Monday, August 30, 2010

A Rank Above Others?

It seems that the army is all about inheriting and sharing. Elie had "extras" that he saved and gave to Chaim and Shmulik as he was given "extras" along the way of his service. Today, Elie and I drove Shmulik into Jerusalem to catch a bus to his base where he would meet up with his commanding officer.

It was also my youngest daughter's first day of school. She is so different from her brothers. Days before school began, she was planning, getting ready, labeling her books and packing her backpack. She was up and ready to go long before the time and was upset that her brothers were taking to long to move out. Finally, as far as she was concerned, they made their way to the car and we were off. A quick smile, a few words and she was off for her first day of 5th grade.

We drove into Jerusalem, amazed at the lack of traffic. We glided out of Maale Adumim, up the winding road, through three traffic lights that graced us with the green-to-go. I made it through the last of the lights before the first bus station, pulled to the right and wished Shmulik a good day. As we had been driving those last few minutes, we were talking about which bus he had to take and where he had to go to catch it.

He got out of the car; I drove away as Elie said, "Was he wearing dargot?" Well, heck, you think I know what a dargot is? Wait, dargot is plural for darga...level, rank. Got it. Didn't help much, I hadn't noticed anything.

Shmulik's rank is that of a private - equals no bars. Once they get to the rank of corporal, jobniks often put the two bars on their uniforms (actually, I think they have to); combat soldiers think anything less than three is beneath them so you'll almost never see a combat soldier with anything less than three stripes, when they become a sergeant. Then, when you are promoted to Staff Sergeant, you get the thing in the middle.

As Shmulik left the car, Elie thought he saw "dargot" - three bars on Shmulik's sleeve. This is equivalent to either a Staff Sergeant (Elie's rank) or at least a Sergeant. Either way, it wasn't a private and doesn't belong.

 "I didn't see," I answered Elie, "call him and check."

"If he has dargot and gets caught, that's a serious mishpat [violation/infraction/something that means a serious punishment]." So Elie dialed and asked Shmulik.

And the answer. Shmulik had not even realized, but yes, he was wearing dargot. "Take them off," Elie warned him.

"I can't," Shmulik said, "they're sewed on."

"Where did you get them?" To which Shmulik explained that a friend had given him the "extra" uniform and Shmulik hadn't thought to check anything other than it being green, relatively in good condition, and clean.

"Take them off," Elie warned again and explained the consequences were serious. The Israeli army is a lot more lenient and relaxed than most armies, but not about this. Elie laughed when Shmulik realized he'd put the wrong pants on one time; Elie wasn't laughing about the dargot on Shmulik's sleeves. You do NOT impersonate an officer.

"Rip the stitches," Elie told him again. We said goodbye after Shmulik insisted that he didn't think he could take them off and Elie warned again of the seriousness of the offense.

Well, Shmulik returned a while ago and I asked him if everything was okay. He got to base and saw a "Rasar." Now, I have to admit, I wasn't sure what that was (it's a Master Sergeant), but I knew it wasn't good. "And then I saw another one, and another."

"What did you do?" I asked him, waiting to hear if he'd been caught. "I went between the buildings and I didn't look at them. But then, when I got close to my building, there were three more there."

"Why were there so many?" I asked him Well, it turns out the Chief of the General Staff was coming to the base and all the "Rasar" officers were trying to herd regular soldiers indoors. Apparently, General Ashkenazi has a tendency to want to talk to regular soldier and make sure all is in order. The Rasarim (is that the way to say more than one?), try to keep them out of the way by getting them inside.

Shmulik's commanding officer, thankfully, has a sense of humor. Shmulik thankfully had extra uniforms on base and quickly changed out of it. So, for a few minutes, Shmulik was a rank above himself. I can assure you, though, that he didn't enjoy it for a moment and he'll be removing those dargot as soon as he can; certainly before he makes the mistake of wearing those borrowed uniforms again.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear Gilad

Dear Gilad,

Today was your 24th birthday. A day you should have spent with your family. Today was also my husband's birthday. Yesterday, my youngest two children wrote their father letters and when he left for the synagogue, we slipped the letters under the plastic lining of the table so that as he ate his dinner with his family, letters of love and good wishes surrounded him.

This afternoon, we gave him presents and birthday cake and best wishes for a happy and wonderful birthday. He starts this new year as he spent his last one - together with his family, surrounded by his sons and daughters, having built a life, a home, here in his land.

Today, Gilad,  you weren't home. Your friends, those who served with you, have mostly left the army, as you probably would have if you had not been taken that fateful day in 2006. It has been more than 1,525 days since you have been taken. Your family waits for you, living in some strange limbo that is almost as bad as death, and so much worse than any other nightmare one could imagine.

I feel guilty when I think of you, Gilad. My son went to the army a year later than you, and already he has finished and a second has begun. I watched my son serve for three  years - all while you were in Gaza, held there in silence and pain. I went to each ceremony and thought how blessed I was, how lucky, and each time, as I stood there watching so many soldiers, I thought of you, of where you are. I watched as my son went to war and prayed that each artillery shell they fired at Gaza would not hurt you. I prayed you would be safe...even more, I prayed and prayed and prayed that a soldier would turn some corner in Gaza, enter some building, and find you and bring you home.

I have no words I could offer your mother and father, your brother and sister, your grandparents, a nation that wants you home desperately. Sometimes, I am a child and I want to stomp my foot and demand that Israel send in troops and bring you home. But the adult in me knows that if this were possible, you would already be home.

Sometimes, I am a mother, and I want to demand my country, our country, do all it can, release all it can, to bring you home. But the adult in me, the Israeli in me, knows that this is not possible. Even if it were to actually bring you home, and there is no guarantee that it would, it means many others will die. Those who are released will see it as a victory, and plan more attacks. This has happened so many times in the past - released terrorists are caught again after they have killed again. It is a surrender to terrorism and so many others, soldiers like you, tell me that it isn't the way.

Sometimes, I wonder if you know how many people are praying for you, if you have given up hope. In my weakest, most frightening of moments, I wonder if you were one of my sons, would you know that I would walk to the ends of the earth to try to save you - as your mother and father are doing. And if you were mine, would I have the courage, as your parents have had, to rise each morning and keep fighting for you, even against people like me, who believe we must find a way to bring you home without surrendering 1,000.

Gilad, I don't even know if you know that today is your birthday, that you are 24-years-old. This is your fifth birthday in captivity. Each year we pray it will be the last, and yet this is the fifth. So much has happened to me in these past years - my daughter's marriage, two children finishing high school and going into the army, we moved houses, bought cars and sold others. So much and still you remain where you are.

Others who went into the army with you, boys your age are getting married and starting their studies or traveling the world while you remain in limbo, a day older, but not a day happier. I don't know if you are a day closer to coming home and perhaps that is the worst of all tortures.

