Thursday, March 28, 2013

From the Soldiers of Israel...

I won't translate this word for word - but essentially, as each unit is shown, they announce what unit they are from (Paratroopers, Navy, etc.) and where they are currently stationed - don't worry, nothing more than on the border with Gaza, on the seas, etc. - and then explain that even on this holiday, they are guarding us. They wish us a Happy holiday and toast us with matzo, love and smiles. Happy holiday from the soldiers of Israel to the people of Israel - and happy holiday and stay safe, we love you, from the people of Israel to our sons and daughters, the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.

In 64 Years, Israel Has Withstood....

Someone posted this to Facebook and I decided to share it. Had I written it, I would have said we withstood, we overcame, we survived, we thrived...but yes, we suffered through it too. As we begin to think about our upcoming Independence Day after the Passover holiday ends, the message is so true - we are not broken, we are not discouraged. We are not defeated and we will not surrender to despair or terror.  We have not lost hope...oh no, not even close. 

In a short while, a huge number of Israelis, ourselves included, will take to the mountains of Israel, the beaches, the cities, the seas. We are still here - we will always be here - we are Israel.

A Lie Told Often Enough...

is really, really, really still a lie.

Last week, hoping to impress Obama and really make a point, Hamas fired 5 rockets at Israel. At least one or two landed in Gaza - for which others will probably manage to blame us. But three landed in Israel, including one that damaged a house in Shderot. Message delivered.

Not wanting to start an all-out-war over something that probably was more about making a point than actually trying to escalate something, Israel decided to respond by cutting the available fishing area for Gaza fisherman. It was partially a symbolic act and partially one that would cause some distress while not inflicting major discomfort.

Notice that the cutting of the fishing area occurred AFTER Israel had been hit by Gaza rockets.

Hamas is apparently claiming that WE broke the ceasefire agreement, which specified increased fishing rights for Palestinian fisherman. WE broke the agreement? We BROKE it? Huh?

Yes, that's right - we broke it, not them. Their firing rockets was acceptable, you see - but our cutting out part of the fishing area is not...and what we learn from that is that the world can be fooled if you manage to tell a lie with a straight face.

And when the world, the UN, etc. condemns Israel for this response...response...response...response...I will say two things. The first is that even if you tell a lie convincingly, it is still a lie and secondly, if you choose to believe liars (and terrorists at that), then the shame falls on you, not on them. They are being true to their nature, to their culture, to their beliefs. There is, in their eyes, nothing wrong with firing rockets at civilians, at homes, at cities. And agreements are made to be broken.

For me, I would prefer that we responded with a rocket for a rocket, a boom for a boom. But the problem is - if we do as we normally do, we'll hit our target and they'll miss theirs. And, if we intentionally miss and hit an open field, they'll be dumb enough to rejoice that we missed and never believe we did it intentionally.

It's an interesting Catch 22 - respond and we are condemned; don't respond and we are weak. Hit the target and we are giving back disproportionately; miss the target and we are weak. Refuse to negotiate with preconditions and we are being unreasonable; negotiate with preconditions and we are weak.

At some point, as I heard some months ago from a former Muslim, the world has to understand that the greatest danger to western culture and to Israel is to appear weak. Deterrence is achieved when we plow into Gaza - Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense - more wars and rockets and attacks are their response to compromise and weakness.

If I could convince the world of one thing - it would be of the wisdom we should have learned over 70 years ago - a lie told often still a lie.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Mornings...

Friday mornings in Israel differ from house to house, especially between religious households and secular ones. I can't really detail what happens in a secular home - it has been decades and beyond since I became more religious. I can't really give too much detail about anyone's home but my own.

Though I'm not really happy about it, my home has evolved into a very traditional one and I am, it seems, unable to change it. One of my greatest prides, in fact, is that my three married children don't have the same house I have.

In their homes, my son-in-law and my two sons share with their wives the preparation and anticipation of the coming weekend. For the most part, I am left in the early hours of Friday - like now - to begin on my own. As I said, it doesn't make me happy but it is, as they say, what it is.

So long before others arise, I am in the kitchen planning what will be for Shabbat. This Shabbat is the trickiest of the year. All other weeks, I make as much food as needed for guests and beyond. I'm really good on the beyond. The rationale is that what doesn't go over the weekend, will be available in the coming days for others to eat and I'll have less work to do, less cooking, etc. during the work week.

This Friday is different because Passover is coming this week - in fact, on Monday night. All that I make must be long finished by Sunday night. In other words, this is the one time of the year, I have to cook as little as possible. It's quite stressful. It is, for me, so easy to fill a table; so hard to minimize and force one or two side-dishes and leave off so many other options.

So I count how many people come and will make a piece or two extra of chicken. More than once during the army Chaim called on a Friday afternoon and asked what was for dinner, or if his bed was ready. It was his way of telling us he was joining us - and in that simple question was the knowledge that there never was any doubt there would be enough food and he wasn't imposing in any way.

I love that about my home. Some people laugh at me but everyone knows we are blessed in that our table always is filled for those who join us. This one week, that will not be the case.

I usually use 3 kilo of flour to make challah; this week, I'll use a meager 6 cups - less than 1/3 of my normal amount. I'll make soup, but less than a FULL pot, and not even my biggest.

I have so much to do today and I'm more tired than usual. We went to my niece's wedding last night. It was a beautiful night in which we watched two people who have been in love for years show they will love each other forever. Marriages should be forever.

