Sunday, January 31, 2016

Stealing Time

I stole time again...not as much as I would have liked, but a couple of hours. We have this thing...we had a car that was totaled before it reached 10,000 kilometers...a man decided that he could make it through the light before it changed to red...then he decided no one would notice that he went through just as it turned red...then, missing even that, I have no idea what was in his mind.

All I know is that he ran the light and smashed full force into my car, destroying the front and rear door on the right side, sending the car flying sideways across three lanes of traffic. It crashed into one pole and completely knocked it down...then it kept going and, as it began to roll, just that first instant, it hit a second, very thick pole - thankfully between the rear door on the driver's side and the back side panel near the trunk of the car. The car then flew about 2 meters in the opposite direction from the power of the impact to the driver's side and came to rest...back on top of the first pole it had knocked down (you can read about it and see pictures here).

The car was barely 2 months old...less than 7,000 km. and so when we replaced the car, each 10,000 km. becomes a milestone. And it's fun to be the person who gets it. Davidi has hit a bunch of them...I was the one driving when it turned hit 40,000...and when Davidi came home on Friday, we were 20+ kilometers away from 41,000. So I asked him if he wanted to take a drive with me to the Dead Sea.

I decided to join a "photography" group - and each week they give you an assignment that you have to do. This week, it is "from above" and so I thought of taking a picture of the lowest place on earth...

We didn't quite get there, but we had a nice time and got some great pictures. I'm not sure which one to enter in the group...but here are a few of them. Mostly, though, what I loved was the stealing is too short not to steal time. Sometimes, you have to work harder to enable this - I cooked more on Thursday in anticipation; got up early Friday morning, and gratefully passed some things on to Elie and Lauren to finish.

Time well spent...time well stolen! Steal time!

The Importance of Home

I first noticed the importance of "home" with Elie. It was later reinforced when Shmulik was in the army and I see it again now. Home is everything to these soldiers in a way it never seemed to be even a few months ago. They measure their time in the army each week, by how long it will be until they get home again. One of the worst punishments you can give a soldier, is to tell him he has to stay on base a few extra hours, or worse, a whole weekend.

David came home this weekend to hugs, a box of brownies ready for him to take home, and some warm soup for the cold he has. The last time he came home sick, days later, I got sick too. This winter, following a bout with CMV (a "mega" virus that 90% of the world has but which in most cases is symptom-less, while in other people it is devastatingly exhausting...yeah, I got it hard), my immune system seems to be functioning at a low capacity - I can't fight anything off. So I got David's cold, and Elie's - on to pneumonia and hopefully back again. Hopefully, I won't catch this one too.

And yet, when I heard him sniffling, I started pumping him with Vitamin C and then gave him the whole bottle to take back to base with him, with instructions to take 2 a day. All packed, with cheese sandwiches and water, I drove him to the base, where he catches the first of two or three buses back to base.

"So you'll be home Friday," I ask after I get my hug and kiss.

"That's the plan," he told me.

"Tell them that they can let you out Thursday; we'll still take you."

And then he smiled that wonderful smile. "I ask them every week."

The army has a language all it's own. I tried following it this weekend while Davidi was speaking to me. It wasn't easy. There's a word for "fighting inside a building"; there are words for rank; location, and more - all made up of only the first letters of each word. Impossible for anyone not in the army to understand. Elie and David spoke this language during many discussions; I sit there on the sidelines, listening and wishing I could understand...knowing they would explain...but not wanting to interrupt them. One of those abbreviations that I do understand is "Hamshush" - which is Thursday to Sunday.

David gets released on Friday and has to be back on base on Sunday - the dream at this point, is to be released on Thursday, giving them another night at home and the chance not to spend early Friday morning on three buses.

Then he said each time he asks about "Hamshush" - the commander laughs. And, if he mentions it, he turns to Davidi and says, "You want Hamshush, right David?"

Minutes before the bus came, David said he was going to get out of the warm car to stand with the others - all waiting for the bus south. I got out - better to get that last hug and kiss before he goes...and then restarted the car and drove to the next traffic circle to make the U-turn for home. As I passed the bus stop from the other direction, I saw a hand waving to me - David, sitting in the very back of the bus.

The trick with a soldier is to send him to base with a piece of home - cooked food, sandwiches, just something that he'll have most of the week, a reminder that home is waiting for him.

That wave meant so much to me...I can't begin to explain.

Friday, January 29, 2016

To be Grateful; To be Blessed

Today, I am grateful for the dough rising on my table; the food cooking on my stove; the son, on the bus on his way home from the army...
Today, I am blessed with the cold weather, just as I am blessed with the hot weather in winter.
Today, I am grateful for the chance to see my granddaughter eat a clementine...yes, something that simple.
Today, I am blessed to have awakened, recharged, re-devoted to the life I have built.
Today, I am grateful for the warm shoes and socks I have on my feet, the layers of clothing I am wearing.
Today, I am blessed that my children are safe, my home is warm, my refrigerator full of food, my pantry stocked.
Today, I am grateful for the trees that are beginning to grow leaves and remind me that even on the coldest week...spring and summer will come soon.
Today, I am blessed not only with the material things in life, but with health. A bit of pneumonia, a cold, a virus, whatever...but health overall, is the truest of blessings.
Today, I am grateful that Hashem gave me the words to explain the voice inside of me. I may not always say what others want to read, but the ability to form thoughts into words is an incredible blessing.
Today, I am blessed to live in a country dedicated to life, to science, to innovation.
Today, I am grateful that I live moments from Jerusalem, a city that lives not only in my heart, but in the hearts of millions around the world.
Today, I am blessed to have reached the age I have, lived the life I have, and most of all blessed to believe that as good as today is, tomorrow has the potential to be even better.
Today, I am grateful for a life that is full and blessed and overall happy.
Today, I am blessed with a semi-productive week gone and the promise of one already taking shape.
Today, I am grateful for neighbors that care, strangers that run to defend and protect.
Today, I am blessed with the simplicity of a heater in my living room, making the room nice and warm.
Today, I am grateful to live in a true democracy, where people who are against my country and the way of life we have built here, are safe walking in the streets of our cities and speaking on the platform before the very top levels of government...because each is given the right to have a voice.
Today, I am blessed the sun rose over my beautiful city and that in the distance, I can see the mountains of the Judean Desert on one side, and Jerusalem on the other.
Today, I am so very grateful for what Hashem has made me - a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a Jew, and Israeli. Me.
Today, I am blessed. Today, I am grateful.
If you can say that every day of your life...and you have already defeated our enemies. Just, I am blessed, today, I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

WE Have Changed...

The UN Human Rights Commission has condemned Israel for human rights violations...more than North Korea. More than Iran. More than Syria. More than ALL of them put together. Somethings never changed. But...

Something has changed...WE have changed...


Perfect Messages in an Imperfect World

If there ever was a day in which I needed to write the perfect message, today would be it. I haven't written in a while - variety of reasons. Pneumonia would be one of them - antibiotics are my friends. A slight case of depression would be another. Of all days, I think today would be the one least likely to be chosen as the day on which perfection was born.

The day was doomed before it even began. Shlomit Krigman who was critically injured last night in a terror attack in Beit Horon, died early this morning. Last night, they said she was 23 when first reports came in. This morning, I heard she was 24. Shlomit was murdered 11 days before her 24th birthday. She was 23...and will never get to be 24.

