Monday, January 30, 2012

A Special Day...Happy Birthday

It's just after midnight here in Israel. I should be finishing a project; I should be sleeping. Instead, my mind is drawn to the fact that it is Aliza's 12th birthday on the Hebrew calendar. She's asleep in her bed; excited by the plans we have to celebrate this week. Tomorrow, she and I will steal a day away. We'll go out for breakfast and then go to the Western Wall. It is, in many ways, a symbol of all that we are as a people and so we'll go there, as we have taken her brothers and sister so many times.

Later, we'll do some shopping and come home. She is my baby and I have to keep reminding myself that she is growing so fast, reaching beyond, upwards. There is such wisdom inside of her, such gentleness. She is named after my mother-in-law and my grandmother. Two women who were hounded by hatred from their homes - one in Hungary in World War II; one from Russia after World War I. One was put in a gas chamber, but miraculously pulled out to live and raise a family. One caught in a horrible pogrom in her town. She was in the synagogue when the local Ukrainians came and set it afire. She too managed to survive and live to raise a family. Of all that they would have wanted for Aliza had they known her, I cannot help but believe they would have wanted her most of all to live the very life she lives here.

And like the women from whom she came, little Aliza has fought off demons as well. Their demons and Aliza's have much in common - the Ukrainians, the Nazi, and the Arab cousins that butchered a family and terrorized a nation. I forgot the depths of the fear she has conquered until I stumbled on a blog post I had made only a few short months ago. I guess the blog serves as a reminder to me as well as to others. In honor of her birthday, I'm reposting the story of how a little girl has lived up to the women whose name she carries. With thanks to them and love for her....

Beating Demons - October 17, 2011
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, January 29, 2012

Thinking of Others

There are times when I do something that I automatically think of other people. The best example I can give is one that breaks my heart a little, at the same time that it makes me smile. My mother-in-law was a very special person in so many ways. She was also a Holocaust survivor in the most horrible sense. Beyond what so many suffered - losing both her parents and all her grandparents, a sister, two brothers, more uncles and aunts and cousins than I can count, she was also an inmate at Auschwitz, known by many as the most notorious of the death camps. She, like many, lost her home, so much of her family...and yet, as if that wasn't enough, something happened to her that while not unique, is certainly very rare. Like tens of thousands, she was taken to Auschwitz towards the end of the war, as part of the huge plan to exterminate the Jews of Hungary.

By that time, Hitler was not interested in Jewish labor. For the most part, he just wanted to kill as many as he could. My mother-in-law and the rest of the women of her family were sent directly to the gas chambers. My mother-in-law was probably in her late teens at the time. They entered the gas chamber and the door was closed. I stood in one of the gas chambers with my older daughter and thought of the chilling moment when my mother-in-law stood in the same one...or perhaps another of those barbaric remnants of man's inhumanity. But even if she had still lived, I would never have had the courage to ask her if this was the one she was in - the first one we were in...or the second one in which the Germans had learned that to lower the ceiling improved efficiency because the gas would rise and then only slowly lower down and kill the people.

When we were there, the door remained opened and the room, even in summer, was chilled. When my mother-in-law stood there, the door closed and had it stayed closed, my husband never would have been born, nor any of my children. By a great miracle - for what other explanation can I find - the Nazis decided they were missing a few women for a work detail and opened the door and pulled my mother-in-law and her sister back out from death.

When she was liberated, she returned to her home village, there to meet the remnants of her family - including a cousin - who fell in love with her. They eventually married and brought four children into this world, and lived long enough to see, hold, and hug three of my children. Somehow as my in-laws looked forward, they never wanted to look back and so they raised their children without telling them much about many of the horrors of the concentration camps and life in Europe.

When her second son brought home a wife - me - the doors of my mother-in-law's memory seemed to open, I think, and she began talking to me, telling me of Europe and the life there and of the camps and the death there. I remember so much, and never enough. But one story remains with me and each week, without fail, I remember it...and her.

She used to peel potatoes with a knife and she told me once that she remembers the hunger of the war and that there were people who used potato peelers and people who used knives. From what others threw out, she would, at the worst of times, find scraps of food to eat - and the ones who used knives left more "meat" of the potato in the scraps, while the peelers only took off the skin of the potato. So, if possible, it was better to go to the garbage of those who used knives than those who used peelers. She would remember, and make a point to go there, to the homes of those who used knives.

I remember that story each time I peel potatoes - with a peeler...and I'm so grateful there is no one trying to feed themselves off the scraps I throw away.

I cut peppers - a lot of them - and I cut them by slicing the four sides, pulling the sides away from the center where all the seeds are. I showed a friend one time and since then, she cuts her peppers the same way and says she thinks of me when she does. It's an interesting feeling, a nice one. And yesterday, I got a comment from Rivka Yael. She wrote:
Made your tuna fritters again for shabbat this week and thought of you. Mazal tov on your daughter's bat mitzvah and the upcoming wedding! 
I am so touched that others have me in their thoughts at a moment in their lives and it reminds me of how I have my mother-in-law in my thoughts as well. I think that's what life is about - touching others, being touched. I love the idea that in sharing our family recipes, there are others there who take these and make them their own.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Sabbath Routine

I've written a lot lately about my Fridays - about the preparation we do for the Sabbath here. I've tried to write about our Shabbat and what it means here as well. This Friday, I had more of an opportunity. My parents came to visit, bringing one of my mother's visiting students along.

This guest to our country is not Jewish and as I put out food, he looked around with curiosity and interest. He took a picture of two paintings I have in my home - one is an image of the exodus from Egypt - painted with the use of miniature letters. Using the Hebrew words from the entire book of Exodus (Shemot), the amazing artist created the scene of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. The Pillar of Fire in the background was created with the very words in the Bible describing this scene. The second painting is a view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives - to create it, the artist (same man) used all of the words of the Book of Psalms (Lamentations).

Our guest also took a picture of the Sabbath candles waiting to be lit. I use oil and this week, 8 candles were ready to be lit near the window. It looked so pretty, so ready for Shabbat. I had prepared the challah dough late, late Thursday night so that it would be ready when they came. My mother said the blessing over separating the challah from the dough (you can learn about that custom here) and then I braided three loaves.

After we had a quick breakfast, I took my mother and guest and a short tour of Maale Adumim - explaining both Jewish customs and Maale Adumim. It is an interesting experience explaining your life to someone who asks simply because he wants to know and comes without preconceived thoughts. Israel remains an interesting combination of ancient and modern. In one short conversation, we spoke of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons, and the history of Israel from 1948 beyond 1967. We spoke of a mall and a bowling alley, the nearby Bedouins who live across the highway, and so much more.

They left a few hours before Shabbat, leaving me time to finish baking the rest of the challah and finish preparing. My husband brought beautiful flowers to our house, everyone showered, and we went off to synagogue services and dinner at my daughter's house.

We are gearing up for my daughter's bat mitzvah celebration this week...and I'm overwhelmed with things to do so I may fall silent a bit in the next few weeks. The week after the bat mitzvah (in which we will be serving/I will be making - 150 small pizzas, 6 quiches, 2 lasagnas, 3 cheese cakes, 1 huge birthday cake, several salads and more), I have a national conference (for which I have to make around 800 chocolate chip cookies) that we host and then it is full steam ahead for the wedding. Immediately after the wedding, just a bit over a week later, comes the holiday of Passover, a nightmare for most wives and mothers...I know that's a terrible way to describe a holiday. Maybe when it gets closer I'll remember the nice things...

In short, each Shabbat holds the only chance I'll get for the next few weeks to slow down, stop, and breathe.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Blind and Toothless

I've always been amazed at how many translations and variations there are to the Bible. For me, as my Hebrew has improved, I return more and more often to the Hebrew as the source and smile at the many incorrect translations I see. Perhaps the most notorious is the misconception that we are charged with, "Thou shalt not kill." That's wrong. There are times and situations in which we are not only allowed to kill, but commanded to kill.

If a gunman is holding your child and you know that you have a clear shot and in doing so, you will save the life of your child - you are commanded to take that shot. It is a kill - allowed by all that is right, by God. The proper translation of the commandment is "Thou shalt not murder." To murder is very different than to kill. I will live with the reality that my son killed. It is so hard to write that, almost unbearable. And at the same time, I say with complete certainty, he did not murder. Gaza held a gun to the heads of our children, and Elie and his unit - the entire Israeli army, took the shot...and it was clean and not murder, despite the many lies the Palestinians continue to tell to this day.

