Friday, April 27, 2012

History of Israel...in a Picture

Wanna learn the history of Israel in a nutshell? Here is is - in a single headlines.

The Zionists proclaim new State of Israel
Read here the new state because even then,  everyone recognized there had once been another. As for the reference to Zionists - it was written in a time when the world did not judge Zionism to be evil, when they recognized it was, quite simply, the fulfillment of our dream, our hope.
Truman recognized it and hopes for peace
So, to those who have written to me to say that the US was opposed to the creation of Israel and only gave into "Zionist" pressure - I would say this proves you wrong. There was no time for such a lobby, such pressure. US recognition came eleven minutes after the State was declared and the US has been one of Israel's staunchest allies ever since.
Tel Aviv is bombed, Egypt orders invasion
So much for Truman's hope of peace - and ours. The Arabs had a choice - as we did. They could have settled for about 1/2 the land - and instead, they chose war. They lost. The rest, is history. Their wishing they had chosen a different path (a path that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people in war and terrorism in the decades that followed) is too little, too late. You cannot reverse history and many decisions.
The Arabs wishing to rewrite history and return to 1948 or whatever lines...is somewhat equivalent to the Native Americans offering to give back $24 in exchange for Manhattan. In hindsight, it may not have been the best of decisions - but it is what it is...and that ship has sailed.
They bombed Tel Aviv - as they are threatening to do even today. They ordered an invasion, as they did again and again in the decades that followed. The one thing they have never tried...not then and not now...is to offer a genuine peace.


Learning About Justice

A few years ago, Davidi forgot his tefillin (phylacteries...whatever that word means) on a bus on a school trip. The school made some small effort to retrieve this expensive gift we had arranged to have hand written specifically for Davidi and gave up quickly. It was easier for them to doubt Davidi's memory. Maybe he left it somewhere else, we heard again and again.

We refused to give up. We called Masada - where Davidi had gone that morning with the school and they said it wasn't there. We called the bus company and nagged them. The school told us to give up and buy new ones. End of story. We refused. It was not logical for them to have disappeared - someone had them or knew what happened to them. You cannot gain a mitzvah (credit for doing the right thing) with a stolen item. To put on tefillin every day is a mitzvah - but if the tefillin is stolen - there is no mitzvah and no reason to put them on. You've gained nothing (and worse, you've stolen something). No religious Jew would steal tefillin and a non-religious Jew didn't need them.

After 10 days, we returned to the school and said simply...no, we refuse to give up. Call the bus company again. This time, the principal called the manager of the bus company and this time, they followed through and called the driver - who had been driving around with the tefillin for 10 days and once he got an accurate description of the tefillin container, identified it right away.

There was a lesson there - for Davidi and for the school. Never give up, we taught him - and amazingly enough, his young teacher told us that from our actions, he too had learned this action. Seek justice, fight for it, argue for it, and when you know you are right, don't give up.

We moved Davidi to another school the next year - more because that incident was symptomatic of the school itself rather than any single incident. Now, two years later, while I don't regret our decision (and even wish I'd done it sooner), I'm faced with a new challenge that I'll have to deal with next week (on top of tons of other things I already have to deal with).

I bought Davidi an iPod touch months ago - in the midst of many celebrations - it was his birthday and I felt I wanted/he needed, something bigger. So, I bought him the iPod and Lauren's wonderful mother brought it to Israel. Davidi was thrilled and careful...until it fell and broke a few weeks ago. His uncle gave him some money towards fixing it.

We found one place that wanted double what his uncle had given him; but just found another place last week that only wanted about $30 more to fix it. Davidi had in his wallet, the money his uncle gave him, plus his bus card, plus his health insurance card, and a bit more. Someone went into his locker and stole his wallet.

The school is saying there is nothing that can be done - end of story. I hate when people tell me end of story. It just makes me want to prove them wrong. Stay tuned for this one....

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm Just Lame

I can't explain it but the older I get, the more my children seem in control, and the quicker I seem to lose mine. On the other hand, clearly, I have to ask myself what is wrong with me?

Today, we joined hundreds of other people in the national past time of independence day - the barbecue. Some do this at home, but many, many people - grab their barbecues, the meat, the bread, tables and chairs, mats and I have no idea what else, and go off somewhere outside. For the last few years, we've been going very close to our city, to the wadi (dry river bed) near our house. This area is sectioned off once a year, secured by border guards and private security, and then filled with music and people.

The army used to bring tanks and jeeps for people to explore - but this year, for the first time, they didn't and so it was really only a barbecue bonanza. By law, any large gathering has to have security, ambulances, and whatever onsite. The city sent two ambulances and two fire trucks but what was nice was that the teams all brought family along so that they too could have their communal cookouts!

I love going there because it's close, almost no traffic, and just so relaxing. Years ago, when Aliza was very little, she and Amira were digging with two small sticks. I asked them what they were doing, and Amira answered that they were digging to China...and Aliza took it seriously. Since they were using tiny branches, their deep exploration only succeeded in displacing about an inch or two of dirt, but it was wonderful. I have such great memories of this place. Each year, I marvel at how relaxing it is. We've sat in a few places, but a few years ago, we found what we consider the ideal spot.

Why few others grab it, we have no idea but it is a bit of a climb and not something you are going to want to do with young children. You park your car and then climb up a short distance and then, under the trees, with this wonderful breeze, you just sit and love it. It was very hot - in the sun...but we were shaded the whole day. It's a pain to get up; a pain to get down...but ah, while you are there, it is heaven!

We shlepped a table and chairs, and so much more - but it was wonderful. A nice-sized barbecue, cooler, several bottles of drinks, corn on the cob...I better stop before I get tired just thinking about it all. We were deep into the hamburgers and potatoes, just before the wings and the corn. Elie and Lauren were manning the barbecue for most of the time; the "older" people were just sitting around talking or munching.

And then, as I stood up, I saw a woman screaming and people running to her, including several security people. I called out to Elie and Lauren to tell them something was happening - it clearly looked like some sort of medical emergency and my automatic response was to turn to Elie. He took off - Lauren behind him (impressive considering she was wearing a long skirt and climbing down). Elie called out to tell me to take over the barbecue as he ran down the side.

By then, I saw the local ambulance had pulled out of its parking spot (dozens of their medics and volunteers were having their own barbecue on the next hilltop). The woman kept screaming while I could see others were clearly taking care of someone on the ground. So many thoughts went through my mind - I thought someone had been burned, or perhaps worse.

