Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Another: Let me tell you about my country Post

About a month ago, a young driver was killed in a horrific accident in the south of the country. In the midst of all that was happening, police, ambulances, etc. someone picked up a phone and walked off. The driver died. It seems he was driving too fast, as young people sometimes do, and entered an intersection, crashing into another car with such force, the young man was killed in the accident.

The mother of the young man turned to police to ask them about her son's phone, on which she expected to find messages, pictures, all that was left. It seemed, upon investigation, that the phone had been stolen.

This isn't even the first time. It's a simple thing. You pass a scene, you look down and see a phone and think someone is going to step on it. I don't know. Maybe they gave it to the police right away, I don't know. What I do know is that now, as in the past, the police cared enough to do whatever they could to offer the mother some small amount of comfort and so today, they handed the phone to her.

Look at the picture. Look at the mother...and look at the police officer. This isn't that posed picture of people smiling into a camera. This is a mother's endless pain, and a man who sees it.

This is my country - right here. You've got terrorists, arsonists, murderers, traffic accidents, so many things and it all comes down to getting this phone to this mother because...because it will help her hold on, get through the day. See those last pictures of her son.

My country, my Israel.

Story source: https://www.0404.co.il/post/5846abdfa36a44542d8b457b.html

Where My Son Isn't...

The first time I remember "playing" this game of where my son was and was not was in the days and hours before a war.

"Where are you?" I would ask, knowing that the army was going to move Elie's unit any day. The question was which day and to which potential war front they were going to move them. I don't know what I was hoping, but I remember feeling as if someone had punched me in the stomach, removed all the air in the world, when he told me he wasn't "where you left me" or "where you dropped me off last time."

He'd been based in the center of the country and so I often arranged my schedule to visit a client site on Sunday mornings to drop him off on my way, or on Thursdays so I could swing by and pick him up. That was three sons and close to 10 years ago. On that horrible day, Elie told me that he wasn't in the center of the country and I asked, "are you north of where I left you, or south?"

That was a code for are you near Gaza or near Lebanon. I don't know if I was more or less frightened when he answered...south...Gaza. Just a day or two later, war.

Where are sons are is a game we play pretty much all the time. A tank turned over in the north and one soldier was killed, three wounded. The tank is in the north...David was in the north...and so your heart races ahead even though your brain knows he isn't even in the tank division. It doesn't help when the news reports that the tank division was in training with a Givati unit...David's unit. David was close.

An army patrol car is rammed...south of Jerusalem, Davidi isn't there. The world is measured, when y our son is a soldier, by where he is in relation to what happened and though you mourn or worry about everything, the out of control worry spins fastest until you pinpoint those two points on the map that is always in your head. Here is where something happened; there is where he is...breathe.

For these six weeks...five weeks and five days...if all is well, wherever the first pin goes on the map, Davidi won't be there because he has returned for a "break" between years in the army. Six weeks back in his yeshiva. Six weeks on a non-army schedule. Six weeks to have fun, eat, sleep a bit more, be lazy, go out, sleep in his bed at home more.

Six weeks to be the man he has become and put the soldier away for a while. I don't miss the soldier, but I wonder if Davidi does. What goes through his mind? How does it feel to be parted with the rifle that he literally had to sleep with, hold on to, be responsible for?

At nearly 21 years old, I think his thoughts are less complicated than that of a mother who knows that too soon, the uniform will come back, the rifle return. For now, I relish where my son is not. He is not out in the cold and rain of Israel's winter months. He is not in the Golan where Syrian forces have been pushing the borders and firing mortars. He is not at a check point or out on patrol.

Where he is for these brief weeks is where every 20 year old man/boy should be. Thinking a bit about the future, deciding if he'll catch a movie when he comes home this weekend. He'll mess up his room and be lazy about taking out the garbage. And if I'm lucky, as I was last Thursday night, he'll be my mixer of the challah dough and save my arms the exercise.

And if I am to take my own advice, I will try really hard in the next few weeks not to look at the calendar, not to think about how fast five weeks and five days can pass.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Confession Time - I Didn't Vote for Trump

Putting the Trump victory in perspective...I continue to read messages blaming me and others like me for the Trump victory because we dared to argue that Hillary Clinton was not an option.

That isn't to say Donald Trump was the ideal candidate but he was the option that America offered and so he was the choice I promoted. In the end, I think he is going to surprise everyone because he loves his country. He believes it is a land of opportunity; he gets what is so special where the Washington politicians have forgotten. And if, as I have been accused, I am responsible for the election of Donald Trump...I wonder when I should confess that I couldn't even bring myself to vote?

That's right. Guess what...I didn't vote.

Because despite having the legal right, I left America amid the memory of many of my high school friends speaking about how they would sooner leave America than fight for it. It was the post-Vietnam, pre-9/11 America and the youth of my generation just didn't fight. Like the Hollywood celebrities who threatened to abandon America if Donald Trump was elected; my generation was raised to give up, rather than give all.

