Thursday, October 30, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Day 35

It's getting cold in Israel - that's the way the seasons are here. We seem to have two...winter and summer. Suddenly it is hot; suddenly cold. I love the cold!

So today's blessing, not the cold - I'll bless that another time; and not the rain we are expecting - I already did that (and will probably do it again). Today's blessing...are sweaters and shawls! Coats and maybe clothes in general.

We are blessed to be able to afford to buy clothes we like; to live in a society where we are allowed to dress as we like. We are not forced by anything beyond which we force ourselves...

I love the winter - I've already pulled out my hooded sweatshirts...I bought a bunch last year and more this year and only noticed now that one of my favorites is almost the same color as my, today's blessing...clothes, sweaters, shawls...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Day 34

I took a break from this because for the past few weeks, as we celebrated the holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, I was living the blessings rather than writing about them.

Time with my family, meals with close friends, the wonderful experience of deepening your spirituality through prayer, rain, and so much more ... it was a wonderful few weeks.

Tomorrow has been coming for a while now...wait, that doesn't explain. I expect Davidi to be home soon...he'll sleep here tonight and then tomorrow morning, I have to take him to Ammunition Hill. It's where incoming soldiers from the Jerusalem area meet...they're taken around a bit, I think, and then bused to Tel HaShomer hospital - to the army base nearby. At that point, they are examined, given some shots, uniforms and undershirts, socks, boots, and more...some spend the night there, others are transferred, in uniform, to the bases all over Israel where they will be trained.

Davidi is doing the army through a program called Hesder - as Shmulik did. It is for religious men - they serve and learn. In Davidi's case, instead of 3 years in the army, he is learning this year, then will do two years of army and then decide if he wants to do a third year of army or return for another year of learning.

While most of the young men and women who go to Ammunition Hill follow what I wrote above, Davidi and many Hesder groups sort of walk out the side door and return to their yeshiva for another year. His actual "draft" date, the date they'll take him to a base, give him a uniform and a a year away.

So I have no reason to feel what I am feeling, that little sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. The sense that I'm at the ticket gate, handing in that little stub and getting ready to climb on the roller coaster again.

It's so silly to feel this way. I should be saying, "been there, done that," but I can't. So tomorrow, I'll drive David there, give him a kiss and see him off...and I'll force myself to think of other things until the night when he comes back home.

And I'll remember the day I took Elie...when he called me and told me he was in uniform, and I knew it would be days before I'd see him again. With Elie, there was The Night Before, for Davidi, this is just a regular night and he'll be home tomorrow.

In those other posts about Elie, I posted pictures of Elie when he was a baby and how he would be silly for me to do that here...wouldn't it?

Well, just one...I can do one, right? Isn't that a silly one? Well, never mind...the serious ones will come, right?

So, today's blessing...I am blessed to live in a land where our sons choose to serve, where they agree to join combat units and fight for their land. I am blessed to be part of a community of mothers (and fathers) who understand that whatever tears I shed tonight or tomorrow are okay.

I have one year more before that roller coaster leaves the station. And even if he takes my ticket now, I don't have to get on board quite yet.  It's too early to post this and yet, maybe it's not. I wrote this seven years ago. It was true then, it will be true tomorrow morning when David is issued a card and formally "drafted".
My son is a soldier in the army of Israel. Why that makes me want to cry, I can't explain when it is something that I have accepted, something in which I feel pride. For now, the fear and worry that threatens to push the pride aside will be my personal battle in the next day and week and year. My son is where I have always wanted him to be, doing what he must do. It is something that Jews have been unable to do for thousands of years - to defend their land and their right to live here. My son is a soldier in the army of Israel.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Shlomo Died Yesterday...Baruch Dayan Emet

Shared from a post a friend made on Facebook - thanks, Moshe...

Baruch Dayan Emet. Blessed be the True Judge.

 Shlomo Slonim, one of the last survivors of the 1929 Massacre in Hebron, has passed away. He was one and a half years old when the Arab rioters wounded him in the head.

 The rioters broke down the door of his house, and brutally murdered the members of the Slonim family. Shlomo. a toddler, was seriously wounded by an axe blow, and lost consciousness.

Hours later, after the massacre was over, Shlomo was found lying underneath his parents' corpses. Shlomo grew up, raised a family, and became a good friend of the re-established Jewish community in Hebron.

Once a year, he would come to Hebron to attend the memorial service for those massacred in 1929, and to say Kaddish at the graves of his parents.

Today [Oct. 26], at the age of 86, Shlomo rejoined his family.

May his memory be a blessing.

Is this the last day of your life?

Two days ago, I saw a story on Facebook posted by a friend. I wrote and asked if I could share it here. She wrote back saying that she wanted to check something. She wanted to check on the condition of a young woman who was in the hospital. Shortly later, she wrote back that I could post it - that the critically injured woman's condition has not changed. She wrote it in a way that suggested it would change, or could change, at any moment and was grateful that, at least, the young woman's mother and sister had made it to her bedside to be with her. "May we hear good news," she concluded.

I decided to post it that evening...and then I got busy.

I regret that delay; I regret that I cannot introduce in life someone you can now only meet in death. Yesterday morning, I planned to come to work and post what she'd written. I got busy with work...and only later, heard that a young woman had died. I didn't know it was the last day of her life.

