Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Five more orphans....

This morning, I had to go to work in Herziliya at a client's site. About 10 days ago, I fell and hurt my arm. Mobility is a bit limited (and yes, I need to make an appointment for an ultrasound and I need to make an appointment to do physical therapy...) and so my wonderful children - Amira, Elie and Shmulik and my husband, have been driving me around. 

They've changed their schedules - Amira drove me to work, went to university, and then came back to pick me up. Elie has left earlier than he needs to or gone out of his way. He's taken me shopping twice - pushing the cart, loading the car. Shmulik took the day off today to drive me to and from the client - sitting at a side desk for several hours waiting for me to finish my meetings, discussions, etc. Yaakov and Chaim's sister - yeah, she deserves her name here too...so...Mera invited us to dinner on a Friday night, saving me from having to cook; Lauren (and Elie) cooked another Shabbat for me. Chaim called me - and in a voice that is only his, said, "PAULA...." - which is his way of reminding me that I need to make those appointments...

Words cannot express how much I love them all and how amazing they have been.

I wanted to write about this today...but like much of what happened in Israel today, our regular was interrupted by the bad. At this moment, there is a funeral happening in Israel. We are burying Evyatar Borowsky. I never met Evyatar and I never will.

This morning, as Shmulik drove me and we talked, the tone of the radio changed - a shooting attack was reported. A knife attack...shooting. The picture became clearer in the minutes that followed. Evyatar was attacked by an Arab - stabbed repeatedly and his gun was grabbed by his assailant. The Arab shot Evyatar, mortally wounding him and then opened fire on border guards who were nearby.

The guards quickly opened fire, wounding the attacker. An eyewitness, Yehuda Shimon, gave this account to Arutz Sheva:
I was coming from the direction of my house, and I saw an Arab man break away from a group of Arab men standing south of the junction. He came toward the hitchhiking post and jumped on one of the people there, pressed against him, and was pushed back. 
At that point I didn’t see what exactly was going on. I stopped my car. A few seconds later the Arab man started to go back to the point he came from, while shooting at an IDF position nearby. Soldiers shot back at him. I got out of my car and the woman who was getting a ride with me crouched down beside the car, because we couldn’t tell if he was shooting at us or at the IDF post. I started to give first aid to the injured man. I turned him on his back, lifted his shirt, which was drenched in blood. I saw stab wounds and I tried to stop the blood until paramedics got there. 
When the paramedics got there I left the wounded man. Police arrived, too, and I pointed them in the direction the terrorist had gone. Apparently the terrorist had been hit by the shots fired at him, he had fallen in the middle of the road with his gun about a meter away. He was still moving. I went back to the wounded [Israeli] man and the paramedic told me he had died. I said the ‘Shema Yisrael’ and closed his eyes, and then the soldiers started arriving.
Shema Yisrael - is the final prayer, final declaration a Jew says before dying. Evyatar was 31 years old. He was training to be a medical clown - one of a number of amazing people who go from hospital to hospital making patients smile and laugh. Evyatar was the father of five children - the oldest is only 7 years old.

Al Aksa group - which calls itself the military wing of Fatah, has already taken responsibility. Fatah is the peace partner that Obama tells us we must acknowledge.

As the sun sets here in Israel tonight, there are several communities in mourning but most of all, there is a young widow with five children who have just lost their father. The terrorist was evacuated to an Israeli hospital where doctors will work to save his life...it doesn't seem fair.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What can happen on a school trip?

Aliza had a school trip these past two days. It's an Israeli thing - something I have always loved. They...we...take our children to the land; to see the amazing places, sites, views. This year, they took them on an overnight trip to Haifa. She came back dirty, exhausted, starving. She showed me the pictures she took - the coast of Haifa and the mountains, the flowers...

The first thing she wanted - after food - was to show me the pictures. She was so excited. She and her friends posed for each other - and, "I can totally see you in me," she said.

It's strange to hear a child say that - that she can see me in the pictures of her. Listening, not just to what she said, but the order in which she said them, convinced me yet again that the mind of a 13 year old is a most amazing thing.

She started with what was special to her - but, as you'll see - pretty much the opposite of how a parent would rank the events of the trip. To her, it was about what she saw, what she did. To me, it became more of a national identity, more of an example of the politics that can affect our lives in the strangest of ways.

Yesterday, I had a normal business day - telephone calls from/with clients, two potential new projects, firming up plans to speak at a conference in England in June (wow...okay, that's not normal for me), two meetings, and then shopping.

Somewhere late in the day, I heard about the drone from Lebanon being shot down. It was all background noise. Shabbat is coming and I'm making the unusual dairy Shabbat - a completely different menu than usual. I needed to buy several things and a part of my brain was focused on making the list.

Aliza came home well into the night, anxious to talk, to tell me about the last two days of her life. Her trip unfolded before me in a combination of complaint and wonder. She enjoyed the beach; hated where they slept. She liked the flowers; hated the food. She slept in a tent and she was FREEZING. And the food, back to the food.

"It was disgusting. There were ants in the bread," she told me.

To which, her 17 year old brother responded, "That's good, we had cockroaches." (...which I sincerely hope is not true).

She began by telling me that the girls were given the choice of two hikes - either the "easy" one or the "hard" one. Those that took the hard one were rewarded with ices. Those that took the easy one, got to enjoy time on the beach. Aliza chose the beach (if you have time, see A Candle and a Wave).

And as she was talking, it hit - hours ago. Mid-afternoon, she was on the beach. Near Haifa...where the Israeli air force shot down a drone that they believe was launched from Lebanon, probably intending to spy on Israel or, perhaps, worse.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's helicopter was flying north when the drone was identified. The first thing the air force did as it scrambled jets to intercept the drone was to order the prime minister's helicopter out of the skies above Israel.

And while they were doing this - my daughter was not far. It clicked as she was talking about the beach - and when it was happening, in those moments when the Israel jets were flying and my daughter was there below...I had no clue, no warning, nothing.

Her mind had moved on to the next part of her trip...mine tripped behind. "Did you hear planes?" I asked her.

"Yes," she replied.

"Did you hear a boom?" I asked her.

"No," she answered.

She went back to the story of the beach, how clean and beautiful it was, how nice the water felt. She was amazed by the number of shells she found on the shore and complained that they were told that the shells were part of nature and protected.

They could take rocks and pieces of broken glass that had been smoothed over time by the sand, but they could not take any shells.

She sat on thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of shells as her friends took a picture and she told me about the magnificent view from the upper hills of Haifa.

And she told me about how she walked across a bridge and how it was so scary - another picture there as well.

And then, she told me about how an Arab driver had thrown rocks at the girls and how one was hit - or her friend said she was hit. And how the girl was crying on the phone when she spoke to her parents.

"Where was your guard?" I asked her - trying to get the story without showing her that I was getting more and more upset.

"He wasn't a guard," she answered, "he was a madrich (counselor)" - which is fine - he was armed. On with the story, my heart begged her.

"He was in the back."

"What good does it do if he was only in the back?" I asked her. Dumb, I thought to myself - WHY am I asking a 13-year-old where the guard should be?

"There were two of them but only the one in the back had a gun, but they stopped the driver and they were talking to him."

"Why didn't they call the police?" I asked her. I have to tell you, getting the story from a 13 year old can be very frustrating.

From what I gather - the guards detained the Arab who had thrown the rocks but while they waited for the police, the driver left. The guards didn't pull their guns and threaten - but then again, they were surrounded by about 60 young girls who kept coming over to their crying friend to ask if she was okay. So, all in all, their not pulling out their guns was probably a good thing. There's no way of knowing what the Arab had done and it probably ended for the best. Though scared, Aliza's classmate was not hurt - and yes, what about the next time? I don't have an answer for that one.

The police did come and speak to the girls - no idea how the story ended other than that everyone is fine; Aliza is home safe, tired, dirty (taking a shower now) and looking forward to a LONG night of sleep.

