Monday, August 26, 2013

Going Radio Silent...

There must have been a time in the past 6+ years where I didn't post for a week, two, possibly more...there must have been, though at this moment, I can't remember it. I barely slept last night - less than 2 hours. The important thing, of course, is that the surgeon slept! I had three projects to finish and send to clients; a bunch of sessions to finish related to our training courses, emails to much on my mind. Amira and Haim invited us for dinner; Shmulik and Naama called and said they wanted to come over to see me for a few minutes.

Dinner was amazing; everything wonderful. Elie called and ended up offering to take me to the hospital - Lazer and Amira are going, so that's covered. Davidi went to school yesterday but will come to the hospital later this afternoon, hopefully when I'm awake and aware. I won't tell him he took the wrong suitcase and sent me scrambling to find something else... So - in a few hours, I'll have surgery. I expect to be off line at least a week; Lauren tells me to prepare for three. May you all be blessed with a Shana tova - a good year; a shana mitukah - a sweet year. May it be a year of blessings, of safety, of health. May it be a year of peace - for all of Israel and the world. May the peace come across our borders and within our borders.

 I don't know if I'll have someone posting - I guess the main thing to say is that I feel I have the best of doctor and I'm looking forward to being able to use my arm fully... eventually. One of them...I think it was Amira...tells me I should ask the doctor if after the surgery, I'll be able to really pitch ... and then tell him I never could so it would be really nice if I got that talent.

So - here's a prayer for you and for me - may this next year come in with all the blessings, all the goodness...all the dreams we keep inside ourselves. And may we each be inscribed in the book of life for a good year, a sweet, sweet year.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Humility is realizing that you have to ask for help and worse, you have to accept it.

Humility is having people ask for your Hebrew name and knowing you should give it.

In Judaism, while we are alive, our name is a combination of our name and that of one of our parents. When a man is called to the Torah, he is called by his name and that of his father. When he stands before God and asks God to bless those he loves, again, they are blessed in the name of their father. And when a person dies, they are forever remembered by their name followed by their father's name.

In life, however, our mother's name is associated with us more than our father's name. When someone is sick and you say a prayer for their well-being, you use their name and their mother's name. When we pray for Israel's missing soldiers, again, we use their names followed by their mother's name.

There are many reasons for this but I wanted to write about the feeling more than the reason. I have been very blessed to be relatively healthy. I can't think of a time when I ever asked for prayers or had people ask me for my Hebrew name so they could pray for me. And that in itself is a blessing.

Now, in the days and hours before my operation, many of my friends, even strangers that I meet, are asking me for my name and when the operation will be. It is so strange, so humbling to be on this end of the prayers.

My mother's Hebrew name is Sarah, though she uses her English name. Apparently, I was not given a Hebrew name at birth. Though my grandfather told me I had one, my parents said that I didn't and so before I married, I consulted a Rabbi, who told me to choose a name and then, he named me before the congregation. He was called to the Torah and gave me a blessing, which included the name that I would be called. I choose Penina because it was nearest to the name of the woman from whom my English name was chosen. Penina is the name that appears on my Ketubah, my wedding certificate. Penina is the name that would be used to bless my children with health and safety.

So, my Hebrew name is Penina bat Sarah. Penina, the daughter of Sarah.

The operation is tomorrow...using two kinds of anesthesia - general and regional. What the doctors will do is kind of cool...especially if it wasn't me they were operating on!

What they will do, apparently, is insert pins to "pin" the torn tendon to the bone. I should be better informed, but I'm trusting the doctor. In the next six months, the tendon/bone will reattach itself over the pins in a natural healing process. They can't do this now because they were torn from each other and the tear is too large to fix itself. (More below.)

My first thought when I heard this was of security. I asked if I would be ringing all the metal detectors every time I walked into buildings. Kind of funny that this was my first concern and I hated the idea of this happening. It's silly the things we focus on, but somehow the idea of the metal detectors going off each time I walked through them was just more than I was willing to face. No, the doctor explained. The pins are not metal and will disintegrate in about 6 months and therefore won't even have to be removed.

The upside to this whole thing is they expect a 100% recovery. The downside is that it will likely take months to get there. I'll probably go radio-silent for 2 weeks...maybe less, knowing me...but then again, not knowing the operation could even be longer. I do know that I'm not supposed to move the arm at all for the fist 2 weeks.

So - I'll wish you all health and safety and happiness in the weeks to come. I'll ask you to remember to bless our soldiers and our country and if you spare a kind thought or prayer for Penina bat Sarah, I'll thank you for that as well.

About the Surgery

From Wikipedia - About Rotator Cuffs:
Surgery for the Rotator Cuff
Surgery for the rotator cuff can be for complete tears, or partial tears/strains that fail to get better. If a torn rotator cuff goes untreated for too long, it may become un-repairable and so shoulder pain should not be ignored. Surgery often consists of removing damaged tissue and repairing the good tissue back to the bone. Bone spurs and inflammation (bursitis) is also removed to try to prevent re-tears. all arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs can fix most tears through 4-5 small incisions. On occasion a patch needs to be placed on the rotator cuff tendons which requires a larger incision. Many times, the biceps tendon is damaged with rotator cuff tears and may also require biceps tenodesis surgery at the same time.  

The rehab for rotator cuff surgery falls into three basic categories; some damage to the tendons with surgery consisting of debridement, removing spurs and cleaning out inflammation, tears requiring repair with excellent quality tendon tissue, and tears requiring repair with poor quality tendon tissue. The first category, rehab consists of early active and passive range of motion exercises focused on maintaining range of motion for 4 weeks and then strengthening and return to sports from weeks 4-8. Repaired tendons with excellent quality will begin full passive motion early, start active motion from weeks 4-8, strengthening from 8-12 and return to sports after 3–4 months. Repairs with poor tissue quality will have no motion early on, start passive motion after 2–4 weeks, active at 6–8 weeks, strengthening at 4 months and return to sports at 6 months. Your doctor will guide you through the rehabilitation process.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Next Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I couldn't stop thinking of Ayaan Hirsi Ali when I saw this video. It is unimaginable that an 11 year old could speak these words, know these things, fear these things...and from her own family. This is yet another example of a religion gone wrong, a culture out of control.


CNN did a follow up on this story a short while after this video went viral, seen by millions around the world. Here is their report.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


...his beautiful wife and their beautiful daughters landed in Israel this morning. That's it - they've come home. Not to visit - never again will Yaakov be a visitor here. Then again, I'm not sure he ever was. There were two things in Yaakov's heart - for as long as I have known him (okay, three). One was his family; two was Shoshana; and three was Israel.

I'm once again feeling sad for his parents and thrilled for me. As when Chaim moved here, there is a part of me that aches for their mother just as the rest of me celebrates.

Yaakov was the first of his siblings (at least that I know of), who made it clear Israel was to be his home. I might be wrong about the order - it's kind of hard to tell - but as of about 6:00 a.m. Israel time - Yaakov's parents now have four Israeli children (and four Israeli grandchildren). Four out of four...they've all chosen to live in this land and while I know it is hard for their family in America...I'm walking around feeling so happy.

Yaakov looks...amazing. They all look amazing. I've seen pictures, but the girls are even more beautiful than the pictures. There is a special look that someone has when they are whole again. I remember leaving my heart in Israel when I was 16 years old and then living for another 16 years with this divide. When I landed, my husband met me with flowers...and my heart stood behind him asking what had taken me so long.

For a long time, there was a part of Yaakov's heart that belonged here and each time he came here, I think he left more and more of it. I lived that way for years - my heart in one place, my body in another. It was something I recognized in Yaakov right away, which is, I think, why I have always felt this special connection with him.

My children have never know this feeling, of having a fundamental part of themselves in some distant land. To be whole, in body, soul and heart is an important thing. If you've ever lived without your heart, I think you can recognize it easily in others. Some people want to come to Israel; some people NEED to come.

I can't describe what it feels like to know something fundamental to your being is missing - within reach, but so far away; and I can't describe the feeling of what it is like - that moment when they come back together and you finally feel whole. That's the look I saw on Yaakov's face today when he smiled.

Elie first met Yaakov the year after he finished high school. Yaakov went into the army; Elie moved to a different pre-army program, but Yaakov remained his friend and quickly became part of our family, part of our lives.

I learned so much from Yaakov and he didn't seem to mind that it was all new to me - that army business, the concept that soldiers come home tired and starving. I didn't know about those army ceremonies - but after his first ceremony, I never went to another ceremony without a ton of food.

