Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Norway's Tragedy a Wake-up Call?

At least 76 people have been murdered in Norway in the country's  most shocking and horrific terror attack in the country's history. Words are being thrown around - as is the blame. Already, people are criticizing the police for not getting there fast enough, for not being prepared. My country is prepared for such a massacre of innocents, and let me tell you, there is, to mangle Tevye's quote from Fiddler on the Roof, no great honor in being prepared.

We are prepared because we have been living this reality for decades. Our children are raised with the same trauma these Norwegian youth are feeling. Those that survived will be afraid - afraid of the dark, of being in places where things aren't locked, of noises and things that move quickly in the peripheral of their sight.

If they are like my youngest daughter, they won't believe their parents can protect them - we failed already once and cannot be trusted. In my case, perhaps it is guilt by association - I'm a parent...and little 3-month-old Hadas Fogel's parents didn't, couldn't protect her. She was murdered when Arab terrorists slit her throat - a baby only 3 months old. They murdered her two brothers at the same time, and killed by their parents - Udi and Ruthie Fogel. So my daughter doesn't believe we could protect her either.

All evidence points to the fact that Ruthie Fogel managed to protect her two small sons by blocking the door behind which they slept. This information came out later and that thought brings my daughter comfort and last night, for the first time in months, she slept with the window opened and the door to her bedroom unlocked.

I did not tell her about what happened to the children in Norway. She has suffered enough trauma and I do not want to bring it all back to her again after she has, slowly over the months, begun to put this behind her.

The children of Norway, in fact all of Norway will cry rivers of tears, only to find that even when you think you have cried your last, there is more. And they will wonder at the hatred of one man, who could inflict such suffering on those he never met, those who did nothing to him, those who wanted to live.

Labels are needed, or so people think, to make put this tragedy into terms that can be understood, blamed. "Christian fundamentalist" is one that is being spread around.

I think the point here isn't the religion, so much as the action and, perhaps even more important, the reaction after the fact.There were those who jumped to the conclusion that this must have been done by Muslim extremists. That was wrong.

Now, because it was done by a Christian extremist, there are those who feel Muslim extremism is somehow vindicated, absolved of guilt, etc. One man wrote to me and asked what percentage of Muslims are terrorists. Obviously, if you factor in the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world, only a fraction of a fraction can be counted as among those who have crossed the line into barbarity.

I asked him a different question. What percentage of terrorists are Muslim? He didn't like that question; didn't really respond to it. We got into a discussion of profiling. He said it was racist; I said it was a necessary evil. He said it was humiliation. I said better the humiliation of one; than the deaths of dozens. I explained that I go through checkpoints every day of my life; the difference in the way I am treated and the way the Arabs are treated is in the few minutes it takes to ask for their identity papers or permits.

He said those few minutes were too long; I said you would not feel that way if it was your child. I told him about Aliza; about the months of trauma she has been slowly overcoming. I sent him links to posts about her. He said he would read them.

Where does all this leave us in relation to Norway. I am left with one final thought. When a Christian extremist murders innocent children on the streets and islands of Norway, the Christian world rises up to strongly condemn, to distance itself from this horror. This is not us, they tell the world. This is not Christian. In our name, this man did not do this.

There were no people dancing in the streets in Norway; no one handing out candies. Even among those who may not consider Norway a friend, even there, there was no rejoicing. The flag at our consulate in Oslo flies at half-mast in sympathy with the Norwegians. Our President and Prime Minister have called and told Norway that Israel mourns with you, that we, more than most nations of the world, know the pain you suffer.

And when a Muslim extremist murders innocent people, children, women...they are rarely condemned by their community and if it happens at all, it is for "external" consumption - leaders who apologize in English while the people on the street are dancing and handing out those candies. The Muslim world does not rise up to strongly condemn, to distance itself. They do not tell the world that this is not their culture, that Islam condemns the murder of innocents, if those innocents are infidels.

There are more examples than I can cite here, but I'll give you two:

When Samir Kuntar was finally exchanged and thus released from his life sentence, the child murderer who decimated the Haran family, he returned to Lebanon a hero, with parades and celebrations.

When the Lockerbie bomber was returned to Libya, he was greeted by the President and welcoming crowds. He blew up a plane and murdered hundreds and no one stood up and said, this is not Islam. You did not do this in our name.

Can you imagine the pain of Norway, if there were a people ready to celebrate what Anders Behring Breivik had done? Can you imagine the agony they would feel watching a population hand out sweets in the streets and dance at their agony?

Days before, the children in the camp were learning about the Middle East and voted, with their limited understanding of what we experience, to support a boycott against Israel. And yet, it was Israel that lowered its flag to half mast in Oslo; it was Israel that expressed support for the people of Norway and offered our deepest sympathies.

The fact that this time, the murderer was not a Muslim, does not change the fundamental fact. No, the vast, vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists - but yes, the vast, vast majority of terrorists are Muslims.

This is the truth of 9/11, of the London bombings, the Madrid bombing, the Bali attack, and virtually all attacks against Israel. That Norway had a Christian fundamentalist perpetrate this vicious attack cannot be used to erase the terrible responsibility Islam must bear; nor can it vindicate all previous suspicions.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Media Damage

Ten years ago, the media around the world showed a picture of a young Palestinian boy being beaten by an Israeli cop on the Temple Mount. There was a problem though - the boy wasn't Palestinian. The policeman wasn't beating the boy, but was rather rescuing him from the Arab mob that had surrounded the unarmed American yeshiva student, and the location was wrong too. It wasn't on the Temple Mount.

