Sunday, October 30, 2011

That's a Fiat...

"That's a Corolla. That's a bus! That's a Mazda 3; good job! There's a bus."

That's Elie instructing his nephew on types of cars. I guess I should mention his nephew is 5 months old....and Elie was holding him as they looked at the window. His nephew looked solemnly for a moment, stared up at Elie. Elie made a face, his nephew smiled and Elie laughed.

Elie turned the baby back to the window and began his lessons again, "That's a Fiat..."

One of life's greatest wonders is watching your daughter become a mother and your sons become uncles (and yes, watching your youngest be an aunt). My children are enthralled by the baby. They never get tired of watching him, holding him and making him smile. Each smile is a reward for them and them alone. Priceless and pure.

It's too soon for me to know how being a grandmother has changed me but I can see in my children such love of this child, such pride, such happiness. They sing to him, rock him, play with him. Amazing....

Friday, October 28, 2011

Liars, Just Liars

I talk to my sons - Elie and Shmulik - about their time in the army and stories come out. This week, both Elie and Shmulik shared stories I had never heard. One made me laugh - one made me angry.

Here's the one that made me angry. Elie was accused of deliberately tripping a 10-year-old Arab girl at the checkpoint. According to the accusation, Elie pulled a wire that causes spikes to move across the road. The intention of the spikes is to immediately disable a car that crosses the checkpoint without permission. I suppose if a child were walking and crossing the path of the spikes as it was pulled by a soldier, she could trip and fall. I suppose because I have never seen it, never heard of it happening.

The truth is that earlier that morning, Elie stopped an Arab who was try to cross without permission and was caught smuggling items into Israel. Elie took the permit away; the Arab was not allowed to cross the checkpoint. Within minutes, the Arab called the army and the media, complained that Elie had abused an Arab child.

Several levels up, the complaint made an impact as the media began calling to inquire about the poor abused little girl. Up the complaint went...and then down. Elie's superiors were notified. YNET and others had the story and it was about to be printed - what a great story, sure to garner international condemnation, and human rights organizations would decry the abuse. No matter that it never happened - the story was the point. Mean Israeli soldier abuses poor Palestinian child.

Except there was no child and the soldier did nothing wrong.

Elie's commanding officer called Elie and asked him what happened. Elie heard the story, listened, looked at the line to pull the spike and immediately asked his commanding officer to come down to the checkpoint. He would touch nothing (and even if he did, it wouldn't have changed anything).  Within a very short time, Elie's commanding officer came down and Elie showed him the pull-line for the spikes.

It was embedded in the ground. It had rained in the last few days and cars had driven over it. The ground was firmly packed and there was no way Elie could have reconstructed the effect time, rain, and thousands of cars had created. Elie's commanding officer looked, was easily convinced.

"Liars," K. said to Elie, "just liars."

I'm often asked to explain the death of this one, the beating of that one. A 10-year old Palestinian girl that was tripped intentionally by a soldier - it would have made the media, but for the quick mind of the soldier who stood against the lie. The Palestinian girl doesn't exist...or if she does, she never crossed Elie's checkpoint that day (or if she did, she did not fall, was not tripped). And a soldier who was on the checkpoint was falsely accused, slandered, maligned. Or could have been - if his commanding officer didn't believe him and confirm.

That soldier was my son - the story never reported because Elie took one look at the embedded chain that had not been used in many days and had the intelligence to prove himself innocent to a world ready to believe his guilt.

Liars, just liars.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Luck of the Day

Elie's having an amazing day. He has a few errands to run and agreed to do even more of mine. He dropped of his sister. He's decided to get a gun. It's a decision that he has made and for which I have offered no opinion other than to warn my younger children that they are never to touch it.

They know this. It was a reality when Elie had an army gun, and remains a reality long after. They know never to touch a gun. It is not a toy. We live a few kilometers to the east of Jerusalem - this makes us obstacles to peace in the eyes of many. Too many times, there have been terrorist attacks against unsuspecting Israelis - and it was an armed civilian who acted quickly and saved many lives.

Not everyone in Israel has a gun. Not every "settler" has a gun. These are lies others spread to make it seem like we live in a violent country. And yet, on the day Gilad Shalit was freed, the ninety injured people - were all on the side of the Arabs. It was their weapons they shot in the air; their bullets that fell to the earth injuring people. All we did on our side was sing and dance, wave flags and send up our prayers that Gilad would be healthy.

So, Elie went to the Interior Ministry to pick up a form. As a combat soldier, the process for his getting a gun is shorter than for most people. He has already received high enough security clearance, already been armed for several years and will be trusted. The process for him will only take...a few months. I like that someone cannot walk in and walk out with a gun; not in a day, not in a week, not even in a month.

He completed the form and took in yesterday. He went first thing in the morning, figuring that would get him in before the lines. Only there were no lines, because on Mondays, they only open in the afternoon. He came back to my office and worked on the computer until he could go there. He arrived, got in line, only to find they wanted proof that he lived where he said he did. Apparently, for a gun license, they don't even trust their own computers. He needed a bill from the city saying he lived in the house. Except, the house is in our name and so he needed to bring bills showing that we live there, and then mail or something that he received showing that he lives there too). He also needs a letter from the city.

So today, Elie's lucky day began. I left early with Shmulik this morning (that's the next post) and Elie did me the first favor of driving his younger sister to school. She's a crossing guard today ("crossing people is fun") and has to get there early. Elie dropped his sister off and went to the City Hall building. They open only at 8:00 a.m. and he got there about 7:20 a.m. figuring he'd have a long wait. A woman there saw him and told him to come in, she would help him right away.

He called me 10 minutes later to tell me he already had the forms he needed. He was thrilled to have saved that extra time and explained he was now going to drive to Jerusalem. He drove up the hill- no traffic...and amazing thing by itself. Pulled into a parking lot where he could catch the train, and a moment later, the train arrived. He was thrilled.

He got to the Ministry of Interior and though there were many people, the line moved quickly. He was out before he even expected to be in...and so his day has gone. I can only help it continues.

Meantime, I drove to work with Shmulik. He wanted to use my car to go to an appointment in the center of Israel and agreed to go with me early in the morning. The problem was, my car is not insured for him as a young driver and so we have to activate a special clause in the insurance that covers him for the day. It costs only about $15 and gives us the freedom to allow for another driver when we need it.

Unfortunately, things were hectic yesterday and I didn't have time to call...so as I was driving, much earlier than I expected the insurance company representative to be in, I told Shmulik to give it a try. Following a long series of taped options, we were actually able to insure him. They even gave us a confirmation number.

With that in hand, I waited 15 minutes, pulled to the side of the highway and said, "here, you drive!" He was happy and I got a chauffeur!

As he was driving, earlier than I am normally on the road, we saw a bad accident with a car in the middle of the highway laying on its side. Police were already onsite, anyone who had been hurt was long gone and it looked like they were examining why the accident had happened.

I know the occupant of that car isn't having a lucky day but it was interesting how the role of comforter has often moved to my children. It looked like a bad accident - the front windshield was gone, the airbags expanded. Like a child without thinking, I asked, "Do you think anyone was killed?"

Shmulik right way answered, "No, it's a strong car." I was sure he was wrong. Turns out, the kid was right in so many ways. He said he thought the driver was going too fast; that there was no other reason why the car would have turned over like that by itself. (Here's the report in Hebrew http://www.hnn.co.il/gallery16039.html). But most important is that the driver was only lightly injured - and so yes, perhaps even he can consider today lucky!

And one final word on today - today is my 29th wedding anniversary to a most wonderful man. So yes, today is indeed special and I'm so glad my kids are basking in the luck and the love of the day.

Here's hoping you are having a lucky day today and that it continues. And for those who say there are no coincidences and no luck - only a Greater Plan, I'll hope that God smiles you all of us today, gives us peace and safety, health and happiness...and maybe, if I can ask, light to no traffic on the way home.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Pilot's Son, An Earthquake, and An Upside-Down Tank

Two things happened today...or I heard about two things that sum up so much of what Israel is. If you have the patience to read, I'll show you a picture below that Elie took today. No cheating - you have to read to get there!

The first thing is that as I was driving to a client's site, my eyes filled with tears. I'm not usually that emotional, but this one got to me. Twenty-five years ago, Yishai Aviram was an Israeli air force pilot flying a mission. His navigator was Ron Arad. When it became clear that they had to abandon the damaged plane, both Aviram and Arad parachuted out before the plane crashed.

Aviram was able to control his parachute enough to get to a safe area; Ron Arad wasn't able to get away. Aviram was rescued in a daring mission; Arad  didn't come home. It has been, these 25 years, an agony for Ron Arad's family, for his wife and daughter, for his friends, for Yishai Aviram, and for all of Israel.