Yaakov told me he would be coming back to Israel...I hoped he would; I believed he would. Yaakov and Chaim (and their sisters) are very devoted to their parents - wonderful people who should be so so proud for having raised such amazing kids. And from the start, we knew that Yaakov was devoted to Shoshana and that they would marry. They've got two daughters.

This morning Yaakov asked me what they should call me...offering me variations on grandmother in Hebrew. Wow...I have to talk to his mother about that one but what an incredible honor that he even thought to ask. It is his way of saying I am as much a second mother to him as he is a ...well...second/fourth/first adopted son to me.

I am much better at giving love than accepting it - to know these guys love me, love my children and consider them brothers and sisters fills me with awe.

And I love how they did what they did this summer. Chaim is spending the summer in the States with his mother and father...this eases the fact that he lives here now and that today, their last two children came to a place they have longed to be and consider home. He could have been here to greet Yaakov; instead, he chose to be there so that the shock of having their last two children move across the world was softened by the knowledge that home is always where their parents are...and also the place where they choose to live.

I love the fact that Chaim thought to be there to ease this slide into a new reality - and I love the fact that their older sister was there to greet Yaakov on this side of the ocean. And one of the best scenes of all was watching Mera's two little girls...and Yaakov's two little girls together jumping, playing, hugging.

I've been really preoccupied with myself lately. I woke early to go to the airport and suddenly thought - maybe we should leave earlier (thankfully, we didn't because we still waited 2 hours after we got there). And then I thought...I did nothing for I went to the kitchen and made chocolate chip cookies (I did that when Yaakov was in the army) and brought them.

That helped - but I still forgot so many things. I tell my kids not to go anywhere without water (it's a very hot country and you have to get used to always taking water!)...and this morning, I left for the airport without water! Luckily, Mera (their oldest sister) thought of everything - including the signs to welcome them!

My operation is next week - this Shabbat, I am desperately hoping to host all of them ... minus Chaim unless he wants to fly home for this...I haven't even counted the numbers yet - 4 of them, 4 of them, 3 of them, 2 of them and 2 of them and 4 of us...that's 19. I can do 19.

Today, Yaakov came home and my heart is smiling because he was smiling so much at the airport; there was such joy. He spoke Hebrew right and left to people - more proof that he's come back.

If there is one memory I will carry with me of this day, it will be Yaakov's smile. It was so loud, I could hear it and even as I looked, I knew I was seeing straight through to his heart smiling.

Yaakov is home and I know that Israel is better for it!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Collective Jew

I keep trying to make this point to show what I believe is the unique Israel. In the last few weeks, three incidents have happened that once again reinforce what I have known all my life. Am I wrong to believe there is no other country in the world that would do these things? 

Here's the first amazing story:
A young cancer patient on the way to the US with a bunch of other sick kids can't find her passport. 
With no other choice, the young girl was removed from the plane and the plane prepared to depart after a fruitless search on the plane, in the airport, everywhere. Minutes before takeoff, while the plane was taxiing to the runway, they found the passport in another child's backpack.
Too late, no? The stewardess told the pilot - the pilot radioed the tower and was given permission to turn back. The story appears here.
As the child cried, so too did people on the plane - and the stewardesses, and people on the ground. Amazing.

And the second story...
David Finti is 19 years old. He is a Romanian Jew. While boarding a train, David was electrocuted and severely burned. The local Jewish community contacted the Jewish Agency. They recognize the collectivism of our people just as on the Israeli side it was recognized as well. And so, Israel flew the young man to Israel, making him an Israeli citizen so that he could get critical care free of charge. David and his parents were flown to Israel and are now at Hadassah's Ein Kerem hospital. The story appears here.  
Yet another story in the last few days has come to light. Israel recently managed to bring in another 17 Yemenite Jews - leaving 90 left.What amazes me is that we were able to bring another group here to Israel and more, that we know how many remain. We are watching, waiting, hoping to bring the last remnants of what was once a great community here to Israel.

It is what we do. Three stories of how Israel watches, Israel waits, Israel acts.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Woman of Courage and Strength

When I was little, my parents didn't have much money so family vacations were non-existent. But somehow, for years if I remember correctly, my uncle and aunt invited me to spend a week at their house. These are the memories of a child - perhaps it was only a few days. For all I know, it could have been only one night - but the memory I carry with me was that I spent days and days with my Uncle Woodie and my Aunt Pia.

Pia was an accomplished artist - she filled her house with color and brightness. She was a wonderful mother...housewife...teacher. She was always dressed so beautifully, so elegantly. I have so many memories of her as I was growing up.

Seven years ago, Pia was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told she had months, maybe even just weeks, to live. She redefined courage as she fought back the disease time and time again.

When a doctor told her there was no hope...she decided not to listen. She went experimental treatments, was declared cancer free and continued to fight even after the disease re-appeared. She became a symbol for many as she launched campaigns to raise money and awareness for a disease that leaves devastation and shock in its wake.

Through it all, she continued to smile, continued to cherish her family. I saw her a bit over a year ago when she came to Israel to celebrate the bar mitzvah of her oldest grandson. There was such pride in her as she stood on Masada and watched her daughter's family gather around.

We all knew the disease was still there and we knew she would continue to fight it for as long as she could. She never gave up; she never gave in.

She lost her battle with cancer on Friday (Shabbat in Israel).

There are many heroes in the world - perhaps the greatest are those who simply struggle to live their lives with dignity, respect, and love.

I always knew Pia was a woman of grace, beauty, talent and love. I have learned over the last few years, that she was also a woman of incredible courage and strength. May God bless her memory.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Coming Home....Twenty Years

On August 16, 1993...I boarded an El Al jet with a three year old and a six year old. I was terrified; I was exhausted. I had nine suitcases, six carry-ons, a baby carriage and a car seat. My husband was an ocean away in Israel - already preparing the groundwork for the life we would build together in Israel. My seven-year-old daughter was there beside him, tasked with the single job of learning some Hebrew to ease her way into third grade. All I wanted was to get to him...and to her. I knew that if I could reach them, everything would be good.

Almost all that we owned was sailing across the ocean far below us - except for the clothes, linens, towels, utensils for 6, two pots, and some photo albums that were packed in our bags.

Even before the plane had reached cruising altitude, little Shmulik had fallen asleep. As soon as the pilot turned off the seat belt, I eased him to the floor on a blanket and pillow. The stewardesses already knew that I was different than most of the people on the plane. The other passengers were going to visit Israel or returning home. I was going to make it my home and I was a woman alone with two children. They all had a home somewhere; I was leaving the only home I had ever known for the only home I ever wanted. They were wonderful - my children and the stewardesses. But they both gave me the one thing my exhausted brain didn't want - time to think.

I talked with Elie for a short while. He asked some questions, we talked, and then he wanted to go to sleep too. I picked Shmulik up and Elie stretched out on the floor. He was small enough that with his head near the window, his feet were still safely within our row and I didn't have to worry about him getting trampled. He was asleep in minutes.

As soon as Elie was settled, I lowered Shmulik to the seats beside me and covered him. I covered Elie with another blanket and half wished that at least one of them had stayed awake so I wouldn't feel so lonely. I was alone over the dark ocean...flying to the only dream I had held inside of me from the time I was 13 years old. I was too exhausted to sleep; too nervous to relax; too worried that one of the boys would wake up to leave them even for a moment.

All I could think about was what it would be like once we landed. Israel. Can dreams come true? Can the land I believed in really be as I hoped it would be? How is it possible I was lucky enough to finally, finally, finally be on this plane heading to Israel - no return ticket, all my worldly possessions in Israel, on the ship, or with me on the plane?

Unbelievably, the boys slept almost the whole way. They missed the special children's meal; they missed the stewardesses coming to check on us and wishing us well.

After landing, we collected our bags - I can't remember how we carried the six carry-ons, but we did. We got near passport control - and were whisked upstairs to the left by a woman from AACI carrying a sign with our names. Away from all the others...those who came on vacation, because we had come to stay...and those who had come home, because we were coming home only for the first time.

The boys played in a large, empty room with what looked like 100 chairs, while I went through the paperwork. None of the other cubicles was being was me, the boys...and the Russian clerk who created the paperwork to declare us Israelis. It seemed to take forever. I kept telling myself to hold on. As exhausted as I was, I knew my husband was outside - someone had checked and told me. Everything would by okay the minute I saw him... minutes took forever. I couldn't wait to see him because in so many ways, it was his promise, his actions, that made my dream come true.

As the clerk was finishing the final forms and had gotten up to escort the three of us downstairs to collect our bags - the large room filled with hundreds of people. A plane had landed from Russia with dozens of new immigrants. I was so grateful to have landed that much earlier, to have had the clerk and that large room to myself.