What bothered me was how sick I felt in my stomach, nerves, upset. I was worried about where Elie and Lauren were and while flipping hamburgers and chicken wings, kept trying to focus on the people. I saw a glimpse of Elie, then of Lauren. I saw Elie pulling off gloves as they finished loading the patient into the ambulance and then, though the ambulance pulled out, it simply returned to its parking spot near the other hill while inside they treated the young man who had apparently passed out. Dehydration, maybe - who knows. I saw Lauren take a bottle of water to the back of the ambulance and then, calmer (me, not them), I saw that things were returning to normal.

Elie and Lauren climbed back up to our perch and the barbecue resumed. A while later, another ambulance arrived and the boy was transferred from the Intensive Care ambulance to a regular one and taken to the hospital. I've had this sense of "panic" - too strong a word, but there you go - before. I felt it that time, many months ago, when I realized the Elie, Shmulik, AND Chaim were all going on a call after a report of a building on fire, and other times.

I hate the feeling - it's just this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. There was NO reason to feel it today - none. It was clear, I think, there was no danger. I could see them for most of the time. It reminds me of the time Elie went running off (Don't you trust me?) except at least then I could explain that there might have been a reason to be upset.

I tried to explain it to Lauren...she was sympathetic and sweet - she didn't say I was insane...which would have been Elie's response. Oh well...I have to learn to just deal with these things and not get so upset (or else, people have to learn not to have medical emergencies near me). Truth is, maybe if that woman (apparently the mother) hadn't been screaming so hysterically, I might have handled it better. On the other hand, I'm beginning to think that had it been me down there - I'd have been screaming just as much.

Who knows? Bottom line...I have to learn to just chill more, which was, now that I think about it, the purpose of the day!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How can you be sad and then be happy?

It's an interesting question and one that Israel answers each year. Aliza asked me the question a few moments ago as we were discussing our plans for the evening. A candle is burning in the window. I lit it last night in memory of the 22,993 soldiers and 2,477 terror victims who we mourn this year. Last night and this morning, air raid sirens sounded throughout the land, a call to stand in silence and remember.

And then - tonight - 24 hours after the first siren...the country will, in essence, pack away its sadness and celebration ceremonies - dancing, singing, and fireworks, will begin. Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of us will go out for hikes, barbecues and picnics all over the land.

How can you be sad and then be happy? It is truly the essence of Israel. Before we can celebrate the freedom we have, the land that we have built, we need to remember, we need to be sad.

The day is winding down; the evening wind is coming in. Even if we wanted to hold on to today, we can't. It is slipping away...it was a sad day, filled with stories of all that we have lost, all that could have been and won't be. Each story is an agony, such pain...how can we be sad and then be happy?

It is a switch that happens each year - one I can never explain and yet I always feel. People are beginning to pack what they will take with them for the evening of celebrations - some candies, some drinks, a sweater. It goes in the backpack...and soon we will be sitting in the same park we sat in last night.

Only last night, I cried a little. I listened and tried to pray for my sons and for all our sons. And tonight, my thoughts will turn to the country I have made my own. Happy birthday, Israel - you are so amazing and I am so happy to live here.

It is a secret I whisper as the fireworks explode - it is me talking to my land - we celebrate you, we love you, we thank you. You are the only land that has ever been ours - and ours you will always be. We are yours. We are truly the only ones who have built you, made your deserts bloom. We are Israel - Israel always.

This is Israel - my beautiful country....

Western Wall, Jerusalem

Judean Desert (near Maale Adumim)

Haifa harbor

Eilat Shoreline 

Jerusalem 
Judean Desert (near Masada)

Sunset over the Sea of Galilee

Sunset near Netanya, looking out to the sea

Golan Heights in Winter


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ISRAEL - May you go from strength to strength -  always in our hearts.

Remembering Remembering...

With several years of posts behind me on previous Memorial Days, I went back and read them and would like to share them...

Yom HaZikaron - Israel Remembrance Day (2007)
I promised myself that I wouldn't think today, knowing that this Memorial Day, my first as a mother of an Israeli soldier, would be that much more difficult.
Memorial Day (2008) - Who Elie Stands Beside
Last year, I read the story of what the paratroopers division does to remember their own. The article in the newspaper spoke of how beside the grave of each fallen paratrooper, a soldier in the current paratroopers division stands. The families come and see that their sons have not been forgotten. I couldn't imagine what goes through the head of that young man, whose job it is to simply stand there, in honor and in mourning. I can't imagine what the family thinks, seeing this young man stand so proud and straight, beside the grave of their son.
Last year, when I read that article, I didn't know that the artillery division does the same. I didn't know that my son would be asked to go and stand beside the grave of a fallen artillery soldier. I don't know what will go through Elie's mind as he stands beside that grave. How old will that boy be, that young man who died protecting our country.
Memorial Day (2008) - Eyal Tsarfati - Who He Stood Beside
Eyal Tsarfati was only 19 years old when he was killed defending Israel. His parents came to his grave today, one of 22,437 families who mourn for their loves ones who died since the State of Israel was founded.
So little, do I know about this young man. He died in 1990 and today, Elie stood by his grave as his family came to pay their respects. Each of Elie's soldiers was assigned a cemetery and a name and had to call Elie when they arrived. Elie can tell me how many artillery soldiers died during their three years of military service, and how many died while doing reserve duty in the artillery division. By each, a soldier in the artillery division stood today.
The Ostrich and the Ceremony (2009)
I don't want to project, to imagine, to think. For the last two years, I have told myself that I didn't have to be cruel to myself; that I was entitled to skip these ceremonies; that the mothers would understand. Maybe they too skipped the ceremonies before their sons were killed fighting for this land.
This is the first time I almost feel strong enough to risk going, dare to listen as the stories are told. I'll light the memorial candle, as I do each year. I'll stand and listen to the siren, as I do each year. I'll think, or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just stand there and listen to the siren and pray.

 Memorial Day - 2010 - A Time To Remember
I'm not sure if I ever associated Memorial Day to the concept of fallen soldiers. Certainly, it was a day of pride in America, in democracy, in freedom...but did I ever realize that without our soldiers...we would not have had America, democracy, freedom? I wish I could remember and say I did, but as a child, as a teen, even as a young married woman, I'm not sure.
By contrast, from the start and even before, I always understood that Yom HaZikaron "Day of the Memory" or Memorial Day was clearly connected to the soldiers. It is so different here. The concept of doing a barbecue or visiting friends or a sale in honor of this day is an impossibility to comprehend. There is no celebration - it is a day of agony here; of remembering in pain those we have lost and sharing quietly with those who still suffer.

