Friday, April 29, 2011

Looking for a Job...Update

I can't give you a final update yet but I have to tell you all something amazing. Not about J...which will come, but about Israel. I posted this "looking for a job" announcement here and on several email lists in Israel. More than a dozen people came forward with ideas for J.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the response - wow, I thought...just wow. I have always known that Israel loves its soldiers and has a special place in its heart for lone soldiers who come here without family. We become their family and I am constantly surprised at how successful this relationship is - how much we truly believe that they are ours and how much they truly believe it too.

I have seen it with Chaim and Yaakov, heard them declare that my children are their brothers and sisters and I have heard my children declare the same. Shmulik wanted to honor Chaim at his wedding and make him a witness, one of two needed to sign the marriage certificate (ketubah). The rabbi asked "Who is this Chaim?" and Shmulik explained.

The rabbi rejected the request - I think the only rejection he gave for the wedding, "he's too close to you," answered the rabbi.

I put out the request to help J. somewhat in desperation. I live and work in the Jerusalem area - he is looking in Tel Aviv. I don't have that many connections - how can I help this young man? The will was there, but was the ability? I forgot the most fundamental of principles on which this land was founded - if you will it, it is no dream.

I don't know yet - I'll keep you updated - if J. will get a job from something that resulted from these connections and these announcements but he explained to me that he was getting depressed without directions to find work and the sudden influx of so many possibilities helped him.

He has an interview next week and calls to make (if you think of something that he can do in the Tel Aviv area or by telecommuting, please write to me - leave a comment and I'll delete it but copy the info for him first). I hope I'll post an update soon on his having found a job (sorry J.'s Mom!) - but for now, I wanted to post this concept, this action, this love Israel has.

Each person, without knowing him, wanted to help a lone soldier. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this land, this people?

May the Sabbath come and grant all of us peace and safety and health!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Miluim - New Word, New Experience

Miluim means Reserves. When our sons finish their three years in the army, they leave the standing army of Israel, but remain soldiers. Each year, for up to a month, they are called into the National Reserves. It's an amazing concept - that you work at a company and up to a full month, you'll get paid your regular salary...but not be there. Your company will hire you, accepting, even taking pride in this fact.

For the first year after you leave the standing army, you are not called - unless there is a war. Everything is...unless there will be a war. So last March, Elie finished his mandatory service and entered the Reserves and I knew, I hoped, there would be a year of quiet...and there has been.

Elie received the call-up a few weeks ago and, as luck would have it, his miluim duty clashes horribly with a course and a test he is taking. If he goes to serve he will miss a huge number of lessons of a course that costs about $1,800 and will only be released a day or two before this test. And, if he passes on the course, he'll have to wait another full year before he can again do this preparatory course. All around, not good.

So, Elie drove to meet his new commanding officer and ask to be released from this round, to not have to waste a year of his life waiting after giving three years with pride and dedication. Elie thought the meeting would not last long - there would be others coming to make similar requests. He left our offices early, wanting to be the first in line. Hours later, he called me and told me he had just finished his meeting.

Once again, the army came through for my son in ways that were better than I could have imagined. I had hoped they would release him and reschedule his Reserve duty to some point in the future. Had they done that, he would have felt torn - knowing he should be with his unit in training, knowing he needed to also make concrete steps towards advancing his future goals. I was afraid they would tell him that he had to do the miluim and miss the course. Had they done that, Elie would have gone to be with his unit...and would have likely set his future back one year in many ways.

What they did, was so brilliant, so perfect. They made him feel needed. His new commanding officer told him that he really needed Elie to be at the training and then sat with him to figure out the critical days and times. The first few days, he told Elie and then on specific days when they would be in live fire exercises and needed Elie to help coordinate and command. Most of the three weeks Elie would still be able to attend his courses - a few hours here, perhaps a whole day there. Enough to make him remember how much his service was worth; not enough to damage his future.

The flip side of this is the realization that phase 2 with Elie now begins - he will spend, God willing, the next 17 years of his life serving. Leaving his job, his family, his life but somehow, there is a voice on the other side, a commanding officer who understands they must ask, but cannot ask too much. A balance - of service and sacrifice.

Serve your land, they told my son, but don't sacrifice to it. Help fulfill the dreams of Jews for the centuries by protecting your land, but don't lose your own dreams. It is moments like these, experiences like these, that make me wonder if there is another army anywhere in the world like mine. My army, my son, my land, my country. Mine. God, I thank you for the wisdom you have given our commanders, the dedication you have given my son.

Phase 2 - my son is a soldier of Israel and I remain a soldier's mother!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Looking for a Job...

...well, yeah, I'd love some technical writing projects but that isn't what I meant here. What I'm looking for, is a job for a special young man who came to Israel to serve in our army. I met his mother via the blog and when she told her soldier son that she'd contacted me, he warned her about being in contact with people you read about on the Internet! Then he read this blog and told her I was okay (thanks, J!).

So, J. came to Israel to volunteer for the army - more, to be Israeli. He made aliyah, throwing his future in with ours, leaving his wonderful parents, brother and sister behind. I think they thought he was crazy (and probably still do a bit), but he fell in love with I did so long ago and as many others have. So he came and joined the army - the Paratroopers! Not just that - he was singled out for excellence and his dedication in front of his parents, hundreds of other soldiers and probably thousands of parents. I watched him run up and accept the award and was so happy for him and for his parents.

A short time later, in a stupid training accident, J. was hurt. I don't know the full medical details, but I know that treatment took too long and the torn ligaments weren't allowed to heal as needed. The army is a great machine, I often say, made up of thousands of little parts. When one part falls wrong, the army sometimes just doesn't know what to do. The machine chugs along; the piece sacrificed for the greater good.

The problem is that the piece is a person and in this case, a lone soldier without enough support here in Israel to cushion the army's mistakes. After months of no treatment, wrong treatment, or whatever, J. was discharged from the army. He called me today and as he was talking, my heart filled with dread. He's calling to say goodbye, I thought. He's going to tell me he's going back to America. He told me about visiting his parents in LA. They are wonderful people - I'd probably go back to them too.

He talked; I listened. I was going to tell him that I wished him luck, that I understood, that it would be okay and maybe in the future, he'd come back. And...and then the conversation turned. He explained that he was living in Tel Aviv and as the conversation continued, I realized he wasn't telling me he was leaving at all!

He was asking if I could help him, if I knew anyone who could offer him a job. I told him what I'd feared and heard the most wonderful of responses, "No way!" and "I'm not giving up!" That is the nature of this young man, this soldier of Israel who, despite his injury, continues to fight to live here.