The mosques that we bombed - had explosives in them. The videos are clear - secondary explosions where our bombs set off the explosives stored within what should have been a holy building. That is war - and in war, you kill...you do not murder, ever. To shoot a rocket into a city is to attempt to murder. Of course, if your elected officials condone putting military installations and shooting rockets from within your cities, there is a huge problem - but there are no military bases IN Beersheva, IN Shderot, IN Ashkelon. The target remains, the crime, when accomplished, is murder.

That is one kind of war; but quietly, Israel is involved in another war and this week, this secondary war made the headlines. When I saw a news article yesterday, it made me think of Fiddler on the Roof and Tevye, in his infinite wisdom, responding to a villager who called for revenge using the Biblical phrase, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth."

Tevye responded with brilliant disdain, "Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless."

There's been a cyber-war going on in the Middle East - thankfully not nearly as deadly and dangerous as the real one that we have been living for 64 years, but at times humorous, at times depressing. This week, Arab hackers attacked at least two Israeli hospital websites, a civilian bus company, and a theater. This electronic war will likely increase in the days, months, and years to come.

I think cyber-wars are great when the target is the Iranian nuclear program. They say "all's fair in love and war" - well, I don't know if cyber war is fair but in this case, anything that Israel or the US or any hacker can do to slow the Iranian nuclear program will offer the benefit of hopefully avoiding bloodshed on all sides so I'd say, "go for it."

In recent months, Israeli newspapers came under attack, and even several banks. No harm done, as far as I am concerned - certainly nothing compared to real-life injuries. It's annoying, it's childish - whatever. I don't really care because while it may cause financial loss, it is what it is and the sun continues to shine, we have food in the stores, schools give out report cards, the trains continue to run. In short, real life continues.

Two days ago, Arab hackers attacked two Israeli hospitals - bringing down their websites. That bothered me. What possible gain is there in these targets, probably soft targets after all, and not much of a challenge to a determined hacker? More, it is likely that close to half the people treated in these Israeli hospitals are Arabs - okay, maybe that was my impression, but I can tell you it was well above the percentage of the population the Arab community represents. I can tell you that each time I have had to go to a hospital here in Israel - several of the nurses are Arabs, a few of the doctors are Arabs, and many of the patients as well.

Arabs come from all over - Gaza, Jordan, and beyond to our hospitals (even Iran and Iraq) to get the best care available in the Middle East - by dedicated professionals who do not differentiate between Arab and Jew when it comes to care. Several years ago, Israel was shaken by the image of a young Palestinian woman shrieking out in anger and pain because the soldiers at the checkpoint became suspicious and checked her carefully. As they demanded she stand isolated and remove her coat, they saw the explosives wrapped around her waist and the cameras caught her agonizing scream when she realized she had failed to reach her target.

Years before that day, she had been injured and maimed by a fire (no connection to Israel) - she was taken to the hospital in Beersheva because the burns were so severe. The doctors treated for her wounds and she was discharged. Her goal that day when she was caught by the soldiers was to go to the very same emergency room where her life had been saved - she was going to thank the doctors and caregivers, by blowing up the hospital.

Now, that is real damage, a real attack - but for the most part, a cyber-attack on a newspaper or even a hospital site carries no long term repercussions. The goal of attacking the Iranian nuclear program using cyber weapons will save lives; the goal of attacking an Israeli hospital website just shows again a lack of humanity (again). The only people hurt by this are the ones at the hospitals and patients who need information - including Arab patients.

I was disgusted by the attack, which, like the rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, is just wrong. They hit a bus company and a theater in Israel as well. Why? What do they gain by this? Other than well deserved disgust, that is.

And then yesterday, I saw that Israeli hackers (calling themselves the IDF Team) had hacked into the Iranian English language television and the Iranian Health Ministry. Okay, as targets go, I'd rather the cyber war attack governmental targets rather than civilian hospitals, but still, I remembered Tevye's remark.

I wanted to go back to the source for the Biblical quote - and so I checked various Internet sites. The phrase is known to many of us - or at least in part, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." But it continues, "a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound," etc. It is part of an involved description of legal retribution described in the book of Shemot (Exodus), chapter 21. And the rabbis who have interpreted the Bible for generations and beyond, are quick to point out that it does not refer to gauging out the eye of someone who has hurt you or cutting off the hand of a thief. Rather, it refers to the value of the injury - likely one of the first documented instances of social justice. If you cause harm, the Bible is teaching us, you must take responsibility - not revenge, but social compensation.

The sentence that precedes this one refers to a life for a life - and here there is the Hebrew word אָסֹון which is mistakenly translated by some as "mischief" or "harm." In Israel, we use this word for tragedy and in the more faithful translations, it is more correctly rendered as a fatality, as a death. There are indeed cases when it is a life for a life, and other cases where it remains a monetary obligation.

Whatever the source or the translation, it is about a life for a life, social justice in a balanced way. It is not our way to attack civilians, hospitals, the innocent - even on the web. I'm not sure what the Israeli hackers accomplished. When I first saw the news item, I was concerned that they had attacked Arab hospital websites in retaliation for what was done to Israeli hospitals. I would have condemned that because, as Tevye said, there's really no logic in the whole world being blind and toothless.

I'm relieved that it was a government site and hope, if they continue their cyber battles, that the so-called IDF team will continue to differentiate between hurting civilians and targeting their attacks where they belong.
Bring down the Iranian government, its army, its nuclear program and yes, even the health ministry and television. For that, I will say "kol hakavod" - all honor for what you do.

But please, don't lose who we are in your quest to return to them what they fire on us. Don't take down their hospital websites - it isn't our way. Don't attack their bus companies or theaters - nothing is gained by this and no honor received.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Israeli Speaks

As a writer, I prefer to give my own words, rather than rely on others. It is rare that I agree with a politician, even more rare that I will ask to borrow his words, to make them as if they are mine. Such is the case with the words of the Minister of Information and Diaspora, Yuli Edelstein:

 The purpose of the anti-Semites is the same – to deny the common humanity of the Jew, to single him out, to scapegoat him. 70 years ago, this worked perfectly...Today, as the snow sets for the 70th time on the killing fields of Europe, where each garden, each meadow, each plowed furrow are fertilized by the ashes of my people, I come here in the name of my government, of the independent Jewish nation, to assure our friends, to make a promise to our enemies and to warn the indifferent:
When we say ‘Never again’, we mean it. We will not wait for another conference with baited breath and forlorn hope. We will not beg for compassion and sympathy. We will not be made to live with constant threat of another Holocaust.
We hope that this hour never comes. We hope that the civilized world has learned the bloody lessons of appeasement. We hope that the moral majority of humanity will rise above the selfish calculations of profit and loss, the petty politics and the cowardice masked as caution. We hope that any threat to civilization will be defeated by force of universal moral fury and sustained pressure, not by bombs and bloodshed. Today, as we come together to remember the millions of victims of Nazi barbarity and of the world's indifference, I ask you to help us to keep this hope alive and to make it true.
Let us all – Jews and Gentiles – take a stand together against tyranny and barbarism, let us destroy them before they'll swell with power, fed by the wealth of their lands and the blood of their victims. Let us deny them, in the words of Winston Churchill, those ‘lights of perverted science’ with which they plan to unleash a new Dark Age – first on their own captive peoples, and then on the rest of the world. Let us say to them, from here – we remember. We are vigilant. We are determined. We are united. We say to them together– never again.
 We are vigilant. We are determined. We are united. We say to them together– never again. Yes, above all else, yes...

Congratulations to the Hackers, Rocket Launchers, Suicide Bombers

Wait...I shouldn't congratulate them? Today, the hackers did something amazing. They took down the websites of two Israeli hospitals. That's right - hospitals. What brave and brilliant minds our enemies have. Who would have thought to do this? I'm so impressed...not.

It's this concept of claiming responsibility that I have never understood. After most terrorist bombings in Israel - some Palestinian organization (often many) stand up and "take responsibility." What does that mean? I want to yell out - when I was growing up - taking responsibility was a good thing; it was a sign of maturity.

