Wednesday, July 31, 2013

True Words...Israel in a few Sentences

I'll start by saying I never bought into the sudden great love affair Israelis had/have with Yitzchak Rabin. I think he was a terrible leader, a horrible husband, an absent father. He spearheaded a campaign to alienate and divide Israelis. Rather than stop attacks on a segment of the population, he vilified that population, targeted known as "settlers" that the pain of having a settler murdered was considered expected, anticipated.

Having said all of that, I'll give the man his due on this one occasion and say that these words he spoke were true - then, and now. Despite his politics, he was a general who served his country for many years. He proved, as too many of our generals have proven in the past - that military glory doesn't always translate into good leadership off the battlefield. But his devotion to his soldiers...that was always clear and these words he spoke deserve to be remembered.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And I know how that's going to go...

Have I failed as a mother...or have I raised realistic children? Have I deprived them of hope...or saved them from disappointments?

Davidi is 17-years-old. Like his older brothers, he was a bit chubby, perhaps even more than the other two...until he his his growing spurt and then every extra pound transformed into height. He's the tallest one in the family. He has beautiful grey-green-blue eyes that defy description. He's got these amazing chiseled bones...I'm so in love with him.

He's as different from his brothers, as they are from each other. Last week and again this week, he's away for the entire week. He's studying 12 hours a day, 5 days a week and part of Fridays too. He's taking a course that will enable him to train more ambulance volunteers.

Last week, he joined 200 teenagers from all over Israel that have given up two weeks of their summer vacation for this course. The food was really lousy...I mean, rotten...36 kids got sick, some went to the hospital for treatment. The Magen David Adom organization fired the cook and the staff and brought in new people - the food is better this week. Davidi told me after having a disgusting meal last week, he and his friends saw the cook barbecuing...for his own family!

Anyway, while last week I left Davidi alone, this week, I decided to call and check with him. He's at that age that he doesn't make much conversation - and so mostly it was me asking questions and getting single word answers like "fine" and "okay."

I finally made some sort of comment and he realized he needed to take a part in this conversation or it wasn't going to work. It was nice - he could have let go and said goodbye; instead, he asked what was new, if anything was happening, what's in the news.

I told him Israel was hit by three rockets today and his first thoughts were of home, "Jerusalem?" he asked. It isn't an impossibility - not since the last war, but I told him no - open fields in the south.

"Did the army answer back?"

Not really, I explained - and told him about the renewal of peace negotiations in Washington.

And that's when he said, "and I know how that's going to go."

No where. We all know it. Our children know it. We know it. Our government knows it. This morning, Abu Mazen declared his usual - no Israelis would be allowed to live in any area that will be occupied by some future "Palestine" and they, of course, expect to make Jerusalem their capital.

I let cynicism run through me when I posted, "not in your lifetime, Abbas."

But it was surprising, a bit anyway, to hear it in Davidi...or maybe not. Maybe this is so transparently stupid that only the ministers blinded by glory don't see it.

I told him about Bibi Netanyahu agreeing to release 104 murderers.

"For what?" Davidi asked.

"Nothing," I answered. "For coming to the table to talk."

"Really?" he asked in disbelief.

"Really," I answered.

It's a sad state of affairs when your children are smarter than your prime minister.

Monday, July 29, 2013

For These We Weep

I have been searching for the answer to this question...who did they kill...those 104 we are about to release? I know of a mother and her three children; I know of a grandfather stabbed in the back. I don't know all the names but it is for these we weep today - once killed by Palestinian terrorists, today betrayed again by the government and the justice system in Israel.

Today, for these we weep...knowing that tomorrow...there will be...there will be...others.I got this on Facebook with the following note:
Look Into These Eyes....Men, Women, Parents, Grandparents, Children, Grandchildren, Infants, Soldiers, Asheknazi, Sefardic, Jews and Non Jews, Religious and Secular.
These precious faces haven't smiled since vicious murderers stabbed, shot, kidnapped and murdered them. The Government has just agreed to release the spineless animals who murdered the people you are looking at. The Israeli Government did this as a prerequisite to have the 'privilege' to sit and discuss 'peace' with a people who continues to call for our destruction.
Who could demand such an insane request from us? I don't forget all the good America has done for me and my people, but today... today is a brand new day. Yesterday doesn't exist and tomorrow isn't here yet. Today I live in a country that feels humiliated, confused and betrayed.
Look into their eyes... and imagine the agony of those who love them still and forever...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Haveil Havalim - Round up of Jewish Blogs

Haveil Havalim is a collection of Jewish blog posts that were posted during the previous week. It is a floating blog carnival, hosted by various Jewish and Israeli bloggers every week.

