Monday, July 25, 2016

From One Soldier's Mother to Another

Arranging a holiday in Israel can be very interesting. It seems like the whole country goes on vacation at the same time. Occupancy in the north during the summer and in the south during the winter reaches, quite literally, close to 100%. Get that spot early, or you're not going to find a place.

We found a place - or at least my amazing older daughter did. And then we found out that David would be out of the army...the week before. So we decided to check around and see if we could find somewhere else to stay. I started calling and realized the week we want coincides with a huge musical festival up north...wonderful.

I called a bunch of places and then got desperate enough to ask one if perhaps she knew of another. I explained that I wanted my "soldier" to join us. That we already have a place the following week, but I really, really want to give him that time, that break. I've never gone on vacation without him and I don't want to start now if I can help it.

"Where does he serve?" she asked.

"Givati,," I answered.

And then, the most amazing thing happened. She started to speak. I'll write down what I remember as best I can,

"My son served in Givati too. It was very hard. You know they go into Gaza, right?"

Yes, I told her, already hearing the dread pour into my voice. "I don't want him in Givati," I confessed.

"Listen to me. This is what you have to do. Every day, you have to give tzedukah [charity]. Find a poor family and every day, give them a few shekels. And pray. Say to yourself, 'he should go in peace and he should serve in peace and he should be safe and come home in peace. Him and all of the soldiers of Israel."

I told her again how much it scares me; she told me again that she it will be okay, just to give charity every day. Can you imagine speaking with a complete stranger and having her bless your child and offer you her support? It happens here all the time. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton

My thoughts...mine alone. Not meant to interfere. No money was distributed, no attempt is being made to infiltrate the US to undermine any campaign (as compared to what the Obama administration did during the last Israeli elections).

I'm smart enough to know that if we were stupid enough to attempt this, America...or what is left of it...would respond to us as we responded to Obama (Israel's Message to Obama).

So, I offer my thoughts...and mine alone...on the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton:

I am more amazed by the endless need to attack the other person that typifies almost all Facebook posts. And the only posts I've seen the have been positive about either candidate are usually lies. The best single post I've seen is quite simple "We're Screwed, 2016".

I have been accused of being interested in only one aspect of the US elections - how the candidate relates to Israel. I can't totally deny this because while I believe which candidate you choose will impact on your future economic situation and perhaps some personal freedoms, I don't think the very lives of most Americans hangs on the balance of how the next election goes.

Potentially every Israeli life, including and especially the soldiers of Israel, could be on the line. I am proud of my country, Israel, for taking the necessary steps and cultivating other relationships outside the one with the US. This will be needed if Clinton is elected.

But I will also tell you that again and again, I see that what happens to Israel first, spreads to the rest of the world. We lived through terrible days of suicide bombing attacks, now they are very rare in Israel (thank God and the IDF). While terrorism is still a reality in Israel, far more attacks are averted or mitigated by our strong and constant attempts to fight it. We watch as horrible things happen in Brussels, Orlando, London, San Bernadino, Paris, Nice, and now Munich. Left unchecked, terror will spread and spread. And who the US chooses in this election, will likely have a direct impact on how the US fights terror (or even if it fights terror), in the coming years.

What boggles the mind is how many of you now agree Obama was a disaster, just as we here in Israel said he would be, but are prepared to go with Clinton when we say the same thing about her and the policies she will implement, the people she will empower. Fool us once, shame on him...and Obama did. Fool us twice even, shame on him...and Obama did. Fool you three times, and Clinton will, shame on you.

At some point, however, you can't fight stupid. Do what you gotta do, America. The world is watching. Your society is imploding. It is horrible to watch from outside. Those of us who live in Israel by choice still care deeply for the US and it is very painful to sit here and watch you choose between two such horrendous options. Worse, to watch as you pick the worst of the worse.

Clinton has now picked a Vice President who has a clear anti-Israel position. Oh yeah, he'll mouth the words about supporting our backs...just like Obama did. But like Obama and Clinton, they despise the Israeli government, and the vibrant Israeli democracy that brought it to power.

I firmly believe that in four years, if you elect Clinton, America will be weaker and more isolated, thousands more will have died in terror attacks. As for Israel, you may not believe this next statement, but I do...we here in Israel will be fine. We are strong. We love this land and will defend it.

Four years ago, when Obama was re-elected, I wanted Israel to send the US a message, "God bless you and keep you safe...see you in four years."