I didn't know that the miracle of her having survived the night wouldn't take her through the next day. Last night, Yemima died. If it helps at all, in those last hours, she had her mother and sister, her teachers and friends and thousands of others praying for her. And last night, several hundred people attended her funeral.

I hope you all heard about the little baby, only three months old, who was murdered at the end of last week by a young Palestinian/Hamas "man", who bravely rammed his vehicle into pedestrians, including a tiny baby carriage which contained the total dreams and future of a young couple who had tried, for 13 years, to conceive a child. Chaya Zissel Braun brought joy to her parents...from the moment they knew she had successfully been conceived, to the moment she was born, to the moment she was murdered...nine months...and three year, after 13 years of waiting.

As the news first reported, 9 people were injured, including an infant, including Yemima. Little Chaya died shortly after the attack. 

For each victim, there is a story...not all stories get told and that's sad. We don't know much about the other victims. Four were lightly injured, treated in the hospital and quickly released to their families. They will never forget, will always be scarred. The most we can hope for is that the scars are only on the outside.

Two were moderately wounded; two were critically injured. We know nothing of the moderately wounded victims and nothing of one of those that was critically injured. Perhaps in a few days, the news will report that this person was released from the hospital. We are likely to never know how these people struggle to return to what they were before...and for some, life will always be measured in "before" and "after."

The other critically injured person was a young woman from Ecuador. Her name is....was... Karen Yemima Mosquera and she was 22 years old.

Two days ago, I asked if I could share the following story. I will forever regret not posting it yesterday...I didn't know it was the last day of Yemima's life. This would have been, should have been, a guest post by Sharon Katz...whose amazing daughter sat by Yemima's bedside for hours...

Yemima, Daughter of Abraham, Our Father

By: Sharon Katz

In Hadassah Hospital, a 21 year old girl is fighting for her life. Actually, as she lies in a coma, others are fighting for her life, sitting by her bedside, praying for her, saying psalms in her behalf – Yemima bat Avraham Avinu.

Correct, “bat Avraham Avinu”, the father of all Jewish souls. Only a few short months ago, Yemima, originally from Ecuador, received her conversion certification.

Terror in Jerusalem
On Wednesday, an Arab terrorist plowed down a group of Jews at the Ammunition Hill train station. Infant Chaya Zissel Braun was murdered in the attack, and eight others are in various stages of injury. Yemima Mascera Barera is in critical condition, on life support systems. It’s ironic that Yemima, who wanted so much to be Jewish and come closer to Hashem [God] in His Holy City, became a victim of Arab terror just for that – being a Jew in Jerusalem.

Yemima has been living in Israel for the past two years, strengthening her connection to G-d, Judaism and Israel. Her friends and teachers all say she was always very single minded, focused on one goal -

As of this writing, Yemima’s mother and sister are on the plane to Israel, but not in the way the 21 year old had hoped.

Searching for G-d
Rabbi Gavriel Guiber of Un Mundo Mejor (who teaches Torah in Spanish) has helped Yemima for the past five years, since she first wrote to him on the internet, asking him for guidance in leading a more observant life. Her questions had such depth, the rabbi thought she was Jewish. Yemima told him that while she was not Jewish, her mother lit Shabbat candles, and the family had a tradition that the grandmother and great-grandmother had done so, as well. Her family name is one of anusim (forced converts who tried to observe vestiges of Jewish practice), but the family had no documentation that they were Jewish.

Rabbanit Chaya Engel, one of Yemima’s teachers in Machon Roni, a Spanish-language seminary for women, said that the Zohar states that when G-d asked the nations of the world if they would keep the Torah, as a whole they rejected it.
becoming a Jew, coming ever closer to Hashem, marrying a Torah-observant husband and raising a Jewish family here. Completing the dream would be bringing her mother and sister to Jerusalem.

However there were small voices within the nations that answered, “Yes!”

“No one heard them, except HaKadosh Baruch Hu,” Rabbanit Engel said.

“Before Meshiach [the Messiah] comes, Hashem is bringing back all those neshamot [souls] that wanted to accept His Torah, because they deserve it.”

Yemima is one of those souls.

Tradition in Ecuador
Back in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Yemima lived as traditional a life as possible with her mother and sister. Her parents are divorced. While they all wished to become Jewish, since the family had little money, Yemima’s mother gave her whatever they had in order to come to Israel.

Rabbi Guiber helped her, and brought her to Machon Roni where other Spanish-speaking women learned Torah. He said, “She is a model example of a gentile that wanted to convert, and also an example to us.”

In order to support herself, she worked in a senior residence in Bnei Brak, and commuted to seminary daily. Rabbanit Sara Yalta Katz, director of the seminary, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, said that Yemima traveled the farthest to learn, but she never missed a day.

When she moved to Jerusalem to be closer to Machon Roni, Yemima worked cleaning houses. Her best friend said, “She would have done anything to learn Torah.”