Gilad, dear Gilad. You are an innocent in all of this. You chose to serve your country, demanded that they put you in a combat unit when you could have been assigned to something easier. You were on our side of the border when they crossed into Israel and grabbed you. You'd fired no weapons, done nothing wrong. I hope the strength that drove you to want to serve as a combat soldier is still with you, that you know that your parents, all Israelis, pray for you every day and long for you to come home.

And Gilad, I have to confess, too, that I don't have a yellow ribbon on my car as many Israelis do. You probably don't know about the yellow ribbons - they are a sign of missing you, a sign that so many think of you and have not forgotten you. I wanted to put one on my car, but it didn't make sense to me because those that hold you will not care about my car.

I've put ribbons on my car in the past - but it was because I wanted to send a message to my government, our people and I knew that as the government and others saw the ribbons on my car and on other cars, we could bring about a change. If not a change, at least we were making a statement. An orange ribbon because I believed the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza would lead to more suffering and I believe it led to where you are now, the Lebanon War, and even the Gaza War.

The orange ribbon on my car was put there to beg the government not to take unilateral actions, not to surrender to world pressure. Destroying those communities in Gaza would not bring peace - and it didn't; it would bring rockets on Ashkelon and Ashdod and Beersheva - and it did. It gave them the courage to try to kidnap an Israeli soldier - and they did.

I put a gold ribbon on my car to remind my government that Jerusalem is holy and that it is ours. I don't know if the government will listen or surrender to international pressure. But at least the ribbon is there to remind people as they go about their lives.

And then your parents asked us to put a yellow ribbon on our car - so many did. But then I listened to what they were saying, where they were protesting. Your amazing parents walked, Gilad - for days and days - to remind the world where you are and where you belong. My heart broke for them, as it does so often and I thought of the yellow ribbon. Thousands joined them - each was a message to you, Gilad and it was a message that I agreed with. It was a message to our government too - and that was my problem.

I listened and knew that I could not put that ribbon on my car because it was tied to the message of bringing you home at all cost, releasing all the prisoners being demanded. If it were to tell Hamas enough already - release Gilad or they would suffer as they have never suffered before, I'd have put that ribbon on - and most of Israel would have as well.

But Hamas has demanded 1,000 prisoners for you, Gilad, terrorists and murderers who will kill again. They want us to release them to just beyond our borders, not to some foreign and distant shores, but to porous borders that can easily be crossed and violated. We can't Gilad. As much as we want you home - the key to bringing you home does not rest in Jerusalem. The answer is not here. The question your parents pose to our government is wrong, the address is wrong. You aren't in Jerusalem; you aren't held by our government and the key to your release is in Gaza with you.

I'm sorry that my government continues to supply Gaza with electricity and water and fuel, while you remain a captive there. Most of all, I'm sorry that you aren't home, contemplating marriage to some wonderful girl, planning out the greatest of all trips, or figuring out what you want to major in.

So Gilad, today you turned 24. There was no cake for you, no presents you could unwrap and marvel over and today again, I didn't put the yellow ribbon on my car. I'm sorry, Gilad. Sorry that you aren't home; sorry that the world doesn't do enough to demand it. I'm sorry, Gilad - for the hypocrisy of the nations of the world, who are cowards enough to abandon a 19-year-old boy and sit in silence as the years pass.

The only birthday wish I can give you is that this be your last birthday in Gaza and that soon, very soon, you will be free to dream and fulfill all life should be offering you.

Nokia 97 vs. the David

I'm thinking that testing phones is a tradition in my family.

About a year ago, Elie tossed his M16 onto his bed. To his surprise (and horror), the gun landed on his Nokia 95 with predictable results. The screen of the phone was smashed. Luckily, our cellular provider at the time was Cellcom and, with a laugh and a smile, they fixed the insured phone.

Now, Shmulik's experiment was not nearly as successful. It seems while getting out of an army vehicle (the David, a Land Rover jeep-type thing), the phone went crashing to the ground with predictable results. The screen of the phone was smashed. This time, a year later, we aren't nearly so lucky. After 14 years with Cellcom, we were tired of what we thought was bad service and several instances of over-billing or errors from mistakes made. We decided to try another company (Orange/Partner) and hoped to have better service.  Our cellular provider is now Orange / Partner and though we have insurance, apparently their idea of insurance and ours is radically different. If you pay every month - and then pay more when the phone breaks, they might fix it. This time, they want 200 NIS (about $60) to fix the phone.

Of course, this is just one of a long line of failures by the Israeli cellular company (I've been documenting our 9-month long battle to get them to actually send us a correct bill on another blog called Cellular Agony and have posted this story to: And I'm Paying Insurance...WHY?).

So, I guess the newest lessons include:

  1. If you have a kid in the army, you should get insurance on their cellular phone (unless you have a plan with Orange, in which case, why bother?).
  2. If you have a kid in the army, consider dealing with a different phone company (if you are dealing with Orange).
Bottom line, Shmulik goes back to the army tomorrow with my phone. Thanks, Orange - for  yet another major service failure.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Do I look like your secretary?

A few months ago, my very capable secretary decided to move on. It was a hard decision for her and  for me as well. She's been with us for a number of years, seeing the company through the worst of times and betrayals. Just as we have been building, she decided it was time to do something different with her life and though it was sad, the connection remains strong.

Several years ago, my oldest daughter worked for our company as we were growing. She's getting her university degree and as a young married woman, needs the income. The match is perfect as it allows her to almost seamlessly step in as my previous secretary leaves. She helped keep me calm when I could easily have wondered how, in the midst of work finally picking up, I could manage this transition. This week and last, between exams and some personal issues, my daughter couldn't come into the office. This was clear from the start, expected and scheduled. Still, the phones thankfully ring; students call to register or find out more information, writers ask questions, people want to be paid and companies need to pay. And so Elie stepped in and offered to answer phones and do what he could.

Things are hectic now as we leave August and begin to look forward to September and a new round of courses. We have an amazing Training Center and have the great honor to be the first company recognized by the Ministry of Industry and Trade to not only be authorized to give accredited training in the field of technical writing, but they used our course to set the standards in many ways. A Training Center means a working, functioning classroom with many computers, projectors, and more. It's fun. It's exciting. It's a lot of work.

Elie will be starting a course soon, looking for work and planning to begin formal studies next September. He has time on his hands and thoughtfully came in yesterday when I was out of the office and my daughter couldn't come in either. Today, my daughter also isn't in and so Elie drove in with me. We stopped in a local supermarket to get milk and a few things. I bought myself some crackers and a container of egg salad.

