Sunday, January 30, 2011

An Ongoing Connection

One of many things I love about Israel is the bonds it creates among its children. There are bonds from school, bonds from the army. A few weeks ago, Elie went to meet a bunch of his "army buddies." This weekend, he went back to his yeshiva. Eight others from his group came as well for the weekend.

He took a box of brownies fresh from the oven. I must have put 30 brownies in there. He took the car and, as requested, called when he got there. They spent the weekend catching up. One is married; one engaged. One is about to finish the army as an officer in a few months; two others, like Elie, are beginning their studies.

Elie came back home telling me he had a great time and was glad he went. He's volunteering for the ambulance squad tonight - he's already gone out once. "A few drops of rain," he said, "and people go crashing into each other."

Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt and he was back home after a quick trip to the hospital to drop off three people. I'm hoping he won't have to go out for the rest of the night.

As for those connections, it is something that makes a mother feel so happy. These are the people who will  walk through his life in the years to come, an ongoing identity, a connection.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Now You Command Me

Shmulik went shooting last week with his commanding officer. S. let him shoot his pistol; the targets were balloons. A pistol is, apparently, a completely different matter than an M16. Shmulik was a great shot with the M16 but the pistol takes getting used to.

Shmulik missed the first time; nailed the balloon the second time, well, maybe nailed is the wrong word but the balloon was the worse for wear. S. shot many more bullets and got around to hitting the balloon as well. They were shooting with another soldier, a female, who hit the balloon first time around.

S. is, apparently, an excellent shot. After the initial practice, he told Shmulik, "now you command me." Shmulik then issued different commands - telling him where the attack was coming from and S. had to instantaneously fire in that direction, at that object, in that position.

It is a sign of a relationship between the two, a trust, a bond. S. even gives Shmulik advice on life, though I can't say I always agree on what he says. It is yet another difference between our army and probably all others.

When Shmulik transferred out of the combat unit to be S.'s driver, he was days short of receiving his Kfir beret. S. comes from Kfir and so arranged to get a beret in the Kfir colors for Shmulik. Shmulik has also been moved up a rank and is now a Corporal. It seems it is traditional for the commanding officer to give the newly ranked soldier a "box" - a punch or smack on the back.

Elie remembers when he was giving his soldiers their new rank. "After 20 soldiers, my hand was red," he told me. Shmulik was expecting S. to give him a "box" but S. told him, "I'll give it to you when you don't expect it."

There is something wonderful in having such a person in Shmulik's life at this moment when so much is changing for him. In just a bit over 2 months, he will be getting married and setting up his own home; he's looking for work, trying to earn extra money, and doing what he has to do in the army at the same time.

He admires S. and likes him as a person. S. was wounded by gunfire and spent two years fighting his way back to health. He runs regularly, eats healthy, has a wife he adores, and four girls he proudly tells about to parents of his soldiers. He is a martial arts expert and is amazingly accurate when shooting. He is proud of the army, loves Israel, is religious. In short, he is, for a 20-year-old, an amazing role model.

Two weeks ago, Shmulik had an eye infection. His friends told him he could use it as an excuse to get a few days off from the army, "why should I want to," he said to me, "I like what I'm doing."

He does. He travels with S. and they talk; he is coming to know many roads in Israel, many areas of the country. Like Elie, he is gaining a better understanding of what we face in choosing to live in this land.

In short, the army is helping to shape him into a better person, more responsible, more knowledgeable.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Generation Fading

We got a call two days ago that my husband's aunt had passed away in Canada. Her children would be flying to Israel briefly to bury her here in Jerusalem. We would meet them near a major intersection in Jerusalem and drive together in a chain of cars to the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, there to part with a much loved aunt.

The Mount of Olives is an ancient cemetery, often desecrated by local Arabs. From 1948 - 1967, the Jordanians held this area. When it was reunited in 1967 with the rest of Jerusalem, Israelis and Jews the world over were horrified to find that the Arabs had broken uncountable numbers of tombstones, turned them into a latrine, and rubble. What harm these centuries of dead Jews had done to the Jordanians and local Arab population is beyond understanding but they were an affront to Islam, a testimony to our historical ties to this land and so were smashed, broken, and damaged beyond repair.

Slowly, for the last 40 years, we have been reclaiming, fixing, repairing new damage of ongoing vandalism and hatred, and burying our dead there once again. This was where our cousins chose to bury their father last year; where we came again in great sadness to now bury their mother. We saw many Arab youth working in the cemetery as we were leaving. They were laughing and playing tag as others worked with cement to repair some of the graves. There was no supervision; no one watching over them. Why? I asked Elie. It was not a respectful way to work in a cemetery in such an important place, but it was clearly for these Arab laborers, just a day's work...and an unsupervised one at that.

"They break the stones at night," Elie said, "and then we pay them to fix them." And in the newly patched cement on some of the sides of the graves, I saw Arabic writing; even in this, there is disrespect. A marking of what is ours to somehow claim it as theirs. This too, goes without notice, apparently.

Before the funeral, we met the train of cars in a busy intersection of "West" Jerusalem, the modern, bustling city near our offices. We waited a short while and then began driving to the cemetery together.

On the way there, as we neared the Old City of Jerusalem and its ancient towering walls, a security jeep got in line at the end of the chain of cars. As we drove in what is commonly referred to as "East Jerusalem" by the media, we got stuck at a light, the train broken in half by the traffic light. The security jeep pulled up next to us and smiled reassuringly. The light changed and we continued; the security jeep pulled back to the rear of the trail. A few minutes later, we pulled up near one of the entrances to the cemetery. There are other entrances and we hesitated whether to turn in or not. The rest of the cars ahead of us were already out of site; the cars behind us waiting on our decision. The security jeep pulled next to us, signaled that we should follow, and lead us further down the road to the correct entrance.

We pulled in and exited the car; the two armed guards in the jeep exited and took up positions watching as the mourners walked up the mountainside following my husband's aunt to her final resting place. Surrealistic that the guards were there; a testimony of the need for security even in death. The view from the Mount of Olives is stunning and beyond words. I didn't take a picture today, but I'll try to post one soon.

The ceremony was short and sad. Our cousins buried their father here not long ago, now they came for only a few hours, to bury their mother. She was an amazing woman, both in terms of how she lived her life and raised her children, but also in what she suffered to achieve it all. She was a survivor of the Nazi camps, of a horrible plan to rid Europe and the world of its Jews. It started in Germany, spread like the cancer it was to Poland and beyond. Relatively late in the war, it came to Hungary and to the Jews there. It came late, but it came with a vengeance and a determination that had been forged by years of hatred and murder.

This hatred came to my mother-in-law's town in the early months of 1944. They took her brother and killed him. Elie bears his name, a living reminder that we triumphed and not them. They took my father-in-law and his brothers. One died in the forest, urging his cousin to leave him because he was too sick to go on. Shmulik bears his name, a living reminder that we survived and will never forget.

