Wednesday, May 30, 2012


More than 2 decades ago, someone close to me did something that I viewed as a betrayal. That action left an indelible mark that has yet to heal. Actually, being honest, I don't think it ever will and I'm not sure I want it to. It has become a companion to me, a force on its own.

I have no stomach for dishonesty, unethical behavior, and hypocrisy. A man didn't like something I wrote about the industry in which he worked - and decided to demand that I resign from the Board of the synagogue. There was no connection - just a disgusting power play on his part and the hypocrisy of the Board that feared his power. Did I mention I hate silence in the face of injustice as well?

Two former employees went off to form their own company - in part by breaking agreements and taking at least one of my clients and in part by deleting 80-90 GB of client files on my computers. Did I mention that I hate dishonesty and unethical behavior?

We are, ultimately, a product of our experiences in life and I carry these with me - struggling not to let the anger win. Usually, it doesn't. The synagogue where I once went has lost many valuable people - all those who see what has been done and refuse to be a part of it. That isn't what worship is about. One of those employees developed some serious illnesses and has been living with pain almost from the time she left my employ.

And on it goes. In my personal life and in my "public" life here, I do not stomach hypocrisy. This morning, there was a quote from someone who called him/herself "Norway" - and I choked on the anger as I responded. Norway is the farthest thing from the caring, egalitarian society it wants you to believe it is. Sure, they sent some money to Haiti - better than most countries - but it was OUR team that got there and saved lives, OUR doctors, OUR rescue workers who risked their lives.

For the earthquake in Turkey, the tsunami in the Far East - it was our PEOPLE while it was your MONEY, Norway. And while this person dares to question Israel - once again throwing around the much abused and inaccurate term "apartheid" - it is simple to prove Norway wrong. We have sent the children of immigrants to Eurovision (as if that is some intelligent way to measure the worth of a country, for God's sake???) - from Yemen, Morocco, the United States. From Russia, Spain, and Libya and Tunisia. On and on, the list of the countries from which our contestants have come is so long and Norway dares to take pride because ONE of their contestants came from Morocco?

Norway - a heck of a place. As far back as in the year 1000, the Norwegian king, Olav den Hellige, forbade everyone who was not Christian to live in Norway. In 1814, Norway acquired its first constitution. This document stated that the official state religion was Lutheran Protestantism and that Jews and Jesuits were forbidden from entering the kingdom. It took them over 50 years to manage to get that clause out and another 40+ before Jews actually established a community.

In 1940, the Germans occupied Norway. Norwegian newspapers and media were full of anti-Semitic propaganda and the Norwegian government was taken over by Nazis. In 1942, 750 Jews were deported to Auschwitz (of a population of approximately 2,000 Jews). Of these, only 25 survived. The rest of Norway's Jews managed to escape to Sweden, where they lived as refugees until the end of the war. Norway remains a bastion of anti-Semitism and worst of all, it does so with a pride and arrogance that devastates anyone willing to hope for anything better. Hypocrites, I want to cry out. 

And then there is Syria - daily, people are dying there, being murdered by their government - but the UN takes the time to warn Israel, to express its concern - while Assad is butchering his own people in the lovely tradition of his father.

And while I'm in complaining mode - did you notice that the new Flame virus that has hit Iran's computer systems is getting more attention than Iran's threat to wipe Israel off the face of the earth? Have you noticed that the UN issued a warning against the virus - within a day of its being announced...and yet still has not done much to stop Iran's mad dash for nukes?

And on and on...I'm trying to find my balance today, trying to stop the outside from reaching so deeply into the inside. The owner of my office building FINALLY cleaned the windows - after our requesting this for more than 3 years (the windows don't open or we would have done it ourselves) - and so my office now has beautiful views again - the colors are just so amazing. The sun is so bright; the tree below my window so green. The building across the street is golden; the field beyond it full of swaying growth.

