Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Women in Combat

There's an article on the Arutz 7 website about women in combat units. Not just any unit - Elie's unit - # 55. And not just any women - three commanders and a soldier and the complaint they filed with their commanders...and then leaked to an Israeli reporter. The soldiers are against the army's handling of some incoming soldiers (a unit of religious soldiers who do not want to serve with women). No, these incoming soldiers weren't asked and didn't voice any opposition. Before they even come into the unit, the army is preparing the way by removing the women to other units. The women are angry and feel the men should go elsewhere.

When Elie entered the army, he was asked if he was willing to serve with women. He told them that he preferred not to - serving in a combat unit puts soldiers in very close quarters; the Israeli army is a very physical one. I cannot tell you how many times I saw soldiers pat each other on the back, give a quick hug of greeting or to say goodbye. Hugs when they finished training; hugs when they said goodbye for a week's vacation after the war ended. It is an amazing site to see, to realize it is done with such affection. This was what Elie felt was inappropriate between a man and a woman and so he opted out of this.

After being in the army for a year, finishing his basic training, advanced training, several months on a combat position and then the Commander's course, he was asked to command a unit of incoming soldiers. He was thrilled. He trained, he prepared...and then the night before he was to travel to the training base, he was told that his unit had female soldiers.

I wrote about this experience (Two Rights Don't Make a Wrong), after agonizing how two rights could be wrong. Elie should have the right to his religious beliefs; women should have the right to serve, if the army feels they can. We have a friend whose daughter went into an artillery combat unit. During basic training, she was carrying another soldier (a female). She dropped the other soldier on her leg - both were injured, but our friend's daughter was hurt more seriously. She shattered the bone in her leg in three places and it took her many, many months of pain and rehabilitation to get back to where she was.

I discussed this article in today's news with Elie, curious to see how he would react. He was annoyed, impatient. Please excuse his use of the word "girls" here - he doesn't mean it in a nasty or derogatory way. Elie did not think of these girls in a sexual way but rather as a commander with added complications that, to his way of thinking, did not deliver justifiable value.

That's not to say that he does not see a place for women in the army - there were many roles that they fulfilled with honor and equaled any of the contributions made by males. But he has little patience for those who feel it necessary to go against the army by leaking their complaints to a reporter, especially the one these female soldiers chose. To Elie, this is a betrayal of an army that has done a tremendous amount to find ways to accept the tremendous service these women wish to give.

Here's what Elie said:
When I was there, there were three girls in the entire unit - 5 in the whole battalion. And they want to bring in 100 soldiers. Simple math 5 girls or 100 guys. 
Half the times the girls can't do a lot of the physical things. It's very nice that they want to be there, but to be realistic, they don't do what the men do; and they can't do what the men do. Besides the fact that the commanders have to work 10 times harder to make sure they have what they need, enough separation to ensure their privacy, for 2 girls to have a separate room, separate bathroom. So all the boys - like 100, have to use 1 bathroom so that 2 girls can get their own.
It makes sense to have them in the army, and there are places that you can deal with this and places that you can't. You have units that are 50% men and 50% women like the one that is "light combat." (Here, Elie used the Hebrew word and when I asked him to explain, he came up with the term "light combat) and then explained that this includes those responsible for many of Israel's borders. Doesn't sound light to me!)
And then, Elie continued, you have units that have no girls at all (which is most). And, most of the girls that go into Artillery combat - most don't stay in combat. They drop out and then they fight the army to release them after two years instead of the three they needed to promise to complete in order to get into combat.
A few do really stay for 3 years, but often they get hurt and while they're 3 years in the army, they still have to leave the combat units. And some have the motivation but because of injuries are going back and forth, in and out of combat units because they were hurt trying to do something that was too physically challenging.
Sadly, this Carmela Menashe has become someone that everyone goes to cry to, instead of trying to be realistic and deal with it and then she blows it up.
Elie was called upon to be a Commander of incoming soldiers and both times it was canceled at the last minute because there were women in the new units. There were to have been units that remained only men, enabling the religious soldiers to serve separately, which is their right. The army messed up - it was headed for this problem when Elie was there because instead of designating a single unit that would include men and women (or one for men only), they alternated which units received the women until there were no units left.

There are many places where it is completely possible, from a physical point of view, to have women serve and there are some jobs where it simply does not make sense. Lifting heavy artillery shells is one place where this service is of questionable value as compared to other places that require more brain than brawn.

The army has a fundamental responsibility to respect each soldier and to balance that respect with the needs of others. Where they succeeded for Elie several years ago, they now seemed to have failed. It's sad to see - even sadder to see that these soldiers chose to resolve their complaint by going outside the army, to a reporter than is known to love reporting all the wrongs of an army that remains, always, at war, at alert.

For Elie, in the simplest of terms, it becomes an equation - the need to bring in 100 soldiers against the needs of these four. He feels badly for the four but the lesson I learned in my first months as a soldier's mother is that  though the army is made up of individuals, it is the singular need of the army as a whole that prevails.

Harsh, it may be - but necessity breeds the reality in this case. I didn't argue with Elie - I wanted his opinion and he gave it. Perhaps in a few years, he would put his words in more politically correct or gender neutral terminology. For now, it is likely he speaks for most of the artillery soldiers, whether that makes these female soldiers angrier or not, it is important for them to understand.

According to the article, the female soldiers sent a letter to their commanding officers. The army has not made a final decision - and yet the soldiers felt justified in leaking the contents of the letter to a gossip-loving reporter who read the entire letter on the radio.

