Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What causes traffic jams in your country?

Slow moving trucks? Old people driving very carefully and slowly? New drivers who are unsure of the machine? Visitors who are unsure of the route? Israel has all of this...and more.

How about animals...like sheep? Cows? How about camels?

And, my all time favorite....the tank traffic jam. So, what's the strangest traffic jam-causer you ever saw? Did I win this one, or what?

Now that's a stinky way to die...

"Did you hear?" I asked  Elie. "Egypt has solved the Gaza smuggling tunnels problem."

"I heard," Elie said with a grin. A creative solution indeed. Egypt is flooding the tunnels with sewer water - three Palestinians were killed. What gets smuggled through these tunnels?

Drugs. Women. Expensive items not found in Gaza. Rockets. Mortars. Weapons. Terrorists who try to launch attacks against Israelis or kidnap soldiers. That's how they got Gilad Shalit.

If Israel were to do the same, to intentionally  the Palestinians would be screaming about 500 dead, massacres, and war crimes. I've heard nothing yet about their condemning the Egyptians; certainly CNN and others aren't covering it. Then again, they don't cover when the Egyptian troops open fire on innocent Darfur refugees seeking asylum and a better life. The Sudanese try to get across the border into Israel - there...here...they find freedom. During a recent trip to Eilat, I was amazed by the huge numbers of Sudanese refugees I saw working in Eilat and in the evenings, I saw them sitting around in groups.

They appear healthy, happy, well dressed. Their lives here are good - not perfect, but not hell, as it was in Sudan, as it was on the way here, trying to get passed the Egyptians.

As to the flooding of the smuggling tunnels today, I can't bring myself to complain. When you risk your lives to smuggle - especially rockets and weapons, I can't bring myself to mourn when the tunnels collapse (as they often do); not even when the Egyptians flood a tunnel, knowing they will kill whoever is inside.

As to Elie's last comment, "now that's a stinky way to die," - what can I say? The kid is right.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Haven't Been Posting Enough

And I really need to...but it's also late at night. A little while ago, Chaim called. A little after he got out of the army, he took a much deserved vacation to Thailand with friends and then, after a brief time back in Israel, went to spend several months with his family in America.

He's coming back in a bit over a month to begin learning in university here and though I miss him, I feel in my heart he'll be back soon. I'm glad he's with his parents, his sister and his beloved nieces - all of them! And I love hearing that Yaakov told him to go back home to Israel.

I miss Yaakov too. I've never met his daughters and only briefly met his wife.

So during the conversation, Chaim said he was disappointed that I hadn't mentioned him in a while...he's right! He's been away for several weeks...longer even. I've missed him. Chaim and I share a bond that I don't share with my own children. He understands American jokes and culture; while my children were raised here and often don't understand.

He's been sweet - calling me several times over the summer. One of the times, Shmulik was here and took the phone, "when are you coming home?" he asked.

As I moved around the kitchen getting ready for the coming Shabbat, I listened to Shmulik repeat, again and again, "so, when you come HOME...." and "at HOME..." and on and on. It was cute. They spoke in Hebrew - I think Chaim needed the connection to the language and Shmulik is more comfortable in Hebrew anyway.

So - this post is the one I told Chaim I was going to go make...and which I forgot to post. Not posting is really not a good habit!

The Problem with Taking a Few Days to Think...

Is that you start all these short notes and never post them and then you realize you want to - so here they come. Sorry for having been absent for a while. We took a vacation and then when we came back, between school and kids and this UN thing, my mind has been running in circles.

So while I clear through these posts, let me wish everyone a happy new year - Shana tova - may it be a year of health and prosperity, of happiness and peace. May it be a year of justice, of security, of truth. May our enemies be frustrated and unable to achieve even their most simple plans.

May our land be blessed with rain in the coming months and may every child be cherished and safe. May our children not be traumatized, may their nightmares end, their fears diminish. May our sons be safe as they make us safe. May they be blessed and know that all they do, is so appreciated and returned by our love.

May Elie find happiness in the coming year. May Shmulik be blessed in his new marriage. May Davidi grow this year and somehow may peace come so that his army days are safe. May my sons know no more war, no more terrorist attacks, no more rockets.

May Chaim come home - soon! And may Yaakov bring his family home as well. May my daughters - Amira and Aliza, Ariella and Lauren be blessed in the coming year. May the two who have joined our family in marriage know they are in our hearts and may my grandson...just wow...know only love and health and good things.

May it be a year of life for all of the House of Israel and all those who cherish freedom. May God bless Israel and those who love her and may we know the glory of our days and of the promises He has made to His people. May God bless the United States of America - and may it continue to light the world.

