Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The First Call

The first time your son calls you after entering the army is...wow...so special. It's the moment you know you'll survive this. It's the moment when you realize the earth is still turning, the sun still shining (or, in my case, the moon is still orbiting the earth). Sound a bit grandiose? Okay, so let's bring it down a level - it's the moment you take your first breath, that instance when you are unfrozen.

He went in on Monday morning. We had some messages back and forth but we didn't speak again until Tuesday night. I don't usually brag about my talents...whatever they may be...and am usually uncomfortable when others speak to me about things that I've done or can do. But I'll tell you one talent...and in this, I am possibly the most talented person in the entire world...I can think - faster, deeper, and with more creativity than ANYONE...about horrible things, scary things.

I hate horror movies because I know that whatever I watch will work its way into my mind and I'll think and dream about it for weeks. No, thank you! The world is scary enough.

So by Tuesday afternoon when Davidi hadn't called, I was sure that his phone was broken or stolen. I was mostly convinced that he was physically okay because I know enough about the army to know that they have not yet given these new recruits guns (they haven't), and from stories that Elie told me about his first day in, they barely leave them alone. So, I knew...well, as much as you can KNOW anything (which with the army isn't very much, but go with me here)...I knew he was okay so therefore, logically, if he hasn't called, his phone must have met some fatal accident.

Now, having killed more phones than I am willing to admit...I am very original in how this can be done and let me tell you, from experience, it isn't that hard. So, yeah, I was sure his phone was gone, lost, finished...well, not sure...but maybe, right? Did I mention you should go with me on this?

Well, you don't have to...he called last night, "Ima, I can't talk for long. I only have 6 minutes." They're given an hour to shower, get ready for the next day, call their parents etc. And so he called. He is fine. He's sleeping in a building. I know that doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment but one of the things I was told about Givati is that they sleep (still) in tents - even in the cold of the rain and the winter. It rarely rains warm in Israel. When there is rain, it's a storm. Those gentle, warm rains of summer days and nights - no, not in Israel. The rain comes in with the wind and the cold and then blows out bringing warm winter days...until the next round.

So, having a son sleeping in the tent in the winter...not a happy thought. Especially as...have I confessed this before?...I cook babies. Oh wait, no - not really. I can see all the anti-Semitic sites on the internet ...
"Israeli mother admits to cooking babies in latest proof that the blood libels of the Middle Ages was in fact truth. It has long been suspected that Jews drain the blood out of good Christian children and use it to bake Passover Matzo. Now, one Israel mother admits that she regularly cooked her children."
No, really, I didn't. What I did was smother them with...no, no, no - bad word. Okay, so I was always terrified that they'd be cold - those cute little bodies...how was I supposed to know if they were cold? You want me to believe those doctors? That if I don't need more than a sweater, they don't either? No way - blankets! Hats! Cover them up and cuddle them...that's my philosophy and I have five beautiful children who survived all that I managed to do to them. Cold...I can assure you that my children were probably NEVER cold...overheated, maybe; sweating under blankets even in the summer...definitely, but cold...never.

Davidi, knowing my constant nagging, knew just what to say. I've told most of my kids, "put on a sweater! I'm cold." And now, I see the army put a building around my son, a roof over his head, a solid floor to keep out the chill of the desert sands...that makes me a happy parent.

His unit is the first Givati group to be housed in...well, houses. No tents for them. (And no, I did NOT call the army and beg them to put a roof over their heads.)

So - in less than 6 minutes, he's fine. He's good. He's happy. He's with friends. I forgot to ask him his commander's name...he's in a building...I didn't ask if it had heating and air conditioning...and he's coming home this weekend! Oh, and his phone is fine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

That First Picture

You'd think with a third son going into the army that there would be no firsts. I should have known that wasn't true. David was my first child born in Israel. He is my third son, my fourth child. In many ways, he's followed the others - the second in Hesder, the fourth to join the ambulance squad.

He was the first to go to a "sleep away" school, the second to be become a Bnei Akiva youth counselor. He was the first to become a trainer for new ambulance volunteers; the fourth to take a course to handle a multiple casualty incident.

Sometimes the second, sometimes the third, rarely the first and always the fourth...that's David. What surprised me yesterday was how much I needed that first picture. It made it real; it filled my eyes with tears.

At first, all I wanted was to make it through the morning without tears - and this is what I succeeded in doing. I didn't cry and I was so proud of myself. He left with a hug and a kiss, easy and fast and I really thought I was fine. And then I saw the picture I had begged him to send me and I began to cry. I still do when I look at it. He's smiling; he's good...and yet my eyes fill with tears.

So I decided that each son is a first, each child a first. And it made me think back to those other firsts.
As I begin again this journey no mother really wants to take...I'll stop for a second and show you the firsts of each.

Elie - - as he entered the artillery division. The first picture of him in uniform was when he came home ten or so days later. He'd told me about the uniform, but this was the first chance I got to see him in it. Note the white t-shirt - these are the "travel" uniforms, dressier than the others.

Shmulik - - entered one of the ground forces units as Davidi has. In Shmulik's case, it was Kfir and he sent me that first picture from the bus - it looks like he took it himself...and he didn't smile.

And finally yesterday, David sent me his first picture. I can't really explain what made me cry. The truth is...he's smiling, he's happy. It looks like a bunch of them stood together and took that picture - a joint one of all the boys from his yeshiva - all going into the army together and then he cut his picture out and sent it.

It's kind of funny because it looks like his beard is really long (when really, it's the hair on his neck that looks like it is part of his beard). He doesn't look nearly as tired as I expected, given that he only went to bed in the early morning hours of the night...and then was up again at 6:00 a.m.

In many ways, he is a combination of his brothers - he's got the look of Elie, with the blue eyes; the shape of Shmulik's eyes. He is completely his own person in so many ways and somehow he looks so much older than he did in the morning when he left with a backpack on his shoulder, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.

Suddenly, the boy from the night before has emerged as the man he will be. I can see that man in this picture and it startled me a bit. I wasn't ready to see him and I also didn't realize how beautiful he would be.

I must have looked at this picture a hundred times already and each time I keep thinking simply that he is mine and I'm very proud of him.

On Facebook, Shmulik wrote him a most beautiful note. It isn't easy, it seems, to watch your younger brother go into the army, step forward to protect this land. It isn't easy, I can tell you, to send three sons to the army not knowing where they are, what they are doing.

At the end of the day yesterday, I thought to myself, one day down. The first picture is done...now I begin the countdown to the one I want to take on his last day in the army - safe, healthy, happy, tall, beautiful...and still mine.

May God watch over David Levi ben Penina...and all the soldiers of Israel.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Well, He's In

This morning came...as I knew it would...bright and early. We quickly loaded the car and drove off. Davidi...I have to begin calling him David - it's time to leave his childhood name behind...David looked forward. He would soon meet his friends and begin this journey together. I couldn't help but look back at the little boy, the first baby born in Israel.

I promised myself I wouldn't cry. Every time he said something that touched my heart, I reminded myself. You will NOT cry. You will NOT cry...hold it in, hold it together. Keep it light.

On the way, we picked up another young man who is also beginning the army today. It was not a time to speak of serious things, and we didn't. It wasn't the time to speak of feelings, and we didn't. Our trip to the induction center, this time in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem, was filled with silly conversations - like whether you gain or lose time when the estimated time reported by the GPS changes. Silly but really there is little time for anything else, little interest.

I dropped them off - they walked off together, David and this young man who left his family in the United States to come to Israel to serve in the army. Hours later, I sent David a message asking how he was doing - his answer was that he had barely begun; that they had loaded them on a bus destined for the next stop, having finished the medical checks and paperwork.

It will be a long day for him but there is one thing that is different this time than last time. Actually two. The first is that though I expected to sob my eyes out after he left, I didn't cry at all. I'm not sure why. In the end, I got a hug and a kiss, said I would see him in a few days, and drove off. The second thing is that I can cheat...I can see when he goes online. It's a little thing, silly even, but it is a comfort.

I spent most of the rest of the day with my parents. My father had been in the hospital and is now in a rehab near the place where I dropped Davidi...David. As I walked to get something, cold water, I think, ice cold the way my father likes it, my phone beeped. David was sending me the first picture of him in uniform. And that was when I lost it. My eyes filled with tears.

I walked back to my parents and showed them the picture, along with several others. Each one smiled and wished me well, prayed for David's safety as he begins this journey.