They took my mother-in-law, her mother, her sisters. Her mother and young Gabriella were murdered. My mother-in-law and her older sister survived the initial selection. Kloty (her Hebrew name was Breindel, but everyone called her Kloty) had a problem with her hips. I think it was something that happened during her birth and so others hid her, afraid that Mengele would choose her for experimentation. No, I won't give him the honor of calling him Dr., though he was a medical practitioner. To me, calling someone a doctor is more than just a recognition of having achieved a certain level of knowledge or learning.

So Mengele didn't get his hands on Kloty, though even without this, she suffered all her life from the pain in her hips. She had operations. She had difficulties and yet she always had a smile whenever I saw her and a positive attitude. Someone tried to console Kloty's daughter by reminding her that her mother had survived Hitler's Holocaust. But, I told our cousin as I met her near her mother's grave, that Kloty didn't just survive the war. She lived. She chose life. She chose to build a family and live.

And now, she is gone and I am left with such sadness. My mother-in-law passed away more than 15-years-ago and still leaves a void in our lives. Her brother passed away a few years later, and now the last of that family is gone. Kloty was the oldest and it is hard to believe the day has come when they all are gone.

We still have aunts and uncles, thankfully, on my father-in-law's side. For that matter, my husband still has his uncle's wife on his mother's side who is thankfully with us, but there was something about Kloty being here that kept a part of my mother-in-law alive for me too.

People are saying that the survivors are dying; the generation that could bear direct testimony to the horrors that man did inflict on man is almost gone. Those who survived were children at the time; and each year we get closer to that day when they will all be gone. For our family, today was one of those days.

With such great sadness, I realized as I returned to my office, they are leaving us and in their leaving, they are giving us a terrible and tremendous responsibility. They have carried the memory of what was done to them; they were haunted by it to the end of their days. They suffered in their health and fought to overcome. Now we have to remember. Now we have to remind the world.

May God bless Breindel bat Yishayahu with all the riches of the world to come and all the good things she deserved. May He comfort her children and all of us. We are losing a generation who defined grace and life and taught us that no matter what others will do to us, it is what we do ourselves that defines who we are. They taught us that to choose life is imperative, but more, to live life is a triumph.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blood Money

According to an article (appears below) in the Palestinian Media Watch, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has given $2,000 to the family of the terrorist who attempted to attack Chaim's unit. Apparently Khaldoun Najib Samoudy thought he could get out of a cab, run towards Israeli soldiers with explosives and become some martyr for Islam. Instead, he was ... correctly ... terminated ... neutralized ... whatever miserable word I can think of to indicate his intent was murder and his death the least of what he deserves.

That the Palestinian Authority thought to rewards this would-be killer and give his family blood money shows much of what is wrong in their society.

To set the record straight, Samoudy was not a martyr but an idiot; he was not a hero but a wannabe killer who failed even in that. Chaim's friends have been cleared by the army of any operational errors. They attempted to warn Samoudy. They shot in the air; apparently, he was too stupid or too brainwashed to realize it and so he moves to the next world and real justice. I doubt the $2,000 will help him on his judgment day.

May the soldiers of Chaim's unit be blessed with health and life and safety and may Samoudy's family remember that there is no reward for murder and terror in the next life.

Abbas gives terrorist's family $2000

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Earlier this month a Palestinian terrorist attempted to attack an Israeli checkpoint. Carrying two pipe bombs, he ran towards the Israeli soldiers, screaming "Allahu Akbar" - "Allah is Greater" - and was shot and killed before he could detonate the bombs.

Yesterday Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas granted "the relatives of the Shahid" $2000:
"The governor of the Jenin district, Kadura Musa, has awarded a presidential grant to the family of the Shahid (Martyr), Khaldoun Najib Samoudy, during a visit that took place yesterday in the village of Al-Yamoun. The governor noted that the grant is financial aid in the amount of $2000 that the President [Mahmoud Abbas] is awarding to the relatives of the Shahid, who was recently killed as a Martyr at the Hamra checkpoint by the Israeli occupation forces."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Fatah) Jan. 25, 2011]

Monday, January 24, 2011

One I Can Handle, Not Two...Not Three

Friday afternoon, about an hour before Shabbat, I was finishing things up in the kitchen. Chaim was to arrive soon. Shmulik was out delivering some food to neighbors where we would be eating lunch. It was winding down towards Shabbat.

Elie came running down the stair and called out, "fire in a building in 03," and went running out the door. I watched him jump into the car, slam the red light on to the top of the car, and peel out and zoom up the hill. I stood for a second, not more, and then my phone rang. I grabbed it. It was Shmulik, "tell Elie there's a fire in 03 and he should come."

"He's on his way," I told Shmulik, "are you going too?"

"Yes," he said.

I can handle one, I thought as I stood there, not sure what to do. I can't handle two. My peace was gone. I wasn't sure what was left to do. I don't have a television any more and even if I did, it is too soon to be on the news. Nothing on the Internet. Two sons. Fire. A building. I could hear a siren in the distance. It did nothing to calm me.

I called Amira. She was on the way to spend Shabbat with friends. She calmly explained to me what I knew already, but needed to hear. The fire department won't let the ambulance crews into the fire. They will bring any injured out. The ambulance people are trained. The goal is to treat those who are hurt, not get others injured.

I thought of Chaim. He was on a bus to our house. We tell him to grab any bus that comes to our city. Five or six come this way, but only one comes all the way to our neighborhood and so we often pick him up in the front of the city.

I called him up and asked where he was. He had just gotten into Maale Adumim.

"There's a fire in a building in 03," I told him. 03 is a neighborhood near the front of the city. "Elie and Shmulik both went there. Do you want me to come pick you up?"

"Let me call them and see if they need help. I'll call you back." And then the thought. Great. Just great. I can't handle Elie and Shmulik at the same time, now Chaim too? Are they trying to kill me?

Chaim called me back, "the fire is out. Everything's fine. Elie's coming to get me now. See you soon."

So they came home. It looked worse than it was. Two dumb kids smoking something between two buildings set the trees on fire and it went up fast and big and looked like it was going to catch the buildings but everyone is fine.

One...two...three - no, that I can't handle. But don't try to tell them that - they are enthralled at the chance to help, the excitement of the moment.

A Bit Late - but Merry Christmas - from Jihad Bells

What can I say - there is such truth in this...

Jihad Bells from Latma:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Security Slips and Catches

Security in Israel is an amazing thing. For many, they believe Israeli security is the best there is. Certainly, El Al and other Israeli airlines have defined what it means to fly secure. Our military intelligence is top notch and our soldiers alert.

As citizens, we hear about the successes and sometimes about the slips. When you have sons in the army, you hear more slips (and successes) than sometimes get to the news. You also hear more details.

Chaim was over for Shabbat. I'd heard about an incident last week in which a Palestinian was killed while attempting to attack soldiers at a check point. It is a note in a news item, a footnote in a war that has lasted more than 60 years. But when the base is near your son, when the war involves your son, when it is his unit, all things change.

Two years ago, I heard about an attack. I turned on the television in the hotel where we were staying to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, and saw that it was not "just" an attack - 23 people, mostly soldiers, were injured when a Palestinian terrorist rammed his BMW into them. The Palestinian's motives were simple. He was angry because his uncle and parents refused his request to marry his young cousin. His answer was to take the family car and try to kill some Jews, even better, some soldiers.