Well, it's four years later. If Clinton is elected, I hope we'll send that message because there will be no reason to attempt a closer relationship. Israel gets financial aid...yeah, we do...and we paid for that aid right back in many ways. It is not at all clear that Israel needs the US more than the US needs Israel - ask your military...or what is left of it after Obama has systematically worked to destroy it.

Look at the innovation coming out of Israel. I'll tell you a secret...ready? What you see is nothing compared to what is happening here. You've seen pieces of it - Iron Dome - that WE developed, to meet and knock missiles out of the sky to protect our people, and now a Tunnel Discovery technology that is finding and destroying Hamas tunnels.

What else is there? Don't worry - there's more. We'll deal with what we have to, no matter who you elect. With great disgust and sadness, I hope it will be Donald Trump.

I hope it will be Donald Trump, because I'd rather stand with the United States before the Russians, the Germans, Asians and Africans.

I hope it will be Donald Trump, because a united stand against Iran is the only way out of the dangers ahead that would (and will) be presented by a nuclear Iran. My country will fly alone if it has to but it would be better for the west if it wasn't Israel alone.

I hope it will be Donald Trump, because I don't think the US military can survive another years of Obama under a new name.

I hope it will be Donald Trump, because he is a Washington outsider and it's time to bring in someone from the outside to change the corruption that has robbed America of so much of its greatness.

I hope it will be Donald Trump, because Israel is an important ally and deserves better treatment than it got from Obama or will get from Clinton and Caine, who supported Obama's ongoing attempts to humiliate and insult Israel's leaders.

I hope it will be Donald Trump, because the alternative is so much worse and because the next few years will force America to deal with very similar problems that Europe is struggling with right places like Paris, Nice, Brussels, London, and Munich.

I hope it will be Donald Trump...

I hope it won't be Hillary Clinton. I hope it won't be Tim Kaine.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Watch This Video - Best 21 Minutes You'll Have Today

Strung in the middle of this 21 minute video are three special videos, two of which I've seen before.

It's called A Miracle of Israel...I think the title is wrong. It could be THE Miracle of Israel because Israel is truly a miracle and this video shows that. It could be The Miracles of Israel because this video shows at least two miracles have have happened.

Turn up your speakers, watch my beautiful country unfold before your eyes. Listen to a soldier describe what happened when his unit went into Gaza. Let me know if you manage to listen and not cry...

My only complaint about this video is that it is only 21 minutes long. I could have watched it for hours...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In My Little Country Today

In my little country today, it was sunny and the streets of Jerusalem were filled with people shopping, walking, eating. It was a normal summer day in a normal country. There are those who want to say life is not normal in Israel, but it really is. Kids play in the sunshine; parents balance jobs and kids and camp and summer plans.

Planes are flying in and planes are flying out. Sales; school supplies, the train beeps and then continues on its path.

I went to work, went shopping and bought some new towels, came home and started cooking. Normal. Really.

Same road, NOT our car, someone else. No injuries
Nothing exploded (at least so far); no one was stabbed. For that alone, we are grateful. About four hours ago, my husband called to tell me that after his current meeting, he had yet another one set up. He's going to be home late.

Two hours later, on his way there, Arabs threw a rock at his car. He saw the rock as it came towards the car, heard the boom as it hit. He did the right thing - he kept going.

He called me and told me what happened; I called the police. He's fine. He's fine. He's fine. The car doesn't even seem to be damaged, but who can tell? It's an old car and anyway, he's fine.

Another car was hit, it's windshield broken by rocks; another car, further down the road and a bit later, was also hit - this time by a bullet, which was found in the car.

In all incidents, no one was hurt, thank God.

We called the police and explained where it happened. A short time later, someone from the army called me to ask the exact location and ask what had happened. I told them what I could, that I wasn't in the car, and gave them my husband's telephone number.

And then, as is customary in Israel, I wished him a "quiet" night. Quiet is a euphemism for peaceful, terror-attack free. And then, he wished me one back. That made me smile. He's out there on duty tonight; I'm here in my home.

So, all I can do is wish for peace and quiet in my little country tonight. 

A Scene of Israel

I love taking pictures. Last night when I got out of work...I was speaking on the phone so I couldn't take a picture of what was happening before my eyes. One part of my brain kept the conversation going, wishing I could somehow disconnect with my client and enjoy the scene.

There must be a picture somewhere, but I haven't find it.

Here's a picture of the scene without the scene. This is the location. Look and then try to imagine.

