Monday, December 28, 2015

Remembering War

On December 28, years ago today...I walked around with a cannonball of anxiety, fear...heck...I was scared more than I had ever been and perhaps more than I ever will be by the reality that my country and my son were headed for war. It wasn't the first time I felt "out of control" of my son's life but it was the hardest of lessons to learn.

Always until that point, or at least for the year previous to that, I mistakenly thought I still maintained some semblance of control. On this day, seven years ago, I knew I had no control. There was nothing I could do. Every other time, I believed I could get in my car, drive somewhere and grab my kid and bring her or him home. On this day, seven years ago, I knew that I couldn't. All I could do was stand on the side and watch in what was to become a horror so deep, there were moments when I wasn't sure I'd survive it.

But on December 28, 2008, we still weren't completely sure that we'd be at war...and so I wrote about our dining room table. It was, looking back, really more about my life and what would come.

David will be home next weekend...unless he decides to go to his yeshiva with friends. I made corned beef...or to be precise, I'm making corned's in the refrigerator now pickling itself. My oldest son went to war twice...I can't get past this time of year without remembering the weeks he was away...deep down, I knew I would survive the second time Elie was called up. I had to worry about his wife...which is really funny because Lauren is so strong and I was the one who fell apart and she told me to breathe and sit down...when I should have been comforting her but it helped thinking I had to watch over her for Elie (another laughable thought - Lauren watches over all of us...she's amazing).

If I try to think forward to a time when David will be called...I can't. I was lucky with Shmulik, so very lucky...he had things he did in the army that were dangerous, places he went that scared me - although most of the time, I didn't know...but I had the security to know that he'd be home the next day or the next or the one after that.

In war, you don't know when you will next see your child...or, God forbid, IF you will see him (or her). I don't know how I survived it twice and can't believe I could manage it again. For now, life is simple...Davidi is in basic training, nowhere near ready for combat. But there is a goal to their strengthening him, teaching him how to climb higher, run faster and farther, be stronger...and shoot truer. Their goal, not mine...mine is just to have him home.

The table is small now...a different table than the one I wrote about in The Table, though I imagine that table will again grace my dining room at some point in the future. Either way, the one I have now also has a leaf that makes the table larger...last weekend, we opened the table. This past weekend, we left it small...what will be next weekend? I guess we'll see.

For now, I look back and remember a time I wish I could forget.

December 28, 2008

The Table...

Two rockets have hit Ashkelon and two more have now landed in the Ashdod area. That's the farthest north they've hit so far and brings tens of thousands more into danger....

We bought our dining room table less than a year after we were married. As a young couple, we were quite amazed to have this beautiful table with six chairs. Each week, my husband sat at the head of the table and I sat next to him. It seemed too far away and silly for me to sit at the other end of the table. When we had company, sometimes I sat at the other end and sometimes I stayed by my husband and sat others around. It stayed that nice compact size for many years. We had guests here and there, but each time the guests left, the table went right back to its six-seater size....

We moved to Israel with three children and still the table stayed small. We had a fourth child, our third son and finally after a little over a decade of marriage, we had filled the table to capacity....

After our fifth child grew large enough to actually sit at the table, we entered a new reality - one leaf was almost a constant in the house and we now had a table that seats eight comfortably. So, for the next few years, the table would grow to 10 and shrink to 8. There was never a reason to go back to its 6-seater days - our family alone was 7 and I was most definitely at one end with my husband far away on the other side.

Then less than two years ago, my daughter got married - that put us up to 8, but with her marriage, she moved out and so we were sometimes 6 and sometimes 8. Two weeks later, Elie went into the army and so we were sometimes five, sometimes six and sometimes 7 and sometimes 8 and the weekly dance of the table begins.

And sometimes, if I don't know, or I believe we will be six or seven or eight, I'll leave the table ready for eight. It's a silly thing - it takes only moments to change in any direction and yet, it's almost like a preparation for the Sabbath to come, a bit of anticipation that even though the peace and quiet of the Sabbath is leaving us, already, we are thinking about the one that will come soon.

This morning, as I put the final things away, I looked at the table and realized I don't know what to do. Such a silly thing, I thought to myself. They are bombing Gaza. Schools in the area are closed. The Home Front has issued warnings. Depending on how close you live, you should be ready to enter safe areas in 15 seconds, 30 seconds or 45 seconds, and I'm looking at my table! Maybe it's a mental breakdown, but I can't think what next Shabbat will bring!

If Elie goes north, he was supposed to be home next weekend - so I'd probably leave the table because he likes extra space and that puts us at 6, just one guest and I'll have to open the table again anyway. My daughter and her husband were here this weekend and probably won't come next time - maybe fold the table. Elie said if they stay on base where they are now, even though he isn't coming home today as planned, he probably won't be home. We could be down to 5. If my second son is in Yeshiva, we'll be four - a table that seats 8 would be cold and huge when we want our Sabbath meals to be intimate and warm. Whatever my reasoning, what I feel is that it's too big a decision, too much to concentrate on. Folding it means I really think Elie won't be home and I don't want to deal with this now.

I'm smart enough to know that deep inside of me, the table symbolizes so much more. It's my family - will we be together? Where will the pieces of my family be?
Full post from 2008 here:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Daily War

Today, two Arabs decided to kill Jews. They went to the Old City of Jerusalem, to the Jaffa Gate where thousands enter each day to pray at the Western Wall. I can't tell you how many times I have used that path - I was there just a few short weeks ago and will be there again soon. They pulled out their knives and proceeded to stab and injure anyone they could. Two remain in critical condition; two others were wounded. One man, a teacher and rabbi, was murdered. One person was accidentally caught in the crossfire when police neutralized the terrorists.

Sometimes I remember something I wrote and go search for it. I was explaining to someone something about Israel and the Magen David Adom ambulances and I remembered an article that I had written. I found it - but not here in this blog...only then realizing that it was written three years before I started this blog and so it can't be here. But then, I found a link to my name for something else and found a website that quoted one of my posts here from several years ago. I'd forgotten all about this one...

Reading this "old" article sadly shows, in light of what happened today (and yesterday and last week and last month...) that it still applies. Here are things you do now want your children to know...

Things You Don't Want Your Kids to Know

I had a discussion with Shmulik this morning. Our routines have settled into a nice pattern where he drives me to work two or three times a week. He takes the car to his yeshiva, and then we go home together. As he was speaking, I wished I could record what he was saying. So many things I want to tell you about and as he continued, it switched to so many things I wish he didn't know. There is a wisdom there in his words, a clarity in his youth. He is married and yet still I see him as the boy he was, as well as the man he has become. He sees the world, I thought to myself, more than we want them to see.

He started with one thing and then got to the other. The first was interesting; the second broke my heart a bit. So the first. There is a problem in Israel, a division of society that runs deep. On one side of the divide, there is the misconception that Ultra-Orthodox Jews are backwards, warped, left behind in the 18th century, perhaps in Poland or the Russia of pogroms. On the other side, there are people who see a world that they do not want to live in, do not want their children to know. For the most part, they are not nearly as materialistic as much of the world. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews to whom I am related are modest people who live in small apartments, work to raise their children and invest in them - not with computers and modern toys, but with time and love and attention.

Their children are so incredibly polite and though they run and play as all children do, there is a sense of caring and responsibility. Older children care for the younger ones and yes, part of that is necessity. When there are nine children in a family, the older ones learn quickly that they have to help - and they do.

For the most part, the Ultra-Orthodox are warm, family-oriented people who believe they have found a way to make life mean more and want to pass this on to their children and yes, protect their culture and their children from things that would infringe on the lives and communities they have built. They believe they have the right - and don't they really? - to choose what of this world they will bring into their lives and what they feel would be better to leave out.

