Friday, June 29, 2012

Syria Thought it was Israeli

Last I heard, a Syrian government official was explaining that they shot down the Turkish plane because, seeing they thought it was Israeli. When I heard this...I had one thought. Someone turned it into a photo, below - yup, this was exactly my thought (well, the part about them being able to shoot it down, anyway).
Shabbat shalom...


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Attempted Terror Attack in Maale Adumim

Elie called me a few minutes ago telling me he's on the way to get me and then said that there is traffic in Maale Adumim. Why? An Arab tried to grab the gun of a security guard. There is confusion as to where this happened. Elie said it was near a kindergarten; the news is only saying near the entrance to the city.

I could feel the panic rising. Where? What happened. The security guard managed to hold his gun and turn it and shoot the Arab. In anger and fear, I said, "I hope they shot him in the stomach." I know that's a bad place to be shot. I can't for the life of me tell you now if I meant those words or not.

With the grace of God and training, the security guard managed to hold onto the gun and the Arab was shot - not the guard; not any innocent people nearby. The Arab is in critical condition, with a gunshot wound to his stomach.

Just yesterday, we drove past the guards as we entered the city and I didn't like the way the guards were not paying attention. I said something to Elie - he wasn't very pleased either.

I don't know all the details. I do know that my heart is racing...and I don't even have any children in nursery school. I know that Aliza is home safe; David is on a trip with other youth learning to be a counselor for a special youth group; Shmulik is ...where is Shmulik....calling now....Shmulik is still in Jerusalem. Amira is at home with the least I think she is...Lauren is here in Jerusalem. I'm not sure where Naama is, but she wouldn't be near that children's school at this time of the day..and so it goes.

Where is this one? What is happening? What was his motive? And worst of all...where were the children of that nursery school? Were they in the yard playing? Were they in the school? Had they already left to go home? Why....

Germany, the Laws of Man and the Laws of God

Judaism is about tradition; but more, it is about order. It is about living as human beings and what sets us apart from animals. Paramount among the differences between man and animal are the laws we create or are created for us, at least for those who have faith and believe in a Higher Authority. I do.

I accept that there is a God for so many reasons. As Ben Gurion once said, to be a realist in Israel, you have to believe in miracles. Miracles are not random acts of coincidence. Random acts can happen, here or there, but when on a consistent basis the missiles miss by a few minutes or a few meters, you begin to believe. When a country shoots 39 missiles at a highly populated area, and one person dies...of a heart attack, you know. When you wake up and see this land and what we have done with it, you have faith.

There are, we believe, laws of God and laws of man. Observant Jews believe that laws of God must be followed; laws of man respected when the respect is justified, necessary, agreed upon, and lastly, do not conflict with the law of God. Jews are commanded to circumcise their sons on the eighth day of his life (barring any health issues which take precedence). When the law of the land goes against the law of God, we follow the laws of God because the laws of man can change according to the whim of man.

Germany has just decided that circumcision is not to be allowed in their oh-so-humane country. They, who perpetrated the most barbaric acts in the history of man, believe this simple act is barbaric. The anger that burns inside me has come to a boil and I cannot be diplomatic so I will be honest. To the Germans, I have nothing to say. When I was in Poland, I could not see the living because my eyes focused on the dead. All that I saw was the world they knew. I'd like to go back to Poland some day to see the beauty of the land because for the eight days I was there, I could only see the ashes, the cemeteries, the concentration camps and mass graves. The signs of the living - a young couple stealing a few kisses in a Jewish cemetery; Polish families walking their dogs and picnicking next to the graves of hundreds of Jewish children - these signs upset me, depressed me, and yes, even angered me.

I have never been to Germany; doubt I will ever go. It was painful to go to Poland; Germany would be agony. I have nothing to say to the Germans - they are man, nothing more. They can make all the laws they want. They did in 1933, in 1938, and they will in 2012. Their laws are nothing when compared to the laws of God. Germany has outlawed circumcision. All that means is that it is time for Jews to leave Germany - not just the young ones contemplating having children, but all Jews.

If you are not prepared to uphold the law of a country, you have the option to leave it. If you want to be able to circumcise your son according to the law of God, leave Germany. Now, before it is too late.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Grounding Kings and Presidents

Okay, I'll start off by saying that I really don't understand where some of these titles come from - but what can I do...I'm just the typist here. My brain says to the fingers - type it and they don't blame them, please.

I didn't walk among kings last week, but I certainly walked among presidents, ministers, generals, former generals, and ambassadors. They walked somehow above the rest of us, occasionally stopping to speak to someone here or there. They were hustled in, hustled out. We were the audience, the children - told to stand (as if we did not know); told not to leave our seats for security reasons.

We were a bit awed, a bit nervous. They are but men, flesh and blood but when someone like Gabi Ashkenazi stands a short distance away, you hesitate to approach. When Peres comes into the room, your mind fills with questions and you wonder if you should ask. I did approach; I did ask. I pushed myself by reminding myself that I have as much right to share in the sunshine of this world as they do, to question what my country is doing and where it is going. It is the future of my children; I am their mother.

After two full days, I was ready for the quiet that is my home. I woke Friday morning to the task of making challah and as I kneaded the dough, I thought about the week. My success of the day was not measured in international agreements brokered among diplomats and journalists, but on whether my dough would rise and if the bread that would be baked would be sweet enough.

Hours later, the table set, two of my children received their father's blessings and we watched as he cut the bread and gave each of us a piece. It was delicious - this fantastic recipe I got from Lauren months ago. I've changed it a bit - added mostly whole wheat flour, increased the honey by a bit. I braided six strands, which makes a lovely loaf - and we enjoyed it and it was as I was kneading and later as I was eating it that I thought about how we are grounded, as kings and presidents are not.

More than the simple task of making bread is the concept here. We can walk among presidents and kings all week long, but it is only as we ground ourselves on Friday and enter the Sabbath do we approach the True King. These men who spoke have voice but no real power. They do not determine the present and future of Israel, nor do the rockets that hit our land, even on Shabbat. As we entwine the strands of dough, we are entwined with our land, our people, our faith and most of all, with God. It is this act, of preparing the challah and caring for our families that Jewish women have done for centuries, millennium.

All week long, we can forget that. We can listen to politicians suggest that Israel can make peace if is surrenders this, concedes this, gives up that, forgets that. We can listen to academics play with lines on a map wondering if they notice, perhaps, that the line just happens to go through someone's living room, and we can wonder about whether this man's perceived crisis is really more about him than about us. And then we can come home, add yeast and flour, eggs and water and honey and salt, We can watch the dough rise, a promise that Shabbat is coming soon.

And we can bake it, letting the house fill with the most amazing scents. We can thank our married children as they stop by to bring a salad for us, or as they call and wish us a peaceful Shabbat. We put the freshly baked bread on the table, light the Shabbat candles as we close our eyes and pray for peace. No, not the peace of these kings and politicians, but true peace that comes from the heart and in the heart.

And then, as the candles burn and we sit around, we have that first taste of the challah and know we have been truly blessed, truly grounded and truly honored to walk with the King.

Monday, June 25, 2012

One Woman's Voice and Story

At the recent President's Conference in Jerusalem - though Shimon Peres and others spoke about the dearth of women in professional life in Israel, few spoke about the amazing lack of women presenters at the conference. I counted only about a hand-full, perhaps a few more (one estimate I heard was that less than 10% of the presenters were women). There was Caroline Glick, who was amazing; Dr. Ruth who was entertaining. There was Keren Leibovitch who defines the word inspirational, and there was Ayaan Hirsi-Ali.

Ayaan is a 42-year-old woman who was born in Somalia. She is graceful, soft-spoken and beautiful. She came to the platform to speak and it was then you could see beyond the grace and the beauty is courage and intelligence. She explained that the first 20 years of her life were the complete opposite of the last 20 years. As a young Muslim child in Somalia, she learned three things that characterize that culture - the culture of Islam. She came to the microphone after Dennis Ross, former US ambassador to Israel. She spoke after two American Jews had been to the platform to offer their opinions and knowledge of the Israeli-Arab situation. The night before, Henry Kissinger, Shimon Peres and Tony Blair all spoke about peace as if tomorrow it will come...if only we want it badly enough.

Quietly, Ayaan spoke and without ever mentioning their names, she made these men sound like naive fools. She never said it, but it was there. You cannot make peace with a society that does not want it; you cannot compromise with a people who refuse to accept that you even exist. Dennis Ross suggested one of the steps that the Palestinians must take is to simply put Israel on their maps - even this, they will never do because this is about compromise and, according to Ayaan, an impossibility.

These are her words, her experiences. People have asked me if I believe there can be peace. If I were to be honest with them, until now, I would have told them no - there can be no peace. Instead, I typically answer "if the Arabs want it." That part is true. If they want it...

