Thursday, June 30, 2016

Last Night She Danced...

How do you eulogize a 13-and-a-half year old girl?

Rena Ariel, whose daughter Hallel was murdered this morning, eulogized her:
I am giving you one last hug...I am standing here with a heart filled with pain and I am turning to you, the Arab mother, the Muslim who sent your son out to stab. I raised my daughter with love, but you and the Arab Muslim educators, you taught him to hate. Go, put your house in order...
How do you eulogize a 13-and-a-half year old girl? Tell me what words to use to eulogize a flower, a pure soul, who is courageous and beautiful. Your only sin was that you were almost perfect.
You were a ray of light in my life. You were the one who turned me into a mother.

You [God] gave me a present and now I am returning it to You. Take her. She is the flesh of our flesh. Hug her, because I will never again be able to touch her. Make room for her, so she can dance.

The Friggin' Times of Israel

In general, I have never found that four letter words are more effective than...let's say five letter words or six or seven. It's always been how you use them, what meaning you create with them and yet, I wouldn't be surprised to find that the Times of Israel's best recorded hits will go to those that use four letter words. It seems to be a measure of their journalistic talents...or perhaps a failure of it.

I met a friend in the supermarket today. We spoke of the tragedy in Kiryat Arba today. There are no good attacks, but there are sometimes particularly bad ones. It happened the day after you were in one place, the very day you planned to be there until something changed. You have a child the same age, or with the same name. Somehow, there are attacks that make us bleed more deeply, cry from the depths of pain.

This morning, I heard the first announcements. A terrorist jumped the fence into the Harsina neighborhood in Kiryat Arba and stabbed a girl - aged 16, they reported (she was only thirteen and a half...she'll never get to be 16). "Oh God, oh God, oh God," I said aloud in my empty car. I started to cry...I have to call Aliza.

Aliza is my youngest daughter. She is 16 years old. She studies in Kiryat Arba. I wasn't worried about her. She was safe at home, in bed. My hands were already shaking as I pressed the numbers. By then, I knew the girls name, Hallel Yaffa, daughter of Rena. Aliza told me she was at least a year younger and not in her grade; I told her she was badly wounded. "Her mother is asking people to pray for her. She doesn't have a pulse," Aliza told me when she called back after speaking to her friends.

"I'll pray for her," Aliza said, "and I'll pray for you." Through tears and a broken voice, I told her I was fine and she didn't have to pray for me. I had to go to a meeting. I had to pull myself together enough to smile and pretend. "I want to pray for you," she answered, assuring me that she was fine. She knows me, my beautiful daughter and her calm voice helped me in more ways that I could ever write.

After the meeting, I drove to do a quick shopping and there my friend told me about the obscene headlines in the Times of Israel. Why was I surprised by their f*****g apathy to a young Jewish child who was murdered in cold blood in her bedroom?

Ah, her bedroom. You see, according to the Times of Israel, it's really important to tell you where that bedroom is because, naturally, you can calm down. It only happened in a West Bank bedroom.

And she died. Did you know that? Apparently writing that she was murdered took up too much space. Or worse, it might get you to feel the tragedy more. She died. And anyway, she was in a West Bank bedroom, so really, she probably deserved it, right David Horovitz? Right, Sarah Tuttle-Singer? Right Miriam Hershlag?

In one stinking article, to make sure you really understand where this terror attack took, I'm sorry, it wasn't a terror attack, it was a "stabbing attack", these are the words they use:
  • West Bank settlement home 
  • into the settlement 
  • her bedroom in the West Bank settlement
And, if that isn't enough, the Times of Israel wants to add some perspective. There have been 34 Israelis murdered since October 1. And then, wait for it, lest they be thrown out of the left-wing media consortium, they rush to point out, that "Over 200 Palestinians have also been killed over that same time frame, the majority of them while carrying out terror attacks, according to Israeli authorities."

Well, I'm happy the Israeli authorities took the time to point out that a [VAST] majority of those 200 Palestinian were terrorists. Of course, if there were some that were not terrorists, it is interesting that the Times of Israel doesn't bother to explain the important detail that the vast majority of those few who were not involved in terror attacks were in close proximity to an attack, but never mind. Integrity and fact have little presence on the webpages of the Times of Israel.

You know, there are days that the anger chokes you. Well, to the Times of Israel Staff, congratulations. I can only pray and hope that Hallel's parents are smart enough not to waste their time reading the Times of Israel.

Times of Israel? Israel? You know, now that I think about it, you really should consider changing your name. You have no right to use "Israel" - you do not represent this country; you do not speak for it. You don't even report about it.

A child was murdered today. In her bedroom. In a place she should have been safe. She was murdered by a 17 year old Palestinian. The news was wrong. She wasn't my daughter's age, but the murderer was. This morning, Hallel was murdered once by Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah and then she was casually dismissed by the "Times of Israel Staff" who wanted to make sure that you know that had Hallel been in Tel Aviv, Afula, Beersheva, Beit Shemesh, Raanana, and all the other cities and places that were hit by terror in the last few months, they'd care a bit more.

But she was a settler, Hallel Yaffa, daughter of Rena, who will be buried in a few hours. It is rare that I feel physically sick from reading the Times of Israel. It happens often when I read BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, etc. And I bet the Times of "Israel" would just love that because in their self-centered world they probably dream of being that big. But really, a body without a soul is worthless and a media outlet without truth isn't much better.

The friggin' Times of Israel deserves all the four letter words it can think to use. And most should be used today, for the staff of the Times of Israel.

As for the real Israel, today we mourn a beautiful girl who was murdered - not because she was in Kiryat Arba, but because she was Jewish. Where her bedroom was is not relevant; that she was in her bedroom, a place where she should have been safe, is what matters.

Today, a Jewish girl of only 13 years was brutally murdered in her bed, in her room, in her home. The nation of Israel and those who speak for us, those who report what is happening here, mourn for the loss of Hallel Yaffa and pray that her memory will be blessed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Who Killed Esti Weinstein?

