Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Angels that Watch Over Us

I don't always know where to start a story. Some people start at the end, and then dramatically trace the story back. Others start at some random point; others announce they are starting at the beginning and move towards the present. I tell people that I go with the "rule of fishing" method. I throw my line out there far into the lake where people don't have a clue what I'm going to can drive people mad (in fact, I might be responsible for making some people crazy) and then, if luck and the wind hold true, I pull the line to shore and draw the connection - sometimes quite dramatically. Unless I get lost...and sadly, that happens too.

Tonight, though, I'll start at the end. Today, Hadar Cohen died. She was 19 years old. She was doing her national service as a soldier in the Border Guard, and today she was stationed at the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. I never met her; I never will.

She was beautiful. Had eyes that can see them in this picture. She was standing with a unit of Border Guards when they saw three Arabs approaching the Old City. Something triggered the soldiers to approach the Arabs and ask for some identification.

On my way home today, less than an hour after Hadar was attacked, I saw another guard do the same thing to three young Arabs who were walking in the center of Jerusalem. The soldier approaches and asks to see some identification. What I saw, was three young Arab men pull out their identity cards, show them to the guard, and then walk away. What Hadar and her friends saw, was one of the Arabs pull out a knife and stab one of the Border Guards. Hadar drew her gun, as she had been trained to do, and shot the terrorist. At the same time, another of the terrorists pulled out a concealed gun and shot Hadar. When the battle was over, all three Arabs were permanently neutralized; one young border guard (female) was seriously injured and Hadar was critically injured when she was shot in the head.

She was rushed to the nearest hospital because even in those first seconds, the first responders knew how bad the injury was. She died a short time later, despite heroic attempts to save her life. Another guard is in stable condition; the three Arabs who were clearly on their way to what would have been a a major terror attack if they had succeeded in getting past Hadar.

Two hours before Hadar was attacked and murdered, a Facebook friend named Joshua Wander posted a picture of four female Border Guards near the Damascus Gate. I don't know if one of these is Hadar. I'm not sure if I want to know. If it is, it is obviously the last picture taken of her alive.

They stand there, these angels, watching, ready, alert. They wear vests to protect them; they've been trained to fight, to shoot.

In this intifada that we have been fighting for many months now, men, women, and children have been murdered. Grandparents and pregnant women have been stabbed; elderly and infants have been injured in ramming attacks. There is no profile for a victim in Israel. It can happen in any city, at any time. Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, Raanana or Otniel. No difference.

We are used to seeing strong young men in vests and guns patrolling, but the truth is, there are many female Border Guards who are watching over us, guarding our streets and our lives. Today, Hadar Cohen sacrificed her life, and in so doing, saved many others. It has been confirmed that the Arabs had a bomb with them, in addition to a gun and knives.

What the picture above shows, what Hadar's death reminds us of, is that just as there are no profiles for who can become a victim; there are no profiles for who can become a hero.

Hadar Cohen was 19 years old. She died to protect her people, her friends, her country. I can only hope that at some point, that thought will give her parents comfort. As for the picture above, it is one that might make us sad, but it should also make us proud. These are our children - fulfilling a promise to this land. It is a promise that comes, too often, with a price. Today, Hadar's family, all of Israel, lost a precious daughter.

May God bless the memory of Hadar Cohen and send comfort to her family. And may those who rise up against us day after day, understand that they will never succeed. Never. A generation of Hadars are stationed all over this land, angels watching over us. May God watch over them and protect them.

Israel At the Forefront of Maternity / Paternity Rights

Israel is a land that strives for equality even when equality is, almost by definition, not completely attainable. A man can never give birth, for all that he may want to. And so the law in Israel was that the mother was given maternity leave of up to 14 weeks - with FULL pay. I had three children in the United States and not once did I ever get any paid time off after giving birth...the first time I gave birth in Israel, people told me I'd get my full salary and I thought they were crazy. They told me to go to the National Insurance office, told me what papers to bring, and I did.

And when I walked out, I was shocked. It turns out, not only do they pay me my salary, not only did they hand me several hundred dollars when I left the hospital, but apparently, I hadn't requested a monthly stipend for my three children from the time I'd moved to Israel. So, I walked out of there with a promise that within the next few days, I would received three months salary, PLUS all the backdated stipends. All in all, it was close to $10,000.

Years after my children were born, people correctly asked why only a mother got paid time off and so the law was changed. The first six weeks are for the mother - to bond, to rest. After that, the couple can decide and either the mother OR the father, can take the remaining 8 weeks of paid "maternity/paternity" leave. But even that wasn't enough and so in the past few weeks, a new law was passed - mothers still take the first 6 weeks, but fathers can now take up to 8 paid days as paternity leave IN ADDITION to the maternity leave.