It's a funny thing to send your child on a school trip - what can happen right? You worry about them being cold or hungry. You worry about them not sleeping enough or perhaps falling during the hiking. Scrambled air force jets shooting down a drone; an Arab attacking them with rocks...

Well, on the bright side, Shabbat is coming...

Happy Birthday, little Adelle

Today is the third birthday of little Adelle Biton - she was critically wounded in a rock attack several weeks ago and her family will celebrate this day in the hospital with her - praying for her recovery. Adelle is still unconscious, still on a respirator.

What should have been a happy, exciting day celebrated in nursery school turns into a day of tears. May God grant her a full and speedy recovery and may she be the last Israeli child hurt by the rocks and missiles of hatred thrown/launched by Arabs who seek our destruction.

Please say a prayer for Adelle and her family - think good thoughts for her recovery. I look into her eyes in this picture and think of how little she is, how beautiful. These are our babies, the children of Israel - we cherish them, we love them and we teach them to choose life. We are all praying that Adelle will be given life - a long one, a happy one.

Dear God, please return Adelle to her family - healthy, whole, and with sparkling eyes that once again light up the hearts and souls of all who see her.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Allahu Akbar or Kol HaKavod

I debated what to call this one - my first thought was "A Mother's Words?" but in the end, I prefer this title - Allahu Akbar or Kol HaKavod...

Two brothers have been accused of planting the bombs that went off during the Boston marathon, resulting in the deaths of four innocent people, including one child, and injuring over 200.

The mother of the two brothers is Zubeidat Tsarnaeva. In this interview, she speaks of her sons Tamerlan and Tzhokhar Tsarnaevso to CNN.
“If they are going to kill him. I don’t care. My oldest son has been killed, and I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest son is going to be killed today. I want the world to hear this. And, I don’t care if I am going to get killed too. Okay? And I will say Allahu Akbar! That's what I'm going to say!“  -- Zubeidat Tsarnaeva 
The surviving brother, all of 19 years old, has said the actions they took were to defend Islam. His words, combined with his mother's words make it clear what the motive was. It is, once again, a message from a culture that cares more for martyrdom than life. I watched this video, wondering if maybe it is a hoax. CNN wasn't particularly reliable when reporting about the Boston marathon manhunt...maybe, maybe this is just another case of bad reporting?

Why would a woman, days after losing one son, say she doesn't even care about losing a second son also? I cannot, for the life of me, understand this woman. There is a line from an article I once wrote that goes through my head again and again, "Such anger they must have, such hatred."

This morning, driving in, Amira was talking about a class she is taking in university and the various discussions they have about violence and terror. Some of her classmates and her oh-so-left-leaning-professor expressed satisfaction that so many Arabs are refraining from committing violent acts (well, not counting the rock-throwing and fire-bombing, of course).

"No one ever told me 'Kol HaKavod' for not killing anyone," my beautiful daughter said to me and I smiled. Kol HaKavod's direct translation is "All of the honor" - these words indicate high praise in Israel - good work, you did the right thing, good for you. When a younger child makes a mess and an older child cleans it up, you tell him, "Kol HaKavod." You didn't have to, and despite that, you did - good for you.

When Davidi spent his entire winter vacation studying and taking the course to ride on the intensive care ambulance - I told him, "Kol HaKavod," - I'm proud of you.

I can't get past the thought that this idiot woman thinks saying "Allahu Akbar" is her Kol HaKavod. Your sons MURDERED four people...people who were loved. Families devastated. There's a woman who spends every day in the same hospital as Zubeidat's son - only this woman visits with her two boys - both have lost a leg because of her sons' actions.

If you praise your god for actions that lead to the deaths of innocents, to the permanent maiming of dozens - there is truly something wrong with your "god."

May God watch over the people of Boston and those injured. May He grant them health and love and justice. For Zubeidat and her sons, I pray that God grants them a just sentence - in this world and in the next.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Boston Terror Suspect Taken to Israel

Well, not Israel, exactly - but to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where an Israeli doctor and the director of the hospital, Dr. Ilan Tabb and his staff are responsible for doing all they can to save the life of a man accused of murdering four and injuring close to 200.
Unfortunately, I have had a lot of experience with these types of injuries after years of treating people injured in terror attacks in Israel. We have a few Israeli doctors in the emergency room, and the director of the ER is also Israeli. But most of the physicians at the hospital are not Israeli, and they functioned exceptionally well. 
It was very similar to what I was used to in Israel in that we had to admit many injured people in a short period of time," Professor Tabb said. "The fact that we are treating both the victims and the suspected terrorist also reminds me of similar situations in Israel. In Israel we had an injured soldier and a terrorist lying on adjacent beds. When an injured person is admitted to the ER, the doctor or nurse treats him without asking questions.
 Having met many Israeli doctors, I can tell you that I understand their training. I know that they are asked and expected to treat everyone evenly. I know that many doctors have been challenged with saving the life of someone who has maliciously taken the lives of others. More times than you can imagine, the terrorist is evacuated with the wounded - and in some cases, given priority in treatment because the doctors treat based on severity of wounds, not on nationality. All efforts will be made to disarm the terrorist - any and all force is acceptable...until the terrorist is disarmed, and then, in the eyes of the doctor, even the most horrible of human beings becomes a responsibility, an obligation.

There have been several really dumb comparisons made - especially one by John Kerry related to the Boston bombers. When I was reading about the Israeli doctors treating the terrorist, I remembered a passage I had once read about the Eichmann trial.

I wonder what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would say about his doctors being Israelis. I doubt he could possibly understand the humanity behind the actions of the Israeli doctors. Tsarnaev won't understand - as Eichmann did not. I found the passage I remembered...it was spoken during a discussion between then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and the Director of the Mossad Isser Harel. The conversation was recorded and classified, and only recently released.

In the discussion, people are asking Harel about the time right after Eichmann was captured. Eichmann came from a culture that believed in death, as apparently Tsarnaev did. Neither would expect decency from their enemies, from those they had perceived as weak. I find it fitting that Eichmann was fairly tried in Israel, convicted, and punished according to the law. If ind it fitting and just that Tsarnaev will live his life, knowing that it was Jews that saved his life.

Harel told Ben Gurion and others...
He doesn’t understand our behavior, he thought that we would beat him and treat him cruelly. We are treating him in keeping with the laws of the State of Israel, from the day the arrest order for him was issued and given to the Justice Ministry he is being treated according to the law.
When the anger burns within you, it is easier to lose sight of the law, of what is just and what is right. There is justice in Eichmann not being executed in Argentina; of his being brought back to Israel to see what we have built here and to know that it is by our law, by our justice that he was sentenced to death. For the record, Israel has only executed one person in all of its 65 years of independence. One man.

There will be justice for  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev because, like Israel, America will rise above the anger to do what is right, what is just. It is in the anger we overcome that we prove our humanity.

There are those who will wish Tsarnaev had died rather than been captured but death is glory to the Islam that Tsarnaev says he and his brother were defending. The glory comes from becoming a martyr and as he survived, that martyrdom will be denied to this brother at least.

He will rot in jail - no glory, no honor. That is justice, the ultimate and true punishment.

Days Like Today...

...are quiet and easy. I don't think I wrote this before...but I slipped and fell last week. Made me feel like a clutz! I deserved it, in a way - I was rushing because I couldn't find parking and so I gave in to the urge to just park in front of a carton recycling box (better than the way other people block someone else's car in, but still not completely legal). It was 6:45 p.m. and the yarn store was closing.

I'm making Davidi a blanket and running out of the gorgeous blue color I need and slip...boom. I fell on my hip (yeah, me - I didn't break it or even hurt it very much) and on my elbow...ouch. My elbow is fine - actually, all of me is fine, but my left arm (and yes, I'm left-handed) hurts and I have limited mobility - even a few days later.