Rabbanit Engel teaches many Spanish-speaking girls who are preparing for their conversion. “These girls come to Israel, having a relatively high level of education or standing in their home countries. They were teachers, clerks, and today they clean floors. But they are willing to be nothing here, like the Biblical Ruth, in order to be Jewish. We were born Jewish, but they chose to be Jewish.“

Rabbanit Katz said that Yemima decided at a young age that she wanted to become Jewish, but she was always hoping for a sign proving that “Hashem controls the world”. Yemima told her that once while praying the Amida (the Silent Prayer), an earthquake hit. Her family went scrambling under the table, and everything was falling around her. Yemima said that perhaps she was concentrating so intensely on her prayers that she did not feel the earthquake at all. She told herself, “This is it.”
Critical Condition
While Yemima has completed her conversion process, she is still working through the bureaucracy of citizenship. IY”H [if it be the will of God], may she recover and fulfill the entire dream – living as a Jewish woman in Israel and one day raising a Jewish family that will be a tribute to our people.
Yemima, daughter of Abraham, our father...died last night and was buried in the holy city of Jerusalem. I didn't know it was the last day of her life...

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Silent Intifada

Many of us remember the first Intifada - a preplanned mass "uprising" which released a wave of violence throughout Israel. It was conveniently...oh so conveniently, blamed on the fact that a Jew dared to visit the Temple Mount, Israel's holiest site and the place where Arabs regularly, five times a day, turn their backs to face Mecca. The Jew was Ariel Sharon, that's true, but if he had not gone, it would have been something else.

The Second Intifada was even more violent and deadly. Rocks and firebombs were replaced by suicide bombers and horrible, brutal, barbaric attacks throughout the country.

We've been threatened with a Third Intifada almost since the last one ended...though if it ever really ended, few can tell. I often tell people that the Third Intifada is sort of like Israel's War of Attrition - not officially a war, not officially an intifada, but an endless stream of deadly attacks.

Those who officially proclaim the Intifada in this absurd world in which we live in, have never made it official and so we have been stuck in that middle ground where someone counts between 2 and 3 but doesn't really want to get there...and so they count..."two and one quarter...two and two fifths...two and three sevenths, two and four and five elevenths..."

And yet, as many of us know, the Third Intifada has definitely come to Israel but has been given a different name. It is being called the Silent Intifada.

Jews know a lot about silence. It nearly killed us all just a few generations ago and we have been fighting it ever since. We are used to the silence of the western world, of the Europeans who fear angering the growing number of Muslims in their midst and the Americans who are prisoners of a government that cares almost as little for them as it does for Israel.

But this Silent Intifada is even more nefarious because it also involves silence here in Israel, by those who should know better. It began years ago, when a rocket that hit an empty field became an insult, rather than the act of war it was.

It involves the silence of the security forces, limited to helpless gestures such as videotaping rock attacks rather than responding as any normal security force elsewhere in the world would when faced with a similar threat.

In involves the silence of the politicians - perhaps for different reasons, but wrong nonetheless.

At the highest level, the silence is a sad acknowledgement that the world really doesn't care about Jews and Israel, so why discuss the vast majority of potentially deadly attacks that are stopped before injury. The rock that doesn't hit; the firebomb that thankfully was thrown at a protected car. The bus that was hit but the driver managed to maintain control and get his passengers to safety.

The rocket didn't hit the school, only the yard. The driver wasn't seriously injured and the car can be repaired. The light rail in Jerusalem was only damaged, no one was hurt, so please, let's not talk about it. Don't mention the tear gas that was thrown, the Arab that stabbed a guard.

We have to mention that little Chaya Zissel Braun was murdered, but we'll rush to put it in context. We'll talk about the general calm, the relative calm, the returning calm and the calm we have to work for. We'll talk about potentials - potential agreements, potential ceasefires, potential dreams...potentially fatal for those silly enough to believe that silence can drown out the rhetoric, the hate.

The Silent Intifada is perhaps the most dangerous yet because, for the first time, loyal Israelis who genuinely love Israel, like the Mayor of Jerusalem, heads of security and police, and even the Prime Minister of Israel, are taking part in it.

Violence will win, if those who have the power to speak, choose silence. It was wrong in 1939 and it is wrong in 2014.

In the following video, police in Jerusalem come across Arabs throwing rocks at cars. Rather than confront the rock-throwers, the police turn the car around and head in the other direction. Those videotaping, sarcastically narrate this - here are the police of Israel, turning around...running away...they tell their viewers in Hebrew...the silent intifada...

Pain No Parent Should Experience

There is a pain no human should feel, certainly no parent. There is agony beyond words that promises to never end. There are images no human should see, certainly no parent.

This is the last picture taken of a three month old baby girl who was the joy of parents who had waited, no struggled 13 years to bring a child into their family. Taken not long before she was killed, this picture of Chaya will forever bring a world of emotions to her parents.

They will cherish every moment they had with her and mourn so many, many, many others they never will. It is incomprehensible to them and to us that they will have to continue on without her. It is, at this moment, more than they can bear.

And then there is this image, it too is one no parent should have to see and no human can bear to look at. It is what it looks like, the body of an infant, once it has been prepared for burial. The sign announcing her name is almost as big as her whole body. Eternally tiny, eternally mourned.

May God watch over little Chaya Zissel Braun. May He do the impossible, as He so often does, and find some way to comfort parents who are inconsolable.

May the life of this child always be remembered for the joy she brought her parents forever more than the pain in which she left them.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Lessons of Temporary

I meant to publish this during the holiday but in the end, didn't get a chance. The fact that I didn't get a chance is a blessing in itself because I spent much of the holiday with family.

