Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Message from a Tanker

Yesterday, something happened. I don't really know what or why. The news says that 86 young men went to start their service for the IDF and refused order to join the tank division. This is pretty much unheard of.

A few refuse each time - for one of two reasons, typically. Either, they want a more prestigious unit, want something harder, or they want something considered easier. Some want a more dangerous combat role; others don't want combat at all.

The army tries. It tests the man that comes to them and listens to the boy inside as well. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes a boy comes, all pumped up from talk with his friends, and tries out for a unit beyond his abilities - and sometimes the army catches on and forces him down; and sometimes they don't catch on and the boy moves forward.

And then months can pass and the boy succeeds or months pass, and the boy fails.

And sometimes, the unit is full and so they take their next best guess and sometimes the boy doesn't like it and the parents are mad that he didn't get what he wants.

Sometimes, they look at the boy and see all the physical problems he has had since birth, a rough birth and early childhood until a loving family took him in and filled his life with love and support. But the army looks at the boy and the disabilities and scars not remain, not the champion he has become. They think they are being kind by offering to release him without having to serve and he fights.

He goes around and gets qualified doctors and army officers and volunteers to say he is stronger than he looks in body; that his mind and soul are determined. He will fight the army...and they look into his eyes and forget the limp he walks with, the body that will never be totally normal and they agree. Fight, they tell him...they let him...and he does.

And sometimes, they look into the boy and say, fight, we will let you...and the boy doesn't want to. He doesn't want to be in a combat unit despite the gift of a body strong. He doesn't want to be in tanks because he says society looks down on tanks...

And, in some cases, the army allows female soldiers into a unit and a religious boy comes and says, I'll fight, but not in a unit with females. I won't carry the extra load - because that is what happens. Girls, women, are every bit as smart as men but they aren't physically stronger. A man can lift those heavy artillery shells; most women can't.

And a tank is a very close and closed environment and when you are in close quarters, there is a lot of physical contact and no, they don't want this. They want to fight, but not like this.

And so, for whatever reason, 86 soldiers came and said to the army - no, we won't.

And the army was surprised. It happens - perhaps more often than you can imagine. As a show of force, the army says - accept and follow orders or we will punish you.

And the soldier either gives in, or says - then punish me.

And the army looks around and says again, we'll really punish you. We'll put you in jail for a month. We'll take your phone and you won't go home.

And the soldier either gives in, or says - then punish me.

Yesterday, this is what happened for 86 new soldiers. And the army started their punishment. Who will break first - the soldiers or the army - is anyone's guess.

Perhaps their complaints are legitimate; perhaps they are not. But one soldier, one "tanker" - one honorable soldier from the tank division is angry...angry, and proud, and spread this message:

The soldier writes:

I'm not usually one that posts [to Facebook] but in the aftermath of 86 soldiers refusing to join the tank division, I could not keep quiet.

It is a great honor to serve the most powerful division in the ground forces. I am proud to be in the Armored Corps. I'm in the tank to fight (and win). Feel free to share.

And so I do - kudos to this soldier and every soldier who fights for Israel - all of them...

...those in the tank division.

...those in artillery, my oldest son and all of his brothers in Totchanim.

...those in the Kfir ground forces, my middle son and all those who served in Kfir - Chaim, BZ, and others.

...and all those who serve and served in Givati...my youngest son, David, my oldest adopted son Yakov, and so many others.

...and those in the Air Force.

...and those who jump from planes and in between, like the others, work to protect this land.

...and those who man the Iron Dome system and shoot down missiles as they come towards our cities

...and those in the Intelligence units who keep our combat soldiers and our entire country safe.

...and those in the support units - those who monitor the borders, those who keep the bases stocked and safe. Those who drive and cook, those who handle the communications, those who monitor our enemies.

...and those who sing and entertain our troops, those who feed them, who launder the clothes they wear, those who stock the supplies.

...and those who help the commanders and officers so that they can focus on watching over this land.

...and those who watch our skies and those who endlessly help our soldiers by watching over their families.

...and those who rush to families when their soldiers are hurt...or worse.

...and those who stay in the lives of bereaved families, after those other soldiers brought them the worst of all news and hen quietly disappeared.

...and all those I can't or forgot to mention.

Kudos to you all - you are our present and our future and we thank you for your service.

And to the 86 - do what you must, but make sure in following your conscience, even your religious convictions, please make it clear, to serve this country in any capacity - to serve is to honor and we honor you in return.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Why Can't You Understand?

Or maybe the question is how can you possibly understand the horror of watching your land burn? It is an open wound you don't forget for a moment, a thought that stays in your mind as you go about your day.

The horror of what is happening is there.

My daughter posted this video and I thought - there, that's it...that's the horror of it. If you really want to understand what it is like...freeze the video and look at the city in front of the mountain. Imagine that you live in that city with the beautiful view of the mountains gently climbing beside the city. Imagine your house is right there...

Now run the video and as you watch in twenty seconds what took an hour to film, imagine for a moment, sitting before you window watching as the mountain is consumed with flames. Imagine the smells that come and the thought that maybe you should take your children from their beds, pack up the photo albums that can never be replaced. Your wedding album, the baby clothes you put away hoping to give to grandchildren not yet born because they were once worn by your babies. The new shirt you bought just last week.

Imagine looking at the silver spoons that come from your grandmother. You need to take them too. If your house would go on fire, the heat would be enough, surely, to melt them to nothing. The albums, the laptop computer you got last year. You have to take it. The mixer you bought last year...the one you use every week. You can't take it. You can't take the treadmill you bought last year, it's took big and really, don't you wish you'd used it more? Will it be there when you come back?

As you look around, the police come and knock on your door. You have to leave now, they tell you. You stare at him and he tells you not to worry. They'll watch the house for you. You want to laugh. Watch the house? Will you watch it burn? But there is nothing the man can do. His job is to get you out of here. There are others, up there on the mountain, fighting the flames back.

You can't think of them now or you'll break. You need to take the children and the albums, the spoons...you can't leave the spoons...and the blanket your grandmother made. Your jewelry, her necklace that your mother gave you, your ring you only wear when you go out...the passports. Your driver's license. The extra set of keys. Keys to a house that might not be here when you come back. What else?

Oh God, what else can you take in the minutes you have? You look out the window...the glow is brighter, larger. Why does it seem closer? You need to call your sister, your mother. Your mother-in-law. The dog...you have to take the dog.

You get it all together. You;re ready to walk out of the house, not sure it will be there when you come back. You take your sleeping children from their beds, wrap them in blankets and carry them to the car. They'll never remember this night, no matter how it ends. You'll never forget it, no matter how it ends.

How long have you lived there? Will you lose all there is? What else should you have taken? You can smell the fire. You buckle your kids into the car. The trunk is stuffed. And you realize that all that is precious is there and all that you left behind...isn't worth your lives.

You drive to the end of the block. To the right is the mountain, on fire. You join a long line of departing cars. The children have gone back to sleep. You turn to the left, to life, and drive away. Did you take the spoons? What about the matching fork? It was in the dishwasher, now left behind. You can't go back...only forward. Forward to safety. Out of the smoke, away from the flames...even if the flames follow you.

And all over Israel, you know this scene is happening again and again because as high as the mountains are, that's how much they hate us. You can't put out the fire of their hatred and so all you can do is focus on life. What they burn, we will rebuild. What they destroy, we will recreate.

A time lapse video by Noam Armonn Noam Armonn Time Lapse Photography:

video

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Painful Statistics

You can track the pain of my country by the statistics on my blog.

The first time I noticed a spike was days into the first time Elie went to war. I was getting tons more comments (and hits) than ever before. I got to ten or eleven thousand hits a day and thought to myself, hey, all I have to do is have a son in a war...forget that. I was thrilled when the hits dropped back to normal...a few hundred more people per day, that I could handle.