What the female soldiers forgot, was what Elie wanted them to remember. Their commanders have worked hard to help them get to where they are; accepted less than what the men would do because he accepted that they did their best. They have made the conditions of the men harder, in order to make their conditions better. One hundred men will use a single bathroom, so that one can be dedicated to women; same with the showers. Where there may be 10 men in a room, there will be only 2 women in the same size area.

The actions of these women in going outside the army, is a betrayal of everything their commanding officers have done to enable them to fulfill their dream to serve in this way. Elie wanted to be the commander of incoming soldiers. He had trained for it, was looking forward to it. It never occurred to him to ask that the army place the women somewhere else. He only asked that he be removed and given a commander's job somewhere else.

For the good of the army, the unit, the soldiers, Elie moved to another unit. I wish I could believe these women were acting for the same interests.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Elie's Math

My mother used to make this tuna corn fritter pancake thing that I always loved. It was the first thing I made my future husband shortly after I met him when I offered to make him some food. My kids were raised on it. They love it. Elie has always loved it.

Tonight, we were in the mall buying the last minute school supplies before my younger two children begin the new school year. Elie was hungry.

He has an intolerance to dairy products that kicks in when he overdoes it. A cup of milk, a piece of pizza, and he's fine. A dairy Shabbat in which I make all of Elie's favorites...and if he isn't careful and take the lactose pill...his stomach bothers him.

So, today, a few days later, his stomach is a bit unsettled. But he was hungry. We got home and he wanted food. We debated a few things and finally he asked for the corn fritters. I made that and a side dish; everyone ate. And then, Elie came down for more as I was beginning to pack it away.

"I'm taking the rest to work with me tomorrow," I told Elie, knowing that I was kidding.

"Mine," he said. And that's when he gave me a lesson in Elie math.

"Whenever you make them," he started, " I get half. Last time, I didn't get any." And he still won't let me live it down. "So this time, I should get all of them. But I'll just take 3/4 for the next two times instead."

I told him that Shmulik would be home soon from working as a security guard at the local mall and would be hungry. He said he'd come up for food. My husband hasn't eaten either.

The last time, Elie wasn't hungry; went upstairs and went to bed, and in the morning, there was none left. "Put some in a bag for me," he asked as he took his second dinner off. So, I did. There are about 6 of them left in the box (and another 4 of them hiding in the draw).

And since I was asked once to post recipes of Elie's favorite's, here's a picture and the how to...just don't forget, I'm cooking for a bunch of people...you can probably scale this down some.

Tuna-Corn Fritters

4 cans of tuna (I use StarKist chunky in water) - drain the cans
1 large can of corn (regular - not diet)
about 1.5 cups of crushed cornflakes - I've tried the ones with honey and that makes an interesting taste
about 5-6 eggs

Mix all the ingredients together - add more cornflakes or egg until you have a thick, sticky mixture that can be formed into thin pancakes (about 1.5 centimeters thick, less than 1/2 an inch).

Fry the pancakes in hot oil until browned on both sides - watch out - if the corn kernels break off - they sometimes "pop" and spray hot oil.

The picture above might have looked nicer ... except as I was arranging them Elie grabbed one and took a bite! If you make them - let me know if you like it!

An Israeli Contract, A Jewish Contract

In the midst of the tensions in the south and getting my kids back to school, I'm beginning, once again, preparation for our annual conference of technical writers. I've got the contract in my hands. I started to review it. The price is, as we agreed. The required commitment of people - even less than I expected. All in all, it's a great place to hold it, a fair contract. The hotel is luxurious, the food has always been excellent.

They want full payment several days in advance - this bothers me a bit. We had a conference last year at Kfar Maccabiah and I was very upset about the condition of the place, the quality of the food, even the behavior of some of the sales people. I don't want a repeat - it was very unpleasant - and I will, if I pay in full, have no way to recoup lost amounts, except for the whim of the hotel...or court (not going there).

On the other hand, this is a standard condition for many hotels, even if it leaves me no recourse and most companies and individuals do pay in advance, so I should be able to meet this requirement. And then I got to a clause in the contract that made me proud, made me feel warm inside. This, I thought to myself, is an Israeli hotel, a Jewish contract:
In the event of a demise, Heaven forbid, in the immediate family of the Customer, such that the event is prevented from taking place according to Halachah [Jewish law], or in the event of a general mobilization of the military reserves because of an emergency situation, the full amount of the down payment shall be repaid to the Customer, without further liability to either party.
Isn't that amazing? If there is a death in the immediate family, mourning takes precedence over joyful occasions. During the year following the death of a parent, for example, Jews are forbidden to go to weddings (under most circumstances), concerts, and joyous gatherings. It is a sign of respect and more, it forces you to deal with the mourning process.

And the general mobilization - that too is part of our lives and yet one I have never seen written into a contract. God, I love this country.

A Mother's Pride...Fear....Relief...Anger

Five hours ago, my youngest son left our home with his friend to go to the large Jerusalem mall to buy himself some shirts for the coming year. He knows his taste and he isn't going to wear shirts that I pick out. So, he went with his friend - a good kid from the neighborhood. They've been good friends for years.

It was getting late and he should have been home. We called him, "where are you?" my husband asked.

