Monday, December 27, 2010

This Thing With Orange...

"This thing with Orange is killing me" These are the words spoken by a husband in the early morning hours to his wife as they lay in bed sleepless and upset.

"How can I call you?" These are the words spoken by a young child to her mother in the first moments after she awakens. She calls me every day when she comes home from school. It is the price we pay for my being a working mother - those first minutes when a child runs in the house and tells her mother about her day usually take place in a telephone call.

"This is impossible," says Shmulik. "I have to have a phone to call S. and other officers and commanders." He was stranded today without notice when Orange suddenly closed our phone lines after months of ignoring our requests by email and phone for a meeting to explain how, how in God's name they were sending us monthly bills almost three times what it should be.

Nowadays, soldiers need their phones as a necessary part of their service. It is expected, if not required. When a soldier goes home from basic training, he needs to call his commanding officer or send him an SMS to confirm he arrived safely. If he is going to be late or has any problem - he has to call his commanding officer. Even during the Gaza War, communication that wasn't on encrypted phones was shortened enough to confuse but get the message across.

"I need you here," Elie once told his commanding officer. It was enough. It looked like something was happening on the Lebanese side of the border but Elie didn't have an encrypted phone to explain that he could see enemy forces moving nearby. It was enough - done on an unencrypted phone - our phone (no, not Orange, but Cellcom before we had the great misfortune to believe Orange could offer better service).

And when not in war, the army runs excercises - imagine, at this moment, you have just been called to war, that your unit has been mobilized. How fast can you reach your men? How fast can they be notified and ready to move? The army needs to know. And so more than once, Elie "mobilized." In the distant past before cellphones - the operatrion was not completed until the soldiers reached the base. Now, with cellphones, it is easier - pretend you've been mobilized. Call me back "as if" you'd gotten that call.

Every morning, I am the family alarm clocik. For some reason that is beyond my understanding, most of our family cannot wake up without my calling them. They go back to sleep - it can't be serious if Ima didn't call. With a family plan (at least we had one with Cellcom and arranged one even if Orange wasn't honoring it in the actual numbers and bills), it means I can gather clothes and begin dressing even as I call and wake them.

The only exception to this "Ima wakes us" rule is the soldier who must leave hours before. He will rise and leave on his own - but the rest wait for their mother. I could force the issue, but I don't. In the length of a life lived, what harm is there in these few years where I speak the first words to them each morning? "Good morning, my lovie," I say to my daughter. Why shouldn't she awaken to those words?

This morning, after Orange shut our phones without warning, I got out of bed and did it the old fashioned way. My feet are cold, for not having put on slippers and I want so much to crawl back into bed and desperately try for those last few minutes of sleep before my day begins and yet I come here to my computer.

I am angry at an insensitive phone company that forces my family, workers and friends, to face this day without the convenience of a phone. Writers are heading out to meetings - without phones. Mothers will not be able to reach their children. The alarm company cannot reach me to confirm that all is fine when the earliest to arrive in the office disarms the alarm. They may well send someone down to check the place.

An elderly couple will head up to Haifa in two hours - without phones. My mother teaches at the university there; my father enjoys the campus and wanders around until my mother calls him and tells him she is finished. Except today, she can't call him. He sometimes gets distracted with the views, or sits and ignores the time as he drinks coffee and reads a newspaper. My mother broke her hip many years ago and her leg a few years ago. She has weak bones - and today, she won't have a phone with her. |I am angry - and rightly so - you don't cut off the phone of two elderly people who don't speak Hebrew nearly well enough.

My son heads back to the army. He wants to call Pelephone today and take that deal they offered him. It is a special discount for soldiers - it includes hundreds of minutes of free time between army numbers. He is fed up and angry - and rightly so. You don't cut off a soldier's phone without warning.

My daughter will come home today - a young girl wanting to call her mother. That at least, I can solve. She was afraid yesterday when it was getting dark and she didn't have my office phone number - why should she when she has her own phone and she knows my number. But it didn't work yesterday - suddenly, without warning and so she was smart. She went to the neighbors and the neighbor sent me a note on Facebook. Today, at least, I have taken care of her. She has my office number - thanks to landlines and Bezek. She, at least, I can help.

And then there are those words my husband spoke to me a few hours ago; a whisper of a man who is sick and tired of trying to get a massive, insensitive, greedy corporation to listen. "This thing with Orange is killing me." Never more than now have I regretted signing the contract with Orange a year ago.