There were three languages spoken last night at the wedding. The bride's side (ours) was a combination of Hebrew from her father and our own English enclave; the other spoke in Russian, and the joining point was Hebrew.

The wedding was in Tel Aviv - we are from Jerusalem in heart and soul and body. I always felt that we were one nation until 2005 when the Israeli government, elected by the right-wing, chose to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. The left wing celebrated; the right wing cried and felt betrayed in the weeks before the expulsion/disengagement from Gaza. In the weeks that followed, the rift has festered for years - sometimes getting better, sometimes worse. We are united in many things; divided in too many others.

Some damaged part of me was healed when a friend of mine on the left told me that he had watched the Sharon plan being enacted on television and had cried. Good, I thought - good. We pulled out of Gaza for nothing - that has become clear to all. Those rockets we knew would hit Ashkelon and Ashdod, have now hit Beersheva, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Yesterday in the morning, five rockets were fired at Israel - it was, without question, a message from Hamas to Obama - we were merely the means of delivery. When my friend told me he was going to take vacation from work and celebrate the Gaza withdrawal,for the first time in my life, I thought I had nothing in common with a fellow Jew. It was the first time in my life that thought and come into my mind and it was an incredibly painful one.

He was Tel Aviv and I was Jerusalem, I thought to myself. He was secular and I was religious; he was ready to chase any and all dreams for peace - even the ones that endanger our country. He would be the one celebrating Obama's visit; while I would be waiting to hear what Obama said, knowing it would include trying to push Israel unfairly.

Later my friend began the discussion I had been dreading for weeks. He wanted to talk about the results of the Disengagement Plan and his vacation. I wanted him to leave me alone. It was enough - the people's homes had been destroyed - they were homeless. I didn't want to talk to him. I had had enough of Tel Aviv and secular and left wing. I surrender to their inability to understand that what happens to me, happens to them and what happens to them really does happen to me.

"I watched it all on television," my friend began a discussion I had managed to avoid for weeks simply by not managing to get to the client's site. I had to go and I did and as he started the discussion I had been dreading, I silently pondered quitting the project rather than continue our connection, "and I cried," he said. It took me a second to understand what he had said. I had been crying for days, for weeks. He had cried too? He told me he was taking vacation to celebrate - he cried too?

It was in that moment that my world came back together just a bit. I told him I have nothing in common with a Jew who could watch the destruction of another's home and not cry. Years have passed; many of the people who were pulled out of Gaza still have no permanent home. Israel failed them; Sharon's government failed them and  in my mind, Tel Aviv failed them.

It's wrong to blame a whole city, but I have long felt that the division between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; right and left, secular and religious, is an incredible, almost insurmountable divide. It was nice to go to the wedding and though we still felt the divide, at least feel a bridge under our feet. There was understanding there - even a warm welcome and happiness we had come. We didn't feel judged; we didn't feel pitied. We were allowed to be what we were and we felt accepted, mostly anyway, perhaps even entirely. I was too busy enjoying conversations to really notice so perhaps that's the point.

They thought it adorable that my little grandson was dressed so sweetly and was so cute. He blessed the groom and the bride with his little hand on their head and his exuberant "Amen!" - and they smiled and loved it and loved him so maybe that divide is more in our minds than in our hearts; more in some back part of our head than on the ground at our feet?

I loved seeing my niece marry her husband. I loved seeing the smile on his face - he was so enjoying himself last night. There was no uncertainty, no nerves of a groom taking a huge step. There was only joy on both sides.

So, it's Friday morning and as I begin to cook in my sleeping home, I'm going to smile about that wedding and wonder if the great divide that exists in Israel isn't quite as big as I sometimes think it is. The great joke last night - on both sides, was Obama. We blamed him for the traffic. We blamed him for the red lights. We blamed him for a fork dropping on the floor - all in all, it was fun.

Obama leaves Israel today. I sincerely doubt he is any wiser for having come. But one of the things I love about Israel and being religious is that no matter what happens; no matter who comes to Israel - Friday morning arrives and with it the promise of the Sabbath to come.

So - shabbat shalom - may it come in peace and safety and may the rockets of Hamas be silenced again. They made their point this week - it was a point none of us ever doubted. They can fire what they want, when they want - and the Obama's of the world will say, oh, very Israel, as we were saying...overall, I don't know if Israel made our point. I don't know what Bibi said behind closed doors. I know that too many fawned over Obama and treated him like the great king gracing us with his presence. The university students didn't bother to stand with their brothers from Ariel University - Tel Aviv versus Jerusalem was there, as was the divide.

Shabbat is our wonderful chance to say to the world - sorry, we're busy. Call us on Sunday and we'll get right on that...or maybe not.

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Obama Miscalculations Cost Time, Money, Lives

I think if there is a word that can describe Obama's visit, almost 24 hours after it has started, it would be miscalculation. Obama miscalculated how much his slighting Ariel University would bother Israelis - even...even the left-leaning Labor Party Knesset members have condemned Obama's saying he will not welcome Israeli students from one university simply because of where it is located. Conveniently, he ignores the fact that thousands of Arab students attend Ariel University.

He miscalculated when it was announced that Obama would not speak AT our Knesset - an honor to have been given the invitation; a slap in the face to reject it.

They miscalculated when they put diesel fuel in the engine of one of those fancy Cadillac armored vehicles yesterday, forcing the car to be towed up to Jerusalem.