And, as I sat wondering when I would speak to him again, the news flashed that there had been a terror attack moments from my office. Elie is there today and I knew that he would run towards the attack once he was notified, as a first responder. And that's what he did. By the time he got there, two Arab women...girls really, as they are/were only 15-16 years of age, had been neutralized - one dead, one in critical condition. They had stabbed a man...who, as it turns out, was an Arab man in his 70s and then, as security officers closed in on the area, they were both neutralized.

I called Elie and he is fine. He got to the scene but others were already there taking care of the wounded man and there was not much to do. So life in Israel today is as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow. More attacks, more sons and daughters stepping forward to serve their country. More parents worrying.

As I told my parents...one day almost done...one less day to worry about...day by day...each and every day, starting today.

And finally, more because I promised myself than because I feel the need, I will copy here the words I wrote on the first day I became a soldier's mother (Induction Day):
There is no ceremony, no great moment, just a gentle slide into a new world. He went in his direction without hesitation; I reluctantly went in mine and I tried all day not to think of where he was. Or, more importantly, I tried not to think of where he wasn't. From the time my children were born, almost without exception, I have known where they are. Perhaps not to an exact location, but close enough to know that they are within reach, within a short drive or call away. Now enters a time when more often than not, I won't know where he is, what he is doing. I will have to trust that no news is good news, that he is ok.
......
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.

When the Heart Rages

One of the best compliments that you can give to a writer is that they have spoken your words, your thoughts. I hear it sometimes and each time this gives me such pleasure. I tend to write as often as I can and so rarely do others have the chance to speak words for me. I should let this happen more often.

Today, with great thanks, I share a guest post of a friend, a scholar, a wise man who deeply cares about others.

He is a guest blogger on Times of Israel and once again, Times of Israel has decided to take the coward's path by refusing to publish the following article. Arabs are rampaging and murdering in our land but God help us if we take a moment and rage ourselves.

Never mind the fact that our rages are most often restricted to words and prayers while theirs are most often restricted to bombs, stones, axes, knives, ramming cars, and other tools of murder and violence.

This friend dared to express the anger that is in the hearts of many in Israel. Apparently, a site that fancies itself as the "marketplace of ideas" refuses to sell what Israel is buying this week... 

Guest post...

When the Heart Rages

The heart rages. Yes, I am mad and yes, the people of Israel are up in arms. And these are some of my thoughts.

Because I no longer care! I do not need to be PC. I do not need to dance around the words...the time has come to really say what needs to be said: Islam is a religion of hate. Arabs want to murder Jews. Arabs who claim they want a Two State solution are liars, cheaters, thieves and con-artists. There NEVER was an Arab Palestine and there NEVER will be a Palestine...NEVER!

Those who think that there will be peace are living in fantasy land. Those who feel Jews and Arabs can live peacefully side by side are deluding themselves. It cannot happen. And do not think for one moment, Sons of Ishmael, that stabbing and killing a 21 year old girl or shooting an 18 year old boy is going to change all that. You think people are going to wake up one day and say “Hey, they stabbed enough Jews, let’s give them a state”?? Are you out of your mind?

And it is time for REAL action! It is time to take severe action against the families of all murderers. First, all of the immediate relatives of the murderers should be deported. I hear Canada is big into refugees, so give them a call. Secondly, all of the Imams who either incite or who do not say a word of condemnation: put them in jail. Silence in the face of all this atrocity is acquiescence (wait, that is not so legal...I do not care).

Then, any Arab known to pose a threat to a Jew for any reason, put him in jail--no due process, no appeals. THE FREEDOM OF EVEN ONE ARAB WHO POSES A POTENTIAL THREAT TO A JEW IS NOT WORTH THE LIFE OF A SINGLE JEW! NOT ONE! (How to implement? How to figure that out? I have no idea. But the IDF KNOWS who THOUSANDS of them are...we see them getting arrested overnight every day. A full scale “invasion” of neighborhoods harboring Hamas operatives or supporters of ANY Islamic/Arab terrorists with the goal of getting them off the streets needs to happen.)

You think that is radical? It is what they are doing in France right now. And Brussels (where terrorists are sprouting up like mushrooms) is on a race against the clock to find cells who are currently looking to put an “operation” into action.

Yes, it is time. It is time to take radical action and get those who seek our death OFF THE STREETS.

And yes, I rage. I am angry, as I said at the outset. Yes, I and others will calm down soon. But it does not detract from the message. We need to do something, and soon.

Someone shared a beautiful thought with me. There are four slots with four parchments with verses from the Torah in the Tefillin worn on the head. This indicates that we can THINK in any direction we wish to think. In the Tefillin worn on the arm, there is only a single parchment with verses from the Torah, because, at the end of the day, we can only ACT in one way. 

We do not take vengeance, we do not act in violence and in hate...we take action to protect our people.

May G-d avenge the blood of those who have been murdered, and may He send a complete healing to those injured.

The Last Supper...

Sorry, I couldn't resist that title and most thankfully of all, it certainly wasn't.

We went out to dinner tonight with almost all our children and two of our in-law children and two of three of our grandchildren. We missed Elie and Lauren and little Michal - my fault...I left the planning too late and plans made couldn't be changed and it's hard with a young child. There are ages when they are "portable" and ages when they are less so. So, almost all of us went out to dinner for the purpose of gathering for one last supper before David goes to the army tomorrow.

We came in four different cars...Amira and her husband and two boys; Shmulik and his wife; my husband volunteers for the police so was supposed to come late but his training session was canceled and so he arrived in our older car while I drove with David and Aliza, the first car to arrive.

On the way there, I couldn't believe it - Davidi was teasing Aliza - laughing and shining his flashlight into the mirror and back into her eyes. She screeched as only a teenager can; he laughed even harder.

It was, I knew, a release of tension - a letting go, and a holding on at the same time. The boy was there, I realized. He'd come with us to the dinner and I cherished seeing him again, knowing that in the days to come, the man will be what will be shown to the world. I tried to be stern and not laugh, but it was impossible. "How old are you?" I asked him - and he smiled again, as he swiveled the mirror to take aim.

Dinner was a wonderful treat - a few hours of talking. Yosef, Amira's oldest son, was cuddled by just about everyone but I had to turn away when Davidi hugged him as we were leaving. His siblings wished him well - there aren't many words that can be said at a time like this and so you rush through it.

I don't remember packing for either Elie or Shmulik. I'd have to ask them if they did it on their own or I helped. We got home late and so I told David to bring me everything. I would pack things up while he got ready and this way we'd both get some sleep before we have to get up early to leave for the drop-off point.

He brought me all the new clothes, the various things that need to be packed, and a basket full of his laundry. I folded everything and handed him back the things that aren't going. They will give him uniforms to wear and he will come home wearing it. From home to base and base to home, he will be a soldier and will wear the uniform. I told him to put the folded laundry neatly in his closet.

He thought that was rather amusing. Apparently, he prefers to keep his clean laundry in the basket and doesn't bother with the more civilized use of shelves. "Put them on a shelf," I told him. I'm half inclined to go up and check if he did.

So he's all packed and soon he'll go to sleep...we are hours away...I hope he will sleep...I'm not sure I will.

It's after midnight - I can't even say that he will become a soldier tomorrow. It's so easy to deal with tomorrow...but now it is today and the time has come. Today, he will be a soldier. Today he will leave home and put on the uniform of the State of Israel. Today it begins. The army is merciful - for this first time, I know that he will be home in just five days.

I won't think now about the times that he will go when I won't know. I won't think now...and I will not cry in front of him. I won't...please God, give me that much strength at least.

Let me hug him and smile and let him go...tomorrow I can cry...just not today.

Anyone who thinks that we Israeli mothers are happy that our sons become soldiers is insane. There is pride, of course, but there is no joy. I can't say I would give anything to avoid this moment because that's not true. There is no avoiding it...not until there is peace...today, when a 21-year-old girl was stabbed and murdered...when five were injured yesterday and five murdered in terror attacks the day before...there is no peace in the near future.

And so today...my son will become a soldier so that maybe in the tomorrows that come, other sons won't have to.

Please God, watch over David Levi ben Penina - may he go in safety and health and may he return in safety and in health each and every day until he too can take off the uniform he will put on in a few hours.

Please God, please...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

This is Ezra

Guest Blog by Moshe Matitya - with my gratitude. He said it better than I could. For me, only four letter words could come to mind. My thanks for his eloquence.

This is Ezra

He was American. He was 18. He was murdered this week by terrorists in Israel. This is what the US State Department said to Israel this afternoon after several innocent civilians (including Ezra) were killed by terrorists in Israel: "[We] continue to urge all sides to take affirmative steps to restore calm and prevent actions that would further escalate tensions."

