Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thieves, Protection, Law and an Email

How's that for a title? 

Every once in a while, a wave of thefts plague our city of Maale Adumim. Most times, it turns out to be the Bedouins, who live in the dry river bed and across the mountain. Sometimes, it is Arabs from nearby neighborhoods and yes, there have been times when it was Jews. The Bedouins have an interesting and simple life, for the most part and there are times in my hectic run to and from one meeting to another, that I almost envy them. A Bedouin once tried to explain his theory of life and theft. According to this kind man who felt hospitality was not just a virtue, but an obligation - we all own things. If he can steal...I mean take...something from you, it is your fault, not his. It isn't theft because if God had not wanted him to have it, he would not have been able to steal...I mean take...it from you.

After a short time of trying to explain my philosophy, I gave up. Different worlds, different philosophies. I also gave up trying to convince a very nice Arab from Hebron that polygamy wasn't right. He asked if I wouldn't prefer my husband to move his second wife in with me, rather than sneak off and cheat somewhere. As I couldn't fathom being one of two (or more) wives, he simply couldn't understand the concept that I'd be handing my incredibly beloved husband the door. In his world, the first wife's only option would be to return in disgrace to her father's home - in my world, the man would walk around with the "first" wife's footprint on his...well, never mind.

Getting back to the Bedouins that have settled around my city. Every once in a while, usually at night, they climb up the mountains to my city and try to enter a house, and, if God lets them, they take whatever they can. For the most part, when Bedouins enter, they rob, but do not harm. They want property. That doesn't mean they can't or won't cause physical harm when confronted, but rather it isn't their intended result.

By contract, when Arabs enter a Jewish home with criminal and/or terrorist intent - as we have learned to our great anguish, it is not possible to predict the outcome. There have been a series of carjackings by Arabs in recent weeks. They have targeted lone women drivers. When they see them, they block the woman's car with another; then smash the windows and pull her out. One woman was injured when she was dragged with the car. Luckily, she was able to separate from the car before more serious injury was caused.

Two weeks ago, there were a series of break-ins in Maale Adumim - including one in my neighborhood - a religious area that is known to be quiet on Fridays and Shabbat. Cars do not travel into, out of, or through the neighborhood unless it is security (or a medical emergency). During the robbery, the thieves took light things - jewelry, money, a child's iPod. The first time it happened, the robbers got away clean. The family returned from eating with neighbors (friends of Aliza) to find they'd been robbed. I do not know what the police know of the identity of the robber. Last week, again on Friday night, the family returned. This time and it was Arabs who were in the process of robbing their home and with a quick call to the police, the Arabs were caught.

Yesterday morning, driving into the city, I checked my email (Elie was driving). One of the main rabbis in our community and the spiritual leader of what I believe is the largest synagogue in our area, a man well loved and respected even by those who attend other synagogues, sent out an email. On the Sabbath, we do not use the telephone, except in what is considered life-threatening circumstances.

To save a life, Judaism takes a very broad definition of life-threatening. For example, few women in today's society - certainly in Israel, face death when giving birth. Prenatal care is almost universally available with our national health care system we pay virtually nothing for the most modern health checkups and facilities. And yet, where there is potential, the law is clear. If a woman goes into labor on the Sabbath - an ambulance is called, a car driven.

My oldest daughter was born on Rosh Hashana - the celebration of the new year. Like the Sabbath, it is a day we do not drive, do not use electricity, money, telephones. I woke in the morning - she was my first. How was I supposed to know that this was really labor? Denial was so much easier. I dressed and told my somewhat surprised husband and mother-in-law that I wanted to go to the synagogue. They probably thought I was insane, but they went along. I sat beside my mother-in-law and every nine or ten minutes tensed up as a cramp distracted me. Was this labor? I didn't care so long as I could pretend that things were normal.

Suddenly, the rabbi of the synagogue, a man who I respected greatly, came into the women's section and called me out. I wondered if I had done something wrong. As soon as we got outside, I saw my wonderful and worried husband standing there - along with three men. Doctors, it seems, that the rabbi had gathered. "Are you in labor?" the rabbi asked me in front of the men.

Leave me alone, I wanted to tell him. "I don't know," I said quietly. "Maybe." I was so embarrassed standing there in what seemed like a world of men.

"What should she do?" he asked the doctors, who universally answered that I should be checked and be in touch with my doctor. I was having none of that. I could go back inside and stand near my mother-in-law and pretend that this birthing thing wasn't going to happen, or I could face reality and these men. Oh, I desperately wanted to go away from them, even my husband who seemed to be nodding proudly.

There is a beautiful tradition on Rosh Hashana to blow the shofar or ram's horn. At the bottom of this post is a beautiful video of someone showing how it sounds. I insisted I'd go call the doctor - AFTER I'd heard the shofar. I'd have promised anything, if they'd leave me alone.

It seems the will of the many was stronger and my body was quite insistent. The rabbi himself insisted on blowing the shofar for me IN HIS OFFICE...NOW...and when that was done and I still hesitated in picking up the phone and calling my doctor on this holy day, the rabbi picked up the phone himself - on Rosh Hashana and dialed the number. It was that moment that made me understand - for pikuach nefesh - the saving of a life, you break Shabbat (or Rosh Hashana). My baby was going to be born and I had to take care of her.

So, what does all this have to do with today's post and the recent thefts? The email addressed the question about whether it is permissible to call the police in the event of a break-in on Shabbat. If you think about it from a simplistic point of view, once the robbers leave the house, is anyone's life in danger? For what purpose would you violate the Sabbath? The email is entitled "Is it permissible to call the police in the event of a break-in?" followed by the rabbi's name.

His answer is clear and unequivocal. I love his answer - but more, I love the fact that he felt it relevant enough to send it to hundreds of people in my neighborhood - I view this as a slice of what my community is like, a slice of Israel, a slice of what it is to be a Jew in a land of Jews.

Here's his note (and the video after that):

Is it permissible to call the police to report a break-in on Shabbat?  Rav Elisha Aviner

Question: Approximately one month ago there was a break-in on Shabbat night in the neighborhood. Last Shabbat night there was an additional attempted break-in. The burglars were Arab. Is it permissible to call the police on Shabbat to report the break-in?
Answer: Not only is it permissible to call the police, but one must report it immediately. The reason is simple: the saving of a life takes precedence over Shabbat. Therefore, it takes precedence not only to make the phone call but also takes precedence in regard to all of the police activity to locate the thieves.
This is a clear ruling in the Shulchan Aruch [called the Code of Jewish Law, an authoritative legal code of Judaism] “In a city that is on the frontier, even if [non-Jews] came only to take (or destroy) property, Shabbat is put aside”. Maale Adumim is “a city that is on the frontier”, surrounded by Arab villages and a hostile population. The Israel Police does not regard break-ins in Maale Adumim by the Arab population as just property crimes, but rather as actions that endanger life. A break-in is liable to end in bodily harm, Heaven forbid. A kitchen knife or iron bar can be used as murder weapon, Heaven forbid. On this there is no dispute. Even if the thief fails to steal and escapes, there is a requirement to capture him in order to prevent additional attempts by him or his conspirators in crime.