As for lives - gratefully, I can say so far that I have exaggerated. As of now, as far as I know, no one has died as a result of the Obama visit. Of course, he has not yet publicly announced what he wants Israel to do, give up, etc. The ramifications of his visit will indeed live on long after he leaves. Just cleaning up the mess from the rockets that were fired at us this morning will take weeks - but thankfully, with the grace of God alone, no one was hurt, though a home was damaged.

So in that too, Obama miscalculated, again, in thinking that his visit would herald the start of a new peace process. This morning, five rockets were fired at Israeli cities - thanks Obama, and welcome to Israel...and when are you leaving?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Meaning of Freedom

It's an interesting time in Israel now. The Passover holiday is days away. It's a holiday that I mostly dread because it comes with immeasurable work and only spare moments to enjoy - at least for me and for many women who are still fulfilling the more traditional roles of caring for home and food and such. No matter how much help I get in the house, it seems I am still the planner, the coordinator, the ultimate one responsible for seeing, checking, and often doing what it takes to bring the holiday in.

I have come to dread it - from the start to the end and have yet to learn how to enjoy the more important aspects. There is an amazing rabbi who was asked how long it should take to clean for Passover. I remember more the principle of what he answered than the clear numbers he cited. It was something like a day or two, perhaps three. The person then went and asked his wife how long it takes her to prepare and she answered, three weeks, just like everyone else. Perhaps it was four.

Passover is often lost in the details and it is a shame. The details are cleaning your home - your office, your car, etc. - but sadly, too many turn it into Spring cleaning and so you see the neighborhood, in fact the country, alive with those who are painting their apartments, fixing railings outside, buying new furniture and appliances. None of that is really connected to the holiday and yet my windows are dirty from the long winter and I want them cleaned.

Already, my arms are starting to hurt - the deep inside pain I get when I strain them. I've carted out garbage, washed cabinets, sorted through drawers and more. This year seems especially tense and stifling. We crave freedom - and yet we are being smothered from the holiday on one end and Obama's visit on the other. I need to travel to the center later this afternoon - how will Obama's arrival impact on that? One major highway will be closed for some time - the second, to which traffic will be diverted, is a road that was built to by-pass Arab villages and protect Israelis as they drive to Jerusalem. It is called Route 443. People have been murdered on that road - shot at point blank range. Regularly there are stoning attacks. The army promises to put more surveillance on the road, more jeeps and soldiers.

I travel that road regularly - often out of the Israeli principle of dafka. Dafka is an amazing Israeli word that defies translation. I learned it decades ago, long before I lived here. I remember way back in college, freshman English course at Barnard College. We were having an intellectual discussion and I disagreed with the previous person. It was a free-flowing, open conversation among the entire class, with the teacher (the only male in the room) looking on proudly.

"Dafka the opposite," I said and began to explain. A few, very few, looked confused and so the Jewish professor smiled and said, "explain 'dafka', Paula."

I tried..Dafka means...on purpose...dafka means...intentionally so....deliberately so...but it has a twinge of insolence, resistance. If you tell a child to stand over there, they will dafka sit down. Defiance, pride, intention. I can't explain dafka but it is the dafka principle that has me driving on 443, even when they throw stones there. I will not let them keep me from my country.

So Obama will come to Israel today and Israelis will be diverted to a road on which there are often more stoning attacks and likely there will be more because the Arabs too want to deliver a message to Obama. I doubt Obama will know that yesterday in Ramallah, they were driving cars over pictures of his face, burning American flags, and painting big red X's over his nose.

Meanwhile, Obama seems to be the only one truly free here. He has freely chosen to insult Israel by deciding that students from one university will not be invited to his meeting with university students. Ariel University is located over what Obama calls the "green line" - how convenient it is for him to ignore the fact that Ariel, like  ALL universities in Israel, admit hundreds, even thousands of Arab students and provide them with access to educational degrees widely honored and respected. The last I heard, three of Israel's five universities are in the top 100 in the world. This is the education we make available to Jew and Arab alike - but Obama will insult us be showing his selective prejudice.

We are a democracy - the only real democracy in the Middle East. We have no king, no dictator who can dissolve our Knesset, our parliament, at a moment's notice and a whim. And yet, again, Obama will insult us by ignoring an invitation to speak before the 120 members of our elected government. He has chosen, instead, to speak in the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

Obama comes here, free to deliver his insults, and we cower before his entourage.

We left Egypt to be a free people. This is the lesson of Passover. Freedom is not just a concept to us; it is the foundation of our lives, celebrated as a part of what we must be. In the hell of Europe and the darkest days of persecution, we remembered that God took us out of Egypt and made us free. Others have tried to take our freedom away but we have fought long and hard to reclaim it.

Our greatest lesson that came out of the ovens and ghettos of Europe, out of the prisons of Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Russia, is that we will determine our future, our present, our reality. We hold the keys to any prison in which we put ourselves; we alone can redeem our captives.

Obama's visit remains a symbol that there are among us Jews who still carry the ghetto mentality inside. Those students who go to hear Obama speak, after he has announced that he will separate from among us - good Jew and bad to the left and you to the right...they are announcing that this same ghetto mentality has been transferred to their generation. It is a sad and depressing thought.