On CNN, I saw the first pictures. The ambulances, and a soldier sitting inside - he had a turquoise beret - artillery. And another, and another. It was an artillery unit. Elie was in artillery. Later I would learn that it wasn't just an artillery unit, it was Elie's unit. (I wrote about that here: It Could Have Been Elie.) One funny note about that post - I wrote that Elie had been on a check point for 8 hours. Only after he finished the army did he laugh and ask me how I could think that. I stumbled. Hadn't he said it? Had I just assumed it? The answer was that he wasn't at the check point, he was on an operation. I guess it was my assumption and the truth doesn't change the story, but it is an interesting footnote).

So, this time - an Arab took a cab to just near the base next to where Chaim is now. Chaim's group is split between these bases and check points. The Arab got out of the car, about 100 meters away. Pulled out a rifle and yelled, "Allah Akbar" and started running towards the soldiers. They shot in the air, but the Arab kept coming and in the end, they shot the Arab and he was killed.

BBC and others reported an Arab was shot at a check point. The second or third sentence reported that he was armed. Perhaps they didn't mention the fact that Chaim's friends called out warnings and shot in the air. Why bother mentioning the fact that the Arab screamed out, "Allah Akbar," which was, truly, his way of saying that he planned to kill or be killed.

That was a case where the security measures worked. The soldiers did a great job, the way they were taught to fight. On the flip side, I'm trying to believe it balances out two other really stupid incidents that Shmulik told me about.

The first - Shmulik and his commanding officer (S.) were driving to an important meeting on a major base in Israel. To get on the base, you need your identification. S. forgot his at home. I don't want to write how, but Shmulik talked them on to base without them checking S.'s identification. That was bad.

Then, to get into the building where the meeting was, S. needed ID. They figured out S. could take Shmulik's ID and if there was a problem - he could say he must have mixed his ID with his driver. That worked - that was bad.

Worse, was that Shmulik had to go to the bathroom, after an hour waiting in the car for S. So, he went up to the guards and explained that his commanding officer had taken his ID by mistake and sure enough, they let him into the building. That might have been worse, but at least I can reconcile it by saying that Shmulik was in uniform the entire time; his Hebrew is clearly accented as an Israeli.

The chance of this happening again, even on this same base, is incredibly small. I've been on that base one time - it took me 30 minutes to get through security...and without a car.

I guess the good news is that the security in Israel is what it has to be to keep us secure and most often succeeds. Beyond that, as Elie's group moved through the army and was tested, so to does Chaim's group and Shmulik's group. That is what it means to be a soldier in Israel.

Back in September, 2008, Elie's unit was called upon to answer a clear and immediate threat. Without hesitation, they pulled out their weapons and opened fire. Dozens of bullets were fired; the target neutralized. The threat was real; the answer decisive and just. If that young Arab with the BMW had had his way, he would have killed nearly 2 dozen soldiers.

This week, Chaim's friends were called upon with the same challenge. The threat was clear. The Arab was armed. He came to the base to attack. The threat was real; the answer decisive and just.

I laugh about Shmulik talking his way on base; I shake my head a bit about an Arab successfully making his way on base to take a shower; but I'm so thankful that when tested, our sons are trained to respond. The world may or may not recognize it; BBC may slant it, but the bottom line is that the threat was there, as was the proper response...two years ago, twenty years ago, last week, and in the future. These are our sons and they make us so proud.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Outrage

We had an amazing Shabbat. So many conversations, so much I want to write about. My mind is full of topics we discussed and thoughts I want to share. Like a recent post "Conversations," I want to do it again - in bits and pieces.

But first, as I always do, I check the news. What have I missed in the 25 hours that I withdrew into my family? What has happened in my world and around the world? I read of an explosion in a Russian mall, of problems in Tunisia, of Lebanon still on the brink of instability. And I read that a rocket and two mortars had been fired at Israel Friday night.

I passed over the note quickly. No one injured, thankfully. On to more news. The congresswoman is doing better, unemployment is down in, wait. Stop. This is wrong. Just wrong. A ROCKET AND TWO MORTARS were fired at Israel. No one shot missiles at the United States over the weekend. No one in Germany or England or France thought twice about the possibility.

Why is the world not outraged. you understand? ROCKETS. MISSILES. Explosives are being fired at my country. They slam into the ground, if we are lucky. They slam into buildings and people if we are not. And each time, we do the same stupid thing. We say thank you, God, that it didn't kill someone...and then we move on to our week as if nothing happened.

This is not right. This is an outrage. I posted a short note about the mortars to my Facebook page. A simple note:"Last night - two mortars were fired at Israel...what words can describe the outrage we should be expressing?"

Someone posted a simple response, "Describe it."

Okay, I will (and thanks for the challenge).

Imagine sitting at your dinner table with your family surrounding you. The Sabbath candles are burning in the corner of the room; the house smells of the wonderful dishes that have been cooked in honor of the day. You are surrounded by love, your wife or husband, your children. And then, in seconds, you hear "Color Red" or a siren. "Color Red" - run, run to a safe room. Hurry. Grab your child and run. You have 15 seconds before a missile might come slamming into your house. At the wrong angle, it could crash through your living room window and explode. RUN.

Imagine you have finished your dinner. You ate too much again. It happens on Friday nights. All week is about running, but tonight, you just sit and enjoy a relaxing meal. There was fish and soup and the chicken was amazing. Your wife made a new kind of rice, or your husband surprised you with a delicious chocolate cake from the bakery. What could you do? You ate and now you are stuffed. Your husband invites you for a walk...your wife says, "let's go walk for a few minutes."

You go outside. It's so peaceful and quiet. You greet neighbors with the special Sabbath greeting, "Shabbat shalom" - a peaceful Sabbath. It's winter, but it has been a bad winter with not enough rain and so it is amazingly pleasant. A light sweater, the air is clean. And then you hear it. "Color Red. Color Red" or a siren. And you look in panic. You have 15 seconds to find cover. Run. Grab your wife's hand and run. Take your husband's arm. Run!

And you get to somewhere and bend down low and you think. Where is my daughter? Where is my son? Oh God, where are they? Did they go out for a walk? Did they make it to the safe room? You hear an explosion in the distance. It was too far away to be your house, right? It didn't hit something, did it?

So you rush home. People are looking out the window and talking. It's okay. It didn't hit the city. You see your house is fine. Your children were worried, but they are fine.

You can't think about the outrage because all you can think about is that it didn't hurt anyone - this time.

But the outrage comes in the panic that the parents will feel each time, every time, this happens. The outrage comes in the fact that this can happen one day, and the world will not even mention it as they call for rights for the poor Palestinians and demand Israel make more concessions for peace. Or condemn us for shooting at those who launch the rockets because while they missed, we did not.

And so, Palestinians launch rockets and mortars at Israel. The Israeli air force sights the rocket launchers and shoots at them. If we are lucky, we hit the terror cell and stop future rockets from that location or group. But the world hears only that four Palestinians were killed in an air strike and they condemn Israel. What does it mean, an air strike? What do you think we are shooting at?

