Friday, August 31, 2012

What No Parent Wants to Watch...

Twitter is an interesting concept - it is, above all else, a border-breaker. It breaks all boundaries, all separations between people - for the good and the bad. I am quite active on it - and as a result meet so many interesting people.

Only from this blog and twitter did I learn the meaning of a Gold Star mother or Gold Star father. Now when I see those words, my heart fills with pain. A Gold Star father changed his avatar, the picture associated with his twitter account.

It's a beautiful avatar, a dedication to his son, who was just 20 when he died. All gave some - some gave all. Lt. Cpl Christopher Blake Rodgers gave all.

I clicked on the link associated with his father's account and came to a YouTube video called "Dignified Transfer." It is more than 14 minutes long - very long for a YouTube video. I watched every second of it. Tears began to fall just as the plane came into view the first time.

It is agony to watch - agony for anyone; especially the parent of a soldier. It is every parent's nightmare, but especially the parent of a soldier. I watched it to the end and so many thoughts filled my mind. One of them, I'll share - the title. It is so appropriate - this is the way civilized nations behave; this is the way we honor our dead and how we thank them. The last salute brought a crack to my heart that will take time to heal.

I have never met, nor will I ever meet this young man but from the way in which he was honored, and the love his father shares with us, I know I am lessened for never having met him. May God watch over Christopher Blake Rodgers and bless his memory. May he always be remembered for his sacrifice, his courage, and the love he clearly instilled in so many and may his family know no more sorrow.

Ice Trays - Part II

I love when I find a post that I don't remember in this massive blog of so many years. I often prefer these forgotten posts to the ones I do remember. Those that I remember often come from traumatic or frightening events that were happening at the time - ah, but the forgotten ones are the lighter ones. So, here's one I found called Ice Trays, but first an update.

IKEA in Netanya burned to the ground over a year ago and has since been rebuilt - better in many ways than it was because the original store was built according to the IKEA model, without any adjustments for local preference or custom. For example - they wanted the cafe to be kosher, but they also wanted it to match the traditional IKEA offerings. Having built it, they modified the area a bit so that one side was meat and one side was dairy. In the rebuilt version - there's a huge new design - one whole area is meat; a completely different area, blocked off by glass walls, is for dairy.

So, I went there a few weeks ago and though we really didn't need any, and though there were no new designs, I bought one ice tray - simply to say that I had. Here's the original post from February, 2011. I like it because it speaks of life more than ice trays and a philosophy that I believe in when raising children.

Sunday, February 6, 2011
Ice Trays
I have a confession to make. I'm an ice cube fanatic. Well, more precisely, I'm an ice cube tray fanatic. One of my favorite rooms in a house where we lived for 8 years, was a strange shaped room with curved walls and strange angles. It was what was left after the entire house was designed. The house was attached to another - a huge square shape - cut diagonally across so that each side was in fact a modified triangle. 
I believe firmly that what is important in life is training your children for the unexpected, the different, the challenge. I know people who insisted their children stick to a schedule - this time to nap, this time to shower, this time to eat. A schedule is good - but if enforced too strongly, the child loses the ability to cope with life because life has a way of throwing curves at us. 
That's what my life has been like as a soldier's mother, I realize now. The curves come at you when you don't expect them; the straight lines a comfort but a passing one. So, back to the ice trays. We have dozens. Too many, really. My children groan when I come home with another one; my husband gives me this wonderful, tolerant smile. Another? 
We have ice trays in the shapes of seahorses, ABC, pluses, stars, circles with holes in them, long rectangular ones, mini-bottles. We have triangles and hearts and flowers. I'm sure I'm forgetting some but it doesn't matter. The point is - ice trays. 
One of my great sources was IKEA in Netanya. I was there a few months ago and as I passed the ice tray piles, I searched and found only those that I had already. Not surprising, considering our collection. I was about to buy another when I realized this might border on obsessive compulsive behavior and resisted the urge. 
I was so proud of myself, I called my husband to tell him of my success but his phone was busy. Shmulik was in the army, so I called Elie, "What, they didn't have any new ones?" he laughed. 
"Well, no, they didn't," I admitted - happy to hear him laugh again. 
I called my husband later and he made the same comment - it is a running joke in our family and one I do my best to promote. Yesterday in what seems to be an electrical short, IKEA in Netanya burned down. Thankfully, no one was injured - it's only money and that is not something we mourn over. 
I have little doubt they will rebuild and restock and when they do, I'll go and check out the ice trays because really, life is about those little differences, being unconventional. Life is about the twists in the road, the bumps in the roller coaster, the strange and interesting ice cube you put in your glass. 
My children are adaptable to any situation, and changes in scheduling without warning. They adjust, and then they adjust again. To survive in the army, you need this quality; to survive in life, you need this flexibility. It is something that I have given them, a gift they do not even recognize as a gift. 
In the meantime, Shmulik's wedding is coming steadily closer - I have just decided that among the gifts I will give them - is a set of ice cube trays. No idea what shape...but it won't be regular or ordinary!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Making Challah

No, not yet. There are plenty of people who make challah on Thursday - but not me. In the winter, I'll mix the dough and let it sit rising overnight, but in the summer, when the days are long, it's all for Friday. I keep promising to post the recipe I use - so finally, here it is.

To be fair, I have to give most of the credit to Lauren, Elie's wife, because it is mostly hers (and I think her mother's now that I think of it). I changed it a little. I'm going to post it in Israeli measurements because that's what I know.

Step 1: Take one package of yeast (I use the 50 g. small bags). I sprinkle it with sugar - no, I don't know how much - but I put a light covering over the yeast. Add 2 cups of warm water and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

  • I sometimes add the full 5 cups that go into this recipe. No idea if there is a reason not to do this.
  • I'm not sure you have to let it sit at all - but it works for me.
Step 2: Pour in the following ingredients - no particular order, though I find I always add the flour first:
  • 2 kilo of whole wheat flour (I prefer the 70%)
  • 1 kilo of white flour (this is a compromise 'cause my kids would be happy if I made it all with white flour)
  • 1generous cup of honey (that means, spill a little extra in and watch the kids smile)
  • 1 cup of sugar (I keep meaning to try brown sugar)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup of oil (I use Canola and you can make this generous too, if you want).
  • 2 tablespoons of salt (yes, it's a lot, but it works - and you're not supposed to let the salt touch the yeast)
  • 3 cups of water (unless you added the full 5 cups to the yeast in step 1)
Mix it all very well and continue kneading it for several minutes. You'll see and feel the difference quickly in the dough. It will be smooth and have a consistent look and feel to it.

When you've finished kneading the dough, put it in a large oiled pot to rise. I take a minute, clean out the pot (or bowl), oil it and then return the dough to the pot for a few hours. At some point, about an hour or so (even 2 hours later), I punch the dough down and let it rise again.

When it's risen nicely, I take it out of the pot onto the table. There are many beautiful, spiritual things you can do while making challah. Many people pray for the safety and health of their loved ones; many pray for the health and recovery of sick people; that a single person will meet their intended; and on and on. 

Amira has a laminated challah page that has a special prayer for each of the items you add, to ask God for blessings related to the flour, the water, the oil, etc. What I will say, beyond the above, is that after the challah rises, it is time to separate a small amount of the dough.  This is called taking challah, and involves separating a small piece, saying a blessing, and then burning that piece or disposing of it in various ways. 

Once that's done, you begin separating the huge amount of dough I just had you make (really, feel free to make less). The above amount can make about 8 nice size challot (challahs). 

I sometimes freeze the dough after shaping it and then wrapping it VERY well. When you wrap it well, it will often defrost, rise and bake as if it were freshly made.

After you shape it - typically in braids involving 3, 4, 6, or even 8 strands, you let it rise again. Then you brush the top with egg; sprinkle with zatar (hyssop), sesame seeds, lightly fried onions, etc. and bake for about 25-30 minutes at 165 degrees Celsius. And there you have Lauren's recipe...

Stolen Days...

