of a unilateral destruction of the communities in Gush Katif and Northern Shomron. We knew, even then, it was such a bad idea...even the media, left and pro-expulsion, even they realized the depths of the faith it took for us to survive that horrible time.

First - at the Kotel - a united people begging God for the ultimate redemption, the coming of the Messiah and a true end to our wandering.

And young women praying in N'vei Dekalim days before the destruction. I have watched this so many times and I have not yet once succeeded in not crying with them, for them, for all of us.

Tisha B'Av...sometimes a video is the best way to explain

Number One Video from the Olympics?

Saw this on Facebook. Probably not the #1, but I think it should be...


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Israel Defeats Islam

No, really, we did!
Islam El Shehaby, Egypt's Judo entry, was easily and quickly defeated on Friday by Israel's Or Sasson and then, following the great tradition of the Lebanese and the Saudis, Islam then proceeded to show the world that hypocrisy is the great winner of the 2016 Olympics in Rio and that the glory of the Olympic spirit has never been more easily vanquished.
The world wondered if Islam would take part in the competition this past Friday, or if he would join the Lebanese and the Saudis in showing that they held the games in contempt. The Lebanese started the insults even before the Olympics had even begun, by blocking the Israeli team from boarding the bus to the opening ceremonies. The Israelis were asked to divide themselves up to fit on other buses and correctly refused. The Olympic team organizers scrambled and got them another bus but failed to punish the Lebanese team, setting the stage for all that has happened since.
Then the Saudi judo player refused to play in Israeli. And again, the Olympic committee failed to do more than pay lip service to the insult. Incorrectly, they treated the Saudi and Lebanese actions as insults to Israel when, in fact, what they were doing is mocking the entire games and all they stand for. And so it continued.
On Friday, the Egyptian agreed to fight, was quickly defeated, and then delivered what was to be his insult - a refusal to shake the hand of the Israeli. What happens next was wonderful. No, as yet no response from the Olympic committee, but the crowd responded by booing Islam off the mats.
The Israeli team has consistently shown respect in the face of abuse; decency despite attempts to shame them. Many nations will go home with medals; some will go home in disgrace. Few nations will have faced what the Israeli team is facing daily. 
Apparently Islam, the competitor, is know for his virulent anti-Israel feelings. It is both ironic and amusing that in the end, the disgrace is his, while the Israeli walks away not only with the medal but with the respect of so many.
Kol Hakavod to you, Or Sasson - we are so proud of you here in Israel. Beyond the medal you bring home to us, is the pride we feel. It takes a special kind of strength to defeat Islam. And you did it easily simply by putting out your hand, offering respect and accepting that his refusal says volumes about him.

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