Davidi and his friend had taken advantage of one of the most amazing aspects of living so close to Jerusalem. Instead of coming right home, they went to the Kotel, the Western Wall, to say the evening prayers. It is a most amazing place. I can't even complain. Years ago, a friend and I went shopping. I don't remember which one of us asked the other, but the next thing I remember was that we were driving and parking in the Old City, walking down the steps...to the large plaza that opens to the most glorious site we currently have available to us. The large towering wall of ancient stones, the last remaining wall from our Holy Temple. Actually, the truth is, it isn't from the Temple - it's "only" a retaining wall, but it is, in many ways, all we have left.

I felt such joy and pride that he'd gone there on his own initiative.

And then, I saw the news, Arabs were rioting not far away - had stoned an Israeli bus - Bus #2 - easily could be the bus he was riding on - four were injured - a mother and her three children. They have been taken to the hospital...and so came the fear.

Where is Davidi? It isn't like having Elie or Shmulik in danger - it is, in some ways, more frightening because he is younger. Perhaps that isn't even true but what I am feeling now. I was fighting myself and finally surrendered.

"Davidi, where are you?" this time it was me calling.

"At the Central Bus Station," he reported back. I didn't tell him about the rock attacks. All I could think of is that he's clear, he's safe. Relief.

And now that I know he is on his way home, there is this twinge of anger that they could have turned pride into relief, could have caused fear by attacking a bus full of people that had simply wanted to pray.

Rockets hit Israel again a few hours ago - another violation of the ceasefire, another inhumanity.

Rocks hit a bus in Jerusalem - another violation of decency.


And one last thought - my son is, thank God, safe. He will, God willing, be home soon. It's just after midnight here in Israel. Gilad Shalit turned 25 years old today in Gaza. He won't be home tonight. His mother and father live only with the fear and the anger.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Happy Birthday for Gilad

Today, Gilad Shalit is 25 years old. He's a man - by every definition of the word. By age, by experience, by maturity. He was last seen by his family, friends, and fellow soldiers, when he was 19 years old. There is a world of difference between who he was and who he is now.

I measure Gilad by Elie. I can't help it. Elie entered the army when he was 19, a few months ago, he turned 24. He's changed so much. I can't imagine what agonies I would feel if I had not been able to watch his transform, grow, become the man he is now.

Happy birthday, Gilad. We all want you to come home. We have not forgotten you, we will never forget you. May next year's birthday find you home with your family, far from the memories you have gained over the last years.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

So, Could You Do Me a Favor?

They said to use social media and apparently, this is it - so...I wrote a guest blog for a site and it's sort of a competition. The most visitors and likes - gets me...well, I'm not even sure, but it is a good article, so - could you take a second, go to the site, read it and click the Like button?

Much, much appreciated...and back to our regular posting soon...

Resume Objective Statements That Kill Your Hiring Prospects

Does your resume have an Objective Statement that starts with something like, “A responsible position allowing me to fully utilize my professional skills and which provides me with an opportunity for professional advancement”?
If it does, consider that you’ve just asked a potential employer to read 20+ words that say absolutely nothing and risked having that person close your resume rather than learn what you can really do for them. My personal belief is that the fastest way to lose a job before they even read your resume, is to begin it with something like that.

When going through the job-seeking process, it is very important to understand the stages and the roles of the documents that support each stage.

Read more at: http://jobmob.co.il/blog/resume-objective-statements/#ixzz1WG038gso

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What does it mean for me?

The moment Shabbat ended, I opened my computer and began seeing how many attacks. A baby injured, a young child. In the hours that followed, a direct hit - 1 confirmed dead, reports of a second, three others critically injured. In the last few hours, dozens more rockets have been fired.

I know what this means for a million Israelis in Israel's south. They are, once again, having to think before they move. They have 15 seconds in Shderot; less than a minute in Beersheva. It means a night spent in bomb shelters, or it means frantic parents grabbing their children if the alarm sounds in the middle of the night.

I know what this means for Israel's military - it means a night of planning, of considering, of guarding, of watching.

And what does this mean for me? It's a child's question. A way of focusing on yourself in the midst of all kinds of madness. I'm trying not to do that. I'm trying to focus on the horrible attacks happening to my country. I'm listening to the news and writing it on Twitter because few around the world have access to what is happening here.

On Thursday, four attacks in which 8 people were killed, more than 30 wounded. Friday and today - dozens of rocket attacks; 2 children hurt in Ofakim; a man killed and 10 others wounded in a direct hit on a house in Beersheva. Tonight, after listening to the news, Elie came downstairs and I updated him. I could see his anger and his reaction. He summed it up in one word that struck straight to my heart, "Milium" - reserve duty.

Will they actually call Elie's unit? I doubt it. I really do. I really want to not believe it. But there is a possibility and more, that they might. All day, we've been hit by rockets, another a short time ago. Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheva and points all around. And with each one, all the soldiers who fought in the Gaza War confirm what they knew in the last hours of the war. It was stopping too soon; they would yet be called back again. if not them, than others. Israel did not finish the job and so will have to go in again.

Last time, Gabi Ashkenazi was the Chief of Staff and I trusted him with my son's life - literally. A few years later, there is a new one and yet, he guides an army that knows what it must do, how it must be done.

Elie was in the standing army during the Gaza War, naive enough, I think, to believe his goal in the Gaza War was to stop the rockets. That goal was accomplished, but what the generals didn't tell those soldiers is that the rockets are like a cancer that never goes away. Each operation pushes the sickness back from our borders for a limited time and when the operation ends, the cancer begins to regroup, stengthen, and begin again. So, in the next few days, it will be decided. If tomorrow and the next day bring the same number of rocket attacks on our citizens, war may be the only answer.

