Monday, August 31, 2015

Away They Fly...

I thought the next time I would feel like crying about a child leaving home would come in November, when David would begin serving in the army. Instead, it came today.

Aliza is going away to school. She'll sleep in a dorm Sunday through Wednesday nights and return most Thursday nights to spend the weekend at home. This came about for mostly the wrong reasons. While many of our friends and neighbors came to the realization that the local school didn't meet the needs of their children, we were slower in accepting this reality.

It was so convenient, a 10 minute drive away. We live in a small city. Shouldn't the local school be geared to the children who live here? I still believe it should be, that it's policy should be inclusive, rather than exclusive. But ultimately, the school chose a philosophy for itself...and the philosophy is wrong. Instead of thriving, Aliza was slowly being destroyed by educators who focused on the outside, not the inside. Teachers who cared more about schedules than how much the child learned.

Slowly over the last few years, Aliza was being pushed out and away from the school, as were most of the local girls and boys. Quick to judge, they decided she didn't belong and were anxious to throw her anywhere, push her away. Last year, they gave me a list of schools, including ones that were completely wrong for her. They didn't really understand her, nor did they want to.

She was judged, made to feel she wasn't good enough for the school. Repeatedly, they told me she was a gentle, sweet child who needed a loving, warm school - and they, quite proudly, said they focus more on grades and academic achievements than on the heart and soul of a child.

Warmth is not their style - they want big and more, they want girls who come from outside the city who will fill the dorms they were building. The vast majority of the local girls were found lacking for this local school.

At the end of 8th grade, we considered moving her; but decided to wait. Ninth grade was a year of agony for her; most of her friends had been encouraged or forced away, she and a few who remained were not treated well.

By the end of last year, we surrendered and took her to another school and almost immediately she was shocked by how warm everyone was - the other students, the head rabbi, the secretaries, teachers. She has not felt such acceptance for a long time from a school.

Days before school started, someone from her new class called her, introduced herself and asked Aliza if she wanted to be added to the class' WhatsApp group and from then on, she was welcomed. Such warm girls...amazing.

It's like coming out of a dark cave into sunshine for her. Children should be given approval and love and a school that doesn't cherish the wonder of a child because of what they wear, who their friends are, and other such minor details isn't much of a school. This morning, for the first time in years, she went to school excited, happy, anxious to begin.

And, as is the way with parents, we are left behind - happy to watch them fly, a bit sad that it happened so fast...wasn't she just learning how to crawl yesterday?

I can be angry at the school here or I can accept their failure is on them, just as when the counterpart of this school, the boy's division, failed Elie. Then, they decided that a child that had learning disabilities must, by definition, have behavioral problems. Rather then help him, they too chose to throw him away. If we are blessed, Aliza will have as wonderful an educational and growing experience as Elie did.

Elie soared in the school in Jerusalem, where in Maale Adumim, he suffered. There, they told me he was an amazing child and wondered how the school here could have been so stupid as to give him up, "he's gold," said his teacher to me. Aliza too is gold in so many ways.

Today, we loaded her suitcase and I forced her to let me take her picture. I'm going to try to look at this as the start of a new adventure, a return to a time when my husband and I had time together before the kids came along. I'm going to try not to feel empty and alone because my kids are where I want them to be, doing what I want them to do. Children are supposed to grow and fly and they should never know what that flight cost their parents.

They need to soar, not be pulled down by your sadness. Aliza will be home in four days, she reminded me whenever I mentioned something else she needed to bring.

There is a small amount of anger at the close-minded school here; there is a wealth of gratitude that the school where she will be is so different, so welcoming, so open. She loved hearing the Rabbi speak there; she loved the food. She loved the girls who ran to accept and welcome her.

Sometimes you have to be smart and brave enough to know when it is time to fly. And when your child reaches that moment when they begin to soar, as a parent, you have to let them spread their wings and fly...

Today, my youngest flew towards her tomorrows...and me...I'll remember that it's really more of an experiment than a reality, a chance to begin to understand my own tomorrows. She'll be home in four days...then back, then home, then back...and then, in a few months, she'll go back to school and David will go to the army...and then they'll come home...and then they'll go back...

And they will fly and soar in a land that promises the brightest of tomorrows for the brave and the strong.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

It Starts with a Date

I won't say when, but I will say it is in November. We don't know what unit yet, but we have an idea. It could change, as could the actual date my third and youngest son enters the Israeli army.
Starting from a very young age, Israeli boys (and girls) know that they are destined to go to the army. It's part of how they grow up, where they are headed, who they will become. For those of us who came to Israel as adults, it's something that is harder to assimilate. It's so easy, year after year, to deny that it will happen, to postpone dealing with it. So, here I am, six weeks away from when my son will enter the Israeli army, suddenly having it all become real. This blog is a soldier's mother's story.       -- A Soldier's Mother, February 13, 2007

He told me two nights ago and I think of it at odd times. Mostly, I wonder where I'll get the strength to do it again. I've had a few years' break when I had to worry about reserve duty here or there, but not the daily concern of where my son is, what he is doing.

I hate the idea of going back to that. I hate this whole thing.

I don't really. I'm proud of how calm David seems; I'm a mess. I've watched so many other mothers send their sons; I spoke with them, tried to calm them and told them not to worry. I wrote things like, "you don't have to worry every minute...bad news finds you very fast" and "when he's in training, you don't have to worry."

And now, knowing I have nothing to worry about, I feel that darn roller coaster coming towards me. I've been on it at a national level but not really at a personal level for a while now.
Elie is 19 years old. A handsome boy with the most incredible blue eyes. He's smart, a volunteer in the ambulance squad, and lest you think that I think he is perfect, he's got a mighty fine temper and his room's a terrible mess. Elie is the manager of the family, the one who analyzes everything. -- A Soldier's Mother, February 13, 2007
Davidi is 19 years old. A handsome boy with the most incredible blue eyes. He's smart, a volunteer in the ambulance squad and lest you think that he is perfect, he doesn't have a mighty fine temper, but his room is usually a mighty fine mess. Davidi is the quiet one, the peaceful one, the calm and solid one. He's the one that pulled me into the bomb shelter when we first heard the air raid siren...when my heart stopped and I knew that somewhere outside...Aliza was with her friend. I would never have gone in the bomb shelter...even though it would have been logical to assume a 14-year-old has enough sense to take shelter. And then, when we heard Iron Dome knock out an incoming missile and knew that it was no false alarm, I began to sob...no other word...I just cried my heart out and Davidi held on, didn't let me collapse like I wanted to, tried to keep me calm while we waited. That is David...quiet, strong, solid.

