Sunday, November 27, 2011

Simply Brothers

Someday, I'm going to have to let Aliza grow up. I know it and I'm sure I'll let it happen, but right now, I still think of her as a little girl. She's almost 12. Wow, that sounds old. It's so much easier to say she is 11 and 3/4. She's an aunt; she babysits and still, she is my baby.

So my baby woke up this morning with a stomach ache. She slept late because we went last night to the youth group ceremony (B'nei Akiva, Shabbat Irgun) where each group gets their name. From fourth grade to eight grade, the names are set. A child that moves from 5th to 6th knows they will be part of the Ma'alot group, just as the last group in line knows they are "Ha-Roe". In 9th grade, something extraordinary happens. The group receives a unique name and each child carries it with them - literally for life.

"It's a diplomatic way of saying how old you are," one woman explained to me last night as I told her that I don't have a name, a group. I grew up in America - more, I grew up in a non-religious environment and the youth group I attended was much less organized than the massive organization that is known as B'nei Akiva. Each year on Shabbat Irgun (a Sabbath dedicated to the organization that follows a month of activities), two strings are stretched across the neighborhood basketball court and the parents, and even grandparents, come down off the bleachers and stand under the strings - each marked with a name - dating back as much as 50 years or more.

I'll try to write more about last night - and maybe I'll even upload some of the videos I took. That's for the next post or so - for now, I"ll explain that Aliza is still in bed because the children are given a few hours off school, knowing they will be out late - and they were.

So Aliza called me at the office a few minutes ago, She says her stomach hurts and her head hurts and she doesn't want to go to school, "Who's home?" she asked. Her father and the youngest of her three brothers.

"Is Elie working?" she asked.

"Yes," I answered, "he started this morning." Elie went last week to speak to the organization that handles security in the local mall. He was sure (and he was right) that they would be thrilled to add a combat soldier to their list of employees. Elie's already trained in much they need, beyond even the basics. What skills he brings are likely never to be needed and yet it raises the organization's standing simply to have a higher level combat soldier.

They'll send Elie to the same course they sent Shmulik to last week - but more of a formality and perhaps like the course in first aid that was mandatory during the army (see Respecting Knowledge), Elie will feel that he knows so much of what they will teach and may even disagree with some of what he learns. It will be interesting to see Elie handle this when the course is civilian and not military. Elie could likely teach the course, certainly when it comes to spotting and handling potential problems. Elie has handled Israelis who are annoyed by the delays.

Aliza contemplated Elie starting as a security guard. It was a surprise for her. "He decided 'cause he's getting married he needs to work or something? It's the second time they are meeting in work," she said. I know she is talking about Shmulik, who has been working as a security guard for about eight months ago.

But I love the way her mind works and I was already smiling as I prompted, "the second time?"

"They met in the army in the same time. It wasn't exactly work but same thing."

No, they weren't in the army together - not the same unit, not even the same time. They didn't do the same things and no, they never actually met while both were in uniform. Elie finished his service the same week Shmulik began his, but in the mind of a child, her brothers weren't home and that's what mattered.

We have been to the mall many times when Shmulik has been on shift. For Aliza, it is amusing to see her brother standing there at the entrance. She gets to walk through without hesitation (as do I) and smiles as if she is the most important girl in the mall - HER brother, after all, is the security guard. Now she will have Elie there sometimes too.

No, I don't want her to realize that soon both will not only be standing at the entrances, but will be armed. There is a serious side to being a security guard - a side I don't want her to think about, though I do.

Right now, Shmulik is happy to have the job close to home and his wife. Elie knows that he can earn more money being a security guard in Jerusalem, even more for the trains. By and large, the job of being a security guard in Maale Adumim is boring and uneventful. I can only think of two instances in the last 8 months that were out of the ordinary. One was when an imminently stupid woman left her child in a locked and closed car to go to the post office and a passerby saw the crying, very red young child and very correctly picked up a rock and smashed his way into the car - calling the security and ambulance at the same time. The child was fine...the mother rightfully taken for questioning.

The second was when an Arab came to the mall and was angry that Shmulik wanted to see his identification. The Arab works at the mall and was angry that Shmulik didn't know him and just automatically let him pass. When the Arab refused to cooperate, Shmulik called the police. The Arab was taken from the mall and escorted to the front of the city and both the security company and the police agreed that Shmulik had handled it correctly.

This is the side of being a security guard that Aliza doesn't know about, doesn't consider...this and so much more. I'm happy to have Elie working in the mall here in a quiet city that has, well, remained quiet. I really don't want him working in Jerusalem. It's the coward in me that I have to face...and yet I'm happy not to face it.

For now, I'll just enjoy Aliza's surprise at learning that her brothers are working close to each other (schedules and assignments allowing for it). I haven't had a chance to really discuss it with Shmulik to see how he feels about it. He's built friendships and staked a position there. Elie is louder and more decisive in personality. They are so different - Shmulik as physically strong but gentler in soul. Shmulik will come to a situation and watch; Elie will come and where he feels command is missing, he will step in. I can easily see how Shmulik goes to work and does the job; while Elie will evaluate and analyze how things are done, how they can be better, safer, more efficient. It's just a difference in who they are. Neither better than the other; both so different.

As a mother, it is interesting to watch how they handle situations. My oldest three children were born within five years of each other - and now will all marry within a five year period. Our family grows, shifts, absorbs, changes. It is a message of life they take with them. There are such blessings in your children, beyond all you could imagine before they came to you, beyond all you can imagine even as they grow.

I titled this blog post "Simply Brothers" - I'm not sure why now. Sometimes, I pick the title and then write it; sometimes I write it and then pick the title. Last night, I watched my youngest son at the youth group ceremony. He is in the oldest group - now replaced by the incoming group. Next year, he may choose to be a counselor in the organization - he already says he wants to be one. He was among the tallest. It was very cold as we sat outside watching the performances. I had a long shirt and a sweater, and I was still cold. Davidi had a short sleeve shirt. I asked him where his jacket was - he had given it to someone else and even though he was cold, he wouldn't take it back.

Simply brothers. Three of them - their own, and mine. So very mine. Two will now work as security guards, protecting others. It is, to some extent, a test of faith. To let them go, to let them be cold. To realize they are their own, even as they remain mine.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are you really who you say you are?

Elie came to Israel on an American passport at just over 6 years old. Cute little kid, he was. A year later, he used the same American passport to go with the family to visit his grandparents, who were ailing. He was too young to go to the funerals and so only returned about 2 years later for his uncle's wedding. That was about 14 years ago. It was the last time Elie was there. Another time, I'll write of the culture shock he is about to experience, the things he will see and do. For now, it is about the process of getting there.

As I've written a few times here, our passports all expired - Israeli and American. Elie is marrying a wonderful young lady who moved to Israel almost 2 years ago...from America. She travels to visit her family there and then returns...she has a passport.