All of Israel knows today, that it is a matter of time before the next military operation will be required. I have said this before and I will say it again - no country in the world would accept this. None.

Moments ago, Elie went running out with his medic vest. He didn't tell me that he was on call tonight so either he was...or something happened big enough to have them calling him. Either way, between the news on the radio, Elie's single word response, and now his running out, I feel again the fall of the roller coaster, the terrible drop in the stomach that comes when things are out of my control.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another Story Post-Army

I'm amazed that more than 2 years after Elie left Israel's standing army, there are still stories to come out. Elie's eyes were hurting him tonight. He was blinking them non-stop and rubbing them. He's been taking a course in preparation for starting college in the Fall. He'll be studying engineering, another wonderful direction that came out of the army. He leaves class and comes home to hours of homework and study, only to begin again the next day.

He's taking a math course and a physics course, plus he had a huge test this week. He did very well, but it's been long hours and he came downstairs tonight to tell me he wanted to go to the mall to buy some eye drops. He said he needed a saline solution and then he started his story.

When he was in the army, he was handing out a bunch of night sticks to the soldiers. I actually forgot what the purpose was - but each needed it and Elie was making sure that each night stick worked properly. When one officer came to him, Elie took a night stick and cracked it to release the liquid to start the illumination. There must have been something wrong with the stick - or Elie cracked it too hard because the plastic cracked and squirted him in the eye.

Elie told me how he held his eye and went to the medic. The medic wasn't sure what to do, or perhaps wasn't reacting fast enough to please him, so Elie reached over to the chair and grabbed the medic's vest. He has three of these vests - they have tons of pockets, all organized with medical equipment. Elie uses them regularly - has them in each car, and makes sure they are fully stocked.

He opened a pocket and found the saline solution and then washed his eye while the medic stood there and watched. He gestured to show how he held his eye opened, and washed the eye until the burning stopped, a few more times and again in the day or so that followed.

He told his story - oblivious to what I was feeling inside as he described this incident; the thought of him hurt, of his taking command and treating himself. That is so typical of Elie - to do what has to be done, to figure it out and just do it. Tonight, he went to the pharmacy and the pharmacist gave him some eye drops.

"What about a saline solution?" Elie asked.

The man thought it was a good idea and gave him that as well and Elie returned home and then put the drops in his eyes. There are other stories that have come out - some can't be told on a blog; some I'll write soon. Mostly, I just accept them as fillers that were missing; holes that I may not even know existed at the time.

I drove a soldier home the other night, a friend's son going my way, and we got to talking about what he tells his mother and what he doesn't. He told me about running in a field, chasing some terrorists who had attacked cars on a road. The brush was very high; the night was very dark. He didn't see a hole in the ground and fell and twisted his leg. They took him to the hospital; evacuated him by helicopter.

Only when he was at the hospital did he call his mother; she knows he was hurt, but not how or where. He could tell me, but she'll only hear about it in a few years, after he leaves the army. Then, as with Elie now, much of what he didn't tell me then, will come out. I don't envy that boy's mother - then again, I don't know what other stories Elie has within him so perhaps I don't envy myself either.

We travel this road with our sons but the eyes are theirs, not ours. We see only what they will let us see, when they let us see it. Tonight, another glimpse and a reminder that Elie is home safe. Whatever was...is in the past.  His eyes are fine despite spraying caustic chemicals in them; his ears are fine despite the explosions of the missiles being shot from the massive armored personnel carriers during the war; he's home safe.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So Why Do They Have So Many Little Terrorists....

There's a story that I just saw (thanks to @Zionistseal - www.zionistseal.wordpress.com) that the Egyptians have figured out that there's a new Zionist plot to cause massive infertility among the Egyptian population by importing doctored shampoo from Israel.

I told Elie about this and his response was kind of funny - since Gaza probably imports its shampoo from Israel - "so why do they have so many little terrorists running around?"

Interesting question - another would be who thinks this stuff up?

And another, how stupid do they think the world is to believe this nonsense?

Infertility-causing shampoo? Next they'll be accusing us of spying vultures, killer bees, killer sharks and....oh right, I forgot - been there, done that.

Well, my personal thanks to the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram. They not be much in the area of journalism, but these guys would make amazing creative writers!

Turkey says no closer ties without an apology...

and I say....okay. I'm cool with that.

According to YNET (http://.www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4110267,00.html), Turkish Prime Minister has stated that unless Israel apologizes for the flotilla, there will be no closer ties.

There is a simple response that must come from our Prime Minister..."OK"

That's all. Just okay.

Note that Israeli tourism to Turkey is down 90%. Which is fine with me. So - Turkey, you say you won't allow improved without an Israeli apology...we have nothing to apologize for so...sure, whatever tickles your fancy, whatever turns your wheels.

I hear Cyprus is just lovely this time of year...

No Apology for Turkey

It seems like a day for posting - I've missed writing but the summer has been hard. My great idea of a vacation was a bit curtailed by the idea of our Summer Intensive course teaching technical writing. But I figured that the three days per week was fine and would still leave me a day or two for fun with the kids. I have a regular contract with a client in the north for once a week...with some stretches where I go there less.

Then the client came and said over the summer - they needed me twice a week and there went most of my summer. In between, with kids and house and other jobs and managing the technical writing company and other writers, well, blogging has been taking a back seat.

Today - well, I'm having a bit of a break. So - to today's latest post.