At least I cared enough about America to be honest, to give the country of my birth my respect and my honesty. I left, which is more than those actors will do and moved to a land where our sons (and daughters) serve with pride. They are raised to know the day will come when they will pick up a rifle and fight. They do not think of leaving if the party for whom they vote is not elected. They simply accept that there will be another election, another chance and for now, we work for the safety of all.

I have had one son go to war two times; I have stayed awake nights knowing my sons are out there...somewhere...in the cold, in the rain, perhaps in an Arab village searching for a suspect or weapons. I have listened to the sound of explosions coming through the phone line when the oldest son called and felt, really, the vibration of the cannon's roar. I have been to funerals for soldiers who didn't come home and for three teenage boys who were murdered because in the eyes of our enemies, even they were soldiers for Israel.

I have cooked for the Sabbath knowing one son was standing with a gun pointed at violent protesters...and I was desperate enough to believe him when he called me and lied through his teeth telling me he was safe back on base because he didn't want me worrying the entire Sabbath. And I listened and cried when he called to tell me that the 23 soldiers taken to the hospital after an Arab rammed his car into them as they walked in Jerusalem were from his unit.

And often when my sons came home in uniform, I looked at them and realized anew what I thought as I packed to leave America over 20 years ago. I do not believe you should live in a land for which you will not fight; I do not believe you can profess to love a land if you are not willing to defend it against those who seek to destroy it.

And the irony is, I didn't vote because even though I believed that Trump was the only viable choice, the best of what there was, I am shocked at the vehemence, the anger directed at me and at those who voted for him. And then, then I saw this posted to Facebook. Snopes, which has lost a tremendous amount of credibility of late, makes an attempt to prove the numbers wrong but in doing so, actually strengthens the argument by proving only a relatively small discrepancy in the numbers.
There are 3,141 counties in the United States.
  • Trump won 3,084 of them.
  • Clinton won 57. **
** Note: A Snopes article confirms that there are 3,141, but claims that Clinton won 164 counties (still, giving Trump over 2,800 counties more than Clinton so I doubt Clinton can claim much of a victory. She still lost the by-counties tally by a huge amount).
There are 62 counties in New York State.
  • Trump won 46 of them.
  • Clinton won 16.
*** Clinton won the popular vote by approx. 1.5 million votes.
In the 5 counties that encompass NYC, (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Richmond & Queens) Clinton received well over 2 million more votes than Trump. (Clinton only won 4 of these counties; Trump won Richmond). Therefore these 5 counties alone, more than accounted for Clinton winning the popular vote of the entire country.
*** These 5 counties comprise 319 square miles.
The United States is comprised of 3,797,000 square miles.
When you have a country that encompasses almost 4 million square miles of territory, it would be ludicrous to even suggest that the vote of those who inhabit a mere 319 square miles should dictate the outcome of a national election. Large, densely populated Democrat cities (NYC, Chicago, LA, etc) don’t and shouldn’t speak for the rest of the country.
*** I couldn't find any place in Snopes that disputes these statistics.He won in at least 2,800 more counties and in apparently about 3 million more square miles.

Donald Trump won, not because America lost its mind, but because it was in danger of losing its soul and it fought back. I watched unbelievable manipulation by the media the day before the elections and thought to myself...America can't be that stupid. And as I watched the reporters come to grips with clear evidence of a Trump victory, I realized that America was not stupid.That America was great, that it wanted to be great. Again. 

I didn't vote for Donald Trump but that doesn't mean I disagree with the results. Despite the numbers, I think Donald Trump was given a clear mandate and I think it is arrogance and unAmerican to fight the will of the people.

Donald Trump won the election. More, for the first time, he showed the logic of the electoral college. The future of America cannot be decided only in New York and California. That is the clear message. And the other message is clear as well. Four years will pass quickly enough - it always does. If you voted for Hillary Clinton, it is time for you to do what you were horrified to think Donald Trump would not do. Accept the results and stop assuming the worst.

Stop because you are hurting friends simply because they dared to disagree with you. You are hurting yourself by focusing on the anger instead of on the future.

But most of all, you are hurting the United States of America by refusing to accept that others are not stupid because they didn't support your choice; that others are not less American. 

A vote for Trump was not a vote against people of color, against people of any particular sexual orientation. It was a vote against Washington, against politics, against media manipulation. But most of all, and perhaps the hardest thing for some people to accept, a vote for Trump was every bit as much a vote for hope and tomorrow as the vote you cast for Clinton.

I love America enough not to vote because I didn't want to be where I am now - accused of doing anything to destroy or harm America. But I knew, as I watched the first election reports come in and Clinton took an early lead, that I was prepared to continue loving an America under Hillary Clinton. 

I didn't vote, but you did. Now it is time for you to accept...accept, or destroy. Destroy friendships and relationships but worse, destroy the foundations upon which the United States was founded.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Thoughts of An Israeli Arson Victim / Survivor

Facebook is an interesting place to visit. At times, it brings out the worst in us...and at times, it shows the best. I hate the worst.