I stole today - and then couldn't decide what to do with it. I could have, maybe should have, gone to a military ceremony for Lauren's cousin. I want to be there - to see B. get his beret. In the end, I decided to stay home and begin preparations for Shabbat.

It's an amazing concept - no matter how much time you spend preparing for Shabbat - there is always more to do...up until the moment you go take a shower and then light the candles. But, hope lives eternal and so sometimes, I try to beat the race and begin preparing on Thursday.

It doesn't matter. It really doesn't - other things will pop up to fill the time but here I go. The house is filled with the smells of chicken cooking; I'm making my cucumber salad now, and a few cakes. I've got laundry washing, dishes washing, and even some noodles for Aliza's lunch on the stove.

I wish I could steal a day to write, to set up that website I've been planning - but that'll wait. I'm always running for business or for errands. It's nice to have a day to focus more on the house. So, a short while ago, Elie and Lauren drove off to the ceremony without  me.

I'm hoping B. will be out for Shabbat and join us. So - I'll let you know how this "revolutionary" idea goes - preparing on Thursday, what a concept.

And yes, I know that many of my friends do it and it is so smart...but when you work full time, most often, you convince yourself that you're better off coming at the day fresh. I guess I'll find out, but I have to admit, I love stealing Thursdays!

UN Head Rejects Calls for Israel's Annihilation

What's wrong with that title? Why does it fill me with anger?

What do you mean he "rejected" the call for Israel's annihilation? UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon attended the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Tehran. That's right - Ki-Moon went to Tehran, a nation calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the tell them that he rejects this?

Honestly, that message could have been delivered from New York.

I guess what really bothers me, what I reject, is the word "reject." It is a relatively passive voice compared to the genocide it discusses. No, Tehran is not planning on asking Israelis to politely leave the region. What he wants to do - what he will do if he manages to cross the nuclear barrier, is try to blow Israel up; to erase us; to murder us - all of us.

He will aim missiles at my home, my children, my land. He will fire those missiles and really not care where they land - even if it obliterates my Palestinian neighbors, Ahmadinejad will be happy so long as we join them.

I've written about this before - but I'll write it again. Thirty years ago, and I still remember the exact words written in the New York Times. I remember the feeling deep in the pit of my stomach; the shock of going outside and seeing the sun still shining.

Israel had offered to host a conference on genocide - who better than the Jews, who were the victims of  Hitler's genocidal "final solution." It was to be a conference on not just the Jewish Holocaust, but other historical acts of injustice - including the Armenian massacre that claimed the lives of 1.5 million people.

Turkey was enraged - you see, the perpetrators yet live. There was no Armenian genocide, claim the Turks, and to prove it - they threatened the Jewish community of Turkey. According to the New York Times - some thirty years ago, "Turkey cannot guarantee the lives, nor the livelihoods of Turkey's Jewish community."

Those were the words - burned into my brain. I was sitting in the dining hall, eating breakfast and reading the newspaper - I can even tell you where the article appeared - front page, lower right hand corner...I stared at it. I read it again. I heard the noise around the room and everyone was talking and I was in shock.

They just threatened tens of thousands of people - what is WRONG with you all? I wanted to shout. I took a deep breath, left my food where it was, and walked outside. Surely, the cars would have stopped in the street - everywhere, people would be rallying. The world would not be silent again!

I went outside and stood in the street and watched as people walked past me, the sun shining brightly. The cars moved; the lights changed. What was WRONG with these people?

It is happening now - Iran IS threatening Israel. We are prepared, this time, to defend ourselves. We are protecting our own - we even have gas masks for our babies. A new design, isn't that wonderful - better, longer lasting, whatever.

Ban Ki-Moon "rejects" calls for Israel's annihilation? He REJECTS them? I do not for a moment believe it will happen. I do not believe missiles will rain down on Israel but that is because I believe in God, a God who has chosen my people long ago. He brought us to this land; promised it to us. He has returned us to Israel and He has returned Israel to us.

No, God won't allow Israel to be annihilated. I know this - but Ban Ki-Moon does not; Obama does not; the presidents and prime ministers of the western world do not know this great secret of the Jewish people. God will stop the missiles - and it is likely that His Hand will be the Israeli army, our sons.

But Ban Ki-Moon's "rejection" is too mild for the words, for the threat. To be worthy of his post, he should be slapping Ahmadinejad in the face - in the wallet, and in the face. "Who do you think you are?" He should be demanding. "Do you think that the world will stay quiet this time? Never again will we allow genocide such as you are threatening. If you dare, it will not be Israel that will be annihilated, but YOUR land, YOUR country, YOUR life, YOUR government."

I don't know what the right word would have been - I know only that rejecting is just too tame a word.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Letter to Ally Raisman from an IDF Officer

This was posted to Aly's Facebook page and is being shared by many - I hope the IDF Officer (name below) doesn't mind my reposting is amazing. Go on, read it - and see if your eyes don't fill with tears...proud of this officer, proud of Aly!

Dear Aly,

I want to tell you about how you became the hero of a gym full of Israeli soldiers.

The same Israeli soldiers who have to deal with Iran’s nuclear threat to the Jewish state. The same ones who serve two-to-three years of their lives, because we have to; because there’s no one else that would do it besides us, because our neighborhood sucks, and when the leadership next door in Syria massacres their own people, there’s no way we would let them lay hands on our kids, as foreign dictators have done for thousands of years.

You picked a song for your floor routine in the Olympics that every Jewish kid knows, whether their families came from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, the Asian steppes of Azerbaijan, the mountains of Morocco or the Kibbutzim of northern Israel. It’s that song that drew almost everyone at the Israeli army base gym to the TV as soon as the report about you came on the news this morning. After showing your floor exercise to Hava Nagila, the announcer told about your gold medal with unmasked pride, and of your decision to dedicate it to the Israeli athletes who were killed in the Munich Olympics in 1972.

There were some tough people at that gym, Aly. Men and Women, Battalion Commanders from Intelligence, Captains from the navy, Lieutenants from the Armored Corps and more. You probably understand that words like ‘bravery’ and ‘heroism’ carry a lot of weight coming from them, as does a standing ovation (even from the people doing ab exercises.) There was nothing apologetic about what you did. For so long we’ve had to apologize for who we are: for how we dress, for our beliefs, for the way we look. It seems like the International Olympic Committee wanted to keep that tradition. Quiet, Jews. Keep your tragedy on the sidelines. Don’t disturb our party.

They didn’t count on an 18 year-old girl in a leotard.

There wasn’t one person at the gym who didn’t know what it was like to give back to our people, not one who didn’t know what happened to the good people who died in 1972, not one who didn’t feel personally insulted by their complete neglect in the London Olympics, the 40 year anniversary of their deaths, and not one who didn’t connect with your graceful tribute in their honor.

Thank you for standing up against an injustice that was done to our people. As I was walking back to my machine at the gym, I caught one of the officers give a long salute to your image on television. I think that says it all.


Dan Yagudin
Officer, Israeli Defense Force

Monday, August 27, 2012

Learning to Punish

Have I ever mentioned that I love my sons? All three of them. They (and my beautiful daughters) fill my life and always remind me that there is so much we can and should learn from our children. I have learned things from each one - from Amira, I have learned about respecting others and finding beauty in everything. From Elie, I have learned that you can stand for justice. From Shmulik, I have learned that a gentle soul can still be a strong one. From Davidi, I have learned patience and grace in determination, and from Aliza I have learned that giving is something that enriches and brings joy.

Today was the first day of school for most Israeli kids - for David, it was the second day. Tomorrow, there will be a test in his school to determine the math levels at which they will study this year. There are three options - level 3, level 4, and level 5. If you want to study for a degree after army and college, you need at least level 4.

David has always been a math whiz. He understood fractions and negative numbers when he was in second grade. The elementary school finally acknowledged that he was gifted in math (that took me a few weeks and arranged for him to leave his 2nd grade class and go sit in the 4th grade class to learn there (that took another few weeks). Finally, he was learning and challenged and his behavior got better. He understood that to earn the privilege of being with the 4th graders, he had to behave...and he did.