What was amazing was my family. Amira and Lauren offered (and did) cook things for the weekend; Elie took me shopping; Davidi helped me unload and unpack. Aliza did TONS of dishes. Shmulik came to visit and asked if I needed help and moved things around. In short - my babies took care of me!

My husband was wonderful...sweet and caring and I've been walking holding on to his arm because when I come to an incline or stairs, I have this clear picture of myself tumbling down. I'll get over it, but in the meantime, it's kind of fun to hold his arm!

Elie drove me to work yesterday; Lazer came later and picked me up and we went to a meeting and out to dinner. Today, Elie drove me in again and Lazer will take me home. I'm not really up to driving yet.

There are reports in the news that are scary - massacres continue in Syria; Iran is moving ever closer; Hezbollah is heavily armed with rockets and missiles that can reach most of Israel. It's enough to cripple you, if you think about it too hard or for too long.

But mostly, I want to tell you that the tree outside my office window is the most amazing shade of green (even through the dirty window that the building refuses to wash). Hundreds of new, tiny leaves are growing and all the leaves are still shiny and clean from recent rains.

Spring has come to Israel; the rainy season is in its last days. I love rain - I'm going to miss those wonderful, cold, wet days in the coming months as we enter our dry spring and summer months.

For now, Israel is awash with color - the flowers are everywhere - in the windows, in the gardens, sold on street corners, and in the front of my house again. The open fields have high grass growing wild. Soon, the grass will whither, as it does each year, and turn golden and yellow. It will break in the wind, leaving the ground ready again for next year's rain. A cycle that conquers time and man; a promise from the heavens to the ground. It is a rebirth we watch each year, marvel at its beauty and wait for it again and again.

Last week, we celebrated Israel's Independence Day - the Israeli flag still flies in so many places. The government buildings and many office buildings still have long runners of flags handing down their sides. Even many of the cars have the Israeli flags flying from the rear windows.

We've learned - you don't put the flag in the front window because invariably, you end up opening it for a second and as you travel 80 or so kilometers an hour - the flag goes flying. We see dozens of them on the roads as we drive past - they too will be picked up at some point, but for now, they often remain.

The little green car across the street has been there all day - with two blue and white flags in the back windows. The car in front of it had a flag as well. The building across the street had flats that stretch four stories high flanking the entrance to the building.

So, for this week, at least, Israel is green and blue and white and quiet. Quiet is good.Syria is on fire. Lebanon a threat we may have to deal with soon. Gaza burps missiles at us now and then, a reminder that they can start the next war anytime THEY want and we will once again be forced to respond.

For now, we let them belch out their little aggressions (yeah, it might not be a word...poetic license here). The children are finishing up school for the year; they can already smell summer vacation coming...just two months and a few days away.

We're good, we want to tell the world. We're fine. My city won a national award for education; so did all of Israel win an international award.

We're at peace with ourselves, if not our neighbors. Yeah, we have this problem and that but we're really okay. This group doesn't like that group; this one things the other one is misguided - but what the world fails to understand is that even if we don't like someone, how they raise their kids or follow their religion - we still have a love inside ourselves for them. They are a part of us...we know it and they know it and truthfully, when it comes to the outside, there is no we and them. We might slip and fall, but we'll help each other back up, we'll conquer the mountains, the missiles, and the moments where we think about what could happen if...

Days like today...remind me that life is good...it really, really is...and it reminds me that tomorrow will come...but only tomorrow, not today. Tomorrow, we can worry about all sorts of things...but not today...not today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What did you do the night before....

In the middle of the Cast Lead Operation (otherwise known as the Gaza War), I was approached by a "journalist" named Faisal who wanted to interview me. Now, I don't want to say that I automatically reject some requests and accept others. I've been interviewed by journalists from Korea, Ireland, Italy and the US. BBC, Fox, and once Al Jazeera asked but canceled at the last minute (it was on the day of the last bus bombing in Tel Aviv and they might have been concerned about giving that attack too much air time).

But something got me wondering and so I suggested Faisal "interview" me via email. It was, I quickly realized, a smart move. Some of the questions were so obviously stupid, I had to laugh, but one bothered me tremendously.

Faisal wrote: Before leaving to war zone, did u make farewell party for him? Did u spent all the night before he went?
A farewell party? What kind of a society do you come from?
There is no celebration for Israel in going to war. We've never handed out candies when our enemies die - as the Palestinians did on 9/11 and as they do regularly when there is a suicide bomb attack, so no, I never considered celebrating the fact that my son was going off to war. Elie was on another base before he was moved to the war zone and so we did not spend the evening together. The weekend before, we had all been together and, as always happens when Elie is home, I just relax and enjoy having him home. On Friday night, after lighting the Sabbath candles, I watched my husband bless his children. The last part of the blessing asks God to grant the child "peace." It's an especially important prayer you offer a son who is a soldier and I always feel very touched to watch my husband bless his son this way.
I posted the entire "interview" here - if you want a good laugh, enjoy...

Later I went and found his blog - it was called HamasLovers...and had another funny blog post in which I denied his request to use my son's picture...and countered with some questions of my own...here.

I thought of this exchange from several years ago when someone posted this next picture to Facebook.

What did this Palestinian mother do the night before her son went out...no, not to defend but to attack; not to save the lives of those being attacked with rockets, but to further the cause of those who fire the rockets.

I see her cleaning his gun - the gun he will use to kill and I remember the few times Elie handed me his gun to hold. Once, we stopped on the side of the road to help a neighbor. He couldn't leave the gun in the car and he couldn't access the engine to see if he could help her.

Once, he was lifting something and said "hold this," and I said, "Elie...I don't hold guns...Elie...." and he took it away quickly. Another time, he handed it to Yaakov, who had been in the army - anyone but me. I never touched his M16 willingly, lovingly. and though there were times I handed him his uniform or helped him pack - I never helped him hide his identity in shame.

And yes, each time he left, I hugged him, gave him a kiss and prayed he would return to me. This picture, this sick idea of a mother was praying for his success in a mission that would have been suicidal. Victory for me was Elie and Shmulik walking through my front door - home and safe. I never took that moment of the door opening for granted. Not once.

What did you do the night before? I never prayed Elie or Shmulik would kill someone. I never prayed they would have glory or be heroes. I prayed they would never fire their guns and I begged God to please, please, bring them home safely.

John Kerry....Boston...Mavi Marmara

John Kerry has redefined the concept of stupid. Really...

According to a recent news item:
Speaking at Istanbul, Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a jarring comparison between the victims of the Boston Marathon terror bombs and terror activists from the IHH group who were killed when they attacked IDF forces aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010.
Kerry told his hosts in Turkey that he understands the pain of the families whose loved ones were killed aboard the Marmara – and added that he can understand their pain well, having just dealt with the families whose loved ones were slain in Boston.
Kerry said in his speech that he hopes the Israeli apology will lead to a thawing of Israel-Turkey relations.
Through the anger I feel - I find it hard to formulate a response to this incredibly ignorant concept. Did the Boston runners know they were heading into enemy territory, as the thugs aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla know?

Did the terrorists warn the people at the finish line and those who were approaching it after running so hard...as Israel repeatedly warned the so-very-violent "humanitarians" aboard the flotilla?

Does Kerry think that sweet little 8-year-old boy, the women who were killed, and the 170+ people injured were armed and did they start attacking the bombers...funny how the media forgot to show how the victims of the Boston marathon terror attack could have easily avoided being murdered or injured had they avoided breaking international law...oh wait, they didn't break international law by running a legally declared naval blockade. They didn't attack soldiers who had, for the better part of a few days, been warning them not to approach a war zone. 

All those people did was to go out on a beautiful day, in their beautiful city, to enjoy a peaceful event. 

John Kerry - you owe the nation of Israel and the army of Israel an apology. We owe the Turks NOTHING and the vast majority of Israelis care nothing about thawing Israel-Turkey relations until Turkey starts acting like a modern nation and not yet another aggressive, hate-filled dictatorship.