Standing for the Fallen (2011)
It is a strange and wonderful thing we do each year as we stop and thank those who gave their lives so that we could live here in this land. We will stand tonight and tomorrow, for those who have fallen. It is the least we can do - and the most. But perhaps in this modern world of hustle and bustle, the greatest thanks we give them is in how we as a society remember them, honor them, and mourn for them.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To Cry, To Mourn, To Remember

Tonight begins a day that I dreaded every year that I had a son in the standing army of Israel. The first and second year, I gave in to cowardice and allowed myself to stay home rather than join hundreds of thousands of Israelis at ceremonies all over Israel. I felt that I had done enough, in sending a son to the army and didn’t have to torture myself more, endlessly imagining, thinking, worrying. I didn’t have to face this day, this possibility and worse, this reality that so many families face. I crowned myself an ostrich and hid away trying to think of anything but tens of thousands of families suffering, crying, remembering, mourning.

Tonight begins Memorial Day in Israel. I have to admit, sadly, that growing up in America does not prepare you well for an Israeli Memorial Day. There, we would watch the parade of police and soldiers go past our front door. What option did we have when the police came and closed off the main street on which we lived? And besides, it was fun to see the old men marching, the bands go by. Some people would throw candy to us; they waved and smiled. Some years, the mayor drove down the street waving from the window of his car. Each year, we pulled out the chairs or sat on the curb, drank soda and waved to the parade participants.

Other than that, it was a day of sales and picnics and school vacation. It was the start of summer, a sign that the school year was finally over. Memorial Day was the light shining on the short tunnel to summer freedom. And we thought of ourselves as the good ones. We’d gone to the parade, hadn't we? And we didn’t really know any veterans or men/women serving in the army, so they were, like the wars America fought on some distant shore, remote and unreal.

It’s so different here. There are no parades – parades are happy events, aren’t they? No - no parades here. Memorial Day in Israel is not just about agonizing pain, but about putting that pain in front of the nation. You can’t avoid it, rationalize it away. It is there, for all to see, for all to feel, for all to mourn.  It isn’t restricted to “military families” because we are all military families. It’s your son or your husband, your cousin, your father, your uncle. It’s your next door neighbor AND your son. It’s the boy who used to do this AND the kid you always saw doing that. This year, it’s your son; next year, it’s your neighbors until the year or so after that when it’s back to your family.

They go into the army - all these children of ours and we know they don't all come out. It is the most terrifying of thoughts that plague us all year and cripple us on this day. It is all of us – standing there on one side of this little divider every year – there on that side up in front, the bereaved families, and here behind them and that little dividing wall the city put up to give them their space. We stand supporting them, remembering the boy we also knew just a little. We watch his mother walk up the steps and light the memorial flame and are amazed that she can put one foot in front of the other; that she doesn't cry out, but  as she comes down the steps, there is a break and quietly, she raises her hand and wipes her eyes. 

Or it is the work colleague whose son you never met - but you went to the funeral anyway and you went in the week after the funeral to visit and sit there in their home with no words as you listen and see pictures. There and here, it us remembering the boy and the family. We are one in our mourning.

It begins – tonight, exactly at 8:00 p.m. Israelis love to be fashionably late – this one day, there is no late. Everyone is assembled, standing and quiet at a few seconds to 8:00 p.m. They announce the ceremony will begin after the siren; please stand. And so thousands around me will stand and bow their heads. And then the siren begins.

It cries, it reaches deep into your heart and pulls out the tears. It screams across the land as everyone stands at attention. Mothers with sons about to go in the army fill their minds with the simple prayer, “Please God, please, please, please don’t ever let me be sitting in that area up there in the front. Please, please watch over him, keep him safe. Please, please, I beg you. Please.” Over and over again as the siren wails, more frantic as you know time is running out. It’s the only thought. A mother with more than one son or a son-in-law too will add his name; her name;. A wife will think of her husband and pray – all over Israel. Please, God, let this not come to him or her this year, next year, ever. It is all too human to be selfish and pray this way in those moments.

A mother with a child in the army, in a combat unit, in danger, is even more frantic – if she has the courage to even attend and listen. You know you should be thinking about them...but really, so much of the time your thoughts turn to your own. I didn’t have the courage the first year. I can say that now and feel a bit of shame.I couldn’t. I'm not sure I went the second year either. I think it was only the third year, after Elie had been in the war...and he was with me, that I was able to go. And even then, my thoughts were on Elie. “Please, God – keep him safe. Thank you. Thank you for watching over him. Please keep him safe.”

And there were prayers for Yaakov before Elie, and Chaim and Shmulik after him. And now, tonight, I'll say a prayer for B. - Lauren's cousin and for the two boys I know from our neighborhood and tonight, this time, I'll also remember Tonight, I’ll go and listen to the stories – of brothers from our city who have fallen; of fathers lost; of husbands who will never return.

Each is an agonizing tale of a special person, so loved, so missed. I’ll return home to a memorial candle I will have lit in the corner of the room that will burn all of the 24 hours we are in mourning. The restaurants are all closed; the movie theaters, entertainment centers. We do not allow one family to mourn while others go about their lives. In the middle of the work day – at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday – the siren will sound again. Traffic will come to a stop. (see the video below) 

People will get out of their cars in the middle of the highway and stand; others will have already pulled to the side with their radios on. Wherever they are, whatever they are doing - they stop and stand. Each will listen, stand, think, and many will be praying, “please God, please, not this one, not another – let those be the last soldiers we ever lose.” Twenty two thousand, nine hundred and ninety three.

There is a television station that will list each of the names - all 22,993 soldiers that have died for Israel, another 2,477 victims of terror attacks – all for Israel, for what we have built here in our land. If you want to understand Israel – understand our memorial day. Understand the pain we all feel on this day. Israel is not a nation like other nations. Only Israel would release over 1,000 to get back the one. This year, Aviva and Noam Shalit finally have the answer - no, they will not be sitting on the other side of the small dividing wall because of Gilad.

So - if you want to understand Israel - watch the video below. Understand that this happens all over Israel - tonight at 8:00 p.m. and again tomorrow morning. And then, I'll tell you one more amazing thing about Israel - though I'll write more about this next. As deeply as we mourn tonight, as much as we reach into our hearts and pour out our tears...with the same determination - we begin, tomorrow night, to celebrate. We will dance in the streets, cheer and laugh. The day after we thank our veterans and those who sacrificed their lives for us - we will celebrate the gift they gave us. Memorial Day in Israel leads directly into Independence Day. It is one of the most amazing facts of Israeli life. It is so right. 

We cannot celebrate until we remember and thank them because without them, we would not be here. So tonight, light a candle in their memory, as I will. Remember them and thank them.

To the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces...


Monday, April 23, 2012

Israel at 64: Innovation in Caring


Guest post by:  Sarah Herskowitz

As we ready ourselves for Israel's upcoming birthday celebration and reflect on the last 64 years, we can't help but swell with pride at our country's many accomplishments.