In the world in which I grew up - murderers tried to get away with it, to hide what they had done. The last thing most of them wanted was for the police to figure out who they were and connect it with what they had done. You'll take responsibility for something that you are proud of, something you love. Do you take responsibility for maiming others, causing such horrible pain and agony?

A woman gave birth today in Israel. Her name is Pua Palmer and the birth of her healthy daughter should have  been a day of amazing joy shared with her husband and her little son, Yonatan. Except that Asher and Yonatan were murdered by Arabs who deliberately slammed a huge rock into the front of Asher's car. He was injured; the car went out of control and both Asher and his baby son were killed.

Ignoring the obvious evidence on site, police announced it was a terrible car accident and not an attack. Only a few days later did they admit the truth. Today, Asher's daughter entered this world...to a world without a father to guide her, with a brother she will never know. No one took responsibility for the Palmer murders, though the terrorist was tracked down and brought to justice - little consolation to Pua, who will now raise her daughter alone.

But other acts of terror have been claimed by Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations; rocket attacks are frequently claimed. They are proud when they manage to launch a rocket at Israel; they are even more ecstatic when they hit something. The greater the carnage, the greater the celebrations - that is the reality of Gaza.

Today, hackers managed to break in to two hospital sites in Israel. There is no honor in murdering an infant and his father. There is no honor in hacking into the website of a hospital, and there is no honor in firing rockets into cities with the hope of causing terror, injury and damage.

This is yet another instance in which I can say that I believe peace is, at best, far in the distance. When your enemy has no honor, it is not possible to reach an honorable, peaceful solution.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts of a War

This is the last post I am going to make looking back at a war and a time that I never want to live through again. The last post that I'll reprint here (and thank those of you who allowed me to take this journey again), was called Thoughts of a War. Elie was home; the bar mitzvah of my youngest son just over. I was concerned, almost consumed, with the thought that deep inside Elie there would be remnants of the war - there still are today; and perhaps psychological scars  - there really are none.

There are memories but there was and there is an acceptance. This is what he had to do, as he did it. Those that died there were the inevitable result of Hamas' firing rockets and a war that had to be fought. There is peace in his heart as he prepares to take a wife and begin building his family. Above all things beyond health and safety one could wish for one's son - there is peace.


Thoughts of a War - January 26, 2009
After long talks with Elie, here are my thoughts (and his) on what came out of this war:
What came out of this war: A sense of unity, of a well trained army working together.
The army worked as a unit - each part doing their share and protecting its flank. Artillery was there, every step of the way, and their role was critical. For fear of writing too much, I will write too little. But I will tell you that the war was run as correctly as possible, each part doing what it was supposed to do. The credit for this brilliant campaign may be taken by the politicians, but they are not the ones who coordinated - they are only the ones who will take credit. 
What was accomplished was done so by the planning of generals who finally focused on their goal, one that had to be done. Politically, it is not easy to bomb a mosque. Militarily, they had every right to do so - it was not a mosque, but an arsenal with a minaret. In this war, the generals won and thus Israel won. We bombed the mosques with rockets, the schools with missiles and for once we held Hamas accountable. If you do not care about your own people, Israel told Hamas, it is left to us to do our best to protect them. So we dropped leaflets warning the civilians to move away from the terrorists, to leave certain areas. I know this to be true - I have such a leaflet with me now because so many thousands were dropped over Gaza that with the wind, many blew the short distance into Israel and Elie caught one. 
"Save it, Ima," Elie told me. Perhaps he too feels the need to remember that we fought a just war, a fair war. We did not target civilians. I'll save it because my son felt the need to hold on to it in the middle of a war; to bring it home. He knows. He knows that civilians died in Gaza, possibly by his own hands - certainly by his orders to fire. But every shot that he and his unit fired had a specific target. Not once did they simply release such devastating weaponry without thought as to where it would go. 
Sometimes, they did it to destroy their weapons, their strongholds, their "army." And sometimes, they did it to protect our own. To help our boys get in or out under the cover of our artillery. In all cases, their targets were true, their aim proper. Civilians were warned - I have the proof and I will save it for my son. 
What came out of this war: A sense of spiritual faith, strengthened and grateful.
Elie told me that during the war, hundreds of pairs of tzitzit - a four-cornered garment with strings that men are commanded to wear - were distributed. The army simply could not keep up with demand. Elie told me that five pairs of tefillin (phylacteries - a religious article that is tied to the arm and to the head during the prayers - typically in the morning, that contains parchment with words from the Torah), were donated to his unit and it was in constant use throughout the day. One boy who is not religious at all - put on tefillin every day of the war. These are the shields of Israel, a vital part of who we are and as our sons faced this war, they understood this.
From the most religious to the most secular - even perhaps those who say they don't believe - still prayed for the safety of our soldiers and our southern residents. 
What came out of this war: A sense of pride in being a nation that cares about others...even if this is not recognized. 
Throughout this war, we shipped in humanitarian aide to our enemies - name me a single other country in history that has done this. When other nations besiege, intentionally attempt to weaken the enemy by surrounding and cutting off their food and water supplies, Israel - even under fire, shipped in thousands of tons of humanitarian aide - food, water, medicines. We took our enemies into our hospitals and gave them better care than they would ever get in Gaza...because we invest tremendous resources in our medical equipment, personnel, technologies. Israel is at the forefront of research and development - because we care enough about ourselves and others. 
What came out of this war: Men who were boys; men who had learned war. 
I can't write about this because Elie doesn't really talk about it. It is too deep to explain to one's mother; too serious to talk about with someone who can't understand. I've never shot a bullet, let alone a cannon. I've heard the explosion - but only in training or over the phone. Elie heard these explosions thousands of times. More, Elie helped create these explosions. He knows exactly how many times his unit shot. He's brushed off, nicely but firmly, my attempts to get him to talk too much about this aspect. He'll tell me what he did - because there is no shame, none whatsoever. He knows what he shot at, and the results of this shooting. But he won't talk about himself or what he feels. 
"Does the army have you talk to people?" I asked him, hoping he would open more about it.
"If someone wants to," he answered. 
And again, my son was not in the war in the sense that he was not on the ground in Gaza. He can see the results of what they did - he knows of the destroyed buildings, the devastated neighborhoods and the need to rebuild. But he is at peace with all that he did, all that he was called upon to do because he knows that from these buildings his unit destroyed - his nation was attacked. From these devastated neighborhoods, Hamas choose to fire at Israel. When a vicious enemy hides among his people...how much of an obligation do you have to do all you can to avoid hitting the people? The answer is all that Israel did. 
Some people left comments that my son was a murderer. Not even close. My son has never murdered anyone, though in this new reality that Hamas thrust upon us, there is a good possibility that my son killed. He knows this. He lives with it. Not with joy, but with determination. He came back from this war whole in body and in spirit. 
There is a world of difference between killing and murdering. The commandment in the Bible says we are forbidden to murder. My son and the army of Israel did not violate this commandment. The Bible commands times that you must kill - the army of Israel killed. We killed those who would have killed us, murdered our innocents. And yes, it is likely that in hiding behind their wives and children and mothers, the Palestinians caused their deaths. If Israel killed Palestinian civilians, it is Hamas that murdered them. 
And so, what came out of this war: with incredible gratitude to God, was my son and the boys from our neighborhood - and most of the sons of Israel. We lost sons there and many were injured and are still fighting for their lives. My youngest son explained to his little sister that this was a "milchemet mitzvah" - an obligatory war and that even a groom is commanded to leave his wedding ceremony to fight such a war. 
This is what happened in this war. Aharon Karov is a soldier of Israel, a beloved son. On the Thursday night before Israel's ground forces entered Gaza, Aharon got married. A boy in Elie's unit asked to leave the unit to attend the wedding of his friend, but was denied. They needed him there, in Elie's unit, ready to fire, and so he missed his friend's wedding. Elie's soldier knew, Aharon knew, his new wife and his family knew that Aharon was likely to be called to fight in this war. 
And that's what happened. Within hours after the ceremony, Aharon, a commander in the paratroopers, was called for a briefing. He was allowed to return to his new wife for the Sabbath and the celebrations for his wedding. But, in the early morning on Saturday, Aharon was called away from his new wife and went to war. 
He entered Gaza with his men, as he had been trained and as he had trained them. As is the case in the Israeli army, he said, "Follow me," and the men followed. He fought with his men, led them on mission after mission. And then, three days after entering Gaza, Aharon led his men into a booby-trapped house in Gaza. Aharon (his full name for those who wish to pray for him is: Aharon Yehoshua ben [son of] Chaya Shoshana) was critically wounded. 
He was evacuated by helicopter to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tivkah, where he underwent six operations during the course of 12 hours: on his head, his eyes, ear-nose-throat, mouth and jaw, chest, and an orthopedic operation. 
It is a story that has touched many in the world. Some with great pride - that such a young man would give of himself and join his men in war. Some in anger - how could you take a man from his new bride and send him to war? But Aharon's father answered that very question before his son was hurt - under the wedding canopy, surrounded by friends and family, knowing that soon his son would go to off to war. 
Aharon's father, Rabbi Zev Karov said, “In the main wedding blessing, we say, ‘G-d sanctifies His nation Israel via the wedding canopy and betrothal.’ Why don’t we say that He sanctifies the bride and groom? We see that the personal building is a part of the national edifice. This is the main point, this is what we are brought up on, and now is the test when we show that it is not just talk, but it is how we really act.” 
This, perhaps is the main lesson of the entire war for all of Israel and for the world. The Arabs have tested us time and again - they tested us again now. And each time we answer. It is how we act - the bravery to go to war, to fight a war, and to fight it as humanely as possible against an enemy that will hide behind its own children. 
What came out of this war is an Israel that is much stronger than the one that went into Gaza a month ago. We are not stronger because our enemies are much weaker (though they are). We are stronger because we conducted ourselves according to "what we are brought up on."
With bravery, with courage, with fortitude, with compassion, with grace, with strength - Israel went to war. Hamas has claimed that they killed 1,583 of our soldiers. Hamas has claimed victory. Then again, Hamas claims we are the ones who are inhumane, the ones who aim at civilians. Hamas claims...and the world laughs at its lies. 
The victory - if there can be victory in war, goes to Israel because, even in war, we continue to fight for peace. When the Arabs can claim the same - there will be peace here in the Middle East.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