Also regarding burglary attempts in the central cities that are not on the frontier, there are great poskim [judges or rabbis that rule on the law] that have instructed that it is permissible to alert the police on Shabbat, lest crime increase on Shabbat and its end will be the endangerment of life. This is the halachic basis for the actions of the police on Shabbat (patrols, etc.). Event those who disagree with this opinion do not doubt that in Maale Adumim, which is on the frontier, there is a full requirement to alert the police immediately for every attempted break-in on Shabbat whether Arab or Beduin.

All of the above is simple and clear, therefore I will not trouble the reader with references to halachic sources and responsa that are based on the above. Anyone interested is invited to turn to me.

The local police is doing its best to capture the thieves and put an end to this phenomena, as I have heard recently from the Commander of the Maale Adumim Police. However the police cannot do this alone, they need the alertness on our part and our immediate reporting of incidents.

We should merit “the One who spreads the sukka of peace upon us and upon all of His people Yisrael” and “Shabbat is relief from anguish”.

How's that for a title?

Every once in a while, a wave of thefts plague our city of Maale Adumim. Most times, it turns out to be the Bedouins, who live in the dry river bed and across the mountain. Sometimes, it is Arabs from nearby neighborhoods and yes, there have been times when it was Jews. The Bedouins have an interesting and simple life, for the most part and there are times in my hectic run to and from one meeting to another, that I almost envy them. A Bedouin once tried to explain his theory of life and theft. According to this kind man who felt hospitality was not just a virtue, but an obligation - we all own things. If he can steal...I mean take...something from you, it is your fault, not his. It isn't theft because if God had not wanted him to have it, he would not have been able to steal...I mean take...it from you.

After a short time of trying to explain my philosophy, I gave up. Different worlds, different philosophies. I also gave up trying to convince a very nice Arab from Hebron that polygamy wasn't right. He asked if I wouldn't prefer my husband to move his second wife in with me, rather than sneak off and cheat somewhere. As I couldn't fathom being one of two (or more) wives, he simply couldn't understand the concept that I'd be handing my incredibly beloved husband the door. In his world, the first wife's only option would be to return in disgrace to her father's home - in my world, the man would walk around with the "first" wife's footprint on his...well, never mind.

Getting back to the Bedouins that have settled around my city. Every once in a while, usually at night, they climb up the mountains to my city and try to enter a house, and, if God lets them, they take whatever they can. For the most part, when Bedouins enter, they rob, but do not harm. They want property. That doesn't mean they can't or won't cause physical harm when confronted, but rather it isn't their intended result.

By contract, when Arabs enter a Jewish home with criminal and/or terrorist intent - as we have learned to our great anguish, it is not possible to predict the outcome. There have been a series of carjackings by Arabs in recent weeks. They have targeted lone women drivers. When they see them, they block the woman's car with another; then smash the windows and pull her out. One woman was injured when she was dragged with the car. Luckily, she was able to separate from the car before more serious injury was caused.

Two weeks ago, there were a series of break-ins in Maale Adumim - including one in my neighborhood - a religious area that is known to be quiet on Fridays and Shabbat. Cars do not travel into, out of, or through the neighborhood unless it is security (or a medical emergency). During the robbery, the thieves took light things - jewelry, money, a child's iPod. The first time it happened, the robbers got away clean. The family returned from eating with neighbors (friends of Aliza) to find they'd been robbed. I do not know what the police know of the identity of the robber. Last week, again on Friday night, the family returned. This time and it was Arabs who were in the process of robbing their home and with a quick call to the police, the Arabs were caught.

Yesterday morning, driving into the city, I checked my email (Elie was driving). One of the main rabbis in our community and the spiritual leader of what I believe is the largest synagogue in our area, a man well loved and respected even by those who attend other synagogues, sent out an email. On the Sabbath, we do not use the telephone, except in what is considered life-threatening circumstances.

To save a life, Judaism takes a very broad definition of life-threatening. For example, few women in today's society - certainly in Israel, face death when giving birth. Prenatal care is almost universally available with our national health care system we pay virtually nothing for the most modern health checkups and facilities. And yet, where there is potential, the law is clear. If a woman goes into labor on the Sabbath - an ambulance is called, a car driven.

My oldest daughter was born on Rosh Hashana - the celebration of the new year. Like the Sabbath, it is a day we do not drive, do not use electricity, money, telephones. I woke in the morning - she was my first. How was I supposed to know that this was really labor? Denial was so much easier. I dressed and told my somewhat surprised husband and mother-in-law that I wanted to go to the synagogue. They probably thought I was insane, but they went along. I sat beside my mother-in-law and every nine or ten minutes tensed up as a cramp distracted me. Was this labor? I didn't care so long as I could pretend that things were normal.

Suddenly, the rabbi of the synagogue, a man who I respected greatly, came into the women's section and called me out. I wondered if I had done something wrong. As soon as we got outside, I saw my wonderful and worried husband standing there - along with three men. Doctors, it seems, that the rabbi had gathered. "Are you in labor?" the rabbi asked me in front of the men.

Leave me alone, I wanted to tell him. "I don't know," I said quietly. "Maybe." I was so embarrassed standing there in what seemed like a world of men.

"What should she do?" he asked the doctors, who universally answered that I should be checked and be in touch with my doctor. I was having none of that. I could go back inside and stand near my mother-in-law and pretend that this birthing thing wasn't going to happen, or I could face reality and these men. Oh, I desperately wanted to go away from them, even my husband who seemed to be nodding proudly.

There is a beautiful tradition on Rosh Hashana to blow the shofar or ram's horn. At the bottom of this post is a beautiful video of someone showing how it sounds. I insisted I'd go call the doctor - AFTER I'd heard the shofar. I'd have promised anything, if they'd leave me alone.

It seems the will of the many was stronger and my body was quite insistent. The rabbi himself insisted on blowing the shofar for me IN HIS OFFICE...NOW...and when that was done and I still hesitated in picking up the phone and calling my doctor on this holy day, the rabbi picked up the phone himself - on Rosh Hashana and dialed the number. It was that moment that made me understand - for pikuach nefesh - the saving of a life, you break Shabbat (or Rosh Hashana). My baby was going to be born and I had to take care of her.

So, what does all this have to do with today's post and the recent thefts? The email addressed the question about whether it is permissible to call the police in the event of a break-in on Shabbat. If you think about it from a simplistic point of view, once the robbers leave the house, is anyone's life in danger? For what purpose would you violate the Sabbath? The email is entitled "Is it permissible to call the police in the event of a break-in?" followed by the rabbi's name.

His answer is clear and unequivocal. I love his answer - but more, I love the fact that he felt it relevant enough to send it to hundreds of people in my neighborhood - I view this as a slice of what my community is like, a slice of Israel, a slice of what it is to be a Jew in a land of Jews.