And worse, John Kerry, worse of all is that you owe the victims, their families, and all of the people of Boston an apology. 

Shame on you!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Eilat Hit....

Two missiles have just hit Eilat - at least two others seem to have hit the Jordanian city of Aqaba, though the Jordanians are denying it at this time. Early reports said two missiles hit Eilat - and two hit Aqaba...then it was changed to three, and back to two hitting Eilat. Jordan is apparently still in denial.

No injuries though it hit in the same residential areas where my husband and I vacationed just a few months ago. Israel has closed the airport in/out of Eilat lest the next potential missile target a plane with dozens aboard.


Eilat is a special place - removed from Israel in so many ways. It is a long distance between Eilat and the center of Israel, both in physical space and in mindset. We go to Eilat to forget the pressures of every day life - to remember the beauty that God has put on this earth.

Gorgeous desert views...

Mountains to climb...

Salt water fish in colors the mind can barely grasp...

Tourist sites to entertain - some with Biblical references, like the theme park called Kings City; cruises, an ice skating mall...and so much more...

People go there to get away from it all - but today, the trouble came to them. To Eilat.

Watch BBC Tonight?

Now, if only I had a television...do I want to watch? I don't know.

I guess I hope they don't make me look like a fool.

I guess I hope they don't make my city look like some occupied fortress stealing bread from the mouths of hungry, half-naked Palestinian children.

I hope...I hope...I hope.

It's a done deal, now - no more time to hope they showed my city as I see it, my country as the one I love. Either they did or they didn't. It's their chance, not mine anymore. I had my chance here, now they have theirs.

Why did I agree to do this? What made me think I could speak for Israel and do it right? What words shouldn't I have said? What phrase could be cut and misinterpreted, twisted to be ugly, racist, uncompromising? Why did I believe them when they said they wanted to show the Israel so few really see?

I hope...I hope...I hope.

I hope I don't look fat. I hope I don't look ugly. I hope my hair wasn't blowing in my face. I hope my hair was blowing in my face. I hope the camera doesn't make me look even another 10 pounds over the ones I need to lose. I've had five children, people - but yeah, that's an excuse. Exercise - why didn't I exercise more before I agreed to go on international television? Maybe I shouldn't have worn...what was I wearing...who remembers?

I don't hate all Arabs. I do want peace. No...I really don't believe there will be - but that sounds like a negative thing - does it come across? Did they make it come across? Does it look silly and staged to have walked in the supermarket? Did they show the barren hills - that was so important - did they include the image so people can see the truth of where we live? That no one, no Arabs, no village was destroyed to build the beautiful city in which I live?

Will they understand that even someone who doesn't believe in peace still wants it terribly? Why did I choose the name "A Soldier's Mother"? It sounds like I want violence. I don't. I just want...

Okay...should I watch BBC tonight...or should I just let others tell me that I made a mistake. That I shouldn't have been so arrogant to think that I could find un-twistable words. Arrogant...arrogant...arrogant. So many others have fallen before the BBC reporters, their words taken out of context, ignored, twisted. Why...why did I believe I could talk, that I should talk? Why did I do it?

I hope...I hope...I hope.

I'm just human. I am not an international, famous person. I am me. I met them, I opened my heart, my city, my life. I gave them my words, my story. I want to believe but right now I don't. In...how many hours? It's almost 10:00 a.m. in Israel - is England ahead of us or behind us...how many hours till this shows? Should I watch it?

Okay - enough. I could spend hours pouring out my concerns about this. I hope...I hope...I hope.

I hope tonight comes quickly and no one is watching...unless it's good, in which case, I hope everyone is watching. I hope my friends and neighbors don't think I was an idiot. I hope I don't look stupid.

I hope...tonight comes and goes very quickly and I can go back to my words being mine. Yes, from now on, I think I'll let others speak for Israel and I'll stick to here.

Please John Ware, please BBC...let tonight do what you said you wanted - let it show the side of Israel I have always loved; a land unlike any other. Let people see that no one was hurt by the creation of my city; that both Arabs and Jews benefit from Maale Adumim - and Israel, being where it is.

Let them see all settlers aren't gun-toting, bearded men.

Let them see we are all human beings, with children and lives.

I hope...I hope...I hope...until tonight, I guess...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Switch - Israel Style...

It's just after 6:00 p.m. here in Israel. Memorial Day is fast coming to a close. I lit a memorial candle last night. It burns for 24 hours. It is mostly gone and soon it will go out. At 8:00 p.m., Israel will do what it does each year at this time - a most amazing and hard to believe thing. It will, in an instant, switch from our deepest sadness to our greatest joy.

Before we can celebrate our Independence Day, we honor those who made it possible, by commemorating our Memorial Day. Soon, all over the land, we will go to parties, barbecues, and fireworks. I am on the flat of the roller coaster of life as a soldier's mother - Yaakov, Elie, Chaim and Shmulik and Haim - are all out of the army. One nephew is out - one remains in the army. Elie did Reserve duty a week ago - a few days with other commanders to give him a heads up on where they are and what's likely to come at them in the next few months. Most of the unit wasn't even called in...

For the most part, my sons are home while other sons and daughters guard our borders, our seas, our skies. Davidi has begun the process but it is the very early stages and it will be more than a year - perhaps even two or three before he enters the army. He has chosen something dangerous but I can't worry now - perhaps he will change his mind; perhaps the army has other plans. For now, the roller coaster moves along and, as is its way, I can't see any fall ahead (of course, that's the point of the roller coaster - you never can see a fall), but you have this wonderful sense of calm, here on the flats. Not today...not tomorrow...

I am, for now, in the back lines. My sons are not in the front lines of the army and as a mother, I have stepped back behind the other mothers with sons on the front. Tonight, in a few short hours, my older sons will go with their wives to celebrate. Davidi will join his friends on the ambulance squad to help young children who fall and hurt themselves during the celebrations, or older people who need medical assistance as thousands converge on the center park of our small city. Last night, they came in the thousands to cry; soon, they will come with laughter. As hard as Memorial Day has been, I can only hope that's how happy Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Independence Day) will be.

Happy Birthday, Israel - may you go from strength to strength.

65 Years - 65 Things to LOVE About Israel

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Elephant and North Korea

There's a joke I heard years ago - it's supposed to poke fun at the idea that Jews often see the world and events in relation to our lives - sometimes to the point of absurdity. Sometimes, the issue really has nothing to do with us - and still, somehow, we find a connection.  

A teacher of a class of immigrants asks his students to write a paper on elephants and then is surprised to see the results. The French student wrote, "The Love Life of Elephants." The Italian wrote, "The Dietary Preferences of Elephants" and on and on, according to well known stereotypes until the teacher got to the report by the Jewish student, which was titled, "The Elephant and the Jewish Problem."

Elie asked me the other day what North Korea was thinking. He wanted to know if they were genuinely serious about attacking the United States with nuclear missiles. It's an interesting thought that runs through our minds.

I have a picture in my head - it is of an elephant, huge and majestic. I know - some people see them as dumpy, but I have always loved the elephant. I love watching them. I see them (please don't disillusion me with the truth) as gentle creatures. They have little to fear because they are so much larger than most animals. Who would dare attack an elephant?

But the truth is, in my imagined image of the elephant, I see infinite patience and yes, a sweetness. Unless the elephant really feels it is in danger, it will ignore the small things. Perhaps it will swat its tail a bit to chase the flies away but it isn't trying to kill the flies, just make itself a bit more comfortable.

I see intelligence in its eyes - yes, I've often been accused of being overly imaginative, but the elephant and I have an understanding. This is they way animals (and people) should be. They are loving of their young, gentle to those who do not mean it any harm. Maybe I was an elephant in another existence?

I've been following the news about North Korea and their threats to attack South Korea, perhaps Japan, even the United States. I can see the picture so clearly in my mind - of the elephant standing there patiently and there, way down there at his feet, there's a tiny mouse. And, can you believe it, the mouse is standing up on its back legs and...kicking the elephant.