I'm trying to remember that hypocrisy has always existed and always will and nothing they say or do can change who I am, where I choose to live my life. Things won't really change - with the next natural disaster, Israel will send people to help and Norway will continue to sit back and preach about how good their society is...unless, of course, you happen to be a Jew in Norway. But as there are only about 1,200 Jews living in Norway as of 2010 (0.05% of the population), I guess we Jews are pretty smart after all.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Mother's Greatest Fears

No, I'm not going to do now what I refused to do during the time Elie and Shmulik were in the army. I'm not going to put in words a mother's greatest greatest fears. You have to know what they are, or at least most of them. There's one more that is there - has always been there that I can write about. I could do the research and find out who was the first Israeli soldier captured or kidnapped. But at this moment, it doesn't really matter. Whatever his fate was, whether he was blessed enough to return to us or whether he was forever lost, has little to do with today.

I can tell you that I remember when Ron Arad was captured - and that was more than 2 decades ago. We each carry around this type of history, from our first experience with it, to the last. It was horrible - the pictures of Ron Arad. A man who was so young, his beautiful wife, his baby daughter. His face was frozen in much the years past and that baby grew into a poised young woman. All without her father. There was proof early on that Ron Arad was alive but over time, hope began to fade. When his mother died, never having seen him again, I began to believe, really believe, Ron would never come home.

There were the three soldiers captured in 2000.  Staff Sgt. Binyamin Avraham, Staff Sgt. Binyamin Avraham, and Staff Sgt. Omer Sawaid. They were returned in coffins to a nation in mourning. Then there was Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Hizbollah played with our emotions to the very last day when Israel as a nation gasped as their coffins came into view.

Then there was Gilad Shalit - for five agonizing years we knew he was alive and worried about his condition. What would be left after Hamas captivity. It was almost impossible to believe he'd come home and if he did, that he'd be much more than a shell of what was taken. Gilad was captured before Elie went into the army, and was still being held when Elie was discharged from the standing army and moved into the Reserves.

And then Gilad came home and surprised us all - he smiled and became a hero - not for surviving the captivity, but for surviving it whole, if not entirely healthy. His arm needed an operation, he was badly malnourished and had been starved not just of food but of sunshine. He was quickly overwhelmed by the number of people surrounding him after years of almost solitary existence.

But he's been working his way back to health - eating better, playing basketball, talking, walking, being normal. And Israelis have let him get on with his life; the media cooperated. We hear little bits; see brief images. Each tells us he is well and getting better and better. And deep down, we trust that he'll appear, some time in the future when he'll announce he's getting married, and then fade back into his privacy. Maybe when he has a son or a daughter, they'll put it in the newspaper but he'll live his life as normally as he can. He is the unusual one; the one who returned from the hell of captivity. Most don't.

And so why this recollection, this journey into the painful past? Today in the news there was an announcement that since the beginning of the year, there have been 20 attempts to kidnap soldiers. Twenty...and it is only May. Five months since the beginning of the year. An average of four a average of one a week. Twenty attempts.

The next time you hear of check points - these are the people we are trying to stop - the ones who would kidnap a soldier and pass him to Gaza where he would become the next Gilad Shalit. Except unlike Gilad, the next one may never return. Ron Arad didn't; the others never will. There are ripples that cross Israeli society every once in a while - most don't make it to the press. There are rumors that a soldier is missing and the army shifts into gear. Every soldier must report to his commanding officer. Every commanding officer must report to his commanding officer. That officer reports to his commanding officer and up the line of command as the army reaches around to make sure it is still whole. It can start from the top down or the bottom up, but either way, the army is checking - where are you? Are you supposed to be where you are? More than once, I remember Elie getting a phone call. "I'm with my mother," and he told him the place where we are.

"What happened?" I asked Elie. They're just checking, he replied - only later I would hear that there had been a claim by one of the Palestinian groups that they were holding a soldier.

And while this is happening - the roads go crazy. For no reason, you are stuck in a traffic jam that is barely moving. Nothing on the radio; nothing on the Internet. And then you finally, finally, finally come to a stupid army truck or a few stupid police cars blocking the road and letting car by painful car go past. And you want to shout at them - don't you see what you are doing? You've jammed everything up for nothing! Why! I'm an hour late to my meeting! Forget trying to get to that bat mitzvah party! No, my mother won't be able to get to her appointment now! But something holds you back because deep down you know - there's a reason.