I thought of this, the point when they'll never get older, when Dafna Meir was murdered. Dafna Meir, mother of four, foster mother to two, beloved wife to Natan, was perfect in her imperfection. She came from a broken home and a father who abandoned her. And yet, she grew into a beautiful woman, a caring nurse, a dedicated friend, loving neighbor. She created a loving home, taught her children the hardest lesson of all - don't hate...even, even when you have every reason in the world to hate, don't. She lived in a community that is no stranger to terror attacks and yet was learning Arabic so that she could better communicate with the many Arab patients that she had. She was beauty and life and love. She was 38 years old...and will never get to be 39.

As in the case of most tragedies and attacks, Israelis are united - if not in hope, than in pain and in anger. Fury. Disgust. So many emotions. None of them perfect. There can be no peace with people who can murder in cold blood. In violence. Man. Woman. Child. Old. Young. It's over. There's just no hope. Peace partner? Are you kidding me? Not in this world. Even on the left, there is such sadness, such sorrow and pain that we on the right try to comfort them. We need their dreams to balance our lack of hope.

And then, this week, I "met" two people. They share a love of Israel with me. They share the anger and pain. Disgust when the headlines writes absurdly that two Palestinians were shot to death in a stabbing attack...or a ramming attack...or whatever. They rammed into innocent people; they stabbed unarmed women - a mother, a pregnant woman, one that was just growing into a graceful woman.

These two express their emotions and thoughts with kindness and strength; they offer acts of kindness in a way that is natural...but the situation is wrong because the anger I feel...the anger they directed at their own. They are Muslims. One is a Palestinian...and an Israeli.

Both express their love and my world becomes perfect because hope is reborn. I am accused of never speaking with Muslims, of not understanding them and I point to examples that were flawed. Some are from the distant past, when Taysir cursed those in his community that stole and murdered. He did it without encouragement; he comforted by saying in words, thoughts that made me feel guilty. "They should leave this land if they won't live in peace," he told me once. Yes, they should.

"There are many who want peace," he told me after one horrific attack. In tears, I told him that I found that hard to believe. He smiled and said, "me too" and I laughed for the first time that day and served him the strong Turkish coffee he had taught me to make...putting in the HEAPING spoon of coffee...and then a bit more to make sure there's enough. Pouring in the boiling water. Stir until it's all mixed and then the secret. Slowly pour in two heaping spoons of sugar..."what can you do?" he would say.

Most of the other Arabs that I have known over the years tell me about their lives, their families. Their wives, their children. They speak of the violence in terms of economic loss. They curse the terrorists because they disturb the flow of life and work. "We all need to work," says Daoud. "That's what's important. Family and work. The rest is nonsense. They kill for nonsense."

Yes, they do...but really, do I care why they kill? I didn't say this to Daoud. He thought it was funny that I didn't like him having two wives. He tried to explain that he is a very good husband because he still takes care of the "poor one," which was how he referred to his first wife, the mother of his children. We spoke from different worlds, different hearts, and honestly, have different opinions about what peace involves. For Daoud, it was about free access to the Israeli market, the ability to bring his Arab workers into our cities so that they could build and make money, and then having open roads so that he can go back to the large mansion in which he lives...his first Arab wife living on one side, his pretty and young Russian wife on the other.

This time, now, when I needed it most, two Muslims came into my life unexpectedly and said the most amazing things. Their words were unsolicited, spoken because they needed to be said, not because I needed to hear them. They did not speak of peace, but peace is what I heard.

The first time I met Taysir, I said to my husband - if all Arabs were like him, we'd have peace today, tomorrow, always. He took me into his village twice. Once to sit with his wife and he translated as I spoke Hebrew and she answered and asked her questions in Arabic. What a funny world, I thought at the time. Here is this man, sitting and translating so that two women can speak about how much they have in common - our children, our communities.

This week, months after finally deciding that I should write the truth - that there is zero chance for peace...two people came to tell me I was wrong. And they did it simply by showing me that they believe in love. One told me he was raised with hatred and though he lives here, he is happy that his young children do not. I felt I had to be honest. I told him where I lived. "We're neighbors," he responded.

"I'm very right wing," I told him...leaving out the "especially right now" that came to mind.

"I'm probably more right wing than you," he answered.

I told him I was worried about him. He told me that he is careful never to post his picture...and then he sent it to me so that I could see what he looks like. That was an act of trust, of friendship.

And so, what is the most perfect, most important message you'll ever read? Don't give up. There can be peace. One person at a time, perhaps. Maybe way in the future. But there is hope. And it doesn't have to come only when we surrender, only when we give up land for some dream of a temporary peace. It can come when enough Arabs are tired of the hatred and what it is doing to their own children. It can come when more Palestinians become like my new friend.

The perfect message is that we can continue to love life, love our land and the world we have built here. It isn't us that has to change and there are Muslims out there who are telling us that they believe we are on the right path. The people who really seek peace, don't demand land. The problem isn't with land. The problem is the mindset. Those who are open to peace, my new friends tell me, are the ones who don't first ask us to give up security. Peace will not come when we give them more. Peace will come...when their people catch up to us and want peace too.

I don't know if they will ever understand how much I needed we buried Dafna, as we prayed for Michal, as we lost Shlomit to the knife of hatred.

Peace will come because hatred will lose, it has to. That's the perfect, most important message you'll ever read.

UN Sec General Ban and Human Nature

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a mistake a few days ago. He woke up and got out of bed. He shouldn't have. Had he remained in bed, perhaps, perhaps, he might have managed to get through the day without saying something exceedingly stupid. Before a meeting of the UN Security Council, Ban Ki-moon justified terrorism. That's right, he said it was "human nature." His exact words were "It is human nature to react to occupation."

Human nature to stick a knife in someone's head or ram a car into a baby carriage? Honestly, I have no idea what kind of society Ban is from but I'm thinking it (and he) needs to be reprogrammed.

Human nature?

Like the terrorist who was angry when his parents wouldn't let him date his younger he borrowed the family vehicle and rammed it into my son's unit...human nature?

Like the one who focused a rifle on the head of a ten month old child...and pulled the trigger...human nature?

Like the 13-year-old who walked up to a Jewish boy on a bicycle and stabbed him...human nature?

Like the 16-year-old who just stabbed a 38 year old nurse in the head and only stopped his killing spree because he wasn't strong enough to get the knife out...human nature? 

Like Samir Kuntar, who murdered a father and then beat a four year old to death?

Like the Palestinian cousins from Awarta who stabbed a three year old boy and slit the throat of a four month old baby?

Is this human nature?

And this ridiculous justification of terror from the Secretary General of the United Nations? Clearly he doesn't know what a human being maybe I can help a little...

Human nature is Dafna Meir - who blocked a murderer's knife from getting to her children...who fought with her last ounce of strength to save her babies.

Human nature is Roi Klein, who fell on a grenade to save his soldiers from harm.

Human nature is the commander who ran alone into a tunnel to try to save one of his soldiers.

Human nature is the young, unarmed soldier who saw his friend hit by a terrorists car, pinned down and about to be stabbed...running at the terrorist and being stabbed himself to save his friend's life.

Human nature is Ofer Ben Ami, who ran into a terror attack to help a victim, even though in the end he died for his bravery.

Human nature is the mother who saved her infant by shielding the baby with her body as a terrorist exploded himself in a cafe.