do brasil said...

do brasil said...
How does it feel to live in a country hated by millions of people all over the world?
NOT because its a jewish country (as you would like to believe), but because of your country´s hatred, racism, war crimes and evil acts.
America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia...
How does it feel?
How does it feel to live in a country hated by millions of people all over the world? Well, not great but if you've been hated for hundreds...no, thousands...of years for all sorts of stupid reasons, you kind of accept that it isn't going to change and you also understand the base root of the hatred.

So, if the reason millions hate us is because our country is responsible for all you claim - you wanna explain why more than 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis - before the State of Israel was re-established in 1948? You wanna take a stab at explaining the Crusades, the Pogroms, the Spanish Inquisition?

How does it feel? It feels great to live in my own country and  know, for the first time in 2,000 years, we are in control of our destiny. We know that we can protect our own. We know that if you hijack a plane and separate the Jews out, this time, the Israeli air force will fly in to save them, as they did in Entebbe.

We know that if you threaten your Jewish population, we will fly in and bring them home to Israel, as we did in Yemen and Ethiopia; we'll challenge dictators and tyrants, as we did with the Soviet Union, to release our people and give them refuge. We know if a Jew is lost in a horrible tsunami, Israel will send a team and while the team is there, they'll search for his body. We know if there is an earthquake in Turkey, Israel will be among the first to send in rescue teams and the Israeli team will send off a small group to dig in a building to find the Israelis.

We know that no matter where our people are - anywhere in the world, we will stand against the anti-Semitism that has lead to millions hating us, and we won't be fooled by rhetoric into thinking the cause is anything but what it has always been.

So how does it feel to accept who you are, where you live, and what your country must do to survive? How does it feel to finally be in control of your own destiny, to be free in your own land? To raise your children in the place where they belong? How does it feel to have sons and daughters who are proud of their country and choose to defend it...and more, have the option to choose life - for the first time in 2,000 years, and the power to make that option reality? Pretty darn good. Thanks for asking.

Lolo Said

Lolo said...
You are such a coward! Why don´t you publish all comments?
Why are you so scared?
Hahaaha its so obvious that you don´t have any answers!
Your country, Israel, is EVIL.
And Israel is so small and tiny, that when the rest of the world decides to, you will be forced to behave human.
Hi Lolo. Thanks for leaving your name. It's a lot more fun to answer someone by name than have to score another Anonymous. I've answered why I don't publish all comments in my previous post. See The Thing About Comments.

I agree with basically one thing in what you wrote - Israel is so small and so tiny. I wonder, then, why you spend so much time and energy hating it so much. We are evil? Really...that's fascinating. Not Sudan, not Iran. Not Iraq or the Taliban. But Israel. We are evil? And what great evil did we do? Ah yes, details, details.

You will force us to "behave human"? Would that mean doing something like - oh, I don't know - sending help to Haiti's earthquake victims, saving Palestinian children who are ill and need operations? Would that mean sending doctors around the world to do heart surgery, eye surgery, and more?

How about these amazing inventions - all from Israel...the country you think is evil?
This is a 5 minute search on amazing things Israel has contributed to the world - can you match it with any other country in the world? Your country? Certainly not any of the Arab countries I know of...and WE are the ones not contributing? Tiny little Israel?

It's obvious I don't have answers? Gee, I guess I missed the question because I believe I have spent the last four years answering so much about Israel and what we do here, how we live, and why, despite the terror attacks and the endless rocket attacks - we still try to search for peace.

But no matter - there are those who are so blinded by hatred they will never see the tremendous things Israel does. Feel free to comment again, Lolo - but this time, please do your research and offer some concrete examples of how you came to the absurd and erroneous concept that it is Israel that is the evil one.

As I said, tiny and small we may be - but we have given to the world well out of all proportion to our size.

The Thing About Comments is...

See, this is my blog and I don't have to pass through your nasty comments. I really don't.

So, if your comment includes lies - I'm not going to put it through.

If your comment includes a link to propaganda - filled with lies and exaggerations - same deal. I don't owe you a platform - get your own blog.

If your comment includes an invitation to dialog, a question, etc. - I'll pass it through and either comment afterwards, or make a whole post out of it.

If you are dumb enough to start your comment by thinking you have the right to say this is my land or not, you're wrong. You can choose where to make your home - you can't choose where I make mine, or what right I have to live here.

If you are ignorant enough to begin by saying that we are targeting civilians and that is equivalent to the regular rocket fire against Israel, don't expect me to treat you seriously. Today, three more mortars were fired at Israel - at civilians, at our cities. You cannot consider yourself an intelligent, moral human being if you equate those attacks against the targeted elimination of a terrorist cell about to launch a rocket in the direction of one million people.

If you think that terror only happens when something explodes in front of you, you are wrong. Terror is the launching; terror is the threat. People who have to consider where they will run if in this second an alarm goes off - they live with terror and are terrorized. Palestinians do not live this way - unless they choose to live next to a Hamas Training Camp - and if they do, they deserve their fear. They endanger their lives and their children's lives. More than once, Israel has warned civilians to evacuate an area - and the civilians have gotten up...and surrounded the terrorist's house!

Finally, though it appears that I have ignored you thus far, if your comment supports my blog - yeah, I'm vain enough to smile and pass it through. I thank you for your support, for following, for commenting, for sharing. You have become an important part of my life and I love touching and being touched by your support. I am so grateful for all of you.

Those are the rules.  If you like them - great, please keep reading and please do keep commenting because I really, really want to hear what you have to say - when you can say it nicely and with honesty. Shavua tov - may it be a good week for all of us.

In the meantime, here's a response for Lolo and da brasil.

Friday, January 20, 2012

When the War Ended - the Last Look Back

I don't know the official day that Israel considered the Gaza War to be over. For me, it ended on January 21, 2009 - when I drove down and brought Elie home. It was a roller coaster at the end, a race against time, to see if he would be home for his brother's bar mitzvah or not. He was already working on his side to, at least, get a pass to come home for part of it. In the end, he came home the day before. A final post, if you will, when he told me (on January 20, 2009), "I'll tell you tomorrow, when I see you...."