I opened a special blog to keep this issue away from this one. But who wants to read about how yet another large corporation is cheating yet another person? A Soldier's Mother has been going now for more than 3 years and I wanted to keep this blog about that and not about this...until yesterday when that and this collided.

We have been suffering with Orange for more than a year since we signed that contract and have been fighting ever since. The issues are complex - broken promises, over-billing, equipment not received, lines not opened. The simplest solution would have been a meeting with Orange to explain the bills. We tried that once with the head of the Jerusalem Business office - he came for a few hours - sat talking to his office on the phone making adjustments to the bill and decided, on his own, without explanations, what we were entitled to.

He canceled 17 lines and offered a compromise amount of 10,000 NIS credit if we'd forget the whole mess and just move on. Move on to what? How did you get to 10,000 NIS? Why can't you go phone by phone and discuss it? We asked him. He was in a rush to leave to his next appointment.

"After you pay," he said.

"Pay what?" we asked him.

He could not or would not answer. How do you pay a bill when you don't know what you are paying for? When even the company can't unravel the lies. The most honest truth was the one that one Orange representative gave us, "If we gave you what Gal promised, the company would lose money." But Gal was their representative, set on making the deal, giving us the SIM cards and getting his commission. Gal has long since been removed from the picture - if only we were so lucky.

This thing with Orange is killing my husband, leaves my daughter without a convenient way to contact her mother, leaves a soldier without a phone and a way to contact his family, his fiancĂ©e, his commanding officer. This thing with Orange leave two elderly people without communication for the next few hours. This thing with Orange is an outrage.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cellular Agony: An Ambulance Volunteer w/o a Phone?

Among the many wrongs Orange has committed is the one against Elie. He is a frequent volunteer in the ambulance squad - more, he is one of the volunteers regularly called in an emergency. It has happened many times - multiple injuries - an accident with a few cars, a fire in two apartment buildings. A call goes out, but more, they know Elie and so someone who knows him calls him directly - and Elie goes running.

"How can they call me when I don't have a phone?" Elie complained. He's right - they can't.
"And if something happens on the road, how can I call MADA [the ambulance squad]?" - right again.

Among the many wrongs Orange committed against my family today is the one against Elie. He is out of touch with his friends - the ones who call him when they need him. He takes such pride in serving, in caring, in taking control of a situation and doing what needs to be done.

This too, is a wrong against my family. We have tried to get Orange to meet with us. We met with Gal and Liron, another Liron and Anat. We met with Carmel and spoke to Eliron. We met with David, spoke to Sheli. We left messages for Elazar, spoke to Yishai, Meir and Shiran. The names go on and on - most telling us the accounting mess that Orange created is too complicated for them to figure out and so someone will get back to us...but of course, they never do.

Now, months later - they are claiming a ridiculous amount of money, not explaining how they got to it, and demanding that we pay up front before they will tell us how much we owe, how they got to that number. They won't explain - but they demand 10,000 shekels and if we pay them -they will connect the phones for two weeks.

Two weeks?

Yes, because they assume that within two weeks they will meet with us to solve this. Two weeks - what happened to the last 11 months. We wrote to them in February, 2010 - asking to resolve this...and have been writing ever since.

An ambulance volunteer without a phone...cannot serve - for this too, Orange should feel shame.

Thank God for Neighbors and Facebook

Thank God for neighbors and Facebook! Our wonderful neighbors just called to tell us that Aliza was there and worried because she couldn't reach us. My 10-year-old daughter is worried; my elderly parents are without phone service; I can't reach my son in the army - all because Orange refuses to answer our calls and decided to cut the lines today.

They are blackmailing us - pay 10,000 NIS now and we'll turn the phones on for two weeks while we try to arrange a meeting (the same meeting we have been requesting for the last 6 months).

Today, they went too far. There are certain things you do not do - you don't cut off elderly people; you don't cut off children; and you don't cut off soldiers. All we have ever asked for is an explanation. How our 16 lines turned into 66; how our 2,000 NIS a month bill because 8,000 NIS; why we are being billed for lines and equipment we never received.

Today, they went too far.

This is the most despicable company I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. You can follow this on - tomorrow, it becomes a legal issue. I'm finished trying to beg them for a simply meeting. Done!