Human nature is the father who gathers his devastated, now motherless children into his arms and becomes their world, rather than focus on hate and revenge.

Human nature is the brother who drops everything and rushes north to where his sister is being held by hostages, who rushes in and carries her to safety despite any danger to himself.

Human nature, Mr. Ban, is remembering that despite morons like you, we live in one of the most just, moral countries in the world. A country where Arab and Jew and Christian are free to live as they can nowhere else in the Middle East. A country and a people that will live on long after you are merely a name on some website long since forgotten.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is not the day we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel...for some reason, today is the day Europe and others around the world remember. It doesn't really matter what day is chosen...I'm happy that at least an effort is made to remember.

It will be interesting, however, to watch as Europe it stands closer than any time in the last 70+ years to the very conditions that enabled the Holocaust to happen.

Jews are again being hated, persecuted, attacked, beaten and murdered in Europe today, simply because they are Jews. Hundreds of thousands are in the process of leaving...

You want to remember the Holocaust, Europe? Good for you - but please work harder at preventing the next one than remembering the last one.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Old Soldier...New Stories

Well, he's not really old, but the story is new.

We'll start with the current - David is in basic training. It is an intense period of training intended to train the mind and the body of the new soldier. The army is well aware of what it gets - thousands of teenage boys, immensely loved at home, perhaps, in many cases, even spoiled a bit. For the most part, they have never had to fight for their lives, never been at personal risk. This is Israel, so perhaps there are a far number who have come close to violence but nothing on the scale of war.

David's yeshiva was attacked by Arabs throwing rocks, even fireworks. One boy was injured by a rock to the head. But still, whatever scale they come in with, it is nothing as it could be before they finish their service and so they are trained. Gradually and completely. They learn to run...and run more. Together, faster, longer, farther.

They build their bodies, scale walls. They are exposed to cold, to limited food, to no sleep. All this under the careful watch of their commanding officers and away from the eyes of their parents. They come home and tell us some...

In David's case, he is sharing it all with Elie. For hours, they will talk. Elie had no one to speak with, no older brother or father who had been in the army. So Elie often spoke to me about what was happening. Shmulik less so; Davidi even less. A friend told me her son, in a similar unit to David, was undergoing survival training this week and she was worried. The commanders were promising they would break the soldiers...and so I wrote to David to ask him if he had it next week. "We had it last week," he wrote back, "it wasn't so bad." I quickly wrote that to my friend, hoping to reassure her.

Then I began to wonder if David had told Elie - he had. When I mentioned it, Elie right away told me that it was last week...too bad I didn't think to ask him first!

And then, "did I tell you what happened on my week?" I wasn't sure...and so he told me a story I had never heard.

Elie and another soldier were chosen for guard duty. The units go into the desert, set up a base. If it is very cold, they get sleeping bags and tents; if it is cold, they'll maybe get blankets but no tents. Each soldier is teamed with another to do a stretch of guard duty. That night it was Elie.

In the middle of the night, the second in command came to Elie and the other soldier. Motioned them to be quiet and to follow him. They went off, away from camp, got in the unit jeep and drove off. Elie was wondering what was happening - his unit had been left behind in the desert, unprotected. They drove a few minutes and then the jeep climbed up onto a hill overlooking the camp in the distance. Leaving the jeep running, the soldiers went to sit on the hood of the jeep where it was warm and the second in command called to the unit's commanding officer, "ready."

They left the microphone open and so Elie, the second soldier and the second in command could hear as the commanding officer ran into the camp, screaming for the unit to get up, asking them who was guarding the base? The soldiers looked around but didn't know. "Where are your guards? Who was on duty now? What happened to them?"

The boys couldn't figure out who was missing. The commanding officer helped get them organized. "Were they kidnapped? Did someone get on base?"

They all went searching, first the base, then all around - all while Elie and the others were watching from a hill above them. Then they widened the search, began searching up a hill...only it was the wrong hill. The second in command called to his commanding officer and said, "you're on the wrong hill."

Eventually, the soldiers understood that it was an exercise; that no one was missing. After telling the story, Elie said, "I'm glad I was on guard duty that night."

Week by week, David comes home. His body looks leaner, stronger, taller, older. More and more, he is looking like Elie. They were both born with blue eyes but there were many differences in how they, less and less.

Davidi learned right away that he had to learn to follow the rules of the army and his commanding officer. The last time he was home, he started to speak of where they might be stationed after basic training. Each place was worse than the next. I turned away, but not before Aliza saw that I was upset. Davidi didn't notice.

At this age, they look forward - training and a ceremony celebrating the end of the first rotation. More training and another ceremony...week by week, they move them forward. For now, I have relative peace and little worry. They are learning what they need to know, preparation for a time in the future that I cannot think about...and so I try to focus, like David, on now.

He won't be home this weekend...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Why French Jews are Lobsters

Let me put the pieces for you together...slowly now. Perhaps what seems like common sense to me, isn't so obvious. Or, more likely, it is obvious but you are hesitating. Years ago, I sat in a lunchroom at Columbia University to hear an Israeli speak about moving to Israel. His name was Yaakov Kirschen and he is the amazingly talented artist behind the Dry Bones cartoons.

Kirschen told a story about lobsters - something that observant Jews to not eat...but his point was what mattered. He explained that he had wanted to purchase lobster salad, but the store was closed, so instead he took two live lobsters home and tried to cook them. He put water on the stove, let it heat up, and then attempted to put the lobsters in...but they kept crawling out. And then someone came and explained to him the proper way to cook lobsters, which are cold-blooded things.

You put them in a nice big pot of cold water. Put on the cover...and then turn the flame up. The water will get warm but the lobster will think, "it was cold before; it will be cold again...I'll just sit here." 

Then it begins to get hot...and hotter...and very hot...and each time, the lobster thinks, "it was cold before; it will be cold again...I'll just sit here." And pretty soon, Kirschen explained, he had cooked lobsters.

Why was he telling this story to a bunch of religious kids at Columbia University. "You're all lobsters," he said. And my heart fell because I knew that he was right. I knew it then; I know it now.

To the French Jews - you are all lobsters. You stay in a place where the water is getting hotter and hotter.

1. I googled "terror attacks jews france" and got over 12 million hits.

2. A Jewish teacher was just assaulted in, and two months ago...

3. A Jewish deli in Paris was attacked and four people were murdered - not randomly, as the Chief Idiot of Washington would have you believe.

4. A Jewish father and two children were murdered in Paris.

5. Jews are now...yesterday...being told not to wear kippot (yarmulka/skull caps) in Marseilles.

Yes, I know that many French Jews have already moved to Israel in the last year and more are planning to come this year than ever isn't enough. It isn't fast enough.

In a land where you cannot light a menorah...yes, the end, it was done under a massive police presence; in a land where you cannot wear a kippah - this is a land where Jews should not live.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy says that France did not fight the Germans just so the Jews could now be forced to leave...personally, I don't remember the French fighting the Nazis, but never mind - that is France's problem, not ours. In a land where Jews cannot freely and safely live as Jews, the water is already too hot.

We all wish the German Jews...the European Jews...could have imagined what Hitler was going to do; that they would have believed his words, his promises, and chosen to leave before the gates of Europe, America, British-Mandated Palestine and elsewhere were slammed shut. We have no excuse now not to believe it is possible, even likely, that more and more Jews will die in the streets of Europe in the coming days, weeks, and months.