So, if you have a job to offer a wonderful English-speaking immigrant in the Tel Aviv area - office work, computer work, etc - please contact me and I'll connect you. He can't really stand for very long periods on his feet but he is mobile, walks just fine and has a wonderful sense of loyalty and dedication!

If you have something, contact me and I'll put you in touch!

A Short History Lesson and a Declaration

In 1947, the United Nations voted to divide the land of Israel, then called Palestine. Until that moment when it was divided, there were Arab Palestinians and Jewish Palestinians. The Arab Palestinians were, for the most part, transplants of the Hashemite Kingdom - which was given 2/3 of the mandated land of Palestine by the British and some nomadic tribes that moved across borders at will.

The Jewish Palestinians were easily divided into two classifications - those that remained as part of an unbroken chain of descendants of those who were never exiled (I have met several members of this family and even discovered recently one is a neighbor of mine), and those who moved to Israel from Europe and other lands in the few hundred years before the re-establishment of Israel.

Finding no way to make peace, the UN declared there would be two states and divided the land. The Jews immediately accepted this plan, understanding that peace with your neighbors was, at that time, preferable to war...of course, that was 8 or 9 or 10 wars ago. The Arab population which was not, by any means, organized or prepared for statehood in any way, was told by their Arab brothers to get out of the way as the massive Arab war machine would plow from the north, south, east and west and push the Jews into the sea.

Well, Israel was declared on May 14, 1948 and within hours, two things happened. The first was that countries rose up to recognize the new state - the US being the first, if I remember correctly. The second thing that happened was that five Arab nations invaded the new country to obliterate it. When the smoke cleared, the Jews had held on to their promised lands and captured much of what would have gone to the Arabs - their first lesson that Jews were no longer willing to roll over and surrender.

That is the end of my short history lesson. Now a declaration. More than 60 years ago, the Palestinians, or what there was of them at the time, had the option of declaring a state, they chose war. Upon our declaration, five Arab nations invaded.

Now, the Palestinians are claiming they will accept a state on even less land for more people and be happy. Doubtful.

So, here is what I believe should be Israel's declaration. Go ahead, declare your state. But when you do, be prepared for the consequences, as we were. No, we will not invade. We will not threaten to push the Palestinians into the sea. Cold blooded murder is their calling card, not ours.

No, the logical and natural result of any Palestinian declaration of independence will be - independence. That's right. They'll have their state. And, at that moment, we will seal, close, lock and throw away the key to any and all border crossings. We will stop supplying OUR electricity, OUR water, OUR fuel. Throw open the borders of Egypt - let your Arab brothers protect you, supply you, bail you out and feed you. Let them heal you, our doctors and hospitals will be closed to you as well. Our burn centers, our pediatric experts, our heart specialists - fly to Europe, walk to Egypt. The border is closed.

In 1948, five nations invaded us for our declaration. By contrast, our simply closing our borders should be considered a reasonable response. So, Gaza - Hamas - be warned of two things:

1. If you declare independence, the next sound you hear will be the shutting of all doors into Israel. No more workers will cross into Israel, no more patience needing medical care. No, you can't have our electricity - you don't even pay for it half the time anyway. No, fuel can be shipped in from wherever. You want independence, this you shall have, and...

2. If you dare to shoot one rocket at Israel, the next one sound you hear will be our firing back. Zero tolerance. None. America wouldn't take it; England can't; Russia didn't. No, none. Shoot one rocket and you will find out what we can really do. As an independent nation, if you wage war on your neighbor, you have to expect that your neighbor will wage war right back.

That should be OUR declaration.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Western Wall and Life Here

I went to the Western Wall - the Kotel today - to see a young boy put tefillin on for the first time. The son of our cousins stood before his parents and showed how much he had been taught this past year learning with his father. It is such a wonderful feeling to gather with family for happy occasions. Too often, it is sadness that brings us together - this time, it was simply joy.

At one point, guards came over and explained that everyone had to move. A suspicious object had been identified, a backpack left abandoned for too long. The guards had tried to find the owner and as time passed, suspicion grew. It happens often enough that there is no panic, no worry. You simply move to the side, trusting those in authority to handle everything so that you can get back to what you were doing.

Those busy at prayer did not want to interrupt - making the work of the guards that much harder. The bomb squad arrived and the men's section was completely cleared. Guards came to the women's side and demanded more forcefully that everyone move. Now. There was no panic; no sense that this was really a bomb.

The tourists almost enjoyed the experience; the Israelis took it in stride knowing...just knowing that nothing would explode this day, in this location. Someone left their bag. It had to be. It had to was.

In most places, the bomb squad takes no chances. They isolate the bag and shoot a low level explosive into it in a controlled explosion. This time, in this holy place, almost the center of the universe, the police didn't want to blow anything up and so the policeman took more of a chance in checking the bag.

Once he was convinced it was harmless, he removed it carefully to the protected bomb container and worshipers were told they could return.

It was a normal day in Jerusalem. Later, Elie told me it was the second time this week this had happened. Nothing exploded; tourists have a story to tell when they return home. I walked up to the Kotel and stood there for a few minutes feeling so at peace. I prayed for the health of my children, for comfort for the families of those who have lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives and parents. I prayed for the recovery of the sick amongst us and for Gilad Shalit to come home, whole and well.

And after filling my mind with prayers, I stood there for a minute and just thought - God, thank you. Thank you for this amazing place you have given us - this land of Israel, this city of Jerusalem, these ancient stones that hear our prayers and direct them to the Heavens above.

I thought of the comment I'd answered recently and looking up, I whispered, "My God, how could anyone live anywhere else but here?"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rachel is Crying Still

In 2003, Palestinians attacked and destroyed the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus (Shechem). In their rampage, they murdered an Israeli soldier. The destruction was a violation on so many fronts. It was a violation of the dead, of Joseph, son of Yaakov, our forefather, son of Abraham. It was a violation of a promise made by the Palestinian Authority to Israel, when Israel withdrew from the area after a promise to protect the religious site.

It was a violation of an agreement which placed the grave under our jurisdiction - and still we surrendered it rather than risk the very violence that resulted. For years, the tomb lay in ruins, Jews forced to sneak into the area with army escort a few times a year in order to pay tribute. Early this morning, several young men tried to go there to pray - Palestinians (currently it looks like Palestinian police) opened fire on the unarmed worshipers and murdered one - a 24-year-old father of four. How old are his babies that will now grow up without a father? How will a young wife cope? None of that is of interest to those who murdered Yosef Ben-Livnat this sunny morning in Israel. Yosef - Joseph. Could the message of today's murder be any more clear? Rachel cries today - for her Yosef who was buried long ago...and for the Yosef that will be buried today

In 2003, when I saw the violence, when I realized we had allowed an IDF soldier to bleed to death rather than storm our way in to save him, I wrote an article called "Rachel is Crying."

