Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stolen Shoes...

I read this news update and felt my heart break a little. It's silly really...who does it hurt? They're all gone. Stupid idiot stealing shoes...for what?
What can you learn from a shoe? As I stood in the Maidanek death camp recently, I tried to understand, tried to envision, tried to learn about a woman who died more than sixty years ago. I know almost nothing about her, other than the fact that she came to Maidanek and probably never left.
The news item says that someone stole 8 pairs of shoes from the Maidanek concentration camp.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are hundreds of thousands of shoes at the Maidanek death camp in Poland, all stored behind wire mesh. The shoes are dusty and mangled, most crushed almost beyond recognition.
Our guide quoted the number 800,000, but I don’t really believe it matters exactly how many there are. When the mind is overwhelmed, it focuses on the little things, in the hope that this will assist the heart in coping with an overload of emotion and pain.
For what purpose would someone steal 70 year old, dusty, twisted shoes? What gain can there be? What pleasure would they bring? 
Our guide has been to Poland more than 60 times, and he understood what we had yet to learn. You cannot focus on 800,000 shoes. The mind simply cannot grasp the number. “Find a shoe that tells you a story,” the tour guide advised, and so I did.
In the end, the shoe that spoke to me was a woman’s shoe, with a slight heel. I could not tell the original color of the shoe, perhaps black, perhaps blue. I could only guess at the size, but even there I would most likely be wrong.
What can you learn from a shoe? What was her name, her nationality? Was she from Poland, or did she just die here? Was she killed immediately upon her arrival at Maidanek, or did she survive the initial selection and somehow survive?
Was she married? When she came here, was she alone? Had she already lost most of her family, or did they die beside her? Did she cling to her mother as she was sent to her death, or did she hold a young child in her arms?
What story can one old, dusty, crushed shoe tell me? I fight to create a life, a story for the shoe and find that I cannot. There is nothing the shoe can tell me. It has no story to tell. It remains a piece of a life, a puzzle that was destroyed, all that is left of a woman who once walked into Maidanek but never walked out.
Why do I feel such pain, such anger? Why does my brain think this is like violating the victims again? They are long gone, know nothing of this latest outrage. 
Right before taking us into the gas chamber, the guide sought to comfort us. He would take us into hell, to the exact spot where thousands died. The same walls, the same floors. Closed in a small room, but unlike those who had come before us, we would walk out. “Remember,” he told us. “We will come out.”
Maidanek is one of the easiest death camps to understand because there is little need to imagine. When the Russian troops swept into Maidanek in July, 1944, the Germans didn’t have time to destroy the evidence, as they did in Auschwitz, Treblinka, and elsewhere. Here the gas chambers remain, with the stained residue of ZyKlon-B gas on the ceiling and walls. Here the crematoria remain, still filled with the ashes of the last victims. Here the ashes remain.
Because it is so intact, Maidanek is also possibly one of the hardest camps to visit. It is a place of death, and death lingers in the air, in the ashes, and on the ground on which you walk. You stare at the houses that are but a few hundred meters from the camp perimeter and you wonder what kind of person can make a life so close to such death. Homes and gardens surround the camp. They open their windows in the morning, and see the crematoria. They entertain friends and play music, in the shadow of the mountain of ashes. Once, they could have smelled the stench of burning bodies. The smell may be gone, but the air remains poisoned by the hatred. “What kind of person lives here?” I asked myself again and again.
And now, more than a decade after I wrote these words, I wonder why kind of a person goes in and steals eight pairs of those old shoes? The smell may be gone, but the hatred remains.
As you walk into the crematoria, you see the table on which the Germans searched the corpses for hidden gold. Even in death, there was no dignity, no respect. You walk into the room with the ovens and through the tears, the horror becomes more real because you understand that it isn’t dust piling inside the ovens, but ashes that remain, even 60 years later, to hint of their anguish.
Dignity. Respect. Yes, that's where the anger comes from. Like the Nazis, these thieves seek to steal the dignity of the victims.
Just as we entered the crematoria building, the skies opened. Thunder and lightening raged across the land that had been sunny just moments before. It was not difficult to imagine that this was the anger and the tears of a God who still cries for His children, and I wonder if some of those tears aren’t for those who still, even today, are murdered simply because they are Jews.
I thought of that shoe again and again while I was in Poland. Each shell of a synagogue we visited, each desecrated, over-grown cemetery, each building that to this day bears the trace of a mezuzah, the Hebrew lettering, the symbols of a religion and people hunted to the edge of extinction. Though the Jewish people as a whole rose up from this abyss, Polish Jewry did not survive. In the end, the story of that one shoe is the story of Polish Jewry. Destroyed, bereft, and unable to tell its full story.
If the shoe is the story of Polish Jewry, I fear this theft may well be the story of Poland...or perhaps of Europe as a whole.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To Laugh or To Cry....