And this is what the US State Department said to France after innocent civilians were killed by terrorists in France: "These are heinous, evil, vile acts. Those of us who can must do everything in our power to fight back against what can only be considered an assault on our common humanity."

Why the different tone? Wasn't Ezra's murder a "heinous, evil, vile act"?

In the case of attacks on innocent Jews and Israelis, the State Department wants "all sides" to "restore calm" and "prevent actions that would further escalate tensions".

In the case of attacks on innocent French people, however, the State Department wants to see everyone "fight back" against "evil", and is strikingly unconcerned about "restoring calm". Nobody is urged to "prevent actions that would further escalate tensions"; to the contrary, such actions, in the case of France, are actually being *encouraged*, for the sake of "fight[ing] back against what can only be considered an assault on our common humanity".

I would like to amplify the point made in Marne's post, by asking the inverse questions:

* Why does the State Department not urge "all sides" in the ISIS/France conflict to "restore calm"?

* Why is the State Department not worried about actions against ISIS that "would further escalate tensions"?

And even more to the point:

* Who, exactly, are the parties mysteriously described as "all sides" in the State Department's response to the terror attack that killed Ezra Schwartz? Evidently, these "sides" are (1) the Israelis, who were targeted in the attack, and (2) the "Palestinians", who carried out the attack, and whose leadership both incited the attack and praised it after it happened.

In other words, the State Department is addressing its comments "even-handedly", asking "all sides" -- the victims *and* the terrorists -- to "restore calm" and to "prevent actions that would further escalate tensions".

So why, then, does the State Department not make such a similarly "even-handed" appeal in the wake of the attacks in France? Why does it not urge "all sides" -- the French government and ISIS -- to "prevent actions that would further escalate tensions"?

The answer to this question can be found in the State Department's description of the attacks in Paris as "an assault on our common humanity".

Israelis, in stark contrast -- and even non-Israeli Jews, like Ezra Schwartz -- evidently do not qualify, in the State Department's view, for inclusion in "our common humanity".

And -- following the State Department's logic to its conclusion -- since Ezra Schwartz and the other victims in Israel are not part of "our common humanity", the assaults upon them -- as opposed to the attacks in Paris -- were *not* "heinous, evil, vile acts". And for that reason, the State Department sees no imperative for anyone to "fight back" against this assault -- quite the contrary, in fact.

----------------
Sad update: a short time ago, a 17-year-old was stabbed to death by yet another Arab terrorist...in the same place where Ezra was murdered last week. May God avenge her blood and may her family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may they know no more sorrow.

One More Day...

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will have another soldier in active service, in a combat unit though not yet combat ready. Tomorrow they will give him a uniform, perhaps even a gun (no bullets, not yet, but first he will learn the feel of the gun, the responsibility for its care, its use).

Tomorrow, my youngest son will enter the army. Tomorrow.

I want to write about another terror attack last night in which 5 people, including a young girl, were stabbed...about a town terrorized and in lock down for hours until police and security found the terrorist hiding in the yard of one house. How they announced there would be no school today if the terrorist was not found because we do not risk our children.

I want to write of a horrible attack in Mali, in which 20 people were killed - including one Israeli who was there consulting on educational programs and of how Brussels is on alert, saying they have credible intelligence of a planned terror attack there.

I want to write about Jonathan Pollard - finally free and yet not free. He remains a prisoner of a country that made and broke an agreement and then spread falsehoods. He was never accused of treason. He was never convicted of selling secrets. He never betrayed the United States. In fact, all he did was pass military intelligence reports to an ally that was supposed to receive those same reports through official agreements. The US government violated those agreements and then violated a plea bargain agreement it made to keep secret its treachery. And now, rather than release Pollard to finally spend the last years of his life in Israel, he is forced to remain in a land that does not want him and in a place that he does not want to be for secrets that are 30 years old.

I want to write of the coming of winter here in Israel; of the beautiful rain storms we've been having.

I want to write...so many thoughts in my head and yet only one fills the moment. David. He's too young.

...he's not really.

He's 19, almost 20...just as Elie was, just as Shmulik was...just as thousands of other Israeli boys were and are but to me he is just too young and this day came just too soon.

He's my baby.

...but he's really not. He's the tallest of my sons...a baby he's not. He's been volunteering for the ambulance squad for more than four years. He now teaches others about first aid; he's seen horrific accidents, had people die while he tried to help save their lives.

Givati infantry logo
It should be easier this time. I keep telling myself...it should be easier. Elie looked over the list of things it is recommended that David buy; Shmulik gave him some things. Each of his brothers - by genetics and by love - are offering their advice and support. Yakov is excited that David will be going into his unit - another Givati soldier.

"Are you nervous?" I said to him quietly during Shabbat lunch. There's no reason to explain - it is as much in his head as mine. He waved his hand - a signal for a bit. I don't know if that makes it better or worse.

During dinner we spoke of his dog tags, given to him months ago. I asked him if he knew where they were...if he was sure. Later he brought them down. They are a terrible thing for a mother to see, to hold. There was a discussion about how Americans use dog tags versus how Israelis use them. A conversation no mother should hear. For them, they are words; words that make the future less scary. For me, they are part of a picture I don't want to see...ever.

There are no words for these hours. They are horrible. Part of me wants the clock to stop so that I don't ever have to face that moment; part of me knows that I'm making it so much worse for myself and he'll be fine and the best thing would be just to get to that moment so that we can all see it is really just a part of being Israeli.

He really will be fine. He knows more...I know more...we all understand. He will go on Monday where he will be given a uniform. He will probably sleep there...or they'll take him to a base somewhere in Israel. He'll call me. Maybe he'll even send me a picture. By this time tomorrow, my stomach will have settled; my tears will have dried. The next few months are all about training. That's all. No one will be sending him to battle; no gun fights. His greatest danger will likely be dehydration and exhaustion...and he's strong and capable and the army watches over them, forces them to drink, to rest. The training is intense, but gradual. There's really nothing to worry about...other than everything that I'm worried about...

I will again be a soldier's mother, even though somehow during this break between Shmulik and Davidi it felt like I never really stopped. Elie received a call up for his next Reserve duty. In January, I'll have two in for a brief time. There are many who have two in all the time; I met a woman who was buying clothes for her 6th soldier...I know a woman with 8 boys...who is only now beginning.

I got off easy, I guess...three boys...this is my third and final journey on this roller coaster. I've never liked roller coasters...I don't need the thrill of the fall...I'm more for cruising along and seeing what there is to see.

The advice I have given to so many now becomes mine for the coming years...one day...one day at a time. Today he is home, packing, talking to friends, hopefully cleaning his room. Today he is fine; he is safe, he is mine and mine alone. Tomorrow he becomes a son of all of Israel but tomorrow is a lifetime away right now. Today...today he is mine.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Three Days...and Wondering

Was it this bad the last time? Was my stomach hurting so much and was I so close to tears each time I looked at him?

David went to a party with his friends last night. It was as many of his high school friends that could gather at a restaurant in Jerusalem. The first five are going in - four into combat units: two into Givati (Davidi is one); two into the tank unit; one into a support rule (called Jobnik in Israel).

Everyone is acting so normal...another Shabbat is coming - shopping, cooking, cleaning. Elie and Lauren will join us for one meal; another we'll have on our own - David, Aliza, my husband and me. We'll sleep too much, move too little. We'll eat, then go to sleep early, go to the synagogue, each and go to sleep again. Just the same like always. The food is the same - I've got chicken and potatoes cooking in the oven; I've got soup started on the stove. I have challah rising on the table waiting to be shaped and noodles for a sweet casserole and a salt casserole. In short - it's all the same...and nothing is.

He's got all the clothes that I bought him...he opened a bank account into which the army will deposit a meager salary to "compensate" him for the days and nights he will defend this country for the next couple of years.

It's all so...regular, except deep inside of me. There, it takes a single word, a single sentence typed here to fill my eyes with tears. All the fears you cannot express, all the worry.

They must be insane, that stupid world out there, if they think we love violence and aggression. Yesterday, five people were murdered in this country in two separate attacks. Two Arabs stabbed and murdered two Jews in a synagogue in Tel Aviv; another Arab went on a shooting and ramming spree, killing another three people. Two were Jews; ironically, one was a Palestinian. People are trying to separate the intention to kill the Jews, which we all recognize, from the fact that an Arab was killed and so they use terms like "innocent" - as if the Jews weren't innocent also. Or they write that he was killed "accidentally" - because in truth, the others were murdered intentionally. I guess that one Arab is really Obama's "random" victim who was killed because he was in the "wrong" place at the "wrong" time.