I found my suitcases, one by one. We piled them onto two carts; the boys held on. The carriage was put somewhere; the baby seat perched precariously above it all. We, the Russian clerk and I, pushed the carts outside and there...after not seeing him for more than 2 months, was my husband...with our daughter - and the most beautiful flowers I'd ever received.

It was warm and sunny outside, impossibly bright. My husband held me for those first few seconds and I knew I had come home.

The clerk ordered us a van, courtesy of the State of Israel and we followed my husband to the house he had found to rent for all of us. The massive amount of baggage was unloaded into the house; the van left and for the first time in months, I thought I could finally relax - we were finally together again, and even better, we were home. 

In the days, weeks, months, and years that followed, I kept noticing the same things over and over again and I'll confess now that these things still make me smile. You see, the signs are all in Hebrew; the sun still so impossibly bright. The air had this smell - it still does - it is a combination of so many things - uniquely Israel. Every once in a while, early in the morning as I leave my home, I stop and is, forever, Israel.

Now, 20 years later, those two little boys are married. Both have served in the army; one fought in a war for this land. The daughter who had come 6 weeks before with her grandmother, is a mother herself with a husband that we truly love as a son. My husband and I are grandparents - grandparents, can you imagine? I can't start writing about my grandson...I'll never stop. He is life itself; he is the sun shining in our lives; he is ...

Weeks after I landed, my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in a small restaurant in the beautiful city of Jaffa on the shore. I kept staring out over the sea, loving that the sun set on the "wrong" side of the world. On the east coast of the United States, I had seen the sunrise and the promise of a new day coming; here in Israel, I have often watched the sun set, happy and satisfied with the blessings God has given me this day, each day, for the last 20 years.

In another few weeks, my husband and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary - I don't yet know where. God willing, there will be a new grandchild to warm our hearts and fill our home with even more joy. And God willing, many more in the future.

I have never - not once, in 20 years looked back and wished away that flight, that exhaustion, or the absolute wonder of being welcomed into the Israeli sunshine.

It is the greatest of blessings to have a dream come true - mine did, 20 years ago when the wheels of that El Al jet touched down. I am what I always dreamed of being - I am Israeli. When my friends dreamed of being lawyers and engineers in high school, I thought I had no ambitions in life, I dreamed of being Israeli. Most became something other than they expected...for was always Israel, is always Israel.

Even better, my children are Israelis - and the next generation is being born in this country. My grandson is a first generation Israeli on his mother's side; and on his father's side, he is the third generation born here. The new one will, God willing, be first generation on both sides.

If I have one regret, it is that we did not come sooner. I have watched on distant shores how those we left behind have wandered and I see my daughters and my sons, stronger, taller, more sure. It is the strength of being born in your land and not another's; of knowing it is yours because you defend it, by right but yes, by might as well. My children - the three I brought and the two born here - are Israelis. And they are better Jews for being Israeli because they understand the fundamental, inseparable tie between Jew and Israel; between belief and land.

I dreamed of coming to Israel - of the Hebrew signs and the fields; I dreamed of Jerusalem and the desert and the mountains. But what I know now is that the Jerusalem of my dreams was golden, but flat - it lacked the life, I see and live almost every day.

You have to live here to feel and see beyond the Jerusalem of the sunshine. It is the life flowing through it, every day - the traffic, the buses, the bicycles. It is the light rail, the people walking briskly down the street everywhere - the open cafes and the merchants selling the most amazing...and the most mundane.

It is the man handing you the newspaper; selling the freshly baked bread. It is the taxi driver driving like there is no tomorrow though tomorrow he will drive the same way. It is teacher who calls you up to tell you that your son is doing fine and the doctor that jokes that if the pain comes and goes, it isn't bad because "good things come and go; bad things stay all the time."

It is the anger that comes with a missile; the joy that comes with the holidays. It is the greeting from a stranger on Shabbat; it is the smile you share with someone on the train. It is the heart-stopping terror when the news announces an attack; and the way you sadly shake your head to the woman sitting next to you because you both understand that all of Israel.

I dreamed of a land flowing with milk and honey...but the reality is so much better. The honey and milk you can buy in the store - instead, the land flows with life around the seasons of each year.

The trees in my dreams were green but the real land is so many more colors - it is, in some places barren, and in all places, majestic. It is the landscape of the Judean and Negev Deserts; it is the mountains in the Galilee and the water cascading down to the sea. It is the caves of Beit Guvrin and the amazing Sorek Cave. It is the grotto in Rosh HaNikra; the water flowing into the Sea of Galilee.

It is the bustling cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv and the open markets (shuks) throughout the land. It is the new mall in Beersheva and snorkeling in Eilat. It is the snow on the Hermon and the beauty of Gush Etzion. It is traffic jams and honking cars and planes and helicopters flying overhead.


It is the shore of the Mediterranean and that first glimpse of sunset as the sun touches the water with a promise to come back tomorrow. It is the shimmering heat of summer and the cold of the stone floors in winter.

And it is the people...

The people are old...and so young. It is the old man walking across the street...and the young man with an earring that stops a car with one hand while with the other he guides the old man across. It is the boy with a tattoo who kisses my mezuzah as he delivers pizza and leaves with a blessing that I should be well or have a good Shabbat.

It is the mother, struggling to hold one child, while another sleeps in a carriage and it is the young woman who reaches to pick up the blanket and hand it to the little girl who stops her fussing to hide her face. And then, this young woman and this little girl play peek-a-boo until the mother gets off the bus.

It is the young mother who boards the back of the bus with her baby and takes a seat - and then passes her wallet to the front of the bus to pay for the ticket...knowing the wallet and the ticket will soon be returned.  And this is all done without fear because in Israel, mothers do not fear strangers as they do elsewhere.

Here, something crashes or explodes and you turn to the person next to you and you each hope no one was hurt. A stranger is never quite a stranger here because what we share is so much greater than what we don't. The news comes on and people listen and then smile or frown because whatever happens affects one and so affects all.

Israel is the woman who climbs in your car and gives you directions, and asks if you can drop her off on the way...and sometimes on the way is a bit out of the way so that she can get just a bit closer to her destination.

Israel is the guy who steps on your foot, and then tells you it's okay. Israel is the old woman who tells you that you really have to put a hat on the baby and don't you think it's too hot to have that blanket on him? the man who shakes his head and says five as your eyes fill with tears because he means five dead and you can't believe it has happened again. And it is the soldier who falls asleep on your couch because he has just come back from yet another exhausting week, pushed to the end of his abilities and yet he knows...we know...he will do it all again next week just the same way.

Israel is the woman at the bank who asks after your son because she knows where he is and what he is doing...or at least as much as you know and only then will she ask you about the deposit you want to make or the form you need to fill out urgently.

And it is the store manager at the checkout counter who asks why you are buying so much candy and when he hears it is for your son's unit, he lowers the price and then throws in a case of something else. And it is the man in line right behind you who hears this, sees this, and tells the store owner to throw in another 50 shekels, so of course, the store owner throws in 75 shekels of more candy.

And it is the bride who walks to the kotel in her wedding dress, and it is the guard who opens the gates for her and all the people who call out to wish her mazel tov, congratulations and it is the three Ultra-Orthodox men who sing wedding songs and clap their hands as she walks past.


Twenty years ago, I flew to the picture I had carried in my heart and found a land beyond all that I had imagined. Israel has turned my children into the most amazing people - four out of five (so far) have volunteered for the ambulance squad - two still actively give hours of their lives helping others. Two are security guards; all five still studying and working towards the future that awaits them. All five...Israelis.

Some people ask where years go...they marvel at how fast time flies by...yes, I marvel, but I know where they have gone...they have taken my children into adulthood, into families of their own. They have brought me two children born here; and three more children who have married to become mine as well. They have brought me five children of other women who I call my own in one way or another and that is a number I expect will continue to grow because that too is Israel.

The years have taken one son into war and into an almost war and another into more operations than I care to think about. And I know that more years stand ahead of me with another son...who will come home in a uniform and a gun and, with the blessings of God, will grow and return that gun and uniform and he too will marry...

Israel - there are no words to thank you, my beautiful land, for what you have given to the people of Israel and to my family and to me.

On August 16, 1993, I left the land of my birth, the only home I had ever known, and on August 17, 1993, an El Al jet landed and brought me to the only home my people has ever had.


May the God of Israel forever keep His promise - the land of Israel...for the people of Israel - always and forever.

Here's to the next twenty, and the twenty after them, and the twenty after them, and God willing, even another twenty or so....

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Daughter's Tears

I owe Amira an apology and I think I'm giving it here. She's worried about me, my shoulder, my inability to stop trying to do everything and anything. I'm supposed to be waiting for my surgery and not do further damage. For the most part, to be honest, I'm really doing that (or at least trying)...though she won't agree.

