Thursday, October 30, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Day 35

It's getting cold in Israel - that's the way the seasons are here. We seem to have two...winter and summer. Suddenly it is hot; suddenly cold. I love the cold!

So today's blessing, not the cold - I'll bless that another time; and not the rain we are expecting - I already did that (and will probably do it again). Today's blessing...are sweaters and shawls! Coats and maybe clothes in general.

We are blessed to be able to afford to buy clothes we like; to live in a society where we are allowed to dress as we like. We are not forced by anything beyond which we force ourselves...

I love the winter - I've already pulled out my hooded sweatshirts...I bought a bunch last year and more this year and only noticed now that one of my favorites is almost the same color as my, today's blessing...clothes, sweaters, shawls...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Day 34

I took a break from this because for the past few weeks, as we celebrated the holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, I was living the blessings rather than writing about them.

Time with my family, meals with close friends, the wonderful experience of deepening your spirituality through prayer, rain, and so much more ... it was a wonderful few weeks.

Tomorrow has been coming for a while now...wait, that doesn't explain. I expect Davidi to be home soon...he'll sleep here tonight and then tomorrow morning, I have to take him to Ammunition Hill. It's where incoming soldiers from the Jerusalem area meet...they're taken around a bit, I think, and then bused to Tel HaShomer hospital - to the army base nearby. At that point, they are examined, given some shots, uniforms and undershirts, socks, boots, and more...some spend the night there, others are transferred, in uniform, to the bases all over Israel where they will be trained.

Davidi is doing the army through a program called Hesder - as Shmulik did. It is for religious men - they serve and learn. In Davidi's case, instead of 3 years in the army, he is learning this year, then will do two years of army and then decide if he wants to do a third year of army or return for another year of learning.

While most of the young men and women who go to Ammunition Hill follow what I wrote above, Davidi and many Hesder groups sort of walk out the side door and return to their yeshiva for another year. His actual "draft" date, the date they'll take him to a base, give him a uniform and a a year away.

So I have no reason to feel what I am feeling, that little sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. The sense that I'm at the ticket gate, handing in that little stub and getting ready to climb on the roller coaster again.

It's so silly to feel this way. I should be saying, "been there, done that," but I can't. So tomorrow, I'll drive David there, give him a kiss and see him off...and I'll force myself to think of other things until the night when he comes back home.

And I'll remember the day I took Elie...when he called me and told me he was in uniform, and I knew it would be days before I'd see him again. With Elie, there was The Night Before, for Davidi, this is just a regular night and he'll be home tomorrow.

In those other posts about Elie, I posted pictures of Elie when he was a baby and how he would be silly for me to do that here...wouldn't it?

Well, just one...I can do one, right? Isn't that a silly one? Well, never mind...the serious ones will come, right?

So, today's blessing...I am blessed to live in a land where our sons choose to serve, where they agree to join combat units and fight for their land. I am blessed to be part of a community of mothers (and fathers) who understand that whatever tears I shed tonight or tomorrow are okay.

I have one year more before that roller coaster leaves the station. And even if he takes my ticket now, I don't have to get on board quite yet.  It's too early to post this and yet, maybe it's not. I wrote this seven years ago. It was true then, it will be true tomorrow morning when David is issued a card and formally "drafted".
My son is a soldier in the army of Israel. Why that makes me want to cry, I can't explain when it is something that I have accepted, something in which I feel pride. For now, the fear and worry that threatens to push the pride aside will be my personal battle in the next day and week and year. My son is where I have always wanted him to be, doing what he must do. It is something that Jews have been unable to do for thousands of years - to defend their land and their right to live here. My son is a soldier in the army of Israel.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Shlomo Died Yesterday...Baruch Dayan Emet

Shared from a post a friend made on Facebook - thanks, Moshe...

Baruch Dayan Emet. Blessed be the True Judge.

 Shlomo Slonim, one of the last survivors of the 1929 Massacre in Hebron, has passed away. He was one and a half years old when the Arab rioters wounded him in the head.

 The rioters broke down the door of his house, and brutally murdered the members of the Slonim family. Shlomo. a toddler, was seriously wounded by an axe blow, and lost consciousness.

Hours later, after the massacre was over, Shlomo was found lying underneath his parents' corpses. Shlomo grew up, raised a family, and became a good friend of the re-established Jewish community in Hebron.