This edition represents a sample of what these bloggers are feeling, what has happened, what is important to them. Each opinion represents only the poster and not the carnival itself - it is part of the glorious fabric we weave each week with our words. Last week, Ruti Mizrachi hosted the carnival on her site, Ki Yachol Nuchal.

While this edition is completely different, featuring key posts from this past week, I'll go along with one beautiful thing she did - and post some of Israel's flowers as well. These flowers graced our home this week for Shabbat and will see us through the week.

Politics, Israel and Pretty Much Everything Else: 

One of my favorite blogs is Yid with a Lid. This week, Jeff Dunetz presents Helen Thomas (HATER)1930-2013: Why I'm Proud I "Took Her Down" posted at "The Lid".

After hearing about a shooting attack (criminal and not terror-related) in my office building, I wrote: Passing Worries and the reality that as we have worried...too soon the time comes when our children worry as well.

One Tired Ema writes, "I'm Ok. You're OK. It will be OK," as her moving message to this week's new immigrants and the latest Nefesh b'Nefesh flight.

Muqata presents Three Obvious Questions on the Current Peace Process

Elder of Ziyon points out that Time magazine's Karl Vick lists nine reasons to be skeptical about the chances for a peace agreement - and not one of them blames Palestinian Arabs or the PLO.

Daled Amos points out the amazing fact that John Kerry has managed to confer statehood on the West Bank...even before a single seat has been filled at the negotiating that's talent for you.

The IDF is inviting us all to join their Facebook campaign Operation Facebook!

I found this one by accident - it's the Infidel Blogger's Alliance and their post Muslim Call to Prayer in London reminded me of my recent trip there. I also thought it was kind of funny that they named Ayaan Hirsi Li as the "Infidel babe of the week." While Ayaan Hirsi Li is a beautiful woman, she's also incredibly intelligent, poised...not what I'd think of as a "babe." I just received two of her books and I'm loving reading them!

A Mother in Israel is an amazing blog (and person). Her are some of her tips for those struggling with infertility.

A Week of Batya's Wisdom 

I am always in love with Batya's posts. She has so much energy - she keeps home and family, job and health...and somewhere in the middle of all that would fill the lives of most women, she finds time to blog and share so much wisdom. So following is a partial collection of the wisdom of Batya! May you go from strength to strength and continue to share your insights, knowledge and love of Israel.

Batya presents:

Thanks for your Letter, Bibi

And please allow me to respond...

"Prime ministers are occasionally required to make decisions that are contrary to public opinion, when the matter is one of importance to the state.

I agree - and that is indeed why you were elected. There are difficult decisions that have to be made and we have to trust the Prime Minister and his government to make those decisions in the best interests of the country (not his political standing or his place in history; not because he bowed to the United States and doesn't want to be seen as intransigent).

"There is no need for prime ministers, in order to make decisions that enjoy the support of public opinion.

"At this time, I believe it is very important for the state of Israel to enter a diplomatic process. This is important for fully exhausting the chances for ending the conflict with the Palestinians, and also for solidifying Israel's status in the complex international reality that surrounds us.

I agree that it is important for Israel to ... wait, did you say ENTER the political process? What have we been doing or trying to do...for the last 65 years? ENTER? No, sorry - we have been fully engaged in attempting to get the Palestinians to ENTER the talks.  But the bigger concern here is the last part of your sentence. We are to release murderers and once again endanger our current and future security to solidify "Israel's status in the complex international reality that surrounds us." Honestly, do you think this will ever be solidified? Do you really believe they will ever accept us? Come on, be honest - at least with us. Tell the US whatever you want, but if you are writing to us, and not the United States, let's talk truth. For the last 65 years, the Arabs have denied our right to exist - releasing 104 prisoners just convinces them all the more that we are too stupid and too weak to stick around much longer.

"The huge changes in our region – in Egypt, Syria and Iran – pose new challenges before the state of Israel, but they also present considerable opportunities before us.

So releasing 104 prisoners, that is where you're going this this nonsense, right? So releasing 104 Palestinians is going to change this, address these new challenges? Have you noticed that the Egyptians, Syrians and Iranians don't much like the Palestinians either? Guess not...

"For these reasons, I believe that it is important that Israel enter a diplomatic process that will last at least nine months – in order to examine if an agreement can be reached with the Palestinians within that time.

"But with all the importance that I attach to a diplomatic process, I was not willing to accept the Palestinian demands for retreats and [building] freezes as preconditions for entering into negotiations.

"I was also unwilling to accept their demand to release Palestinian prisoners before the negotiations begin. I did agree to release 104 Palestinians in measured portions after the beginning of the negotiation and in accordance with its progress.