I was told by the doctors early on - that I should use my shoulder and my arm - of course, they told me this when they didn't know that I had a torn rotator cuff that required surgery but even with that, I have to keep moving it. But I don't have to do more than normal or even what is normal and Amira keeps trying to prevent me from hurting myself.

And I keep pushing myself and frustrating her because while she is trying to help me, I go off in a different direction and do something else. She take something that I'm doing, and I go do something else. Described like this, I do sound like a child. I don't even know what it is in me that is making me do this but there I go again.

She has spent days at my house doing dishes, straightening up, washing, getting the others to help. She has her own family, home, life, and she keeps coming to help me...despite everything going on in her life. And on top of all of that, she keeps having to fight me.

Well, yesterday, I did it again - and she kept doing while fighting me all the way and somewhere along the way, I really did realize that I had pushed myself too hard. I'm not used to the concept of "too hard" - I have been lucky in life in that somehow, someway, almost everything is attainable with enough effort. Theodore Herzl once said, "if you will it, it is no dream." The upshot of that concept is that you can make anything happen. The impossible becomes possible if you think it all through.

I grew up with the concept that everything will be done before the

Last night, her husband Haim came out to give me the car keys and accomplished more in a few minutes than Amira has accomplished in weeks. Haim is amazing on so many levels, even more so because he doesn't yet realize how amazing he is. I knew he was special long ago. Last night, he told me that Amira was crying over how I keep pushing myself and she doesn't know what to do to stop me.

And somehow, that was enough - I've made my daughter cry and for that I am sorry.

Parents have such a burden (but a wonderful one) and such a responsibility. And too often, the relationship flips around and the child becomes a parent. As we get older, that seems to happen more. Where once I did for my children; now they often do for me. I have to call Davidi over to put pots and plates on the top shelves of the cabinets; my children are often driving me places, and now, Amira is putting sense into me.

Their Heroes and Ours...

I know I have said this before, but I have to say it now. This morning. Now. Last night, we released 26 murderers - cowards, terrorists. The most pathetic of "men." Really, to call them men is to insult 50% of the world. These are not men by any stretch of the imagination.

The government of Israel understands how sickening, how disgusting it is, how painful it is for Israelis to watch the Palestinians celebrate the return of these sniveling things and so it arranged to release them at night. How pathetic, how stupid. Did you really think the Palestinians wouldn't come out to celebrate because it was at night? Seriously?

Let me tell you about the heroes of Israel. We have many...

Natan Sharansky has always been one of my heroes. He's a quiet man, brilliant. He's short...really short...and yet he is one of the tallest of men because unlike many (including most of the ministers in the government), he stands straight and tall. He risked imprisonment in the Soviet Union to be who and what he was...

His application to marry Avital was refused by Soviet authorities. He married her in a Jewish ceremony which was not recognized by the government. Today, the Soviet Union is no more; their marriage

remains and they are now grandparents.Within 24 hours of that wedding, Avital had to leave the Soviet Union.

Three years later, Natan was arrested and convicted for his ongoing activities...mostly centered around maintaining his Jewish identity and trying to leave the Soviet Union to join Avital in Israel (and to get that right for millions of other Soviet Jews). For 13 years, Avital fought for Natan...and Natan fought for Avital and their life together. In 1986, Sharansky was finally freed. Avital flew to meet him, and they came home to Israel, where they were greeted by thousands.

On July 4, 1976, Israeli soldiers flew to Entebbe and rescued more than 100 hostages. For days, the drama of the kidnapping of an Air France flight had held the world's attention - but nowhere more than in Israel. The hijackers - German and Palestinian - separated Jew and non-Jew, releasing the non-Jews and holding the Israeli/Jewish passengers. The crew of the jet, though not Jewish, refused to leave their passengers and remained hostages as well.

The lives of the passengers were threatened and in a daring raid, Israeli fighters flew over 1,000 miles to rescue them. In the battle that followed, Yoni Netanyahu, the leader of the operation, was killed. The only casualty. He had given orders that wounded among the forces were not to be treated until the hostages were rescued - that all focus must be on saving the Jews in that terminal. Yoni was in the front, running towards the terminal where they were held, when he was hit.

Within hours, the planes were loaded and flying back to Israel. Thousands met them at the airport and celebrated their return. These are our heroes - Natan Sharansky, Yoni Netanyahu, the passengers of the plane who held on, knowing Israel would never abandon them.

For these, thousands come out to welcome them home.

The obvious connection here is to compare what Gaza and Ramallah came to welcome last night. I can't make the comparison - or maybe I have already. For me, I am filled with gratitude that my heroes are men who lived with honor, not cowards who stabbed women and axed men to death.

I know the so-called peace talks will continue - personally, I couldn't even look at these negotiators or be in the same room with them. They sicken me; their culture of death sickens me. There is inside of me a part that thinks our greatest victory, even if the world does not recognize it, is simply that we are not like them.That when we come out in the thousands to welcome someone home - it is for a man who has fought for freedom; a man who has died for others...not killed for his religion.

At the end of the day, I would rather belong to a people who mourn the death of Yoni Netanyahu, than one that celebrates the life of Samir Kuntar or the 26 miserable murderers we released last night.

I will keep saying this to myself...each time Bibi Netanyahu releases more murderers. To ask the obvious question - how would he feel if someone freed Yoni's killers is not a fair comparison, though Bibi would readily put forward a politician's opinion about peace and compromise. Yoni Netanyahu was not murdered; he was not a victim. He was a brave fighter who fell in battle. What pride can a family take in knowing their father, husband, and grandfather was murdered from behind with an axe? They can take pride in his life, the things he valued and loved but in his death? No.

And so I'll say it again - I would rather live with the pain and sadness of this day of surrendering to politics and stupidity, than live in a culture where today they celebrate. If, like me, today angers you and hurts you - just look at our heroes, and look at theirs.

May God bless the land and people of Israel with the ability to survive the leadership of those who forget that you can't buy peace, not even with our blood.

In what other culture does the president...kiss an axe murderer?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Axes Are Weapons of War...

Isaac (The Courage of the Axe) was not the only person who was attacked...and even killed by the oh-so-brave Palestinian terrorist wielding an axe.

Like Isaac, Avraham Kinstler was born in Europe long before the re-establishment of the State of Israel. By the time he was 20, he already dreamed of living in the land of Israel, had learned Hebrew, and was teaching it to his friends. He married Hannah and together they moved to Israel and had three daughers.

Avraham loved to learn - everything...Jewish culture, Torah, philosophy and so much more. He also loved to work. He believed that work was a vital part of a person and was still working at age 76, when an Arab terrorist ambushed him and murdered him with an axe...76 years old.

The terrorist was caught several months later, charged with murder and sentenced to live in, Avraham's killer walks free, making a mockery of Israel's justice system and of the concept that you negotiate for peace...where peace is its own reward.

Already, the Palestinians are threatening to pull out of the talks and still we free these killers...what does it take to raise an axe and bring it down on a man who is 76 years old? A grandfather...a husband...a laborer out in the fields.

An axe is a weapon of violence - it is also a statement of contempt and utter hatred. There is no "clean" kill - this is barbarity...and tonight, his killer goes free.

Shame on Bibi Netanyahu and every minister who voted for this.

May Avraham Kinstler's family find comfort in knowing that was justice was robbed from them in this world, will surely be returned ten fold in the next.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Courage of the Axe

On March 25, 1927, a baby was born in Poland...his parents were Jewish. He had a sister and a younger brother by the time the Nazis came and destroyed his home, murdered his parents and all his relatives...except for those three children - Isaac, his sister, and his brother.

I don't know what happened to his sister and brother - but I know that Isaac miraculously survived the war and in 1947 made his way to the land of Israel where he did something that was denied him in Europe - he fought for himself, for Israel, for his future. He married a young woman named Riva, worked as a plasterer, and had two children.

He worked all his life...and when he retired, he decided he wanted to keep busy so he kept working. In 1994, days after his 67th birthday, he was hard at work, on his knees fixing a floor...when two Arabs attacked him from the back with axes. He died two days later.

His murderers will be set free because the Israeli government thinks it can buy a peace partner; because Obama and Kerry want to write their place in history with our blood. How much courage does it take to attack a Holocaust survivor, a 67-year old man - from behind...with an axe? It takes courage to make peace, courage to dare.

There is no courage, no honor, in releasing these terrorists and nothing good comes from something so rotten. I am deeply ashamed of the Israeli government for betraying the memory of Isaac Rotenberg who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, had the courage to come to a land destined for war, raise a family and work to build this land.