When it became clear that Gilad Shalit was going to come home, Yishai's son, now a pilot in Israel's air force, asked to be the one to bring Gilad home. He spent the flight talking to Gilad and with the permission of the air force granted Gilad's wish to circle over his home town a second time to watch the cheering crowds. It was like a victory lap, something he deserved and it was taken with Yishai Aviram's son. Not all wounds can be healed, but the fact that Israel would grant this request sums up much of what my country is about. A wish by a pilot to bring home a son of Israel - as his father was unable to do 25 years ago; a wish of a boy who was taken from his home and now returns as a man wanting to see from the air, all who waited for him for so long.

The second thing that happened today was that there was a massive earthquake in Turkey - the worst in a decade. Within the first hour, Israel offered its aid. Whatever you want, Shimon Peres said; anything. Teams began mobilizing men and equipment. And Turkey said no.

Before we had heard Turkey's response, Elie joked, "tell them if they apologize, we'll send help." The fact that Israel would offer Turkey aid is an amazing testimony of my country's ethical and moral commitment to saving lives. The fact that Turkey would refuse, claiming they can handle it locally, bears testimony to that country's priorities.

These two things show so much of what this country is about. And here is another. Today, Elie did a course with many commanders. Ultimately, the purpose of the course was to train them to save lives. It focused more on vehicles, disabled and under fire, being retrieved. Elie got up early and got himself a sandwich before he left. He only ate part of it before it was time to go.

When he arrived on base- he found tons of pastries and food ready and waiting. They had courses and lectures - and more food. "Meat and rice and everything." My son was impressed and had a great meal (he still returned hungry, if you can figure that out), and he was amazed by the trouble the army went to in order that the Reservists and soldiers enjoy the day.

After the lectures, it was show time. They took the soldiers out to the field and began teaching them. At one point, they showed them how to recover a turned-over tank...Elie brought home this picture...I guess telling someone or showing them a video is nothing compared to seeing a tank rolled over like it is a toy. Elie was amazed how easily the huge bulldozers could move the heavy tanks. So, this is another picture of Israel - a day in which the army brought soldiers together to teach them how to save lives, how to save equipment - and fed them like kings at the same time.

Elie now knows how to rescue a tank, under fire; a team within the tank or within a jeep or other vehicle. He knows what equipment the army has to increase the chances of bringing the team out alive, and how to remain safe while rescuing the endangered people. Several years ago, a funeral procession came under fire. For almost 30 minutes, the people were pinned down, exposed, in danger. There were many children among the people. It was a terrifying thing to listen to - and it was all broadcast live on radio as the army moved in. It took almost 30 minutes while I was driving, listening to the gunfire and the reporter, until finally a bullet-proof bus was brought in and slowly, taking fire, positioned itself between the gunmen and the Israelis.

More of life in Israel...but here's the picture I told you about...cool...huh? Elie watched it rolled over, watched it "rescued" and rolled over again. It's an old tank, used for practice, used for training, used to teach our soldiers how to save lives. That, my dear friends, is Israel.

So Many, So Motivated

Today, Elie was called to one day of Reserve Duty to take a course that will give him more knowledge. I'm not sure I should write what the course is about, so maybe I won't. But one thing that was interesting came out tonight. Elie has been on the ambulance squad here in Maale Adumim for the last 8-9 years. He has worked with most of the drivers and several of them regularly call him and ask him to be their medic.

He's hoping to start studying in the Fall, and has been taking some courses - Thursday night is the one time he is sure he will not have a problem serving on the ambulance squad. The woman who schedules the volunteers set him up with a driver named P. They had several calls a few weeks ago - some resulting in their taking people to the hospital.

As they drove back, they talked. As they talked, they realized that each looked familiar to the other. Turns out, P. is in Elie's Reserve unit, was there over the three weeks they had Reserve Duty this summer and was scheduled for this one day course.

Last night, the army called him. The course is a very expensive endeavor (more on that next) and so the army wants to ensure it is fully attended. To get that full attendance - apparently the over-invite. There are many ways to get out of Reserve Duty, if someone is so inclined. If you are traveling abroad, if some major event in your life is coming up, etc.

So the army calculated how many they expected not to attend, and balanced it with more invitations. Only motivation was high and more people confirmed they were coming than expected. At the last minute, the army called Elie to confirm he was coming; and called P. to tell him not to come.

So many, so motivated. Israel!


They Say Soldiers Are Always Hungry

"and I was a soldier today, so I"m hungry."

Elie had reserve duty today - a one day course with commanders from a wide area coming together to learn some important skills (read the next post). "It's true," he argues back. "As soon as you put on the uniform, you get tired and hungry."

He's home, he's showered, and now he is starving...a little taste of the army...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Brilliant Benji Lovitt on Shahira Amin - the Idiot Egyptian Reporter

A brilliant comedian and friend, Benji Lovitt of What War Zone - has shared with some the amazing questions Shahira Amin would likely ask.

In case you don't know, Shahira Amin is the idiot Egyptian journalist who brutally interviewed Gilad moments after he had been seen for the first time in 5 years and while still under the control of Hamas. Though it was hidden from the audience, the photographer taking the video was a masked Hamas thug wearing a Hamas headband and army uniform. His presence was, I presume, a way of further pressuring Gilad to submit during these last few moments. Amin started the interview asking a weak Gilad how he felt.

Gilad immediately said he did not feel well and often during the interview his breathing was labored, his eyes unfocused. All of Israel watched in fury as this woman continued her idiotic questions. Just thinking about it makes me so angry.

I sincerely hope Benji doesn't mind me sharing this...all credit goes to Benji unless otherwise noted - and all blame goes to me because, heck, with Gilad home, I'm happy enough to handle it. Part of Benji's great ability is to get audiences to laugh - even at things that might seem painful. And so, as a measure of healing, I post Benji...and thank him for the smile I have...despite the anger I feel.

Shahira Amin's hard-hitting questions...not just bordering on idiocy - but crossing the line of decency...Benji Lovitt on Shahira Amin:

In the Garden of Eden: "So, Adam....your lady friend just ate the forbidden fruit, pissed off your creator, and got you banished from the only place man has ever been. What plans do you have for your future?"
Added by Karen: "...what plans do you have for your future? AND don't you think the snake should be pardoned?"
In Libya: "General Qaddafi, you just got shot in the head, ending your life. What regrets do you have about your reign?"
Added by Rafi: I think she would have asked him if he would now campaign for the thousands of others who have been shot in the head
During World War II: "Mr. Takahashi, you just had the first ever nuclear bomb dropped on your head. Will you help campaign against warfare?"

Interviewing Titanic survivors: "Five minutes ago, you were floating on a plank watching your relatives die in freezing water. What were you thinking about?"

Appearing in the movie "Misery": "Paul, you had your feet chopped off by that psychotic fan. Why didn't you write more books during that time?"

In Dallas in 1963: "President Kennedy, you just had your brains blown out. How did that feel?"

And I'll add a few of my own, though I doubt they do justice to the fine job Benji started:

To Senator George McGovern in 1972: "Senator, how humiliating is it that you lost your own state of South Dakota?"

To Yoka Ono moments after the murder of John Lennon: "Are you upset that John Lennon was gunned down like a dog in the road? And given that experience, do you think John's history with drug abuse had any connection to his death?"

To the survivors of Katrina in New Orleans: "Now that your city is underwater and you feel abandoned by your government, what do you have to say about the fact that people living in Malibu often lose power during major storms?"

To Lance Armstrong: "You've been recognized as a great biker so how does that make you feel to know that there are children in Sudan who don't have bicycles?"

To Steve Jobs: "Do you feel that God punished you with cancer because you are so rich and the Palestinians are so poor? Are you now ready to speak out in favor of giving all Palestinian children a free iPhone?"

To the parents of Daniel Pearl: "Do you feel that if you'd renounced your Judaism and condemned the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, then these freedom fighters might not have slit your son's throat?"

You know what - I don't have Benji's ability to make things funny, so I'll stop. The more I write, the angier I become. I'll leave comedy to Benji...he's so amazingly good at it!

And finally, thanks to the Facebook poster who told us that Shahira Amin's Facebook profile has been deleted. I guess our letters to her made her realize her name is mud, her brain is empty, her heart is a stone, and her future belongs in the swamp!

Gilad - the Video

I've been waiting for the video I wanted to post. I thought it would be with a lot of pictures and few words, but I was wrong.

This is sung by Arik Einstein and Guy Bocati - the pictures are there, but the words are better...Hebrew singing - English translation...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Last Reflections before Simchat Torah

Tonight starts the holiday of Simchat Torah - roughly translated as the Happiness of the Torah - in Israel (Jews outside Israel will celebrate this on Friday, where here in Israel, two holidays are combined into one). It's an amazing day - all year long, we read from the first five books of the Bible - the Torah. Each week, a portion until this holiday.