When I describe the couple walking in the streets, suddenly looking for a place to run, it becomes real to you. You are outraged. Why does the outrage melt away when we answer back? Why are we wrong because we manage, thankfully, to hit our target? Must we wait until they hit theirs? Must we bury more people, have more orphans?

Where, God, WHERE is the outrage? Why is President Obama not screaming at the mortars and rockets? Does he even know? He is the first to demand Israel freeze, stop, negotiate, compromise. Where is his outrage? A rocket has been fired.

Never mind, Obama - he is no friend of Israel and his sense of outrage is limited to his own political agenda, but why are so many so silent? Why is the media not filled with this outrage? Two mortars were launched against our cities.

I have no answers. I can't describe why the world isn't outraged. I can only describe the reality of what happens each time, every time, the Palestinians decide they have the right to target almost 1 million people.

Imagine yourself sitting in front of your computer, reading this blog and suddenly, you hear a siren. You have 15 seconds to run. And not just you. You have 15 seconds to think of your loved ones and where they are, and if they are close enough to reach shelter. Imagine...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Planting and Complimenting

My two youngest children are not going to school today and yet what they will learn today is a lesson that will last them all their lives. Like tens of thousands of others, they are going out into a forest to plant trees. That simple. That true.

Today is Tu B'Shevat - it is, though you may laugh, the  new year of the trees. We have one - we even have more than one if you count the solar year that begins on January 1st and the lunar year that begins each Rosh Hashana holiday. Why shouldn't the trees have one?

The first year I was in Israel, I finally understood what it means - this new year of the tree. On the exact day (and yes, it was a lucky coincidence that it happened that day and not the day before or after) of that first year in Israel, the almond tree blossoms opened for the first time. It doesn't always happen, but that first year it did. Later, I would learn that it depends on where you are - the warmer it is (near the coast, for example), the trees blossom sooner.

But it didn't matter then. The blossoms were opening - ON Tu B'Shevat. That was Israel - the place where the holidays make sense because they are as much about land as they are about seasons. In America, Jewish holidays come and go with the months of the year; in Israel, they come and go with the land. Passover marks the end of winter, the beginning of Spring. Tu B'Shevat is all about the trees.

So my children go into the forests with their friends - and plant more trees. With this they learn that there are never enough trees in Israel - more than 5 million less this year because of the devastating Carmel fires. So we will do what we have done for the last 100 years. Quietly, without politics, with love - we will plant our land.

They also learn that this land is theirs and build a connection that transcends time. Only our people have cared enough to make the land blossom for its sake, for its beauty. It isn't crops we plant, but trees. Each child has heard the story of Honi (you can read it here).

In short, Honi comes across an old man planting a carob tree. He asks the man why he is planting something that takes 70 years to grow, something that he will never see. The man explains that as his grandfather planted one for him, he plants now for his grandson to see some day.

And lest this story venture too far from my sons, the soldiers, let me tell you a quick story. It's cold where my children are going. They will be planting south of Jerusalem, in an area known as Gush Etzion - a special, beautiful place of great historic and national importance, a symbol of our fight to live here.

Last week, my youngest son joined in an overnight march to remember 35 brave men who were ambushed and murdered. It is the story of the Lamed-Heigh...I'll tell that one I should have last week. It is geographically located south of Jerusalem and at a higher level. It will snow there before it will snow in Jerusalem, the nights slightly colder.

My daughter is taking two sweaters and a warm shirt and I hope she will be warm enough. Davidi wanted to just go with a shirt and sweatshirt and I was complaining that he needed to take another jacket.

Elie stopped me explaining that his younger sister would just whine and complain, but if Davidi was cold, he'd just be quiet and be cold. It was, for both of them, a good moment, a show of confidence. Davidi towers over me now. He's so tall - just coming up to Elie's height, having passed both his father and Shmulik already. At just 15, there's probably a good chance he'll be the tallest in the family. He's beautiful and strong and I have to stop thinking of him as my baby.

He packed his own food, pushed aside my wanting to make sure he had enough for the day. Already the baby is gone, the man on the horizon. I don't want to meet the man so soon. I'm not ready. It's enough that I had to let Elie grow up, and Amira and Shmulik. Davidi too? He is the first of my children born in Israel, the first gift of this land.

The sun is shining here. There isn't a cloud in the sky. How I wish I could be going with them to plant, to touch this land, to tell it softly, as I have in the past, how special it is to be here. So, I will end where I started, with the wonderful knowledge that my two youngest children are not going to school today and yet what they will learn today is a lesson that will last them all their lives.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Reserves...Step 1

Yesterday, as we were preparing dinner, Elie said to me, "I got a call from the army today."

Amazingly enough, those simple words were enough to stop my heart. I'm not ready. "What did they want?" I asked.

He has an appointment soon with the commander of his g'dud (battalion) for Miluim (Reserves). I guess he will learn what the army wants him to do. Shmulik thinks they'll offer him to come back into the army. It happens quite often. A friend's son left and after a few months decided to return.

I don't know what Elie will do. For the first time, he didn't laugh the idea away. I'm torn. I think the army was great for Elie. It gave him so much; helped shape him into the man he has become. But more?

It isn't for me to say. It might not even be for that. More likely, the commanding officer is just meeting all the "new" guys under his command.

Elie will go there...I guess not in uniform...and after a short meeting, he'll come home. And then, at some point, he'll get a letter with a date and a time and a place. That next time, he'll go in a uniform, he'll train or he'll serve at a check point or something and then, he'll come home.

And the same thing will happen next year and the year after and I'll deal with it because that's part of what I signed on to the minute Elie left our home almost four years ago. I'll deal.

And I'll probably laugh at myself somewhere down the line, as I laugh at myself now for those early days. It's really just a process...a step by step acceptance.

I handled those early days of basic training. I handled the advanced training. I even handled war. Really, I did and I can handle this too.

The Posts I Never Want To Make

I'm superstitious. I am. I always have been and I get more so as I get older. Or maybe, at some point, I just stopped denying it. I never lie about my kids being sick. I know many who will tell someone that they can't go to a meeting or meet a deadline because their kid is sick. I don't do that. I believe that in some sick way, this is what will happen. They'll get sick. Not worth it.

I don't care about ladders and cats; lines on the street or whatever. I just feel that sometimes, we can think our way in to something terrible. In my mind, I have posts I never want to make. I can't even bring myself to list them, though I know what they are.

It's like the time when my oldest daughter was very young and was getting terrible headaches. I took her to the doctor. Migraines, the doctor told me. Like her father, like her grandmother. Inherited. Expected. Deal.

"Are you sure?" I asked the doctor, terrified it could be something so much worse.

"What are you afraid of?" the doctor asked. And I explained that I couldn't bring myself to say the awful words that I feared. She said those words and saw me cringe. "Is that what you are afraid of?" and I nodded my head.

She smiled, that wonderful smile she had - the one in which she showed that we were friends of a sort and she respected me and didn't think me a hysterical mother. "You're lucky," she told me, "you don't even know the things you should be afraid of!" She had recently had her own child and because she was a doctor, every illness, every symptom was so much worse.