The next time there was a spike, I wasn't as surprised. Elie was in another war and again, I prayed for normal.

The third time, Elie was next to be called in, but Israel was fighting, the south was again under bombardment, and people were flocking to the site.

And now, once again - over 5,000 people today, and the day according to my US-based server is only half over. They say that statistics and traffic and visits and hits are important for a website.

I guess if you're trying to make a lot of money, that's true but if you just want peace and quiet...less is so much more.

I'll give up the fires, the stoning attacks and more...thank you for visiting my site, really but I don't need 10,000 people a day to come here...my country needs peace. We need the fires to end.

Don't go away - but help please. Pray - pray for peace for Israel; pray for the families who have lost their homes. Pray for the wounded, the frightened.

Pray for the firefighters and the troops who are out there.

Pray for my son, and all the sons and daughters of Israel.

Pray for peace.

Fire Fighting Planes in the Sea (Video) and a Warning

I saw this video - watched it twice and thought...wow...

And then I posted it to Facebook...and others thought...wow...

Except for one very funny man named David who wrote, "PSA - don't go scuba diving in the next few days - you might end up in a forest!     (PSA=Public Service Announcement)

And I laughed...not for the first time in a week, but pretty darn close. We are all hoping the tide has turned and that the fires, now under control, will be stopped soon. I'm scared that the Palestinians thought they accomplished something...they did - they destroyed close to 2,000 homes, forced 100,000 people from their homes, destroyed 130,000 dunams. But they also failed because once again, they united Israel into one people, determined, angry, dedicated. Massive donations are pouring in to help the families, communities are organizing, homes are being offered, government organizations are allocating immediate funds. People are donating clothes, toys, furniture...

We will rebuild...but in the meantime, maybe David's right, be careful where you go scuba diving!

video

New York Times - J'Accuse

Dear New York Times,
I accuse you of dishonest reporting, of fraudulently manipulating facts. I accuse you of inhumanity, cruelty, of intentionally misguiding to your readers. I accuse you of causing pain. I accuse you of demeaning the very definition of journalism. You have failed to report "all the news that's fit to print" by hiring and supporting self-proclaimed journalists who use the platform you give them to spread lies and inaccuracy.
Sincerely,
One Israeli

Could it be that the New York Times has failed to report over 400 fires burning in Israel? Missed the fact that over 130,000 dunams of land have been destroyed, almost 2,000 homes destroyed or damaged. Have you missed the fact that last week almost 100,000 people were evacuated? This was the question we asked a few days ago. Now, we ask a different one; now we wish you had continued your failures because the reports, when they finally happened, are even worse than the omission.

Days later, it seems you might have almost caught up - you host a video on the fires. You show a restaurant owner in Haifa who lost his much-loved restaurant - perhaps because he makes a point of mentioning how many have offered to help, including Palestinians and the accusation of arson is hidden in terms of "someone said that maybe it was caused by someone throwing a pipe bomb" in the forest.

Yes, yes, you have to put that special angle on everything you report...but okay. What else is in the coverage you finally give? No, no numbers. That would be too much - to tell people of the evacuated, the wounded, the acres and acres of land deliberately burned, the homes destroyed.

A mother caught with a child in the car - that was decent reporting. The scenes are indeed horrific and kudos to you for showing the horror of a city on fire. Terrifying for a mother to have to contemplate where her child would be safer...in a car surrounded by fires and smoke and stuck in a traffic jam as thousands try to flee, or going on foot, out there in the smoke?

So you had to spin this story of a nation under attack, didn't you?

Well, you certainly couldn't speak to the Israeli police or army - they would tell you about dozens of arsonists already arrested.

They would tell you of the evidence they have collected; the videos showing people...Arabs, Palestinians setting fires.

They would show you villages burned, houses destroyed. Hundreds of people huddled together in a shelter waiting for word on whether their homes had been destroyed.

So you couldn't show them, you couldn't talk to them..."what to do?" as my children used to say when they were young.

What can the New York Times do when all evidence proves a massive wave of "pyro-terrorism" has been launched by Palestinians against the very land they claim they love? What to do?


So, you interview someone from "civil defense."

No, not an Israeli one, of course not. But a Palestinian, one who speaks of how THEY have gotten more than 100 messages from their fire fighters that they are READY to share in fighting the fires in Haifa and Jerusalem. Seriously?
And you let the man continue with the lies...

"This kind of fire needs a lot of time to try to investigate before going to identify the direct reason."

Really? Why don't you just ask the dozens of suspects we arrested for setting them? Israel has proved way more than half are direct arson attacks - in some cases, fires starting in FOUR locations surrounding a village - at the same time. A lot of time? It takes minutes.

"Forty-two percent," says the Palestinian chief of mis-information, "is coming from people, you know, people throwing cigarettes."

Cigarettes don't explode a forest in minutes, nor do they start four separate fires on three sides of a village simultaneously.

"Twenty-five percent," the moron continues, "of the fire cases is coming from the playing of children." I guess if you call men in their twenties and thirties children, you might be right. I guess if you call adolescents bent on destruction and murder "children," you may be right.

"The rest of the percentage," because clearly he knows who started all our fires," is coming from all the reasons of the fire, that's including electricity."

Well, this one hits close to home because on Shabbat, Elie was designated as an ambulance driver and David was his volunteer and they were called to a fire in our city. A building's electric system sparked and several apartments were damaged and 12 people injured.

But...but...this fire isn't being counted in the four hundred attacks in the last few days, of which over 200 have been confirmed as arson already.

And then the insult from this obnoxious and ignorant man. He wants to tell the world this is the second big fire we have had in 6 years - never mind that the last one was set by a two Arab brothers from Usfiya who were arrested for negligence which caused fire (police were unable to prove arson as they can in so many cases here).

He says, "they [Israelis] should build the capacity to try to stop these kinds of risks." I guess we should take his advice. Perhaps a large wall, a security wall would suffice. Perhaps from every village that harbors an attacker, we should demand compensation.

The current estimate of damage is well over 500 million shekels. Perhaps the New York Times could ask Mahmoud Abbas to issue us a check, though I think we prefer cash. Yes, that's right - cash from Abbas and an apology from The New York Times.

Following is one video: the narrator explains how the Arabs light the fire and then calmly walk back to their village, unconcerned that they have just committed a crime. He explains that an Israeli car comes by, stops and calls for help and that the Arabs clearly don't know what they are doing. They set the fire in a place unlikely to cause much damage.  It is sheltered from the wind and more, they set it among olive trees, which are extremely hard to burn...

The Glory of YouTube...You'll Never Believe

You'll never believe what you can find on YouTube...I went searching for something specific. Still haven't found it yet, but found these and am enjoying the search.

First up, is a video of Obama rushing up the steps of AirForce One and then turning around and telling Bill Clinton to hurry up. The plane is on the tarmac in Israel. They have just finished attending the funeral of Shimon Peres and Obama clearly wants to get out of here. And there goes Bill, talking to the Israelis, thanking them, saying goodbye and Obama, not bothering to even pretend friendship...


And then there was this one...this is what you call "damning someone with faint praise" - some nice compliments, with lousy explanations and some downright manipulations to see Israel in a negative way...here are my warnings/comments to consider as you watch her tell you about what life is really like in Israel (and when you are done, please see this post I made years ago about what life is actually like in Israel. (Video below the comments)

Comments:
Another incorrect and slanted report by Network Seeker...a few examples: The country shuts down to rest to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath - well, yeah, some do - as I do but there's nothing resting in Tel Aviv.

But, more accurately, every country in the world has a weekend and you don't attribute it to religious coercion...so why do you suggest that because OUR weekend is Friday and Saturday, instead of Saturday and Sunday, that WE are coerced by religion? You'll be hard-pressed to find public transportation but if you can afford it, you can hop in a taxi? Seriously? 