For all that people sometimes complain...I think this is an incredible concept and an amazingly positive thing for mothers, fathers, babies and families!

Monday, February 1, 2016

What Next Summer Will Bring...

How many times in my life have I counted ahead, months in advance? The minute I knew I was pregnant...each time...I counted ahead...this is what September will bring, May and March, and finally January (twice). This is how far each holiday is, this is when the summer break will come.

When David went into the army, I started counting...basic training, advanced training...oh God, I thought to myself, he'll finish advanced training...right before the summer begins. The first time Elie went to war, it was in the winter of 2008. Then, he four years later, it was the summer of 2012. Israel went to war again, the summer of 2014...

Last summer, there was no war...already they are talking about a war this coming summer. Hezbollah has increased the number of missiles pointed at Israel; Hamas is working hard to rebuild the tunnel infrastructure.

And as friends on Facebook post about the increased tunnel-digging activity, a few mentioned next summer as the most likely time for the next war...and my heart died a little. I don't know if Davidi's group will be ready for war by the summer...but I do know that unlike Elie's group, which was stationed outside of Gaza firing artillery at designated targets...David's unit is the one that goes in...

I can't.

I just can't.

I know this isn't about me...but that's why I started this blog...from the start, it has been a soundproof room where I could go and scream with all my lungs...only the soundproofing leaked and the walls have holes. Some of my kids read some of the posts; my parents, maybe some of my in-laws. I can't scream anymore. I have to smile and act like I know what I'm doing but I don't. I'll never really get this army thing. I don't...I can't handle David going to war. I didn't think I could handle Elie going to war...I did, somehow...twice. Davidi will be the same age but it isn't about age.

I can't explain. I can't scream here anymore. Too many are listening. But Hamas is building tunnels...they are preparing for the next war and so, in a way, are we. We are training our sons...they are training my son. They are teaching him to fight, to shoot, to search and enter buildings. But the buildings they are practicing for are in Gaza and I don't want him there.

I know I signed up for this when I boarded that plane and I'm not sorry and I'll never, God willing, be sorry...but please God, not next summer...Let next summer come in peace and let it go in peace.

Please flood the tunnels; let them all collapse. Let the missiles they fire land inside their borders; let them explode themselves. Please God, not next summer.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Stealing Time

I stole time again...not as much as I would have liked, but a couple of hours. We have this thing...we had a car that was totaled before it reached 10,000 kilometers...a man decided that he could make it through the light before it changed to red...then he decided no one would notice that he went through just as it turned red...then, missing even that, I have no idea what was in his mind.

All I know is that he ran the light and smashed full force into my car, destroying the front and rear door on the right side, sending the car flying sideways across three lanes of traffic. It crashed into one pole and completely knocked it down...then it kept going and, as it began to roll, just that first instant, it hit a second, very thick pole - thankfully between the rear door on the driver's side and the back side panel near the trunk of the car. The car then flew about 2 meters in the opposite direction from the power of the impact to the driver's side and came to rest...back on top of the first pole it had knocked down (you can read about it and see pictures here).

The car was barely 2 months old...less than 7,000 km. and so when we replaced the car, each 10,000 km. becomes a milestone. And it's fun to be the person who gets it. Davidi has hit a bunch of them...I was the one driving when it turned hit 40,000...and when Davidi came home on Friday, we were 20+ kilometers away from 41,000. So I asked him if he wanted to take a drive with me to the Dead Sea.

I decided to join a "photography" group - and each week they give you an assignment that you have to do. This week, it is "from above" and so I thought of taking a picture of the lowest place on earth...

We didn't quite get there, but we had a nice time and got some great pictures. I'm not sure which one to enter in the group...but here are a few of them. Mostly, though, what I loved was the stealing is too short not to steal time. Sometimes, you have to work harder to enable this - I cooked more on Thursday in anticipation; got up early Friday morning, and gratefully passed some things on to Elie and Lauren to finish.

Time well spent...time well stolen! Steal time!

The Importance of Home

I first noticed the importance of "home" with Elie. It was later reinforced when Shmulik was in the army and I see it again now. Home is everything to these soldiers in a way it never seemed to be even a few months ago. They measure their time in the army each week, by how long it will be until they get home again. One of the worst punishments you can give a soldier, is to tell him he has to stay on base a few extra hours, or worse, a whole weekend.