Then, in one reading - we read the last portion of Devarim (Deuteronomy) and immediately begin the first portion of Bereshit (Genesis). It is a very Jewish thing - this ending and beginning again. Now that I think about it - it reminds me of Elie finishing the army the very week that Shmulik started it...and Elie getting Reserve duty, the very week Shmulik ended the army. Amazing, that one, no?

Yesterday, Gilad Shalit came home. It was a day of emotions here in Israel...of hope, of concern, of anger watching the Egyptian journalist (Shahira Amin) abuse him as he struggled to breathe and answer her questions. There was fear in his eyes - almost as if he thought the dream of his freedom might slip away and this was all just a trick, more psychological torture.

By that time, we in Israel knew the deal was going to go through. It had advanced too far for even Hamas to back down so rather than fear, we felt only the fury. And then there were tears and joy. Despite the horrible price we paid for him, we could do nothing but look at Gilad and be amazed. No, they did not crush this boy. I will not give them credit for turning him into a man in the years they held him, but it was there.

They took a 19-year-old boy, but a man walked free yesterday. I have much to do to prepare for the holiday and so won't have the time to write more. I can only say that as I prepare, I will think of Gilad and hope his home is full of the smells of the holiday to come. I hope he will walk into his mother's kitchen (and yes, that is sexist - perhaps Noam is the great cook in the family). And I hope he will do what Elie and Yaakov and Chaim and Shmulik have done so often. Just nibble on everything in no particular order. From the brownies cooling in the corner, to the meat still simmering on the stove.

Eat, Gilad - gain your strength. Your greatest answer to all you have suffered is to be free, to live, to smile. May you never know loneliness again. Personally, I can't stand Shimon Peres' politics, but he said something beautiful yesterday - Gilad, you were lonely, but you were never alone.

For all that we worry about the price we paid, for all that we mourn the pain we have caused others by releasing the killers of their loved ones - everyone, each and every one of us here and so many of our friends abroad, dreamed of this very day. Yesterday, of course - but even more today.

The day you would wake in your room and without a second thought, go down to your mother's kitchen and sit there with nothing to do but talk, relax, and be free. The world awaits you - glorious things that have been created while you were in captivity. I hope someone will buy you an iPod and an iPhone and introduce you to the latest and greatest.

Welcome home, Gilad - may you go from strength to strength, in body, in mind, in soul.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hours of Watching

I've spent most of the day watching and listening to the news as Gilad came home. It was an interesting day, accompanied most of the way by fellow Twitter friends, people in the store, my family. We watched as there was a glimpse of Gilad finally leaving Palestinian hands for Egyptian ones.

He looked so weak. He walked so stiffly. They pulled at him and I wanted to scream and tell them to get their hands off of him. His body language was clear - he looked bullied, almost indifferent. It was as if he had gone somewhere else and only his body was there, doing what the Palestinians were telling him to do. Move this way; walk this way. Stand here.

More time as we wait...and then an interview with an Egyptian woman. I won't waste the word "journalism" on her. The interview was a shock to Israel, as it was unplanned on a day when everything was supposed to be scheduled carefully.

Worse, the interview was asinine and rude. Anyone could see that Gilad was not well. His breathing was labored, his eyes showed how uncomfortable and even frightened he was. He was looking for a trap; something wrong that he might say that would stop the deal from going through. He knew he was close and he feared that now it would end.

And yet this woman kept nailing her questions, silly ones they probably teach in Journalism 101 for third graders. And then she moved it up to obnoxious. Will you work to release the other Palestinian prisoners she asked him, now that you know what captivity is like. The Israeli reporters who were broadcasting the interview were outraged, people on Twitter were furious.

What wasn't shown was the careful angle of the camera that didn't show the full picture of what was behind Gilad during that interview. Here is that picture.

Look at the man, look at the hood.

Look at the Hamas band across his forehead. Look at his hand on Gilad's shoulder. An Egyptian journalist...a Hamas photographer?  Not quite.

The interview finally ended and Gilad was handed into Israeli hands. He walked with the Israeli escorts so differently that I began to see that Gilad was coming home, not just in body, but in spirit too. They weren't leading him, but helping him. His shoulders and upper body were different now - more relaxed. There was no longer a Hamas thug behind him. He already knew it was true, he was coming home.

He still looked weak and unbearably thin as he walked out of a building - for the first time in an Israeli uniform. More of a delay, more reports that turned out not to be true. BBC decided if it couldn't report the news, it would make it up and announced that Gilad had arrived in Tel Nof and had already spoken with his father. News to Noam, who immediately announced he had not yet spoken to his son and reporter at the Rafiach Crossing confirmed the IAF helicopter had not even arrived to take Gilad, never mind made the trip and returned.

But finally, the helicopter came and Gilad was flown to his family. There, a most amazing welcome party met him. First, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was there. Gilad saluted him Benny Gantz saluted, held out his hand and like Bibi, pulled Gilad into a hug. He's home, I thought to myself. He's really home.



(Listen as the pilot announces - we are 7 minutes away from bringing Gilad home; and the response - we are all touched to have him home.)

 Hours later, Gilad was flown home to Mitzpe Hila. Thousands were there to greet him. The IDF released a short clip of Gilad in the helicopter and then the news showed Gilad and his family entering one of three vans which slowly drove a few hundred meters into Gilad's hometown.

People started cheering wildly, waving flags, singing, dancing. Gilad was home. Through the window of one of the vans, a hazy picture of Gilad smiling could be seen. Hours later, an army doctor was interviewed. He was the first to check Gilad before he was transferred out of Egypt and back home. He told Gilad that he was pleased with his condition, pleased with how he was mentally - a huge concern for many who expected Gilad to come back broken, "I knew I'd surprise you," Gilad reportedly answered back.

He did. For five years, we have seen only the image of Gilad, the captive, or glimpses of Gilad growing up. Today, for the first time, we saw Gilad as a man. He's 25 years old. His family has lost 5 years of his life but in one day, with one smile, Gilad promises that there is so much ahead of him.

Gilad isn't used to having a lot of people around - they kept him alone for so much of the time. He is badly deficient in Vitamin D - a sign that he was kept in darkness, as we all thought. He has other injuries and has been badly neglected over these past few years. But what Gilad managed to make clear to all of us is that what he needs most is food and love - both of which he will get in abundance, now that he is home.

And so now I can admit, I never believed Hamas would allow us this day. Today, Gilad Shalit came home and tonight, tonight he sleeps in his own house. Tomorrow and in the weeks and months to come, we may all pay a huge price for this moment. For now, even through the pain this horrible trade caused so many here in Israel, we all have to bless this day and this boy who is now a man.

May Gilad ben Aviva go from strength to strength, forever walking in the light and the love of his people. Thank you, God. Thank you for bringing Gilad home.

Disproportionality

In the Cast Lead War in which my son fought, there were many who said Israel was wrong. When we tried to point out that Cast Lead was preceded by the massive bombing of our cities by rockets and mortars, the word "disproportionality" was used. What does this mean?

It's simple, was the response. Sure, Israel was getting bombarded - but most of the rockets miss, don't they? Well, yes, with the help of God and through no intention of the bomber, yeah, they miss most of the time and hit empty fields. Of course, when they do hit, they kill and maim and destroy - people and massive amounts of property and even when they miss, they cause terror and shock, trauma and psychological pain.

But yes, when Israel fires - most times, we hit our target. Of course, they didn't like our target and they didn't like us hitting it so they moved their rockets into schools, mosques and hospitals so they could say we were destroying civilian buildings. It was, they claimed, all about disproportionality.

Of course, that word only works when the Palestinians want to use it. We aren't allowed to use it because...because...well, just because. So tomorrow, we will release 1,027 prisoners - among them the murderers of almost 600 Israelis. Those that have murdered children, babies, mothers and fathers. They have left a trail of orphans, widows, and parents who will never recover from the agonies of losing their sons and daughters.

We will do this for the return of one son - Gilad Shalit.

Disproportionality? 1 for 1,027? Apparently so - by sheer math, this means that each of these prisoners is worth 1/1027th of the life of a Jew, of an Israeli. But this is not a politically correct statement in a world that wants to believe in the equality of man...expect, of course, when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians.

Our high court has pushed aside all last minute petitions against the trade. From our side, we are clear. Whether it will happen or not, now depends solely on the honor of the Palestinians - a frightening concept. So let's say it depends more on the pragmatism of Hamas. Tomorrow, they will declare themselves the victors - it's what they do no matter what happens.

But that's really okay with me. I'm fine with living in a land that would trade 1,027 terrorists and murderers to get back one Jewish soul. Am I afraid of future deals and more kidnappings and attacks - of course I am. But for tomorrow, I'm going to put that all aside and thank God I live in Israel, where we would let loose these killers to save Gilad. I thank God I don't live in a society that will take to the streets tomorrow to celebrate the return of killers, that my country will be cleansed of the filth that is Ahlam Tamimi and the like.