The young many is named Tuvia - he's now married with a family. The policeman is named Gidon. Tuvia's father saw the picture in the paper and realized that it was HIS son who had been beaten and he insisted on correcting the media.

Ten years later - and the media is no more responsible, no more accurate.

Meanwhile, Honest Reporting, an organization dedicated to bringing justice to the media...or at least accuracy, brought Tuvia and Gidon together for the first time.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

So, when are you coming home?

Chaim called! After finishing the army and vacationing in Thailand, he returned to the States to spend some time with his family. I'm happy for them...I want him to come back though.

He called today, feeling that he's been a bad "son" for not being in touch. We talked a few minutes and then he said someone had come to visit him so he'd call back. I was making food for Davidi when my phone rang. I told Davidi to answer it and with a huge smile, I heard him begin talking to Chaim - in Hebrew. I'm betting after so long speaking Hebrew, Chaim has missed it.

Shmulik walked in to borrow the car. I told him Chaim was on the phone so he went over and took the phone from Davidi and said, "So, when are you coming home?"

I don't know what Chaim said, but Shmulik kept referring to "home" - what will you do when you "come home" and what will you learn when you "are home" and so many more times. Subtle, my middle son is not.

And just after he said goodbye to Chaim and was about to hand me the phone, he finished with one more, "So, I'm waiting till you return to Israel, to home."

I believe that Chaim and Yaakov will come to live in Israel, to raise their children here. I hope, truly hope, that   the rest of their family will come too.

Subtle, Shmulik was not - but he had a message he wanted to get across to his adopted brother and it was important enough for him to say it over and over again - we're waiting for you to come home. We're happy you are with your family in America...we're waiting, because Israel is your home.

(I hope Chaim's mother won't be annoyed with me for writing's done only out of love!)

Artillery in Jerusalem...Wow

Here's a silly one. We drove through the back way to the office today because there's a wonderful bakery where you can get fresh bread straight out of the oven; we needed milk for the coffee drinkers of the class as well. Israelis are spoiled when it comes to bread. Most of it was baked fresh the same day - very European, in that sense. We saw a bunch of people, including three combat soldiers dressed with vests standing on a corner.

One man was taking a picture of the soldiers, "why are there soldiers here with vests?" Elie asked out loud and began scanning the area. Nothing was blocking us, so we made the left and drove a few blocks to the bakery. Nothing.

And then, just as we pulled to the side, Elie said, "artillery." A huge line of soldiers was walking on the side of the road across from us. Indeed, they were all artillery. "It's their Tekes Kumta. At Ammunition Hill."

There were hundreds of them. Elie kept watching. I was grinning like a fool and snapping pictures. Suddenly, Elie saw someone he knew and said he would be right back. He walked across the street to greet a former officer of his. It was, I knew, Elie needing to show he identified with the soldiers. As the soldiers to the rear began to pass us - they became more energized by seeing the smiles of the people in the neighborhood, the cameras coming out to take their picture. We aren't their families...they are walking to where they will soon meet their loved ones and share this moving moment when they leave basic training and are formally welcomed into the family that is artillery.

But they felt our love - I know they did. They began to shout and suddenly, swung into the road and began running. I'll post pictures soon (as soon as I can find the cable for my camera...yeah, I know). At the end of the line walked the group with the flags, and an army jeep there to stop the cars and protect the soldiers from the rear. They were about 15 minutes from the end of their long night of walking.

Ahead of them - lies nights of worry for their parents, months more of advanced training, weeks on the borders. That day I stood on the mountains of the desert waiting for Elie to emerge after a night of walking - that day I had no idea what lay ahead in the future.

Where will these soldiers be in the years to come? Will the road they started today lead them into war as it did Elie? Too much to think about on a beautiful day in Jerusalem so I'll leave with a prayer.

May these soldiers, and all the soldiers of Israel find peace and not war. May all their journeys be filled with people smiling and cheering them on with love and encouragement and camera snapping away. My heart feels a bit lighter, my smile a bit brighter as I begin my work day. This is the blessing we give to our children - the honor, the pride, the love of serving a land so beautiful.

Congratulations to the new soldiers in the Artillery division of Israel - you join a unit of honorable, ethical, moral soldiers who defend Israel well.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fire that Woman, She's an Idiot

I'd love to write here that this blog isn't about politics but I'd probably be lying so let me get to this next piece. It is quiet funny...along the lines is so much better to laugh than to cry.

I'd like to start off by saying that Amira Hass is an idiot - she's also a journalist for Haaretz, which makes her a dangerous idiot. Here is her latest article - with some commentary because I can't resist. Look at the headlines - and then look at the picture!

Unbelievable force? Wouldn't it be smart to put a picture of this "force" wait, "unbelievable force" no less. And what did they do? Let's see...

Okay, so she has now described how many soldiers were sent out to the operation. No, they weren't all involved in arresting the "activists" - they were support for the operation. Given the extreme violence with which the soldiers were met last year, this would appear to be a wise and logical way to meet an unknown "force" on the yacht. No, I can't call it a flotilla. A flotilla indicates more than one small yacht. So, Amira Hass accuses Israel of using "unbelievable force" not for any action, but for the preparation they took to ensure the safety of its soldiers. Clearly, as Amira Hass has proven so many times in the past, the safety of our soldiers is about as low on her priority list as it could get...somewhere below saving cockroaches, probably.

