Saturday, November 13, 2010

For Brooke...Welcome Always

Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that I started this blog for myself and somewhere along the way realized it was often as much for others as it was for myself. Some people start blogs to let family know about what's happening - one blog post saves a hundred emails, type thing - that wasn't me. Some start it to preach to the world about their thoughts and opinions - that wasn't me either. Nope. I started it to keep from driving Elie crazy. He had so much to learn as he became a soldier, who was I to try to explain I had things I had to learn too? He was going to go; I was going to stay. How could I explain to him that staying was almost as hard as going; that not knowing was even worse than knowing?

So he went, he learned, and I stayed, I wrote. Somewhere along the way during that first year, I realized others were reading. Mothers who were a few months or years behind me were reading and appreciating a light ahead of them on the path. Soldiers who were no longer soldiers, or even those still in the army, were suddenly writing to say they understood their mothers before. Anti-Israel people were writing too, and I accepted their comments and either answered back or ignored the nastiness. And people who loved Israel or the Jewish people were writing to offer their own blessings.

I've always known that on average, Israel has about 10% of the world that loves us; 10% that hate us; and another 80% that probably fall in the middle. Those people, I welcome here because they are open to listening. This calculation wasn't part of why I started the blog, but somewhere along the way, as I became more settled with where Elie was, I became aware of the other benefits - that family could learn what was happening and save me many emails; that friends could be updated. But more, that those who were once unknown to me, suddenly became friends; that others would learn and perhaps see a side of Israel they never imagined.

So many have written to say that their media never told them of the endless rocket attacks that I write about here; that they have seen a side of Israel they never knew existed. I have shared a land I love, and made others realize it's incredible beauty. And I've shared my sons so that the image of an Israeli soldier is now, perhaps, an Elie or a Shmulik, and not some harsh green uniform. A face, a name, a story, a son and yes, a soldier.

For a while, when things were calm, I wrote more for these things, than for myself or my friends and family. Then Elie would be in a particularly dangerous place, or something would happen, or he was sent to war...and the blog became my sanity on sleepless nights. The roller coaster would take a sudden dip and I would find myself terrified, flying through the air and not knowing when or how it would end. For those minutes, hours, or days, I would hang on, write, pray...anything till the roller coaster stopped; till Elie called and I knew he was safe. I could write my fears here while thinking I was hiding them from the "real world." Okay, so I didn't fool anyone except myself with that last thought, but still the blog served my sanity well.

I'm back now on that flat of the roller coaster - the part of the ride I love the most. No real fears, no terrors. Little bumps remind me I'm still on the ride, but it's calmer and I'm fooled into thinking I have miles ahead to travel flat and safe. I do a quick tally - where is Shmulik...where is Chaim...but it's okay. I'm okay because they are okay. Shmulik is with his future wife, making plans for the wedding; Chaim is on base this week...in a boring place. A boring place. A boring place, I remind myself. Near Jenin, but Jenin is quiet. Chaim is safe and bored!

This past week someone from Canada commented that they had learned a new side of Israel because of me...and I welcomed that comment with happiness and pride. And today, Brooke left a comment that I cherish as well. But, you know me by now - I write...and I keep hitting those number limits on the comment field. Never did learn to write short on this blog, so here I want to answer Brooke, and can't except in a new post. So here I go - this is from Brooke, with my comments inserted between her's. Brooke wrote:
I've been trying to find a way to comment here. I'm not sure what you would think about someone like me commenting on your blog. I'm someone who supports the Palestinians, who supports a one state solution, who has been to the West Bank and been very intimidated by the IDF soldiers at protests against the wall being built (I'm an American who travelled with the Christian Peacemaker Teams and hopes to find a way to partner with Palestinians at some point with the work that I do (grade school and secondary school technology integration)).
Thanks, Brooke. I'm glad you took the time to comment. What do I think of someone like you? I wish there were more people willing to have a dialog. I'm not sure what you mean by a one-state solution. I'm betting you mean a two-state solution, though I personally don't think such a two-state solution is viable. I'm not sure what intimidated you about the IDF soldiers - I guess it would depend on what the group was doing when you felt intimidated.

Perhaps, they are supposed to look a bit intimidating to prevent violence...but as you say you have been to the West Bank...I guess they didn't stop you from traveling. Did they do something? Other than asking to see identification? Was it the language barrier? I go through check points every day - I smile, and they smile back. I wave, and they wave back. Of course, in the few seconds they have to confirm that I'm not a terrorist, they quickly identify that I mean no harm. I've seen "peace activists" come to check points and harass soldiers, yell at them and curse them.