The other day, Elie and I were driving and we talked about North Korea. He didn't really understand what was happening...was it possible? Would North Korea attack the United States? Would a mouse be stupid enough to attack an elephant?

"What are they thinking?" Elie asked me and to be honest, I had to admit that I too wonder at the sanity of a tiny nation seeking to antagonize the US. But like the elephant and the Jewish problem, my thoughts moved off in other directions. The danger is not so much North Korea, but the evil axis that is developing - of North Korea, Iran and Syria. There are those who say that Syria is in such chaos that it poses almost no danger to Israel. I hope that's true. But I think that if North Korea wants to be insane enough to attack the elephant, it will do so by coordinating a mass attack from the mice of the world. 

Israel faces Iran and Syria but the real threat could even reach Europe in the form of Iranian missiles. North Korea can hit large portions of Asia...it's a scary thought, almost even the potential for a third world war.

"What are they thinking?" The answer is likely that no one knows. No one knows why a mouse would be insane enough to attack an elephant...and yet...

The elephants I have spent hours of my life watching are ever patient. The mice always moving, always searching, always on alert. Will the mouse attack the elephant? What could it possibly have to gain? Couldn't the elephant simply lift up just one of its massive legs and squash it in seconds? 

Of course, there is the myth that elephants are afraid of mice...perhaps the mice believe this...but is it true? 

Justin Bieber, Anne Frank...and the BBC

It's getting so I can't post something without being asked my opinion. It's kind of cool actually, but still. Do I want to be quoted speaking about Justin Bieber?

The answer, actually, is no. I don't really want to speak to BBC's World Have Your Say program (oh, sorry, programme). What happened is Justin Bieber went to Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam and then, after reportedly spending an hour there, signed the guest book with the following, "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber." (For those of you, like me, who didn't know - Belieber is apparently what he calls his fans.)
Although I'm only fourteen, I know quite well what I want, I know who is right and who is wrong. I have my opinions, my own ideas and principles, and although it may sound pretty mad from an adolescent, I feel more of a person than a child, I feel quite independent of anyone.― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Since he wrote that, he's been slammed in the Israeli press. I've seen him being called a moron; I certainly think it was, if nothing else, incredibly insensitive.
Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness. ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
One person wrote to me on Twitter that he thought it was a good thing - that what Justin Bieber was saying is that Anne Frank was just a regular person and had she been alive today, she would likely be swooning over his charms as so many other teenage girls do. No, wait, that still sounds very conceited, doesn't it?

Well, anyway you cut it - if in the best of circumstances, Bieber was really just trying to help others  understand the universality of Anne Frank as opposed to distancing themselves from her memory, I have to say he failed miserably.
Where there's hope, there's life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again. ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
To be honest, it seems there are many who have accused him of not being very bright and this latest incident would certainly add credibility to that conclusion.

No, I don't want to speak to BBC about this. I have nothing to tell them. I'm not a Justin Bieber expert or fan. If I could talk to him personally, I would - I would tell him that Anne Frank was, even for her age - perhaps especially for her age, a most incredible person.

Not because of what was done to her - she was one of over 1 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis, many in as bad or much worse circumstances.
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.  ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
But if you read her diary...and not just visit her house for an hour, you'll read of a young woman on the edge of adulthood trying desperately to cope, to hold on to the belief that man is essentially good, that there is hope and will always be hope, so long as there is life.
It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
I hope that Justin Bieber is made to realize that his words were insensitive. It isn't that Anne Frank should have or could have been a Belieber - but rather, that he should become a follower of Anne Frank.
We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
She was unselfish; she lacked conceit.
Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.  ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
She cared about others and wanted so desperately to have the chance to grow up and experience the world.
Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands. ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
What would I say to BBC - nothing. I would rather let Anne Frank speak for herself - to Justin Bieber, and to the BBC.
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.   ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Justin Bieber - you have been given a chance that Anne Frank never got. She never reached the age you are now. Read her diary and if you've already read it - read it again. Become a follower of Anne Frank and take her wisdom into your life. No, she would not have been a Belieber - but you still have time to become, as I am, someone who cherishes the message a child would have given the world, if it would but listen.

I know that BBC World wants to hear people speak about the outrage - wouldn't it be amazing if they would read and learn from Anne Frank too?
I'm honest and tell people right to their faces what I think, even when it's not very flattering. I want to be honest; I think it gets you further and also makes you feel better about yourself. ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

With What Shall They Be Blessed...

I wrote this next part just a few months after Elie became a soldier - it was my first Yom HaZicharon as a soldier's mother. Everything made me cry. I didn't go to the ceremony. I couldn't; I wouldn't. I begged forgiveness from those who had died but I couldn't go. It was enough, I said to myself, to light a candle and be alone.

At some point, I heard a song on the radio and listened to the words. It was, I thought, one of the hardest songs to hear - beautiful but so incredibly sad. I can, to this day, barely listen to the entire song...

How shall I bless him, with what will his child be blessed, asked the angel?
And blessed him with a smile that is like light.
And blessed him with eyes, large and wide
with which to see every flower, animal and bird.
And a heart, with which to feel all the sights.

Noam Meirson was only 23 years old when he was killed in Lebanon last summer. His tank was hit by a missile. I went to his funeral and was overwhelmed by the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who were there. It was an outpouring of love and sympathy for his family and a recognition of the tragedy that had befallen his family and all of Israel. This young man, killed only a month before he was to be married, reminded all of us that Israel was again at war. May his memory be blessed.

How shall I bless him, with what will he be blessed?
And blessed him with legs to dance forever.
And a soul with which to remember all the melodies.
And a hand that collects shells by the shore.

And an ear, attentive to old and young.

Michael Levin went back to America to visit his family. When Michael heard that Israel was at war with Hizbollah in 2006, he cut short his visit and flew back to the land he had chosen as his home, to join his paratroopers in Battalion 890. He was killed by a Hizbollah sniper in the Lebanese village ofAyta A-Shayeb. He didn't have to come live here, except that he loved this land above all others. 
He didn't have to leave his family to come back and fight, except he had long ago accepted that Israel was his family too. And Israel needed him last summer and so, without a moment's hesitation, Michael came. He flew back to join his men, his brothers, because in his heart, and in ours, he was and will always be, a part of Israel. May his memory be blessed.

How shall I bless him, with what will this youth be blessed, asked the angel?
And blessed him that his hands, wise among the flowers
should succeed also in learning the strength of steel.
And legs that dance the road's journey.
And his lips that sing the rhythm of commands.

Major Roi Klein was only 31 when his unit was attacked in Bint J'beil, in Lebanon last summer. One of the terrorists lobbed a grenade towards the group and as the grenade settled on the ground near his troops, Roi yelled out "Sh'ma Yisrael" and jumped on the grenade. 
He took the force of the grenade, thus saving his troops. 
He left behind a young wife and two small boys and yet again, redefined what it is to be an Israeli hero. May his memory be blessed.

How shall I bless him, with what will he be blessed this man asked the angel?
I gave him all.
A song, a smile and legs to dance.
A gentle hand and a trembling heart.
How shall I bless, what more?

Philip Mosko loved to volunteer for the local ambulance squad in Maaleh Adumim, his home town. He died in Lebanon doing what he loved to do best, help people. He volunteered for a dangerous mission, and died trying to save another's life.
A room has been dedicated in his honor for the ambulance squad volunteers, and Davidi spends many hours in that room. Maaleh Adumim and my sons mourn a boy from here, a young man who was dedicated to saving lives and in the end, gave his life to Israel last summer. May his memory be blessed.
How shall I bless him, with what will he be blessed this child, gentle youth.
This boy now is an angel,
No more will they bless him, he will no more be blessed.
God, God, Oh God,
If only you had blessed him with life.