Wow - what violence - they asked a question. They probably identified themselves as the Israeli navy and then asked "What is your destination?" I'm surprised she didn't qualify her post with an adjective by calling it a "barbaric" or "threatening" question.

Int his one line, Amira Hass is accurate - this was no joke. Her line about "all sorts of weapons" reminds me of that LATMA skit on the flotilla with the great lines from last year. The activist claims to have been attacked by a "massive" gun. 

He is asked "What type of gun was it?" and then admits, "It was...a paintball gun...but a massive one." All sorts of weapons? Is that the best she could come up with? Obviously, it is. Note how relaxed the activists are...that they can make jokes. 

It's also nice to see that Amira Hass wasn't the only idiot on board - clearly Dror Feiler wasn't graced with too many brains either, "stop pointing your guns at us" - does he really think that's enough to get a trained soldier to lower his weapon when facing the possibility of an attack? I can see it now - new Hamas training - if you confront a soldier, tell him to lower his weapon and tell him you aren't armed. Where do these people stow their brains?

Well, wow - so the violent confrontation involved a soldier daring to offer assistance to someone? "Hold my hand?" Ah, she is insulted that they took pictures and documented their humanitarian actions. Again, given the absurd claims that the soldiers started the violence last year, does she really think Israel was stupid enough to not take pictures?

And there it is. The end of the story. "People were taken to their luggage" - barbarians!
Someone asked them if they were okay, if they were in pain. Checked their pulses and gave them fruit and water. And then "that was the extent of their medical exam"? Did she want the Israeli army to bring in X-ray equipment? What "medical exams" has Gilad had over the last five years

Note what is missing in this story - no one was beaten; no one was injured; no one was searched or harassed.  They weren't allowed to see their lawyers? Were they charged with anything? What lawyers did they need to see? And is Amira Hass so ignorant of Israeli law that she does not know the police/army is allowed to detain prisoners/suspects for a minimum period of time before they must, by law, give them access to a lawyer? 

I really don't think a few hours qualifies - and again, when in the last 5 years was Gilad Shalit allowed access to a lawyer

If this is the extent of Amira Hass' journalism, the woman should be fired. She should also be awarded Idiot of the Year - perhaps even Imbecile.

Soldier giving "flotilla" fool fruit - how barbaric!

A Tickling Drive

I drove home today from a client in the north and on the way saw something - several times. And as I did, I thought - wow, this is Israel. And then I thought of the blog and starting figuring out how to write about it. And the people who would write and say - don't tell them troop movements and be careful. goes.

I was driving on a road going direction...and opposite me, saw...some number of tanks being carried in the opposite direction. A minute later, I drove past a tank being carried in my direction. To that was x number of tanks going and one tank going . My first thought was, well, why can't they save gas and just send one less tank .

And then I thought of all you military types who read the blog who would write and give me all the reasons why - yeah, maintenance, training, I don't know. Then I tried to remember what I had seen - were they tanks or artillery. I don't know - which made me think I hadn't been listening to Elie enough and how Elie is going to give me a lecture later today when I tell him. I think they were tanks. I'll let you know (but not how I know the difference).

Then, as I drove on, I saw a bunch more huge military vehicles traveling in . There were really old jeeps, and some others that I haven't got a clue what they were, and APCs and just more. No, I don't think we were being invaded - it was just the army shuffling things around I guess and since we have enemies to the north and east and west and south...we just move this stuff around.

I've lived in Israel for 18 years  and I'm still in love with the little things that remind me where I live - the signs in Hebrew, the camels and sheep and goats in the open fields near the highways; the Arabs riding the donkeys and the donkey carts; and yes, the tanks.

May God bless my beautiful country every day till the end of time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Flotilla Statistics

The Flotilla 2011 season has ended. The score is Israel: 2; Flotilla: 0

This year's humanitarian operation to bring aid to the starving population of Gaza, consisted of:

  • 1 small yacht
  • 17 people
  • NO AID
  • No food
  • No building materials
  • No medicine (not even the nearly expired and expired type they brought last year)

On the bright side - they didn't bring any weapons (at least from what I have heard so far).

Of the 17 on board, one has to wonder how many of them were journalists and if they will report accurately that there was NO violence involved.

Questions asked:

  • Please identify yourself.
  • Where did you come from?
  • What are you carrying? To which they answered honestly - nothing
  • Where are you going? Well, they said Gaza - but they'll end up in Ashdod where their cargo will...oh, wait, they didn't bring any cargo.

To get out of Greece - they lied and told authorities they were heading to Egypt.

So - what was accomplished? Not a heck of a lot, that's for sure. And for the record, I'm not sure you can call a single small ship a flotilla - seems about as inaccurate as the rest of the information they have been telling the world.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Truth of the West Bank

This is a brilliant, clear explanation - please meet Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Elie's Fine, Home Safe

Elie came home a short time ago - smelly, tired, safe.

He made it into the area, was given permission to enter, a mask, a bottle of water. They assigned him to an area and though he complained, I am so happy. "They called me every 5 minutes to check," he said. "EVERY FIVE MINUTES, but EVERY FIVE MINUTES."

"You know why," I said to him. In the Carmel Fire - a young Israeli, only 16 years old, did what Elie did. He heard about the fire and went to help. Elad Riven jumped on the first firetruck and ended up dying in the fire.