Forgive me for my ignorance, but usually when someone says "without preconditions - it means...WITHOUT preconditions, like none. Like no, we won't freeze, we won't agree to new borders, and no, we won't release killers. We will come, we will talk. We will assume that peace is to the mutual benefit of both sides. We will assume you want peace. And, we will even assume you want peace almost as much as we do. And we will talk and hopefully agree. And, in THAT agreement, both sides will have to compromise. Maybe it will be land; maybe it will be a building freeze; maybe it will involve releasing prisoners. It will certainly involve mutual recognition. What it won't include is more of the same mistakes of the past, where WE froze, and they fired; where WE withdrew and they took up new positions; where WE released, and they planned additional attacks and kidnappings.

"This is a tremendously difficult decision to make. It hurts the bereaved families, it hurts the entire nation of Israel and it hurts me very much.

I'll have to take your word on how much it hurts you; I have no doubt how much it hurts the families who thought that they had achieved, at the very least, some measure of justice for the tremendous injustice of having their wives, husbands, children, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers murdered. I would have thought you understood...but I am not so sure. It's been 37 years since your brother fell - but he fell in a mission to save others. He wasn't a victim of terror, he was a hero and his forces gave as good as they got. He fell in battle for the highest of reasons. No, I don't think you do understand.

"It collides with an exceedingly important value – the value of justice.

Damn right it does. And if you are going to collide with our values - you should at least do it for something...not some future promise that history has proven never really materializes. You have mocked our justice system, turning it into the revolving door of the Arab "justice system" and caused tremendous pain in the doing.

"It is a clear injustice when evil people are released before the end of their sentences, even if an absolute majority among them have served over 20 years in jail.

"The decision is doubly personally difficult for me, because I and my family know personally the price of bereavement from terror. I know the pain well. I have felt it on a daily basis for the past 37 years.

But again, you don't know the bereavement of a victim or a victim's family. Your brother was chosen and chose to lead a mission of honor that saved hundreds of lives. There is comfort in that. What comfort is there in having your 76 year old grandfather stabbed to death by the killer you want to release? Of having your wife and three children another killer you want to release? You know the pain of losing a loved one, but not the injustice of having it done in terror and now, the further injustice of having that killer released.
"The fact that Israeli governments that preceded those that I have headed released over 10,000 terrorists, does not make things any easier for me today, and did not make my decision to free Gilad Schalit any easier.

"Bringing Gilad home involved an exceedingly difficult decision for me – the release of terrorists. But I believed that the value of bringing our sons home must supersede that difficulty.

The jury is still out on whether the value of bringing home a beloved son of Israel outweighs the danger of releasing over 1,000 terrorists. Already, Israel has had to recapture several of those terrorists.

"People in positions of leadership must choose between complex options, and sometimes the required decision is particularly difficult when most of the public opposes it.

See, the concept of a democracy is that you implement the dreams and hopes and wishes of the people. In a dictatorship, you can do what YOU want; in a democracy, you are supposed to do what the people want. After 65 years of facing the same enemy, I think we, the people, are also qualified to know that you're leading us down a dead end...again.

"Thus, I decided to end Operation Pillar of Defense after arch terrorist Ahmed Jaabari was liquidated, and after the harsh blows that Hamas and the terror organizations received at the hands of the IDF.

"I made the decision to end the operation although most of the public backed continuing it – something that would have required a ground offensive into Gaza. As prime minister I thought that the goal of deterrence had been largely achieved by the determined actions we took.

But you see, with Operation Pillar of Defense, one could argue that you were privy to information we didn't have - or at least I hope so. For what it is worth, soldiers - like my son...who you called up on a Friday night to join the battle...understood your decision, even if they didn't agree with it. It was, at that point, given what the air force had already accomplished, an issue of weighing what was to come against what was accomplished. That is not the same now. What will be accomplished by releasing 104 killers NOW? Why not begin the negotiation...why not, in fact, end the negotiation and let part of what they demand be these 104. Then, at least, we will get exchange for this injustice. But we won't get anything for it - and once again, if we are required to buy their seat at the table with our blood, we are fools - fools lead by a fool.

"Today, about a year after Operation Pillar of Defense, we are witnessing the most quiet situation in the south in over a decade. Of course, this quiet can fall apart at any moment, but my policy is a clear one on all fronts: as far as possible, we prevent threats in advance, and we respond with force to any attempt to hurt our civilians.

"In the next nine months we will examine if the Palestinian element that faces us wants to truly end the conflict between us, as we do.

"This end will only be possible if the security of the citizens of Israel is assured, along with our vital national interests.

"If we reach a peace arrangement of this nature, I will bring it to a public referendum.

"A crucial decision like this must not be made on the cusp of a few votes in the Knesset. Every citizen must be allowed to directly influence our future in such a central question.