No, not all - but most of the 1,027th of them will go to Gaza, Syria, Turkey, Qatar and I'm going to believe that the air I breathe will be that much cleaner, disproportionally cleaner than it is right now.

And I'm going to do one more thing - I'm going to believe, with complete faith, that what man fails to do, God will. God will avenge the blood of the 600; God will remember their sacrifice and the pain of their families and curse these miserable 1,027 people - all the days of their lives.

No, I would not want to be Palestinian tomorrow, a society that will be judged for its heroes and will be found lacking. Celebrate tomorrow, Gaza but know that we celebrate too. We celebrate the return of Gilad Shalit and we celebrate that we are not you, not a society who worships killers and death.

And in the next war - because we all know there will be one - perhaps you'll have to come up with a different word because disproportionality just won't work after you demanded and received 1,027 for 1.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Have You Seen This? Imagine...

Thanks to a dear friend at Bat Aliyah for showing this video on her blog...sometimes you need something like this to put things in perspective...

I can't think of a connection to my blog other than this is the same determination to make a better life that I see here in Israel, the same refusal to let life defeat you.

Beating Demons

For those who don't know, my youngest daughter is 11 years old, 11 and a half really. A few months ago, on a Friday night, two Palestinians sneaked into the Fogel home in Itamar and there they murdered...butchered...two parents and three children. Their bodies were discovered by their 12-year-old daughter, Tamar, when she returned home Friday night from youth group activities.

While much of Israel was caught up with the agony of this young girl and her two remaining brothers, suddenly and violently orphaned, I had my own bit of drama and trauma here in my home. My daughter identified with Tamar and became terrified that the same would happen to her. Nothing comforted her at first. She was afraid, for the first time in her life, to be alone at home even for a few moments; she was afraid of the dark; afraid of open windows that would allow terrorists to enter our home.

When I tried to tell her we would protect her, she answered too wisely for her age, "Tamar's parents couldn't protect them; how can you?" Indeed, Udi and Ruti apparently did manage to protect two small boys sleeping in another room, and so, at least Tamar has those brothers, though the Awad cousins did manage to murder her other two brothers and her baby sister. Aliza seemed to be getting worse for a while. It wasn't enough just to assure her that the front door was locked; she wanted her bedroom door to be locked too. It wasn't enough that we have bars on the windows; she wanted her window closed and her shades drawn closed against the dark.

She had nightmares that I thought signaled things were getting even worse, but according to the school counselor, this was actually a good sign in that it meant she was starting to find ways to cope. That her subconscious was sort of taking the trauma out and examining it and learning to deal with it. Whatever the reason, there were nights she came to my bed, shaking and crying and spent the next few hours with me.

I consulted people, psychologists, etc. and went with my instincts. I allowed her to fear and answered each fear. She slept with a fan rather than an open window. We put a window alarm on the window as well. She slept with a light on; she locked her door and checked the house locks too. Slowly, so painfully slowly, all that she has added on, she has removed. She can now sleep in her room with the door unlocked - except Friday nights. The lights are off again; the windows open again.

And then came a special challenge. We are now celebrating the holiday of Sukkot in Israel. Our front porch has been enclosed with bamboo mats and a fragile roof has been added. Decorations line the walls and the "ceiling." But a simple rain would easily pass through, strong winds...even gentle ones...set things aflutter in the sukkah.

The point of the sukkah is to remind us that life can be precarious at times and it is our faith that strengthens and protects us. There is a custom to not only eat in the Sukkah, but to sleep there as well. To sit there as often as possible during the days and nights, to almost live there. Aliza wanted to sleep there. There are no windows, no doors, no locks. She won't sleep there on her own but for the last several nights, either a friend has slept over or her younger brother pulled in a mattress on the other side and last night, I joined her.

I was awakened by the dog barking and I listened to see who approached. She slept peacefully and sleeps still as I sit a few meters away writing this. Aliza doesn't know about the agreement to release over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners; doesn't know that dozens will be released back to their homes in Jerusalem and nearby. She doesn't know that a vicious killer named Ahlam Tamimi will be released to Jordan, to the hills I can see from my window.

But she has beaten the demons that have frightened her these past months. She has put them back and away and perhaps the next time she has to face them, she will see them for what they are - cowards that sneak in the night, slither in the dirt while she lives in the light.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blood Lust - Misbegotten Accusations from Afar


According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, blood lust is defined as "a desire for bloodshed." Wikipedia goes further to define it: "Blood lust is a desire for extreme violence and carnage, often aroused in the heat of battle and leading to uncontrolled slaughter and death."

It is an interesting word, one that hints at a hatred so deep, so irrational, that nothing will appease it except the blood of your enemy. Over the recent Jewish holiday here in Israel, at a time when my religion forbids me to use the computer, electricity, etc. someone in the United States, a Jew no less, accused me of blood lust. Not hatred, not racism, not anger, but blood lust. His word, his accusation, his judgment, his error.

I am always amazed at the nerve of those who live far away, while thinking they understand or have a right to comment on what we live with here in Israel. Extreme violence? Carnage? Heat of battle? Uncontrolled slaughter and death? This is what this man accuses me of? I don't really even know what I wrote that triggered the latest slanderous comments by this man or if it just his nasty personality that caused him to attack someone who hadn't even written to him.

Tell me, I want to ask him. Will it be your son or daughter on the next bus that gets blown up? No, of course not. His children are probably in America, aren’t they? Was it your son standing on our borders for 3 years? No, of course not. Why would they waste their time defending the Jewish homeland? After all, according to this man “Anyone who wants to kill an Arab just has to join the IDF and he'll get his shot.” Now, if that's not a simpleton's view of the IDF, I don't know what is.

I think the only thing that competes with this man's incredible ego is his incredible ignorance. Does he know any of the victims of those to be released this week for Gilad? No, I’m sure he doesn't. After all, if they went and got themselves killed, they must have been right-wing extremists, right?

What amazes me is that a child's violent death at the hands of a barbaric terrorist who swears to yet kill again cannot shake this man's great love of humanity; the slaughter of a Jewish infant cannot bother his as he bathes in the warm waters of humanity blind enough to think the whole world shares his views. According to which, I apparently wish death and destruction on all Arabs.

So he takes this opportunity, on my holiday, to accuse me of wanting bloodshed, carnage, violence? What caused this unprovoked attack? To be honest, given that it was over the holiday, I'm not sure. I did see his defense, that claimed that he “only” said, “she [that would be me] sings song of blood lust nearly every day. Which is true." See - he can not only make the claim, but deem it true. Quite impressive.

To this man, I say, if you think I sing a "song of blood lust" nearly every day, you haven't got a clue what I am saying...or singing, or what truth really is. For what it is worth, I will say again that you know nothing of me, of my life, of my beliefs and certainly, you know nothing of my religion (which apparently is very different from yours). My position remains - I want to live in peace. Peace in my country, peace in my family, peace with my neighbors next door and in the countries that surround mine.

I live, by choice and by commandment, in the land of Israel. There are many, like this man, who choose to live outside of Israel, ignoring a key mitzvah, while preaching to others how they should live, citing Torah and religion, preaching endlessly. He claims to know so much about the IDF and about everyone he deems “right-wing Jews.”

It is his choice to live outside Israel...but his loss for the choice he has made. To be clear, I do not care where he lives, only that he dares, from so far away, to question what we do here in Israel, to claim moral superiority, to judge, endlessly, those with whom he disagrees.

With no knowledge of anything but what he reads in the media, he sets himself up as judge and jury, perhaps even God. He knows nothing of our enemies, of their determination. But it is acceptable for him to attack us, to attack me. It is no accident this attack happened at a time when I could not respond, mere days after Yom Kippur. There are, religious Jews believe, no coincidences in life. All is planned – just as this man’s attack was. His actions are an example of why there is a Diaspora today, why the self-hatred of self-proclaimed Torah Jews defies the very meaning of what Torah is.

What can this man say to Arnold and Frimet Roth, who lost their daughter Malki in the Sbarro terrorist attack? What right does he even have to cause such people more pain when he judges them (and me) as wanting blood. All they ever wanted was for their daughter to grow, some day to marry and raise her own family. That dream was robbed from them and from Malki by several terrorists. Ten years later, Malki's friends are married and having children, while her memory is forever frozen, her life forever stolen from her.

One of her killers died in the suicide attack when he exploded himself, killing 15 and wounding dozens of others. Other killers, for they are killers no less than the suicide bomber, were caught, tried and imprisoned. Ahlam Tamimi was given 16 consecutive life sentences for her part in scoping out the place, escorting the suicide bomber through the checkpoint and to the attack. She helped fool the soldiers, who saw a smiling, laughing, relaxed young woman flirting with a young Palestinians carrying a guitar. Only the guitar had explosives in it and the soldiers didn't catch it...blinded, perhaps, by Tamimi's cursed smiles.