NO! No, we will not apologize to Turkey. That word comes from our Prime Minister and I'm proud of his answer and can only hope the Netanyahu government has the courage and the guts to stick to this decision. Our Defense Minister has already said Israel should apologize - no, not because we did anything wrong but because that is Ehud Barak, chief politician and cowardly hypocrite. How he ever got to be a general in our army is beyond my imagining.

So, NO - we will not apologize for the blockade. We have a legal right to impose a naval blockade on Gaza so long as the local population is not harmed and as both the Red Cross and the UN have confirmed, the local population is not lacking. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Sure, we are blocking exports - and that may be a financial hardship on the local population, but isn't the US and world community doing the same thing against Iran? Didn't they do that against Iraq? Why is it okay for them to do it to those countries but not okay for us to do the same to Gaza?

So, NO - we will not apologize for enforcing the blockade and in stopping those who try to run it.

So, NO - we will not apologize for boarding the flotilla ships. From there, it is clear what happened.

So, NO - we will not apologize for our soldiers fighting to save their lives and if, in the course of that fight, the attackers were defeated, even killed - no, we won't apologize for that. There is a simple solution for one who does not want to die at the hands of an Israeli soldier - don't fight him; don't attack him; don't raise a weapon to strike him.

And if you do, don't be surprised when the soldier uses his training and fights back. Don't be surprised when you lose - even your life. No, we will not apologize, Turkey, for doing what every other nation would do.

Just no.

A People's Curses

I have to admit, I'm not an expert on curses - ours, theirs, anyone's. Yes, I"m only human and sometimes words slip here and there, but for the most part, I try to avoid such words and make sure that my children do as well. We were all sitting at lunch one time, guests over on a nice peaceful  Shabbat, when the bird - Choco, said something and a bunch of people, including Elie and Shmulik, started to laugh.

I had no idea what the bird said - upon clarification, it was "Na'al Abu" - or something like that. It's an Arab curse that translates to - "your father is a shoe" (or something like that).

You can't tell a culture by one curse word and it's wrong to draw conclusions. And yet...

And yet, this morning as I was driving Aliza to my parents house for a short vacation with her grandparents, she started asking questions about the grandparents she never knew. She carries my mother-in-law's name - both of my parents-in-law passed away several years before Aliza was born.

I don't do this often enough and it is important for her to feel a connection and so I began telling her stories about the amazing grandparents she never knew. There are so many stories...and never enough. She was amazed to hear about how her grandparents returned after the war, as young adults still in their late teens or barely out of them, to find that they were alone. Their parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts had been murdered by the Nazis. Only one uncle - by marriage, remained.

Brothers and sisters lost - generations were gone. And I told her how Israel had hunted down some of the Nazis. I spoke of Adolf Eichmann. Of Israel's finding him, kidnapping him, and bringing him to Israel for  trial. Of how he was an ordinary man who, in extraordinary times, chose evil instead of good and did it with efficiency and callous maliciousness. No, I didn't use those words but simple ones that an 11-year-old can understand.

I spoke of the justice that was served and the punishment he was given and how recently, Germany let John Demjanyuk walk. As I often do when speaking of such evil, I used the Hebrew curse, "Yamach shemo" - May his name be erased.

"Are we allowed to say that?" Aliza asked me.

And I explained that for special cases, yes, it was right, it was just. You don't say that because someone cuts you off on the road or takes 12 things into the express line in the supermarket, but yes, there are names that should be erased from history - Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad, Arafat, Hitler, Amalek...the names go on and on.

I can't stand Obama - but I would not say "yamach shemo" for what he has done or who he is.

But more, I thought about the nature of curses in general. There are curses in English in place of well, bathroom stuff and bedroom stuff...but what an amazing curse we Jews have - may his name be erased. Of all the curses that could be said about Hitler, for example - there is no finer or more appropriate one than ours. What Hitler did, he did out of ego, out of hatred. What better punishment, what greater justice could there be, than erasing his name (and no, this doesn't mean denying the Holocaust) - it means making him lower than the lowest.

I think you can tell a lot about a people based on their curses...at least this one people, this one curse.

A 15-year Old on the Edge

I've decided to introduce David (pronounced Daveed or when I say it, with an "e" at the end as Daveedee) a bit as he seems to be my next up and coming soldier. Truthfully, I don't think of him that way yet, but as he has grown taller than Elie, I find it harder and harder to deny the truth that the day is coming when he will go, the thought that he will one day wear a uniform forms in my mind. No, I am not anxious for that day and no, I will not celebrate its coming. I will accept it as a part of what he must do because we have never, in 63 years, been given any other choice.

So, here's a bit about Davidi. He's something special, my third son. He's got Elie's blue eyes - a message from God that no, Elie is ours and wasn't switched at birth despite his being the only one of us to have blue eyes and blond highlights. Davidi's more timid than Elie, less sure of himself than Shmulik. But he's got a twinkle in his eye that is uniquely his and a gentleness that astounds me. He's brilliant at math - just brilliant...but a bit lazy with his brain. In 2nd grade, he understood fractions (a 4th or 5th grade concept) and negative numbers (a 7th grade concept) and was put in 4th grade for the math classes.

In 3rd grade, the school messed up and couldn't find a solution for him, so they put him...in 4th grade again. In 4th grade, they came through for him, enrolling him in a special city-wide special advanced math program - and even there, they put him a grade ahead. Bad planning, as it turned out. In fifth grade, he did the advanced sixth grade class and we were happy. But the thinking turned out to be wrong when in 6th grade, there was no where to send him. The school's solution was to offer him the opportunity to tutor 1st and 2nd graders and he wasted the year learning nothing.