As to these posts, I recently read a blog post that made me remember my own list. This was one of them. This woman's son was on the border; there was an alert and they were called into the field. Something went wrong. Horribly wrong and her son's friend was killed by friendly fire, right before his eyes.

She asks some hard questions, ones I don't necessarily see in the same way, but there is no doubt she is writing one of the posts I never want to write, feeling the same agony for her son and the mother of the soldier killed in the incident.

I won't now list any of the other posts I never want to make; some are obvious, others will be left to the deepest parts of my mind.

May God comfort Nadav's family and may his memory be blessed.

Here's the post:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rockets are Falling Again

Four yesterday, several more in the past week. It's the build up before the action; it's the question before the answer. How long will the Israeli government allow our people to live under rocket fire? The answer, as always, is in the results. We are waiting, as we always do, for the rocket that doesn't miss, for the mortar that strikes true.

When it does, it will kill someone, perhaps, God help us, a child, a pregnant woman, a mother, a father, a much beloved grandfather, the grandmother who cooks for the whole family and makes it what it is. It might, again, be a few children playing in a yard. It might, again, hit a school just moments after the children have left the room. It might, again, hit a child, an only child of parents who waited so long to bring him into this world.

It will crush their lives forever. There is no tomorrow when you lose your today. So we wait until it happens, a bit angrier this time because we have been here before and even though we may have learned part of the lesson, in that we know what will happen, we haven't learned enough.
According to the IDF 20 rockets & mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip during the first 10 days of 2011.
We are still stupid enough to care what other countries say, and other countries are as stupid and blind as they were in November, 2008. One hundred and twenty-four rockets and mortars "fell" that November. What a silly word - "fell." Of course they did not fall. They were intentionally launched at civilian areas to maim and murder our citizens. These rockets and mortars were not fired at military targets, but at schools, homes, synagogues, hospitals, the heart and soul of our people, our children.
Today 171 truckloads of goods entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings, and 2 truckloads of flowers & strawberries entered Israel.
Yesterday, four rockets were fired at Israel. Today, one rocket was fired at Israel.

Exactly two years ago, as we were days away from my youngest son's bar mitzvah, I was facing the reality that my oldest son might not be there. He was stationed near Gaza, mere meters from the border and well within the range of the same kind of rockets being fired today. It was a nightmare from which I could not awaken. I spent my days in a daze of fear and tears.

For many months, even years, I had been trained to be thankful each time they announced that the rocket had hit in an "open area." Suddenly, in the middle of the war, I realized my son was stationed in one of those open fields. What am I supposed to pray for now? I wondered.

There are no words, even now, to explain what I felt during those horrible days. History will tell you it was really only about 18 days of war. My heart will tell you it felt so much longer. On the last day before my son's bar mitzvah, I got the call from Elie that they were releasing him and he could come home. I grabbed some food, my phone and the car keys and went driving down there, trying to drive slowly enough that I wouldn't break any laws, desperate to see him.

Most of the last few minutes were a blur to me. I remember taking a wrong turn and wanting to cry. I remember seeing him for the first time in weeks and thanking God for this most precious of gifts - a son safe and coming home. One of the first things Elie said to me on the ride home still rings in my ears.

"Ima," he said, "they didn't let us finish."

No, Elie and the other soldiers knew that their work was not done; that Gaza would fire more rockets. There were political reasons for stopping the war, not military ones. Barack Hussein Obama was coming into office and Israel was told to pull itself into order. I didn't hear Obama condemn the rocket attacks yesterday. I didn't hear Obama condemn them today.

Maybe he too is waiting for a child to die. Maybe only when our blood flows in the streets will our government understand that what wasn't finished two years ago, has come back to haunt us again. For one year after a soldier finishes his mandatory service, he is not called to the Reserves. The catch is that the army does call them that first year and the soldier has the choice of going or not (unless there is a war). Elie's year ends in a bit over two months.

I can't let myself think of another war yet. But five rockets in two days. The world has to understand -  unless they demand that Hamas stops, this will again be the build up before the action; the question before Israel's strong answer. And this time, this time maybe we will finish what should have been done two years ago.

Friday, January 7, 2011

My Israel

Sometimes in all the rush of describing my life as a soldier's mother, I forget to describe one of the fundamental, constants in my life. It is an interesting day with so much going on. I'm developing a cold...I hate being sick. My oldest daughter is sick, and I hate that too. We have plans for Saturday night - on two fronts. Our Davidi turned 15 and we want to share that event with the more extended family. Secondly, our son-in-law has decided to go into the army.

For the last few years, he's been on a side program for learning. Many, too many, in Israel decide for one reason or another to avoid the army. I would say there are as many secular Jews in Israel that avoid the army as there are very religious ones. But too often, it is only the religious Jews that receive the brunt of the criticism for this decision.

For years, I felt that at very least, the very religious were replacing the army service with another kind of service - praying for the land and our well-being. The longer Elie served, the harder this concept became for me and I don't think I was very good at hiding this at all. I believe we all live in this land; we all benefit from what it has to offer. If you are capable of serving and choose not to, that brings into question your right to be here. I don't care what kind of service you do - whether it be in the army, the national service, or some other organization.

My feeling is that those who serve in ZAKA - and ONLY the ultra-Orthodox do - should easily be recognized for their service to this land. Those who serve in the ambulances and in so many ways that benefit the whole should be thanked. But I no longer feel that only sitting and learning, for the majority of those who choose this path, is the right one. There walk among us some who are truly holy, truly devoted, truly capable of bringing the blessings of the Heavens to our land and so their learning and their prayers, these few amazingly gifted people, should be excused from the army.

But sadly, the vast majority who use this "out" don't really fit those last few sentences.

My son-in-law is truly an amazing young man and we love him dearly. We respect him for his kindness, his patience with our youngest daughter, his devotion to our oldest. We love him for his personality and so much more. He sits with my youngest and helps her learn for tests; he helps our youngest son to prepare short lessons that we share at the Shabbat table. He is very special in so many ways.

The one sore point for me was the issue of the army and recently my daughter told me that he had been speaking with them and would be going in to start basic training this week. He went in yesterday. He'll be home every Shabbat during basic training and then after that, he'll be home every night. I love that he will come to us and share his experiences. I love that he and Elie and Shmulik will have this additional bond. I love the example he sets for my sons - that you can be a truly righteous and learned person and serve the country in the army.

Food will not be a problem for him. There will be time for daily prayer, as there was for Elie and Shmulik and Chaim and there are many concessions our army makes for married soldiers.

Elie was, for a period of time, the commanding officer for a group of 10 married soldiers. "I let them out for almost anything," Elie would tell me. So Haim goes in, another of my sons in the army. He will be in the air force though we don't know what he will be doing and so Saturday night, the family gathers in his honor to mark this moment when he too chooses to serve this land.

Those are the internal events on my mind. I also have a series of national events that touch me. In no particular order, there is the event last week in which the Palestinians attempted, yet again, to fool the world. This time, it was a woman "killed" by tear gas at a demonstration. Only, she wasn't at the demonstration and she died of cancer.