Cellular Agony - Orange/Partner Closes a Soldier's Phone

A year ago, we decided to leave our long-time cellular provider, Cellcom to move to Partner /  Orange in Israel. We were seduced by the promise of better service, better phones, and lower prices. We took 16 lines from Cellcom against a promise that Orange would pay in full for our moving the lines to them; that we would be a Premier Business Service, and that we would have someone come and walk us through the labyrinth of cellular usage in Israel.

They lied.

Orange took our 16 lines and opened 66. How? Why? We do not have a clue. As many companies do here in Israel, we were signed on an automatic deduction from our bank account. The first month, they took almost 3 times what it had cost us at Cellcom. Why? How?

We spoke to Gal. We spoke to Liron. They promised to check. They didn't answer. Nothing. Another month, another 8,000 NIS taken from our account. Another month, another deduction.

STOP, we told them. WHY are you billing us for 66 lines? They searched, another month. They examined. They refused meetings; they came to some. They called back; they didn't call back. We sent emails. We asked. We called. Nothing.

We finally said if you don't explain these bills and credit us for the money you took, we would close the auto-deduction. Nothing. We finally closed the auto-deduction and continued trying to get Orange to answer us. We wrote emails - nothing; we called and asked them to contact us, to explain - nothing.

Answer us, we begged - nothing.

They won't tell us how much we owe - until we pay. We can't pay until we know if we even owe anything.

Today they closed our phones without warning. They can't tell us how much we owe, says Meir. You owe 62,000 NIS says Shiran...but I have a bill that says we owe 37,000 NIS that I got today. Well, says Shiran, you owe 37,000 NIS plus December.

"Are you telling me you are charging me 25,000 NIS for the last 14 days?" I ask.

"No," says Shiran - I have no idea what she is talking about. I explain again, that we have been asking for meetings all along. I ask her to look at the records. I called on December 14 and was promised a manager would call me back within 4-5 business days - look at my blog, I explain ( Nothing

And then, in all my frustration, Elie took over. He's better at yelling on the phone. He lists the 25 people he has tried to talk to today alone. Nothing. For this terrible customer service - for the phone calls they refuse to answer, for the meetings they cancel or refuse to schedule. For the money they take without explanation - they deserve our anger.

My daughter cannot call me. She's only 10-years-old and calls me every day when she gets home from school. For that, Orange deserves our contempt.

And then Elie said the one thing I had not thought of...Shmulik can't call me...and I can't call him.
For that alone...they should be ashamed!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Mortar, A Rocket, A Question

This past week, a kassem rocket slammed into Ashkelon and exploded. It hit the ground a mere 7 meters from a kindergarten. By the grace of God alone, none of the children were injured, but a 15-year-old girl was lightly wounded from exploding shrapnel and two others were taken to the hospital suffering from shock. Several mortars were fired at Israel this week, the latest only moments ago.

If you didn't hear about it, you are to be forgiven. How could you hear what wasn't reported? How could you know what the media refuses or can't be bothered to divulge?

This week, the army bombed seven tunnels that were being dug in order to enter Israel and attack - similar to the attack that led to the agonizing captivity of Gilad Shalit for the last 1,600+ days. Shots were fired at an IDF patrol near the border. You might not have heard about these incidents. How could you hear what isn't reported.

In the last few minutes, a rock attack was announced near Maale Shomron. Last night around midnight, there was a rock throwing attack near Beit Illit, just south of Jerusalem. Yesterday, in two different places, Arabs threw large, sharp objects at Jews in cars - several cars were damaged, though thankfully the drivers were able to maneuver their way around to safety. How could you know what the media refuses or can't be bothered to divulge?

On and on it goes, the tensions mount. We are waiting for the rocket we can't ignore, the mortar that strikes true. Not if...but when it does, someone will die or be injured for life. Once it was a young boy, the only child of a couple that had waited 15 long years to have him. Once it was a mother, a father. Each time these rockets slam into our country bringing terror and panic in the seconds before, in the moments after.

I was once walking in Jerusalem with my two daughters when we heard a loud boom. We stopped walking - as those around us did. Frozen. Uncertain. There was this horrible feeling that we knew ahead of us something had exploded. It hadn't. It was a bus traveling too fast that had hit a large rock at an angle and somehow sent it flying into a metal sheet - I can't explain the sound - but I wasn't the only one who reacted that way. Security men came running past us down the street. I stood for too long. Unsure if I should go forward or back.

Within a short period - perhaps seconds, though it felt so much longer, people began walking and the noise began again, though it had been strangely silent while people waited to see what had happened. It's that way after a rocket attack - the waiting to see what had happened.