So, in the weeks before a planned visit to her family to introduce her future husband, Elie has to run around renewing his Israeli and American passports. As an Israeli citizen, he must exit the country as an Israeli. As an American, it is easier for him to enter the US as an American than to spend a long time applying for a VISA.

He went to the Israeli Interior Ministry - right here in our local mall. He gave them his expired passport, some photos and his identity card, and paid 250 NIS (about $70). It will be ready in a few days.

The United States formally recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Each presidential hopeful flirts with the American Jewish community - it is happening already. This one promises if elected, his first visit will be to Israel (wonderful, more traffic); another offers other promises. Obama, like every Democrat before him, promised to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

I am not an expert on US diplomacy; though I'm pretty good at recognizing lies and hypocrisy. I don't know how many US Embassies are located in places other than the capital of a country, but year after year, politician after politician promises they will finally move the embassy to Jerusalem...and then they sign an extension leaving it in Tel Aviv.

So, to get an American passport, Elie had to travel to Tel Aviv. That took him a bit over an hour. He carried with him his birth certificate (from NJ), his social security card, all his Israeli identity cards including his army ID and "combat soldier ID", passport pictures, several hundred shekels (the cost to renew was $130; the fine for not renewing was waived because it expired before he turned 18), and pictures.

This is where it gets interesting. The document also states that the applicant must give "a series of photos showing age progression from the time of your last passport through today." We began scrambling to find pictures, pulling them from albums, from piles of pictures waiting to be put in albums, sorting through digital pictures. Elie had the passport picture - that covers today. He had his Israeli driver's license and ID - that covers from the time he was 17 until today. He left America at age 6.

We found one from when he was about 8 and another from when he was 11. It wasn't enough. "I can see how this boy in the passport gets to this one and this one," said the clerk, "and I can see how the Israeli ID card gets to the driver's license and to the army ID, but I need more pictures in between."

He told me about the security in the place - how they asked him if he had anything electronic on him. He wasn't allowed to take his phone inside either. Both had to be left across the street at a shop that has a series of lockers. You pay $15 and you put all your stuff inside there and go back to the Embassy.

There was a woman there who spoke no Hebrew; one that spoke Hebrew, but almost no English, and finally one that spoke both languages. "Which language did you speak?" I asked him.

"Both," he answered.

He told me there were American flags everywhere inside. I think it was a bit of a culture shock for him. Elie came back home and we began looking for more pictures. Can you tell the story of a boy in pictures?

There he is with his father, learning for the first time how to put on tefillin. Something he does every weekday morning. He looks so serious there as he watches his father wrap the strap around his fingers. It is a binding - a binding of love between Elie and God that should last him all his life. My husband looks so young there.

This was our first son that we brought to bar mitzvah - the age where he becomes responsible for the paths he will choose. I look at the boy, and at the man that he has become, and I'm proud.

Yes, there are things I would change - he still has a temper and his room is still a mess but he has conquered mountains and learned more than I will ever know. In this picture, he is starting his life as a mitzvah-observant Jew. Yes, he had said the morning, afternoon, and evening prayers before this picture was taken, long before, but this was the actual day (the night before, actually, but still counts as the day); just as now he is starting a new life as a partner to someone else.

No, I don't expect the embassy to do more than look at the face and trace this connection they think they need from the birth certificate and other pictures to today. But I look, I see. The rest of the pictures are digital and stored on computers. The actual dates of when the pictures were taken have been lost as files are copied from one computer to the next.

I am guessing based on the ages of my youngest daughter. It's curious how often she is with Elie. Look how he holds her hands, how she sits there calmly.

In this one, she looks about 3 years old; that would make Elie around 16. He has changed, matured and still he holds her hands as he shows her something. I don't know what he was teaching her but her face is filled with wonder. This is the boy I wanted him to be. There's an innocence around him - or is it only me that sees it? This is before...before he learned things I never wanted him to know. The things I see in his face are no longer there in him.

His dreams of the future are there, but they are tempered with knowledge and maturity. Is it only me that sees it?


In the next one, Aliza is six years old; Elie is 19. He is months away from going to the army. We went ice skating up north (in one of the two real ice skating rings that I know about in the whole country). Elie held her, kept her from falling. Around and around they went - always he gripped her hand.

His face is too small in this picture - the embassy can see the shape. I don't know what camera I used, but the picture is too low in quality to let me see more than the body language as they stopped on the ice to pose for me.

The first time he came home from the army wearing a uniform, I took a picture of him. He was so proud to return to us, happy with what the army intended for him. He still looks so young in this picture. It was taken when he was 19, but already closer to 20. He had barely walked into the house for that first time home before I grabbed the camera and insisted we take pictures.

The beret on his right shoulder marks him as a new soldier - he has not yet been given the turquoise beret of the artillery division because he is only days into his basic training. He's happy here - happy to be home and free for a few days.

This was the end of the pictures Elie felt he needed to give the embassy to qualify for the "series of photos."

"They have my army ID photo and the cartis lochem photo." (A special card is issued to combat soldiers - this is the picture he gave them as well). He didn't think they needed the picture I have used on the blog - the one to the right here that I have loved for years. The job is done. Elie believes with these pictures, the embassy will agree that he is who he says he is and they'll give him the passport.

For me, it's been a nice journey back, seeing the boy - the little boy with the beautiful blue eyes....laughing as he is dressed in his costume for the Purim holiday. It's funny that the picture I found easily was the one where he had dressed up as a soldier - he was a clown once, a policeman, some animal...I think, several cartoon characters...now...now he's Elie again, an occasional soldier, a frequent medic, always a son and within a few  months, always a husband.

Tonight they went to see another place and a band. It's the first time I haven't gone along with them - we already picked out the place they wanted, though they thought to go and see one more place tonight. Wedding plans are moving forward - the hall, the band, the photographer - and today, the passports.

A Clock Ticking

Elie getting a passport to go to the States to visit Lauren's family has gotten me thinking. Years and years ago, we were in the north. I think I've written about it before. The story is simple. Wonderful vacation with the kids. I think we had four at the time. Leisurely days in the north. We rented an apartment very close to the Lebanese border and did day trips all around.

On our way back one evening, we stopped in the northern city of Kiryat Shemona and purchased food for dinner. We drove back to the apartment - I think I remember it being no more than a ten minute drive. We unloaded and the kids went to watch TV while we quickly started the barbecue. My husband was outside...I was inside when I heard two loud booms - seconds apart.

In the clarity of that moment, I knew katyusha rockets had been fired at Israel and had landed nearby. I had never heard a rocket - but I knew. I ran outside and made my husband come into the apartment. We didn't know where the bomb shelter was; we didn't know where to go. The apartment owner came to us right away and we asked what to do. He took us deeper into his house and told us to stay in the stairwell - it was the most protected area of the house, he said, while he went to check what was happening. We heard the army order people into bomb shelters and here we were in the house.