Esti Weinstein was 50 years old when she killed herself.

Esti Weinstein met and married her former husband when she was 17 years old. She divorced him, after giving birth to 7 daughters, when she was 42 years old and for 8 years chose to live a secular life, have other love interests, and moving on. Sort of.

She convinced one daughter to follow into her secular lifestyle, leaving behind 6 others. She wrote that they were estranged, cut off from each other. She felt abandoned by her children, unable to break through the wall she implies they built to keep her out.

I have not read her words or the book she left behind. I can only guess and infer based on what others have said she wrote or said. That isn't the best way to get information, and yet in the last few days, I have seen endless comments about how she was, in effect if not in reality, killed by six of her seven daughters, by the community in which she was raised, by Judaism, perhaps even by God.

She was an abused wife, neglected, and abandoned, I have read. The Ger Hassidim are only allowed to sleep with their wives twice a month, I have been told. Therefore her husband did not fulfill his obligations and so she had no choice. But, um...if she was only having sex twice a month, doesn't that mean that he also was having sex only twice a month? It does, in this case, so IF this accusation is true, she was no more abandoned or neglected than he was. If this accusation is true.

Given that the vast majority of people who are commenting (myself included) never met Esti and have no clue as to what motivated her to end her life, in an ideal world, people would refrain from guessing and simply look for ways to heal, to help.

Just as one could accuse the daughters, the former husband, the community and/or God, one could easily come up with the theory that in reality, what destroyed her life and marriage and place in the Ger community was that there never was real chemistry, real love. That can happen when you meet someone once and then marry them but want different things.

For centuries, love was considered something that would grow in time between two people who lived together. For centuries, Jews - like non-Jews, matched and mated their children and the world was a simpler place. Who are we to fault anyone for seeking simplicity in a world that has, without question, become overly complex?

Perhaps after 25 years of marriage, the simple truth is that Esti wanted chemistry and it was her right to have it but why blame her former husband? Since when is divorce 100% the fault of any side (except, yes, in extreme cases)?

They were married for 25 years and had 7 daughters. It took her 25 years and 7 children to "get up the courage" to leave an abusive marriage, I am told. Who the heck knows what happened behind their bedroom door? For that matter, behind the front door of their home or the non-existent gates of their community?

Her daughters have come out and said they were abandoned by their mother when they were young. If this is true, they either had no one, or they had a father and other relatives who tried to fill in a role that would, in most cases, be impossible to fill adequately. Perhaps there is a second side to this story? A third? A fourth? And perhaps even a fifth? Or, to be even more accurate, there are probably at least eight other for each of her daughters and one for her husband.

Yes, we know that Esti killed herself. Despite the accusations made by one woman on Facebook, Jews no longer bury suicide victims outside the walls of the main cemeteries. Like, for centuries we haven't been doing that.

Yes, we know that Esti killed herself over the pain of not having her daughters in her life because she told us that specifically and why shouldn't you believe her? But she chose to walk out on them, if you believe them. And why shouldn't you?

What is this great conspiracy that would encourage six daughters to "abandon" their mother? We don't know. We weren't there. We have no right to judge a family. Daughters who lost their mother twice - once when they were very young, and again now. With the wonders of the media, modern journalism that loves a good and painful story, we have been thrust into the lives of these families, into their pain. But, do we belong there?

We cannot judge these young women. We cannot judge the young man who married Esti (whom she implies in her writings she married out of ignorance and pity, certainly not love) and who lived with her for 25 years. We cannot judge a community of thousands of people who to a very large extent have nothing to do with this story, do not feel they are neglected or abused, and firmly believe that they have chosen how they want to live their lives...just as Esti ultimately did. We really have no knowledge and no right to judge.

The Haredi community did not kill Esti Weinstein. She chose to leave them, as was her right. In choosing to leave them, it can come as no surprise that they chose to close her out. We could wish for people to be more tolerant but, to be fair, the wish to protect and insulate a community is universal and certainly not restricted to Haredim and/or Ger.

Just as it is her right to leave them, to reject the way her parents raised her and the "agreement" she made with her husband; they have a right to say that they reject her new lifestyle. They did not agree that she should live in a world and dress as she chose, be romantically involved with others, not follow the laws that they consider holy and still be in their world. That is their right. They wouldn't like the life I live and to be honest, for the most part, I choose not to live their lives.

Esti took one daughter with her to that new and secular world; why would they not be afraid that she would pull others away from the community? And, in fact, isn't that what this is all about? Had she succeeded in convincing the other six daughters to abandon the community and lifestyle in which they were raised, it would be their father who would be alone and abandoned, not Esti.

Yes, Esti was in pain and missed her daughters terribly. We know that because she chose to stop living rather than continue without them. That is pretty much all we know. All the rest is based on assumptions and, perhaps worse, a one-sided tale or argument put forth by a woman who has every reason to need to believe she was abandoned, rather than consider that it was she who did the abandoning.

I do not mean, for even a single second, to insult or damage the memory of Esti Weinstein. My goal is not to join so many others who are judging and looking for fault, but rather to suggest the very simple and plausible concept that...We. Do. Not. Know.

We are not qualified to point blame but we could offer comfort - comfort first and foremost to Esti's children, and yes, to her community, to her friends in this world and in that one. And finally and perhaps most importantly, to the other Estis who are out there and in pain.

Esti Weinstein was 50 years old when she killed herself. It is a terrible tragedy that no one should have to experience, one that might be avoidable if we reach out to estranged parents (regardless of why they are estranged). If there is a "lesson" to take from this - it is not about blaming religion or a specific community or a specific family. It is about understanding that people make choices in life - Esti did - and then may find themselves stuck in the horrible reality that they are glad they made the decision and still find it too painful to live within it.

Hundreds of Ger Hassidim live happy and simple lives. There are times, as I rush from meeting to meeting and stay up late having teleconferences with clients in other countries and time zones, that I envy the simplicity of their lives. I see this community. I know them. Their children are well dressed. Clean. Fed. Healthy. Respectful. Loved.