"The best response that we give to those base murderers who wanted to defeat us through terror is that in the course of the dozens of years when they sat in jail, we have built a wonderful country and turned it into one of the world's most prosperous, advanced and powerful countries.

Actually, apparently the response you are giving those base murderers who want to defeat us through terror is that they are likely to succeed. Sure, they sat in jail a dozen or more years and yeah, we've built a wonderful country...but they are being free to attempt - chance two - to defeat us, to maim us, to destroy all we have built for ourselves and our children. What value will what we have built be...if in the building, we allow them to kill our future?

"I promise that we will continue to do so.

I promise you that what you release today will try in the near future to destroy they have tried for 65 years. I know...sadly...with more pain and despair than you perhaps can imagine...that things will explode in Israel once again, people will die...because of these 104, because once again you are showing weakness.

greatest nation can be defeated by the stupidest of decisions. When the Palestinians want peace, we won't have to buy it and so long as we are willing to pay a price such as this, they will win. The blood on their hands remains. Those that took your brother's life are laughing because you are giving them another chance to take hostages and somewhere, sometime, another young Yoni will have to fly into danger, to save his people, as Yoni once did. 

The blood of those victims is on the hands of those you release...the blood of the next victims will be on yours. That is the horrible burden a leader must bear. It is your right to choose this path; and our job to remind you that in weakness and surrender, there is only failure.

"Yours, Binyamin Netanyahu."

Yours...a nation saddened, shocked, and angry.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Explaining Why Israel Is....

There are many reasons why our living in this land is morally, historically, poetically and realistically right. Why we have to bother making that explanation is another issue. Does any other nation in the world spend as much time justifying simply its right to be? I doubt it. Syria has murdered more than 100,000 of its citizens...and no one says it has no right to exist. Nation after nation in this world fails to provide its citizens with basic needs or denies its citizens basic rights and they are welcome into the "family of nations."

But something happened yesterday and today - I doubt most people even heard about it. Perhaps you heard part of it; perhaps none. And yet, taken as a picture, it is why Israel exists - pure, simple and true.

Last night, a Jew was near his home when he was shot. It is unclear if a group of men were involved in the attack or several. What is clear - the basic facts, is that the Jew, a rabbi, was seriously injured and is fighting for his life. He is also a father...of four children. He was taken to the hospital nearby; police believe the motivation for the attack was anti-Semitism.

The attack happened 1,014 miles away (I can only tell you the distance between Derbent, Russia and Tel Aviv, Israel - apparently the site: does not want to offer me the option of Jerusalem, Israel...and isn't that interesting?).

Those are the facts - a rabbi, shot and critically injured, an attack over a thousand miles away.

Now let me tell you about Israel - within hours, Israel sent a medical team to Russia. Their goal was to get to the rabbi and if at all possible, bring him to Israel for treatment. The medical team landed hours ago, ensured the rabbi was stable, and he is now on a plane headed for Israel.

That is the story of Israel, the truth of Israel. In a short while, Rabbi Ovadia Yaskov's plane will land in Israel. An ambulance will be on hand, ready to transport him to an Israeli hospital where Israeli doctors will take care of him.

I don't know if this rabbi is a citizen of Israel, but it hardly matters. When Israel sent a team to help search and rescue (and retrieval and identification of bodies) during the tsunami, they took with them a list of Israelis (as other nations took lists of their own) and beyond their own, the Israeli team was given a list of missing Jews from other nations - asked by families abroad. I remember one was a British Jew; I don't know other nationalities, but I do remember they kept at it until they found the body.

It is a promise Israel keeps to its own people - Israelis and Jews - no matter where you are, no matter what your situation, dead or alive, we will bring you home.

May God grant Rav Ovadia Yaskov a complete and speedy recovery.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Passing Worries

A few weeks ago, we moved our offices to the center of Jerusalem. For the last 8+ years, we've been located in Har Hotzvim, the hi-tech park in Jerusalem. This was great for being in contact with companies, but was harder for individuals wanting to take our courses. More, we were in a miserable building, badly maintained, poorly managed, and I never could stomach people trying to cheat me, lie to me, etc.

So, finally, with almost no notice, we gave up and surrendered. We would never be able to deal with the management; they would always try to take advantage. No, the offices were never 300 meters, despite what we were told (and charged). No, we don't really want to pay for everyone else's water because they are smart enough to steal it from the emergency fire reserves rather than run it through a meter. I surrender - get us out of here...and so we moved.

We moved to a building with an interesting history - though yesterday is likely to be one that people remember for years to come. Yesterday,  while we were having our last frustrating meeting with the previous landlord (and yeah, we got stuck paying for his water though thankfully, the extra electricity he charged to us was covered by the tenant using it and not us), I started getting phone calls.