We had one great outing to the north, a barbecue with the family at my daughter's home...all in all, a wonderful holiday. I'll get back to counting my blessings, but in the meantime, here's a post about the Sukkot holiday we just celebrated in Israel. Sukkot.... Sukkot is my favorite holiday - I love it. Most of the others seem to come with so much baggage; requirements that are more emotional than physical.

Rosh Hashana comes with the weight of Yom Kippur to follow.

Yom Kippur is about ripping your soul out and then putting it back inside hopefully cleaner, lighter, better.

Passover carries the weight of history, not to mention all that cleaning. It's about plagues and matzo and really heavy things... Sukkot carries a message but it is light and fun. Outside, free. Sukkot is a reminder that no matter where we are, God isn't far away.

We spend our lives building strong homes to withstand the rain, the wind, time...and rockets from Gaza :-). Sukkot tell us that all this building is folly. We are always, forever, under the skies - open, vulnerable. After a summer spent feeling very vulnerable, Sukkot comes almost as a relief. What's a little cold, a little heat, perhaps some ants and some bees, compared to sirens and rockets? At one point during the war, sirens rang out in our neighborhood. The first time, I fell apart.

Simple as that, embarrassing as that. My youngest son, trained by Magen David Adom to be calm in an emergency, handled my breakdown brilliantly. My youngest daughter was outside somewhere - I was terrified for her and found it unbearable to go into a bomb shelter when I didn't know she was safe. The second time, we all shuffled off nice and easy - it's so different when you're heart isn't divided and breaking into pieces.

The bomb shelter is safety - secure. And that's what the Sukkah is too - the winds can come, the rain, the heat - but the message remains. The strongest buildings can be knocked down...the Sukkah remains. We put ourselves in God's hands, trusting...and are freed.

We trust that God will protect us, that the Sukkah is our temporary shelter - and we are protected. The Sukkah teaches us that all that we have created is meaningless and that ultimately, it is God and not the army, Iron Dome, the stars, fate, whatever, that determines our destiny.

The Sukkah represents peace - and it is peace that we are so missing in this land. And yet, the peace that we seek too often is a false one, and that too is a message of Sukkot. In many ways, our homes built of cement and stone are false homes; unable to protect us from the greatest of dangers. Our attempts to make peace with our neighbors are false because, like the buildings, they offer only an image of what is real.

Peace is not bought with land; homes, real homes, are not built of stone. And that, ultimately, is the message of Sukkot. The Sukkah is real, not fake. It is our home, our protection. The real peace we make is one that is built on a true desire to get along - with our spouses and children, our neighbors and our enemies. Real protection is believing and having faith.

 Trust it, go into it, believe in it. Dwell in it and when, eight days later, we leave it, keep it in your heart.

Murder is A Natural Response

According to Hamas, the murder of a three-month-old baby girl is, "a natural response to crimes of the occupation and invasion of Jews in our land." Note the use of the word "Jews" - no, not Israelis, not settlers, but Jews. A natural response is, by definition, something expected, something almost normal. It's natural to laugh when you are tickled, natural to cry when peeling an onion. And, according to the twisted logic of Hamas, it is natural to murder an innocent child because...because... You know what, I won't play this game. I won't try to understand...but I will ask a question.... If murder is a natural response to something that supposedly began 40-60 or more years ago, isn't murder the natural response to the kidnapping and murder of three children? No, not in my book - not in my religion - not in my world. Murder is not a natural response to is, rather, a sick and demented reflection of a culture that worships death.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Showing Restraint?

A very common demand that comes from the Europeans and the Americans is for Israel to show restraint. When all other nations would fire, we are told to wait. When others would flatten their enemies and care nothing about the innocent behind whom they hide, Israel is told to wait.

Here is an example of restraint. Soldiers in a fortified observation post in Jerusalem, pinned down by Arab rioters. They throw rocks, pound the post with firebombs and even grab the metal and shake it with their rage.

Not one bullet is fired from the position. This was filmed yesterday and moments ago, an Arab drove his car into pedestrians at Ammunition Hill - where I wait for the train nearly every day, where my children catch the bus to come home...nearly every day.

Three people have been wounded, including a baby...the driver attempted to flee the scene but was shot by police. This is what happens when you show restraint. This is what happens when you allow our enemies to think we are simply too weak to respond, rather than choosing not to respond.

This is the first face of restraint below...the second face, is that of a young child fighting for his life. Nine have been wounded - a baby, two critical, two moderate, four lightly - at the bus stop where we wait to come home...

Updated: Baruch Dayan Emet...the baby has died of his wounds. May God avenge his blood.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's NOT About the Settlements, Stupid

Ever see something and know you have to react?

Happened to me at about 3:00 a.m....

An article on Times of Israel, a site that has, more and more, taken a dangerous turn to the left. The latest article was more balanced than I expected, given the suggestive title, "It's the Settlements, Stupid."

But, despite many correct points, ultimately, as expected, the article wound around to the wrong conclusion. It's not about the settlements, it's about Israel.

It's About Israel, Stupid

The Europeans and the Americans are condemning us…again. The United Nations is upset with Israel…still. The Arabs are adamant – it’s the settlements that are the deterrent to peace.