What did the soldier do to deserve the way they were treated? Usually, nothing - these activists are blaming 19 and 20-year-old boys for governmental and security policies that they are not able to change. They are tasked with watching each car, each person. They have seconds to determine whether this person poses a threat. Seconds. Perhaps they don't smile; though often they do.

As for the wall, I hope you know that it is 90% fence, not wall. It is only a wall in places that require this added security because a fence would not protect the Israelis on the other side from gunfire. For example, along Route 6, there's a wall in places where the Arab homes come very close to the wall. It was built after a 7-year old Israeli child was murdered as her father drove the family home one day.

For the most part, the fence/wall has numerous passage points that allow Palestinians to cross into Israel for jobs and medical treatment. Yes, this is an inconvenience but it was built in a manner that is not permanent (section by section was lifted in place and can easily be moved) and the entire wall/fence could be removed when terror attacks and violence stop (or the attempts stop). In the meantime, it has lowered successful terrorist attacks by 90% or more. You may not like it and it may be (and is) a hard thing to see, but you can't argue with the numbers and the success. Hundreds are alive today because there is a wall. Almost weekly, Palestinians are caught with knives and explosives. Elie stopped people with knives, guns, and explosives at check points. The wall will come down with a successful peace agreement and sadly, that is a process that requires two partners.

I commend you for your efforts to work with Palestinian schools and I hope that if and when such a program takes off, that you will help examine and fix the text books that are being used, the anti-Israel references and worse, the lack of references to Israel at all in some books. I hope you will see the video I posted the other day, of the two-year old from Lebanon who could tell you the capital of every country in the Middle East (um...and Canada and Venezuela), and then scream out that Israel does not exist. Two years old, and already, his mind is being poisoned.
But, I'm also a pacifist who believes that I have to come to respect those who hold different opinions than I do, because it's my belief that's the true way to peace (along with finding peace in my own heart). Because of this I started reading your blog. I needed to see the humanness in folks like you - folks I call settlers, folks who's actions I disagree with, folks who's actions I sometimes absolutely hate at my core. I needed to see our similarities, I needed to come to respect you, and even honor you. Sometimes I skip posts about the Palestinians, it's because I'm weak, because I don't want to get angry.
I have a secret to tell you - I'm a pacifist too. I want peace here in this land...even more than you do. My sons' lives depend on it. I take no joy in seeing my sons with guns and believe the worst part of my entire life was the time Elie was at war in Gaza. Golda Meir once said "When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons."

I'm not sure either is a possibility, but I now understand the second part of her sentence so much more. I worried for Elie's personal safety as rockets rained down on the area where he was stationed, where he slept for weeks, out in an open field not far from Gaza. But more, I worried about how he was coping with being asked to do. My son is not a murderer, and yet I have little doubt that he has killed. That is something I find intolerable and yet there was never a choice, so long as the world allowed Palestinians to believe they could continue firing rockets into our cities.

It's interesting that you see me as a "settler" and then judge my actions, even hate them to your core. It is as wrong for you to label me as it is for me to say all Palestinians are terrorists - which I do not. I do not like the culture of terrorism that is very prevalent in Palestinian society, the culture of hate and the worship of martyrdom and death. But where I might judge Palestinian society by the actions taken by many on its behalf, by the words and actions of its leaders and even by the parents who praise the actions of their children, you seek to label me by the location where I choose to make my home. I know that there are Palestinians who want peace, who pray for the safety of their sons, as I pray for the safety of mine. I know that there are Palestinians who want only a place to work, schools for their children, health care and security. I live with these people every day, not just on an occasional visit. I give them more respect than you could imagine.

When the city workers (who are mostly Arabs), come past my home, I give them cold water in the summer and hot tea or coffee in the winter. I greet some by name; many with a nod and a smile. I ask one who was in a car accident, now he is feeling; another I ask about his children and his brother. These are the personal relationships that can be built among people...when they aren't dedicating themselves to destroying all that you love and hold dear.