The owner explained that the bomb shelters weren't cleaned out and the best place was where we were. We tried to believe he was right, that we were being responsible. Within 30 minutes, the army gave the all clear to let people resume what they were doing. The vast majority of the tourists (Israelis visiting from central and southern Israel who regularly fill Israel's northern areas in the heat of the summer - like us), went scrambling home as fast as they could. The north was virtually evacuated of visitors; the residents remained. You could almost see them shaking their heads in wonder as to why people had left.

We decided to spend the night - but compromised by pulling mattresses into the stairwell. All camped out, trying to make it fun; Elie began telling us he wanted to go home.

There are moments in your life you remember. Crystal clear. You know this is a turning moment - I hope for Elie, certainly for me. No, we told him. No, we won't run. The army says it is safe; the people who live here all the time say it is safe. We aren't running. Would you run if it was your home? Why is this less your home than where we live. No.

What we did - without telling the children - was switch our plans. The next day, rather than stay in the Galilee area, we drove north and east into the Golan Heights, hoping that if more rockets fell, they wouldn't be able to target the Golan, which lay so much higher than the Galilee fields and hills. When we returned home later that week no further rockets had been fired other than the one...no, it wasn't two. What I took for two was the sound of it being fired - outgoing from Lebanon, and the sound of it landing - incoming to one of Israel's cities where damage was caused...close to where we'd made our purchases just 15 or so minutes before.

We also came back to some very unhappy relatives who felt we should have left after the rocket attack. They'd heard about it - even in the States, and felt we were irresponsible parents. Why this whole story?

Because I feel a clock is ticking with Iran and I don't have passports for my children...and I don't want to get them. I don't want my children leaving Israel. I can close my eyes and see horrible war scenes, smoke in the streets. Would this be the Jewish people's last stand? Where else should it be but Israel? No, I do not believe it will happen - it comes back to my overly active imagination. I can see things, smell them, feel them - if my brain only thinks it.

Another quick story - when my oldest daughter completed the advanced ambulance training program for handling multiple casualty incidents, they invited the parents to a demonstration. At the time, buses were exploding regularly and so the simulation was a terrorist attack. The kids - all around 16 years old, simulated setting up a triage area, bringing in the wounded (more kids carried on stretchers by other kids). The day was clear and bright; the kids were laughing because some "patients" fell off the stretchers while over-acting. Parents were smiling, and I was standing there crying. I was so embarrassed. I was yelling silently to my brain - stop, stop thinking this is real. There's no black smoke. The sirens are just part of it. Stop.

So at times, I do this with Iran - what would happen if Iran really did fire a nuclear weapon at Israel? I don't really have much faith in most of the world. The French will moan; even the Germans and the English will do little. The Swedes and Norwegians might actually cheer. The Americans might come...but it would be too late, wouldn't it? And if there were some war scene with hundreds of Americans trying to get out - trying to approach the American embassy...as I've seen in some foreign countries...I have no passport to prove who we are...and even if I did...would I want to.

I have no other land, no other place but here. I don't want to leave...this is where, hopefully way way in the future, I want to die and be buried. Am I being an irresponsible parent?

And this brings me to something Elie said recently. Israel is, as far as I know, the only place in the world that during a war, there are more people flying into the war zone than out of it. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands of Israelis all over the world will come home as fast as the planes can bring them. Even those who live abroad, fly home to fight. I wonder if they feel the clock ticking?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The First Real Storm

I don't think I have cursed the rain in more than 18 years. Growing up, rain was this regular thing that happened at least once a week and sometimes two. More than that, and it was just miserable. Rain was that thing that came and messed up plans and worse, you couldn't really plan around it.

It rains in Israel from about November to somewhere in March - no, not every day and sometimes not for weeks. It rains for a day, here or there, sometimes two or three days. Rarely more than that. It might be my imagination, but I think it rains more at night than during the day. More than that - when the rains stop - perhaps early April...that's it. There is almost never any rain again until late October...sometimes even late November.

If you want to plan a wedding in June - you can worry if it will be too hot, but never if it will rain. It's always fun to listen to the weather reporter during the summer months. Today was hot...tomorrow...the same. But winter comes to Israel and when it does, the rains fall. We start the season with prayers for the rain...and then continue to pray three times a day for it every single day through the winter.

Last week, we had our first big storm of the winter...we hope it wasn't the only storm and that even bigger ones will come in the weeks and months ahead. And I think that's something so special about Israel. Someone will say, "oh, the weather is supposed to be cold and storming...thank God."

We praise the rain, we welcome it, we rejoice in it. Last week - it rained and rained. The ground soaked it up and as we drove north yesterday, puddles remained in the fields. It was wonderful - the kind of weather I love so much.

I guess you can see that I don't have much to write about if I am writing about the weather...but there is something so special about rain in Israel.

As for the family - we are all adjusting to the wonderful news that Elie is marrying Lauren. My older daughter has returned to her studies after a year off (a  year in which she gave me a beautiful grandson). Shmulik is taking a course this week for the security company he works for. The course allows him to be an armed guard - rather than "just" the one who checks bags and trunks in the mall.

It means he is supposed to run to danger, not run from it. It means he will be armed; will be bringing a gun home. He is spending the week training - shooting, running, showing that he is physically fit. The group taking the course are mainly young men, post-army. There is one older man. I can't say how old he is. It might be funny to ask. Shmulik acted as if he was in his 60s. It would be funny to find out he is in his late 30s or 40s. They made them run a kilometer in 5 minutes. The "old" man took 6 minutes but they kept him in the course and he insisted on doing everything the younger men were doing.

Another week, and Shmulik will move into another category at work. He says it will be less boring. In the meantime, Elie has decided to earn some extra money as well - he too has decided to work as a security guard while getting married, studying, etc. He went today and the security company is anxious to have him. Elie believes it is because he was a combat soldier with experience. He too will be sent to the course where Shmulik is this week.

My two younger children are in school - working hard and enjoying what is called "Chodesh Irgun" - a month dedicated to a youth organization. They have tons of activities and then the parents come to listen to them perform. It's a busy time - wedding plans are moving forward - I've been to a bunch of wedding halls, another one tonight.

Bands, photographers, soon apartments, furniture - I'm exhausted thinking about it - but more, I'm blessed. The rain comes in and cleans the air, the streets, the soul. Your children grown and they find another. Like the seasons, things move forward.

May it be a winter filled with rain. May Israel's seas fill as our lives fill with the wonder of each season.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Israel vs. Iran - the movie?