Davidi is the "hugger" of the family. Long after the age when Elie and Shmulik gave hugs only sparingly and usually at my instigation, Davidi was coming over for that brief connection - he still does, though less.

Yesterday, he went to the local ambulance squad to arrange to take the first aid course that will allow him to volunteer - he will be the fourth of my five children to take this course, to give this time to help others.

He came with me today to the office and just poured me a glass of Diet Coke - yes, I said I was going to stop drinking the stuff and mostly have, but once in a while, as a treat, I slip back...so he poured it and added the comment, "that stuff is toxic."

"Toxic?" I asked him, "where'd you learn that word?"

"From PokeMan," he answered with a grin.

Ah, God, thank you for the little boy that is still inside of him. I see him less and less and I know the day will come when he will leave me. I know the man that I have yet to meet is likely to astound me and now, knowing how fast that boy will leave when the time is right, I enjoy him more.

I wasn't smart enough to feel this melancholy yearning when Elie and Shmulik were this age. I thought their teen years would stretch on forever. It is hard for me to believe I miss those years a bit but I've learned, grown myself enough to enjoy Davidi's teen years more. Yes, he's as stubborn as the others were, as determined to avoid chores, as centered on his needs, and more. But he's also sweet and strong, helpful when he wants to be, and getting more special every day.

May God bless David Levi with life, with health, with wisdom, with maturity and with the time to let that boy inside him be all he can be.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Outrageous Behavior by Soldiers Against Palestinians

I do not believe in standing quiet when a wrong has been committed. No matter who has done the wrong.

Last night, soldiers entered a Palestinian refugee camp and opened fire. Reports confirm several were killed and at least 30 were wounded. Over 5,000 went fleeing when the soldiers told them they had to leave the camp. The soldiers entered the camp under cover of darkness and ordered them out. They yelled their orders in Arabic...their language.

The soldiers were Syrians. The Palestinian refugee camp is in Syria, near the city of Latakia.

By comparison, last night, Israeli soldiers killed one Palestinian and wounded 4 others. The air force attacked the Palestinians, members of Hamas, from the air in a precise and accurate operation - as the Palestinians were about to fire yet another rocket at Israel.

Let's see which the world protests more - the attack on a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria (and why is there a refugee camp at all - why didn't the Arab brothers help these people to assimilate over the last 60+ years as we helped the nearly one million Jews who fled Arab lands?) - or an attack by Israel's air force on a unit of Palestinians about to fire a rocket at our civilians.

Syrian Army in Latakia

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Searching for Moments

While Elie was in the army, I often drove him to and from the base. At times, much to the dismay of other members of our family, I drove long distances to make Elie's commute easier or faster. Mostly, I was going in that direction anyway...sort of. I might switch the days to accommodate his schedule or shift the hours, but for the most part, I was going that way anyway. Except, of course, when I wasn't.

The advantages for Elie were clear to everyone. The advantages to me, were obvious to me. I had precious moments with Elie and long talks about what was happening to him, what he was feeling, where he was heading. Since he left the army, those talks still happen, but are often interrupted by others or simply by life. Tonight, Elie came down in shorts with his iPod Shuffle. I had bought him (and Shmulik) these wonderful tiny little devices that stored hours of music for long bus rides and, at least since the army, for running.

Elie did a lot of running in the army, less since he got out. Tonight, the air is amazingly wonderful here in our desert home and so Elie decided to take a run. Maale Adumim means red hills or heights. The city is perched on the top of several mountains, going down the sides of some. We live near the bottom of one of these hills so to go anywhere begins with a climb.

I offered to drive him to the top of the hill - about a mile or so away. The advantage to him is that it puts him on the ring - the ring is a huge round circle off which all the individual neighborhoods, including ours, branch off. The ring is relatively flat - all other neighborhoods go up or downhill off the ring. Elie immediately agreed that this would let him run further because he wouldn't be fighting uphill.

I drove him and as we went, he began talking about this week's schedule, when he'd like to borrow the car, etc. He's started learning math and physics and we talked about the courses he hopes to take in the Fall. When I got to the top of the hill, I pulled to the side to let him off. We talked for a few minutes before he got out and crossed the street to begin to run.

As he took off with a grace that comes with youth, I realized that I'd missed these moments when it was just him and me and his thoughts. We talk...but this was nice.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Days of the Jewish Calendar

Like all religions, I think, we have days of joy, days of inner inspection. We have days of rest and we have days, even long periods of sadness...it is inevitable with a religion as old as ours. Almost three weeks ago, we began a period of mourning, a time that marks horrible, tragic, and endlessly sad days in which great people were murdered, students of beloved teachers tortured.

If there is one day that fills us with a connection to the tragedies of our past and shakes us each year to the depths of our souls, it would be the ninth day of the month of Av. It is amazing how many bad things have happened to us on this day and the days leading up to it. Some are our own, some are the worlds. Here's just a short list of some of the things that happened on Tisha B'Av - the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av:
  • The first Holy Temple was destroyed
  • The second Holy Temple was set on fire by the Romans. It burned on the 9th day, and on to the morning of the 10th.
  • On the ninth of Av it was decreed that our fathers should not enter the Land of Israel.
  • Bethar was captured and Jerusalem was razed. -Mishnah Ta'anit 4:6
  • The First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II in 1095, killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland.
  • Jews were expelled from England in 1290.
  • Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 by the Spanish Inquisition and the 9th of Av was the day they were ordered to be exiled (or killed).
  • On Tisha B'Av 1914 (August 1, 1914), World War I broke out
The list goes on and on. Each year, I go and listen to the reading of Eicha and think again of how much we have lost, what damage we have done because of the way we treat each other within our society and the damage done to us each year from those outside our borders.