It starts with a date...and we have that. November...less than 3 months. I'm not ready. I don't have questions this time, as I did with the others. All I have is a knot in the pit of my stomach, an ache that is getting stronger.
So - Elie is all grown up now, a man about to go to the army. We got his "marching" orders last week - artillery unit, and already I am panicking. Not because I don't want him to go, but because I haven't had the time to accept it all....And, in the middle of all this, quietly moving closer and closer was this date - end of March, 2007, my son will be a soldier. -- A Soldier's Mother, February 13, 2007
So - David is all grown up now, a man about to go to the army. We have the date but not the unit, and already I am panicking. Not because I don't want him to go, but because there will never be enough time for me to accept it all. And in the middle of all this, quietly moving closer and closer is this date....November, 2015, my son, my baby, my third son will be a soldier.

I have to do this again. I know I will but God, right now, I really don't want to.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Clear Thinking or Hysteria

Maale Adumim is a beautiful city overlooking the Judean Desert on one side, Jerusalem on another. On and between these beautiful vistas are open hills which often become the staging ground for thieves who come into our city. Since January 1, 2015, there have been 26 breakins. Five of these have taken place in my neighborhood in the last 8 months. By comparison, Pisgat Ze'ev, a neighborhood in the northern-most part of Jerusalem was hit 35 times in just one weekend.

Nobody is happy when they are robbed. The feeling of violation and fear that follows in the path of the violation of your home can be catastrophic and can cause long-term issues, sometimes well beyond the initial violation caused by the robbery.

Sadly, what it also may cause, is hysteria, panic, over-reaction, and worst of all, a tendency to attack others who are attempting to allay the fears of others. Two weeks ago, the fourth and fifth robberies took place - again on a Friday night.

Last week, on Friday night, there were no attacks. This did not stop many in the neighborhood from being afraid. One woman even wrote that she had packed a suitcase with her valuables (whether she took the suitcase with her or hid the suitcase in her home was not made clear but her fear certainly came through). This all came out because a man who makes his living teaching others self-defense, posted that there were THREE attacks...when, in fact, there were none. He named two people who would confirm those attacks...when asked, both said they knew nothing. He named a family as one of the victims...but their house had been robbed the previous Friday night. In the end, there were no robberies in our neighborhood...and still he continued.

He wrote in bold letters that we are not safe here - the absurdity of that still shocks me. I have never felt safer than I do in Israel and in Maale Adumim. In all of the robberies over the years, including the one on this man's home, not one single person was hurt or confronted. That is not to say it cannot happen and we have been instructed by the local rabbis here that we are to immediately violate the Sabbath...in fact it is not considered a violation at all...to call the police because the possibility, the danger, is always there.

And yet, the fact is, each time the thieves have heard people approaching the homes, they have chosen to run away. Not once have they stood to confront. Self-defense is a great thing to learn; but the first and most important lesson should be to minimize contact with a potentially violent person rather than act like Rambo and get yourself or someone else hurt. If the thieves are prepared to run, for God's sake, let them!

While I argued that we need to have faith and work with the police, this man began writing nasty comments, asking what was wrong with me. When he wrote that the police do nothing; I argued that while he was sitting having dinner, my husband and other volunteers were out on patrol. When he wrote that there were robberies every other week, if not every week, I produced the statistics to prove him wrong and suggested he was panicking and hysterical.

Clearly, he sees himself as a man's man - he even suggested that hysterics was more a woman-thing...great...just great.

I tried to focus on preventive things that can be done - the man dismissed them all and yet his very situation proves the point. He admits that his house did not have window bars before it was hit - and since that time, since he put bars on, he says (claims) that thieves have tried (and presumably failed) three times to get in. No, bars alone may not stop the thieves, I pointed out, but they look for "weak" houses - houses without bars, houses that are left in darkness.

Despite the figures I posted on our neighborhood list - that our neighborhood has been hit 5 times in 8 months, he continues to claim, "From what I hear on the street our neighborhood is hit by home robberies about twice per month." According to the last time I learned math, that would mean 16 breakins...not 5.

After writing on the local list, he wrote a blog post called "Hysteria and Clear Thinking" in which he writes about some "woman" (wanna guess who that is?):
Such people are like those Jews who knew what was coming during the Holocaust but "kept things quiet" so as to avoid spreading "hysterics". We all know the results of such clever policies.
As someone who has spent so much of my life writing about this very issue, I'm astounded...I think I'm even amused. I could be insulted, but I find that it is better to write logically to an hysterical person than be insulted. One person suggested he was trying to bully the neighborhood into being afraid. That is actually an interesting assessment. He is clearly trying to bully me by endlessly writing nasty comments and sticking to non-facts to promote his position. I get that he feels that he is a victim; I get that he lost a lot when his house was burglarized. What I don't get is what he gains by trying to take a wonderful neighborhood and try to make everyone afraid.

As for the accusation of silence? Wow...he's as off there as he is about the number of robberies. Not once have I ever urged silence as a solution. I also do not urge hysteria and sadly, this man does not seem able to separate the two.

What I have repeatedly urged is for those who are concerned to do as my husband has done - get out and physically protect the neighborhood, weekend after weekend, night after night by patrolling. That is silence? That is keeping quiet?

In reality, all that this person succeeded in doing is raising the level of fear in the neighborhood based on exaggeration and incorrect information. Window bars are a deterrent, despite this man saying no (and obviously he believes they offer some value, since he put finally put them on his windows). Lighting around the house - making it look like someone is home, even when they aren't. All these are proven to be effective.