Israelis don't make mistakes twice - they learn. The police cordoned off the area and only let trained people in. At first they blocked Elie, until he was cleared through. The fire was terrible; he believes it was arson - intentionally set. That is for the police to determine.

For now, I'm happy he's home; happy he's safe; happy the fire is under control. I'm happy Yad VaShem was not damaged, happy lives were not lost, homes were not destroyed.

I'm so happy the roller coaster has pulled back into the station - it was, really, only a little fall. Long ago, on a dark street, Elie asked me, "Don't you trust me?"

I really did then; I really do now; I really will in the future. I'll end this post with two comments - the first is a note of thanks to my many friends for the comfort they offered these last few hours, and the second is the conclusion of that earlier post:
I trust Elie to see to others in need. I trust that he will put safety first, as the ambulance squad taught him. Because a hurt volunteer doesn't help anyone and adds to the burden of the whole, he's explained to me in the past.
But I also trust that fear is not rational; that a mother cannot calmly watch her son run into a situation that might mean danger and that the mother is wrong to do anything that would make him hesitate or make him unsure. I was wrong tonight to give Elie the impression that I doubted him for even a second...and I'll likely be wrong the next time as well. My only consolation is that Elie knows that I am wrong not out of any lack of trust, but because of a deep need to see him safe and a deeper sense of love.

That Damn Rollercoaster...or...Yes, I'm Proud

We went to the Training Center today - I was giving a class in Advanced Word features and Elie decided to sit in. We drove home early - hearing reports that there was a huge fire on the western side of Jerusalem. Elie's beeper announced an explosion in the area and there's a danger of injuries, but quickly a medic came on and said he's in the area and everyone is okay.

Elie was explaining about how people camp out or do a barbecue and leave the expended gas containers around. The newer ones can be resealed; the danger of an explosion results from what remains. And then, Elie's beeper rang. It is, after all, a phone.

Elie answered the call - his friend in the fire department was rushing to the fire and wanted Elie to go with him. Why? I thought to myself. I don't want you to go! My brain was talking, but Elie wasn't listening. They were evacuating some homes and Yad VaShem, the national Holocaust Museum that houses vast records of what was done to the Jewish people.

Elie's friend was coming up on the street where we were turning - they'd meet in a few minutes. Elie would arrive at the rendezvous point before his friend. I don't want you to go, my heart screamed louder, but again, Elie's mind was on the meet-up.

Elie stopped at a light, looked carefully in the mirror and told me I could get out to switch places. I got out, crossed behind the car as Elie grabbed his medic vest. I've been home an hour and I'm watching the news. I have no idea if Elie was able to make it into the area. I have no idea where he is.

He's a medic, not a firefighter. He won't go into the forest - there's nothing for him to do there. How bad is the smoke? Could something collapse or explode there? I don't know. I don't want him to go. I hate the damn roller coaster. I thought it had pulled into the station. I thought it was smooth sailing.

I'm sure he's fine, my head is saying to my heart. Stop being stupid.

It isn't stupid, my heart answers back. Don't you know me yet? After all these years - if I'm afraid, he'll be safe.

That is so dumb, my head says.

I know, responds my heart. But it is the best I can come up with. I didn't expect to be on the roller coaster.

Dumb, mumbles my head. Of course, you never expect it to be a roller coaster - if you did, it wouldn't seem like a roller coaster!

Authorities are afraid for a nearby fuel depot; some cars have burned - the source of the reported explosions, probably. And I don't know where Elie is...I guess some things never change.

Elie's Unit at War

It took a long time, I don't know why, but this video has been released showing what Elie's unit did in the Gaza War. I'm translating, as best I can, the opening lines. For those who don't understand Hebrew, I'm sorry that you can't understand the whole video. Below the video that appears below, I'll try to highlight the major things said. But, even if you don't understand the words, I believe the pictures say so much.

It begins, properly, not with the first day of the war, but what was happening at the time - the reason why Israel launched Cast Lead, the name used here in Israel for the operation/war. Elie sent me the link and said I could share it on the blog. He recognizes the voices and faces of many of the people, and even learned something. It seems his unit was the last to fire on Gaza during the war. And yes, he takes pride in what he did, what he had to do, what he would do again, and what we all hope he never has to.

Opening text:
In the last few years, southern cities have once again known rocket fire coming from terrorist organizations that are controlling Gaza. The rocket fire continues, even in times of "relative calm."

(the video shows the rocket fire and then returns to a map detailing landing points)

The news report lists some of the Israeli cities and towns that were hit by rocket fire in November and December of 2008. Ashkelon....Shderot...Netivot....on and on - up to 60 rockets in a single day.

"On the 27th of December, the Israeli government gave a "green light" to begin an operation against Hamas.

The goal of the operation, explains the video, are:

To strike a major blow to the Hamas government in order to bring about an improvement in the security situation for a period of time, to the areas surrounding Gaza.

Dragon Brigade Presentation (this is Elie's unit)

It shows the cannons firing - and then "Operation Cast Lead"

December 31, 2008 - Under fire in the capital of the Negev Desert - Beersheva under fire - 5 rockets hit the crowded city - including one that hit an empty classroom. Has Israel not canceled school in the south, a major tragedy and many casualties would have resulted.

Then it begins by showing the work that Elie and his soldiers were doing when they were relocated to fight the war. It shows them checking cars and the base where they were. Elie pointed to one of the soldiers, "that's one of my soldiers. I didn't like him so much," he says with a grin.