In what seems like no time at all, the State of Israel has become a world leader in scientific research and technological development in fields ranging from medicine to green technology.  Over the last several decades, there has been a constant stream of citations and awards recognizing the contributions of our country's academics, leaders and institutions. In addition, Israel is known as an international hub for innovation and a trailblazer in virtually every discipline – from economics to political science to biotechnology.

These achievements speak to a wider Israeli penchant for diagnosing flaws within a given paradigm or situation and developing practical, effective solutions. In short, Israel succeeds because its population is uniquely capable of filling gaps, fixing what's broken and righting wrongs.

However, while the accolades achieved by Israel's elite are impressive, they are by no means the best measurement of the country's growth.  As I see it, true progress is defined by a society's willingness to channel the same innovation and creativity developed for its business and government sectors into the treatment and care of its most vulnerable citizens.
In this regard, Israel truly has a great deal to celebrate.

For the last twenty years, I have worked for ALEH, Israel’s largest network of residential facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. When I first began, our work was limited to ensuring that the children in our care were simply kept healthy and happy. But as times went on, our projects expanded and we began utilizing the most cutting-edge techniques and therapies available, allowing us to move light years beyond our initial mandate. 

The secret formula that helped our organization grow, and improved care for the underprivileged and disabled across Israel over the last two decades, is yet another homegrown formula from the 'start-up nation' – I like to call it 'innovation in caring'. 

For example, while the impact made by donors and volunteers is usually measured in dollars and cents, Israeli donors and volunteers have simply refused to allow themselves to be limited by these standards.

Instead of clocking in and out, volunteers are consistently seeking new ways to give of themselves and maximize each and every visit. This trend has led to numerous advances for and a host of new services provided by non-profit organizations across the country.

In the same vein, donors are no longer content just writing checks, and have taken an active role in helping their chosen organizations make the most of the resources available and improving the services provided.

This involvement speaks to a deeper relationship between individual and organization than simply giving of one's time or funds. It emphasizes the fact that our donors and volunteers don't simply pick a charity out of a hat, but instead go through an active process of choosing a cause with which they personally identify. This relationship is taken a step further when these individuals bring their professional expertise to the fore to benefit the non-profit projects.

Though the rise of a vibrant technology sector and a flurry of Nobel prizes receive the bulk of the headlines, Israel's development is more capably explained in the growth of our charitable organizations and the integration of our neediest populations.

And so, here's to the next batch of Israeli academics, leaders and entrepreneurs who will put us on the map with their revolutionary new methods of filling the gaps, fixing what's broken and righting the wrongs.  But, most importantly, here's to the next 64 spectacular years of Israeli innovation in caring.

Sarah Herskowitz is the director of international relations for ALEH (www.aleh.org), which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.  ALEH provides over 650 children from around Israel with high-level medical and rehabilitative care in an effort to help them reach their greatest potentials.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Post-Sabbath Wrap-Up

It was, as anticipated, a quiet Shabbat and yet it was wonderful. If all my Shabbatot (Sabbaths) would be like this for the rest of my life, I'd be so blessed. Davidi came home Friday morning - I didn't know he would be coming by - mostly to get clothes, but it was nice to see him. I got a hug out of him - barely, but I got one - and a peck of a kiss too! He got a bottle of soda, a huge bag of popcorn and two small bags of chips, so he was fairly compensated and helped lug two bags of garbage on his way back to school for the weekend.

It was a relatively easy Friday and then in the afternoon, Lauren and Elie came over - they have a small apartment nearby and need to economize space. As they are building their first home, what can't fit in is being stored in our house. Two trips worth of gifts, trunks, suitcases and chairs went into our attic for a time in their future when they'll have a bigger kitchen and more room.

They left with some soup, some fish, and some challahs - and I got a few hugs there too! Friday night we ate at my daughter's house, enjoying wonderful food, company, and a baby too sweet for words. Aliza made a beautifully woven challah with 8 strands that we took over to her older sister's house, along with another of the salmon loaves I had made for Elie and Lauren and for our own home. After dinner, we came home with some cake, some homemade matzo balls for the soup, and homemade couscous (I didn't know there was such a thing as homemade couscous for years, but that's another story).

Shabbat morning, I slept late. It was heaven. I woke when Elie and Lauren came by. They were raiding our refrigerator for things we'd been keeping for them from their trip abroad - and took a bit more along the way. A little potato kugel - the end piece that Elie claims is his - went into an aluminum pan. They told me about the sauce they made for the fish - I have to try that. I love hearing about how they experiment and cook together.

A while later, Shmulik came upstairs for some chumous and I sent him down to his apartment with more fish and sauce. We had a quiet lunch together - the three of us. This is how it will be for many more weeks at a time - though most of the time, Davidi will be home as well, so we'll be four.

My husband and I started as a family of two...and grew to three and four, five and six, and finally seven. We became 8 for a week or so when Amira got married and brought her husband home, then seven when Elie went to the army and really five when the newly married couple wasn't with us. Then Shmulik went to the army, but Elie came back, so we were still five. Then Shmulik came out of the army and got married, so we were sometimes four, mostly five, sometimes seven, and even nine.

Then the baby - and then Elie got married and now we are sometimes three, often four, or six, or eight, or eleven - or seven, or nine. In short - I anticipate my table being opened and closed a lot in the coming years. But what delighted me about this week was that even though we were three, both Elie and Shmulik came over for a few minutes. It's still their home, you see - and that reality warms my heart.

They've gone on to build their own homes - they're both still working on what those homes will be, of what is  already, but those moments of stopping by settled me just a little. People talk of an empty nest and yet, I get the feeling that the definition of empty isn't nearly what I thought it was.

I've often heard the word empty being used with barren or desolate. No, I think the term empty nest is wrong, at least, I hope it is. I don't know what the right term is yet - this is as much a work in progress for me as it is for them. This letting them have their lives, their homes, their time is coming quite naturally to me. I won't infringe on their space - while making it clear that they can "come home" and should never feel they are infringing.

So - it was three this weekend - and two more and two more and three more - in doses enough to feel them close. Last night, Elie called to ask if I could pick him up from work at closing. His leg was hurting him. I drove over - and as I dropped him off, at least twice, he thanked me. Shmulik came up to get some chumous and sat a few minutes and played with the dog, the bird. He talked to us about this and that, thanked us and went to his wife.

I'm sliding into this new reality of having three married children and overall, I think I like it...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Quiet Fridays

I've missed writing. For the last few weeks, I've been busy with first the wedding and then the Passover holidays. I'm exhausted but happy; relaxed and yet tense. The challah dough is rising in the kitchen; the soup is cooking. I have a bit more to do, but it's a very quiet Shabbat - just me, my husband and Aliza. Strange to be so few. I'm not sure I even know how to cook for that small number and so - I'm giving challah to Elie and to Amira; I'm making a fish roll for them as well.