But I love the best...and here's a piece of it. This was written by Rochelle Cohen, who has lived in the beautiful community of Neve Tzuf (Halamish) for 20 years.

By: Rochelle Cohen, Neve Tzuf (Halamish):

Nobody is going to believe me when I tell them that having to flee with our community in the middle of the night, close the door on our house, convinced I would never see the house again, and leaving behind our firefighting son, and friends, and then returning to what is only a very partial and unlivable house, has been a positive experience, but that is the case. Why? let me share  with you a little.

I am Rochelle Cohen, though those of you who remember me will have known me as Rochelle Goldstein. I made Aliyah from Melbourne 27 years, ago, and while I never lived in Caulfield my parents, John and Judy Goldstein did move to Caulfield and loved being part of the community for about 20 years

My family and I have lived in Neve Tsuf, a medium sized yeshuv [village], for the last 20 years, since the birth of our eldest child, Yael, My husband Doron (Darren originally from Sydney), and I chose to live in a yeshuv as that is where we felt we would be best able to contribute to the ongoing building up of the country. We are a community of over 260 families, of all age groups, which is somewhat unusual and we found very attractive.

The founders of the yeshuv, who were the group hardest hit by the fire are in their 70's and 80's, and of course we have many young couples, many of whom are children and grandchildren of those already living there. Neve Tsuf is a beautiful place, surrounded by one of Israel's few natural forests, on top of a hill that overlooks the coastal plains, and we are about 20 minutes from Modi'in, where my mother and brother's family live.

But I have still not explained in any manner what happened the other night, or how on earth I could claim that it was a positive experience.

So, we ate Shabbat dinner at close friends. The husband of that family happens to be the head of the volunteer fire brigade, and my 18 year old son is a volunteer with them for a number of years, There was much lively discussion about the devastating fires all over the country, clearly arson, the handiwork of Arab terrorists that we deal with on a constant basis.

After dinner we went with our hosts to the Bar Mitzvah Oneg Shabbat [Friday night gathering], at our shul [synagogue] hall, of close mutual friends, which was lovely, and then we walked back to our home with one of the Bar Mitzvah guests, whom we were hosting. It was a really enjoyable evening, as when I came in the door we found all our children from the 20 year old to my youngest of 8 all busy in a very lively card game that may have involved shrieking and screaming, but a great deal of laughing too. Eventually we convinced them that we all needed to go to sleep and bade goodnight to our guest, climbing the stairs and preparing for bed. The girls, Shalhevet (15), Ateret-Adi (12) and little Efrat (8), all came in to say good night, and maybe squeeze in another half hour before they would be forced to go to bed, and then we declared our room off limits and sent them out.

I was just falling asleep when Ateret-Adi came back. "Imma" she said, "there is a lady down stairs who really wants to talk to you". Confused to wandered downstairs and she said to me that there were flames to be seen coming from the bottom of the hill in the forest adjacent to our house.

That was it. I turned and shrieked, "Fire, fire, everyone grab a jumper, shoes, and a coat, and let's go", and that's what we did.

I woke our poor sleeping guest, threw a coat on her, it was freezing that night. We had, at Eitan's insistence, packed a bag of just a few things, clean underwear and Tefillin. etc, that was by the front door, just in case, I handed the kids bags, checked the house. We knew the drill, disconnect the gas, kill the electricity, leave doors unlocked for the firemen, leave windows closed, count the kids, leave no one behind, and go. My firefighter had left so fast I had not even said goodbye, but that was alright, he did what needed to be done. He was a good boy, and donned his firefighting boots, not wearing his favourite new hiking boots, so they would not be ruined.

And out into the night we went. By the time we left the house, maybe two minutes after the initial screeching of FIRE the flames were getting close and huge. The kids were a little ahead of us and asked again which way to go. I said go to the Rimels, where we had eaten the night before, they are in the centre of the yeshuv, it will be safer. We are coming.

And so into the night my children herded each other along, comforting and holding. We began the same walk, but hammering on neighbour's doors as we went. My husband went back twice to our immediate neighbour, in their wooden house, trying to convince them to leave, they thought they still had time. They refused him twice, but must have gotten out because I know they are safe and the only remains of their home today are the front steps.

I caught up with my girls while Doron continued banging on doors. Collecting our friend and her family, where I had sent the children we realised that their well-located house away from the forest was no safe haven as the flames were coming up the street, so our we all went into the night, a seriously religious Yeshuv, all running in pyjamas, but so what. At that point the alarms were sounded, people told to evacuate towards the exit of the yeshuv, in cars, so the cars started moving.

Our cars were not an option as they were in the fire zone. My girls by this time found themselves carrying children and babies, not necessarily sure of whose children and babies they were. And then we piled them in ones and twos into passing cars, seat belts be damned, arranging to meet at the designated spot.