They have cellular phones - and use them. But the Internet opens doors to deep and dark places so they would just as happily leave it away from their daily lives. Cars are not evil, buses, etc. but where darkness lurks, they choose the more obvious path to light. Or, they believe they do and as it is their lives, they have that right.

The problem, of course, is when anyone takes their right to make their own choices, and inflicts it on others. That is the eternal debate in Israel and with the Ultra-Orthodox. What right do they have to ask me to sit in the back of a bus because they believe men and women should be separated as much as possible? The answer, of course, is that they have a right to their separate buses - just so long as I have an equal right to my non-separate buses.

Each morning, we drive to my offices through one or two of their neighborhoods and so the discussion came about. "Who goes to war?" Shmulik asked me and then answered. According to the Torah, the tzadikkim - the righteous ones - went and in that way, believed God was with them and would support them. So, asks Shmulik, if the Ultra-Orthodox seek to be considered righteous ones, why don't they take the lesson from the Torah and serve in the army?

It's an interesting question. Many Ultra-Orthodox will argue that the "atmosphere" in the army is less conducive to a religious way of life, but really, given all that the army does in terms of making sure religious soldiers have kosher food (mehadrin, etc.) and a proper atmosphere, this isn't really a good argument and his question remains. Wouldn't the army be compelled to offer a better environment for religious soldiers - if it had more of them?

It is a debate we cannot finish because we are both on the same side. We both believe that the army and the Ultra-Orthodox would be better served by cooperating more and by all religious young men serving. We see a balance between the body and the soul - and both must be nurtured. It is a debate that Israel has had for the last 60 years - a need to seek spiritual and physical protection for our land and it is wrong to make one group provide all the physical protection. My sons should serve on the borders of Israel - as should the sons of the Ultra-Orthodox. I fully believe that God values the prayers and dreams of my sons (and daughters) equally with those of the Ultra-Orthodox.

Then, the conversation turned a bit. According to Jewish law, you are allowed, even commanded, to violate all but three laws to save your life or the life of another. Judaism is truly about living, not dying. We do not find glory in death. If you are starving, you eat not kosher food. If you are in a dangerous location, you travel, even on the Sabbath. All laws are off (except three) when it comes to life.

And so we came to the concept of bending or breaking some of the commandments during wartime and that led to the concept of Milhement Mitzvah. A milhemeth mitzvah is an obligatory war. I sometimes wonder if the misguided concept of Jihad in Islam is a distortion of the concept of milhemet mitzvah.

(For a great source on contradictions and outright inaccuracies in the Koran, see this great site: Answering Islam.) Anyway, we talked about the concept of an obligatory war and that's when Shmulik knocked me off my feet (not in the literal sense, of course) - "every day here is a milhemet mitzvah," he said.

And before I could adequately process that, he told me what I've always known, and something I wish my children didn't, "they want to destroy us completely - so every day is a milhemet mitzvah," he concluded.

An obligatory war is one that is fought because there is no choice - because if you don't fight, your enemies will. The Arabs will shoot rockets at our cities, sneak into our homes and murder our babies. They will fight without honor, without bravery, and sneak off to murder what and when they can. An obligatory war is fought against the Samir Kuntars of the world, the Hassan Nassrallahs, and yes, even the ones who claim to be moderate in English, while calling for our destruction in Arabic. These are the ones who would kill a father in front of his little girl, and then murder her as well with their bare hands, or murder a three-month-old baby girl, or stab a three-year-old in the heart.

An obligatory war is one that is fought against an enemy that does not want peace and will not let you live in peace, no matter what you do, no matter what you give. Though the Torah speaks of absolving a man in his first year of marriage from going to war, it also explains that in a milhemet mitzvah, even the groom should leave his wedding canopy (chuppah). This is what Aharon Karov did in the Gulf War, when he was seriously wounded. This is what others did - the soldier who missed his son's circumcision ceremony; fathers whose sons and daughters were born while they were in Gaza.

Yes, Israel is involved in a daily war that is obligatory and unavoidable. And yes, Shmulik is right, it is a daily fight, a daily war that obligates us to defend ourselves.

An Israeli ambulance was stoned a short while ago in Hebron, a bus was pelted with bricks; a few days ago, two Israeli young men, off-duty and dressed in regular clothes were assaulted and nearly lynched. The Arabs caught one of the boys, shoved him to the ground and carved "you dog" into his scalp; a firebomb was thrown at an IDF patrol; another rocket was fired at Israel's south.

A milchemet mitzvah - every day.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

He Called to Say Bye...

Yup, he did. The phone rang and I saw it was David. He'd left this morning to go back to base, telling me that he would be out of communication for the week. Last week, I didn't get any notice.

What I got was a phone call...that I missed by one minute. When I realized it was Davidi, I interrupted what I was doing and went to call him. He didn't answer because at that moment, he was taping a message explaining that they were going out to the field and the boys had to leave their phones behind.

After hearing his message, I quickly taped my own, telling him that I loved him, he should stay warm, and I'd see him Friday. By the time I released the button and the message was sending - all within minutes...I watched him go offline...and knew he wasn't going to get my message before he left. I felt like crying. I'd missed him by ONE minute...and I knew I was being silly. That I'd see him at the end of the week, and still I was so sad.

What they did was tell the boys - you're going offline - call your parents and then let's go. This time, I knew in advance. Davidi came home with stories about his past week in the field. Food was lousy - he didn't take the cookies and brownies I had sent back with him because he didn't have room, so he and his friends ate ALL of them the night they came back on base before coming home. It was cold...they got bullets for their guns and began learning how to fire them.

And each morning, the commanding officer stepped into each tent, woke one soldier and told him - you have 1 minute and 30 seconds to get yourself and the others in the tent outside and at attention. So the first day, when the commanding officer entered the tent in the early early morning hours, Davidi opened his eyes and looked at the commander...and so, the commander said, "Stern, you have 1 minute and 30 seconds."

The next day, David had learned his lesson - when the commander entered, he pretended to still be asleep, and so the commander nudged another soldier and told him, "you have 1 minute and 30 seconds."

Today, I gave him a hug and watched him get on the earliest bus heading south. I won't see him again for two silly of me to be sad, to miss him already. He looked so good, so strong. I sent him a message...that I loved him, he should stay safe and that I was so proud of him.

And then, early afternoon, the phone rang and I saw that David was calling. I answered quickly and he said, "they told me to call you to say bye bye for a week. I have two minutes and forty seconds."

"So...bye bye."

I told him I loved him, I told him to stay warm...and smiled when I closed the phone. That's Israel - they know the parents are worried and so they order the boys to call him and let the parents know. And then, to remind them they are still in the army, gave them two minutes and forty seconds to accomplish that.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why Today's Syrian Refugees are not Yesterday's Jews

Another amazing Guest Post by Rav Zev Shandalov, once again rejected by Times of Israel....

Why Today's Syrian Refugees are not Yesterday's Jews

Reports today inform us that President Obama, during a speech at a naturalization ceremony of 31 petitioners seeking United States Citizenship held at the National Archive in Washington DC, stated:

“In the Mexican immigrant today -- we see the Catholic immigrant of a century ago. In the Syrian seeking refuge today, we should see the Jewish refugee of World War II."

A few weeks ago, the mayor of New York City made a similar declaration. When speaking to Jewish-Syrian congregants at Shaare Zion in Brooklyn, Mayor De Blasio stated: “I know this community understands deeply the pain of any family that must leave a homeland they love because they were forced away by violence and discrimination,” and continued to urge Syrian Jews in Brooklyn to empathize with refugees fleeing war-torn Syria en masse.