-- Ma Avarech - How Shall I Bless Him
By Rachel Shapira
May God bless the families of Noam and Michael and Roi and Philip and all those who have lost sons and daughters, husbands, fathers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters and may He send them comfort.

May God bless the soldiers of Israel - with life.

Memorial Day in Israel

I went last night, as I do almost every year, to our local ceremony remembering Israel's fallen. I've lived in this city going on 12 years. Where at first I knew none of the names, there are now three that I recognize, families that I know.

Each year, I am grateful that there aren't more; desperately, almost embarrassing grateful not to be sitting up in the front.

"Who is sitting there?" Shmulik asked me last night. He's been to these ceremonies before, but never paid attention. That is where the mayor sits, his assistants and deputies. The chief rabbis of our city and others. But most significantly, this is where the bereaved families sit. They are separated by a low barrier so they won't be bothered, so they can grieve a bit in private, as they sit among thousands who have come to honor them and the sons and daughters they have lost.

The ceremony begins just moments before 8:00 p.m. It is windy and cool this year; sometimes it is unbearably hot. The park, where tonight there will be singing and dancing and fireworks, was packed last night for the Memorial Day ceremony. It is a unique and amazing yearly event - to cry with all your heart one day and then smile and dance and be happy the next.

We sit there knowing we will dance tomorrow night, knowing these families will not.

Young teenagers walk onto the stage, each carrying large Israeli flags. They are divided into two lines, each moving to the side of the stage where they will remain throughout the ceremony. A man comes to the front; I don't know his name but he has a beautiful, deep voice - he will lead the ceremony, introduce each of the speakers and singers.

He tells us in a moment, the siren will sound and asks us to stand. He asks the parents to watch over the children so that they don't make noise and for other adults to watch if children here without parents are overly noisy. Then there is silence. Thousands are waiting for the siren. We wait ...

It begins with a quiet wail, gaining and reaching the top. Unlike the real air raid siren, the sound does not go up and down - it is an endless cry that reaches into your heart and fills your eyes. They burn and you try to blink them away. I stand beside one son; another is at home with his wife. What right do I have to cry? God has blessed me - my sons are alive and safe.

The siren ends - not abruptly, but as it began, a slow decline to silence. The flag is lowered and we are asked to sit down again.

More teenagers come forward - there are four this time. The two in the middle begin a slow recitation of the names of those we have lost from our city - there are so many, too many. The father of the last to fall is asked to say the mourners prayer and the audience stands again and answers "Amen" at the appropriate times.

The mayor speaks; others as well. Songs - horribly sad songs of love of land and family, of country of life are sung. Your heart breaks and you want it to end. You want to go home and never come to another ceremony, knowing you will be there again next year, and the year after, and after that.

In all the years I have been in Isrel, I have missed very few. Perhaps when my children were very young, or I was pregnant and sitting on a hard floor for an hour was torture. I know when Elie was in the army, I couldn't go. I couldn't sit there and listen and think. I was ashamed of my cowardice and begged the families to forgive me.

The first time I went was in Elie's last year in the army - when he went with me. That, somehow, I managed to do. Last night, I sat next to Shmulik and as with Elie, his being there gave me comfort.

Memorial Day in Israel is as it should be - it is not a day of picnics and sales. It is not about barbecues and fun. It is agony; it is pain. It is tears and sad songs on the radio. It is a candle burning in my house in their memory, and it is the constant knowledge that without their sacrifice, we would not sing and dance tonight. We would not be free, here in our land.

May God bless the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces and forever keep them in His heart, as they are in ours.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Help HaTikvah Go Viral

So here's the deal - early next week, we celebrate 65 years in the re-established State of Israel - to honor our wonderful country, people are asking for help in making this video of HaTivkah, the national anthem of Israel, to go viral. The lyrics are simple and short - but capture so much:
As long as deep in the heart,
The soul of a Jew yearns,
And forward to the East
To Zion, an eye looks
Our hope will not be lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
It's a beautiful song and they've done a great job. Please share this post and encourage others to view it. It's up to over half a million views already!

Two Sleeping Bags....

We had a bit of a situation the other night. Elie was leaving for two days for Reserve Duty (miluim). It was a special call up for only certain parts of the units and not the entire group. He was told they'd be sleeping outside and to bring a sleeping bag. He came over and we pulled out two sleeping bags. One Davidi had been using (um...we think that was toothpaste stuck to the side) and one Aliza had been using (we know that was twigs and thorns stuck inside...and HOW did it get inside?). Both should have been washed.

A bit annoyed, and justifiably so, Elie took the one from Davidi's room and Aliza under protest pulled off the thorns and twigs and threw it into the washing machine (with tons of fabric conditioner so it smells heavenly now). Problem not really solved because Elie still wasn't happy about the toothpaste, but we weren't sure the other bag would dry in time. We hung it out on the line with hopes it would be ready. And then, Davidi came home to remind me that he had a tiyul shnati - which is a yearly school trip involving sleeping over somewhere and...yup, he needed a sleeping bag.

"Where's the sleeping bag?" he asked. So Davidi took the wet one; Elie found another one in his apartment. Two sleeping bags, two sons sleeping outside - one in the north and one in the south. One on a school trip, one called up to national service.

Ah, life in Israel - I have always loved how often and how easily we sleep outside here, eat outside. A few years ago, we were up north and there was supposed to be a meteor shower. We pulled mattresses and sleeping bags outside and set up to watch the show. And as we were all lying there in various directions, one of my kids said they remembered us doing this years before on the large balcony upstairs in our previous house.

I was so touched they had this memory - of us all lying out there under the skies. Both times, some of us fell asleep long before the few falling stars turned into an almost constant rain of stars, but the memory remains...

Now I just have to remember to buy another sleeping bag...and get Davidi to wash his when he gets back.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Final Post - from the Pilots of the Army of Israel

I have yet to watch this video without crying, without feeling both pride and terrible pain... "Triumph of the Return" - On September 4, 2003, in a large ceremony, the Israeli Air Force flew three f-15 jets over the Auschwitz concentration camp in a show of the Jewish people's continued strength and triumph over past adversities. During the Holocaust (1939-1945) 6 million Jews were murdered at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. Millions of Jews and other victims of the Nazis were imprisoned, enslaved and murdered at Auschwitz and her sister camps. This visit was a testament to the world that the saying "never again" is not just a slogan. This was called the "Triumph of Return." I believe I read that the pilot was the son or grandson of a Holocaust survivor... Many of the participants were the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.

Irena Sendler - We Honor You

During WWII, Irena, a Polish Christian woman, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive. Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids.

Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2,500 kids/infants. Read that number again - 2,500 lives...Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi's broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, In a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming. Today, we honor her courage, her bravery. She has been recognized as a Righteous Gentile in Yad Vashem. 

May God bless her memory.

Please share this to honor the sacrifice and courage of this fine human being who gave so much and saved so many.  

Siblings United Thanks to Yad Vashem

The Faces of Nazis


When I look at this picture, I see three components. There are the bodies of the prisoners lying on the ground. I suppose to be accurate, I can't confirm that they are dead or alive but clearly, they pose no threat to these Nazi soldiers.

There is the Jewish man, his cheekbones proclaiming how thin he is. He is standing facing away from those lying on the ground. He seems to be deep in prayer. He seems oblivious to the Nazi soldiers behind him. They are nothing, he says to his God, nothing. All is before me; all is what You give me. I am here to serve You.

And there are the Nazi soldiers, the smirks on two of the faces. These are the faces I see. There is one in the back looking at the bodies. I like to think that if there was any humanity in those German soldiers, it can be seen in his face.

To the smirking soldiers, this man, this Jew is something to laugh at, something to ridicule, something to make less than human.

We will not forget - not the bodies, not the man praying barefoot perhaps moments before further indecencies were committed.

And there are the faces of the soldiers - I believe those on the ground have been granted their heaven, as has the praying man who stood before his God. I have no doubt that those Nazis soldiers will spend all of eternity in the fires of hell, hotter and far worse than the hell they created on this earth.