In 1933, there was no real option. In 2016, there is only one real option.

Never again, will the gates of our holy land be closed to Jews - that was the promise made on May 14, 1948 and it is the promise each of our sons and daughters make when they wear the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces.

The gates are open...the planes are waiting. Israel is not another's a short flight. Get. Out. Now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Israel

A post for Sarah Tuttle-Singer...who asked and so I'll answer as best I can...

My Israel is a dream that started when I was 13, but only came true when I was 33.

My Israel is an island, a safe haven, a beacon that shines through the choppy waters that surrounds her.

My Israel is a message broadcast from heart to heart and brain to brain - to every Jew around the world. This is home. If you are in danger, if you live in fear, if others will not let you be who you are - come home.

My Israel is the woman who handed me a shawl and warm tea at 4:30 in the morning at the Kotel (Western Wall in Jerusalem), as I waited for the very first minyan of the day to start the morning prayers, and my Israel are the birds that took off exactly at dawn and started circling above the heads of the people praying as the new day was born. By the third time I experienced this, I understood it was part of the wonder of the time, the place.

My Israel is a land that calls its sons to serve, calls on its mothers to be brave enough to stand by when those sons are called to war. It is a land where people run bravely into danger more often than they run from it.

My Israel is a home for a people who have wandered but always faced to Jerusalem when they prayed, no matter where they were. It is a land that welcomes all religions - the only land in the region where Christians and Jews can safely worship.

My Israel is the Bedouin who cleans our streets; the Arab doctor who helped me this summer; the Russian nurse who took care of my father recently; the French neighbors who live across the street; the Yemenite man who lives next door; the Moroccan who lives just past the next neighbor; the American family after that, the Iranian from whom I love to buy shoes.

My Israel is a land that has so many problems - but none so bad that when others face tragedy, our doctors, nurses, rescue teams and aid workers hesitate to scramble and fly across the world - to Haiti, to Kenya, to Missouri, to Indonesia...

My Israel is a land of miracles. Every. Single. Day.

My Israel is a promise my husband made to me more than thirty years ago, a promise I made to my children twenty-three years ago. He agreed to come to the land and make it his home and now when I ask him if he wants to travel, he tells me there is no reason and so most often, we vacation somewhere close by.

My Israel is where no matter how left or right we are, we meet in the center without hesitation when tragedy or need presents itself.

My Israel is a land so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart - from the northern mountains to the southern desert; from the river to the sea; from a bustling city like Tel Aviv, to a hauntingly ancient and yet modern one like Jerusalem, from the heights of the Hermon to the depths of the shores beside the Dead Sea.

My Israel is a given to me and one I gave to my children.

My Israel is a promise that tomorrow will come and we will still be here. A land that defies time and logic.

My Israel is a land where an ancient language that had never died, was still reborn.

My Israel is the look of the man on the train who heard my son's first responder beeper go off. "What happened?" And as I listen, we can hear the beeper announce that there's been a shooting attack. So the man and I watch as my son tries try to identify what happened and where.

My Israel is the hugs a friend gives me when I tell her that I missed my soldier son's call by one minute and it made me cry.

My Israel is the twenty trays of food that my neighborhood brought to my home two days before Rosh Hashana three years ago after I had surgery.

My Israel is the food auction that my neighborhood (and an amazing catering couple host) each year that raises money for charity. And, my Israel is the Book Swap that my community holds twice a year, raising tens of thousands of shekels for charity with the help of dozens of volunteers and hundreds of participants.

My Israel is a request for a ride somewhere that is answered by four people within two minutes.

My Israel is a bride in mourning after her father and brother are murdered days before her wedding...dancing with thousands of people who come from all over Israel (and from around the world) just days later, simply because she announced that she was inviting all of Israel to attend.

My Israel is the look the woman across the seat from me on the bus this morning gave when the man sitting next to her kept squeezing the empty soda bottle (which he couldn't hear because he had earphones on).

My Israel is the rise in tension and worry as we pass more than 100 days of endless attacks including several successive days in which the light rail train in Jerusalem has been attacked.

My Israel is my oldest daughter, who married a 2nd generation Israeli whose family came from Libya, and has brought two third generation Israelis into this world.

My Israel is my oldest son who has gone to war twice for this country, who married a young woman from America, and together have brought their first-generation Israeli child into our family.

My Israel is my middle child, who served with honor, works in hi-tech, and married a girl whose family came from Iran.

My Israel is my third and youngest son, the first to be born in Israel, who is somewhere out there at this moment, wearing the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces and carries my heart with him.

My Israel is my youngest daughter who turns 16 this week. She was born in this land, has never left it. She has heard gunfire and explosions for the last three months and knows to send me a message when she leaves her school, catches a bus, arrives in Jerusalem, and is on the bus home.

My Israel is the only place I have ever felt home; the only place I have never wanted to leave; and the only place I rush back to as quickly as I can. Though I left my Israel when I was a young child, and again when I was 16 after a summer here, my Israel became my world 23 years ago and remains a focal point of my life.

My Israel.

The Saddest Thing I Read Today...

I think the saddest thing I read today was this statement:
My experience has been usually when someone is arrested for a crime, they probably did it, or were a part of it.
People are debating in Israel about the use of torture and the British law of administrative detention which allows, contrary to American law, for the government to hold an individual without trial or accusation for a specified period of time. In the vast majority of instances, this law has been used to detain Arabs who are suspected of being involved in terror attacks. In recent months, it has been used against Jews and so the debate that at one time seemed to be left against right (left worrying about the Arabs; right focusing on security), now shifts to a new plain.

The left has called for the right to join the fight against Administrative Detention...and some have agreed. I don't. I think the law is a necessary part of our reality, to be used against Arab, Jew, Christian or Buddhist as needed. The key factor, however, is the "as needed" part. I believe it should only be used against a ticking bomb and that ticking bomb damn well better be ticking.

It's better than the law in America, which severely restricts police and security in those crucial hours when they know there is someone out there, about to attack and lives will be saved if you can take one element of the chain out of the picture; if you can get more information because the plan has been activated...people are heading out to kill.... At the level of proving in court, perhaps the security forces are lacking but they have enough experience to know...the plan has been activated and people are about to die. Final proof of guilt cannot be made but there is overwhelming information from credible sources. Because this is not legal in the US, the police are in the position that they have to wait until you are killed to stop your murderer. No, thank you.

It's worse than the law in America because it opens itself up to be abused. It is meant to stop a terrorist or criminal before he launches the attack or before the final elements of his plan can be activated. It based on firm and concrete information.

We believe that more important than catching the terrorist, is stopping him. Life above all. When you know that a known terrorist is planning a major attack, so the priority is to remove the terrorist to a "safe" zone while you find the pieces and dismantle the plan.

Administrative Detention is a drastic measure because it is well recognized that it violates the right of  the one, which is never something a country, a democracy, a land of justice, should do unless the alternative is too horrible to bear. An article I read recently phrased it more clearly when it asked, "how many dead Americans are you willing to accept?" Choose - because that is the choice, or it should be, when things like Administrative Detention or torture are used in a country that prides itself on the morality of its laws, its heritage, its commitment to life and its past, and its hopes for the future.