Elie saw me eating, grabbed a cracker and spoon and smeared himself a serving. I picked up a bottle of water and asked him to water the plant behind him and then refill the water with cold water. To which my beautiful son turned to me and said, "do I look like your secretary?" and gave the most wonderful of laughs.

Life is good when your children are with you, when they are safe and happy. My youngest daughter is playing in one of the offices; my youngest son getting ready for the start of his school year later today. And somewhere, Shmulik is driving with his commanding officer. I have said many times that life is about accepting and even thriving in the curves you are thrown. Shmulik is happy with his new job in the army; happy to be home more often; happy to see new places in Israel and learn new skills.

I've always felt that as parents of several children, we often deal with the one that now has the "fire" under them. We let the others slip to focus more on the one who needs us now. Each has his or her needs, the moment when they need our almost undivided attention. I have no doubt that the next fire is hours or days away - it always is but at this single moment, right now - each child is calm.

No, Elie doesn't look like my secretary standing there munching on an egg salad cracker with a grin on his face but his willingness to help out when there is a need means so much.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Israel's Youth - A National Culture of Help

India is, for many young Israelis, the dream vacation that awaits them after the army. They finish three years of national service, perhaps work for a few months and then travel. India is about the most opposite you can get from the army. Where the army is all about routing and discipline, India is about freedom. Sleep when you want, go where you want, eat what you want. Freedom.

What that means, sometimes, is Israelis getting into trouble...and sometimes, being involved in national or natural disasters beyond their planning and imagination. Thus it was with the tsunami years ago; thus it is with the massive flooding now taking place in India and its neighboring countries. The Foreign Ministry of Israel is among the most dedicated in the world to following after our citizens. Special units are ready for anything, anywhere.

When the extent of the flooding became apparent, the Foreign Ministry began plans to evacuate some 600 trapped Israelis. Among a rising death toll, massive damage and more, planes were sent. When the planes arrived, an amazing thing happened. Not all Israelis agreed to come home. In fact, 30% decided to stay and help. "Some helped lift boulders and evacuate the rubble from the streets. Israelis make up half of all the foreign volunteers, which is truly impressive," says Irit Shneor.

But the true message that came from the Israelis who chose to stay was an even more basic one, "This is how we were raised," says Matan Golan. Yes, this is how they were raised and this is how, yet again, they make us proud.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are the Youth Innocent or Stupid?

By its very nature, to be young is to be naive, trusting, perhaps even stupid. I don't remember where the quote comes from, but some comedian or famous person once said that when he was a youth of 18 or so, his father was the stupidest man around. By the time he had reached 21, just two short years later, it was amazing how much his father had learned. In Israel, around the age of 18 or 19, our children enter the army. They are given tremendous responsibility, trusted with security secrets that impact on the lives of millions, and so much more. They are, for all the world to see, the image of Israel. For the good, and for the bad.

Recently, a troop of soldiers was seen dancing on patrol in Hebron. I saw the video - no harm was meant, no humiliation intended. They are young. I can't say they were stupid to dance that way - though perhaps arranging to have it videotaped might have been dumb but really, they are young and alive and I'm glad they could dance. Another video shows a soldier dancing on one side of the fence and several young Palestinians dancing on the other side. The music calls out to "put your hands up" and so the soldier does. The young children follow and do the same. The soldier claps his hands and moves to the right; the children do the same. I see no harm in this. I see only the joy of youth. I am grateful that the army has not crushed this, happy that the Palestinian children are there playing with the soldier. Maybe they will see him as human; maybe in the future they will resist a call to violence.

Another video on the Internet shows two Palestinian boys running with sticks held as if they are guns. One is wearing an army beret. They run and dodge to the side to hide and point the stick. And then one throws a pretend grenade and the soldier cautions him that he must first yell out "grenade."

These videos could be viewed as harmless, even a way of bridging differences. Or, they can be misinterpreted as humiliation. Each video, each instance is a case of youth and perhaps poor judgement.

At their age, around the world, other youth are out drinking, having fun, lazing on beaches or partying at bars. Our children are handed guns and told - we are depending on you to defend our homes, our lives, our country. There is no great genetic difference between an Israeli boy of 17 and an American boy of 17. Two years later, genetics have not changed, but all the rest has and so an Israeli of 19 is suddenly trusted with all that we hold dear. It is, in many ways, too much responsibility. Unfair to put this on them and yet we have no choice. Tens of thousands become soldiers each year. I have no idea of the actual numbers, but the army is a massive body that absorbs our children, profoundly changes them, and then returns them to us forever different.

Some leave the army and do stupid things - they go off to foreign lands believing that if they could survive the army, they can survive anything. They dare God to prove them wrong, and sometimes, God does. And sometimes, they don't wait to get out of the army to do something stupid. By her own confession, Anat Kam took thousands of documents while working in the Central Command office. What she did with those documents is as criminal as the act of taking them. She now claims she did it for the good of Israel, though I doubt many in Israel are dumb enough to believe her. What she did was not innocent - that was lost in her giving it to a journalist. I believe, though, that what she did wasn't even stupid - she is clearly an intelligent young lady that has/had aspirations of being a journalist and so she cunningly used her position in the army to further her goals. No, she is not innocent or stupid.

During the Gaza War, one of Elie's soldiers was released for a short period of time. It was only for a short few hours and yet the soldier found time to upload some pictures he had taken from the war. A year after the war, the soldier, now discharged from the army, uploaded the same pictures, but during the war this represented a security breach. It was stupid and to some extent thoughtless. Elie was told to call his soldier and within a short while, the Facebook images were removed. Among the pictures were images of soldiers who were on the front - these images did not belong on the Internet when the nation was at war. Just plain stupid, I told Elie when I heard about this. Just plain stupid.

Now, in the last few days, the stupidity and perhaps the insensitivity of youth comes again to the news. Eden Abergil posed with pictures of bound Palestinian security prisoners. She smiles as in the background, these men sit blindfolded and cuffed. What makes her action appalling is not that they were treated this way - being bound and cuffed - but that she thought it something worthy enough to pose in front of. And worse, something to post to her Facebook account. That was stupid and insensitive.

I have seen many Arabs handcuffed at checkpoints. Some have arrived with false papers, hoping to lie their way into Israel for work. Some attempt to pass the checkpoints for more sinister reasons. If they are handcuffed, there is almost always a reason. No, the condition of the Arabs in the photos does not indicate abuse, nor does it violate any international law or army rules.On August 9, 2001, 15 people were murdered and 130 injured because a young couple carrying explosives in a guitar case wasn't caught as they crossed through a checkpoint. Almost daily, Arabs are caught with knives. I have no idea what those men did, nor does anyone else who voiced an opinion about the Facebook pictures.