At this moment, Arabs are again rioting in Nablus - attempting to get to the newly refurbished Tomb of Joseph to again burn it and destroy it. Today I know, Rachel is crying still.
Rachel is Crying (February, 2003)

There is a pain felt deep in a mother’s heart. The anguish only another mother can imagine. It transcends all, even death. It is a bond created and nurtured that never, ever weakens. She’s crying for her son yet she is too far to offer comfort. She lies as isolated as he was but the desecration of his burial place is even worse to her than if they had desecrated her own grave. I can hear Rachel crying.
She is bewildered by her people, the children of the children of her children. It doesn’t matter how many generations separate her from the current generation. We are all her children, but we have betrayed Joseph, her son, our brother. It isn’t the first time that he was betrayed by his brothers, but it is the final time, the final desecration, the breaking of a vow. 
Out of the ashes of the concentration camps, many argue, the foundations of the modern Jewish State of Israel was born. Certainly, there was great sadness, overwhelming grief and shock. There was a sense of desperation and a knowledge that we had reached the lowest point in the collective memory of the Jewish people. But even more than all this, there was rage. An anger born in Auschwitz, flamed in Bergen Belsen, and fed in camp after camp throughout Europe. I believe it was the rage that won us a state. Enough was enough and we would have what was rightfully ours back. We had never abandoned Israel. Always there were Jews here, dead and alive. 
The graves of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and the matriarchs that rested beside them. And there is the lonely grave of Rachel in Bethlehem, buried beside the road to weep for the Jewish people as they were sent into exile and as they returned. There was the Tomb of Joseph, a monument to the keeping of a vow, the fulfillment of a promise that his bones would not be left in Egypt. 
Rocket after rocket is slamming into our country, into Jewish homes and cities. Where is the rage? Tell me another country that would allow this to happen. Yesterday and today, Netzarim, Dugit and Sderot. Jews running for cover, hiding under their beds and in bomb shelters. Where is the rage? Mothers and fathers murdered in front of their children, in their own homes. How is it possible that the rage is failing us? 
And now the heartbreaking news, the irreversible pain of desecration. In the last few weeks, the Palestinians have vandalized the gravesite of Joseph, son of Jacob. Rachel is crying, her son’s resting place in ruins. Where, where is the rage? The tomb was abandoned for a promise that there would be no desecration and yet within hours the building above the grave was ransacked, burned, smashed. Little consolation, but the grave was untouched. Joseph rested. Rachel watched over her son and her people. 
Does Joseph lie beneath the rubble? The Arabs claim it is the tomb of Sheikh Yussif. What better proof is there that this is yet another attempt at denying the Jewishness of this land and the very history that permeates every layer of earth here? Clearly, if it were indeed the revered grave of Sheikh Yussif, what justification would there be in destroying it? By their own actions, they have confirmed what we have believed all along. It is Joseph that lies there. 
Joseph’s role in saving the Jewish people from famine is often overshadowed by the roles of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. Yet it is his death that closes the book of Genesis, and his words that remained in the collective Jewish memory of the Israelites. With supreme faith, he foretells the Exodus from Egypt and makes the people swear that when they leave “you must bring my bones up out of here.” And so they did. Centuries later, on the eve of the Exodus, Moses remembers the promise and took Joseph’s bones as they left. For forty years, they carried those bones with them through the desert until they finally were interred in Shechem, in the place from which he was exiled, in Nablus. 
When Yusuf Madhat, an IDF soldier, slowly bled to death defending Joseph’s Tomb from Palestinian rioters, I wondered why the simplest of solutions wasn’t followed. Why didn’t the IDF send a tank to ram its way into the city and evacuate him? Why was he left to die? Now I believe the twisted political outrage that began so many years ago has led to this inevitable conclusion. As a realist, I know that we will never return to Nablus. The world and the army won’t allow it and I can accept that because there are some mistakes that cannot be fixed, errors that are too costly to repair. 
But before we surrender our last right to the city of Joseph, there is one thing that Ariel Sharon must do. He must send in the tanks and some troops and with the respect and dignity due to Joseph, they must take his bones and bury him in a safe place, beside one of his parents. Bring him to his mother. Bury him in Bethlehem beside Rachel. Bury him beside his father and grandfather in Hebron. Bury him on Mt. Herzl as a warrior of his people, one of the first Zionists who longed for his homeland. Just don’t abandon his bones. 
The Jews are commanded to believe that collectively as a people, we received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Collectively, we left Egypt and so collectively we carried Joseph through the desert. We have given up too much already, but if the world would force us to give up Shechem, they must not be allowed to force us to break the vow we made to Joseph. 
As a mother, I beg you to bring Joseph home. Don’t abandon him as you abandoned his tomb. His grave is destroyed. Desecrated. Ruined. Rachel is crying.
There is an understanding in Jewish tradition that a grave should not be left in danger. Bodies have been exhumed and relocated to protect the grave. Joseph's grave is in danger - if we do not have the courage and the strength to protect his resting place; if our government lacks the nerve, it is time to go in and remove the grave. I said this in 2003 and I repeat it now. I am not in favor of surrender but a young man was killed today, babies left fatherless because our army is crippled by a government that allows rioting mobs and enemy security forces to be victorious in our land.

Defend Joseph's tomb, Bibi Netanyahu - so that all Jews have free access to it; or move him to rest beside his mother. Listen to Rachel's tears as she cries for her son, all her sons.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures...

Pictures, after all, make a wedding last forever in the minds of those who attend, and those who were not able to come.

We missed my husband's brothers, my brother, our sister-in-laws and our nephews on both sides, great uncles and aunts, cousins and more. It is a price we pay for living far, but one we accept because there is no where else we could live. And so, we sometimes share happy events through the pictures - and here they are. Shmulik's unit was supposed to have been released - several dozen of them but in the end, only about 15 were able to come.

For them, and for all of you who have followed my family for the past weeks, months, and years, a glimpse of an incredible wedding.

A Jewish wedding has many traditions. for one thing, it is our custom that the bride and groom don't see each other for a week before the wedding. This was the moment when Shmulik's father (on the left) and Naama's father (on the right) escorted him to his bride. Meanwhile, the bride sits on a special chair, waiting for her future husband. It is only moments away now.