I am sitting down to write - just to enjoy a few minutes. I wrote a novel long ago and never did anything with it. It's a beautiful story - the characters so real. There is one chapter that brings me to tears each time I read it...and that's pathetic because I wrote it, right? I'm thinking of posting it here. I once sent it to a publisher. A woman who worked there really liked it and asked for more chapters. I sent it...she asked for more. I sent more getting really excited that maybe they'd publish it.

She finally asked for the rest - after she read it, she said it was wonderful - and that her company wouldn't publish it because they only publish first-hand accounts of the Holocaust and this was fiction. Of course, she must have known that from the start, so I guess she just wanted to read the story. It really is special in so many ways - I tell people, it's the truest story that never happened. Parts of it did, taken from stories of survivors. But it's a blend and some sections - I don't even know where it came from - it just poured out of me for months at a time.

So, in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, I've been reading one chapter...I think maybe I'll post it separately if people are interested. So - a quiet Sabbath. Next week will be a busy one as Wednesday is Memorial Day and Thursday is Independence Day.

It is something unique to Israel - this need we have to remember and honor the ones who made the next day possible. And so, on Wednesday, we will honor the tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians who have died in our wars, been murdered in terrorist attacks in the 64 years since Israel was re-established in our ancient and current homeland. It is an agonizing day - no entertainment places are open, one television station simply runs music and a slow listing of all the names of each soldier, each terror victim. Each year, the list moves just a little bit faster - so that all the names can be displayed within the 24 hour period.

And then, as our hearts break and we've spend the day listening to stories of younger siblings remembering their older brothers; of parents telling us about their sons and daughters; of wives who have lost husbands and sons who have lost fathers...and then, 8:00 p.m. comes and there is a ceremony and a switch. I can't explain how it is humanly possible, but we start to sing and to dance and there are fireworks and the tears dry and the smiles come and we celebrate with all our hearts.

That's next week...for now, I'll wish you a Shabbat shalom and tell you that we are a nation at peace. Yes, it is peaceful here - the sun is shining; the flowers are blooming all over the country. Here's a picture of a plant just outside my door that has the most incredible flowers. They open and close each day with the sun - as we do.

The picture doesn't do them justice - maybe because I took the picture with my cellphone. The pink is the brightest of pinks...well, enjoy them anyway.




Thursday, April 19, 2012

This is Our History But Not Our Future

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. Last night, many gathered to remember. Today in school, children are gently being taught of what was. This morning at 10:00 a.m., air raid sirens sounded all over Israel - in every city, every town, every village, on the radio, in the cars and buses.

For two minutes, people stood in silence, paid tribute, remembered, and prayed it would never happen again. Many, like me, thought of the dangers that face us, that threaten. Many, like me, find comfort in the army that is our sons and daughters. They stand between us and the next Holocaust.

There are few pictures that encapsulate so much as the one that appears below. If there ever was an apt example of a picture speaking a thousand words (and more), this would be it. This evil is what we faced. That a man could face a woman and a child and take aim...this is evil. This is fascism. This was Nazism. This is anti-Semitism.

This is our history but it will NOT be our future. Never again.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Where Does Truth Begin?

Does it begin with a video showing a decorated IDF Lt. Colonel beating anarchists in a clip that is quickly making its way around the world? Can you trust an organization who staged this to be the one to report on it as well? Doesn't it matter at all if this was not the first strike, but the second?

When I was little, my sister went to my father and told him that I had hit her. He came and punished me. I explained that she had hit me. He went back to my sister and asked her if that was true. Apparently, she was much more honest than the people in the video, certainly more honest than the Dutch anarchist. She told my father, "yes, but she hit me back."

It changes the picture, does it not? If the anarchist who now claims brutality - was in fact, brutalizing first. No?

So perhaps, the real story began long moments...even perhaps as long as two hours before that tiny, edited clip you'll probably see on YouTube, Facebook and elsewhere? From the video that is being used to condemn him - comes the proof that these so-called humanitarian activists were anything but humanitarian, anything but peace-seeking, civilized demonstrators.

The truth will come out. Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner was attacked FIRST - they BROKE HIS FINGERS. Note the picture below - note his hand. This is a Lt. Colonel in the Israel army - tried and tested. Violence came at him and yes, he answered with violence. The key here is that he ANSWERED.

The truth here is that the "activists" went to one of Israel's major highways and without coordinating the "demonstration" in advance - began blocking the road. The army moved in to clear the path - and were brutally attacked...by the so-called peace-loving ISM.

I will tell you that I believe the video they post is a challenge to each of you - a question they ask - how stupid are you, is their real message? Are you stupid enough to believe their headlines? "Israeli soldiers brutally attack Palestinians and ISM activists on bike ride."

On a bike ride? Seriously?

Yes, they had bicycles - the better to disrupt traffic. Can you, from this brief clip, really condemn a Lt. Colonel doing his job compared to activists that came from abroad - like this Dutch man - fully intending to disrupt, disturb and incite violence? ISM activists have a long, blatantly anti-Israel history. They are pro-Palestinian activists (and that's really too nice a word for them). You can see this in the flags they wave and the Arab headdresses they wave as a challenge and a declaration. Is peace really served by traveling to another country and waving someone else's flag?

The clip they show is brutal and short. If you believe this is the sum total of their encounter, then, my friends, you surrender to the stupid. In fact, the few minutes you see have been carefully edited  - hours of confrontation have already taken place. Afterwards, the man is handcuffed and arrested and he's clearly not injured. You cannot say the same of the Israeli soldier, a Lt. Colonel, pictured below.

He was attacked first - they broke his fingers. And yes, the Israeli army is looking into the incident to determine if there was wrong-doing, and by whom. No, there will not be a cover-up and if Lt. Colonel Shalom Eisner overstepped his authority, the army will deal with him appropriately. Hopefully, it will also deal with these activists.


Many thanks to: http://myrightword.blogspot.com/2012/04/how-did-his-fingers-get-bandaged.html

And to add a bit of perspective for today, for those of you not in Israel - especially those in the United States - imagine a group closely associated with enemies of your country - promising to come in through your airports and disrupt air traffic - on the day after Thanksgiving; the Sunday after a long Christmas week break. Do you have some twisted moral obligation to allow them to do this? Would you allow hundreds or thousands to disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people who just want to return home after vacation? That's what we had here - tens, even hundreds of thousands of Israelis traveled abroad for the Passover break - and planned to return on Sunday - the day these anarchists picked to disrupt our country. Would your country allow this?
Israel made it clear to the flytilla "activists" - and again, worked hard with international connections to avoid violence. Of the promised hundreds, only 60 made it to Israel. Of the 60, 44 were detained while 13 were simply turned around and sent back - as promised in advance. If you travel to another country amid promises of bringing them to their knees on one of the busiest days of their year...do you really expect less than a full attempt to block you from success? That is what Israel did today - it successfully, and relatively peacefully, stopped an attempt to disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of people.