So you drive away annoyed because they picked YOUR road to jam up...until a few days later when some local news channel reports the arrest of a terrorist cell that intelligence knew was driving a certain type of vehicle or was in a certain area. We may find out or we may never know; but there might be a reason. Twenty times this year, there was a reason. One time each week for the last five months.

 And you are grateful, so very grateful to that so smart soldier and so smart policeman because their perseverance paid off and all our soldiers are where they need to be. I've learned over time, to be grateful for those traffic jams, no matter how frustrating they may be. I'll take one of those over one of our greatest fears any day.

Twenty times they tried and twenty times they failed. I'll try to find comfort in that - that constant failure they have and I know that there are many reasons for those failures - our vigilance, the dedication and watchful eyes of our soldiers, the intrinsic sophistication of our military intelligence and above all else, the Great Force, the Holy Defender that watches over Israel.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Advice to New Army Mothers

For now, I'm in a place that years ago I never imagined I would be - safe on the other side, looking back. Now, with my two older sons out of the army, with Yaakov safely married in the States and Chaim in his studies, I can be glad they were in. I can say that they grew as people, as Jews, as Israelis, as men, as sons. Now, when it is safe.

Every once in a while, I meet a mother of a son about to go in - a mother not born in Israel, but one like me who came later in life with a son who is now about to begin the journey, or a mother who struggles through this period while she is there in America and her son has come alone. It is a strange feeling to be here, knowing they are just at the start. I met one such mother last night - I've known her for years but this time she told me her son was finishing high school and this time, it was across that divide that I began remembering those first days, those first fears.

It's so easy - as it was for others before me, to be on this side and talk. Of understanding and accepting that you take each day, one at a time; that he can't call you and you can't call him whenever you want. Of knowing that just because he says he will be home, it means nothing until he walks through that door and you see him. The memories come so fast; they've never really gone away.

Of the times he called and told me he was cold and I thought it would kill me. Of the time he called and told me his head was killing him and he was still out in the field and I wanted to drive for hours to get to him. Of the time I called his commanding officer and said that I wanted to come and take him to the doctor and please, please could they make sure he was okay. Of the time he told he he wasn't where I thought he was and I knew that meant he was in danger and war was coming. Of the time he called to say he couldn't come home as planned and I knew something had happened but not what that would mean for him.

Of all the times and all the worries and all the fears. From this side of the divide, with them safe and even married and on to the next adventures in their lives, I know two things, I believe two things and hold on to them.

The first is that soon enough, my friends will, God willing, be standing here beside me, remembering their own fears and worries, and grateful, so very grateful to be here. The time will go fast, I want to tell them, but in truth, time is time and it really doesn't go faster or slower because want it to.

And the second thing I know is that this mountain on which we stand doesn't protect you from the next time. As Elie came out of the army, I stood here on this side and yet a week or so later, I was back there on the other as Shmulik began his journey. With lightening speed, the security of this mountaintop can be stripped away from you, all it takes is another son or daughter going in. Now, here I am again on the best of all mountains and this time, I've been here for almost a year and I have still more time to rest and be happy.

But more and more I am realizing, in less than two years, I'll be going back there to where they are now, on the edge of the great divide. It's a hard place to be, standing there. From there, you can see so clearly to this wonderful place where I am now. You know what it looks like. As they begin, there in that place, they can see me now and a part of them longs to be here with me. But it is as if a cloud has settled over the land between these two mountains. The void is the valley below. The journey from that mountain top of concern to this one of pride and gratitude.

It is a valley through which I would accompany them if I could and yet it is one each mother travels alone. With hugs and love, I can only tell them to have faith, to always look up and know we are here waiting for them to join us.

May the sons and mothers who begin that journey have safe travels all the days in the valley and may they know the pride and gratitude of those of us who wait here on the heights.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The People of the Book...

Jews have been called the people of the book, and for a good reason. From an early age, we are instilled with a love of the written word. All truths can be found in books, and a fair amount of lies as well. Even centuries ago when illiteracy rates were very high, Jewish children were taught to read. Most Jews I know amass a large library of books. I once walked around my house and realized that in almost every room, I have hundreds of books - bedrooms, living room, hallways.