Some of those who are caught are interrogated and released; others are arrested and enter the security system. Yes, they are bound - as is done in almost any military situation; and yes, they are blindfolded as they are taken in secure vehicles to other locations. What Eden did wasn't connected with what the men did or whether blindfulding them was right or wrong. It is easy to look and feel sorry for them. To look in the face of one stupid girl and spin that into some great wrong of all Israel. That is what one Palestinian leader tried to do. He called this a symbolic humiliation of all that Israel does. And in his case, he can't even claim youth as the reason for his stupidity.

The law of the checkpoint is very clear and soldiers are trained carefully in how they should behave. The levels of command are there as well. More than once, Elie arrested Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians, for violating laws or trying to circumvent them.

But these are not the types of pictures Elie posted to his Facebook account - there are no Palestinians in his pictures. Even now, as his friends post pictures of Elie and he is tagged, I see him again and again with other soldiers, hiking with them, talking with them, posing with them. Sometimes, he has a weapon or is in front of some military vehicle. Never is he in the process of humiliating anyone.

This is where Eden crossed the line from insensitive to just plain stupid. What Eden did was wrong on so many counts and yet, I find it ironic that as Palestinian leaders fall in line to speak of Israeli atrocities - not one is smart enough to realize how they are really portraying their own guilt, their own behavior, their own crimes.

Gilad Shalit has been held for more than four years. One video and one tape have been released to his family. A video was made showing Noam Shalit, old and gray, going to fnally meet the coffin of his son. Other tortures far worse than how these Arabs were treated have been bestowed upon Gilad.

These prisoners in Eden's pictures are not being physically abused. One Palestinian leader says they are being humiliated though it is not clear whether they even know they are being photographed. All these words are excuses, I supposed because what Eden did was wrong. It was wrong because she took advantage of her position as a soldier to amuse herself and, apparently, whatever Facebook friends she thought would be amused too. Again, lest I be misunderstood - I want it stated clearly - it was wrong to have taken the pictures; wrong to have posted them.

But at the end of the day, these prisoners went home to their familes or were arrested, tried, and if sentenced, will now be held in Israeli prisons where they will be able to meet with their lawyers, see their families, even sleep with their wives. If justice prevailed and they were found guilty of some crime, they will have access to using their time to study for an advanced degree and improve themselves. Daily newspapers and walks in the sun are built into their schedules. All while Gilad Shalit sits in a bunker somewhere without any contact.

Ask Gilad Shalit if he would mind being bound and handcuffed (as I am sure he has been more times than we can count) and have some stupid, naive Arab girl pose in front of him - and then graduate to the school of Israeli standard treatment for prisoners. Ask him if he'd prefer to have his picture on Facebook and then have time with his family, or would he save himself the so-called humiliation and stay embalmed alive in Gaza?

Perhaps this is rationalization; perhaps I should be as enraged as so many others. But more than rage against Eden is needed. A two-pronged approach is required - further education in the ranks is recommended, though I know that Elie was "educated" enough in the army to know better than to take such pictures and certainly not to be stupid enough to post them to the Internet!

As Elie says, "She's an idiot." Harsh, but true.

The second approach is where we demand the Arabs meet the standards they so easily and quickly hold us to. They are correct - no one should be humiliated. Hamas has repeatedly humiliated and crushed the dreams of the Shilat family. If those prisoners were "abused" and "humiliated" what then have these very same leaders done to Gilad?

Now is the time for each of those hypocritical Arab leaders who stood up and condemned Eden to equally stand up and condemn the humiliation and abuse of Gilad Shalit. Youth can be naive and stupid. None of these leaders have the right to claim this as their excuse.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Misinformation is the Name of the Game

The Palestinians win the war of propaganda because facts are foreign, truth expendable. I enjoy honest debates with people who believe differently than me; I don't enjoy those built on lies and twisted or partial facts. Someone new has found my blog. That's always a source of pride for me. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and words. I believe in the basic principle that there are three groups of people. The proportional ratios may vary, but there are those who will love you unconditionally, those who will hate you unconditionally, and those who are curious and open to forming an opinion.

I love when those who love us write to me - they offer support, comfort, words that are precious when we mistakenly feel that those who are curious are being swayed by those who hate us. I love when those who are curious write to me - they ask me wonderful questions. My favorite so far was the simple question, "What is it actually like in Israel?"

I can't say I love when those who hate us write to me because too often, their words are cruel. They wish upon my country destruction and pain; they have wished death on my sons and described the death they would deliver in words no mother should see. I will not despair; I will not let them see the fear in my heart. At times, I'll even laugh, as I did at Faisal and his stupidity (A Journalist or a Liar?.

Bonnie has found my blog. A new reader who quickly made it clear where she falls. She does not love us, that is for sure. Nor is she really curious or interested in learning more. She falls in the area of those who hate but wants us to know that it is acceptable to hate Israelis and we have no right to suggest this means she is anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic.

it's small and 2 floors and they are very happy for it, (simple pleasures) thanks for being so happy for them too. During the European WW2 there was a prison camp in a sort of township called Theresienstadt. For the sake of the Red Cross coming to visit the people were fed properly, clothed nice, things cleaned up etc. temporarily. Israel regime is under scrutiny and knows how to play the game. I don't forget how your honorable IDF feels free to loot Palestinian banks while the Arabs are under closure for "terrorism." It's not enough you guys stole everything from them when you came, you take everything as you go along also. I know, I have in-laws there and I pay for Israel's pillage. The mall will go dry, you should not worry about that. Imagine how long mall shelves would remain stocked in the Warsaw ghetto. That's how long this one will last too. Or until something so big happens, like a war in Iran that eyes are deliberately shifted elsewhere. That's how Israel operates.
There is so much wrong with this quote - I'll give you a few examples:
  1. Theresienstadt was indeed a concentration camp (not really a prison camp - that too is an attempt to cleanse the truth). It was a "show place" and yes, it put on a show for the world. But it wasn't created by the Jews, who were the "inmates," but by the Germans as part of their propaganda war. The Gazans opened their mall, not Israel. It isn't fake. It wasn't meant to fool anyone. It is a luxurious, fun location built for profit and commerce in a place that claims to be poverty stricken, starving, deprived.
  2. The claim that Israel loots Palestinian banks under cover of closure is absurd and notice there is no source or proof - merely a claim thrown out to the wind. 
  3. Bonnie continues with the propaganda attempt by daring to mention the Warsaw Ghetto. Funny how little she knows about history. The Warsaw Ghetto was liquidated by the Germans - that's another "cleansing" term - liquidation. what it means is that the Jews who were there were dragged off to concentration camps and murdered. There were no malls in the Warsaw Ghetto, no beach where they could swim. No one poured tens of millions of dollars into the Gaza infrastructure...and most of all, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto didn't go into Germany and blow up buses, restaurants and malls. What little food there was in the Ghetto didn't stay long on the shelves, etc.
Bonnie has come to my blog to leave her messages of lies and half-truths intended to fool those who do not know. She says we have no write to say she is anti-Semitic because she hates Israel and yet look at the very examples she uses to justify her point. There were no Israelis in the Warsaw Ghetto, no Israelis in Theresienstadt. They were Jews. 

