Thursday, May 26, 2016

Her Future is My History

Guest post by Alexandra Markus
Reprinted with permission

I saw this post and as I read it, I realized that for the most part, it's what I would have written in the days and weeks before I moved to Israel almost 24 years ago. In a very real way, her future is my history. I was older than she is now; I had already given birth to three children, well on my way to the five God has granted me, but the thoughts...they are hers...but mine too.

My children are the children she dreams of having - and I pray that she will be as blessed because truly, as she writes, that is my life. My children walk this land with pride; they do not live in fear.

Read this, if you ever wondered why I came to live here in this land; read this if you were wondering why so many are coming today. Read this and be proud of this young woman, as I am...and I think deep down, I'm hoping to gain another kid (if she'll let me) many boys, it's probably time to adopt another girl, isn't it?

Guest post by Alexandra Markus:

People wonder why I want to live in Israel and be Israeli.

I want to be Israeli because I want my children to be Israeli.

I want them to not have pennies thrown at them at school.

Or to watch their friends wince amidst the cries of "dirty Jew!" as they get pinned to the ground, beaten and tortured.

I want them to be Israeli so that they don't feel like they have to hide, to live in the cloistered ghettoes of Hampstead and Cote-St-Luc, hiding from antisemitism and shielding their children to the best of their abilities from a life of prejudice.

I want my children to be Israeli so that they can run and play freely, raised by many mothers and fathers, where they can just go over to someone's house for shabbat and feel looked after with love and belonging.

So that they can study math and science at a higher level than they do in Europe and North America, while still learning of their people's ancient traditions.

I want them to be Israeli so that they could bathe in the environment of "anything is possible," of "if you can dream it, you can do it" that made start up nation possible.

I want them to be Israeli so that they can serve in the IDF proudly and nobody will question me for letting them gain resilience as they put their lives in danger to defend Am Israel.

I don't want my kids raised around Jews who are afraid or ashamed of their homeland, who are raised on media where antisemitism/antizionism is accepted and validated.

I don't want them to have their national loyalty questioned when I hang an Israeli flag over my window.

Finally, I don't want them to feel like they have to vote for politicians based solely on their Israel policy, rather than their domestic portfolio and foreign policy, because they feel like they have no choice.

I want to raise my Israeli children in Israel because I want them to be absolutely sure where "home" is.

The Meaning of the Fire

On Lag b'Omer (starting last night and ending tonight at sundown), all the pyromanics, and by this I mean most of the men and a lot of women and pretty much all the children, in Israel have a huge celebration and set bonfires. By the morning, the country smells of smoke...ah, but the night is glorious.

For weeks before this day, children are seen gathering wood, even from places that don't want the wood gatthered. Contractors know to hide whatever they don't want burned; families look at their couches and wonder if this wouldn't be a great time to literally burn the old one and get a new one. Broken chairs and beds become a treasure, old newspapers something to be saved.

Yesterday as I was driving into the gas station, I saw something in the distance. The army sets up a "camp" a few times a year in the deserts around my city. I can see the tents from the distance...but this time, I saw a group of soldiers almost running down a hill opposite the camp. I thought of the many long hikes Davidi is taking now. Over the months that he's been in the army, the training has intensified and he is now "walking" over 30 kilometers.

Photo Credit: Paula (me)
I had my good camera with me and so I zoomed in and took the picture...and then I looked and realized...they are carrying wood. They too will have a huge bonfire and celebrate Lag b'Omer and how spectacular it must have been.

Massive piles of wood are set up and then set afire. Why? There are a two main reasons - one would be that during the 50 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot, around the year 100 CE (yes, that's rightt, almost 2,000 years ago) a plague raged among the population, but stopped on this day.

Photo Credit: Paula (me)
A second reason is that a great man died over 1,850 years ago on this date. His name was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. His life was all about light - bringing the light of truth and understanding, of compassion and love. He wrote the Zohar, a collection of writings that are the foundation of Jewish mysticism.

So each year, on the day he died, Jews celebrate his life - yes, even 1,850 years later.

The fire is light, a symbol from mountain top to mountain top that we have returned to our land, reclaimed it, redeemed it. And just as we have returned to it, we have returned it to its glory.

Yes, it is the celebration of a man's life, but it is also the celebration of our nation. We light the bonfires as a symbol of the life we have built here, from mountain top to mountain top, we proclaim our love of the land.

In the last few weeks, there have been countless arson attacks  - fires set by Palestinians...this year and for most years, at the most dangerous and vulnerable time of the year. It is the beginning of the dry season; the underbrush has grown during the rainy season and our forests and grassy areas are particularly vulnerable. It's hot and the wind that comes as a relief, also is a dry one - dangerous as it spreads the fire.

