Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Simple, Clear, Honest - the Truth on the Iran Deal

What Makes a 19 Year Old Laugh?

The answer is sometimes just silly things and of all the blessings parents are granted, I think hearing your child laugh is one of the greatest. I have a confession to make...some of my sons sometimes drink out of the bottle. No, not a small bottle - a big bottle of ice tea, juice or whatever. I've asked them not to, I've told them it is quite uncivilized! Mostly, they...well, if I'm going to be honest, mostly, they don't listen to me nearly enough! Lately, the greatest culprit is David and the liter bottles of mocha.

In Israel, you can buy milk in a variety of containers (bags, cartons, plastic) and flavors (1% fat, 2% fat, 3% fat, banana-flavored, chocolate-flavored, mocha-flavored, etc.). Davidi loves mocha and somehow, he keeps thinking that he's the only one drinking from it (and mostly, he's right). Part of that is because as soon as we have it in the house, he doesn't stop drinking it, and part of it is, for me at least, I don't drink coffee at all!

When David reaches for a bottle, Aliza will call out, "David! I want to drink from it too. That's disgusting!" She's right...but she's also a sister, and he's a brother and, as brothers will often do - the worst thing she could probably do is say something...and then there he goes again.

Sometimes Davidi gives in and sometimes not...and there goes the mocha. Aliza loves the chocolate milk. As the mocha is David's, the chocolate milk is Aliza's...mostly. But this morning, having finished the mocha, Davidi went after the chocolate milk.

"David," I said, "use a glass." (as I always say).

He took a long straw and put it in the 2 liter chocolate milk container and drank from it and then said, "so you think this is okay for Aliza?"

Without thinking, I said, "so long as you don't blow bubbles."

It's been years since my children blew bubbles into their drinks. I have no idea why I thought of it but having given the thought voice, Davidi proceeded to blow bubbles and as I called out in semi-exasperation, "David!" - he did the most wonderful thing...he laughed...and then he said it was MY idea!

And then he got silly and started blowing in the air through the straw, first up and around, and then at me.

These are some of the moments I remember beginning to notice before the other two went into the army - the silly moments when the boy sparkles through and you know that for all that the man is taking over, deep in the heart, the transformation isn't yet complete.

David seems to be much more aware than the others were as they prepared to enter the army. Like Elie, he stuck with the ambulance squad and so has seen bad accidents and death. He's seen violence aimed at him and his friends. For all that, he's an amazingly balanced and thinking person.

So much goes on in their minds as they begin this road. He tells me now that he will likely only know the unit a month or so before he enters the army. That's how it was with the others as well. So for now, as the heatwave in Israel rages, we're all enjoying our air conditioning and our summer vacation, and a few silly laughs over nothing important.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Remembering Israel

Sometimes, at the worst of times, the thing you have to concentrate on, is the best of times. Sometimes, when there is a funeral, a painful, horrible, agonizing funeral of someone who should not be dead but alive and enjoying her summer freedom…you have to remember life.

Yesterday was an agonizing day in Israel. Unbearably hot from a regional heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring well over 100 degrees (well over 40 degrees Celsius and even into the 50s and 60s in some areas). And unbearably sad because Israel spent much of yesterday and the last few days focusing on negativity.

Throughout the day, people spoke of two horrible events, attacks on our society as much as on the individuals who suffered. Terror attacks. Yes, terror for people who went to a parade on a summer day in Jerusalem, never believing violence would erupt before their eyes. Terror for a family in their home, when masked men brought fire and death to a baby. Some quibbled over who was responsible; others wasted time arguing over how to label these things — arson attack or terror attack or hate crime, all of the above or some.

At some point, after we heard that young Shira Banki had died, the anger that many were feeling simply deflated. What is left to say when in the end, a 16 year old is dead? I spent much of the hours that followed this announcement trying not to think of one simple thing.

My baby is 15.5…even a bit more. She is grace and beauty; she is a teenager. She is a girl and almost a woman. She’s all about her hair and her friends. She makes me tea sometimes and plops on my bed when she has nothing to do. We talk…we play games together. We are very close, closer than many mothers and daughters.