Once a year, he would come to Hebron to attend the memorial service for those massacred in 1929, and to say Kaddish at the graves of his parents.

Today [Oct. 26], at the age of 86, Shlomo rejoined his family.

May his memory be a blessing.

Is this the last day of your life?

Two days ago, I saw a story on Facebook posted by a friend. I wrote and asked if I could share it here. She wrote back saying that she wanted to check something. She wanted to check on the condition of a young woman who was in the hospital. Shortly later, she wrote back that I could post it - that the critically injured woman's condition has not changed. She wrote it in a way that suggested it would change, or could change, at any moment and was grateful that, at least, the young woman's mother and sister had made it to her bedside to be with her. "May we hear good news," she concluded.

I decided to post it that evening...and then I got busy.

I regret that delay; I regret that I cannot introduce in life someone you can now only meet in death. Yesterday morning, I planned to come to work and post what she'd written. I got busy with work...and only later, heard that a young woman had died. I didn't know it was the last day of her life.

I didn't know that the miracle of her having survived the night wouldn't take her through the next day. Last night, Yemima died. If it helps at all, in those last hours, she had her mother and sister, her teachers and friends and thousands of others praying for her. And last night, several hundred people attended her funeral.

I hope you all heard about the little baby, only three months old, who was murdered at the end of last week by a young Palestinian/Hamas "man", who bravely rammed his vehicle into pedestrians, including a tiny baby carriage which contained the total dreams and future of a young couple who had tried, for 13 years, to conceive a child. Chaya Zissel Braun brought joy to her parents...from the moment they knew she had successfully been conceived, to the moment she was born, to the moment she was murdered...nine months...and three year, after 13 years of waiting.

As the news first reported, 9 people were injured, including an infant, including Yemima. Little Chaya died shortly after the attack. 

For each victim, there is a story...not all stories get told and that's sad. We don't know much about the other victims. Four were lightly injured, treated in the hospital and quickly released to their families. They will never forget, will always be scarred. The most we can hope for is that the scars are only on the outside.

Two were moderately wounded; two were critically injured. We know nothing of the moderately wounded victims and nothing of one of those that was critically injured. Perhaps in a few days, the news will report that this person was released from the hospital. We are likely to never know how these people struggle to return to what they were before...and for some, life will always be measured in "before" and "after."

The other critically injured person was a young woman from Ecuador. Her name is....was... Karen Yemima Mosquera and she was 22 years old.

Two days ago, I asked if I could share the following story. I will forever regret not posting it yesterday...I didn't know it was the last day of Yemima's life. This would have been, should have been, a guest post by Sharon Katz...whose amazing daughter sat by Yemima's bedside for hours...

Yemima, Daughter of Abraham, Our Father

By: Sharon Katz

In Hadassah Hospital, a 21 year old girl is fighting for her life. Actually, as she lies in a coma, others are fighting for her life, sitting by her bedside, praying for her, saying psalms in her behalf – Yemima bat Avraham Avinu.

Correct, “bat Avraham Avinu”, the father of all Jewish souls. Only a few short months ago, Yemima, originally from Ecuador, received her conversion certification.

Terror in Jerusalem
On Wednesday, an Arab terrorist plowed down a group of Jews at the Ammunition Hill train station. Infant Chaya Zissel Braun was murdered in the attack, and eight others are in various stages of injury. Yemima Mascera Barera is in critical condition, on life support systems. It’s ironic that Yemima, who wanted so much to be Jewish and come closer to Hashem [God] in His Holy City, became a victim of Arab terror just for that – being a Jew in Jerusalem.

Yemima has been living in Israel for the past two years, strengthening her connection to G-d, Judaism and Israel. Her friends and teachers all say she was always very single minded, focused on one goal -

As of this writing, Yemima’s mother and sister are on the plane to Israel, but not in the way the 21 year old had hoped.

Searching for G-d
Rabbi Gavriel Guiber of Un Mundo Mejor (who teaches Torah in Spanish) has helped Yemima for the past five years, since she first wrote to him on the internet, asking him for guidance in leading a more observant life. Her questions had such depth, the rabbi thought she was Jewish. Yemima told him that while she was not Jewish, her mother lit Shabbat candles, and the family had a tradition that the grandmother and great-grandmother had done so, as well. Her family name is one of anusim (forced converts who tried to observe vestiges of Jewish practice), but the family had no documentation that they were Jewish.