There is a tradition - as ancient as the lives of Abraham,  Isaac, and Jacob.
Jacob was fooled into marrying Leah, when he wanted Rachel and so ever since then, Jewish men check to confirm that this is the woman they have pledged to marry.

And then, having checked, they lower the veil over her - it is a promise of the privacy, the intimacy, that will be part of their lives.

The groom is then escorted to the wedding canopy by his singing and dancing friends - the chupah, where the ceremony will take place is usually open to the skies and in this case, raised several steps to allow all to see the ceremony that will soon take place. Shmulik took this short walk with his father, brothers, and friends - singing and dancing, and music playing.

After escorting Shmulik, his army brothers returned to escort the bride. I proudly walked beside Naama with her mother.

The wedding ceremony is full of symbolism. The ring is placed on his bride's finger, words of commitment are spoken. It is there in the pictures - the smile on both of their faces. With these simple words, they are married. There is more to come, but this is the moment. The agreement has been made and the smiles show it all.

Another tradition is that after marriage, a man begins wearing a prayer shawl when he prays. This is a gift his new wife gives him and he puts it on for the first time under the chuppah and says a prayer thanking God for bringing him to this moment. He may have become obligated to fulfill the laws of our Torah at age 13, he may have matured considerably when he entered the army, but this is another milestone - the boy has become a man and has now taken a wife.

And then, as Jews do, we mix the intense happiness with a reminder that our lives are not complete, that parts of our people and religion remain unfulfilled. We remember in that moment of happiness, a bit of sadness as well. There, under the chuppah, on this most special of days, the groom recites the simple and heartbreaking reminder,
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.
A glass is broken - a sign that even in joy there is sadness.

We remember, even at our happiest moments, those tragedies that have befallen our people - the destruction of Jerusalem and the holy temple.

After the ceremony, there comes the expressions of joy. A Jewish wedding is lively and happy and my son's wedding was so incredibly beautiful. His friends came and danced and so many of the people who attended took the time to watch the boys and smile. The music was loud, there was so much joy. They raised Shmulik on his shoulders; threw hearts and balloons towards Naama.

In the middle of the wedding, a second group of soldiers - the other half of his unit. They came in full uniform, vests and guns. Within seconds, the vests were thrown under a table, the guns piled in a corner with one soldier left to guard them.

And then it was to the dance floor - to dance with Shmulik and show their happiness as well.

They had come from base and would return to base after the wedding. They were allowed to relax enough to remove their uniform shirts, but not enough to drink anything.

I asked the photographer to take a picture of Shmulik with his friends and he laughed and told me that he already had.

In short, it was an amazing wedding - may it be the start of a long and happy marriage.

When my husband and I were getting married so many years ago, we understood one important truth that I would pass on to my children and their current and future wives and husband. The wedding day is a wonderful, exciting beginning...but it is only the beginning. What matters most of all is not that day, but every day that comes after it.

Within our family, new families are being created. Shmulik and Naama now begin their lives. They have waited a long time for this day, for these days. I can only pray that they are blessed with happiness and health, wonderful years and years and many healthy children who will carry the same outer and inner beauty that these two carry. My son and my new daughter-in-law - Mazel Tov!

My God. Why would anyone want to live in such a country?

Sometimes from comments people make, new posts are born. This is one of them.

Anonymous (sorry, I love your comment, but don't know your name), left this comment yesterday: "my god. why would anyone want to live in such a country?"

Please allow me to explain.

There are several questions here built into one. You ask "why would anyone want to live in such a country?"

Years ago, someone asked me a similar question - or I'd like to think a question born out of a similar sense of curiosity. I answered it in a post called "What's it actually like in Israel?" I could copy and paste the whole post, but I'll ask you to click and read it. I'll just put a bit of it here because it is important:
Israel is the most amazing country - strong because it has to be, caring because that's what we are. Our emergency teams have flown around the world, at a moment's notice. We have pulled survivors from earthquake-destroyed buildings, we have rescued survivors from the great tsunami a few years ago. And, because of all that we have suffered here, we have become world experts in identification and handling of dead bodies - giving them the honor and respect they were denied in death.
Israel stands for Jews around the world, so no where can a country attack its Jewish citizens without knowing Israel will respond. We have gathered our people from Yemen and Ethiopia and Russia, even under fire. And today, quietly while the world does little to stop the suffering in Darfur, Sudanese refugees know that if they can somehow get past the Egyptians (who have beaten them and shot them), these Moslem refugees may actually find shelter in Israel.
We welcomed the boat people from Vietnam, some of whom still live here, when the world debated and wondered. We stand, even if we stand alone, against Iran because we know what till happen if Iran goes nuclear.
And yes, we put our sons on the borders of our country and ask them to sacrifice three years of their lives defending our land at a time when they too would prefer to get on with their lives, have fun with their friends, go to bars, and do nothing that has anything to do with wearing a uniform and carrying a gun.
What is it actually like in Israel? A lot of times, it is like living in heaven here on earth - waking to the beauty of this land and simply thanking God that today, yet again, you were lucky enough to awaken here.
Why would anyone want to live in such a country? The answer is that I could never live anywhere else.  Yes, my daughter has been traumatized by a brutal murder by men who come from a culture that is so foreign to what we hold dear. I do not understand how or why someone could slit the throat of an infant, stab a young child in the heart. I do not understand...and I hope I never will.

But I will not surrender the beauty of living here because that would be so much worse. I will not surrender to their terror and my daughter will learn - with love and patience, that we can protect her, that all is in the hands of God, that she belongs here in the land of her birth.

Why would anyone want to live in such a country? I would ask how anyone could or would choose to live anywhere else. I am so blessed to live in this land. To breathe this air, to touch and be touched by all that happens here. I work in Jerusalem - can you imagine that? To be there almost every day of my life, to see the ancient stones and know, day by day, that this is the gift God has given to me and to my children.

Nothing is free in life, not the houses we live in, not the air we breathe. We pay for it all. Sometimes the price is heartbreaking; I can't argue that but the joy of living here every day outshines everything.

And I'll close with what I ended the last article with last time:
May God bless the land and the people of Israel with health, with happiness, with prosperity, and yes, with peace so that the day will come when our sons won't have to go to war and those living outside of our country will come without fear and find out what Israel is actually like.
And add one more - May the day come when our children no longer live in fear, when our neighbors do not worship death and practice barbaric crimes in the name of some religion that cannot have come from any true and just God.

A Child's Trauma

Since the Itamar massacre, my youngest daughter has been afraid. With each passing day, the fear was growing. Because this coincided with a long school vacation, I haven't had the chance to speak to her teacher and experts at the school. I've been debating what to do and if this is something that we can handle at home or if she needs more intervention.