Hysteria is when you post that there were three breakins, when in fact there were none. Hysteria is when you write, "WE ARE NOT SAFE" - when in fact, crime statistics prove we live in a relatively safe city and country. I know, and  have been told by many of the people whose homes were broken into, that this does not comfort them...and I understand. I have been the victim of robbery...and I know the fear of it happening again, of reliving the incident over and over again, only this time, you rewrite the ending. You fight back, you get home sooner, the police find the thieves...over and over, you relive and try to change the ending.

But the facts do not support the level of fear being pumped up in my neighborhood. In Nazi Germany, the Jews were, ultimately not silent, but they were helpless...by the time they accepted what was happening, it isn't that they chose not to leave, but that they were physically barred from leaving. In Israel today, we are neither silent, nor are we helpless.

We have police and army, we have armed citizens and we have the means, as this man has finally gotten around to doing, to protect our homes. More, we can take to the streets to protect what is ours. That is clear-thinking...and that is, actually, what I've been pushing from the start of this discussion.

This man suggests that he is clear-thinking and that I'm the hysterical one...well, while he things that women suffer from hysterics more than men, in this case, I'm rather amazed by what he is posting and the damage he is causing. Clear-thinking means realistically assessing the danger and doing what you can to mitigate it. Waiting until after your house is burglarized is unfortunate and perhaps even a bit irresponsible. Whipping up fear is just wrong.

I lived in fear for many years of my life - fear of walking alone in darkness. For four years, while attending Columbia University, I never went out alone at night, if at all possible...and in the winter, when I had a late class, I walked back to the dorm looking for someone to walk with, terrified of the last half a block I had to walk off Broadway.

I was afraid someone would grab one of my children. I was afraid of so much...and when I landed in Israel, I promised myself I would not live in fear. I can safely walk in my neighborhood (and in almost all places in Israel), even in the middle of the night alone.

If you really want to stop robberies in your neighborhood - getting a gun won't help (and with all the extra people we hope will start patrolling, could end up being more dangerous), learning self-defense won't help (when not once in the years that there have been thefts in and near my neighborhood have any of the thieves ever chosen confrontation over running).

What will help is working with the police and with your neighbors to have more eyes open and aware and watching.

Clear thinking...what a concept.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer's End

The last week of August - everyone is rushing to finalize plans for the start of school, enjoy these last days before "reality" returns. It's going to be a lot of changes in our family...

Aliza is starting a new school where she will sleep most nights in a room with three other girls, in an apartment with 11 other girls. She hasn't shared a room with someone for more than a night here or there since she was about 7 years old.

Davidi is back in yeshiva but there's a huge clock ticking down on us...the army is coming back in November...too soon, too fast.

The others are more settled...married...


For us...empty nest has arrived - at least during the week. It comes at you suddenly, or at least it did for us. A chance to be what we were so long ago, to have time to do things together. A movie, a walk, dinner. We haven't had to worry about babysitters for quite a while but still, this is up a level. We can decide on Monday to go away for a night without major considerations.

Summer is ending and a whole new reality is beginning...we got through the summer without a war...here's hoping we can get into and through next summer without one as well.

There are basic currents that we feel here - usually they are internal. We feel tensions building and worry that a war may be coming; something happens and we watch carefully to see where it will end.

This time, the currents seem to come from abroad and Israel seems remarkably stable. Obama is fighting an all out war to get his Iran deal passed. The more desperate his attempts, the sillier the deal appears.

That the Iranians would be given 24 days' notice appears ridiculous enough; but ridiculous has crossed into absurdity with the news that some of the inspections, at least, would be conducted by the Iranians.

Though the outcome of the deal will definitely effect Israel, it is an outside force rather than an inside one. As much as we can do to persuade the world that the Iranians are playing them, laughing at them and utterly humiliating the west, the west alone will choose its destiny. Israel will do what is has to do to survive, that is the single greatest truth in the Iran deal. If that makes some in the west nervous...good.

A second "current' that is sending ripples through Israel is the growing anti-Semitism worldwide. Especially in Europe, but in other places, including the US, as well. Like the Iran deal, we are outsiders and yet we are not. There are few Jews in France who are not worried, wondering and perhaps even planning. The Jews in the United Kingdom are feeling the worry though have yet to internalize the threat.

If the winds of hatred bring these Jews to Israel, we will offer them a home here. Perhaps as we have done in other places, we will have to physically send in planes to bring them.

It's still August here, still hot. No one is feeling the weather change yet, though we know that is now weeks away instead of months. But each summer melts into autumn, each autumn flows into winter. Wars and tension happen here without warning. We made it through the summer and that is something to celebrate. We'll concentrate on getting back - back to school, back to work and let the world continue for a while on its own.

The Iran deal will bring what it will; the rise in anti-Semitism will take its course. Somehow here in Israel, the path seems steadier than usual, calmer than usual. Ultimately, as Ben Gurion said long ago, to be a realist in Israel, you must believe in miracles and so we believe, we wait, we live.

At summer's end...life is good here in Israel, and for those of us blessed to call  this our home, that really is all that matters.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Oh No! Spy Dolphins, Killer Tuna and Enemy Eels!

Thanks to The Israel Project for this one!

Laughing at Hamas

One of the things I love most about Israel is our ability to laugh at ourselves and others. The absurdity of the situation could choke us. Iran is threatening right and left...they want to annihilate us...and the US government is about to hand them $150 BILLION dollars which they know...yes, they KNOW...will be given over in large numbers to arm Hamas and Hezbollah. The very weapons that could literally be used to attack Israel (and even US interests)...will be paid for by the stupidity of the Obama administration.

Israel spends millions of dollars helping other countries in crisis...and then is accused of all sorts of violations of human rights by countries such as Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia. Laugh...or cry...

We choose to laugh...and I love that about us...so, swimming around Israel today:





And this one... a take off on the Biblical phrase "And the sons [children] will return to their borders [meaning their land], this one says, "And the fish will return to their borders" (hat tip to Benji Lovitt again for this one)



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

When A Dolphin is a...Zionist Spy?