And may God grant His eternal justice to the murderers of Asher Palmer and his baby son Yehonatan. May this be a cursed year to our enemies and to those not willing to make peace with Israel. May they know the Wrath of the Most Exalted One.

Reflections on Eilat

There are vacations and then there are vacations. We take vacations with our children - fun trips camping and kayaking and hiking. And, not often enough, my husband and I slip away for a few days together. It is so necessary, so important. We waited years and years until our older children were responsible enough to be left with the younger ones. We would carefully divide up who would walk the dogs, care for the birds and finally try to find the time, a few days, to be a couple.

I dream of taking a vacation outside Israel. I dream of Scotland, Ireland or Italy. I can't explain why, other than that I have heard they are so beautiful. Short of taking up a collection, that's going to stay a dream for a while. I'd love to go to England, where we speak the language and where it rains a lot. I miss the rain, have always loved it. But I've come to miss it even more since since moving to a country where it rains sometimes during a four or five month period and then not at all for the remaining seven or eight months.

Each time we face the option of going abroad, I cringe at the idea of leaving Israel. There are two reasons for this - the first was so long as I had a soldier in the army, I refused to leave Israel, to be that far away. The second is deep down, I just can't bring myself to board a plane and go so far away.

The last time my husband and I slipped away, as we sat in an Eilat restaurant celebrating, I learned that there had been a terrorist attack in Jerusalem...a few hours later, I would learn that it was Elie's unit...that it could have been Elie.

So this past week, with Elie about to start on an engineering degree and Shmulik about to return to his studies as well, we again slipped away to Eilat. It's close; it's convenient; it's relatively inexpensive and it opens the door to a whole underwater world that enthralls, delights, and calms, all at the same time.

This time, just a few weeks after a series of terrorist attacks that killed 8 people and wounded more than 30 others, Eilat was a little bit different, a but more somber, a bit more reserved. There is an anger among the people. Anger at the government, at the Arabs. Anger.

"We didn't feel it here," said one cashier in the supermarket. And yet it was on her mind enough to discuss it.

I spoke to a young man who works on the beach, attending to tourists. He sets up the beach chairs and umbrellas, assists however needed, and cleans the beach at the end of the day, and he too is angry.

"Did you hear about the rocket that hit Ofakim three weeks ago?" he asked me.

"I hear about every attack," I said to him. "Was your house damaged?"

"No, it hit down the street," he explains. "We're a messed up country, that we don't stop this!"

"What will be in September?" I ask him. What a funny world that I am asking someone Elie's age what he thinks the future will be.

"We'll hope for good and know we have the ability to stop them all, but will we?"

He heard sounds of explosions coming from the Egyptian side of the border and looked up, "what were those booms?" he asked. I had no answer, and never found out. The entire three days of our vacation, an Israel naval ship.

Several years ago, while vacationing, I saw the navy ships in the Red Sea, but I had never seen one stand, as this one did, every day, all day.

"How long have they been here?" I asked the young man.

"They've always been here," he answered, "and they always will be."

Maybe that's the part that got to me. So young and already he knows - we have always been at war, and we always will be. We have always needed our young men and women to protect us, and we always will. And most important, we, the Jewish people, have always been here, and we always will be.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Free Hakim Awad

Hakim Awad is an 18-year-old Palestinian from the small village of Awarta. On the night of March 11, 2011, Hakim and his cousin Amjad entered the small Jewish village of Itamar. Their movements that night are known, their actions an atrocity beyond imagination. They entered the Fogel home and in a short time, murdered Udi and Ruthi Fogel, parents to 6 children - the oldest only 12 years old.

Hakim and his cousin murdered Udi and Ruthi. In the demented mind of the Palestinian terrorists, one might argue that Udi was once a soldier and so a legitimate target. He was, of course, unarmed on that quiet peaceful Sabbath night, but human beings at war care little for those details. It was not a justified kill, but one could argue, perhaps, it was a murder that didn't shock. There is anger over Udi's murder, but not shock.

Ruthi was a gentle mother of six. Never a soldier. Unarmed. Her murder was as barbaric and wrong as her husband's and yet, somehow, given what is to come, still not shocking. We have lost precious Jewish mothers before. As mothers, we stand in front of our children to defend them. This is what Ruthi did. Somehow, with her body, she blocked the door of her two young sons and so the terrorists did not enter that room. They and their oldest sister Tamar, who was not home, were the only ones to live.

Hakim and Amjad also murdered 10-year-old Yoav, and the shock begins.