Photo Credit: Real Jerusalem Streets
The first we build for Lag b'Omer, are carefully arranged, doing the most we can to prevent them from going out of control.

And Lag b'Omer is also a celebration of our collective memory - we live in an ancient land, beside walls built thousands of years ago. Certainly monthly, sometimes weekly, and even once in a while daily, we find ancient treasures dating back as much as three thousands years. Can you imagine touching stones that were placed by your ancestors? My daughter goes to school in a city where Sarah died 3,875 years ago...and I have been to her grave countless times.

The bonfires are a reminder, to a people that really don't need one. Remember your past; celebrate it. We do; we did.

For a really great blog post explaining Lag b'Omer, see: The Muqata's latest post.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tasting the Torah

I have a confession. I am a cookbook-aholic. I don't know how many I have - more than three bookshelves worth...probably more than four. I love cookbooks. I read them, I scan them, I devour them. I am an expert, at least for what works for me.

I want pictures! The first time I made a lemon meringue pie, I did it from a cookbook, working blind. I followed the instructions, mixed the ingredients, cooked it, stirred it, baked it. And then, when it came out partially brown, partially white on top, I said to my mother in disappointment, "oh, look at it."

And she answered, "That's the way it is supposed to look!"

So I cut her a piece and I took a piece for myself. "Oh, that's weird," I told my  mother.

And she answered, "That's exactly how it is supposed to taste!" She loves lemon meringue pie! I learned that day two things - one, I don't like lemon meringue pie so much and two, I really like a cookbook that shows you how to the thing is supposed to look like at the end.

In my never-ending quest for the perfect cookbook, I came across Aviv Harkov's A Taste of Torah. Wow.
It has everything I could want in a cookbook, and more. The design of the book is nothing less than brilliant! It has 54 recipes, one for every Torah portion of the week (in Hebrew, a parsha) that is read throughout the year. Each recipe comes with a picture!!! And details how to create it, and then something also includes a "Dvar Torah" - a small lesson that can be shared at the Shabbat table. And wait, it isn't finished, it also has what it calls a short "bedtime" story - another example of the lesson being taught in th weekly parsha.

You can't imagine the thought that went into this book - both in terms of content and design. It is stunning but more, it is so incredibly usable. From the first page, I knew I was in love! My family loves "black and white cookies" - these were a favorite in the US before we moved to Israel and whenever we find them here, we grab them up. In this wonderful cookbook, Harkov shares the recipe and a picture, and then he does something even more special. These cookies, writes Harkov, "show how light and darkness can be separated in a delicious way." And then, this theme is picked up in the Dvar Torah, which speaks of how God separated light and darkness during creation. Finally, the entry concludes with a story from the former Soviet Union. Light and darkness, and lovely cookies.

As for lemon meringue pie, Harkov offers a recipe, a picture and a story. He likens the meringue to "the cloud covering theTent of Meeting."

I can't wait to get started - cooking around the year and learning so much. This is a cookbook I am going to love for a long, long time!

If you want to learn more about the book - click the link on the left side.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Harold from Livingston

So, years ago, I lived in a small town in New Jersey...okay, that probably doesn't help because NJ has tons of small towns, right? I lived there after I got married and overall, it was an amazing place to spend the first decade of our lives, bring three children into this world, and enjoy the home we had created. It was comfortable enough, but not too comfortable that we would have considered staying long term. My heart was in Israel, but more importantly, I wanted my children to grow up in this land...and I am forever grateful that they have.

Packing to move to Israel was hard, but far harder was leaving some very dear friends behind, quitting a job that I had come to really enjoy. We left that small town, left family and friends and found a home more amazing than I could have dreamed. We made many friends, live in a truly beautiful, warm and friendly city and community and have watched our children grow tall, strong and more incredible than I could ever have imagined. Years later, Nefesh b'Nefesh, an organization that helps American Jews move to Israel, would be created and claim the slogan, "Living the Dream," but I've been living that dream for 23 years and counting.

Before moving to Israel, I used to write a lot for local Jewish newspapers and later on the Internet. Then we came to Israel, and I continued to write...and work...and raise my children.  And then, my daughter got engaged and I was really happy...and my son was drafted into the army...and I was really scared. And so, I started to write my guts a very literal sense. Writing has given me two things:

One, is a way to scream out all of the emotions I feel - the greatest of joys, the honor of seeing my children grow, the pride, the wonder. And the fear, the terror, the anger, the frustrations, and so much more.