You can't make this stuff up...I mean, you can try, but why bother when Hamas does it for you?

We've heard about the Zionist sharks, wolves, squirrels, ravens...and now we have...dolphins.

It all started with several Israeli news sites covering a report that Hamas has claimed to have captured an Israeli spy...a dolphin equipped with camera and other "espionage equipment".

It's really hot and they are really stupid. Put that together and you have a day of jokes led primarily by the infinitely funny Benji Lovitt (www.benjilovitt.com).
Here's a sampling of how Israelis took the news of the Hamas capture...of a dolphin...
  • Earlier today, Hamas captured an Israeli spy dolphin. After several hours of torture, the Zionist animal had only this to say:"AAAK EEEK SQUEAK!!!!"
  • Hamas was water boarding the dolphin trying to make him confess, until they realized he actually liked it.... 
  • 5:00 PM The Zionist spy dolphin ate a tuna.
  • 5:01 PM The UN condemned it for ethnic fish cleansing.
    • Ephraim Gopin adds: 5:07 Rabbanut declares it will not give kosher certificate to fish deemed kosher in Spain. All fish will have to dunk in mikva in Israel first.
    • Ira Wise adds: 5:08 Spain declares all fish forgiven and welcome to return to Spain. Please!
  • SeaWorld's traveling water show has canceled the Zionist spy dolphin's performance in Spain until it clarifies its position on Palestinian statehood.
  • After the capture of the Zionist spy dolphin, the International Red Cross has pressured the Hamas leadership into allowing the animal a phone call to Dr. Doolittle.
  • Following the breaking news of Hamas's newest hostage, the National Football League is denying reports that a team has changed its name to the Miami Zionist Flipper Spies.
  • Liron Kopinsky:"Israel has entered into negotiations to trade one dolphin for 1,257 Hamas frogmen."
  • Dave Bender: IDF Signal Corps officials, speaking off the record, said the mammal's last radio message before the transmitter went dead was "...and thanks for all the fish," accompanied by two tweeted hashtags: "‪#‎freewilly‬!" and "‪#‎SorryCharlie‬." StarKist could not be reached for comment.
And my small contribution defending the Zionist spying dolphin: I don't think he did it on porpoise!

Why Israel Will Never Be Defeated

There's a reason why Israel will never be defeated. It has nothing to do with Obama, obviously. It has nothing to do with 320 American "rabbis" signing to support the Iran Deal using the blood of our children as the ink for their signature. It has nothing to do with our enemies...isn't that amazing?

It has nothing to do with our technological innovation, our ability to discover or invent amazing things like Waze, the latest cancer treatments, telecommunications wonders, and more. Nor does it have anything to do with our political leaders, current, past or future.

There is, honestly, a simple reason and it has existed as long as there has been a Jew alive.

When our enemies gather on the hills above us, when they wage their battles in the United Nations and world courts, it means nothing because what we have, is this...

video

These are soldiers very close to the Gaza border. There is a sect of Jews, a movement, if you will, called Breslovs. Breslov is a place in the Ukraine where Rebbe Nachman lived. He was the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, a man credited with founding the Hasidic movement.

The Hasidic movement, in its origin, was so different than it is today - then, it was to focus on the joy of living, of song and dance. In too many ways, the modern Hasidic movement has become more like the people against whom Rebbe Nachman of Breslov rebelled.

And so, around the world, and especially in Israel, there are those who want to get back to the simple joy of celebrating who we are. They'll stop in the middle of the street and start dancing...and amazingly enough, others will run up to join them. This will happen in the snow, at the Kotel, in the rain, on a highway and there, close to the Gaza border.

So long as there are Jews who will dance for the sheer pleasure of thanking God for our very existence, for all the blessings He has given to us, Israel will never be destroyed or defeated.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Twenty-Three Years Ago...Today

Twenty-three years ago today, I flew across the ocean with two little boys,
desperate to reach a husband who I had not seen in almost three months, my young daughter that I had not seen in 6 weeks.

It was a calculated plan to get us all to Israel, meeting my husband's requirement that he have work before we move and my daughter's need to learn at least some Hebrew before she entered third grade.

To this day, I cannot tell you if it was the right plan but it worked. We all got to Israel - that was all I wanted, needed.

I was exhausted when I landed, emotional, drained. The boys had been amazing on the flight. I was the only one making aliyah on my flight but the stewardesses knew and treated me like royalty. They asked often if I was okay, if I needed anything. They watched two sleeping boys when I needed to go to the bathroom even though to their Israeli minds that was a ridiculous thing because who could steal them on a plane soaring through the skies?

I was battered and bruised and all I wanted was home. I wanted to leave fear behind - fear of being assaulted as a woman for a few dollars in my pocket (a story of a young mother in New Jersey weeks before...the thief put the young child out of the van and drove off with the mother, eventually killing her for $1.25 that she had with her). I feared darkness. I feared someone would take my children. I craved light.

I landed and climbed down the staircase, holding my sons firmly while others helped me with bags...and all I saw was Israel...my dream...and the sun and the warmth...I nearly fell to the ground just wanting to touch it and believe finally, finally, finally. But I held the boys, climbed on the bus. A man got up, and another, and I was told to sit down. One son sat next to me, another on my lap and I prayed I wouldn't fall apart.

I got through the paperwork, desperate to collect everything and really get out. They stamped, they filled out papers...I waited, I answered questions and pointed to bags and held hands and pushed a loaded cart until there he was. He brought me flowers and held me so tightly, so strongly, I knew he would never let me go again. I held my daughter and promised I'd never leave her again. My husband picked up his sons and hugged them. Finally together after so many weeks; finally home...

We went to a place I had never seen but recognized it for home within seconds. Settled quickly in a beautiful rented house and made friends. My husband worked; I began to work. My children went to school and made friends and began to fight in Hebrew. We added a son and then a daughter; we bought a house and moved. We sold a house and moved. We rented a house and moved. We bought a house and settled.

We "married off" a daughter and two sons and gained three grandchildren. We built a business, became part of an amazing community. We lost, we gained, we live.