There are three things that characterize Ayaan's Muslim upbringing and the world that she knew. It is amazing that days later, I do not even have to consult my notes to remember. Such was the power of her words and the honesty of her opinion. These are:

1. Absolute authority - of her father, of her Imam, of her teacher, of her government. Absolute. No opportunity to question, no right to question. You do what they say, always. She did not. She refused the marriage they would have forced upon her and in so doing, she lost her culture, her community, her family - and she sees where she is now and accepts she is in a better place, despite what she had to sacrifice.

2. No compromise - never. To compromise is to lose face; to be a loser. To be the weak one. The Palestinians will never compromise was her message. At one point, as someone on the panel was suggesting ways towards peace, Ayaan said something. I'm sure I heard it and perhaps can find it on a video somewhere to confirm. I believe she said, "Even if you give them Jerusalem," and then she repeated it, "even if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace." No compromise.

3. All that is right is in the Koran - and by extension, whatever is not in the Koran, is wrong. This means not only absolute power to the figure of authority, but absolute control of every aspect of your life.

What this means for Israel, was the silent message from Ayaan, is that you are in the Middle East. Just as she grew up within that world, Israel must accept it is firmly planted here. Ayaan was lucky in that she was able to break away; our country can't do that.

True opposition will never succeed in the Arab world - the election of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is yet another proof of this. In breaking away from one tyranny, they have simply chosen another - even more fundamental, even more extreme. Absolute authority, no compromise, the Koran.

In her quiet way, Ayaan spoke the truth that so many simply refuse to see. It's right there in #2 - no compromise. It's right there in the absolute authority - why young men move to suicide, why mothers accept this and fathers are proud of it. It's all in the Koran.

Even if you give up Jerusalem, even Jerusalem - there will be no peace. If you know anything about Israel, about how much we love Jerusalem, you will understand her message. She came to Jerusalem, recognizing it as our capital, recognizing our love of it. Even if you surrender this city that you love, this place that is your heart - even then, they won't give you peace!

To come to the President's Conference where half the sessions seemed to be dedicated to discussing tomorrow and the roads we should take towards this thing called peace, and essentially say you are dreamers, naive and perhaps even foolish - this was a bold and brave stand to take. I have little doubt that most of the male presenters lack the experience, the bravery and the boldness of this one woman.

They spoke of maps that lead nowhere, compromises that will bring nothing. They suggested, cajoled. insisted, opinionated. They want to push Israel because perhaps deep down they understand that they cannot push the Arabs - no compromise. It was the truth of Ayaan that I wish they had heard - even if you cut out all that we are, even if you give it all, even we listen to your foolishness, even if we give up Jerusalem, they will not let us live here in peace.

No, it wasn't a message Peres would be ready to listen to; not a concept most of the other panelists would have been ready to hear but it was one woman's voice, her story, her truth, her past and her future - and perhaps, just perhaps, Israel's as well.

Analysis of a Comment - Part 2

Brooke R. left a comment that I could not publish without commenting on my own and yet it would take too much space to do it in one post. So here is part 2.

Part 1 (you can read it here), covered this part of her comment:
50 rockets hit Israel, but how many people were injured or killed? If 50 rockets hit the West Bank or Gaza at least a thousand people would be killed or injured. The land you live on is stolen.

Here is Part 2:
The way you treat the people who you stole the land is abominable. If you lived the way they did you'd be angry too. If I lived the way they did I'd be angry. Crazy thing? There are people who are angry but who don't hate you like you hate them. Crazy thing is that those people are looking to their faith and what it teaches them, what God teaches us. To love, and not oppress. To love your enemy. I think its a bit out of whack for you to play the victim card. You are not a victim. The Palestinians are the victims. They are the victims of my government, your government, many Middle Eastern governments. For once why don't you try to put yourself in their shoes. Let go of your anger and victim mentality. That's what I try to do when I think about how your government treated me recently.

I'll start with the first part:
The way you treat the people who you stole the land is abominable. If you lived the way they did you'd be angry too. If I lived the way they did I'd be angry. Crazy thing? There are people who are angry but who don't hate you like you hate them. Crazy thing is that those people are looking to their faith and what it teaches them, what God teaches us. To love, and not oppress.
How do we treat them, exactly? See, the crazy thing here is that you really believe that the Palestinians just want to love us and yes, we are harming them...there are so many ways to counter this argument, I'm not sure which one to use. Here are a few of them - pick which one works for you:

  • Let's look at many Palestinian aid missions have there been. Ah, you'll say they are poor (which they aren't), or restricted or whatever. Okay let's open it up - how many Jordanian missions of aid have their been to help others around the world? Syrian? Egyptian? Saudi Arabian? Well, yeah, I think they sent some money somewhere, sometime. Lebanese? Israel, by comparison, is often the FIRST team onsite - even though we travel from a much greater distance. We beat the Americans by days - to get to Haiti. We were among the first to offer assistance after the tsunami. We helped in the massive Turkish earthquake and it was our teams in Kenya digging out after explosions collapsed buildings and killed people. We send doctors around the world to operate on children and save lives. 
  • How many Israelis are treated in Palestinian Arab hospitals in ANY Arab country in the world? I would guess around zero, but since you might be able to find one, let's round it up to 10. Last year alone, we treated over 19,000 Palestinians in our hospitals - and that doesn't even count Arabs from other countries who come here; and others from around the world. When our team came back from weeks of helping in Haiti, we brought back on the plane a young Haitian boy, performed a complex heart operation, and then when he was better, returned him home ... at our expense. 
  • What does OUR faith teach us...well, pretty much what you think the Arab faith teaches them - except you're wrong about that. WE teach our children to live and to choose life. My son's unit was taught not just how to fight, but how to live, how to survive, and how to return home safely. This is not taught to Arab soldiers. We do not turn our children into suicide bombers nor do we praise violence. We do not announce that we will defeat them because we love death (search Hassan Nasrallah and you'll see his quote about how the Jews love life and the Arabs will defeat us because of this).
  • If I look at their faith, if you look at their faith - you will find that we are infidels (you and I...unless you are a Muslim). As we are infidels, it is proper and good for them to lie to you; to promise they mean peace...and then, it is acceptable for them to slit your throat or break any agreement - you are, after all, only an infidel. If you don't know this - you don't understand their culture.
You wrote:
I think its a bit out of whack for you to play the victim card. You are not a victim. The Palestinians are the victims. They are the victims of my government, your government, many Middle Eastern governments.
I'm not playing the victim card. We Jews stopped being victims almost 70 years ago when we took back our destiny - and our land. We offered to share our land because we wanted peace and we did not want war. We agreed to take half our land, a fraction of Biblical Israel and we would have done on the half what we have done on all the land we now have. We would have built in that small area - centers of learning that are listed among the highest institutions of learning in the world. We would have created vast centers of technology, as we have done throughout Israel. We would have planted the land and grown our homes. But the Arabs were not willing to share and so they chose war. We went to war in 1948, not as victims, but as survivors. We survived the Nazis - and there was no way this side of hell that the Arabs were going to stop us from what we wanted most - and what we wanted most, my friend, was not their land, but life. So we agreed to peace - and they agreed to war...and we've been at war with them for almost 65 years.

If the Palestinians are victims - they are victims of their own leaders who have consistently led them on the path of war. They are the victims of their religious leaders, who stir them up and promise them 72 virgins in heaven if they manage to kill Jews. They are victims of their Arab brothers, who put them in refugee camps through out the Arab world - and kept them there to rot. Who fed them false dreams that someday they would defeat the Jews...they won't. 

You wrote: 
For once why don't you try to put yourself in their shoes. Let go of your anger and victim mentality. That's what I try to do when I think about how your government treated me recently.
I cannot put myself in their shoes because I cherish my children. I could never send my sons out to kill themselves; I could never praise them for slitting the throat of an infant...any infant. 

Let go of my anger? The anger I have is for those who butcher, those who launch rockets, those who attack innocent people in Israeli cities who just want to live.

Victim mentality? I covered that one. I have no victim mentality. I am proud of what my country has built, despite having to spend so much effort defending itself.

As for how my government treated you recently, you'll have to explain that one to me because I haven't got a clue. Were you in Israel recently? What did you try to do? I guess I'd have to know that before I could answer back on what you think Israel or the government did to you. Till then, I'll leave you with a simple thought...Jews didn't come back to live in Israel to die, but to live. We want to live in peace. We want to live with our Arab neighbors...if they let us. 

But we will not let them defeat us. We will not surrender our legitimate rights to our land. And one more concept - you have to live with the consequences of your actions - you, me, and all people. The Arabs chose war and lost. Reality. Truth.

They could have settled for peace in 1947 and had half the land, including some of the most fertile areas. They chose war and lost. They could have learned their lesson and chosen peace in 1949...or at any time until 1967. But they didn't and so they lost again. More land, more areas. 

They could have chosen so many times and each time, as Abba Eban once said, "the Palestinians never lose an opportunity to lose an opportunity."