It’s not the settlements. It’s the rockets; it’s their intransigence. It’s their stones, their firebombs, their knives. It’s our naivete, it’s our inability to stick to our convictions and demand peace for peace. It’s their tendency to use violence and our tendency to make excuses for it. It’s their media and it’s our media. It’s their cultural norms and it’s our cultural norms. It’s their leaders and it’s our leaders. The one thing it’s not, is the settlements.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Count your Blessings - Day 32

Today's blessing is something we take for granted...water.

It is an amazing gift - always. I always drive my kids crazy about taking water with them - a small 1/2 liter bottle...more or less. My older kids have mostly accepted this; my youngest one as well. Davidi, on the other hand...well, I still have work to do there.

Everywhere I go, I take a bottle of water with me.

Israel is, especially in the summer, a hot and dry country - water!

Water is the rain we receive as a blessing each year; water is how we water our plants and so necessary to watch our land thrive.

Water cleans away...


Monday, October 6, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Day 31

Right and wrong are often measured against each other, as are good and evil. It's an ageless philosophical discussion - without evil, is there really good? Without wrong, can we truly understand right? Without our enemies, can we really measure the true meaning of our friends?

I'm not sure I go along with all this negativity - that we have to have evil to understand good, that we have to have death to celebrate life, that we need to be pummeled by our enemies to be grateful for our friends.

But in having enemies, we sometimes have blessings. Long ago, I wrote that one blessing of having our enemies close is that we have our sons close to home as well as they fight to defend our land. Another blessing in having our enemies close is that we cannot ignore, even for a single day, the reality in which we find ourselves.

Our enemies help shape the image we have of ourselves. We see them dance when we mourn and we know that is not our way. We see them demand the return of killers - even those who have slaughtered children, and we know that is now our way.

We see them fire rockets at cities, not caring where they land. We hear the fireworks they fire in the air when we find the bodies of children they murdered. This is not our way, we think to ourselves, with such gratitude.

Our enemies covet our land but more, they covet what we have accomplished in 3,000 years of devotion to a way of life, a land, our God. They fail to understand that they too could establish themselves as a light unto other nations. They could fly around the world and help others; develop such amazing technologies that make the world better. They could have the best doctors, raise the most caring of children. All this they could have, if they value what we value and do what we have done.

They take our words - exile, diaspora, genocide - but they have not experienced this, know nothing of what these words really mean. Genocide is not the death of a few hundred in a war you waged against your enemy; genocide is the systematic murder of people who have done nothing. The Jews of Europe did not have tunnels under their homes; did not take to the rooftops to protect rocket launching sites.

The Palestinians make a choice, every day - as we do. They choose where to spend the billions of aid money given to them (on tunnels for smuggling and attacking; on luxury homes and cars for their leaders; on bunkers for Hamas to hide).

The Germans put us in ghettos in Europe - and we turned them into places of enlightenment. We established the schools because we knew, even facing such harsh conditions, children needed to be taught. We created charity funds because there is always someone who needs more.

Our enemies teach us compassion (not that they learn it). And so we feel, honestly, for the innocents that die in a war we didn't choose, yet again. When your country is fired upon daily, you do not have a choice and so we did what we had to do this summer. But we regret...we regret that Hamas cares as little about their own people as they care for ours.

Our enemies teach us perseverance - so long as they continue to hate, to attack, to fight...we have to as well. As Benjamin Netanyahu said long ago - if the Arabs stopped fighting, there would be peace. If we stopped fighting, there would be no Israel.

Our enemies teach us respect - of life, which they lack; of women, which they never show. They have taught us the value of our own democracy - real elections in which the outcome is not fully known until the votes are counted.

Our enemies teach us about living in an open society where men and women are more equal than not; where women can drive and vote and smoke and walk alone or with friends. They teach us that we are free and live in what can be called a very western society.

Our enemies teach us about tolerance, because they are not. They do not tolerate those who do not conform to their societal rules and so women, homosexuals, Jews, Christians and others are abused regularly. This is not how it is here in this land I love so very much.

There are many more examples I could give why having enemies can be a blessing. As hard as it can be, at times it helps clarify why you are as you are and what you don't want to ever be.

So, today's blessing...our enemies. May God bless them...with enlightenment, with freedom, with conscience. May they learn the value of life - ours, and their own. May they cherish their children enough to make them live and our children enough to let them live.

May they understand that helping others is the best way to live; demanding and begging others to help you not always good at all.

Dear Sweden

Dear Sweden,

The nation, the government, some of the people, the land...
You are idiots.

Sweden has stepped forward to recognize the independent State of Palestine - an impressive and bold action that shows their imagination is quite healthy, if not their sense of spatial time and reality.

A rabbi from the Swedish city of Malmo was attacked by men who hurled objects at him from a car and used anti-Semitic pejoratives.

What borders does this mythical country have? What is their national anthem? (The Martyr's March? Ode to Death and Destruction? O Say, Can You Fire a Rocket?). What steps have they taken for peace? Oh, and how do you feel about a "country" that worships its murderers and terrorists and dances at the deaths of innocents?

The Swedish Ambassador to Israel, who believes we should be impressed because he is trying to learn Hebrew (oh, joy), believes that "The reports in Israel ignored the true depth and complexity of the issue as well as the bigger picture."

Malmö’s former mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, who left his post in February, 2013 after 28 years in office, has blamed the rise in anti-Semitism on Jews and has advised them to distance themselves from Israel to remain safe.