She tells me about things…I tell her about things…we’ll go out to breakfast, I’ll force her to wear boots or a sweater. She’ll come home late and I’ll give her a hard time. She’ll tell me she’s starving and ask me to make her food, or she’s late and ask me to drive her somewhere. She’ll send me messages that she loves me and hearts and smiles and flowers…

With the thought of how Shira’s mother would cope without her, I broke last night. Don’t ask why Shira was there at the parade. It really, really doesn’t matter. I have deleted a dozen comments on Facebook…could easily have deleted another dozen. The question isn’t why she was there, but how her mother and her family will live without her. Ask who will make her mother tea, and play games with her, and who will she talk to…

In such sadness, I thought of the day; of the arguments I’d had and the comments that I had read. Around Israel, and from across the world, criticism and complaint. Almost weekly in the US, there is a mass shooting without nearly the amount of soul searching that took place here in Israel. But we needed that soul searching, and we still do. Perhaps the most honest comment came from Rabbi Benny Lau who said simply, “We are all responsible.”
It is impossible to denounce this crime by saying ‘A Jew doesn’t stab a Jew!’. That’s racism! A Jew doesn’t stab, period. Everyone who prayed today heard the 10 Commandments and they stood and heard ‘You will not murder’. In the name of which Torah? In the name of which Torah does someone stab? Or goes and burns up a baby and his whole family? Everything starts from what we say in shul and we need to take responsibility!---Rabbi Lau

When everyone says that we are losing our soul, that’s the time to find it. When people question our direction, it’s time to look around and remember who we are, what we are, and what we have accomplished.

The world will always shove a moral compass at Israel — one reserved, almost exclusively for us. We have to be a democracy above all others, or we are not a democracy at all, according to these standards. That’s not fair and we should not accept the world’s compass to guide who we are. But we must accept our own. We must be the best we can be…not for them, for us.

Yesterday, amid the sadness and anger and accusations, I think we lost, just a little bit, the memory of what we are. We fought ourselves and each other, we surrendered to the lashings of a world that cares little for our sorrows and knows nothing of our internal commitment to the concept of tikkun olam…of fixing the world, making it a better place. Today, as we bury Shira Banki (may her memory be blessed and may the angels watch over her now), we need to reclaim Israel, for her, for her mother, and for us.

We need to remember we are not evil; we are humans as all others, with the same rights and the same faults. From around the world, I am reading comments that say Israel has to be a “light amongst the nations.” Well, we are. From Nepal, to Haiti, from Kenya to Indonesia, we have saved lives in natural disasters. But more, on a regular basis, Israelis work around the world building, consulting, training, treating, curing.

We are that light, like no other. And that light shines strongly inside of us. We are a light for ourselves as well. We see this in our children, even if sometimes, we don’t see it in ourselves. Look at them. Three years of their lives they give this land, in love and in pride. And for all that time, look at the love given to them. In so many restaurants, that welcome them with free food or huge discounts. In little things, all over the country.

Yesterday, people spoke of hate in Israel, intolerance, and worse. Today, we should remember the unbelievable acts of kindness that happen every day here in Israel. Last night, in Gedera, a young couple got married. The bride is an orphan; having lost both her parents in the last two years…her father only a month ago. Apparently many of the invited guests assumed that the wedding had been canceled and didn’t show up and so there they were, this young couple, getting married with only 20 or 30 guests.

A relative posted on Facebook begging people to come. A popular Israeli news site picked it up and put out a call, asking people to come and help celebrate the beginning of this couple’s life together. Almost 2,000 people showed up and a famous singer went there as well. Remember, this is Israel.

Each day here, people reach out to help in small acts of kindness that lighten the heart and remind us that we are each a part of the greater whole. Rarely do I stand in a line without conversing with the person next to me; often, people will stop me to ask a question and without hesitation, help is offered.

Yesterday, my husband drove to the hottest place in Israel in the middle of a heat wave to install an air conditioner on an army base. The air conditioner was a donation for the soldiers and they gathered around to help my husband, grateful that on such a day, he would come out to help. Together, they enjoyed the cool air when they were done.

On our community list, a recently-widowed woman asked for a ride somewhere, and within minutes, she knew she not only had a ride to her appointment, but a ride back as well. Another woman here broke her arm and within hours, the community had organized meals for her family.

If you’ve ever been in a hospital in Israel, you’ll know that people come around and offer sandwiches to families waiting for news. This has happened to me in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheva and Petach Tikvah.

In each place, they simply come over and ask if you have eaten, and if you  need something. No charge; no pressure; no limit. You can even call them and tell them you’ll be there and they’ll never ask you for money.

They are Ezer Mizion and you can give them donations but they will not ask in that moment when you need them most. Shortly after my youngest son was born, he was in the hospital for 10 days. Alone with my infant while my husband was home with our other children, I was unsure how things worked over the Sabbath. The baby was the patient, not me. The nurses were unconcerned, and told me not to worry.