Twenty-three years ago - it's like yesterday except so much richer, so much more. I can dream in Hebrew now, buy and sell anything in an ancient yet modern language.

One son has been to war two times; a second was blessed to have avoided war but not danger during his service. In less than 100 days, my third son...the first born here in this land...will enter the army.

There has never been, not for a single second of a single minute of a single hour of a single day of a single week of a single month of a single year...been a time when I regretted, when I wished I had done anything but board that El Al flight...other than to wish I had done it sooner.

There is no other land that is ours; there is no other place that is home. If you fly home over the summer to visit and vacation, your aliyah might not be successful in the end. If you keep one foot there, wherever there is, and one foot here, that other foot will pull you away.

I came as a refugee seeking a land I could call my own. I watch as others come here from lands where Jews are no longer welcome and worse, I watch while other stay in lands that are fast becoming dangerous.

When I turn into myself, as I will do today, I feel such gratitude to my husband for agreeing to leave his family to make my dream come true. I am grateful to God (and my husband) for the priceless gift of five children who have grown into amazing people in this land. And I thank Israel for welcoming me, for being here.

When I was 16 and came on my first trip, I never wanted to leave. I cried buckets of tears and promised I would be back. When I was 20, I listened to a Jewish Federation leader boast that he had been to Israel 23 times and while others were impressed, I was astounded, "that means you left 22 times...how could you possibly have done that?" I asked without thinking.

When I was 33, I landed in Israel, wife, mother to three small children.

A few years ago, my husband and I spent Shabbat in a hotel in Jerusalem. At one point, I went to the bathroom and found three teenage girls sitting in the hall crying. I was concerned and asked if they needed anything and they explained that they were leaving Israel the next day and didn't want to go.

Paraphrased, this is what I said to them...and to every one who does not live in Israel.

Don't worry. Israel is here. Israel will always be here waiting for you. Whenever you need her, whenever you want, she's here. She is a strong land, a beautiful land and always only a flight away.

I took that flight exactly 23 years ago and my life had been enriched every day since.

May God bless the holy land and people of Israel.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Predictions for the Next War

I read an article on Israel National News today, saying that the IDF is developing laser beams to intercept mortar shells like the kind that killed 4-year-old, Daniel Tragerman and it got me thinking.

At this very moment, Hamas is preparing for the next war against Israel and, in all honesty, Israel is also preparing. How they prepare, though, says a lot about the two entities that have gone to war no less than three times in the last 7 years.

What Hamas is doing, as reported in numerous places and even threatened loudly by their own leaders, is increasing their rocket assets, improving their range, perhaps their payload. Hamas is working to develop the tunnel infrastructure that was largely destroyed during Operation Protective Edge.

In short, Hamas is preparing an offensive war hoping to kill as many Israeli soldiers and civilians as possible. What it is not doing, is spending money repairing the infrastructure in Gaza - that, they leave to the naive Europeans and the idiots of UNRWA.

What they are not doing as well, is building any secure places for the people of Gaza, no bomb shelters, no underground safety areas.

And what is Israel doing? We are developing another advanced technological solution to fill in the gap discovered with the Iron Dome system - those mortars that are meant for close to the border with Gaza, where the warning is only a few seconds. All that aside, the sheer cost of firing Iron Dome is intimidating - it didn't stop Israel from using it, but the debt had to be paid.

So, to summarize...

Hamas is preparing for the next war by sharpening its ability to attack Israel. Israel is preparing for the next war by working to develop yet another system to defend its citizens.

Israel. Hamas. Reality - a reality that will be ignored by many...until the next war when once again, there will be disproportional casualties because our people will run to shelter and above their heads, advanced technological weaponry will work to neutralize Hamas rockets...and their people will have nowhere to run, rockets will again be fired from within their communities, from their mosques and hospitals and UNWRA schools.

Israel. Hamas. Reality.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What Do You Do and Feel at Holy Places?

The first time I ever saw the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I was 16 years old, on a youth trip during the summer months, still mourning the sudden loss of my grandfather. He had promised to take me to Israel for the first time and here I was...in Israel without him.

We approached the Western Wall - it is a quite impressive site. It towers above you, golden, strong, ancient...and amazingly peaceful. As I sat on the side, almost afraid to approach the stones that have stood through the millennia, I started to cry.

I know that the Western Wall is also called the Wailing Wall and almost every time I am there, I find people crying, even sobbing. I can't say why I cried that first time or so many times since.

It is a place that reaches into your soul and pulls out your thoughts, your dreams, your sorrows. It heals, it cleanses, it touches. We celebrated each bar mitzvah there. Four out of times, I was there when I was pregnant; each of my three married children have gone there in the early morning of the day they were married. Shmulik had his first military ceremony there...and they handed him a Bible and a gun...each a part of what he was, what he was being asked to defend.

Not once in all the times that I have gone there, a place that is miraculously so close...I feel the place. It is holy.

What too few people understand, is that the Western Wall is holy because of what it is...it is all we have left. It is the retaining wall of the Temple Mount. There, high above, was where our Holy Temples were built...and destroyed.

Though the Temples aren't there now...the place remains the single holiest place in Judaism. Christianity recognized the Temple Mount as holy, as does Islam. As has happened all over Israel, over our holy places, they built theirs. They did this in Hebron, Nablus, Jerusalem, and countless other places. It is their way of conquering, of declaring their supposed superiority, of erasing the past that cannot be erased.

And how do they treat this place in the world we consider more holy than any other? They store weapons there, throw firebombs, play soccer, and throw garbage.

When people - Christians, Jews, even US Congressmen come up to honor the place, they are surrounded, harassed, screamed at.

When people enter a church or a synagogue, they do so with the understanding that they enter the House of God...only in a mosque do you hear of explosives stored, rocks piled, rockets massed. In a church or synagogue, people tend to watch their language, speak a bit more carefully. Here, at the holiest of places, Muslims riot, throw firebombs at police...one Muslim women even BIT a police officer. Have you ever played soccer in church, thrown garbage around a synagogue?