Here's his note (and the video after that):
Is it permissible to call the police to report a break-in on Shabbat? Rav Elisha Aviner
Question:
Approximately one month ago there was a break-in on Shabbat night in the neighborhood. Last Shabbat night there was an additional attempted break-in. The burglars were Arab. Is it permissible to call the police on Shabbat to report the break-in? 
Answer:
Not only is it permissible to call the police, but one must report it immediately. The reason is simple: the saving of a life takes precedence over Shabbat. Therefore, it takes precedence not only to make the phone call but also takes precedence in regard to all of the police activity to locate the thieves. 
This is a clear ruling in the Shulchan Aruch [called the Code of Jewish Law, an authoritative legal code of Judaism] “In a city that is on the frontier, even if [non-Jews] came only to take (or destroy) property, Shabbat is put aside”. Maale Adumim is “a city that is on the frontier”, surrounded by Arab villages and a hostile population. The Israel Police does not regard break-ins in Maale Adumim by the Arab population as just property crimes, but rather as actions that endanger life. 
A break-in is liable to end in bodily harm, Heaven forbid. A kitchen knife or iron bar can be used as murder weapon, Heaven forbid. On this there is no dispute. Even if the thief fails to steal and escapes, there is a requirement to capture him in order to prevent additional attempts by him or his conspirators in crime.
Also regarding burglary attempts in the central cities that are not on the frontier, there are great poskim [judges or rabbis that rule on the law] that have instructed that it is permissible to alert the police on Shabbat, lest crime increase on Shabbat and its end will be the endangerment of life. This is the halachic basis for the actions of the police on Shabbat (patrols, etc.). Event those who disagree with this opinion do not doubt that in Maale Adumim, which is on the frontier, there is a full requirement to alert the police immediately for every attempted break-in on Shabbat whether Arab or Bedouin. 
All of the above is simple and clear, therefore I will not trouble the reader with references to halachic sources and responsa that are based on the above. Anyone interested is invited to turn to me. 
The local police is doing its best to capture the thieves and put an end to this phenomena, as I have heard recently from the Commander of the Maale Adumim Police. However the police cannot do this alone, they need the alertness on our part and our immediate reporting of incidents.
We should merit “the One who spreads the sukka [canopy] of peace upon us and upon all of His people Yisrael” and “Shabbat is relief from anguish”.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fogel Murders in Itamar - One Year Ago

It's been a year since the horrible attack on the Fogel home in Itamar. Rabbi Udi Fogel, his wife Ruti, and three of their six children were murdered. It was an attack that shocked a nation that didn't believe it could be shocked. It brought us to our knees with its depravity, its barbarity. We are not strangers to blood, to death, to murder. It has been done to us before and long ago, we accepted that it would continue - until the Arabs want it to stop.

But this was so much worse. This was just beyond unthinkable. How, how in God's name does a human being slit the throat of a three-month-old infant? Why, why couldn't they have left her there, alive and crying, but at least alive? Why did they have to kill Hadas too?

How, how in God's name does a human being stab a three-year-old in the heart? Couldn't little Elad have been spared? Why did they have to kill him too? And Yoav, 11-year-old Yoav?

And a mother who stood in front of the door where her two young sons were asleep - they killed her too. And a father, unarmed and at home with his family. Too much for the mind, too much for the heart and the soul. A year has passed. How are the Fogel children coping? If you can stand the pain it will cause (and even if you can't), read this A Visit with the Fogel Children.

And since life is about our own experiences and what touches us up close, I'll tell you of another effect, nothing compared to the Fogel children and yet a factor in our lives). Our youngest daughter, Aliza, is doing well a year later. Friday nights - the night the Fogel family was attacked - she still locks the room to her door. She was frightened again when she heard that there had been some robberies in our neighborhood recently. In one case, Arabs were caught; in another, the family came back to find some of their possessions gone. It scared Aliza - happening so close to us, but it didn't shake the foundations of her world. It didn't happen now, but it did happen last year.

As details of the horrible murders came out, Aliza found some comfort when she heard that Ruti Fogel had protected her two sons as they slept. At one point she asked me why I was saying we would protect her when Ruti and Udi weren't able to protect their children. What answer could I give her? What comfort could I bring to ease her trauma? With her body, Ruti blocked the door, and this is where her body was found. Sickening though it is, this was one point their killers chose to mention - that their only regret was in not finding and murdering the two little boys that thankfully managed to sleep through the nightmare taking place just outside their room. And that attempt, knowing she'd tried and perhaps succeeded because the two boys were alive, helped Aliza.

Sometimes, you can see something happen and think it is interesting, even as you are so involved in the details you know that later you'll want to look at it all again. This is what happened with Aliza. I was fascinated at the process of a child coping with unspeakable horrors and tragedies even as I was focusing on trying to help her. I felt completely out of my depth - completely unsure of what I was doing. I was afraid I would make it worse, increase her trauma rather than ease it.

I spoke to parents of her friends - all seemed very upset, but not to the same degree as Aliza. At first, I gave in to her every fear - she wanted the doors locked - I made sure they were. Not just the house - but her room too. I agreed. She wanted to sleep with the light on, I let her. She wanted the windows locked and the thick plastic shutters closed day and night - and I didn't argue. Elie bought her an alarm that fit on her window and I watched as he carefully "installed" it. On and on, she asked and I gave in. After a few weeks, maybe it was longer - I just don't remember the timing anymore, she started having nightmares and I began to think that I was wrong to have thought I could handle this.

I spoke to her teacher and the school counselor and to a psychologist. I thought the nightmares were a bad sign and even as I took her into my bed some nights or sat with her on other nights, it turns out that the nightmares were a good sign. She's learning to cope with it, explained the school counselor. Already her mind has brought it to a level that she could cope - before she dreamed, it was so traumatic, said the counselor, she couldn't even dream. Her subconscious was finding paths to acceptance or perhaps acceptance is too great a word - maybe a truce with reality?

A year later, Tamar Fogel and her brothers are still in such pain and it is hard to believe the time will ever come when they won't be. A month ago, Ruti's mother asked one of her grandsons, "What do you say, Roee, are we going to overcome this?’ and he answered, ‘Yes, Grandma, we will overcome.’ Then she asked, ‘Is this world good or bad?’ And this special child of Ruti and Udi Fogel answered, ‘Despite everything that happened to us, Grandma, the world is good." They are learning to cope, learning to smile, learning to live. I am awed by their strength and I know it was planted in them by parents who loved them and protected them.

A year later, in my little world, Aliza has learned to cope. It has been an unbelievable year - one of her brothers got married; another got engaged. She became an aunt, and an adult according to Jewish law with the celebration of her bat mitzvah. It's been a year of growth - our family has added Shmulik's beautiful wife, Na'ama, Amira's amazing son, and soon, Elie's so-special Lauren. It's been a year of celebration as we danced and laughed at weddings and parties and through it all, we remember the Fogels and worry about their orphans.

It's been a year without five members of the Fogel family...and many others who have been murdered in the name of a war we did not choose. Often those who wish to argue against my beliefs speak to me of occupation and my response is always the same...and never addressed - if the so-called occupation is the only reason why we are at war today and the occupation began in 1967, why then was the Palestine Liberation Organization founded in 1964? One responded that the occupation began in 1948 when we attacked the Arabs...no one could accuse this person of having learned history.

You cannot stop or start history when you want. It did not begin in 1967, nor did it begin in 1948. But beyond history is today's realities and we must all learn to cope with them. At the start, I asked what kind of human being could have murdered little Hadas, Elad and Yoav. I have yet to receive an answer to that question.

A year later...and we are all no wiser. Several months ago, a father and his baby son were murdered by rock-throwing attackers. This past week, a young mother was attacked but thankfully managed to escape.

It's been a year since the Itamar murders. May God avenge their blood and continue to bless us all with their memories.

Elie and War with Iran

An artillery person has an interesting view of war and the world.

"So, do you think there'll be a war with Iran?" I asked Elie recently.

"There can't be a war with Iran," Elie answered. You might want to tell that to the US government, most of Europe and even a few of our own leaders, I thought to myself as I asked him to clarify.