I contacted Mayor De Blasio, and now I find myself in the same position regarding President Obama.

Mr President, there is absolutely no comparison that can be made between these two forms of refugees, and any attempt to conflate the two is a travesty and demonstrates a lack of knowledge of history.

Jews were refugees because they committed the offense of being Jewish. They fled because they needed to save their lives. Not one of the Jewish refugees who left Poland, Hungary, Germany or any other country, had committed any atrocities before fleeing. None of them had sworn to destroy the United States, Great Britain or Canada. None of them were KNOWN terrorists. They fled to save their lives and only to save their lives. There was no hidden agenda; nor were they trying to infiltrate (what to them was) an enemy country.

On the other hand, a percentage of those who have fled Syria and other countries are KNOWN terrorists (on watch lists); have committed atrocities in their home countries; have called for the destruction of Western civilization and other nefarious goals. Many states in the USA have voted to ban the entry of any of these refugees citing the attacks in Paris as reason enough. The vast majority with those with their heads screwed on right have agreed that we are looking at potential Trojan Horse invasion that will potentially put millions of peoples’ lives at risk.

I urge you to recant such a thoughtless and senseless statement. Please do not compare the plight of the Jews after WWII to the issues surrounding today's refugees. Yes, indeed there are legitimate refugees fleeing Syria and other countries. However, as stated above, the entire path, story and goals of the two groups is quite different.

Mr President, I am sure you are an avid reader of Times of Israel so you may feel free to comment below in the comment section.


Note from A Soldier's Mother: Obviously, you cannot leave a comment on the Times of Israel site...because they rejected this post as being "incendiary". I guess in the minds of the Times of Israel editors, the only people allowed to blow things up are Muslims. However, please feel free to share this and leave a comment below.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What Kind of a God Do They Have?

Yesterday, I was listening to the radio, listening to hear about little Yotam Shmuel, a young child (18 months old) who lost his leg in a terror attack. The newscaster was reporting that Yotam had survived the complicated surgery but the situation was still very grave. As the newscaster described the attack and the wounded...he said, "what kind of a God do they have?"

This is something I love about Israeli radio...the informality that lets an announcer slip in a comment. Sometimes they are funny; sometimes informative; and sometimes, terribly poignant. The phrase stuck in my mind all day and now, hours later, I want to say something. I've been thinking a lot about God, their God, the God of others.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with two delightful people in Vienna on the way to Germany. They were missionaries and wanted to know if I believed in Jesus, "even a little bit?"

No, I answered without hesitation, not at all, not even a little, not even less than a little. What I do believe is that he was born...and died...a Jew and that he would be horrified at what has been done in his name.

I asked them if it was true that Christians believed that only those who believe in Jesus go to heaven, and they answered, yes, it's true. But don't worry, they assured me, at the gates of heaven God...or Jesus...or someone, I missed who, is standing there offering each person one last chance at redemption.

So I asked them the worst of all questions - the six million Jews, the ones murdered by their fellow countrymen (and no, I didn't say that because I didn't have to - we all know who killed more than six million Jews, more than 1.5 million Jewish children). So, I asked, are you telling me that the six million Jews who died not believing in Jesus would be denied eternal heaven, but the Nazis that murdered them would be admitted?

That was when they told me about that lucky chance given to each person at the gate. Why, I asked, why would Jews accept in death what they denied in life...especially when their murderers would supposedly be on the other side of the gate after their God chose to ignore cold-blooded murder? What kind of God is it, I should have asked them, that would admit a murderer but deny the murdered?

It's complicated, they seemed to be saying, and the conversation changed to something else. Other than the issue of Jesus, we had a lot to talk about. I told them that my religion is one that believes good people go to heaven...that an atheist who does not believe in God but spends his life working to help others is more likely to be found in the higher levels of heaven than a man who wore certain clothes, didn't use electricity certain days, ate only certain foods, and spent his life cheating others.

No, I don't believe in a God that would deny a murdered child eternal rest because of the religion he was born into. I don't believe in a God that rewards a terrorist who met his death by exploding himself while standing between two families eating pizza on a beautiful summer day.

My God would look the terrorist in his eye and say, "Boy, I don't know what you heard down there, but up here, you are in so much, you see that elevator over there...yeah, that one...go on and press the button that says 'Basement.' That's where you're headed...and you just wait there until you see snow."

And then I heard the radio man say the words that crystallized so much..."what kind of God do they have?"

That really is the question for so much about what is happening here in Israel...and around the world. What kind of God commands you to slam your car into an happened recently in Jerusalem this week...and last year when a three month old baby died?

A God that not only approves but demands that you ax people to death, stab them in the head and neck, throw large boulders and firebombs at families traveling in their cars? What kind of God instructs you, permits you, desires you to shoot a father and mother right before their children's eyes? Slit the throat of a three month old baby? Shoot a 10 month old baby in the head?

What kind of God is this? What kind of God do they have?

And then, in pain and in anger, I thought of my God, who has commanded me to help others when I can, commanded me to choose life always. He has given me children and blessed me to watch them grow. There is no death in the words He speaks to me - only life...always life.

I am commanded to bring children into this world, teach them to respect their parents, their elders and teachers, all human beings, even those who stand against them. And so I make coffee in the winter and give bottles of cold water in the summer to the Arab workers in my city. I will speak respectfully to an Arab cab driver, bus driver, doctor, nurse - all of whom come to my city and prove that we have created a wondrous society, a rose among the thorns, a pearl floating in a sea of darkness.

It is Israel that opens its hospitals to treat thousands of Palestinians - children who need open heart surgery so that their mothers can realize the possibility that later in their lives...a life our doctors enabled them to have...they can strap explosives to their bodies and die for their god.

It is Israel that allows thousands and thousands of Palestinians to shop in its stores, walk openly in our streets and if now people look at them, watch them, and move to the side - it is the fear their own people put in us. I will not be disrespectful, but I sure as heck won't walk in front of them or sit with my backs to them.

My God delivers justice - and so the rockets they fire at us miss more times than they hit; the bus driver is granted the strength to close the door and prevent the terrorist from getting on the bus...not always, but mostly.

My God delivers love - so those who are wounded by the will of their god, are surrounded by neighbors and friends, tens of thousands around the world say prayers for their recovery, neighbors bring food and watch over children and remind them that even in the solitary world of their mourning, they are never alone.

My God is a God of acceptance - you are loved by God, even if you do not recognize His greatness; no matter what religion you are, no matter the color of your skin, the amount of money or possessions you have. All that my God asks of you is that you be the best human being you can be, the kindest, the most giving. My God asks that you do the right thing, the moral thing...and then loves you no matter what you choose and if you choose the wrong path, my God waits until the very last minute of your life for you to turn around and return to Him. In the heavens of my God, you are judged by how you treated others in life, if you were a moral, kind, decent and caring human being...and if you were, that pretty much beats everything.

My God has promised us this land and has kept His promise through the centuries. All those that rose against us have disappeared. Our friends are blessed; our enemies cursed...

My God has granted our children with quick minds to invent the most amazing things - inventions that save lives, entertain us, make us more productive. And He has granted us healthy and swift sons and daughters to defend our borders and blessed them to find the tunnels, the knives, the guns and axes they would raise against us in the name of their god.