I see, so like, in Stockholm they can see the situation in the Middle East more clearly than we here in Israel - what arrogance. What makes you think that you understand the situation at all, never mind more clearly than we do? Was it your country under the rockets this summer? Have you had buses blow up in the streets of your cities? Now, here is where a writer thinks...wait, how much do I know about Sweden? I'll be honest - not much and more than I need to :-)

So I did a quick Google search "bus explosion Sweden" just to make sure that I hadn't missed some major news items...

So the terrorist who blew up the bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria was from Sweden and in 1978, among the casualties of a bus bombing attack by Palestinian terrorists in Israel - there was at least one person from Sweden. I guess I was wrong - that must make them experts on the Middle East....not.

Classic anti-Semitic sentiments, such as Jewish control of the world’s banking system and media, permeate Swedish culture – through comedians or musicians – but are either ignored, defended, or glorified by media types as being enlightened. The Algemeiner, Sept, 2014

Magnus reiterated that his country "wants to continue in good and productive dialogue with Israel." Heck of a way to start that goal, Magnus - by rewarding the Palestinians who just fired 5,000 rockets at us this summer and are now doing their best to launch another intifada. Stoning attacks daily - including, again, last night on the light rail in Jerusalem? Yeah, moderates.

"Good and productive dialog"? By recognizing unilateral actions in exchange for...nothing? Again? By recognizing a country that has no borders? Tell me, is my home inside this entity you have dubbed a nation? By offering to welcome them among the family of nations? This group that has elevated suicide, martyrdom, and murder to a fine art? That is what you recognize?

Magnus adds that the statement from the Swedish government "came as the peace process has been on hold for some time, and we want to help the sides return to negotiations."

To be fair, it's kind of hard to have a peace process in the middle of a war, so please, give us a break. You want to help the sides return to negotiations? I see - and where were you during all the months Israel had a building freeze and the Palestinians refused to come to the table? Where were you when they decided to form a unity government between Fatah and the terrorist Hamas leadership in Gaza? Now you want to help the sides? By deciding on the end game before any negotiations would come about?  

On April 16, 2014, despite a rise in anti-Semitic attacks, the district of Skane, where Malmo is located, declined the Jewish community’s request to increase the number of security cameras around Jewish buildings.

One cannot ignore the political benefit for the Swedish government in taking this anti-Israel stand. After all, the Muslim population in Sweden is Malmo alone, the population is 30% Muslim. Magnus denies the politics and then admits to it, "The Social-Democratic party has for years said it would support Palestine and won the elections." Yeah, we noticed.

And why did the Swedish government single out Israel and the Palestinian issue to address rather than the ongoing massacre of people in Syria or the latest brutality of ISIS? 

Why did the Swedish government, who tried to soften this absurd decision by saying that they are seeking to encourage "mutual recognition" ignore the very mutual part of their comment - they are offering recognition of "Palestine" yet say nothing of the fact that half the Palestinian leadership refuses to recognize Israel at all, and the other half agrees, under certain conditions, to deign to recognize Israel if we agree to strip ourselves of our identity - maybe they'll recognize Israel, but never Israel as the Jewish State.

And the timing of this announcement? Right before Yom Kippur...coincidence, really. Not politics. And anyway, the Swedish Ambassador tried to explain "it was part of a very long speech." Actually, if you ask me, it was more a combination of political greed and the growing power of anti-Semitism in Sweden than anything else.

Like I said, Sweden, you are idiots.

Perhaps the scariest fact is that anti-Semitism in Sweden is rated as relatively low compared to the much larger and more populated countries - then again, there are only 15,000 Jews in Sweden.

(First printed on the Times of Israel site)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Most Talented Guest

We were very honored over the Rosh Hashana holiday to have a special family as our guests - the wife is a painter (see some of her work in the video below) and the husband is a wonderful Chazon (leads the prayers for the holidays) and sings at weddings (even can conduct the entire ceremony).

They have some gorgeous children who came along - polite, sweet, helpful...a complete are some of this songs -

First - the blessing said for a girl on Friday nights... (the boys is similar, but mentions men as role models rather than the four matriarchs mentioned in the blessing for girls).

And this is another beautiful song and video - English translations included:

Hearing Elie Talk

I won't write what he's saying - well, not too much. What he's doing is so incredible though. He's talking to a mother of a young man who is about to join an artillery unit in the coming months.

She's scared - 100% against him going in. She doesn't know what it means and she's struggling to understand. I was her 7 years ago. I was too dumb to think of talking to anyone else - she's clearly much smarter than I was, and she's going about it the right way.

We "met" virtually in a group and I offered her my phone number, veteran mother that I am. And what I see is that she asks all the questions I never thought to ask.

She asked me some questions - technical questions about how long and what about this, etc. that I didn't remember and Elie came upstairs and his first question was "how much doesn't he want to be in artillery?"

Her answer was that she doesn't him in 100%; and he's accepting it and even wants it a bit. Elie's first answer was, "so let him."

When I explained that she's 100% against, Elie smiled and signaled to give him the phone. He's pacing back and forth explaining everything - how I wish someone could have explained it to me back then.

I warned him to be gentle - she's a scared mother...but I guess he's had experience with that because he's going into details. "Obviously they want what's good for the army," he says, "but they also want what's good for him. They want them motivated."