Three Jewish boys were arrested five months ago and put in Administrative Detention. One is from my neighborhood, has been in my home, was raised by good people, and is the epitome of the human side of this argument. He was taken from his home without any explanation other than that he would be held for six months. All sorts of wild claims were made, but no charges were filed, no evidence produced and last week, after five months, he was released. With no claims, no charges, no evidence - merely a statement that he was a member of what they called a "Jewish terrorist group" and an admission that the so-called "evidence" that the Shabak (Israeli secret security agency) had was "false."

False? Are you kidding me? You stole 5 months in the life of a barely 18-year-old boy for nothing? On the suspicion of God knows what? And your "evidence" was FALSE? What, are you like new on the job? Have you never heard of the concept of INVESTIGATING?

Okay, breathe...let's try this again.

Several boys...and yes, they are boys because even at 18, a boy is still there...even at 19...even at 20. The man is there. I've seen him, watched him evolve. But, God Almighty, 18 is still a boy - even, even, even in Israel where we force them to grow up fast, where the man steps in so much sooner than the mother would like.

I guess, if you can't provide the evidence in an investigation, you need to interrogate potentially involved people. I get that. I do...but do you need to prevent them from sleeping for THREE days and THREE nights? Do you need to hold them down until they vomit? Is it really necessary to break a boy to the point where he attempts suicide? And if you take it to that level, can you trust the information you are getting? What real threat did these boys pose? No one really knows.
Could they have stopped the suspected threat by applying house arrest until such time as there is real evidence? Well it seems that some or all of the boys were under house arrest, so what changed so drastically that they had to be pulled in? The answer was nothing and so the only reason they were pulled into custody, given the admission that there was no evidence, has to be political. And that, is not acceptable.

What we do know is that a horrible man tried to stab people at a gay parade more than 10 years ago. He was caught. Luckily, that time, no one died. He was tried on the evidence, sentenced to jail and served his time. He was never rehabilitated. Festering inside this moron was a hate of all things that are different, all things that are not him and so, brilliant police that they are, they released him according to the terms of his sentencing at a time that the judge could never have foreseen...just three weeks before the next gay parade in Jerusalem.

Ten years ago, the judge could not have known ten years ago...but the police should have known a few months ago. So the man got out, collected a knife, and went to the parade and committed the murder he failed to commit the first time. That was a classic case of when Administrative Detention should have been used. He'd done it once; was committed to do it again. He had the perfect opportunity that could have been denied simply by taking his freedom of movement away for three weeks.

On the heels of that shame came another failure. Someone evil went into an Arab village and committed arson...and murder. A perfect, beautiful little Arab child was murdered, his parents died shortly after - a family needlessly destroyed over...over what? That has always been the question. Why? Was it, as so many would like you to believe - a Jewish terrorist attack - perhaps in retaliation for so many Arab attacks...perhaps out of pure hatred...or was it part of a clan war within the village?

Eyewitnesses claim they saw two men...despite this, the police have now indicted one Jewish man and said he acted alone. They indicted him months and months after three Jewish boys were put in Administrative Detention, months after several other boys were arrested but never charged, refused the right to see lawyers or family, and yes, tortured by lack of sleep and beatings. The embarrassed police were embarrassed no more. They were feeding the media - we know who did it, but we don't have the evidence yet.

Wait, if you don't have the evidence, how do you know who did it?

We have the evidence but it isn't good enough to show anyone yet, the authorities seemed to be saying. But that was just an excuse. Israel has a solution for this. We are a democracy, a land of justice. If you have evidence and you don't want to release it, show it to a judge. They showed something to the judges...who ordered several of the boys released already. No evidence. No justification.

This has been happening for weeks in Israel. Last night, a woman stopped me to tell me that I should speak to her husband. For many years, the subject of interrogation and torture has been not only a study of his, but his work as well. Torture doesn't ensure a positive outcome, she said. Even in cases where someone is a ticking bomb. There are other methods that could be used, particularly in this case, when these are not ticking bombs.

So many comments, by people who I once thought were intelligent enough to know better. Such assumptions, the epitome of what Judaism does not encourage. We are commanded to give someone the benefit of the doubt, to assume the best unless or until the worst is proven. In short, just as innocent until proven guilty is a cornerstone of a democracy, working hard to believe the best of someone is a cornerstone of Judaism. Only now that is being abandoned by so many who claim to live their lives according to Judaism, and it is painful to watch.

But by far, the most outlandish thing I saw was a "radio host" - who is quick to point out that he is not a "journalist" published his opinion - the boy/man who has been arrested and indicted is a monster. Well, he might be - and he might not be. Certainly, the young man's wife and family don't think he is. His wife says he was with her on the night of the is for the Shabak to prove right or wrong but currently, there's his alibi.

So, in short - I have always been a firm believer in the most basic of principles within a just society and that is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Not by public opinion, not by radio hosts, not by those who want to boost their ratings or have agendas of their own. That is the beauty of American law and Israel's justice system as well.

That anyone could write, "My experience has been usually when someone is arrested for a crime, they probably did it, or were a part of it" is a betrayal of the foundations of this country and our religion. Your experience? You're a radio talk show host, for God's sake. What experience do you have?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Gift of Housework

I rarely have days where I can stay home and just focus on my house...other than Friday, when I am focusing on preparing for the Sabbath. That centers around food mostly, and cleaning the well-used areas. It doesn't normally allow for something as simple as cleaning out your closet or conquering that which clutter has long ago vanquished.

Since being sick this summer, I've fallen to every cold, every cough, every whatever that I encounter. This time, I started to give in and decided to fight back a bit. I'm home...but I'm accomplishing something. I've emptied and refolded and organized everything in my closet and now I'm tackling my husband's closet.

I long to have hours to write and yet, now that I have them, I long for something more practical, more focused. So, for now, I mix my day with home and work...much as I mix most of my life. I check Facebook and the news sites to see what is happening. Have they caught the terrorist who killed two and injured many others last Friday in Tel Aviv? Have there been any other attacks?

The skies are darkening by the minute - we are in for yet another winter storm. It is the season I love most in Israel and I'm enjoying the sweaters, the rain, the feeling that the land is being fed and enriched and already starting to grow after the hot, dry months.

It took me many years to actually begin enjoying housework, to not hate washing dishes and see it as a waste of time. I still hate laundry :-)

I'm itching to start another novel...and thinking about the other one that I've completed and done nothing with. Someone called me recently, telling me that I was wasting my talent and that I should go door to door in New York to find a publisher or an agent. But I'm not in New York, I explained. I'm here in Israel.

So, I take today as one where I think only a little. I work less than I should, using being tired and sick as an excuse I clean my house more than I usually have time for on a Thursday when I'm running from meeting to meeting and trying to close out a long list of things I have to do before calling it a week...and I wonder about the novel dancing around in my head...if I should start it...put ideas into words and words onto the magical computer screen which will make it into a story.

No, this post isn't about being a soldier's mother...or anyone's mother, for that matter. It's just about a person who longs to fulfill a dream. I've been granted so many in my life, do I dare to dream of another?

I dreamed, from the time I was just 13 years old of coming home to Israel...and here I am. I dreamed of marrying a man...and met him and did. I dreamed of having children...3 like my parents, perhaps even 4...and was blessed with 5. At some point, I began dreaming of watching my children marry...and three have...and of grandchildren...and have been so blessed with Yosef, Michal and Aharon.

And as I dream, I put the soup up to cook, chop vegetables to be roasted and more to be added to the soup. I throw in a batch of brownies because Aliza is going to a friend's house for Shabbat and will take them along.