My God is our Protector and He has commanded us to live...that is what kind of God we have...and what kind of gods they have.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Yotam Shmuel...And the Missing Voice of Moderation

People speak of the heart of a city which usually means its center. It's a silly phrase - the heart of the city. The heart is really anywhere and everywhere all at once. Without the heart, there is nothing. No life, no value to a brain that thinks or legs that walk, eyes that see or hands that hold.

Today in Jerusalem, our hearts are bleeding. We've bled so much in the last few weeks. Each day, almost every day, there is a report of more injuries. It's like someone is throwing darts at our country - one day in the north - in Afula, Netanya, Haifa...another day in the south - in Kiryat Gat, Beersheva, rockets at Sderot, an attack in Eilat. And most often, it is something in the center of the country - Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Hevron.

Today, again, it was Jerusalem, as it was last week and the week before. Today it was a 24-year-old Muslim man who decided that it was a good day to go out and kill people. And so, I heard sirens...many of them...too many to be anything but what it was. Ten people hurt...eleven people hurt, including a small baby. Fourteen people, one critically, several in shock...the baby is seriously wounded. The reports rushed in...those confusing first moments when you are desperate to find out how bad an attack it was.

It's always bad...but sometimes it is just beyond bad. Usually you cry; sometimes you break. You break for the orphans; for the mother who lost her only child. You break for the babies...the young children. Always, you break for the children.

His name is Yotam Shmuel and he is 18-months-old and he was attacked by a terrorist with an axe in his car, murder in his eyes, and hatred in his heart. Just as our land is an ancient one, Yotam is an ancient name, dating back, like our land, thousands of years. Yotam was a King of Judah, known for the castles and towers and cities he built here. Yotam was a righteous man, a humble man. Shmuel was a prophet. His name means "name of God" and he led the people to victory over the Philistines. Shmuel too was a righteous man.

Today, little Yotam can't built towers and castles. He can't even walk. He couldn't fight against the Philistines or lead our people to victory...he's only 18 months old. Doctors are fighting to save his leg...the one badly injured by a Muslim man who rammed his car into the bus stop where Yotam was waiting with his mother, Yael.

And here I am, silenced and censored. I can write of Yotam, but not of his killer. The world does not want to hear of Islamic fundamentalism, of hatred and death.

So many articles are appearing about how we have to help Moderate Islam - with capital letters, of course. We need to help them fight the evil in their society and, of course, to sound credible, we have to quickly equate it with the evil in our society...even though I can't think of a single attack in which an Israeli Jew rammed his vehicle intentionally into a crowd of waiting Muslims, certainly not one with a child there.

Wait, I do remember one - it was a Jewish driver who rammed his vehicle into a pack of Arabs...who were throwing stones at his that's one, I guess. And yeah, Israeli society didn't universally condemn him. But on a more serious note...why must we try to balance condemnations of horrible attacks like the one that happened today by demanding a stop to "violence on both sides." What the hell is with that "on both sides" nonsense. You can't count the innocent Jewish victims on a room full of fingers; and that's even without counting the dead all around the world.

So long as you can count the innocent Palestinians who were intentionally murdered by Jews on the hands of one person...okay, let's say five people...there is no "balance," no "violence on both sides" nonsense.

I'm holding on to my anger, struggling to find comfort in words, as I usually do...but it's very hard. Yotam is in serious condition, on life support, and being operated on at this very moment.

How do you speak of "moderate" Islam when a child is fighting for his life, when 14 people were terrorized today and are suffering tonight?

Five years ago, Kay Wilson went for a hike with Kristine Luken...within an hour, they were both attacked. Kristine was murdered, Kay severely wounded. Kay has spoken of her experience and today she wrote that on the fifth anniversary of that horrible event, there was a memorial service and three of her friends - Israeli Arabs - came to "honor her, support me, and plant a cyclamen of hope in the place of cyclamens that soaked up her [Kristine's] blood."

What was most amazing, was what Kay wrote after that. She explained that each of the three Israeli Arabs had suffered since that day. Two have received death threats. One destroyed the radical ISIS signs that were posted in his home town. And then she wrote the most important phrase of all, "they dared to speak out against the same hatred that stole Kirstine's life and nearly took my own life."

And for the first time in a very long time, I finally realized there is a road to peace. It won't be found by criticizing Israel and demanding an end to the so-called occupation (the one that supposedly began in 1967 and because of which the PLO was founded in 1964.

The road to peace is not paved with good intentions; it won't be paved by a bunch of liberals showering love and rainbows and fairy tales over Kalashnikov rifles, axes, knives and crashed vehicles. It sure as hell won't be paved with Jewish blood.

If it is to be paved at all, it will be designed, paved, painted, and patrolled by moderate Arabs who, like Kay's dear friends, dare to speak. So long as you can count that number in single or even double digits while counting the extremists in the thousands, babies like Yotam will be rushed into the hospitals of Israel...and Paris...and San Bernadino....Mali and Bali and London and Madrid and beyond.

So, the only message I can offer tonight, as the sirens fade from my ears and the terror remains in my heart is to little Yotam.

Yotam Shmuel ben Yael - may God watch over you in these critical hours and grant the doctors the knowledge to make you well; may God return you to health and may you grow up to be strong. You are named after a king of Judah, a prophet of Israel...may they be by your side. May Michael be to your right, Gavriel to your left. May Uriel guard your front and Raphael your back. May God watch over you from above and all of Israel pray for you, little Yotam...

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Hear the Sirens...

They are rushing to the front of my city, my beautiful Jerusalem. Another ramming attack at a place that is, once again, minutes from my office. The entrance to our city. It's a stupid bridge, whimsical, weird. And there are many injured - rammed by someone who wants to take from us our freedom to create and enjoy whimsical things.

It's a cruel attack - there are many people enjoying the last day of Chanukah in the streets. As I walked to work this morning I thought of how full the streets are. Now there are people injured and the sirens are the ambulances rushing to help them. Israel goes by the scoop and run method - if they can be transported, move them now. Stabilize and move...get them to the hospital.

It's cold outside. My heart aches. It was raining so hard this morning but it's the last day of vacation before months of school and work and so yesterday I took Aliza shopping and we bought donuts because that's what Israelis do on Chanukah - we eat oily foods and promise ourselves we'll walk it off...and so last night, I helped put my oldest and youngest grandchildren to sleep and then I walked home...

And I still hear the sirens. I don't want to hear them anymore. I've heard so many. And in minutes, because that's the way the world works now, the first image - uncensored so painful to watch.

The car, the neutralized terrorist, and the injured being evacuated. (Photo credit to Oren Rond...I'm not sure how to write his name)...nine people injured - one in critical condition. First it was 10, now they say 9...

Minutes from the main ambulance station, just across the street from the central bus station.

I hear the sirens and my heart cries. Jerusalem again...

What does it take to hit the gas and intentionally ram a car into people standing at a bus station? What does it take to pull out a knife and stab someone? These are things I will never understand - a hatred so deep, so poisonous.

Now they say 8 injured - one moderately and the rest lightly. It's too early to really know; the numbers will flow until it settles...some reports say a baby is among the injured.

I am left with the pain and the anger. I am left in despair...but interestingly enough, I am not left with hatred. I don't hate these terrorists who come to this city that I love, to all the places they have hit in the last few months. Hatred is the wrong word. I am angry and sickened by what must be inside these people.

But the anger will be for later, for now, there is only sadness. The sirens have stopped but the pain has only begun.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What is a terror attack?

Amazingly enough, that question isn't easy to answer. You can put all sorts of conditions - is it terror if the intended victim is a soldier? Would that then be an act of war, rather than a terror attack?

Does a terror attack involve the use of a specific weapon - for example, if you use a bomb, it's a terror attack but if you use a rock/boulder or a knife, that it isn't terror?