A few years ago, a slightly insane person started writing to me. At first, I didn't realize the rather unbalanced level of his mind and so I responded once or twice. I love "arguing" with people - I find that most people fall into one of three categories:
  • They hate Israel and Jews - so after I realize this is where they are, I stop. Why waste me time and honestly, the chances of me causing them a heart attack are probably pretty slim (and yeah, that's bad humor after some really hard days here in Israel)
  • They love Israel and Jews - so I love corresponding with them, sometimes meet and become real friends not just cyber-friends and all around enjoy the support.
  • They don't know - perhaps they have heard bad things or perhaps not but they are open enough to listen and learn and eventually, they move out of this group into one of the above. I do all that I can to make sure it is the group that loves us, when I can.
So, I quickly realized that this person who lived in California fell into the hater category and though he continued to write, I didn't respond. Only, he got louder and louder, the fonts in his email got bolder and larger and then he got threatening.

When he threatened to come to Israel, when he threatened my children, I got scared and spoke to my brother in the US. He contacted a friend who was in the FBI and I was told that the FBI considered the emails that were sent to me as hate crimes and would be in touch for further information.

When they finally contacted me, they asked for the emails (again) and then for some more information, which I gave them. Part of that information was a list of websites where I had researched and found the guy's writings. I thought it kind of funny that the FBI was asking me but hey, you go with the flow.

Then they wrote and asked how I knew that the guy who wrote the articles was the same as the one emailing me. Well, I wrote back - first clue is that the article writer and the email writer have the same name. Now, while I understand that this is not 100% conclusive, neither his first name nor his last name were particularly common - put them together and I really doubt there are two. But, I wrote, even if there are two anti-Israel, anti-Semitic people with the same name, what are the chances of them having the same email (which appears at the bottom of the web page where the articles were)? Duh....

The guy in California wrote again, telling me that he'd voodoo-ed me and since the Haitian priestess had "never been wrong," I was surely going to die before the autumn ... of 2003!

In the end, the FBI said they couldn't do anything because the guy hadn't declared an immediate threat in his emails. He'd declared a threat in one email and talked about "soon" in another and the FBI didn't seem to be able to put the threat and soon together.

Luckily, through the Israeli police and a friend at the airport who also felt that the emails were threatening, his name was added to an airport list blocking his entry to Israel.

Today, I saw an article on the web and this story came flooding back. The FBI is going to investigate the terror attack yesterday on the synagogue in Jerusalem! Three American/Israeli citizens were murdered and with the outrage, the FBI stepped forward.

What exactly they are going to investigate, given that the perpetrators were killed during the attack, I have no clue. And what they'll do with the information they gather, given that the perpetrators were killed during the attack, I have no clue.

But, the FBI is going to investigate...not the attack of a Hasidic Jew in Brooklyn, not the murder of the rabbi in Miami (or maybe those also???) but the attack here. I wonder how much this is going to cost the US tax payer...


Disgusting BBC Response to Terror Attack

After trying to deflect any blame on Abu Mazen (without any evidence on her part), the BBC reporter reacts quickly by first suggesting yesterday's terror attack was "by individuals" and then, almost frantically stating, "Sorry, we don't want to actually see that picture. If you could take it down."

No shock, no outrage - just asking that the picture of a dead Jew lying on the ground not be shown...disgusting.

Short part of piece

Longer interview of Naftali Bennett on BBC

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Oh, My God...He Told the TRUTH

For many years, I have written the simple truth of the 1948 war from the Arab side and the Jewish side.

I wrote that the United Nations voted in a Partition Plan in 1947 - November 29th, if you want the date.

The Jews agreed - it was less than half the land that we wanted, about 1/6th of the Palestine the British had been given to mandate. They took 2/3 and created the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan to pay off a debt that had nothing to do with the actual occupants of the land. To this day, Jordan remains 70-80% Palestinian.

The Arabs did not agree. They would not settle for 1/2 of the remaining area under the mandate when they could have it all. They CHOSE to leave their homes and their possessions because they were told by their Arab brothers that the Jews would be thrown into the sea. Why settle for half when they could have it all, they were assured.