May Isaac's memory be blessed. May his family find comfort in knowing that even if Netanyahu has turned the Israeli justice system into a farce, Isaac's killers still face the greatest Judge of all.

Congratulations, Gaza

Congratulations to the purveyors of hate, those who worship death and blood. Today is your day; victory is yours.

And with your victory, you receive gifts from Israel. An axe murderer...those who have killed, in cold blood - women and children and old men. Your brave heroes return to you.

As much as this sickens me, I can tell you the air will soon be that much cleaner in Israel once they leave. Take them - may they rot in this life and in the next; may every breathe they take for the remainder of their cursed lives be ones stolen from the next world. I believe, with complete and perfect faith, that God is the Ultimate Judge. No one, I promise the families of these men, no one escapes the truest of justice.

Let them go, let them stink up the lands in Gaza and in the homes they occupy - true justice is something they will never escape. I'm so sorry for your pain but I hope you can see past it enough to feel the love of Israel, if not this stupid, blind government.

My grandmother, may her memory be blessed, died when I was a child. I know her mostly through things my mother told me and some vague memories of her face, her smile and her hugs. She said, "You get what you pay for." Today, Gaza bought murderers and the lowest of life forms - and that is what they will receive.

You may feel that someone had again robbed you of your loved ones - but that is not so; those you lost once cannot be taken from you - they remain in your hearts. No one can violate them ever again because unlike these miserable creatures, they walk with God now; these excuses for men will get their ultimate reward and from what I've heard, it's very hot there, very uncomfortable and not for a moment does God let them forget their crimes.

God loves His people, Israel. We have survived much greater things than the release of these murderers - we will go from strength to strength always cherishing the light and life; they cherish death and darkness. They choose to murder and die. Let them. Let them go - they escape nothing because the truest of justice  awaits them.

These are the rewards Gaza will celebrate soon - and with each cheer, each gun they fire in the air - they say to the world, clearly and without shame - these things, they vile creatures who murder old men with axes...these are our heroes.

May God curse them from here into and beyond the next world and may God bless the memories of their victims.

1. May God curse Kor Mattawa Hamad Faiz, jailed since 1985, for the murder of Menahem Dadon and attempted murder of Salomon Abukasis.

2. May God curse Salah Ibrahim Ahmad Mughdad, jailed since 1993, for the murder of Israel Tenenbaum.

3. May God curse Na’anish Naif Abdel Jafar Samir, jailed since 1989, for the murder of Binyamin Meisner.

4. May God curse Arshid A. Hamid Yusef Yusef, jailed since 1993, for the murder of Nadal Rabu Ja’ab, Adnan Ajad Dib, Mufid Cana’an, Tawafiq Jaradat and Ibrahim Sa’id Ziwad.

5. May God curse Al Haj Othman Amar Mustafa, jailed since 1989, for the murder Steven Frederick Rosenfeld.

6. May God curse Maslah Abdallah Salama Salma, jailed since 1993, for the murder of Reuven David.

7. May God curse Abu Moussa Salam Ali Atiya, jailed since 1994, for the murder Isaac Rotenberg.

8. May God curse Maqlad Mahmoud Zayd Salah, jailed since 1993, for the murder of Yeshayahu Deutsch.

9. May God curse Sawalha Bad Almajed Mahmad Mahmad, jailed since 1993 for the murder of Baruch Heisler, and attempted murder of Betty Malka, Shai Cohen, Avishag Cohen.

10. May God curse Shaath Azath Shaaban Attaf, jailed since v93, for being the accessory to the murder of Simcha Levy.

11. May God curse Abdel Aal Sa’id Ouda Yusef, jailed since 1994, for throwing explosives, accessory to the murder of Ian Feinberg and Sami Ramadan.

12. May God curse Barbakh Faiz Rajab Madhat, jailed since 1994, for the murder of Moshe Beker.

13. May God curse Raai Ibrahim Salam Ali, jailed since 1994, for the murder of Moris Eisenstatt.

14. May God curse Nashbat Jabar Yusef Mahmad, jailed since 1990, for being an accessory to the murder of Amnon Pomerantz.

15. May God curse Mortja Hasin Ganim Samir, jailed since 1993, for abduction, interrogation through torture, and murder of Samir Alsilawi, Khaled Malka, Nasser Aqila, Ali al Zaabot.

16. May God curse Sawalha Faz Ahmad Husni, jailed since 1990, for the murder of Heisler Baruch.

17. May God curse Ramahi Salah Abdallah Faraj, jailed since 1992, for the murder of Avraham Kinstler.

18. May God curse Abu Satta Ahmad Sa’id Aladdin, jailed since 1994, for the murder of David Dadi and Hayim Weizman.

19. May God curse Abu Sita Talab Mahmad Ayman, jailed since 1994, for the murder of David Dadi and Hayim Weizman.

20. May God curse Mansour Omar Abdel Hafiz Asmat, jailed since 1993, for being an accessory to the murder of Hayim Mizrahi.

21. May God curse Asqara Mahmad Ahmad Khaled, jailed in 1991, for the murder of Annie Ley.

22. May God curse Janadiya Yusef Radwan Nahad, jailed since 1989, for the murder of Zalman Shlein.

23. May God curse Hamadiah Mahmoud Awad Muhammad, jailed since 1989, for the murder of Zalman Shlein.

24. May God curse Abdel Nabi A. Wahab Jamal Jamil, jailed since 1992, for the murder of Shmuel Gersh.

25. May God curse Ziwad Muhammad Taher Taher, jailed since 1993, for the murder of Avraham Cohen.

26. May God curse Sabih Abed Hamed Borhan, jailed since 2001, for the murder of Jamil Muhammad Naim Sabih, Aisha Abdullah Haradin.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jews from Arab Lands

Much has been reported about the Palestinian refugees - those who live or lived in squalor for decades. What is pathetically ignored, however, is why...the why, the who, the when...

Why? Simple enough - it is a combination of many factors - mainly, chaos as five Arab nations invaded the newly declared land of Israel. In many documented cases, the Arab armies told the native Arab population to get out of the way so they could more easily push the Jews into the sea and claim all the land for the Arabs. The native Arab population moved; the belligerent Arab nations didn't succeed.

Who? Who kept them in squalor - their Arab brothers put them in camps and left them there. Kept them hungry and poor, fed on a diet of hatred and bigotry. It was the Jews, they were told, the Israelis.

And while they were doing this, they were performing ethnic cleansing - kicking the Jews out of their lands. This is their story below. I don't normally post long videos here, but this one is worth watching - if there are Arab refugees today, there are no fewer Jewish refugees as well.

The reason these refugees are not recognized is because while Israel put them in camps when they first arrived - we called them tent cities - and as soon as we could, they were relocated to apartments, to housing, to homes. Today, my neighbor next door, across the street, and diagonally across as well - are all products of those tent cities. They own houses that cost at least as much as my house does (in two cases, quite a bit more). One is a judge; one is an engineer; and the third is in business.

The real question is not what to do with the Palestinian refugees...the real question is why are they still refugees? And the real answer is that they aren't - three generations later - they should be Jordanians, Syrians, Saudis. If they aren't - that is the fault of those who kept them in squalor.

What happened in 1948 was war and the result was a transfer of populations in almost equal numbers.

A Lesson In Balancing...

I've spent the last few days canceling things that I had carefully arranged - meetings, seminars,'s kind of depressing. At the same time, there is a side of me that stands on the side and watches with interest. This is a new me that I've never met before. It's rarely in my life been about me.

It's an interesting, almost humbling experience. I almost always over-extend myself, take on more than I can handle...but in the end, I really do manage...usually with accomplish it. I'm more likely to shlep something too heavy than ask for help; more likely to over-commit to something and then feel resentful.

There was a great line in a Harry Chapin song (yes, I'm a forever fan of his). There were so many points to that song, but one of the lines was about some people (in the song, it was boys) who were taught to reach for the stars, while others (in the song, it was girls) were told to reach for the shelves.
So, forgetting the boy/girl thing here - I know a lot of people who reach for the shelves and live perfectly happy lives. For some reason, I'm someone who reaches for the stars. At least I think I, the last few days have been humbling because not only are the stars out of reach, so too is the shelf.

I fell something like four months ago on my way home from work. I thought I'd broken something and was happy to find that I hadn't - what I did do, was rip the heck out of my rotator cuff and it isn't going to get better without surgery.

I got the name of a top doctor - and was then told he could do the surgery in November. Well, I was really honored to have met him, to have him want to do the surgery...but from June to November is a lifetime when you are in pain, not sleeping, and you know that the surgery is only the first step...which will be followed by months of physical therapy.