I'll tell you tomorrow, when I see you... 
For those of you who have followed this journey...at least in the last few weeks, I'm sure you can imagine how incredibly sweet those words sounded to me. I spoke to Elie this afternoon and for the first time in almost a month, our conversation was relaxed. He has nothing to do. They are waiting there, hoping that the ceasefire will last...forever. 
They are ready to fire - if fired upon. They don't expect to be, but they are ready. They are also very ready to come home - to sleep in comfortable beds, eat and dress and just be normal. But not yet. Slowly, troops are returning home. I am not part of the upper circles where they decide on the order of standing down from a war. Elie's unit remains, though many soldiers have already returned home to their families, their jobs, their lives. In some ways, this waiting period is harder than others. They want to finish and be finished. 
We talked about what would have been, if they hadn't been called to war. They were to have gone for training. "Guess you had enough training, right?" I asked Elie.
"and then some," he answered. 
He told me they might give them a week off, as they were planning to do before the war. They might cancel the unit's vacation - a week where they take the whole group somewhere to relax. There isn't much time yet before the next rotation and anyway, they all just want to go home. Nearly as much as we want them home. 
"Guess what I ate for lunch?" he said at one point. 
OK, that's going to be a bit hard. It had to be something really good...or really bad. But which? Hoping it was something good, I asked "what did you eat?" 
"Steak and hamburgers." OK, that's about at the top of Elie's food chain. And then he explained.  
One of the father's of a boy in his unit came with a huge truck, a huge refrigerator compartment filled with meat - and made a barbecue for the guys. 
"How much weight have you gained in this war?" I asked him and heard him laugh. You can't imagine how wonderful that sounds. 
There were several times he started to say something and stopped. No, he can't tell me when his unit will move, where it will go. He can't tell me so many things. We talked a little bit about the rocket fire. Several times they were ordered to quickly take cover. 
He told me that his unit is located in a field, and today, for the first time, he saw in the distance that the farmer was beginning to reclaim his land from the army; watering the fields that were open to him. "He can't even come here," Elie explained. "This area is a closed military zone."
I told him about the broadcasts - how in the middle of a discussion, a different announcer would suddenly start talking "on top" of the other voices, "Alert in Beersheva. In Beersheva, an alert. An alert, in Sderot and Ashkelon. Alert in Sderot and Ashkelon. In Ashkelon and Sderot, an alert." 
I told him how I would start to pray each time I heard those words - "let it land in an open field and not in the city; let it land in an open field," knowing that even as I was thinking those words, the rocket had already landed. And then, I explained to my son, "then I realized YOU were in an open field. Then I started praying for it to land in the city," I joked and again he laughed.
We talked about his little sister, and the "trauma" of the false alarm here. "Ima, do you know how many times I heard the siren?" he asked. No, I don't know and I'm not sure I want to know. 
"Did anything hit near you?" God, I don't want to know the answer to that one. Please, please say no. 
"No," he answered. Thank you, God, for that! 
He started to say something else, but again stopped. "I'll tell you tomorrow, when I see you," he explained and it sounded so good. 
This evening for the first time in weeks, I mixed a batch of tuna-corn fritters. My mother made them when we were little; my sister makes them for her kids; I make them for mine. It doesn't beat steak and hamburgers, but it is something that Elie loves. Actually, I wouldn't be at all surprised someday to hear from Elie that he only eats them and pretends to like them because he doesn't want to hurt my feelings...but he, like the rest of my kids, do seem to love them. 
So, I made a batch for dinner tonight and will take several with me to give to Elie during the ride home. He can only leave with the other commander gets back. That commander lives along the route where I'll be traveling to get to Elie, "do you want to ask him if he wants a ride? I can pick him up and bring him straight to where you are so he doesn't have to take any buses." 
"I'll check," Elie said. A few hours later, I spoke to Elie again. "No, you don't have to get him," he said. "His father is driving him down." 
That made me feel good. Like the father who drove down and made a barbecue for Elie's unit, like the father who will drive his son down tomorrow, like my friends here who went this evening to visit their son who was in Gaza and returned, we all need to see, to hug, to talk. 
Many years ago, I wanted to help the Israeli army better explain why and how it does what it does. The army website was not well written and lead to misunderstandings and so I worked with a team of people to help improve the quality of the English on the site. After many months and considerable improvement, we decided the group of people would "stand down." 
I liked the term and the concept. You step up to a crisis, you meet it, you deal. I'm not sure I dealt with this war nearly as well as I should have. Many friends (whose sons were in more danger than Elie) handled the war with faith and grace. I don't think I handled it with either. In some ways, that was good. It let you - those of you outside Israel - see the very real picture of how much we as a society love our sons and how much they love our country.  
In some ways, I think I am standing down now. I will continue to write on the blog but it goes back to what it was a month ago, a place to share stories about life in Israel, especially those connected to having a son in the army. For now, though I have little faith this ceasefire will last beyond Hamas' ability to rearm, for now, we will sleep; for now, we will enjoy life and go back to whatever passes for normal in this country. 
I thought to make a separate post about this, but I'll include it here. Today, Hamas boasted that they had killed 1,583 Israeli soldiers in this war. Miraculously, according to them - they managed to kill over 700 in a single day. If I had to explain the difference between their society and ours, I could not have done it better than they did themselves. There are no celebrations in Israel today; no great triumphant rallies. We do not celebrate the deaths in Gaza; we regret more than words can express, that Hamas brought this war down on the heads of our people and their own. 
It would never occur to us to boast over the numbers of people who died in Gaza...not even those caught with guns and rocket launchers. What the Palestinians refuse to understand is that there are no winners in a war and so they lost, and so did we. There are orphans on both sides of the fence near Gaza, millions of dollars in lost earnings and damaged property. Tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of traumatized children. 
What did we gain? In a very real sense, what Israel gained was probably several months of quiet before the next round. Again my youngest daughter told me about the moment when the siren went off. This is a child who remembers everything, and yet, almost every day, she keeps telling me the story as if I had not heard it. "There was a rocket attack in Beersheva," she said to me today. 
"When?" I asked. Today, like yesterday, was quiet. 
"A long time ago," she said. 
Tomorrow, Elie will come home. "How are you?" I asked him and got his usual answer. 
"Fine." 
He does sound fine, but I'll know for sure tomorrow, when I see him and finally have a chance to really listen. When I see him tomorrow...



Thursday, January 19, 2012

One Day...and Today is Good

Do you read the last page of a book before you finish the rest? Does it spoil the surprise? Take away the suspense?  The end of the story is that Elie came home safely from a war forced upon Israel by a terrorist organization duly elected by the people of Gaza. In the months and weeks before Israel went into Gaza in December, 2008, hundreds of rockets were being fired at Israel. Sometimes, they hit homes, schools, malls - people...babies, young children, mothers. When an Arab argues with you, he will ask you how many people have been killed by these rockets. It is their standard line - that and calling them "home-made" as if they are cookies or pretty little drawings by children.

If I steal your car for a day, but return it at night - is that okay...because, after all, I returned it? If I throw rocks at your home in the middle of the night and you wake in terror and your baby starts to cry...but I missed the window - is that okay...because, after all, I didn't actually damage the building? These are easy questions, aren't they? I have no right to take your car; no right to throw rocks at your home. Why then do the Palestinians have the right to shoot artillery at our cities - because that is what these missiles are - artillery.

So, after a month were 60 rockets were fired in a single day, hundreds over a period of a few weeks...Israel did what any normal nation would do. We went to war. My son went to war. It was a strange time. Living near Jerusalem - our lives were "normal." The sun was shining in the morning; the traffic was a bit heavier than "normal." Stop, I wanted to scream at people...just stop walking in the streets, eating in the restaurants, talking to that person on the bus. Stop! Elie is there, don't you understand? A million people are under fire. Stop!

But the world didn't stop, the bus kept driving, the next person stepped forward to order food. And all the time, I watched the calender. My youngest son's bar mitzvah was coming and I wanted Elie home. Almost to the last minute, we didn't know if he would make it.

Two days before the bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, I began to believe Elie would make it home for at least part of the celebration. One day....I wrote, and today is good. Here's the post from that day - three years ago. I've used the same title - because it is, I believe, a way of life - take today, just today, and make it a good one.