Just before they arrived (not shown in the film), a rocket landed in the field where they were to take up positions, "Put one cannon there," Elie's commanding officer ordered, "they'll never hit the same spot again!"

I haven't really had the time to listen to them speaking. I know that one is the commander of the division; another Elie's commanding officer; others are friends of Elie's. There are a few times we think we see Elie - it's hard to know.

I like the video - because it shows me the life he had during those frightening and intense weeks. I heard some of it over the phone, some in his voice. I saw some when I traveled down there; heard it, saw it. It is interesting to learn the things I didn't know - like there was a "ceremony" at the end - sort of a large gathering in which they spoke to the troops. I was looking for Elie in the pictures. He isn't there. Only now did he tell me that he missed the ceremony by a day.

What he didn't say was that he came home a day earlier than they would have released him - after giving up numerous opportunities to take a 24-hour leave. His brother's bar mitzvah was on Thursday. I picked Elie up on Wednesday afternoon so he could be with the family.

His younger brother had asked me to tell Elie to try not to take a break so that he could save it and come home briefly for the family celebration. I told Davidi I couldn't do that - how could I tell Elie to stay in a war zone - and yet, that was exactly what he did. Each time he was offered the chance to come home for a 24-hour leave, he gave it to someone else.

The pictures show me a piece of the other side of the phone. They are "cleansed pictures" - no, not from the point of view of what happened in Gaza. That is another story and not the purpose of this video. But I remember the exhaustion I heard in Elie's voice; I know about the times their unit took cover against incoming rockets. It is a piece, only a piece - but it is nice to see the faces, to know that Elie was, even at that time, among brothers.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Child's Eyes...

Aliza is reading my book.

A few months ago, I turned my blog into a book - starting at the very beginning, six weeks before Elie entered the army. As I've written many times, I started the blog for me, and kept it going because I found it an interesting challenge to examine my feelings and write them in words that could not be denied later. At some point, once the army and I had made peace, once I realized that their goal and mine were on somewhat of the same path, I didn't really need the blog so much.

I had needed it to be calm, to put one foot in front of the other, to function on even the most basic level, as I watched Elie become a soldier. I was sure the army would crush him before they rebuilt him - instead, they found within him the strength to lead, and to lead well. They challenged him again and again, and never forced him to cross the lines within which he lives his life.

But a strange thing happened in those early months. I learned that others were reading my blog and enjoying it. More, other mothers were taking support from it, finding comfort in it, and wanted to help support me in return. Fathers were sharing their feelings; ex-soldiers enjoying the view from the other side of the worry line. I developed, in "blogger's terms" - a following. And so, as I have always loved Israel, the blog became a mixture of posts for my readers mixed with posts for me. It was fun to meet so many, to touch so many, to build friendships.

I enjoy sharing my family here and though sometimes it is a challenge to present issues from various angles, I have enjoyed the challenge too. In a lot of ways, I laid Elie's and Aliza's special relationship out for all to see. She was a darling 7-year-old, he was her 20-year-old brother and they were amazing together, often still are.

Then Elie went to the war, and again the blog metamorphosed back into an outlet for me. It was write or scream; it was share or cry. I didn't scream, other than deep down, internally, but I did cry a lot, so maybe the last part wasn't right. Maybe it was share and cry.

And now, Aliza wants to read it and rather than leave me with a warm feeling, it concerns me more than I thought it would. I shed so many tears writing and then re-reading this blog. I thought it would be easier to read it here from the safety of the other side, knowing that at this moment, Elie is safe and asleep upstairs; that Shmulik rose this morning, left the apartment he shares with his wife, and went to work. I thought so, and yet it isn't true.

Aliza is only 11-years-old now; her reading level in English is quite good for an Israeli kid, but certainly not up to the level of a native English speaker. Perhaps she will stop before she gets to the war; perhaps not. Those were such hard times for me as a mother - do I really want her to know how deeply terrified I was? And there were other posts - other times I had succeeded in frightening myself, like the night Elie called by accident from the north (Night Terrors) or the night Elie's unit was in a terror attack (It could have been Elie).

I always felt so free to write because I knew Elie was not reading, the Shmulik wasn't interested. It's funny to know that first my older daughter started reading it and now Aliza is starting. I hope they find comfort as they read because truly the army built their brothers without destroying them; it found a way to support them. It took them to places I never wanted them to go - and I live with that, but it returned them to me stronger and better than ever before.

Somewhere in all of this coming to terms with being a soldier's mother, I guess I never really considered the role of a soldier's sister or a soldier's brother. I hope that I portrayed much of this from the point of view of a parent, so at least I covered my husband's worries, but yes, a soldier's brother or sister walks along this road.

I'll let you know if Aliza says anything - so far, she says she likes it...but then again, she has only started.

I guess this is a good time to thank those of you who have walked with me on this long road. I'll keep writing - though it will be a bit strange now that my older sons are out of the army and my younger son won't be going in for some time. The roller coaster has pulled into the station to rest for a while - it's been running non-stop for more than four and a half years. It is, like me, happy to rest.

Tonight, my sons do not guard the borders of Israel - but my oldest nephew does, and another nephew will start in the coming months. My son-in-law supports the army in his role in the air force technical division and my neighbors' children, my friends' children, my city's children - all guard. It isn't my son on the border tonight and yet the collective soul of Israeli mothers is a force to be considered.