"We can shoot missiles at each other, but it won't be a war." A war, according to Elie, is a long, involved fight between two sides, mostly likely with ground forces and certainly with a lot more fire power than he expects to happen with Iran.

Will Israel fly to Iran and bomb their nuclear development plants? Will the US attempt such an action? This is as unknown to Elie as it is to most of the world. But whatever happens, according to Elie, won't be a war. Who am I to argue with someone who spent weeks fighting one? According to Wikileaks...and rumors/claims which are currently impossible to prove, Israeli commandos and Kurds have undermined and destroyed much of Iran's nuclear sites.

Is it true? No idea - somehow, if it is, I think I'd be left with the feeling that it can't have been that simple.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rare Glimpse of Violence

No, the violence is not rare - it happens almost daily on many roads in Israel. What is rare is the fact that it was captured on video - apparently without this bothering the Arabs.

This is a young woman - driving alone on a road. This is a mother of small children - whose life was endangered - simply because she was Jewish, simply because she was Israeli, simply because she was driving on that road.

Without shame, the Arabs pelted her car. This is the enemy we face - a hatred so strong.

Things You Don't Want Your Kids to Know

I had a discussion with Shmulik this morning. Our routines have settled into a nice pattern where he drives me to work two or three times a week. He takes the car to his yeshiva, and then we go home together. As he was speaking, I wished I could record what he was saying. So many things I want to tell you about and as he continued, it switched to so many things I wish he didn't know. There is a wisdom there in his words, a clarity in his youth. He is married and yet still I see him as the boy he was, as well as the man he has become. He sees the world, I thought to myself, more than we want them to see.

He started with one thing and then got to the other. The first was interesting; the second broke my heart a bit. So the first. There is a problem in Israel, a division of society that runs deep. On one side of the divide, there is the misconception that Ultra-Orthodox Jews are backwards, warped, left behind in the 18th century, perhaps in Poland or the Russia of pogroms. On the other side, there are people who see a world that they do not want to live in, do not want their children to know. For the most part, they are not nearly as materialistic as much of the world. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews to whom I am related are modest people who live in small apartments, work to raise their children and invest in them - not with computers and modern toys, but with time and love and attention.

Their children are so incredibly polite and though they run and play as all children do, there is a sense of caring and responsibility. Older children care for the younger ones and yes, part of that is necessity. When there are nine children in a family, the older ones learn quickly that they have to help - and they do.

For the most part, the Ultra-Orthodox are warm, family-oriented people who believe they have found a way to make life mean more and want to pass this on to their children and yes, protect their culture and their children from things that would infringe on the lives and communities they have built. They believe they have the right - and don't they really? - to choose what of this world they will bring into their lives and what they feel would be better to leave out.

They have cellular phones - and use them. But the Internet opens doors to deep and dark places so they would just as happily leave it away from their daily lives. Cars are not evil, buses, etc. but where darkness lurks, they choose the more obvious path to light. Or, they believe they do and as it is their lives, they have that right.

The problem, of course, is when anyone takes their right to make their own choices, and inflicts it on others. That is the eternal debate in Israel and with the Ultra-Orthodox. What right do they have to ask me to sit in the back of a bus because they believe men and women should be separated as much as possible? The answer, of course, is that they have a right to their separate buses - just so long as I have an equal right to my non-separate buses.

Each morning, we drive to my offices through one or two of their neighborhoods and so the discussion came about. "Who goes to war?" Shmulik asked me and then answered. According to the Torah, the tzadikkim - the righteous ones - went and in that way, believed God was with them and would support them. So, asks Shmulik, if the Ultra-Orthodox seek to be considered righteous ones, why don't they take the lesson from the Torah and serve in the army?

It's an interesting question. Many Ultra-Orthodox will argue that the "atmosphere" in the army is less conducive to a religious way of life, but really, given all that the army does in terms of making sure religious soldiers have kosher food (mehadrin, etc.) and a proper atmosphere, this isn't really a good argument and his question remains. Wouldn't the army be compelled to offer a better environment for religious soldiers - if it had more of them?

It is a debate we cannot finish because we are both on the same side. We both believe that the army and the Ultra-Orthodox would be better served by cooperating more and by all religious young men serving. We see a balance between the body and the soul - and both must be nurtured. It is a debate that Israel has had for the last 60 years - a need to seek spiritual and physical protection for our land and it is wrong to make one group provide all the physical protection. My sons should serve on the borders of Israel - as should the sons of the Ultra-Orthodox. I fully believe that God values the prayers and dreams of my sons (and daughters) equally with those of the Ultra-Orthodox.

Then, the conversation turned a bit. According to Jewish law, you are allowed, even commanded, to violate all but three laws to save your life or the life of another. Judaism is truly about living, not dying. We do not find glory in death. If you are starving, you eat not kosher food. If you are in a dangerous location, you travel, even on the Sabbath. All laws are off (except three) when it comes to life.

And so we came to the concept of bending or breaking some of the commandments during wartime and that led to the concept of Milhement Mitzvah. A milhemeth mitzvah is an obligatory war. I sometimes wonder if  the misguided concept of Jihad in Islam is a distortion of the concept of milhemet mitzvah.

(For a great source on contradictions and outright inaccuracies in the Koran, see this great site: Answering Islam.) Anyway, we talked about the concept of an obligatory war and that's when Shmulik knocked me off my feet (not in the literal sense, of course) - "every day here is a milhemet mitzvah," he said.

And before I could adequately process that, he told me what I've always known, and something I wish my children didn't, "they want to destroy us completely - so every day is a milhemet mitzvah," he concluded.

An obligatory war is one that is fought because there is no choice - because if you don't fight, your enemies will. The Arabs will shoot rockets at our cities, sneak into our homes and murder our babies. They will fight without honor, without bravery, and sneak off to murder what and when they can. An obligatory war is fought against the Samir Kuntars of the world, the Hassan Nassrallahs, and yes, even the ones who claim to be moderate in English, while calling for our destruction in Arabic. These are the ones who would kill a father in front of his little girl, and then murder her as well with their bare hands, or murder a three-month-old baby girl, or stab a three-year-old in the heart.

An obligatory war is one that is fought against an enemy that does not want peace and will not let you live in peace, no matter what you do, no matter what you give. Though the Torah speaks of absolving a man in his first year of marriage from going to war, it also explains that in a milhemet mitzvah, even the groom should leave his wedding canopy (chuppah). This is what Aharon Karov did in the Gulf War, when he was seriously wounded. This is what others did - the soldier who missed his son's circumcision ceremony; fathers whose sons and daughters were born while they were in Gaza.

Yes, Israel is involved in a daily war that is obligatory and unavoidable. And yes, Shmulik is right, it is a daily fight, a daily war that obligates us to defend ourselves.

An Israeli ambulance was stoned a short while ago in Hebron, a bus was pelted with bricks; a few days ago, two Israeli young men, off-duty and dressed in regular clothes were assaulted and nearly lynched. The Arabs caught one of the boys, shoved him to the ground and carved "you dog" into his scalp; a firebomb was thrown at an IDF patrol; another rocket was fired at Israel's south.

A milchemet mitzvah - every day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When Patience Fails...A Brother Answers

I'm tired.

I'm overworked.

I'm under-appreciated.