One Day...and Today is Good - January 19, 2009
I spoke to Elie on Sunday and asked him if he would be able to come to his brother's "aliyah to the Torah" on Thursday at the Western Wall. We will gather, our friends and family, and watch David recite the blessing over the Torah, and read its wise words. When Davidi finishes, we will throw candies, wishing him only sweet things in life. 
His friends will be there; it will be the first of many special moments that we will celebrate over the next few days. We celebrate the moment in his life when all things change; when he stands on his own. We, his parents, will now stand beside him and behind him; no longer in front of him, in the heavenly courts. 
What he does, is his responsibility. It is the first step he takes on the road to becoming the man he will be. Till now, what he failed to do was my fault, as his mother; our fault, as his parents. Soon, it will be his choices that matter; his decisions and actions that determine his future. 
We will gather no matter what, though the question that has hung over us as a family for the last few weeks is who is "we"? Will Elie be there? Elie was the first of my sons to experience this moment; to teach me what it means to have a son cross the threshold to manhood. Friends have told me that I have to be prepared, in case he can't be there. I have to practice laughing and smiling on the outside, while I cry inside. I want to scream that I can't; even as I know that I will. 
David deserves his celebration, no matter what it costs us all emotionally. It is part of what we do as Israelis and Jews. We choose life and the celebration of this important moment in my son's life demands that there be no tears, at least none like the ones I have shed in the last month. 
Last week, when we talked about it, Elie said he didn't know if he could get out of the army. Yesterday, Elie told me he would only know in a few days. He didn't want to ask, as there was no way there would be an answer. 
I took David shopping yesterday, wondering if Elie would be there. Should I buy Elie a new shirt or would that jinx the chances of his coming. Silly to think that way. It's the situation in the country and the war zone that will determine whether Elie will be there. I didn't buy him a new shirt. I couldn't. 
So many times I have imagined our family meeting at the Western Wall. So many of my friends are coming, already telling me that they are giving us their love and support. I want Elie there. Could I stand it if he wasn't? How could I smile and be happy if my heart is breaking inside at the thought of his missing this moment with his family? 
When they started giving some of the boys in his unit short leaves to go home and see their families, it was Elie's idea to offer to stay, with the hope that he could claim his "leave" to coincide with his brother's bar mitzvah. My older daughter suggested I tell Elie to do this. "How can I tell him to stay in a war zone?" I asked her. I can't. 
If he can come home safely now, even at the cost of missing the bar mitzvah, I'll take what I can. Saturday night they declared a ceasefire - at least a unilateral one. We would cease firing. Hamas fired a dozen more rockets into Israel. Then, yesterday afternoon, Hamas and other groups declared they would agree to withhold firing for 7 days. What does this mean for our people living down there? For children who have missed so much school, for businesses who have lost so much money...and for Elie, who hasn't been home in so many weeks. 
The clock is ticking down. I have so many things to do for this celebration and at any moment, I am overwhelmed with the simple task of just realizing that, for now, this war is over. Hamas has already announced that they are rearming. This is a temporary lull, as there have been so many others. But for children starved for sunshine in Sderot andAshkelon, for mothers who want to hang their laundry outside and watch the children play, it is enough. They will worry about tomorrow or the next day later. 
For now, they are very much like children first testing the vast ocean water at a beach. Slowly, they'll put a foot out the door and they'll listen for the sirens. So far today, it is holding. No rockets have fallen; no one has entered a bomb shelter in fear. Schools and universities are opening and Israel is, once again, sending humanitarian and medical aide to Gaza. 
Today is Monday. Elie called to tell me that they have given him permission to take any 24 hours he wants. He'll come home Wednesday and join us on Thursday morning before heading back to the "war zone". We do not yet know if he can come for the weekend celebration. But today I know that he will probably be there on Thursday; that I'll probably see him in just two days.
I want to sit and talk with him for hours, but I don't know if we will have the chance. I have to share him with the others; his aunt who has arrived from America to visit with him and his extended family here in Israel. His little sister, who needs to talk to him and see that he is fine. She'll probably tell him all about the frightening siren she heard; so innocently unaware of all that he has experienced. What is a false siren compared to huge explosions and repeated rocket attacks? Nothing...and everything, for a child. That's the way it is with children. She will never think to ask him what it was like to experience war, if he was afraid. She won't ask him about where he slept or showered or what food he had to eat. 
She will not think of Gazan resident Ali Hassan, who was quoted today as saying, "Once we have a missile that can reach the heart of Tel Aviv and blow up a building, maybe they [Hamas] can resume fire." She will not know, at least not now, that Hamas is re-arming itself and another round will come again. 
All she will know is that Elie is home to join us, as she believes it is our right, for our family celebration. She will take it as a given. 
A few days ago, when my son asked if his brother would be home and I answered that there was a possibility that he would not, my youngest daughter told me that I should "tell them" about the bar mitzvah. He is her brother and at her age, she still knows best to focus on her needs. There are moments when she'll see I'm upset and come give me a hug. She too is going through a transition, a stage where the "me" slowly begins turning into the "we," but she isn't really there yet. 
Tonight, when I go home from work, I will tell her that Elie will be coming home in just two days. She won't think of the soldiers who won't ever return home, and I am selfish enough to want her to stay young and unaware as long as she can.
So far, we know that Elie will join us for at least part of our family celebration. It is not enough, just enough, and more than enough.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What you can't solve up close...

The more things change...the more they remain the same. Today is January 18th - 18 days since the world welcomed 2012 and said goodbye to 2011. In those 18 days, Gaza has fired FIVE rockets at Israel.

A post from three years ago - and something to think about as the US enters election year.

What you can't solve up close... January 16, 2009
...you probably can't solve from thousands of miles away either. That's a lesson every US president for the last 60 years has learned and yet, somehow never manage to pass on to the new incoming president. 
Last week, the United Nations voted for a ceasefire. Good for them! I'm glad they've decided to stop firing; now back to Gaza. 
This week, Barack Obama is getting ready to step into the fray. Unfortunately, as soon as he steps in, his feet are likely to get as dirty as if he went to visit George W. Bush's ranch and went a'walking in the cow fields. What each president fails to understand, what seems so obvious to Israelis, is that you cannot make peace until BOTH sides want it. 
Israel has offered. Israel has compromised. Israel withdrew its people from Gaza years ago. It was a heart-wrenching, difficult, and ultimately wrong unilateral move because, as so many of us predicted, all it did was give the rocket launchers a better position from which to launch their missiles. Hebrew is not a language spoken or know by many around the world, and yet all know the one simple word for peace, "Shalom." In your language does "peace" also mean "hello" and "goodbye"? It does in mine. Not totally - we say "Allo?" when we answer the telephone, but when we meet people and then when we part from their company, we say "shalom." We greet them and leave them with the single wish for peace.
Jerusalem (see the "salem" part?) - means City of Peace. It is part of our prayers and our culture and our daily yearning. Weekly, we wish each other - Shabbat shalom - the peace of the Sabbath. Peace is part of who we are as much as what we strive to achieve. We accepted the partition of our land in 1947 because peace was better than war...it was the Arabs, then and every day since, for the last 62 years, that has chosen war, rejected peace. We are not the obstacles to peace in the Middle East. 
Compare our culture, the rhetoric of our leaders, to that of the Palestinians. You will never find an Israeli leader say about our culture what Hassan Nasrallah says about his own,
"We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death." 
From the head of Hizbollah himself, we hear the truth of his people...and ours. Until Barack Obama learns this truth, he is as likely to fail, as likely to step into something really foul smelling, as did his predecessors. There are things in life that nations and people cannot do alone.
You can't tango alone. You can't play Poker alone, and you can't make peace with your enemies until your enemies are at least open to the possibility that they will have to live with you in the peace they too must believe is best for their people.

Recipes...recipes...Lauren's Challah and a Twist

I've been asked to post some recipes - so first let me explain that when I cook...oy, do I cook. I have the recipe - I'll post it...but take my word for this - you are going to want to scale this down. The recipe makes about 12 medium size loaves of bread...Lauren gave me the recipe and I changed it a bit...so here's the adapted version. Understand that I'm really bad at measuring...so I'll do my best.