It's a humbling experience to sit on the floor and read the Book of Lamentations. To feel God withdrawing His blessings and wonder if there is any hope. There is such sadness, such destruction, but ultimately, the hope returns, the dream returns, and the people return.

Social Justice and the Protest

Growing up, I went to many protests. I organized many while in college. I marched, I walked, I listened, I stood.  I'm not going to the current protests taking place all over Israel for a variety of reasons.

Mostly, I just can't quite figure out why this government is to blame or what it can do about prices. I live in a neighborhood where prices have soared in the last few years. We've lost good people to other neighborhoods because people just can't afford to live here anymore. One real estate agent said we got the last "cheap" house in the neighborhood - and we paid a lot of money for it.

My married children couldn't afford to buy here and that bothers me tremendously. But people sell their real estate for the price they want - it's a free market and if there is someone dumb enough to pay that price; there's going to be someone greedy enough or lucky enough to charge it. It's the law of supply and demand. It's basic economics and no, I don't think the government can do much about it in some places.

Yes, we could build more - and we should. Yes, the government should free up more areas and tell the world to go away when they start trying to tell us where we can build and where we can't. But this isn't enough to bring the government down - if it wasn't enough to bring previous governments down too.

What bothers me is the obvious bias of the protest organizers. They hate Bibi (well, I don't love him either) and they hate the "right-wing" and are using this protest to accomplish what they've failed to accomplish before. They want the government to fall - for their agenda...or whatever agenda they can use.

That Kadima paid thousands of shekels to support the protests - is a farce. Kadima is as much to blame as Likud for today's problems. They did nothing to help the housing situation when they were in office just as they did nothing to improve the fire-fighting capabilities while they were in power. The big fire came on Likud's watch - but the failure was successive governments over the last 10-15 years, or longer.

Same with the housing.

Same with the prices of most things here.

Last night, my youngest son came home and told me his friends were sleeping out in tents in the middle of the traffic circle near our house. They wanted to be part of the protests.

"What are they protesting?" I asked Davidi.

The boys tried to come up with something. Their first thought was to protest the high prices in our local supermarket - which does have exceptionally high prices compared to other stores. But they were afraid they would insult the store owner, so they gave up on that idea.

Next, they decided to protest that not enough people give them rides when they want to travel in the city, forcing them to sometimes take buses or walk. That was the best they could come up with.

All in all, whatever Israel was protesting - it was a glorious event because in the midst of the Arab Spring that has brought death to thousands (2,000 in Syria alone), we alone stood as the democracy in this region. We alone stood as the example for peaceful protests. Over 300,000 people attended, claim the organizers. However many were there, they came in peace and protested, and they went home in peace.

They were watched by thousands of security forces - there were no gunshots, no tanks rolling towards the people. Israel proved, yet again, the strength of our democracy and freedom.

No, I didn't go to the protests. I didn't feel the need. But I enjoyed the freedom to choose. To know that I could have gone; that many did go. I enjoyed knowing that my children understood this was a basic right that is theirs.

Today, dozens more were killed in Syria - and Israelis began their work week feeling just a bit prouder for the nation we have built and the freedom we cherish.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Cutting Board Has Been Replaced

Elie in his enthusiasm to help cut the chicken...demolished our cutting board.

Our latest news is that it has been replaced - by two LARGE cutting boards. One we are putting away, "just in case," says Elie.

Here's wishing our new cutting board a long and healthy life.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Fun One

Israeli hi-tech is an amazing world of dynamic, exciting, innovation. Here's one really cool idea -

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What Ramadan Means to Me

When I was a child, my teachers always seemed to be giving me assignments that started with what something meant to me. It didn’t matter what; it didn’t matter when. What did my parents mean to me, what did the summer mean to me, what did Israel mean to me.

Ramadan started today. It is, to be honest, a month that I dread. And worse, it is a month that doesn’t come once per year because the Arabic calendar is based on a nine-month calendar rather than 12. And so, Ramadan comes, and then Ramadan comes again and despite all proclamations on its holiness, I have only seen it as a time of death and pain.

It is supposed to be holy. But if it is, it isn’t the holiness of my people or religion. Our holiness is defined by quiet days of prayer, not loud broadcasts calling for attacking others. Our holiness is epitomized by Yom Kippur – a full day dedicated to fasting and praying. We sit in the synagogue and pray. We go to sleep, only to rise and pray more.

It is interesting that on our holiest day of the year in 1973, the Arabs decided to attack Israel. It seems Ramadan isn’t the only time they want to kill us. So, knowing that Ramadan would begin soon, I have dreaded it for days. This year, Ramadan coincides with our Hebrew month of Av – it begins in sadness for us. The first nine days are days in which we remember great tragedies and desperately hope there will be no more this year.

The ninth day is a day of agony for us. On this day too, we fast – but we fast in sorrow. On this single day in history, so many Jewish tragedies have fallen upon us and so we pray this year, it won’t happen again. We don’t go swimming – too dangerous. We don’t travel far if we can help it. We avoid all we can avoid and pray our way through the rest.