I am always amazed by people who can create videos...that say so much. This one is an example -

Israel's Secret Weapon Against Iran

I love how people ask me what Israel will do - as if I would know. I am a citizen of Israel; I have my opinion. But I would guess that you can count on a very few hands how many people KNOW what Israel will do and I sincerely doubt the President of the United States is one of them. I would guess that you could count on less than one hand how many people KNOW the timing of when Israel might do something, and I KNOW that the President of the United States is not one of them.

And yet, I know the weapon, the true weapon, Israel will use if and when it attacks Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Some will dismiss this as whimsical. If you are of that type, you can stop reading right here because you are probably right and oh, so wrong. Some will say that God Himself will avenge, in advance, anyone who would dare to attack His people. Sadly, we know that is not true. Even today, there remain survivors who can tell you of a time when God allowed His people to suffer. If you are expecting me to say that God will handle Iran, here too you may want to stop.

So let me tell anyone who has continued past the previous comments what I believe, what I know, about what will happen. I believe that if the world will not stop Iran - and I believe with all its talk, it won't - then yes, Israel will attack Iran and, if it does, it will, most definitely, use a secret weapon. It isn't so much secret as one that is denied. We've used it in the past, in the distant past and in the recent past.

There was a meeting once at West Point in which an American general spoke to new cadets. I have heard his name, but can't remember it - so perhaps someone can help me with  more of the details of the speech he gave. What I remember from the story was that the general cited many different battles in history as examples of great historical military strategies. One cadet raised his hand and asked why the general did not include any of Israel's battles. The general refused to answer, telling the cadet to see him after the speech. When the cadet approached the general quietly at the end and asked his question again, the general explained that he could not use Israel's military strategy because they were, from a military point of view, impossible. He told the cadet that what Israel had accomplished was physically, historically, militarily impossible. No, he didn't deny that Israel had done it - only that, essentially, without God (and I would add our secret weapon), we could never have done what we did. That cadet chose to leave West Point. He came to live in Israel and joined the army here.

As for our secret weapon - it is a combination of two great forces - determination and desperation. That simple - and that impossible to duplicate. In 1948, a nation of vastly outnumbered, under-armed, badly trained, and with the added weight of tens of thousands of half-starved, empty-handed refugees from hell - defeated five standing armies. In battles to great to count, victory by the weak was delivered - by God and by  the knowledge that there was no other place, no other land. The Arab threat to push the Jews into the sea was both dramatic and accurate - that was the only real place they had left.

On Yom Kippur (October 6, 1973), when Israelis were in the synagogues praying, Egypt and Syria launched a war against them. About 1,400 Syrian tanks faced off against 170 Israeli tanks. Within three days, scores of Syrian tanks had been destroyed, at the cost of almost 3/4 of the Israeli tanks. By October 9th, the third day of the war, Israel was down to just 6 tanks. In a valley that has since been called the Valley of Tears, a young Israeli named Avigdor Kahalani was facing impossible odds. He had only a handful of tanks and defeat was certain. Kahalani called his situation in, and was ordered to withdraw. He wanted help - that's why he called, and he was told to retreat.

Kahalani refused - he complained to command that he couldn't hear them and that he was going on. In a battle that could only be described as half mad, he ordered his tanks to spread out and fire wildly in all directions. The Syrians believed that reinforcements had arrived and fell back. Determination and desperation. Kahalani knew that if the Syrians came down off the Golan Heights, all of Israel lay before them.

Will Israel attack Iran? When will it happen? Will it happen? I could enter the pool of guessing games; I could tell you what I believe, which has no basis in reality. But rather, I'll say something else.

We did not come to this land to be taken from it. I do not believe God will ever allow us to be exiled again. Elie is organizing his passport to travel with his future wife to visit her family. His passports are all expired - all of ours are expired. People keep saying we should get them renewed and I know they are right and yet I hesitate. I will not leave this land. The Iranians will not succeed, nor will the Syrians or the Palestinians.

Our secret weapon is that we have no where else to go, no other land that is ours. There are more than 20 other Arab countries; there is only one Jewish one. We would like to live in peace with our neighbors and as soon as they agree, we might actually have a shot at it someday.

In the meantime, Israel may have to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure because we may not have a choice. If we do, I believe with complete faith, that we go with God as our Pilot. We will succeed - because we are determined, because we are desperate, because ultimately, our secret weapon is that we don't have 19 other lands from which to choose from...only Israel, always Israel.

How do you NOT know?

Gee...that was a challenge.

My ankle is better, but still not there. Worse, I keep abusing it by walking too much and not keeping it elevated. I'm trying - but I'm not the greatest when it comes to taking care of myself. It's something I inherited and by the time my mother learned to take care of herself - the lesson she had taught me was too deeply ingrained. I'm trying to break it - and not succeeding nearly well enough - case in point, my ankle.

Elie, my husband, and Shmulik are wonderful. They are doing all they can to drive me wherever, whenever. Today, it was Elie again. We talked of his wedding, plans for travel they have, where they will live, and the traffic. Oh, the traffic. There is a pattern in Israel. Some days, it is bad. Other days it is worse - and yet, nothing rivals the traffic jams I remember as a young driver trying to get into New York City. For the most part, the traffic in Israel moves...slowly.

The problem is, I've been here long enough to forget that some people think that when the traffic is at least moving, that's an improvement. So, today, we sailed up the mountain towards Jerusalem, sailed past the checkpoint. Yes, we watched the soldiers enter and walk through both a Jewish bus and an Arab bus in the seconds we passed through the third (relatively clear) lane of traffic.

And then, we hit the jam coming through the tunnel under Mount Scopus and Jerusalem's prestigious Hebrew University. On the other side of the tunnel, more traffic. We came to a light and Elie said something about the car in front of us. It was an unmarked police car.

"How can you tell it's a police car?" I asked him.

"How do you not know?" he asked - and then he pointed out one very clear indication and explained what it was. He told me that one time while on a checkpoint, a car approached. The men inside were in regular clothes; the license plate on the car a regular Israeli license plate. In Israel, we have the standard yellow background with black numbers, red background with white letters (police); black background with white letters (army); and white background with green numbers (usually non-Israeli Arab vehicles.

As the car approached, he said something to the policemen. "How do you know we are policemen?" one asked Elie.

"How could anyone not know?" Elie answered him. First, Israeli cars weren't allowed in that area - only Arab vehicles. Second - there was the same tell-tale sign Elie pointed out to me. "Do you think the Arabs can't tell that you're police?" has asked them. "They know better than anyone."

Well, I didn't know - although now I do. Of course, that isn't going to change how I drive, but at least now, I can smile a bit. I won't say what the thing is, but after Elie described this scene with the police officers, I could just see them pulling up and having this young soldier blow their cover. They thought they were so cool, so anonymous...and this 20-year-old kid IDs them. Yeah, I love it.

Anger Comes from Fear?