I cook. I clean. I do laundry. I handle a bunch of clients. I manage a bunch of writers who handle a bunch of clients. I write proposals. I teach. I promote my company, technical writing in Israel, Israel in general. I organize national conferences and bake 600 cookies (shouldda been 800 but couldn't keep going). I organized a bat mitzvah and did most of the cooking and baking and now I'm planning (okay, they're doing most of it themselves, but I'm in pity-mode, so bear with me here) this upcoming wedding. And worst of all, Passover is coming and I HATE Passover.

Did I mention that I'm tired? I want to write the stories in my head and don't have the time. I have a beautiful story I wrote...I want to share it with the world and don't have the time. I taught until 8:00 last night and then put in another 3.5 hours to finish off the drafts of three documents and delivered them. Got home to find...well, never mind. I wanted to sleep. And if I'm complaining...it's winter and I was really cold!

This morning, I wanted help. I wanted to sleep. But my husband was up late (he prefers to work late and sleep late...) and Aliza has crossing guard duty this week in her school so she had to be there even earlier. So I called her to make sure she was awake (family plan, free calls...communication in the 21st century). I wanted help making her lunch - there was no help to be had. As I dressed, I called my older daughter because I was supposed to drive her in and I wanted to make sure she was awake.

I called Shmulik - he and I drive in together, so I wanted to make sure he was awake and would be ready on time. I called Davidi - he came home last night because he's now a counselor for a local youth group - to make sure he was awake and was going to go with us. I'm tired. I want to sleep not coordinate the world.

My husband wanted the Subaru because he's got a project he's doing today - he's always been a fixer and now he fixes air conditioners in addition to being an amazing technical writer, engineer, and more. He's tired, but this is my blog, so I get to complain...yes, I'm beginning to smile - see how therapeutic a blog is?

So, since my husband was taking the Subaru, I had to take the Honda - which I love, but which is not insured for Shmulik to drive and I don't feel like driving. Aliza is 12 years old. I can't believe that. I'm so used to 11 and 11 is still a little girl, but 12...that's so much older than 11. Anyway, she loves to talk, to share, to explain. I'm tired. I know I'm jumping around here, but that too is something I just need to do.

Aliza came home from school yesterday and then with a friend, took a bus into Jerusalem and then came home and went to her youth group. I'm over-protective. I wouldn't have let her take a bus with a friend into Jerusalem but I was teaching and she asked her father. I wasn't so happy about that either but it wasn't major and since nothing exploded and she did call me while she was in Jerusalem and since she got home safely and was proud of herself for the adventure, I really can't harp on that.

So as I drove her to school with Shmulik sitting next to me and her in the back, Aliza began chatting about her youth group meeting and what they did and all I could think of is that it is Wednesday and the house is messy and I still have so much to do, never mind the additional stuff coming because of the wedding and Passover. And no one did the last few dishes last night, no one threw in any laundry, no one took out the garbage.

I cut her off...I did. I lost it and said what I really want to hear about is who's going to help with the laundry and why the dishwasher wasn't started (I did that this morning before I left).

She stopped talking and Shmulik jumped in, "I want to hear," he said.

I already felt bad. "Trying to make me look bad?" I asked him quietly but with a smile, already realizing you can't take out your life on a kid. It isn't her fault I have deadlines and schedules and commitments.

"No, I wasn't," he said.

"Well, not bad," I said with a smile and turned to Aliza, "I want to hear too."

She's 12...and needed to make me pay a bit. "Never mind." So Shmulik went into his act, "Oh please, oh please" and I smiled and encouraged her too...and off she went. She had seen some films with the group, but hesitated to give too many details.

"Maybe I want to download them," Shmulik said. Films watched by a bunch of 11 and 12-year olds? Not likely...

But it worked. And off she went. A "baby one", she explained, and another one. I don't remember the names. Shmulik said one was good. They chatted. I drove.

I'm tired. What I loved about this morning, what gave me such a good feeling, was how Shmulik realized what Aliza needed, when I couldn't. My patience failed, and her brother answered. It's impossible to be patient all the time, to find the right words, to say the right things. There are no perfect parents - or perfect children for that matter.

And there are no perfect spouses or perfect families - but what makes a family a good one, what makes it all so special, is when one begins to fall, the other is there to answer.

May God bless my beautiful husband, sons and daughters with life, with love, with health and prosperity - and with the sensitivity to answer when the other needs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Khadar Adnan - the Voice of Hatred and Terror

Someone, yeah, yet another brave person hiding behind the Anonymous - let's say Anonymous # 526 has left a comment...
Feeling proud how Israel treated Khader Adnan? I guess you do.

No, I'm not feeling proud at all. Israel captured the head of Islamic Jihad - read those words, understand what this terrorist organization has done and continues to do to Israelis and Jews. This man, this Khadar Adnan is the head of Islamic Jihad in the area of Judea and Shomron/the "West Bank". He didn't like that he was being held under administrative detention. And so he decided to go on a hunger strike. Food was never denied to him, the right to have visitors, etc. - his treatment by Israel was more humane than what Gilad Shalit got, more humane than the treatment of most Israelis captured or trapped by other Arab lands.

According to BBC: [Adnan] is widely believed to be a leader of Islamic Jihad, which Israel has designated a terrorist organisation.

Widely believed to be the leader? Does he deny it? Of course not! He certainly doesn't need the BBC to defend him, but defend him they do. "Israel has designated Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization." Really?

Make up your own mind - here are some of their activities - is this not terrorism? EVEN for the BBC?

Among the organization’s more vicious suicide bombing attacks the following are worth mentioning:

  • Jerusalem , November 2, 2000: a car bomb exploded in the Mahane Yehuda market, killing 2.
  • Hadera (a city to the south of Haifa), May 25, 2001: two terrorists carrying explosives blew themselves up in a car next to a bus, wounding 66.
  • Binyamina (south of Haifa), July 16, 2001: a suicide bombing attack was perpetrated at a bus stop near the train station, killing 2 and wounding 10.
  • Kiriyat Motzkin (a city bordering Haifa), August 12, 2001: a suicide bombing attack was perpetrated at the Wall Street Restaurant, wounding 16.
  • Beit Lid (near Netanya), September 9, 2001: a car bomb exploded, wounding 11.
  • Hadera, October 28, 2001: two terrorists rode through the center of the city shooting at passersby,  killing 4 and wounding 42.
  • On a road near the entrance to an army base situated to the east of Hadera, November 29, 2001: a suicide bombing attack was perpetrated on a bus, killing 3 and wounding 9.
  • Jerusalem , at the entrance to the Mamilla Hilton, December 5, 2001: an armed attack was perpetrated which left 11 wounded.
  • A main intersection near Haifa, December 9, 2001: an attempted suicide bombing attack was perpetrated, leaving 24 wounded.
  • The old central bus station in Tel Aviv, January 25, 2002: a double suicide bombing attack was perpetrated in which the PIJ and Fatah collaborated, wounding 23.
  • Afula (a city to the south of Haifa), March 5, 2002: a suicide bombing attack was perpetrated, killing 1 and wounding 15.
  • On a road through Wadi Ara (a valley to the east of Hadera, populated almost entirely by Israeli Arabs), March 20, 2002: a suicide bombing attack was perpetrated on a bus, killing 7 and wounding 30.
  • The main intersection near Kibbutz Yagur, near Haifa, April 10, 2002: a suicide bombing attack was perpetrated on a bus, killing 8 and wounding 15.