There is pain behind the walls they erect to protect their world from the outside. The same could be said of my insulated community and country. The same could be said for your life. That's what human beings do...we try to circle the wagons and protect our children. Esti chose to step outside that world and honestly, it wasn't that their world was faulty but that it wasn't for her.

We have no right to judge unless the world and community being built is an abusive one. To suggest that all Ger Hassidim are abusive, intolerant, and responsible for Esti's death is ignorant, intolerant, and perhaps even abusive.

If Ger Hassidus, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Christian, Muslim, not for you, more power to you for leaving and may you be granted a healthy and long life in whatever world you find yourself. But if you leave your children behind in another world, accept that as a price for your freedom. This is something I believe Esti failed to do...but more important than all details is that We. Do. Not. Know.

May God bless the memory of Esti Weinstein and watch over her in the next world. May her children find comfort, in their families, in their communities and may they be consoled.

And may we all be granted the ability not to judge others simply because they are a different color, a different religion, a different gender...or even the same color, religion, or gender.

The Seeds of Jewish Destruction

The seeds of Jewish destruction lie in passively enabling the enemy to humiliate us. Only when the enemy succeeds in turning the spirit of the Jew into dust and ashes in life, can he turn the Jew into dust and ashes in death. -- Menachem Begin
The seeds of Jewish destruction...I sit here reading these word of Menachem Begin and I know that he was right; worse, he still is, decades after he has left us. Humiliate us? Actually, in this Begin was a bit off; the latest reincarnation of this horrible fate is that we rush to humiliate ourselves. Rather than stand beside the Christian and Muslim with pride in our heritage, we rush to assimilation; to lose the essence of what we are. We try to emulate in the hope of fitting in and so we take the Christmas tree and call it, God help us, a Chanukah bush. The only bush in the Torah is the burning one and we didn't hang flashing lights on it and put presents under it! Rather than stand against our enemies, who use lies and mistruth to indict Israel for uncommitted crimes, our leaders have crumbled. We meet violence with withdrawal; lies with apologies.

On May 31, 2010, Turkey sent a flotilla of ships to challenge the legally declared naval blockade of Gaza. The organizers made a pretense of being on a humanitarian voyage. A lie, as Israel offered to deliver whatever meager humanitarian aid they carried aboard the boats. A lie, because many of the people onboard were armed and waiting. Israeli soldiers descended onto the ships and were immediately and violently attacked. Three were seriously wounded, beaten, knocked unconscious, stabbed, thrown down to a lower deck. Israeli soldiers finally moved in to save their comrades and the attacks continued and in the battle that ensued, 10 thugs, referred to in the media as "activists" were killed.

The International Criminal Court ruled that there was insufficient reason to investigate Israel's role in the flotilla deaths but never got around to condemning the chief instigators and those who funded this atrocity. At first, Israel stood firm and tall and, indeed, Menachem Begin would have been proud. For years, Israel has correctly answered Turkey in the negative when any mention was made of an apology, compensation, or any admission that our forces did anything that any other nation would not do.
During the Holocaust it was after the enemy had humiliated the Jews, trampled them underfoot, divided them, deceived them, afflicted them, drove brother against brother, only then could he lead them, almost without resistance, to the gates of Auschwitz. Therefore, at all times and whatever the cost, safeguard the dignity and honor of the Jewish people. -- Menachem Begin
Yesterday, our security forces were attacked on the Temple Mount by rock-throwing, fireworks-shooting mobs. Today, in response, the Israeli government has closed the Temple Mount. Finally, I thought as I saw the headlines. Wonderful, especially during the "holy" month of Ramadan, let the Palestinians learn that violence doesn't pay! Good.

We have finally closed the Temple Mount to disbelief I read that the Prime Minister of Israel has closed the Temple Mount to the Jews.
Stand united in face of the enemy. We Jews love life, for life is holy. But there are things in life more precious than life itself. There are times when one must risk life for the sake of rescuing the lives of others. And when the few risk their own lives for the sake of the many, then they, too, stand the chance of saving themselves.-- Menachem Begin
There are things more precious than life and more horrible than death, Menachem Begin wrote in his book, The Revolt. That phrase has stayed with my all of my life since the time I first read them as a young teenager dreaming of living in this land. Yes, there are things more precious than life - because in protecting them, ultimately, we are indeed protecting life itself. This concept is reaffirmed in the Torah. There are three things that Jews are commanded to avoid, even at the cost of death. What the Israeli government did yesterday...and today, puts Jewish lives further at risk.
Surrender. Humiliation. Hamas continues to hold the bodies of two of our sons and yet Netanyahu continues to return the bodies of dozens of terrorists. Our forces are attacked on the Temple Mount, and Netanyahu responds by preventing JEWS from entering the Temple Mount.In our long annals as a nation, we rise, we fall, we return, we are exiled, we are enslaved, we rebel, we liberate ourselves, we are oppressed once more, we rebuild, and again we suffer destruction, climaxing in our own lifetime in the calamity of calamities, the Holocaust, followed by the rebirth of the Jewish State. So, yes, we have come full circle, and with God’s help, with the rebirth of sovereign Israel we have finally broken the historic cycle: no more destruction and no more defeats, and no more oppression – only Jewish liberty, with dignity and honor.-- Menachem Begin
Break the cycle, Bibi. No more destruction. No more defeats. No more oppression. Dignity and honor, Bibi. For God's sake, stand up. We have returned. The ghettos are gone. Stand up, Bibi. Stand up! 

Remember: the seeds of Jewish destruction lie in passively enabling the enemy to humiliate us.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Facing the Enemy

When you think about an army and soldiers, your first thought might be about war. Soldiers fight wars, right?

But the reality is that soldiers do so much more, especially in Israel. Here, they are an integral part of our society and the army not only knows this but encourages these thoughts. Yes, God protect them, they fight in wars. But they also patrol the streets and roads of our country, not just our borders, our skies, our seas.