I heard a man speak tonight at a meeting I went to. I went in expecting the meeting to be a disappointment and it went as expected. Perhaps to prepare the participants for what was to come, the meeting coordinators asked a rabbi to come give an introduction - a bit of Torah wisdom, they said.

Interestingly enough, the rabbi they asked to speak is one that is relatively new to the community (the rabbi of many years has resigned recently; he like several others choosing to take himself and his prayers elsewhere). So this man stood up and I listened to him, knowing that he was somewhat involved in some of the nastiness - not so much in the causing of it, but in ignoring it and helping find a way to increase the hurt it caused.

 I was raised on the principle that those who ignore evil claim a hand in promoting it. I believe this rabbi certainly helped promote it and was curious to see what he would say. He served his purpose well. The community, or much of it, is still saddened by the rabbi choosing to resign; this man stood up and announced the synagogue didn't really need a rabbi - and if it did, he would apply for the job. He then suggested a "rabbinical council" be established.

The well known phrase "all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." is a principle that guides my life. This rabbi was one of many who stood by and let evil prevail - and then he stood up tonight to lecture the crowd. When he was finished, the meeting was every bit as nasty as I'd expected and resulted in continuing much of the same nonsense that has been for a long time. The politics of it was not a surprise, nor the failings of those who stood in silence while the actions of some were condoned...or at least ignored.

Though it would serve some right if I were to write about the nastiness that prompted this post, I rather focus now on a philosophical question the rabbi presented. He said, "anger comes from fear" and the phrase stuck in my mind. I can believe that anger could be a defense mechanism over something you fear, but no, I don't accept that anger comes from fear.

You can be angry because you fear something; you can fear something that makes you angry. But no - there is not always a direct connection. Anger can result from abuse - as it does in this case. Anger can result from hypocrisy - as it does here as well.

Fear? No...fear is an interesting emotion and in some ways, it is actually the opposite of anger. I think fear cripples you while anger can spur you to action. Fear makes you doubt, perhaps makes you timid enough to accept injustice; anger can make you study a situation more carefully seeking a resolution.

Neither emotion sits well - we work to resolve both because neither is particularly healthy but fear is internal, I think, while anger is external. It is rarely possible to exorcise real fear because this is typically caused by events outside your control. The cause is usually external - the emotion buried deep inside (internal). I felt real fear when Elie went to war, on nights I knew he or Shmulik were "out there." I felt real fear the night Israel went into Syria to bomb the makings of a nuclear site...I had the fear, even without the knowledge of what was happening. None of these things were in my control - none could be resolved by any action I could take. I felt fear when I lived in New York and a young man entered the building just after me and grabbed my necklace and ran. All these are externally caused; felt deep inside.

By contrast, anger is something you can control. I can choose to be angry about the actions of others - something one man did to hurt my family, lies told about something we never said, etc. - or I can choose to exorcise that anger with faith. I firmly believe that the injustices done in this world are part of an accounting. We do not know how this accounting is tallied but I believe it is just. It is therefore up to us to have the faith to trust this accounting rather than give in to the anger we feel.

The anger that comes from someone publicly wronging you - can be resolved - not by fear and not by lies, but by a faith deep enough to believe that all things happen for a reason, even the lies others tell. Where there is no justice delivered by others, you can deliver justice yourself by accepting and letting the anger wash away. Today, this man wins...but really, hasn't he already lost more than he gained by these disgusting actions? The blessings in my life, my children, the wedding last year and now again this year - all these wash the anger away and help me to focus on the important things.

Years ago, a young boy ran into the path of my car. He smashed into the side of the car, denting it just above the wheel. The impact of this collision caused him to fall back, crack his skull, break his shoulder and get a concussion. Though he recuperated completely, I agonized for a long time wondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent his being injured. Ultimately, I realized that had I been traveling any slower - he would have been in front of my car and likely crushed and killed, rather than hitting the side of my car and bouncing off. As badly as he was hurt, it could have been so much worse.

He hit my car; I didn't hit him. He ran between a wall and a car - too short for me to see him as he ran without looking into the street. A friend who was there at the time came over to me and said that I had to ask myself why God had chosen for this to happen, to this boy, to me, at that time of the year (right before Rosh Hashana). Though I've lost a great deal of respect for this person since that time - he was one of several who stood and did nothing when evil lashed out at an innocent person - there was something in what he said that day.

If you believe that all things have a purpose and are part of a greater plan - the anger melts away. As the anger goes, there is acceptance. In this world and in the next, we all pay for what we do in this world. If you've been wronged - there is comfort in this concept and so the anger goes.

Does anger come from fear? No, it really doesn't. It does come from a lack of faith, of trusting God to seek justice where man fails. How does this relate to being a soldier's mother? I guess it doesn't except that Elie and Shmulik are angry about the same situation. One son tells us to just leave the place that has caused us this pain; the second says to blow it up sky-high so that all can see the hypocrisy and the evil done. Tonight's meeting sets me free - as I have not been in more than 8 months.

For all that time, I hoped for a resolution, a way out. Tonight's meeting proved that was a false hope, proved that evil will triumph with the help of good people. Tonight, good people not only helped, they led the battle. I think as parents, our role is to teach our children to have faith - faith that where man often fails, God never does. I left the meeting angry but that melts away as I focus on the richness of what I do have.

Several friends stood by us tonight - as angry and disgusted as we were. Several called or sent us messages telling us that they care. Elie is getting married to a wonderful girl; Shmulik is happy; my daughter is a mother, thrilled with her baby and her husband. My family continues to grow.

As for anger - no - it doesn't come from fear. It comes from a momentary loss of focus - when we forget, even for an instance, that there is a greater Hand at play.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sitting in the Hot Seat

Sounds like a great title, no? You're wanting to know who is sitting in the hot seat...and what they did to get there right?

Well - let me explain.

About four years ago, we bought a really cool Honda Civic Hybrid - with seats that have this wonderful automatic warming system. We bought the car at the end of December...it was cold...well, at least as cold as Israel gets. I turned this wonderful thing on...the first day, it was heaven. The second day, it was heaven. By the third day, I felt like my bones were melting. I've barely used it since.

A few days ago, by accident, I clicked the heat onto HIGH on the driver's seat and as expected, it warmed the seat very nicely...um...only I wasn't sitting in there - it was another one of those great days that Elie was driving me around to give me more time for my ankle to heal. The problem was, when he told me what I'd done...I laughed. I might have gotten away with it - it was an accident, after all, if I hadn't laughed. Drat.

Since then, the little sneak has been turning MY seat on...and laughing when I realize that IT'S HOT!

So, once again today, I was sitting in the hot seat...and I can't even tell you that I'm going to get him back because I have a problem - no, Elie doesn't read the blog, Shmulik doesn't read the blog - I'm not even sure if my own mother reads the blog...oy, but Lauren does!