David came home this weekend to hugs, a box of brownies ready for him to take home, and some warm soup for the cold he has. The last time he came home sick, days later, I got sick too. This winter, following a bout with CMV (a "mega" virus that 90% of the world has but which in most cases is symptom-less, while in other people it is devastatingly exhausting...yeah, I got it hard), my immune system seems to be functioning at a low capacity - I can't fight anything off. So I got David's cold, and Elie's - on to pneumonia and hopefully back again. Hopefully, I won't catch this one too.

And yet, when I heard him sniffling, I started pumping him with Vitamin C and then gave him the whole bottle to take back to base with him, with instructions to take 2 a day. All packed, with cheese sandwiches and water, I drove him to the base, where he catches the first of two or three buses back to base.

"So you'll be home Friday," I ask after I get my hug and kiss.

"That's the plan," he told me.

"Tell them that they can let you out Thursday; we'll still take you."

And then he smiled that wonderful smile. "I ask them every week."

The army has a language all it's own. I tried following it this weekend while Davidi was speaking to me. It wasn't easy. There's a word for "fighting inside a building"; there are words for rank; location, and more - all made up of only the first letters of each word. Impossible for anyone not in the army to understand. Elie and David spoke this language during many discussions; I sit there on the sidelines, listening and wishing I could understand...knowing they would explain...but not wanting to interrupt them. One of those abbreviations that I do understand is "Hamshush" - which is Thursday to Sunday.

David gets released on Friday and has to be back on base on Sunday - the dream at this point, is to be released on Thursday, giving them another night at home and the chance not to spend early Friday morning on three buses.

Then he said each time he asks about "Hamshush" - the commander laughs. And, if he mentions it, he turns to Davidi and says, "You want Hamshush, right David?"

Minutes before the bus came, David said he was going to get out of the warm car to stand with the others - all waiting for the bus south. I got out - better to get that last hug and kiss before he goes...and then restarted the car and drove to the next traffic circle to make the U-turn for home. As I passed the bus stop from the other direction, I saw a hand waving to me - David, sitting in the very back of the bus.

The trick with a soldier is to send him to base with a piece of home - cooked food, sandwiches, just something that he'll have most of the week, a reminder that home is waiting for him.

That wave meant so much to me...I can't begin to explain.

Friday, January 29, 2016

To be Grateful; To be Blessed

Today, I am grateful for the dough rising on my table; the food cooking on my stove; the son, on the bus on his way home from the army...
Today, I am blessed with the cold weather, just as I am blessed with the hot weather in winter.
Today, I am grateful for the chance to see my granddaughter eat a clementine...yes, something that simple.
Today, I am blessed to have awakened, recharged, re-devoted to the life I have built.
Today, I am grateful for the warm shoes and socks I have on my feet, the layers of clothing I am wearing.
Today, I am blessed that my children are safe, my home is warm, my refrigerator full of food, my pantry stocked.
Today, I am grateful for the trees that are beginning to grow leaves and remind me that even on the coldest week...spring and summer will come soon.
Today, I am blessed not only with the material things in life, but with health. A bit of pneumonia, a cold, a virus, whatever...but health overall, is the truest of blessings.
Today, I am grateful that Hashem gave me the words to explain the voice inside of me. I may not always say what others want to read, but the ability to form thoughts into words is an incredible blessing.
Today, I am blessed to live in a country dedicated to life, to science, to innovation.
Today, I am grateful that I live moments from Jerusalem, a city that lives not only in my heart, but in the hearts of millions around the world.
Today, I am blessed to have reached the age I have, lived the life I have, and most of all blessed to believe that as good as today is, tomorrow has the potential to be even better.
Today, I am grateful for a life that is full and blessed and overall happy.
Today, I am blessed with a semi-productive week gone and the promise of one already taking shape.
Today, I am grateful for neighbors that care, strangers that run to defend and protect.
Today, I am blessed with the simplicity of a heater in my living room, making the room nice and warm.
Today, I am grateful to live in a true democracy, where people who are against my country and the way of life we have built here, are safe walking in the streets of our cities and speaking on the platform before the very top levels of government...because each is given the right to have a voice.
Today, I am blessed the sun rose over my beautiful city and that in the distance, I can see the mountains of the Judean Desert on one side, and Jerusalem on the other.
Today, I am so very grateful for what Hashem has made me - a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a Jew, and Israeli. Me.
Today, I am blessed. Today, I am grateful.
If you can say that every day of your life...and you have already defeated our enemies. Just, I am blessed, today, I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

WE Have Changed...

The UN Human Rights Commission has condemned Israel for human rights violations...more than North Korea. More than Iran. More than Syria. More than ALL of them put together. Somethings never changed. But...