Bonnie is likely to continue leaving her messages - perhaps I will continue to put them through - feel free to comment and argue with her. But what is important is that she is of the percentage that hates and will never be convinced. Her agenda has been made clear and it is, apparently, the way she operates. No proof, no fact...just endless lies and twisted accusations. Perhaps she has a future on the next UN Council Committee.

In 15 Minutes...18 Years

In fifteen minutes, it will be 18 years since I boarded a plane with two little boys. Within minutes of boarding, we were taking off into the air. As the plane climbed into the skies above New York, Shmulik fell asleep. All of three and a half years of age, he couldn't possibly understand what was happening, where we were going, what impact it would have in his life.

Elie had just turned six. He too was into the moment. After takeoff, when the seat belt light was turned off, I put a blanket and pillow on the floor between the rows and eased Shmulik to the narrow space between the rows. There he slept for the next eight hours. Within a short while, the dark skies closed around us and Elie dozed off. I let him sleep spread across two chairs.

I was alone with my boys, alone with my thoughts. My husband had already come to Israel two months before. I was desperate to live here. It was my dream to come here, to live here, to be, of all things, Israeli. I had friends who wanted to be doctors - they became accountants. One wanted to be a lawyer; he became an engineer. All I ever wanted was to be Israeli and in those hours I thought my dream was coming true - finally.

My husband was there to meet me with flowers and a hug. Finally reunited, the dream was just beginning. There were moments of great happiness and moments of great sadness along these last 18 years.

Two children were born into our family here in Israel; two others joined us more recently. Our house is alive with noise and pets (birds and dogs and fish more recently). Visitors come regularly and are welcomed. My house is not elegant and fancy - but we have been blessed. Food is plentiful, we are warm in the winter and cool in the summer (well, when we aren't cold in the winter and hot in the summer).

We live among friends, work among friends. We are blessed to write about some of the amazing inventions Israel has sent out to the world. Today, I worked on documenting two medical devices and three major applications to fight spam and virus attacks and it is five minutes to midnight.

In five minutes, I will have been part of this nation for 18 years. I thought I would be Israeli when my feet touched the ground back on August 17, 1993. I was right in the technical sense but wrong in the social one. It took me almost fifteen more years to know my dream had come true. When Elie went into the army - the very day he put on the uniform for the first time, our moving to Israel had been completed.

Elie served his nation and served it well. He is not a murderer as some would call him. He did nothing wrong and sleeps well each night. We were so blessed in his service. He left proud of what he had done, who he had become. In the years to come, he will be called to the Reserves and he will go, for about the next 18 years, actually.

Though he has not formalized his citizenship yet, Yaakov served this nation and served it well. He lives in the United States with his beautiful wife and their amazingly adorable baby girl but I know that his heart is here and he yearns for the day he will bring his family home.

Shmulik is serving his nation and serving it well. He has dedicated these years to his country so that he can know he made this land his.

Chaim has yet to finalize his plans beyond the next year or so. He too came from afar to serve this land and does it with pride and determination.

And my youngest son is only 14. The army and its realities are years away for him - as it should be.

These are the sons of this country and each is a part of what has made me what I longed to be. It is just after midnight here in my homeland. Eighteen years I have lived here knowing there is no other land for me, no other place I could call home. By right, by history, by God, this holy land is mine.

Thank you, God. Thank you, Israel. Thank you, Yaakov, Elie, Chaim, and Shmulik. Thank you to all our sons and daughters who watch our borders, our skies, our shores. Thank you for my home, my dream.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fate's Timing

I can't tell you the number of times I have been delayed or changed my mind about doing something...only to find that tragedy crossed the path where I would have been or the thing I would have done. A few days ago, Elie and I drove to Shmulik's base to pick him up. It's north of Jerusalem in an area very close to Ramallah and there are several bases there.

Shmulik wasn't sure how to describe how to get there...and so we ended up stopped at 3 out of 4 bases before actually finding him. On the way home, as we came down a long hill, we saw that there'd been a head-on collision on the road. Elie slowed, realized that we were there before any ambulance, and pulled to the side of the road, just behind a police van that had also just arrived.

Elie grabbed his medic vest and went off to see if anyone was hurt. As I waited for him in the car, I realized that had we not taken those wrong turns to check out the other bases, we might well have been on this road when the accident happened, perhaps even involved in it.

This happens to me quite often and each time, I know that I am feeling fate's timing, God's will. Tonight, we went to my parent's house to spend some time with my brother, who is visiting from abroad. It was a special evening - all of my children were there, though my son-in-law was working and couldn't come. Two of my sister's children were there, along with a very special friend of my niece, and my brother's oldest son joined us as well.

We got a late start, spent quite a bit of time eating and socializing, and then took longer to clean up and move things down from their roof balcony, longer to get back on the road coming home. It was close to midnight, much later than I had planned, until we were heading back home in two cars, Elie driving one, me driving the other. A sign indicated that there was work on the main highway. Elie was driving ahead of me, already in the left, planning to take the main road. The second road was Route 443, heading off to the right. I read the sign and quickly dialed Elie's telephone number. "Their doing road work on Route 1; I'm taking 443," I told him..

"Me too," he said and watched as he quickly moved to the right, following what I planned to do and avoid the main highway. Route 443 is an interesting road - incredibly scenic during the day, fast paced, usually not to busy.

Route 443 is a bypass road. It was created several years ago to have a new access road to Jerusalem other than the roads that led into, around, and through many small Arab villages. During the first intifada, Jewish drivers were stoned in these small villages and so Route 443 was built and used by Arabs and Jews alike.

At some point, Jewish drivers were being stoned on the road. This escalated into drive-by shooting attacks, some ended with no injuries, others ended in hospitalization. The worst, ended in death. The bypass road was no longer safe - many drivers avoided it; some remained in principle. After a multiple, brutal murder, Route 443 was closed to Arab traffic by the army [NOTE: Thanks to a comment, I stand corrected. Route 443 was never closed to Arab traffic - it was limited to Israeli traffic, which would include anyone with Israeli citizenship - which includes Arabs (10% of the population or more, Christians, etc.)]. Years of petitions and fights ended in May when the courts ordered the army to once again unlimited traffic flow.