November??? How was it possible?  I'm spending my life barely sleeping and controlling how I move. I can't lift heavy things with my left arm; trying to control a shopping cart has brought me to tears. If it takes two hands to do it, I'm accepted that I'm limited.

I managed to take the garbage out on Friday - I was so proud of myself. I lifted it with my right hand, barely using my left...careful, easy...all's well - and then as my right hand expertly held the garbage aloft, my left hand reached out to the side to close the front door - OUCH...I can't move my left hand that way!

I can write; I can type - all that takes place at or below elbow level is fine so long as it doesn't involve lifting or moving my left arm towards my back (or even the side).

And while I was learning to copy, I was walking around complaining, thinking of trying to find the second or third or fourth best doctor in the country - anything not to have to wait until November, when my daughter called the miracle rabbi back. This is an amazing man who spends his life matching patient to doctor and then, pushes "his" person right at the doctor and says - heal this person now! And, the doctor does.

So this rabbi got us an appointment with the #1 doctor...and then, when we thought the surgery was only going to be in November - we called the rabbi back...disappointed, discouraged...ready to give up - please, we know he's busy - give us another name. Wait, said the rabbi.

An hour later - I kid you now, the hospital called. The surgery is in less than 2 weeks and so now, I realize that I was reconciled to November...I have plans...I scheduled what?

No, I can't teach that course.

No, I can't make that meeting.

No, you can hold that event, but I won't be there.

Will I make it to the synagogue on Rosh Hashana? Will I be able to get myself dressed? Stand that long? Forget holding a prayer book...turning a page.

Cooking for the holidays? Shopping....I still haven't gotten the kids their school books...Aliza needs skirts and new shirts...I got most of Davidi's new clothes, but he still needs more...

Suddenly, my life has been flipped around - so much of what I'd planned in the coming weeks needs to be re-evaluated.

And among other things...I don't know how much I'll be able to write in the initial weeks after the operation. Will words flow into my brain or will I be too tired and yeah, in too much pain? Will I find a way to type with one hand and keep posting - I hope I will.

If I'm absent in the coming weeks - please bear with me and keep coming'll take time, but so long as there are words in my head, I'll need a place to put them...meanwhile, I guess I'll enjoy the next two weeks and try to post a bit more...stay tuned...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Message from a Man in a Man of Hate

I love this video - posted to YouTube around 5 months's a message from one Hassidic Jew (representing so many others) to a man of hate (and to so many like him). It was posted before the Jewish holiday of Purim...

Purim is the story of a Persian king, his right hand man who wanted to kill the Jews, a Jewish man and his niece, who becomes the queen. An evil plot...unraveled at the last moment, twisted around to destroy the one who created the plot. It is about justice in the end, but more, it is about the Jewish people and where we put our faith. It is why we defeated Haman, that ancient Persian...and why we will defeat his descendents - the followers of Ahmadinejad...and today's "moderate" Iranian president who joined his outgoing colleague just days ago in wishing Israel off the face of this world.

Ari Lesser - you're great! I hope this video reaches around the world...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Leaving on a Jet Plane

No actually, I'm not....

But many many years ago, I was. I was 16 years old and at the end of the best summer of my life. My dream had come true - my parents had enabled me to join a youth trip to Israel and I knew the minute I landed, that I was whole and I'd found home.

As the weeks in Israel passed too quickly, I knew I was going to have to leave and I agonized over it. I knew, as only a 16 year old can know, that I would never be whole again.

Somewhere during that summer, I heard the song, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and while it was clearly intended as a song between a man and a woman, for me it was a song between Israel and me.

I thought of the song a few weeks ago when I was on the plane to Europe and smiled because this time I knew when I'd be back, this time, Israel was home.

I'm sitting in my dining room trying to catch up on work and the song came on the online radio station - I'm using ear phones to drown out the sound of an African Gray Parrot that's driving me crazy...oh but how I cried whenever I heard this song...and oh how I smile now...


Lyrics and music:From Peter, Paul and Mary, Leaving on a Jet Plane

All my bags are packed, 
I'm ready to go 
I'm standing here outside your door 
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye 

But the dawn is breakin', it's early morn 
The taxi's waiting, 
he's blowin' his horn  
Already I'm so lonesome I could cry

So kiss me and smile for me 
Tell me that you'll wait for me  
Hold me like you'll never let me go  
(Oh baby, don't let me go) 

I'm leavin' on a jet plane  
I don't know when I'll be back again  
Oh babe, I hate to go
There's so many times I've let you down  

So many times I've played around  
I tell you now, they don't mean a thing 

Every place I go, I think of you 
Every song I sing, I sing for you  
When I come back, I'll wear your wedding ring
So kiss me and smile for me

Tell me that you'll wait for me 
Hold me like you'll never let me go 
(Oh baby, don't let me go) 

I'm leavin' on a jet plane 
I don't know when I'll be back again  
Oh babe, I hate to go
Now the time has come to leave you 

One more time let me kiss you  
Then close your eyes and I'll be on my way 

Dream about the days to come  
When I won't have to leave alone 
About the times, I won't have to say
So kiss me and smile for me 

Tell me that you'll wait for me  
Hold me like you'll never let me go 
(Oh baby, don't let me go) 

I'm leavin' on a jet plane 
I don't know when I'll be back again  
Oh babe, I hate to go

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Don't Forget to Tell Abba...

My computer, my laptop, my connection to the world on days like today when I'm home sick...has been working r e a l l y   r e a l l y slowly. This happened once before any my husband fixed it. I don't know what he did and he doesn't remember.

I anti-virused it; I defragged it. I de-spybotted it; I de-temp filed it. I'm stuck. I sometimes play this mindless game of "bubbleshooter" - now the bubbles go s l o w l y crashing into other bubbles...

Lazer told me to ask Shmulik - who is taking a network management course and is learning the ins and outs of operating systems. What's clear is the computer is using up its resources somewhere.

Shmulik came up - and saw that the computer was holding on to memory, but wasn't sure why. He adjusted something and as he restarted the computer, he asked me what was with the screen saver - it was a light purple background.

I told him that I had shut off all the pictures and had chosen a simple background.

"PICTURES?????" he asked. "Which pictures?"

"Pictures," I told him, "the nice ones, wedding pictures."

He groaned and grinned - if you can do that at the same time, "how many pictures?"

I don't know..."30, maybe 40."

He was almost laughing by now. "You know each of those pictures is like 4 MB, right?", I knew that.

"And you're changing the picture...what...every 2-3 minutes?"

"More like every 30 seconds," I answered sheepishly, beginning to figure out what Shmulik already knew. We had apparently found my memory hog.

By now, Shmulik was quickly switching to the graphics display to show the very nice default Windows landscape.

Sure enough - bubbleshooter is now sending those bubbles flying across the screen and I actually don't ever remember my computer working so fast.

And, as he left to shower and go to work, Shmulik turned and said with this huge grin, "I fixed it - don't forget to tell Abba!"

I asked him if maybe we could keep it to ourselves, but apparently not.

Oh least I can play faster now...

Frustrated that it didn't explode?

Over the last two decades that I have lived in Israel, I have often felt that I was waiting for something, somewhere to explode. It's funny how now that so much of the rest of the world is waiting, Israel is quieter and calmer than it has been in a very long time.

Why? Ah...fools would suggest it is because of some imagined peace option but honestly, I just think the Arabs are so busy killing themselves and finally realizing that they suffer more than we do from their governments that they are, probably only temporarily, leaving us alone.

Mainly, I think they realize that no matter how much they kill themselves in their ongoing attempts to kill us, they won't succeed in defeating the essence of what we have built in this land. The opposite occurs. The more they attack, the more our left wing element realizes the futility of trying to buy peace.

But anyway - I want to write about outside Israel now, not inside. Or, perhaps offer a lesson from what I have learned here. Innumerable times, I have found myself stuck in horrible, bumper-to-bumper, three (or two or four or one) lane traffic that is SLOWLY crawling towards some sudden check point that wasn't there yesterday, won't be here tomorrow, and of all days...does it have to be here today?

I have missed a friend's daughter's bat mitzvah, I have been late to meetings, I lost out on a girls-night-out with my daughters and daughters-in-law (not really, we went to dinner and then a play, and then the amazing Raise Your Spirits theater group gave us free tickets to their next amazing performance for free!). My point was that with no warning, hours of my life was spent somewhere on a road waiting to hear that something had exploded.

This past few days has been a frustration for many Americans. Some have said Obama showed weakness for shutting over 20 embassies in the Middle East, first for one day and then for a week. I'm not one to defend Obama - I believe the US has never had a weaker President (with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter) - at least not in the last 3 or 4 decades.