Yes, my sons are on the borders now, though Elie sleeps peacefully upstairs. He has earned this right, this rest. Shmulik returns to his yeshiva to learn; to enjoy life as a newlywed and begin building his family. My son-in-law returns each evening to his wife and baby son.

I can close my phone on Shabbat now. I can breathe deeply. I know that the roller coaster has pulled into the station. I also know that it will run again. It will climb to the heights again and yes, it is likely to fall too. So - I guess I'll try to continue writing and I'll hold on to the name "A Soldier's Mother" with pride in what my sons have done, in what they will do.

For now, I wish you all - you and me, my country and the world - a peaceful Shabbat. May it come in peace and quiet and safety for all.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

For Prophet Joe

I am so honored to think that I can send someone into withdrawal pains...

It's been a hectic few days - the summer is shaping up to be a very busy time. A lot has been happening. I have family that visited from America - the first time they have come to Israel and last night we had them over for a barbecue. During the dinner, a kassem rocket was fired at Israel. It landed near Ofakim.

My mother got scared - my sister lives near Ofarim...

Ofakim, we explained to her - in the south, not Ofarim. A letter is enough to scare a mother for that split second it takes for the heart to race. My relatives came here as Obama supporters; I do not believe they left Israel the same way.

My uncle stood on the Golan Heights and saw Israel laid out below him. Insanity, it would be to withdraw from the Golan. They came to my house and I explained that I live in a thriving city - they could see our beautiful backyard with the passion fruits just about to ripen; with the lemon tree struggling to grow; with its beautiful balconies overlooking the desert.

There was nothing here - ever, I could have explained to my uncle. Never. Instead, I spoke of the almost 50,000 people who now live here; a city that has been here for more than 40 years. Arab aggression led to the 1967 was; Jordanian intransigence and a determination to fight with their "brothers" led them to lose the land on which Maale Adumim was built.

Beyond these deeper thoughts are several posts I keep meaning to make. Shmulik finished with the army this week, a week after Elie did his first Reserves Duty stint. It reminds me of the other side of this - the week Elie finished the army and Shmulik went in. I have so many thoughts as Shmulik finishes. His experiences were so different than Elie's and yet, he has changed in many ways, developed, matured.

So, Prophet Joe - I'm sorry I've been out of touch - all is fine; everyone is enjoying the summer and a bit of freedom...except me. I'm teaching three days a week and a client has pulled in the extra time; and another is looking for time I can't even find. I was hoping to take a vacation with the family - budget and time allowing.

Recipes...oh, I have so many I was thinking of posting. I'll try soon! Thanks, as always, for caring!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Masada - a Last Stand

I went to Masada yesterday to meet/see family that I had not seen in close to 20 years. Three amazingly beautiful children I have never met, a cousin's husband, another cousin's wife. We woke up early - three of my children and I, and drove the relatively short distance to this desert fortress. I know what happened there, and am always touched.

It is a pilgrimage of sorts, a paying of respect to over 950 people whose legacy remains, almost 2,000 years later. Masada is, in many ways, a symbol of Israel. Masada was our last stand after the Romans invaded our land, took many off to be slaves, murdered others. Those 950 people knew, the night before they died, that in the morning the Romans would conquer the mountain. They had held them off with arrogance, intelligence, and bravery for more than two years, but the inevitable odds had finally turned.

They made a choice in words forever immortalized - the leader, Eliezer, and his council, and in fact every family, knew the choice was freedom or death, and they chose to die. It is a strange reality for a people that really loves life, but it only strengthens how important our freedom is.

I stood on Masada yesterday and I could feel their souls in the air, in the gentle wind that blew. It has been that way very time I have been up on the mountain there. It is strange how you can feel people in certain places, at certain times. It was that way in Poland. I could feel the victims of the Holocaust - nameless and yet forever known to me.

On the way back home from Masada - as Elie began driving up the ascent towards Jerusalem, we passed the ancient city of Jericho, now populated by thousands of Palestinians, and the useless, closed casino they built there - a victim of their own intifada. There's a restaurant on the right side of the road - it is called "Last Chance."

Last stand, last chance. Interesting juxtaposition, I thought to myself. And finally, this was a week of honor for many countries, and a week of failure for the flotilla. It never really got off the ground - stopped for a number of reasons. They claim it was sabotage. Who knows if it was or not? "All's fair in love and war," they say.

I don't know if we sabotaged the ships - personally, I hope we did. But I know that nations came out against it. LATMA has a very funny video (see below). And as for the "flytilla" - the attempt to fly into Ben Gurion Airport and disrupt it - that too has failed. As of a short time ago, 6 activists got in and were deported while another 200 are being stopped in Europe.

What it comes down to, perhaps, is that this last stand, this last chance, has perhaps been properly relayed to others who see and understand. Israel has no choice but to monitor what goes in to Gaza - the proof is in the Karine A. I hear the voices of Masada and they encourage us to live, not to die. But they also encourage us to fight, to remember what is important in this life. The winds of Masada spoke to me; it was the same winds that pushed the flotilla back away from our shores.

We are, we remain, we have always been, the people of Israel.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

THWACK! ... "Elie!!!!"

We're making dinner together. Davidi and I made the noodles; I cut the onions and cabbage for frying. I asked Elie to cut the frankfurters into small slices. We'll fry the mixture. pile it on top of the noodles, add a sauce, make a salad. Quick, easy, mid-week dinner.


"Elie, don't do that!"

"Why? I didn't cut myself." He says as he carefully positions the frankfurters on the cutting board. He's very careful. He really is - he's also got a lot of strength which, since I didn't defrost the franks first, is needed to get the job done.