Hakim and Amjad murdered precious little Elad, who was only 4 years old. They stabbed him in the heart. The shock becomes a chocking grief as it sinks in.

And Hakim and Amjad murdered tiny, little Hadas, who was only 3 months old. They slit her throat and left her body beside that of her murdered father. This is where the grief becomes a pain so deep the heart breaks. You wonder at the barbarity and you question how this thing that murdered these precious souls has a right to breathe the same air we do. The anger bubbles up and chokes you.

And then you read in Maan Agency News (Palestinian "news" source) that maybe it was a Thai worker who did it; that there was no evidence it was Palestinians. But that, of course, was always a lie. There was direct evidence. The stupid Hakim and Amjad all but left a trail of bloody footprints back to Awarta.

Israel is, I remind myself often, a democracy. It arrested the cousins, when I would have wanted them beaten, hanged, sliced open as they did to little Hadas. It is their bodies I want strewn on the floor in unbearable agony, not the Fogel family. But Israel is a just society. The cousins were arrested, and tried.

In a most just sentence, 18-year-old Hakim was found guilty - not hard to do since he's actually quite proud of his greatest achievement in his miserable, worthless life. He expresses no remorse. Actually, that isn't true. He regrets not killing Ruthi's other two sons. The courts imposed an interesting sentence - five consecutive life sentences. Not concurrent - but consecutive...plus another five years.

By all that is just in the world, Hakim will spend the rest of his miserable life in jail. May it be a most horrible sentence - no, Israel, no - do not allow him regular family visits as you do others. Legally, we must let the Red Cross see him - fine - let them see him from behind an impenetrable glass. No, Israel - no higher education; there is no use educating something that cannot even really be called human.

And before the anger chokes me further - let me say that we should release Hakim Awad. Now, Bibi - make the deal with Hamas. We will release one prisoner - a son for a son. Take your murderer, Hakim - you are welcome to him, and give us Gilad.

Gilad is pure. He was captured when he was 19 years old; Hakim is probably 19 now, or will be shortly. Pure he may never have been; and pure he never will be. What sentence he serves in this life is nothing for what awaits him in the next. I believe that even God was shocked and sickened by what Hakim did and I have complete faith that in His Infinite Wisdom, Hakim's eternal punishment will be so just and deserved.

Gilad served his nation. Hakim apparently served his. Gilad murdered no one, harmed no one. Hakim massacred an innocent family, a father, a mother, two young boys, and baby Hadas.

There, Hamas - take your murderer and give us Gilad. No, it is not justice, but it is a trade that is worthy because it is not 1,000 for one. And let it be known - if an Israeli soldier so much as sees Hakim Awad - even through the scope of his high-powered gun, Hakim is a dead man.

Take Hakim into Gaza and let him live there - deep within. If we see him, this time, justice will be served with a bullet to his head or if the soldier manages to find it, Hakim's tiny and useless heart.

Gilad for Hakim - a trade the Palestinians can be proud of. We get our precious son, who stands for all we hold dear. Gilad could have avoided combat duty and been given a lower profile. He chose to fight with the army and demand a high enough profile to get him into the tank division. Gilad served his country with pride and honor. And Hakim, precious son of the Palestinians butchered an innocent baby. He too stands for much of what his people honor.

A trade, then. Hakim for Gilad. Release Hakim Awad - release Gilad Shalit - and let us all move on to the agony and reality we live in. No, our stomachs and hearts and minds will not settle from this horror - not ever. If Hakim is to serve out his term in an Israeli prison, let it be the hell he deserves in this life. No cellular phone, no computer, no education earned while serving. The letter of international law and no more. Gilad has not been seen by the Red Cross in five years.

Gilad is likely held deep underground, in the dark so that we cannot find him. Let Hakim be held in darkness, in silence. His crime has earned him no less (and a lot more). Or trade them. Give them back their son for ours.

I cannot accept a trade that would see 1,000 freed for Gilad because in the Arab mind, this is a victory and next time they will demand 5,000. But a one-for-one trade I can stomach - on the condition that every Israeli soldier is given a picture of Hakim and orders to shoot him on sight.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The History of the Middle East - in Social Media!

Introducing - Placebook (hat tip to HF)

Is Israel an Apartheid Nation?

Of course, I'm going to say no. Israel is an incredible democracy, a lone example in the Middle East. But why would you believe me, right? How about believing this young woman...she is an Arab, an Israeli Arab and speaks of Israel with love and not with hatred. She is blessed to realize the tremendous gifts this land offers its citizens.

So - don't listen to me - listen to Rania.