Those who go to hear him speak - marvel in the streets that the great man from America has deigned to visit while ignoring that he continues to hold Jonathan Pollard prisoner, that he comes to dictate to us if or when we will have his permission to act against Iran or Syria - all these come from our history in the ghetto.

The meaning of freedom will come to Israel next week when we sit down to the seder on the first night of Passover.
This is the plain, poor bread that our parents ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, come eat with us. Whoever needs a place to say, come make Passover with us. This year we are here - next year may we be in the land of Israel. This year we are not free - next year, may be we be free to serve our God in freedom.
We used to be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but  our God reached out His strong arm and took us out from there. If God had not saved us from Egypt, all of us - even our children and grandchildren - would still be slaves to Pharaoh.  
And finally, as we come close to the end of the seder, we will stand and hold up our cups of wine. We will open the front door and invite Elijah the Prophet to visit our home and we will believe...and as we do, we will recite these words to a God who protects us from evil, even the evil that comes from friends.
God, pour our your anger on the nations that do not want to know You and on the kingdoms that do not pray to You. For they tried to destroy Yaakov and desecrated your holy places. Pour out your anger on them and let Your burning anger catch them. Chase them with rage and destroy them from under the heavens of God. 
I have no doubt we will survive the visit of Obama, a bit worse for the traffic he will cause and a bit dirty for the insults he delivers during his staged visit. I do not know if we will ever be free of the ghetto. That, I think, is my greater fear.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

From A Soldier's Mother to a Martyr's Mother

Mariam Farhat died recently in Gaza. She had 10 children, six sons. Three of her sons died committing terrorist attacks for Hamas; one is in an Israeli prison. The night before her 17 year old son, Muhammed attacked a school and murdered 5 students, Mariam joined him in a pre-suicide video in which she wished him well on his journey to be a martyr. She was so proud of him. When she heard that her son had died, she handed out sweets and proudly proclaimed, "Allah Akbar" which translates to Allah is great in Arabic (and sounds awfully close to "Allah is a mouse" in Hebrew).

After Israel withdrew from Gaza, Mariam visited the village where her son had killed people and took a piece of the outer fencing to mount on her wall as a symbol of his life...I mean his death. Another son was killed while driving in a car with a rocket which exploded when an Israeli jet identified the target. Israeli lives were saved; Mariam had herself another martyr.

In case you haven't figured out how I feel about her, let me share some of her words:
"I protect my sons from defying Allah, or from choosing a path that would not please Allah. This is what I fear, when it comes to my sons. But as for sacrifice, Jihad for the sake of Allah, or performing the duty they were charged with - this makes me happy.
There is no difference. This is Islamic religious law. I don't invent anything. I follow Islamic religious law in this. A Muslim is very careful not to kill an innocent person, because he knows he would be destined to eternal Hell. So the issue is not at all simple. We rely on Islamic religious law when we say there is no prohibition on killing these people. The word 'peace' does not mean the kind of peace we are experiencing. This peace is, in fact, surrender and a shameful disgrace. Peace means the liberation of all of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. When this is accomplished - if they want peace, we will be ready. They may live under the banner of the Islamic state. That is the future of Palestine that we are striving towards.
And is an interview with Mariam - in her words

She died in a hospital of health complications at the age of 64 - lung ailments and kidney failure.

There is something incomprehensible to me in this story; something that makes me wonder if I have anything in common with this woman. I am a mother of three sons. I have watched two grow and marry and my greatest fear for them would be the very thing this woman wished on her sons. She wished them to die - yeah, sure - as a martyr...whatever the heck that is.

Muhammed was 17 years old. She encouraged him to die - her greatest fear was not his death, but that he waste the opportunity of not dying as part of an act to murder others.

As a writer, I am forever trying to adhere to the laws of grammar and to use (and sometimes abuse) them for the good of a post, article, or manual I write. And here, I add a paragraph and laugh at myself. I don't even want to mention my son David in the same paragraph as Muhammed. Davidi was raised with love - not just to receive it, but also to give it. He was taught that he is part of a community and so he volunteers with a local youth group and with the local ambulance squad.

Davidi, my precious Davidi is 17 years old. He's tall; he's so beautiful - and he goes out all the time, not waiting for a chance to attack, as Muhammed was taught from the time he was 7 years old. Instead, Davidi goes out with ambulances, trying to save lives...and in truth, the lives he saves are sometimes Jewish lives and sometimes Arab lives and this woman dared to call herself a mother?

I thought to write a message to this Mariam but in the end, the truth is that she turns my stomach. I cannot call her a mother because she thinks being a mother means only the act of giving birth. There is so much more to being a mother than that. If you are blessed, as I was, your births are not too difficult and you move on - on with that baby that wants to learn so much. What you teach them is what counts so much more than the physical act of having them leave your body.

My grandson's latest "trick" - is to hold a prayer book and move back and forth as he has seen his father do. He pretends he is reading; he even moves his lips. And now, he combines this praying with the act of giving another a blessing, as his father and mother give him each week.

So where before he put his hand on my head and said, quite exuberantly, "AMEN!" - now he puts his hand on my head, looks down at the prayer book and mumbles to himself. This is what parents should teach their children - to pray and  bless others, to volunteer and help others.

No parent should encourage their child to blow himself up, to raise a gun towards innocent people and open fire. There is no honor in the deaths of three of Mariam's children and as I think about her, I realize I have no words for her, no message for her. She wasted her life and those of her children on death and violence and hatred. She is nothing.