And what life is like in Israel has to include the fact that some buildings have Shabbat elevators which, the blonde lady MUST point out, in convenient for some but a hassle for everyone else. Amazing! Male and female Israelis are required to serve in the military for 2 and 3 years respectively - well, you got that wrong..it's actually 3 and 2 years if you want to go respectively...and as of a few months ago, it's less than three years for the boys (I should know, since my youngest son is now in the army). 

Wailing air-raid sirens going off multiple times a day? Um...okay, but you might want to get your hearing checked. 

You'll see three meter deep holes so that if you come across a bomb you can throw it in there? OMG, that's hysterical! I've never seen a three meter hole, never come across a bomb and sure as hell, wouldn't pick it up and drop it in a hole, if I did see one!

Family is important in Israel and staying in touch with your family is highly valued - and that would be true but the picture they show is an ultra-orthodox man surrounded by about 20 male children - another manipulation. We actually do have women in our families and give birth to female children as often, or nearly as often as we do male children. 

And our openness to speak about how we are doing with our families and going through a divorce has led us to be a nation of entrepreneurs? How the hell did she make that transition?
Video:

Friday, November 25, 2016

Attempted Mass Murder in Israel

Last night, Palestinians set four fires around the small mountain village of Beit Meir - including one to block the exit of this isolated place perched high on the mountains as you climb towards Jerusalem. It's a beautiful, stunning area, surrounded by forest and green. Or it was.

Last night, Palestinians set four fires...designed to trap and murder a small village.

Last night, our brave and exhausted firefighters fought their way through the horror of intentional pyro-terrorism - a fancy word the doesn't really show the magnitude of almost 200 people injured, 75,000 people evacuated from their homes, more than 550 apartments and homes damaged or destroyed, old age homes evacuated, 90 year old people moved on stretchers, a 100 year old person hurried through the smoke.

They come to a motorcyclist on the road and scream to him, "get out of here, get out of here, get out of here."

They stop because they are blocked by the fire. "I don't see the road on the right. Do you see it?" asks the driver.

"Stop, stop," they hear on the radio.

"We're standing here," they answer.

Last night...they tried to murder. Last night...while you slept, while I slept...last night.

Israel's Fires from a Personal Perspective

I'm sitting safely in my home. So far, relatively far from any threat of fires. At most, there is a slight smell in the air, a slight darkening in the sky from distant smoke to remind me...if a reminder was needed. I have no right to offer a personal perspective...yet, and hopefully not at all.

But, as this is my blog, I guess of all places, this is where I"m allowed to offer my meandering thoughts. So...I have a friend, a wonderful, kind man who recently retired and is now looking forward to, God willing, many healthy, happy years with his family. And late last night, an hour or two after the Minster of Internal Security announced all fires were under control, my friend was told to evacuate his village...one fire had reached the edge of the village and as with all of the more than 100 fires that were burning all over Israel, the authorities were taking no chances. He came on Facebook to write that he and his wife were waiting to register where they were going so that people could contact them and then they would leave, not knowing what they would find when they return.

I didn't ask him what he took with him but I looked around my house and wondered. What is most precious beyond our lives...I can't even begin to think of that. Of the beautiful wood china cabinet we brought with us from America...the one we bought shortly after our marriage from my husband's uncle's store, of the beautiful grandfather clock I bought because I had fallen in love with a similar clock in the office where I worked and, contrary to what my boss said about shutting off the chimes, I enjoyed them for twenty years before they stopped chiming (have got to try to get that fixed!).

Of the beautiful bedroom set we finally bought after 29 years of marriage...and a whole life we have built. Pictures spread all over the house...how long would it take me to collect all the albums, the box of pictures I haven't yet had a chance to put into albums?

Other friends have evacuated as well. Yaakov's family is north of the fires and his home is safe but I was shaking at the thought of them being so close. Before I could even say anything, Elie called and asked them to come here; then I called...and they are coming and I'm so grateful I don't have to worry about them over the coming Shabbat.

The coming Shabbat...Davidi was supposed to be home yesterday. I waited, planned out a special roast dinner because he missed it the first and only time I ever made it. So it has been defrosted since yesterday and I'm cooking it today...only Davidi didn't come home because the army has canceled the weekend leave for whole units in case they need more manpower. The cancellation so far was for last night. This morning, he is awaiting orders to see if he can leave. It will take him hours to arrive, if he can even get out.

They've given this latest intifada, this intentional burning of people's homes and our land, a name. It is called "pyroterrorism."

I don't care what you call it; I just want it to stop. People say that there is a reason for terrorism, a justification that people use to try to explain. They're poor, they're deprived. They just want...whatever the hell they just want. They're oppressed (not by us, but never mind). All they want is a good life and Israel is stopping them...um, no, we are enabling them that life when they drive on the roads we build, send their children to the schools we fund, use our medical system to treat all that ails them, and so much more. They, and I'm not talking only about the regular Palestinian population, most of whom DO want peace and quiet, but even those who are against our country - they live here and take full advantage of the wonders that are this country, and then they celebrate as people try to destroy it.

A few days ago, I sat next to an Arab woman on the light rail train in Jerusalem and as she skimmed down her Facebook feed, I shamelessly watched. Tons of pictures of clothes (no idea why since her feed was in Arabic) and then, a map of Israel with a huge boot coming to stomp on my country. Again, no clue what the Arabic said...and then she continued to scroll until she got to an item she read more carefully. I recognized the picture. It was one of several similar ones in the past few months. It was the picture of a dead Arab on the ground, blood on his shirt. He had attempted to stab soldiers at a check point and was shot. And I will admit, having seen the image of the boot coming down on my land, my first thought was "karma."

Somehow, I guess we have grown accustomed to the attempts to stab us, ram us, explode next to us. shoot and axe us. Well, not accustomed to it, but less shocked by it. And so, the deepest personal perspective I can offer is simply this.

There are some unmovable foundations to all that is Israel.

Our soldiers - we may disagree on so much, but when it comes to our soldiers, we unite without hesitation. Yesterday morning, a young soldier was killed in a training accident and our nation mourned.

Our faith - we have all levels of observance in this land, really. But when we see a firefighter come out of an endangered synagogue holding a Torah, we do not hesitate in our gratitude.

Jerusalem - don't mess with our capital. If you want to understand Israelis, understand that Jerusalem is our heart, a holy and divine gift and that isn't going to change. It's been a constant for 3,000 years; the place Jews have turned to during more than 2,000 years of exile and the place we turn to three times a day, each day, every day now that we are home.

Our land - whatever our borders are, were, or will be, this is our land. They have attacked our soldiers, our faith, Jerusalem and our land in the past but I can't remember a time when they set so many fires, so maliciously, so dangerously.

The anger at what they have destroyed will come. For now, there is pain. Pain when we look at the burned forests that took so long to grow, agony when we look at the homes destroyed.

I want this to stop. I have written this before and I will write it again. I have hated people and ideas. I have felt that things were unfair and needed to be changed. I have never stabbed anyone, never even lifted a weapon to threaten. I have never started a fire meant to destroy the homes and lives of others or endanger their lives.

Terrorism, and this is terrorism - the intentional destruction of homes and lives and land - this terrorism cannot be justified and those who celebrate it have no right to live here, to use our roads and hospitals or even breathe the smoke-filled air of this land I love.

They are attacking the very roots of who we are as a people. There is nothing more basic here than the land.

Please God, bring rain. It is You who control all, not the weathermen. Please God, if they won't stop, please help us to stop the fires (and please let Davidi come home for Shabbat).

Latest Map of Arson Attacks in Israel (Nov 24: 11:30 p.m.)