Elie called during the meeting; I told him I couldn't talk. His voice was calm; he told me he'd talk to me later. A few minutes later, Chaim called - strange. I answered and started to tell him I was in a meeting when he said, "I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Okay?" I said beginning to worry, "We're...what happened?"

And so, my stomach dropped again, the roller coaster hit that always unexpected fall. You're coasting along and then...that's it, you're stomach is still coasting, but your body is falling.

Chaim explained - Binyan Klal, where our new offices were located - shots were fired; a man and a woman were killed in the area where there are fact, on our floor, around the corner from where we are. It was clear, even in the first minutes, that it was not a terror attack, but a targeted, intentional act. A man, driven to the edge of his ability to cope, pushed beyond his capacity to deal with life, shot and killed his lawyer and the lawyer's daughter (who was also a lawyer or secretary...still unclear). This all became clear in the hours after the initial report.

But in those first moments all they said was a man and woman were killed in Binyan Klal, in the center of Jerusalem. We were fine, but the meeting stopped instantaneously as the others asked me what happened. And as I answered in short fragmented sentences, I was already panicking and calling Elie's wife, who WAS at the Training Center.

As always, Lauren handles emergencies and apparent emergencies and non-emergencies with the same calm and logic. She is so like Elie - they are so perfect together. She was fine. Yes, she locked the door. No, she was not near the windows. Yes, she heard the shots. No, she didn't leave the safety of the Training Center.

Somewhere in my terrified questions, she got in that the person was captured right away, she was fine, etc.

A short time later, Shmulik called - also worried. A dear friend called to make sure I was okay and I answered the phone not with "hello" - but "we're fine; we aren't even there." I called Amira so she wouldn't worry. She called Lauren to make sure that Lauren really was okay. I spoke to Elie again. Davidi called. Two friends of ours called my husband and others sent SMS. My sister called. Several friends asked on Facebook. And on it went.

It wasn't so long ago that when something exploded, I began a frantic period in which I confirmed where everyone was. It wasn't always a logical progression but it certainly was frantic. I told my children from the time they were first given phones, "if anything explodes anywhere in Israel, you call me."

It's a strange feeling to realize that you have passed this urgency, this sense of terror on to your children. Perhaps I didn't pass it to them; perhaps it is human nature. It is, most definitely sad.

It was a sad tragedy yesterday. What drove a man in his 50s, a security guard whose past years have been dedicated to protecting come and take the life of two people? He has four children - what will become of them?

And I have learned the sad feeling of knowing that my children have grown enough to reach the point where they worry about us, where they need reassurances that we weren't hurt; that we are fine.

I have a friend who was in the army when she was young. There she met her husband. They both served. In a lot of ways, as hard as it was for me to learn what I needed to learn when Elie went into the army, it was harder for my friend and her husband. It took me a while to understand this. I thought it was hard for me because I didn't understand what was happening, what was expected of me.

By that logic, they should have handled their son going into the army easily. Been there, done that; nothing new. What my friend explained was that they never thought the day would come that their son would have to serve, and as he did a year or so later - go fight in a war.

"We served so that our children wouldn't have to and we just never thought that when the time came, our children would have to serve too."

Yesterday, I had a taste of that. I didn't worry so that years later my children wouldn't have to...but there was something inside of me, unknown until yesterday, that believed my children would never have to worry as I did, never call to make sure I wasn't hurt or worse.

I don't know if I'm explaining this clearly - it's just a thought in my have your children call you...and while I love them all was a side of their returned love that I didn't want to ever see. I didn't do anything to cause their worry and yet, I'm sorry for it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cat on a Hot Tin....Engine

I'm in love with our new offices - part of the reason I've been posting less often in the last few weeks. The location is CENTER JERUSALEM - and I love riding the train to work every day. We went into Mahane Yehuda - the open marketplace/shuk - seconds from our building. You can't really get more central than we are...

I could take the bus from Maale Adumim, but so far, I've been lazy. I've driven to the Ammunition Hill. A huge open parking lot was created for people to park. It's free; it's clean, and it is seconds from the train.

On Sunday night, as I was coming home, I got off the train and got in my car. I drove a few yards and heard, "meow, meow, meow." I stopped the car quickly but heard nothing. I opened the doors, the trunk, the hood. I looked up, down, in, around...nothing.

I started the car and drove a bit more. "Meow, meow, meow."

I stopped the car. It was coming from the engine. I opened the hood - nothing. I called Elie and Shmulik and my husband. I had no idea what to do. Two women stopped by and together we shook the car, banged along the areas under the tire. Nothing. Every time I started the car, silence. I thought I had killed it.  I drove a few feet forward, "meow, meow, meow."