I have a cookbook collection with easily over 100 books; we have religious books, funny books, novels, dictionaries, encyclopedias and more. I'm a sucker for a books and a book sale. So, many months ago, when a friend came up with a brilliant idea for raising money for charity, I agreed to get involved. The concept is so simple, so brilliant.

I live in a country where the main language is Hebrew. For those of us who came here later in life with English as our mother tongue, we struggle to keep ourselves "in the book" - with enough to fill our time. I can't go to sleep at night without reading for a while. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and the fastest way to go back to sleep is to read for a while.

So - my brilliant friend came up with the brilliant idea that we swap books - for charity. We did the first one in my backyard and raised well over $1,000 in one night and all the money was immediately donated to charity. We did another a few months later and raised about twice that amount; and we did it again last night to the benefit of several local charities.

Here's how it works. You put out a call to your friends and neighbors - give me your old books, the stacks that have been sitting there, the books you've read and don't want, the extras. Thousands of books came pouring in.

Then, you put out a call in your community telling them about the event. For each book a person donated, they can take another one for some nominal fee (we charged 5 shekels or about $1.30 for each donated book swap and 10 shekels or about $2.60 per book if you didn't donate one to cover the swap). And, you announce that all the money is going to benefit charity. In this case, we chose several local charities - an organization that gives food and assistance to needy people, an organization that promotes English literacy among children, a youth camp for children from families that needed this extra attention, etc.).

And the results - once again, stagger us...

They came, they swapped, they appreciated it. For a people who love the book, the books were consumed. So, if you live in a place where people love to read and you want to raise money for a deserving cause, consider the Book Swap - and special kudos to Bat Aliyah - the inspiration, dedication, and drive behind this brilliant event (and a heck of a friend!).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dancing in Jerusalem

Sometimes no words are necessary...Davidi goes to school in Jerusalem - I'm hoping somewhere in the midst of all those who are dancing and waving the flags today is my son, Davidi. All of Jerusalem is decked out in blue and white today, dancing through the streets on their way to the Old City and to the Western Wall.

Dancing in the Streets of Jerusalem

Guest Post: Compass of the Diaspora Jew

Hope you'll enjoy this guest post by Avital Chizhik

Jerusalem: Compass of the Diaspora Jew

We’re standing in a hall in downtown Manhattan, overlooking a dusky Liberty Harbor.

The girl standing next to me points to the river view: “Doesn’t it almost look like Jerusalem? That terrace over there and that tree? The way the sun is setting?”
I gaze for a minute at the view. We stand overlooking a dark Hudson River, a boat passing by, the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

No, it doesn’t look like Jerusalem in the least. Not here. This is most certainly New York. I muster a smile, trying to think of an agreeable response until I finally sigh and admit, “No, it doesn’t look like Jerusalem. Not at all.”

She’s not happy with my answer.  She’s fresh off a spring break Birthright trip and probably still seeking Jerusalem. But look, the tree, and the sunset? Why, you don’t see it? Something about those shadows.

I’ve learned to nod politely in these moments; I understand her. It’s like stepping off a plane in JFK and still smelling Jerusalem, hearing a loudspeaker and thinking for a second that it’s the call of the muezzin.

Somehow we always know how to seek Jerusalem, wherever we are: whether it’s by Babylon’s rivers or the Hudson.  It’s some kind of inner compass which directs us there – not just for times of prayer, but in everything, on our living room walls and our silk paintings, in our wedding invitation calligraphy, our whispered consolations to mourners.

Even in the Soviet Union. My mother tells me about her childhood in the far north of Russia, the wait for exit visas in the ’70s. She tells me of dark winter nights, secret copies of Exodus, gatherings with fellow Traitors of the State and political activists. Jerusalem: it was the magical formula whispered between activists. “Soon, we’ll be sipping coffee together in a Jerusalem café,” Mark Morozov, one of the activists, said upon farewell, as my mother’s family gathered to emigrate. A Jerusalem café – what does a Moscow Jew know about a café in the Middle East?