Something has changed...WE have changed...


Perfect Messages in an Imperfect World

If there ever was a day in which I needed to write the perfect message, today would be it. I haven't written in a while - variety of reasons. Pneumonia would be one of them - antibiotics are my friends. A slight case of depression would be another. Of all days, I think today would be the one least likely to be chosen as the day on which perfection was born.

The day was doomed before it even began. Shlomit Krigman who was critically injured last night in a terror attack in Beit Horon, died early this morning. Last night, they said she was 23 when first reports came in. This morning, I heard she was 24. Shlomit was murdered 11 days before her 24th birthday. She was 23...and will never get to be 24.

I thought of this, the point when they'll never get older, when Dafna Meir was murdered. Dafna Meir, mother of four, foster mother to two, beloved wife to Natan, was perfect in her imperfection. She came from a broken home and a father who abandoned her. And yet, she grew into a beautiful woman, a caring nurse, a dedicated friend, loving neighbor. She created a loving home, taught her children the hardest lesson of all - don't hate...even, even when you have every reason in the world to hate, don't. She lived in a community that is no stranger to terror attacks and yet was learning Arabic so that she could better communicate with the many Arab patients that she had. She was beauty and life and love. She was 38 years old...and will never get to be 39.

As in the case of most tragedies and attacks, Israelis are united - if not in hope, than in pain and in anger. Fury. Disgust. So many emotions. None of them perfect. There can be no peace with people who can murder in cold blood. In violence. Man. Woman. Child. Old. Young. It's over. There's just no hope. Peace partner? Are you kidding me? Not in this world. Even on the left, there is such sadness, such sorrow and pain that we on the right try to comfort them. We need their dreams to balance our lack of hope.

And then, this week, I "met" two people. They share a love of Israel with me. They share the anger and pain. Disgust when the headlines writes absurdly that two Palestinians were shot to death in a stabbing attack...or a ramming attack...or whatever. They rammed into innocent people; they stabbed unarmed women - a mother, a pregnant woman, one that was just growing into a graceful woman.

These two express their emotions and thoughts with kindness and strength; they offer acts of kindness in a way that is natural...but the situation is wrong because the anger I feel...the anger they directed at their own. They are Muslims. One is a Palestinian...and an Israeli.

Both express their love and my world becomes perfect because hope is reborn. I am accused of never speaking with Muslims, of not understanding them and I point to examples that were flawed. Some are from the distant past, when Taysir cursed those in his community that stole and murdered. He did it without encouragement; he comforted by saying in words, thoughts that made me feel guilty. "They should leave this land if they won't live in peace," he told me once. Yes, they should.

"There are many who want peace," he told me after one horrific attack. In tears, I told him that I found that hard to believe. He smiled and said, "me too" and I laughed for the first time that day and served him the strong Turkish coffee he had taught me to make...putting in the HEAPING spoon of coffee...and then a bit more to make sure there's enough. Pouring in the boiling water. Stir until it's all mixed and then the secret. Slowly pour in two heaping spoons of sugar..."what can you do?" he would say.

Most of the other Arabs that I have known over the years tell me about their lives, their families. Their wives, their children. They speak of the violence in terms of economic loss. They curse the terrorists because they disturb the flow of life and work. "We all need to work," says Daoud. "That's what's important. Family and work. The rest is nonsense. They kill for nonsense."

Yes, they do...but really, do I care why they kill? I didn't say this to Daoud. He thought it was funny that I didn't like him having two wives. He tried to explain that he is a very good husband because he still takes care of the "poor one," which was how he referred to his first wife, the mother of his children. We spoke from different worlds, different hearts, and honestly, have different opinions about what peace involves. For Daoud, it was about free access to the Israeli market, the ability to bring his Arab workers into our cities so that they could build and make money, and then having open roads so that he can go back to the large mansion in which he lives...his first Arab wife living on one side, his pretty and young Russian wife on the other.

This time, now, when I needed it most, two Muslims came into my life unexpectedly and said the most amazing things. Their words were unsolicited, spoken because they needed to be said, not because I needed to hear them. They did not speak of peace, but peace is what I heard.

The first time I met Taysir, I said to my husband - if all Arabs were like him, we'd have peace today, tomorrow, always. He took me into his village twice. Once to sit with his wife and he translated as I spoke Hebrew and she answered and asked her questions in Arabic. What a funny world, I thought at the time. Here is this man, sitting and translating so that two women can speak about how much they have in common - our children, our communities.