But the forces of confusion and evil are still out there. Maybe she got cancer from the tear gas. And died within 24 hours? How stupid do you think we are? I want to ask. But this is the world who thought the flotilla was a humanitarian mission, so what can you expect? And sure enough, the same poster brought up the flotilla. I am weary of arguing with people who really don't care about the truth. Why bother? But we have to bother.

Then there is the fury of Hamas' most recent propaganda campaign. They have joined a long line of other ignorant people who have denied the Holocaust - Ahmadinejad from Iran, Nasrallah from Lebanon. There is no surprise in this claim, but the anger that rises to choke me is there nonetheless. There are things that are sacred, untouchable, crystal clear and pure.

This is the Holocaust. Don't touch it. These are the few remaining survivors. Do not. Do not dare to defile their history and all they suffered. These are our red lines beyond all other lines. You want to deny our history in this land, as the idiot professor at Barnard College (Nadia Abu el Haj) tried to do? Go ahead, you simply prove how very unqualified you are for any respectable position at any respectable university. It really is all very simple. The forces of confusion and evil love this concept.

And another aggravation or anger. Chile has decided to recognize a Palestinian state - the borders of which do not exist; the government of which is an insult to the concept of leadership or justice. Yesterday, the Palestinian Authority - the very one Chile thought worth honoring, released six terrorists from jail. One of these animals terrorists was responsible for killing four innocent Israelis. A pregnant mother, in her ninth month and her husband (leaving six orphaned children behind); another mother and a beloved husband.

That horrible, shocking attack of butchery occurred four months ago. Four months, for the intentional, cold-blooded murder of four people? That is the justice system Chile has recognized. Recently, there was an earthquake in Chile. Israel immediately offered to send aid.

In July, 2010, Israel sent a team of aid workers to Chile to teach them how to deal effectively with a multiple casualty incident - something we have learned too well as a result of Palestinian terrorism. So many times in the past, we have offered aid to Chile and other countries.

Chile's actions prove beyond all doubt that much of the world is naive and stupid enough to believe the lies of the forces of confusion and evil. Their meaningless recognition of state that does not exist, to be ruled by a body that has no sense of justice, integrity or honesty, one that feeds on violence, hatred, martyrdom and death is truly a statement against Chile and not for the Palestinians.

I called this post "My Israel" and yet again, didn't write about what I wanted to say. I can't, in one paragraph sum up what this incredible land means to me; how it angers me to hear those who live in lies triumph. Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof once said, "there is no great shame in being poor, but it's no great honor either." Those words make me smile and realize that that innocence is gone from this world. He never existed, except in the pages of books and the flickers of the movie and yet he was a man of integrity just looking for a way to safety for him and his family at a time of turbulence.

There is great shame and no honor in Chile's decision, in Hamas' disgusting and outlandish denial of the Holocaust; in the Palestinian revolving door of justice that frees a murderer after four months. I console myself with two thoughts about Wael Bitar. My first is that I have little doubt that somewhere in Israel, a decision has been made to find him, and this time, justice in this world will be served. My second thought is that even should he escape justice now, he will not escape justice in the next world. He will answer for his crimes and wish he'd served his time in a Palestinian jail because I believe what God has planned for him will be so much more just.

Maybe next week I'll post the one I keep saying I will - the one about Israel and the gift I have given to my children. For now, the anger chokes me and so I'll go away from the words and to the cooking that awaits me. In that, there is honor and peace for me.

Shabbat shalom - may it come in peace and stay in peace for all our families, our people, our land.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Elie and I had another of those amazing conversations in which more of his life as a soldier comes out, even now, almost a year after he left the standing army. It's like a tapestry that he slowly reveals row by row before my eyes; it's a complex model he slowly builds for me. I see glimpses at a time and want to hold on to it; only to have it slip away as he continues.

I say to myself - remember this one. Keep it. Share it. Sometimes, I know I can't.

All of these vehicles can be found on the Internet, but I don't think they should be there and so as Elie describes their strengths and weaknesses, I try to remember, knowing it is for me alone. There's a picture Elie gave me months and months ago - of him sitting on a Humvee. "I can't put this on the blog, can I?" I asked.

"No problem," he answered.

"Really?" I asked.

"Sure, it's the American Humvee, not the Israeli one." Apparently, ours has been modified enough that it's advisable not to show the difference, but the American one is allowed (and easily found already on the Internet).

As for today's conversation - there were three stories I wanted to share...

Tear Gas

This one falls somewhere in the zone of "not sure what I should be writing" and "more than a mother needs to know." There was much talk in Israel about the Palestinian woman who was killed at a recent demonstration, apparently by tear gas. First the rumors said she might have been stabbed and pregnant; then other rumors came out that the hospital records didn't jive with what the hospital and this woman's family were claiming. All that was certain was that the family was quick to take center stage and claim her martyrdom.

Of course, it now comes out - the woman wasn't even AT the demonstration and she didn't die of inhaling tear gas - she died of cancer. More lies and propaganda.

But from this story, came one from Elie I had never heard before. It seems part of his training included his being exposed to tear gas. They want the soldier to know what it feels like, what it smells like. And so they purposefully expose themselves to it on a limited basis.

Besides, Elie explained. If there is a need to enter an area and they have to use tear gas before going in, the soldiers are then further exposed to the gas as they move through the area.

Elie doubted the story from the moment he heard it. The conversation was a hard one for me - more information than I needed, I guess. But more - yet another experience that is born of the reality in which we live, the violence thrust upon us.

Elie never fired tear gas without justification. He took no pride in using this. It is used, at all times, as a measure intended to save lives, to quell unrest by bothering the senses, rather than inflicting bodily harm. It would be much easier to shoot, but they try to avoid that.

If you've read this far - please come back to this post in a few days. I need to add something here, but can't yet. Sorry to be mysterious, but I don't want to cross that line of things I cannot tell and I've already come closer than I wanted to. Come back...honestly, I've never done this on the blog, but this time, for the first time I will.

For now, I'll wish you a Shabbat shalom - tomorrow will be a hectic one here and I might not have time to write.

Dumb Thieves

I loved this story and I could tell that Elie enjoyed it during our recent conversations. It's a short one...short, and dumb.

Some Arabs stole a car. I guess that isn't dumb, but it certainly isn't honest. Actually, it was a van, not a car.
Actually, it was a van that belonged to an army unit (in this case, Elie's). That was dumb.

The van was in Tel Aviv when it was stolen. The Arabs immediately headed for safer territory - they headed towards the West Bank. Now, if your car is stolen, or mine (as it was several years ago); the technology may exist to locate the car, but the police and army aren't going to use that technology too much because, well, it's expensive and I guess it's only a car. But you steal an army car...they're going to find it.

But in this case, the Arabs decided to help simplify things. Elie's unit was alerted to the fact that the van was stolen. Elie's unit was alerted to the fact that the van was on the move...and heading straight for them. They went over to the military police and explained - if you see a van...and they described it perfectly because, well, after all, it was theirs. And if it has this logo on it - and they showed them the logo they all wore on their uniforms...if you see this van - stop it.