Reports that another village in the north has been evacuated; the fire that burned out of control for hours seems to have once again flared up...it's going to be a long, hard, cold night for our firefighters.

Over 200 of the fires have already been confirmed to have been arson attacks (evidence found to prove this and in some cases the arsonist-terrorists were arrested).

Hat tip to Alan Silver for the news updates and map!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Israel in a Picture

Do you want to understand Israel at this moment? It's here in this picture. We are rushing to save all that is precious to us. We are under attack. Hundreds of fires have been started. More than 50%, over 200 fires, have already been confirmed as arson. They are calling it the Fire Intifada.

Fire fighters are going door to door in apartment buildings to make sure no one is inside. Someone runs up to them and tells them there is a woman in an apartment - and the camera shows them running to the apartment.

Now look at this picture. They are saving people, trying to save homes...and something more. The essence of what we are will not be burned in these fires of hate.

And so, in addition to saving what homes we can, what lives we must, here's a picture of firefighters who went into a synagogue and saved the Torah scrolls.

If you want to understand Israel - look at this picture. For thousands of years, we have survived because we are grounded, centered, sheltered and loved by our God and by our land. And because we love our God and we love our land.

Years ago, a silly song attempted to suggest that the people of Gaza were fighting against an unjust war that was waged against them...after they fired hundreds of rockets at us within a few days...but never mind the facts.

I remember one line in that song: "You can burn all our homes and our schools and our mosques, we will not go down in Gaza tonight." Well, they did go down, of course. They went down because the war they started was one of aggression and hate. The schools and mosques were filled with weapons; the homes used to shelter terrorists.

But tonight I can tell them - you can burn all our homes and our schools and our synagogues, but we will not go down in Israel tonight, or tomorrow, or next week, or next year, or next century and beyond.

We won't go down because the war you started will fall before the love and kindness happening in this country at this moment. Our schools are opening to welcome evacuees, our homes will open as well. Our heroes will fight to stop the fires and you know what, they'll take the time to rescue the Torah scrolls that contain our faith, our dedication, the promise God made to us to give us this land. It's all written there, all protected.

This is Israel. On the news, the firefighters look exhausted. More volunteers are pouring into the area. The fires are under control; security forces are on alert and have caught some of the terrorists.

Israel in a picture? One of our heroes saving a part of our heritage.





Israel Under Attack - Hundreds of Fires Set

Israel's firefighters have been fighting arson attacks for three days in a row...24 hours a day. Over 60,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. Fires are "breaking out" all over the country - far up north and in the center of the country. Modiin's two train stations were closed, A major highway leading out of Jerusalem...closed because of fire. Route 55 closed because of fire.

In Haifa, a fire. Over a dozen neighborhoods have been evacuated. Elie and Lauren called  Yaakov and have asked him to come to us for Shabbat with his wife and their children. Over 350 fighters and rescue personnel in over 100 fire trucks are fighting the battles. A hi-rise building - 16 stories is on fire, "Call Yaakov," Aliza tells me. I'm to call him and tell him to come to us.

Other firefighting teams are battling fires in so many places. A few minutes ago, I heard that Haifa firefighters are desperately working to prevent a raging fire from reaching a big gas station in a neighborhood there. If that blows...

I can't think. I sit here shaking in pain, in anger.

A journalist who proudly leans left writers, "Anyone out there celebrating these terrible fires raging through our cities and villages and fields and forests does not truly love The Land."

On this, at least, we agree. Though I would take it one step further and say that setting fire to the land and celebrating those fires is not really so different, one from the other. And more, I don't know a single human being who would set fire to their own home.

And so with each match, with each flame, even the Palestinian arsonists are making it clear....this is NOT their land, NOT their home...but it is mine...and so today, it looks like my son will not come home to the surprise steak dinner I planned; he will not eat the turkey and stuffing we decided to make.


The army is keeping the boys in, in case they are needed to help in this emergency situation...and I am heartbroken. I wanted to see him...I wanted him home.

The Darned Roller Coaster

Years and years ago, I realized that life as a soldier's mother is very much like a roller coaster. You travel along the path and suddenly, the bottom falls out below you and you feel yourself falling. Your stomach gets tight, your heart is filled with fear, pain, something.

It hasn't happened to me in a long time. I'm calmer these days. I should be. Three boys in the army, I should be able to see ahead and anticipate the dips and the climbs and relish the flat areas. If only...

A few hours ago, a tank overturned. One soldier, 20-year-old Ido Ben-Ari who was the tank commander, was killed in the accident, three other soldiers were lightly wounded. I never thought to make a connection, but Elie did. I went to YNET to see the news and read this...
The accident happened at around 1 a.m. on Mount Shifon in the northern Golan Heights during a wide-scale training exercise that included Ben-Ari's tank brigade as well as the Givati Brigade and its engineering forces.
I don't know exactly where Davidi is training, but I know enough now to know that he was in the same place. Thankfully, his group had finished its job and returned to base a short time before the tank flipped over. He wasn't there to see it. But that knowledge only came in the last few minutes.

Before that, I understood that he was likely there and my stomach rolled and my eyes filled with tears. I knew he wasn't hurt, or I should say my head knew that. My heart just hurts. So much sorrow today - the fires burning our land and now a soldier lost.

Ido was 20 years old..as is my Davidi. He's smiling and so beautiful in this picture, Ido is. Ido was. I cannot fathom the pain his family must be in. The news says his father was in the tank division. How does a family cope with such a loss?

It's been so long since the bottom fell out of my world, it's hard to remember how I coped with it. For now, I sit here looking at Ido's picture, at that horrible tank that turned over. I think of Ido's mother and father and the tears stream down my face.

I can't wait for Davidi to come home later today. He's hours and hours away. I am fighting the urge to drive up there just to grab him and bring him home. Later, I'll fight the urge to grab him and never let him go.

May God bless the memory of Ido Ben-Ari and welcome him to the heavens as a son of our people, as someone who chose to defend this land and sacrificed all. Please God, send comfort to his family and help them in this horrible, horrible time. Let them know only love and joy from this day forward. Let them know that all of Israel mourns with them, cries for the loss of Ido.




Be Careful What You Pray For

I'm sick and tired of the US elections, of the negativity and the hate. I have always been an optimist, perhaps even a blind optimist. A realist will tell you to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. A negative person will expect the worst. And sadly, optimists hope for the best and often don't prepare for the worst.

I didn't expect Trump to win. I sat and watched the election results from a far off land. Trying to sleep, was almost impossible and so through the long night in Germany, I would wake up, turn on the television in my hotel room and listen as the votes were tallied. I was held captive, forced to watch liberal news stations dance around the growing results and slowly over the course of the night begin to realize their nightmare had become reality - they will now have to report about and deal with a Trump administration.

Then I watched as America caught fire - how people speak of overturning a system that has been in place for over 200 years. I never liked the electoral college, never understood why it was created, what role it played. But now I do.

What the founding fathers envisioned was a nation where all would vote for its leaders. Free. No monarchy. No central authority. No king. No queen. And not New York and California deciding for all the rest of America who should lead. Yes, there are more people in California and New York and so these liberal states went overwhelmingly for Clinton giving her the popular vote but America went for Donald Trump.

I'm tired of people saying they won't accept the results - the very question that infuriated those who were against Trump's ambiguous stand on whether he would accept them or not. If they weren't prepared to accept the results, why were they so enraged when he expressed the same attitude they are showing now?

I'm tired of the violence, the hate, the negativity, the fear...and so I just wished something would stop these endless rants...and then something did. Be careful what you pray for.

All eyes in Israel, at least, are off the US elections and focused on our land, on the very air we are breathing. I don't know where the figure came from, but someone said in the last week, fire fighters have battled 270 fires. They closed one of the major highways that goes to Jerusalem briefly this
morning.