Take away the train, it only came later...take away the sunshine. It was about 9:00 p.m. - completely night, a summer night in a beautiful city.

There, this second one is better. Dark streets...not so empty...and music. That was the first thing I noticed - music.

And people in a group walking in the center of the road, on the tracks...all around me, people were coming out of buildings and gathering near the edge of the tracks. People were clapping, singing, taking pictures and videos.

And there in the middle, about 200 strong, walked along the light rail tracks, straight up the center of Jerusalem. Then, I saw a chuppah, a wedding canopy, being marched down the center of the tracks.

I was wondering if maybe there would be a bride and groom but I couldn't see anyone under the chuppah as four men carried the poles and others danced in and out from underneath. At one point, the train came through and a policeman rushed to order everyone out of the way but still they kept singing and dancing.

It was an event that happens regularly all over the country, each time to great joy. Not a wedding, but the dedication of a new Torah scroll. Often written to honor or remember a loved one, the writing of a Torah scroll is a dream for many of us. It's very expensive, takes tremendous skill and dedication and time and so it is only logical that when it is done, it is brought to the synagogue with song and dance and celebration.

I've seen it many time; but this was the first time I saw it right there in the middle of the city, watched over by dozens, guarded by police and security.

It was, quite simply, a symbol of our life, a scene that is so very Israel. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Worst Day of their Lives

Everyone has bad days. We even sometimes have days that we call, "the worst!" as in "OMG, this is the WORST day of my life." But we usually don't mean it. I think there are few worse things in life than seeing the worst day of your own life, or anyone else's.

Today is the worst day in the lives of several of the people I saw today and it was particularly painful knowing that I could do nothing but watch the horror unfold. I have been, for most of the last nine years, a soldier's mother. I don't think there is a day that goes by when I don't worry, that I'm not working hard to push away the feat

There is no standard for funerals. Sometimes the family is there before the guests and they greet you and speak of their loved one. Sometimes, they are overwhelmed, as would be expected, and so you hug and move on, almost knowing that in the hours and days that follow, there's a decent chance they'll never even remember you were there.

Today, I went to the funeral of a 20-year-old soldier who was killed in the line of duty. I listened as brothers spoke, as sisters cried. All around me, people were holding each other and wishing they could be anywhere but where they were, where they had to be.
He decided to come to Israel, learn Hebrew within a few months, and get into the unit in the army he wanted. And he did it. I admired him so much, and I don't think I even told him that. I told other people, I bragged about my brother, but I'm not sure if I told him."  -- Shlomo's brother Baruch.
Today was the worst day of their lives - this mother who brought this boy into this world, had him for 20 years, and has now lost him. I went because like the hundreds of other people who were there, I wanted to show my support; I wanted them to know that the land that their son, Shlomo Zalman, had chosen to serve, had chosen and loved him in return.
You were the young one in the family, the baby, but you never wanted to accept that. You were so mature and wanted to do everything the older siblings were doing. We might have given you a hard time sometimes, but we loved you so so much, because you were our baby. And I miss you so so much, my baby. -- Shlomo's sister, Baila
He was the one they loved to tease; the one they ordered around. He was the baby of the family, the youngest and yet the one who always knew what he wanted most in life. In another month, he was to return to their home and spend a month playing with his nieces and nephews. Now he never will, and that thought devastated his sister and in hearing it, devastated each of us.

There are so many things that we as a people share. We share a past that dates back thousands of years, a collective conscience in many ways, that allows us to recognize the other in distant lands. A stranger in Amsterdam, in London, even in India will walk up to you and suddenly the reason they approach you is obvious. They too are Jews, seeking the familiar, the connection.

At a conference in Germany, a man approaches me and speaks in Hebrew. For that moment, he is an anchor to my real world, and I am his. It has happened again and again to me when I travel. It is an unspoken, unbroken bond.

Today that bond had me travel to a small village in the center of Israel to stand and watch people that I have never met before, suffer through a day they will never forget. It will always be the day that changed their lives, a day they will wish a million times that they never had to experience.
Today is a day of tragedy for the family, for the army, and for the Jewish nation everywhere. Shlomo joined the army to follow in the footsteps of four brothers and two sisters who did national service. Shlomo, you always smiled, you always were there to help whoever needed it. You could have done a shorter term of service as part of the diaspora volunteer program, but you decided to do the full three years. You will always be an example to all of us, to your brothers and sisters, and everyone who knew you. -- Shlomo's brother Jeff.
I cried today for Shlomo Rindenow, for the sweet boy they spoke about, for the husband and father he never got to be. And I cried for his parents and his siblings and their families and I thought about what a horrible day it was, really and truly, the very worst.