I tried to figure out what I would eat, and then hours before sunset, a man came with an entire meal, bread, a small bottle of grape juice on which the Kiddush is said. He assured me that someone would come the next day, take away the thermos which contained hot soup, and bring me more. In tears, I thanked them, but he wasn’t done. He asked me if I needed anything else. Did I need someone to come say Kiddush for me? Havdalah? I told him I was fine and could manage on my own.

He asked me if I wanted his wife to come sit with the baby so that I could rest. I thanked him again and told him he had done so much. And still, the next day, he came with his wife to visit and bring food and sit for a few minutes. I never learned his name; he never asked mine. Acts of kindness, remembering Israel.

Early each morning, before dawn, men and women gather at the Western Wall, waiting for that earliest of moments when it is permitted to begin the morning prayers. And in the pre-dawn chill, as women huddle as they whisper psalms, a woman pushes a cart offering a scarf, a shawl, and a warm cup of tea to strangers. She asks for nothing, simply offers warmth and kindness and then moves to the next woman. Israel.

In all our sorrows, as we bury Shira today, remember that the essence of who we are remains. This is not a cruel society, but a kind one. This is not an evil country, but a good one. Flawed as all humans are, we have, nonetheless, built am amazing country. Remember, this is Israel.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hot Days of August Upon Us

It's very hot in Israel - actually, that's an understatement. It was hot last week, but reports say this week could well be much much worse. I've been sick for the last three weeks with a fever, running to doctors to do tests etc.

So the good news is that one doctor is convinced it is something that most people have (50-80% in the US; 90% worldwide) and I just got a particularly bad occurrence of it. I'm miserable.

David is home for a few weeks...he goes back to begin year 2 of his Hesder program for a few months, and then into the army in November. He's been doing the cooking for the last two weeks - asking questions and then just making decisions and going for it.

I feel once again like the mountain is coming towards me. It's still far enough away that I can see over it but I know as I get closer, all that is on the other side will disappear and all I'll see is the mountain, impossibly high, impossibly wide.

This is probably not the worst summer I've ever had in my life...mostly, it's just going along slowly. Last week, a stupid man did a horrible thing. Whatever you feel about homosexuality, no one has the right to take a knife in their hands and stab another person.

The Israeli police could not have appeared more incompetent if they tried. This man stabbed three people ten years ago...he was sentenced and served for 10 years. He was released 2 weeks ago...and went and did it again.

Immediately, from left and right, religious and secular, the act was condemned...and yet it wasn't good enough. The media continues to use it to bash the religious, even "settlers" - though I have no idea where this lunatic even comes from!

Then, to make matters worse, if they weren't already, arsonists set a fire in the Arab village of Duma and a baby died. Hebrew words of revenge were painted on the house.

Across the political and religious spectrum - this act was condemned. The police do not yet know who did it - though the media is having a field day quoting "security sources" with such meaningless phrases as "a long history of conflict" between Duma and nearby Jewish villages. Oh, okay, so that must mean the Jews did it because hey, Israel's been at war with them for 67 years!

It's hot and I'm tired and I'm sick...not at all a good combination. Air conditioning takes care of the first, sleep and pills the second and third but deep inside of me is an anger, a disgust that we are so quick to cut ourselves open and demand the world see we bleed.

No other nation in the world would do what we do - help so many others while being so isolated and alone. No other nation in the world would allow tens of thousands of rockets...two more today, to be fired at them.

No other nation would announce their guilt to the world even before we know that guilt is justified or even on us. I did not set that fire in Duma. I do not support anyone who burns my land...Arab or Jew.

I do not support arson, targeting an innocent family in their homes. Find the people who did this and lock them away. I condemn it...

Why is my condemnation not enough? Why must I admit to a guilt that I do not have? It is not my culture to support violence. It is not in my culture to support taking from others what is theirs.

How can you focus on one horrible act - while ignoring dozens of others simply because the others are routing. Of course the Arabs will riot on the Temple Mount and throw firebombs at security forces, of course they will stone cars and buses...now let's talk about what one moron did?

I'm so tired...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Is Jonathan Pollard a Hero?

It's an interesting and complex question, which may not, yet, have an answer.

Ask some Israelis, and they’ll tell you he is. He knew that the interests of Israel were being damaged because his bosses were withholding secret information from Israel…information they were required to share with their ally according to signed agreements between the countries.

Ask many Americans, to my great sorrow, even Jewish ones, and they will spout forth misinformation about Pollard. “He committed treason and should rot in hell,” I’ve be told many times. Well, you’re wrong. He wasn’t convicted of treason.