Ingredients
  • 1 package of yeast
  • some sugar (yeah, I know....like maybe 3 tablespoons...a bit more?)
  • 2 cups of warm water - not hot!!!! not cold...
Mix this together and drive Aliza to school (okay, that translates to letting it sit for about 10 minutes till the yeast is kind of foamy). Pour into the yeast mixture:
  • 2.5 kilos (that's like about 16 cups of flour, maybe a bit more) - I use the 70% whole wheat; or 1.5 packages of whole wheat and 1 package of white flour
  • 1 cup of sugar (I know, I know..)
  • 1 cup of honey (you want to taste amazing bread...add the honey)
  • 1 cup of oil (I use canola)
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups of warm water
  • 2 TABLESPOONS of salt (don't put in less, seriously)
Now, you mix this all until it's a dough - typically, I end up adding more flour until you get to around 3 kilo or about 20 cups of flour - but you can play with the water and the flour till it's a nice dough.

  • Knead it for a while - let it rise; punch it down; let it rise. (I cover it while it rises...don't ask me why.) If you can put the dough in a warm place, it will rise faster.
  • Shape it and let it rise again.
  • Paint beaten egg over the top - this helps it get that golden color; I sprinkle Zatar (hyssop)(http://tinyurl.com/6rema6v) on the bread before baking; or sometimes I saute onions and put some on before baking.
I put a tray of water in the oven - that usually helps make the bread lighter.

You bake it for about 25 minutes - at 170 C - around 350 F - until it is golden brown - make sure the bottom is brown as well.

As for the shaping - you can do all sorts of things with this dough. My favorite is the four-braid. Aliza makes an amazing 8-braid loaf. Enjoy and please do let me know what you think, how it comes out!

When I wanted to learn how to braid the challah with four strands, I looked on YouTube - I was hoping to post a simple example here - but I can't find the one I first watched and these are honestly confusing. Anyway, find one you like - and go for it. Happy baking!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

That Damn Roller-coaster

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know that somewhere during Elie's service, I hit on the idea that having children in the army was like being on a roller-coaster. You're cruising along, feeling fine...and then without warning, the bottom drops out and you're falling in terror. Sometimes, you know the fall is going to come, and still it is bad. Sometimes, you don't have a clue - and worse, you even think things are fine.

No, nothing serious - everyone is fine, but I felt like I was a bit on the roller-coaster this morning as I drove into Jerusalem with Shmulik. Chalk it up to not enough sleep because I was working late...chalk it up to fate. I don't even remember how the conversation started.

Last night, Shmulik was on the job. He and Elie are both working as security guards for a local company. There are two in Maale Adumim - the one they work for is the smaller company. The larger one won the bid for managing the city entrances and the schools, while Elie and Shmulik's company handles several places inside the city. In the last few weeks, three security guards have been attacked by Arabs in Maale Adumim. It took me too much time and not a little bit of panic to get through Shmulik's explanation to understand we were talking about guards on the outer perimeters.

Three times, Arabs have come up and as they approached, drawn a knife to stab the guards. The first time, the guard was stabbed in the neck, but only lightly wounded. The Arab ran off but apparently was later caught. The second time, another Arab was dumb enough to attack a guard who is a champion in martial arts. In seconds, as Shmulik explained, the guard had the Arab face down in the dirt, arrested - no casualties.

Last night, Shmulik was on the job when an Arab approached the city perimeter again. This time, he succeeded in stabbing the guard in the stomach - moderately wounding him. When the head of the security company got the call, he ordered Shmulik out into the streets in front of the mall.

This is when I sort of lost it - "Why?" I asked him, "the Arabs were going for the security guards and he puts you out there?" Yeah, it sounds kind of dumb and I realized it but I wasn't quite finished obsessing about it. "He should have put the old women on the street and put the security guards safe in a room."

Laughter and smiles...and a bit of panic. A few minutes later it penetrated that we weren't talking about an attack INSIDE the city, but rather on the outskirts and Shmulik was placed there to watch and make sure shoppers in the mall were safe in case the attacker had come into the city.

Still feels like a roller-coaster to me.

3:00 a.m. - quiet.....

It's 3:00 a.m. and I'm ready to go to sleep after finishing off work for three different clients. What a day...ended up with having to take my husband to the doctor and lost hours of work but he couldn't go alone. Things are stable there and that's what counts.

The house is sleeping - Coco the loud bird is asleep on his perch; Simba asleep in his bed. Elie went to a wedding of a friend tonight and Lauren went with him; he's on call for the ambulance tonight and so Lauren, also a trained medic, came to sleep over and should there be a call, they'll both go running. So far, thankfully, there have been no calls.

A few days ago, as we were driving home; I saw a girl sitting, stretched out on the sidewalk and as the car passed her location, I could see she was in pain. I told Elie to stop and see what had happened. It was interesting to watch.

Elie and Lauren both got out. This is a religious neighborhood and what had happened was that one teenage girl had fallen and hurt her arm and was shaky; her friend was trying to help her. Lauren stepped right in; Elie crouched nearby but let Lauren take the lead. They spoke to her for a few minutes; checked her arm, her pulse and agreed that she should go have the arm checked out. It would be cheaper for her to go on her own than call an ambulance and there was little more they were likely to do for her beyond the sling that Lauren tied on for her.

Elie leaned forward to help her stand; the rest was simple and we were on our way. In the meantime, tonight I found out that Davidi had passed his test after about 60 hours of training - he's now cleared to become a volunteer on the local ambulance squad...as Amira once did, as Elie still does, as Shmulik once did, as Lauren and Chaim still do. It is such an amazing thing to learn, to contribute, to do.

I'm so proud of all of them. Davidi gave up his entire Hanukka vacation to go every day to the course and sit there learning about how the human body operates and how he can help identify and fix things. He came home and would ask Lauren and Elie questions. At one point, he explained that a different instructor came in to teach them one section.

The new instructor began to explain that in Israel, ambulances also take care of animals...and that at least five questions on the test would be on what he was about to cover - and they had to get at least three of them correct. The young teenagers - most like Davidi around 15 years old...began taking notes frantically.

This is how you save a choking snake, he began...and they all wrote it down.

This is how you give a cesarean to a turtle...and they wrote it down.

By the time they were on the third animal...finally, the teenagers began to wonder. One asked, "are you being serious?"

At which point, the first instructor and the second instructor began laughing uncontrollably. The other instructor knew she would not be able to deliver this joke without laughing and so the substitute came in and for 30 minutes they had these kids going. Lauren laughed so hard when she heard the explanations. Apparently, this is a known part of these courses - she teaches about hamster treatment, but thinks she'll borrow the snake idea for her next class. These are 15 and 16 year old kids who have given up their vacation to learn very serious things about how to help in times of emergency - it's a way, perhaps, to remind them that there are things in life you still need to laugh about, smile about. It's so brilliant, so perfect, so Israeli.

What an incredible gift these young people bring to our country...but what an incredible gift they receive. They learn how to handle a crisis calmly, to ask the right questions, and help. I've seen Elie time and time again, calmly step into a situation; Lauren has infinite patience and was so gentle with the young woman - as she is when Aliza gets frustrated and tired.

So - it's 3:15 and I've relaxed enough to go to sleep. May it be a quiet night for Elie and Lauren...and all of our city and our country. And as I do each night before I go to sleep - I take a deep breath and check to see if rockets were being fired at our cities.

It seems it is quiet there as well. Today, rocks were thrown again at an Israeli bus and a car - no injuries reported though there were some frightening moments as the windows shattered. And two young Arabs were caught at a checkpoint with ammunition and pipe bombs. They confessed that they had hoped to get into the courtroom where the second of the Awad cousins was being sentenced for his part in the brutal murders of the Fogel family in Itamar. Five life sentences - 132 years.

And even that is not enough. But for now, I'll be happy that some measure of justice was given today and hope for the Israeli government to be smart enough never to release these two killers. And lest I sadden myself enough to block sleep, I'll return to the wonderful news that it is 3:20 in the morning and my babies are all safe and asleep.

My oldest baby sleeps with her sweet and wonderful husband and her amazingly amazing baby; my second baby sleeps in his room, his fiancee asleep in his baby sister's room. My third baby sleeps in the apartment below our house with his beautiful wife. My fourth baby passed his test and will now go out on ambulances to help others and tonight he is asleep in his room. And my youngest baby will soon turn 12 and celebrate her bat mitzvah...she sleeps in peace and with less fear than she has had in many months.