Instead, my message is to the world, to Obama who comes this week to Israel - this woman, this mother of martyrs, is a symbol of what we face every day. You cannot make peace with a woman, anxious, to sacrifice her sons (and daughters). You cannot compromise and hope for better days - all you can hope for is that her people realize there is nothing to be gained by raising sons to hatred.

Peace will come, when the Mariam's of the world are silenced, buried, erased from the culture and society that raised them.

Yes, I am a soldier's mother - perhaps that is the difference. We beg our soldiers to be careful, to value life. We teach them to do all they can to avoid hurting those who are innocent; to protect against those who would murder. A martyr is taught to kill; a soldier is taught to protect.

A martyr is taught that the value of life after death is equal to 72 virgins; a soldier is taught to honor and fight for his family, his people, his country. A martyr is praised for dying; a soldier rewarded for living.

Mariam wanted her sons to die - a glorious Jihad death taking as many innocent lives as possible with him. If there is one thing Mariam was not - it is a mother. She may have birthed children, but to be blunt, cows, horses, even pigs manage that feat. It is what you do after that determines your value as a mother. Mariam had none.

May God avenge the blood that Mariam's sons spilled in hatred.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

When you need a face....

Sometimes, victims are nameless, faceless numbers. Not really in Israel, actually. We work very hard to give each person a face, each victim a moment of recognition.

Isn't this a little cutie? Her name is Adele and she's almost three years old. Last week, her mother was driving. Adele and her two sisters were in the car when Arabs stoned the car. Her mother lost control of the car and slammed into the back of a truck that had also been hit by stones.

Adele's mother is in critical condition; her sisters in moderate condition; and Adele is in extremely critical condition, fighting for her life.

Adele is more than just a victim; she's a beautiful little girl who needs your prayers.

May God bless Adele bat Adva (Adele, daughter of Adva), with a complete recovery. All over Israel, all over the world, we are praying for her because we can't let her be nameless, faceless.

And the next time someone dismisses Arab stone throwing mobs, please think of Adele who is fighting for her life...and of Yehuda Shoham (5 months old)...and little Yonatan Palmer (1 year old), both of whom were murdered  by Arabs who threw stones at their cars.

Redeeming Captives

There is, to the outside world, something a bit incomprehensible about Jews. Most of the world cannot grasp what idiocy would bring Israel to exchange 1,000 prisoners (and yes, among them hundreds of terrorists and murderers) for the life of one person, a young soldier of no worth in terms of security or military knowledge. The sum value of Gilad Shalit's life was simply that he was one of ours.

By contrast, here in Israel, though we knew it was a stupid and dangerous exchange, it was never something incomprehensible. Rather, it was completely understood, if not something logical. This is what we were commanded to do, above sanity at time, certainly coming within inches of danger to ourselves. We are not supposed to cross the line of endangering ourselves, but even that line blurs as the desperation to bring out own home grows.

We brought Gilad home - others may well die as a result. Perhaps even this past week, as a young child is in very critical condition because the car in which she was riding was stoned. No one regrets for a moment that Gilad is finally home, finally free. We celebrate each victory he claims on his journey to live his life and take back what was stolen from him. I don't know if what we did was right, but it was good, and it was needed.

And we as a people continue, as we did with Gilad, always aware that there are others out there still held in captivity. Once it was millions - Russian Jews not allowed to emigrate. We protested, we demonstrated, we demanded, we bargained...until the doors of the former Soviet Union opened and more than a million came out. They are part of Israel now and everywhere mixed in with Hebrew, you hear Russian...or at least Russian accented Hebrew and we know that what we did was good, right, needed.

And there were Jews in Ethiopia and Yemen - and we flew planes to bring them home. Jews in Iran that still need to be brought home, though very few. Jews in Syria who have been smuggled in and even Jews from France, who are coming home. And we know that all our efforts are good and right and needed.

And there is a Jew in the United States. Yes, there is. He is a captive and an unfair one. The price he is paying is not for the crime he committed. There was a price to be paid - and he paid it, but he was betrayed by those with whom he made an agreement. It is to their shame that Jonathan Pollard is still in jail, not his. He has done his time and amazingly enough, the vast majority who condemn him - don't actually know what he was convicted of doing.

You can't imprison someone for what you think they did, not even for what you know he did. If you respect American law, than you must accept that Jonathan Pollard was sentenced for committing a crime that, on average, results in a sentence of 3-5 years. He has served more than 28 years.

President Obama wants to come to Israel this week and as recent poll showed 79% of Israelis want to see Obama get off the plane with Pollard. There are few things on which you can get 79% of Israelis to agree and given that approximately 20% of the population is Arab and would presumably not be in favor of Pollard being released, that amounts to an almost complete agreement.

The overwhelming feeling among those I know is very simple. There is really nothing to be gained by Obama's visit. It will be a nightmare of traffic and delays for Israelis a critical week before the Passover holidays. Many of our relatives are flying in or out of the country - honestly, who needs this?

If...IF he were bringing Pollard home, we would greet him with the respect due the President of the United States, even though personally we know he is far from a friend of Israel. We will listen to the nonsense and unfair position he will spout, how WE should do this and WE should do that. We would ignore his pressuring us and ignoring endless violence by the Palestinians.