How you treat a place is clearly how you consider it. By this simple standard, the Moslems do not consider the Temple Mount anything but another potential battleground.

Here's a video showing the mess Muslims have made as a protest on the Temple Mount, throwing garbage, screaming...and more.

video







Tuesday, August 11, 2015

When You Need a New Prayer

Prayers are interesting in a many ways. There are the formal prayers we say - many written hundreds...even thousands...of years ago. I often smile when I hear the Torah read and recognize a phrase that has found its way into our daily prayers.

But prayers have always been fluid. Jews believe that all you need in order to allow you to pray to God is...a brain, a voice, a thought. Many years ago, a Russian Jew wanted to leave the Soviet Union and he knew that if they drafted him into the army, the Soviets would never let him leave. When he was called to join, he told them that he could not. They asked him why. He told them that he was crazy.

They laughed at him and said, how do you know you are crazy?

And he answered that he puts a box on his head and a box on his arm every morning. And then he talks to God.

The Soviets looked at him and laughed and said, "a lot of people talk to God." Remember that Communist Russia was a God-less country so religion was something to laugh off. "Yes," answered the Soviet Jew, "but my God answers me."

They figured he was crazy and let him go...God had answered him.

I often speak to God. Sometimes in the formal prayers but more often in the simple words that come from my heart...and God always answers me...though I'll admit that sometimes, the answer is no. I'm still not rich; I still don't own a vacation home in the north; I've never been to Scotland; and I don't have a full time cook and cleaner. But the other stuff...the important stuff...oh yes, God has blessed me over and over and over and over and over again. My sons went through the army, through war and operations, and came home safe. Two are happily married, one blessed with a beautiful daughter. My oldest daughter married the kindest, sweetest of guys, talented, amazing with kids, calm and patient...and they have two sons...each a blessing beyond words.

My husband and I will soon celebrate our 33nd wedding anniversary and with all the ups and downs and moves and kids and life...there is great love between us - each and all, an answer from God.

So, back to prayers. Prayers that were written hundreds of years ago still have a place in our lives, but sometimes, new prayers are needed...a friend, an amazing rabbi in our community has written one that summarizes much of what we ask God for in these difficult days.

He published it here in English. I should ask him for a Hebrew version as well but for now, if you can, consider printing this. Take it to your synagogue, even your Church, this is indeed, a Prayer for these Troubling Times.

With thanks and blessings to Rav Zev Shandalov. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

YNET Failure of EPIC Proportions

Here's the story, hinted to in the original YNET article and then intentionally blurred with their slant and yet, despite their attempts to camouflage it, even a fool can decipher the truth.

An Israeli couple went for a morning run with their dog. They ran along a dirt  path that they regularly use that runs near a neighboring Arab village, which is frequented by Israelis and considered to be relatively safe, and were attacked and stoned. They were threatened with their lives and managed to extract themselves. They did not enter the village; they run this path regularly. This time, they were attacked; the IDF arrived and helped get them away without injury.

That is actually the beginning and end of the story. Until YNET got their hands on it.

The one true line in what they wrote is that the Palestinians admit to throwing stones at the couple.

According to YNET, some of the approximately 250 Arab residents of At-Tuwani saw two Jews running NEAR their village and got suspicious that they were "extremist Jews."

No word on whether these Jews attempted to do anything; no word on whether they were armed. No word on whether they were carrying anything or did anything. No word on what it was about these Jews that signaled "extremism" other than the fact that they were Jews.

What made them suspicious? That they were running and brought along a dog? The Jewish couple's version of the event (Journalism note here: see, you can use a word like "event" rather than story. "Story" suggests fiction, something not necessarily credible.) is presented by YNET as a "slightly different story" but clearly more credible. "The Palestinians admit to throwing rocks at the couple." Well, YNET, does that not suggest your main information source here are violent people who, according to Israeli law could be arrested and thrown in jail by their own confession?

Why would someone bring a dog on an attempted terror attack - wouldn't the dog bark and give away their position? Why would someone run in the middle of a dirt path, blatantly near an Arab village, outnumbered by over 100 to 1 in the full brightness of morning with terror or violence in mind? What made these people extremists?

Since the Arabs admit to violence - unprovoked, clearly, do they not then lose credibility? The answer, clearly, is not in the eyes of YNET. Because there is one word in this article that says it all.

"Settlers."

Two Jewish "settlers" - not people - not a young couple who enjoy exercising together...two SETTLERS took a run near an Arab village which has been, according to YNET, a place where Jews frequent (that's likely a code name for shopping). And this time, they were stoned.

YNET - you failed, yet again, to rise even to the level of mediocre journalism because you were blinded by your hatred of over 500,000 Jews who live in Judea and Samaria. If you excuse and justify the violence of At-Tuwani against two innocent runners and their dog, you have no right to show horror and outrage when the violence reaches your precious doors in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Haifa and elsewhere.

To the Arabs of At-Tuwani, despite the pathetic quality of YNET's reporting, few in Israel are stupid enough to believe your actions were anything but violence against innocent people. Next time, it is hoped, that someone will catch your actions on film and perhaps then, it will be your villagers arrested for extremism because ultimately, those who stone innocent people out for a run are the ones guilty of terror and extremism, not the joggers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Simple, Clear, Honest - the Truth on the Iran Deal

What Makes a 19 Year Old Laugh?

The answer is sometimes just silly things and of all the blessings parents are granted, I think hearing your child laugh is one of the greatest. I have a confession to make...some of my sons sometimes drink out of the bottle. No, not a small bottle - a big bottle of ice tea, juice or whatever. I've asked them not to, I've told them it is quite uncivilized! Mostly, they...well, if I'm going to be honest, mostly, they don't listen to me nearly enough! Lately, the greatest culprit is David and the liter bottles of mocha.

In Israel, you can buy milk in a variety of containers (bags, cartons, plastic) and flavors (1% fat, 2% fat, 3% fat, banana-flavored, chocolate-flavored, mocha-flavored, etc.). Davidi loves mocha and somehow, he keeps thinking that he's the only one drinking from it (and mostly, he's right). Part of that is because as soon as we have it in the house, he doesn't stop drinking it, and part of it is, for me at least, I don't drink coffee at all!