First, she was afraid to sleep in her room, afraid of the window. The terrorists in Itamar came through the window to attack and murder five members of the Fogel family. We closed the heavy shutters; it wasn't enough.

She was supposed to switch rooms because her older brother was getting married and I thought she'd be better in her new room. The new room is on the second floor whereas the first one was at ground level and it frightened her to look out on the darkness. She was a bit better - but she insisted on locking the door when she slept. In Itamar, the door was left unlocked and when Tamar Fogel returned, the first sign that there was trouble was the fact that the front door to her home was locked.

Aliza insists on leaving a light on in her room at night - something she has never done before. Before she would go to bed, she made sure we locked the bars on the patio doors and wanted to see the door to the front door locked as well. We tried to explain to her that we have a dog - and a big one at that. The Fogel family didn't have a dog and we hoped this difference would comfort her. It wasn't enough. We bought her a cheap window alarm; it helped add a bit of security, but overall wasn't enough either.

We've listened to her, explained, talked. Only once did I tell her that we would protect her. My heart broke as she explained that Ruthi and Udi Fogel had not protected their children so how could I say we would protect her? We've talked about it, discussed it, hinted at ways she could cope. Differences in where we live, the landscape and surrounding security. Everything, anything.

A few days ago, the murderers were caught and as is the way in Israel, the children are exposed to the news. It was my daughter who told me the ages of the murderers, and that they were from the village of Awarta, as expected. She told me who they murdered first - and in a strange way, the knowledge brings her peace. I haven't verified her narration, and it doesn't matter, as the end is still the same. She says the two boys were killed and then the parents. She said that Ruthi blocked the room where her two small sons were sleeping and so managed to protect them. They were not discovered.

Aliza doesn't know the killers expressed only one bit of regret - regret that they missed killing the boys too. This I will keep from her; this she does not need to know. She told me only that the murderers did not know there were more children in the house.

Aliza knows they killed little 3-month-old Hadas because she cried out and that had she been silent, they might not have killed her. My daughter says her friend's father is a policeman and has been telling his daughter, who then tells her.

Yesterday, we had our first easing of the trauma; the first hint that things will get better. Aliza came to me, proud of herself. For the first time, she had slept with the window open. For her, this is a milestone. She is still afraid to be upstairs alone and assures me she is not ready to be in the house alone at all. I have no intention of leaving her alone, and I told her this many times and still she reminds me she is scared.

Her aunt and uncle are visiting from the States; she is sharing her room with her aunt. It isn't clear whether she wasn't scared because my sister-in-law was in the room with her or because she is on the down side of the trauma she and all of Israel suffered but I'll take it as a sign of hope.

She knows that I don't want her to read the newspaper and then apologizes because she saw the picture of the family and couldn't leave it alone. She is loving and kind and yet I don't know if she has faith again that we can protect her. I tried telling her she has two brothers who are/were soldiers - but this too does not help - after all, Udi was a soldier and he was killed. I can't argue with her; I can only listen and wait.

I can't ask how she feels but I can reassure her again and again. I can only sit back and hope that she will continue to heal slowly. It is the nature of the child, I think, when she is given love and understanding. She will heal, I now believe, and she will return to what she was before. It is the way of the human.

And with that knowledge comes the truth that Tamar Fogel will never return - that thought haunts me. She and so many other Israeli children - victims of terror, relatives of lost ones. Tamar Fogel will, for the rest of her life, deal with what was done to her family in Itamar by those who love death over life and those who were capable of doing something that is so evil, so wrong, so inhumane. I have trouble understanding how they can even live with themselves.

The trauma my daughter experienced is slowly fading, as I believed it would. As it fades, there is a feeling of guilt in letting it go, knowing that others continue to suffer. My daughter is, hopefully, too young to feel that guilt, to know that there others who continue to suffer, or even to realize that there was a trauma.

For now, I wait, I watch, I hope. For now, Aliza heals - as all Israeli children do - hoping again to believe in the goodness of this world and forget, just a little, the agonies.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Lesson of History

We were honored to have the Adler family join us for our seder this year. It was their first seder as new immigrants to Israel and they are dear friends. You can read Rivkah's blog here, and Rav Elan's website here and his blog here.

Rav Elan is gifted with an amazing voice and an even more amazing personality - together, he and Rivkah bring light and joy and if I say any more, I'll never hear the end of it, so let me instead write of something that touched me during the seder. Rav Elan was explaining something about the Passover story and as he spoke, I couldn't help but apply it to modern times. I asked the question that bothered me and was quickly shown why that past rests easy.

What would you do to someone who abused your family, held them prisoners and forced them to serve your needs? If you begin to feel anger, now take it even further. Imagine if they murdered members of your family, children in cold blood simply because they were part of your family. Imagine that they forced you against your will to abandon your lifestyle, customs, needs.

And when the anger threatens to choke you, imagine, in the flash of an eye, you were given an opportunity to escape. Not only to escape, but suddenly, those that oppressed you were without power, at your mercy. You could do anything to them, take anything and everything for all they took from you, all they did to you. You could even kill them for their murdering your child or someone you loved. Finally, God had brought you to the point that you could do back, give back, take back.

What would you do?

Amazingly enough, when the Israelites left Egypt after being enslaved for 400 years, after having their male babies murdered, after undergoing torture and humiliation, their answer to those questions was simply to leave. There was no revenge, no pillage, no murders. It is a testimony to the nature of the people and the nation they would found. They left, trusting in the future and not looking back to what had been done to them. My first feeling was that we were as stupid then as we are now - that now we do not respond adequately and strongly to incoming rocket fire, to the murders of our loved ones.

Rav Elan's explanation bothered me and though I was impressed by what was done in the past, I felt that it paved the way for the weakness we now show in the face of our enemies. Rav Elan and others pointed out the difference and I realized I was wrong. In the case of Ancient Egypt, the fight was over and we had been victorious. We left in triumph, with the blessings and leadership and honor that was ours. We did not return the harm done to us and in so doing, we kept our humanity and sense of ethics. God brought the plague of the death of the first born (not all male babies as was done to the people of Israel); we did not. Revenge was for God - our future was in front of us and so we left Egypt in peace - they had their future, we had ours.

In the case of the Palestinians, it isn't that they leave us in peace but rather continue to attack. They have never offered us peace, never offered us an end to this endless violence. Their greatest offer was an absurd cessation for a limited period of time (mostly likely to be used to re-arm themselves and only in exchange for a full surrender on our part).

It all comes down to that famous quote by Binyamin Netanyahu back in 2006, "The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war."