I unload the dishwasher and put the next and last load in, the garbage is out but there's always always more to do...and I dream again of a story that is waiting to be written...and maybe, just maybe, an agent who will sell it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

When "Big" Names Make BIG Mistakes

Everyone makes a mistake, even the greatest of what chance does anyone have of escaping that moment when they are flat out, embarrassingly wrong? Well, at that moment, they have two options...they can admit it, or they can compound it by standing by their initial mistake and making it worse. That is the moment when the difference between big names and great names becomes most apparent.

A big name will use big talk to explain his position; a great name will admit he spoke beyond his rights without using excuses. I will be honest and say that until today, I never heard of Reb Mottle or his blog. It is likely, he never heard of me. He has a son in the 10th grade...I have a daughter in the 10th grade. We are both, according to most people, what you would call a "settler." He lives in Tekoa; I live in Maale Adumim.

Yesterday, he called a fellow Jew, "a monster." He's never met the person; has no real access to the evidence that may or may not prove the person's guilt. The evidence, if it exists, has not been made public. It has not been examined by the "monster" or his lawyer. No trial has been scheduled, let alone taken place and yet, Reb Mottle, contrary to Jewish law, feels he is qualified to say Amiram Ben Uliel is guilty of a crime that deserves, without question and without reservation, to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The crime, that is, not the individual indicted - but not tried, not convicted. Innocent until PROVEN guilty is an inherent part of the law - at least in Reb Mottle's precious America that he holds in such high esteem...but also in this land, that I love above all others.

Until Amiram Ben Uliel is PROVEN guilty, he is innocent...but not to Reb Mottle...who will tell you, "I think he did it and I think he's a monster."

You think? You think? What right do you have to speak this way of another Jew; to find him guilty without examining a single shred of evidence? To that, Reb Mottle has replied, "I'm a talk radio host, I'm not a journalist." And then he goes on to explain that his opinion is "by no means the law here in Israel" and that he has "no pull whether he's convicted or not" but still, he'll remind us quickly, "I get the honor of sharing my opinion."

Opinion...not fact. Not based on facts because Reb Mottle doesn't actually have any facts.

"I am simply weighing the evidence we have before us," says Reb Mottle. What evidence? That the Shin Bet indicted someone? That's not evidence. They also arrested an 18 year old boy and held him for FIVE months and then just released him with an "oops, the evidence was false". What evidence, Reb Mottle, allows you to slander someone because slander it is...until it is proven...and you don't have the means to prove it and so you have put your name, your integrity, and the essence of your being...on the hope that the government can prove an indictment that took them months and months to produce. All you did was decide that if someone is arrested, they must be guilty. That isn't democracy; that isn't Israel. And your need to lash out is contrary to Jewish law.

You have every right to condemn the crime - I condemn it in the strongest terms and want the guilty person brought to justice. There is no excuse for attacking an innocent family, for murdering a child. Did Amiram Ben-Uliel do this - the key here, Reb Mottle is that you BELIEVE, but you do not KNOW.

They suspected him from the start, suggests Reb Mottle. Really? And yet, they arrested so many others; held them while denying them their rights. You downplay the possibility that these boys were tortured and yet we know that they were. The Attorney General has admitted ordering it. And then you just get nasty. You compare "a little sleep deprivation" to you suffering a bit without an air conditioner. Your facetious and rather patronizing comment shows a shocking level of intolerance and a dangerous level of blind ignorance.

Is three days with no sleep really considered "a little"? Is holding someone's head until they vomit acceptable? A Jewish boy was driven to the point of attempting you really believe they were only tortured "a little." What would you do if that had been done to your child? Did you actually bother to find out what was done to them before denying it?

You say that Amiram ben Uliel is a "fringe element among Jews." I personally can't argue that because I've never met the boy and other than what the Shin Bet wants you to believe, I don't know anything about him other than that he is married; 21 years old; and being accused of a crime which, you agree he has confessed to after being tortured...oh, I'm sorry, a little tortured.

Ben-Uliel's father is the rabbi of the Nokdim Mechina (preparatory religious program before the army) where my son, Elie went for almost two years. Nokdim - which is right next door to where Reb Mottle lives and no more a hotbed of extremism than his yishuv.

There was nothing extremist about Nokdim, the mechina, or the rabbis who taught there. Don't you find it strange that the only suspect detained in the Duma case who was NOT placed under a Shin Bet restraining order was the one they finally indicted...especially if they were supposedly looking at him from the start. Nu, Reb Mottle? Isn't that strange?

What of the inconsistencies between eyewitness accounts from the time of the attack...and the current case being built against Ben-Uliel? Eyewitnesses said there were two individuals...and yet now the State is claiming that Ben-Uliel acted alone. Reb Mottle - can you address this inconsistency? No, I didn't think so. Did you even know about it? Probably not.

And then, you went from nasty to just absurd. You compared the laws of Judaism...because yes, Judaism includes Biblical law (or do you not keep Shabbat and follow the laws of Kashrut (Kosher)...and where did those laws come from?) with Islamic law. Absurd!

Reb Mottle Says the Bible is the Same as Sharia?

One of your more outlandish statements: "Replace Iron age Biblical law with Islamic law  - they are exactly the same." Now, I don't know what "Iron age Biblical law" is...I know what Biblical law is...but Iron age Biblical law? No clue. So I Googled it and got...ONE result leading to an article entitled, "Gay Couple Returns to KY Clerk Office and Are Refused Marriage License Again." I didn't read the article, but I have to my many years of using the Google search engine, I don't think I have EVER gotten one result for anything...

I can only assume Reb Mottle's Iron Age Biblical law is the same as Biblical law. What kind of a rabbi compares Jewish law to Islam and says they are the, not just the same, "exactly the same."

When was the last time Jewish law ordered a woman who was raped to then be stoned? Does Judaism call for the execution of women if seen in the company of men who are not blood relatives? Does Judaism allow a man to beat his wife any time he wants? Maybe your Judaism does, Reb Mottle...mine does not.

"They want and believe the same thing as ISIS." Seriously? In what way is what Ben-Uliel believes the same as ISIS? How may Hilltop youth do you know, Reb Mottle? ISIS believes in the extreme right of Islam to rule the world, every corner of it and that it is, indeed their future to rule over the infidels.

If you are just a "talk show host" maybe you should consider talking about something least until there is enough information for someone who doesn't have the facts to offer an honest opinion based on something other than - the government said and so it must be true.

Insulting Israel is An Opinion Too?

Another great line in today's show...Reb Mottle throws in that Israel is "not even as free a country as America but they are far better from these folks." I guess "these folks" are Amiram Ben-Uliel and the others who were arrested and tortured. But let's focus on the anti-Israel comment. As an Israeli, I will tell you, Reb Mottle, I never was as free in the States as I have been here in Israel. I'm amazed that in your attempt to slander Ben-Uliel, you even manage to attack Israel just a bit as well. Talented, that is...

And then, having insulted Israel, Reb Mottle's proof comes from the nature of the Israeli security forces, the government, and pretty much everything else. But it's important to realize that the indictment must be true comes because, Reb Mottle says, the more high profile the case, "the more the government has to cross its Ts and dot its Is". Has the good rabbi missed how many hundreds of indictments have been dismissed in Israel's history because the government FAILED to prove their case? Did he fail to hear of the several young men released in the last few days because the government had NO evidence? Has he never heard of cases where the indictment failed to be proved - in extremely high profile cases, including, for example, against his own neighbor, Avigdor Lieberman?