Most of the attacks are suspected to have been caused by arson - they have already found evidence of this. Dozens of fires are burning. Some out of control. Over 3,000 people have been evacuated; dozens of people have lost their homes. More than one friend is in the path of these fires.

Be careful what you pray for - sometimes you might actually get it. I wanted to think of something other than the elections and now, now they are the farthest thing from my mind.

Please God, help save our land. Stop them from setting the fires. Please bring the rain. We need help. Please watch over the firefighters battling these fires and the emergency forces who battle beside them. Please send comfort to the families who have lost their homes and comfort for those who fear the very real threat that they too are in the path of these attacks.

Please God, watch over this holy land.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Our Hearts Cry

Israeli news is reporting fires burning in several locations (some for two days now). What Israeli reporters are dancing around is the cause...many of these fires (dare we say the majority and possibly all of them) are arson attacks for nationalistic reasons...nationalistic...no, wait, let's cut through the politically correct phraseology...these are terror attacks.

Some terror attacks are aimed at our soldiers, some at our civilians, and some at our land.

And so I will say again - if you love something, you do not set it afire. That goes for the flag of your country and that goes for a land you try to claim as your own.

Palestinian arsonists are setting fires, burning this land. There is no greater proof to whom this land belongs. This is Israel. Promised by God, earned by right, by might, by history. Earned because it is our people struggling to put out the fires. Our hearts cry tonight - for more than a dozen home, for hundreds who have been evacuated and for the land, the earth, this holy soil.

With every match, the Palestinians announce more clearly than we have yet been able to do...this land is Israel, land of the Jews.

This is what they are doing to my home...this is not being done by people who love this country or this land.

Fires in Israel's north

Walla Map showing locations of some of the fires

Israeli home destroyed in the fire

Another home destroyed in the north

Fire in the forest around Jerusalem

AP: Fire in Israel's north

The Bus Driver

Bus drivers in Israel are...well, somewhat unique in many ways. Many people have stories of amazing things they have done - in terror attacks, they have risked their lives to get their passengers to safety. They've slammed doors closed before terrorists can get in; they've hit the gas pedal to move out of range; they've hit the brake when a terrorist was on-board hoping, and succeeding, to cause them to fall, while opening the doors so that passengers can escape.


And in less turbulent times, they have been known to turn the bus around because a child forgot to get off the bus and is crying; they have parked the bus and told passengers they won't move until someone gets up and gives a pregnant woman or elderly man a seat.

They have been known to completely leave their route (with passengers going along for the ride) in order to drive a former prime minister to her home, or take a woman to the hospital after she suffered a heart attack, thus saving her life.

Many are greeted by name as they drive the same route for long periods of time. So many stories and now I have one too. The first inkling that this driver was special was when the bus started to pull out of Ammunition Hill this evening, and then stopped. Many drivers try to get going because the rule is that once they are "out" of the station, they don't have to open doors for more passengers.

Tonight, the driver closed the doors, drove about 5 yards and then stopped and opened the doors to let two more passengers get on. And then, as we wound our way through Maale Adumim, people got off, calling out "good night" or "thank you" as they left. One person got off two stops before mine.

When she got off, I looked around and though I couldn't see all the way to the back of the bus, I thought she was the only other passenger on the bus besides me.

As the bus continued down the road, I heard the driver ask "Is this your stop?" I wasn't actually sure he was talking to me but I answered, "no, the next one."

And, as he continued to drive, I asked him, "am I the last one?"

He answered that he thought so and continued. I live in a neighborhood that is a "figure 8" - two circles joined together. The bottom circle is where I live, and no buses go there; so the buses travel down one side of the top circle and then curve around and climb back up the hill and out through the same traffic circle that begins the 8.

My stop is located after going down the hill, around the curve and a bit up the hill and so going home involves a bit of a detour back down the hill (not far at all) and through a park to join up with the curve of the lower circle of the 8. As we approached the traffic circle (roundabout, kikar) that marks the point where the upper and lower circles join, the driver stopped the bus in the middle of the traffic circle and asked me if I wanted to get out here. It saves me a bit of a walk (maybe 2 minutes down the hill and through the part) but it was still such a nice thing to do, thoughtful.

I smiled, showing him my surprise, thanked him, wished him a good night, and got out of the bus there in the middle of the traffic circle (which is at the very end of my neighborhood, at the very end of my city, and, at that hour, very quiet.

He said good night, closed the doors and drove away as I walked towards home. In so many ways, this is what Israel is about - thinking of others, that thoughtful gesture, that open communication.

Thinking and doing. A moment of kindness that really cost him nothing and yet helped another. In a job that is very routine - drive, listen for the bell, pull to the side, open doors, check to make sure passengers disembark safely, other passengers get on, take their tickets, close the doors, drive. Again and again and again for hours at a time. It would be normal for the driver to be one with this huge vehicle; a part of a chain of actions done without thought.

"Do you want to get off here?" is the driver saying, I'm human. I'm thinking. I'm a kind person and I can do this small thing to make it easier for you. It's late at night and you're probably tired. Would this help you?

It helped...I walked home smiling. An Israeli bus driver and my own little bus story!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Shake It Off, America

Katie is someone I have known for years, but never met. We belong to the same profession, but live very different lives. For a while, I envied her - when she and her husband took off for a life that was sea-bound while I feel forever tied to land, family, Israel. We've had very little one-on-one contact over the years - especially for the last few years when I've been less active on one particular email group.

I am well aware that I was one of three Israelis on that email list; most were Americans, most liberal and Democratic. My fondest memory of the group occurred over a decade ago. I felt beaten and lost, constantly in mourning. Each time a bus exploded or a mall was attacked, each time we went through multiple funerals, I thought I had reached the end of my ability to cope. Even worse when the very next day, there was another attack and so even more funerals.

Without my knowing it, the group got together and decided that each person would send me something. One man, a Jew who lives in San Francisco but is not religious/kosher, warned the others that as a religious Jew, I would not be able to eat most of what they wanted to send me and so they agreed to collectively pool money and make some purchases.

Right before the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana, I received a small chest filled with chocolates, honey and wine - all strictly kosher. To this day, over a decade later, I still have that box...and the next one that they sent me a few days later because so many had donated so much, they were able to send me TWO gifts...and a third a bit later - a gift certificate to Amazon.

Each time there was an attack here, for months after I received those boxes, I thought about the people who cared enough to reach out and offer comfort. Katie was one of those people. I've had a soft spot for her for years. She confessed her own problems to the list at one point and it was one that I was familiar with, having very close friends who were experiencing the same issues.

Over time, the contact moved to Facebook and I watched as she wrote that they'd sold their boat (ship? I'm so bad knowing when to call it a boat and when to call it a ship) and settled back on land. I didn't know she even reads my blog - or maybe it was just one post in particular (What Victory Should Mean).

Katie left a comment, one that upset me, hurt me, accused me and I've been thinking how to respond ever since. Katie wrote:
Dear Paula,
I am an independent. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. However, I voted for Hilary Clinton on Tuesday. I voted for her because the alternative was a horrible man who has bankrupted small contractors, partied with convicted sexual predators (in December there will be a trial in New York where he will have to defend himself against the alleged rape of a 13 year old girl at one of Epstein's "Parties". He is the one is stated at his rallies that he would not accept the results of the election if he lost. That is why they asked him that in the debate. Yes, they did ask Hilary and she said she would, of course, accept the results. He is the one that asked, "Why can't we use nukes?" or stated that he believed in "One God, One country."
I am not sure what news you were listening to or reading but there are a lot of different news sites out there. It is his words and deeds that make him the monster. It is supporters that spew bile and blows on anyone that isn't just like them. Do you really want to see an America that is a symbol of White, Male, "Christian" religious authoritarianism? Do you think that this will, in some way, help Israel? Why do you want America to suffer? Are you mad at me? Did I do something to offend you? Why do you want my black friends, my female relatives, and my gay friends to live in fear?
Sincerely,
Katie
I've read this many times. She is not the only one of my friends, distant and close, to have offered support for Hillary. One friend of almost 30 years is so upset with the election (and apparently me) that she has unfollowed me on Facebook. This was clearly the worst election in US history, certainly recent history. Katie says that it is Trump supporters that spew bile and blow on anyone that isn't just like them - and yet it seems to be Clinton supporters spewing hatred and violence, looting, shooting and rioting now.