  • The Megiddo junction west of Afula, June 5, 2002: a car bomb driven by a terrorist who positioned himself close to the bus’ gas tank exploded, killing 17 and wounding 50.
  • The Umm el-Fahem intersection in Wadi Ara, September 18, 2002: a suicide bombing attack was perpetrated against Israeli police, killing 1 and wounding 2.
  • The Karkur intersection in the Wadi Ara area, October 21, 2002: a car bomb driven by two terrorists exploded next to a bus, killing 14 and wounding 50.
  • “The synagogue goers path,” a site in Hebron, November 15, 2002: an ambush carried out by three terrorists, killing 12 and wounding 16, including a high-ranking Israeli army officer.
  • Netanya, March 30, 2003: a suicide bombing attack was perpetrated at the London CafĂ©, wounding 54.
  • Afula, May 19, 2003: a female suicide bomber blew herself up at the entrance to the mall, killing 3 and wounding 54.
  • Kefar Yavetz, a village in the central part Israel, July 7, 2003: a terrorist forced his way into a house and blew himself up, killing 1 and wounding 6.
  • Haifa , the Maxim restaurant, October 4, 2003: a female suicide bomber blew herself up inside the restaurant, killing 21 and wounding 60.
  • The Stage Club on the Herbert Samuel promenade near the beach in Tel Aviv, February 25, 2005: a suicide bomber blew himself up next to people waiting in line to enter the club killing 5 and approximately 50.

Do you seriously doubt that this is a terrorist organization?

No, I am not proud - because Israel has given in to his blackmail and has agreed to release him after his being on a hunger strike for 60 days. His complaint is about how he has been treated by Israel and much of the world has joined forces to condemn Israel.

No, we didn't starve him - as Hamas did to Gilad Shalit in Gaza for five years.

No, we didn't deny him visitors and messages to his family and friends - note how they all knew what he was doing. We knew nothing of Gilad...of how they kept him in darkness to the point that his body was seriously malnourished for Vitamin D - in a land that barely sees any rain and likely has more than 330 days of sun a year!

No, we didn't hold him without charging him and we are within the law - and more than he deserves.

So as we cave in to this man, please see below this man of hatred that so many choose to support.  This is the man - who calls out wanting to know who will next step up to murder Israelis, who will carry the explosives and fire the guns against my people?

This man choose to starve himself - and I have felt all along that is his option. We did not deny him food. That was always his option - his treatment was always better than what Gilad received and still he complained. And worse, the Israeli government has caved in. Khadar Adnan will go free - I can only wish his victims...past and future, had such a luxury. Each murder by Islamic Jihad in the future - will be because today, terror and blackmail was rewarded.


To learn about the EU's double standard, please read: Daled Amos's blog post on Khadar Adnan
and My Right Word on the terrorist leader.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Life that Might have been Stolen

There is a disease called Alzheimer's that robs the body of the mind, the soul of its future, and the family of its center. It is slow. It is insidious and just its diagnosis is enough to promise an agony of days dwindling down to mindless loss, leaving all around it to try to hold the center for as long and as best as they can.

There is a condition called NPH, or Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus which means a rise in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. There are three main symptoms that are caused by this condition. One is Alzheimer's-like memory problems. Another is a horrible shuffling movement as you walk; an inability to lift the feet. It makes walking painfully slow, each step a labor.

The thing is, if you relieve the cerebrospinal fluid - essentially water - on the brain, the symptoms of NPH disappear. Much if not all of the memory problems go away, the labored walk gone.

About two years ago, my parents' doctor said my father had Alzheimer's and we began that slippery slope towards darkness. My mother has dealt with it more than the rest of us, watching it, fearing it, being hurt by it. My father was told that this was happening - the feeling being that he should have the right, while he still had the chance, to do what he wants, to get things in order. My father loves to write - it would or could be his chance to write a bit more.

The thought that he might have NPH and not Alzheimer's was raised. He was tested and the family doctor felt that putting him through a spinal tap and long, slow draining of the fluid to test which condition or disease he had was not advised. The slope downward remained his future. He was tested again, and again the family doctor advised against any procedure.

Because the family doctor remained concerned for both my parents, she finally recommended that they take my father to a neurosurgeon who specializes in NPH. He decided the chances were 50/50, perhaps slightly better. Still, we were advised not to get our hopes up.

A procedure to test what would happen if a permanent shunt was put in to relieve excess water on the brain was done last week, the worst possible week for me as it was right before the national conference I help organize each year. From afar, I listened and heard. When it was done, after 48 hours of this slow draining, my father walked normally for the first time in longer than I can remember. His cognitive abilities were rated much higher than just 48 hours before.

My sister told me over the phone the evening before the conference. My mind was filled with so many emotions - anger at the family doctor for being so sure it was Alzheimer's, shock and dismay at the thought that the rest of my father's life might have been stolen from him. So many thoughts. How many others, I wondered, never know. How many people travel that slope into oblivion needlessly?

The anger dissipated quickly. The family doctor has always been amazing to my parents. What she did, and what she didn't do, was misguided but it was what she believed was best. The shock and the dismay, however, remain. How many lives are lost, condemned, unfulfilled by this common misdiagnosis?

And as the days stretch towards when my father will have an operation to place a permanent shunt to drain the fluid and what we continue to hope will be even more of a reversal of the symptoms, another thought comes to my mind. What was almost stolen, is being returned. The lost chance becomes a new chance. Few of us are given second chances in life; my father has been given one. What he makes of it is up to him. I hope he will begin to write again. I hope he will cherish all the more what he could have lost.

I hope the family doctor will remember this and take a chance. Doctors should not cause their patients pain and suffering, and yet, sometimes in not choosing this path, they cause even more danger and damage.

A life that might have been stolen, has been, or will be, taken back. And still, I am left with the agonizing thought - how many others remain stolen?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Stupidity of Ignorance

I'm sometimes amazed, sometimes amused, sometimes angered, and sometimes just pushed beyond words at the way some nations make decisions. This latest decision by Norway falls somewhere in the midst of all those emotions. According to Israel National News:
Norway’s security authorities have ruled that Israel is a dangerous place and as such, the country’s national shooting team has cancelled its trip to Israel next month. 
Eighty-seven people were killed in Norway in terrorist attacks last year. That is certainly higher than the number in Israel and yet, the country's shooting team has canceled its trip here and security authorities have ruled that Israel is a dangerous place?

I'm trying desperately to find a diplomatic way to call these people morons and I'm not succeeding. Do they understand nothing? Apparently not. So let me phrase this another way - congratulations to the Norwegian security authorities for coming up with the best example of capitulation and utter stupidity I have heard in a long time.

And congratulations for showing such utter weakness, such lack of bravery. There is no victory here - other than that handed to the concept that terrorism should be rewarded. By contrast, the Russian team will come.

What can I say? Norway once again has remained true to itself - I can think of no greater condemnation to offer it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Conference Thursday...Invitations at the Printer...No Dress...

No time...but I do check in to see if there are comments or whatever and somehow stumbled on this old post - dating back to 2008. It was while Elie was a commander of a checkpoint though now that I know more of what that included, I am so much more grateful to the bullet-proof vest...or what I thought was a bullet-proof vest at the time. Now, Elie will laugh and tell me that it wasn't really bullet-proof but offered some measure of protection - or maybe it was. I don't really remember.