He wasn’t even indicted on treason charges.
By contrast, Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino (Tokyo Rose) WAS convicted of treason and granted a presidential pardon after about 28 years (two years less than Pollard has already served for a crime that carries a standard 2-4 year sentence).

Mildred Gillars actively worked for the Germans during World War II. She was indicted for treason…8 counts of them and convicted on one, and sentenced to 10-30 years. She served 12 and then immediately got parole.

My opinion? Heroes are people who do the amazing under unbelievable conditions. I have a few heroes, maybe even too many to mention. So here’s a quick look at two.

In 1973, when Avigdor Kahalani disobeyed orders to pull back his few remaining tanks rather than be overwhelmed by the oncoming Syrian army, he refused…no, not just refused…he suddenly couldn’t hear the command. He knew that he was the last line of defense, far above tens of thousands of Israelis in the Galilee. As the radio crackled, Kahalani ordered his meager remaining tanks to spread out, and the battle was underway.

Confused by the sudden attack, the Syrian army stopped. They thought they’d marched straight into a huge battalion of Israeli tanks just over the next ridge. All the way from left to right …look how far across they were firing from — just imagine how many Israeli tanks there must have been. In reality, there were fewer than a dozen. Hero, he’ll always be in my eyes, despite anything he did or did not do later in life.

Natan Sharansky — forever and ever my hero. From the minute he forced a KGB agent to jump on and off trains just for the heck of it as they tried to follow him, to the moment he was told by a Soviet guard that he would be free and all he had to do was walk straight across the nearly frozen bridge in front of him. On the other side was Avital and beyond was Israel and still, Natan refused to be under Soviet command. He walked…but not straight. He zigzagged his way across that bridge; always my hero.

Pollard? Not so much, honestly. I want him home in Israel but he had options and he made bad choices. What he should have done long ago, instead of passing that information to Israel illegally, was fly to Israel and say the Americans are being dishonest. I’ve seen the reports they are withholding from you.

He chose a path, a dishonest one. He became a spy. The cause was right; the method wrong. But he paid for his crime — above and beyond anything that was humanly just. America got caught cheating on an ally…they should have had the decency to uphold the plea bargain agreement they accepted and Pollard should have been freed, stripped of his American citizenship, and dumped over the Canadian or Mexican border 25 years ago. He would have been nothing.

Instead, America made him something. What they wanted him to be was a warning to American Jews — God help you if you dare to spy on America. They made him an embarrassment to American Jews, forcing them to declare again and again their allegiance to the goldena medina. Where by rights they should not have to choose, America forces this on them every time Pollard is mentioned in the news.

“You have to stop writing about him. You are embarrassing American Jews,” one person wrote to me. I won’t bother quoting my response.

So no, at this moment, Jonathan Pollard is not a hero, but an abused captive of a dishonest and dishonorable government. On November 20, 2015, he will be released on parole. Not because the Obama government is attempting to appease Israel on Iran — the date was decided 30 years ago. Check the prison records. We all knew about this date long, long ago — long before Iran, long before Obama.

On November 22, if Pollard lands in Israel, yes, we will celebrate, and then we will turn back to our lives; grateful to have him home and grateful to have this tragic and painful episode over.

On November 22 and in the days that follow, the United States will have a choice. Release Pollard fully — not just from prison but from a law that says a parolee may not leave the country for five years after the parole date…let him come home to Israel. Strip him of his citizenship and let him board an El Al plane…or turn him into a hero.

If Israel can stomach dozens of massive demonstrations to celebrate the return of the child-killer Samir Kuntar and other terrorists and murderers, I think Obama can handle a few hours of Israelis singing and cheering. By contrast, we won’t fire into the air to celebrate Pollard’s return; we won’t burn American flags and scream Death to America. We’ll just cry some happy tears, sing a few songs, and go back to work the next day so so happy to be done. If Pollard is allowed to leave.

If Pollard is not allowed to leave, his story will be spread, lifted, published and more. He will be a Prisoner of Zion — as Sharansky was, and many others. He will be the brave one left behind, as Kahalani was.

Is Jonathan Pollard a hero? Well, in the end, the decision rests with the United States.

By the end of November, he’ll be living in Israel, or he will indeed be our hero. If he’s forced to remain in the US, Israeli officials will make visits to him regularly, each to be reported in the news here and abroad. Israelis will continue to demand his release — more than ever now that we’ll have access to him directly. His quotes, his pleas to come home — all will be echoed around the world.