Beyond whether he was justified and whether cowering accomplishes anything, there is a greater issue here. In Israel, we have come to accept, and to trust, that when we are sitting in a security-induced traffic jam - there is a reason. We believe, we trust, that intelligence knows...and so we go about our lives as best we can - on the one hand, waiting for that explosion, and on the other hand, grateful that we aren't hearing it.

America - I'm sorry you can't trust your leader enough to believe that the security threat was real. Maybe it was; maybe it wasn't. It seems, though, that Obama is in a no-win situation (which I find kind of ironic). Either people don't trust him - or something has to explode.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you have to remember that in the best of situations - nothing will happen, nothing will explode.

In Israel, days after we have this maddening delay, we'll hear that a terror cell was apprehended; that a specific make and model van had been the target of the manhunt and was found.

If you ever get annoyed at the delays, remember this world we live in...there are people out there willing to crash planes into buildings holding as many as 50,000 people. They will dance and celebrate if they succeed and so we have to accept it is better for us to be two hours late than see pictures of blood and death.

Maybe Obama's administration over-reacted. Maybe there really wasn't a threat...and maybe there was. Are you willing to risk the lives of innocent people for a maybe?

I cannot count how many times I have waited for an explosion. And ironically, the explosions I have heard came without warning, when I wasn't waiting at all, when I least expected it.

But that is human nature and I'd rather be waiting to hear one...than hear one. I'd rather sit in traffic and let our soldiers and police hunt, than watch funerals and weeping relatives supporting each other in their loss.

I offer my love and my support to America - we are with you in this battle against terrorism, against those who think it is acceptable to set of bombs in crowds. We have fought this enemy for decades. Don't be frustrated that something didn't explode. Celebrate the freedom that they target; celebrate that you are a culture willing to close down embassies and appear weak...because it means you value life above pride.

Connect those dots so that instead of feeling feel joy. May God bless the United States of America.

Fighter Jets...

Every once in a while, we hear fighter jets flying over head. The first time I came to Maale Adumim - over ten years ago, I heard the jets soaring over the city and thought - wow, not just the beauty of the desert, not just the beauty of the city, but this too? I love the sound of the F15s flying low.

It was only after I moved here that I realized this wasn't a daily occurrence. The Israeli Air Force is charged with protecting our skies. To do this, they have to fly the length and width of this land (which actually doesn't take to long).

So they don't fly regularly over our skies...or maybe they do. I remember friends who had just moved hear hearing them fly low over head. They called me thinking that perhaps war had broken out...

No, no war - just our sons flying our skies and protecting our land!

I once tried with my silly phone to capture it. I got the sound, but couldn't get the image and then I thought...duh...YouTube. This morning, the jets have been flying and, child that I am inside, I keep going to my balcony and watching them.

There is such joy in seeing them, hearing them. They fly for the purest of causes - defending our land. It's a beautiful day in August in Israel. I hope as they fly, the pilots are smiling and enjoying the most amazing view (as I am).

May God bless the Israel Air Force - fly safe! - 2 videos - one the sound I am hearing this morning and the second - an amazing, nearly impossible Israeli pilot - landing with just one wing. The manufacturers of the F15 didn't believe the Israelis when it was reported. They insisted on seeing the plane for themselves. The proof is in the video. Enjoy.

F15s Flying

F15 Landing on one wing...


Under the Stars and Trees of Israel

Part of Israel - is giving your children an opportunity to know the land and to love it. So you take hikes when you can; you stop and look. I never tire of just looking at this land and thinking how grateful we are that this is the land that God gave to us.

That may not be politically correct - this thing about God, but above it all, past the politics, it really does all come down to this endless and forever connection the Jewish people have with Israel. Almost daily, archeologists continue finding traces of this and that. More and more proof of our connection with this land above so many already documented for decades.

It is a never-ending process because our connection is thousands of years old. We know where Abraham was buried...Isaac and Jacob. We know where Rachel rests, and her son Joseph. We know where great rabbis from hundreds of years ago are entombed. We know where over 1,000 Jews took their last stand against the Roman empire and where Jewish kings built their palaces.

We know so much...and still there is so much to know.

Davidi is a counselor in a local youth group. On Sunday night, he slept among the stars in the north with his group. On Monday, Aliza left with her group. She'll be gone three nights and four days - hiking, camping out, singing.

She calls me when she wants to reach out. She's 13 years old, but still very attached (and since she's my youngest, I'll confess that I'm still attached too). She told me about how they hiked for hours and what she ate. They cooked the noodles too long, but it wasn't that bad. She still has plenty of nosh and other foods left over. She drank the full two liters of water and was sorry she had left the third liter in her overnight pack.

It was terribly cold last night, she told me. They slept between trees in a forest. When she woke up, she just looked up at the trees. I can see her there, I can imagine it. It was a little bit scary, she thought, and then she feel back asleep. "I woke up when there was a little blue in the sky." I have always loved those moments in the earliest hours of the new day when you notice the sky isn't quite as dark as it was...and the blue becomes lighter and lighter. I love the idea of my youngest seeing those moments.

I was concerned about her taking her iPod - she got it as a gift for her bat mitzvah and she's taken really good care of it. It's over 18 months old - and the pins where she has to recharge it are bent, but it is what it is and they are so expensive in Israel, I really can't afford a new one for her. 

I didn't want her to take it. It could so easily be broken or stolen but it was her choice. She has to learn to accept the consequences of her actions and part of that means my letting her. I expressed my concerns and will totally pray that I am wrong and all will be well. So this morning, she was quick to tell me, "I still have my iPod" when she called.

After three boys, she is such a girl. She loves purple - everything has to be purple. Since Davidi was leaving first, he took the flat mat they sleep with under the sleeping bags, leaving her a blue one that is quite, not holy, hole-y - as in missing a bunch of chunks. She was upset because she had taken the time to clean it. It wasn't really fair that Davidi took it, given that she'd cleaned it and that she'd be gone three nights when he needed it only for, well, gallant he wasn't.

But it wasn't worth arguing - I wanted them both to go off happy and so I asked Elie if he could help me by buying her a new one (all of 35 NIS - $10). I gave him my car and on his way to school, he stopped and picked up a mat - a purple one, and Aliza was thrilled. He got these extra straps too, so again, she left so happy!

This morning's call was about listening. She was full of things she HAD to tell me after almost 24 hours of not seeing her (and only about 4 calls) and so, I opened a Word file and began typing as she spoke. I love to listen to her and sometimes I just love to write out what they tell me. They hate it...she wouldn't be so happy if she knew...but I still trust that for the most part, the sum total of my immediate family audience is Amira and Lauren. And I'm trusting them to laugh and not tell Aliza.

"And my hair is puffing up and I don't know what to do."

And she told me all about the bathrooms - first - the shower was an enclosed area - with no ceiling. It was, she told me, "the fastest shower I ever had in my life and it was cold."

I told her about how when Elie was in the war, they had to shower the winter, "wow," she said, "misken." Misken translates as pathetic one, or that poor guy.

I heard about the food - not nearly as bad as she expected; and how she slept - not bad (from 2:00 to 6:15, on and off).

Mostly, I'm left with this wonderful feeling that these are the times she will remember all her life - sleeping in a forest way up north in the cool evenings of a hot summer, surrounded by her in the land that is hers.

It doesn't honestly get much better than this...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Brothers in Arms, Brothers....Arms

I was at a military ceremony recently. I don't have a son in active duty...that will come too soon but it isn't here yet. But my daughter-in-law's cousin, who is actually more of a brother than a cousin, just finished the Commanders' Course and our family joined in the celebration.

B.'s parents live in the States; he is considered a lone soldier, though I wonder how many lone soldiers have nearly as many people who love and care about them as B. does. He's got a family south of Jerusalem, another smack in the middle near Modiin, he's got his cousin, and he has us.

I took my fancy-shmancy camera - the one I got for my trip to Europe and with that, we took pictures. I want to post two of them here - none of B. - that is not my choice to do because he isn't my son...which makes me wonder how I dared to post Chaim and Yaakov's pictures...okay, I won't go there.

Anyway, I took this picture (yes, I have deliberately and hopefully efficiently) wiped out the faces of two of the soldiers. What I want you to see is the position of their bodies.

The young man on the left is a commander - as you can see by the three bars on his arm.

The young man on the right has just been promoted to a commander, having finished an intensive course.

What touches me is the arm - you're one of mine, it says, don't forget it. Wherever you go in this army, I'll be with you.

I'll tell you a secret that you might not believe. I'll bet though, that you could ask the highest general in Israel, and he'd agree. This is the strength of the Israeli army - it's all there in that arm. It isn't the weapons, the tanks, the's all there.