I've got a national conference that we coordinate every year - the attendance numbers are high - and we're excited and getting ready. Somehow, long ago, I began the tradition of bringing homemade cookies to the event and so they've become expected...800 cookies worth! I have to take care of that, have to finish a few things. We need to pack the beautiful conference bags and more. I'm trying to focus on the conference, knowing that Elie and Lauren's wedding is coming closer and closer.

They are so mature, so solid. They found themselves an apartment, closed on so many things. Tomorrow they want to go shopping for a bedroom set. I wish I could go with them, but the night before a national conference is impossible for me. I don't have a dress to wear year...none of us have clothes except for Elie. Shmulik will probably wear the suit he wore to his wedding; Davidi might be able to wear the suit he wore last year, but I think he grew too much - though I won't complain.

I tried to concentrate on Aliza's bat mitzvah, then on this conference - next will be full attention on the wedding...though I'm not sure what is left to do other than clothes. The invitation is at the printer. Life is shifting and yet, this is a gentle shift because Lauren has already been part of our family and though Elie will move out, he will thankfully still be close. So - for now, mad preparations - for happy occasions. Here's that funny post in the meantime -  hope you all smile....


How DO You Wash a Bullet-Proof Vest?
So, Elie was home last week and at some point, he asked me if I could wash his bullet-proof vest which, after months of wearing it, smelled rather bad. Now, after giving birth to five children and dealing with most normal kid-related things (colic and diaper rash and chicken pox, kids sticking their tongues out and calling my kids bad names, late homework and no homework and temper tantrums; sun burns and boredom) and so much more. I have to say I have finally reached the point where almost nothing is surprising and I even handled washing a bullet in my washing machine with humor and relative ease.
But this one got to me. Here's this smelly thing, sitting in my living room all week reminding me that I had promised to 'wash it" for Elie. So, I turned to my cyber friends and asked in humor - help! how do you wash a bullet-proof vest? Two pointed out that in the American army, they collect the smelly and issue a new one. Another asked, why not follow the instructions on the label? Nice thought, that. except that Elie had written his name across the label and even if he hadn't, the label was so faded, I could barely read half the Hebrew words.
They sent me links with all sorts of suggestions and cautions and in the end, I did what one recommended - soapy water and a brush - not soaking it, not submerging it. I towel-dried it - the towel came away black. I washed it again and towel-dried it. This time, the towel came away brown - ah, progress. A third time and the worst of the smell was gone. The green coloring hadn't improved much, but it did seem to be less dusty looking.
Best I could do and another mountain conquered or at least experienced. So, in case you were wondering how to clean a bullet-proof vest, the answer is: soapy water and a towel, and one more thing - love.
That's right - love. It's another small thing I can do for Elie and I do it with such joy. Silly really but these are the only kinds of things that I can do. I don't know if Elie senses the reasons behind these actions, but I know that he appreciates it. It's an unspoken thing, as so many things are with young men Elie's age. But I'm hoping someday he'll put this all into words for himself, put the pieces together and realize the emotions behind the actions.
For now, I take each job for myself and take simple pleasure in each. This time, while cleaning the bullet-proof vest, the vest and I came to an agreement. I'd clean it; it would protect Elie and watch over him. I definitely got the bargain end of that one!

http://israelisoldiersmother.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-do-you-wash-bullet-proof-vest.html

Friday, February 10, 2012

Peace in the Heart, Peace in the Land

If I tell you that Israel is one of the safest, most peaceful places on earth, you'll probably think I'm crazy. I've had this discussion before with others who don't live here and, indeed, they think I am deluding myself. Years ago, we lived in a small village - yes, it was a settlement, but that term carries with it so much nonsense that people immediately make judgments and really, a settlement is simply a village located here versus there, on this side of a meaningless line instead of on that side.

So, we lived in this little place for about 8 years and overall, I didn't love it. We moved to Maale Adumim, which cannot be called little by Israeli standards. It's a beautiful city of approximately 45-50,000 people. We have a bowling alley nearby, several large supermarkets, a mall, city hall, an emergency care center, schools in every neighborhood, parks and flower gardens all around. We have several ambulances and taxis that serve the community full time, around the clock. We are, according to Israeli law, a city.

The small village was disorderly with many arguments between neighbors because lines had not been drawn carefully, were too often ignored by greedy souls. Fights were common and depressing and I'd had enough. The city has strict rules that are enforced, for the most part, and people so amazingly giving and kind.

So we moved from the little village to a small, quiet neighborhood in this city - to get the best of both worlds, the large and the small, the order and the peace. When we told our friends we were moving here, they asked if we were scared. It was during the Intifada and one person had been murdered on the road to Maale Adumim - a monk driving his car from a monastery in Wadi Kelt to Jerusalem. It was a common reaction, long after we moved, for our friends to ask us if we were safe and if we were scared.

When we told people in Maale Adumim that we had moved from that small village, people were very understanding. No wonder, they would say, given that the road was so dangerous there. Stones and even firebombs had been thrown at Israeli cars on that old road. You must feel so much safer now, they told me.

And I would laugh at the friends - here and there. It is human nature to want to feel safe, to want peace. At least in our culture and those of the western worlds that I have lived or visited. From outside of Israel, one would think that buses and bombs explode here every day; that armed soldiers patrol the streets searching (and probably finding) terrorists on a daily basis.

Even when buses were exploding every day here, I still felt safe, I still knew only peace. How can I explain this? First, there is a survival instinct that tells you moments after the bomb has exploded - you're okay; your children are safe. Breathe. Accept. Yes, mourn and feel anger, but not fear. Not so much.

Of course, this is only true when you didn't know anyone on the bus, when you can calm yourself enough to rationalize and force yourself back to normal. It takes a day or two, a week or two, after the bomb, after the funerals, after the mourning (which never actually stops and so I'm back to trying to explain human nature).

The point is - on a daily basis here, we feel safer than almost anywhere else. I'm not afraid of the dark streets here, of shadows in the street. I'm not scared that my children will be grabbed and kidnapped. I'm not afraid of talking to strangers.

Almost daily, I interact for a few seconds with someone I have never met, and perhaps never will again - on a bus, in a store. This is normal because we do not fear strangers in the same way as I was raised to fear them as a child in America.

Someone sitting next to me at a restaurant table with an adorable child will be told that the child is wonderful; a stranger will tell a small boy to stop running around. If a child falls in the park, many hands will reach to lift him and the mother will come running - not out of fear, but to be with her child, and thank others who helped the small boy.

If someone in the US stared at one of my infants, my heart would race and my arms tighten around the child. I'd move a distance away and keep alert. Here, people would come over and tell me it was windy and I should put a hat on my baby daughter, or pull the top of the carriage down to protect her from the sun. Here, people will hold someone's baby while the mother puts the stroller on the bus and think the woman insane if she was worried that the person would take off with her child. I saw this happen and was amazed and when I tried to explain it to the woman holding the baby, she asked if people in America care more about the stroller than the child? Why else, she wondered, would you risk the child being hurt as the mother navigates with stroller and child?

Here, we do have armed soldiers walking down the street - not on patrol, but on their way home or to base. They'll stop in a store, stand next to you on the bus. They are simply more people that make up the tapestry of Israeli society and don't represent something frightening or unusual. And when there is an event or a heightened alert and they are on patrol, people will offer them closed bottles of water or make sure they have eaten.