At first, the screaming was, I thought, done in an empty room where only I could hear it. I could knock my head against the wall, and say, "stupid, stupid government" and so much more. And then one day, the second thing happened...

I realized that I had an audience, people who were listening. Friends and even strangers come over to me and thank me for "writing what I've been wanting to say" and "you gave my thoughts words" and wonderful things like that...

While I lived in NJ, I worked for this amazing doctor. I sort of ran his office and without either of us realizing it, I learned quite a bit about people and how they think and even about myself. I had more patience to deal with his patients (no pun intended), than I expected. I was challenged with the opportunity to run his office, organize workflows, meet and interact with dozens of people, often in crisis. And when I told him that I was leaving to fulfill my dream of living in Israel, he was gracious enough to wish me well as I went off to live in a land that he too loves very much.

So...earlier today, I shared a post with my mother. She is going through a rough time, feeling a bit overwhelmed and as I thought how to reach her, I remembered once long ago, how she reached me. You gave me a gift, when I was a teenager, I told her this morning, and now I give it back to you. The gift was a poem which has helped shape my attitude towards life, in many ways. You can read it here: It Really Is All in the State of Mind. After I read it to her, she smiled and I realized that I wanted to share it with others...Facebook post time.

My friend, the doctor, saw the post and left a comment. He has a friend - named Harold, who lives in Livingston, NJ. My friend ate at his house for Shabbat lunch and they got to talking about favorite columnists and Harold said the kindest, most wonderful thing, "My absolute favorite is this blogger on Arutz Sheva." And guess's ME!!!

Is that not cool? Truth is, it's such an amazing compliment to me and so I thank Harold and I offer him the "shoutout" that MH asked me to offer. Writing is, by its very nature, often a solitary thing. I write something because it comes from my heart and rarely know what impact it will have, or where it will go.

I've gone to weddings and had people tell me, "I loved your article" or "My father, who lives in sent me your article! I told him you're my neighbor!"

I don't write to impact on others...wait, that's not I do. But I didn't start this blog with anything else in mind other than to find a way to come to terms with my oldest son going into the army. I write now because I want to share the experience, yet again, of having a son serving this land.

So, this is a shoutout - but more, this is a thank you to Harold of Livingston and so many others who have reached out to me, or even just read what I've written. It means so much to me to share the life and the land and the family that I love so much and I worry sometimes that I overstep myself and might be offending some people. Not my intention, but sometimes an inevitable outcome.

So - shoutout to Harold and to everyone who shares my words, my thoughts. It means so much to know that I am no longer in that empty room, that there are so many sharing this journey.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Out Come the Flags...

On the houses, from the windows, on the cars, from the balconies. All over Israel, Israeli flags are flying. A few minutes ago, just 45 minutes before the beginning of Yom Hazikaron, Israel's Memorial Day for our fallen soldiers and those who lost their lives in terror attacks, I heard a drill going.

Slowly, the country is counting the minutes until the siren that begins a 24 hour period of intense mourning. We mourn this year for over 24,000 victims of this endless war waged against us. Soldiers and civilians, men and women, children, parents, wives and husbands, grandparents, infants.

Soon, the siren will sound. Already, the stories have begun to be told. Of Hadar Cohen, who was only 19 when terrorists attacked a border guard. Without hesitation, Hadar stepped forward and shot the terrorist and as she focused on taking her shot and saving her friend, another terrorist was focusing on her. Her parents have become part of the family of bereaved families.

And Ezra Schwartz, an American student who was visiting Israel and was shot in a terror attack. His mother has come to Israel to take part in the ceremonies and the national day of mourning.

And soldiers who died in the Yom Kippur war...tomorrow, David will stand beside the grave of one of these soldiers during the siren. I hurt for him, for what he will feel and for what the families feel.

The next 24 hours in Israel are among the hardest in Israel. We know that tomorrow night we will celebrate. We will smile and sing; we will watch the fireworks and celebrate our Independence Day.

But before we do, we will mourn with all our hearts. We will listen to the families tell us of their loss, of the amazing family members who live on in their hearts.

The neighbor was drilling, just 45 minutes before Memorial Day begins, so that he could hang a flag from his balcony.

It joins dozens of others on our blocks - on the houses, on the cars.

I won't go to the ceremony this year. It is something I give to myself. I have a soldier in the army. I work hard to hold my tears back, to stop the endless worry for his safety.

All other years I go and I pay my tribute to those who have fallen. For these few years, I stay home. I stand and think of those we have lost during the siren, but I don't go.

I will listen to the stories on live broadcasts and watch and learn.