And that concludes my attempt to make you see reason and add depth to your knowledge of Israel and the Middle East - here's hoping it managed, in some part, to broaden your views and make you question, if only a little, your misconceptions.

Grace and Respect

This morning as I passed a bus stop, I saw a crowd of people waiting to get on the bus. My car was positioned in such a way that I was angling to get out of the lane and the bus cut in front and blocked me so I was forced into patience. There were quite a few people waiting to get on - no, not in a line. Israelis don't do lines. But what struck me was how everyone sort of held back and let an elderly man slowly get on the bus and no one really seemed to be impatient.

There is, in Israel, a built-in respect for the elderly. I have so many thoughts still kicking around my head about the President's Conference. It was only 2 days and a bit in terms of time, but it was fun to have my mind focused on something other than technical writing, courses and family. It was a way of exercising the brain in other directions and my mind willingly complied.

So here's another one. One of the panels was on Israel's Security in the Aftermath of the Arab Spring. It featured the following speakers:
  • Ambassador Moshe Arens, Israel: former Minister of Defense... 
  • Professor Anthony Cordesman, USA: Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy... 
  • Professor Yehezkel Dror, Israel: Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • Lt. Gen. (Res.) Dan Haloutz, Israel: Former Chief of the General Staff... 
  • Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Israel: Director-General...
Of these names, I was most familiar with Moshe Arens and Dan Haloutz so I decided to attend. I think Moshe Arens is terrific and Dan Haloutz an idiot. Yes, I'm being unfair to Haloutz, but I believe much of the mess of the Second Lebanon War and many deaths fall on his head, as does some of the so-called Disengagement Plan (which disengaged us from 20+ thriving Jewish communities in Gaza in exchange for engaging us with thousands of rockets). The rest of the panel was unknown or less known.

What you had was four men - all Israelis, speaking in Hebrew and one American, Anthony Cordesman.The microphone system was failing and annoying, the room overstuffed with people. At one point, Cordesman was speaking when Professor Yehezkel Dror began to make a comment. Israelis love to debate, to talk - and yes, sometimes to interrupt in the middle of an interesting discussion. It's a bad habit in the western world, even rude - and while it isn't loved in Israel, it's just something that happens and we are relaxed enough to take it in stride. You cut back in, you talk, you communicate. What you never do is embarrass the other person.

Cordesman isn't Israeli. He turned to Professor Dror and proceeded to rudely take him to task - in front of a few hundred people. Professor Dror apologized, but Cordesman continued his criticism of Dror's interruption. The audience was silent but many people looked up in surprise. The woman sitting next to me was using earphones because she obviously did not understand Hebrew. I was listening to the discussions - Hebrew and English without any assistance. Seconds after I looked up at Cordesman in surprise at the harsh way in which he spoke, the woman next to me gasped and looked at me. We both agreed - how incredibly rude this Cordesman was.

Later, I looked up Cordesman and found that he was 72 years old; I looked up Professor Dror and found out he was 84. In my book, respect for your elders applies here. The mood in the room seemed different after Cordesman lashed out at Professor Dror. In many ways, I think it was not a reflection of anything that Cordesman said, so much as a violation of something that is ingrained in Israelis. You may not like what an older person says, but they have earned the right to be respected.

I walked out of the room thinking of something else. The bloggers at the conference were given the honor of a private session with President Shimon Peres. I have never liked Peres. I hate his politics. I feel he is terribly weak as a leader and to some extent believe he cared more for his own career than the needs of the people of Israel. He has lost every election he ever ran in and has an abysmal record...until...until he became President of Israel and there, seems to have grown into something so much more than he was.

I still hate his politics; still think he acquiesces too easily to foreign powers. I believe he is old enough, at 88, to be brave and take a chance. I hope, if God graces to live to Shimon Peres' age, I hope that I would be more bold. I would have given the Medal of Freedom to Jonathan Pollard. I would have stood up and thanked Obama and said until all Jews are free, no Jew is truly free, that whatever crime Jonathan Pollard did, the time has come.

As I sat listening to the bloggers' questions - it seemed as if most of the people in the room were dazzled enough to ask soft questions; I think one of the women even flirted with Peres; her body language annoying. I couldn't sit there quietly. I wanted two things out of that meeting. I wanted someone to say something about the 65 rockets that had hit Israel the day we were just sitting around at his conference; and I wanted someone to say something about Jonathan Pollard. Someone stood up and mentioned the rockets and we got the quote we wanted, "If they do not stop firing rockets at us," said the President of the State of Israel, "we will have to stop them."

I smiled. One topic more that needed to be mentioned. I posted to Twitter - "someone ask him about Jonathan Pollard" - and someone wrote back, "why don't you?" And so I did. But unlike Cordesman, I afforded Shimon Peres respect - not for what he has done in his life, certainly not for his politics, but because he is an 88-year-old man, and Jews respect their elders. He gave me a politician's answer; I expected no more.

On the bus ride home that evening, a young woman got up and gave her seat to an older woman. I leaned over and said to her in Hebrew "kol hakavod" (rough translation - all honor; or good for you). She looked at me like I was crazy - but smiled anyway. Of course you give your seat, of course you address a president and an older man with honor. This is Israel after all, Mr. Cordesman, this is Israel.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

They Didn't Let Us Finish

Shortly after I picked Elie up from the Gaza War, after weeks of not seeing him and barely talking to him, I was anxious to finally get to talk to him, to hug him, and to listen. On the long drive home, we began to discuss the war and the war's ending. Obama had been elected and Israel was clearing the field for his entry into office on January 20, 2009. Israel didn't want Obama's first words to be condemning Israel for the war and Washington had made it clear they wanted the war over.

Every soldier that left Gaza and went home was happy to be seeing his or her family - and most knew, as Elie did, that it wasn't over. "Ima," he told me, "they didn't let us finish." I was never sure who "they" were - the Americans or the Israeli government. But I knew, as he did, that the war had not really ended Hamas' missile capabilities or their desire to strike us.

For the last 5 days, Israel has been hit by 150 rockets. People have been injured. The ignorant and often anti-Israel commenters ask how many people in Israel have been injured or killed. This is the numbers game they play. I can answer them or ignore them. The answer, as far as I know, is that at least 6 people have been injured: one critical, one moderate, the rest lightly. This doesn't, of course, include dozens treated for shock, doesn't include the physical damage and worse, the mental terror each resident feels when the siren wails.

Others will point to people being killed on the Palestinian side. This is true. This is what happens in war and especially when you go out under a sky that is patrolled by satellites and aircraft, and shoot a rocket at one million people. Faster than you can load the next rocket, hopefully, your position will be identified, targeted and hit. Yes, you will die, or at least be seriously injured by the missile we launch at your position.

If civilians are lucky (or smart), they will not be in the area (or they will flee quickly). The honest ones will call you a martyr, which is a synonym for a terrorist firing the rocket, the bomb maker, and the one who supplied the missiles. These are our targets.

The deceitful will speak of a 2-year-old Palestinian child killed by Israel, while the medic will privately admit to a BBC reporter that the child was killed by a Gaza rocket that misfired and landed on their side. A picture will be posted - and the picture will be a lie - taken from another time, another place, sometimes even another conflict. And those who want to believe, those who don't understand, those who are ready to ignore and those who never really liked those Israelis, those Jews...will believe.

They won't see that the numbers are meaningless if, within the 15 "people" - (or whatever the number is currently), 14 of them were firing rockets, Hamas trainees, etc. No country, no organization, no people have the right to shoot rockets at 1 million people - and this is what Hamas has done...150 times in the last few days.

Elie's words come back to me - a bit naive, a bit like a young man thinking he can solve the problems of the world. I don't remember now what I said to him, how I answered. No, Israel did not "finish" the job in the Cast Lead Gaza war of 2008/2009. Hamas was left with the potential to continue firing. We all knew it was a matter of time.

In this latest round, as in the past, a school was hit, a home. People have been injured, property damaged. If Gaza is upset about the number of innocent casualties on their side, they have but to do one of two things:

  • stop shooting rockets from within civilian areas - this may lessen the small number of innocents that may be injured accidentally. No, Hamas will never do this because they know that if we can identify a target within a crowded area and we aren't sure we can take it out, we won't. And so they use their mosques, their homes, their hospitals, their wives and even their children to protect their weapons and their fighters.
  • stop shooting rockets - this will stop this latest round until the next time they start again because in January, 2009, Elie and the soldiers of Israel were not allowed to finish what had been started.
At the recent President's Conference in Jerusalem, Shimon Peres was asked about the rocket fire. His response was simple. "Either they will have to stop, or we will have to stop them."

At some point, Israel has to do more than just stop them until the next time. At some point, we will have to finish the job and eliminate Hamas' ability to fire on our people...or perhaps, just eliminate Hamas.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Take a Bear

Aliza has a bag of the sticky candies that I hate - they are sugar and color, bad for your teeth, just love them.

She gave her father a star last night - "so he would have a good night."