Or listen to this - the facts about Israel and apartheid:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On September 11, 2001...

I was at home when one of my children called out that there had been an attack. I thought it was in Israel. It was a time when things were exploding here and my children would often call me when the television changed its regular broadcast.

Something was different this time - it was a report from New York. A plane had crashed into the northern tower of the World Trade Center. My mind accepted easily that it was a terrorist attack, but the broadcaster kept saying it wasn't confirmed. "You stupid man," I thought, "of course it is a terrorist attack."

I watched the confusion as the reporters explained what happened and then, live, we watched in horror as a second plane hit the South Tower. In that moment, it was clear to everyone that this was indeed a terror attack, though still, people did not yet comprehend the extent of what was to happen.

In those first moments, seconds after the news anchors could no longer deny that this was a terrorist attack in the making, my first thought...one that I regret to this day...was "Good. Now American will understand."

Moments later, or so it seemed, a third plane hit the Pentagon and chaos erupted as they began tracking other planes. In those minutes, as I watched the towers burning, I began to think that this was so much worse than anyone expected. Suddenly, the Southern Tower fell and I thought, "God, I didn't mean this. I didn't want this to happen."

They talked of numbers too high to imagine. 50,000 people on a regular day. How many were inside was anyone's guess. There was no way to know. The northern tower fell. The streets were filled with smoke and dust and debris. The faces showed the shock we all felt. The image of people walking across the bridge to get to Brooklyn. A fourth plane was missing and supposedly headed towards Washington. It was a nightmare that wasn't ending. Planes were grounded and still it wouldn't stop.

For hours and hours, they reported what had happened. So few survived. So many lost. Desperate searches for family members. In our family, a sister-in-law walked away from the area but it took hours to reach her and know she was safe. A decade and still people remember where they were in those moments of confusion and of agonizing clarity.

America learned the lesson of what terror brings to its shores. I never wanted America to learn to the extent of 9/11. I never wanted to see so many die, to watch the shock cover a nation, a world. I never imagined the Towers would fall; that close to 3,000 people would die. I went to college in New York City. I always thought the Towers were so ugly, there as they stood towering above Lower Manhattan. Even that feeling, I've come to regret.

I sat there for hours, tears streaming down my face, trying to understand, trying to explain to my children. Night fell in Israel, and still I watched. I fed my children dinner, kissed them good night, and returned to the television. How many, I kept wondering...how many? I remember the ambulances lined up - waiting for the injured, for the survivors...but so few survived.

The America that was born out of 9/11 is so different than the one before. Not just in the sense of heightened security but in the sense of vulnerability. The words of George Bush on that day touched my heart and so I post them here -
Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and neighbours. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.
The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; our country is strong.
A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.
America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.
Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best of America -- with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.
The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them.
I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance.
America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism. Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.
This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Palestinians were dancing in the streets of Gaza, the West Bank, and yes, even in Brooklyn, NY. We have seen this countless times after a "successful" attack against Israelis, but this was the first time I saw this in relation to an attack elsewhere.

Ten years later and yes, we have gone on to defend freedom and still stand against terrorism. Israelis and Americans know that there are no borders when it comes to terrorism, and no limits to the atrocities that others will commit in the name of false gods and causes.

Later this month, the Palestinians plan to seek statehood at the United Nations. A nation built on evil, built on terror, cannot survive. When the foundations are weak and immoral, the building cannot stand. So long as the Palestinians continue to embrace terror, they will not succeed.

Forever burned into my memory is the horror of those moments when the towers fell. May God bless the memories of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 - those in the towers, those in the Pentagon, those in the planes and those who went in to rescue them.

May the world never know another 9/11...not in the United States, and not in Israel. On 9/11, America's freedom came under attack - and it has been under attack every day since.

Do you remember where you were, what you were doing, when you heard about the attacks?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Identifying Cars, Seeing Threats

I had an interesting conversation with Shmulik while we were driving the other day. As we were entering a traffic circle, a car to our right edged in more than he should have. I was watching to see that the car would stop and didn't notice another car that also came closer than it should have.

I said something to Shmulik about the first car and he asked me if I'd seen the other. I admitted that I had not seen it (he was driving, so it wasn't like we were in any danger). He asked me what type of car had come towards us on the right. "A white one," I admitted a bit sheepishly.

My sons (Elie and Shmulik and probably Davidi as well) can all tell cars by their make, their model and their year. I know some models, fewer makes, and no years. That's when Shmulik told me how his commanding officer used to quiz him after he passed a car "what car was that?" S. would ask him; how many people in the car?