When we met up the order came, via our phones, to move to the next yeshuv, Ateret, about 10 minutes away. There was debate. Those with family not far decided to go there and some found friends of ours said they were going to his parents in Modi'in. Great, I said, here are Shalhevet and Ateret-Adi. Take them to my mother. I told them that while I had never sent them sitting on knees and unseatbelted in cars, I said this is the time when one danger our weighs the other. I kissed them and off into the night went my babies.

I grabbed my (not so) little baby, the 8 year old Efrat, Yael, the 20 year old, who was still carrying someone's baby, and we began looking for another car with space only wanting to go as far as Ateret, how could I go further knowing that Eitan was here, fighting fires? We found parents for the baby, returned her, a car with space and the girls and I hopped in. Doron declaring he could hardly leave with Eitan here.

As we approached Areret we turned back to look at our yeshuv. We live at the highest point of the yeshuv, immediately next to the water tower. And from our vantage point on the road we could clearly see the water tower as it was totally lit up by the flames licking it. At that point I turned to the girls and said you realise the house is gone, that's it and it does not matter. The only thing that matters is that Eitan and all the others come out safely.

And that was the point, I realised that was the only thing that mattered.

The people of Ateret wrote a new definition for hospitality, they were waiting for us, directing us to their homes, where beds were made up, or to the boy's yeshiva, for as the boys were not there for shabbat we had all there rooms. We decided to stay there together in case Eitan came looking for us.

Together sort of. Yael had things to do. She began by looking at me and the clothes I had pulled on. She said Imma, you usually have a pen and paper in the pocket of what you are wearing,I thought she wanted me to remove them, it was still shabbat after all. Give them to me, please, she said, I am going to go room to room and make lists of who is where so we can account for everyone.

And off into the night she went. Finding the lost members of families, making phone calls
to see no one was left behind. Searching with a local nurse for insulin for someone who needed it.

At some point Doron turned up,  and we took to comforting Efrat, friends, the families around. Patrolling the streets that gave us a vantage point of our own yeshuv, still lighting up the sky, and thinking about Eitan.

By morning I realised that Eitan was not coming so I told Efrat that we would move to her very close friend's house. And we did. Knocking gingerly on the door at 7:30 on shabbat morning, I found three other families from Neve Tsuf, camped out, but as soon as the mother of the house heard my voice she came running out of her bedroom saying where were you, we were waiting for you. And that is where we spent the day, Efrat's friend gave her shabbat clothes, in fact many of the second graders were wearing her clothes, and somehow our host family who were no expecting guests this shabbat fed all 26 of us with hugs smiles, and a wonderful lunch.

You may wonder about the Bar Mitzvah [the boy who turned 13] . He was called up in front of 2 yeshuvim [communities], and despite the tension, lack of sleep and disappointment, that poor boy was magnificent and read beautifully. The familes in Ateret arrived at shul with bags of lollies to pelt at him, the Rav presented him with the chumash [Bible/Torah] they give the local boys, and they put on a kiddush [literaly the blessing for the wine said Friday night and during the Sabbath day but also refers to a small party held after the services end] for everyone, before making sure that every last refugee had somewhere to eat and be. We had such a warm wonderful shabbat that if you forgot for a moment why we were there, I might have said it was one of the nicest shabbatot [Sabbaths]in a long time.

And as Shabbat went out Eitan called, and everything was alright. His voice meant that he was alive, he was unharmed everyone was safe. Yes, our house was burnt, not to the ground, we are one of the lucky ones, but the three children's room a charcoal shells. No roof, no anything. Slight black remnants of the beds my kids had been lying in only hours before, that's it.

But I have my husband, my children, my friends and neighbours, and nothing else matters.
The Arabs want to set us on fire, the children in their beds. For them, our houses were a bonus, their objective was to burn the entire community in their beds. They failed and we are stronger. There is fire burning in the hearts of Jews everywhere. From the first hour things started arriving. Clothes, house hold goods, help. People.

We are all on fire and nobody is going to put this fire out. The outpouring of love from everyone is unbelievable. Naturally my mother and brother and sister-in-law have done everything imaginable for us, but so have their friends, and friends of friends, and total strangers, and people I have never heard of. We had to ask to tell people no more, the shul hall is literally overflowing with sheets, towels, clothes, shoes, and more.

But the hall is also full of people, sorting, helping fixing, piling. People everywhere. Somebody arrived with a truck from the northern Galil and asked me who was in charge, I said just ask anybody under 18.

The yeshuv found me a rental, are fixing it up for us, brought in yeshiva boys and ulpana girls to pack up our home to keep what remains safe from further damage, carry out the furniture unharmed, clean the rental, find beds, and fridge and washing machine, etc to put there. We noticed a bus parked in front of our house, and when we walked inside, found a group of men from Baltimore working inside with their Rav.  And they won't let me work, claiming I have all the paper work to go through, they will go the slave work.