This is what happened yesterday and the day before. This is what happened this morning.

So I have written of a mortar and a rocket and now the, it isn't about the media for I long ago surrendered to the fact that they care what Israel does (or their interpretation of it), not what is done to Israel. The question is - where is the outrage? Where?

A child, for 15 is still a child, was injured in her city, meters away from a kindergarten by a rocket that suddenly came flying at her city. Where? Where is the outrage? The horror? The international demand that it stop.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Are you really a soldier's mother?

It was an interesting question that I was asked today. Yes, I answered, I am a soldier's mother and then proceeded to explain about Yaakov and Elie, Chaim and Shmulik (in age order so they can't complain). I went to a networking breakfast (Jeff Pulver, for those of you who may wonder) at an amazing hotel (Inbal Hotel) in Jerusalem today and met a lot of people.

It was fun, it was interesting. Met great people; heard some great ideas. I often plan to go to these meetings and then find myself out of time. This time it worked and I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed the event. Beyond technical writing and the upcoming MEGAComm conference that I'm busy coordinating, there is this other world reality that is my life.

But what always amazes me, touches me, strengthens me, is the reality that I am really A soldier's mother - one of so many here and around the world. For each mother, there is a soldier. And the soldier remains long after he leaves the army. What of the mother? Does she remain a soldier's mother after her son's leave? I don't know - I'm beginning to think the answer is yes. At least here in Israel. There are decades of reserve duty ahead of me. Already I cringe when Elie gets a letter in the mail from the army. They will call him; he will go. That is the one reality I know awaits.

I was talking to two men today about what they do - and somehow Chaim being a lone soldier came into the discussion. "I was a lone soldier too," one man explained. And yet, when he was a lone soldier, he was much more alone. Mothers share what unit their sons serve in; fathers remember their army days.

It went like this throughout the morning - in some ways, I guess I'm a magnet for it because it is so much a part of my life. It is that part that never shuts down, never dares to rest except when my boys are with me. Yesterday I saw a news article and called Chaim before I had even finished reading it.

"How are things?" I asked him in that voice I think they already know. I can hear their minds working as they try to figure out what I want, why I am calling.

"Fine," he answered.

Nothing was new. He's fine. What I'd forgotten was that he wasn't even near the area where the rocks were being thrown; that he's on a training exercise. Only as we were talking did the words "reserve soldier" pop out  at me from the screen. No, it wasn't Chaim. It wasn't his unit. It wasn't even the standing army. A reserve soldier in a place that Chaim doesn't even know; only identified by the nearest Palestinian city but still not even in his patrol. Lightly injured, treated on the spot. Nothing to worry about - thankfully, and with much gratitude, not even Chaim. It's so silly that I thought I had to worry and yet that's that part of me that seems to always have one part on the panic button.

A soldier was hurt in Hebron last week and I wondered where Shmulik was, if it was one of his friends who are stationed there. And that brought back a night when I was celebrating our wedding anniversary hours and hours away...and I got a message of a terrorist attack. I turned on the news to see an artillery soldier, and another and another. Twenty-three were injured that night, some critically...and I was so sure the attack had nothing to do with Elie. I was convinced that Elie would have told me if he was going to be in Jerusalem.

But it was Elie's group, I learned later that night, even if he wasn't there. I'd thought he was on the checkpoint; only after he left the army did he laugh and ask me how I could think such a thing. Apparently, it is known that the army doesn't switch teams at that hour (well, how was I supposed to know that?). Only later did I find out what he was really doing that night (and I thought I had nothing to worry about!). And yet, for all the mistaken times I worried, I am reminded that this is what makes me a "real" soldier's mother, one of so many, so blessed.

It's a pleasant evening in Israel - not a cloud in the sky. Wherever they sleep tonight, may all our sons be safe and warm and loved. I am one of so many - a group that has welcomed me into their midst and now allows me to welcome others. A soldier's mother.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

They Searched All Night

They train for this, hoping it never happens. Our rescue workers, our soldiers - they learn how to respond, how to act, knowing that it will happen, as it has in the past and as it will in the future. So long as there are those willing to act in evil, there will be those who will be called upon to try to stop the evil, to save the innocent.

Yesterday, two women went hiking in my beautiful country. Christine Logan came to visit Israel. Her friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, is a tourist guide and did what I did just a bit ago with some visiting guests. She took her friend to see Israel, to walk among our hills and understand why we love it here so much.