Ahlam Tamimi was asked in prison if she knows how many children were among the dead at Sbarro. When told it was eight of the 15, she smiled. She smiled. Do you understand that this is what we release this week for Gilad Shalit? Does this man accuse Ahlam Tamimi of blood lust? No, he accuses me.

Tamimi has gone on record as saying she is not sorry for what she did and that she is confident she will be released. She has also promised that she will do it again. She is scheduled to be deported to Jordan, where she has family. And someday soon, I have no doubt that she will be back. The trip from Jordan to Israel takes minutes; I see its hills from my window as I sit here typing. Within sight, within reach, Tamimi will come back to kill again. Her promise, not mine. Her blood lust, not mine.

Perhaps what prompted this man to accuse me of blood lust was that I said once Gilad is free, Israel should go hunting for these people? That Israel should stop Tamimi - a convicted murderer who has expressed no remorse, before she kills again. I want these 1,000 to spend the rest of their lives watching what they do, looking over their shoulders, remembering Israel will find them if they think to try to attack again.

What I really want is for them never again to engage in any terrorist activities. I know that Hamas will approach them. What great victory it will be if they can get these very people to kill again. What an insult to their enemies - to use the ones we free to kill again.

This American Jew lives in the Diaspora and preaches to Israel while endlessly showing his lack of understanding. He doesn't understand Hamas or the mentality that sees nothing wrong with bargaining for the return of killers. He apparently finds more disgust with our anger than with the celebrations that will soon take place in Gaza for the return of killers. Those most celebrated...will be those who have killed the most.

No, in this man's mind, the one who is wrong is me. I sit in my living room typing words. I have never killed anyone, not even with words. I have often written that I have never fired a gun, barely even touched one. I've never physically touched the trigger of a gun, though for the first time in my life, I begin to feel that the time has come to force myself to learn.

To bring myself utterly low before all eyes, I'll confess that I can't even kill bugs (except mosquitoes, but they don't count). Blood lust? My son went to war and my mind went back and forth between praying with all my heart that he wouldn't be hurt (or worse) and praying that he wouldn't be forced to kill others.

Is it wrong to hate those who murder our children, our innocents? I see Arabs almost every day - I am invariably polite to them, wish them well, inquire about their families. I have met Arabs with whom I could easily live as neighbors and I wish them no ill. I do not hate their religion. I do not hate them. There is no wish for extreme violence, bloodshed or death, nor do I lust for their blood.

In fact, I know that most of the ones I have met would prefer to live under Israeli rule- they have told me so in more conversations than I can count. They do not want to live under Palestinian control and they know, as I do, that health care is better, education of a higher level. Under Israel there is work, respectable work.

I do not ridicule the religion they practice...until others use that religion to attack our children. And then, yes, I hate. I hate the two Arabs who slithered into Itamar and murdered the Fogel family. My heart breaks and I choke on the anger caused by the thought that someone could slit the throat of a three month old baby. Is that blood lust? To me, blood lust is blind and without direction - uncontrolled death and destruction, says Wikipedia. You cannot use a term and redefine it to meet your purposes. That is what this man has done.

It is normal to hate a human who could slaughter an innocent like Hadas Fogel. But even in my hatred, I did not kill anyone; I did not plan and plot. At most, I typed 140 characters that seems to have offended this man's sense of humanity which he freely offers at Israel's expense.

It is, at best, a misbegotten accusation to say that I have a blood lust to see Arabs dead. I do long to see these prisoners remain in jail where I can be sure they will not kill...AGAIN. Ahlam Tamimi does not deserve another chance at life and worse, another chance to kill. Malki Roth and seven other children will not be given such a chance.

On his blog, this man pompously writes:
For every extremist defending Israel's every action no matter what, there's  *|his name|* showing that one can criticise Israel and still be a philosemite. In a generation where Orthodoxy's lamented slide to the right continues its embarrassing descent, *|his name|*'s a little tugboat pulling with all his might to the left. When newspapers are full of stories of Orthodox Jews acting unethically, superstitiously, or racist, there's *|his name|*showing that Orthodox Jews are not all unethical, superstitious or racist.
I guess I fall in the "extremist defending Israel's every action no matter what" - at least in this man's mind. And yet, I find it interesting, mere days after Yom Kippur, that this ever-so-righteous man who believes he stands for Orthodox Jews...feels it proper to attack another...during a time when I can't even respond. Sure, he said he didn't realize, he didn't calculate the time difference - but isn't that really an excuse? Does his timing matter more than what he said? Talk about unethical, talk about embarrassing...to accuse me of blood lust. Pathetic.

In a generation where too many find it easy to ignore the realities Israel faces daily and assume in their pompous way to understand, from 6,000 miles away, what we endure here, this man has much to atone for. His truth ignores the fears we live with, insults our religion and devalues our lives. No, all Orthodox Jews are not unethical - I would even offer the optimistic hope that most are not. Nor are the majority superstitious or racist. But too many, like this man, are blind and judgmental and that sin is surely as great as those he accuses of so many.

To want to see convicted murderers fulfill their sentences is not racist or wrong. To know, from their own words, that they will kill again if released, means we have an obligation to do all we can to ensure they don't get that chance.

In a few days, Gilad Shalit will hopefully come home to Israel after five long years. There is no shame is wishing the price we pay were not so high and there is tremendous honesty in admitting that the price we pay this week is likely nothing to the price we are about to pay. I suggest this man of Twitter fame re-examine his ego, his attitude and his motives before declaring himself so righteous and those who disagree with him the ones who have sinned.

I have not named this man on Twitter, though he named me. I invite his apology here as a guest blog, on his blog, and on Twitter. No, I don't expect it. God forbid he should actually practice the religion he preaches. But his loshen hara (evil speech) was recorded, as all such things are...only days...mere days...after Yom Kippur.

In my next post, I’ll tell you about his slander of the IDF.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Child's Murderer

I have some friends who have lost children - to sickness or accidents. I am amazed by their ability to put one foot in front of the other, to eat, to talk, to walk, to live. To laugh? Beyond my ability to even comprehend and yet somehow they do.

But what about when your child doesn't die because of an accident? An illness? What about when your child is taken from you on a sunny day when suddenly the world explodes - her world, and yours? The letter below is written by just such a parent. This is the father of Malki Roth, who was 15 years old, when she joined her friends at the Sbarro Pizzeria in the center of Jerusalem to enjoy her summer vacation - in August, 10 years ago.

A Palestinian woman helped plan an attack. She helped scope out the place, acted the girlfriend of the killer as they joked and fooled soldiers at the checkpoint looking for the typical suicide bomber. And finally, after escorting him to Sbarro...made her escape as he entered, positioned himself between families and teens, and destroyed forever dozens of lives and families. Ahlam Tamimi is her name - the female terrorist who has gone on record as saying that she doesn't regret her actions and when told that children had been killed...eight children...her response was to smile.

She said she is proud of what she did - and that she would be released, despite being sentenced to multiple life terms. I would have said she was wrong; that Israel would never release this woman. I want to call her so many names - none of them can I write here. The anger chokes...as of now, Tamimi is right. She is about to be released for Gilad Shalit and this is causing the families such incredible pain. Once when their children were killed. Once when Tamimi was caught, tried, and sentenced and they had to live it all again; and now again, when Tamimi is freed and Malki Roth's family and other victim's families have to suffer through a moment they prayed would never come, knowing their loved ones are lost to them forever.

I received the following letter and request to sign a petition from Malki's father and received his permission to reprint it. I hate online petitions - and yet I have signed this one and ask you to please sign it as well. You, members of your families, friends, contacts - anyone and everyone. Please take a moment to sign it - if not for justice, than for Malki and for her parents.

From Frimet and Arnold Roth:



Dear friends,

Please pass this heartfelt request along urgently to your contacts. It's a request to sign a petition, online here:
http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/remove-ahlam-tamimi-from-the-list-of-terrorists-to-be-f.html

Under normal circumstances, requests to sign a petition are unlikely to lead to any significant outcomes. In this case, we are hoping to do something important.

The petition asks for the removal of one specific name from the list of more than one thousand terrorists, including hundreds of convicted murderers, to be published by the government of Israel tomorrow, Sunday. That list is the basis of a transaction by which Israel will get back Gilad Shalit, held hostage by the terrorists of Hamas for more than five years. The deal involves Israel throwing open the gates of its top-security prisons and issuing wholesale pardons. My wife Frimet and I have expressed our principled objection to the deal. While others are busy trying to stop it in the courts, we are focusing our energies on one specific person, and getting her off the list.