The next year, when he was in 3rd grade, the schedules would not mesh and so he learned 4th grade math again (better than 3rd grade, we reasoned unhappily). Finally, in 4th grade when I asked if they were going to have him do 4th grade a THIRD time, they put him into a special program - for advanced 5th graders. And there he thrived. The kid is brilliant. The kid is also lazy!

David called me last night with a list of things he a towel, his toothbrush...never mind that it was on the list we made together. He called me again in the afternoon.Today, his teacher told him that he could not go into the level 5 math because he chose to skip a test that he should have taken at the beginning of the summer. We agreed I would call his teacher. Turns out, I was calling the principal. After a long discussion, he  agreed to talk to David tomorrow in school and see if the math teacher would allow David more time and then a re-test.

The principal felt David deserved some punishment and suggested knocking an automatic 5 points off his yearly grade. I thought that was not the right form of punishment. The principal was concerned about rewarding David and also about causing the math teacher more work. I suggested giving David additional assignments and said, "you don't even have to look at them other than to see he did them. Just make him do it." I was all for a punishment, but let it be a punishment that is good for the child, not one that hurts him. Finally, it seems, the principal agreed with me.

I told Elie about my conversation and once again thought how much I can learn from my children and from their experiences. Elie told me about how he learned what a just punishment would be via the actions of a commanding officer. I've heard so many stories about this young officer and each time am amazed at the wisdom of our young.

One of Elie's soldiers was upset about something - I have no idea what. In anger, the soldier turned and spat. Both Elie and the commanding officer saw this action; both were surprised not only at the lack of discipline and the action, but what they believed to have been the target - the flag of Israel.

Whether by intent or by accident, the young soldier spitting in the direction of the Israeli flag shocked all who saw it, including Elie's commander, K. For this action, K. ordered the soldier to spend a month or so gathering information from many people, including Holocaust survivors - about what the flag meant to them, what it means to all of us and, by extension, what Israel means to them.

You can imagine the emotions this young man must have encountered and experienced as people told him what the flag means to them, to see the Jewish star of David flying so proud in our land.

It is the symbol of a people coming home; it is a symbol of finally being safe in a land that was always ours. Once intended as a badge of shame by the Nazis, it is ours in pride and honor.

Somewhere during the "punishment" the task became a privilege. There were even times K. let the soldier leave base earlier than the others in order to give him time to complete the assignment and when he was done, the soldier stood before the entire group and gave a moving and meaningful presentation on the flag. He explained what he had done to deserve the "punishment" and explained what the flag meant to him and to so many others.

That's what a punishment should be - a lesson in and of itself. This was why Elie told me this story again today and why I write it here. Elie said the school should "punish" David with a lesson that will enrich him and finally concluded with, "that's how I learned how to give punishments."

It's a lesson we all have to learn - from the wisdom of an army officer given to my son and now to me. We must punish not in anger, but in justice. Not to hurt, but to teach. That soldier is unlikely to ever spit at a flag again because through his punishment, he learned and enriched himself.

Stay tuned to see if David gets some punishment. For now, having heard about the conversation I had with his principal, he is motivated to prove that he should be allowed to enter the higher level. I hope he will be motivated to do it - and once there, I hope he will show the school what he is capable of doing.

Delta Flight 15 and Remembering Humanity

I don't know who wrote this. I don't know if it is true. It could be a hoax. I know enough about researching hoaxes to know that I could track it down and determine this for myself, but I don't want to because I'm hoping it is true. I want it to be true. Either it falls into the category of "what an amazing thing to do and an amazing story," or it falls into the category of "if only this had really happened, wouldn't it be amazing."

Either way, here, apparently, is the story of Delta flight 15 - flying towards the US on September 11, 2001.

Delta Flight 15

This is not political; it is about 9-11 and believe me you want to read this. Here is an amazing story from a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15, written following 9-11.

"On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic. All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.

As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that "All Business" look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta's main office in Atlanta and simply read, "All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination."

"No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland. He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately--no questions asked.

We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

"While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.

"We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland to have it checked out.

"We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that's nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM! That’s 11:00 AM EST.

"There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S. After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason." Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief.

The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put. "The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air crafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane. In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial jets.

Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Centre in New York and into the Pentagon in DC. People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada. Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

"Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm. We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.

"We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning. Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.

"Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing. And they were true to their word. Fortunately we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

"About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

"After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander! We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

"We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

"Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the "plane people." We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

"Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days. What we found out was incredible.

"Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometre radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travellers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.

"ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the "guests." Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometres from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged. Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

"Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

"Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day. During the day, passengers were offered "Excursion" trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbours. Some went for hikes in the local forests. Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests. Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft. In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.

"Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully. It was absolutely incredible.

"When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time.

Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling. Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.

"And then a very unusual thing happened. One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said "of course" and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days. He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers. He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

"He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travellers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!

"The gentleman, a MD from Virginia, promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.

"I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a far away place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them. It reminds me how much good there is in the world."

"In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good and Godly people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward.
"God Bless America...and the Canadians."


Amazing, no? By the way - it's true, according to

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Israeli Humor

Israelis have a sense of humor about pretty much everything. We need to because too often we are faced with the option of laughing or crying. It's kind of overwhelming when you think of gas masks and terror, along comes this YouTube video. The message is not pro-war or wanting to attack. It's message is to look at the light side of it all.

To make it cross-cultural, let me explain the ending (everything else is translated). The American says at the end, "Sababa Egozim" - which is roughly translated at "Great - nuts," but various sites have translated the combination as anything from "Great, go for it" to "great stuff." No matter what the translation, it is clear that the mere taste of the spread encourage the "general" to give Israel the green light.

The Israelis are clearly overjoyed - they high-five each other and then one picks up the phone and says, "Send" - i.e. - he gives approval for the mission.

No, we are not going to ask the US for permission; no, we are not going to sit around and beg for someone to give us the green light; and no, we don't honestly think someone is going to taste an almond-chocolate spread and tell us to go ahead.  The point of this video is to smile, to remember that no matter how seriously we take ourselves, there truly is a Greater Force at work here.

Um...that's my baby....

The danger of the web is that what is made public is sometimes taken by others. Sometimes it is an article of mine and at least they give me credit as the author (and a link, if I am lucky). Most often, people ask and I gratefully allow them to spread my thoughts and feelings to their friends, readers, and followers. Sometimes, they don't ask and it's kind of weird to see my babies on some other site, but as I agree with the way it which it was taken and the spirit of the site, I can't complain.

And sometimes, well, sometimes this happens:

The chances of this picture not being my daughter rediscovering her love and awe of the Mediterranean Sea is, well, about zero (see a Candle and a Wave). I'm sure no harm was intended, but um...that's my baby.

Anti-Aircraft Missiles in Sinai?

According to recent news reports, the Egyptians are mad about the recent attack that resulted in the deaths of 16 Egyptians. They are right to be mad. What is interesting is that the world supports their going after the terrorists who planned and implemented the attack. Where Israel would never get a green light to hunt these terrorists down (at best, we would get silence after the fact), Obama's government and others are all in support of Egypt's actions, stating it will bring more stability to the new Morsi government.

To accomplish this hunt, the Egyptians need serious military equipment. They have identified 1,600 terrorists and to get them, they have moved in tanks and anti-aircraft missiles into Sinai. This is a violation of the 1979 peace agreement with Israel. One would think that if Egypt was about to violate the agreement, they would, at least, contact Israel and tell them so.

They didn't, of course.

Israel contacted the US, which contacted Egypt. That's all well and good but  have a simpler question...why does Egypt have to move in anti-aircraft missiles? Have the terrorists demonstrated any indication that they have aircraft? And how many tanks do you need to go against 1,600 terrorists?

I'm all for cleaning out the Sinai of it infestation of terrorists - an infestation that was allowed to happen by successive Egyptian governments. But I do not understand why anti-aircraft missiles and tanks are required. And, if they are for some reason the only method that Egypt knows to use, they should have acknowledged the peace accords and their hope/intention of violating them temporarily to accomplish their task. No such announcement was made in advance.