She gave her brother a bear - "so he wouldn't be scared at night," and she gave him two little cherry-shaped candies "so he'd be healthy." She said the last one with a smile because she knows these candies are not healthy.

Am I reading too much into the bear? Is it normal for a 12-year-old to still be just a bit afraid at night?

For her, it has been a long journey...if you haven't followed it, you can read about it in these past posts:
She's come a long way indeed. A few days ago, I was late getting home. She told me she wasn't afraid anymore to be in the house alone. What I liked about her giving her older brother (who towers above me and is even taller than Elie) a candy so he won't be afraid, is the sense that this is another symbol of healing, of moving beyond. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Peter Beinart and Zionism

Another great session at Tomorrow 2012 - the President's Conference in Jerusalem. It's been an incredible day and I have so much I want to write...and for once I have time to do it!

So here's the next one...Peter Beinart has written a book called The Crisis of Zionism. When I agree with the New York Times, you know something is amazing. Here's what was written about his book in the NY Times:
He [Beinart] sets out to save the country by labeling many of its leaders racist, denouncing many of its American supporters as ­Holocaust-obsessed enablers and advocating a boycott of people and products from beyond Israel’s 1967 eastern border. (
I'll start by saying I haven't read it - maybe Mr. Beinart wants to send me a complimentary copy? Probably not. So let me write about what he said, and not what he wrote. Perhaps had I read the book, I'd have been more prepared. I wasn't.

He began with a justification for an argument that I've had with myself for many years, even before I moved to Israel. If it isn't your son on the border of Israel, do you have the right to criticize, to advise, and perhaps even to condemn Israel for what it does to survive and thrive in this area of the world. This touches on information from a second session that I don't want to write about here. I want to focus on Beinart.

I'll start by saying he was charming and he is clearly a great thinker. He spoke of his Egyptian-born grandmother (who disagrees with his politics and thinks, as I do, that he is painfully naive). He's a man with an opinion, that is clear and he's stubborn. Facts are unlikely to sway him. Interestingly enough, he touched not just on Israel, but on American Jewry and there his views come close to mine. I'll explain that one in a second. First, about Israel.

He has built a mountain on shifting sands; an argument on facts that simply are inaccurate. He said, "what legitimizes Israel is its democracy." What an absurd statement. First, why does Israel need to be legitimized? When was the last time anyone asked what right the US had to exist? Wait, the US is a democracy. Okay, when was the last time someone asked what right North Korea has a right to exist or what legitimacy it has?

Then, Peter Beinart decided to play a game - an insulting one and one of the many reasons why he does not have a right to think his opinion should mean anything here - until it is his son on our borders. He has decided that it is acceptable to boycott products from the West Bank but he encourages purchasing products from what he inaccurately and annoyingly refers to as "democratic" Israel. Here again is the latest form of idol worship that plagues Beinart and many left-wing American Jews - democracy. It is not God who determines the future, the present, the right and wrong of things - it is the idol known as democracy, that Beinart worships.

I'm all for democracy. I would vote for it anytime. But Israel is greater than our democracy. Our democracy is a sign of our humanity, our freedom, and who we are - it is not what we are.

I wanted to ask Beinart if he was a Zionist and if he had answered that he was, I would have asked him to define Zionism because I do not believe you can be a Zionist and at the same time support a path that could so easily lead to our destruction. His path for our future involves OUR taking all the risks at a time when we have no peace partner. I wanted to ask him who our peace partners are - these non-existent dreamers that he trusts them with our future and security but he had already quickly dismissed security as "another argument" in this intellectual game. And to a large extent, that's what Israel is to him and to others who came to the conference to share their opinions with us - an intellectual game, an academic exercise. As Beinart was talking, almost literally, Israel was being hit by rockets. Nine today,  and the day is still young; and only one day after Israel was hit with almost 70 rockets.

When the conversation finally turned to American Jewry, Beinart was not optimistic about its future. His best line was clearly, "We’ve built better Holocaust memorials than we’ve built Jewish schools." I agree.

His discussion reminded me of something Yaakov Kirschen of Dry Bones said years ago - almost 30 years ago to be exact. He said to a rather shocked and disbelieving crowd of young college students at Columbia University (paraphrased slightly): in another few generations, there will be no Jews in America. I asked him did he really believe that all American Jews were going to make aliyah? I said it in the voice of the doubter, as if I was so smart, and he so stupid. I thought he was impossibly naive and though I shared his pro-aliyah (moving to Israel) dream, I really wanted him to wake up to reality. And then he looked at me and I realized it wasn't him being naive and I certainly wasn't the smart one in the conversation. And quietly, slowly, he responded "I didn't say that."

Years later, I would learn an interesting fact of history - when the Jews left Egypt...not all the Jews left. According to most sources, 4 our of 5, 80% never left. The first time I heard this, I thought of American Jews - 80%, I would guess, will never come to Israel - will be lost. It fits with what remains of my family in America.

I don't know what the future of American Jewry will be - if my family there is a measure, American Jewry is in deep trouble (in one case, one uncle's children are running at 75% having married non-Jews). I do know that Peter Beinart's naive, academic and decidedly inaccurate view does indeed damage Israel - because he gives others the false idea that peace is within our hands and to achieve it, we must take risks that he, from the safety of his American shores, suggests for my sons.

When it is your sons on the borders of Israel, Mr. Beinart, let's talk. Till then, maybe your next book should be, The Crisis of American Jewry. At least that book, you have the knowledge and the right to write.

Tomorrow 2012 - The Spirit of Israel

Yossi Vardi is a combination of every Israel's grandfather and every entrepreneur's model. He is intelligent, forward thinking and funny. He came into a meeting of bloggers, sat down and made himself comfortable and basically said - talk to me. And we did.

Vardi spoke passionately about the spirit of Israel - once seen in the settling of the land, the building of cities and communities, kibbutzim, and farming the land - this spirit has now turned to the hi-tech area, to technology.

He spoke of the many innovations that have come out of Israel and noted how so many of the largest hi-tech companies in the world - Google, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and more - are all here. He believes Israel should take a pragmatic view of the world and continue to seek peace.

Yossi Vardi remains not just an icon of hi-tech in Israel - but the essence, quiet simply, of a very nice, warm person.

Analysis of a Comment

You know, you have to be careful what you say. I was at a blogger's session at the Tomorrow 2012 conference here in Jerusalem and someone asked what to do with comments. A few bloggers talked about comments often being a pain; another said sometimes they are really dumb comments and I opened my big mouth and said I love comments - most are so supportive. I told the people about some of the comments that people have made on my blog and the way I handle them. 

So, my luck, of course, I posted what I would have thought was a simple post - a protest in the only way I can protest. With words. I can't fly planes to stop the terrorists firing these rockets, but I can write about it. And then Brooke R. left this comment: (the gray text will be discussed in the next post...this one has become too long...just on the first two lines.)
50 rockets hit Israel, but how many people were injured or killed? If 50 rockets hit the West Bank or Gaza at least a thousand people would be killed or injured. The land you live on is stolen. The way you treat the people who you stole the land is abominable. If you lived the way they did you'd be angry too. If I lived the way they did I'd be angry. Crazy thing? There are people who are angry but who don't hate you like you hate them. Crazy thing is that those people are looking to their faith and what it teaches them, what God teaches us. To love, and not oppress. To love your enemy. I think its a bit out of whack for you to play the victim card. You are not a victim. The Palestinians are the victims. They are the victims of my government, your government, many Middle Eastern governments. For once why don't you try to put yourself in their shoes. Let go of your anger and victim mentality. That's what I try to do when I think about how your government treated me recently.
I need to explain something here - and so, line by line, Brooke, let me correct you.
50 rockets hit Israel, but how many people were injured or killed? 
This is a common mistake that people who are, in truth, anti-Israel, love to make. They need to explain that is it, essentially, okay to fire a rocket at one million people so long as you miss them. It is akin to putting a little kitten in a garbage can and rolling it around for a while - so long as the cat isn't hurt and you release it, is it really animal cruelty? Have you actually done something wrong? I will tell you that you have.

When the rocket is launched from Gaza, Israel's brilliant army knows the launch site, knows the trajectory of that rocket and knows within milliseconds, the general location of where it will land. Within seconds, a siren is sounded in that area and surrounding areas. We do not take chances with people's lives and so we warn them - run. RUN FAST. NOW. Get to a safe area.

And we instruct them - how to protect themselves. The safest part of a building if they can't get to a secure room; what to do if they can't get to a building at all. What if you are in a car? In a field?

The rocket lands and explodes...and then there is silence. The terror of those seconds before the rocket lands and the panic when you hear the explosion near by and wonder where it hit, who it hit...and where your children are, your parents, your siblings...

In the end, after rolling that cat around in the garbage...if you release it okay? If a person isn't hit by the rocket or the little metal balls the Arabs pack into the missile so that when it explodes, if you don't get hit by the rocket, maybe you'll at least get hit by this bullet-like balls that explode out with a force strong enough to kill and maim - is it okay?