What I learned at the Seder this year was a new perspective - that our humanity, what makes us what we are, has deep roots that date back to the very birth of our people as a nation. We continue today in that tradition - of reaching out and helping others - in Japan, in Haiti, Kenya, Indonesia, Belarus, and so many other nations. We invent amazing technologies that save the lives of thousands...and in many ways, all this was taught to us as we left Egypt - don't murder, don't take revenge, leave with dignity and honor even against those who were dishonorable to you.

What defined us as a nation as we left Egypt remains with us today - that sense of tomorrow awaiting us, a destiny in this land, a greatness promised by God. All that we are, all started with that first walk out of Egypt and continues today.

May God bless the children of Israel and may we stand on our honor as we defend ourselves and live in the land promised to us by God, the land to which Moshe Rabbenu (Moses, our Teacher) guided us and in which we will dwell until the end of time.

Sadness and Anger

Shortly before the holiday began, Elie told me that Refeal Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar had died and was buried the night. This is the name of a 16-year-old boy I never met and yet his death shook my heart. Like most kids his age, Daniel Aryeh was released to enjoy Passover with his family. He went to visit his grandmother; took a fun day with a family friend driving around on a school bus.

Luckily, the bus driver had just dropped off all of the kids on his route - only Daniel Aryeh and he remained on the bus when an Arab sighted the bus, aimed his sophisticated, anti-tank missile at the bus, and pulled the release. Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad doesn't understand why Israel made such a fuss about the targeting of a school bus. He complained that the bus wasn't even badly damaged - he had seen pictures, you see.

But Daniel Aryeh was "badly damaged." The dreaded word "anush" was used to describe his condition. This is a word that sends dread through the body. Anush. It means there is little or no hope. It means pray for a miracle. It means the doctors don't expect the person to survive. It means pray and keep praying. Some, a few, very few, come back from "matsav anush" - mortally or severely injured.

There is a tradition to sometimes add a name to someone who is ill or badly injured. Daniel Aryeh became Refeal - a name that in itself asks God for healing.

But Refeal Daniel Aryeh's injuries were too severe. Sadly, though I am sure they wish they were wrong, the doctors' predictions came true. I didn't hear about his death until shortly before the holiday came in because I was so busy getting ready. May the memory of Refeal Daniel Aryeh be a blessing to his parents and all who loved him; may the bus driver who survived the attack be granted a full and speedy recovery. May the parents of Refeal Daniel Aryeh be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may they know no more sorrow.

And may those who focused that missile on a school bus know that there are Powers to be reckoned with, punishments in this world and in the next. May they be granted justice and pay all the days of their miserable lives for the murder of this innocent boy...they, and all the generations to come from them - may they know no rest.

Passover, Bondage, Freedom and Writing

So, I'll start off with an apology to Bee and others. Passover is a special holiday and a very difficult one for me. This year, with wedding plans for Shmulik (and yes, I have the amazing pictures and have to post them!!!) and so much going on, I've been absent for a week. This is the second day of Passover - first day of the intermediate "semi-holiday" days here in Israel while being "full-holiday" mode outside Israel.

Because we have guests from Israel, I guess we are somewhere in the middle. It is semi for me, full for my guests and soon I'll be serving a holiday meal again, though my kids will likely rebel at the idea of another full holiday meal.

So, I'll be back in full blogging mode as soon as I can - sorry if I worried anyone! One amazing concept was presented at our seder - I'll try blogging that next, but this short post is just to apologize to those I worried and thank you all for caring! May this be a Passover of freedom (from slavery, from terrorism and yeah, from dishes too!).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Did I Tell You About....

I was driving with Elie yesterday - a long drive to and from somewhere to run a small errand. I had to go; he volunteered to come along and be my driver. He didn't like the way the soldiers (military police) were holding their guns at the checkpoint. They weren't serious enough for Elie, who would never have let his soldiers stand that way.

The arrogance of the combat soldier extends to "jobniks" - those non-combat soldier without which the army simply could not function. It is the nature of the combat soldier to know the value and yet to gently look down on it. He is one of only a minor percentage, chosen for his physical and mental capabilities. Many combat soldiers do not complete the army in combat units and there is an arrogance among those that do.

It doesn't stop the two brothers (three when you include Chaim and now four when you include my son-in-law) from speaking Army when they are together, but it is often there. And yet...despite looking down a bit on the military police, Elie took pride in telling me that they recently won in an international competition, beating out a SWAT/FBI team in completing their mission.

After he told me that bit of trivia and explained why they were holding their guns wrong, Elie said, "did I ever tell you about..." and I sat back to enjoy listening to him talk.

The details of the operation are not something I would write here, though I doubt they are useful or confidential. The bottom line was that Elie's unit was tasked with capturing a wanted terrorist responsible for planning numerous stabbing attacks. Others had tried to capture him several times and failed.

Information came to the security forces about where he would be and when and the unit that was available, was Elie's. Elie helped plan the operation, noting some important detail that likely others had missed.

"When we got into the village," Elie told me, "me and another soldier" went off in one direction to set the scene; the other soldiers approached the house from the standard direction, calling out and warning the terrorist to come out. This had been done before, to no avail.

This time, when the terrorist used his escape route, Elie was right there with his gun aimed at the door waiting for the terrorist, who surrendered and was arrested.

No, Elie, you didn't tell me about this one and I wonder how many other stories are in your head waiting to be shared as you remember and adjust to life outside the army.

The Roller Coaster

Some where during Elie's three years in the army, I stumbled on the idea that the army, or at least a mother's relationship with it, is like a roller coaster ride. Perhaps even one you take with a blindfold. When things are going well, what I called the flat of the roller coaster, you are calm, accepting, patient.

This is the time when you believe all will be well, that your son will come home on a regular basis, you'll spend some time, he'll go back to base with love and cookies...all to be repeated in a few weeks. You don't even notice when the roller coaster begins to climb, to set up the next fall. Most often, it was a gradual climb - or it was a sudden jerk but you thought it would be fine anyway. These climbs are the times when something happens - a rocket from the north; many rockets from Gaza; a series of terrorist attacks; an Israeli military operation gone right (or wrong).

If we succeeded in eliminating a terrorist, there would be a revenge attack; if we responded to incoming rocket fire, but civilians were in close proximity of the launch site and got hurt (or didn't get hurt but the Palestinians claimed they did), there would be a revenge attack. If we cracked down on violent protests, there would be a revenge attack. Even if we didn't crack down, there would likely be a revenge attack.