We are brothers, says that commander to his soldier. Soon, you'll have your soldiers, but you'll always be mine...we are and will always be - brothers in arms.

May God bless B. as he begins the latest phase of his army service. I know that he will do an amazing job...and as always, please God, bless our sons and daughters. Watch over them, as they watch over Israel. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013 Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I've written about Ayaan Hirsi Ali a few times, having heard her speak two years running now at the President's Conference in Jerusalem. Each time, in her elegant and dignified way, she put the other speakers to shame. There were quiet and short remarks - there is great beauty is simplicity.

Last year, as several American Jews, diplomats and scholars, debated the need for Israel to surrender more, Hirsi Ali was handed the microphone and now, more than 16 months later, her words remain imprinted on my brain, "Even if you give them Jerusalem...EVEN if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace."

Many clapped for this statement and the first thing I did after blogging about her was to promise myself I would learn more. With a great many excuses, a full year past and I was back again this past June at the President's Conference, thrilled to have another opportunity to hear her speak. The room was packed - not a vacant seat (I grabbed the last three seats and called Chaim telling him he had to come hear this session). After hearing her speak again, I fulfilled that promise by ordering two of her books - "Infidel" and "Nomad." These contain the story of her life - up to this point, whatever she wants to tell us - but certainly in much more detail than she could provide during her short presentations.

I learned so much about Islam - about that world on the other side of my borders. To be honest, I knew a lot of it, or suspected it - but she gave depth to my knowledge and then took me way beyond. She gave reasons, deeply rooted in Islam and in the Koran. I knew the results; she taught me the cause.

So here, I have a confession - I am a mother, a wife, even a grandmother, if you can believe that...and though I have joined others in condemning it, I only realized in reading her story what female genital mutilation was. I had no idea...and a part of me wishes I still didn't know. How these men could do this to their daughters; how they could want this in their wives - I honestly and truly don't understand.

That is, perhaps, the curse of Western civilization - we cannot comprehend the barbarity and because we are so naive, because we cannot understand, we tend to excuse, minimize the acts. We conveniently use the words and condemn the action...but to read pages that describe the act, the pain and suffering of these young girls - then and for years after was a startling revelation, a glimpse into a world that I had never imagined.

Can a mother want to do this to her daughter, as Ayaan's mother chose to do to hers? How? In God's name, how? I have never knowingly caused my daughter's pain. And when they have been in pain, I have felt that pain throughout my body.

As to Ayaan, her story is amazing...what she survived...what she made of herself is a lesson to all of us - even those of us who, by comparison, have been blessed to live with relatively few hardships. I have never known hunger; I have never been beaten. Medical care has always been available, education, food, and love.

There were several things that got to me in her story (I've only read Infidel so far; I'm starting Nomad tonight) on so many levels - as a woman, as a Jew, as an Israeli, as a mother.

One of the first things that struck me, even as I found myself deeply involved with her personal story, were the few references to Jews. Until she was well into her 20s, I don't think Ayaan ever met a Jew. I didn't know whether I should laugh or cry when I read, "In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of the Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap sopped running,t he Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it...I had never med a Jew. (Neither had these Saudis.)" What I got from this was something I had already known - they really really hate us. They don't even know us, but they hate us...go figure.

Another thing that bothered me, though I understood her reasoning, was her journey away from Islam. She describes a religion that demands absolute obedience; a religion that has no mechanism for change over time; and a religion that focuses on punishment and the Hereafter - all you do in this life is preparation for the Hereafter and there are seemingly thousands or more things for which you are regularly threatened to be condemned to hell. It seems almost as if it is impossible to get to this heaven, given the number of restrictions - in action and in thought - that are applied to Muslims.

Ayaan's brilliant reasoning takes all of this into consideration and reaches a conclusion - there is no hell; there is no hereafter. The Koran was written by man, not be God...and from there - she decides there is no God. I'm simplifying it. For her, it was a journey of thousands of miles and many years. She embraced Islam, searching and searching to justify her beliefs. She found contradictions and still pushed on.

It is written in the Koran that you may beat your wife...and Ayaan properly asks, what kind of God would allow that? It is written that you can cheat and lie to an infidel...and what kind of God would allow that?

And while I agree with her, it is also the point where I lose my way in following her. I won't argue whether Allah is God and God is Allah, but I will say that the God she describes is not my God. I do believe in God - but not this Allah that she describes. My God has told us to choose life, not death. My God does not allow a man to beat his wife and the value of a life - Jew or not, is important. You cannot cheat or beat a slave and even slaves have an "out" clause to their slavery such that they must be set free after a certain number of years. These are the laws given to my people, by our God, a God we refer to as merciful and just.

A man can sell himself into slavery to pay off a debt, knowing that when the debt is paid, he will be freed. I don't want to get into a legal comparison of Jewish law versus Islamic law - I am an expert of neither.

But I do believe in the hereafter - only different from what Ayaan was taught. We are taught that God waits to the last minute of your life to forgive any transgressions; the Islam she learned involved having two "angels" over her shoulders, each writing down the good and bad you do - and the list of bad could be as simple as being alone with a man, seeing a movie, etc. If you wear pants, if you show any skin except for your face and hands, certainly not your neck, you are sinful and evil.

I don't blame Ayaan for walking away from a culture in which a man can take several wives and beat them as he wishes; a culture in which a man can marry off his daughter to a someone she has never met; a culture in which a woman cannot move freely unless she is escorted by a man. I can only hope that had God put me in the same culture, I would have found the courage, as she did, to escape. And she didn't just escape, she took with her a responsibility to try to help others.

I think it took tremendous courage to walk away, to flee and save herself and thousands of other Muslim women by the work she did in Holland and now does in the United States.

I just wish somehow that along her journey, she could have found a way to keep God. It seems to me that Ayaan's logical conclusion should have been that if Islam is as flawed as she believes it to be...she should understand that their version and vision of God is flawed too. I do not believe in the God she worshiped as a child and a young woman. Flawed, vindictive, vengeful, and promoting inequality - no, these are not traits of the God that I have known.

This Allah she was raised to worship demanded absolute obedience - compare that to the story of Abraham arguing with God to save the few righteous of Sodom. We have been in a dialog with God for thousands of years - and He listens to us. It is a relationship of love, of gratitude.

In Israel, we have seen too many miracles to do anything but believe in God. Every time a missile is a miracle because moments before a car passed by, a person left the room, a class was in the library. We have seen it all and we recognize the source. I'm sure we have atheists in Israel, but even among secular Jews here, God is pretty much accepted.

The radio broadcaster will bless the memory of someone who has died; will say, "thank God," when no one is hurt. God escorts us through our lives here and encourages us to be better, kinder, and more charitable. We are not measured by how many infidels we kill, how many women we force into modesty. This concept of honor killing finds no home in our religion or with our God.

We have seen the horrors of what man can do to man (and to woman) but to blame God for the actions of man seems unfair. There is evil in this world - we all know that. We are given the choice - to choose good and God or to choose evil and work against God.

I can't explain why bad things happen, but I do believe even the horrible serves a purpose. What was done to Ayaan, and so many others, were terrible, almost unimaginable and yet, didn't these actions form her into the person she is? Overall, as I read her book, I was left with the impression that she was happy with who she is and what she has done. God, yes, I believe God, gave her a task in this life - one that she accomplishes each time she spreads the knowledge of the culture in which she was raised, each time she forces us to open our eyes and see.

Would she have accomplished what she has, without the challenges along the way? I think the answer is obvious.

What I can say is that there is tremendous comfort in believing that there is a God looking out for you, guiding you, protecting you. And I wish Ayaan could have this comfort. God has a plan - perhaps the greatest evil comes when man attempts to control or redirect that plan; when man attempts to become master of that plan.

Perhaps the irony is that the religion of Islam's greatest flaw is not that it targets infidels, but that it fails to understand what an infidel is. I would say an infidel is a man who beats his wife, mutilates his daughter, encourages his sons to commit suicide. An infidel is one who is so busy defining God for others, he forgets to understand it is not for us to define God at all.

In carefully defining every aspect of how you live, Islam has succeeded in defining nothing. What the Muslim man fails to realize is that when he blows up a building, murders and terrorizes - and it is he who will go to hell, not the poor woman who was seen talking to a man, not the family sitting in the pizza store in Jerusalem. There are infidels in the world - but these are the people who forsake the love of God, for a culture of death and misery.

(It's still an incredible book and I highly recommend it...I just wish I could tell Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she is where she is in her own intelligence, her own strength, and by the grace of God...if not Allah.)

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