The clock of our lives is so fickle. You can sit for hours wishing the time would fly by, that it would hurry up and be time for something...and then you can beg it to stop, to slow down, to leave you alone in this time. This week flew by; these last few weeks went so fast.

We have him tomorrow...then he's going out to visit with the kids for whom he was a youth counselor. He'll watch them get their "name" - it's a name that stays with them for the rest of their lives. Each year, the oldest group is given a name. Davidi's was "Na'aleh"; Aliza's was "Zion." Davidi already knows the name for this year. He thinks it is a silly name; I think it is wonderful.

On Sunday, I'm hoping I can get everyone together in the evening...and then early Monday morning, I'll take him to the "recruitment" center - or whatever it is called. I'll give him a kiss and tell him to call when he can. He's already refused to send me a picture of him in uniform, "you'll see me in four days." That's right - according to army tradition, he should come home on Friday.

Four days...God, next Friday seems like it will take forever to get here.

Please God, on this Friday before...please watch over him...David ben Penina - may he go in peace and return in peace....he...and all our sons and daughters who serve this land.

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

About Paris...

You see, that's the problem right there. It isn't about Paris...or, to be more accurate, it isn't ONLY about Paris. I think what happened in Paris is horrific, tragic, barbaric. But the same can and should be said with equal ferocity about the Russian plane the was blown up over Sinai, those massacred last week in Kenya, those who have died in Israel, and those who are murdered in the name of Allah or for the glory of any religion or belief.

I have heard family members speak of the moment when tragedy hits their family. It is called "sudden bereavement." Unlike families that have to deal with loss resulting for a painful, long-term illness, this bereavement comes with shock, because it was not expected. It comes with anger, because a life was not lost, it was stolen. While you can never prepare for loss, there is an element of expectation when someone is informed of a terminal illness in a loved one. The suddenness of loss resulting from a terror attack, particularly when the victim was young, adds an element that is difficult if not impossible to overcome. It's the split second in time that you wish, for the rest of your life, you could undo, change, go back and live again and somehow make the outcome different.

If only...if you only you had taken a different bus, a different road. If he had driven faster or slower; if she'd chosen a different restaurant, mall, concert, or day to go shopping. Why did you have to go that night to that place...one bus earlier or later and it would all be different today. If only...if only...life will be forever filled with "if only." Perhaps the saddest truth is that we only live life once and will often spend endless hours rethinking that one moment, the one where we can never go back and change. That moment, that single moment when the life you knew was suddenly gone, taken, stolen, destroyed...and the worst of it is that the reason is so wrong, the cause so incomprehensible.

I mourn for the nation of France, the people of Paris - the victims whose lives were lost, the families who must now learn to cope, and those who were injured. But I didn't turn my Facebook profile to the colors of France because...because...that was the question I asked myself as I watched others. No, they never changed their flag for all the other victims...but suddenly the question wasn't why they were changing theirs but why, they silently accused, aren't you changing yours?

It is that question that got me to start writing. To write of terrorism, I have done a thousand times and more. What happened in France was horrible...as horrible as 9/11, as horrible as every terror attack because it is not about the numbers but the people, the person. Each. And. Every. One.

So why didn't I add the French flag? Because the problem isn't France...it isn't Russia and the plane that was blown out of the skies over Sinai...it isn't Kenya, where 147 people were massacred...and it isn't Israel, where a young bride's world was destroyed when her father and brother were murdered, her siblings wounded and terrorized.

The problem isn't New York and Washington on 9/11, or London, or Madrid, or Bali. The colors of the week are not red, white, and blue, not blue, white and red. Not red. Not blue. Not white.

Terrorism is not about flags of nations but about the pain of the victims, the nations. The profile pictures on Facebook is not a measure of how humane you are. It isn't even a measure of how much you support the French in these difficult times. It doesn't say you hate terrorism; it doesn't mean you are more strongly affiliated with what is right and just. It's just a picture...it's a meaningless gesture made between you and your Facebook friends...and honestly, how many Parisians are you friends with? Two? Three? So, good on you that you blurred your pretty picture with the French flag...but what does that mean?

It doesn't save lives; it doesn't offset the horrors of the last few days. And, in all honesty, unless you have a lot of friends in France, it doesn't even really show support for the French people. What it did for me this past week, seeing many turning their profile pictures blue, white, and red, is help me crystallize a simple concept.

Terrorism has become universal. But rather than admit that, too many focus for a moment - ah, it's France, how tragic! No, it isn't France...it is everywhere. What Israelis have suffered for decades has come to the streets of New York, Washington, London, Paris and beyond. It has hit the seas, the skies, the cities and more. That people turned their profile pictures to France in particular, was, for me, an affirmation that people didn't get it. Because it isn't about France. It never was...just as it really wasn't just about Israel.

After days of thinking, I wrote this on Facebook. What amazed me is how many people chose to share it, to thank me for writing it. My thoughts on Paris, summed up, are:

Is the act of being blown out of the sky to either be killed during the explosion, or worse, plunge madly down to earth somehow less tragic than being shot to death in a theater? If no, did you put a Russian flag as your profile when ISIS blew up a Russian plane a little while ago? Ask yourself why not.

Is the horrific carnage in the Kenya attack more horrible than what was done in France...if not, ask yourself why you didn't change your profile to a Kenyan flag.

Is gunning down a father and a son somehow less tragic on the eve of their daughter/sister's wedding and before the eyes of his children, wife (siblings and mother)...and worse, having medical emergency personnel open the door...see you are Jews and tell you to call someone else for help...less barbaric than what was done in France...and if not, ask yourself why the colors of your profile picture are blue, white, and red, but not blue and white.

And if you say it is because the world woke up and was shocked by the French massacres...ask yourself why the world was not shocked by the downing of a plane with over 200 people, the shooting attack that killed 147 people in Kenya, the tears and agony of a young bride who will never have the chance to have her father at her wedding, to hold her first-born child.

Rather than act superior because you changed your profile picture to sympathize with the justifiable horror of the Paris attacks...perhaps you should examine why you ONLY sympathize with those, leaving the rest of us to mourn not ONLY for those in Paris, but those in Israel, those in Kenya, those who died over the skies in the Sinai.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it isn't those who have not turned their profiles red, white and blue (or blue, white, and red) who are the ones lacking in understanding. Perhaps...just perhaps.

Terrorism will stop when the price is too high for the terrorists. In Israel, the Red Crescent approached the victims - a murdered father and brother, in a van filled with innocent children and the wife of the man, the mother of the boy who was just murdered. And then they drove off because they were Jews.

The Red Cross - who has no problems with using the Christian symbol of a cross and no problem using the crescent of the Muslims, refuses to allow Israel the use of the Jewish star, at least, according to the final negotiated solution, in certain areas. The Red Cross backed the Palestinian version - which suggests that the victims were armed. Seriously? The only person who might have had military training (meaning he might have served in the army) and might have been armed (meaning he was licensed to carry a gun but may or may not have had it with him) was dead. The victims were a mother and five children. The Palestinian "caregivers" opened the door, saw Jews, and told them to call Magen David Adom!

Terrorism will thrive until organizations like the Red Cross, the United Nations, the European Union and others refuse to accept excuses and lies. Until then, it will continue - in Israel, in the United States, in France, in England, in Kenya, in Russia.

There aren't enough colors in the world to stop it until we all recognize the disease for what it is. It isn't about France.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Six Days and Counting

I'm back to where I was 8 years ago with a son about to enter the army. I know so much more now than I did then, and still I feel that I know so little. I'm not handling this nearly as well as I should be.

Last night, we did the shopping. Green t-shirts, green thermals. A laundry bag. Socks. It's the third time I've been to the store for this reason and each time, I look at the long list the store has printed - their recommendations for what every soldier needs. And I listen to the store attendants - young men and women who have served, who smile at the list and say, no...he doesn't need that. Or, don't buy that yet. Or, buy this one - it's the best...or it's cheaper and definitely good enough.

With a code word, we tell them what colors Davidi needs to buy. Givati. Yakov was Givati...my first experience with the army...at least for the ceremonies. We went to Latrun once...or maybe it was twice. It was the first time I met his future bride - who is now the mother of Yakov's beautiful three little girls. I was worried the first time I met her - would she understand and accept Yakov's love of Israel...I had no idea how well she knew him, what an amazing wife she would be. That she would support his need to live here...and so they do.