May tomorrow bring them comfort; may the memories of the gift that was their son bring them light in the darkest of days.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

In My Little Country

It's been a heck of a busy day.

Early in the morning, my phone beeped with news that shouldn't have been shared. A grenade had gone off in the north...there were injuries, possibly fatalities. Hours later, this was confirmed and at this moment, a family is flying from Israel to attend the funeral tomorrow of their 20 year old son, who came to Israel to live here, to serve in the army, as several other children in the family have already done.

Later, it would come out that the grenade that detonated killed two soldiers, one was the lone soldier whose family is flying now; the second was a Druze soldier from the north. Ironic because a short while after he died, another Druze, this one a security guard for the light rail in Jerusalem, saved dozens if not hundreds of lives when he identified and with another guard rushed to stop a terrorist armed with bombs who was about to get on the light rail in the center of Jerusalem.

And then, as if that wasn't enough excitement in my little country. A drone was intercepted by Patriot missiles as it infiltrated into Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights.

There are days that are roller coasters of emotion here. Even the hint of a soldier's death brings on terror and pain. When you hear that a terrorist attack has been averted, the sun shines a bit brighter, you walk a bit more sure that whatever diving plan there is, Israel remains protected.

When you hear that Israel has fired a missile to ward off a threat, you think war might be coming, yet again to your small country.

My first thought when I heard about the almost-terror attack this morning was that I was grateful that there would be no funerals, no mourning families. In the end, there are two families in Israel who are in mourning now. Tomorrow, there will be a a funeral - of a 20 year old soldier whose family is flying in from New Jersey right now.

In the end, tomorrow, I will go to the funeral of a lone soldier who died for Israel today and somewhere in the sadness, I'll try to remember, as always, that there are blessings in life despite the pain.

The Bomb I Didn't Meet

Minutes ago on Yaffa Street in Jerusalem, alert light rail guards detained a suspicious Arab, wrestled him to the ground and separated him from the bomb that he was carrying. Less than 15 minutes before that, I was on another train, going in the same direction. I exited at that stop, bought a salad, and continued on to work. My train was perhaps one or two before the one that this terrorist attempted to board.

I didn't meet the bomber. I didn't meet the bomb. The bomb didn't explode. In the center of Jerusalem, in the center of the center of Jerusalem. The bomb didn't explode.

My phone beeped with the warning even before I had entered my office. Terrorist caught on Rechov [Street] Yaffo; area closed down. Police disarming the bomb. In nearby stores, workers and customers were quickly ordered to evacuate. In a video that has already been posted, you hear the police warning someone to get back.

The sun is shining on my beautiful city. I'm in my office, a five minute walk away. All the "what could have beens" are going through the minds of hundreds of people. It is an insane life to lead; to always be on alert; to always suspect. What saved the day here in Jerusalem - and what cost the French 84 lives is a "dirty" concept called profiling.

Profiling works. It is as simple as that. Today, it worked in Jerusalem and dozens, potentially hundreds of people are continuing their day, a bit shocked, a bit shaky. It would have worked in Nice if the police had dared to check a Muslim man in a non-refrigerated truck who said he was there to give ice cream away.

Jewish Press Covering this Morning's Attempted Bombing
I have been stopped in Vienna, in Amsterdam and in London, asked to show my passport, explain why I am traveling, my bags searched. They wanted to know if I had any liquid above 100 ml. One time, I had to surrender my toothpaste.

"What are you looking for?" I ask repeatedly. As my mother once asked in Frankfurt years ago (then she was 67), now I ask, "how many 55-year-old Jewish grandmothers who live in Israel hijack planes?"

"Will you remove your hat?" one security guard asked me in London.

"No," I responded.

"If I take you to a private room, will you remove your hat?" she asked. "Is it for religious reasons?"

"Yes and yes," I answered and so she escorted me to a private room where I showed her that I have more gray hairs than I'd like to admit and no bomb under my scarf.

That's when I told her that what she was doing made no sense and asked about the activity of those Jewish grandmothers.

This time, I finally got an answer, while all the other times my comment was ignored. "You're right," said the harried security guard. "My father is from Israel. You're right. But it pays my rent."

"On that, I'll agree," I told her. It pays her rent...and that's about it.