They are often used to help - one day during basic training, David and his unit were taken to a farmer nearby to help him prepare the ground for planting. What's the connection? Pretty simple - they work the land...the land they are going to be protecting. They are doing physical work, perhaps using muscles that are different than the ones they have been developing for the last six months. More, they are doing good, showing that farmer, his community and beyond, that the army and soldiers are a fundamental foundation of our society.

Two weeks ago, we traveled south to Givati's home base for the closing ceremony for his basic training. That's it...he's a soldier, fully trained and, God help him (and me) ready for combat. This week, for the first time, the army ignored the soaring temperatures. During training, commanding officers watch the weather and change their plans accordingly. At a certain temperature, soldiers are not allowed to train; at a higher temperature, they are restricted to virtually no activity beyond resting and drinking. If possible, they will train through the night when it is cooler and sleep during the day.

Last week, as the temperatures reached into the upper 30s C (high 90s F), Davidi's group did what it had to do, regardless. They drank more, they took smaller breaks, but they had to continue. That's what it's like when you are stationed at a check point. There is no stopping because of the weather. For the next while, David will be subjected to intense heat in the summer, and then the cold of Israel's winters. Rain when it comes, though probably not snow. Wind, dust storms...more than a mother can bear to think about.

This all starts next week for real. Last month and for the last six+ months, it was all about training. This week, it was about simulating, learning, preparing. Next week, my son will be at a check point "somewhere" in Israel. The first is a relatively quiet one; for this I can be grateful, at least.

But starting next week, I can no longer pretend he isn't in danger, that but for the weapon he carries, his fellow soldiers, and the Ever-Watching God of Israel, he is "out there."

This is the time in a soldier's service I have come to dread.

For Davidi, it is a relief, a break from the strenuous training schedule. They won't make him walk tens of kilometers a week, though he will be standing for hours and hours at a time. Where once he called his commander by the formal address of "Mifaked," (Commander), now they are addressed by their first names. They are all soldiers of Israel.

For me, he has passed through another door - further out of reach than he was before. Closer to our enemies, those who mean him harm. My phone will always be near me; my heart always on alert and afraid. My brain will once again look to the heavens and wonder why hearts are so illogical.

It is a contradiction of life in Israel - that you raise your son to be where he is, only to wish desperately that he wasn't.

May the God of Israel look after my son, watch over him, protect him. Him and all the soldiers of Israel.

The Last Day

Today is the last day...of school for my tenth grade daughter.
She is 16 years old, perched on the edge of tomorrow, still clinging a bit to yesterday. She is like most 16-year-olds around the world, and nothing like them in other ways. She goes to school in the Israeli city of Kiryat Arba, located adjacent to the city of Hebron. For months, she has heard the sounds of war, sometimes on a nightly basis. Gunshots, explosions, helicopters searching.
She has called me in tears when her dorm is filled with crying girls. A neighbor has been shot and killed by terrorists; two parents of her neighbor's friend have died in another barbaric attack. Another neighbor has been stabbed; a girl's mother was driving when the car was stoned. The son-in-law of one of the teachers died in an attack. The list goes on and on, each bringing a phone call home, a child in tears wanting comfort. I resist the urge to drive there and hug her. I take a bus to her school when I can, rather than drive. Stoning attacks are common.
Today I will drive there to pick up her books, her clothes, the accumulation of year's worth of things she has collected. She has an awareness of world events because they come regularly to her door. She has come to expect, and nods her head in sad acknowledgment when this time the attack is in Tel Aviv.
And yet, like all 16-year-olds, she is all about scheduling a day to go to the beach with her friends, deciding where she will go or what she will do this summer. It's hard as a parent to allow her the freedom without worrying about not only the normal dangers, but those beyond what one can expect. She knows, as do all my children, that if something happens, they are to check in; and now, as they get older, if I am close to where that something happened, they check to make sure that I'm the one who is unhurt.
David and Aliza at his "graduation"
ceremony from basic training
An Israeli child is a precious blend of so many elements; a facet of the world we live in combined with all that is normal. They want the latest gadgets, the phones that do the most. She cares about clothes and how her hair looks and is forever the sounding board for her friends. And yet, there is that element of Israel in there too. Last week, a letter came in the mail. My hand began to tremble as I looked at it. Too soon. I can't look at this.
The army has invited her to begin the process of becoming a soldier for two years. As a religious girl, she will opt for national service rather than participation in an army unit (or at least I hope she will). My three sons have served in combat units; they can't have my baby too, I want to tell them.
She will serve this nation, and that is what I believe is important. My oldest daughter gave her time working in a children's day care center for children with developmental problems. The nation needs the service; the person needs to serve. It works in two directions - the service is as important to the nation as it is to developing who the person will become. It teaches them from an early age that they have obligations beyond themselves, to the society as a whole.
It is irrelevant to me where that service is done - on the front lines, in an underground, protected base monitoring a border on a computer, cooking for the troops, working in a hospital helping patients and harried medical staff. All these are good, all honorable, all right. All serve the nation at a time in their lives when they can give that service and still go on to lead full lives, to marry, to have children and raise them to do as they did - to serve land and God and country and self.
The paper sits there on the cabinet where I light my Shabbat candles. I can't look at the envelope, never mind what is inside. I have a son who goes to the front lines in just a few days; I've had it easy these last seven months or so. He's been in training for the most part; now he goes out there. He is not even half way through his service to Israel, why are they asking me for another one now?
All this is in my head; in her head is the start of summer and freedom. She is happy it is her last day but I know she will cry as she hugs her friends and says goodbye to some of them for the summer. At this age, two months is a lifetime, a huge chasm of time that seems almost forever.
She is 16 and impossibly beautiful, graceful, young. I want to protect her from the world; she thinks she is all grown up and doesn't need to be protected. She is Israel.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Google Army

Every once in a while, Israeli soldiers do something crazy. It makes us smile. Sometimes, people complain that the army shouldn't do that; that soldiers shouldn't behave that way. This time, there are those who are very upset by this video. They say it was an abuse of the soldiers and the air force and I'm not sure what else.