Yakov smiled when I told him that Davidi was going into Givati. Chaim made a comment and everyone laughed. I'm being so silly about this.

In some ways, the words are easier now because they've already been written. Last time, I felt...this time, I go along knowing that I should be feeling this way. Mostly, though, I feel dread. I just don't want to do this again.

I met a mother in the store watching as her son tried on shirts and got a similar pile of things. I saw her again and told her about a group I'm in for parents of IDF soldiers - this is my 6th she said. Her 6th soldier...how silly that I feel the need to fall apart with my third.

So since I can't really express what I am feeling...I'll share with you what I felt...now it is 6 days before that moment when David walks off and I can't follow; last time, it was 7 days before Elie was going to go.

What I wrote then...where I'm heading now:
I don't believe wisdom necessarily comes with age, but fear certainly does. The older we are, the more we learn to fear. When I was expecting my first child, and my second, and even my third, I was too young to fear, to understand that we aren't always blessed with beautiful, healthy babies. Only as I got older did I realize what an incredible miracle each child was.      --Sunday, March 18, 2007
"Older" means when I was expecting David. I had three beautiful children, I was living in the land I always dreamed would be my home. What right did I have to ask for more...to ask for another child to be born health and whole...and there I was...pregnant and terrified.
Now, with age, comes the reality that just as we are given this incredible gift, we must cherish it and watch over it at all times. This becomes hard to do when the child goes off to a new place, leaving you to wonder and worry.
Elie does not seem to be afraid; this is a stage in his life, an experience. Many boys love the army. It gives them direction, training, companionship and life-long friends. Only we mothers focus on the more serious aspects of where our sons will go and what they will do. We are the ones left crippled behind as they soar in triumph. They are free of their studies, free of daily routine.      --Sunday, March 18, 2007
Davidi too seems calm and aware. He's spoken to his brothers, planned out what to buy, what will happen in those first days.
Life is new and exciting for them. Responsibilities come with trust. The state of Israel puts its faith and its love into its soldiers. They are treated with love as they travel from place to place. People stop to give them rides or hand them candy and food when they are on patrol. It is a love affair that never ages. There are few countries, if any, in the world who can claim the relationship that Israel has with its soldiers. Each is a son of the nation and the whole nation celebrates and mourns together when it comes to our soldiers.      
Perhaps, despite the worries, my son is right. This is an adventure, a new road he will take. I should be excited for him. I should be (and I am) very proud of him. In other countries, 19 year old boys are drinking and driving and focusing on girls. It will be years before they grow up while here in Israel, they are given responsibility, life and death decisions.    
In a matter of a few weeks, my son will come home with a gun and the training to know when to use it and when not to use it. He will be given responsibilities to protect whole communities and our country. All this on the head of a soon-to-be 20 year old. He celebrates this time while I quietly mourn the boy he will leave behind.
                 --Sunday, March 18, 2007
And changing this now for David...As David sees the adventure ahead....
...I take one last look at the boy knowing that all too soon, the army will return him to me as a man, having experienced new and exciting things, having gone where I've never gone, done what I've never done. He'll hold people's lives in his hands and learn things I never dreamed he would need to know.
 They'll teach him the human side of war - our responsibility to avoid civilian casualties when possible and even to endanger his life to protect our citizens (and the citizens of other lands). He will learn how to defend himself, how to recognize the enemy and how to react. All this is new to him and it will change him, as it does each boy because in the end, he will be not just a boy, not just a man, but a soldier too.
I have no right to complain - I like the men that my sons have become and I already love the man inside of Davidi...but here I am, eight years later still dreading that moment when he will go off and I will remain behind...I dread the week until he returns and knowing that in the not too distant future, I will again be wondering where he is, what he is doing and when I will see him again. For now, for the next six nights, he will sleep in my home. I will listen to him settling in his room above mine and smile when he drops something loud enough that I can hear it. These sounds comfort me for now.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why CNN Failed AGAIN

CNN is running an article that makes Israel sound terrible! Honestly, what kind of a country do I live in!

According to CNN, Secret forces of Israel went into an Arab hospital, kidnapped and killed a wounded man. Horrible. Just horrible...

But the wounded man was wounded - in a terror attack...so Israel claims. Really, we claim? Do you, CNN, have a better explanation for how the man was wounded? Do you have any evidence to suggest the Israeli version is incorrect?

CNN wants to throw some bread crumbs Israel's way, so they write, "These attacks -- which have taken place in Jerusalem, around Jewish settlements in the West Bank and elsewhere."

Allow me to explain that in this case, everywhere is:

  • Afula
  • Beersheva
  • Beit Shemesh
  • Haifa
  • Kiryat Gat
  • Netanya
  • Petach Tikvah
  • Raanana
  • Rishon Lezion
  • Tel Aviv

In other words - in addition to Jerusalem, Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Maale Adumim, Beitar and places in Gush Eztion and north of Jerusalem, there have been many attacks in northern Israel, the coastal region, southern Israel and Jerusalem. As of November 10th, there has been in Israel at least:
  • 65 stabbings
  • 7 shootings
  • 8 car rammings
At least 158 people have been wounded, 72 treated for shock and 12 people have been killed.

It is no accident that CNN writes as it does - the anti-Israel agenda shines through. None of the places listed above can be considered "Jewish settlements" and some are hours away from Jerusalem. The one lesson I can only hope Israelis have learned in this latest intifada is that this is NOT about the settlements and this is not about Jerusalem. This is about all of Israel and this is about outlets like CNN not wanting you to know this.

CNN - your reports offer a never-ending example of how journalism can be corrupted.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Piece of Home in a Distant Land

You get spoiled living as a Jew in Israel. Almost always, a Jew is no more than a house away, often a room away or standing beside you. There are unspoken words that happen every day in Israel. The news comes on of another stabbing, and your eyes meet someone else's in a shared look of pain and dismay. They announce that Obama, or Kerry, or John Earnest or Jennifer Psaki has come up with yet another idiotic idea and you smile, partially in amusement and partially in disgust, only to realize the person sitting across from you has the same expression.

And then you hold up your hands, a gesture meaning "what can we do? It's the life of a Jew" - only to realize the other person has done something similar.

It's so lonely being outside Israel. They don't think like us - these non-Jews. I know that sounds terrible, but it's true. I think they have more fun than we do - they want to know why I didn't come to the dancing last night and will I join them for drinks and a DJ tonight. Another world so far from mine. I don't dance with men...well, other than my husband, a son, or now a grandson. I don't drink...I don't like alcohol and I don't find it relaxing to sit surrounded by people listening to music blaring.

I know. I'm boring.

And there is that part of me, the Jew inside, that is checking the news every few minutes today and yesterday and the day before. I know that firebombs were thrown at Israelis today...and yesterday. I know that the European Union has decided to label products from Israel as once the Nazis labeled the Jews. And I laugh because the single largest group likely to be hurt by that labeling will be Palestinians who work in the factories where they produce those things.

I have one more presentation and they I fly home. I walked into the room and the woman spoke to me in German. It happens a lot. I smile and answer in English. They see the Jewish star and assume I am from Israel. It makes me wonder - do Jews who visit here from other countries not wear a Jewish star? Always the first assumption is that I am from Israel, and, of course, I am.

This one lived and worked in Israel for a short time - a few minutes from my home.,.just at the entrance to Jerusalem. She left and a short time later, my presentation began. It went well. One of the discussions was about cultural differences when working with a global team.

At the end, people thanked me, a few came up to speak to me and I answered and talked but ached to be alone. I'm feeling lonely here. And then I got a gift...in Hebrew a matanah. One man had stayed to the side as the others asked questions or made comments after the session ended. As the last one left the room, he came over to me...and spoke...and spoke in Hebrew. "I thought I was the only Israeli here," he said.

There it was - that instant connection. A piece of home. A commonality missing for days. We spoke in Hebrew and my soul soared. Silly things - the weather, the trip, where we live in Israel. It didn't matter. We walked down the hall together until he went one way and I went another but the city feels different. I have no idea where he is staying, in what hotel or whatever. The chances of me ever meeting him in Israel are tiny. He said he might come to my presentation tomorrow - but it doesn't really matter. His name is Matan - a gift...and that's what it was.

Without sounding overly spiritual or whatever, I feel I have been reminded - we really are never alone. Each morning, I have stood facing Jerusalem and whispered the morning prayers I'm sometimes too rushed to say in Israel. I recite them aloud, just to hear the Hebrew words. For five whole minutes today, Hebrew, like light, shone into my world. A piece of home in a distant land.