She supported Bernie Sanders - clearly the most anti-Israel politician that ran in this election - second only to Clinton. Had Bernie (or Clinton) been elected, my son's LIFE (not his life style and not his economic safety, but his LIFE) would have been endangered. Both Sanders and Clinton would have continued to accept Iran's push for nuclear power while doing all they could to strangle Israel for building some apartments on the mountains north and east of Jerusalem. Both would have sought to punish Israel with sanctions while freely allowing millions of dollars to flow to Iran. Israel would use its aid package to continue to develop defensive weapons, while Iran has and will use this money for offensive weapons and support of terror. She supported Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton - and yet I have accused none of my friends of attempting to murder my child or any other Israeli soldier.

I have been told that I have helped destroy lives of people they hold dear and have kept my silence. EVEN IF Gay marriage is rescinded (which Trump has stated he will not do, nor do I believe Congress would support), the LIVES of their loved ones are not endangered. What did gay people do before single-sex marriage was legalized in the United States? The same thing that I would do if the US said Jewish marriages were not legal - I would laugh and continue to love the Jewish man I have loved for 34 years. Yes, they would lose their tax benefits so that means money, right? You compare the importance of MONEY to the LIFE of my son? NO....I'm sorry, just NO.

And yet, I kept my silence, until now. I didn't explode in anger. I would die for my children and I do not merely say those words. Elie, Davidi, Shmuli and Lazer all have guns and yet, if danger approached, I honestly think my natural reaction would be to step in front of them. They (and Amira and Aliza, my children by marriage and my grandchildren), they are my heart, my life and Iran is threatening us while America under Obama hands billions of dollars to them and ignores Israel's intelligence warnings.

But what really got to me where the questions that Katie asked.

Do you really want to see an America that is a symbol of White, Male, "Christian" religious authoritarianism? 

Well, no, but...I really doubt that Trump can, three months before he's even taken office, be accused of changing the way the US is perceived. White? Well, the US is mostly white. Male? I don't think anyone would suggest that any country is all male or mainly male. Christian religious authoritarianism? Wow...so many thoughts there. Where were you when I was told to sing Christmas carols in elementary school; where were you when the principal of my high school brought in a Christmas tree?

I don't believe America under Donald Trump will be any more or less Christian than America was under Obama, but it might just be a nation more tolerant to its Jewish population, which witnessed a serious increase in anti-Semitism during the Obama administration - a trend I never remember you complaining about.

Now the logical concern here might be for the Muslim population of the US, not the Christian one and I'll admit that is a concern but I think America has to be put on alert for all extremes and should the Trump nomination result in a backlash against Muslims, Americans should scream out in anger (something they didn't bother doing during so many anti-Semitic attacks under Obama).

Do you think that this will, in some way, help Israel? 

What? The election of Donald Trump? Hell, yes, it will help Israel. It already has. For the first time in 8 years, Israel is facing a president that will respect and be respectful to OUR democratically elected government. Trump has already invited Netanyahu to the White house - and unlike during the Obama years, we can actually expect Trump to welcome him and be there.

We have had to fight, each time over the last few years, to get US support in the United Nations, even against the most outlandish resolutions (like the one that denied a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount).

The US has withheld intelligence, while expecting Israel to share our intelligence reports and has consistently ignored OUR intelligence findings on Iran - something Trump recognized right away, even before taking office. 

And, of course, there is the Iran agreement, which Trump might work to repeal and even if he doesn't repeal it, he will, at least, demand actual compliance and inspect the nuclear sites. And he might, after 68 years, move the US Embassy to where it belongs (and were it sits in every other country), our national capital, Jerusalem.

Why do you want America to suffer? 

I think the question is why you think I would want America to suffer. I don't. Any more than you do. We may differ on the path, but accusing me of wanting to make America suffer is exactly the problem here. Since when did America become such an intolerant nation, full of people who are so sure they know better than everyone else? That their way is the ONLY way and everyone else is wrong, and worse, full of evil intent.

Are you mad at me? Did I do something to offend you? 

Why would I be mad at you? You live more than 6,000 miles away from me and we have never met in person. Isn't it more logical to assume that I did what I thought was best for America and for my family? Why are umaking this personal? Did I? Did I accuse you of trying to endanger my son or, for that matter, my own life given what Iran wants to do if it manages to go nuclear?

Why do you want my black friends, my female relatives, and my gay friends to live in fear?

And of all the questions, this is the one that bothers me the most. Not "do you want" but "why do you want". A foregone conclusion that I am anti-black, anti-female, anti-gay because I dared to support Trump.

Live in fear. There are phrases that trigger an automatic response inside my brain, that tie two concepts together without conscious thought. "Live in fear" is one of them.

Katie and another friend of mine have brought this issue to a personal level, accused me of damaging, endangering, hurting, causing fear. Live in fear.

People live in fear in Syria - of the next war that will come to their town, of the next missile that will be fired by one of half a dozen countries fighting God knows who to accomplish God knows what in a land torn apart by hatred and intolerance.

Jews lived in fear during the Holocaust. Women in the Congo live in fear, where an estimated 400,000 women are raped each year. Donald Trump has not taken office. He has done nothing to warrant the fear people claim they have. He has appointed a few people who have done nothing because they have no power, have not taken office.

Look at the examples above - Syria, Europe during the Holocaust, the Congo.  There people have or had very good reasons to live in fear. Is your faith in democracy so weak? What are you afraid of?

That Trump will outlaw gay marriage? He has already said he won't. But even if he did...which he won't...what is there to fear? That you won't get a tax break? No one is going to come into your home and force one of you to move out, come into your bedroom and make sure you aren't having sex.

If you are black, what do you fear? An increase in racism? Excuse me, but under the last black president, the racial divide in the US became enormous, ugly, so horrible.

If 50% of the US population (women) are living in fear, there is a lot more wrong with America than just the election of Donald Trump.

One of the things that I always loved about America was its potential, its ability to be so much to so many. It was the land where people went to be free. But more, it was a land of courage, willing to reach out and do what was right in the world.

Right now, as I listen and watch what is happening, I am shocked by the anger, by the hate, by the violence. The accusations, the lies, the cruelty, the pettiness.

A designer promises not to "dress" the new first lady; people complain because the Trumps have decided that it is best for their youngest son not to move to Washington in the middle of a school year. People who would have done anything to keep the Trumps out of the White House, not complain that they won't move in. People who never complained about the rise of anti-Semitism, suddenly scream out that they are worried about what will happen to Jews under the Trump administration.

Joe Biden takes it upon himself to assure Jews that the Trump administration won't hurt Israel because "Congress" won't let him? Joe Biden who never cared about Israel, who went along with the Iran deal and the regular pattern of disrespect...Joe Biden? Joe Biden, who cheated in a law school test. Joe Biden who plagiarized a speech written by a British Minister. Joe Biden!

Dear Katie - I have done nothing to hurt you. America will not be destroyed by Donald Trump...but it might be destroyed by the people who have become enamored with fear. Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "You have nothing to fear, but fear itself."