Reb Mottle says that the lawyers for these boys want us to believe that Israel grabbed these boys and tortured them so that they'd confess and then asks why they would do that...

There are plenty of answers to that question - and not one of them is the weak response Reb Mottle uses to dismiss the entire argument. He says people have told him that the government did it because they hate these youth...that's just stupid.

But the government being embarrassed, months and months after the attack, that they are still unable to prove who did it - now that would be a reason to start arresting and torturing people into a confession. The fact that there is tremendous international pressure to solve this case and the government has repeatedly failed...there you go...more reason to push to solve it now. Perhaps the fact that the Duma attack is being used to justify the current intifada, the one the government has failed to stop or even properly acknowledge as an intifada. Three solid reasons...

But never mind. All is good because single-handed, Reb Mottle has stepped in to save the day, "I believe this guy did it."

And then he turns to his audience. "I'm going to ask you to think for a second...I need you to think about this." Gee, that's not patronizing.

"Let's just pretend the government has the evidence it says it has....that they weren't tortured...that they actually confess." Then he admits there was a "degree of physical pressure put here". And then he goes into a slow, dramatic description of the atrocious Duma attack - the only thing missing is the violins in the background as the tempo rises and the audience is nearly prompted to lynch the defendant...oh wait, there hasn't been a trial...well, no matter - let's just execute the kid and move on.

Reb Mottle says Amiram Ben Uliel has no alibi on the night of the Duma attack...actually, Reb Mottle may not accept the alibi, but the fact is Ben Uliel does have one.

Reb Mottle says the baby WAS the target of the attack...and he knows that how? Can you tell me how this Orthodox Jew knew there was a baby in the house and more, targeted him?

Never mind all this...the bottom line here is that talk host "celebrity" Reb Mottle himself has decided, "I think he did it and I think he's a monster." With that, and another ad urging listeners to check out his website, Reb Mottle closes another show.

And I'm left with a simple thought. I wonder what would happen to his ratings if people considered the fact that Reb Mottle ignored the case of Mordechai Meyer, who was arrested 5 months ago, right after the Duma attack...held in administrative detention all this time, until he was suddenly released in the last few days. No indictment, no accusation, no evidence...only an admission that the perfect Shin Bet, in which Reb Mottle has so much faith, had "false" information.

Mordy is back with his family now. I wonder what Reb Mottle will say if Amiram too is returned to his family by a judge who looks at the government's "evidence" and finds it equally as lacking.

Stay tuned...and for the sake of true democracy, remember that despite all the big names, we are still innocent until proven guilty.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Cost of False Accusations

Israel is in the midst of a terror wave. We've been in other waves of terror, otherwise known as Intifadas, several times in the past. It's hard to count how many because there are rarely clear beginnings and no clear ends. This one "began" in October. I don't think I remember the excuse given for this one but I know that the results have been tragic. 

Some say it began out of revenge for something Israel did, but honestly, that's nonsense. One thing that marks this period is the level to which the security forces are going to apprehend suspects. Sadly, the greatest efforts to apprehend Arab suspects of terror attacks against Jews seems to be the man on the street...the man with the gun who acts quickly to stop a stabbing attack, a ramming attack, whatever.

There are sometimes armed civilians but often these are quick thinking Border guards and other soldiers who realize in the first instances, that before their eyes, they are watching terror happen. Sadly, though, many of Israel's security forces are engaged in a balancing act, attempting to root out something that exists, but nowhere near the level they suspect. Terrified of appearing to fulfill the baseless claims of those outside Israel (many of whom are funded by Arab groups seeking to offset bad PR that results from the incessant Arab attacks), the Israeli government is indeed hell bent on a witch hunt against right-wing Jewish groups.

So, investigations were launched immediately after an Arab child was murdered in an arson attack (his parents later died of their injuries in the same attack). The security forces hinted and the media directly accused many Jewish youth. Administrative Detention is something left over from the time the British ruled this land almost 70 years ago. It gave the British the right to arrest and hold someone without trial. Israel has used this method in the past - primarily when there is an imminent threat of an attack. Justifiable, perhaps, under those conditions...but not when used/abused for political purposes. Three young that shady area of life when a man isn't really quite a man yet, but still a boy in so many ways...were arrested, including one boy from my neighborhood. They were taken from their homes and accused ...of what, we have no idea, but they were tortured, held without given the right to see lawyers and family. Some were tortured - beaten, held until they vomited, kept from sleeping for days. 

And in the far, only one person has been indicted, at least three have been released with no charges - including the boy from my neighborhood.

Can you imagine someone coming to your home...taking your son...beating him, keeping him from you,..torturing him...and then simply releasing him...oops, guess we were wrong? Guess someone gave us bad information? Bummer?


Collectively, these boys are referred to as Hilltop youth...simply because they have chosen to live a simple life on the beautiful mountains of our land. They farm, raise animals, learn and are deeply religious young people. I have been to some of these hilltops - some are without electricity...all are filled with love. These are not violent people...these are young men and women, sometimes individuals, sometimes families, who love their land and are deeply religious. They are not violent...for God's sake, they are farmers and pioneers living in an age when the world doesn't understand such simplicity.

A friend passed this letter to me, asking that people sign it. 

  • Yasher Koach is a way of saying thank you; it means wishing you strength.

  • Eretz Yisrael is the land of Israel, eternally promised to the Jewish people.

  • Am Yisrael is the people of Israel, eternally promised Eretz Yisrael.

  • Hashem is the God of Israel, Who is above all others.

  • Shabak...well, that's the Israeli secret security agency who apparently is so busy hunting down Jewish boys, they kind of can't be bothered with Arab terrorism.

I ask you to write to the email below (send your name and where you live (city, country is enough) and ask that your  name be added to this letter. It is a note of appreciation to the parents of these boys

The cost of false accusations is being paid by at least a dozen Jewish youth...please sign this letter of support to their parents and to them.

And may the strength of the Shabak finally be turned to fighting for Israel, not against her.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Irony of the Day

Today is January 3, 2016 - this morning, Elie left for a week of Reserve duty with his unit. They are going to kill me (but they probably know I'm going to do this...though I wasn't sure myself, but I's a picture I begged them to let me take this morning...two of my three soldiers - both in uniform heading to two different bases. Elie gave David a ride part of the way).

Two different uniforms. David is a new soldier and so must wear the "dress uniform" with the white t-shirt. Elie is in the Reserves and so is wearing the "work" uniform that Davidi will change into once he gets to base. Elie's is more comfortable...and wrinkled.

They are both not wearing a coat. Apparently, David's commanding officer agrees with me. He ordered David to wear the army coat...and he he can't get into trouble...just not all the time...hopefully.

Anyway, Elie left for Reserve duty. He told his young daughter that he was going to "miluim" - she says the word. If you ask her where her Abba is, she will say "miluim." My youngest daughter asked when he would be back and and then asked if little Michali understands that he won't be back for almost a week. No, I answered, and don't tell her. She won't understand but she would get upset.

Anyway...back to the point...