But after the ninth of Av, comes the time of compassion, the time of hope and prayer as we come to the end of Av and the beginning of the month of Elul. Elul is about introspection, of evaluation and correction so that next year will be better, holier.

Lest you think I am being harsh, Ramadan is only a few hours old and already the violence has begun. A Lebanese soldier opened fire on Israeli troops. Thankfully, our alert soldiers returned fired and hit the Lebanese – none of our soldiers were hurt. Ramadan.

Two Arabs near Kalandia attacked and wounded five soldiers – an ambush of rocks flying down. Thankfully, the soldiers were hurt only lightly; the two Arabs were killed. Ramadan.

Arabs were again throwing stones and several vehicles were damaged, though thankfully the drivers were not injured. Ramadan.

Two rockets were fired at Israel yesterday; last night, one slammed into Ashkelon wounding a woman who is now in moderate condition. Ramadan.

And, worst of all, only the second day of Ramadan.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hey, Gaza - You Can't Have it Both Ways...

A man writes to me - your blockade isn't working since Arabs continue to smuggle in rockets to fire against Israel. He is urging me to somehow make peace. I haven't really been able to explain that though I'm somewhat respected in the field of technical writing and my community often says I'm really good at baking cookies, I can't actually make the government make peace.

But anyway, an interesting thought crossed my mind - our enemies take pride in the fact that Gaza has found a way to continue arming itself with rockets to fire at Israel. One person wrote to me that the blockade clearly isn't working.

Isn't that interesting - the blockade isn't working when they need to smuggle rockets in, but apparently they don't think it odd that they claim they are starving, have no medicines, etc. I mean, if you had tunnels that could bring in rockets, wouldn't you think to use them to bring in food and other essentials.

Unless, of course, you already have those essentials and, as we've already had the UN and the Red Cross confirm...there is NO humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Guess the rocket fire against Israel is a good thing - it proves there is no humanitarian crisis there...or perhaps no humanity...or perhaps....perhaps both.

Arab Spring, Israeli Summer

The wave of protests going across the Arab world has been called Arab Spring. It's characterized by vicious attacks against protesters, government forces opening fire on civilians. Over 1,600 have died in Syria; dozens killed in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt. On and on it goes.

And now, tens of thousands of Israelis are marching in the streets protesting the cost of pretty much everything. No, this isn't Arab Spring, this is Israel in the summer. I drove past one protest last night on my way home. Perhaps 300 people were standing with signs and calling out. Cars honked as they drove by. The people filled the sidewalks - no one attempted to stop the traffic on the large street in the middle. When the light stopped us, many people crossed the street to the other side where more people stood.

Police were readily apparent on both sides of the street - their main goal was to make sure no one was hurt and that the intersection remained clear. They weren't, they didn't, it wasn't. We drove home - it was hot, so incredibly hot in Israel in July. One of those miserable days that lead into the night where there is barely a breeze. It was such a pleasure to get home and back into our air conditioning.

Israeli housing prices have been rising for years - many things have driven the price beyond what many consider reasonable. I have a home...but will my children ever be able to afford to buy their own homes if the prices continue on this mad path to the sky? All the prices are so much higher - gas prices, food prices, everything.

I'm not really sure what the government can do about it all - I'm finding it quite funny that the left has suddenly awakened and decided that it could blame Bibi Netanyahu's government when the greatest jump in prices happened under their own watch, not ours.

Never mind, the point of this is something different. No one died here in Israel during these protests. The government didn't open fire on its own people. No, this isn't an Arab Spring - this is our democracy rising up. You don't like something - go stand on a street corner and scream - carry a sign.

You aren't threatening the country when you are doing it here, you are enriching it. You are proving that what we value is your voice. No, the government is not going to listen to every voice. It will do what it can. Last week, it agreed to use government land to build more housing, affordable housing for students. Today, it is contemplating giving a refund back to the citizens.

Complaint by complaint, it is listening and trying to gauge what the people want. Summer in Israel - a land of democracy, a land of the people, at peace with itself, if not with its neighbors.

Will there be a perfect solution? No - there never is.

Will Israeli tanks drive into the streets and open fire on its citizens? Not in this lifetime.

Will Israeli soldiers take up arms against its citizens? Ah...that is an interesting question. Israeli soldiers have been used by the government against its citizens. The soldiers were marched into Gush Katif in 2005. There, they confronted Israeli citizens who had built their homes, with the governments blessing. There they had lived, deep inside Gaza, for 30 years or more.

These people hired Arabs to tend their fields, and paid them fairly. They hired Arabs to help build and maintain their communities. The soldiers were sent in...and what came out of Gaza were traumatized families, traumatized soldiers. There was no violence - there was indescribable agony.

And yet, no violence. Not then and certainly not now. This too is a difference in our culture, in our collective soul. Reports coming out of Syria say 80 have been murdered.

Reports in Israel - may refer to someone being shoved. Our cultures are defined in these moments. Our democracy stands firm - tomorrow more will shout in the streets...and police will be there - reminding people that it's awful hot in Israel and they really should drink more.

I love this country. I love who we are, what we are. Too often, I'm involved in arguments with our enemies and even with those who simply don't understand. I'll watch the protesters tomorrow and smile. Maybe they'll succeed. Who knows - last month, we succeeded in pushing the price of cottage cheese back down to a bit more reasonable simply by everyone saying to stop buying it.

That's the way we fight things here - don't buy cottage cheese. No guns, no tanks. Yet another thing the Arabs could and should learn from Israel.

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