He was training Shmulik to be more aware, to notice the details and that remains with him today. He notices things. It helps in his work as a security job; it is a part of their lives in general. They scan the hills in certain areas where Arabs are known to throw rocks; they watch if someone suspicious comes around.

Yesterday, Shmulik drove me to work and then took the car to his yeshiva. On the way up the mountain into Jerusalem, there is a public transportation lane that can be used by cars, taxis, and cars carrying 3 or more passengers.

At the top, just before the checkpoint, there is a small inset area where police often stand, waiting to pull violators with less than 3 people over. As we came closer, we noticed two cars had been pulled over. A woman was angrily pacing behind her car while talking on the phone. There was a lot of traffic and we were moving very slowly. She moved to get into her car and then for some reason, while talking to the policeman, she got out of the car again.

In that moment, her car began to roll backwards. The steering wheel had obviously been turned slightly so the car, as it rolled backwards, moved in an arch. The car in front of us stopped. The cars to our left stopped. Almost in slow-motion, it seemed that all eyes were on the drama of this "unmanned" car rolling backwards. The woman tried to get into the car; the policeman seemed to be pulling her away.

The car missed other cars by mere inches and crashed into the highway divider. It bounced forward and then rolled backwards and settled against the divider. The woman was clearly distraught; the policeman pulled her away. Someone got into the car to secure it, I guess. Traffic began to move.

So later that evening, I was telling Elie and my husband about what happened and they asked me what type of car it was. I gave them the most professional answer I could, "it was red."

They laughed and so I said, "I have to go to the bathroom; when I come back, I'll tell you what kind of car it was." I went to my room and sent Shmulik an SMS - "What kind of car was it this morning, the red one?"

Within seconds, he answered, "Subaru Imprezia, 1995."

I walked out of the bedroom and said, "It was a Subaru, an Imprezia, 1995." Elie and my husband started to laugh even harder and asked if I had a picture on my phone.

I told them no, but they still laughed. "What, you think I don't know anything about car?" They laughed again. "Anyway, we own a Subaru Imprezia, no? Of course, I know the car!" By now, I was struggling not to laugh myself.

"Ima," Elie answered, "A 1995 doesn't look anything like our car!" (which is a 2006). What do I know? It was red!

They might have accepted if I said Subaru alone, my older daughter later suggested. They might even have accepted had I said Imprezia. I guess I shouldn't have added the year.

It was red, though.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reactions to the Palmer Report

The UN's Palmer Report has yet to be officially released and yet already it is causing a stir. The vast majority of the report is clearly in Israel's favor, confirming so much of what we said from the beginning. The passengers - not all, but many - had clear and violent intent.

The blockade is legal - confirmed by Israeli legal experts and now by the United Nations. That being the case, an attempt to break the blockade can be seen as an illegal act, one that the nation imposing the legal blockade has a right to stop.

Much ado from the Arab side is made of the few lines in the report that speak of excessive violence - though clearly that violence began (as the UN admits) with the passengers attacking the soldiers. Since the so-called humanitarians on the Mavi Marmara were armed (yes, clubs and knives are weapons when in the hands of those who intend harm), and since these thugs immediately set upon the soldiers - as they landed, one by one, from the helicopters above, some of the soldiers were disarmed.

These paint-guns and small caliber pistols could easily have been discharged by the thugs and not by the soldiers. Just as some of the soldiers were shot...it is very plausible that some of the thugs were shot by their own comrades in madness. Among the dead was Furkan Dogan. He was shot 4 times. One Israeli critic said he was executed.

To draw the conclusion that being shot in the face, back of the skull and two places in the leg equals an execution is absurd based solely on this limited fact. One has to wonder what Mr. Dogan was doing at the time he was shot - four times no less. If, for example, Mr. Dogan had a knife and was attempting to stab a downed soldier, the shot to the back of the skull, back and leg is explained. If in an attempt to then stop the soldier who was shooting at him, Mr. Dogan abandoned his attempt to stab the downed soldier and instead turned on the one firing the shots, this would then explain the wound to the face. Any scenario, in the absence of fact, can be plausible. All that we know is that Mr. Dogan chose to go on the ship and clearly engaged the soldiers in battle.

The Palmer Report confirms what Israel said, namely:

1. The naval blockade was legal.

2. Israel had the right, within the legal blockade, to stop the flotilla - which had the declared purpose of breaking the legal blockade.

3. Turkey should have stopped its citizens - it didn't and that makes them culpable here.

4. The thugs on the flotilla (not all, as confirmed by Palmer) but certainly those of IHH and others (as singled out by Palmer) had violent intentions.