And now, here is a video - in Arabic, in which he admits the very truth that we have said all along. THEY chose war. THEY chose to leave the land. THEY lost.
"Yes, I left when I was 20 years old. We left, I mean, the one who made us leave was the Jordanian army because there were going to be battles and we would be defeated. They told us: ‘Leave. In 2 hours we liberate it and then you will return.’ We left only with our clothes, we didn’t take anything because we were supposed to return in 2 hours. Why carry anything? We’re still waiting for those 2 hours to this day.”


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The New Intifada...and the New Sun

Yesterday, I woke before dawn, as I have for the last few days. As I always do, I drove with the radio playing - news. I'm a news-aholic. The news is not good. Rioting, stone throwing. One neighborhood ordered into lock down for hours a few nights ago as the army searched for a terrorist....on a day when two young people were murdered simply, as the father of one said, simply because they were Jews living in their homeland.

I often try to include a simple message in many things I write - we are all settlers, all Israelis. It doesn't matter where you live - it really, honestly, truly doesn't. Yesterday's attacks offered their own can anyone deny this simple message when the Arabs so horribly delivered it yesterday.

They stabbed a 20 year old in the heart of Tel Aviv, and a 26 year old in Gush Etzion - and then celebrate the deaths of these two equally. The message is obvious - to anyone willing to listen. This has never been about the "occupation," this isn't about settlers, it isn't really even about Israelis.

My youngest son was having a discussion with his friends. He told me about it last night as we drove home. His friends argue that this isn't an Intifada - don't call it that. "How many dead Jews do you need to call it an Intifada? Fifteen? Fifty?" my son asked his friends.

I would ask the same question of a high ranking police officer who warned Israelis not to speak of an Intifada - lest the mere discussion of it, cause it to become reality. How many dead Jews does it take until you call it an Intifada? And more, why do you give THEM the power to label the violence they throw at us?

Abu Mazen accuses Israel of waging a war of religion against the Palestinians. It was the Palestinians who built a mosque on OUR Cave of the Patriarchs, on OUR Tomb of Samuel, on OUR Tomb of Joseph. It was they who built on OUR Temple Mount and they who wage war against those who dare to ascend and whisper quiet words of prayer in a place that three religions hold as holy, but only one places above all other places on earth...the Jews.

Abu Mazen says Jerusalem, all of Jerusalem, will be in Palestinian hands and I respond - not in your life time, not during the lives of your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren. Not even in the lives of your great-grandchildren's great-grandchildren's great-grandchildren. It never was, it isn't, and it never will be. You can accept it - or not. You can wage the Third Intifada or the Thirtieth.

It makes no difference because the one unshakable truth that no one can change is that Jerusalem was created by Jews, sustained by Jews, saved, built and loved by us. We do not burn down its forests; we do not murder its inhabitants in cold-blood.

Yes, one Arab boy was murdered by a few Jews - in a crime that was condemned by the entire nation, and almost immediately solved by Israeli police who worked around the clock to solve it and bring the perpetrators to that to how many Arabs communities celebrated the kidnap and murder of our three boys with fireworks. Compare that to the the cold-blooded attacks that are taking place now - murdering an infant in her carriage, running down and stabbing a young woman, attacking and stabbing a soldier in the middle of Tel Aviv.

With guns, with firebombs, with stones, with fireworks, with boulders and with knives and anything and everything else you have in your arsenals, you will not defeat us, you will not send us into exile again. Only we have the power to do that to ourselves and we won't do it again. At least that much, we have learned.
If anyone is conducting a war of religion, it is the Arabs. It is they who riot on the Temple Mount, throw stones down on worshipers at the Western Wall.

It is those who act in the name of Islam, who call Jews pigs and cattle, they who attacked Jews and synagogues in France, Belgium, England and elsewhere. In the name of Islam, churches and synagogues and holy places are "converted" to mosques.
It was Hamas who said that the attack on Ammunition Hill a few short weeks ago was a "natural response" to "Jews" - not to Israelis, to Jews. When I first thought to write this, I began with the title - the new Intifada because we are fools to deny that is what is happening and that it has been happening for months.

The second part of the title is the "new sun." Yesterday and today and likely tomorrow, I woke and God willing will awaken, very early. And as I left my house, the sun broke the horizon to the east reminding me that each morning God sends the sun to watch over us and remind us that there is light in this world. Light and great beauty.