I ran round the yeshuv yesterday organising various matters and there were chain gangs everywhere of people. Young boys with ropes around them pulling up half burnt trees in places that tractors can't reach. The kids, by which I saw young ones from 13 or 14, and naturally through to the men in their 20's and 30's, clearing, lifting, cleaning, carrying, You would think that nobody has a job to go to, everyone is wearing a new hat and has a new area of responsibility, and their full time job is to rebuild and help.

The girls, small, adult, and everything in between are fixing, cleaning, packing, feeding, hand holding, did I leave anything out?

They are burning, Burning with the desire to help. Burning with the need to build, rebuild and be built, burning with sympathy and empathy. We are burning.

We know how the fire began. The same Arab who was caught throwing molotov cocktails at cars a few months ago drove around the outside of the yeshuv, forest lined, and lobbed molotov cocktails into the drought dry forest on a night a gale force winds. And once there was a spark the rest spread, as they say, like wild fire. But the government is always slow to declare this an act of terror from a legal perspective, so it is unclear who will be footing the bill for rebuilding and when.

One of my daughter's friends, whose house narrowly escaped being burnt, told her about her fears for her grandfather. Her grandfather, who used to live in the yeshuv, and is buried in the cemetery at the bottom foot of the forested hillside, survived the Nazis. Her fear was that he may have survived the crematoria but would be burnt by the Jew haters after his death.

Avigail Ben Nun, one of the founders of the yeshuv, now in her 80's, and homeless, escaped the Nazis walking from Belgium to Switzerland has declared that we we rebuild it all, bigger, better, more beautiful, and we will.

I still don't know how we will rebuild, but it will be done because the evil people have lit a fire in us that will not be extinguished, and when they thought to ignite and destroy, we will let the fire of unity and love and caring burn on. The personification of ahavat yisrael [love of Israel] and achva [love/unity that everybody that I have encountered since has convinced me that good must come from all of this. And it will, because together we will win.

Those same Arabs who want to push us into the sea, but have not yet worked out how, seem  to think that by setting fire to the country we will run for the sea, and be gone. But they are wrong, we will let the fires burn, our fires, the fires of rebuilding and the fires of caring. I am already planning the party when we make a chanukat bayit [dedication party/ceremony] in our built home, and all the wonderful caring people who have given us the strength to get there are not only invited but expected to turn up.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A People Like No Other

I read this story, posted by a Facebook friend, and asked permission to repost it.

With thanks to Batia Macales...a beautiful, only-in-Israel story...

Only in Israel

“In our area, the fires were just over the hill. They were so close that we could feel the heat, cough from the soot and ash, and hear the sirens... a lot. It was all anyone talked about. Some were packing and all that. Many parents didn’t let the kids out to avoid inhaling whatever chemicals may be in the air. Everyone cursed the Arab-arsonists with all their heart. 

During the height of the action, I went to the local makolet [local mini-market] and stood in with my items. The line, as you can imagine, is long. People are buying cleaners of all sorts because everything is covered in soot. 

“Slicha! Excuse me!” a guy shouts, “But I must go to the front of the line!” 

He is holding a box of toothbrushes and a lot of toothpaste. He said that he only had a half hour off work, and since there was a lot of traffic, we had to let him through quickly.

Geez! A man wants a bunch of tooth brushes to stock up for the next ten years! Urgent, you know? 

Well, one lady told him off, “Look! We are all on edge! Did you inhale Carbon Monoxide or whatever? No? Then stand in line! Here, we have no idea whether we will have a home tonight. Even if we have a house, between the planes and helicopters, and the sirens, and the smoke, who can sleep? And you need toothbrushes?” 

Turning from him, she said to no one in particular, “I guess everyone goes crazy in different ways!”

I must say that the man was big, very big. If he had wanted to, he could have pushed her (and everyone else) out of line. Instead, he blushed and somehow drooped his shoulders. 

He softly replied, “I am taking these to the shelter. There are people who only have their purses and a few diapers. Who remembers a toothbrush when you only have five minutes to evacuate? Food, drink, and clothes, they are getting. But no one thinks about toothbrushes, so I thought I’d take a half hour and get some... to make lives more bearable. You know?”

The line got very quiet and cleared a path for him. As he approached the cashier, the woman who yelled at him came running with all the pacifiers that were on the shelf.

 “Take!” she commanded. “There are babies, maybe not everyone has pacifiers! I’ll pay for them!” 

Immediately, all the customers abandoned the line and began sweeping items off the shelves - Toothpicks! Lighters! Even cloths to clean glasses! They dropped everything in the man’s basket! 

“Do you have room for more in your car?” 

One person asked, as people continued bringing miscellaneous things.
Meanwhile, the man just stood there, smiling like a birthday boy who just got a huge surprise! Now I've got this unbearable burning in my nose... 

And I think to myself, “I was in a war. I know what it’s like. Besides, I'm grown, married and all that.” But I can’t help it. I am just about to cry—my soul was wide open! We are all one. The man tries to pay something but the store owner turns him down. 