The Egyptians have never proven themselves to be particularly open or honest in their dealings with Israel. At least four wars have been fought between our countries. Peace is a fragile thing that must be nurtured. It must be built on honest dealings and trust. Moving tanks and anti-aircraft missiles violates not only the agreement, but the trust as well.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Summer Ends....Shabbat Remains

That's it - Sunday both Aliza and Davidi start school. I've finished with diapers (except with my grandson and, God willing, those to come); I've finished with afternoon naps (except, if I am lucky, the occasional few I get to take myself), and now I have finished with elementary school, as Aliza enters 7th grade and what we called in America, Junior High School.

I took some friends who just moved to Maale Adumim to the school where Aliza went. It is the first time in more than 10 years that I have no one there. A funny thing happened - I asked for the book list for first grade. The office explained that they only give that out after the child is registered and accepted. Since the parents and child had to come back the following week, they would receive the list then.

Yes, I explained, but the summer is almost over and admitting this child from this family is really a technicality so could we please have the list so that between then and the following week, we could get some of the purchases out of the way. Again they refused. This is a book list for first grade, not state secrets!

At this point, the absurdity got to me. I tried again - and was told to ask the principal. And so I did. He quickly agreed to give us the list and we left triumphant...well, at least with the book list. We're basically ready for school. Davidi has to pack; Aliza has some things to get ready - but the last rays of the summer are shining here in Israel. It was a summer that I wanted to end before it had even begun.

There were many reasons for this, which I don't want to go into, but I spent most of the summer wanting it over and now that the end is coming so soon, I wish it would stay just a little bit longer. If you've never been to Israel, I'll tell you something you may not know. Israel does not actually have four seasons. It basically has two. Summer and winter. One day it is very cold; the next it is suddenly hot. Winter comes almost as a shock each year; summer comes the same way. It is as hot today as it was last week and as it will be next week.

But we're tired of the heat and the land is getting ready for the rainy season. So on Sunday, my youngest children will go back to school. It's all about time marching on and a reminder that time really doesn't stop for anyone or anything.

In our lives, time is measured by school starting and ending, but more, by each week that comes in a rush of work and activities and ends first with the preparations for Shabbat and then the gentle slide into peace.

Whatever was this past week was...whatever will be next week is for the days to come. Now it is about  finishing the food, setting the table, putting the laundry away, preparing all that we can...and then stopping.

It's about pulling an umbrella deep over our country and saying to the world - see you on the other side. This is our peace; our rest; our sanity. Whatever will come in the weeks and months ahead are nothing at this moment.

Egypt has moved heavy guns, tanks and planes into the Sinai to hunt the terrorists that are like a plague there. The weapons are a violation of the peace agreement but at least they are not being aimed at us.

Syria continues to murder hundreds, even thousands of their people each week - over 25,000 people have been murdered by the son Assad, who is quickly catching up with his father's legacy.

Gaza remains a cesspool of hatred and terror that feeds itself and craves more. This week as every week, rockets were fired and more smuggling tunnels discovered.

Iran's rhetoric remains high; the threat and promise to attempt to annihilate Israel very real.

And on and on I could go of threats and hypocrisy, of UN sanctions that are meaningless and a US government that is ineffective and irrelevant. But the truth is, as the sun begins to sink lower towards the sea, we are reminded that everything is as it should be, that Shabbat is coming soon.

Summers will come and go; Shabbat remains forever. It is a gift that God gave to the people of Israel, ours to honor and cherish. We separate ourselves from the rest of the world - do what you will...we'll take this time for ourselves and be better for it. Shabbat shalom.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vacation Thoughts...the Second

The second thing that happened isn't so much a thought as an acknowledgement of pride and more. I drove most of the day up north, around, etc. At the end of the day, Elie took the wheel and I sat in the back between Aliza and David. 

As we passed the Sea of Galilee on the Golan side, cars began to slow in front of us and we could see a man waving a flashlight. It was an accident that had just occurred moments before. Elie unrolled the window, telling Lauren to hand him the red flashing light. He put it on the roof of the car as he rolled to the side.

"Ima, take the wheel," he said as he got out of the car and reached in for the medic vest that is always perched on the seats of my car. Lauren was already climbing out of the car on her side.

I got out and moved to the front as Davidi called 101 (the equivalent of 911 in the States). He handed me the phone because he is less familiar with the area and didn't know how to describe where we were. I explained about the accident and that there were people hurt. And then...then I did nothing. I stood by and watched as the accident played itself out.

Elie and Lauren were the first medics on site. Elie took one car; Lauren took the other. The one who was most hurt was initially stuck in the car; he'd driven his car from a side entrance to the main road, not seeing the oncoming car that smashed into his vehicle at high speed.

The family in the oncoming car was shaken but not hurt; the man in the other car was more severely injured. We were there for about an hour as an ambulance arrived and I saw Elie helping to move the injured man while Lauren was across the street sitting with the family, calming them and making sure they were okay. 

Davidi put on a vest and went to help; listening as Elie ordered him and a group of volunteer police around the scene. A firetruck came but the first ambulance driver on site had already pulled the most injured man out of the car (not in a way that Elie would have condoned). 

Essentially, there are two ways to handle the injury and the situation, according to Elie. The wrong way was to pull the guy out rather than wait for the firemen who are trained in this. Once he was on his way to the hospital, there was another wait until the second ambulance came and took the family. 

When we first left the beach where we'd had our barbecue, our GPS told us we'd be home around 10:00 p.m. - by the time we were on our way, the new estimate was after 11:00 p.m. As Elie drove home, he and Lauren spoke quietly in the front while I saw in the back, once again between Aliza and Davidi. Aliza was tired and cranky and put her head on my shoulder to sleep. A while later, Davidi put his head down on my other shoulder and I have to tell you, I was delighted. I used to love when my children fell asleep in my arms. As they got older, each time I would wonder if this would be the last time - so, they weren't sitting on my lap (considering that Davidi towers above me and Aliza's just a few inches shorter), but it was nice.

So, our vacation day in the north included so much. First, a day shared with thousands of Israelis - Arab and Jew; second a reminder that even when we escape for a day, we sometimes take our nightmares with us. And finally, a sense of pride that my children (Elie, Lauren (hey, she's mine too), and David) didn't hesitate for even a second when they were needed. One second, we were driving along; the next, they were out of my car, crossing a dark highway to help people who were injured.

Vacation in August draws to a close.

Vacation Thoughts...the First

Besides my other post on our vacation day, there were two other things that happened that I wanted to write about. The first was, in many ways, yet another reflection of Israel. The second was a reflection of my sons (and daughter-in-law).

The First...

As we were floating down the Jordan, Davidi, Aliza and I saw a cluster of people on the shore. There were at least two paramedics and one young woman looked like she'd been hurt. I couldn't see any injuries, but I saw how people had clustered around her. I knew that a moment later, Elie and Lauren would see and maneuver over to check if assistance was needed. Even here on the river, on vacation, it is their way. They automatically run to help others.

Davidi volunteers regularly for the local ambulance squad, but he has not yet taken the advanced training courses that Elie and Lauren have and so there really was nothing he could have added. We kept going and a short while later, grounded ourselves to relax and wait for the second half of our group. We entered the water together and would exit it later - and besides, we were on vacation so what's the point of rushing?

When we caught up, I asked if they'd stopped - and sure enough, they had. One paramedic recognized Elie - here, hours away from where we live. Just a "you look familiar" comment that had them trying to play Israeli geography and figure out where and when their paths may have crossed. As for the injured girl - Lauren got the rest of the story.

The raft flipped over and the girls were thrown into the water. One girl was injured enough that she needed to be evacuated - she was the sister of the girl I saw sitting on the side, the center of the cluster of concerned people.

"Was she hurt?" I asked.