But I love seeing not just the precision of our soldiers, but their character as well. I love seeing them dance to music, sing in the streets of Hebron. I love seeing one young soldier kneel on the floor right after a military ceremony surrounded by his friends...and ask the girl he loves to marry him.

And I love this...yo, Google - meet the mighty army of Israel - all brains, all beautiful, all heart...all Israel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Independent Floods the Internet...with Lies

Credibility, honor, truth. These are the cornerstones of journalism. Once our job as journalists was to report the news but with modern social media, there are very few instances where a newsworthy even is first reported by a reporter. Instead, ordinary people take to the internet - to Facebook, to Twitter, to Google+. It can take the reporters hours to arrive and often they simply allow the locals to continue to report what is happening.

The problem with this practice is that it is easily manipulated. Blindly, some media outlets (The Independent, Reuters, even BBC), accept the story that is fed to them and in so doing, make the most amateurish of mistakes. Faulty sources leads to faulty reporting. Worse even than mistakes, are the intentional deceptions easily gobbled up by these lazy organizations.

Last year or so, the story was Israel flooding Gaza by opening dams...that didn't exist. This year, it is the opposite. We apparently aren't flooding Gaza, we are now guilty of withholding water during the religious month of Ramadan. Of course, we aren't doing that. Of course, most Israelis know Ramadan not so much as a religious month but one plagued by violence and terror.

Four innocent people gunned down in a restaurant in Tel Aviv, dozens of stoning attacks every day, a shooting just this morning. So in the midst of all this violence, in walks the Independent to push a story that would outrage anyone...if it were true.

Kudos to Honest Reporting for this story. After you see this video that they have made, please join their attempt to get The Independent to remove the article. You can sign Honest Reporting's letter to The Independent here:

The Independent has tried correcting it so many times, they should really just surrender to the fact that they you can't build a story on a lie, no matter how much you try.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Danger of a Politician with a Big Mouth

The danger of a politician with a big mouth and a larger ego is that he will place himself and his opinion above the needs of the country. Rather than serve the country, this type of person tends to inflate his own self worth and take advantage of the privileges of office. Worse, he endangers lives and security by offering options that really are not on the negotiating table - most likely because there isn't actually a table on which we are negotiating and there's currently only one chair in the room. The chair is marked with the only people willing to be there unconditionally - and that would be Israel.

It has always been recognized that only the standing government has a mandate to determine the future of its people, especially in a democracy. This has been true throughout the centuries; it is true today in Israel. Yitzhak Herzog is a very dangerous man because he believes he is entitled. His entitlement comes through his blood, he will tell you. He is, after all, the son of Chaim Herzog, a general and former president of Israel. He is the grandson of the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland who then became the first Chief Rabbi of Israel. He is, the grandson and son, a rather pathetic and pale shadow of these great men, ever seeking stardom and importance.

To have a thriving democracy, which Israel most definitely is, you must have a strong opposition, unafraid to challenge the path the government chooses to take. What you cannot have, is one that seeks to subvert, undermine, weaken the government, and therefore the country itself. This and much more, Yitzhak Herzog has done in the past and yet again more recently when he took it upon himself to enter negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Who is Yitzhak Herzog to reach an agreement that Israel would surrender land and our capital? He has decided that Israel will pay financial compensation to the descendants of Arabs who chose to run away so that their brothers from five nations could invade the tiny and vulnerable new entity called Israel?

Will he also pay, perhaps out of his own miserable pockets, the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were robbed and expelled by numerous Arab nations? These are the Jewish refugees that came to Israel with practically nothing and we clothed them, fed them, housed them until they were able to pull themselves up and become active, vital, thriving, inseparable parts of our society today. Will Herzog compensate them?

I would expect such idiocies from Barack Obama but I think even he would be surprised at the absurdity of a standing member of the Knesset having the nerve to attempt to negotiate without any power behind him.

Forever ready to twist facts, Herzog doesn't deny that he circumvented the legally elected government but haughtily declares, “In my contacts with the Palestinian Authority president during 2014, I made efforts whose goal was to reach understandings that would have prevented the wave of terror whose arrival I foresaw, just like I’m making efforts now so that this extreme right wing government’s abandonment of the initiative for a regional conference won’t bring the next war down upon us.”

Really, Herzog? You foresaw a new wave of terror? Gee, after so many previous waves I guess that makes you practically a prophet, huh? Who would have thought that without an agreement of utter capitulation from Israel, the Palestinians would revert to violence again. You'd think after 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982...2001, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, they've have learned, right?

And if you think Bibi Netanyahu's government is "extreme right wing", you ain't seen nothin' yet. If the violence continues despite all our efforts to achieve peace, believe me, Israel WILL turn to the right.

Abandonment of the initiative for a regional conference, are you serious? What initiative? What regional conference? The one that is regularly held without Israel? The ones that have been consistently rejected by Palestinians?

There will be another war, on that Herzog is correct. But it will not be brought on by the actions of the Israeli government but rather by the unwillingness of the Palestinian leaders to truly accept that only through negotiations will there be compromise.

 But perhaps the best response to Herzog's inept attempt to thrust his opinion on the people of Israel can be found in the Palestinians' response to Herzog's pathetic efforts, "We didn't treat it as if it's something that can be implemented, since obviously the one who makes the decision ultimately is the Israeli prime minister."

 Roger that, Yitzhak. You've been defeated again.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Trying to Be Normal

In December, 2002, bombs were exploding regularly in Israel and at some point, I sat down and wrote an article. I called it, "Trying to Be Normal" and after it was done, I read it and thought it was so different from my usual style. Ten years later, I found it again after an attack on Jews in Bulgaria and now again, I reprint it...

There is a point when sadness turns to anger, when the body ceases to be numb. Even though you dread it, you know that point will come. First there is the shock that it has happened, yet again, on some sunny day pleasant Spring evening when normal people don’t think of despair. Then, the shock gives way to an endless need to see, to hear, to watch.