“My grandfather was a Rabbi,’ he explains, adding “My Zaide would turn over in his grave if I took your money! Go! Go!” 

I mean, who could imagine. But that’s not the end! In the back of the store stood a "Russian.” He was as non-Jewish as you can get. He was standing with a carton of milk and a bun in his hand. 

With trembling lips and a tear on his cheek, he cried out in a thick accent, “You people!! I want to be like you!! I want be a JEW! Take me please!”

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Message from a Tanker

Yesterday, something happened. I don't really know what or why. The news says that 86 young men went to start their service for the IDF and refused order to join the tank division. This is pretty much unheard of.

A few refuse each time - for one of two reasons, typically. Either, they want a more prestigious unit, want something harder, or they want something considered easier. Some want a more dangerous combat role; others don't want combat at all.

The army tries. It tests the man that comes to them and listens to the boy inside as well. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes a boy comes, all pumped up from talk with his friends, and tries out for a unit beyond his abilities - and sometimes the army catches on and forces him down; and sometimes they don't catch on and the boy moves forward.

And then months can pass and the boy succeeds or months pass, and the boy fails.

And sometimes, the unit is full and so they take their next best guess and sometimes the boy doesn't like it and the parents are mad that he didn't get what he wants.

Sometimes, they look at the boy and see all the physical problems he has had since birth, a rough birth and early childhood until a loving family took him in and filled his life with love and support. But the army looks at the boy and the disabilities and scars not remain, not the champion he has become. They think they are being kind by offering to release him without having to serve and he fights.

He goes around and gets qualified doctors and army officers and volunteers to say he is stronger than he looks in body; that his mind and soul are determined. He will fight the army...and they look into his eyes and forget the limp he walks with, the body that will never be totally normal and they agree. Fight, they tell him...they let him...and he does.

And sometimes, they look into the boy and say, fight, we will let you...and the boy doesn't want to. He doesn't want to be in a combat unit despite the gift of a body strong. He doesn't want to be in tanks because he says society looks down on tanks...

And, in some cases, the army allows female soldiers into a unit and a religious boy comes and says, I'll fight, but not in a unit with females. I won't carry the extra load - because that is what happens. Girls, women, are every bit as smart as men but they aren't physically stronger. A man can lift those heavy artillery shells; most women can't.

And a tank is a very close and closed environment and when you are in close quarters, there is a lot of physical contact and no, they don't want this. They want to fight, but not like this.

And so, for whatever reason, 86 soldiers came and said to the army - no, we won't.

And the army was surprised. It happens - perhaps more often than you can imagine. As a show of force, the army says - accept and follow orders or we will punish you.

And the soldier either gives in, or says - then punish me.

And the army looks around and says again, we'll really punish you. We'll put you in jail for a month. We'll take your phone and you won't go home.

And the soldier either gives in, or says - then punish me.

Yesterday, this is what happened for 86 new soldiers. And the army started their punishment. Who will break first - the soldiers or the army - is anyone's guess.

Perhaps their complaints are legitimate; perhaps they are not. But one soldier, one "tanker" - one honorable soldier from the tank division is angry...angry, and proud, and spread this message:

The soldier writes:

I'm not usually one that posts [to Facebook] but in the aftermath of 86 soldiers refusing to join the tank division, I could not keep quiet.

It is a great honor to serve the most powerful division in the ground forces. I am proud to be in the Armored Corps. I'm in the tank to fight (and win). Feel free to share.

And so I do - kudos to this soldier and every soldier who fights for Israel - all of them...

...those in the tank division.

...those in artillery, my oldest son and all of his brothers in Totchanim.

...those in the Kfir ground forces, my middle son and all those who served in Kfir - Chaim, BZ, and others.

...and all those who serve and served in Givati...my youngest son, David, my oldest adopted son Yakov, and so many others.

...and those in the Air Force.

...and those who jump from planes and in between, like the others, work to protect this land.

...and those who man the Iron Dome system and shoot down missiles as they come towards our cities

...and those in the Intelligence units who keep our combat soldiers and our entire country safe.

...and those in the support units - those who monitor the borders, those who keep the bases stocked and safe. Those who drive and cook, those who handle the communications, those who monitor our enemies.

...and those who sing and entertain our troops, those who feed them, who launder the clothes they wear, those who stock the supplies.

...and those who help the commanders and officers so that they can focus on watching over this land.

...and those who watch our skies and those who endlessly help our soldiers by watching over their families.

...and those who rush to families when their soldiers are hurt...or worse.

...and those who stay in the lives of bereaved families, after those other soldiers brought them the worst of all news and hen quietly disappeared.

...and all those I can't or forgot to mention.

Kudos to you all - you are our present and our future and we thank you for your service.

And to the 86 - do what you must, but make sure in following your conscience, even your religious convictions, please make it clear, to serve this country in any capacity - to serve is to honor and we honor you in return.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why Can't You Understand?

Or maybe the question is how can you possibly understand the horror of watching your land burn? It is an open wound you don't forget for a moment, a thought that stays in your mind as you go about your day.