Her name is Tamimi. An article in today's New York Times [ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/15/world/middleeast/israel-prisoner-swap-touches-old-wounds.html ] provides some background:


Among those is Ahlam Tamimi, a 31-year-old woman who was a key figure in the pizzeria attack. She is often described as the driver of the car that brought the suicide bomber to the Sbarro restaurant and killed 15 people. But the Roths say her role went far beyond that, to the actual planning of the attack. In interviews from prison, Ms. Tamimi, who was a journalist, has told of having brought the suicide bomber to Jerusalem and then going on Palestinian television’s afternoon broadcast to announce the news of the attack without acknowledging her involvement. “I’m not sorry for what I did,” she told an Israeli news organization in 2006. “I will get out of prison, and I refuse to recognize Israel’s existence. Discussions will only take place after Israel recognizes that this is Islamic land.”
The Roths said their anger over the prisoner exchange was focused on Ms. Tamimi, who is being sent to Jordan. She is young, fervent and charismatic, Mr. Roth said, and proud of what she did. In a documentary on Palestinian prisoners, she was asked whether she knew how many children had been killed in the attack. She did not. When told the number was eight, she smiled.
There is a fuller background about the circumstances in which our daughter was murdered on the Keren Malki website: http://www.kerenmalki.org/Sbarro_Massacre.htm


And there are many articles on the web tonight showing her family and supporters celebrating her impending return to freedom and to a full and active life as a heroine and inspiration.


Even if you do not normally sign petitions, or pass them along to friends, we ask you to seriously consider signing this one. Once again, it's online here:
http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/remove-ahlam-tamimi-from-the-list-of-terrorists-to-be-f.html

Time is very limited. We really only have until Sunday (16th October) to get a significant number of signatures. If we succeed, we can then put pressure on the Prime Minister's Office and the Justice Ministry and publicize this in the media.



Finally, allow me to mention that Keren Malki, the not-for-profit we created in our daughter's memory in 2001, does very work in our murdered daughter's name for the benefit of families raising a special-needs child. Your support for that work will be much appreciated. More at www.kerenmalki.org

Thank you for reading this far. Together with our friends and their friends, we hope - despite the odds - to do something constructive in the face of the terrible transaction being done with the terrorists of Hamas.



Arnold Roth

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sukkot, SWAT, and Cheating Posts

I'm cheating. I admit it - does that make it less cheating?

This is a post I made in 2008, a bit over a year after Elie entered the army. I remembered I wrote something about Sukkot, the holiday we are now celebrating and well, I like it so, I'm cheating and repeating it...

October 15, 2008


The Sukkah and the SWAT

It’s funny how we get impressions of things from words people use, only to find that we didn’t have a clue. I went to pick Elie up from his base to begin his shortened vacation. The army gave him five days, but then explained that they needed the soldiers to attend and help with two events – one on Thursday and one on Sunday.

Now, they have decided to pull in additional people so that each will only have to give up one day of their vacation. For Elie, this will be tomorrow. We agreed that I’d meet him at 10:00 this morning outside the base and, as often is the case, I was running a few minutes late. I’d expected him to call and with each passing mile, felt more comfortable.

“I’m on Kvish 6 [Highway 6]” I was going to say, hoping he’d call in just two minutes so I would actually be ON the highway and not within sight of it. Minutes past and I was cruising along – closer and closer.

“I’m two exits away,” was another answer I was ready to give. “Next exit,” I thought to myself with relief. I was now 10 minutes late, but Elie still had not called. As I exited the highway, I finally called Elie to find out that he was actually still at the shooting range somewhere, waiting for the bus to bring him back to the base.

“You’ll get there before me,” he told me when I explained where I was.

“Do you want me to come get you?”
“No, you can’t. But the bus will be here soon. It’s not really a bus…more like a SWAT vehicle.”
And there in my mind was the image of the large black vehicle I’d seen in my younger days, with the big SWAT letters on it. It would have those huge black doors with the shining chrome in the back that would swing open to allow the SWAT team to jump out. They were the cute actors that never got hurt, always saved the day and did it all within the allocated 60 minutes including commercials and promotions.

Give me five minutes and a laptop, and I’m fine. I’d planned in advance and brought along the computer so a delay was like a gift, found time for me. I parked the car, opened the windows, shut the motor and turned on the laptop. Though I thought it rather absurd, I decided to check if there was free wireless. To understand why this is ridiculous, you’d have to see that I was parked atop a hill, overlooking miles of open space. There were some houses in the distance, a Jewish village about a kilometer away, and this army base right in front.

Ever the optimist, I searched for a network and found two that were secure (probably army) and one from nabielya (I assume one of the Arab homes in the distance) that was not secured but the signal was weak.

So, with no wireless, the backup plan was to open Word and clear my head and write. (Take a peak at PaulaSays and you’ll see how often I write things not related to Elie.)
As I was sitting there, my brain full of thoughts, things I need to do, conversations I just had, the book I’m in the middle of reading, who I invited for what upcoming meal, I saw (and heard) this large, square, green, heavily-fortified vehicle pull up and enter the base. Without any real confirmation, I just knew that Elie was inside.

My first thought, as I tried to catch a glimpse of Elie through the small narrow windows that were not only very thick, but also covered with metal gratings, was that it didn’t look like a SWAT vehicle, at least not any I’d seen on TV. A few pairs of eyes peer out – too quick for me to see which, if any, were Elie’s. There was a place on the side with some sort of device that can be rotated. Even with my lack of training I can tell it’s for the soldiers within to shoot through if they came under attack.

There’s no question this thing is bullet-proof and probably more. I’m sure Elie’s been in it hundreds of times already. It’s funny that it should leave me feeling so…what is the right word…so impressed? No, that’s not it. Not surprised either. Intimidated? No, not in the least.

Serious. Maybe that’s it. It’s another reminder that this is not a game my son is playing. He isn’t just dressing up. To need such a vehicle, the army must feel that the threat against its soldiers is serious. No, I’m sure they don’t come under attack on a regular basis and using this vehicle is probably more for prevention. I think that’s the point of using it. It tells those who would think of trying to ambush them that there is really no reason to even try, no benefit. Why bother? It is seriously fortified, seriously bullet-proof, serious protection for our soldiers. The message has been delivered – see our soldiers in this vehicle, strong, sturdy, impenetrable. I can live with that.

This big green vehicle entered the base, a place I cannot go, while I waited outside. There was a gentle breeze; uncharacteristically cool for the season and the sky was almost solid clouds. It had rained on the way there. The base is located at a high point, as most bases are, and the view is outstanding – for miles around, I could see the beautiful land. Not a bad way to spend a few minutes.

The holiday of Sukkot, the one we are celebrating now, is very much about getting outside and understanding that no matter how strong the houses we build, we are, at our core, vulnerable.

During this holiday, for a week, we move from our seriously built homes to the sukkah, temporary dwellings that shake with the wind and leak through the branches that cover the opening to the sky. There is little shelter from the cold of night, the heat of day. We eat and sleep in these temporary dwellings to remind us that we cannot be safe all the time, that ultimately we are, as we have always been, at the mercy of God and whatever He has planned for us. And yet, we move into these flimsy things as a message. We trust You, God. Under Your protection, we are the safest of all.

And that’s when the irony and the parallel hit me. Elie returned from the army today, in a serious, sturdy, strong vehicle that has been tested to withstand all manner of attacks – by man. For all its strength, it is just a vehicle, as our homes are just bricks and cement and wood and whatever.

When we returned home, the first thing Elie did (as he often does) is head for the refrigerator where, to his delight, he found steak and stuffing and more. He warmed it all up, took it out to the sukkah and sat down to eat. There was joy in seeing my son in our family sukkah, having him home safe. And yes, there is joy in knowing that when he needs to be, there’s this SWAT-like vehicle that doesn’t look like any SWAT vehicle I ever imagined. Impressive, serious, sturdy and offering great protection. It is the message of the vehicle the army used to bring my son back to base, and it is the message of the Sukkah that we have been commanded to use each Sukkot.

Happy sukkot – where we learn that the most serious, sturdy protection comes from Above.

And the Warning in the Trade

I have no official capacity in the Israeli government, no power in the society. I am not a lawyer or a judge to help forge or enforce laws, nor a politician to help formulate them. I never served in the army and so have no control over how the generals will order our soldiers to react.

I am nothing but a mother. I can't say I speak for all mothers, or even for anyone but myself. I can say only that this is what I want the government to say, this is what I want politicians to pass into law. This is what I want judges to rule, lawyers to argue and most of all, generals to enforce.