A man stopped and with a flashlight tried to help - there were now three of them. I thought maybe the sound was weaker. I didn't know what to do. Finally, I thanked the three and they left. I couldn't bring myself to drive, sure it would kill the cat.

Amira said I should call the animal shelters and she volunteered to do that. Elie said I should call the towing company and they'd get it out. Shmulik said let the car cool off and the cat would go out by itself.

While I was explaining/arguing with the towing company - they were telling me to call the animal shelter people because they wouldn't come...I saw a little kitten run out from under the car. So - Shmulik was right - when it got cold enough, the cat would leave; and Elie was right - calling the towing company helped because it was only while I was on the phone and not starting the car every few minutes that the cat ran out.

All in all, dear Honda - please make sure in the next design you release that there isn't space for cats to get into the engines. It doesn't make for happy results unless someone is willing to sit on the side of the road for hours waiting for the cat to leave.

Monday, July 15, 2013

In Memory of Irena Sendler

Years ago, I first heard the story of Irena Sendler. In the dark world of World War II, she was a tiny light shining brightly; a reminder that there are good people, even in the ugliest of situations. Today is the 8th day of the Hebrew month of Av. We start our days with the setting of each sun - our 24 hours does not stretch from midnight to midnight, but from sundown to sundown and so tonight begins the 9th day of Av. It is, by any calculation, the saddest day on the Jewish calender. What we lost, what was done to us on this day - throughout the thousands of years we have wandered, cannot be measured, nor can our grief.

Tonight we will sit on the floors or our synagogues, our homes, on hilltops and community centers. This is a sign of mourning as we listen to the book of Eicha - Lamentations, as it is quietly read - here in Israel, in our neighborhood, our city, our country, and also around our world. It won't rain here in Israel; but the heavens will cry with us. And we will wait for some bit of light to come back into our world, some sign that better times are coming.

It seems particularly appropriate to post this guest blog post about Irena Sendler - a reminder that in the darkest of times, a small light of humanity and hope brings forth the greatest hopes.

Tomorrow, wherever you are - please remember that only in the darkest of places, can we see the smallest of lights more clearly. They are a sign, if we have the faith to grasp it. May God bless the memory of Irena Sendler and may she always look down upon Israel, knowing that there are many who live today because of "her" children.

In Memory of Irena Sendler
The recent 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising focused the world's attention, if only for a few moments, on the unspeakable horror that befell European Jewry just a generation ago. Ceremonies were held and speeches were made but when all is said and done, if our present generation doesn't take necessary action to ensure that the events of World War II are remembered, the world will blithely and conveniently forget.

Just how easy it is to forget was emphasized by the recent research of a group of Kansas City schoolgirls who reignited interest in a story that had almost been swept into the dustbin of history. In 1999, while researching the Holocaust, the girls heard snippets of a story about a "female Oskar Schindler" who saved over 3000 Jews in Nazi Poland. The girls followed up on the story and due to their interest the amazing tale of Irena Sendler has been commemorated in a project that includes a book, a website and a performance.

Irena Sendler was a Polish social worker in 1939. When the Nazis invaded Poland she joined the Zagota underground and assisted Jews who were trying to escape from the Nazi dragnet. Together with her Zagota comrades she forged identity documents and helped the escaping Jews locate safe hiding places.

In 1941 the Nazis established the Warsaw ghetto and gathered almost half a million Jews into the small ghetto walls. Sendler obtained documents that identified her as a nurse who specialized in infectious diseases and she began to enter the ghetto to bring in foods and medicines.  Sendler quickly realized that the Nazis intended to murder all of the Jews in the ghetto and she developed strategies to move children to the "safe" part of Poland. She started by transferring orphans that she found on the streets but soon started to knock on doors in an attempt to convince Jewish parents to allow her to relocate their children.

When interviewed about her activities 60 years after the events, Sendler admitted that the memories of those conversations still gave her nightmares. "Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn't give me the child. Their first question was, 'What guarantee is there that the child will live?' I said, 'None. I don't even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today."

Sendler crisscrossed the ghetto boundaries several times daily, often bringing out the children by sedating them and smuggling them out in luggage, toolboxes and bags. Sometimes she hid them under her tram seat and at other times she put them in carts and piled garbage or barking dogs on top to distract the German guards. Older children were frequently led out through the sewers that ran under the city.

Once on the other side of the wall Sendler's work continued. She had to forge documents for the children and locate hiding places, usually among sympathetic Polish families or in convents or orphanages.  This was not easy because, even among the Polish citizens who wanted to help, there was great fear -- the Germans had a policy of killing anyone who hid a Jew, even going as far as to kill entire families.