The idea of Jerusalem is ingrained in the subconscious of the Diaspora Jew, arguably a different image than the one preserved by the Israeli. A place, yes, but also a reality, an ideal to constantly face and strive towards. It’s become the perfect metaphor for all of Israel, and even for Jewish identity itself: a complicated place of winding streets, hills and valleys, divided, beautiful and tense. A fusion of east and west, ancient and modern, “always of two.”  As Yehuda Amichai notes in his poetry: it’s at once an object of fantasy and also entirely mundane.

And often, it’s the ordinary which penetrates the Diaspora Jew. It’s not just praying by the Western Wall or wandering the Old City, but it’s also about that bus ride you take and the kind old man who blesses you and hands you a bag of fresh lychees. Is it naive, perhaps, that I melt a little, every time I walk by children playing in the city’s streets? That I can spend months in that place, and still shake my head in disbelief over the miracles that took place there? Is it possible, to yearn for the place in which one already stands?

Some Israelis laugh when they watch us grow misty-eyed: “You’re impassioned with this place, aren’t you?” They tolerate it, wonder at our shameless romanticism, smile at our naiveté.

But I’ve come to be proud of my admitted naiveté. It’s that same idealism of standing by the Hudson and seeing Jerusalem somewhere in the distance, the same fervor of the early pioneers and their ruthless conviction, the same bright-eyed conversation held somewhere by the Arctic Circle and planning café outings.

Soon, we’ll be sipping coffee together in a Jerusalem café. That activist, who had promised to meet my family in Jerusalem, died in a Soviet prison seven years afterwards; my mother’s family settled in Brooklyn. But the stories of those wintry nights, of waiting for an exit visa, remain strong – we’re still seeking, straining to see Jerusalem from afar.

This Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim), I’m reaffirming my conviction to return, if for no other reason than to sit in that Jerusalem café, for the sake of those who couldn’t.

Avital Chizhik is a recent graduate of Stern College for Women and the outgoing president of the Yeshiva University Israel Club.  She hopes to make the big move to Israel before next Jerusalem Day. 

My History in Their Words - Jerusalem

Today, Israel is celebrating with a heart so full. Today is the 45th anniversary of an historical correction. We didn't try to make that correction; it was truly forced upon us. But the results are so right that I sit here today in my office in Jerusalem, dressed in blue and white - for myself, because I have no meetings today; and for Jerusalem, because I love this city very much.

In 1967, Israel tried to avoid war - as it does today, as it has from the beginning. We accepted the Partition Plan of the United Nations, splitting the land among Jews and Arabs. They, the Arabs, rejected it, believing they could "push the Jews into the sea" - their words, my history. Within hours of the declaration of Israel's statehood, five Arab nations invaded. We were outnumbered, outgunned, out...well, out everything, and still we fought and won.

That was in 1948 - the Arabs tried again in 1956, and again they were defeated. They began making plans for another war in 1967. Their intent had not changed, but this time, Israel launched a preemptive strike against Syria and Egypt, while sending a message to Jordan.

This was the atmosphere before...they cannot say, in their words, that we wanted war and they wanted peace:

Another video on YouTube shows Jordan's position - his words, my history:

The Jordanians chose to "fight with their brothers" - and by all that is logical, Israel should have lost. Again, his words - my history.

And finally, this video - it took me quite a while to find it in English. It is the moment when our forces broke through - back to the Old City, back to the Western Wall. There is a tradition to write a prayer, a hope, on a piece of paper and place it in the crevices of the wall. Two times a year, these thousands and thousands of tiny scraps of paper are removed and buried in a holy place so that there would be room for many other prayers of those who come, around the year, around the clock, to pray.

Today is the 45th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. For 19 years, while the Jordanians held the Old City, Jews were denied the right to pray at the Western Wall. Since that time, Israel has done all it can to ensure religious freedom - allowing Muslim, Christian, and Jew the chance to pray in their holy places.

The only time the Arabs are restricted or denied entry to their holy places is when they riot or threaten violence. And even then, it is but a matter of days, not weeks, months, years. For 19 years, we were denied - and since then - every day, without  exception, Jews come.