I think I wrote this once before but it is such a true picture of Israel and so I'll write it here again. Years ago, during the Intifada, I took my oldest daughter shopping in the center of Jerusalem. Bombs had been going off a lot, it was a scary time and standing there in the center - where at least 5 bombs had been detonated, was one of the rare times I really felt fear. Had I been on my own, I would have been fine. Had I not faced separating from my daughter, I would have been without fear.

But the parking meter was running out and my daughter was still trying on clothes in the dressing room. She was a teenager, not very young and there was no reason not to leave her, except for the fear that had clutched my heart. The store owner asked me what the problem was, and I felt like an idiot. I explained about the meter running out and looked towards the dressing room.

"Go," he told me gently. "I'll make sure she stays inside."

I went - almost running to the car to put money in and get back. It still took me over 10 minutes and during that time, I could hear explosions in my head. What would I do if a bomb went off in the space between where I was and where she is? It was before the cellular phone days, before the automated parking system that allows me to now pay for parking on my phone. Would she run out to try to find me? Would the police stop me from getting to her? How would I know if the bomb hadn't been in the store or even next to it?

The closer I got to the car, the longer it took me to put the money in and get back, the more I was frantic. No bomb went off. By the time I entered the store, my daughter had picked out several shirts, spoken to the store owner, and gone back in to try on more clothes. A little out of breath, I entered the store to the smile of the store owner. "She's fine - she's back inside with more shirts."

It's been a long time since that day; I've come to accept more and more that when you have peace in the heart, there is peace in the land. Israel is a land in which the inhabitants do not live in fear. By American and European standards, crime rates are very low here. The news mentions car accident victims more than murder victims and most murders make the news only because it isn't a daily event, and perhaps not even weekly.

Most violent crimes in Israel are a result of terrorism, the underworld attacking itself, or internal family arguments. Few people are killed in Israel - ever - for money, for a car, or other possessions. Sure there are thefts, but even those are not usually connected to injury and without doubt, more people lose money to large corporations (especially cell phone companies) making "mistakes" than robbery.

But day to day, we get our children off to school, we go to work, we walk in the streets, we shop, and we go home - all without fear; all with a sense of peace in the heart.

So it is again Friday in Israel - the house is filled with the smells of the soup on the stove, the chicken and potatoes in the oven. The candles are ready to be lit in the window. The sabbath is coming to Israel. Shabbat shalom.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Soldier's Homecoming

Both Yaakov and Chaim have served in the Israeli army. They did so as volunteers, though both served in combat units and did all that their fellow soldiers did. They both came to learn in Israel before deciding to enlist in the army.

They were what we call in Israel - lone soldiers. They come from far, leaving their families behind. They learn a new language, push themselves as hard or harder than the native-born Israeli kids and on weekends, when the Israelis go home to loving families, too many of them go back to apartments where they live alone, or in groups. Yaakov and Chaim are both incredibly outgoing guys who have tons of friends...and yet somehow became part of our family as well.

At one point during Chaim's service, his commanding officer called me and asked if I was Chaim's mother. Filled with absolute terror, I lied without shame, "yes," I answered, desperate to hear that he was not hurt...and spent hours feeling guilty - as if I had insulted his mother by daring to claim that role. While everyone else laughed at me, I couldn't shake this horrible feeling that I had done something wrong and my only justification was a desperate need to know that he was okay and not waste time explaining that no, I'm not really his mother.

Going back to the beginning, Elie met Yaakov during his per-army learning days. They have a common interest in many things and took to each other immediately. One day, Elie brought Yaakov home and we fell in love. Yaakov's a kick. I don't know how to explain him any other way. He's just so special - very bright, very  handsome, very charismatic. He fit right into the family, teased and defended Elie's younger brother, was so gentle with Elie's baby sister. Without hesitation, he claimed his place solidly in the line according to age...constantly battling with Elie for the slot of "elder" brother.

After finishing his service, Yaakov returned to Shoshana in the US. They married but we couldn't get there to celebrate with them. When they came to visit, they showed me their wedding video. There was this special moment in there that went straight to my heart. I'm not sure if Yaakov knows how touching, how special it was when he spoke of his future wife before the ceremony. It seemed like he didn't understand the question, "Shoshana has always been my wife," he said. They have two beautiful daughters. Yaakov is, to a large extent, counting the days until he can come "home" to Israel. He would probably even wonder why I put those quotes around the word home. Israel will be his home and in many ways, already is.

Last year, Yaakov was trying to find a way to visit for Shmulik's wedding, but it didn't work out. At one point, I wondered if Aliza remembered him. It had been a few years since she'd seen him for any period of time; she was only 7 or 8 when Yaakov was here. "Of course I remember him," she said to me in the wonderful tone of a child who thinks the adult is insane, "he's my brother."

Five years ago, Yaakov brought his brother, Chaim, to us and again, it was almost love at first sight. If Yaakov is our son, we told Chaim, and you are his brother - you are ours too! Chaim went back to visit his family in the States last Spring and came back to Israel to begin his studies in October. Today he called me - he has just been told that his Israeli identification card is ready. He is officially a citizen of Israel. He's home.

"Tell me mazel tov," he said on the phone.

"Why...you got it?" I asked as  my brain cleared and I realized what he was talking about. He hasn't picked it up yet, but it's done and waiting for him. I hope his real parents are smiling and happy. I hope they know how much we love Chaim - and Yaakov - and how much we value their allowing us to love their sons.

Chaim is as much a brother to my children as Yaakov. When Shmulik was getting married, he told his rabbi that he wanted Chaim to stand in as one of two witnesses. The rabbi asked, "Who is this Chaim?" and Shmulik explained.

A witness is a very special and serious role in the wedding. Witnesses cannot be related to the bride or the groom, or even to each other. "No," said the rabbi to Shmulik, "he is too close to your family." Elie is already planning to ask his rabbi (different from Shmulik's) to see if he will allow Chaim to be a witness at their ceremony - either way, his place in and at the wedding is a definite!

So today, on a brisk, sunny winter morning in Israel, one of our soldiers has come home. It's silly to think this way - he's been in the country for months. Elie and I drove to the airport in the early morning hours to get him, to see him, to hug him, to welcome him back to Israel after months in the US. He's been "home" for months and yet today, his journey really begins. Today, Chaim is home.

His older sister is planning to move to Israel this coming summer; his younger sister will be learning here next year. Deep in my heart, I hope the rest of their family will come here too - and I wait for Yaakov and Shoshana and their baby girls to come home as well.

Mazel tov, Chaim - with all the love and thanks from our family and all Israel. You make us so proud!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tired, Cold, Overworked, Busy, Happy...

Wish I had time to write - I don't...and so I won't.

Except to say that all is well - I'm tired, cold because we seem to be heading into another winter storm, though a relatively minor one...and I'm usually cold when I'm tired. I'm thankfully overworked - can't complain and have another meeting with a possible new client this week, so things are really good there.

I'm busy - the bat mitzvah was amazing...I owe you all pictures...soon....

And I'm happy because I survived the bat mitzvah...have to get through the national conference next week (looking forward to that but there's a ton of stuff I have to do there and other work besides), and the wedding plans are moving along. They found an apartment, the wedding date, place, music and photographer are done. Still have to do a bunch of things, but we're getting there.

So bear with me, please - if I'm a bit out of communication. There's a lot happening but I'll be back soon. It's inevitable...as I love to write. I've started several posts in the last few days...at least this one, I'll finish.

Happy Tuesday to you all!

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