Trying to Be Normal

In part, you watch because you believe that if you can just see it, somehow it will be more real. But, of course, it never is. So you give up on believing that it is normal to feel this way or that way and you accept that you just need to see it. You’ll worry about normal tomorrow because normalcy doesn’t exist today.

As the numbers rise, as they almost always do, sadness comes next. It is the feeling of being haunted and hunted, hated to such an incredible depth that you don’t think they, whoever they may be, can overcome their hatred. The waste of it all, the lives lost. The old, the young, the parents, the orphans. The perfect ones, the good ones, the brave ones. Frozen in time, leaving you to move forwards through the grief and the sadness alone.

The brutality of the attack makes you so depressed. How could someone do such a thing? How is it possible to shoot a baby, target a little boy? How can a human being explode himself intentionally next to a teenage girl, stab a pregnant woman, lynch a 67-year-old grandfather? Such anger they must have, such hatred.

Faced with the cruelty, you realize that you are as much a prisoner of their hatred as they are and that begins to call forth the anger. You cannot be the master of their feelings, but shouldn’t they find a normal way to express their anger? You’ve been angry, you’ve hated, but you didn’t explode yourself, you didn’t shoot anyone. Is this the only way for them to get what they want? And if it is, do they have any right to it?

If you can only birth a nation on the blood of innocent children, what worth will that nation have, what compassion for others? How can it take its place in the family of nations when it is born out of hatred and death and cruelty? But that is their politics and today is for your dead and wounded. Today Tonight, it is too much to worry about their dreams for tomorrow when yours wait to be buried. Isn’t it normal to focus on your own grief, you wonder? And again you remember that you no longer know quite what normal is, and that too brings forth the anger.

The anger is like those first moments when the circulation returns to a leg that has fallen asleep. It’s a tingling sensation, unpleasant, sometimes dull and sometimes sharp. The more you explore it, the more painful it becomes. Is it better not to move, not to feel? Is it better to get it over with quickly by releasing it or hold it inside? Wouldn’t it be a relief, just once, to scream and cry and release all the frustration and anger? Wouldn’t that be normal?

You think of bombing them back, of horrible pain inflicted with the hope it will ease your pain. The thoughts bring you no comfort because you don’t want to be like them, you just want it to stop. This isn’t about revenge. Revenge won’t bring them back, won’t erase the pain, the tears, the empty chair in the classroom that will forever be his chair, her place by the window.

You’ll sleep tonight, thinking that by tomorrow, maybe the anger will go away. But of course it won’t. Tomorrow brings the funerals, the women wailing, the fathers standing staring off into the distance with their haunted eyes and devastated glances. A grandfather crying over the loss of two grandchildren cripples you. They haven’t slept, you can see the exhaustion, but maybe that’s merciful.

They are numb, beyond the anger, but not beyond the pain. Such anguish will never go away. How can it? It just isn’t normal to go on after having such horror thrust upon you. Today, you’ll go with the flow, and tell yourself to just get through the funerals one by one. You’ll cry a little, or maybe a lot. It won’t help, but you have to anyway.

The anger can consume you if you don’t know when to let it go. The funerals continue, and the stories of who they were and what they were able to accomplish before their lives were cut short will bring you to your knees. You will know in death someone that you probably never had a chance to meet in life. Their dreams lay shattered in pieces on the buses and in the streets of our cities, in the stores and cafes and even on foreign shores, and you have to walk over them, or you’ll never move on, move back to normal.

The newspaper shows their pictures and so you hesitate to throw it away. A pile of newspapers with names and faces that haunt you. The young mother that left behind two children, the middle-aged couple that left nine orphans. It was his birthday, and soon his wife will give birth to the child he will never see. Another generation being born, already touched by the sadness.

You stare at the faces and when you close your eyes, you can still see their smiling faces. But you can’t smile now, and that too is normal. Often, in the midst of the sadness and the anger, comes the thought that it could have been much worse. It seems there is always a grenade that didn’t explode, a rifle that got jammed, a plane that didn’t get hit, a bomb that was found.

There’s the fact that most of the people were able to move away in time or the weather was bad and so less people came to the mall. There’s the bus driver who miraculously shoved him out the door, but an old woman died anyway. So you play a game with yourself and convince yourself that it is normal to be relieved because it could have been worse.

Then the guilt comes because you realize for that family, it was worse. They now live with a nightmare beyond any that a normal person could imagine and so the sadness, that never quite left, pushes away the anger. The anger won’t help and the sadness won’t leave. After the funerals, the sun shines or the rains come and wash the streets.

If you pass that bus stop, there are candles and flowers, but the broken glass is gone. They are already rebuilding the restaurant, newer, stronger. This time the gate might keep them out, or maybe not. Maybe a small memorial will be put there, but the carnage is what you remember, the old facade under the new paint and glass windows. The picture in your head doesn’t match the image before you and your eyes insist on focusing on what you see, not on what you imagine.

And you wonder why that is normal too. Human nature pushes you to move on, when you know there are those that can’t. When you stop to think about it, you realize the basic truth, the normal truth, is that until they learn to stop hating and killing, you will continue to be shocked, and saddened, and angry.

You will survive this. For a short time, you may change the routine of your life, avoid buses as much as possible, stay home, lock your doors. You may keep a radio playing and tell your children not to go to the mall.

But soon, that too will stop because the one great truth is that you want things to return to normal… until there is the shock that it has happened, yet again, on some sunny day when normal people don’t think of despair.

May God avenge the blood of those who were murdered today tonight in Jerusalem Bulgaria Kfar Sava Boston Haifa Ofra Otniel Jerusalem Paris Itamar London  San Bernadino Paris Tel Aviv and may their loved ones be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Random Acts of Being Israeli

There is something that I have always noticed about Israelis but seem to forget to write about. It's a characteristic many don't see at first glance or worse, fail to recognize the base behind the action. The action changes from day to day, situation to situation, but the base is always the same. Israelis are actually very kind people.