Except something went terribly wrong. Two Arabs approached them and spoke to them. Kaye thought they were suspicious and as soon as they left, told her friend they needed to move on. Out of no where, the Arabs returned. From her hospital bed, Kaye explained what happened when the Arabs approached them. Was it robbery? Was it criminal? The police are investigating. No matter what it was, it was terrorism.
I was very scared, but my friend became hysterical. I told her to be quiet, but she told them, 'Take the money, take everything,' and they took everything. One of them took the Star of David necklace off my neck like a gentleman, and then they stabbed me 12 times. They came to kill. Nobody walks around with a knife like that for no reason.
Last night, after Kaye managed to escape and make her way to safety, soldiers went out and searched through the night. Kaye was taken to the hospital in serious condition. Christine's body was found this morning. these are one of those times that I have to admit I do not understand. What harm did these women do as they walked with Kaye's dog through the hills on a beautiful Saturday morning in Israel? What right did these two Arabs have to attack them, stab and seriously wound one and murder the other.

There are times where there is great satisfaction in life - when you accomplish a task, when you search and find, when you try and rescue. And there are times of great sadness. When you try and only later find that the evil you challenged won this battle.

There was no justice for her in this life - but there will be in the next. Her murderers will be found in this life, and they will pay for their brutality in both this life and in the next. Is there more we can do for Christine? Perhaps not.

But somehow, I wish her family could know that many searched last night for her, hoping to find her, save her. I hope this, at least, will bring some comfort to her family.

The people of Israel join Christine Logan's family in mourning her death. May her death be avenged and her memory blessed.

Beware of...Donkeys?

Shmulik got a call last night from his commanding officer, S. S told Shmulik he was going to be spending the week taking the car to be repaired. What happened?

Well, apparently S was driving and a herd of donkeys crossed the road. Another car swerved and crashed into a tree, totaling the car, but luckily leaving the driver unhurt. S. didn't crash the car - he's an excellent driver, but he did hit a donkey - thus breaking the front lights and another donkey crashed into his side door - making it difficult or impossible to open the driver's door.

No - you can't blame the army for attacking the donkeys. One could wonder why the donkeys' owners didn't take better care of their herd, but in any event, one must remember that no good can come from a donkey meeting a car or a car meeting a donkey.

I know also that there is nothing humorous about this situation and yet, as I once smiled about the "Beware of Camels" sign on the way to Elie's training base in the south many months ago, I am amused at how we worry about so many threats...and sometimes are reminded there are other things we could worry about too.

Donkeys in the road? I guess so - at least in the Middle East.

And thankfully - although I can't report on the status of the donkeys themselves, I can say no one else was injured (although one driver is going to be shopping for a new car and the army will be repairing the car my son drives).

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Carmel Calls to Me

I've traveled the Beit Oren road many times. My parents "discovered it" and described its winding beauty. It isn't about speed on this road, but about scenery.

It winds up the mountain, turns, twists, and with each turn, there is...was...will be beauty. As soon as I heard about the fire, I thought of the road and the places I have passed there.

Beit Oren, the prison, the horses...I knew the places, the turns in the road. And when the fire was out, it called to me and so I stole a day. That's what I call it when I just need to go off and be away. I can't explain why I thought I might be alone there, to drive and to mourn, but I think, perhaps, that maybe I did.

And as we turned up the road, it was so clear, that other Israelis had heard the call of the Carmel. This road is usually close to deserted; the young and those in a rush prefer the coast road. Almost any road is faster.

And no one who took the road with us yesterday was in a rush. I...had come to see, to feel, to mourn. Many were on the sides taking pictures; staring off into the burned forests.

A few were walking amid the trees, though the nature agencies had asked people not to. Don't walk there, they said, because if the roots live, they might yet grow.

We stopped on the side where the bus had burned, where so many had died. There were dozens, perhaps more, candles that had been lit there, a wreathe of mourning, an Israeli flag. A piece of the bus.

The firefighter's flag or perhaps the prison division. I don't really know. More than a dozen cars were stopped. The police came and gently asked people to move their cars more to the side.

It is a dangerous turn, limited in room and visibility - enough to have prevented the bus from being able to turn and escape.

I spoke to a policewoman who looked as sad and as haunted as the many visitors. "There was no place," she said. "The flames were 50 meters high and it was 60 degrees [140 degrees Fahrenheit]."