5. The soldiers had the right to defend themselves against the violent assault that occurred as they landed on the ship, which they had a legal right to board.

All the rest is speculation by those who were not there at the time. How Mr. Dogan was shot cannot be known - unless, perhaps, forensic experts examined the body - no evidence of that in the Palmer Report.

Since this was not a frontal attack in which two sides faced off, but rather utter chaos in which hoards of thugs attacked the soldiers from all directions - the location of the wounds tells us nothing of who attacked whom in specific instances. What we do know from the videos is that lightly armed Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara believing (somewhat foolishly) that they were landing on a ship of humanitarian activists with peaceful, political intentions.

What they found were vicious attackers bent on injury, if not murder. Soldiers were beaten, stabbed, and one was even thrown down to a lower deck. That none were killed is a miracle, a gift from God, and a sign that even in this chaos, their training assisted them. The Palmer Report stands as a testimony of sanity after a chaotic and violent event.

Had Mr. Dogan not engaged the soldiers, in all likelihood, he would still be alive today. His death and those of the other nine attackers, rests on the shoulders of Turkey, the IHH, and those who assisted him in taking his doomed place on the Mavi Marmara. Israel has NOTHING for which to apologize.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cancel Plans to Turkey

If you are Jewish or Israeli and planning a trip to Turkey - please reconsider.

I can give you political reasons, security reasons, social reasons, financial reasons. Most of all, I will tell you that to go to Turkey now would be just plain stupid. Today, dozens of Israelis on a flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul were detained by Turkish police, their passports confiscated.

Eventually, they were released. It was clear to all that this was a political act intended to intimidate the Israelis. I can imagine, somewhere in Israel, the army was considering whether this was a hostage situation and if we would need to rescue them.

We would have. In that one thought, I find much comfort. We will not allow Jews anywhere in the world to be intimidated - not again, not ever again.

In this act, Turkey has crossed a red line in my heart. They ousted our ambassador last week. I'm glad they did. I hope Jerusalem is not considering sending him back and I hope we withdraw all our personnel from Turkey.

This is what they want - let them have it.

The Turkish navy is planning to escort Turkish ships to Gaza, attempting, yet again, to break the naval blockade Israel has established around Gaza. There are many reasons for the blockade - not the least of which are the ongoing attempts to smuggle in weapons (Google Karine A, if you don't know about this, and there are others; Google Gilad Shalit, and you may understand).

When I heard that only a day after the UN's Palmer Report was unofficially released, Turkey stupidly announced this naval escort, all I could think of was, "Turkey, what part of LEGAL BLOCKADE don't you understand?"

Yes, the UN has confirmed our blockade is legal, justified by smuggling attempts and ongoing rockets. They don't like how our troops went about stopping the flotilla, but confirm it was our right to stop the ships. More, they confirm the flotilla thugs were violent and had full intentions of attacking the soldiers.

Turkey could, perhaps have been forgiven for their belief that the flotilla had better intentions...but now, there is no question. Evidence is in; it's clear.

And the bottom line here is Turkey's actions just get stupider and stupider. Moments ago, I learned that Turkey has given our personnel 2 days to leave the country. Yup, stupider and stupider.

And there is one more truth that Turkey and the world must learn. The day when the Jew will allow himself to be beaten is gone. We are not the Jews of 1939. We will not be driven from our homes here in Israel, our land. Not by the Palestinians, not by Hezbollah, and most certainly, not by the Turks.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Other Side of a Thought

Last week at 7:15 a.m., there was a blackout in our neighborhood. I was in the store and my first concern was whether the store would allow us to buy the items or if I'd have to return home and find something to throw together for my youngest daughter's lunch. They were completely efficient in the store. They pulled out a hand scale, weighed the fruit she wanted, wrote down the codes and our name and we were out in minutes.

Hours later, there was still no power in parts of our city. I never did find out what happened or why it was out for so long. Those were my thoughts on the incident until I spoke to Shmulik. He's been a security guard for several months at the mall. Many Arabs work and shop there, as well as Jews - another sign that we live in a free and democratic society.

Shmulik checks each person as they enter; sizes them up, figures out quickly if they can pass or not. He caught two Arabs trying to sneak in without permits. Last week, an alert went out in our city and the mall was alerted. All the guards were told to stay on duty, long after most would have been sent home. Armed guards were carefully placed around, ready if an attack were to come.

On the day of the blackout, there was a whole side to the event that I did not consider. Shmulik has two main "weapons" - one is the metal detector which quickly helps him identify if a person is passing through with an object that might be dangerous. The second is his training and all he has learned. When the electricity fell, he was left with only this second thing; the metal detector was silenced.