No, she wasn't physically hurt...but...she had been in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem and this sudden event brought back the terror of that day. The impact, being thrown, her sister being hurt. It was too much for her to deal with; all the horror came back. What was incredible was that people came to treat  here and deal with her shock and fright - there on the river, people surrounded her, talked to her, held her hand and brought her as much comfort as they could.

What lingers in my mind is the thought that these deep scars remain - always. So that suddenly, far from where it happened, it all came back - on such a beautiful day when children shouldn't have to remember the horrors of an explosion, blood, and death.

Sniff, Sniff

Going with the theory that you can laugh or cry at most things, I've decided to find humor in this little conversation I had with David a short time ago. We were talking about the next few days; what we need to buy for school next week and what he needs to pack.

Earlier in the summer, the school had issued a list - similar to the one we get each year. As we talked, it occurred to me that no one thought to discuss the issue of gas masks. Should he bring his gas mask to school where he dorms during the week? Clearly, if we have warning of an attack and the possibility of war, the schools will rush to send the children home. On the other hand, the government can't afford to give the schools advance notification without tipping off our enemies and so we likely won't know anything is happening until - well, it happens.

Realistically, that means there's a decent chance David will be in school (or sleeping in the dorm), when news breaks that Israeli jets (or American jets for that matter), have attacked Iran's nuclear sites. It also means that there's a decent chance Iran will succeed in launching missiles at us in return. And if not them - certainly, our dear neighbors in the north (Hezbollah) and to the south-west (Gaza), will not hesitate to chime in with their own rockets.

So, half joking, I asked David what he thought - if he should take the gas mask or not.

"I'm not taking it," David said. And then came up with - "we'll just go sniff, sniff" - meaning, one kid will take a deep breath of air, and then share the gas mask with another.

Great - just what a mother needs to hear...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Redefining Normal

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called, "Defining Normal" - this is the post in which I explained what happened when David was born - and how they handed me a tent. One of the things that I like about this blog is that I can dump my memories here and let them go. I read the post tonight while looking for the map (displayed here and also in that post).

It's a map of how much time we have - all of us in Israel, to get to shelter. We are in the longest zone - we would have three minutes if an attack came from Lebanon. Three minutes to get to shelter - and worry about where everyone else is and if they got to shelter in time. That's if the missiles come from Lebanon. I don't know how much time we'd have if the attack came from Syria or Iran...more, less, who knows.

A Vacation Day

I need a vacation...badly...and it isn't really going to happen this year. We had planned to go this week but a bunch of things happened - client demands, a change that needs to be made in the office, and more. So what we are doing is grabbing days.

Today, Elie and Lauren, Aliza and Davidi and I drove up north to go kayaking on the Jordan River, barbecuing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As I sit here unwinding, there are two things that I am thinking about. The first was a cultural thing - all day, every where we went, we were surrounded by Arabs enjoying the beauty of this land and the final days of summer.

When we arrived at the kayaking place (one of several in the north), there were long lines. We heard Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian - a true blending of Israel. We waited and waited in line and finally decided to cancel our reservation. We'd paid in advance via the Internet - so we advanced and asked for a refund. The woman behind the window was about to process our refund when she asked if we wanted to go immediately.

We took our tickets, got our life jackets and oars, and were quickly launched onto the river. For a huge amount of the time, we found ourselves surrounded by groups of Arabs. They were rafting in the river beside us - bumping into our rafts as often as we bumped into them. We politely asked a group of Arab young men not to splash our rafts as we passed them - and later as they caught up with us, we bumped into them and one said, "we didn't splash you and this is how you thank us?" And we all laughed as we floated down the Jordan.

They surrounded us at the beach where we were barbecuing - to the left of us, to the right, behind us and in the water. Only once was there any second of tension - when their youngest children were throwing rocks and I asked them nicely not to do that - and immediately, the parents called out to the children telling them to stop.

At one point, Elie and Davidi faced Jerusalem and said our afternoon prayers; several of the Arabs faced Mecca and said theirs. And as the day was ending and we headed back to the cars, I was left with the amazing thought that people dared to say Israel is an apartheid country. Apartheid? There was no separation today as we stood in line, as we kayaked on the river, as we barbecued on the shores  of the sea. What nonsense!

The second thing that I wanted to write about...I'll do in a separate post tomorrow. It's late here and I have an early morning appointment. August is universally known in Israel as a month of vacation. Today, that was so apparent as thousands of Israelis converged in the north. It's a bit cooler than the center of the country, infinitely greener and it has rivers and seas and springs.

The Arabs came to these places, waited in the same lines with us - some ahead of me, some behind me. They drove to these places in cars that were the same as mine - some nicer, some newer, some older. They barbecued the same types of meat - on grills that were the same as mine - and some nicer, some fancier. There is no apartheid in Israel.

Monday, August 20, 2012

And for the Children

I forgot to mention one "interesting" thing about yesterday's gas mask distribution (see Gas Mask Distribution). Next to the long line of people waiting to be called up were rows and rows of people to sit down and rest rather than stand and wait to be called. On the other side - were tables set up - with paper and crayons for children.

As the parents waited on line, the children were occupied with arts and crafts. What an amazing concept - what an amazing consideration on the part of the organizers of the distribution. It's summer in Israel so where else would the children be but with their parents?

And so, as the parents were occupied getting gas masks, the children were occupied drawing pictures. They'll remember a fun day at the mall. I wonder if later in life they will remember yesterday? Probably not. For them, it was another summer day - an outing and some fun.

Aliza has asked me some questions - first the other night when she saw the stack of old gas masks on the table; and then yesterday when she saw the new boxes. I didn't make a big thing of it. I didn't take the gas mask out and show her. She doesn't remember the last time, "I just saw them in the movies," she told me now. She doesn't remember ever having put it on - that's good. That's right. That's what I want - here's hoping it will always be that way.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gas Mask Distribution

Israel seems to have gone into high gear in its plans to distribute gas masks to all its citizens. For days and days, there are long lines as people wait to receive theirs. In some cases, like us, the old ones need to be returned. This is all so very hi-tech. There is an efficiency there - that is belied by what is happening. No one in line has any doubt that this is because of Iran - it is that elephant in the corner; that massive threat just around the bend.

We found our gas masks yesterday - gone was any opportunity to put this off any further. Elie and Lauren and I drove to Talpiot, a neighborhood in the southern part of Jerusalem. We parked, walked upstairs, and right away saw that there were hundreds of people there waiting. It was a mix of so many things.

One security guard was calling out numbers...620...621...622...623. We were 791 until the man in front of us pulled out a bunch of tickets and gave us 790. He'd found an ticket with a lower number and planned to cut forward in the sequence. He was 686. Apparently the woman in front of him had the same idea. She saw us standing there - and handed us 671 - we went in front of 686. He was philosophical - what he had done to others was just done to him...not much he could complain about.

Of course, he then pulled in the ace of his deck - he pulled out his handicapped ID and asked the guard if he could please advance. Two points to him...he went to the front of the line. Things moved amazingly fast - we were ushered forward to stand on one side of the table. We handed in the old gas masks - it pulled something inside of me when I saw him count them and toss them aside.

He asked for my identification card, and with that, determined that he could give me 5 gas masks - mine, my husband's, Elie's, Davidi's and Aliza's. "What about Shmulik and Amira?" I asked him. "I gave you seven."

"Wait," he told me as he began. He pulled out a box, plugged in a number, and wrote my husband's name on the box. He then used an infrared scanner to go over the bar code - all so efficient. We're talking gas masks here! But that was for later. This was about processing people - not about politics or global threats by a madman.

"I have Shmulik's teudat zehut [identification card] with me," I continued.

"Wait," said Elie.

The man gave me another gas mask - for me; one for Elie; one for Davidi; one for Aliza - her box was a different color and was larger - because while the rest of us have adult gas masks, she has the "youth" size.

He took Shmulik's identification card and began processing it, "what about Amira?" I asked him again. Yes, I wasn't handling this particularly well, was I?

"Wait," the man said to me again - and I have to admit, there was patience in his voice each time. The woman next to me started arguing. She wanted to get someone else's gas mask and the man told her she first had to call the Home Front office. She complained that she had been there more than 2 hours already and wasn't leaving without the additional gas mask. She was very upset - again, the man taking care of me spoke to her calmly.