The army did what it could to heighten security and make it safe. It was an absurd attempt at an impossible task. It's a beautiful road to drive. The mountains open before you as you climb to Jerusalem and there are plenty of opportunities where the road was carved from the mountain and anyone can stand a few meters from the street, higher up, and throw things at the travelers. Firebombs. Stones. There are many strategic locations where someone can open fire on your car. You drive with an eye on the mountains, and an eye on the hill near you. Last week, a father saw a group of Arabs about to throw stones at his car and was able to avoid injury.

Within a month of the road's being re-opened, the first attacks began and continue - some end with no injuries, others end in severe damage to property and lives. It's the Muslim month of Ramadan now - it coincides with our month of Elul. Elul is a special month for introspection and self-improvement spiritually. Elul is about making peace with yourself and with those you have wronged, in preparation for the month of Tishrei and our major holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc.

Elul may be about making peace, but from all that I have experienced, Ramadan is most definitely not. Today there were more rock attacks, a soldier was nearly stabbed. And I stayed to help clean my parents' balcony upstairs where we had enjoyed our family gathering and so left later than expected. Having alerted Elie that Route 1, the major Tel Aviv - Jerusalem highway had road construction teams, I followed him to the right, to Route 443.

My car is newer and stronger than the car Elie was driving. I passed him on a light and kept going. I reached the outskirts of Jerusalem and suddenly there was traffic. Slowly, I inched my way up to the intersection, only to see that soldiers were directing all cars to make a left. I needed to go straight, to go through Jerusalem and so reluctantly did a U-turn. I called Elie to tell him about the blockage. I drove another 5 minutes back and as I was about to make a left, Elie called and said the road was clear.

I turned the car around, headed back into Jerusalem on Route 443. This time, there was no huge blocking my view. I drove and within seconds, realized there were dozens of large rocks on the road. There was a unit of soldiers standing in the middle; I was amazed by the damage that could have been caused by these rocks.

These are not pebbles; these were rocks larger than the size of my hand. If thrown directly at the car, it could smash the windshield,  cause someone to lose control, and so much more. And that's when I realized once again fate's timing had intervened. Had we not stayed those extra few moments to help my mother return the chairs and the tables, we well could have been on Route 443 this time when the Arabs decided that violence brings rewards; that peace can be achieved by terrorizing others.

No one was hurt; the rocks will be gone by tomorrow. The world will ignore the attack unless or until someone is killed and perhaps even then. But what remains in my mind, is the continuing love God shows to his people. Call it fate's timing...or better, call it God's but once again, we weren't where we might have been and so what could have happened, simply didn't.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Value of Each Life

In Israel, each life is a magnitude that is foreign in most countries. We hear on the news about each traffic death, most criminal murders, EVERY terrorist incident that leads to injury. After we hear about the injury or the death, we learn about the person. It is as if we cannot let them go, until we know them better. For those of us who did not have the opportunity, the privilege of knowing them in life, we meet them in death.

It is agony. It is painful. It is sad. It is so right. Their lives had values. They were loved. Their families mourn for them today and forever. We too have lost something precious and so it is only right that we meet them after parting, if not before.

Elie was reading the newspaper and came across the latest statistics of casualties in the ongoing Iraq War. He was stunned by the numbers. He read them off to me.

"Four thousand, four hundred and thirteen American soldiers," he said.

I was shocked by the numbers. If you do not live in Israel, you cannot imagine what that number means to an Israeli. We mourn for a single loss, we agonize over more, we are broken in pieces by three or four, or, God forbid more. "Four thousand, four hundred," I repeated back to Elie.

"And thirteen," he added.

It was in that moment that I realized I have created a human being, one that cares about each life. One that has taken the values of our country to heart. Of course, "and thirteen" - how could I have not mentioned them.  You see, for each family - their loved one is in that thirteen. It is by the individual that the society is measured. Each life.

Last week, we lost a Lieutenant Colonel - but more, we lost Dov Harari. We now know he was 45-years-old when he was killed, where he lived. We know he had four children and that at his funeral, his 18-year-old daughter cried for him. "I can't believe you won't get to see me don my uniform in a few months." We know that he was in the Reserves and long ago could have stopped serving his country. He chose, each year, to return, to continue to volunteer, and ultimately lost his life serving his country.

The discussion with Elie was special because it was a special moment in which I realized that we as a nation have succeeded in teaching our children the value of a life. As important as the four thousand and four hundred are, the thirteen are no less so.

Elie was amazed by the number of casualties - over 31,000 wounded. These are numbers he cannot fathom, the pain to family and community so immense. He thinks in Israeli terms. Numbers like these would crush our nation. One could do a simple mathematical equation to show that 31,000 Americans would be the mathematical equivalent of some huge number of Israelis, but it is so much more.

Each time I hear of an American soldier killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, I wonder if others know who he was. So much more than a statistic - he was a person, a son, perhaps even a husband. How many children did he have, how will they survive without him? Long after the name fades from our minds, families are left forever devastated, forever in pain.

As a soldier, as an Israeli - this was all in Elie's simple comment "and thirteen."

May each

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Soldier is a Son

I was driving to work today talking to a friend. I was explaining about how the truth of Elie's service is coming out slowly over time. Nights I thought he was one place, he was out on an operation. I can't remember all the days and nights of Elie's service, but there are many that stick out in my mind. One was the night Israel sent planes to stop Syria's quest into nuclear weapons...if you believe the New York Times.

I know where Elie was, what he was doing. I know that for a few hours, he was out in the field, his artillery weapons ready for war. I know how close we came. I know a year or so later, we crossed that thin distance and Elie did go to war, and I know much of what happened there from Elie's perspective. I know of the months of training in the north or south, where he went, what he did.

But that leaves months when he was "on the line." Stationed at a checkpoint or border. That is where his actions are blurred; that's where I thought one thing and now learn a new reality. You can't really get retro-actively nervous, right? That's silly. He is standing there in front of me, telling me what happened or what his mission was. Present tense - standing with me; past tense - what his mission was.

I was explaining this all to a friend and to my daughter, when the friend said simply, "the soldier is a son." That's really it, in a nutshell. My son protected me from worrying, brilliantly telling me enough to feel as if I knew where he was and what he was doing because I needed to know that at the time.

Now, when the danger is gone, he can tell me pieces of the life he didn't share with me. It's almost as if it is an insult to his actions as a soldier for me to believe he was safe so much of the time. I knew there were moments of danger; times he was on the checkpoint. I knew sometimes that Arabs tried to run through the checkpoint, though I didn't know how often.

I knew there were operations; times he was sent into a village to arrest someone suspected/known to have violated Israel's security. But I don't think even now I know how often that was. It's strange thinking of the nights I thought he was one place, only to find out now he was somewhere else.