May God watch over my children and bless them with health, with safety, with love, with joy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shabbat Shalom...

I've got no time to write and truthfully, with something burning in my stomach, if I wrote, it wouldn't be good so I'll let it sit a while and figure if words will do justice to the injustice of others, of what a place of worship should be but all too often is not.

For now, I'll tell you that the soup is cooking, the sweet challah dough is rising. I have the heat on so the house is warm. It's gray and raining outside and I love it. So cold, so winter, so rare. It's family this weekend, quiet. Elie and Lauren cut tons of vegetables for the soup and left me instructions what to do with it this morning.

I've made three quiches (broccoli, mushroom, and corn) and soon a non-meat lasagna will go in. Today is Aliza's 12th birthday on the English calendar so I'm going to make her a case as well. The real celebration will take place in a few weeks, on her Hebrew birthday (or near it anyway).

What peace you find on a day like today comes from within the home. Yesterday and this morning, rockets were again fired at Israel; I continue to receive messages of hate. One came yesterday which I put through, insisting the Ahmadinejad didn't say he wanted to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. It was a play on words - instead of using the name "Israel" - he called us the "occupiers of Jerusalem" - well, duh - takes a brain and a map to figure out who he is talking about.

And then last night on Twitter a former Lebanese Prime Minister told his 79,000 followers that he had, apparently, accidentally greeted an Israeli and he was certainly sorry. If he had know, he never would have spoken to him.


How silly, how immature. How incredibly filled with hatred. How clear it is that the Arabs do not want peace. They can't even stomach speaking to an Israeli by accident. "Israel is our enemy" - I have not heard such truth from an Arab leader in a long time. Yes, Israel is your enemy. It isn't a great message to hear for those who want peace. It is a sad message, a dismal one.

And yet, like the rain, a message is what you make of it. Not all the time, but sometimes. The rain can be seen as dismal, terrible, messy and cold. Or each drop can be seen as a blessing. That's how it is here in Israel. We'll greet each other with, "it's supposed to be rainy and miserable, thank God."

I think it's the same here. There is truth in what this idiot admits on Twitter. He's clearly not intelligent enough to be diplomatic and I am grateful. Our greatest enemies are those who speak words that are lies; this one - this former Prime Minister of Lebanon is only a minor enemy - he lives in a country that is divided itself, abusive to its local Christian population, frantic that the Palestinian population will turn on it and try to take over, as they have in the past. 

Hezbollah is likely to pull them into another war soon and just a few weeks ago, a Lebanese woman was seriously hurt when a rocket they fired towards Israel landed in a Lebanese village close to the border.

But that is all outside - for this cold and rainy Shabbat, my heart and soul are full. My children are all close, safe, warm - or they will be soon. The challah needs to be shaped and baked; the house filled with the smell of freshly baked bread.

Shabbat shalom.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sometimes, I Just Crack Myself Up...

I'm still on my reading-the-blog-from-the-war journey...and I found this:

What you can't solve up close...
 ...you probably can't solve from thousands of miles away either. That's a lesson every US president for the last 60 years has learned and yet, somehow never manage to pass on to the new incoming president.
Last week, the United Nations voted for a ceasefire. Good for them! I'm glad they've decided to stop firing; now back to Gaza.
Yeah, sometimes I really crack myself up :-)


What Schools Should Be...3 years later

On January 6, 2009, I wrote about what schools should be. I wrote about Israel hitting a school - to this day, the basic difference in what we target versus what they target continues to be ignored. We have never targeted a school (and yes, we have targeted mosques - those being used to hide explosives). When we target a building - even one known to have explosives, we do our best to avoid casualties. We warned the local population with millions of fliers dropped from the planes - move away, the fliers warned. This place is being used as an arsenal and we are going to destroy it. Time after time, Palestinians gathered to protect their weapons with their lives.

And still, Israel did what it could to avoid injuries. A school should be...so much more than the Palestinians allow it to be. Three years ago...and three years later, so little has changed.

What School Should Be... (reprinted from January 6, 2009)
My youngest children went to school today. Thousands of children in Israel did not. Some of their schools are protected, reinforced against missiles. That's the result of more than 8 years of ongoing missile attacks. Though my children's school isn't protected from a potential missile attack, it does have a bomb shelter; it does have a high fence circling it to prevent terrorists from entering (even more, perhaps than preventing children from straying off), and it has a guard that watches as children enter and exit. 
In the last few days, the police must have decided that all this was not enough, and so they have stationed police near each of the schools, armed and watching. Our children are our lives, our most precious treasures. Whatever it takes to keep them safe, will be done. That is the message Israel has sent to its citizens.
Several times over the past few years, our schools in the south have been hit by rockets. Last week, two schools and a kindergarten were hit. Thankfully, no one was hurt because our country deemed it too dangerous to allow our children to continue their studies, lest a missile hit there. Of course, it would have been nice if our government and the world stopped the missiles, but if they haven't accomplished that yet, at least they were honest enough to tell parents to keep their children home. The priority has always been the lives of our children. 
A few years ago, a young boy, only 4-years-old, was walking to nursery school with his mother when a rocket crashed and exploded next to them, just as they entered the school yard. Little Afik was killed, his mother seriously wounded. Afik's parents had tried for years to have children and only after many many years of treatments, were they finally blessed with a beautiful baby boy...and then, on one horrible day, they lost their only child, Afik
Rather than risk that and other tragedies, Israel has suspended school everywhere within 40 kilometers of Gaza. They did this because a school should be a place where children learn and play. Where there is light and knowledge. Most of all, it should be a place where children are safe, where they can grow and expand their knowledge in a protected environment. Today, in Gaza, a school was hit by an Israeli missile. The Palestinians claim dozens have died. It's a horrible thing, a terrible tragedy, every parent's nightmare. 
Except... 
Except that Israel's initial inquiry into the incident, showed that the missile didn't hit the "school" by mistake. The target was true; the aim was accurate. In August, last year, Israel filed a formal complaint with the United Nations, complaining about the school being used to fire against Israel. Israel has already identified Hamas gunmen who were killed at the scene of the attack - even publicized their names. 
The proof that the building was a legitimate target was found, once again, in the secondary explosions that occurred. The missile hit the building, causing explosives inside the building to detonate. You can watch these and other videos on the web. You'll see the initial explosion, and then, mere seconds later, multiple explosions and objects shooting high into the air. 
If you hit a building that has no explosives, the building collapses and the only thing that rises into the air is dust and rubble. Nothing explodes - again, see all the videos of houses hit in Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheva. As horrible as it sounds, as tragic as the results are, the missile was accurate. It hit its target and did what it was supposed to do. Secondary explosions prove that the building was used to store rockets. 
What it comes down to is a building from which mortars were shot, in which explosives were stored, and in which, Palestinians chose to teach their young. There is something incredibly sick about that. 
There are rules in warfare and in life. 
One rule: A civilized people should not target innocent civilians. This is what Hamas repeatedly has done for the last 8 years. This is NOT what Israel did today. 
Second rule: An innocent civilian should not protect a terrorist location. If you are in a training camp - leave. If you are near a rocket launching site - run, and if you are sending your children to a school where rockets are stored and missiles and mortars are launched, be smart and stop sending your child because the government against whom those rockets and mortars are being shot, has the right to defend itself. School is important, but as Israel has shown in the last few days by canceling lessons, nothing is as important as life. 
And there is an even more sinister issue here lurking under the surface of this story, one that I hope will come to light in the next few days. The United Nations and its involvement in Gaza is one that is as suspect as its involvement in Lebanon was years ago. Too often, they are "at the scene" and too often, they allow their "sanctuaries" to by used by terrorists who attack Israel. Their ambulances have been used by gunmen, and their school to be used as a launching ground for mortars. 
Today Israel hit a target - a legitimate target used to launch mortars against our people. If, in addition to shooting mortars, that building was also used for classes, that doesn't make it a school. A school should be a place of knowledge and growth. A school should be a place of safety and it seems rather obvious to me that a missile launching pad isn't a safe environment, and therefore, no matter what the United Nations calls that building in Gaza, it was not a school. 
A school cannot be a place for mortars...and a place with mortars cannot be a school. Golda Meir once said that there would be peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us. 
Decades after she said that, generations have come and gone, and still that day has not arrived.

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