When David reaches for a bottle, Aliza will call out, "David! I want to drink from it too. That's disgusting!" She's right...but she's also a sister, and he's a brother and, as brothers will often do - the worst thing she could probably do is say something...and then there he goes again.

Sometimes Davidi gives in and sometimes not...and there goes the mocha. Aliza loves the chocolate milk. As the mocha is David's, the chocolate milk is Aliza's...mostly. But this morning, having finished the mocha, Davidi went after the chocolate milk.

"David," I said, "use a glass." (as I always say).

He took a long straw and put it in the 2 liter chocolate milk container and drank from it and then said, "so you think this is okay for Aliza?"

Without thinking, I said, "so long as you don't blow bubbles."

It's been years since my children blew bubbles into their drinks. I have no idea why I thought of it but having given the thought voice, Davidi proceeded to blow bubbles and as I called out in semi-exasperation, "David!" - he did the most wonderful thing...he laughed...and then he said it was MY idea!

And then he got silly and started blowing in the air through the straw, first up and around, and then at me.

These are some of the moments I remember beginning to notice before the other two went into the army - the silly moments when the boy sparkles through and you know that for all that the man is taking over, deep in the heart, the transformation isn't yet complete.

David seems to be much more aware than the others were as they prepared to enter the army. Like Elie, he stuck with the ambulance squad and so has seen bad accidents and death. He's seen violence aimed at him and his friends. For all that, he's an amazingly balanced and thinking person.

So much goes on in their minds as they begin this road. He tells me now that he will likely only know the unit a month or so before he enters the army. That's how it was with the others as well. So for now, as the heatwave in Israel rages, we're all enjoying our air conditioning and our summer vacation, and a few silly laughs over nothing important.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Remembering Israel

Sometimes, at the worst of times, the thing you have to concentrate on, is the best of times. Sometimes, when there is a funeral, a painful, horrible, agonizing funeral of someone who should not be dead but alive and enjoying her summer freedom…you have to remember life.

Yesterday was an agonizing day in Israel. Unbearably hot from a regional heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring well over 100 degrees (well over 40 degrees Celsius and even into the 50s and 60s in some areas). And unbearably sad because Israel spent much of yesterday and the last few days focusing on negativity.

Throughout the day, people spoke of two horrible events, attacks on our society as much as on the individuals who suffered. Terror attacks. Yes, terror for people who went to a parade on a summer day in Jerusalem, never believing violence would erupt before their eyes. Terror for a family in their home, when masked men brought fire and death to a baby. Some quibbled over who was responsible; others wasted time arguing over how to label these things — arson attack or terror attack or hate crime, all of the above or some.

At some point, after we heard that young Shira Banki had died, the anger that many were feeling simply deflated. What is left to say when in the end, a 16 year old is dead? I spent much of the hours that followed this announcement trying not to think of one simple thing.

My baby is 15.5…even a bit more. She is grace and beauty; she is a teenager. She is a girl and almost a woman. She’s all about her hair and her friends. She makes me tea sometimes and plops on my bed when she has nothing to do. We talk…we play games together. We are very close, closer than many mothers and daughters.

She tells me about things…I tell her about things…we’ll go out to breakfast, I’ll force her to wear boots or a sweater. She’ll come home late and I’ll give her a hard time. She’ll tell me she’s starving and ask me to make her food, or she’s late and ask me to drive her somewhere. She’ll send me messages that she loves me and hearts and smiles and flowers…

With the thought of how Shira’s mother would cope without her, I broke last night. Don’t ask why Shira was there at the parade. It really, really doesn’t matter. I have deleted a dozen comments on Facebook…could easily have deleted another dozen. The question isn’t why she was there, but how her mother and her family will live without her. Ask who will make her mother tea, and play games with her, and who will she talk to…

In such sadness, I thought of the day; of the arguments I’d had and the comments that I had read. Around Israel, and from across the world, criticism and complaint. Almost weekly in the US, there is a mass shooting without nearly the amount of soul searching that took place here in Israel. But we needed that soul searching, and we still do. Perhaps the most honest comment came from Rabbi Benny Lau who said simply, “We are all responsible.”
It is impossible to denounce this crime by saying ‘A Jew doesn’t stab a Jew!’. That’s racism! A Jew doesn’t stab, period. Everyone who prayed today heard the 10 Commandments and they stood and heard ‘You will not murder’. In the name of which Torah? In the name of which Torah does someone stab? Or goes and burns up a baby and his whole family? Everything starts from what we say in shul and we need to take responsibility!---Rabbi Lau
When everyone says that we are losing our soul, that’s the time to find it. When people question our direction, it’s time to look around and remember who we are, what we are, and what we have accomplished.

The world will always shove a moral compass at Israel — one reserved, almost exclusively for us. We have to be a democracy above all others, or we are not a democracy at all, according to these standards. That’s not fair and we should not accept the world’s compass to guide who we are. But we must accept our own. We must be the best we can be…not for them, for us.

Yesterday, amid the sadness and anger and accusations, I think we lost, just a little bit, the memory of what we are.

We fought ourselves and each other, we surrendered to the lashings of a world that cares little for our sorrows and knows nothing of our internal commitment to the concept of tikkun olam…of fixing the world, making it a better place. Today, as we bury Shira Banki (may her memory be blessed and may the angels watch over her now), we need to reclaim Israel, for her, for her mother, and for us.

We need to remember we are not evil; we are humans as all others, with the same rights and the same faults. From around the world, I am reading comments that say Israel has to be a “light amongst the nations.” Well, we are. From Nepal, to Haiti, from Kenya to Indonesia, we have saved lives in natural disasters. But more, on a regular basis, Israelis work around the world building, consulting, training, treating, curing.

We are that light, like no other. And that light shines strongly inside of us. We are a light for ourselves as well. We see this in our children, even if sometimes, we don’t see it in ourselves. Look at them. Three years of their lives they give this land, in love and in pride. And for all that time, look at the love given to them. In so many restaurants, that welcome them with free food or huge discounts. In little things, all over the country.