Shake it off, America. Wake up and start rebuilding. Stop the violence; stop the rioting. Stop the hate. But most of all, America, stop the fear. What you fail to understand is that there are nations and people out there celebrating your fear. Israel is not one of them. I am not one of them.

The stronger America is, the more likely it is to maintain its place as a leader of the free world. Right now, you are teetering on the edge and it is fear at your back that is trying to push you off. Shake it off, Katie. Shake it off, America.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's Complicated

Last year, I came to Germany for the first time in my life. I did it my way, accepting inside myself that I would do what I felt I could and accept what I couldn't. There was more that I couldn't than could. In the end, I attended the conference, gave my presentations, barely spoke outside the framework of the conference, and didn't go anywhere.

A year later and another invitation and I'm back again. This time, I did better...mostly. I forced myself into conversations with wonderful and kind people. I decided to go into the city using the free pass they gave me from the conference. I went into Stuttgart. As I walked, I looked at the faces. I found myself estimating how old each person was. The young, the middle aged...and then the elderly...very elderly...my eyes filled with tears...I blinked them away.

Stuttgart is a beautiful city. It was warmer last year here in Stuttgart than it was in Israel. This year, it was freezing cold - quite literally, As I walked, I remembered Saba Moshe standing in Auschwitz and telling us about how each morning, they had to run to the "bathroom" which was a large room with a long slab of concrete with holes in it. Each person sat on the hole to relieve himself. They took showers and then, wet and freezing and wearing only the thinnest of clothes, ran back to the bunk. I had on a shirt, two sweaters and a coat...four layers.

I took a train...a train...in Germany. All the emotions are there. But the people were friendly. "I don't speak German," I must have said a hundred times. Every single person communicated in English.

And now I sit in the airport in Stuttgart, waiting to go home. A man sits down next to me - also waiting and takes out what looks like a package of tortillas. I'm hungry, I thought to myself and began looking in my bag. I came to the last sandwich I made before leaving the airport. I put it beside me on the empty chair between me and the man and went back to looking for the cheese.

"Israeli?" he asked me. And then said, "Shalom aleichem" (peace unto you).

This is almost exactly the conversation I had the last time I flew to Germany - one German asked if I was Israeli. When I said yes, another responded with "hava nagila" and a third said, "shalom aleichem".

This time, I answered again, "yes" to confirm that I am indeed Israeli.

"I knew it from the bread," he said...in Hebrew. A voice from home. 

We spoke of where we live...of home...of politics. Last night a friend told him to avoid a street in Stuttgart...where a neo-nazi demonstration was taking place. I hadn't heard. He saw my Jewish star and told me it was impossible to wear it here. I told him I'd warn it the whole time.

He told me that as bad as it is here, and he felt it was bad, it is much worse in France. We sat for about 20 minutes talking of books and home and family and travels - it felt so good to speak in Hebrew.

We spoke of being in Germany on Kristallnacht, of traveling other places...and it turns out we have the same birthday (the real one ....on the Hebrew calendar). I smiled when he told me and responded that there are no coincidences in life. I feel that God is sending me comfort, telling me I"m almost home.
A short while later, he saw another man coming over and called to him in Hebrew. They and a third Israeli had attended a conference in the same complex where my conference was held.
 
He stands to go and check in for his earlier flight home - he is flying through Vienna; I am going through Zurich. Before he leaves for his flight, he offers me his remaining food....he insists that he doesn't need it. Warm soup, he says, a sandwich, some spicy ketchup.

I thanked him and told him he had made this all so much better. I needed home, I told him. I have chocolate and enough food, the Hebrew was what I needed.

"Nesiya tova," I wish him - have a good trip; he wishes me the same. 

A short time later, I went through security. I know it is nothing personal; I know it is how they do security. They frisk an old man; and then a woman instructs me to go through the machine - and then I too am frisked. I hate the feeling of her hands touching me and while I know that it is nothing more than their job, I feel the anger. As I collect my things and begin to walk through towards the terminal, I see a policeman standing there and I can't help thinking of the guards who watched as the Jews were herded towards the gas chambers. 

The Germans have done nothing to cause these thoughts...at least not in this century but the pain is there and I begin to think

All I need is home...I long for home.

What Victory Should Mean

The end of the US presidential election has finally finally finally come. I am so sick of this election and what got many of us through it was the knowledge that it would end. In most elections, each side knows there is a chance they will win and a chance they will lose. There is a danger in certainty, in not being prepared for other possibilities.

The danger is that if the other side wins, the side that was so certain will not adapt, will not accept. All along, quite unfairly, Trump was repeatedly pressed to confirm that he would accept the results if/when the US population chose Clinton. I might have missed it, but I don't remember them asking Clinton the same question.

Posted to Twitter; Post-election Clinton Supporters
Burning the American Flag
I think Trump was wrong for not immediately stating that of course he would accept the results and what a silly question it was. Instead, he blew the issue up by trying to sidestep it. He was, I believe, viewing his acceptance of that possibility, an admission that he believed it could happen, and he didn't want to allow for that. More, he didn't want his supporters to allow for that and be weakened into not voting or for voting for someone else in order to be on the winning side.

Clinton supporters, by contrast, never really accepted that there was any other possible outcome but for her to be elected. The result was not just shock and despair, but anger and violence. Riots broke out in several places, fires set, the American flag burned.

I am saddened by the anger and despair and I think that is the result of people allowing themselves to be fooled by polls that were slanted, inaccurate, and most likely taken with a predetermined assumption to its results.

In short, the media wanted Clinton and so the results were more a reflection of what they wanted than what the American people wanted. And, in the post-election analysis, I watch the media scrambling to explain...never once accepting their own role in the violence, despair, and anger spreading across America.

In the weeks to come, there must be several "investigations":

The Democrats have to study why and when and how they lost the confidence of so many. Clinton was, everyone clearly must accept, an unacceptable choice as a candidate. For that matter, so was Bernie Sanders. And, if we are to be brutally honest, so was Donald Trump.

This vote, long ago, became an issue of who was less inappropriate and that fact that the popular vote showed how close an election this was, I think stands as further proof that neither should have been picked.

 But...

But there has always been one great truth in all American elections - that the day after the elections, no matter how disappointed one side is, everyone turns their backs on the election and looks forward. This time, the pettiness, the anger, the violence are shocking. While Clinton's speech was well spoken, it took her too long to come forward. No one doubts that had she won, she would have come forward immediately to claim victory.

Reuters photo showing fire started by
Clinton supporters protesting Trump victory
She chose to wait until the next day. She chose to delay that speech by an hour at least. Each delay caused further damage by building the level of resentment among her supporters.

Another investigation that has to be made is into the media's role. I believe they were a key factor in handing Trump victory. The more they pushed for Clinton, the more the American people got angry at being treated as though they were too stupid to make the choice. Trump spoke to the people; Clinton spoke to the cameras.

She is clearly the more polished debater (especially when they hand her the questions in advance). But America didn't want polish; it wanted someone to talk to them...TO THEM...and that's what Trump did.

And the Democrats missed that. Washington missed that, and the media missed that. More, if you listened to what Trump said, more, what he meant to say, and not the spinned interpretation, and then compared that to how it was reported by others, you realized that what he was saying was truth.

No, he is not Hitler and the comparison infuriates me. I live with what Hitler did on a regular basis. My husband is the child of Holocaust survivors. His uncle still wears the tattoo the Germans put on him. My mother-in-law was put IN a gas chamber and pulled out at the last minute before the gas was dropped into the room because the Germans needed more workers. His grandparents were rounded up, stripped and marched to gas chambers where their lives were stolen, their bodies burned to ashes.

Don't tell me that Trump is Hitler.  And yet, the media kept that comparison alive. He's a bigot, a racist, a misogynist. Actually, he's not any of those. What he is, is a product of his age and his upbringing. He certainly does not hate women - he's married three of them and if anything his problem is more his attraction to them.