What has been cruel for the last 25 years will become inhumane. Others accused of far more serious crimes were allowed to leave the country well before the five year period ended. Now is the time for Obama to be smart and think with his head, not his hatred.

Americans don’t want Pollard; Pollard doesn’t want America. Take his citizenship and refuse him any rights to reenter — that is enough. Before November 20, I recommend the US government consider carefully what will happen on November 22.

Don’t compound so many past mistakes by turning Jonathan Pollard into the very hero you fear he will be.

Update: A short time ago, it was announced that one of the "victims" of an airstrike today was Samir Kuntar, who quickly returned to terror after being released early from an Israeli prison...this pain too, the US will never have to imagine, never experience.

Shamelessly Eavesdropping

That moment when you shamelessly eavesdrop on a conversation between your children because it's all being posted to the family WhatsApp group. A few weeks ago, a short time before the Sabbath started, my kids wished each other a Shabbat shalom - it was so sweet how each joined in and said a few words.

And then today, Davidi posted a picture of the results of Amira's MADA (ambulance squad) tests many years ago (like more than 10-12 years ago?). He's there helping others study for an upcoming qualification test on a course he's now qualified to teach. Back then, Amira had also attended a week-long course that enabled her to serve in multiple casualty incident. Back in those days, these were mostly terror attacks on buses and cafes (The Ostrich Calls to Me). What David found were the test results from when she finished - a very nice grade she got too!

My son-in-law was surprised that the network goes back that far in time and added this comment in the group.

Davidi's response was wonderful. "What network? Everything is papers. I don't think they had computers back then."

Did I mention I adore these guys?

Monday, July 20, 2015

An Update about the Ramle Hesder Yeshiva

With funds that were raised and a very generous donation from the city of Ramle, my son's Hesder yeshiva has had security cameras installed to help protect and secure the area.

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with the Deputy Mayor. He was polite, interested, wonderful. He could easily have been different. I don't live in Ramle yet it was enough that my son goes to school there.

He said he would see what they could do - and they did.

So thank you to the amazing city of Ramle for caring enough about a bunch of teenage boys who will, in the very near future, take their places in the army of Israel.

CNN and Terror - When Hypocrisy Rules

There was an explosion in Turkey today. When the smoke had cleared, 27 innocent victims were killed and CNN reported, "Dozens dead after terror attack in Turkish border city."

They did - look:

And the first sentence was: "An apparent suicide bombing ripped through a rally Monday in the Turkish border town of Suruc."

It got me to thinking. BBC referred to it as a bombing, not a terror attack. But CNN used the T word...and I remembered in anger other bombings...

In August, 2001...a bomb "went off." Nowhere does CNN use the word terror. Summer, 2001...bombs were exploding all the time in Israel - terror was rampant...except CNN couldn't use the word.

The next day, Israel struck military targets in Gaza. The minute the attack happened, we all knew it was a suicide bomber; we all knew it was a terror attack...and still, a day later when it was confirmed, still CNN did not call it terror, not then, not now.

And note the difference in how things are phrased - for the Turks, this violent, terror attack involved a bomb "ripping through" where in Israel...in a pizzeria filled with children, the ....no, not a bomb....but a "large explosive device" simply "went off."

And I love the sentence at the end because, yeah, 15 people were murdered - orphans created in a matter of seconds...children free for the summer...but hey, it's really important that CNN tells you where the restaurant was located.

When hypocrisy rules a media outlet, its mandate to call what they do "journalism" expires.

Yes, absolutely - today there was a horrible terror attack in Turkey. I hope tomorrow, CNN will issue an apology to the families of the Sbarro victims for failing to report accurately on August 9, 2001 (and likely every day since).


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Egypt Does Obama

wow...for once, all I can do is sit back and laugh...wow. Egyptian commentators evaluate what Barack Obama considers one of the greatest threats to national security.

Watch the intro, listen to what Obama says...and then watch the face of the Egyptian commentators as they debate what Obama says.

If these were Israelis speaking, the media would be speaking of a major rift in Israeli-US relations but these are "only" Egyptian media commentators so they can say what they want. Best line goes to the guy who says, "Is he insane? Climate change is their number one security threat?"

Here's the rest of it...hysterical.


When Politically Correct...is Just Stupid

After 29 years, Tom Fuentes left the FBI in 2008, the last four of those years as an Assistant Director. No, Fuentes didn't die...he apparently lost his mind.

Now a frequent contributor to CNN, Fuentes apparently has a problem identifying the name "Mohammed."

Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez murdered five unarmed Marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee last week. A friend posted this very apt video...at some point, politically correct is just stupid.

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