And Elie just said, "I was in the same place. I had no clue. I don't think it's so much that you are afraid as that you don't know."

He's talking now (I know I said I wouldn't do this...I hope he won't kill me) - he's talking about the difference between some units and artillery ("They run up the hills, we drive up them. Why should we run up them?")

And now he's talking about the food - he's telling her about how he was able to cook noodles in a pot - inside the vehicle - I think the engine...I never heard this one. They didn't have time to make sauce, but they made the noodles, got there, and had a hot meal. So funny...I hope she's laughing.

I won't write any more - but think about where you live - would this scene happen? A soldier spending time to assure a mother that her son will have a good experience - where he will serve, what he will do on a daily basis. She lives about an hour away - we've never met. Would this have calmed me before he went in? Who knew? I started writing - maybe I should have found a soldier to talk to...

"What I've just told you is more information than they know to tell you," - the truth. He's telling her about how an officer will come and talk to him to answer all your questions, and then the boy's real commanding officer will come to her to answer all her questions and talk about her son.

Whatever they tell them will be similar to what Elie is telling them now. .

Before I put Elie on the phone, I told her that the best way she could get a picture of life as an artillery soldier (and an artillery mother) was to go back and read my blog from the beginning. After all, I said, I wrote it in real-time, versus now giving my memories from 7 years ago.

I don't know what they will decide in the end, but I am so proud of this army, this soldier and that future soldier, and that mother who had the courage to at least listen. Israel...

Count Your Blessings - Day 30

Bagels...definitely a blessing!

We fasted yesterday and broke the fast first with light cake and drink and then had bagels and lox. I know - food, but really, bagels and chocolate are not just food...and after a 25 hour fast...bagels are ... oh amazing.

So, today's blessing after a long fast is quite simply - bagels!

As for the fast, it went well - long but glad it is over.

Twenty-five hours of no eating or drinking leaves you thirsty, hungry, tired...bagels...definitely bagels...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Day 28 and 29

Day 28

Today is October 3rd - my 31st wedding anniversary on the English calendar. It's also the day before Yom Kippur, which starts tonight. So first, I'm going to write two blessings - one for today and one for tomorrow.

The first blessing is anniversaries - we need to remember that we love our spouse every day, celebrate it every day. Sometimes, we forget...and that's bad.

We met when I was 17. I had heard his name from my sister the year before I started university - the same university where she was going; the same university where he was starting his senior year. My sister wanted to arrange for us to meet but the meeting never took place and then she flew to Israel to spend her junior year abroad and I moved into the same building where she had lived.

For my first two days in the university and at the dorm, people mentioned my sister...when I wanted to be known for myself. I'd spent much of my life following in schools after my sister and I wanted a break; I wanted to be known for me.

Then, I walked into the building and saw this guy...and he said, "I'll be you're Leeanne's sister."

Wonderful...yes, I answered, and who are you? He told me his name and we started to talk...and talk...and talk.

Two months later, on my 18th birthday, a bunch of friends arranged for us all to go out and celebrate. Lazer said he wanted to go to...and then one by one, all my other friends backed out. I was embarrassed - but he wanted to go out - our first date.

Married - five kids, two grandchildren and, God willing, more on the way. A home, a business, friends and community. A land where we belong, where we live proud of who we are, where we are and who our children have become.

Thirty-one years is a huge accomplishment, an amazing commitment. We fight sometimes; we drive each other crazy. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, we drive ourselves right to the edge and then remember the most basic of truths - we love each other very much.

So today's blessing is anniversaries...and love. 

Day 29

Yom Kippur is a unique and amazing blessing that God has given to the Jewish people. It is solemn, inspiring, awesome, and frightening. It is a day that allows you to erase the wrongs, start over again.

It's a day of fasting, a day in which God judges us, what we did, what we didn't do. How we acted, how we didn't act.

It is called the Sabbath of Sabbaths - if all the year we tell the world to go away on Shabbat, on Yom Kippur we do this on an unprecedented level. The fast starts tonight - a little before 6:00 p.m. - long before that - in the coming hours, all public buses will stop, all stores will close. The radio stations will go silent; the televisions will broadcast nothing.

For 24 hours, the majority of Israelis will fast and observe this holiday - some more than others, some in different ways. It doesn't matter - what matters is that we will unite, as we do each year.

Yom Kippur is a blessing, no matter how much it seems like such a difficult day.

May you and your family be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year - for a sweet year, a year of health and happiness, security and safety. May it be a year of peace - in our country and across our borders. May our sons and daughters grow; may our parents be healthy.

May God grant us parnassa - livelihood - and may we live in honor and be honorable. May God frustrate the plans of our He did this year by disclosing the tunnels; may He protect us - as He did this past year - as missiles landed in open fields.

G'mar hatima tova.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Day 27

Today's blessing is a fast one - I have so much to do and then have to leave early. The fact that we live our lives against a clock, rushing to accomplish things is a blessing in itself.

When we have things to do, we feel useful, needed. So time itself is a blessing. I think we are the only creatures on this planet that live this way - we measure our lives in days, in months, in years, and in accomplishments. I met my future husband when I was 17, our first date was on my 18th birthday. I know the year we got married, the year each of my kids were born.