My mind was already racing with arguments if he wouldn't give me the last gas mask - which was silly, I kept telling myself. Even if they give me Amira's, she still has to come back for her husband and her son. When he finished Shmulik's gas mask - I had six boxes. "Amira?" I asked him again. Clearly, my brain had no intention of listening to my heart.

"Which one?" he asked me and I showed him.

He plugged in her identification number and went to get a box. I was so relieved - ridiculously so. "Haim didn't turn in his old one," he told me (referring to Amira's husband), but I can give you one for the baby.

This was more than I had hoped for, "okay," I responded as he turned to retrieve the biggest box of all. I don't know whether it is the tent version for an infant or the one for a toddler. "What's the baby's name?" the man asked.

Elie told it to him and the man wrote my grandson's name on a gas mask. I called Amira as soon as I was clear of the area and told her. She was happy. Can you understand the concept that a young mother was happy that her son now had a gas mask? When you can, you'll understand what it is to be Israeli - at least in part.

I could be philosophical and tell you that the concept that we might need them has not sunk into my brain in any way. I am going through the motions - almost believing that if we prepare, it won't be necessary and if we aren't ready, we'll need to have been.

A Slice of Israel...

Ever lose something and then when you find it, you are so relieved? Well, we found it, but relief is the wrong word...we'll save ourselves 700 shekels (about $180) - so that's good. But it also means my procrastinating is over.

Tomorrow, I'm going to go and exchange the old gas masks we were issued long ago with current ones. What a concept this is, I want to shout out. No, I don't want a gas mask! I don't want to put it on; I don't want to even look at it!

I don't remember when or how I was given my first gas mask; I do remember clearly going to a small room in a hospital when I went to arrange the discharge papers. A soldier was there and he handed me a blue case. I asked him what it was and he told me it was a gas mask for my infant. My eyes filled with tears as I repeated several times in disbelief, "this isn't normal. You don't give a baby a gas mask." He was all of 18 or 19 years old and he tried to comfort me, "it's okay," he said, "don't worry."

I have two other memories related to gas masks in Israel. The second was when I suddenly realized the US was likely to go into Iraq that night - and Aliza might be too big for the infant mask I had. We went running down to the gas mask distribution center; only to be told they had none left and I should try another place. We got there to find they were closing.

Again, the tears filled my eyes as I approached a soldier and practically begged him to help. He took us quietly through a side door - though others had been turned away - and calmly switched the masks for us.

The third and final memory was around 8:00 at night, hours before the US entered Iraq for the Second Gulf War. The government had warned us - prepare to be hit by missiles, as had happened in the First Gulf War. We'd prepared a room to seal; we'd bought some provisions.

And then they announced that we should not only have our gas masks at the ready, but we should activate the filters and try them on. Aliza and Davidi were young. Elie was 15 years old. I froze completely. I didn't want to see my children with gas masks on - I didn't want to pull them from their warm beds to this nightmare we thought we might be facing.

It was Elie who told me we had to get the children out of bed - and we did. It was Elie who put the gas masks on his brother and sister, while I tried to keep them (and myself) calm. The next day, I took the kids to school. Shmulik refused to go - he offered to do dishes if I didn't force him to go. That didn't sway me to let him stay home, but his tears did. He was almost 13 years old - too old to cry; too frightened not to. I gave in because I wanted him calm and I wanted him to feel he would always be safe.

I wrote Davidi's name on the case of the gas mask and then I drew a heart and a smile face inside. I don't know what I was thinking - just that I wanted him to smile.

I took Aliza to the day care group - with the mask. I explained about how she had cried the night before and fought against us putting it on. The woman told me not to worry - and then she played a game with these young 2 and 3 year olds. She had them take the masks out and used the cardboard box as a cradle for dolls and stuffed animals; then she had them practice putting on the masks.

By the end of the day, Aliza was fine with them; Davidi was accepting too. Shmulik was still refusing to go to school; and Elie was telling me all about what he had learned in school about chemical warfare and what we might be facing from Iraq.

Now, almost a decade or so later, Israel is reissuing new gas masks. The ones we had were made useless once we opened the filters and they've sat for years in our home. Now, we are being encouraged to get new masks and so tomorrow I'm going to do that. We didn't even remember where we'd put them - my husband finally remembered and we found them there. The boxes are dusty and old.

Each box has a name on it. there are different models - for a young child, for a young adult, for an adult. It's a slice of Israel - this gas mask business.

I wrote about that period to a group of friends - yeah, me, writing...duh. Later, I called it Diary of an Almost War (see below)...and ended it with these words:
May we never see those damn cardboard boxes ever again and may none of you ever, ever, ever see a gas mask on your child’s face or hear your child say they are scared of something other than the dark, and spiders, and creepy things. 
The last part is about to come true - after tomorrow, I'll never see TH0SE cardboard boxes again...they will take them away tomorrow...and give me new ones. I guess I should have written it differently. I should have written, "May we never see (or need) ANY damn cardboard boxes ever again...."

Diary of an Almost War

Date: March 19, 2003 11:59 a.m. 

Subject: Pre-war Report from Israel

Well - lest this all seem too far away from you all, here’s a brief overview of what is happening here in Israel as we prepare... these are headlines from Israeli Internet sites - shows a list of what we are doing to prepare for a war that we have nothing to do with....well, not any more than the rest of the world...but we too hope this will be over quickly and successfully. Israelis want to see the end of Saddam because there’s no chance of there being a stable Middle East so long as he is in power. Nevertheless, as a country seen to be close or on the front line, developments are unfolding fast....Schools To Remain Open For Now (although schools that don’t have enough bomb shelters may oppose this policy - my daughter’s school would put the 11th and 12th graders between the two bomb conventional war, this would be a relatively secure place, not in what we might be facing. My daughter will stay home!)

Homefront Command Seals Hospitals (hospitals are releasing non-essential patients - those who have come for elective surgery...for example, in the first Gulf War, my brother-in-law had herniated disks - he couldn’t get the operation he needed because they were afraid that there would be a successful hit and they’d need the bed) Egged Prepares for Gulf II (Egged is the bus company, they’ve trained 100 drivers to drive with gas masks and protective suits so that they can drive INTO an area where potentially bio/chem weapons have landed to evacuate wounded) Hizbullah Prepares for War (Hizbullah, according to Lebanese newspaper, has moved several batteries of katyusha rockets south, in preparate to launch against Israel)IDF soldiers have been ordered to carry gas masks with them at all times Public told to seal rooms now; carry masks once war starts British Airways to Cease Service to and from Israel (duh...we didn’t expect anything else) Canada, Japan, US, UK, Russia, Australia call upon their citizens to leave Israel (duh...well, that was expect too).

More as things unfold....another interesting note. Israel created "silent" radio. People leave the radio turned on to one of these stations 24 hours a day. Nothing is broadcast, so it’s simply silent unless there is an attack - then the radio breaks silence and announces what you should do. The radio stations have already been announced and as soon as I remember to bring a radio down here, I’ll be able to "listen" to it. And finally, reports are - Israel expects the attack to begin Thursday morning our time (again, no surprises there).

Date: Wed Mar 19, 2003 1:15 pm
Subject: Israel

....and to make this hit home further....A senior IDF source said today that the American-led war against Iraq will begin tonight, unless tactical considerations force a delay. One such consideration is the heavy sandstorm currently blowing through Kuwait, in the Iraqi border region.

Today, we will seal the room where we will stay in has two windows that we have to seal, as well as a door to the outside that has to be sealed. It has a bathroom, refrigerator, plenty of water, blankets, and enough computers to keep my kids busy if we are stuck here for a few hours.

And, two days ago, when I asked my son to move the gas masks for the family down here, I realized that the gas mask for my 3 year old is the wrong type - it’s a tent for an infant up to 3 years, but she should really have the "Bardas magen" (description: Designed for children ages 3 to 8 years old. The kit protects the head and the respiratory system. It is comfortable to wear and allows a wide field of vision. Function:Air is pumped by a blower through a filter into the hood. The purified air fills the hood creating pressure which prevents the entry of contaminated air from the outside.