Rabbanit Chaya Engel, one of Yemima’s teachers in Machon Roni, a Spanish-language seminary for women, said that the Zohar states that when G-d asked the nations of the world if they would keep the Torah, as a whole they rejected it.
becoming a Jew, coming ever closer to Hashem, marrying a Torah-observant husband and raising a Jewish family here. Completing the dream would be bringing her mother and sister to Jerusalem.

However there were small voices within the nations that answered, “Yes!”

“No one heard them, except HaKadosh Baruch Hu,” Rabbanit Engel said.

“Before Meshiach [the Messiah] comes, Hashem is bringing back all those neshamot [souls] that wanted to accept His Torah, because they deserve it.”

Yemima is one of those souls.

Tradition in Ecuador
Back in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Yemima lived as traditional a life as possible with her mother and sister. Her parents are divorced. While they all wished to become Jewish, since the family had little money, Yemima’s mother gave her whatever they had in order to come to Israel.

Rabbi Guiber helped her, and brought her to Machon Roni where other Spanish-speaking women learned Torah. He said, “She is a model example of a gentile that wanted to convert, and also an example to us.”

In order to support herself, she worked in a senior residence in Bnei Brak, and commuted to seminary daily. Rabbanit Sara Yalta Katz, director of the seminary, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, said that Yemima traveled the farthest to learn, but she never missed a day.

When she moved to Jerusalem to be closer to Machon Roni, Yemima worked cleaning houses. Her best friend said, “She would have done anything to learn Torah.”

Rabbanit Engel teaches many Spanish-speaking girls who are preparing for their conversion. “These girls come to Israel, having a relatively high level of education or standing in their home countries. They were teachers, clerks, and today they clean floors. But they are willing to be nothing here, like the Biblical Ruth, in order to be Jewish. We were born Jewish, but they chose to be Jewish.“

Rabbanit Katz said that Yemima decided at a young age that she wanted to become Jewish, but she was always hoping for a sign proving that “Hashem controls the world”. Yemima told her that once while praying the Amida (the Silent Prayer), an earthquake hit. Her family went scrambling under the table, and everything was falling around her. Yemima said that perhaps she was concentrating so intensely on her prayers that she did not feel the earthquake at all. She told herself, “This is it.”
Critical Condition
While Yemima has completed her conversion process, she is still working through the bureaucracy of citizenship. IY”H [if it be the will of God], may she recover and fulfill the entire dream – living as a Jewish woman in Israel and one day raising a Jewish family that will be a tribute to our people.
Yemima, daughter of Abraham, our father...died last night and was buried in the holy city of Jerusalem. I didn't know it was the last day of her life...

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Silent Intifada

Many of us remember the first Intifada - a preplanned mass "uprising" which released a wave of violence throughout Israel. It was conveniently...oh so conveniently, blamed on the fact that a Jew dared to visit the Temple Mount, Israel's holiest site and the place where Arabs regularly, five times a day, turn their backs to face Mecca. The Jew was Ariel Sharon, that's true, but if he had not gone, it would have been something else.

The Second Intifada was even more violent and deadly. Rocks and firebombs were replaced by suicide bombers and horrible, brutal, barbaric attacks throughout the country.

We've been threatened with a Third Intifada almost since the last one ended...though if it ever really ended, few can tell. I often tell people that the Third Intifada is sort of like Israel's War of Attrition - not officially a war, not officially an intifada, but an endless stream of deadly attacks.

Those who officially proclaim the Intifada in this absurd world in which we live in, have never made it official and so we have been stuck in that middle ground where someone counts between 2 and 3 but doesn't really want to get there...and so they count..."two and one quarter...two and two fifths...two and three sevenths, two and four and five elevenths..."

And yet, as many of us know, the Third Intifada has definitely come to Israel but has been given a different name. It is being called the Silent Intifada.

Jews know a lot about silence. It nearly killed us all just a few generations ago and we have been fighting it ever since. We are used to the silence of the western world, of the Europeans who fear angering the growing number of Muslims in their midst and the Americans who are prisoners of a government that cares almost as little for them as it does for Israel.

But this Silent Intifada is even more nefarious because it also involves silence here in Israel, by those who should know better. It began years ago, when a rocket that hit an empty field became an insult, rather than the act of war it was.