The Prime Minister of Sweden, who seems to be a man of limited intelligence, believes that stabbing someone is not a terror attack...well, at least if the attack happens in Israel. If you ram someone, intentionally attempting to kill them, is that terror?

Does it matter if the victim is a man in his 80s or a woman in her 70s or a young man in his late teens or early twenties? Does it matter what they are wearing? For example, if they're wearing jeans, it's a terror attack but if they are wearing an army uniform it isn't?

If the driver then exits the car and pulls out a knife and stabs someone he has just rammed, is it a terror attack? If it happens to a young woman in her early 20s...if it happens to an elderly man...if it happens to a young girl...if it happens to a young man in his late teens or early it a terror attack in each case...does it matter what they are wearing? For example, if one was wearing an army uniform, does that change the nature of the attack?

I can't offer any answers. I can tell you what I think. I can show you a horrible video - the wonder of today's modern world and the fact that I live in a country that has untold thousands of cameras all over for security reasons.

Last week, I saw two young soldiers patrolling in Jerusalem, "look at their guns," Elie told me and then pointed out the fact that both rifles had cameras attached to is Israel's answer to stupid headlines like this:

Yes, the Palestinians man did die in the ramming attack, but it is only when you read the details, rather than the intentionally misleading headlines by Reuters, that you understand that the "man" was actually a terrorist - an attempted murderer, at least, who intentionally rammed his vehicle into three boys, who happened to be soldiers on their way home. More, at least two of the soldiers had just entered the army - it was their first weekend and they were not armed.

Thankfully, as the Palestinian got out of his vehicle and began stabbing at one of the boys, a civilian was able to stop him.

In the attack that happened a few hours ago, there was no one to stop the Palestinian as he rammed his car into four soldiers, critically injuring one. Perhaps it was an accident, some misguided reporter will likely suggest? No, no accident. After ramming the vehicle hard enough to send a very heavy, bullet-proof door flying in the air, the vehicle sped off. It was found later, with a stun grenade and M16 rifle inside...there is an on-going manhunt for the terrorist.

So, what is a terrorist? A few definitions from the Internet:

According to, terrorism is: the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

Oxford says terrorism is: The unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims

Merriam-Webster defines it as:  the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal

I think the answer is not so much who the victim is, as what the attacker's intentions were. If the intent was to murder for religious/political reasons a person who you have never met...simply because they are a certain race, religion, nationality, or gender - that's terrorism. It isn't really about frightening people - though that is, to the terrorist, a lovely side benefit.

The act you will see in this short video is violent. It is enacted against four young men simply because of what they represent, who they are, what they are wearing. Four soldiers rammed simply out of hatred. Four families, terrified and panicked as they rush to the hospitals to see their sons.  One terrorist raised on a steady diet of violence and hatred who believes he serves some great political or religious need. Terrorism.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

OMG...He's Got a Gun

If you're one of those mothers who raised their sons with as few toys that represent "violence" as possible, like me, you'd probably be shocked to find yourself in a situation in which two of your sons always carry weapons with them and the third and youngest was just given a gun as well.

To balance this out, my third son is just short of his 20th birthday and he's now a soldier in the Israeli army so, unlike his brothers, the gun he now has isn't really his. Doesn't help me much writing that, he's still my son...still the little boy of the family, even if he is the tallest.

I spoke to him the other night. It's cold where he's cold all over Israel but as always my brain and heart differ. My brain tells me that this is the kid who slept in shorts in the winter; who just a few weeks ago, went walking in the rain in open shoes. His body temperature seems to be on some different scale - I'm always freezing; he's always warm. My heart doesn't care for that logical assessment. It says he's out there...even if "out" there is a building with a heater that he's sleeping in, on a bed, with a pillow, sheets and a blanket he took from home.

David told me that they'd given them guns and my heart cried out a little. I don't want my little boy to have a gun...I don't any of my little boys (or girls or husband) to have a gun...and yet they do. There is peace of mind, if not peace in the heart, knowing that what has always impressed me with the training each of my older sons received in the army was how responsibility went hand in hand with training. They teach them in stages.

Here is a, we aren't giving you bullets. Like no way. Get used to the feel of it, know where it is at all times. This is your responsibility. Always. If you forget it somewhere, you will be punished severely; if you play games with it, you will be punished severely. If you don't learn how to care for it, you will...well, you get the idea.

David's commanding officer added more. The soldiers in David's group are not allowed to touch the gun - except at two specific points. As his brothers did before him, David will learn his gun, know all that he must know to take care of it, clean it, aim it, fire it.

He will be taught that others can be harmed if he is careless and so the gun will never be something passed around. Oh, I have no doubt he will let his older brothers, licensed and knowledgeable about guns, see it...but it will never be pointed at anyone as a joke. It will be stored carefully when he brings it home, according to army regulations. I can still picture Elie visiting his grandparents, dismantling parts of the gun and then putting the main part of the gun high above the kitchen cabinets where the younger children could not reach it.

He will be taught that he must point the gun in the air and confirm that he has no bullets in the chamber before entering army bases, even stores.

I am not looking forward to David coming home with the gun. I am so not a gun person. My husband now carries a gun...he volunteers with the local police and I'd rather he be armed and ready if he thinks it is his responsibility to step into trouble. When he and Elie speak of guns, I cringe. When I see them on my dining room table, I pull back.

I hated those large M16s that came into my home and I was happy when they were returned to the army. Knowing the situation here in Israel, I accepted when Elie and Shmulik started carrying guns and I accepted when my husband came over to speak to me about getting one for him as well. Gun control in Israel is quite strict - licenses take weeks to even months, you are licensed for a specific you are required to re-test each year.

The debate on gun control is non-existent in Israel because we already know that we control all the guns that we can...and the ones we can't are often silenced swiftly and professionally by the guns we can control. Countless lives have been saved...nearly every civilians with guns who rush in when a terrorist strikes. Again and again and again, Israel proves that it is not guns that kill people. A gun in the wrong hands will indeed commit murder; but a gun in the right hands may have the power to avert that death.

So soon, my third son will come home not just in uniform, but with an army rifle. David is serving in the Givati Brigade. Wikipedia will tell you so much more than I thought I would share but here goes.

Givati was formed in December, 1947 - that means it has been protecting Israel from a time even before the State of Israel was re-established in May, 1948. Givati was the first to be given the Tavor rifles designed and manufactured in Israel. Davidi will be the first to bring a Tavor into my home.

It's a horrible looking thing - just as an M16 is. I've never seen a Tavor "up close" and I'd be happy if I could say the same in a couple of months. But Davidi will bring it home. His two brothers, who had M16s, will no doubt sit and debate the merits of the Tavor over the M16.

And I'll try, really hard, not to stare at it, not to think...they gave my baby a gun...just as I tried not to think about what Elie and Shmulik experienced during their army service.

In the meantime...a few more days and, God willing, he'll be home.

Praying for Israel's Injured

Hat tip to the Muqata for organizing this list.

I have simply taken their amazing work and organized it on a simple, downloadable PDF page for easy printing.

If you are Jewish and go to shul: Please consider printing this and taking it with you to synagogue on Shabbat and ask that these names be included among the prayers for the sick and injured in Israel.

If you are part of a tehillim group, also please consider taking this list and including it.

If you are not Jewish but believe in the power of prayer, please include these names - most were either stabbed, rammed, or shot by Arab terrorists. Obama would tell you that they are random victims; I will tell you that they are victims of terror...and the word terror and random never belong together.