That without having met me, you could judge me, label me, seems sad to me. I don't want to make you angry and I'm glad that you are touched by the human side of my relationship with my sons and my country. What bothers me, though, is that you would question the human side of people "like me." It reminds me too much of Shakepeare's Shylock
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. 
Like Shylock, I am a Jew. I don't know much about the revenge part of his speech, but I think it interesting that you would expect of us more than what you expect from the Palestinians; that you judge us more harshly. We bleed when you prick up, die when you shoot rockets at us. We bury our dead when they are murdered in cold blood, and we mourn. And yet, we do not go out the next day and shoot an innocent pregnant woman to make up for the one who was just murdered. Yes, we'll put up a roadblock and yes, we will hunt down her killer, as much for justice as to ensure he doesn't do it again. But before I anger you, perhaps in the future we can speak about this aspect. For now, let me continue from your kind note.
What I do love seeing in my RSS feeder is an entry about your family and your sons and the love you have for your children by birth and Yakov and Chaim (did I get their names correct?) and how you've truly adopted them into your family with all your heart and mind (how lucky are those young men to have 2 families?). So, that's my point about posting today. I was truly touched by this post and how your son was stressed about being late for class because he was saving a life, and yet he didn't seem to understand that if he'd missed class because of that it would have been okay.
I'm so glad you enjoy reading about my sons - those from birth and those from choice. I do indeed love them all (and yes, Yaakov and Chaim are their names) and we have most definitely adopted them into our homes and hearts. I'm glad you were touched by Elie's latest antics. But I'd like to add one more note. Maale Adumim, what you think of as a settlement, is a large city a few short kilometers outside Jerusalem. It is an incredibly beautiful and peaceful city - and Arabs work here. No, they don't live here and yes, they are checked before they enter and can only come into the city with a permit or for emergency care. But it is also a center of its own as an ambulance squad and both Elie and Shmulik have regularly treated Arabs as part of their service on the ambulances. We cover the area from the edge of Jerusalem, all the way down to the Dead Sea. More than once, my sons have gone with ambulances into Arab neighborhoods.

While learning in the Old City of Jerusalem, I would guess that Elie even treated more Arabs than Jews. They do not differentiate, even when it was an Arab car that ran a red light and crashed into a car with three Israelis, including a baby. They are trained to help, not discriminate. And they did - injured in both cars. My sons have both been taught to defend themselves...and to be humane - in an ambulance, and on a check point. More than once during the war, targets were aborted because there were civilians nearby; more than once they fired into Gaza, knowing that they had to hit a specific target and if they missed, tragedy could occur. It is not an easy or enviable position to be in. They could not say they were pacifists and walk away because their country had been hit with 124 rockets in the month before they were called to Gaza and daily, they and a million Israelis were seeking shelter in the midst of the war.

Israel is a nation that has done much to make peace with those who are ready to sit with us. When next you are in the West Bank, I hope among your teachings, you will teach this. In Israel, we want peace. We will work for peace; we will sacrifice for peace - more importantly, though, we will live. That's what my sons work for, life.

Please teach the Palestinian children that this is what we want for them too - life. Yes, dignity and education and schooling, jobs and homes and families - but first, life. Please keep commenting and writing to me. Please don't be annoyed or get angry by what you read here. What I have learned, above perhaps all else in the last three years as a soldier's mother, is that we are all on a journey, made more pleasant by those we share with along the way.

Peace and blessings from a holy and beautiful land.

8 comments:

jan said...

Now that was an excellent post! But then, all of your writing gets right to the heart of the matter. It is good that Brooke reached out to you, and your comments to her were right on target. She saw the love you have for Israel, the love you have for your precious sons and their friends who keep Israel safe. You are right, Israel is a beautiful and holy land, and thanks to you, a person like Brooke has been enlightened, and maybe she will convince her Palestinian friends to see Israel with new eyes. God Bless you and your family, Jan

A Soldier's Mother said...

Thanks, Jan. I can't believe how long it got - thanks for having the patience to read it!

Paula

mamma-mia said...

AMEN!

Another Soldier's Mother said...

Maybe Brooke would like to hear about some of my son's experiences as an IDF combat soldier posted in the West Bank.

A Palestinian man who had a farm near my son's surveillance tower invited the small group of soldiers to drop in for coffee anytime. My son said it wasn't unusual for Palestinian mothers to point out the soldiers to their little children who would smile and wave. While working at a couple of West Bank checkpoints during the Gaza conflict (where it was pretty quiet with a visible lack of sympathy for Gaza in what a few years before had been a Hamas stronghold), my son had a nice chat with a Palestinian man going through the VIP line--they were both graduates of the same American college and they parted with a handshake. He shared a good laugh with a young Palestinian construction worker who regularly went through the checkpoint on his way to work and one day showed up with his passport. It seemed his ID card had not survived the washing machine. My son told him that meant he had to get his mother to do his laundry from now on. My son also tells a hilarious story about a man in a truck trying to get through the faster medical line by saying he had a pregnant woman in the back. When my son looked, he found it was full of all the man's goats and yep, one was about to give birth! But the man was allowed through quickly anyway because goats are expensive.