Sendler carefully recorded the names and destinations of all of "her" children, writing the information on tissue paper and storing it in glass jars which she buried in her garden. She hoped that after the war she might be able to reunite some of the children with their parents or, at the very least, with the Jewish community.

In October of 1943 Sendler was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in the infamous Pawiak prison. There she was tortured for refusing to give up information. Zagota members bribed a German guard who released Sendler as she was being led to her execution. Sendler lived out the rest of the war in hiding.

Sendler was recognized as a Righteous Gentile by Yad VaShem in 1965 but it wasn't until the LMFF helped created the Life in a Jar project that she receive the recognition that she so richly deserved.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Proportionality - Missiles on New York?

The words "proportionality" and "disproportionate" were widely used during the Cast Lead War and in general in actions Israel takes to defend itself. It seems the world understands that we have the right to respond to incoming missiles - we just don't have the right to actually hit our target because, by the grace of God, the Palestinians usually miss theirs.

Of course, ignored in this is that OUR targets are military in nature, not open cities with hundreds of thousands of people.

I saw this graphic on Facebook and thought I'd share it. The area that come under attack each time Gaza decides to launch another missile at Israel can be compared to a similar land area in the US, say New York City. In our case, the area is less densely packed so "only" a bit over one million people are in harm's way. Imagine if a similar area in the US were attacked...

As the title says - sometimes you just need proportions to understand...

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Wisdom of Youth

How can it be that a man can be so wise at 28 and so stupid at 63? Bibi Netanyahu at 28... He says, at one point, he is 28 years old and has fought in 2 wars....more than 30 years later, my son is 26 years old and has fought in one war, and was called up in preparation for another...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4 Memories

Growing up, I lived on a main street that was closed each July 4th. We had to remember to pull the car to a side street or give up going anywhere for many hours. For the most part, we pulled out the chairs and sat right on the curb as police marched by, girl scouts, politicians, fire trucks, boy scouts, baton-twirling teams, the high-school band and more.

Some threw us candy - we threw candy back and cheered them on. This was almost always the memory I have - that and the neighbors across the street preparing for their annual barbecue and sometimes going to see fireworks over the river.

One year stands out in my mind. I was 15 years old; it was 1976. We had gone to celebrate America's 200th birthday by watching the tall ships sail down the Hudson River. We had brought a radio with us to listen to the broadcasters describe each ship...but more, days before Palestinian and German terrorists had hijacked a French plane and landed it in Entebbe, Uganda.

I was sick thinking of how they had separated the Jewish and Israeli passengers; releasing the Christian ones. That a German terrorist was involved in this separation brought home again the knowledge that the Holocaust will never really leave us.

I will forever remember that the French crew was offered the chance to leave with the Christians...and chose to stay. The deadline was approaching. The terrorists were threatening to kill the passengers. At any moment, I expected to hear that explosions and gunfire had been heard coming from the compound.

And as we sat watching the ships...the radio broke the news - explosions and gunfire. I thought I was hearing the end of what would be remembered as a terrible tragedy...and then there was confusion. It seemed a rescue attempt had been launched by Israel. Israel? But the hostages were in Africa, in Uganda?

It was, the radio quickly pointed out, a daring operation. The Israeli air force had flown 1,500 miles under the radar, undetected. They'd landed in Entebbe, and the hostages were free. The ships sailed quietly along the Hudson but those of us listening to that radio were distracted, desperate to hear what was happening. It was the first time in days I felt like smiling, like cheering - and as I looked at the ships, I thought - this is on the river, and there in Africa.

My ears listened to the reports - some casualties but most of the hostages, almost all of them were free and being taken back to Israel...and my eyes followed the ships gracefully glided down the Hudson. My heart sang with such joy. I remember crying - but they were tears of relief. I had expected 100 dead, not 100 freed.

Yoni Netanyahu - commander of the operation and older brother of the current prime minister, gave his life bringing the passengers home. He epitomized the Israeli army officer. Follow me, he told his men. He led them in and was the first and only Israeli army soldier to fall. He died on the plane flying home, despite desperate efforts to save his life. There is a sense of peace knowing that in his last moments, he must have known that he had succeeded. He had risked all for the freedom of others, for his people - those who no one else but Israel could have saved.

July 4 has, for the last 37 years, been entwined with that memory. The tall ships and the radio. The crackling announcements of what was happening in Entebbe and the strange feeling of being in two places - both symbolizing the very same concept - a commitment to be free and to ensure the safety and freedom of all.

Freedom comes, too often, with a price. It can, at times, be a huge and painful one. But we are free today - in the United States and in Israel, because there are brave men and women who will risk all to fight against tyranny. Those who will march against evil, stand against the tide.