To download the file for December 10, 2015, please click here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Israel and the Turtle Problem

There's an old joke, picking up on the amazing attention Jews seem to get in relation to other nations. It goes like this - a teacher asks a French student, an Italian student and a Jewish student to write a report about elephants.

The French student writes about the love life of elephants; the Italian writes of the foods that elephants eat; and the Jewish student entitles his report, "The Elephant and the Jewish Problem."

So, last night, I walked through the center of Jerusalem and stopped to take a picture of the huge menorah in the center of the city. These wonderful menorahs have been placed all over Jerusalem and each night, people come to light yet another candle.

As I was approaching this very popular location, I heard some noise and looked across the street into a store where there were about 7 people, lighting a small menorah and singing. That's what it was like last night in Israel and throughout Jerusalem - every few feet, another menorah lighting the holiday and brightening the day.

So, I took out my phone and began taking pictures of the menorah when all of a sudden, I saw a Ninja turtle. He moved into my view and then removed his head mask, approached and held up a sign. "Pictures - 5 Shekels".

And he asked me for money. I didn't know what he was talking about and so he pointed to the sign, "you took my picture" he said.

"I took a picture of the menorah! You were in my way!" I answered back.

"Ah, okay," he said and walked away.

I smiled...I didn't know what else to do. Why would I want to take a picture of a headless turtle? And why would I want a picture of him anyway...maybe if I had a kid with me and the kid cuddled up but I really was taking a picture of the menorah. And why would I want to pay 5 NIS because someone paraded himself into the shot I was taking?

So, there you have it - I had a problem with a turtle last night - but luckily, he kept his head and realized that it really was all about the huge menorah standing behind him.

Yossi Sarid - In Life and In Death

Yossi Sarid is dead and politicians are lining up to praise him. As often happens, not one of those politicians has the courage to do the right thing and reject in death the message they rejected during his life. It makes me proud not to be a politician. I can respond as an Israeli but more, I can respond as someone who Yossi Sarid despised.
I am pretty much everything he hated, all wrapped in one. Without ever meeting me, he was quick to dismiss all that I am, all that I hold dear. I am the dreaded settler, made worse by the fact that I'm religiously observant. And, if those two elements were not enough, add the third cornerstone of Sarid's disdain, I'm right-wing - three things Yossi Sarid hated above nearly anything else. His hatred was vile and vicious and cruel. And rarely was it pointed at the enemies of Israel - no, it was saved for people like me.
I never met him but I heard his words and often wondered how he managed to not walk into walls, given how blind he was. I won't ask that a God he didn't honor or believe in waste time in blessing or welcoming Sarid into the heavens. I won't bless his memory. 
I believe that who you are is built in a lifetime of deeds and words and these do not suddenly disappear upon your death. In short, an angel, a good person in life becomes an angel in death, remembered and honored. And a wicked person should be remembered as well - for the evil that was done. Without doubt, Yossi Sarid is in death what he was in life - certainly not the finest Israel has to offer. The concept of Ahavat Yisrael - love of Israel, among the people of Israel was not in his vocabulary. He did not stand for unity among Jews.
"The settlers are not my brothers. My brothers are people with whom I have a common language, and mainly and most importantly is that we have shared values​​. I do not believe in fraternity through Jewish blood.” --Yossi Sarid
Sarid led the land in his policies of division, appeasement and promoting hatred among Jews. Israel was to be what it was, a land where Jews lived, but never a Jewish State.
“There is no such thing as a Jewish state" --Yossi Sarid
It is absurd to invoke prayers to God in his memory. Yossi Sarid was quite clear that he felt God was a waste of time. One can only assume God probably felt the same about Yossi Sarid.
"I believe in something that maybe can be defined as the God in one's heart, in the heart of every human being, but not in a God who sits on high looking down on us and taking care of us and whom we bother with things trivial and weighty so that he will be good to us and arrange things for us here. I have more than enough disappointment over such a God." - Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid did not hold back his criticism of hundreds of thousands of Jews, those with whom, he would tell anyone who would listen, he had nothing in common. He called them, at varying points in his career:
  • "wicked cancers…that should be eliminated"
  • “members of a different planet”
Cancer...eliminated...members of a different planet? He is speaking about me, about my children and my grandchildren. He is speaking of my neighbors who are kind and rush to help; he is speaking of my son, the third to proudly wear the uniform of Israel and defend this country.
Sarid often spoke words that made no sense from an historical point of view, easily disputed simply by opening up a history book. For example when he  said:
"Every dispute around the world in history was solved through negotiations."
Really? I don't remember the allies negotiating with the Germans or the Japanese. Did negotiations bring about the end of the Civil War in the US? The defeat of Napoleon?  I believe two atomic bombs and massive bombardments of cities in Germany brought about an end to World War II and I believe Napoleon was quite definitely defeated in war. I can think of several disputes that were solved through negotiations, but just as many that were not.
Yossi Sarid felt it acceptable to apply collective accusations, so long as the target was a Jew. He widely painted the right-wing, particularly religious leaders as being guilty of incitement while steadfastly ignoring incitement coming from the Palestinians. After the murder of Rabin, Sarid outright slandered thousands, referring to “Those who made him [Rabin] into a target, those rabbis and politicians are still walking free today. For them, it was the perfect crime.”
The perfect crime? One man was indicted, convicted and sentenced. That is how our society works. He has no right to slander thousands of others. While being ever so quick to vilify Jews, Sarid was equally fast in absolving Palestinians of wrong-doing. He even went so far as to justify Palestinian terrorism.
"If I were a young Palestinian, I'd fight the Jews fiercely, even by means of terror. Anyone who says anything different is telling you lies." -- Yossi Sarid
This we need from someone graced with a voice of power? This is what we should now consider a saint and a Jewish leader? No, sorry. In life and now in death, Yossi Sarid was anything BUT a Jewish or Israeli leader.
Yossi Sarid spent more time defending Palestinian interests than those of the country he supposedly served. He was quick to complain when Palestinians died, but not nearly so when Israeli civilians were murdered in cold-blood.
The (Israeli) argument that Palestinians knowingly kill our civilians while Israel does it without premeditation is starting to wear out." -- Yossi Sarid