It was, Shmulik said, very nerve-wracking, very tense.

"Why couldn't you just shut the mall?" I asked him.

They couldn't do that, he answered, and so they checked each bag, each person that much more carefully. It is a frightening thing to think about, that your son puts his life between those he must protect and those who may wish him harm.

And it reminded me how often the most dangerous of times, are those we only learn about later.

Response to Edinburgh Student Association Motion to Boycott Israel

Following is a response by Dr. Denis MacEoin, a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly, in response to a motion to boycott Israel by the Student Association. In their motion, they claim Israel is under an apartheid regime. Dr. Denis Maceoin (a non-Jew) is an expert in Middle Eastern affairs. Here is his letter to those students.

Dr. Denis MacEoin addresses The Committee of the Edinburgh University Student Association.

TO: The Committee Edinburgh University Student Association.

May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence Elwell Sutton, two of Britain's great Middle East experts in their day.

I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University. Naturally, I am the author of several books and hundreds of articles in this field. I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the EUSA motion and vote.

I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not and has never been a system of apartheid in Israel. That is not my opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for themselves. Let me spell this out, since I have the impression that those members of EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and that they are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby.

Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I'm not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel. I'm speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a "Nazi" state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nuremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for.

It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.

Likewise apartheid. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled how things were in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is.

That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country's 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha'is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world center; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law.

Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population). In Iran, the Bahai's (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren't your members boycotting Iran? Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews - something no blacks were able to do in South Africa.

Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theatres.

In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home.

It seems bizarre to me that LGBT groups call for a boycott of Israel and say nothing about countries like Iran, where gay men are hanged or stoned to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief.

Intelligent students thinking it's better to be silent about regimes that kill gay people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed to be a sick joke?

University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak.

I do not object to well-documented criticism of Israel. I do object when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it's clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens.

Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran. They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world's freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Bahai's.... Need I go on?

The imbalance is perceptible, and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott. I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Listen to more than one side. Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument.

They are not at university to be propagandized. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish state in the 1930's (which, sadly, there was not), don't you think Adolf Hitler would have decided to boycott it?

Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play. Please tell me that this makes sense. I have given you some of the evidence. It's up to you to find out more.

Yours sincerely,
Denis MacEoin

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Child's Memory

I am always interested to hear what memories my children retain as they grow older; always surprised when they are things I never knew about, or have long since faded from my own memory. Elie and I have sort of settled into a routine with the family shopping. For a long time before and after the army, he handled the family shopping each week. I would go with him or by myself occasionally to fill in all the unusual things and he often added to the list as he saw things on sale.

He's become an expert at shopping, finding the sales, calculating when the store is charging less for two single-liters of oil than opting for what one would assume would be the economy pack of 2 liters in a single container. Lately, that pattern has changed and we've been going together. It is more pleasant, goes faster, and just seems like less pressure all around. So this week, as we have for many weeks, we drove together.

I went to bed too late, slept too little, and woke with a pounding headache. As I often do, I asked Elie to drive. He threw out the idea, again, of his getting a scaled-down motorcycle - a scooter, that would be more economical and help him avoid traffic. I again explained to him that motorcycles, and yes, I confirmed, scooters too, have a nasty tendency to get broken mirrors, snipped wires, flat tires, sugar in the gas tank, and whatever else I could think of to disable them. I am terrified of these things.

Part of it is Israeli drivers - they are notoriously notorious. Part of it is the roads here, the weather. It doesn't matter the reason, I don't want him on anything with less than four wheels and two doors and as much steel as possible around him. Somehow, I don't even remember how, the conversation drifted to his concerns about his younger sister. I spoil her, is the general impression. I drive her to school every morning and Elie thinks she should take a bus. He did, at her age, he reminds me.

In 7th grade, he even walked back from school (a long hike between two yishuvim  [villages]). He also rode his bicycle. And that was when this interesting memory popped up.

"Until the Intifada," he said. "In 8th grade, we could only do it if we had at least 10 guys."

How long have my children lived with this violence, this threat against their lives? How ingrained are the memories? That they measure milestones by these national events is a sobering reality for a parent, a humbling one.

We try to protect them as they grow, knowing that we will, almost without exception, fail miserably. The last remnants of the trauma of Itamar lingers with Aliza. She watches Arabs more carefully, even those we are friendly with here in our neighborhood. She still wants the doors locked, the window gratings secured - especially Friday nights...because it was on a Friday night that two Arabs stole into Itamar and murdered 5 members of the Fogel family, including 3 children, the youngest, only 3 months old.