May God bless the United States of America with continued strength and freedom. May it always be a land where evil is wrong; where equality and justice are honored; where life is something to be valued.

May God bless the soldiers of America and the soldiers of Israel who fight so that we can all live our lives in freedom and know that if there are those who rise up against us, who attempt to take from us that which we value, that which we love, that which we are - our soldiers will protect us, fight for us, even fall for us.

And may God bless the memory of Yonatan Netanyahu, who died 37 years ago and is remembered, to this day, for the lives he saved, for the many he brought home.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Volunteering - Hebrew Video from Maale Adumim

This video was taken a few days ago in Maale Adumim. It was at a ceremony honoring the 54 new volunteers to the police and neighborhood watch - including my husband. It's in Hebrew - sorry for those who don't understand. Several speakers.

The first announces how many volunteers, that they come from many countries, some very new to Israel.

The second speaker speaks of this being a part of their integration into the community.

At 1:37 and 1:45 minutes into the tap, you've got a nice close up of my husband!

The third and fourth speakers sort of say the same thing...

The fifth speaker is Benny Kashriel - the mayor of Maale Adumim for something like the last 20 years.

Pretty impressive, no? It was a very nice ceremony! So, all told, my husband volunteers with the local police; my oldest daughter volunteered for the ambulance, Elie, Shmulik, and Davidi have all volunteered as well (Elie and Davidi still do). Elie's wife also volunteers with the ambulance. So, that leaves...well, me and my youngest daughter...we'll have to come up with something.

Stupidity Award...for June 2013

I was thinking that maybe I shouldn't award the Stupidity Award annually. Maybe what I'll do is sort of have like a monthly and then pick the best example for the yearly one? It seems reasonable. It's just that so many people say so many stupid things, it seems too restricting to pick only one.

Having reviewed the month carefully (no, not really), I feel comfortable awarding the Stupidity Award for June 2013...drum roll

please... to Turkish PM Erdogan for his latest remarks, that "Jewish Diaspora prompted the unrest and have actively encouraged it."

We really have to add that one to a long list of amazing achievements of the Jewish people - according to the Hamas Covenant, that is. These include:
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs
  • French Revolution, the Communist Revolution ("and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there")
  • And finally, all wars, everywhere ("There is no war going on anywhere without having their finger on it:)
So - who would you recommend for July?

The Many Shades of a Story

There are some irrefutable facts in today's headlines - and then there are many shades to the story. What is known is that during the night, Muatez Edris Sharuna died. Actually, even that is a question because some news sites refer to him as Muatazz Sharawnah. Everyone seems to agree that he was 19 years old at the time of his death. Everyone seems to agree that he was a cadet in the Palestinian Military Security Academy in Jericho.

From there, the facts slide into a blurry mess of information. Some say he was run over by an Israeli military jeep during rioting; other say he was shot. The Palestinians have the body, so the confusion on their part is a bit strange. More and more, the Palestinians are saying that Sharuna or Sharawnah was shot.

Some eyewitnesses (and IDF forces) report that during the rioting, some of the protesters climbed on to the IDF jeeps and were throwing was at that point that the Israeli soldiers opened fire. Now, as the mother of two soldiers, mother-in-law to one, adopted mother to two, and aunt to two more...have I forgotten anyone? Anyway, with this background in mind, I have to say to those soldiers who were in the jeep - first, good for you for defending your lives and second, why did you wait until they were close enough to be climbing on the jeep to open fire?

As for the dead cadet, one could argue that Sharuna/Sharawnah was acting in his capacity as a security officer, trying to bring order amid chaos. Of course, the flaw in that logic is that a) he was a cadet and I find it hard to believe that rather than send trained officers, the Palestinians are sending out cadets to quell riots and b) if he was trying to stop the rioters, why was he climbing on an Israeli jeep?

Seems to me, he should have had his back to the Israelis and his front to the Palestinians if his goal was to end the violence. He should have been trying to separate, rather than lead...unless, of course, he wasn't there to quell the rioters, unless, of course, this misguided young man thought that there was glory in mounting a jeep filled with armed soldiers.

There are times in my life I wish I had the power to speak to the dead. If I did, to be honest, I'd probably want to speak to my grandfather who helped instill a love of Israel in my heart. I'd like to speak to Menachem Begin - I'd have so much I'd want to say to him. I'd like to speak to Golda Meir and thank her for setting herself as a role model long before it was comfortable for a woman to be a leader.

I probably wouldn't waste my chance speaking to a 19 year old Palestinian boy/man who wasted his life climbing on a military jeep - because the only thing I could possibly ask him would be, "What the heck were you thinking they'd do?"

Of course, the Palestinians are referring to Sharawnah/Sharuna as a martyr...but what was his cause? Stupidity?

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