As for the Lt. Colonel - in his words:
I explained to the activists that many travelers were using the road because of the holiday and that they are posing a major security risk. All was calm and in control and that is why I didn't bring a water canon and gave them 15 minutes to protest. It was a group of 60 activists and suddenly two buses arrived and the activists all together called to block the road while closing our barrier. One of the Palestinian organizers told me at this stage that she no longer had control over the event.The weapon was the only thing I had in my hands.
The whole thing lasted 60 seconds, we prevented them from getting on the road and they boarded the bus. Obviously, they didn't show the part where they attacked us with sticks in the video. I should not have flung my weapon like that. But those are 60 seconds out of a two-hour event.
By the way - here is another picture from the same demonstration - note the knife. Since when do "peace activists" on a bike ride pull a knife?

For those who say this might be a cigarette in his hand - as a nonsmoker, I have to say I have never seen anyone hold a cigarette this way. I can't be 100% sure and as with the lie above, I wouldn't expect the demonstrator to be honest, but it looks like a knife; it is being held as a knife would be held. I think if it quacks like a duck - it probably is; and if it is being held as a knife...in this situation, it probably is...




Sunday, April 15, 2012

Loving Israel - An Answer to Flytilla Activists

There are so many reasons why I love Israel. Each year on Independence Day, a great comedian (and friend) I know named Benji Lovitt (see What War Zone) creates a list of the top reasons why he loves Israel - and matches it to the number of years since Israel was re-established. I'm wondering if he is already busy creating the list.

I'm not going to list 64 of them...but here's one. A letter handed to each "activist" who came to Israel on the flytilla - a so-called humanitarian effort that focuses on Israel because, in truth, their hatred of Israel (and likely Jews) is so much deeper than any real concern they have for human rights. There is no flotilla or flytilla to Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Yemen...only to Israel.

I don't know who wrote this letter - though it was clearly sanctioned by the government. What I can tell you is that even if the flytilla idiots don't read it - Israelis are reading it and walking around the country smiling today. Oh, this letter is from each one of us - to each one of you idiots who think to take advantage of our democracy. You probably won't get very far today - most have already been turned down before they get on any planes - in Switzerland, Rome, Paris and elsewhere. Others have landed and been turned around. To each, these words come from our hearts!

Other Sons, Other Mothers

They say that even when your children are fully grown, you are still their mother and they are still your babies. I have three grown and married children - it's an interesting phase in my life - because I still have two younger ones - one mid-teens, one not even a teen yet...but very soon, very, very soon. So, I'm not suffering the empty nest syndrome but I'm learning to relate to a new entity - mini-families within my family; children and their spouses, grown children who answer first (correctly) to someone else and yet, even as I am learning to be the mother of grown children, still learning to be a mother-in-law, and a grandmother, I'm still a mother with school and lunch and laundry and parent-teacher conferences and homework.

I know the day will come, faster and sooner than I can imagine, when making school lunches will be a thing of the past, asking if they did their homework will be history. I don't think you can prepare for it - more like surrender to the reality that this is where you are in your life and like all other phases, you learn to accept and enjoy it - hopefully enjoying each phase more than the previous ones. Considering how much I love babies, at times that seems unlikely - and yet, there is something beyond amazing in the simple act of seeing your grandson clap his hands and laugh. Did I take the time to enjoy my own children doing the same? I think I did; I hope I did.

I am still more mother than grandmother - but I have friends who are definitely more grandparents at this point than parents, so I understand that time and phases march on - and yet, I think you are always parents, even when you are grandparents. One doesn't stop - at least, that's what I believe right now.

And where did all this come from? Well, I really love writing here on this blog and in the Israeli sense, even though my sons are not soldiers, my adopted sons are not soldiers, one nephew is out, and my son-in-law finishes in one month, Israeli mothers remain soldiers' mothers for a couple of decades or more beyond the first time they surrender back their uniforms and guns.

Friday night, walking home after visiting a friend, we met two boys from the neighborhood. I know that one has been in the army for a while - I didn't really believe it was over a year and he was almost half way done. The second one was about 10 years old the first time I met him - his parents call him a miracle child, their miracle child, because when he was very young, he fell in a pool and drowned...by medical terms, he was dead and they managed to resuscitate him. His name is Chaim - life!

To me, he is always that little boy - and Friday night, as he stopped to chat with us in the street dressed so finely in his white shirt and dark pants, I learned that last November, he entered the army too. So, here were these young boys...both soldiers. And down the block, they told me of another boy, also once a neighbor, who is so much younger than my sons - who entered the army a bit over a month ago too. I was the "veteran" Israeli when they moved next door to us from America one summer and now his mother begins the journey I began so many years ago.

And for the last days of the holiday, we had Lauren's cousin stay with us. B. entered the army about two months ago. He is called a "lone soldier" because his parents live in America - but he grew up more as a brother than a cousin to Lauren and her sisters and is very much a son to a family about 45 minutes from where we live.

We met him a few months ago and he blended right in with our sons and considers Elie very much as an older brother guiding the way through the strange world of the army he has entered. Elie took him shopping - much in the same way I took Elie, Shmulik and Chaim. He came to us on Thursday - tired and hungry and I smiled as I explained the rules of the house say a soldier eats whatever he wants.

So, he was here, this new soldier coming in to the house in his uniform and large pack and I thought of his mother and what she wouldn't give to have it be her kitchen, her house. I hope someday it will be. For now, I got to feeling kind of melancholy. No, don't get me wrong - I do not miss having soldiers on active duty, not knowing where they are or what is happening I'm proud they did their service and happy to be here and not there.

But it got me thinking - their mothers...these three boys and so many others - they are the soldiers' mothers, the real ones. And I'm the one with the blog...and then Aliza went to get the mail and in it was a "Tzav Rishon" - a call to reserve duty for Elie and just as in the "old days" - there went my stomach. How long, I asked him? Where?

He was impatient, "let me read it and then I'll tell you."

Two days - coming up soon, in the center of the country. Not too bad, not too far, not for too long and a subtle message - yeah, in Israel, a mother is always a mother, welcoming her sons (and daughters) and others' sons to their homes and we remain, long after, soldiers' mothers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why Israel was Created...

There are many reasons why Israel exists today, why it should, why it must. Sometimes, you can give a complicated answer, and sometimes, the answer is so simple. Today is a simple one. This morning, a plane flew into Israel from Russia. It was a special flight, sent to there by the State of Israel. On board the plane, as it landed in Israel, was a special medical team, and a young man in critical condition. Aharon Alexander is 25 years old.