And her mother (a wonderful lady I'm looking forward to meeting)...and apparently, half the people I know - somehow have connections to Lauren that I didn't even know about. Two of my former students...a friend in town who is friends with one of Lauren's aunt/uncle...so, I'm surrendering my freedom a bit. Oh, it's so incredibly worth it...just a new reality - sort of like putting me in the hot seat :-)

So...since there might be spies, I can't tell you when...but one day soon, that switch is going on high! And this time, it won't be by accident!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Whats and Whys of Migration - Israel-Style

I can explain the science of it, the wonder of it, or I can show you.

Science will explain that the land of Israel is the bridge between Asia and Africa, perhaps even Europe. Science will explain that as it becomes cold in Europe, huge numbers of birds migrate south to Africa and then make the return trip as Europe begins to warm in the Spring. Science will tell you of air currents and pathways, of bird habits and such. Science can explain the what, but not the why - the why is found in the wonder.

The wonder of it is looking up and seeing huge amounts of birds flying in one direction or another, circling the land as if to show off their beauty, a thanks, perhaps, for our brief hospitality before they move on. Perhaps, just perhaps, they feel the holiness here and want to spend that extra bit of time flying through the air, looking down upon this wonderful land. The why, I think, is a joining of land and sky for that brief period of time, twice a year.

The pilots who fly our skies hate it but the rest of us, I hope, take the time to look up and welcome them. To see the colors, the shapes, the grace.

But sometimes words don't work nearly as well as pictures and so - I offer you the wonder of Israel's skies (with a thanks to @thekotel).


Bird Migration above Israel - Autumn 2011 from Yuval dax on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

And lest you think...

And lest you think Elie has suddenly grown out of who he is as a result of being engaged, please meet my donut.

It's a tradition in Israel to eat filled donuts (usually jelly donuts) around Hanuka time. Somehow, this has stretched to weeks before the actual holiday and fillings beyond jelly. I usually don't buy these donuts until the actual holiday, and even then, usually only once or twice during the entire 8 days.

But today, I was happy and hungry and decided to treat Elie (and me). Two donuts - with caramel filling. He ate his even before we reached the office. I saved mine. I smeared the caramel on the top a bit and licked my finger but left it whole moments after Elie had finished his.

I wanted to enjoy my donut and not think about calories and oil and stuff and so...I put it on my desk and went to get a drink. I am one of those people who really need to drink something whenever I eat. A fresh bottle of cold water and I was almost ready to enjoy it...except students started arriving. I answered questions from some people who walked in, helped get the current class started.

I went to my desk and found...well, this. My whole donut...had some missing tell-tale signs of invasion. Too large for mouse bites (thankfully) and really, it was quite obvious what had happened.

Ah, Elie - may your life with Lauren be as sweet as the donuts you ate (yours and mine) and may you always, always be who you are.

Overflowing with News...

I should begin with the most exciting, but if I do, it will overpower all else. But then again, I guess that's the way these things are. So let me go straight to it.

The story I have to tell, can best be told on Facebook. On his page, the posts are in Hebrew; on her page, they are in English. In both pages (and mine) the message is the same. A joining of two worlds, two families. Some long time ago, an amazing young woman decided to move to Israel and googled to find blogs of others who had done the same.

Somehow - perhaps by the very Hand of God...she found my blog. I can search back in old emails to find the first time she wrote to me, the first answer I gave her. Somehow, it became a connection in which I encouraged her to do something very hard, something I had never had to do.

I moved to Israel with a husband and three small children, very much in love with my family, my life, and a commitment to build everything here as we had started to do there. It was harder for her - because she was coming alone and without a family. It might be easier, I think I wrote to her, because she didn't have to uproot children, but like us, she was leaving behind parents and grandparents and siblings who love her dearly. We had each other; she would have so much less.

So she moved to Israel and we fell in love with her the first time she came to our house. My youngest daughter had a new older sister - one who seems to have infinite patience. Lauren came to Aliza's birthday party and helped deal with 20 little girls and keep them entertained, while I was ready to collapse from the sheer noise and excitement. She's around the same age as my oldest daughter - and there too, it was an instant hit. Separate from us, Lauren goes to them; Amira talks to her. My older daughter finally has the sister I couldn't give her, in addition to the younger sister I did. Lauren is the same age and so they share this connection. As much as Amira adores Aliza (and in reverse), they are not contemporaries. Amira is now married and has a baby; Aliza is still excited about being a school guard for a week.

Lauren seems to have fit in with everyone (she even loves our dog). My youngest son is at that difficult age of 15 where he is finding himself - and Lauren finds patience for him too. She doesn't treat him like the troublesome younger brother and with Shmulik and Naama, there is that great connection as well. Naama and Lauren share an interest in the same field of education and helping special needs children.

But the real story, apparently, is Elie and Lauren. I'd like to say I knew all along. The truth is, I didn't know, but I hoped. They seem so similar, like so many of the same things. She accepts him as he is - for the wonder and for the faults. And on Friday, they came to our home with a birthday present for me - a mug filled with chocolate (could she be any more perfect for our family?) and a nice birthday card. The mug was a present...but the real present, said the card...is the new daughter-in-law they bring to me.

I am...beyond filled with happiness. May they grow together and build a true house in Israel. Mazel tov to my wonderful son and new daughter...

Perhaps the cutest line goes to Aliza - "Ima, we need to buy a new table." Long ago, moments after Aliza was born, I told my wonderful husband that "my table is full" - this was, I knew, what God had intended for us. It seems that I underestimated God and my table. So, I'll add another blessing here as well - please God, please continue to bless my table and may it never be fully full. Thank you for adding three more precious children to my family - Haim and Naama and now Lauren.

And to Lauren's family - mazel tov and thank you. I hope you'll love Elie as much as we love Lauren and that we will all share many, many happy times together.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Update on the Ankle

So - I went to the doctor and the doctor said, "no more monkey's jumping on the bed."

Sorry - whenever I start with "went to the doctor and the doctor said" - the child's song goes through my  head.

So - I went to the doctor and he said...

According to the Ottawa Ankle Bone Injury Rules...of which I had never heard...doctors have decided that if a basketball player can walk off the court, there will be no x-ray and, by not doing this x-ray, they have cut the cost of such treatments by 54%.

So, as the likelihood is that it is not broken...why waste funds doing the x-ray? So, my doctor did not feel an x-ray was necessary - I was able to walk/hobble.

I stayed off it as much as possible, favored the left leg, and avoided steps...which are agony.

The doctor said I could even drive, though I pointed out that I really did not feel that I could. He suggested that if I wanted to be over-cautious, that was fine but I really don't think I was being over-cautious...or even cautious. I am still not sure that I have the ability to press the gas, never mind the break, adequately enough not to make a nuisance of myself, or worse. No, I do not have full mobility of my ankle but it is getting better.