Today, I read that hundreds had visited the Carmel. I'm not surprised. We all lost so much this week - certainly not as much as those who lost loved ones, a precious lone son and only child, husbands and wives. So many lost their homes and possessions.

The rest of us...we lost the trees, the forests, the green of the Carmel. We went yesterday to see it, to smell the fire that still is in the air. I thought perhaps I was going to say goodbye to the Carmel that I knew but perhaps really, I was going there to make a promise.

We will come back and watch as you renew yourself.
We'll be here as you grow - from the roots of what lies below the fire or from new trees that we will plant.

It was sad seeing such death, such blackened trees. Tonight a storm comes in. I'll imagine the drops of rain seeping below the soil, deep underground. Each drop will gently caress the roots - grow, it will beg. Grow. Israel needs you.

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm Tired...

Just got back from an amazing day. If I were independently wealthy, I would spend my life touring this land and showing it to others. We have two business guests visiting us, future partners in an amazing offering that we hope will take Israel by storm. We were to have two days of business meetings; I desperately wanted today to go north to the Carmel Forests. I needed to see the destruction, the damage to a place I had traveled through so many times.

I decided I would leave the second day of the meetings to my colleagues. One announced he needed to leave early. It looked like perhaps it would be more productive if we could pack two days of meetings into one long one and so I invited our international guests to come with me.

They had come to visit Israel for only this meeting - two days of meetings, one day of touring in Jerusalem and then back to Europe. Come with me, I invited them. I asked Elie if he wanted to join us. He's great as a driver, entertaining as well.

We drove north - as I often do, I went into narrator mode. I love to tell anyone, everyone of the beauty of my land, its history, its truths. We arrived in the north; how was it possible the devastation was even worse than I'd expected? I'll post some pictures soon - too tired now.

And then I thought of where I could take them and what I wanted them to see. We drove through Haifa and I showed them the beauty there; we drove north to Rosh Hanikra and again, I showed them the beauty. This time it was the grottoes - the place where water meets the land and the sun.

We drove across the northern part of Israel, down past the Sea of Galilee and back into Jerusalem. One guest kept apologizing for asking so many questions and I kept trying to explain that I loved answering. Elie shared stories of the army and at one point, at Rosh Hanikra, he saw two soldiers talking. He recognized them as artillery - brothers.

Why don't you go say hello? I asked him. It was like a mother pushing a young child to make friends, I thought. How silly! A while later, as I was walking and talking to our guests, I saw that Elie had in fact stopped to talk to the two artillery soldiers. His connection to the army remains a vital part of who he is.

I'm tired after almost 12 hours of touring; I'm also enriched once again, with love of this land and the opportunity to share it. More, I am so happy to hear when someone tells me that they did not know, no one ever told them of the real essence of this land.

I joked that perhaps I should write a book about day tours in Israel. How you can see vast areas in just one day. I've had this challenge before - it's so hard to choose and yet the reality is that no matter where you go - the land awaits.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Please Don't Touch....

Aliza has a donut for Hanuka. It's an Israeli custom and something we really only have in the house during these 8 days of the year. I let my kids go a bit crazy with it because it is limited in scope and I'm a firm believer in the concept that extremes enhance rather than diminish someone's attitude for something that they know isn't good for them.

Really, the only thing I can think of where I am extreme and yet believe it helps, is cigarettes. My kids have been told, more than once, that cigarettes kill - they know that because I have told them I will kill them if they start smoking. And lest anyone is ready to run to Child Services, no, I don't really mean it, but they do know that I will not tolerate smoking. There is no leeway, no middle ground, nothing.

Getting back to the donuts...Aliza just ate dinner and drank three glasses of milk and then approached her donut. After half a donut, she can't eat anymore. She's upset because she doesn't want to leave it. "Someone will eat it," she says mournfully. I try to assure her that they won't, but she keeps nibbling on it piece by piece.

Elie came down, watched her eating it slowly and started giving her a hard time. "You know you don't want that. Why are you still eating it?"

She surrendered. She got up and walked away from the donut, looking sad. Elie called her back. "If you want to save the donut until tomorrow, I suggest you wrap it in a bag and put a note on it that it is yours."

"That doesn't work," she told him in an accusatory voice. "When I had half a hamburger and I put my name on it, someone ate it," she complained.

Elie was already smiling just at the mention of the hamburger, "and it was good."

"Why don't you apologize for eating her hamburger?" I asked Elie. "I'm not going to apologize," Elie answered, "it was good."