He was brutally attacked as he left his synagogue in Kiev. He has been hospitalized ever since with head injuries. Today, he was brought to Israel for treatment. Israel stands ready to welcome Jews from all over the world - healthy ones and injured ones, those who live in fear and those who come here by choice.

Every year, thousands choose to come here and make Israel their home - it has been the way for centuries and more. This quiet truth that Israel is home. My grandfather only came once to Israel - he died before he could fulfill his promise and take me here. The first time I came here, at age 16, I was still in mourning for him and despite my sadness, I felt so happy to be here. It was the first time I felt, truly felt, that I had come home, to my home.

Israel was created - or I should say recreated - as an historical correction; a people returning (and again, I'll mention that there were always Jews here - never since the exodus from Egypt, has there been a time when there were no Jews here) to their land. Israel was created so that the world would know that it could - never again - attack Jews without knowing that there was someone, some entity at their backs.

So long as there is an Israel - there will be no Holocaust. By might, by right - we are here. Today, we brought  Aharon Alexander home. The families of those killed in the recent Paris school attack have already announced they will be among those moving to Israel in the near future.

Elie and Lauren are flying home later today; soon, my daughter and her husband and baby will join us in the local park to sit in the sunshine. We'll all play with the baby and enjoy watching him crawl around on the grass. My children will run in the sun of this land and I'll relax - another day of vacation knowing, so happy, that I've come home, that I've brought my children home. That two were born here and that all of them know that they may leave - but there will never be another place for them. I hope that Aharon will wake up, that he will be fully recovered soon, and that he will know he never has to go back to darkness and hatred.

And to the person who keeps sending me the YouTube videos of hatred and misinformation...do you really expect me to post them? To even waste my time viewing them? Really, some people can be so silly at times.

And to those of you who recently celebrated Easter - I hope you had a wonderful holiday and are now enjoying the coming of Spring.

And to those of you celebrating Passover - chag samayah!

Nadia Abu-El-Haj's Ignorance

A  professor given tenure several years ago by Barnard College, despite a petition signed by thousands and many questions about her qualifications, maintains that the Jews do not necessarily have a well-documented history in the Holy Land and in fact, she claims, Israeli archaeologists were guiding their finds by their agenda...something one could easily say about Abu El-Haj.

In one review, University of Arizona Professor William Dever, the senior American archaeologist digging in the Middle East (cited inThe New York Sun), called El-Haj’s scholarship “faulty, misleading and dangerous,” while Aren Maeir, the archaeologist heading the dig at Gath of the Philistines, deemed it “ludicrous.” Despite the protests, Columbia gave Abu El-Haj tenure - not something that surprised me from a place that welcome Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak. 


So, every once in a while - actually, quite often, Israelis and visiting scientists and archaeologists discover more and more roots, facts on the ground, and truths of our ancient and eternal connection to this land. I thought of Nadia Abu El Haj when I saw this video. Nadia Abu El-Haj told a reporter, Jane Kramer of the New Yorker, that the next thing she expected was for me to want to have lunch with her - I"m not sure whether that shows her incredible self-centered ego or her very slim hold on reality - or both.

More, I wonder how she can continue to claim to be a scholar when she has no hold on history (or reality). So, this one is for the incredibly ignorant Nadia Abu El-Haj - yet another video showing our connection to this land.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lessons Learned

I meet people who recognize the name of my blog sometimes. It's a small country - we are reminded of that so often. "Ah, you are a soldier's mother?" someone will ask and I will answer, "heavy on the 'a'." Yes, I am A soldier's mother living in a land where the vast majority of women are mothers of soldiers too. I'm just one of many - nearly everyone on my block is a mother of a soldier, was a mother of a soldier, or will be the mother of one or more soldiers in the coming years.

I live in a neighborhood, a city, an area, a country, where the same is true - over and over and over again. Sometimes, inspiration for this blog comes from my children, sometimes it comes from the news. Sometimes, it doesn't come at all, and sometimes, I find interesting posts from the past. I am on vacation - sort of - and so rather than work, I searched back to other posts I made on April 10th...and found these two.

In Guns and Things, I was just starting out - not even a month into this soldier's mother thing. It's an interesting post - including this:
There are advantages and disadvantages to the prevalence that guns have in our lives. But for all the arguments and debates, guns in Israel are considered a necessity and are treated with respect. They are not toys and we do not live our lives playing a game. For as long as I have known my sons would serve in the army, I have known the day would come when my sons would learn to shoot, to carry a gun, to bring it into my home.
And then on April 10th last year, after Elie was out of the army, while Shmulik was still in, I asked this question - What do you expect Israel to do? It too is an interesting post, very different from the previous one. There is anger and frustration there, and so much pain:
Over our peaceful Shabbat - when Israelis shut down for the weekend and pull into their families and communities, we were hit by over 50 mortar and rocket attacks. On Thursday, a Palestinian "fighter" - what anyone else should call a terrorist - picked up an advanced anti-tank RPG with special abilities to track and destroy. Elie knows this weapon, "it doesn't miss what it is aimed at," he said.
What it was aimed at - was a school bus. By the grace of God, almost all the children on the bus had just gotten off minutes before the attack. Daniel Aryeh, son of Tamar, was still on the bus and is now fighting for his life. Daniel Aryeh is only 16-years-old. He went to visit his grandmother, decided to have some fun with a family friend who is the bus driver and ride along.
Shortly after I wrote this post, Daniel lost his fight, leaving behind a family and a nation in mourning, and  a question unanswered - what do you expect Israel to do? A year later and we are still being bombarded with rockets and mortars - several last week. There are lessons to be learned...if we have the courage to learn them.

New Wave of Attacks in Europe

If what was, will be again - this time we have an answer. A tsunami of hate in Europe cannot defeat Israel. For each Jew - there is an answer...and the answer has always been...Israel.

A 25-year-old Jewish man was attacked in Kiev as he left synagogue recently. The attack was brutal. The young man was beaten, sustaining serious head wounds thought to have been inflicted with glass bottles. The prognosis, say some reports, is grim. Several cemeteries have been desecrated. Four Jews murdered - three children and a young father murdered in France one day, another boy beaten the next.

The Anti-Defamation League released a study of 10 European countries with the conclusion that anti-Semitism was at "disturbingly high levels." I'm not sure what levels wouldn't be disturbing, but the message is clear. Hate of Jews (and Israel) is on the rise in Europe again. Once again, Europeans believe and blame the Jews for all manner of ills - control of the economy, perhaps the spread of disease - who can understand the twisted mind of hatred?