There are rules and there are exceptions. Our enemies, especially those from within our society, yearn for the exceptions so that they can declare they are the rules. But that is a lie, slander, libel. It is a vicious attempt to destroy the foundation of our society and so these random acts that happen nearly daily must be told, shared. And so I will.

A few days ago, we drove north and while in Tiberias, along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret), we tried to find a bakery. It was getting late and we were worried that we'd lost a chance to buy some snacks. We stopped and asked a young man who was carrying packages. He told us about two places, one behind us, "the best" he informed us, and another that might have what we want a bit ahead of us and to the left.

"Give me your phone number and I'll walk to the bakery over there and if it is still open, I'll call you." And he did. And it was open. And he was right; the pastries were fresh and delicious. A random act of kindness.

Yesterday in an underground parking lot, a long line of cars were waited while the machine ahead failed to allow one car to exit. Next to me, in a parking spot, a car started to go in reverse. I honked my horn afraid that he would hit the side of my car...the last thing I needed when I was trying to rush home to my grandson's first birthday party (happy birthday, beautiful little baby). Just to my left was a man standing. The cars had parked so close together that he was waiting for his friend to pull out enough to let him get in the car.

He signaled that I should roll down my window, which I did. He handed me a cookie, told me not to worry, that his friend wasn't going to him my car, and then instructed me to say the blessing for a cookie. Random acts of kindness.

This morning in a store, an older woman was reaching up for a container of ice tea. A young man reached out and took it off the shelf, and then he took the basket of purchases she was intending to make from her arm and asked her if she wanted anything else. She said that she was finished and so he walked her to the cashier. I thought perhaps that he worked in the store, but after putting the basket on the conveyor belt, he turned around and returned to take down a bottle of soda for himself. Yet another random act of kindness, unsolicited, given simply because it would help someone else.

A few weeks ago, on a horribly hot day, a truck filled with water was sent to the Western Wall and water was given freely to any and all. A few months ago, a man and his son were murdered in cold blood in a vicious terrorist attack just days before his daughter was to be married. Palestinian ambulance drivers were the first on the scene but left when they realized the victims were Jews. By contrast, my sons serve on Israeli ambulances and regularly treat Arabs. When the daughter rescheduled her wedding to the young man she loves, she asked all of Israel to escort her and celebrate her marriage. And Jews came from all over - from the US, from Australia and from all over Israel to be with a bride on her wedding day, when her father couldn't be there.

Two years ago, during the war, a father jumped out of a car during a missile attack and crouched around his infant trying to protect him; and was surprised when seconds later, another man rushed out of his car and bent down in front of him - further shielding both father and child. An act of kindness in the midst of war.

In the last few days, it was published in various places that an injured soldier who had risked his life during the last war was being denied the government benefits needed to renovate his home because it is located 32 kilometers north of Jerusalem instead of 32 kilometers to the west. Within days, people donated double the amount of money the family was seeking to raise and more, the government was shamed into announcing that funds would be released immediately.

In the hospitals in Israel, men and women walk through the halls and ask family members if they need sandwiches, or food for the coming Sabbath. If you say yes, they will bring you a cooler filled with grape juice for the Kiddush (blessing of the fruits of the vine), challot (sweet rolls), fish and casseroles, and hot soup in a thermos. No cost and often it comes with the whispered prayer that your loved one has a complete and speedy recovery.

Each time there is a natural (or man-made) disaster, Israelis mobilize within hours. To Nepal, the Philippines, to Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, even to places in the US, Israelis fly without hesitation. These too are acts of kindness.

Next time you hear someone describe large numbers of Israelis as extremists, remember that out of such people comes regular acts of immeasurable kindness. And measure too one other fact. When Israelis are accused of extremism, it is most often simply because they want to live in one particular place or pray in another. That's right - pray. A Jew can be arrested for saying "amen" on the Temple Mount, and a "leading journalist" can condemn Jews for walking through the Muslim quarter while ignoring the Arabs who can and do walk unmolested, unharmed, and uncondemned through Israeli city streets regularly.

The Jerusalem light rail travels from a mid-southern point on the west side of the city (Mount Herzl), to the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev in the north, eastern side of the city. It is regularly attacked (stones, firebombs) in only one place - the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat and occasionally attacked in another - the Arab neighborhood near the Damascus Gate (stones, tear gas, and even a stabbing attack).

And beside the train, there have been attacks in two other stops - both perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists who came from the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat. Jews are not stoning the train, ramming random Arabs standing waiting for buses. Israelis are not stabbing people, blowing up buses...ours or theirs. Instead, our army fights to find a balance and too often that balance limits our soldiers to a dangerous level.

Blind are the people who live in fear in Israel; uneducated and manipulative as well. We live in a society of kindness and if that kindness doesn't stretch entirely into the Arab community (beyond our hospitals that treat them, our budget that pays for their schools, our shopping malls that cater to their purchases, and our streets and trains and highways that are shared with them), the reason could well be found not in our hearts, but in theirs.

We are a kind and open society. So long as a Jew (no, not a blond one that dresses like a tourist and speaks with an American accent, but an obviously Jewish - even, can you imagine, a religious Jew dressed in modest attire that quickly proclaims his or her long as THAT Jew cannot walk safely through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem and the Arab villages throughout our country, there can be no peace.

Israel is an open society, not just a kind one. Last week, Israel surprised itself - over 200,000 people walked the streets of Tel Aviv declaring that homosexuality does not bring a death sentence. Women drive in our country, serve at the highest levels of government. Children are cherished and protected, the first to be rushed into bomb shelters.

Israelis are free - free to speak, free to live, free to travel - even free to use the very foundations of our freedom to attempt to undermine the very society that feeds them, supports them, defends them.

Israel has proven itself, again and again, to be a kind society. When the Palestinians can say the same, let's talk.

What Religion Are We?

Apparently, this is a question asked by a child of his mother. I don't know what she answered him. None of my children ever asked me this question. They have asked me what month we are fact, when my oldest son first got married, my daughter-in-law was surprised that my youngest daughter, then about 11 years old, didn't know the months of the year.