Nothing really new in this whole concept except the reality that beyond my not knowing, was an attempt by Elie to keep me from worrying. I honestly didn't know - silly now, of course, but at a time when I thought he was completely focused on his reality, my reality now is a bit shaken by the truth that where I thought the focus was on him and his needs...he took the time to focus on my needs (even when I didn't realize they were there).

I became a soldier's mother the day Elie entered the army...and I guess he became a soldier's mother's son.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Parental Challenge

As your children grow, so too do you. Each challenge they face, is a challenge you face as well. When they first walk, you have this urge to catch them, to stop them from falling. Their first day of school, you want to go along and protect them from everything. And so it goes through their lives and yours.

I've been challenged more than a few times, unsure how to handle a situation. I've made mistakes and have apologized to my children because I don't want them ever to believe I am perfect. I am flawed and they have to know this because some day, whether I tell them or not, they are going to know this. And. when that day comes, when I fail them, they will either be devastated, or they will accept and cope and rebuild our relationship stronger for the honesty. At the same time that I have shown them that I am not perfect, I have taught them they don't have to be perfect either. I don't want them perfect. They only have to be true to themselves.

The army has little patience for this concept. They are interested in the bottom line in many ways. For some soldiers, this works. They fly through the army, learning, developing, gaining. They give to the army and they receive so much in return. This is how it was with Elie, how it is with Chaim. I think it was this way with Yaakov, but it was all new to me and I was less involved. Yaakov shared with us what he would and though there were frustrations, he handled them mostly on his own. I was more involved with Elie, but because I knew less of the army in general, I was more trusting that they'd get to the right place in the end (and they really did). I heard from many others during those years - ones who were not so lucky as I was.

I know the army doesn't handle each boy equally or fairly. That isn't their concern. They are in the business of taking a boy and shaping him into a soldier. The fact that during that shaping, a man is formed, a person develops based on what he was as much as what he will be, is not relevant to the army.

Elie was my first real soldier, my first son in the army and so the army involved me, even if Elie would not have. The ceremonies, the officer coming to my house. It was all designed to guide us through - and it did. After you give birth to your second child, one thing you learn very quickly, is that each child is different. Where Amira almost never cried, Elie almost never didn't cry during those first few weeks. Everything bothered him and it was so hard to keep him calm and happy.

Amira played with toy cars. She used them to bus her dolls around the make-believe city she created in her mind. Elie used the cars to crash into walls and the dolls as action figure fighters. Then came Shmulik. He was the balance between the two. The boy who played with cars and balls; the quiet one who didn't cry easily and was easily contented with music or a touch. As they grew older, the boys loved the same things - cars mostly; and hated the same things - school mostly.

Elie found motivation in the army; Shmulik lost it. One of his commanders told me that he took a bad fall in the early weeks of training and somehow from that moment, became less interested in succeeding and more interested in just finishing. His headaches, which he's always had, have gotten much worse. To be honest, they are, in many cases, brought on by his behavior. The army is more demanding, and so you need to rest more. He was stationed in the Jordan Valley, one of the hottest and driest places in Israel, and so you need to drink more.

He went to the doctors to complain; demanded medical assistance. In the end, about a week to a week and a half ago, he went before a medical board which took his nearly perfect profile of 97 and dropped it to 64. This is equivalent to dropping it three points...just below the required level for serving in a combat unit. It was, if I am to be honest with myself, what Shmulik wanted to happen.

There is a tradition in Judaism that promotes the concept that people are not perfect and so no one ever get a profile of 100. Eight days after a Jewish boy is born, a circumcision is performed. The army deducts three points for this "operation" and so the highest score you can receive would be a 97. It is one of many things so very Jewish about our army - the concept that perfection is God; humanity and its flaws our reality.

From the newly "perfect" score of 97, points are deducted for all manner of things - asthma, bad eyesight, and on and on. Elie was given a profile of 97 and I joked with him about his grades. All his life, I encouraged him to get good grades...and often, he brought home less, "Now," I asked him, "NOW you bring me a 97?" But it was said with pride. Pride in his physical abilities; gratitude for his health.

I was resigned to Shmulik bringing home a 97; I expected it though I was no less grateful. I am struggling not to take his 64 as an insult; as a sign that he is less than he was. I'm grateful he doesn't read my blog; as I was grateful that Elie didn't.

This is where the challenge begins. Shmulik is now a jobnik. Something he wanted for himself enough to make it happen and something that bothers me because I can't believe it is a true reflection of his abilities or the service he should be offering to this country.

There are two kinds of soldiers in the army: combat soldiers and jobniks. Jobniks are the backbone of the army; their purpose is to serve the needs of combat units. They cook, they sew, they truck around supplies. But they do so much more. They staff much of the military intelligence divisions, and are the masterminds behind so much of the army technology. There is no shame and much, much honor in serving the State of Israel - no matter in what unit you serve. It is more honorable to be a jobnik and serve this country with love, than to be a combat soldier and seek all manner of ways to avoid doing what your unit needs.

I would not have minded if Shmulik was sent to a jobnik position from the outset. I am bothered by how this came through; how he maneuvered it. My daughter thinks perhaps he doesn't realize how much he caused this himself, but I am not sure. Had he taken this path from the start, he might have chosen to do something meaningful for his service. He is smart - he could have chosen other options the army offers. But the army is an interesting organ, one that treats its soldiers as it believes it is being treated. Show motivation, and you are rewarded. Betray it, and it will not support you.

For every soldier that tries hard to go into a combat unit and fails, there are several more who are capable of joining combat who choose not to take this path. It is a choice they make, a question they are asked. They are asked, "are you willing to serve in a combat unit?" They don't really want the ones who will say no. An unwilling soldier is a bad one; a motivated soldier may save lives of those around him. Shmulik could have said no long ago and it bothers me, having made the commitment, that he now seeks to get out of it.

All of this is not really about Shmulik, who has made his choice, but about me. My challenge is to accept that Shmulik was never a motivated soldier. He did not like the challenges of the army, the difficulties. The army tests you hard because war is worse. They put you in the field for a week at a time and give you war rations to eat; they deprive you of much of the comforts and through it all, you know that come the weekend, you'll be home.

Whatever conditions they put you under...war is worse. I learned that when Elie went to war, when I heard the exhuastion in his voice, when I knew he was cold. I heard it in the frustration he had when he knew we'd ended the battle of Gaza, but the war would continue.

In truth, I believe in the long run, the stronger the person, the more they carry, the better it is for them. When I see so many others take the easy way out, I want my children to see that what these others lose out on is greater than what they gain for having cheated their way our of doing their share.

And finally, as there are two types of soldiers and two types of people, there are two types of parents. There are those who adapt for the good of their children and there are those who expect their children to adapt to their expectations.