May God bless the city of Jerusalem with peace and may we forever know her glory. Happy Reunification, Jerusalem - you get better and better every year!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Profound Truths

Sometimes when you blog, the title comes at you and then you stop. So much to say but haven't I said it already? Will anyone suddenly believe because they hear it this time? Will someone suddenly see?
After typing those two simple words, I was stuck. What profound truths do I want to share? What drives me day after day to return to this blog and open my home, my family, my life, my country to others? That is really what it all comes down to, I think...profound truths.

There are truths...and profound truths. Half truths, mis-truths (better known as lies). There are violations of the truth, profanities of truth, those who defend truth, those who uphold truth, and so much more. Today, today I want to write about profound truths and I'm at a loss because I'm not sure where to start.

There are profound truths in parenting. I've been a parent for 26 and a half years. Long, long ago, I realized that I am perfectly able to take care of yesterday - if only it would come again. It is today and tomorrow that confuse me, challenge me and sometimes defeat me. If I have to think of just one truth - the most profound of all, it would be this - children need love and, by extension, children know when they are loved.

I have done some amazing things as a parent - amazingly good and amazingly stupid. But of all the wrongs or rights, the most right, I think, is that my children know, without question, without hesitation, that I love them beyond words. Children need clothes, food, warmth...but love is what you give when a child calls to tell you they smashed the car (again). Love is what you give when a child tells you he failed a test because he didn't study. Love is what you give, always and without reservation so that some day, your child will come to you and tell you how much they love their child and deep inside you think - finally, she understands; finally, he knows.

There are profound truths in history. All along, I thought this post would be about politics. A few hours ago, I made Elie's favorite...or maybe not his favorite but something he likes - the tuna fritter. I sent some home with Amira and then I took four of them to the mall where Elie and Shmulik are both working.

I called Elie because he already knew that I was making them and so that left only Shmulik to surprise. Elie told me they were both upstairs guarding two different gates on the top floor. As I drove towards the mall, I saw two guards checking the cars. Each one looks at the person driving, the passengers. Sometimes they check the glove compartment, the rear seat. They ask you to pop the trunk and check that as well. This time, the guard was mine. Shmulik was there, and not upstairs as I thought. He smiled, took the tuna fritters and passed me through. I drove up the ramp to the top and took Elie his tuna fritters and we talked a while before I drove back home.

When I got back to my house, I went out on the balcony, looking towards the Judean Desert and the hills of Jordan far beyond. It was one of those rare occasions when I had the house to myself. I heard a young boy call to his mother; I heard her answer back. I heard a basketball hitting the hoop and in the distance what sounded like a motorcycle.

It was quiet. It was peaceful. And there is your profound truth. People find peace even in places that are, on some level, at war every day.

Today in Israel, the head of the police ordered all police cars to run with flashing blue lights all the time - at least until September. It is intended to make them more visible and make people feel more secure. I think one of the profound truths I want to share is that Israel is a nation at peace because, by and large, we are at peace with ourselves. I walk through my neighborhood and meet friends who tell me they have seen my sons at the mall.

"The one who got married last year," she says. Ah, Shmulik.

"The older one, I think," he says. Ah, Elie.

I can go out on my balcony now - at night and in the dark, or walk up the block and feel no fear. I do not live in fear. And at this moment, I have one child asleep at home. In a few hours, three of my children will be in their homes - until tomorrow night and Saturday lunch, when they will again come to my home. My table will be full this weekend - as full as I ever imagined it to be and I now have the hope, the prayer, the faith to know it will yet be more full.

My parents are coming. One couple is coming to join us Friday night; the other two couples will join us for lunch. Tomorrow will be a mad day of cooking and cleaning (I already started today) and then more peace will come to my country as we welcome the Sabbath.

I can tell you that in 1948, 850,000 Jews left or were forced out of Arab lands and came to live in the newly re-declared State of Israel, and I can tell you that about the same number of Arabs fled and yes, in some cases (very few) were forced out. I can tell you that those Arabs who chose to stay were given citizenship and full rights; more than the Arabs who fled would receive in the countries they went to.