Today, Elie went to Reserve Duty. Exactly seven years ago today...he went to war...or perhaps more accurately, war came to him.
According to YNET:
For the first time since the operation in Gaza got underway, IDF artillery cannons started to shell targets in the Strip.
IDF artillery cannons began pounding the eastern sector of the Gaza Strip around 4 pm Saturday. Ynet correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai reported that portable artillery batteries are engaging in a heavy bombardment of the area.
This is the first time in three years that the IDF has fired artillery shells at Gaza targets. Most shells are landing in what the Palestinians characterize as the "security zone" adjacent to the Gaza Strip fence. The IDF is targeting rocket launching sites in Jabaliya, Khan Younis, and Beit Hanoun.
Palestinian witnesses said the barrage caused a large explosion in Gaza City. There was no immediate word of casualties.
Meanwhile, Air Force aircraft continued to drop leaflets in Gaza, calling on residents to leave their homes in order to avoid injury. The leaflets dropped Saturday read: "Area resident, as result of the acts undertaken by terror activists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and operate in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately."
The Air Force targeted more than 40 sites in Gaza Saturday, including a launching site used for firing rockets on the southern city of Ashdod. A training facility and underground tunnel were also attacked. Overall, the Air Force struck more than 800 targets since the Gaza operation got underway.
IDF officials say that the aerial assaults on Gaza have achieved their objectives and were planned to cause Hamas significant damage by targeting terror infrastructure and senior figures. 
The day before, knowing that moment would come, I had posted one of my favorite posts. It was, I think, the moment I realized life was not normal and all attempts to make it so were silly.

Scatterbrained...Just Scatterbrained 

Life in Israel right now isn't very normal, though we are fighting very hard to make it as normal as possible. Almost daily, there are terror attacks. On Friday, an Arab went into a supermarket with a backpack and pretended to shop...only later did anyone realize he was waiting. Waiting until there were more people on the street...perhaps waiting believing he was about to die. At the entrance to the supermarket, he put his backpack on a shopping cart...took out his gun...and began to fire.

This is why Elie and David went to the army today; this is why Elie went to war seven years ago. I hoped and prayed that it would not turn into did. Four years later, I prayed again that we would not go to war again...we did, he did. Two years later, I again prayed...Israel went to war, but that time, Elie was not called up.

Now, I wonder when the next war will be...and if one of my sons will be called up...and perhaps as horrible as that thought is, the thought that two or three would be called up is even more devastating. I thought of that this morning when I took the picture of the two...I can't imagine three would ever be called up at the same time...except...except...except.

A Picture to Make You Smile

I saw this picture on Facebook (credit to The Israel Project who reposted it from the חיילים מצייצים group).

I just posted that I was missing the boy David was, even as I welcome and love the man he is becoming. I don't believe in coincidences. I believe everything is part of a plan...burning a piece of bread in the toaster, so you are delayed and have to make another one...even something as simple as not finding your hair brush, losing your phone for the fourth time...whatever.

So, here's my not-a-coincidence for the day...minutes after posting the previous article, I saw this picture on Facebook to remind me that inside the man...there will always be the boy...

Missing the Boy

David came home this weekend. He's got a cold, sore fever, but clearly tired. A bit sunburned from being outside...tired.

When he first came home, we talked for a few minutes...and then he went downstairs to say hello to Elie and Lauren, but more, in a way, to see his niece. A while later, he came up and went to his room to unpack, do laundry, rest.

I left him mostly to himself on Friday - and he took the time. At one point, my granddaughter came upstairs (she's an adorable 2 years old) and yelled up the steps, "Veed, come down!"

David...if you say it in Hebrew, as we do, his name sounds like Hebrew, we stress the last second syllable rather than the first and so, for a two year old, Daveed becomes "Veed."

He was more subdued that usual, mostly because he wasn't feeling well. He's had some very hard weeks in the army, spending nights sleeping in the freezing desert...running farther than he has ever run before. Everything is about timing.

The only time he talked a lot was with Elie, or with Elie, Haim, our son-in-law, or BZ, Elie and Lauren's cousin. They speak the language of the army and that's the language David is speaking now. I waited to see the boy come out, but he really didn't. Instead is the man, a bit thinner, a bit tanner, a bit stronger and each time he seems a bit taller.

He will be 20 years old this Wednesday...I won't see him on his birthday. He called a few minutes ago to tell me that he's supposed to speak to me to tell me he can't speak to me. They are ordered to call their parents and even though I know the drill, and knew he wouldn't be able to call me...he still has to call.

I told him the usual things, that I loved him, stay warm, have a great week...can you take the brownies I baked for you into the field? Be careful...

We said goodbye and I remembered - shoot! I forgot to wish him a happy birthday in advance. Heart heavy once again for yet another missed opportunity, I typed "Forgot to tell you happy birthday for Wednesday."

And then, a minute later he typed, "thank you :-)"

It was will be enough, to get through the day and through the week. I missed the boy this week...I know that as time goes by, he will come back less and less until, perhaps, one day, he'll be gone completely. I don't remember it happening so fast with Elie and Shmulik...

Friday, January 1, 2016

Dear Son, Wear the Damn Coat

It's a macho thing. It's a boy/man thing. It's stupid.

In Israeli society, or at least in the army, soldiers are united by a sense of serving together, of love for their fellow soldiers. David is working hard in the army. Aliza asked him why he didn't let some of the other boys carry something or do something. David looked surprised at her question and then realized he needed to explain.

"Haven't you ever heard the term "mishpachat Tzahal"? The Tzahal (army) family? That is it in a nutshell. David won't work less so that others will work more. He will carry what he can, do what he can. I'm very proud of him. He's an idiot.

No, he's not. What he his brothers before a combat soldier.

As united as the army is, they are also divided into units - this serves the army as each soldier is trained within a unit to do what the army needs as a whole. They don't only need ground forces or artillery, tanks or an air force. They need it all and so the boys (and girls!) are sent to units, each having a particular job during war...and during the non-war periods (because, in 68 years and counting, we've never had peace).

In a larger sense, the army is divided into two categories - kravi and jobnik. Kravi means combat; jobnik means...well, non-combat. It's a silly way to define the largest part of the army; there are way more jobnik positions than kravi and way more soldiers who become jobniks rather than are able or choose to go to kravi.

Each of my sons was asked - will you serve in a combat unit...each answered yes...I'm very proud of them...and they're all idiots.

No, they're not. But Davidi is on his way home in what is likely the coldest, wettest storm of the year so far and I'll bet you anything he isn't wearing a coat. You see, dear friends, there are things that kravi do and things that jobniks do...

Jobniks pin their beret to their shoulders rather than rely on the loop of the uniform to hold it in place. Kravi don't do that because...well, they're kravi. Um...I'm with the jobniks on this one.

Jobniks have subtle differences about their uniform - many don't have to wear combat boots...which makes sense because those boots are heavy (and expensive) and they aren't really needed if you aren't working with heavy equipment, at war, might drop a gun on your foot, whatever.

And apparently, "only jobniks wear coats" over their "dress" uniforms. Dress uniforms are worn for ceremonies, but they are also worn to and from the home. The army looks its best when it travels on our buses and the uniforms they wear are made not to wrinkle, are thinner rather than the normal uniforms they wear on base - stronger, thicker, meant for working in, etc.

And they are given two coats - the dress one and the fleece one for when they are base.

So, you'll see a whole bunch of kravi soldiers shivering today as they rush between the rain drops to get home. They're idiots.

Yes, they are. It's cold out and you're coughing. You're killing me here, David, please, I love you. Put on the damn coat!

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