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Judaism

Of all places where I can write about my Judaism, I find myself in one of the strangest situations of all – it is my birthday, it is Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass, the night the Nazis went on a rampage burning and destroying, beating and killing. And if November 9 being Kristallnacht AND my birthday were not enough, this year, I find myself for the first time in my life...in Germany attending a business conference.

Beit Hatfusot has asked us to write about what Judaism means on a personal level...so here it is:

My Judaism has been on my mind since I boarded the El Al jet more than 24 hours ago on a journey that has already surprised me. It is with me every minute right now. In a land where once they labeled my people, I have labeled myself with a Jewish star. Theirs was a yellow cloth with the word “Jude” on it; mine is a gold star, artistically crafted and bestowed upon me by my husband.

Seventy-seven years ago, in 1938, in the land where I am now, synagogues were burning, Jews were being beaten. Now it is quiet, the sun has just set and darkness is surrounding my hotel and in safety, I write.

My Judaism is a religion of compassion above all else – it is one that commands me to reach inside myself to help others and yes, to learn that there are times I need to accept help from others.

My Judaism is joining with my community to raise 18,000 NIS in two nights – to give all the money to charity. My Judaism is finding out that I have to have shoulder surgery four days before Rosh Hashana and then two days before the holiday, hearing a neighbor arrive with no less than 20 trays of food for my entire family for the full holiday and beyond.

My Judaism was landing in Israel on a bright and sunny summer afternoon, knowing that all that we owned, all that we had built, and much of what we loved in the world was now forever planted there in our homeland.

My Judaism was holding my first child in my arms, knowing God had trusted me enough to give me a whole world…while I desperately hoped I would prove worthy enough to raise her…and then each time in blessing, holding four more and now having the greatest of honors to begin holding the children of my children as they are born and thriving in our land.

My Judaism is saying Baruch Dayan Emet – blessed is the True Judge…even at the untimely, seemingly impossible deaths we are forced to accept in our lives – especially these days. For young men and women who were in the wrong place; for elderly people sitting on a bus or at a bus station when terror came at them with a knife.

I will say those three words when I hear that a Tzadik, a righteous man, has died and though others disagree, I will say it when a terrorist is permanently neutralized because I know that at the Gates of Heaven, the True Judge knows where to send the evil man (or woman or child) and where to send the righteous ones.

And though it hurts sometimes beyond all imaginable pain, when a child buries a parent too early or (she’lo naida) when a parent buries a child, I will struggle each time to recognize the hand of God and the wisdom of God in each case because my Judaism teaches me to have faith and trust.

My Judaism stood by me as I sent two sons to the army and it will stand with me again in just a few weeks, when my third and youngest son goes into the army. It was there during the long days and nights when my oldest was at war; when my middle son was driving God only knew where. It will be with me deep into the nights and through all the worry and fears for this one too.

My Judaism is about family and food and warmth and love. It is about belonging, recognizing kindred spirits far from home. It is a smile between Israelis when the German bus comes EXACTLY on time and a laugh and a comment because how often will the Egged bus come on time…and despite that, I’ll take that Egged bus and Egged driver any time.

My Judaism is someone getting on a bus and handing the driver a cupcake and the bus driver loudly saying the blessing and the people on the bus answering “amen.”

My Judaism is a complex and detailed list of rules and requirements and commandments that I spend my life trying to follow – knowing that I’ll never fully succeed and knowing that it doesn’t really matter because God expects only that I be the best that I can be…I’m not in competition with anyone.

My Judaism is in Jerusalem where I turn to every day – even from here in Germany, knowing it is the center of our universe and all that we are. It is there at the Western Wall, and up there on the Temple Mount. It is in Hevron at the graves of our patriarchs and matriarchs and it is there in every inch of our land.

My Judaism is internal and built on respect for others, regardless of the paths they choose, even if they choose to do or not do things that I do or do not do…with the desperate hope that they will offer that same respect back – that they won’t judge me, that they won’t assume what I think, what I feel.

My Judaism is in learning to remember that it is wrong to think of myself (or my people) and not of others…and it is wrong to only think of others and not of me (or my people).

My Judaism is in the belief that I am what God intended me to be and I don’t have to be anything or anyone else. I don’t have to be a man (I don’t want to be a man). I don’t have to take on his commandments just as he doesn’t have to take on mine. In believing that who I am and what I am and where I am at this moment in my life is who and what and where God expected me to be.

My Judaism is in the challah I mix and bake each week…and in the rolls I prepare and give away each week thanks to two amazing women who care enough to collect challah rolls each week and take them to the elderly and other in the rehabilitation center in Maale Adumim.

My Judaism is in my prayers which I try to say daily and each time I push myself to say one more, I marvel at it’s beauty. For me, here, it is in the words I say at night: “To my right Michael and to my left Gabriel, in front of me Uriel and behind me Raphael, and over my head God’s presence”

My Judaism is my crown and my shield – that which makes me part of a noble people and that which protects me each and every day (and night) of my life.

And finally, my Judaism is in my God, in my faith that though I may stumble, He never will.


Beit HaTfusot – The Museum of the Jewish People wants to know what YOUR Judaism looks like:

Send a story and a pic to annah@bh.org.il

Kristallnacht - the Night of Broken Glass

I'm sure there are people remembering this night here in Germany. For me, I am sitting in my hotel room remembering 91 Jews who were murdered, many others beaten and over 30,000 Jews deported. Over 1,600 synagogues that were attacked; 267 of them destroyed completely, countless Torah scrolls and holy books burned.

And today in Europe - Jews were not invited to a commemoration of Kristallnacht in a small Swedish town for a variety of excuses such as:

  • “it can be perceived as unwelcoming or unsafe situation for them.”
  • “Jewish people will be scared to come because they usually have Israeli flags with the swastika on them.”
  • "The Jewish community wasn't invited because we assumed they might be uncomfortable around that sort of thing."
One person said it was a security risk for Jews to attend. Lovely...meanwhile, I sit here wishing...wishing...I'm not even sure what.

A Jewish Star in Germany

Many years ago, my husband bought me a beautiful gold Jewish star. I wore it for a long time and then the chain broke. When I was asked to speak at a conference in Stuttgart, Germany and decided to accept the invitation and opportunity to meet and present colleagues from around the world, I asked my husband to get me a new chain. I wanted, I needed, that piece of home to come with me.

Procrastination and a busy life left that detail until the night before I left. In the end, as a birthday present, Lazer bought me a new star and a new chain. I put it on in the store, and haven't taken it off.

"You'll wear it inside, right?" asked one daughter of mine. She is worried. Germany is as Poland was in her eyes - a place of dark and death. I have shared that with her and so I understood her fear and no, I had no intention of wearing it inside. I am a Jew. I am an Israeli. I am proud of both and will hide neither.

I went on a plane from Tel Aviv to Vienna filled with Israelis. I flew El Al, the national airlines of Israel and spoke in Hebrew the whole way. In Vienna, my journey began as I left Hebrew and the Israelis behind. Austria was Hitler's playground and I had my first instance of rudeness from an Austrian woman working for Austrian airlines who rudely spent more time ignoring my request to ask a simple question rather than saying, "yes, you can get your boarding pass here at the gate."

She was frazzled after a 12 hour day, managing to make announcements and process a plane full of people in 15 minutes alone because Luftansa is on strike and the overflow has affected many other airlines. I know all this not because she took the time to explain - she was simply rude.

But I met a German couple and as we began to speak, I felt the first instance of concern. I didn't come to Germany to like the people or the country. I can be honest enough with myself to say that I came for professional and personal reasons. The professional reasons are easy to explain - this is a fantastic opportunity for growth for myself, my company and, I'm hoping, perhaps in some way, the Israeli technical writing industry.

I came for personal reasons and in that sense, I did not come alone. From the prayers we say each night before we go to sleep, there is the reminder: To my right Michael and to my left Gabriel, in front of me Uriel and behind me Raphael, and over my head God's presence. And if coming with all this were not enough, my great grandmother is with me, and her two daughters. My mother-in-law is with me and almost 300 relatives murdered by the Nazis on my father's side, and my husband's grandparents - all of them, and so many more. It's crowded in my head, I'm sure you can imagine.

So my Jewish star announces what I don't have to. "Where are you from?" the woman asks me and so we begin a conversation. "The Germans are responsible," she says as she thanks me for coming to Germany. I feel dishonest. I didn't come here to like the Germans.