He also told me about the compassion he had for the family who came to the checkpoint late at night when it was closed to vehicles. They made an exception so the father, who was having heart problems, could get to the hospital as quickly as possible and not have to go a checkpoint farther away.

And on a really sad note, he told me about a young woman who came to the checkpoint claiming to have a bomb. Her father had given her the choice to be honor-killed or to blow herself up at checkpoint where she would also have killed some IDF soldiers (not to mention innocent Palestinians waiting in line). She said she instead left the bomb in her bedroom and came to the checkpoint hoping to be arrested and put in an Israeli prison where she would be safe. It doesn't always end this way.

There is a world of people out there, away from the activists and media, who are trying their best to live their lives in peace. I wish we could find a way to give them the support they deserve so that peaceful relationships could spread across the land for all time. I hope that my son and his fellow soldiers have played a small part in trying to make this happen.

Paula, I hope you will put your wonderful response to Brooke in your favorites list. All the best -B

Brenda Mommy said...

Another Soldier's Mother's comment crystalizes for me the idea that the mainstream media are constantly looking for dramatic stories to further sensationalize, in order to get their versions of the events in the Middle East out for general public consumption, rather than producing a real "slice-of'life" example of what events actually occur daily.

ProphetJoe said...

Paula,

I am what Brooke might call a Christian Zionist. I remember, as a (small) child, watching the Six Day War on the TV news with my father. I remember asking him how the small nation of Israel could possibly win a war which was so one-sided. I remember him saying it was because they were fighting for their homeland. It might have been an overly-simplified answer to a little boy (given the complexities of the Middle East and what led up to the war), but it was also true.

In my life, I have seen Israel take dozens of diplomatic steps to build a lasting peace. Each time it is the Palestinian (using Brooke's terminology) side which violates the peace. I have seen Israel do some things which I didn't agree with (just like I've seen the US government do things I didn't agree with), but I have not seen any wanton behavior by the IDF. I have seen Israel produce numerous medical, technological and cultural advances in the last 60 years. I have seen the "Palestinian side" increase the hatred and the culture of death.
I have read the Hamas Charter which says "Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors." I don't see the anti-Islamic rhetoric in Israeli documents.

In short, as a Christian who loves life, liberty and justice, I cannot support the "Palestinian" perspective of the Middle East. I am often reminded of the old truism, "If the Palestinians put down their weapons, tomorrow there would be peace. If the Jews put down their weapons, tomorrow there would be no Israel".

Shalom,
Joe

Nasch said...

Just another person who wants to commend you on this post. I sat here reading this, whilst nodding my head in agreement the whole time.
It is sad, but Golda Meir's saying still stands that there will only be peace when the Palestinians start loving their children more than they hate us.
And another one I must quote: If the Palestinians would lay down there arms, there would be peace. If the Arabs were to lay down their arms there would be no more war,but if Israel were to lay down its arms there would be no more Israel.

Gene said...

Jan and Brook. . .

How wonderful to read of your efforts to reach out, appreciate and understand each others beliefs.

Just a few days ago, via Facebook, I had the opportunity to reach out and respond to Ifrah Jan, Current City: Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, Religious, Views: ...Muslim by name...

Below is a bit of what I tried to convey to Ifrah Jan.

"Gene Rossano Your absolutely right Ifrah. Unfortunately, we all start out with a view of one side of the coin. Neither our politicians nor yours help in this area. Keep in mind that the singular driving force and purpose of any and all politicians is to... get re-elected. This means that we get what the politicians want us to know until if and when we develop independent informational sources.

I am reaching out to, reading about and speaking with people of different cultures and by utilizing other means, such as Facebook and twitter I am trying to develop a better understanding and appreciation of all peoples of our world and the beliefs that they hold dear."

Jan and Brook,we are now serving the function of "peaceful activists". Let's hope that through our efforts to reach out that we are able to influence our fellow citizens of our world and our respective leaders to the end of peaceful accommodation for all.

I post a bit on Facebook. I encourage all of my relatives, friends and fellow American’s to “Speak Up America”. I guess that I need to expand this thought to “Speak Up Citizens Of Our World”.

Much good luck to you, Jan and Brook.

Gene

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