We Jews are not smirking now - that is not our way, but I believe, with complete certainty, that they aren't smirking either, nor will they ever again.


After writing the above, I learned the story of this man, this Rabbi. It answered the questions that I felt in my heart. The pain is even worse; the anger just a bit deeper. They destroyed his tefillin - the  prayer box he wears on his head and the straps on his arm. They are about to kill the people beside him - but by the time they do, the Rabbi knows he will be dead too and so he asked the Nazis to be allowed to say Kaddish - the prayer for the dead. He will say it over the living...who, like him, will soon be dead...

A friend posted the picture to Facebook with this comment:

This man is a rabbi who is about to be shot. He has asked to say Kaddish, the prayer that sanctifies both G-d and the dead together. The Nazis are smiling before they murder. They are simply unable to understand that the man has chosen how he is going to die; that this is his resistance. In the end the Nazis lost; an Israeli is sharing this with you.
And another posted it as well:

The Rabbi that you see in the picture was about to be shot by the nazis (yemach shmem - may their names be cursed/erased), but he asked to read the Kaddish prayer for all the Jews, who were still alive next to him, which is forbidden in Jewish Law - as it is for the dead, not the living. You can see the despicable nazi soldiers smiling behind him as he awaits his fate. If you look at his tefillin it has also been desecrated, so they could mock and humiliate the Rabbi further. This is pure evil that you are looking at, there is nothing else to say.

Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel - A Nation Remembers

Throughout the day today, I hope to post memories of others, thoughts, feelings and more...it is a hard day in Israel. A day of remembering that comes once a year, though it is something that we always live with...

Written by a sister of one of Israel's fallen soldiers...he was a Givati soldier - like our adopted son, Yaakov. Hagai Lev - may his memory be blessed...

The Day the Nazis Invaded....

Each name is precious, each personal story shared. With great thanks to my friend, Charlie Kalech for allowing me to post....

The Reality of Our Lives - Part 2

Earlier, I posted this video - of a missile attack during the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony in Kibbutz Alumim last night. A short time later, I saw a note from someone that was there. They wanted to clarify that the ceremony had continued after the attack was over. She felt it was very important for the world to know that missiles from Gaza would not stop us from remembering, from honoring.

Someone also posted this amazing video - of a wonderful teacher - four years ago, teaching her children to cope with Color Red...

IDF Soldiers in Poland Last Week

Courtesy of the IDF Spokesperson's Office...

One of the most moving lines I've ever heard an Israeli say in Poland was spoken by an Israeli general who stood in the Warsaw Ghetto and told the long dead ghetto fighters - "We've come, but we came 60 years too late."

Our only promise is that we will never be too late again....

Striking Images for Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day

So many emotional and touching images being posted today and yesterday... more to come...

The Reality of Our Lives...and the Holocaust

Somehow, as the moments tick down to the siren in just over 30 minutes, this video that I just saw is all the more painful.

This is a kibbutz very close to the border with Gaza - last night, as so many of us did in Israel, they gathered for a ceremony to remember the victims of the Holocaust. We remember it with candles, with songs, with testimonies, with tears.

Last night, they remembered it with fear. Notice how the children seem to be the first to react...

Color Red at Kibbutz Alumim during the Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony

Major Highway...Major Remembrance...

In just over one hour from now, at 10:00 a.m. - a two minute siren will sound all over Israel and the country will come to a stop. I've been on buses, in cars, in supermarkets, on the street and at home. No matter where you are - it is emotional, it is hard.

The wailing air raid siren pushes deep into your heart. You can feel the wait of six million, the agony,  the screams.

Every year, it is as the first year. I try in those two minutes to say the names of those we have lost - those who suffered a life time after the Germans came to their towns and villages. Those who have no name, or not even a full name. There was Raizel - my grandfather's mother...and her two daughters.

There were my husband's grandfathers...and his grandmothers. His uncles and aunts...all gone, so many lost.

We can count to six million and beyond and still we may never know all the names, all the agonizing ways the Germans found to humiliate, de-humanize, and finally murder us. There are the tattoos, that never faded on the arms of the survivors but are fading away as they are buried with each survivor we lose yearly. My husband's aunt...this past year...his uncle, the year before. His parents, more than a decade ago, and another uncle.

We cannot, we will not, let the memory of what was done fade with them. On every street in Israel, every highway - we remember and we promise that Israel will always stand as we will...in just about an hour from now.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

And the Hackers were Hacked...

God, I love this country - I really do. I love it for its beauty; I love it for its people. But, God, I also love it for its sense of humor.

Israel was anticipating being hacked today - a site listed over 1,300 Jewish and Israeli sites, many government-related, that were to be targeted according to the anti-Israel site www.opisrael.com.

Previously the site had some really nasty information, but has now been hacked by a pro-Israel hacker calling himself EhIsR

The site now plays Hatikvah, the beautiful national anthem of Israel and adds a few relevant facts:

http://www.opisrael.com/2013/04/a-few-forgotten-facts_4.html (at some point, this information might disappear, if the original owners of the site can figure out how to hack into their own site).

So, in case they succeed - here are some really important facts posted by the wonderful EhIsR - who has made us all laugh and smile today!

  1. Israel became a nation in 1312 BCE, two thousand years before the rise of Islam.
  2. Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
  3. Since the Jewish conquest in 1272 BCE, the Jews have had dominion over the land for one thousand years with a continuous presence in the land for the past 3,300 years.
  4. The only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 CE lasted no more than 22 years.
  5. For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to make it their capital, and Arab leaders did not come to visit.
  6. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in Tanach, the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.
  7. King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Mohammed never came to Jerusalem.
  8. Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Muslims pray with their backs toward Jerusalem.
  9. In 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to leave Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.
  10. The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution, and slaughter.
  11. The number of Arab refugees who left Israel in 1948 is estimated to be around 630,000. The number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is estimated to be the same.
  12. Arab refugees were intentionally not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own people's lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey.
  13. The Arabs are represented by eight separate nations, not including the Palestinians. There is only one Jewish nation. The Arab nations initiated all five wars and lost. Israel defended itself each time and won.
  14. The PLO's Charter still calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Israel has given the Palestinians most of the West Bank land, autonomy under the Palestinian Authority, and has supplied them.
  15. Under Jordanian rule, Jewish holy sites were desecrated and the Jews were denied access to places of worship. Under Israeli rule, all Muslim and Christian sites have been preserved and made accessible to people of all faiths.
  16. The UN Record on Israel and the Arabs: of the 175 Security Council resolutions passed before 1990, 97 were directed against Israel.
  17. Of the 690 General Assembly resolutions voted on before 1990, 429 were directed against Israel.
  18. The UN was silent while 58 Jerusalem Synagogues were destroyed by the Jordanians.
  19. The UN was silent while the Jordanians systematically desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
  20. The UN was silent while the Jordanians enforced an apartheid-like a policy of preventing Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
Like I said, no one can accuse us of not being able to laugh...

For These We Stand....

Saw this on Facebook....

And these were my thoughts. This is the message of Israel - yes, that WAS the last time we depended on others to defend ourselves and our brothers.

We have dear friends in the United States (if not in the government, certainly among the people of the United States of America) - but even with them...even with them, do not make the mistake of believing that when the time comes, we will stand alone...and yes, we will stand.

We will stand for those who could not stand for themselves, we will stand for over 1 million Jewish children, some so young they never learned to walk.

We will stand for the Jews of Poland and Germany, Hungary and France. In each country and around the world where a Jew has been murdered simply for being a Jew - for these Jews we will stand.

We will stand...tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. for a moment of silence, remembering those we could not defend.

May God bless the memories of over 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, by the silence of their neighbors, by the apathy of the world and may God bless the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand for us every day, in the skies, on the seas, on our borders and in our cities. Everywhere, we stand with them, as they stand for us, in front of us.