Is the only measure of the right and wrong here - that one criteria - if someone was hurt or killed. I know that four people...yes, they are soldiers...were hurt by one missile - one is in critical condition. Is that enough blood for you, Brooke?
 If 50 rockets hit the West Bank or Gaza at least a thousand people would be killed or injured.
Actually, Brooke, more than 50 Israeli rockets have hit Gaza and a thousand weren't killed because unlike the Arabs, we target our missiles to hit terrorists who are firing rockets at Israel, Hamas training grounds, etc. As for the West Bank, well, you're wrong there too because geographically, the area that Gaza is firing at is more less densely populated than the cities (Beersheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Shderot, etc.) at which the Arabs are firing.
The land you live on is stolen.
Do you actually know where I live...the house, the city, or are you sort of just talking about all of Israel? A question I often ask people is when do you start there a specific moment that gives someone more or less rights to something? But in this case, let me answer specifically. You are wrong. I bought the land that I live on from a man who was born in Israel. His parents fled Iran after Israel was created and the Arabs thought there was a chance for them to push the Jews into the sea. Only, they didn't.

During the war they started in 1948, the Jordanians pushed westward, hoping to advance that great dream of a final resting place in the water for my people...they were stopped, of course, and Israel remained in existence, but this area where my home now is, became part of Jordan. Prior to 1948 and the Jordanians occupying/capturing it, it was a barren hill under the control of the British and their mandate. They got the land from the Ottomans.

Under the Turks, under the British, under the Jordanians - no one built on these hills to the east of Jerusalem. In 1967, when it was clear that war was coming, the Israelis launched a preemptive strike - no rational person believes it was Israeli aggression and even the Arabs admit they were about to attack us - that we just attacked them first.

Shortly after the strikes were launched against the Egyptians and the Syrians - Israel sent a message to Jordan through international channels asking them not to attack and telling them that Israel did not want a war. Jordan responded that they would stand with their brothers and attacked. And lost. The land on which my home was built was a barren hill controlled by the Jordanian government until the Israel.

It was not built on stolen land and so you are wrong again.

Wow - I still have to much of your comment to post, I guess.

A Security Guard's Greeting

I didn't catch your name and I apologize for that from the start. I should have noticed - you just made my day in the first minutes of being here at the Tomorrow 2012 conference.

So, here's what happened....I walked in to the conference and through the security. The President of Israel is here and many others. Security is tight. They search your bags; you walk through a metal detector - and at many doors, there are guards standing there.

As I entered, I met some Twitter friends (@bydahway and @raffeg) - fun times ahead, I thought to myself. They walked through the door; I walked through. And the security guard stopped me and said, "are you ...are you a soldier's mother?"

It's actually not the first time it has happened to me and each time, it makes me smile - my three minutes of fame in the world. I smiled and said I was and then he told me it was a great post from yesterday. I made several yesterday writing about the conference here - and I'll be writing several more today...which one (though deep down, I think I already knew).

"The one about Gabi Ashkenazi," he said, "my father sent it to me because I was here all day."

"I didn't know if it was good idea or not, but I just wanted to tell him," I explained.

"It was good you did," he answered with a smile and wished me a good day.

Yeah, I'm glad I did - and thanks to the security guard for his smile today - you make your father proud!

Sometimes people visiting Israel forget that security guards are people, sons. When you pass through the door they guard - take that second to wish them a good day. You'd be amazed how much they appreciate that small interaction. Sometimes, the guards don't respond. Most often, they smile back and wish me a good day. We all need that - that, I wish the guard a great day. And, I wish the people in Israel's south...a good day...but more, a quiet day.

A Sad Update on Rockets

Yesterday, I posted that 50 rockets had hit longer true.

As of midnight last night, we had passed 65 rockets fired in a single day, over 100 rockets fired in the previous 72 hours. This morning, I woke to the news that 3 more rockets had been fired at Israel and Hamas offered us some comic relief when they announced they were ready for a ceasefire if we stopped our aggression.

Short of being on the other side of where the missile lands (and shooting at the rocket launchers), it's hard to see what aggression there is in defending yourself. Meanwhile, the world of Arab propaganda marches on. A child - a small young child was killed in Gaza...immediately, of course, the Arabs blamed Israel, cursed Israel for the death of this tiny child.

Of course, the medical personnel in Gaza admitted privately to a BBC reporter that it was a missile that had killed the child - no, not an Israeli missile, a katyusha rocket that had been fired at Israel, but landed short, into Gaza.

In private - lest the world find out.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Next Soldier

See, sometimes I type the title and then realize that I've set myself up for a direction that I don't want...this being a perfect example. My next soldier - what was I thinking?

Davidi...that's his baby name. I have to stop doing that. I have to let him be David. Worse, Elie has been Elie since he was born. It was a name we chose, but I chose the spelling. I wanted people to think of Elie Wiesel. I didn't want people to pronounce his name as ElI (with the i sounding like the letter). No one calls Elie Wiesel - EE-LIE. But for a while now and for sure on his wedding invitation, his email address and more, Elie has been calling himself Eli. 

I don't even like that spelling - but hey, I'm just his mother and each person has a right to call himself what he will. I know people who have changed their names completely - Elie...Eli isn't doing that. It seems easier for me somehow to let Davidi be David than to begin using Eli. It feels like I'm not even talking about the same person. His blog... I don't know.

But Davidi will be David (if it helps, it is pronounced Daveed - that's his name, the Hebrew form of the English name David). He was named after his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor. David never met him because it is our tradition that we name our children after relatives that have passed away and in so doing, we pay tribute to their memory and create a lasting memorial. To some extent, we also hope that the good of the person whose name the child carries will come into the new life. 

So David will be my next soldier but I don't want to think of him that way. He's 16 and a half. He wants to get an identity card (he has to have it when he is 17, but he can get it already). He wants to start driving lessons...that too can come soon. He's started to shave - okay, more often than he really has to, but that too is not what caused this sudden post.

There was a wonderful session for bloggers at this conference I am going to - it's fun and different and something I need for me, for my brain. Alana Newhouse was the speaker and bloggers were given the opportunity to ask a question. I didn't realize I was going to ask one...but then I did. 

Was I being honest with my blog and its readers? Am I a soldier's mother? Elie and Shmulik are out of the standing army. Yes, according to the exact definition in Israel, I will remain a soldier's mother for the next 23.5 years - until the day the army tells David he can stand down. By then, oh God, I could be the grandmother of a soldier.

I can keep writing. I have been so blessed. I sometimes tell people I write when I'm sleeping, when I'm driving, when I am not near a computer or pen and paper. I write in my head when I can't write on a screen or paper. Words flow and there is such frustration when I can't direct them to something that I can see with my eyes. 

It isn't that I don't have something to say, but do I have something others want to hear? Will I write too much about Israel and politics when maybe I should be writing about my sons, Israeli families, etc.

And so I thought of David - but I'm not ready to think of him as a soon-to-be soldier. A year and a half is an eternity to a mother who doesn't want to believe it will go by so fast. And really, he will turn 18 in the middle of his last year in high school - so he won't be going into the army for probably a year or more after that. There's time, time enough and too little time.

Alana said I should keep writing; others in the room were quick to agree. It seems like every time I wonder, others come forward and say keep writing. So I will - as an Israeli, as a mother. As a Jew, and as a soldier's mother.

50 Rockets Hit Israel in 3 Days

Over one million people have 60 seconds to run, to hide, to pray that this rocket won't hit near their home. Last night, a man left his house to go somewhere - he was 100 meters away when the rocket hit. People have been injured - one seriously. 

And so I will leave you with the thought - look quickly around you - you've just heard a siren...where will you hide? Do you have a safe room...and can you get there fast enough? Do you have your son or daughter with you? Do you have to grab more than one child? Do you have an elderly parent that walks slowly?

Where will you hide - if you've read to here - the rocket has already exploded...

And my last question - how many rockets hit YOUR country today? More than fifty rockets...15 seconds if you live in Shderot...45 if you live in Ashkelon....60 if you live in Beersheva...

Tomorrow 2012 - and the Bloggers

There's an interesting side point here at the President's Conference. There's a press room that has been set aside to allow journalists access to computers, a copy machine, free coffee, and for many, plenty of electrical outlets. I'm here charging my computer so I can keep blogging, tweeting, and be in communication with others.

There's chatter going on here - names of speakers and all. And a few minutes ago, instructions for  someone to do something with a video and press releases. "Get me a picture of the Jordanian and the Egyptian."

That's how we are referring to those who have come here - that was how I kept it the various journalists apart at the session - the Jordanian, the Egyptian, the Turk.

And finally, a thank you to the coordinators of the conference - they did something that I have really never seen done to this level...they recognized the bloggers as forces of power in the world of media. They have afforded us full access to people, to resources - in short, they have shown with action, a commitment to the tomorrow of journalism.