The Arabs can build on Har HaBayit, they can even attack our homes, our cities, our buses and all that we have built here...but they can't stop the sun from rising over another day in our homeland. They can't stop us from living here.

Their darkness is lost in the brilliance of our sun; their hate blinded by our determination to love and live. They can make us cry, they can make us sad but the very next day, all we have to do is look at the sun and think...another day here in our home. For all that they try, they don't have this simple reality because the more they attempt to deny the obvious connection we have to the land of Israel, the more they look like fools.

Abbas can lie all he can and still the ground brings forth the truth and the sun rises to shine upon it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

To Offer the Right Blessing

I have been told that on your birthday, you bless others...I know it's "only" my English birthday, but I would like to offer a blessing to the Jewish people - most especially those who think that Jews have the right to ascend to the Temple Mount in theory but that in practice, it would be "incendiary".

So, I bless the Jewish people with pride - pride in who we are and that we should never feel we have to hide from that reality.

I bless those of faint heart with courage to stand tall. I understand that for centuries we bent to the power of the winds against us. By lowering our heads and denying our rights, we thought we would better survive and perhaps that was yesterday's reality, yesterday's Jew.

I bless those who lean so far to the left, permanently curving their spines in servitude with the power to see beyond their narrow windows so that the Jewish spirit may soar once again. We have every right to do as all other nations, to live, to fight, to build, to be. They will never allow us, and so we need not seek their permission.

If a Christian can pray in Bethlehem's holiest churches, a Jew can pray in our holiest of places.

I bless our leaders with the fortitude to withstand; our soldiers with the power to defend. I bless our rabbis with compassion and perhaps equally with strength so that they can bring back the highest standards of integrity, honesty, and faith and bar all corruption and end any money-tinged decisions.

I bless the writers among us to use the power of words to promote the very equality upon which our society was created - and as you would fight for the right of the secular, fight for the right of the religious. As you would defend the rights of the left, remember that the right too should be granted these courtesies.

Remember that a Jew living in Ariel or Maale Adumim has the same rights as a Jew in Tel Aviv.

I bless the mothers among us that you always know joy from your children...even when things they do hurt you. They are, forever yours, even if at times they would have it otherwise.

I bless you to become mothers-in-law and grandmothers to the generations to come.

I bless the fathers among us that you too will only know joy from your children, even when they hurt you because they are forever yours as well. May you become fathers-in-law and grandfathers to the generations to come.

And I bless my children - all my children - with all the good things in life - love and health, safety and adventure. May you be blessed with many children, each a blessing.

So, blessings to you all in these last few minutes of my birthday...

Happy Me...

Today is November 9th - it is a day that has special meaning. On November 9th 1938, the Nazis gave the clearest indication of what they would one day a nation that burns books, the burning of humans is often not far behind...from the moment the Nazis started burning Jewish books and buildings in what was later called Kristallnacht, the world should have understood what would be. That they didn't then, perhaps, can be explained away by an inability to understand the true depths of evil that a nation can achieve. That the world doesn't understand now, is unforgivable.

I have lived with an awareness of what this day means beyond the narrow confines of it being my birthday for most of my life. My mother once said I was her answer to was both a heavy thing to carry, and a privilege at the same time. Years later, with the births of each of my children - I knew that I had answered Hitler. This...this is our answer.

A bit over 3 years ago, I became a grandmother...this beautiful baby boy who knows all the Hebrew letters, the blessings for so many foods. This angel of a
child - he too is my answer to Hitler.

Gavriella, aged 12, murdered by
the Nazis. May her memory be
And my granddaughter, born a year ago, who carries the name of a child murdered by the Nazis. She is my answer to Hitler too. The Nazis murdered Chaim husband's uncle...and so my in-laws gave his name to my husband, as they had named each of their children....for someone who had died.

My two oldest sons were named for Jews who died in the Holocaust; my two youngest children were named for my father-in-law and mother-in-law, who survived the Nazis and defied all that was done by not only choosing to live, but to thrive.

Five children I have been blessed with, one son and two daughters have married to give me 8 children; we've adopted two more (who have amazing parents but they lend Yaakov and Chaim to us with love), and their two sisters that we've kind of adopted too.

And Yaakov's two children and Mera's three children, and Amira's son and Elie's daughter and all that are yet to come...all these are our answer.

Birthdays are always fun but today is a day that is mine to remember... throughout our history, there have been those who tried to destroy us, erase us...they didn't accomplish it then, they won't accomplish it now.