But worse, this week is likely to see an increase in violence - the Palestinians are often most dangerous when they want to get their message across. Last  week, they stoned a car traveling on a highway - a mother was critically injured, her three daughters hurts as well. The baby was labeled as "matsav anush" - a term that usually means mortally wounded, not expected to live. Some return from matsav anush, most do not.\

What will this week see? Certainly a nightmare of traffic throughout parts of Israel; perhaps rockets, almost certainly more stoning attacks. Yesterday a soldier was injured by many more?

So Obama - again, I ask you - please, please don't come to Israel if all you come for is to pressure us to do your will and ignore our nation's needs, our safety. Enough. Seriously - send us an email if you feel you have to but unless you are bringing Jonathan Pollard on your plane - don't come.

And know that the commandment to redeem captives is one of the most important. We will do all we can to bring Jonathan Pollard home. No, he is not innocent of wrong-doing. No one ever said that. But he has served his time - and another 4 times as much as he should have served. Longer than those who commit murder in your country, longer than those who transfer military secrets to your enemies. Longer than rapists. Enough. Justice prolonged too long fast becomes injustice.

Bring Jonathan Pollard home...or else, honestly, we have better things to do the week before Pesach than listen to you.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When Language Fails

Languages are a gift. I have always said that. There are those who move across the world to a land where English is not the mother tongue and then raise their children happily in that other language...until the children grow and then struggle in school to learn the language that could have been given to them. I've always thought that to be a shame.

On one of my earliest visits to Israel, I visited with a family - the wife was from the States; the father was from South Africa. And all around me, as I played with their younger children as the older ones struggled with their English assignments. I wasn't married at the time, but even then, I understood that it didn't have to be that way; that those parents could have given their children the gift of a language.

My children are all bi-lingual - yes, to varying degrees. The younger ones, especially, are more likely to be missing an English word; they all have little exposure to American culture (something that doesn't bother me in the least). No, they haven't seen all the Disney movies and I'm not sure how many of them know who or what Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was.

When faced with raising bi-lingual children, there are many recommendations. Some say to speak your native language at home (English) and let school, friends and society teach them Hebrew. I have friends who are adamant that their children speak English at home. That's not me. When Shmulik was very young, at first he was slow to grasp the Hebrew and I worried. As soon as he became comfortable in Hebrew, it was the language of his brain, the language he preferred. He would speak to me in Hebrew and I would respond in English.

My husband told me that I should force Shmulik to speak in English during our conversations, and I tried...once. "Never mind," Shmulik answered as he walked away.

Never mind?

No, I told my husband. Just no. I was not going to shut down communication with my son over language.

Today, Shmulik speaks English with us in the house but like all my children - between themselves, they converse, they discuss, they fight and they argue - all in Hebrew. And truth be told, I love it.

When you've been in a country for almost 20 years, your native language doesn't always feel so native. Last week, I was lecturing in class when I said something. I didn't need the way others were looking at me to realize I had said something strange.

"On the space...on the space...." I said again, "you know, al hamakom, how do you say that in English?"

"On the spot," they answered - almost everyone...ah yes....on the spot.

Yesterday, one of the students (thanks, Ezra) sent me this hysterical sign - it points to the path for handicapped people - where there will be ramps rather than stairs. Israel, despite being an ancient country, is in the forefront of handicapped accessibility. With so many who have been wounded and disabled by war and terrorists, we have tried hard to raise the quality of life of all those who need this assistance. By law, all new government and public buildings must be built with ramps and railings - whatever is needed.

So, the sign should have said something like "Handicapped Access" or something...the Hebrew says "Handicapped Path" the English, however, seems to have failed...

Dear Frederick Cohn

Fredrick Cohn is in a very difficult position. He's defending Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, who’s accused of lying about trying to join jihadists in Pakistan. In a country that is still, over a decade later, reeling from 9/11, that's not going to go over well. So, Mr. Cohn has come up with a unique, though quite offensive solution.

He wants to make sure there are no Jews on the jury. As reported by both the New York Post and then Algemeiner, Mr. Frederick Cohn had the nerve to stand up in court and say the following:
Given that there’s going to be inflammatory testimony about Jews and Zionism, I think it would be hard for Jews to cast aside any innate antipathy...The American Jewish community is heavily aligned with Israel and Zionism. Here is a guy who is a Muslim, who is opposed to those things...Your Honor . . . as you know, I’m not wild about having Jews on the jury in this case.
The fact that this violates the US Constitution doesn't seem to bother Freddie.

The fact that he himself is Jewish doesn't bother him either.

Smart move on the part of Abdel Hameed Shehadeh in hiring a Jewish lawyer - only a Jew would have the nerve to make such an outrageous request.

Personally, I once had the hope that separating people on the basis of their religion had gone out with the Nazis. But of course, this is what the terrorists did at Entebbe in 1976, when they separated the Jewish and Israeli passengers aboard a hijacked Air France plane.

I know the world screams when Israel even attempts to profile based on religion and/or appearance. So, if I understand this correctly, according to the world of Fredrick Cohn, it's illegal to profile by religion to stop someone who might be planning on blowing up a plane or murdering people, but it is legal to profile Jews to let get his client off for trying to join a terrorist organization to commit Jihad....yeah, that makes sense...

The judge's name, by the way, is Robert Levy. Extrapolating without any proof, it seems really quite funny that the lawyer is Cohn (similar and probably belonging to the priestly tribe of Cohanim) and the judge is a Levy (similar and probably belonging to the tribe of Levi).