Yesterday, people spoke of hate in Israel, intolerance, and worse. Today, we should remember the unbelievable acts of kindness that happen every day here in Israel. Last night, in Gedera, a young couple got married. The bride is an orphan; having lost both her parents in the last two years…her father only a month ago. Apparently many of the invited guests assumed that the wedding had been canceled and didn’t show up and so there they were, this young couple, getting married with only 20 or 30 guests.

A relative posted on Facebook begging people to come. A popular Israeli news site picked it up and put out a call, asking people to come and help celebrate the beginning of this couple’s life together. Almost 2,000 people showed up and a famous singer went there as well. Remember, this is Israel.

Each day here, people reach out to help in small acts of kindness that lighten the heart and remind us that we are each a part of the greater whole. Rarely do I stand in a line without conversing with the person next to me; often, people will stop me to ask a question and without hesitation, help is offered.

Yesterday, my husband drove to the hottest place in Israel in the middle of a heat wave to install an air conditioner on an army base. The air conditioner was a donation for the soldiers and they gathered around to help my husband, grateful that on such a day, he would come out to help. Together, they enjoyed the cool air when they were done.

On our community list, a recently-widowed woman asked for a ride somewhere, and within minutes, she knew she not only had a ride to her appointment, but a ride back as well. Another woman here broke her arm and within hours, the community had organized meals for her family.

If you’ve ever been in a hospital in Israel, you’ll know that people come around and offer sandwiches to families waiting for news. This has happened to me in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheva and Petach Tikvah.

In each place, they simply come over and ask if you have eaten, and if you  need something. No charge; no pressure; no limit. You can even call them and tell them you’ll be there and they’ll never ask you for money.

They are Ezer Mizion and you can give them donations but they will not ask in that moment when you need them most. Shortly after my youngest son was born, he was in the hospital for 10 days. Alone with my infant while my husband was home with our other children, I was unsure how things worked over the Sabbath. The baby was the patient, not me. The nurses were unconcerned, and told me not to worry.

I tried to figure out what I would eat, and then hours before sunset, a man came with an entire meal, bread, a small bottle of grape juice on which the Kiddush is said. He assured me that someone would come the next day, take away the thermos which contained hot soup, and bring me more. In tears, I thanked them, but he wasn’t done. He asked me if I needed anything else. Did I need someone to come say Kiddush for me? Havdalah? I told him I was fine and could manage on my own.

He asked me if I wanted his wife to come sit with the baby so that I could rest. I thanked him again and told him he had done so much. And still, the next day, he came with his wife to visit and bring food and sit for a few minutes. I never learned his name; he never asked mine. Acts of kindness, remembering Israel.

Early each morning, before dawn, men and women gather at the Western Wall, waiting for that earliest of moments when it is permitted to begin the morning prayers. And in the pre-dawn chill, as women huddle as they whisper psalms, a woman pushes a cart offering a scarf, a shawl, and a warm cup of tea to strangers. She asks for nothing, simply offers warmth and kindness and then moves to the next woman. Israel.

In all our sorrows, as we bury Shira today, remember that the essence of who we are remains. This is not a cruel society, but a kind one. This is not an evil country, but a good one. Flawed as all humans are, we have, nonetheless, built am amazing country. Remember, this is Israel.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hot Days of August Upon Us

It's very hot in Israel - actually, that's an understatement. It was hot last week, but reports say this week could well be much much worse. I've been sick for the last three weeks with a fever, running to doctors to do tests etc.

So the good news is that one doctor is convinced it is something that most people have (50-80% in the US; 90% worldwide) and I just got a particularly bad occurrence of it. I'm miserable.

David is home for a few weeks...he goes back to begin year 2 of his Hesder program for a few months, and then into the army in November. He's been doing the cooking for the last two weeks - asking questions and then just making decisions and going for it.

I feel once again like the mountain is coming towards me. It's still far enough away that I can see over it but I know as I get closer, all that is on the other side will disappear and all I'll see is the mountain, impossibly high, impossibly wide.

This is probably not the worst summer I've ever had in my life...mostly, it's just going along slowly. Last week, a stupid man did a horrible thing. Whatever you feel about homosexuality, no one has the right to take a knife in their hands and stab another person.

The Israeli police could not have appeared more incompetent if they tried. This man stabbed three people ten years ago...he was sentenced and served for 10 years. He was released 2 weeks ago...and went and did it again.

Immediately, from left and right, religious and secular, the act was condemned...and yet it wasn't good enough. The media continues to use it to bash the religious, even "settlers" - though I have no idea where this lunatic even comes from!

Then, to make matters worse, if they weren't already, arsonists set a fire in the Arab village of Duma and a baby died. Hebrew words of revenge were painted on the house.

Across the political and religious spectrum - this act was condemned. The police do not yet know who did it - though the media is having a field day quoting "security sources" with such meaningless phrases as "a long history of conflict" between Duma and nearby Jewish villages. Oh, okay, so that must mean the Jews did it because hey, Israel's been at war with them for 67 years!

It's hot and I'm tired and I'm sick...not at all a good combination. Air conditioning takes care of the first, sleep and pills the second and third but deep inside of me is an anger, a disgust that we are so quick to cut ourselves open and demand the world see we bleed.

No other nation in the world would do what we do - help so many others while being so isolated and alone. No other nation in the world would allow tens of thousands of rockets...two more today, to be fired at them.

No other nation would announce their guilt to the world even before we know that guilt is justified or even on us. I did not set that fire in Duma. I do not support anyone who burns my land...Arab or Jew.

I do not support arson, targeting an innocent family in their homes. Find the people who did this and lock them away. I condemn it...

Why is my condemnation not enough? Why must I admit to a guilt that I do not have? It is not my culture to support violence. It is not in my culture to support taking from others what is theirs.

How can you focus on one horrible act - while ignoring dozens of others simply because the others are routing. Of course the Arabs will riot on the Temple Mount and throw firebombs at security forces, of course they will stone cars and buses...now let's talk about what one moron did?

I'm so tired...

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