Yossi Sarid went on to demand that Israel "stop its cruel war machine."
Cruel war machine? No condemnation of the Palestinian terror attacks but rampant anti-Israel rhetoric if in responding to an attack, our soldiers missed their target.
Never mind that the Israeli attack that resulted in the accidental deaths of Palestinians was a direct result of the targeting of Israeli civilians. Never mind all the efforts the Israeli army makes regularly to avoid civilian casualties. Never mind the fact that the Palestinians have been proven to cause casualties among their own civilians by launching rockets from within cities, hiding explosives in schools, hospitals and mosques - this is all too much detail for a man bent on finding fault with the society that by its very democratic nature, gave him a platform and a voice while the Palestinian society he defended remained closed and ruled with the iron fists of its leaders.
Yossi Sarid was also known for his tremendous support for appeasement. After the murder of six Israeli soldiers, Yossi Sarid stepped forward to demand compassion for those deported by Israel immediately after the attack:
"I wouldn't be surprised if Israel was asked to shorten the time of the deportation. And if that is expected ... Israel should consider cutting the time of the deportation on its own."
I'm sure that would have sent a clear message to the Palestinians...but obviously not one that we should be sending. Sure, let's appease even before someone asks us.
I could continue to quote Yossi Sarid ad nauseum, a phrase which truly describes my feelings here. He was the champion of the weak because he was weak; he was the father-figure of the left because he represented blind and wild dreams of a peace that cannot come because we face an enemy that feeds of the weak rather than suckles it.
Yossi Sarid, like so many of the nearly defunct Meretz party, represented much of what is wrong with the left. Unlike some, he was an honest man and I give him credit for that. But his honesty was, like his political agenda, one that was used to damage Israel, weaken us in the eyes of the world. Rather than stand against violence and hatred, he caved each and every time. Let them write of their hatred of Israel in Arab text books - we are the strong ones and can survive it.
Let them target us in terror attacks, after all, what other way could the poor Palestinians make known their desperation? How dare we fight back in the way our enemies fight against us? The ghetto Jew lived in Yossi Sarid and though I will not mourn his passing, I will mourn that this need to appease will not die and be buried with him.
What should be remembered in these hours when people rush to praise him and perhaps forget what he actually said and did, was that Yossi Sarid wasted no effort spreading ill words against settlers, right-wing Israelis, religious leaders, and pretty much anyone with whom he disagreed. 
Yossi Sarid used words to hurt others, including the image of Israel around the world. It is only just that words be used now to clarify that though he might have been an honest man, an honorable one he was not. He failed, as he himself admitted later in his life, to convince Israel that his path was the just one. His party all but dried up because Israelis got tired of listening to leaders who sympathize more with our enemies than with a nation that continues to struggle to balance the needs of others with the needs of our own.
We have the right to protect ourselves and if an evil person rises up to kill us, we have the right to kill them first - this is as ancient as our religion and is a part of every society in the world. That we all wish to live in a world of peace is clear; that we don't, was something Yossi Sarid and other refuse to see. And that refusal cost Israeli lives in the past and will, God forbid, cost more in the future.
May the land of Israel continue to prosper and be strong and may the voices of intolerance characterized by Sarid fade as Israelis realize the wise words of Hillel long ago. We must be for others... In that Sarid excelled... But we must also be for ourselves.. In that, Yossi Sarid was the epitome of failure.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


The message of Chanukah can be summed up in one word...or two...or better, three. Give me three here they are...

LIGHT          TRIUMPH           LIFE

Yes, that's it - three words.

LIGHT because human beings can't live without light. Light is hope, it's that moment when you know that the new day has come and no matter what happened yesterday, this is a bright new day. Light. We are commanded to be a light unto the nations - and we are. Really. We aren't perfect but we are unique in so many ways. So small, we are, and yet we have created history, changed history, shaped history. Greater nations have come and gone but what they lacked, perhaps, was light.

It isn't enough for us simply to be - we do not live only within our borders but we take our knowledge, our dedication, our love of the light and we spread it. So we are the first to bring field hospitals and massive amounts of equipment and professionally, carefully, quickly, set about saving lives in the darkness of natural and man-made disasters. Light.

TRIUMPH because it isn't enough just to live, you need to excel. You need to dedicate yourself to being the most you can be and when others rise up against you, you have to stick to what you believe, to who you are. And, in the end, simply out of determination, desperation, and yes, many blessings from Above, we have triumphed again and again. That's what Chanuka is about.

They would have wiped out our culture, destroyed our homes, exiled us - and sometimes they came very close to succeeding but in the end, they didn't because the light that burns inside of our people is never extinguished. In the darkest of places, we spread that light and triumph over the evil and the darkness.

LIFE because most of all, we teach our children to choose life. Davidi has started basic training. They are teaching him what his body can do - running, jumping, scaling walls. They are going to train him with a gun...and without a gun. And in the first week of his army training, they began by teaching him self-defense because what we cherish most is not that he can hurt our enemy, but that he can defend himself and others around him.

Yes, he'll learn offensive fighting but first and foremost, he will be taught the value of his life and that of his fellow soldiers. Above all else, live.

Chanukah is a message of triumphing over evil, over those who would come to destroy us. They tried 3,000 years ago, they tried 2,000 years ago, they tried 1,000 years ago, and they still try today. Their weapons change but their motive never do.

Our weapons change, but our goals remain. We will live. We will triumph. And we will reach for the light. Happy Chanukah to my daughters and sons, to my grandchildren who are learning anew to marvel at the lights as my children teach their children the essence of being Jewish - light, triumph, life.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Missing Word

Two Muslims, a man and a woman, went into a public facility and began shooting. They were dressed in combat-style clothes, carried assault rifles, had a pipe bomb in their possession. They killed 14 people, injured at least 20 others and then ran. When the police caught up with them, they were killed in the gunfight that resulted.

To Muslims, they are shahids - martyrs, supposedly greeted by 72 virgins in heaven and Allah to greet them with riches and prizes. Actually, the 72 is not an accurate picture because apparently each of the 72 have 70 servants of which the terrorist may avail himself thus bringing the total number to over 5,000. And that isn't all, apparently the terrorist is also allowed to have 4 wives and each of those wives have servants and that lucky dead terrorist is allowed to have sex in heaven with all of them. Of course, there's no one here on earth to vouch for that and when called, apparently, the angels in heaven were too busy scouring each corner looking for candidates to fill all these jobs but never mind.

So, today there are two more dead Muslim terrorists; at least 14 more families in shock and mourning, and countless others suffering trauma and pain along with their families. A "mass shooting" is they way the media is portraying it. Mass shooting...indeed.

A relative of one of the terrorists spoke at the Council on American Islamic Relations and said he was "sad that people lost their lives"...but that's not really the correct phrase. They didn't lose their lives...their lives were taken from them, stolen intentionally. More, he is shocked "that something like this could happen." I can understand those words in relation to a flood, an earthquake, perhaps even a plane crash - but a terror attack doesn't just "happen." It was not random, it was not a work-related incident.

It was a terror attack and the failure of news agencies such as BBC, CNN, Sky News and Reuters is as blaring as the failure of the US government itself. Defining terrorism is not a difficult thing to do. When someone walks among innocent people with the intention of causing is terrorism.

When someone fires a missile at a city, begins stabbing people on the street, rams pedestrians waiting for a is terrorism.

When these attacks take place within the framework of someone's religion, when that religions encourages violence and terror, those attacks are terrorism.

When you deny that these attacks are terrorism in action, it is at that moment that you aid the terrorist and betray the victim. There were 14 people murdered yesterday in California. The couple that murdered them are dead, but the ideology that drove them to those terrible acts remains strong and highly amused that the US and the world's media refuse to recognize what drove the murderers to act. The missing word is terrorism. Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Well, That Didn't Go Right...

Each unit or division has an elite branch that is responsible for...well, doing stuff. Don't ask me what because if I even knew, I'd have to either lie or...what's that saying, "if I told you, I'd have to kill you"? Well, I'm not into killing - despite the silly rantings of some fools, I don't even kill bugs (except mosquitoes). And since I'm blessed with ignorance, let's just say the elite units do elite stuff.

Some units have "try-outs" before the young men enter the army and others open them up in the early days, taking boys that have been drafted to the elite branch's main division. So, some of Davidi's friends decided to try out - and they'll know the results soon.

David called a few minutes ago - they're given an hour to shower, prepare for the next day, and call their parents. There's not much to say - it's a quick call. No, it didn't rain today; no, it isn't very cold. Tomorrow or in the coming days, they'll go out on their first "masa" - or march. It will be only a few kilometers, they'll walk, not run, and they'll be carrying a lot of excess weight in the form of equipment - they'll also be getting guns (but no bullets) in the coming weeks.

I asked him about the elite units...and that when he told me one of his friends tried out for it but got hypothermia. Um...what??? Yes, apparently he did and was taken to the hospital. Um...what?

Is he okay?

"I think so," Davidi said, "I haven't spoken to him yet - he's still in the hospital."