A Family Tradition

Sometimes traditions aren't handed down from generation to generation. Sometimes, they just begin in your own home. So, this Friday, I've got one that's been handed down, and one that we began. We've just finished (finally) the holiday of Passover. For so many reasons, it is my least favorite holiday. We read from the Hagadah a passage that begins with, "We were once slaves in Egypt..." and while I know the point is the story of how we as a people were delivered from slavery to the land of Egypt, I stumble on the first line. It is in the past tense...and yet, in too many ways, we still remain slaves.

Some are slaves to work, some are slaves to possessions. Some are slaves to food, some are slaves to housework. Passover is really heavy on the housework department and I'm not great there. I can start cleaning something and then the words flow into my head. One of the most beautiful chapters in a novel that I wrote many years ago began as I was vacuuming the carpet. I saw the main character standing at the airport in New York, his wife giving him a list of instructions as he was about to fly. I could feel her concern, her worry. I could see the look she gave her brother-in-law, begging him to watch over her husband.

I left the vacuum cleaner and hurried to my computer and began typing...the story unfolded. Suddenly a new character popped up and asked the main character, or one of them, who he was and I almost turned to ask the same question of the new character himself. Who are YOU? I didn't know she had a son...wow...but they kept talking - yes, it sounds scary - those voices in my head, these characters that demanded I tell their story...ah, where was I? Yes, housework.

Hours later, I put the vacuum cleaner away - don't ask me if I ever finished vacuuming that week. I try...I fail, and will often tell guests, if you see my house, please remember that I write really well...they smile, what can they do? And the truth is, I'm also blessed that I cook pretty well too, so between the writing and the cooking, my friends accept my limitations.

Except on Passover when the housework is overwhelming and somehow often accomplished with not enough help as everyone is tired and has places to go and things to do. Anyway - I hate housework and I hate Passover...but....

the two traditions I do like are the ones that come AFTER Passover - that very first Shabbat.

The tradition that we made, is that after all that meat and chicken and large meals - this shabbat is about light and dairy.  Baked salmon, fried fish, mushroom quiche, broccoli quiche, onion quiche,  and corn quiche all cooking or cooked. Sushi rice about to go on (except I was called to the computer...so that's next), and more. I love it! And challah, of course. The dough is rising.

Lauren is coming over and we're going to shape it - and there's the second tradition handed down. It's called shlissel challah and it is something done the week after Passover. You shape the challah to look like a key. I'll post more about the tradition soon, but wanted to get the pictures up now...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What's the Point of Doing THAT?

Aliza asked me in frustration as I explained that Israel was about to be subjected to a cyber war starting tomorrow...

"Can't the army do something?" she asked.

She's a bit shocked that I don't want her to go on the Internet tomorrow. "Not even email?"

I'm probably overreacting. But I'd rather be safe than sorry. Speaking of safe - here's what Israelis are being instructed to do...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

To Avi...

I met my husband when I was 17 years old...our first date was on my 18th birthday. I was a freshman in college; he was a senior. Each weekend, he would go home to his family; I usually stayed at college. When he was home, he would go out with his best friend, Avi. I was so nervous about meeting Avi that first time - he was such an important part of my new boyfriend's life. We met near my parents' house.

Lazer (my husband...yes, six years and I've never named him here on the blog, have I?) came from an Orthodox family which would not have approved of the amount of time we were able to see each other, as we both lived away from home while at university. On the day he graduated, he told his family about me. Before that day, the only one who knew about us…was Avi.

Actually, if you believe in mysticism and wonder, if you believe that there really isn't such a thing as coincidence but rather all events come as part of God's plan, then you'll understand when I say that Avi was the first to announce our future marriage – even before Lazer and I had even met. In fact, it was the very day before. It was a Saturday…Shabbat… and Avi insisted that Lazer go with him to a small synagogue. There, the rabbi turned to my husband and asked him to say the final blessing for the Torah reading that week.

Knowing that the final blessing was said by the person who would then stand before the congregation and read a portion of the Bible (the Haftorah, in Hebrew, according to specific tunes, etc.), my future husband explained that he had not known he would be asked and had therefore not prepared. The rabbi responded that he himself would recite the Haftorah but that my husband should say the blessing.

Lazer recited the blessing and the rabbi recited the Haftorah. When he returned to his seat, Avi turned to him and asked if he realized what the rabbi had done, "He gave you Chatan Bereshit - that means you are going to meet your beshert (future spouse, intended)."

And we met the next day.

I remember Lazer telling me about a conversation he had with Avi. Avi told Lazer that someone (I think it was an uncle) had set him up on a date though the timing was crazy...he was about to leave to Mexico to begin medical studies...and when Avi returned from the date, he told Lazer, "I just met the girl I'm going to marry."

I don't remember exactly - but I think they were married three months later.

Over the years we dated and even in the early years of our marriage, Lazer would tell me some of the things that he and Avi did, where they drove, the cars, the visits and jobs they did up in the country during the summer months. Lazer took me to Avi's house to meet Avi's parents and I was hugged and welcomed. Lazer was a loved son of the house.

Something like a year after meeting them, a new rabbi moved into the city where I lived. He became the rabbi of my synagogue and bought a house right across the street from my parents' house. When I met them, I was amazed to find out that the rabbi's wife was Avi's sister – another bond. I loved being with her and her children, loved listening to her husband, his wisdom and stories. He was my rabbi, one of the two who performed the ceremony that joined Lazer's life with mine forever.

Lazer and I dated throughout college; Avi lived with his wife in Mexico. We had our children; Avi and Mindy had three of their own. They lived in the midwest after returning from Mexico and there they raised their children; we lived on the east coast and raised ours.

We saw Avi and his wife very rarely and yet Avi remained a part of Lazer…not just his past, but something, someone he carried with him in the present. Avi loved Israel – I always knew he would end up here. And while it was Lazer who came to live here; Avi and his wife instilled so much love of Israel in their children that each one in turn has come here (one serves as a soldier in the Israeli army now).

Many months ago, we all connected on Facebook and got to watch Avi's growing family from the distance – and see his smiling face with his children. The wonders of Facebook let us all catch up; see his children; see him and his smiling face. He was so proud of his kids; you can see it in every picture.

Lazer and Avi spoke a few times in the more recent past. Each time we heard that Avi came to visit Israel, where his daughter had settled, Lazer hoped to meet him - he thought he'd have time and it was no big deal, and all of us were so busy. Three weddings on our side in the last few years, and we became grandparents less than two years ago; and Avi's daughter got married and he became a grandfather a few months ago. He came to visit his daughter and her baby...we didn't even know he was here because like other visits - time was short and things just got in the way, but there was time...there's always time.

Just a few weeks ago, Avi left a comment on something I'd written. I smiled when I saw his name. He wrote, "Paula, I hope these words spread far and wide. Very well said."

Avi died this past Saturday, here in Israel and was buried on Sunday in Jerusalem. I always knew he would end up in Israel...I just didn't think it would be like this. He'll never know how much his approval and blessing meant to me as I married his best friend; how he made me feel welcomed into the inner circle of Lazer's life. I knew that Lazer came from a world of Orthodox Jews and I was only on the fringe because I wasn't born into a religious family myself. I chose to become religious which, for too many wasn't really the same as being born into it. But Avi and his smile conquered all, never seemed to judge, always seemed to encourage.

What Avi gave me in each of our meetings was acceptance; what he gave his family was love; what he gave so many patients of his was his knowledge and dedication. He was, in every sense of the word, a true and best friend to Lazer. I can't imagine what his family is feeling now. I can only hope that through the pain, they can look at the pictures of him and see that he seems to always be smiling.

May his memory be blessed and may his children, granddaughter, and future grandchildren always be blessed for having come from such goodness.

Avi, I know that the memory of you, the smiles and goodness that you brought into this world will be spread far and wide. You will be missed...you already are.

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