And so, as the Arabs drove right up to Elie's checkpoint, guns went up and the Arabs quickly surrendered without a single shot being fired. Elie and his troops relieved the Arabs of their stolen merchandise and arrested them.

And thus ends the story of the dumb thieves who stole a van and then drove it straight into the waiting arms of the very unit from which it was stolen.

Our Heroes

It's a strange title and yet I can think of no other. Who are your heroes? Think of who inspires you, who makes you believe the world could be a better place? I don't think I ever really considered the concept of who MY heroes were until recently. I was looking at Dave Carroll's website ( and he has an amazing entry for "Everyday heroes". This was right about the time of the Carmel fires and so I added Elan Riven, the 16-year-old firefighter volunteer who died.

After, I realized that while Elan was most definitely a hero, he fell into that category of people who become heroes in death. But there are others - those who defy the odds, not to die, but to live. One of my recent heroes was a relatively young mother who recently passed away after years of fighting cancer. RifkA started a blog, Chemo and Coffee, and showed how someone can be a hero simply by choosing to live, choosing to fight.

Other heroes? Anne Frank. I keep picking dead heroes - I know I have live ones, but there is something about Anne Frank that has always touched me. Many in the Holocaust maintained their faith in God, but lost their faith in man. Anne wrote simply that despite everything, she still believed in the goodness of man. It boggles the mind; it tears at the soul. How? How could she possibly have lived so long in hiding, only to be caught and taken to a concentration camp, to suffer there and starve, until just days before she might have gone free, she died. How could she possibly still believe that man is even remotely good after what she experienced?

Others? I have always believed that Menachem Begin was a man of greatness, one of the last leaders, if not the last, to care more about the country than his personal ambitions. Often I have thought - if only Menachem Begin were alive today, Israel would not be where we are, with weak leaders who surrender at the whim of foreign powers while our people suffer.

More? Well - here's where my conversation with Elie came in the other day. Elie had a commanding officer - K. K fought in the Second Lebanon War and in the Gaza War. In Lebanon, he was stationed deep in the fighting, front line. It is a mother's worst nightmare. To hear Elie tell is, K is fearless (and showed it on the paintball field as well as in Gaza. I keep meaning to tell the Story of K and His Coffee...but not today.

Today goes to another officer - apparently a commanding officer of my nephew, though I have not heard from my nephew anything about him. The officer was badly injured - I think in an operation in the army and lost part of his lower leg and foot. This doesn't stop him from leading combat soldiers, from running when he has to, from doing his best to do what he clearly loves, leading his men in a cause he believes in.

These are our heroes, today and yesterday.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Palestinian Attempted to Stab a Soldier

It's a really important lesson we Israelis must learn - how to fight the publicity war. We make a huge error, though an honorable one and one I am not sure we will ever change. We tell the truth. There it is - the simple reason why we lose and they win.

Take today's reality. An Arab approached soldiers at a checkpoint and attempted to stab them. He was shot and killed before being successful. Now, anywhere else in the world anyone would think the soldiers should be congratulated for protecting themselves and their post from a direct threat. Anywhere...and anyone doesn't, apparently, apply to the Arabs.

According to today's news, the Arabs are condemning the incident as a "dangerous escalation." No, not the knife attack, which is common place enough, but the shooting of the attacker. BBC headlines their article with, "Palestinian killed at checkpoint."

Of course, BBC would proudly proclaim in the halls of all journalism schools that they had reported the truth and, in fact, they have. The slant, the angle, their agenda notwithstanding, the headlines, in large letters, proclaims, "Palestinian shot by Israelis at Checkpoint" - lest you think, for even a moment, that it was accidental. (

The next line, in a much calmer font and size. "A Palestinian man has been shot dead after trying to attack Israeli troops at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus." BBC finally gets around to telling us in the first paragraph.

And the best example of BBC's ongoing, blatant anti-Israel campaign comes with the next two-thirds of the article has nothing to do with the incident at the checkpoint which by any stretch of normal was not a dangerous escalation or an unwarranted death. So, BBC wrote about an incident on Friday in which a Palestinian allegedly, according to BBC's sources (why give them any credibility) is said to have died of tear gas inhalation.

Radio reports say the Palestinians claim that this woman has been at similar riots and inhaled gas and was fine so therefore, according to the Palestinians, this proves that the Israelis used more powerful or greater quantities of gas. Not to be outdone, the Palestinians also insist that the gas was fired without any provocation, before any violence on the Palestinian side had even erupted. Of course, many reports and physical evidence (video and pictures) prove this is nonsense.

Even the reports from the Palestinian side differ and, as usual, they remain unwilling to produce a body for examination. One report says the woman was pregnant and stabbed - suggesting some deeper, perhaps societal reason for her death.

This is the way propaganda should be fought - we have no proof, yet, that Jawaher Abu Rahmeh was sexually promiscuous, had met a secret lover and was bearing him a child. But why waste time with the facts, could be one lesson we learn from the Palestinians. Perhaps our leadership should now announce this questionable rumor as fact and criticize the well-known and despicable "honor killing" prevalent among Arab society.

Evidence of the child she carried and the stab wounds would be enough. Of course, it won't work. This is an exercise in futility because such reputable news agencies as BBC would never allow evidence to be so presented...unless, of course, it puts Israel in a bad light.

A Palestinian got up this morning and decided to cross illegally into Israel. When he was stopped, he picked up a weapon and attempted to stab soldiers. This was an attack - it was answered as it would have been answered by any trained army in the world under attack.

Israel has truth on its side - it always has and it always will. So we won't tell the world that Jawaher was a shunned woman punished by her family for her many sexual escapades with her numerous lovers. We'll tell the truth - she came to a protest location that often turns violent - likely as part of her ongoing need to avenge the death of her brother, who similarly died in violent clashes with the IDF because her mother, who now says she wants her remaining children to live, didn't teach her two dead children that attacking soldiers is just stupid.

So what we have are two incidents in which Palestinians were involved in violent clashes with the IDF - one involved rock throwing - where a soldier lost an eye recently, and one involving an attempt to stab soldiers at a checkpoint when they were only doing their jobs.

BBC focuses not on the violence perpetrated but on the response. Only after the shock value, do they bother with the truth, the facts.

So how we fight the publicity war remains the same - we fight with truth, we fight with the facts. No, we don't expect the likes of BBC to suddenly start reporting the news in an ethical and honest way; just as we don't expect the Palestinians to use truth and words rather than missiles and rocks.

I don't know if Jawaher was pregnant; hopefully that truth will come out as it did with Aayat al-Akhras who engaged in a pre-marital sexual relationship with her fiancé and probably became pregnant with his child before she decided she could reclaim her integrity by murdering two innocent people and injuring 22 others. Then there's

Wafa' Idris who shamed her family by not only getting divorced but of apparently being barren. After nine years with no children (did they never hear it could have been HIS fault?) and a divorce, what better way to gain honor than murdering someone and injuring over 90?

Oh, and there's Hanadi Jaradat - another promiscuous one who felt better to die than be remembered for her sexual activities. She murdered 21 and wounded almost 50 in Haifa. And the one that personally makes me sick every time I think of her - Reem al-Riyashi. She murdered 4 Israelis and wounded 10 more because her husband caught her in an extra-marital affair with her Hamas handler. She chose suicide over mothering her two young children.