I don't know what today will bring, what we will face tomorrow or in the weeks to come. But the sun is shining. There is literally not a cloud in the sky. Shabbat was filled with good food and family; tonight I will join once again with my community for an amazing charity event made possible by the donation of thousands of books from literally dozens and dozens of people.

At this moment, life is so good and I am so blessed. It's been a year of healing from shoulder surgery...and I'm mostly there. It's been a year of wonder, watching a new born baby turn into the most adorable little toddler. It's been a year of amazing growth, watching a toddler turn into a little boy.

Thank you, God, for all the blessings you have given me for the last 53 years of my life. As much as I can't explain why you have given me all that you have, I can only beg you to continue - to bless my children, my family, my friends, my community, my city, my country, my world...with all that you have given to us - sunshine and water, light and life. Health and parnasa (livelihood), safety and peace (if not with our neighbors, than within ourselves).

And as I tell my I will now tell much as it is my birthday, it is the day my mother gave birth. As I have "five" birthdays, she has three. So, on this day, happy birthday, Mommy - I love you tons!

Do you remember your first time?

Life is, if you are blessed, filled with first time experiences. How many do you remember?

I remember my first day of school. I think I remember the first time I saw my younger brother. I remember the first time I rode a bike, the first time I saw my husband. I remember the first time I held each of my children; the first time I saw my grandson and granddaughter.

I remember the moment I saw my future husband walking towards me at the wedding, the first moment, he touched my hand afterwards. I remember the first time I saw my future in-laws. I remember the first time I landed in Israel and the first time I saw the Western Wall.

I was with two friends. I was 16 years old. I was still mourning my grandfather, who had promised to take me to Israel, and then died of a sudden heart attack shortly after. I looked at the Western Wall, known in Hebrew as the Kotel and often referred to as the Wailing Wall...and I started to cry. I didn't even know why I was crying, but I cried and cried and when I first touched it. I stood there and gave Israel my heart. I left the country a few weeks later, in tears, in sadness and left my heart here, or at least a part of it. I only reclaimed that part 17 years later when I moved here with my husband and three small children.

I have no pictures of that first moment, no video. I don't know what expression was on my face but I remember the awe, the beauty of the place. I felt...home, serenity as I had never known it. I knew, as I had never known before, that here, God hears everything, every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month, year, decade, century...

I knew it then, I know it now. I felt it then, I feel it now. I go often to the Kotel, and never often enough. I can go there on my way home from shopping (as I have). I can go there on a whim by getting off the train and walking 15 minutes - as I have.

Do you remember the first time? Look at this amazing video - I will admit that there were tears in my eyes within the first 57 seconds.

Book Swap - TONIGHT - In Maale Adumim

We have thousands of English books in all categories! (well over 4,000 just waiting for you!)

Best-selling authors. Non-fiction. Chick lit. Mystery. Thriller. Judaica. Children's books. General fiction. Fantasy. Much more. All proceeds for tzedaka.

Sunday evening, November 9, 2014
7:30-9:30 PM
Social Hall - Pnei Shmuel
"The Down Shul" Rechov Mitzpe Nevo 102, Ma'ale Adumim
Egged bus #174 from Binyanei haUma
"Park Mitzpe Nevo" stop announced by automated system
Monday evening, November 10, 2014
7:30-8:30 PM
(We generally have a few thousand left.)
Social Hall - Pnei Shmuel
"The Down Shul" Rechov Mitzpe Nevo 102
Egged bus #174 from Binyanei haUma
"Park Mitzpe Nevo" stop announced by automated system
All books for chayalim and bnei sherut just 1₪ both nights.

Hope you can join us - the causes this time are as amazing as always. Get books for a fraction of the cost - hardcovers, paperbacks, the latest and greatest authors....

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Truth

Sometimes, the truth comes from those who spoke long ago, at a time when the world was not ready to listen.

Sometimes, a man can speak and people are so blinded by what they think he is saying, they don't really hear. They judge him by a name, blur what he really said, and find fault with the message...even if the message they find was not really the message he was delivering.

Sometimes, if you close your eyes and listen, you will realize that the words have found a home in your heart because they are truth.

Sometimes, the man was misunderstood in his life...assumed to be an extremist, a man filled with hate. A racist. I can't think what other names he was called in his life. I know that he was murdered, though he never murdered. I know that his voice was silenced, but not his ideas.

Put aside his name for a moment, and listen to his words. Won't you be shocked when you find you agree with him...

Rabbi Meir Kahane was murdered 24 years ago. May his memory be blessed.

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