The climb of the roller coaster isn't so scary - but when you realize that tensions are rising, you begin to worry. It's a subtle ache in your stomach, a denial that springs out of your heart.

And finally, there is the fall. That dizzy, horrifying realization that things are beyond your control; that you don't know where your son is, what he is doing. You trust he is safe for this moment, but in the next second, you are back to worrying. I can't describe the fall in enough detail to make it clear how terrifying it is.

When Elie left the army and then when Shmulik transferred from a combat unit to a combat driver assigned to S., I thought the roller coaster was behind me. This weekend, as I listened to reports of incoming rockets throughout the day, I remembered how I felt in the days before the Gaza War. It was the climb of the roller coaster; the knowing that the fall was coming.

Chaim will be finishing the army in the next few days; even if war comes, Shmulik's job won't change and he is assigned near our home. It is unlikely he will have anything to do with a Gaza War. Elie is scheduled to do reserve duty this summer...I don't know if a build-up in Gaza would involve his being called up. And even if he is called, there is no telling whether he would be called to fill in other areas while those soldiers are moved into Gaza or if his reserve unit would go.

But if it won't be my sons from will still be mine that will fight in a war we don't want. We did not ask for this. Let the world finally admit this simple fact. We did not start the war that is coming; did all in our power to avoid it, but no country would accept 120 rockets fired in the space of two days. No one, no where.

Israel cannot ignore these endless attacks. We will not. We cannot allow our enemy to target our children - as they did last Thursday with a missile, and as they did a month ago in Itamar with a knife, and as they did a few weeks ago with explosives.

The one great truth of the army, I learned long ago, is that we all live on a roller coaster and a roller coaster, by its very nature, involves not just the flat times, but the climbs and worse, the horrible, stomach-clenching falls.

As each rocket hits, as we climb higher and higher, I know that the fall will be that much worse. If we are to tumble into war, as I expect we will, I can only hope each soldier will carry into battle a picture of little Hadass Fogel in his mind to know how barbaric our enemies can be; and a picture of Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar to remember that our enemies are well equipped and will use these sophisticated weapons with cunning and deceit. This is our enemy, they must know - beings that can cut an infant's throat; shoot a missile at a school bus. This is what we fight.

For much of Friday, my stomach was in knots. It calmed over the Sabbath simply because I was busy with family. Saturday night, as the Sabbath left us, I turned my phone back on and within minutes, the phone went wild beeping the incoming messages that had been blocked throughout the day.

At some point, I realized that I knew this feeling, had experienced it before. Like last time, there is the realization that it is that feeling of being on the roller coaster, of having the earth move beneath me and the comfort of knowing that on this trip, as in the past, I am not alone.

All of Israel rides this roller coaster - the mothers and fathers of soldiers, brothers and sisters, and the soldiers themselves. All the people who live in the south and spent the Sabbath in or near bomb shelters. We are all on a roller coaster and Hamas will determine how high we climb.

We climb knowing that even now our army is preparing. When the army goes to war, not if, but when, we will accept the downward plunge with the hope that this time, the army won't stop until it finishes the job, until it cleans out Hamas. To do this, we need the height because the higher we climb, the greater will be Hamas' downfall.

We will return to the flat of the roller coaster, as we always do, but for now, there is work to be done and no army in the world is better than the IDF in dealing with Hamas. We know what they have, where they are, what they hide and where they hide.

The sons of Israel are ready. They are swifter than eagles; they are stronger than lions.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

WHAT do you expect Israel to do?

Over our peaceful Shabbat - when Israelis shut down for the weekend and pull into their families and communities, we were hit by over 50 mortar and rocket attacks. On Thursday, a Palestinian "fighter" - what anyone else should call a terrorist - picked up an advanced anti-tank RPG with special abilities to track and destroy. Elie knows this weapon, "it doesn't miss what it is aimed at," he said.

What it was aimed at - was a school bus. By the grace of God, almost all the children on the bus had just gotten off minutes before the attack. Daniel Aryeh, son of Tamar, was still on the bus and is now fighting for his life. Daniel Aryeh is only 16-years-old. He went to visit his grandmother, decided to have some fun with a family friend who is the bus driver and ride along.

France is being "even-handed" - they are urging both sides to calm down, to stop fighting. When did we start? We have responded to the attacks. Doesn't it make sense, up until now, to understand that you only have to tell Hamas to stop the rocket attacks? If they stop, we have nothing to respond to...but no, Obama and France, the United Nations and others, want to be balanced and so they spout nonsense about cycles of violence. This feeds Hamas, encourages them.

From a crowded neighborhood, Hamas fires rockets while their leaders crouch in bunkers like the cowards they are. From cemeteries that should be sacred ground, they launch their missiles of hatred and Israel is urged to show restraint.

No country in the world would allow itself, day after endless day, to be struck by 50 rockets. No country except Israel is expected to allow a 3-month old baby to be slaughtered with her parents and young brothers.

In each attack, there are miracles - in Itamar, another family made plans to go away and three other young couples who would have stayed in the house of the family changed their plans and were saved when the terrorists first broke into that house to murder innocents. The massacre in Itamar, as horrible as it was, had that element of a miracle in it.

A bomb was left by a busy bus station. A man saw the object, thought it looked suspicious, and called it in, even as he moved people away. One woman was killed; but still, a miracle because it could easily have been so much worse.

A terrorist shot an anti-tank missile at a bus - not an armored one, not one containing soldiers, but children. One boy is fighting for his life and yet here too, a miracle. Just moments before, the bus had been full of children.

We live on miracles, here in Israel - David Ben Gurion once said to be a realist in Israel, you must believe in miracles. They happen almost daily here and still, it is not fair for us to live by depending on these miracles. We should not have to withstand 50 rockets in a single day.

And we won't. Within days, if this continues, Israel will act. Hamas knows this and so plays the game of firing dozens of rockets, and then asking for a ceasefire. Hamas knows this and so their sorry leaders hide in bunkers, leaving their women and children to protect them.

The world will likely condemn us - France and Obama, Ban of the United Nations, and others. I do not care. I even laugh a bit at being the fortune-teller. It is so obvious that this is what will happen - again.

The only question is whether our own leadership will have the nerve to do what must be done, to withstand international pressure and the sobbing pleas of the poor Palestinians who protect the rocket launchers with their lives and those of their children.

Maybe this time, as the army moves in, they will carry the picture of little Hadass Fogel with them, of Daniel Aryeh ben Tamar, who needs our prayers. Maybe this time, we will have the courage to ask, "why do you expect more of us than you yourselves would suffer?"