Slowly, these truths came out but they weren't enough for the likes of BBC as they will about today's attackers.

So, returning to the question of how to fight the publicity war...I guess I'll be honest, I believe we fight it with one truth at a time, one fact at a time, one person at a time. At some point, that was why I chose to continue this blog. So that the next time you hear about an Israeli soldier shooting a Palestinian, you'll think of Elie and Chaim, Yaakov and Shmulik. You've read about their training. You know they have been taught to be responsible for a gun and you know, if they pull that gun and shoot - it is after they have given warning; after they have exhausted all other options.

You know the truth - one truth at a time. Today, a Palestinian got angry for whatever reason. He wanted something and he couldn't have it. Too bad. There are reasons for checkpoints and reasons for permits. He did something violent and certainly something stupid. It was not a dangerous escalation - as the stupid Palestinian leadership wants you to believe; it was not unprovoked, as BBC's headlines might make you think.

A truth. One truth...and as the truths pile higher, they will outweigh all the lies and bury the media in its blinding light.Today, a Palestinian attempted to stab a soldier. That is the headlines that should have appeared today.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Elvis has Left

Shmulik just left to go to his fiancĂ©e's house.

"I left," he announced with a wave of his arms and a smile on his face.

"You haven't left - you're standing there," I correct him with a matching smile on my face. "I am leaving." It's that English as a second language thing...or so I thought.

"Elvis has left," he said. "the building...AND the house." He said with a grin and walked out the door.

Moments early, he had called his commanding officer to find out what time they would meet tomorrow morning. It was later than Shmulik thought it would be and so he is excited by how much longer he can sleep.

I wondered how much Shmulik knows about Elvis Presley - and so I call him back and asked, "Who is Elvis?"

"What?" he asks, his thoughts already on where he is going and not what he said.

"You said Elvis has left...who is Elvis?"

He hesitated for a moment and then answered, "He's the one who's your age." By that he means someone older than him. I have no idea where he heard the phrase...maybe I'll find something on YouTube and show him Elvis Presley and then, to really shock him, I'll tell him his father used to love Elvis' songs.

It is, forever with my children, that blend of cultures - American and Israeli. They know pieces, names, thoughts. Apparently, Elvis is one of them.

A Birthday Present

It was our youngest son's birthday today. Everyone was home. My daughter and son-in-law walked down from their apartment. Things have been crazy at work; too many deadlines coming too fast with too many other things getting in the way. It was enough to cook Shabbat, making a birthday cake was more than I could handle, so Shmulik drove to the bakery and bought one - more on that one later.

He also went to the store to pick out a birthday present. I was thinking of a nice pillow, a blanket, a sweater. The reaction both Shmulik and Elie gave me made it clear that these are not the things of which 15-year-olds dream. And though Shmulik insists that a Ford Mustang would fit the bill nicely, we were looking for something a bit in between.

In some ways, my children are very blessed - books are something I buy them regularly - not birthday presents. Clothes are theirs for the asking (where there is a need) and this son really isn't into clothes (yet). He  has an iPod Touch and though the battery is fading, I'd rather try to get that one fixed than buy him a new one (I think we only bought it last year anyway).

In the end, we settled for a new basketball (it seems you can never have too many of those) and a battery-operated remote control car. I told Shmulik to buy balloons - I wasn't clear enough, as I was hoping for a helium one but he got a package of regular balloons that we used to decorate the house instead.

But there were two funny parts to the weekend. The first was when Shmulik arrived, Davidi was just walking down the steps - the first thing, before I could say a word...Shmulik turned to Davidi and said, "Here."

"Here" - not "happy birthday" - and certainly no attempt to gather the family. "Here."

Davidi took his present in stride, happily went upstairs to charge the battery and even had time to play with it a bit in the back before Shabbat. It was yet another reminder how different our sons are as human beings than we are ourselves. And how they have grown. Once I would have orchestrated the moment - had the cake and everyone. The songs, the gifts...

I would have put it on the side, added a card, perhaps a bow. Shmulik goes for the simple. "Here." It worked. It did, so I have no complaints. But it was one of those melancholy moments in your life. The other funny moment came at lunch when we took the cake out. "Uh oh," Shmulik said, "it smells like coffee."

I am not, nor have I ever been, a coffee-lover. I don't drink it, don't smell it. "Didn't you ask them what was inside?" I asked.

"They said chocolate."

Over a discussion of its contents, Davidi cut the first piece and pulled it out - vanilla. Not chocolate, but luckily, though it was loaded with creme, it appears not to have been coffee. It worked - again, not as I would have wished totally, but it worked. Over the years, I've made Davidi trains, soccer fields, cars, bears, clowns,  and I'm not sure what else. It doesn't matter really, who made the cake or what was in it so much as the family gathered around the table. The truth is that I feel guilty I didn't make him this cake.

The balloons are still on the wall, though many have been removed and were kicked around during the day. The remaining pieces of the cake are in the refrigerator. Davidi and Shmulik went outside with the remote control car; and played basketball as well. How is it possible that he is 15-years-old already? He was the first one born in Israel, he will, God willing, be my last soldier (not including grandchildren and others I may adopt along the way).

Already he is taller than I am, stronger too. He's got Elie's blue eyes - he was God's way of telling me that whatever fears I had about Elie being our natural son were stupid and unfounded. It was, in some twisted way, a logical fear. We all have brown eyes - my husband and me, our siblings and parents, even our grandparents. It comes down to one distant relative on each side - enough to have given two of my children blue eyes. The first was Elie and a part of me worried that they had somehow switched infants in the hospital.

Years later and half a world away - God gave me Davidi with those same beautiful eyes. "He's yours, you silly person," I could almost hear from the Heavens. Yes, he is mine - and today he is 15-years-old, a year more away from his birth, a year closer to his future.

And somewhere deep inside me, as an Israeli mother, I know that that future comes with a uniform. I accept it, even now. I have friends who tell me that long ago, they served in the army with the belief, deep in their hearts, that they were serving so that their children wouldn't have to. "It wasn't supposed to be this way," my friend told me when her son entered the army. "They weren't supposed to take him."

In that sense, it was easier for me - I never suspected otherwise. I knew they would go into the army. I just didn't know really what that meant. Going on four years now as a soldier's mother, I understand today's birthday is one more milestone towards that day when Davidi too will wear a uniform. I know so much more than I did back then. I know the stages -from start to finish. I know that what the army tells you means nothing until it happens, that it can change in a flash.

I know so much and still my stomach falls at the thought that this son too will carry a gun, learn to shoot, to defend, to fight for his country. Too much for a mother of a 15-year-old to contemplate; too much, to be honest, for a mother of a child of any age.

Fifteen years ago, I held my first native born Israeli child in my arms. He has grown in the land and sun of Israel and towers above me. May God always bless him with happiness, with health, with friends, with a mind so quick and sharp, with arms so strong and legs so fast. May God bless him always with a smile that goes straight to my heart and eyes that pierce my soul. May God bless him this day and every day until the age of 120, with life.

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