But he encouraged her again, and so Aliza has taken a plastic bag and she is writing her name on it and asking everyone not to eat it. She has explained to me that it is her favorite (no, not the chocolate filled ones or jelly filled ones...she likes the plainest ones of all).

And so, with a red magic marker, she has written "This is Aliza's. Please do not eat it!!!! And please don't touch it!!! With thanks, Aliza"

Well, I hope for her sake it works!

Israel's Publicity Campaign on Twitter

The wonderful twitter account @IDFSpokesperson is a great resource. If you aren't following them, you should.

Mostly, they tell the world things it should hear, even if they don't want to listen.

Listen world - today we sent so many trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza. If you hear the Palestinians claim they are starving and don't have fuel - please remember this tweet or that one. How could they be starving when we are regularly sending in aid?

Listen world - today Hamas fired rockets and mortars into Israel. Tomorrow, when Hamas cries that we are the aggressors - please remember this tweet or that one. How could we be the aggressors when it is they who are regularly attacking us with rockets and mortars, knives, stones, explosives?

Again and again, calmly and with their facts up front, they explain what Israel is doing, what Hamas is doing. All you really have to do, actually, is listen.

And therein lies the problem. The world isn't listening. Today, Israel was hit with a kassem rocket and two mortars. With the grace of God, they fell in open areas and caused no injuries. But a mother's heart someone in Shderot or Askhelon or Netivot or in the Eshkol region hurt for a moment. She wondered where her children were on this Hanuka vacation from school. A father called his wife, a man called his elderly mother.

Everything is fine; everyone is fine. It's another day in Israel, another rocket, another mortar.

Follow @IDFSpokesperson and listen next time they tell you what is happening here. That way, in a month or so, when we tally the hundreds of rockets and mortars that have been fired at Israel in the year 2010, you will nod your head and say, "I knew that; I heard how often they are firing at Israel."

And when the number gets intolerable - as it did in November, 2008. When over 120 rockets were fired in a single month; sometimes a dozen or more in a single day, Israel will have to take action...again. You'll hear the escalation, if you listen. You'll hear Israel plead with the world of nations to stop Gaza. They won't, of course, because they aren't listening.

And so, there will be another Cast Lead, another soldier's mother who will send her son to war. No, that's not true, actually. I didn't send my son to war. He was taken; he went. So there will be another soldier's mother who will wonder why the world doesn't understand, why it doesn't listen. Why they call her son a murderer and all sorts of horrible names, when all he is doing by going to stop the rockets, is what the world could have done, if they'd only listened.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Children's Children's Children

I had a thought today that made me very sad. In truth, I have always been one to fall apart after the crisis passes. I can't even begin to list the times I've handled something, only to sit down and fall apart when it was done or at least at a point that allowed me to release my emotions.

Moments after they announced today that all the large fires were out and that only smaller ones remained,  I sat in my office and wanted to cry. Mostly it was relief, though there was great sadness...and such feelings of gratitude.

There are so many thanks to give out:

Thank you to the firefighters who came from so many lands - for Bulgaria and Greece and Jordan and  Egypt. Thank you to France, Britain and Cyprus; and to Azerbaijan and Switzerland and Spain and Germany. Thank you to the Russians who came with such incredible resources and confidence. They knew from the start that we would conquer the fire.

Thank you to the Americans - the National Guard and the firefighters from New York. And Australia that is sending advisors and even the Palestinians and the Turks who sent firefighters (although they were quick to assure the world that this was in no way intended as a peace gesture...God forbid).

And thank you to our own firefighters who fought so hard and so long. There was a picture in the New York Times - I'm afraid to copy it for copyright reasons, but it was so special. It showed Israeli firefighters taking a break - about 20 of them, lying on the road in utter exhaustion. What was so special was that each was using another's leg as a pillow. "We did that," Elie said with a smile, "it's more comfortable."

And thank you to the men of ZAKA, who do the unthinkable. They find and prepare bodies for burial, dealing with the most gruesome of tasks in honor and respect.

And thank you to our air force and police, who worked so hard for so many days.

And thank you to the bank that offered an interest-free loan, and the car company that offered free car rentals, and the hotels who opened their doors.

And thank you to God, the protector of Israel - for bringing the rain, that even now is beginning to fall.

And thank you to the Jewish National Fund, who will replant and help us rebuild.

And thank you to all the nations and all the people who prayed for us in these difficult days.