Aliza responded that, of course, she did know the months - Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev...

What religion are we? Perhaps I can offer this mother the answer that she should provide for her child...

We are Jews - not Jewish, because the "ish" means something isn't that we are something like Jews...we are Jews.

We are the descendants of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob. We are the children of Sarah, of Rebecca, of Rachel, of Leah. We were lead into freedom by Moses; we were protected as we walked through the wilderness. We created a home, built a Temple and worshiped our God, the One and Only God.

We were exiled and returned, exiled and returned. This is our land. During the centuries we wandered, searching for home, we struggled but survived. We taught our children to read, long before other nations even had an alphabet. We created a just society where the poor are taken care of, the evil ones punished. We have held to laws that demand social justice, compensation for injuries, honoring elders, protecting children. We are Jews

We have built a land like no other in the world, where kindness...yes, kindness, is an integral part. Last week, a young man directed us to a store and then told us it might be closed. He asked for our phone number, said he would walk there while we drove around the long way and he would call to tell us if it was opened...and he did. Today, waiting in a long line to exit a parking lot, a man waved his arm telling me to lower the window, handed me a cookie, and told me what blessing I should say on it.

When a security guard was attacked in our neighborhood, within a week, over 50,000 shekels (just under $15,000) was raised in days to help his family cope. When a young woman was suddenly orphaned, her father murdered, days before her wedding, she responded by inviting all of Israel to the rescheduled celebration - and they came...from all over Israel, from the United States, even from Australia. We are Jews.

During the Crusades, the Inquisition, the pogroms, the ghettos, the Holocaust...they hunted us, attacked us, stabbed us, beat us, starved us, humiliated us, shot us, gassed us, cremated our bodies or buried us in mass graves, and still we turned three times a day to this land and prayed. We carried the hope of two thousand years with us. We are an eternal people.

We compromised from the very beginning and so many times since. We do not wage wars against innocents; we do not target babies. We have warned the innocents among our enemies, and our soldiers have paid the price many times and still, we will warn them again in the future when pushed into war. We have sent our sons and daughters to the front lines to fight for this land and more, we have sent our sons and daughters around the world to help others. We are Jews.

We worship One God and believe that His protection is all we ever need. He grants us miracles, often daily, sometimes every hour. The missile hits a room where someone was moments before; it moves to the west, against all odds and misses a building with thousands of people in it. The grenade didn't explode; the bomb didn't go off.

We live our lives according to the seasons and the holidays - of freedom, of light, of the harvest, of the new year, of judgment day, of spring, of victory. We are not animals that we eat without thought. We bless the fruits and the vegetables, the bread and the wine. All that we put in our stomach ultimately comes from God. He blesses our fields and they prosper. We are Jews.

We have invented technologies that have changed the world a hundred times over - advanced medical research, telecommunications, security, data. We are a center of hi-tech, innovation, and more.

Our children grow in this land, strong and proud. We march through the streets of our land, unafraid and yet committed to helping others, seeking peace, treating others with respect. Where violence is the rule in many societies, here it is the exception. Crime rates are very low; the quality of life quite high. People are happy in this land; our children are blossoming.

If your son or daughter asks you what our religion is, don't hesitate to explain. He was born into the religion that was the first to recognize and accept a single God; he has inherited a proud and strong history that stretches thousands of years. He has nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of.

We. Are. Jews.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

This is the Knife

This is the knife, that didn't kill the soldier. This is the knife that didn't send an Israeli family into shock, despair, terror, grief.

This is the knife that symbolizes the hatred of a culture, of a woman who chose to attack a young man, perhaps 19 years old, perhaps 20 based solely on the fact that he was wearing a uniform, that he was a Jew.
This is just one of many knives that symbolize the successful training our sons and daughters receive in the army; that they can identify and stop; that the death reported in the news today is hers, and not his.

This is the knife that could have put my country into mourning. And this is the knife that ended a woman's life - not the bullet fired by soldiers.

This is the knife that symbolizes the shame of the Palestinian people; a knife that took a woman from her family. This is the knife that symbolizes cowardice - because too many Palestinians believe it is easier to stab than to talk; easier to murder than compromise.

This is the knife that failed to do anything because this is the knife that didn't kill our soldiers...this time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Pictures I Never Want to See

I saw a post on Facebook...and it made me cry. Tears are pretty close today. It's so so hot outside. Elie is up north in training, but to be honest, I'm thinking less of him than I am of Davidi. He is down the desert. He's being tested - nightmare week of sleepless nights, pushed to the edge of his abilities with the clear instructions that he is to "keep on going."

I'm sick with worry. He's probably having the time of his life - and I'm so scared I'll get a phone call saying he's been hurt or he's collapsed from heat or lack of water, many other things.

So with all of this on my head, I saw this post. A Facebook friend's aunt passed away. She had raised her only child, Gilad, alone and then, he was killed in fighting on the first day of the Yom Kippur War. Like Sandy, Gilad was a talented musician. The beautiful song in the video below was written by  Stuart Kabak and adapted by Sandy to honor Gilad after his mother gave her the guitar after his death.

As she sings in the video, there are pictures of Gilad. It's like that in death here. When a soldier dies, his friends and fellow soldiers bring all these pictures to the family. Notes he wrote and things he made. Stories of what they all did together, all this comes to the family in the weeks after the tragedy that took their son (or daughter) from them.

The family gathers them like the most precious pearls and cherishes them forever. These are the pictures I never want to see, I thought as I watched the video. The smiling face that is smiling no longer.

It's a bit different nowadays with Facebook, and we live in a generation that barely prints the pictures anymore. I look at Gilad, and am happy that Sandy and her music bring Gilad to life more than 40 years after he died. I look at Gilad and pray that I no one ever brings me the pictures I never want to see.

May Gilad's memory be blessed and may the God of Israel watch over my sons this hot day and bring them home soon - safe, healthy, hydrated, happy, not too tired, not too burned, not too thirsty...

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