If, for some sick reason...., you want to see what these things look like, go to:


Date: Wed Mar 19, 2003 2:38 pm
Subject: And here we go?

I don’t know how much you are all hearing there about what is happening here. I haven’t turned on the international news yet - I’ve been listening only to the local Israeli news and I should probably apologize for diverting attention from Iraq now...but what is happening here is very real to me. Two days ago, I realized that my little one had the wrong gas mask. She turned 3 in January and the infant tent is good for infant to 3. I went today to exchange it for the children’s head mask.

The first place - all the masks were already given out. The second place was also closed. Finally, at the 3rd place they said they were closed and come back tomorrow, but my husband went over to one soldier and explained that we weren’t notified, but we thought our baby had the wrong mask. He was wonderful - he asked me to bring my daughter inside (luckily, I’d brought her along). They looked at her and exchanged her mask right away. Somehow knowing that I had the right mask didn’t help much.

We came home and had dinner and put the two little ones to sleep. My sister called and said the order had come for everyone to open the kits and try the masks on. We took the two little ones out of bed...and realized that we have no idea how to put these kits together...pretty scary thought.

The news has a clock - going backwards - counting down the time till the end of the deadline. My 17 year old is scared. She didn’t think it would come to this. Everyone has been ordered/asked to carry the mask with them no matter where they go. That means that IF I decide to go to my meeting tomorrow, I should be taking the mask with me. They haven’t yet canceled school for tomorrow.

My 15 year old has had more experience, since the army chose his school to show off the preparedness of the nation. He knows how to put the mask on - and showed my middle son. His bar mitzvah is next weekend...he wonders if his aunt and uncle will still come from America.

My 7 year old let me put the mask on him, but said it was hard to breathe. He didn’t say he was scared, but he was glad when we took it off. I never got it on my 3 year old, she was too cranky.

So - I’ve told you about my children. I can’t find the words to tell you how I feel. If you’ve ever touched a gas mask - I can’t explain what it does to see it on your children’s faces. I don’t think I want to go to sleep tonight at all. We’re starting to put plastic on the windows now - one thing or another, and we just didn’t get the chance.

Another army report - school still on, take your masks. Put them on and measure them. Connect and open the filters. Okay - I can’t write much more but ... what a strange world we live in....


Date: Thu Mar 20, 2003 7:56 am
Subject: Israel III

Good morning everyone...

My brother called from the States at 4:20 a.m. our time (thanks, bro...) to tell us of the US invasion. This morning, it seems Israelis are being told to "act normally." Now, this wouldn’t be so funny if we weren’t also told to carry gas masks with us everywhere we go...including kids going to school. Anyone know how to carry a gas mask and act normal? first grader is going to school with his backpack, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a gas mask. On the bright side, I doubt the teacher will care that he’ll be late.

See - my sense of humor is returning. I wasn’t sure it would after trying a gas mask on...but hey, human will and all that. Saddam is about to speak on CNN (actually, as I informed my father, who also just called...- he’s speaking on Iraqi TV, to be carried by CNN). I think for Israel, this will be the "deciding" moment. If he threatens Israel and the US in the speech, we can expect that he might try to hit Israel tonight. If not...maybe with all his troubles, he’s forgotten about us? Ah, hope springs eternal....

From past experience, I am told, he launches the SCUDS at night, leaving most Israelis with a probably false sense of security during the day...but don’t tell him that. If he knew that, he’d launch during the day for sure.

So, my kids are going to school (with gas masks) and I’ll stick around working and glued to TV/Internet. I heard that an entire division of Iraqis have many men in a division? There are 350,000 many left if one division surrenders?

Well - I have to go finish handing kids sandwiches and driving them to’s to a swift end to this...and despite conflicting views all around - let’s hope the world that comes out the other side of this is a safer, better place for all.


Date: Thu Mar 20, 2003 8:20 am
Subject: Israel III

One more 1st grader is going with his gas mask to a room filled with kids and gas masks...and even though he now knows how to want them to find it fast, right?

so, I just wrote his name all over the outside box...and drew smilees...on the box and colors. My 3 year old decided that the gas mask for her is actually a carriage for her dolls. So, she managed to put her dolls inside the mask, but wouldn’t let me put it on her - I guess I’ll try again with that later, or maybe I’ll put it on Davidi (the 7 year old) first - same mask. Then she’ll see it on him...

So- I just thought I’d write to tell you all that if you ever have to decorate a gas mask box...don’t use yellow magic marker - it doesn’t show up well - blue works just great!


Date: Thu Mar 20, 2003 9:44 am
Subject: Israel III

Well - almost all the kids at school.

My 13 year old...okay - confession - I do not understand the psyche of a 13 year old boy!

So, last night he was dancing and laughing and telling the US to attack...why? Not because he’s pro-war - but because we all assumed that school would be canceled today. This morning, he refused to take his gas mask, and I told him that even though there was less than 1% chance that he’d need it, he had to take it. At that point, he started to cry. Yup, 13 years old...and scared out of his mind. So...we made a deal - I get my morning dishes done, and he stays home from school. All in all, he’s calm because he’s home. His next fear was how long it would take him to put the gas mask on, how much time would he have. I told him (not entirely truthfully), that we’d have a good 5 minutes warning. He just asked me if I wanted to time him (no, actually, I don’t)...sure, I said - well - he got his gas mask on within 1 minute. Isn’t it amazing this world we live in....

At some point, after this is over, I’ll worry about the psychological scars inflicted on children who have to deal with the concept of chemical warfare (yes, he knows that the rain we are experiencing is a good thing because it would clean the air...).

And, as my daughter just walked off for her driving you have enough money? yes...Do you have your bus card? yes...cellular phone? yes....gas mask? yes....

What a world....and all this without a missile ever being fired at us. For what it’s worth,, I believe tonight is the defining moment for Israel. If we get through tonight without any missiles...


Date: Fri Mar 21, 2003 8:14 pm
Subject: Israel IV - the end?

And what I hope will be my final Israel chapter...

Went to sleep last night hopeful that I would wake up as I did - 6:00 a.m. worried about getting kids to school on time and not about bombs or missiles falling. Woke to the sad news that 12 Britons and 4 Americans had died in a helicopter crash in Kuwait. News is that there is little resistance and hopefully there will be a swift end to this.

On the funny side - my sister called to tell me it was 7:15 a.m. Why is that significant, I asked. Because at 4:40 a.m. Israel time, Iraq apparently bombed Kuwait with missiles they don’t have. Okay, I said. And?

My brother in the States called my father (woke them up) at 4:30 a.m. to tell him that Saddam was bombing Kuwait. My father promptly called my sister (woke them up) to tell her. Since I live near Jerusalem (and they live closer to Tel Aviv...the reasoning goes...), I’d be last to get the missiles and therefore, thankfully, the last to be called.

My father asked my sister - "should I call Paula, or do you want to?" - My sister responded, "I will...and I won’t"

I asked her if they realized that Kuwait was in the OPPOSITE direction? Anyway, having gotten through the night, I believe we are thankfully as home-free as anyone can be when it’s a madman who has his finger on the trigger...gee, that didn’t sound very promising did it? Well, at least from the tone of this email you can tell that the terror I feel is gone and once again I believe we can persevere. That is, ultimately, what living here is often about. Just to be sure, I will leave the radio on over the Sabbath. Israel invented this absolutely brilliant concept - silent radio. Over the Sabbath, several radio stations (covering the entire country) will broadcast...silence - unless there is an attack. Then the radio will break silence and broadcast the alarm and instructions.

My 13 year old still refuses to take his gas mask. Next week is his bar mitzvah, so I think I’ll give him the day and take him to buy some clothes. My 15 year old woke up with a headache. If he’s anything like me, it’s a post-stress thing. He was so "in charge" for two days, I think his body is just reminding him that he’s still a kid.