"It's painful," I told her honestly and she thanks me again. They offered to help me get to my hotel but I asked them to just help explain to me where it is. I see one hotel in the distance but not the one I need. The man who had handed me a business card on the plane so that we could remain in touch beyond my short visit here went to a taxi driver to ask directions. He came back and pointed to the hotel and explained that mine was just beyond it. Truly a 5-10 minute walk as promised by the convention coordinators.

I walked alone in Germany filled with thoughts. As I was exiting the plane, as always, passengers had filled the aisle waiting to exit. From two rows in front, the man looked at me and said, "Israel?" and without any hesitation, I answered, "Yes."

A man still sitting in the row ahead of me answered with words from a well known song, "hava nagila." Everyone seems to know the song but do they know what it means? Roughly translated it means, "Let's rejoice. Let's rejoice and be happy. Let's sing. Sing and be happy. Awake, brothers, awake and be happy." Ironic...I'm in Germany. Happy is the farthest thing from my mind.

Before I could say anything other than smile at the elderly man, another answered, "shalom aleichem" - peace to you.

"How do you know all this Hebrew?" I asked them as we prepared to get off the plane. It seemed that they liked my being impressed. They were all older than me by a good 10 years, probably closer to 15. The woman who sat next to me for the short flight didn't speak much English but she was very friendly...and no, I never asked her the thought that comes to mind when I see an elderly person - she was old enough. She was alive then, even if she was only a small child. She didn't do anything...she didn't harm Jewish neighbors...and I didn't ask about her father, her grandfather, her uncles and neighbors. I didn't ask because it is an unspoken rule. We look forward and smile and try to heal.

But I have a gaping hole inside. "The Germans killed them," said the kind woman earlier. I had told her about my father's family - that my grandmother was lucky. They were from the Ukraine but had left before the war because her father couldn't take the anti-Semitism and after his daughter (my grandmother) survived a pogrom by hiding in the back of a synagogue, he moved his family to America. All those that remained, as many as 300, died there, or so we believe. I told her of my grandfather being sent to America by his mother, how he worked to earn money to bring her but he ran out of time.

I told her a bit about my husband's family but not enough. I mentioned his grandparents, uncles and aunts. That was when she said, "the Germans killed them."

"Yes," I said - never even getting to tell her about my mother-in-law, who was put in a gas chamber and then pulled out at the last minute because the Nazis needed more women for a work detail.

Germany, the people, is not what I expected, in some ways. In others, it is. My natural instinct is to joke around. When I got to the hotel, the night clerk was in a discussion with a guest who was complaining that although the hotel WiFi worked, he was unable to access his companies VPN (virtual private network). The clerk correctly explained that this was beyond the hotel's problem; the man insisted.

When it came my turn, I joked about how I only needed Internet, not access to my VPN and the clerk, with no understanding that I was making a joke, began to explain again that the hotel is not responsible for this. "A joke," I said. "It was a joke." I don't think he got it.

After I got to my room, he called and said he had an envelope for me and could he bring it up. He did - and asked me for my birthday because he has to enter it into the hotel computer. I looked at my watch and said, "wait 30 minutes."

A short while later, he called me again from the desk and invited me for a free drink - the hotel is offering in honor of my birthday. I assume this invitation (which I won't accept...because I don't drink and because I keep kosher so even if I did drink, I wouldn't know what I could have here and mostly because I don't share "a drink" with anyone but my husband of 32 years...who doesn't drink either).

So Germany the people - polite, wanting my acceptance? I'm not sure what the right word is - friendly, open to reaching out and perhaps afraid, as a German man told me many months ago in India, afraid of confrontation. Afraid that I'll respond to their overtures with an outpouring of the agony that is inside of me. It would be so easy to open up and let it pour out.

I walk in the streets and hate them...no, not the people, the ground. I see the buildings, the clean sidewalks and my stomach rebels. They DIED here. You MURDERED them. You stole their lives, dehumanized them, humiliated and shamed them, beat them, burned them, gassed them. You gassed them to death, for God's sake, how do you want me to feel?

All that is said simply by wearing a Jewish star. Once you labeled me; today, I come here having labeled myself. I am a Jew. I am an Israeli. I do not hang my head in shame or in fear. I am, if anything fearlessly proud. They accept this pride with respect. If anything, they think of Israel as a little brother that they have the responsibility to watch over. For some, that sits easily. And even our silent response that we don't need them to watch over us, that we are, finally and forever, going to take care of ourselves, is met with a silent, "we are responsible."

I accept that, I respect that. I guess in the coming days I'll meet more Germans and we'll see if the few I met are typical of all or not.

For now, I am a Jew in Germany, in a place I never thought I'd be, struggling to accept that I have to see, to experience and find a balance between a heart filled with pain and a mind that knows there is no one who can relieve or answer what was done in this place to my family and my people.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Victory

I've been holding off writing this, trying to think how. Everyone is fine - that's a tradition in my family. As soon as you have something to tell someone, the first thing you do is give the ending. It helps and so the ending is that in five days, I will be back where I am here now. The world will not shake, though my heart likely will a bit.

Where I am is Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, surrounded by people from all over the world. Some are flying out to business, to vacations, to work, to fun. Some have finished their vacation and are returning home, likely to friends and family who worried about them while they were here.

Today alone, several more people have been hurt in at least two attacks. I write this as to my left and to my right, Arabs sit, shop, each and drink. They are treated with respect, though yes, they are checked very carefully while the security for me is rather quick. I am a 55 year old grandmother...or I will be tomorrow on the solar calendar.

I know of not a single 55 year old Jewish grandmother who has ever hijacked a plane, rammed innocent people standing at a check point, stabbed an 80 year old woman, a 72 year old man, a 13 year old boy.

The security is good enough here that twice already they have looked at my passport and wished me "mazel tov" - congratulations. The first time, I didn't know why, the second time, I simply said thank you.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I was born on November 9th and I am, my mother will tell me with tears in her voice, her answer to Hitler. I am flying to Germany in just over an hour. Germany - a place a year ago I would have told you I would never visit. A place that even now worries me. I don't want to cry in front of them; I don't want to tell them that 70+ years later, yet another generation, the fifth in my family, is being scarred by the Holocaust.

Each time the Israeli security asks me where I go and wishes me a safe trip, I tell them that I go with half a heart and that I can't wait to come home. I ask them - do you know what happened in 1938 on my birthday? And each hesitates as the answer dawns on them. They say the answer in Hebrew. In German, it is Kristallnacht; in English - the night of broken glass. But really, it was so much more than glass that was broken - it was people beaten and murdered and no, not random people - Jews. The Jews of Germany were confronted with the irrevocable truth that it was already too late.

It was a night that buildings and books were burned; holy Torah scrolls desecrated. Kristallnacht.

And each time - three so far in the airport, each Israeli has responded with the same word - "nitzahon" - victory. That is what my mother says - victory.

That I sit here in an ultra-modern terminal (with free, unlimited WiFI, by the way), stores all over the place, restaurants, shopping, a beautiful fountain shooting water up into the air and hundreds of people all around - this is Israel and this is our victory.

Germany - I go for a professional conference and I'm excited by the challenge to meet hundreds of people from all over; to speak and present as an Israeli. And as a Jew, my heart is holding on to the thought that it is a victory - a victory over evil, over hatred.

Today in Israel, we face evil and hatred. Victory is all around me - every time we not only survive, but choose life...yes, life and victory.

Stay well, Israel. I'll be home soon.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Quote that Touches the Heart

Did you ever come across a quote from someone and say - that's it. Those are my words. That's what I was thinking...exactly that.

Well, this is one like that. From Golda Meir, speaking of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt in 1970...
I have given instructions that I be informed every time one of our soldiers is killed, even if it is in the middle of the night. When President Nasser leaves instructions that he is to be awakened in the middle of the night if an Egyptian soldier is killed, there will be peace.
You could replace Nasser's name with pretty much any other Arab leader in the world...and the quote would still be true.

Read it again. Just that. Exactly that. Yes...that.

Yariv Oppenheimer to Leave Israel

Yariv Oppenheimer, who has the misguided notion that peace now is an option, is criticizing a hero...a 19 year old soldier who had the intelligence and quick reflexes to stop THREE terrorists who were about to attack and, in their twisted minds, achieve glory through cold-blooded murder.

That the ones the terrorists would have murdered are Israelis and Jews means nothing to this man who has dedicated his life to the delusional concept that we can make peace alone.

Oppenheimer is upset that the country is proud and grateful to Corporal T...how dare we praise this young man for acting swiftly to prevent tragedy and think of the poor dead Palestinians who failed to adequately murder anyone before being sent to hell.