The horror of what is happening is there.

My daughter posted this video and I thought - there, that's it...that's the horror of it. If you really want to understand what it is like...freeze the video and look at the city in front of the mountain. Imagine that you live in that city with the beautiful view of the mountains gently climbing beside the city. Imagine your house is right there...

Now run the video and as you watch in twenty seconds what took an hour to film, imagine for a moment, sitting before you window watching as the mountain is consumed with flames. Imagine the smells that come and the thought that maybe you should take your children from their beds, pack up the photo albums that can never be replaced. Your wedding album, the baby clothes you put away hoping to give to grandchildren not yet born because they were once worn by your babies. The new shirt you bought just last week.

Imagine looking at the silver spoons that come from your grandmother. You need to take them too. If your house would go on fire, the heat would be enough, surely, to melt them to nothing. The albums, the laptop computer you got last year. You have to take it. The mixer you bought last year...the one you use every week. You can't take it. You can't take the treadmill you bought last year, it's took big and really, don't you wish you'd used it more? Will it be there when you come back?

As you look around, the police come and knock on your door. You have to leave now, they tell you. You stare at him and he tells you not to worry. They'll watch the house for you. You want to laugh. Watch the house? Will you watch it burn? But there is nothing the man can do. His job is to get you out of here. There are others, up there on the mountain, fighting the flames back.

You can't think of them now or you'll break. You need to take the children and the albums, the spoons...you can't leave the spoons...and the blanket your grandmother made. Your jewelry, her necklace that your mother gave you, your ring you only wear when you go out...the passports. Your driver's license. The extra set of keys. Keys to a house that might not be here when you come back. What else?

Oh God, what else can you take in the minutes you have? You look out the window...the glow is brighter, larger. Why does it seem closer? You need to call your sister, your mother. Your mother-in-law. The dog...you have to take the dog.

You get it all together. You;re ready to walk out of the house, not sure it will be there when you come back. You take your sleeping children from their beds, wrap them in blankets and carry them to the car. They'll never remember this night, no matter how it ends. You'll never forget it, no matter how it ends.

How long have you lived there? Will you lose all there is? What else should you have taken? You can smell the fire. You buckle your kids into the car. The trunk is stuffed. And you realize that all that is precious is there and all that you left behind...isn't worth your lives.

You drive to the end of the block. To the right is the mountain, on fire. You join a long line of departing cars. The children have gone back to sleep. You turn to the left, to life, and drive away. Did you take the spoons? What about the matching fork? It was in the dishwasher, now left behind. You can't go back...only forward. Forward to safety. Out of the smoke, away from the flames...even if the flames follow you.

And all over Israel, you know this scene is happening again and again because as high as the mountains are, that's how much they hate us. You can't put out the fire of their hatred and so all you can do is focus on life. What they burn, we will rebuild. What they destroy, we will recreate.

A time lapse video by Noam Armonn Noam Armonn Time Lapse Photography:


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Painful Statistics

You can track the pain of my country by the statistics on my blog.

The first time I noticed a spike was days into the first time Elie went to war. I was getting tons more comments (and hits) than ever before. I got to ten or eleven thousand hits a day and thought to myself, hey, all I have to do is have a son in a war...forget that. I was thrilled when the hits dropped back to normal...a few hundred more people per day, that I could handle.

The next time there was a spike, I wasn't as surprised. Elie was in another war and again, I prayed for normal.

The third time, Elie was next to be called in, but Israel was fighting, the south was again under bombardment, and people were flocking to the site.

And now, once again - over 5,000 people today, and the day according to my US-based server is only half over. They say that statistics and traffic and visits and hits are important for a website.

I guess if you're trying to make a lot of money, that's true but if you just want peace and quiet...less is so much more.

I'll give up the fires, the stoning attacks and more...thank you for visiting my site, really but I don't need 10,000 people a day to come here...my country needs peace. We need the fires to end.

Don't go away - but help please. Pray - pray for peace for Israel; pray for the families who have lost their homes. Pray for the wounded, the frightened.

Pray for the firefighters and the troops who are out there.

Pray for my son, and all the sons and daughters of Israel.

Pray for peace.

Fire Fighting Planes in the Sea (Video) and a Warning

I saw this video - watched it twice and thought...wow...

And then I posted it to Facebook...and others thought...wow...

Except for one very funny man named David who wrote, "PSA - don't go scuba diving in the next few days - you might end up in a forest!     (PSA=Public Service Announcement)

And I laughed...not for the first time in a week, but pretty darn close. We are all hoping the tide has turned and that the fires, now under control, will be stopped soon. I'm scared that the Palestinians thought they accomplished something...they did - they destroyed close to 2,000 homes, forced 100,000 people from their homes, destroyed 130,000 dunams. But they also failed because once again, they united Israel into one people, determined, angry, dedicated. Massive donations are pouring in to help the families, communities are organizing, homes are being offered, government organizations are allocating immediate funds. People are donating clothes, toys, furniture...