The study was taken in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. In France, 45 percent of respondents attributed the violence against European Jews to anti-Jewish feelings, an increase from 39 percent in 2009. In Hungary, the level rose to 63 percent of the population, compared with 47 percent in 2009. In Spain, 53%; in Poland, 48% of the population expressed deep anti-Semitic attitudes. (More on the study here: http://www.adl.org/PresRele/ASInt_13/6266_13.htm)

Major news outlets - many not known for their friendly attitude to Israel - the BBC, the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, even the European Union - all note a dramatic increase in attacks against Jews. On my Facebook page, someone posts a picture of a swastika painted on a Jewish grave and even as I read the distressing story, one thought came to my mind.

If what was, will be again - this time we have an answer. A tsunami of hate in Europe cannot defeat Israel. For each Jew - there is an answer...and the answer has always been...Israel.

Passing Over

Passover - the holiday and the history - is a time of transition. Physitcal and spiritual. Like most of the holidays in Judaism, there is an added element of reality and intensity when celebrated in the land of Israel. Only here do you realize how connected the land is to who we are as a people, and what God intended for us. Only here.

In terms of transition, I feel it more this year than most. Amira was about 4.5 years old when Shmulik was born - that means I gave birth to 3 children in 5 years. As they were born, this is how they married. Within five years of each other - three grown and married children. There was a six year break between Shmulik and Davidi; four more until Aliza joined our family. There has always been a huge divide, though smaller now, between the big kids and the little ones.

I would smile when one of the older ones referred to "the kids." It was the three and the two; and now the three are all married and essentially out of the house. With all the plans of the last few months, then Aliza's bat mitzvah and the wedding and seeing them off for a brief trip to the US to spend part of the holiday with Lauren's family, and the mad preparations for the holiday, it is only now really hitting me that we are a family with two children.

Sure, I still have five - even eight (and a grandson) - but on a day-to-day basis, it's us and two. A transition, a change. The holiday of Passover is about transition as well - from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of being a people. New rules, new practicies, new food in the desert on their way to the Holy and Promised Land. Promised by God...to us.

Passover is about a transition from the rain and the winter to the hot and the summer. Yesterday, it was very hot and sunny in Israel; today, they expect showers in the south and in the north. By Friday, it will be hot again. Summer is coming; transition.

Passover is about cleaning out your home, even obsessing about it and pulling out of the closet those dishes and pots you use only once a year for 7 days (8 days outside of Israel). It's fun (a lot of work, but fun), to pull out those things and remember what goes where. I love the pots I have for Passover and each year struggle to put them back. It is so tempting to keep them out and use them all year long, but then I wouldn't have them for these days - and I have enough pots anyway.

The important thing about transition, I think, is to embrace it, work with it, enjoy it...and let it keep moving on. My family has been in transition for five years now - so many changes. Five years ago, we already had Yaakov in our lives - we have added Chaim as a son, Haim as both a son-in-law and a son. We added Ariella as a daughter (though that was termporary as her parents moved to Israel and we had to somewhat unadopt her - even though we still consider her ours). We added Naama as a daughter-in-law, who became a daughter; and we added Lauren as a daughter, who became a daughter-in-law. We (okay, I didn't have that much to do with it, though I was there when he joined us) added a baby grandson.

That's a lot for five years - three weddings, a bar mitzvah, a bat mitzvah, a grandson - a lot of happiness, a lot of transitions. So we've just completed another one. We're enjoying the holiday and the break from work; sleeping more than I have in months, in between cooking and just reading and resting.

Passover will come and go this year, as it does every year. Winter is over; the rainy season all but behind us. Now comes the summer months; sunshine and heat. The older kids are all married; all building their own families. The important part of transition is to embrace it. I'll keep telling myself that as I enjoy my new children and perhaps focus a bit more on the two younger ones while they are still kids.

Davidi was amazing this year, helping me prepare for the holiday. He's beginning to accept the harder truth of a child - that he is bigger and stronger than I am. He takes things down from the top shelves for me; soars above me. Aliza is the little planner - but not so little. She went on a trip with the neighborhood today and carefully planned what she would take along. I helped at the end, but it was her doing, her planning.

If you love the winter, as I do, you have to remind yourself to enjoy the summer too - otherwise, you spend half your life wishing for tomorrow or next month or next season, rather than living today. One of the beautiful prayers we recite on Passover and other holidays includes the verse:

This is the day which God has made; we will rejoice in it and be happy with it.

That just about sums it all up. Take today, this moment in your life, this time, this day, and celebrate it. Live it. Today is the transition between  yesterday and tomorrow. Neither of those days can you live today. Yesterday, you cannot change; tomorrow will come soon enough. Somewhere in the posts from long ago, towards the beginning of the time Elie was in the army, I began to understand that tomorrow was a very frightening time. Tomorrow, Elie might go to war; Shmulik might go into a very dangerous situation. If I could focus on today, each day, tomorrow would always be a day away.

It's a life philosophy I try to live with - sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't. Today is the day God has made, the day He has given to me, to us. Celebrate it, rejoice in it. Be grateful for it. Each day, every day. That's the plan; the great secret of life. Passover is one of those times God gives you to remind you of where you are. Not where you were or where you are going. Yesterday, you were slaves; tomorrow you'll be out there in the desert somewhere. Today is what it is all about. Today you have food and sunshine. The dishes and pots will change; the rain will come and go.

Your family will grow - in size, in number, God willing. Accept it, rejoice in it. Be happy with it. I guess, it's the ultimate, original, "Don't worry. Be happy" message.

So don't worry - be happy. Works for me. Chag samayah - happy holidays to you.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Present for Elie and Lauren?

Is this tacky? I'm not sure - I certainly don't mean it to be and if it is insulting in any way, I apologize in advance. A while back, I put a PayPal Donate button on the site. I've seen it on many blogs and I figured, if someone wants to help me cover the many hours I spend writing instead of working, I'd be happy. A few people have - and at one point, it got to enough to go out to dinner with my husband - so that was fun!

But this time, I want to do something else - so - you see that button there on the left? For the next few weeks, any money donated to the PayPal account will go to Lauren and Elie to help them begin their new home, their new lives. They got many presents in Israel and I'm sure that even now, as they are together in the United States celebrating their marriage with Lauren's wonderful family, I bet they are getting more.

So - if you'd like to send them a gift (again, please don't be annoyed), feel free to donate and all the money will go to them! When I have a total, I'll ask them what they are going to do with the money and I'll hopefully post a picture as well (and I'm open to any suggestions for what to get them).

I figured this was a nice way for anyone who wishes to give them a gift to do so - again, please don't feel that you have to...but if you want to....

With gratitude,
A Soldier's Mother

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