So, here are my thoughts for the people I cannot reach, and my warnings on the trade:

Dear Palestinians:
There will be no more terrorist swaps. You've gotten your last exchange. Not because we will not try to get future kidnapped soldiers back, but because there will be nothing for which to exchange. We will, finally, fight force with force. If you send your sons to kill us, they will be killed. If you try to blow us up, you will be blown up. We will no longer issue orders that demand our soldiers shoot low and avoid your deaths.  
You do not care about your lives, why should we?  Enter our cities to die...and you will. Like any other nation, your deaths will be the natural result of the violence you cause. No longer can you rely on our humanity, our attempts to minimize casualties and injuries. 
If you dare to enter our towns to murder our children, we will stop you before...or we will hunt you down. And when we surround your homes and ask you to surrender, we hope you will fight us. And if at times we finally use the extreme force you regularly accuse us of, the world will remember this ridiculous exchange and understand. No other nation in the world would make a trade like this one. But despite how it looks, we are not stupid.
Enjoy these 1,000 prisoners because you'll get no more from us. If these 1,000 return to terror, our soldiers will shoot to kill. There will be a dramatic and mysterious lowering of the number of arrests and a concurrently large rise in fatalities among your terrorist organizations. Oh, and those that we release this week - they've been given a second chance to live their lives in peace and make the right choice. For each that makes the wrong one, there is a bullet with his name engraved on it and waiting. If they live their lives in peace, we will abide by our decision to release them; if they return to their terrorist roots, there will be no second trial. 
 Dear Israeli Politicians,
Israel has the death penalty for one crime only - the Holocaust. We have, in our 63 years of existence, only sentenced one man to death - Adolf Eichmann, for his part in the murder of over 6,000,000 Jews. It is time to amend that law to cover the terrorist murderers who attack our children. The Awad cousins should not be allowed to spend their time in prison waiting for the next prison release. In cold blood, they attacked the Fogel family and murdered Udi and Ruthi Fogel and their three children. 
They did it believing that their names will appear on some list in the future. Do not let their names or the names of others who commit such crimes to be part of a list. No more lists; no more exchanges. Even before the deal has been made, Hamas is already claiming that if we would release 1,000, we would release 4,000.
Pass the law and enforce it.  
And finally...

Dear Gilad,
You have sacrificed more than five years of your life for Israel. Your parents did all they could so that you would be free. Never blame them for failing to bring you home sooner. The choice to free you was never theirs. It was a decision made by this government, these leaders and perhaps these generals.
Any parent, all parents, would fight as your parents did. But you have to know one truth: in the future, others will die for the freedom you will hopefully receive this week. The guilt for the deaths to come will never rest on the head of your parents or on your head. It is natural and right for parents to fight for their sons; proper for someone to want to be free. Just as the decision to make this deal was never theirs; the responsibility for its outcome is not theirs to bear. 
We will bury many for the deal we make this week. You have to find the strength to know that it is not your fault, not your guilt. You have one job to do for Israel and your parents - and that is to live. To have the best life, the happiest one. Find a wonderful girl and have many Jewish children - that will be our answer to Hamas. Raise them as proud Israelis and let your sons fight to be combat soldiers as you did - that will be our answer to Hamas too.

The Pride in the Trade

I'll start with the positive - the pride.

We are releasing over 1,000 prisoners for one young man. Who are these 1,000...who is this one.

Gilad was 19 years old when he was kidnapped from Israeli territory that saw several soldiers murdered and Gilad dragged into Gaza. He was, initially, given a low profile for the army. Too low to be in combat. He fought the army to raise his profile and be allowed to fight in a combat unit. He was sent to join the tank division and was kidnapped shortly after finishing his training.

That's all I can tell you about Gilad - how much is there to tell of a 19 year old?

As for the 1,000 - they include:

  • Husam Badran, the former head of Hamas' military wing in the West Bank, who orchestrated the deadly terror attacks at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium in 2001, at the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002 and at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001.
  • Abdel Hadi Ghanem, an Islamic Jihad terrorist responsible for the 1989 terror attack on Egged bus 405, in which 16 Israelis were killed.
  • Fahad Schludi, a terror operative who took part in the 1993 abduction and murder of IDF soldier Yaron Chen.

  • Bassam Abu Sneina and Riyad Asila, who are serving a life sentence for the 1998 murder of yeshiva student Haim Kerman.
  • Nael al-Barghouthi, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1978, for murdering an Israeli security officer.
  • Yehiya As-Sinwar, who was one of the founders of Hamas' security forces in Gaza and was involved in the abduction and murder of IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman. He is also the brother of one of the terrorists involved in Gilad Shalit's kidnapping. 
  • Jihad Yarmur, who was convicted of Nachshon Wachsman's murder.
  • Ahmed Najar, former head of the Silwad terror cell, which killed three Israelis in six shooting attacks during the al-Aqsa Intifada.
  • Mohammed Hamada, who was convicted of planning a rocket attack on Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
  • Ruhi Musteha, a senior operative with Hamas' military wing. 
  • Muhammad Duglas, who was implicated in the Sbarro attack, and is serving 15 consecutive life sentences for the murder of 19 Israelis.
And this is only the start, the few we know now. So, now I'll tell you where the pride comes in...
The pride is that I live in a country willing to release 1,000 including terrorists and murderers, for one. I live in a country that values life and has agonized for five years for Gilad. So many times, Arabs have written to me saying that we could not possibly be doing this all for Gilad; that Gilad is just one.

Yes, of course he is just one. But part of our religion says that if you save a single life, it is as if you have saved the entire world. That concept is foreign to the Arabs and so they believe, in their utter stupidity, that they are getting the best of this deal, that this is a victory for them.

But you see, even though I worry about the future, the victory is ours because at the end of this swap, we will have Gilad - whose only "crime" was that he served his nation with honor. And they...they will be getting 1,000 who served nothing, who cherished death and terror. They will get hundreds who tried to kill, dozens who succeeded. They refill their land with murderers and we get Gilad.

It is the Arabs that have set the worth of Gilad at over 1,000 of them and I find I cannot disagree. Sure, I'm worried about the swap, worried what these 1,000 will yet do. As for Gilad, I hope he will return healthy and whole. I hope he'll find a girl, go to university, marry and have many children. I hope he will know that we have prayed for him for five years and never for a moment forgotten him.

So there is pride - I'd rather live in a land that traded for Gilad, than live in a society that traded for 1,000 lives dedicated to causing pain and death to others.

May God bless the people of Israel and the Shalit family - whatever happens this week, we chose life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gilad...Gilad...Finally...Gilad

I have been, throughout these long 1,935 days, forever torn between the desperate hope of getting Gilad home and the reality that releasing 1,000+ terrorists and murderers will bring about more kidnappings, more deaths, more terror. I remain, at this moment, torn - there is the glimmer of hope that Gilad will walk home, healthy and whole, that we will see him in his mother's arms at last. And there is the terror that the price we have paid is nothing compared to the price we will pay.

If all 1,000 of these Palestinians return to their homes and live their lives in peace, grateful that they cheated justice, but remain non-violent, than I will believe this deal was right and just. No, not just - that it will never be...but at least right. No one can know the future...and yet, everything inside of me believes that many of these 1,000 will yet kill again.

And yet, as I count the many possible responses, I know that one of the highest values we have in our religion is the need to redeem hostages. A day has not gone by in all these years that I haven't looked at my children and thought of Gilad. That sounds extreme and yet it is true.

I thought of Gilad when my son got married; when each son entered the army and when each left active service. I thought of Gilad at each ceremony that celebrated their advancing through the phases of their service and every Shabbat when my synagogue said a prayer for his return. I thought of him when it was cold and when it was hot, when the holidays came, when I was happy, sad, feeling lonely. And I think of Gilad now, what he is thinking - if he even knows about the deal.

Will they even tell him...or will they prolong his agony to the last possible moment? Will he know, even as they take him to a car, that at the end of this journey, he will see his parents again?

It is the holiday of Sukkot here in Israel. Family time and much talk of Gilad and the swap. My children are universally against the trade. They have no qualms, no hesitations. For them it is a simple matter to decide. "How many hundreds will die?" Davidi asked me tonight. He is fifteen years old and wants to know how many more attacks, how many more kidnappings.

I'm put in the amazing position of having to defend a trade that I don't even agree with, "how do you know those hundreds won't die anyway? There were attacks before they took Gilad, since they took him. There will be more."

There will be more..these are the words a mother says to her child?

Elie is angry about the trade. Shmulik disgusted. They all understand the simple equation. Release 1,000 for Gilad, and the Palestinians will ask for 2,000 next time. My oldest daughter listened to part of the list of prisoners to be released and is amazed. One was convicted of murdering 16 people; another of 15. One was sentenced to more than 20 consecutive life sentences - this is not justice.

I want to tell my children that Israel will do this deal for Gilad, but God help these terrorists if they try again. I want the government to make it clear - these terrorists will never again see the inside of an Israeli prison - next time they come to harm us, we will shoot to kill. I want to tell the world that the next time there is an Itamar attack, we will not have to hunt for the Awad cousins and their ilk because as we hunt them, there will inevitably be a showdown in which they will die because every soldier will know that what we imprison today, we will be forced to release tomorrow.