Now, several days later, much of the sides of the foot are black and blue (the ankle is yellowish) and I am able to walk upstairs like a normal person and not a 2-year-old. I still feel pressure when my leg is not elevated, but I have again mastered general walking and going upstairs.

Downstairs, well that's another day and another story but the hobble is now definitely a walk and I'm pretty sure I'd be in a lot more pain if the ankle were broken.

No, I'm not impressed with Ottawa - because the goal of medical care should be to do what is best for the patient. Had the results indicated a 54% cut in radiation, I might have been sold on the idea of waiting but the source I found focused on the monetary benefits and not the medical ones.

Should I have had an x-ray? I guess Ottawa won out and I didn't need one.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shmulik, Sheep, and Stories

I feel like I write a lot about Elie's stories and less about Shmulik's experiences and feelings. There are reasons for that. Shmulik chose to enter the Hesder program. This cut his active service time to a year and four months rather than 3 years. He will do his Reserve Duty yearly, as Elie will, for the next 20 years of his life. In addition to this year and four months, he will dedicate more than three years of his life to studying. With the six months of training, there were about 8 months in which he served as S. driver. Much of what happened remains confidential; only bits and pieces come out.

The other day, Shmulik and I were driving to Jerusalem (read here that he was driving and I was enjoying being driven). I mentioned how few stories I had and he explained, as I have above, why that is so. I don't remember how the conversation talked to propaganda and lies, but it did. I told him the recent story (Liars, Just Liars).

And that's when I got his story. Shmulik and S. got a call. A Bedouin filed a complaint that "settlers" burned his sheep. They were duly disgusted. Torturing the innocent - whether human or animal, is not the Jewish way, not the Israeli way - despite what the Palestinians will tell you. They took the complaint seriously and went to investigate...and investigate they did.

It turns out - the Bedouin set a field of thorns on fire. It is an amazingly common way to clear a field and I've seen it many times here. The first time I saw it, I went running into an office telling them a field was on fire. The people inside got up to look, saw the hilltop on fire, said "it's okay" and went back to work.

Sure enough, the fields burn themselves clear and then are replanted or whatever is required. In this case, the Bedouin miscalculated and the fire was driven with winds to surround his sheep and began burning them. Nearby settlers - yes, those people that have been maligned as evil occupiers by Arabs and the media, came to help. They put out the fire, were thanked, and left.

Then the Bedouin realized - Israel compensates for many violent acts. If your car is damaged by rock throwers - you'll get it fixed at the State's expense. If your house is damaged by a rocket. The State will come in and fix it. There's an investigation to make sure you aren't trying to steal from the State, and then it is fixed. So the Bedouin hoped Israel would pay for the sheep he had accidentally killed. The story of the settlers murdering his poor sheep was widely reported; the truth was not.

There is what is probably the most well known story - of a picture printed. What the New York Times and others told you that you were seeing...is a Palestinian boy on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, being attacked by an Israeli policeman. The policeman looks vicious with his club, the boy is clearly battered and bloody.

There are several problems with this story. First, if you know the Temple Mount, you know there are no gas stations up there. Right behind the policeman, is a sign for a gas station. So clearly, it was not taken on the Temple Mount.

What happened, in fact the young man was identified by his father, Dr. Aaron Grossman, who wrote to the New York Times demanding a retraction. The boy was not an "unidentified Palestinian" but a young Tuvia Grossman, who was learning in Israel. He was in a taxi with other boys when a mob of Palestinians surrounded the taxi, smashed its windows with rocks and grabbed Tuvia and the others and dragged them out.

As Tuvia was being beaten, an Israeli policeman approached, screaming for the Arabs to back off. This is the picture the New York Times published. It took several retractions before the New York Times finally got the story right, but the damage remained. A lie repeated over and over, Israel and Israelis condemned. The full story about Tuvia is written here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuvia_Grossman) and many other places.

I'm now in a debate with a young woman from Sweden. She says that Jews and Arabs are telling her different stories and she doesn't know which to believe. "Why would they lie?" she asks me and I want to ask why she thinks they would tell her the truth. Ask them for names, I told her - names and not numbers.

I can give her names. Names that will break her heart and proof for all actions. A man wrote that we had bombed and killed 9 Palestinians on a Saturday afternoon and that is what began the recent "round" of violence. But they bombed Beersheva on Wednesday - and the 9 Palestinians were killed in two places. One was an Islamic Jihad training camp, the other was a rocket launching site eliminated seconds before they shot another rocket at Israel.

The one Israeli killed during this latest fighting was a 59-year-old father of four. He was driving his car, not shooting rockets or training in a terrorist camp. Our enemies win world opinion because they play the numbers game - nine dead is worse than one, isn't it? They say the response from Israel's accurate hits is not proportional to Hamas' inaccurate "home-made" rockets - but the rockets aren't home-made, and even if they aren't accurate, they still kill, maim, destroy.

I guess - from Elie and Shmulik, from Tuvia and from others - we must learn to wait for the truth. Israelis didn't trip the little Arab girl. Israelis didn't burn the sheep. Israelis didn't beat the boy. If only the Arabs could say the same about so many thousands of people and actions. Arabs did blow up the Sbarro Pizzeria - Ahlam Tamimi is proud of it, and Malki Roth and 7 other children (and 7 adults) died and 130 were wounded. Arabs did murder five members of the Fogel family and the Awad cousins from the village of Awarta are proud of their actions.

The details are in the names, not the numbers. When the world understands this and demands accountability - then, maybe, we will be closer to peace in the Middle East.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Limping Along...

So, I have always felt that high heels was a painful invention created by men. I know, I know - that isn't fair. There are probably plenty of women footwear designers and besides, who told us to wear them anyway, right? And anyway, they weren't THAT high...and they weren't spiked heels. Nice wide heels that I bought for a special occasion. And they are a really good brand. And they were expensive and orthopedic and comfortable.

And you really should be careful when you dance with shoes that aren't, well, flat. Oh, and Israeli dancing is wonderful - you kick one foot forward, you kick the other foot forward...you jump forward, you jump back...and...ouch. My ankle buckled violently to the right and for the first few minutes, I was not at all sure it wasn't broken (I'm only mostly convinced now that it wasn't).

So, I sprained my ankle good and well and with it, learned yet again the blessings of my sons. The wedding was wonderful. Dear friends. A beautiful bride; a handsome groom. Friends. Music. Chaim is back in Israel starting his studies. He came back last week and I've been so happy knowing he is close again. He is friends with the chatan (the groom); and we are friends of the bride's family. We met Chaim in Jerusalem and drove him to the wedding. It's so good to have him back here.