Okay....cut. Fry. Cut. Thwack!

Thwack! "Oops!"

"ELIE! That was my FAVORITE cutting board!"

"Now there are two of them," he responds with a grin.

Yeah...great. God, I love that kid!

A Story Told

It feels like I am always driving. I am blessed to have clients located in various parts of Israel. We bought a hybrid car to cut down on gas and make us feel that we are doing some small part for the environment, but nothing can cut down on how often I am driving and so, when I have the chance to have someone else drive, I take it.

Elie was driving yesterday when he came upon a very slow moving car. The "Lamed" on the top of the car indicated that it was a student driver out on a lesson. Elie carefully passed it on the left and then moved back into the right lane. The car moved a bit into our lane as Elie was passing it, but then moved to the left lane. From there, it cut behind our car all the way to the right, cutting off another car before turning into a predominantly Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem. The driver was a woman wearing a veil; the instructor yet another.

Somehow in the conversation that followed, yet another story from Elie's time in the army came out. He was in a car leaving Jerusalem. As a commander, he sat in front; the driver to his left. Suddenly, Arabs tried to run them off the road - this was a major highway. Elie pulled out his gun and shot in the air and then pointed the gun at the tires of the car driven by the Arabs as, over the microphone, he ordered it to pull over.

Once the car did as it was ordered, the soldiers called the police, who came and arrested the Arabs. No one was hurt - not the Arabs, and not the soldiers. Not Elie, whose car was nearly forced off the road.

I sat there almost dumbfounded. I can't help but wonder how many more stories are like this, buried deep inside him. "How many other times did you have to raise your gun?" I asked him.

Elie smiled and kept driving. He loves dropping these little bombshells on me. I can't really worry now, a few years later, can I?

Elie laughs at the idea that he lied during his army service. He loves slowly telling me that so often he wasn't where he said he was. "You deliberately lied to me!" I said with feigned indignation.

"Yup," Elie answered with the grin that I cherish so much.

Another story, another reality he lived with, lived through. And deep beyond the pretend indignation I show him, is the gratitude that I didn't know. A defense mechanism in mothers, I think.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Laying One Lie to Rest

The path to truth is sometimes found by dealing with one lie at a time. It can get overwhelming, when they throw lies at you and so I begin to unravel them - one lie at a time. It comes from those first days when Elie was in the army. I learned a vital life lesson. That which seems unmanageable can be managed, if you take it one day at a time, one step at a time, one lie at a time.

So, today's lie is going around the globe. Proof is given again and again and yet the lie remains. They are starving in Gaza - no, they are not. A humanitarian crisis - no, there is not.

Below is a video - because pictures are so much harder to deny than numbers. I can tell you that all the "aid" on the flotilla currently trying to make its way to Gaza amounts to less than half of what Israel sends on a regular day. Less than half. A lie. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza - the UN confirms it; the Red Cross confirms it. Even Palestinian businessmen in Gaza confirm they don't need these flotilla fanatics to bring anything. All they need, Hedy Epstein, is a government that cares enough to place the needs above the people above those of the leaders.

They don't need food. They don't need medicine. No, they don't even need materials to build homes - look at this video - bathtubs, television sets, cars. All are imported into Gaza. Lies are what the world is being told. Lies about the situation in Gaza. Lies. One person wrote something so simple and so true. There is no occupation of Gaza - there is only one Israeli soldier in Gaza - Gilad Shalit.

And, had he not been kidnapped, Gilad, like Elie, would have been discharged long ago. He would be studying now, perhaps married. He would be making plans now, as Shmulik is doing, for making some extra money over the summer and perhaps planning a trip to Eilat for vacation.

All this...if this one lie about Gaza were not being used to fool the world.

Some of the Items Transferred into Gaza from Israel on a Daily Basis:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Silence that Damns...

This is a follow-up post to my recent one on Hedy Epstein. There were so many comments, I thought I should answer one here. A former acquaintance wrote in, others did to - but one comment  - yet again from an "Anonymous" - got to me with its simplicity and it anger.

Anonymous wrote: Who the hell are you to judge what justifies surviving the holocaust?

I would answer that by saying simply - Hedy is as much a survivor of the Holocaust as my grandfather, and thousands of others refugees and people who suffered tremendous loss as a result of the Nazi plan. Yes, if you count them all - we number in the millions because, after all, isn't my husband a survivor? His siblings, cousins. Aren't I then a survivor too? My husband wasn't even born and yet his grandparents suffered the same fate as Hedy's parents and my husband's parents suffered a hell of a lot more than Hedy - THEY were survivors.

My mother-in-law was in Auschwitz. She lost her mother and sister there; she survived months of labor and near-starvation there. They put her in a gas chamber and as they closed the door to end her life, and thus deny the future of her children and mine, the Nazis pulled open the door to grab out a few more women for a work detail. In their cursed efficiency, it wasn't a mistake they made often, but it saved the lives of my mother-in-law and her sister. They pulled her out of the gas chambers, but the memory of Auschwitz never left her.

My husband is the child of a survivor. Hedy is not even that - because her parents didn't survive. She did not survive a ghetto or a concentration camp. She did not spend the rest of her life dealing with that element of her parents' reality. My mother-in-law showered her grandchildren with love but it was harder for her to express her tremendous and deep love for her own children. For her, the Germans were always a day away; always watching, waiting. She didn't like attention brought to her family; the Nazis were never really gone.