Usually, those from the Cohanim "out-rank" those of the tribe of Levi - but I'm going to assume that the Levi in this case is not going to yield to the Cohn.

As for Mr. Fredrick Cohn...the only thing I can say is that while I understand you have to defend your client, that you might actually want to defend your client - you really are dumb.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Truth about Gaza and Hamas

Have you ever seen a video and thought to yourself, "oh God, thank you." Thank you, Colonel Richard Kemp for having the bravery to say the truth. You restore my faith that there really are brave men willing to stand up and speak. Thank you...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Obama's Timetable

Just before his visit to Israel, apparently the Obama administration has leaked that Obama is coming here not for a photo opportunity, but to seriously move the defunct peace talks forward. He wants, among other things, a timetable of when Israel plans to withdraw from Yehuda and Shomron, Judea and Samaria...the West Bank.

Mr. President, according to my math and some websites, Abraham was born 1,948 years after creation (yes, Israel was re-established in 1948 and doesn't that bring a smile to your face?). When he was 55 years old, Abraham was commanded to go to Canaan...modern day (and ancient) Israel. So, the first Jew to enter Israel was 2,003 years after put it in more familiar terms, 1758 BCE. So that makes our presence here in the land of Israel...oh, about 3,771 years, give or take a few (very few) when the Jews left for famine or whatever, and certainly, there have been Jews here continuously, for 2,000 years plus.

That is longer than any other nation alive today, certainly longer than any Arab/Palestinian/Muslim - or even Christian claim to this land. It is documented, substantiated, proven. It is in the ground, buried deep and rediscovered regularly by anyone who digs deep enough to find the history waiting to be uncovered.

But that isn't what you asked, was it? You asked about when we'd be leaving. I did some calculations, using common sense, the current political situation, my own knowledge and research, and figured out that we'll be pulling out of Yehuda and Shomron, the West Bank, etc. - about one week before never; two days after the end of the world.

We'll be here, Mr. President, long after you have turned to dust, your memory not even a breeze in the wind.

We'll be here, Mr. Obama, until the end of time. This is what God has promised and this is what we promise ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and theirs.

You want a timetable for when we'll withdraw - I've given it to you.

Now, let's talk about that other timetable - the one for peace in the Middle East. It will happen, Sir, when the Palestinians want it, and not before. When they learn to stop dancing in the streets when they succeed in murdering children and exploding buses. Peace will come when they have no desire to fire rockets at us and no interest in demanding one thousand Arabs at a value of the life of one Jew.

In other words, Mr. Obama - not in your lifetime, sorry.

So, really, if that's why you are coming to Israel - perhaps you can save the gas, save the time. Unless, of course, you are bringing Jonathan Pollard home which is, as our Prime Minister said recently, long past due.

Assuming you still plan on coming, if I were you, I'd go back to Plan B and begin working on what pictures you want.

Gotta Go, Cause if the Teacher Catches Me...

"Gotta go, cause if the teacher catches me, I'll be dead..."
- the words of a 13 year old girl calling from school.

I love how kids talk. I love what they believe. I'm getting a running commentary from Aliza, who has taken her cell phone to school (where she's not supposed to have it). She called me because she NEEDED to know whether Chaim came into our lives before her sister's wedding or after. Chaim, as many of you know, is our second adopted son. We adopted Yaakov as a lone soldier (actually even a bit before that). His parents and siblings were in the States and though he had relatives here who were wonderful and supportive, Elie brought him home and he became ours.

After several years, while he was in the last few months of the army, he told us his younger brother was coming to learn in Israel and asked if he could bring him to meet us.

"Before," I answered her. "He was at the wedding."

"What about Yaakov?"

"Before that - by a good two years. He brought us Chaim." When we met Chaim, we told him that if he was Yaakov's brother and Yaakov was our son, that made him ours as well. So Yaakov remains ours as does Chaim. Their two sisters are in Israel now, one has come to live here and the other is learning here this year, and we've basically taken them in. Better even, is that we've now met both their parents. They are amazing people, who have raised four amazing children and I love how my children consider them brothers and how they consider my children as theirs as well. I can't explain the strength of the connection; it defies explanation - it just is.

So, of course, Aliza is including them in this surprise PowerPoint presentation and subtle, she is not.

"Are you going to have a party for your 30th wedding anniversary?" she asks. It's in October and I haven't really made plans. I think the timing will be wrong; other things will take's right around the holidays for one thing. Actually, the week after...who will have energy to organize a party? And do people really want to go to someone else's anniversary party? Maybe we'll do something with the family?

"I don't know," I answered.

"Well, you should. Then you can show this presentation. It's really cute. I put in how I asked if Amira was going to be my mother when she got married." She was 7 years old and didn't really understand this concept of marriage. She thought she was losing her sister and was trying desperately to figure out what she would have.

Amira was getting married; Elie was going into the army two weeks later. Overwhelming for a 7 year old. She went from having 4 siblings in the house to having 2 in less than a month. Six year's later - she   has three married siblings; her youngest brother is 17, away at school during the week and towers over all of us. She's an aunt, a doting one, who has taken more pictures of her nephew than anyone else. She is the master collector of pictures and videos.

She's my baby...and she's still really cute. And thankfully, she closed the phone and hid it back in her backpack so the teacher won't have to kill her.