He sat next to my husband at the wedding and then I lost sight of him until it was time to sit down - then I saw he was at the next table with friends his age. After my ankle buckled, it was important for me to get away and out of sight of the other dancers. As soon as I felt I could walk, I limped painfully and slowly back to my table on the other side of the room. I wasn't at all sure at that point that I wasn't going to be sick to my stomach. I was so light-headed; I was shivering; and my ankle was screaming in pain.

Friends came over and were asking me if I was okay. All I wanted was for them to leave me alone so I could concentrate on not being sick and not passing out from the pain. Someone brought me a drink and despite feeling sick, I sipped slowly. Someone brought me tea - and that helped a bit. Someone brought me Tylenol and I hoped it would kick in soon. I asked someone if they could find my husband - I'm not sure what he could of done other than just be there, but they didn't see him.

And then, suddenly, Chaim came over and saw that something was wrong. I was sitting at the table in excruciating pain with my foot up on a chair. Chaim was...Chaim. Sweet, concerned, talking in a voice that just calmed me. Everyone else's voice bothered me while everything Chaim said made sense. They wanted me to put ice on my foot...Chaim came over and just took over. A friend and her husband tied ice around my ankle. Chaim redid that and just stuck close.

They brought dinner over and Chaim went back to his table to eat and others sat down. I couldn't bring myself to eat. I just kept smiling when people asked if I was okay and lied through my teeth. Sure, it feels a bit better (no, it doesn't). I'm fine (no, I'm not). Chaim came back and we all decided to leave. I told Chaim I wanted to go outside - I needed to get away from people. He wouldn't let me go alone. He helped me walk outside, afraid that I was going to fall. My leg only buckled a bit once and I made it first to a chair outside and then up to the ramp where Lazer was bringing the car. Chaim stayed with me the whole time, helping me to get into the car.

There is an issue of not touching men to whom you are not related. I felt uncomfortable having Chaim help me. "They'll think you're my mother," he said at one point. I smiled and asked him if his mother comes to live in Israel, if I'd have to give him up. His answer was, "you can have two mothers." He was...he was Chaim. Just amazing. I felt so much better, so much calmer having him there.

Elie called just as I was getting in the car. "Tell him to help you when you get home," Chaim said to me. I told Elie what happened and he told me to call him when I got home. As we got close, we called and he came down to help me up the stairs. Slowly, helped pull me out of the car to a standing position. He walked next to me very slowly, letting me take tiny steps. He was instructing me how to move, where to put my weight, how to hold on. He helped me to my room, brought me pain killers and water. He was wonderful...

The next day, I stayed home and worked from the dining room table. Elie helped make dinner. Aliza warmed food up for me and brought it to me.

Yesterday, I had no choice but to come to the office. Shmulik offered to drive me in and even let me off very close to the elevator so I didn't have to walk far. Later, he picked me up mid-afternoon to take me to meet friends - parents of a wonderful young man who left his home in America to come join the Israeli army. Though the army has not really treated him fairly after a training accident left him injured, J. remains committed to Israel and has been rebuilding his health and his life here. His parents called and I wanted to meet them. Shmulik dropped me off in front of a mall and slowly I made my way to meet these special people who have become friends.

Shmulik joined us for a time and we spoke of cars and Israel, their son and mine. Finally, we took our leave and I slowly walked with Shmulik back to the car. At one point, I had to walk up about 30 stairs. From the bottom, in pain, it was a daunting sight. I leaned on Shmulik much of the way and then at the top, he took all the bags and went to get the car and drove it to the closest point possible.

He drove home and helped me up the stairs and back to my room. My ankle is swollen and there are huge black and blue marks on the side and although I can put my weight on the foot, it is still painful to walk. If I twist it at all, a shooting pain goes up my leg.

Despite this, I feel so loved by these amazing sons of mine - from Chaim at the wedding to Elie and Shmulik at home...I feel so blessed.

Shmulik Story - Have Fun

I've been waiting for days to tell the second of the stories I wanted to post. One was in anger, about the lies our enemies use. So today, I'll post the one I liked. I was driving with Shmulik and a car zoomed by at a high speed. We began talking of cars, of speed, of driving.

Shmulik told me of the time he drove about 180 km per hour - there had been a terror attack in Hebron. A pregnant woman was shot. As her husband raced her to the hospital, the call came through and S. and Shmulik took off. Shmulik drove with the siren wailing to get there as fast as he could. I know that road - it isn't one I'd want to take at such speeds. Then came the second story.

They were having an exercise - police, army, etc. The police were escorting Shmulik and S. to some site. The police turned on their sirens and began speeding - they passed 100, 120, 140 kilometers an hour. Shmulik kept pace with them. They took the car to 160 and beyond...and S. only words as he told Shmulik to drive faster were, "have fun."

Have fun...S. didn't tell Shmulik to have fun when they were racing to a terror attack. Then, there was anger in the car and a need to get there fast but when it was an exercise and no lives were endangered - like little boys - the police raced along, taking Shmulik with them.

No, I don't love the idea of him racing down a highway at 160 kilometers an hour or more, but I guess considering he had a police escort the whole way, I shouldn't complain. Rather, I'll smile - a memory Shmulik keeps with him - have fun. They don't have enough fun.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How You Salute

I've never considered this before, but maybe I should have. How you salute seems to tell a lot about who you are, what you are, what you dream of being. This salute has haunted me for days. I stare at the picture, at the people in it.

It is the moment that Gilad Shalit stepped out of the helicopter to find Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu waiting to greet him. As he would for a most a president or most honored visitor, Bibi is waiting there. I don't know if everyone can tell, but if you know the contours of Bibi's face, you can see, there on the right side, the line of his cheeks.

You know, even from this angle, that he is smiling, almost grinning with happiness and relief. There, the man behind Gilad, there too, there is such joy, such relief, such happiness.

And there is Gilad. Quiet. Hesitant. Not quite believing he is home. His eyes are slightly lowered but the movement is clear. A salute to the prime minister of Israel. His Commander in Chief. The movement is voluntary and a recognition that Netanyahu is the leader of his country.

Today, I saw another salute. I don't know where the picture came from - it was on someone's Facebook page. I followed the link but didn't come to a real site. Maybe it isn't real. I can hope it is Photoshopped. Not real. It seems to be a unit of Palestinians and they seem to be saluting...the very same salute the Nazis used.

I hope someone can tell me this is false. That Palestinians don't salute this way. That is the Palestinian flag on the uniform, I believe. What more can I say...a salute tells so much.

Last night, again, Israel was hit with rockets and today, our foreign minister announced we were donating 30 boats, 187 life vests and 1,000 sets of medical supplies to Thailand to help with the devastating floods there. I would rather live in a land that saluted as Gilad did, than in a land that would fire rockets and salute as the Palestinians are saluting in this picture. Any day, every day, for the rest of my life.

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