Tomorrow 2012 - - The Big Gorilla

The Big Gorilla that is not in each room here is Iran. Most of the main speakers have come to tell Israel what it should, or should not, do about Iran. Dennis Ross seems to believe that it is acceptable to give Iran nuclear capabilities so long as we can ensure that it will only use the nuclear power for civilian uses. Sure, that's going to work for how long, I want to ask him?

And when they DO convert it to military long will it take the world to do something. No, I don't mean how long will it take for them to protest it, I mean how long will it take to get the world to DO something! Do something.

Dennis Ross says that there is simply no way that a military strike against Iran will be successful...and again, I want to ask him how he knows...and even if he does we have another option?

It is, quite simply, ridiculous. The Jordanian and Egyptian journalists offer suggestions - Israel should do the right thing, though how they define the right thing would certainly not be as we would. The Turkish diplomat (yes, I'll go at some point and post their names) wants Israel to know that it isn't too late and we certainly can repair the relationship with Turkey. All WE have to do is apologize.

After all, he says, Turkish civilians were hurt and killed. Civilians? Not hardly...Apologize?

The most realistic and helpful comments on Iran came today from Gabi Ashkenazi. He says that the military option is and should be the last option and yet it must remain on the table because if other options are to succeed, the ONLY way it can succeed is if the threat of military action remains.

In fact, Ashkenazi explains, the more the threat of military intervention is on the table, is considered real, the more likely all non-military responses can work. It's such a logical and simple reality - one that so many of those who have come here for a few days to preach to us want to ignore.

The big gorilla at this conference is Iran - I doubt that those who came here to give advice are managing to notice that we here in Israel do actually understand what is happening with Iran, understand very well, as Dennis Ross felt he had to tell us, that we have to be concerned not only with the strike itself, but the tomorrow after the strike.

My advice to the many guests here at the conference - trust us. Really, trust us. We are very aware. We live here, here in the reality that is the Middle East.

Facing Tomorrow - Justice and Equilibrium

Henry Kissinger took the stage to receive Israel's President's Medal - the highest award the State of Israel issues to a civilian. I have many thoughts about Henry Kissinger - most not positive. A short and meaningful video was presented to the thousands of people in the hall. I was glad they ran the video because it reminded me of the one thing Israel does owe Kissinger - in 1973, Israel was attacked (again) and the situation looked dire. The United States - Kissinger and Nixon had planes landing and played a critical role in Israel's ability to not only continue to defend itself, but turn the tide.

Kissinger's speech was moving, humorous, challenging and yes, to some extent insulting. He is an arrogant man. Perhaps at 89 he has earned this. I'm not sure. He started by saying that an 89 year old man does not often say he wishes is parents were alive to see this moment - he added that of all the honors and prizes he has been given, this one, from Israel, would have meant the most to his parents.

After that, it was back to the arrogance. He wanted to tell Israel what is needed for peace. Of course, we didn't really achieve peace while he was in power. Yes, there was an agreement with Egypt...but is it peace? Already, the Egyptians are debating whether to maintain it. Is the absence of war the best definition of peace?

So Kissinger came to receive his award...which perhaps should have been given to Jonathan Pollard - but that's another post...and tell us how to make peace. There are two things needed for peace. I listened with bated breath. You see, how you define the question can often shape the answer. Here it was the same.

Justice, said Kissinger. Justice is needed for peace. I agree. Of course, I have a strong feeling that Kissinger's sense of justice is different than mine. For example - what about justice for almost one million Israelis who have spent the last 30 hours or so avoiding more than 45 rockets fired at them? What about justice for the family of the Israeli Arab who was working on the Egyptian-Israel border when Gazan terrorists opened fire and kill him?

Justice must be given to both sides and yet, that seemed to be missing in Kissinger's view of Israel's path to peace.

The second requirement was equilibrium. By this, Kissinger means that so long as Israelis have more and Palestinians have less, there can be no peace. But why do they have less? They have received billions of Euros and even more in dollars - where has the money gone?

Years ago, I was visiting a community in Gaza. No, not an Arab one, a Jewish one. There was a beautiful zoo there. I was escorting a journalist who came to speak to Israelis. Her questions were, by and large, obnoxious and short-sighted. She didn't ask the mother of two children hurt in a terrorist attack how she coped with months of treatment, of worry and  concern. She didn't ask how the children are doing now, if they still have nightmares. No, she asked the woman about where she had built her home.

Finally, we came to the zoo and as she took pictures, I walked and looked at the beauty that had been created and I finally lost it - what harm does this zoo do? I asked her. Why must you destroy this one? Why can't the Arabs build their own zoo - or better, why can't they make peace and visit this one?

Will destroying one nation's work bring equilibrium to the Palestinians? Israel is a center of innovation and technology almost unparalleled in the do you bring equilibrium between this type of a country and one that has focused on building rockets?

Justice and equilibrium - that's what Henry Kissinger came to tell Israel was needed for peace. Somehow, if you tell this to the people of Shderot or Askhelon, I think they would think of something else. If you told this to the parents of Malki Roth or Koby Mandell or the parents of Udi and Ruti Fogel, I think they'd probably come up with something else entirely.

Gabi Ashkenazi and Faith

You know how sometimes you want to tell someone something and that person is a leader, an important person, a recognized individual who could walk in the street and everyone would know who he is? That's how it is with Israel and Former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi. Ashkenazi was in command when Israel went to war in Gaza in 2008.

He ordered our sons to battle, to defend against hundreds of rockets that were being fired against over one million Israelis. He put our sons into Gaza, into the open fields that bordered it. One of those soldiers was Elie.

Two years before, in 2006, Ashkenazi’s predecessor, Dan Chalutz sent our sons to a border and beyond. That time, it was Lebanon and Chalutz, who came from the air force, started a war of the air. He miscalculated on many issues, finally sending in the ground forces – too late, with not enough supplies, goals that were not clear. Lebanon was a failure in many ways and Gabi Ashkenazi studied and learned. Not just him, of course, but the entire army.

Moments after hearing Ashkenazi and an impressive panel (Dennis Ross, Ms. Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, etc. – but that’s another post), hundreds, even perhaps a few thousand people began moving to a hallway and the next session. I walked in one direction, greeted two friends, continued walking and then suddenly found myself a few feet away from Gabi Ashkenazi.

You have a split second to decide – talk to him or don’t. Say something, or not. In a session where everyone else spoke English, he understood clearly all the discussions, but chose to speak in Hebrew. I did the same.

“I have to tell you. My son was in the Gaza war and because you were there, I believed he would be safe. I just wanted to thank you for watching over him and all of them. It was so important to us, that you did what you did, as you did it.”

“You don’t look old enough to have a soldier,” he told me.

“I’m even a grandmother,” I told him with a smile. “I even have a grandson.”

“I’m still waiting for my first,” he responded with a laugh.

I knew he had to go and others were trying to get his attention. “I just wanted to thank you,” I told him again and began to step back.

He touched the area close to his heart and said to me, “I’m very touched. Thank you.”

That’s all – silly, no? I just have always wanted to tell him that what he did, how he handled the troops, how he conducted the war, had a tremendous impact on what we all accomplished and somehow gave many parents some tiny bit of security at a time when we all felt so afraid, so worried.

I feel as if somewhere in the story that is my life there is a list of things I have to complete – and one of them was thanking Gabi Ashkenazi. I have many more things I want to see and do and genuinely pray I have another 70 years or so to accomplish all of them, but this one was one I thought I’d never have a chance to do. For this alone, if nothing else, I thank Peres’ President’s Conference.

Tomorrow 2012 - Spinning the Agenda

Another session that I went to wasn't nearly as enjoyable as the one with Keren Leibovitch, nor was it nearly as inspiring. It was, at best, an example of how you can twist logic to suit yourself and in so doing, ignore truth. Daniel Kahneman introduced himself as a psychologist and said he was going to speak about politics. I think that was his first mistake.

He began with a discussion of the hawks and the doves and wanted to offer an explanation using modern psychology to explain why in a debate between hawks (right wing) and doves (left wing), hawks always win. Of course, his first proof is based on an assumption. Do hawks always win? Who knows...but let's continue.

So, says Dr. Kahneman - in 1973, in the months before Israel was attacked, there was a debate as to what was to happen and how to proceed. The doves, said the psychologist, wanted to withdraw from Sinai, believing that concessions would decrease the possibility of war. They reasoned that either was was going to come anyway, or war could be avoided. If war could be avoided, they would have perhaps been considered correct. If war came anyway, after Israel pulled out...well, in that

The hawks felt that if war came, Israel needed the buffer of the Sinai peninsula so that the war would be fought in the open desert landscape and not in Israel's cities. Logical that, huh? Now, if war didn't come, well, then it didn't come, so why did we need to give up the Sinai? As to the idea that giving up land would bring about a cessation of violence - well, according to the hawkish view, of which I am a part, it hasn't happened yet, so why believe surrender, capitulation, concessions and stupidity...I mean, well...whatever...