It involves the silence of the security forces, limited to helpless gestures such as videotaping rock attacks rather than responding as any normal security force elsewhere in the world would when faced with a similar threat.

In involves the silence of the politicians - perhaps for different reasons, but wrong nonetheless.

At the highest level, the silence is a sad acknowledgement that the world really doesn't care about Jews and Israel, so why discuss the vast majority of potentially deadly attacks that are stopped before injury. The rock that doesn't hit; the firebomb that thankfully was thrown at a protected car. The bus that was hit but the driver managed to maintain control and get his passengers to safety.

The rocket didn't hit the school, only the yard. The driver wasn't seriously injured and the car can be repaired. The light rail in Jerusalem was only damaged, no one was hurt, so please, let's not talk about it. Don't mention the tear gas that was thrown, the Arab that stabbed a guard.

We have to mention that little Chaya Zissel Braun was murdered, but we'll rush to put it in context. We'll talk about the general calm, the relative calm, the returning calm and the calm we have to work for. We'll talk about potentials - potential agreements, potential ceasefires, potential dreams...potentially fatal for those silly enough to believe that silence can drown out the rhetoric, the hate.

The Silent Intifada is perhaps the most dangerous yet because, for the first time, loyal Israelis who genuinely love Israel, like the Mayor of Jerusalem, heads of security and police, and even the Prime Minister of Israel, are taking part in it.

Violence will win, if those who have the power to speak, choose silence. It was wrong in 1939 and it is wrong in 2014.

In the following video, police in Jerusalem come across Arabs throwing rocks at cars. Rather than confront the rock-throwers, the police turn the car around and head in the other direction. Those videotaping, sarcastically narrate this - here are the police of Israel, turning around...running away...they tell their viewers in Hebrew...the silent intifada...

Pain No Parent Should Experience

There is a pain no human should feel, certainly no parent. There is agony beyond words that promises to never end. There are images no human should see, certainly no parent.

This is the last picture taken of a three month old baby girl who was the joy of parents who had waited, no struggled 13 years to bring a child into their family. Taken not long before she was killed, this picture of Chaya will forever bring a world of emotions to her parents.

They will cherish every moment they had with her and mourn so many, many, many others they never will. It is incomprehensible to them and to us that they will have to continue on without her. It is, at this moment, more than they can bear.

And then there is this image, it too is one no parent should have to see and no human can bear to look at. It is what it looks like, the body of an infant, once it has been prepared for burial. The sign announcing her name is almost as big as her whole body. Eternally tiny, eternally mourned.

May God watch over little Chaya Zissel Braun. May He do the impossible, as He so often does, and find some way to comfort parents who are inconsolable.

May the life of this child always be remembered for the joy she brought her parents forever more than the pain in which she left them.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Lessons of Temporary

I meant to publish this during the holiday but in the end, didn't get a chance. The fact that I didn't get a chance is a blessing in itself because I spent much of the holiday with family.

We had one great outing to the north, a barbecue with the family at my daughter's home...all in all, a wonderful holiday. I'll get back to counting my blessings, but in the meantime, here's a post about the Sukkot holiday we just celebrated in Israel. Sukkot.... Sukkot is my favorite holiday - I love it. Most of the others seem to come with so much baggage; requirements that are more emotional than physical.

Rosh Hashana comes with the weight of Yom Kippur to follow.

Yom Kippur is about ripping your soul out and then putting it back inside hopefully cleaner, lighter, better.

Passover carries the weight of history, not to mention all that cleaning. It's about plagues and matzo and really heavy things... Sukkot carries a message but it is light and fun. Outside, free. Sukkot is a reminder that no matter where we are, God isn't far away.

We spend our lives building strong homes to withstand the rain, the wind, time...and rockets from Gaza :-). Sukkot tell us that all this building is folly. We are always, forever, under the skies - open, vulnerable. After a summer spent feeling very vulnerable, Sukkot comes almost as a relief. What's a little cold, a little heat, perhaps some ants and some bees, compared to sirens and rockets? At one point during the war, sirens rang out in our neighborhood. The first time, I fell apart.