Of those who fell in 1948, and those who fell in all the wars since. I will listen to the children - some of whom never knew their fathers.

And I will mourn and I will cry. But I will hold on to the knowledge that after tomorrow, another day will come.

But for now, in a few minutes, we will light the memorial candle in our house, we will listen to the siren, and we will remember them.

My Nakba

Guest post by the amazing RM Bellerose (Ryan)

On Thursday, I will celebrate Israel's 68th Independence Day - each one a hard-won victory, a never-ending triumph over enemies that have never wanted peace, are not willing to talk or compromise. In fact, our very existence in "their" neighborhood is a constant affront to too many of them. Not all, but still most.

On Thursday, as I celebrate with my family, too many Palestinians will be mourning the Nakba. The Arabic word can be translated as "disaster" or "catastrophe". Nice, huh? Meanwhile, back at the farm, tens of thousands of Palestinians (including the family of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestine Liberation Organization Palestinian Authority) use our doctors and hospitals, our buses, our electricity, the roads we built, the schools we support, the universities we subsidize.

I am angered when I hear the word "nakba" - if Israel did not exist, thousands of people around the world would not be here today because when a real disaster happened - in Haiti, in Kenya, in Nepal, in the United States, in Canada, in Turkey and so many other places, Israelis flew to save lives and lessen the catastrophe. No, on Thursday when the Palestinans mourn their Nakba, it is important to remember that the nakba is as imaginary and non-existent as the Palestine they claim to want. Neither exists and the world is better off for that.

I saw this post on Facebook by an amazing man that I have never met, at least not in person. He is a Native American. I grew up supporting the Native American cause, hating what the greedy white man did to the indigenous population of North America...and then, more recently, I heard about Ryan and began reading his thoughts. He is pushing Jews to realize our own great truth - that we too are an indigenous people fighting for our homeland.

With permission, I offer you Ryan's "My Nakba" - which is so very much what I would have written if I had been smart enough to think of it.

My Nakba 

I want to tell you about my nakba.

My invented, ridiculous, ignorant, regressive and cowardly Nakba.

My Nakba is the arabs who stab little old ladies and 13 year old boys.

My Nakba is the Rabbis for human rights who act like dhimmis in the name of peace.

My Nakba is the woman who writes for the times of Israel but spouts anti Israel propoganda and she insults the victims of terror.

My Nakba is the children who stab other children hoping one day they too can kill a jew.

My Nakba is an old woman who plants a seed of hate deep into her children knowing she might never see it grow but she plants it anyway because she has a granddaughter and she thinks that one day her grand daughters grand daughter might kill a jew.

My Nakba is rolling fields, filled with garbage by arabs who cannot be bothered to put it in bins. its empty half built homes built with euros skimmed from aid meant for the poor.

I thought about writing more, but honestly my bullshit tolerance is full,

So I am gonna tell you the truth about Israel,

Israel is not perfect, but it is the one place I've been that actually strives for perfection.

Israel is filled with people who agonise over their morals even when it means that they end up harming their own cause. but they won't change because they truly believe God is working through them to make the world better.

Israel is a beautiful place where people don't stand in line, but help mothers hold their crying babies while they search for change for the bus.

Israel is a crazy place where nobody ever learned how to park properly and if they did, they just don't care.

Israel is a place where they expect you to be as tough and resilient as they are and they suffer no fools gladly.

Israel is a place where a guy wearing trendy clothes and carrying the most modern technology is speaking a 4 thousand year old language, and praying exactly as his great great great grandfather did.

Israel is a place where a woman is encouraged to speak her mind.

Israel is a place where I dont feel out of place even though I am not Jewish.

I know some of you will laugh at the first part of this post especially after you watch a certain bloggers "speech" you may have missed the irony of the introduction to that speech, you may not have understood the subtle undermining behind the florid language, but now maybe you might.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

London is Doomed

Doomed...just doomed.

They went to the polls, as democracies will do...and...well, let's just say that if what they chose reflects how they feel, every Jew in London should be buying a ticket out now.

Their choice was Sadiq Khan. And who is this man? Well, for those who believe terror is wrong, that hatred is not the right choice, here are some highlights of this man's life:

  • He was a ‘legal consultant’ for  Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to conspiring to murder US citizens  as part of the September 11 terror attacks. When we use the term "legal consultant" - that means Khan had a choice, and chose wrong.
  • Sadiq Khan also chose to represent Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and a man well known for his hatred and extremism. Though, Farrakhan was banned from the United Kinddom for calling Judaism a‘gutter religion," Khan still believed Farrakhan deserved his services.
  • Khan also shared a platform with terrorist Yasser al-Siri, who called for the corpses of American soldiers to be dragged through the streets.