This week, months after finally deciding that I should write the truth - that there is zero chance for peace...two people came to tell me I was wrong. And they did it simply by showing me that they believe in love. One told me he was raised with hatred and though he lives here, he is happy that his young children do not. I felt I had to be honest. I told him where I lived. "We're neighbors," he responded.

"I'm very right wing," I told him...leaving out the "especially right now" that came to mind.

"I'm probably more right wing than you," he answered.

I told him I was worried about him. He told me that he is careful never to post his picture...and then he sent it to me so that I could see what he looks like. That was an act of trust, of friendship.

And so, what is the most perfect, most important message you'll ever read? Don't give up. There can be peace. One person at a time, perhaps. Maybe way in the future. But there is hope. And it doesn't have to come only when we surrender, only when we give up land for some dream of a temporary peace. It can come when enough Arabs are tired of the hatred and what it is doing to their own children. It can come when more Palestinians become like my new friend.

The perfect message is that we can continue to love life, love our land and the world we have built here. It isn't us that has to change and there are Muslims out there who are telling us that they believe we are on the right path. The people who really seek peace, don't demand land. The problem isn't with land. The problem is the mindset. Those who are open to peace, my new friends tell me, are the ones who don't first ask us to give up security. Peace will not come when we give them more. Peace will come...when their people catch up to us and want peace too.

I don't know if they will ever understand how much I needed we buried Dafna, as we prayed for Michal, as we lost Shlomit to the knife of hatred.

Peace will come because hatred will lose, it has to. That's the perfect, most important message you'll ever read.

UN Sec General Ban and Human Nature

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a mistake a few days ago. He woke up and got out of bed. He shouldn't have. Had he remained in bed, perhaps, perhaps, he might have managed to get through the day without saying something exceedingly stupid. Before a meeting of the UN Security Council, Ban Ki-moon justified terrorism. That's right, he said it was "human nature." His exact words were "It is human nature to react to occupation."

Human nature to stick a knife in someone's head or ram a car into a baby carriage? Honestly, I have no idea what kind of society Ban is from but I'm thinking it (and he) needs to be reprogrammed.

Human nature?

Like the terrorist who was angry when his parents wouldn't let him date his younger he borrowed the family vehicle and rammed it into my son's unit...human nature?

Like the one who focused a rifle on the head of a ten month old child...and pulled the trigger...human nature?

Like the 13-year-old who walked up to a Jewish boy on a bicycle and stabbed him...human nature?

Like the 16-year-old who just stabbed a 38 year old nurse in the head and only stopped his killing spree because he wasn't strong enough to get the knife out...human nature? 

Like Samir Kuntar, who murdered a father and then beat a four year old to death?

Like the Palestinian cousins from Awarta who stabbed a three year old boy and slit the throat of a four month old baby?

Is this human nature?

And this ridiculous justification of terror from the Secretary General of the United Nations? Clearly he doesn't know what a human being maybe I can help a little...

Human nature is Dafna Meir - who blocked a murderer's knife from getting to her children...who fought with her last ounce of strength to save her babies.

Human nature is Roi Klein, who fell on a grenade to save his soldiers from harm.

Human nature is the commander who ran alone into a tunnel to try to save one of his soldiers.

Human nature is the young, unarmed soldier who saw his friend hit by a terrorists car, pinned down and about to be stabbed...running at the terrorist and being stabbed himself to save his friend's life.

Human nature is Ofer Ben Ami, who ran into a terror attack to help a victim, even though in the end he died for his bravery.

Human nature is the mother who saved her infant by shielding the baby with her body as a terrorist exploded himself in a cafe.

Human nature is the father who gathers his devastated, now motherless children into his arms and becomes their world, rather than focus on hate and revenge.

Human nature is the brother who drops everything and rushes north to where his sister is being held by hostages, who rushes in and carries her to safety despite any danger to himself.

Human nature, Mr. Ban, is remembering that despite morons like you, we live in one of the most just, moral countries in the world. A country where Arab and Jew and Christian are free to live as they can nowhere else in the Middle East. A country and a people that will live on long after you are merely a name on some website long since forgotten.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is not the day we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel...for some reason, today is the day Europe and others around the world remember. It doesn't really matter what day is chosen...I'm happy that at least an effort is made to remember.

It will be interesting, however, to watch as Europe it stands closer than any time in the last 70+ years to the very conditions that enabled the Holocaust to happen.

Jews are again being hated, persecuted, attacked, beaten and murdered in Europe today, simply because they are Jews. Hundreds of thousands are in the process of leaving...

You want to remember the Holocaust, Europe? Good for you - but please work harder at preventing the next one than remembering the last one.

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