Profiling saved the lives of Israelis, yet again, this morning on Jaffa Street. Dozens of families are not rushing to hospitals, or worse, at this moment. All because alert security guards did their job with all the tools in their possession - and profiling is one of them.

And yet again, a special thank you to the security guards of Israel who put their bodies and their lives in front of ours every day. May God bless you. May God watch over you. May God keep you safe.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Message to Israel and France

The first rule in writing is to know your audience. Without that important information firmly planted in your brain, you are likely to misdirect and therefore fail to achieve your goal...that's if you have a goal beyond the simple need to express your thoughts. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

Today, I have a goal but my "audience" regularly is a bit different than my target and yet, I'll share my thoughts here anyway.

I have a message for the French - I'll post that below. I also have a message for Israelis...and this is it:
Yes, they should and they don't.

No, I don't understand why they don't and yes, it's pretty obvious that they should.

No, I don't believe they will change today because of yesterday.

But...but when human beings are in pain, it is our job to reach out and offer them the comfort we can and to share in their sorrow...

And yes, there is a part of me that wants to ask where they were when I cried, when my world shook and seemed so dark.

but...but when human beings are in pain, it is our job to reach out and offer them the comfort we can...

And deep down, in silence and between ourselves, we are allowed to ask when they will share in our sorrow, our pain...

But right now, human beings are in pain and my heart aches for them so deeply, and the tears fall from my eyes this morning because human doesn't matter what religion, it doesn't matter their nationality. It doesn't matter the color of their doesn't even matter if they have or will share in our sorrow in the future. For now, share the message that we who know terrorism, know the pain of loss, we mourn with you. As simple as that. Leave the "but..." off for now. They are in too much pain to hear it and it isn't like we haven't tried so many times in the past to make them see.

And now, a message for France:

Don’t let the anger consume you. Today, the sun rose over your beautiful country, as it did over mine. Today, you are free in a way that they never will be. You have the capacity to celebrate life; something they don’t. Life is your ally, hate and death is theirs.

Today, the pain will consume you, the anger choke you. Years later, you will remember where you were when this happened, what you were doing. Stop at this horrible moment and look around you. See who cries with you; remember who celebrates your agony.

Israel shares your sorrow. Deep down inside, we want to ask why you don’t seem to share in ours, but We won’t right now because your pain is all-consuming, and we feel it from here. They were innocent people; families out celebrating. They did nothing wrong. It doesn’t matter why they were walking there or where they live.

If they lived in Paris and not Nice, would that change the horror? If they came all the way from Jerusalem or London or New York, would that justify killing them?

What you know in your heart right now, you have to remember after the shock fades, after life returns, as it always does, to normal. There is no justification for terror – no matter where the girl’s bedroom was, no matter where the father was driving, no matter what avenue they chose to walk down to celebrate on what should have been a wonderful day in France.

From New York to Washington to Jerusalem to London. From Tel Aviv to Kiryat Arba to Otniel to Afula. From Brussels to Madrid to Bali to Istanbul and now to Nice. There is no justification for terrorism. It isn’t about the occupation; it isn’t about God. It isn’t about some perceived injustice; and it isn’t about finding a path to peace.

It honestly doesn’t matter what it is about. All that matters is that 80 people were murdered last night, hundreds wounded and terrorized. All that matters is that today, Israel and people around the world share in your sorrow.

Today, there are only two groups of people in the entire world. Those that mourn, and those that celebrate. France, open your eyes and see these groups. Europe, take notice. America, remember.

Israel shares in your sorrow and we pray for the speedy recovery of all those who were hurt.
France, we mourn with you. We feel your pain to the depths of our souls. May God send you comfort in these horrible hours.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Six Children...TWO Only ONE WEEK Old...Could Have Died Last Night

This is a man who went for a drive with his family. His wife and six children last night after Shabbat ended...perhaps he was on his way home, I don't know.

The two youngest of his six children are ONE WEEK OLD twins, the oldest a boy of 7. Eitan Finkel and his wife saw a terrorist with a gun directly in front of him. For some reason he will never understand, the terrorists hesitated long enough not to fire directly into a car with 8 people in it, six of them children.

They hit the side of the car, wounding Eitan in the leg. He managed to keep driving until he reached safety.

I keep writing that peace will will come when things like this don't happen. When families can drive safely without being shot. One week ago, in another attack like this one, the father was murdered, the mother critically injured, two children hurt.

This week there was a miracle...the car didn't overturn, no one else was hurt.

No one was killed...and so there is little outrage here in Israel, none in the world.

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