And finally, a closing thought. I have driven those mountains many times, those mountains that now are charred beyond all recognition. I dread going there to see it, though I will in the coming days.

As I spoke with Elie, a thought crossed my mind. It is all gone - those 5 million trees, tens of thousands of acres, dunams...all gone. Even if we replant, and we will take generations to come back to where it was just 5 days ago. There is such pain in that thought; such sadness.

I am trying to focus on our promise, our commitment to the land. From the ashes, will rise another forest, but it will take generations to really come back in all its glory. Such sadness.

I hope my children will tell their grandchildren that they remember the fire and the desolation. But more, I hope they will look about them and say to their children's children - this is as it was when I was a child...tall, green, beautiful and blessed once again.

May God bless the land of Israel and bring forth its healing.

This is Terrorism

Elie said those words in anger last night as we watched the flames consuming our land, our precious and beautiful land. Many decades ago, a representative of Burma came to Israel. Burma is, apparently, a land covered in trees. To find place for the growing population, they have an aggressive deforestation plan, to rid the land of the trees so that people can live.

The representative of Burma came and was so impressed by our wide open spaces with no trees, that he commented on how amazingly successful our deforestation plan was. In reality, according to history, our "deforestation" plan is thousands of years old, and never really ours. When the Romans came to our land more than 2,000 years ago, destroyed the Holy Temple and took many of our people into slavery, they salted the earth, to curse it and make it barren.

There are many statistics. If I were trying to be thorough, I would do research and point to sites to prove the numbers I say here - perhaps later I will add them. For now, I'll tell you that I remember hearing that only Israel, of all the nations in the world, has MORE trees today than 50 years ago. We have no deforestation plan. It is our love of the land that drives us, year after year, to plant new forests and trees, to care for them, to cherish them.

We have lost over 5 million trees. The tragedy of this knocks us to the ground. If you are not Israeli, I do not know if you can comprehend the incredible agony of the heart that we Israelis are feeling today. We take such pride in our forests, our trees. They are an expression of our love. It causes such pain to watch them burn, hour after hour, day after day, as the flames are fanned by the winds. I could say the same and more at the thought of the 41 people who have been killed in this fire, the wounded, the homeless. More than trees, these are people and yet both the people and the land break our hearts.

Two stupid, careless boys from a Druze village have been arrested for setting the fire. What they were doing was definitely illegal - burning garbage in a forest. Was it deliberate? We don't yet know. In all honesty, few think it was deliberate, few want to believe it possible. Elie calls it terrorism - it is his love of the land that brings this harsh verdict, but there is more.

In the last 48 hours, there have been more than 20 arson attempts by Arabs to set fire to our land - the latest this morning near Jerusalem. They know that from all over the country, firefighting equipment has been sent north. Little remains to protect other areas. It is all we have to give. Countries around the world, even those that still call themselves enemies - Turkey, Egypt, Jordan...have joined Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France, Russia, the United States, UK, Australia - forgive me if I have forgotten someone, we are so grateful.

The thought of so many coming brings tears to my eyes. A part of me says it is only right - we have flown the world to help others, to Kenya, to Turkey, to Haiti, to Indonesia, and beyond. Again and again, it is only right that they come and help us. But this isn't about right or wrong. It is about the beauty of it all.

They come to our land to help us. We are so grateful. Tomorrow will be time enough for politics and an accusing finger. Perhaps our government, this one and previous ones, should have done more. Perhaps this minister or that one. I don't focus on that now.

For now, I listen only to reports from the north. I need to know all the details - are they safe, these firefighters of ours and theirs? Do they have enough water to fight this? Is the wind endangering them? How soon can the planes take to the air and help?

Again and again, I check the news. Again and again, I hear of more arson attacks. The large fire in the north was not terrorism...but these arson attacks definitely are, and they leave me with one burning thought - if someone intentionally sets fire to the land, it is obscene for him to then claim that he loves it.

You do not intentionally burn trees and acres and acres, dunams after dunams, of a land you love. Those who love this land, are those who have spent days fighting these fires. I see it in their eyes, as they tell the story to reporters. The overwhelming heartache, the sadness, the damage.

And there is one more thing in their eyes - something the Arabs forget too easily, something they are blinded from seeing now...and for the last 63 years. We love this land. We will replant. We will rebuild. This was terrorism and for all of our lives, we have answered terrorism with the one thing that can stop it - determination. We will plant. We will build.

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