Simple as that, embarrassing as that. My youngest son, trained by Magen David Adom to be calm in an emergency, handled my breakdown brilliantly. My youngest daughter was outside somewhere - I was terrified for her and found it unbearable to go into a bomb shelter when I didn't know she was safe. The second time, we all shuffled off nice and easy - it's so different when you're heart isn't divided and breaking into pieces.

The bomb shelter is safety - secure. And that's what the Sukkah is too - the winds can come, the rain, the heat - but the message remains. The strongest buildings can be knocked down...the Sukkah remains. We put ourselves in God's hands, trusting...and are freed.

We trust that God will protect us, that the Sukkah is our temporary shelter - and we are protected. The Sukkah teaches us that all that we have created is meaningless and that ultimately, it is God and not the army, Iron Dome, the stars, fate, whatever, that determines our destiny.

The Sukkah represents peace - and it is peace that we are so missing in this land. And yet, the peace that we seek too often is a false one, and that too is a message of Sukkot. In many ways, our homes built of cement and stone are false homes; unable to protect us from the greatest of dangers. Our attempts to make peace with our neighbors are false because, like the buildings, they offer only an image of what is real.

Peace is not bought with land; homes, real homes, are not built of stone. And that, ultimately, is the message of Sukkot. The Sukkah is real, not fake. It is our home, our protection. The real peace we make is one that is built on a true desire to get along - with our spouses and children, our neighbors and our enemies. Real protection is believing and having faith.

 Trust it, go into it, believe in it. Dwell in it and when, eight days later, we leave it, keep it in your heart.

Murder is A Natural Response

According to Hamas, the murder of a three-month-old baby girl is, "a natural response to crimes of the occupation and invasion of Jews in our land." Note the use of the word "Jews" - no, not Israelis, not settlers, but Jews. A natural response is, by definition, something expected, something almost normal. It's natural to laugh when you are tickled, natural to cry when peeling an onion. And, according to the twisted logic of Hamas, it is natural to murder an innocent child because...because... You know what, I won't play this game. I won't try to understand...but I will ask a question.... If murder is a natural response to something that supposedly began 40-60 or more years ago, isn't murder the natural response to the kidnapping and murder of three children? No, not in my book - not in my religion - not in my world. Murder is not a natural response to is, rather, a sick and demented reflection of a culture that worships death.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Showing Restraint?

A very common demand that comes from the Europeans and the Americans is for Israel to show restraint. When all other nations would fire, we are told to wait. When others would flatten their enemies and care nothing about the innocent behind whom they hide, Israel is told to wait.

Here is an example of restraint. Soldiers in a fortified observation post in Jerusalem, pinned down by Arab rioters. They throw rocks, pound the post with firebombs and even grab the metal and shake it with their rage.

Not one bullet is fired from the position. This was filmed yesterday and moments ago, an Arab drove his car into pedestrians at Ammunition Hill - where I wait for the train nearly every day, where my children catch the bus to come home...nearly every day.

Three people have been wounded, including a baby...the driver attempted to flee the scene but was shot by police. This is what happens when you show restraint. This is what happens when you allow our enemies to think we are simply too weak to respond, rather than choosing not to respond.

This is the first face of restraint below...the second face, is that of a young child fighting for his life. Nine have been wounded - a baby, two critical, two moderate, four lightly - at the bus stop where we wait to come home...

Updated: Baruch Dayan Emet...the baby has died of his wounds. May God avenge his blood.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's NOT About the Settlements, Stupid

Ever see something and know you have to react?

Happened to me at about 3:00 a.m....

An article on Times of Israel, a site that has, more and more, taken a dangerous turn to the left. The latest article was more balanced than I expected, given the suggestive title, "It's the Settlements, Stupid."

But, despite many correct points, ultimately, as expected, the article wound around to the wrong conclusion. It's not about the settlements, it's about Israel.

It's About Israel, Stupid

The Europeans and the Americans are condemning us…again. The United Nations is upset with Israel…still. The Arabs are adamant – it’s the settlements that are the deterrent to peace.

It’s not the settlements. It’s the rockets; it’s their intransigence. It’s their stones, their firebombs, their knives. It’s our naivete, it’s our inability to stick to our convictions and demand peace for peace. It’s their tendency to use violence and our tendency to make excuses for it. It’s their media and it’s our media. It’s their cultural norms and it’s our cultural norms. It’s their leaders and it’s our leaders. The one thing it’s not, is the settlements.

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