So, says Dr. Kahneman - the politicians like to go with the hawks because it is more sure. Either there won't be a war, or there will be and we need the Sinai. The doves will argue to give up the land and if there is a war, we lost out and if there isn't a war (which is highly unlikely given enough time and fanaticism of our enemies), the left might, might, might be proven right...I mean correct.

"Mistrust is safer from the point of view of the leaders," was the concept here. And with that, Dr. Kahneman concluded that "hawks win an argument that they don't deserve to win; they appear rational when they are not."

Interesting conclusion. Why don't the hawks deserve to win the argument? No idea; that wasn't explained. Why are hawks irrational? No idea; that wasn't explained. What was explained clearly is that there are no win-win situations on the table. There will either be a war that we fight from a position of weakness; or there will be a war that we fight from a position of strength.

Or, there won't be a war anyway. But either way, the one thing everyone seems sure of is that there are no guarantees. Give up land for peace are naive because there was no peace when the very same land the Arabs are supposedly requesting now was in their hands. They are asking for a full withdrawal to pre-1967 lines (otherwise known as Auschwitz borders).

But tell me, was there peace in 1966? Did we not notice it? And, if the "occupation" began in 1967, why was the Palestine Liberation Organization formed in 1964 with the avowed purpose of destroying Israel.

No one gave me a microphone tonight; no one asked my opinion. Had they bothered, I would have explained that hawks win the argument because their views are based on a realistic assessment of the enemy we face every day and not on a fatal misconception based on western values that have no place in the Middle East.

I have never like arguments built on a foundation of assumption. When you build this great falls very quickly because it lacks roots. Only later did I learn that apparently Dr. Kahneman was born in Israel and considers himself an Israeli-American and according to Wikipedia, he lives in the United States. The little I can find of his personal life indicates he is married to a colleague who also teaches at Princeton University. I do not know if he has any children, any sons. Somehow, someway, with no proof or knowledge to the opposite, deep inside me there was a sense of resentment - it isn't his sons on our borders, is it?

As I left the session, all I could think was that it takes tremendous nerve for someone to travel so far to tell us about the reality we live each day.

Tomorrow 2012 - Inspiration

I went to the President's Conference in Jerusalem today - it's a three day conference for thousands of people with huge name presenters...and some surprises. I heard a lot of people, saw a lot, whatever. I want to write about some of them in the next few posts. Some annoyed me, some impressed me, one inspired me today.

There were several very moving speeches but by far, the most inspiring was Keren Leibovitch. She came to the stage moments after Dr. Ruth and Yossi Vardi left. The ever-efficient staff of the convention center quickly came out and removed the chairs, a small table and flowers. And then, Keren wheeled herself out onto the middle of the stage.

She introduced herself and then turned sideways to face the back projection wall and asked them to run a video. I could start the way she did - by showing it (if I could find it). She told us how old she was...or I think she did. But more importantly, she told us that she'd spent 3 years in a hospital after being injured during her army service and during that time, her ambitions were focused on getting home and learning to move around with a cup of coffee. Injured is a ridiculous term here, actually. She suffered massive damage to her back, leaving her 90% paralyzed in her legs. The inspiration comes from realizing that despite her injuries, she chooses to live, to strive, to challenge and challenge again. She is married and has a set of twins that are about 4 years old...and another set of twins that are about 2 years old - all boys, she explained with a smile...all boys.

Keren is an inspiration because, as she said, she has learned that failure is only a step towards success. She asked everyone, "please do not be afraid of failing. it is the step you take to success. I am the best in the world for what I do." And for who she is - a true inspiration.

Keren is an Olympic gold medalist...several times over. She won three gold medals for Israel in 2000 in Sydney Paralympics, and more four years later in Athens. While all the other athletes were able to stand and dive into the pool, gaining that extra momentum, Keren had to push off the wall because she is unable to stand. She won the first gold; won the second; and won the third because she believed in herself. Oh, and she didn't just win - she broke a world record (twice in that one day...first in the morning in practice, and then again during the actual competition).


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Behold, The Idiot

There are so many amazing people that you can meet via social media. Unfortunately, idiots abound as well.

Along came @casiotone who wants to tell the world that the United States is more dangerous to the world than Iran because while the US has dropped 2 nuclear bombs, Iran has dropped none.

Ah, but the US dropped bombs almost 70 years ago and has never threatened to wipe a country off the face of the map. Iran, without even having a bomb (yet), has already been happily proclaiming its goals.

After this initial rather unintelligent post on Twitter, I looked up @casiotone and saw his bio line, "I don't think straight" - well, at least he is honest. No, he doesn't.

So after his comments turned vulgar, I took advantage of a wonderful feature of Twitter - I blocked him. Someone else took up the conversation trying to argue a bit of logic with this decidedly illogical person. I happily stayed out of it, only recommending that the second person join me in blocking @casiotone too (which he did). But not before @casiotone came up with the stupidest post to date. Leave logic alone - let's just say it simply "it is only natural to hate israel" - yes, for someone of this nature, I believe, like his bio line, that "dominic" is being exceedingly honest. Vulgar, ill-informed, and honest.

I actually don't care that he hates Israel. I prefer those who hate us to be upfront and honest with their emotions. It is the deceptive ones that bother me...I doubt Dominic has enough intelligence to actually reach the level of deceptive (or read a map or a volume of history, for that matter).

Born to Procrastinate

I procrastinate. I love that word. It's so long and complicated and it sounds so impressive...unless you know what it means. A politician could make it sound so great.
Ladies and gentlemen, I was born to procrastinate. I believe in it. I believe this country has never seen someone more dedicated to procrastination, to ensuring that we all have the right to procrastinate. Don't let others take this right from you. Vote for me and we will all dedicate ourselves to this important goal.
Imagine the word democracy in the above; or justice...alas, it is procrastination. And procrastination isn't good. It means doing tomorrow what you should have done today; it means putting off facing a task, a decision, whatever. When I need to do something, I do it and I do it fast. I can whip my house into shape faster than most people can imagine. I can write articles, blog posts, users manuals - fast and very professional...I can be up and out of the house in less than 5 minutes, with no notice. I am super fast as a technical writer, a recognized help author using several industry tools. I can multi-task, delegate, anything...unless...I don't have to.

I am a strong believer in waiting until push comes to shove. If I had been graced with twins, I might have even given them those names. Meet Push...only when Push comes to Shove, do things really begin to happen.

So, what am I procrastinating about now? I have to write a proposal for a project - that's easy after a nice meeting yesterday, and I'll do it. I have to review the latest edit on the instruction manual for our course; someone else did all the work, so I really only have to take a look. I'll do it today...really, I will! I need to go through a detailed list of outstanding items for the accountant. I hate this and I'll try, but I can't promise. Sunday at the latest, really. And, I need to send out two files to students - that'll take 1 minute and as soon as I finish here, I'm going to do that. Really! And, hardest of hard, I need to write a letter and it's complicated.

I have to sum up my thoughts to someone who feels differently than I do, explain about life decisions and different paths we choose. Sometimes, writing is about taking your heart out of your body and struggling to express what is inside. Sometimes, you know that people will accept it; other times, you accept that they won't but know there is honor in the telling.

Yes, there is honor in the telling, but I want more. I want the recipient to understand something that isn't ready to be understood; to feel something that isn't ready to be felt. I don't much care for Cat Stevens and his anti-Israel politics, but give the man his due, this has always been a song that I've loved.
I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,
To be calm when you've found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.
I have to believe that even if this person isn't here tomorrow, she'll be back and that her dreams will ultimately lead her to home.

Without questions, a classic...

Monday, June 11, 2012

An Israeli Meeting

I went to a meeting today with a new client for a new project. These are always interesting to me - what brilliance we are developing here in Israel, I often think to myself! It's an interesting product line, nice people,  creative team forming to develop the company's website. Towards the middle of the meeting, the CEO's son came in and sat down with a cup of coffee and his phone. He listened for a while but mostly did something on his phone. I wasn't sure why he was there but I figured maybe the CEO wanted to get him involved in the business. He was quiet, respectful and not really involved, though there were times he listened attentively to the discussions.

At one point, we interrupted the meeting and some of the people from the company gave us a tour of the facilities. The CEO and his son stayed behind - which makes sense considering that they must see the production side of the place many dozen times a day. While on the tour, we entered a room where they package the products - this final stage done by hand to verify quality before shipping. We'd seen the printing, the production, the fast machines processing.

They took the time to explain and there was pride in the showing. Then we climbed up the stairs to the area above the production space and found a large room. It was air conditioned, comfortable, spacious. This wasn't an assembly line, but a nice place to work. There were large work areas, people seated along the way. Comfortable, relaxed, I thought to myself - it was obviously a good place to work, a good job, again, a good team.