Well, all that is totally not reassuring. Didn't he just tell me it wasn't that cold?

Last week, they had the boys clean up the smoking corner - I find that particularly disgusting and I'm happy to report that so did David. Smoking is a huge problem in the army but I'm desperately hopeful that the lessons of a lifetime (so far) will prevail. David knows that we are against smoking.

He also spent on day working in the kitchen - cleaning up, scrubbing down the grease. He hated that too but he understands what the army is doing - it's all part of the same message. You're in the army will follow orders and do what your commanding officers say.

The supply captain in many units has an assistant to help with the various responsibilities of making sure the unit runs smoothly and has all it needs. In David's case, the supply captain doesn't have an assistant so he drew a picture of a soldier on his wall and told the new soldiers when they come in the room, they have to salute his "assistant." This too, Davidi takes with a smile.

All in all, he's doing well. He even let me take his picture just before he got on the bus Sunday. You can tell by his expression that he finds this all just a bit entertaining. 

Other Soldiers' Mothers

When I first started this blog more than eight years ago, I realized right away that I was just one mother of a soldier. There are hundreds of thousands of us in Israel, millions around the world. We are like all mothers but different. We do the same things every day - we work, we clean, we cook, we take care of our families, but we have one major difference.

It took me a while to realize what it was with Elie; I accepted it with Shmulik; I anticipated it with David. We are not whole people - there really isn't a better way to say it. We stand in a room but a part of us is in some distant corner of the country. We can talk to people, listen to others as they explain complex concepts and we can register and learn but still, somewhere in the vicinity of our heart, there's something missing.

We are aware of our son - literally every minute. If it starts to rain, we wonder if he is getting wet. When we close the windows as the cool evening air turns to chilly, we worry that he is cold. We hear an alert that the army is training in a certain area and wonder if he can hear the sounds of planes. All day long and sometimes in the middle of the night, we yearn for them in a way that is hard to explain.

When your child is first born, there is this feeling that you have - that you are always aware of them - when they last ate, when they were last changed, when they should go to sleep, about when they will wake up.

As they get older, they become more independent and do things on their own. It will take years before they learn to shower on their own and then the day comes when you have no clue when they showered at all, when they went to the bathroom, when they last ate, or what they ate.

Having a child in the army is like taking a huge step backwards. You still don't know all those time-related things that happen to them, but the knowledge of where they are, in a general sense at least, becomes your constant companion. You always know where your phone is. On a normal day, if you forget your cellular phone at home, you might enjoy the break, the chance to be anonymous, unreachable.

With a child in the army - being unreachable is not an option. I started this post intending to go somewhere else...and here I find myself back where I intended anyway.

David is fine - better than fine. He's good. He's taking the army as he should - not hard, not easy. But there are two other mothers who are on my mind. One flew into Israel today because her son was injured in a terror attack at the end of last week. The second has probably spent most of today in the hospital with her son after he apparently suffered hypothermia during a training exercise last night.

In both cases, I believe the sons will make full recoveries and return to their for the mothers...all I can do is hope they know there are many mothers sending them virtual hugs. It isn't easy, this journey we're isn't easy. 

A Message to my French Brothers (And Sisters)

It seems to me that the posts that do the best on Times of Israel involve either bashing the right or using profanity. As a right-winger, I guess what is left to me is only the profanity and today, at this moment, it comes easily to my mind.
For those who think, in the midst of the latest intifada, that appeasement will work borders on insanity. There is a point when rose-colored glasses can no longer be described as anything but the thickest of blinders. At some point, when you hear "it's the occupation" yet again, the first words that come to mind are profanities. Why the hell do you think they'd accept now what they have systematically rejected every year for the last 68? There was no peace before the occupation and there sure as hell won't be just because we withdraw, surrender, run from anything less than ALL.
There is a point, perhaps when you hear that one of the soldiers injured moments from my home, was a lone soldier who had entered the army just days before. J. entered the army just one day before my youngest son. Mine went into Givati; J went into Golani. They've never met and if the terrorist who rammed into J and broke his leg and then attempted to stab him and his friends had succeeded, they never would. There is nothing that I can say to his mother, who is living close to the worst nightmare I can imagine...she is there, so far away and she gets a call. In the next few hours, her plane will land and she will rush to her son's bedside - forever grateful that it wasn't worse.
There are profanities here as well. Why the ****** aren't these soldiers better protected? How can you send new soldiers to stand in isolated bus stops? I know, there's no solution here and still it kills me. I heard the sirens last Friday. I knew there's been an attack. I heard that three soldiers were injured. I didn't know J. was there.
I kept these profanities to myself until the last news item came across my phone. The police in France are telling Chabad not to light their huge menorahs in public this year. My first thought was that in a land where a menorah is not safe, most certainly, Jews are not either.
I could speak to the French people...they are Jews but they are French and it is your obligation to keep them safe, to make France a place where a menorah...and a Christmas tree can be lit with safety.
I could speak to the French is your job to protect them. Bring in more police, put one on every menorah if you have this case, the menorah is a symbol either of the freedom of Jews to live in France, or a symbol of your impotence.
But in truth, I have nothing to say to the French people and even less to say to the French police. I will speak only to the Jews of France. We here in Israel have begged you to come. Life is good here. As scary as the terror sounds, it is nothing compared to what you face there. Come home...but we've said that before, haven't we? We've been saying it for years...and so what I am left with are profanities. Or at least one...
With regret, with apologies, with frustration and anger and pain, I say...get the f*ck out of France.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Is it enough to be stronger, older, faster?

During his first week in the army, David's commanding officer's commanding officer spoke to the new soldiers. He told them a truth that we all know, but do not want to face. With the green uniform that our sons now wear comes a very scary reality - they are now targets. Of course, as hundreds of Israelis can tell you, we are all targets.

I am a target not because I live in Maale Adumim, as a woman suggested many weeks ago. She lives in Raanana, the site of two terror attacks in a single week. My children are targets, my parents, my sister, her family, my husband, my friends, my neighbors...every Israeli but somehow hearing my son tell me that his commanding officer told them they are targets nearly broke me. But the next words turned my pain into anger.

You are also a symbol, he was told - a soldier who is supposed to protect. Terrorists won't know that you are a new soldier, the commanding officer continued. "I'll tell them," joked one young soldier to his friends. And so, my son who has, as yet, almost no training, no gun, no means to protect himself, was told, "you are stronger, older, faster. Fight back."

The first rule when there is an attack is to get yourself away from it, if you can. Obviously, if you have a weapon and the training to use it, go forward but if you don't - get out of the way...

The good news was that after hearing this from their commanding officer, the new soldiers were given better advice during their early lessons in basic self-defense. They were shown videos of recent attacks and were told what the security forces did right and what they did wrong.

But the words that stuck with me long after Davidi had gone off to bed...was the explanation that most of the terrorists have been young - 11 years old, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 years old. You are stronger, older, and faster, the commanding officer told them. Remember that and fight back.

In a few months, Davidi will be trained. He will have a weapon and know how to use it...that, as far as I am concerned, is soon enough to fight back. But the commanding officer was right, in some ways, though as a mother that is not easy for me to admit. MY first instinct would be to tell my child to run and run fast but after days of thinking about this, I'm slowly understanding that there were two parts to the message the commanding officer was trying to give to his new soldiers.

The first is one we all know - you are targets. You were targets but now you are more so than ever. The second was less about the comment that they should stand and fight and more about the simplest of messages. Be confident. You are now soldiers of Israel. You are stronger, faster, older...and smarter and braver than those who attack children and innocents with knives.

Stronger. Older. Faster.

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