No, this time, if we move into Gaza - it must be to obliterate all that is Hamas...and all that stands in front of them. We can pray that this time, Hamas leaders will protect their people, but they won't. This time, we can hope that they will not fire from civilian areas, but they will.

This time, let no mosque be safe - if it shelters weapons used against our children. This time, even a hospital must be considered a target, if Hamas allows terrorists to fire from within.

If the UN doesn't like what is to come, they have had days and days in which to stop it; to demand that Hamas stop. Obama, France, the UN - all are responsible because the one great truth here is that Israel cannot stop the rockets, but we can, and we will, respond to them.

And we must do this with as little mercy as was shown by the terrorist who slit a three-month-old infant's throat, who stabbed a three-year-old child in the heart, who aimed and shot at a school bus.

This time...Israel must not do what is expected...but what these other nations would do. If that means attacking every launch site, every building used against us, let it be.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dealing with Fear

This was supposed to be the post about Shmulik's wedding - yes, it was a few days ago. I didn't write about it in advance, having heard all these horror stories of criminals who troll the Internet to find out which houses will be empty. I was going to post pictures of the amazing evening, of the beautiful couple and more. Soon, I'll do that...but first this.

Passover is coming to Israel in just over a week. It's a major holiday with a huge amount of preparation. Israeli stores start stocking the special kosher for Passover foods two weeks before the holiday begins. I went shopping with Elie this morning to buy the first wave of canned and dry goods. Elie came over to the shopping carts and showed me something he wanted to buy.

"It's a window alarm," he said, "for Aliza's room. She'll feel safer this way."

It's been weeks since the terrorist attack and still Aliza, perhaps like many Israeli children, continues to cope with the fear that terrorists will come into her house and hurt her. She has no faith that her parents will protect her. After all, Tamar Fogel's parents couldn't protect her baby sister and two younger brothers, so she is afraid.

We blocked off her window, shutting the shutters against the view in the backyard because she was afraid. I gave her a small light to sleep with - and still she was afraid. We tried talking to her, reasoning with her, nothing.

Since Shmulik just got married - the post I keep meaning to make - we've had a shuffle of rooms. Elie moved to Shmulik's old room; Aliza moved upstairs and is now happily sleeping in Elie's room. She is less frightened, but insists on locking the door every night. We have secretly put a key to her door just outside in case we need to get inside quickly but she doesn't feel secure any other way.

She sleeps with a night light - something she has never done before, and now she has a window alarm. I am worried about this, but everyone seems to think she will get over it soon and for now, indulging her fear is better than forcing it away before she is ready.

I've dealt with my own fears and worries. They are not nearly as upsetting as those of a child. Slowly, somehow, we will deal with this but there is a slow burning anger in side of me that a child has to grow up with this kind of fear.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

He Blesses the Soldiers of the Army

This video is amazing - the Hebrew simple and clear, "He blesses the soldiers of the army of the defense of Israel (Israel Defense Forces - IDF), who protects our land."

It starts with the mother of the soldier - the fear and prayers we hold in our hearts each moment they serve. It is a mixture of Hebrew and English - simply beautiful. Thanks to Dov, who wrote this beautiful song, sang it, filmed it. God, please grant his prayer, our prayer.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Beautiful Israel

A beautiful video of our love for Israel - amazing photos - not the many colors of the berets on the soldiers. The first one is turquoise - Artillery!

So many units, one love. Israel

The Pictures You Can't Take

Orthodox Jews do not use a camera on the Sabbath. We have no way of physically recording the events that touch our lives during this period, except in our minds and hearts. The disadvantage is obvious; but perhaps the advantage is too. When we married, there was a funny moment as my new husband and I walked down the aisle right after the ceremony.

Our rabbi leaned between us and said, "you're married now, you can hold hands!" My new husband reached down and took my hand and the photographer captured that moment - of his hand reaching for mine; of the rabbi's face between ours. The problem is that over the many years we have been married, the picture that has solidified in my mind is wrong. I'm in the picture seeing me there smiling and looking off as my husband took my hand.

The advantage to capturing the picture in your mind is that it stays untouched, unaltered. I have a picture from my youngest son's bar mitzvah two years ago. It was Friday night and the boys lined up in front of my husband for a blessing. They lined up in age, all of them. Yaakov and then Elie, Chaim, Shmulik and finally Davidi and as I watched as my husband put his hands on Yaakov's head to say the traditional blessing, I wished for a camera.

And yet, perhaps because I didn't have one, the picture remains there in my mind, so clear that it brings a smile each time I think of it.

This Shabbat, Shmulik was called to the Torah - the Shabbat before he marries. It was an amazing Shabbat, filled with friends and family and food. We ate Friday night at home with close friends and arrived at the synagogue Shabbat morning early. Chaim has a beautiful voice and agreed to lead the first part of the service.

Davidi read a part of the Torah, then a friend's son read the remaining part. Shmulik's teacher of many years called Shmulik to the Torah. Shmulik read his part beautifully, blessed and was blessed and then we threw candies to him and at him.

With Yaakov and Chaim, our sons number five. We've semi-adopted two young women as well. One came to us when her parents still lived in America. I had to officially "un-adopt" her when our friends moved her last summer and yet she still holds a special place in our family. I consider her semi-adopted - she blends into our family completely and easily. As Aliza, my youngest asked me at one point, "even if she isn't your daughter, she's still my sister, right?" Our second semi-adopted daughter came to us through this blog, though why she was reading it, I can't remember. She contacted us, we connected, and she's now so much a part of our family as well.

I looked around at these young people who are mine - from birth, from love and sharing and was so filled with happiness. These were some of the pictures I couldn't take today.

A close friend of the family with a most amazing voice (the much loved step-father of our first semi-adopted daughter and husband to a dear friend) led the last part of the service, bringing joy to my heart and those who attended. Other friends joined in to share the day. Some spoke, some participated, some brought cakes or salads, helped serve or clean.

After the service was over, it was time for lunch with many of our friends. What comes to mind as I now cope with loads of dishes are the pictures I couldn't take with a camera, but know will remain in my mind and heart.

Of Chaim leading the service, his beautiful voice singing.

Of Davidi wearing his father's tallit (prayer shawl) as he read from the Torah.

Of Shmulik being called up for his portion and of the candies that went flying through the air. Of Uriel calling Shmulik to the Torah; of Elan's voice; of the laughter when our friend, Shelley, spoke; of the friends who helped me set up the place and then take it apart.

And of friends talking and laughing. Of laughter and hugs and the wonderful feeling of sharing a most amazing day with those we love. You have to remember to keep a spare battery for those cameras that take pictures; for the pictures I took today, you need only close your eyes and remember.

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