In one room, I'd seen an Ethiopian woman working; in this room, I heard many of the women speaking Russian as their busy hands kept moving, their eyes focused on their task. As we gathered around for part of the tour, an elderly gentleman came close to listen. He leaned over and kissed one of the young women in our group. One of the people introduced him as the father of the CEO, and so it became clear that this young woman, who also worked there - was the CEO's daughter, the older man's  granddaughter. Business was business, but he was not going to give up a chance to give her a hug and a kiss. Family, it dawned on me. This massive business, already with international clients and growing, with sales in the millions of dollars, was a family business.

Later, I was told the elderly man was 89 years old and comes to work every day. He founded the company more than 40 years ago - three generations working to maintain and expand what he started. Three generations, it became clear - the elderly father, the CEO, and the young woman who has finished her education and has now joined the company. Three generations, but not the son as I'd first thought.

As our meeting ended, the young man came forward and though I had thought the meeting was over, he started explaining that he has a craft, a talent. His father wanted to show us how talented his son was, but his son wanted to discuss whether we as a group could help him and his future business.

I'm the copywriter - I get to write the text of this company's website in the coming weeks. There was someone who focused on business development and another group of web designers. Later I asked the young man who his target audience was - Hebrew, Israel he responded and so there really is little that I can do for him. To be honest, the web designers were very enthusiastic about the company's product line and the site they would build. They were less enthusiastic about the son's business concept of song production and sales.

Very few artists really reach the top and it can be hard to know whether encouraging someone is going to help them or hurt them in the future. The web designers weren't being cold or uninterested - even without knowing what I was to learn, they were being professionally honest.  The same company that will be used by a multi-million dollar company with customers around the world is not the same company that will help launch an unknown artist - even knowing his story...which they did not.

And yet, there was something in the boy ... not really a boy at all - that was the mother in me. There was something in the man that called out to a part of me ... that touched deep - he is frustrated, I thought, trying to find a way to bring his talent to the attention of others. He wants to succeed and doesn't know the path.  So after the web designing trio left to go to another meeting, I stayed to explain the value of building a website, joining it with Facebook promotion and YouTube. I didn't know the path when I started this blog - how to reach others with a message that perhaps I didn't even know I wanted to spread.

The path came first; recognition of how it could be used came second. Using this blog as an example and the twitter account I maintain, I explained that he could post videos of his songs on YouTube, write about them on a blog, and direct traffic using Twitter. I can explain the how and the why to him, but if it has to be done in Hebrew, I'm just not the person for it.

And then I used the "joke" I have used so many times - if you want to get your blog well known and have thousands of visitors a month (more even), all you really have to do is send your son to war. It was said as a joke and yet...

The CEO, the father this time, turned to me and there was something in his eyes, in his face - less CEO and more father. His son had been in a terrorist attack several years ago, he explained, naming the date, the place, the casualty count. I remember the attack. It was a very bad one. There are no good ones, but this one was bad. They were all so young (8 out of 10 were 20 or below), waiting at a bus stop, when a suicide bomber blew himself up. Ten people were killed in the attack, the father told me and his son was injured.

They always name the dead - who they were, who they left behind. They rarely name the wounded; they are left to their privacy and so we never hear about the operations to remove shrapnel, the frantic attempts to rebuild, the psychological traumas endured and defeated. We don't hear about the rehabilitation and the lasting effects. They walk among us and carry their wounds internally and externally and often, we never know.

With those words, the explanation of what had happened to his son, it was clear that he understood my comment about sending a son to war. I didn't really send my son to war - the government and the army sent him and he went willingly. This man didn't send his son to be injured in a war we have been fighting for a long time - a war of terror. I didn't ask how badly; I didn't ask what happened.

There are stories people have, histories they use to personalize who they are, what they have been through. Yes, there are many people who want to break into the world of music, but how many were victims of a terrorist attack? The young man didn't really seem comfortable telling the story as part of a way to set himself apart as a musician. He didn't want that moment in time and whatever it took to get himself back to where he is now, to be part of what he wanted to build. I can understand that; I can respect that; and I can mourn that he even has that memory as part of how he got to where he is now.

If he had wanted the site in English, I'd have done all I could to help him - I can't write effectively in Hebrew; I can't take the words and make them sing. I left wishing I could do more. Each time I thought about the company's website in the hours that followed, I thought about that young man.

"Don't get me started," I had said to the CEO at one point, but my mind was already forming the pictures.  I thought about the call his parents must have gotten, of the mad dash to get to their injured son. Of time waiting in the hospital to see him, to hear, to learn. I could almost see it happening, feel what it must have been like. I've known the panic, the sheer terror...even without, so thankfully, my sons being injured.

And somewhere in the thoughts of his son and their family business, another thought came to mind. Today I had a typical Israeli meeting, with dates discussed, deadlines and goals explained. The outside part of the meeting - where we talked about generating text for a website for an amazing company, and the inside part - of a young man who has succeeded in rebuilding, in healing, in channeling his talent - the talent that an Arab terrorist failed to take from him. Whatever successes he achieves in his life, one of his greatest successes will always be that he chose life, that he lived, and with each song he sings, he brings beauty to the world.

Yes, an Israeli meeting.

The Meaning of the Medal of Freedom

The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award that exists in the United States. It is bestowed by the President in a ceremony of honor and respect. The award was created in 1945 and was more recently is called the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It can be given to anyone - including someone who is not a citizen of the United States. 

In two days, President Shimon Peres will receive the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Hussein Obama. Peres has already taken one noble stand in telling Obama that he is accepting the medal on behalf of the entire State of Israel.
I have come here as the representative of the whole of the State of Israel to say thank you for the great friendship that America has demonstrated towards Israel.
Medal of Freedom - named for the fact that there are few things Americans (and Israelis) value more than their freedom. It is an honor - bestowed on a noble person, someone who acts bravely to protect the interests of their country, world peace, humanity.

According to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding signed between Israel and the United States, Israel was entitled to vital information related to its security. The United States was breaking that agreement, withholding strategic information that Israel should have been given. A man, an American, and yes, a Jew found out and went to his superiors. He asked why Israel was not being given this information and, according to sources, was told, ."Jews get nervous talking about poison gas; they don't need to know." Yes, Jews do get nervous about poison us crazy but even this rather human tendency does not justify the fact that Israel had a right to know, and the US had an obligation to honor its agreement.

When he could not find another way, Jonathan Pollard leaked this information to Israel...yes, he turned over secret US documents to an ally. What vital information was contained in these papers? Well, sources say it included information about Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities .being developed for use against Israel. It also included information on ballistic missile development by these countries and information on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets.

American government officials caught on and Pollard was arrested in 1985. But here is where it gets tricky...Pollard never had a trial. He was never charged or indicted with most of the charges people think he has been convicted of doing. Before it came to a trial, Pollard was encouraged by both the Israeli government and the US government to accept a plea bargain that would save the embarrassing details from coming to the surface - that the Americans had broken an important agreement with an important ally; that Israel had spied on a valued ally.

Since he was never given a trial, Pollard was never found guilty - rather, he pleaded guilty to one charge. No, not treason, not harming the United States. He was never charged with compromising codes, agents or war plans. The ONE charge that he pleaded guilty to was one count of passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States. That is ALL.

After Jonathan Pollard admitted guilt for this minor charge - the US broke the plea bargain agreement and sentenced him to life in prison with no opportunity for parole. He was not released even for a few hours to attend the funeral of his father; he remains isolated in prison.

No one in the history of the United States has ever received a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally - not before...or after Jonathan Pollard. The median sentence for this offense is two to four years. Jonathan Pollard has served more than 26 years.

It is time for Jonathan Pollard to be free. Whatever crimes he committed, he did so out of a deep love of Israel and the knowledge that he was only passing to Israel what it should have been given in the first place. He has served his time and what might once have been considered justice has now become injustice.

On Wednesday, Shimon Peres will receive the Medal of Freedom - I urge him to thank President Obama and the United States and then, on Thursday, to go visit Jonathan Pollard and give the Medal of Freedom to him. Freedom is nothing if it is at the expense of others; justice for some is not enough. Israel cannot accept such an honor from the United States so long as the US continues to hold Jonathan Pollard in captivity.

Jonathan Pollard has repeatedly expressed his remorse publicly and in private letters to the President and others. He has made it clear that he regrets breaking the law, and wishes he could have found a legal way to act upon his concerns for Israel. If he were freed, after more than 26 years in jail, he would be on the next plane to Israel, to live out his life here.

If the Medal of Freedom is to mean anything - it must come with action. The US should release Pollard now; he can fly back on the plane with Shimon Peres and end an ugly and dishonorable chapter in US history...or, Peres should go to the prison where Jonathan is being held and give him the Medal of Freedom. Israel can only accept it and all it means, when Jonathan comes home. We'll have it here - when Jonathan brings it home.

We released 1,027 terrorists for Gilad Shalit; we can give up one medal and perhaps embarrass the US government just a little for another man captured and held in darkness for so many years. Gilad's captivity has ended; he's back in the sunshine of Israel. Jonathan Pollard deserves no less.

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