I want to believe I am the first type and not the second. I am in a funny position - what mother wants her son to be a combat soldier? Wants him to risk his life? And yet...

So Shmulik went to the Medical Board and his profile was lowered. He thought he would return to his unit. The unit was enjoying a week's vacation together in Latrun. I told him he would be sent back to base, that they would take his gun away and likely assign him to some menial talks. I did not expect much from the army, assuming they would find some way to show their displeasure at losing a combat soldier. Shmulik didn't agree. He thought he would be able to choose and hoped he would get something close to home. I was so worried they would give him some horrible position.

Shmulik was so confident; I was even more so. He called his commanding officer, thinking he would be told to go to Latrun. The commanding officer told Shmulik to travel to the Jordan Valley, hours from his unit, to go back to base. It was what I expected and yet I was so worried. Don't crush him, I wanted to beg the army. Don't make him miserable for the time he has left to serve.

Shmulik arrived on base. He reported to an office and gave in his forms. The officer asked Shmulik what he wanted to do now. Shmulik loves to drive...anywhere....anytime...anything. "I'd love to drive," Shmulik answered, "to be a nachag boss." (A commander's driver)

"You live in Maale Adumim, right?" the officer asked Shmulik.

"Yes," my son answered.

"Okay," answered the commander, "you can be the driver of the head of the base" (who is from Maale Adumim).

"You're kidding, right?" Shmulik answered, already beginning to feel bad that the man was playing with him.

"No," answered the officer. The position opened that morning.

Shmulik met the commander of the base. He was the man I'd heard speak months and months ago. The one who explained to the parents what their sons would be doing. He was the one who told us that in four months, our sons would be trained fighters and would climb the mountains behind the base to show other parents what their sons would learn.

And he was the one who stood before us during the two ceremonies - one for Chaim and one for Shmulik, who spoke of our sons going to war and telling us that he would do everything to train them, watch over them. By the afternoon, I was so worried. Shmulik had gone to base and I didn't know what was happening. I called and he answered. He told me he was on his way home, and then told me his new job.

He's very excited to be the base commander's driver. It's more than a driver, he explained. He will be this commander's "right-hand man." He'll do whatever the commander orders him to do, errands, computer work, call, get people - whatever it is. He'll drive with him wherever he has to go. And one more thing. The base commander has special training to drive in a certain way. He wants his driver to be able to drive evasively and so he'll be teaching Shmulik how to drive.

And if life were not good enough for my son, the base commander explained that in the coming weeks, he was changing bases and would be assigned a new position about 20 minutes from our home. "We'll be going home almost every day," the commander told Shmulik.

And if that were not enough, the commander is home almost every weekend - and so Shmulik will be as well.

There are moments in your life when you feel God's love, when you know you have been blessed. "God loves you," I told Shmulik. There is simply no other explanation. The army could have treated Shmulik with contempt, blamed him for his headaches and given him a horrible position sifting flour or sorting rice for the next year or more of his service. Instead, they gave him dignity, touched on something he loves to do, and gave him a man of inspiration to serve beside.

For these blessings, I thank You, God - for taking my sons and blessing them, for teaching them, for giving them a path to follow and a meaningful way to serve.

Reality Returns

I wanted to write something about what happened over the weekend - to my family and to my country. I moderate comments, as many of you know. It's something most Israeli bloggers have to do. I have 7 comments sitting there waiting for me to approve (or delete) them. Some bloggers put the comments through to get a dialog going between their readers.

I can't stomach some of the nastier ones and refuse to give them a presence here on a site that is, perhaps above all else, one mother's testimony of love for her sons. Their hatred had no place here and so if I put them through, it is with the historical reality needed to balance the lies upon which their hatred is often based.

In any case, this time, the comment was from a fan (thanks, Adina), and started with the simple "May all your posts be this lighthearted!" Yes, I wish they could be, but reality has a way of denying us that wish. We had a great weekend - made more special because my daughter and her husband came to stay over the weekend. For the last few weeks, when they come, it is for one meal and then they take the long walk home. It is so much more special when they stay the whole time - three meals together, time to sit and relax and talk.

Shmulik was home, Elie, the younger short, we were all gathered there and it was very special. Elie retaliated, as expected...I'm down quite a few. He didn't find the chocolate on his first pass. His second one was more thorough, conducted after locking himself into my bedroom. Amazingly enough, he didn't find the ones I hidden in the coat pockets...he did find the ones hidden in an old matzo box (and no, I can't explain why I have a box of matzo in my bedroom).

It was my youngest son who took up the challenge and located more chocolate, including the ones in the coat, "I was going to look there," said Elie later.

I still have 5-6 chocolate bars left, a few more because guilt still works on the younger son. Elie has informed me that the captive chocolate is behind two locks (not just his door, but a wooden ammunitions box with a lock that he brought back after the war. He needed place to lock things during the war and so took the ammunitions box. Later, he used it to bring his things home. Now, it is a foot stool under his desk.

So that was my reality during the weekend, and it was light and wonderful. We had guests for both meals, the food came out great (I learned long ago that denying your talent is as wrong as taking credit for it and I have two talents that I am proud of - writing, and cooking).

The reality for hundreds of thousands of other Israelis was so different. I'm addicted to the news and yet somehow, I managed to take 48 hours away. I had everyone home and it didn't seem relevant. What I didn't hear until last night, was that on Friday, a grad rocket was shot into Ashkelon, a city of more than 125,000 people. It was a near miss for several; two people went into shock. And yesterday, the peaceful Shabbat was shattered when a Kassem rocket smashed into a school, which houses a daycare center for disabled senior citizens.

Because it was Saturday, our weekend, there were no injuries, but heavy damage was caused to the building. Adina's post made me smile, as she talked of my Hershey's battle, currently leaning towards Elie and hsi brother and now forcing a retalitory move on my part. It is a war with no casualties and only fun. We laugh, we smile, we raid and steal and when the day is done, we'll split the chocolate with love.

But her first sentence, "May all your posts be this lighthearted!" brought thoughts of nearly 200,000 people who were terrorized this weekend. At least this time, the United Nations didn't worry about some even-handed remark that is both ineffective and absurd. This time, they said what had to be said, “Indiscriminate rocket fire against civilians is completely unacceptable and constitutes a terrorist attack.”

Yes, exactly. Hamas in their infinite wisdom, said our report of an attack was "fake." After all their claims during the Gaza War, they are champions of faked reports, so I guess one can expect no less from them.

As for me, I thank Adina for her comment (as I thank all of you who take the time to comment here) and for that one line that keeps coming back to me again and again, all I can say is Amen! May I only write of chocolate wars and peaceful weekends with my family. It may be so boring you all want to stop reading...but I'll do my best to find something please join me in a prayer for peace for my nation and my sons. That is our dream.

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