So - in honor of what I hope is the departure of the Saddam regime, I’ll let my kids have one more day at home and then hope that life will return to normal (real normal, without gas masks).

Another interesting thing will be what happens now with all the gas masks. We were told to open the filters and completely prepare the masks. If my son is correct, the masks now have a 2 week shelf-life. That means we’ll all have to go get new filters - another frustratingly long wait on line...waiting for the next time? But overall, I am so very thankful that it is turning out this way and I am grateful to the Americans, British, Australians, and 37 other countries that GWB didn’t mention by name. While I know without doubt that their single goal was NOT protecting Israel (this was NOT about Israel), nevertheless, for us, the result is the same - one less madman to deal with, one less sponsor of terrorism to worry about.

Again, I thank you all for your concern...and I’m especially glad that I didn’t have to sit here typing that I’m fine while wearing a gas mask!


Date: Sat Mar 22, 2003 9:24 pm
Subject: Israel V

To continue a little of what is happening here....though it almost seems silly now that I believe we were spared. Each day that goes by makes us feel more secure here. We left the radios on silent all of the Sabbath - there was a whooshing sound for the broadcasting, but it was strangely comforting. The radio stayed silent the whole time, but every house that I went to had the radio or television set to the silent station. We went to friends on Friday night and didn’t take our gas masks...our friend then went on and on about how he was convinced that Friday night was the deciding point and that we’d have missile attacks before the end of the sabbath (great - and we’d left our masks at home!). We don’t drive on the sabbath, but I decided then and there that if the sirens went off, we’d ask our friend for his car keys and drive home. Once I thought of that, I was much calmer and we spent much of the evening talking about how we’d prepared, if a security room was considered a sealed room, etc.

Last night, as we walked to and from our friends, we heard planes flying high overhead. Though I can’t be sure, I believe they were either Israeli air force planes (that in itself is unusual at night...on a Friday night) or American planes flying from the Mediterranean, across Jordan and on into Iraq. That would be my guess, as the coalition forces were most likely busy securing Western Iraq.

We met a friend in synagogue and I was shocked to see he’d shaved off his beard. Why? Because the mask he was given isn’t for someone with a beard and he wasn’t able to exchange it. I guess all this means that we took this very seriously and felt more secure for the preparation.

On the more serious side, eight children accidentally injected themselves with atrophine during this crisis - but all were immediately taken to the hospital and will be okay. There’s a dose in each protection kit. I guess out of the hundreds of thousands of kids going to school, we should be grateful that only eight actually did this. Think about it - each kid - from first grade onwards (and even many in kindergarten) walk to school on their own or at some point have access to their own personal protection kids - they carry them everywhere and for the most part, it is under their desks or in their lockers in school. While I drive my son to school every day, still, he went off carrying his just makes sense that a bunch would have opened the kits, even though they were told not to. The injection is spring loaded - takes almost nothing to inject yourself.

And an Arab Israeli woman and two of her children died when she sealed herself in a room (lit a heater to keep warm) and went to sleep. In Israel, they were called the first casualties of the war (they died the night before the US invasion).

Enough time has passed that Israel is officially considering lowering its alert status, as the US has seized all or most of the area from which we were attacked last time. Pentagon officials are optimistic, as are most Israelis.

As far as Israel and this war is concerned, I believe our part is over and we can return to normal life (one more day with gas masks in tow...but hopefully that should be it). My 13 year old went to a friend’s bar mitzvah without his gas mask, and is not happy that I want him to take it to school tomorrow. I have a meeting in the north tomorrow, I’ll take it with more day. At least, at this point, I think I no longer am struggling to hear the siren and am beginning to accept that we really made it through.

A few people have written me about how horrible it must be to see your children with gas masks. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling - and knowing that they are afraid and that there isn’t much you can tell them to comfort them because the possibility of attack was not something in our control. We simply were waiting. The only "comfort" we had was that we knew that Saddam and the world knew that this time Israel was NOT going to sit back and accept SCUD attacks. I doubt that was much of a deterrence and I believe the way in which the US and England launched this war was the key factor in our not being attacked.


Date: Sun Apr 13, 2003 5:26 pm
Subject: The Start and the End

Well, you were all there for the start, so I thought it only appropriate to again give you all my thanks.
We’ve just gotten the word:

"Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz a short time ago announced the alert level is being lowered; instructing us to put away gas mask personal protection kits and disassemble sealed rooms."

It feels silly to have put ourselves through the emotional torture we went through since we weren’t hit...but it’s better to be sitting here typing it was all for nothing, rather than typing casualty statistics.

So - we are officially standing down, pulling the plastic off, putting those boxes out of sight and feeling...feeling like a ton of bricks has been lifted off our shoulders, feeling this ridiculous need to take a deep breath and smile.

May we never see those damn cardboard boxes ever again and may none of you ever, ever, ever see a gas mask on your child’s face or hear your child say they are scared of something other than the dark, and spiders, and creepy things.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Watch Out What You Say...Oh Well..

It's a recurring thought I have - that there are mothers here in Israel and around the world with sons on active duty...and I'm not one of them. For the last three weeks, Elie has been in the Reserves. But this time around, it was all about preparation for war; exercising and training. As far as I know, he didn't come into contact with our enemies; he didn't man a checkpoint.

Other than these Reserve duty stints, my sons are home with their wives...except for Davidi. David. I have to stop calling him by the name I used as he grew up. It's a little boy's name; and he's not little anymore. Yesterday, Lauren came home after visiting the States; Elie came back from miluim (Reserves). As we were driving home, I made some comment - I don't remember what it was exactly.

It was something about running out of things to say on the blog - of writing more about politics than family. I don't feel comfortable writing too much about what is happening in their lives. This is my blog, but that doesn't give me the right to expose their lives, feelings, etc. So I walk a fine line, writing about what comes to my mind and wondering if it belongs here on this blog or on another.

Be careful what you say...

This morning, as we were preparing for Shabbat, Elie and Lauren went together to the shuk (open air market in Jerusalem). The prices there are a fraction of what they are in the stores. It's so good to see them together again - they truly are two halves of each other. They picked up some vegetables for me and stopped to drop them off. They also brought the mail. Tzav Rishon...and David's name.
Davidi - 4 years old
For those of you who understand those first two words, you can imagine my thoughts. For those of you who don't, they mean - First Command - or the first calling. It is the first time the army is issuing David a command. A command to appear on a certain day, to undergo testing and discussions. A command to begin thinking, acknowledging, accepting. My son, my baby, will be a soldier, as Shmulik did before, as Elie did before that.
Davidi - 8 years old
He's 16 and a half years old. I'm so stupid sometimes. My eyes filled with tears when I saw the letter. I sat down and looked at it - and yes, they all laughed at me. I think Lauren is the only one who realized that I wasn't joking. I think they were surprised. I think I surprised myself.

The army sent him papers he needs to take to the doctor; free bus passes for the day; and an appointment in January, 2013 - months and months away, on which day he is to present himself to the army. To walk into the Recruitment be begin a path towards being a soldier.

I'm a soldier's mother - and I don't want to be another soldier's mother. I do...I don't. God, I can't believe it came so soon. It wasn't supposed to happen so soon. He's not even 17 years old.
Elie and Davidi (11 years old)

David is completely calm about this - many of his friends have apparently received the Tzav Rishon as well. All I can think of is that damn roller coaster again. We had a great morning. The kids were all helping - Chaim is coming for Shabbat; his sister and her family are here and we're having them for lunch. Amira and Haim and the baby are coming too.
Davidi - 13 years old

The roller coaster - high in the morning and the bottom just fell out. Silly, I know. Tzav Rishon. This isn't really the beginning of David and the army. The first appointment is 6 months away, days before his 17th birthday. Why they send it out now...I don't have a clue.
David - 15 years old
It's ironic that it came the day after my comment. Truthfully, I have enough things I could write about. I don't need this. I'm still trying to deal with the fact that he towers above us; that he isn't my little boy anymore. Tzav Rishon...

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