Hedy Epstein was lucky, so blessed - to be saved early on - in 1939 before Hitler's full plan to murder Jews was realized. She carries no tattoo - as my husband's uncle does; she cannot bear witness to the horrors of the gas chambers as my mother-in-law did until her dying day.

For many years, I told people I had no survivors in my family...until I realized that was because NO ONE SURVIVED. We lost hundreds of relatives in Poland and Russia  - in numbers to great to count (my father estimates about 300); names, faces and families lost forever. A great-grandmother and two great aunts - did they have children? We don't know. Did my great-grandmother have brothers and sisters? Did they have children - all gone? That puts me in the same category as Hedy - no? Am I am not a survivor? I am the child, the grandchild, the daughter-in-law of those who suffered and lived with their suffering for decades after.

Hedy Epstein uses the title "Holocaust survivor" to further her agenda - and I find that despicable. She ignores the plight of one young Jewish boy turned man while in captivity - Gilad Shalit, while floating along for her people's enemy.

If the Palestinians are not her enemy - that is because she has no empathy for the hundreds of thousands of Israelis under daily rocket fire - another fired this morning at southern Israel. Where is Hedy's voice for Gilad? She is silent. Where is Hedy's voice for the Jews living in Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, etc.? She is silent.

Her silent condemns her for what she is - a fraud.

A survivor is not a child who escaped and was given refuge before the Nazis even implemented their plan. A survivor is one who survived despite all efforts to kill them. To her great blessing, no one tried to kill Hedy Epstein. She lost her parents in the Holocaust - that makes her an orphan, not a survivor.

She is silent about Gilad - that makes her a pathetic excuse for a human being and certainly NOT a humanitarian.

Are my words too strong? Too filled with anger? - Good - perhaps I am finally getting to the proper level of disgust I feel for this woman who would use and abuse the memory of the darkest days of my people, to further her political agenda.

She compare Israeli soldiers to Nazis? That alone proves her incredibly ignorance. Shame, shame on Hedy Epstein and on that final day when she goes to meet her maker, I pray that He stands before her surrounded by the true Holocaust survivors. I know in my heart, at the forefront of those accusers, will be Hedy's parents, who mourn every day, her blind hatred of her own roots.

She has betrayed not just Israel and the Jewish people - she has betrayed all that worked to save her miserable life and those who did save her, know deep in their hearts, another Jewish child died so that Hedy could have her place. Perhaps worst of all - she betrayed that child as well.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hedy Epstein - A Personal Message

My message to Hedy Epstein as she sails to Gaza:
Your participation, in the flotilla brings shame to you and worse is a betrayal of your family, those that died in Auschwitz. It is hard to comprehend how distorted your view of life, of Judaism, and of Israel must be to bring you to the point that you sail against your own people. Yes, you’ll say you sail for human rights, for humanity and some such nonsense but last year’s flotilla – and very likely this one, displayed the worst of humanity.
There is no humanitarian crisis – so says the Red Cross just two months ago. What arrogance you have to think you know better. You, who make your life in America, dare to tell us how we should live in this land, in this area.
Had there been an Israel when your family was taken to Auschwitz, Israel would have saved them – as we have saved Jews all over the world. No, we are not going to be victims ever again, nor are we interested in making the Palestinians victims.
We have offered peace time and time again, only to be met with violence. You are not interested in the 14,000 rockets fired at Israel, that’s fine. Clearly, you only use your earlier association with the Jewish people to get yourself headlines and attention. You use your label as “survivor” to betray those who died, while you were blessed enough to survive.
I believe that there is a “next life,” a time that we answer for what we have done in this life – for the good and for the bad. At the gates of this next life, your parents, grandparents, all those you left behind in Auschwitz will stand there.
As a Jew, as an Israeli, I am deeply ashamed of you and believe you have betrayed all that they died for. I have little doubt you will rationalize this away as something honorable, it isn’t; as something brave, it isn’t. There was a reason why your parents worked so hard to get you on that children’s transport that saved your life…whatever that reason was – it was not so you could betray the people they were, the religion they held.
Shame on you, Hedy Epstein and may your parents find comfort not in you, but in so many of the other children who survived as you did – but who came to live in Israel to build it, not to destroy it; to honor it, not to betray it. Indeed, Hedy Epstein – shame on you.
Background information on Hedy Epstein

According to her website, Hedy Epstein calls herself a "Holocaust survivor and a speaker." She was born in 1924 in Germany; she was an only child. She was lucky - she was one of those fortunate enough to be part of the children's transport - she escaped Nazi Germany among the 500 children that managed to get out.

Her parents were killed by the Nazis. The last message she got from her mother was in 1942 - it said, "Traveling to the east...sending you a final goodbye." How Hedy got from that child to where she is now, is hard to explain but where she is now is on the Flotilla heading towards Gaza to show her support.

She is the perfect prop for the flotilla organizers - the, better, the Holocaust survivor. She abuses the memory of her parents and all who died by comparing Israeli soldiers to the Nazis.

There are no gas chambers in Gaza, Hedy Epstein; there are no concentration camps. Palestinians are not rounded up and shot simply for being born Palestinians. I recall no instances of Jewish children being taken into Nazi hospitals for treatment as Palestinian children are regularly assisted.

Hedy Epstein was lucky enough to escape, while 6 million did not. Sadly, she uses and abuses that "title" of survivor to her personal advantage - again and again.

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