Elie's memory doesn't cross into the realm of trauma and perhaps that is worse, in some ways.

And at this moment, as I write of our discussion this morning, Elie and Davidi are in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and grating them. Davidi has become our champion grater, and Elie is peeling them and then splashing them into a pot of water, sending water flying towards Davidi and the floor. The glory of ceramic tiles in Israel is that cleanup is quick and so I let them have this fun.

I listen to them laugh, hoping that this memory will be there too, ingrained deep enough to balance those other memories I cannot prevent.

Shabbat shalom - may it come in peace and bring peace to all.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jedwabne, Poland...

Forgive me for this post...but I just can't ignore something that was reported in the news today. This isn't about Elie...who was named after one of my husband's uncles - his mother's brother, who was murdered by the Nazis shortly after his wedding. This isn't about Shmulik, who carries the name of another uncle, who collapsed in the forests of Europe and died. But it touches me...something that happened today...and so, I write.

A memorial to Holocaust victims was desecrated in Poland today. I saw the picture and recognized the monument immediately. It was in the tiny town of Jedwabne. Population approximately 3,100 in August, 1941 when the Polish villagers collected their 1,500 Jewish neighbors and murdered them all in a single, bloody attack. One Jewish family had been warned and fled; 2 other young men were able to escape to bear testimony to what their neighbors did. One was a 15-year-old boy. Fifteen, like my Davidi. The boy's father didn't remember, when the neighbors came and forced them from their home, if he'd locked the house. Go back, he told the boy. Go check and then catch up to us. He ran back to the house and then, as he returned, he began to wonder why. Instead of joining the slow moving line of Jews, the boy stayed hidden and watched. Watched as they locked the Jews in a barn...and set it afire. Their neighbors, 1,500 Jews.

After the war, the Poles erected a monument that said, "In memory of the 1,500 Poles murdered by the Hitlerites." No, the Germans had not yet arrived on that miserable day in August, 1941. The Jews, were murdered by the Poles because they were Jews. But the Poles couldn't keep the secret forever. There were those who knew the truth and remembered the hatred.

Finally, after decades of work, the Polish President came to Jedwabne to correct the wrong. The sign, the lie, was erased. They were Jews who were murdered in Jedwabne and they would be remembered as Jews. Finally. And so the memorial was replaced with new words. "In memory of the 1500 Jews who were murdered." But the lie continues, doesn't it? They admit the "Hitlerites" didn't do it...but don't admit they did - at least not on the memorial that stands in Jedwabne.

On a tour of Poland with my oldest daughter in 2004, they took us to Jedwabne as part of an 8-day tour. It is impossible to visit concentration camp after concentration camp, cemetery after cemetery, without breaking down. Why? I demanded. Why do you let them get away with this? The guide answered that were they to put, "To the 1,500 Jews murdered by their neighbors" it would be desecrated. Well, today, it was desecrated anyway. (see picture here: http://www.ejpress.org/article/52846)

One of the guides listened and then added that he had been in the town in 2001 when the new monument was unveiled. From the row of houses, he said pointing into the distance, someone put a stereo in the window and began blasting music to disrupt the ceremony. The president of Poland had come, even the Chief of Police of the land - to take part in the ceremony. The Chief of Police sent someone to make them close the stereo. Finally it was quiet and they were ready to begin.

And then, from the other side of town, "the Church bells started ringing, and ringing, and ringing. They had to send someone else to stop them," he explained. I once wrote, "Everyone has a breaking point. It is the point at which you simply feel you cannot take anymore. You cannot cry more, you cannot feel anger and you don't want to feel sadness. You feel that your heart hurts, and you don't want to feel that either." I broke in two places during my visit to Poland. One was in Jedwabne.

I broke at the thought that the hatred of World War II had survived the war and still lived on. I broke at the thought of a half a town rising up to murder the other half, and of a country that would hide this horror generations and generations after.

The truth is denied, even today, by omission, and by the vandals who tried to erase, yet again, the actions of hatred that define this small town. Not a word is written on the monument about who murdered the Jews. Until the sign is correctly written, until Jedwabne recognizes that it was their hatred that murdered their fellow townspeople, the name and town of Jedwabne will carry its shame and we will remember. To the 1500 hundred Jews murdered by the people of Jedwabne out of hatred and anti-Semitism, may your memory be blessed. To the town of Jedwabne, may your town be remembered in shame and to those who vandalized the monument, may all the work of your hands be as cursed, may your souls be cursed for your desecration.

You can read about my other breaking point, if you like, here.

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