Are you proud of this victory? Muslim extremists should be, peace loving human beings...not so much; Jews, not at all.

London has fallen...and not just the bridge...

Tuvia Tenenbom - Catch the Jew - is Coming to Maale Adumim - TONIGHT!

I'm so excited to be organizing this event...

I loved the book he wrote - Catch the Jew...

I have never read a book that I disagreed with and loved so much at the same time. It is a book that everyone should read - left wing, right wing...oh my God, especially left wing.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I got angry. In the end, as tears left my eyes as I read the book, I had one great urge - to speak to Tuvia and tell him - NO!!!!! You. Are. Wrong.

I still believe he is wrong. But I also know that he wants to be wrong. My greatest fear is that there's even a chance that he is right...but I am comforted by the believe that wrong or right doesn't apply in a world that is based not on logic, but on faith. More precisely, a world controled not by man but by God. Ultimately, if you believe God is in control, we're in good shape. It's man we have to fear.

So, I wrote a review...The End of Israel and I asked Tuvia to come to Maale Adumim...and he is!!!


Sunday, May 8 - Pnei Shmuel Synagogue (102 Mitzpe Nevo - also called the "Down" shul) at 7:30 p.m.

Come hear Tuvia speak - ask questions, make comments, buy his book!

So excited to host Tuvia and hoping many people will come and hear him speak. He's got a message for Israel (and I think Israel has a message for him)!

I Failed Again...

I'm not handling this soldier thing nearly as well as I think I handled it the last two times. For one thing, what fears I had, I usually managed to either joke away or hide completely from my sons. They knew they were loved; they knew we missed them when they weren't home, and they knew we worried. But mostly, they talked and I listened.

When Elie told me he was going to war, and it was clear there was going to be at least one war, I spoke to him calmly on the phone as if it was just another day. Only when I got off the phone did I cry. I was so proud of myself.

With my youngest, I fail completely. I cried even before he went in...the worst of all tears - the ones that bring tears to your son's eyes as he realizes what this is costing you. In tears, I told him that I couldn't live if something happened to him and with watery eyes, he promised me nothing would happen to him.

Friday night as we sat around the table, David began giving us a basic overview of his unit in war...the various roles his position would involve. There could easily be times that he would be at the front of the front, times he could be in the middle, times he might be in the back. I told him that even the back was too far front and he should call the army and tell them I don't agree.

But as it became clear what he would do, how he was being trained, my eyes filled with tears even though I asked them very nicely not to. David was speaking to all of us, his eyes more on his father as he answered a question. From across the table, Aliza saw my tears and I could see she was trying to think of  a way to stop them...then Davidi saw them and pretty much started to lie his way out.

The good news is that on a checkpoint, where they will be assigned soon, his position would be definition require him to be further back but in war...

I want to tell the army that I can't do this anymore. I want to tell them that I am screaming inside now, even with there being mere tensions on the border, not all out war.

I am counting months, figuring out where Davidi will be, when he will be considered "combat-ready." I am counting on the words of his commanding officer that if war breaks out this summer, Davidi's unit, still fresh from training, won't be sent in. The look on David's face when I told him that makes me believe his commanding officer is as well versed in the ability to lie to parents as Elie's commanding officer who told me Artillery soldiers guard from the perimeter and never go in...

My emotions are so out of control when it comes to David. I've begun to buy him massive amounts of chocolate, as I've watched him lose weight...he so doesn't need the chocolate but at the rate they are exercising him, at least it can't really hurt him.

I want to say I'll do better; I want to say I will not cry in front of him again. When I found out I was pregnant with my youngest child, I prayed to God. What right do I have to ask you for another perfect baby when you've given me four already...even that was too much to ask...and here I am asking for another! I was terrified while I was pregnant with her in a way that I never was with the others.

That is how I am today...what right do I have to ask God to let my third son pass through this experience unharmed after he has granted my prayers already twice...and yet it is what I pray for first in each thought. I wake with the thought; I sleep with the thought.

I have just finished a book that was harder for me to read than any other. It was a magnificent book, beautifully written, inspiring...a mother who lost two sons...two sons...Miriam Peretz. The book is called Miriam's Song and I'll write about it soon. She sent four sons to the army (and at least one daughter, I believe)...even after losing one in the army, she still managed to send another and another and another.

And still, after losing them, she writes of the positives, of faith, of love, of how much others have been inspired by her sons and how often she speaks to families, soldiers, students about the wonders in our world.

I salute her, I am in awe of her and though I will try to emulate her, I know that on Friday night I failed miserably. 

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