Yeah, Country Music

Ever wondered what you'd say to a younger version of yourself once you've gained so much more knowledge, lived so many more years? It's an intriguing thought. I'm tempted to write a letter to myself at 17.

I got the idea from this song, Letter to Me, by Brad Paisley.

Some of the lyrics.... 
If I could write a letter to me
And send it back in time to myself at 17...
When you break up after seven monthsAnd yeah, I know you really liked her and it just don't seem fairBut all I can say is pain like that is fast and it's rareAnd oh, you got so much going for you, going right
But I know at 17 it's hard to see past Friday night
She wasn't right for you and still you feel like there's a knifeSticking out of your back and you're wondering if you'll surviveBut you'll make it through this and you'll see
You're still around to write this letter to me
Each and every time you have a fightJust assume you're wrong and Dad is rightAnd you should really thank Ms. Brinkley, she spends so much extra timeIt's like she sees the diamond underneath and she's polishing you 'till you shine
And oh, you got so much going for you, going right
But I know at 17 it's hard to see past Friday nightTonight's the bonfire rally but you're staying home insteadBecause if you fail algebra, Mom and Dad'll kill you dead
But trust me you'll squeak by and get a C
And you're still around to write this letter to meYou got so much up ahead, you'll make new friendsYou should see your kids and wife
And I'd end by saying have no fearThese are nowhere near the best years of your life...
If I could write a letter to me, to me
What would I write to myself? Amazingly enough, quite a bit of what is above...and more...

  • You're gonna make it to Israel...really.
  • Yes, you'll find the one and you'll marry him and be with him almost 30 years and counting
  • 3 or 4 children? You're gonna have's that for an idea?
  • You'll survive leaving your high school friends behind, even college friends.
  • You'll find that place - where you fit just right and wonder why you ever doubted it existed.
  • You're stronger than you can survive today and did.
What would you say to your 17-year-old self?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

God has a sense of humor....

It's true, you know. It really is. I believe He lives on a plain far above us all but more, He smiles down on us benevolently and every once in a while, quietly, He plays a bit of mischief on the world, wondering if perhaps they'll see the irony...they rarely do. There are so many instances of this irony, so many chances God gives us to see that there should be so much more meaning to things than the superficial way in which we interpret events.

Today's news strikes me as one of those times when God is testing us, daring us to draw the lines between the dots. Most won't...and I know that God knows that too. But still, the dots are there...specks on the horizon...oh wait, perhaps those aren't specks at all...perhaps they are locusts?

In just under three weeks, Passover is coming. I won't talk about what I feel about Passover; perhaps later. It comes each year with a mixture of emotions and a ton of work...but today's news made me smile. No, I'm not happy about the suffering of others and I can imagine that having a swarm of locusts attack your fields and homes can be disgusting and depressing and more. I'm sorry for the Egyptians suffering this attack of locusts...I am...really. Officials in Egypt have released a statement that they estimate as much as 30 million locusts have swarmed over Egypt causing massive damage to crops.

They are hoping the weather will cooperate and bring winds to blow the locusts into Saudi Arabia. I'm sure the Saudis appreciate the generous offer and wishes of the Egyptians.

No, I don't smile for the suffering and devastation - that isn't my culture, my religion.

But yes, I do find myself quietly smiling for the irony that one of the ten plagues returns, weeks before Passover, seems to have returned. And I can't ignore the irony that it comes under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose anti-Israel stand is clear, as are the words they use to vilify the Jews. I can't help but remember the Egyptian President calling the Jews “the descendants of apes and pigs." Oh, and he called us "bloodsuckers" too.

No, I'm not laughing...but come on, locusts? Egypt? Passover?

There has to be a message in there so clear perhaps even the Egyptians will see the irony this time.

No, just kidding. The Egyptians won't see it...but God knows, I do.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Running for Their Lives

A few months ago, not even three, people in and around Jerusalem were running for their lives. A siren had broken the moments before the Sabbath came in late on a Friday afternoon. A air-raid siren...going up and going down...not planned. Incoming missile. It's going to take me a long time, perhaps a lifetime to forget those choking minutes of terror as we moved into the bomb shelter, my mind consumed with who wasn't with us. Aliza, my baby, was outside somewhere. Yes, at 12 years old, she was still my baby. My grandson, not even 2, was outside somewhere. Yes, he was with his father, but that knowledge did nothing to calm the terror my daughter was feeling. Shmulik and Naama - probably downstairs...probably safe. Lauren, Elie's wife...she was in their apartment fighting back her own feelings as she searched for things Elie would need. He'd just been called to the army, potentially to war.

Today, people are running in Jerusalem again, but this time - it's for a marathon and it isn't all of Jerusalem - but 20,000 people! I went to the local supermarket to buy a few things and as I always do, I had the radio turned to the news channel. They were talking about the traffic nightmare that was already being caused by the closed streets as the marathon was just getting started.

"It isn't fun being a Jerusalemite this morning," said one newscaster, as the second continued to report on closed roads.

And then the second mentioned that there were 20,000 runners.

"Not a small marathon," responded the first.

And then, the most amazing response of all, "Jerusalem," answered the second.

Jerusalem. I wish words could easily show tone, expression. In that one word, so much was said. Of course there are so many, of course it is a large marathon - we are talking about Jerusalem.

I can hear him saying the word over and over again, in love, in awe - Jerusalem.

Shabbat shalom - may it come in peace to us all.

Something I've Been Wondering Myself...

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