What he is, is not particularly polished, not particularly Washington. He's not smooth. He's a doer more than a talker and I think ultimately, that's what America voted for.

He didn't say that he would ban Muslims from entering the US. What he did was put forth a challenge to those responsible for ensuring the security of the United States. Tell me you can separate out the terrorists who have and will seek to hide among the refugees you want the US to accept. And, if you can't vet them, then your first responsibility is to the American people - and Americans accepted that while the media and the Democrats tried to spin that into an anti-Muslim statement.

It's not. Every nation must first and foremost protect its people. That was the message that Trump tried to deliver, but the media worked very hard not to deliver it. And now, because of the media and the Democrat's handling of the campaign, a huge portion of the American population refuses to accept the results of the very democracy they should be celebrating.

Where is the spirit of America? Where is the call for unity? Oh, the Democrats are mouthing the words but their actions speak otherwise. Clinton's speak was conciliatory but she delivered it with a deep sense of mourning and a challenge to women that was condescending, at best. Do what is right, continue the fight. Sounds good, but what she was really saying was don't accept defeat, fight on until you get a woman in the White House.

And that attitude is what got America where it is - in a very negative sense. It put a Black man in the White House - for the wrong reason - because he was Black. What America needs is the BEST person in the White House - not a man or woman, a White or a Black or Oriental or Jew or Muslim...a  person.

If the reason that you voted for Clinton was because she was a woman, it's time to reevaluate.

Two things need to happen - for the good of America - first, all Americans have to look forward, accept the results and work towards unifying the country. And second, the media has to be called to task for its role in this election and in American life in general. For too long, the media has been allowed to not just present the news, but frame it, influence it, create it, manipulate it. That has to stop.

Journalism is more than just reporting what is happening. In that, the media is correct. If that is all that the media did, it would have ceased to exist with the advent of social media. The citizen journalist can report the news faster via Twitter and Facebook, Google+, Instagram, etc. than the media ever could.

But with the growing popularity of social media, the "old time" media has been challenged, their very existence called into question. And the answer they have found is not acceptable to the American people. That is what this election showed.

The media can present the story behind the images easily shared on Twitter. The problem is that the media is not willing to accept that role and work to make the story, influence the people's thoughts.

Victory in this election means a Trump mandate for the next four years. It should also mean a renewed examination into the behavior and actions of the media. The camera was always meant to share the picture, not create it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

When an Israeli Goes Abroad

It’s hard to explain to a non-Jew, perhaps even to a non-Israeli, what it is like once we leave the safety of home. Yes, safety. I know it is hard to believe, but most Israelis feel more comfortable, and safe, at home in Israel. The outside world is large and cold, foreign and, above all else, simply not home. As individuals, we are welcomed; as a nation, we are treated differently.

It’s a subtle message delivered again and again in nearly every airport, every city, every port. I noticed this each (and every) time I have traveled over the last few years. To meet another Israeli is to touch home and a warmth spreads through you at the feeling that, at least for this moment, you are among family. The ironic thing here is that this is true as much for someone you know, as someone you have never met before. All that matters is that you are who you are, and they are who they are.

Last year in Germany, after a presentation in Stuttgart, several people came over to me to ask questions. The last person, the one who waited in the background, was there simply to say in simple words, “Ma nishma?" [What’s new/What’s happening in Hebrew]. That was all it took for us to feel the connection, to speak of home for a few minutes, of where we live and more.

So now, you’ll likely say that this is normal, that all people feel this instant connection when abroad. Perhaps that is true, though I don’t think so. But let me tell you what is not normal. Israeli flights are almost always placed at the farthest points in the airport – the place where no one has any business going, unless they are flying on an Israeli carrier…or about to make trouble. Armed guards line the path, guard the entrance, signs are quickly put up and quickly taken down. Once you pass through their guards, you come to our own. They look you over and then their eyes, always moving, search around. You are instantly recognized as one of theirs to protect. The native police look around; the Israeli guards look under the chairs, in the bathrooms.

Taking a cruise is the stuff of dreams. Beautiful sunsets on the water, new cities and amazing islands visited almost daily. And two police motorcycles that lead and guard the buses that leave the ship. One takes the front; the second is mobile – blocking off intersections to keep the buses together, guarding the rear of the procession.

Two soldiers guard the boat, two more enter and look out from positions at the top of the ship and when you return from the excursion, you pass them and come to our own security. They check your papers, ask you a few questions, and then you become theirs to protect.

As the ship leaves port, a police boat escorts you beyond the port and into open sea and you can almost hear the sigh of relief as they stop and watch our boat continue out and away before they turn and return home. An Israeli ship filled with Israelis, filled with Jews, has come and left and nothing happened. Only the ship doesn’t fly an Israeli flag. It was registered in a far off land and so flies that flag in port. At sea, it doesn’t fly any flag and we sit aboard speaking a collection of languages – English, Russian, French, and Hebrew. Announcements are made in Hebrew (and often in Russian and English); the plan for the day is in Hebrew.

The food is kosher; the lobby of one large room filled with Shabbat candles as we first welcome the Sabbath and then usher it away as the new week begins. To be an Israeli is to accept all of this – taking our religion with us, our God, our people, our language.

On the ship, we speak with others and when they speak of Israel, it is constantly “here” even though at this moment, here is thousands of kilometers away. We see the police escorts, the soldiers, the armed guards and there is a feeling of sadness. What have we done to need to be guarded this way? To be separated into a corner of a sea port or an airport? The answer is even more depressing than the question because it didn’t start in 2014 or 1967 or even 1948. It started longer than our collective memory can pinpoint and this too we carry with us wherever we go.

And when the cruise finishes and returns to Israel, I have another business trip to Europe and I watch in something that is somewhere between dismay and disgust, as the El Al plane lands in Geneva. I see a police car on the landing strip and I tell myself I am being paranoid...isn't it normal in today's world for police to patrol everywhere? Why do I assume the police car is there because an Israeli jet is landing?

But as we taxi down the runway, the police car follows us and as we move to a much slower speed, the police car rides along side. It seems like they are there because of us...And then, the police car speeds ahead. I am being paranoid...I watch the police car stand at an empty gate as our plane taxis past the stopped Police car...and then the police car follows and catches up. Clearly, they thought we were stopping there. We continue, and the police car follows.

As we turn into a different gate, any  doubt flees. The police car pull close to the plane. I'm not being paranoid. We get off the plane and there are heavily armed guards at the entrance as the passengers disembark. I tell myself that all the emotions need to be put aside - the anger, the disgust, the depression, the longing for things to be normal when an Israeli plane or boat visits foreign shores.

If there is a difference today, it is in our accepting it, in our ability to recognize it was never about what we do or what we did and everything about who we are.

And more, each ship that leaves Israel with Hebrew guides and kosher offerings, each plane that flies under an Israeli company, each Israeli passport we hand over to be stamped and recognized is a message that we are here and will not disappear.

We’ll take your guards if you want to give them; we’ll take your police escort if you think we need it because we too have a right to enjoy the glorious world God has created.

Ultimately, we know something that the world doesn’t always recognize. Our greatest protection was never the Greek or Italian security forces, though we thanked them each time. It isn’t even the Israeli security that comes along with us. The Protector of Israel watches over His children in every corner of the land and the sea and as we travel over beautiful seas, we feel Him with us as we walk passed the police, the guards.

We will not stop being who we are; we will not stop traveling. We will not hide our Israeli passports. We are Israelis. We are Jews. That's the message we bring to the world. We. Are.

We live.

Copyright Statement

Everything on this site is protected and copyrighted according to Israeli and international laws. Violators WILL be prosecuted.

For permission to use pictures or text from this site, please write to: info@paulasays.com.