For some people, time pressures them; for others, time motivates them. I'm the last type. When push comes to shove, as they say, I move incredibly fast to accomplish things.

So, I have so much to do, so little time - and that, is a blessing. It really is.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Child's Anger

One of my kids is mad at me.

When they are little, they scream that they hate you, but, of course, you know that they really don't. I think all of my kids have told me they hate me at one point or another. Thankfully, not lately.

Once, one of my daughters told that I was ruining her life after she'd finally found her place. Not so much later, she thanked me again and again for the decisions we made.

I've been accused of favoring one over the others. I've been told I wasn't fair. They've been angry when I didn't let them do something, go somewhere I thought wasn't safe. One daughter caught on quickly enough and tells me when I should say no so that I appear like the mean one while she can commiserate with her friends, who, for the most part, love my cooking and think I'm not so bad.

One of my kids told me that I was a disappointment - that one still hurts. I'm not sure if that wasn't the harshest criticism yet.

One of my kids is mad at me. A child's anger can be sharper than the sharpest sword, cut deeper than any knife known to man. I wonder how many times you can cut a mother's heart, how many times it can bleed without breaking? There's no cure to fix it, no medicine to stop the pain.

We've talked. I've apologized for that which I did wrong; tried to explain what actions I took when put in a no-win situation. Nothing I say is going to change the anger coming my way.

And in the wake of this anger, one of my daughters left me the most amazing letter. She wrote:
I hope this year will be easier and better. I would like to tell you that you are a great Mom and you did a great job with us, the kids. I know that sometimes you think I don't appreciate you and think you are not a good Mom but you are wrong. I love you so much and appreciate you for all of what you do! And remember, you are a perfect Mom and don't think different. You did the best job you could and you succeeded. I love you so much and don't forget that! Have a good, happy, and amazing year!
She left it on my computer and though I've told her, I can't imagine that she'll ever really understand how much I needed to read these words. I think it's cute that she thinks I'm a "perfect" Mom, especially at a time when another things I'm such a bad one.

I read this letter almost every day now, trying to remember that children will hate their parents sometimes even when they are all grown up, but they'll always love them because you really can hate and love something at the same time.

When the anger outweighs the love...what can a mother do?

Counting Your Blessings - Day 26

I rode the light rail into work today. I know the trains are not human and do not have feelings and yet at times I feel so bad for the trains. For some reason that defies logic, the original planners mapped out a route through the city of Jerusalem that, to many of us, makes little sense.

On the bright side, they built a huge parking lot near Ammunition Hill - and best of all, made it free. In theory, it is only for those who use the train (and really, there's little else near there other than the train), but it is easy and hassle-free for all.

They correctly routed the train through the city center, along Jaffa Street - bringing the whole area back to life after years of construction that cost the lives of many businesses.

Currently, the train ends at Har Herzl - convenient, but not the best location - in the south western corner of Jerusalem, while stretching all the way to the north east corner and Pisgat Ze'ev. No complaints's great that people can get from Pisgat Ze'ev to the main parts of the city quickly...but....but...but.

Between the main part of the city and the northern neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev lies the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Shuafat. The Arabs will call it the Shuafat "Refugee Camp" - which is absurd because it isn't a camp. There are no walls, only houses, streets, buses, telephone polls...and the light rail stations and track that the city planners routed through the neighborhood to give them easy access to the city center as well.

Unfortunately, in over 100 incidents in the past year alone, Shuafat has been the site where the light rail cars are attacked - rocks, stones and boulders primarily, but even a firebomb or two as well. The stations have been burned and painted with graffiti saying "Death to the Jews" and "Death to Israel".

In the last 15 days, the train has been attacked at least 13 times.

For many in Jerusalem, the train remains a blessing. It travels past ancient walls, in rain, snow, and sunshine. At least one light rail guard has been attacked (with a knife). There is hardly a train without at least one window or door cracked.

This summer, in the midst of war, the train took me past the site of one terror attack. I saw the moment when the police pulled a bus back off its side to a standing position. The train slowed as it maneuvered past the site, the tractor used by the Arab terrorist still there in the street.

It dropped me off at my usual stop, where we met Elie and drove passed a soldier who was standing waiting for a bus. The thought "Why didn't I stop for him?" haunted me for days. He was shot in the stomach and seriously wounded minutes after I passed the bus station.

Earlier this summer, I was on the train when an Arab dropped tear gas inside the light rail car.

And yet, day in and day out, the train sails through the streets stopping for all passengers - Jew, Arab, Christian, man, woman, black, white, Israeli, tourist.

It keeps going despite being attacked; it keeps going despite the weather (well, it was defeated by a meter of snow, but so were the buses and cars...though the tanks did a great job).

There's a message there for all of us. I think it was a mistake to route the train through Shuafat, a security nightmare waiting to happen. We all make mistakes as we route ourselves through life. The train has taken a beating almost from the start. We all take beatings as we go through life - some knock us down but it's our job to make sure they never knock us out.

Day in and day out, the train goes along the path it is assigned. It meanders through the most beautiful city in the world, right through its heart, right past its history.

The city labored to bring the train into existence - as we all labored to bring our children into this world. It took so long, but the results are well worth it - so, today's blessing is the light rail train in Jerusalem. Despite its cracked windows and doors, it reminds us that there is hope, that persevering pays off.

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