I want the army to tell its soldiers - take no more prisoners. Your life takes precedent. No more risks, no more hesitations, no more exchanges of those who murder our babies.

Elie was telling me some of the rules the army has for how soldiers respond to an incident. If a terrorist shoots fifteen people to death and then throws his weapon down, soldiers cannot respond with deadly force. They must bring him to justice. In Israel, the rule of law exists and so these murderers are tried and sentenced...and then, apparently, the rule of terror will prevail. That is the reality we must prove wrong...after we prove it right be releasing those who have murdered dozens of Israelis next week.

If a terrorist is under 16, Elie told me, soldiers cannot respond with deadly force. Elie joked about having to call out, "Wait, stop - before I can shoot you, I need to know how old you are?" Did the Palestinians ever care how old their victims are?

What I am left with is the simple reality - if all goes as planned, we will get Gilad back after more than 5 years. He was a boy of 19, now he is 25 years old. What was stolen from him, can never be returned. Some have urged me to be happy that Gilad will be free...I am happy for him, for his family. And at the same time, I am terrified of what the future will be and have two thoughts I'd like to share - I'll separate them in the next too posts...

One - is pride (see The Pride in the Trade).

Two - is a warning (see The Warning in the Trade).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Don’t worry, we still remember you...

Elie got his orders for the upcoming Reserve Duty - turns out it is one day and on a base very close to where we live. He thinks it would take him less time to walk there than to take buses because the first thing he would have to do is take a bus to Jerusalem (40 minutes) before taking the bus to base.

He got a piece of paper telling him how to get to the base. It comes with free bus passes on the day so that it will cost him nothing to get there (of course, he wants to take the car...but the thought is there anyway, if not the need). And another paper tells him what he will be doing - he's excited about learning something new.

And then he told me that a few days ago, he got a new year's card from the army, wishing him a good year. He laughed when he told me about it and said, "it's their way of telling you 'don't worry, we still remember you.'"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reserve Duty...

The new reality of my life as a soldier's mother seems to be waiting for notifications of reserve duty. Shmulik has been told that he will be serving in the Reserves on Yom Kippur. It isn't clear exactly what he will be doing. Most times, it seems, they take the boys who served in Hesder back in to go to various bases to help with preparation for the solemn day, as well as being there to be counted as part of the religious quorum  - the minyan, which requires 10 men.

Meanwhile, Elie told me yesterday that later this month, he's been called for two days. I don't know what they have planned for him either, but at least it is at a base not too far from home so I assume he will be able to come home at night rather than remain on base.

A new reality that Israel asks from its soldiers. You've served your time - now go make a life. Go live, find a girl, settle down, study, get a job, raise your children...but we'll be calling you back and when we do, you'll come. In a week, in a month. For a day, for a few days, for a week, for several weeks.

So much will happen to my sons in the next decade or two of their lives and yet the army will remain a constant within the framework of where they go. It is an amazing concept. Reserve Duty. You will serve your nation until you are 40 years old...it is, for a 21-year-old or a 24-year-old young man, a period of time beyond anything they can imagine. It is, for their mother, a daunting reminder of our lives here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

And Elie's Response to Assad?

Elie is on call again tonight with the ambulance squad. He came back as I had just finished the last post. I told him what Assad said...and waited for the response. He's tired; it's late. It took a second.

"SIX HOURS? HOURS?" he said with a grin.

Guess that about says it all...

President Assad's Six Hours

Today, Syrian President Assad allegedly met with the Foreign Minister of Turkey and allegedly told him, "I won't need more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets to Golan to fire at Tel Aviv." It reminded me of a conversation I had long ago with Elie about the Golan, his being stationed up there, and how a war could start at any moment.

It's frightening having a son moments away from a border, seconds away from war. One night, several months into his active service, he called me to tell me he wouldn't make the morning bus as we'd thought he would. He wouldn't be home for his father's 50th birthday party. He couldn't leave base. He wouldn't tell me why, only that he was on alert, all bases were on alert, and he couldn't leave. He ended the conversation - at 4:00 a.m. or so, by saying, "Don't worry." It was the night Israel attacked the beginnings of a Syrian nuclear plant (you can read about that night here). At 4:00 p.m. - 12 hours after he had awakened me, concerned that he'd be too busy to be able to call me at a normal time, I heard reports that Syria was claiming we'd bombed them.

Something had happened, that was clear, and Elie was stationed right there. Only days, weeks, and months later would he tell me about that night, about being on alert, waiting for the attack that didn't come. Elie came home a few days later when it was clear that all Syria was going to do was make noise. No war that time.

While he was home, then and other times, we talked about what would happen if Syria attacked. I don't want to write about what he told me, but the gist of it was that Syria could get in one good attack at most - if they were lucky, very lucky, and then Israel would flatten them. Their army, air force, artillery, are completely and entirely outclassed by Israel. Elie spoke of their training, of their terrain, of their motivation, of their equipment. In short, even dismissing the arrogance of youth, Syria is not what we worry about.

Elie mentioned a number - how long it would take Israel to respond. I remembered that number when reading Assad's claim that in six hours he could transfer hundreds of rockets to the Golan. What makes that man so stupid to think Israel would give him six hours? Not even one.

In a period of time measured in a fraction of that time, Israel would have taken to the air, to the borders and beyond. A few days ago I heard someone talk about the three things that make you an Israeli - one of them was having lived through a war here. I've been through more than one. They are terrifying days without a break. Fear for the people in the area, terror for the soldiers. Agony with each loss. When your son is in the war, you go around in a haze of terror. You are afraid to sleep - I slept more than one night holding my phone in my hand in case he called. You are afraid to awaken in the morning, knowing that you have to listen to the news and find out what happened while you were asleep.

You have to smile for people when they try to comfort you or tell you that you have to have faith and not be afraid, while your heart is screaming so loud...and yet no one else hears it.

I know there will be another war - sooner or perhaps later. I don't know if my sons...which of my sons...will be involved in it and as a statement of our reality here, I don't know which border it will be on. Lebanon, Syria. Gaza. Sinai. Perhaps even Jordan. The only great certainty is that it will be.

We've been warned by our leaders, and theirs, that the next war will include missiles on Tel Aviv, that all of Israel will be open to attack. These thoughts paralyze me with fear and make me wonder how I will gather my   children/ Which is a silly concept because at least three of them...and Chaim...and Yaakov if he is back here by then...are too old to be gathered. And yet that is what I will want to do.

But those are thoughts I push away because they offer no comfort and no control. And so I return to today. Assad's words today don't scare me, don't send me into a panic. They are the words of a leader whose people are rebelling, an emperor without his clothes. They are also the words of a very stupid man - six hours...no, Syria - rest assured, you won't have six hours to move missiles into position.

So the Thing Was...

a gas leak in a building. They called ambulance and emergency services and discussed evacuating the building but in the end, apparently it wasn't necessary and Elie came home - so thankfully - safe and sound a short time later.

So the thing was...nothing to worry about and I'm so proud of myself that I didn't...though today's news that they may be calling up more reserves to deal within ongoing unrest in Sinai doesn't please me. And I still worry about the violence that threatens us from the Palestinians when they don't get all that they want and demand...in exchange for...well, nothing, of course.

There's a "Thing"

We work hard to help our children communicate...and sometimes, we just plain...fail.

I'm sitting at the dining room table. Everyone else is fast asleep, even Choco the bird and Simba the dog. I heard footsteps upstairs - heavy ones. Davidi is away at school; Shmulik now lives downstairs with his wife. Without much work, I can easily know that the footsteps in the heavy boots are Elie's.

He came down and went straight for the keys. "Everything okay?" I ask.

"Yeah," he says as he begins to open the front door; realizes it is locked, and fumbles to open it.

"Where are you going?" I ask - gently and without pressure; really more out of curiosity.

As the door opens and he begins to walk through, I have no idea where or why he is going, other than his calling out, "there's a thing." And out he goes, already speaking into his beeper to confirm he's on his way. By a thing, I assume he means some emergency - hopefully nothing more than a car accident, and hopefully not even that. He's not on-call tonight, so whatever the "thing" is, his friend must have thought they might need more help and called Elie.

I guess I'll hear when he comes back what the "thing" was. But as I sit here, I'm wondering why deep down inside, I'm not really feeling anything> I'm not scared, not panicked, not nervous. What is wrong with me? Have I gotten used to this? Am I just too tired (I'm still working to finish a document and it's past midnight)?

Maybe I've finally forgotten that there is a normal beyond the abnormal that has become our lives here? I don't have the answers and I still have to finish one more page before I sleep so for now, I'll just hope that everyone at Elie's "thing" is okay, that Elie stays safe and comes home soon.

I guess when a "thing" happens, this wonderful sense of nothingness is the best you can hope for.

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