Oppenheimer demands that the soldier be put on leave. I have a better suggestion  - for the good of the country, for the good of the army and even for the good of Yariv Oppenheimer...please, you leave Israel. This is land you do not love because if you loved Israel, you would understand that you cannot make peace with a man holding a knife at your throat.

First he must put the knife down. First he must want peace, crave it as we do. Then, all avenues are open; all possibilities can be explored. But when he is poised to put a knife in the back of your friend, your grandmother, your child - you shoot...and you shoot to kill.

This is what Corporal T did - three times. It is not something any country should ask of a 19 year old but having asked it, having received his bravery, your response shows you've lost whatever Israel was in you. You choose death over life; glorify killers over a brave young man.

Leave Israel, Yariv - for your own good. Find another place to live where you think they match the ideals you believe in.

...perhaps Yemen? Morocco? Syria?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Boy and the Man and Pokeman

I was working on my computer this morning. I'm balancing more things than I can handle right now and headed for a not good place in many ways. In addition to an overload of work right now, my father is not well (please pray for Moshe ben Malka...Moshe, the son of Malka) and then I've got this army thing coming at me.

So, I'm trying to work, answer emails, post about our next conference launch (www.megacomm.org), and I was waiting for Amira to call and pick up David. She's driving him to his yeshiva on her way to the hospital and as he was sitting behind me on the couch as I work here on the dining room table.

"Tell me when to stop..." he said.

"When to stop?" I asked.

"Say when I should stop," he repeated as he clicked away on his phone.

I waited a few seconds and then said, "Stop."

He clicked something and then seemed to think that was funny. "Green...grass," he said. "You picked grass."

"What does that mean?"

"Fire, grass, water. Grass is stronger than water; water is stronger than fire, fire is stronger than grass."

 "Huh?" I asked in my most intelligent parenting voice.

"Pokeman," he said with a laugh.

"Pokeman?" I asked. "Pokeman? You're playing Pokeman instead of taking out the garbage?"

"Yup," he responded.

And then he told me how he'll be giving up the green/grass one anyway because the phone application has "cheats" - codes you can put in to cheat and get stronger Pokeman.

And as I turned back to my computer with a laugh I remembered that in three weeks...the army. It's again that huge mountain in the front window coming barreling towards us...or maybe we are barreling towards it. But it isn't here yet. He's still my boy. Inside the body that is taller than everyone else in the family, is a piece of the boy he once was. There's a lot of man inside too as he discusses guns and training and uniforms with his brothers. He'll be issued a Tavor gun (rifle?...thing that shoots?).

The boy will yield more and more to the man; it will become harder and harder to see him until one day he'll be all but gone. I miss him already so I have to keep reminding myself he's still here...and even if he goes deeper inside, he'll never really be gone completely...yesterday, Elie, at 28 years of age, wrestled some ice cream out of David's hand...and then I told Davidi where there was another container hidden deep inside the freezer.

These are the times I'll hold on to, the moments I'll never forget.

The First Thing You Buy a Soldier

What's the first thing you buy a soldier...when that soldier is your son?

I'm trying to remember.

I remember going shopping with Elie. I remember being lost and I remember reminding myself not to cry. I remember listening to the store clerk explain that I didn't have to buy everything on that ridiculous list and I remember him telling me what we should buy...and then helping us assemble it all. 

I remember going with Shmulik and Chaim. They both went into the army together and since Chaim's family was in the States, I wanted to go with him. He paid for the stuff (I think I bought him a few undershirts) but mostly it was just trying to be there for him a bit...and for Shmulik, I felt like I knew what I was doing.

It would never have occurred to me to buy things for Elie or Shmulik without them there. So there was no "first thing" that I bought them - more likely, it was kind of everything all at once.

I haven't gone shopping with David yet. He's got three weeks left before he goes in and I think I'm in denial. Today, David and Elie were talking about the army. I didn't really listen, but I saw that Elie was sharing; Davidi was asking questions. How often would he come home...and more.

Meanwhile, I already bought the first thing for the army - green short sleeved undershirts. 100% cotton. I was in store and I saw them and thought - army...buy them...and so I did.

There have been many times in my life I wished the clock would stop. Most often, it was because I loved where I was in my life and wasn't ready to move on. This time it is because I don't want to get there.

Three weeks to remember what it's like to be the mother of a soldier in the army. Three weeks before I start to worry every minute he isn't home. Three weeks before he walks out the door with me not knowing, for sure anyway, when I'll see him again.

Three weeks in which I have to remember how to smile even when inside I am crying. Three weeks before I have to remember to scream only in the inside and more, to make sure nothing shows...not in my eyes, not with my hands.

Three weeks is not long enough. How can he be 19 and going into the army?

It happened so fast...too fast.

We know that he is going into the Ground Forces.

We know that he will be challenged physically and has already been running with his friends to get in shape.

We know nothing that will prepare us for the coming years because you don't do that as a parent of a son in the army. You don't prepare...you just breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Today he is fine.

Today he is upstairs sleeping in his bed. He didn't take out the garbage like I asked and I'll bet you a free pizza he won't remember to take it out in the morning.

In three weeks, I start to live again...One. Day. At. A. Time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Crembo Response!

All over Israel today, people are laughing and smiling…

It’s a bit ironic because honestly, we’re going through some rough times. A man who had moved here weeks ago was just stabbed. He’s 71 years old. And an 80 year old woman was stabbed too. Barbaric. Enough, after days and days of similar attacks, to bring a civilized nation to its knees in pain and anger.

And yet, late in the day, we got word that a plane was heading into Ben Gurion International Airport was in trouble and needed to make an emergency landing. That means fire trucks and ambulances were scrambled; the airport went on high alert.

This isn’t very common but it isn’t that rare and so we take a deep breath and wait for news that the plane landed safely. It came soon enough…but there was a catch.

The plane came from Dubai on its way to Amman (some reports say it was low on fuel…note to engineers: check the gas tanks before take off).

And so the jokes began…Dubai doesn’t recognize Israel – how then did its pilots know where to land?

Many people remembered the old joke about a Syrian pilot (pick any Arab country you want), asking someone to help them – he ignored an offer from Israel and kept asking neighboring countries until the situation became so desperate he had no choice.

Finally, he turned to Israel and accepted the help. The Israeli air-controller than told them pilot to repeat after him, “Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba.” [First words of the mourner's prayer in Hebrew]

Several people referenced that joke (and no, Israel would never do something like that in a real emergency…just a joke) today as we laughed at a pilot who could fly past Israel time after time until today, they needed help.

And other jokes were added in to Facebook until the final joke turned out not to be a joke at all. Ground crews took snacks to the waiting passengers aboard the plane from Dubai.

Next to bamba (a peanut-flavored snack), Israel’s favorite dessert for kids is crembos…and there’s the joke that got all of Israel laughing.

In the middle of stabbings and shootings, firebombs and stonings, rioting, ramming and more, Israel smiled because we’ve got humanity…in letting them land versus just telling them to take a hike until they recognize us; in scrambling ambulances and firetrucks to ensure that if the landing didn’t go well, our emergency forces were nearby to help.

And more, we’ve got a sense of humor. I doubt anyone on the plane will ever realize the joke and in a way, that’s the best part of all. Crembo is a winter treat…one that makes kids smile.

Crembos…I love it!

And some comments.

Credit to:

Me: I want to congratulate the pilots of a plane from Dubai to Amman who had to make an emergency landing on a country that doesn't exist on the map. Talented they be...

Me: Yo, Dubai!!!! Hello???? A little to the left...yes, that's right, ...yes, fly right over JERUSALEM...yes, yes, lower your wheels a bit over Modiin...you're doing just fine...oh, that flag with the blue star...just ignore it...keep going, fly, fly...wait, you see Tel Aviv? Okay, keep going....yes, go...go...wait, do you see the sea? Good, good - now land!

Tamar: Do Krembos have calories if they are eaten in a country that doesn't exist?

Chana: The Krembo is an attack of Zionist dental terrorism!

Dov: There was also the case this past week where 2 athletes of no known country or origin [Israeli athletes forced to compete without showing their national flag] won medals in judo in Dubai. Could all this point to some pattern?

Seth: If they had delivered Bamba, the UN would have condemned Israel for engaging in chemical warfare.

Liliana: OMG! Krembo? Really, you guys, Krembo? Now they will all apply for Israeli citizenship!!

Ron: OMG! Made with occupied chocolate and apartheid creme, yet surprisingly delicious! 

Reuven: Milkys would have been an even friendlier gesture. 

Anyone have any other wonderful comments to share?

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