We will rebuild...but in the meantime, maybe David's right, be careful where you go scuba diving!


New York Times - J'Accuse

Dear New York Times,
I accuse you of dishonest reporting, of fraudulently manipulating facts. I accuse you of inhumanity, cruelty, of intentionally misguiding to your readers. I accuse you of causing pain. I accuse you of demeaning the very definition of journalism. You have failed to report "all the news that's fit to print" by hiring and supporting self-proclaimed journalists who use the platform you give them to spread lies and inaccuracy.
One Israeli

Could it be that the New York Times has failed to report over 400 fires burning in Israel? Missed the fact that over 130,000 dunams of land have been destroyed, almost 2,000 homes destroyed or damaged. Have you missed the fact that last week almost 100,000 people were evacuated? This was the question we asked a few days ago. Now, we ask a different one; now we wish you had continued your failures because the reports, when they finally happened, are even worse than the omission.

Days later, it seems you might have almost caught up - you host a video on the fires. You show a restaurant owner in Haifa who lost his much-loved restaurant - perhaps because he makes a point of mentioning how many have offered to help, including Palestinians and the accusation of arson is hidden in terms of "someone said that maybe it was caused by someone throwing a pipe bomb" in the forest.

Yes, yes, you have to put that special angle on everything you report...but okay. What else is in the coverage you finally give? No, no numbers. That would be too much - to tell people of the evacuated, the wounded, the acres and acres of land deliberately burned, the homes destroyed.

A mother caught with a child in the car - that was decent reporting. The scenes are indeed horrific and kudos to you for showing the horror of a city on fire. Terrifying for a mother to have to contemplate where her child would be safer...in a car surrounded by fires and smoke and stuck in a traffic jam as thousands try to flee, or going on foot, out there in the smoke?

So you had to spin this story of a nation under attack, didn't you?

Well, you certainly couldn't speak to the Israeli police or army - they would tell you about dozens of arsonists already arrested.

They would tell you of the evidence they have collected; the videos showing people...Arabs, Palestinians setting fires.

They would show you villages burned, houses destroyed. Hundreds of people huddled together in a shelter waiting for word on whether their homes had been destroyed.

So you couldn't show them, you couldn't talk to them..."what to do?" as my children used to say when they were young.

What can the New York Times do when all evidence proves a massive wave of "pyro-terrorism" has been launched by Palestinians against the very land they claim they love? What to do?

So, you interview someone from "civil defense."

No, not an Israeli one, of course not. But a Palestinian, one who speaks of how THEY have gotten more than 100 messages from their fire fighters that they are READY to share in fighting the fires in Haifa and Jerusalem. Seriously?
And you let the man continue with the lies...

"This kind of fire needs a lot of time to try to investigate before going to identify the direct reason."

Really? Why don't you just ask the dozens of suspects we arrested for setting them? Israel has proved way more than half are direct arson attacks - in some cases, fires starting in FOUR locations surrounding a village - at the same time. A lot of time? It takes minutes.

"Forty-two percent," says the Palestinian chief of mis-information, "is coming from people, you know, people throwing cigarettes."

Cigarettes don't explode a forest in minutes, nor do they start four separate fires on three sides of a village simultaneously.

"Twenty-five percent," the moron continues, "of the fire cases is coming from the playing of children." I guess if you call men in their twenties and thirties children, you might be right. I guess if you call adolescents bent on destruction and murder "children," you may be right.

"The rest of the percentage," because clearly he knows who started all our fires," is coming from all the reasons of the fire, that's including electricity."

Well, this one hits close to home because on Shabbat, Elie was designated as an ambulance driver and David was his volunteer and they were called to a fire in our city. A building's electric system sparked and several apartments were damaged and 12 people injured.

But...but...this fire isn't being counted in the four hundred attacks in the last few days, of which over 200 have been confirmed as arson already.

And then the insult from this obnoxious and ignorant man. He wants to tell the world this is the second big fire we have had in 6 years - never mind that the last one was set by a two Arab brothers from Usfiya who were arrested for negligence which caused fire (police were unable to prove arson as they can in so many cases here).

He says, "they [Israelis] should build the capacity to try to stop these kinds of risks." I guess we should take his advice. Perhaps a large wall, a security wall would suffice. Perhaps from every village that harbors an attacker, we should demand compensation.

The current estimate of damage is well over 500 million shekels. Perhaps the New York Times could ask Mahmoud Abbas to issue us a check, though I think we prefer cash. Yes, that's right - cash from Abbas and an apology from The New York Times.

Following is one video: the narrator explains how the Arabs light the fire and then calmly walk back to their village, unconcerned that they have just committed a crime. He explains that an Israeli car comes by, stops and calls for help and that the Arabs clearly don't know what they are doing. They set the fire in a place unlikely to cause much damage.  It is sheltered from the wind and more, they set it among olive trees, which are extremely hard to burn...

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