I can tell you that if the Arabs would stop firing rockets and attempting to launch terrorist attacks against us; if tomorrow they accepted our right to live here in peace - there would be peace. I can tell you that they target our civilians in their attacks while we do our best to avoid harming theirs.

All of these are the profound truths I thought of when those two words popped into my head as the title for this post. But truthfully, the most profound truth of all is that I am so blessed to live here in my land, with my family, my children. And I live in peace - the kind that fills the heart with joy.

My grandson learns new tricks each time I see him (several times a week). As I drove away from their home after dropping Amira and the baby off, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw her wonderful husband approach them, arms outstretched in joy as he took his son into his arms and greeted his wife after a day in the army.

Aliza baked cupcakes and brought home some to give us - a special pink one for me.  Her father's cupcake is sitting near his computer waiting for him to get home. Elie has married a wonderful young lady who was and is a part of our family. Chaim called me because his older sister said she was going to call me and he thought he better call me first. Yaakov wrote me a note telling me he was my favorite son (and I agreed so long as he promised not to tell the others).

Shmulik married a young woman who is so sweet, so gentle, so beautiful. We speak in Hebrew but last week, she asked me to help her with her English homework and she made me tea. Davidi is coming home later tonight; he's gotten so tall and just called to tell me that he couldn't find any pants to buy in the mall but heard about a place that takes almost 2 hours to get to by bus. I'm going to give him profound love as much as I can because he really should work harder in school and buy pants 15 minutes from his school where Elie told him to buy them.

I could go on and on, so I'll end with the most profound truth of all - God put us on this world and gave us life. What we make of it - love or hate - is up to us.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brother in Front of Brother

You know how sometimes images get to you? How you can see it and feel that there is a symbolism so much greater than the moment...or maybe not. I don't know.

I got a call from Lauren late this afternoon. She was on her way home and was checking to see what my plans were. I didn't really have any. Most of my important work was done. I could go home or do more. It was one of those rare times when I have things to do but nothing pressing. She said she'd spoken to Elie and he had warned her that the Arabs were rioting at the entrance to our city.

Most of the buses go through the "old" entrance that was the main entrance until a few weeks ago when they quietly opened up a new one. Both are now heavily trafficked, saving motorists on both roads. I called Elie to see if he knew any more and he also warned me against the main entrance, directing me to the new one. He told me even the main one was clear, but they were expecting more trouble. I arranged to meet Lauren, so she wouldn't be on a bus. It was really just as easy to work from home.

I called Shmulik to see if he knew any more details as I packed my computer and shut down for the day. He told me the Arabs had approached the city from Azzaria, the Arab neighborhood to the left as you exit the city. They approached the guards and started pelting them, cars, and anything they could with rocks. Police were there, ambulances and emergency vehicles. "Take the new road, Ima," he also told me.

He explained, in more detail, what happened inside the city and as he spoke, the image began to form. The guards with guns were shuffled around to the main areas to protect the mall where my sons are security guards. Elie was stationed at Aroma, where Shmulik had been. Yoel, another friend, was moved to the main gate. Shmulik was positioned in front of Elie, further towards the front of the city.

That picture - of the two of them there stabs me in the heart. Silly, really. The threat was outside the city - about three blocks away from the mall - light years when it comes to getting past the armed guards at the front of the city.

Truly and without question, they were never in danger and yet I'll imagine that moment, of Elie guarding the restaurant entrance, of him having his back to the mall entrance, of Shmulik being further away from the mall, taking a position in front of Elie. I'll see that in my sleep, I think - of brother guarding brother; each covering the other and countless shoppers in the mall who likely knew nothing of the drama taking place in the front of the city - or of the two brothers standing guard.

No threat. Not really. Why doesn't that lessen the image in my mind?

Bowling, Winning and Men

If you've been following this blog for any period of time, you'll know that I have three sons. They are each precious to me. And each, so different from the other. Of the three, Elie is the most sure of himself; Shmulik the most stubborn; and, I think, Davidi the most insecure. Or perhaps the word is unsure. He is at that awkward age of 16, teetering between the boy and tomorrow. He is luckier than Elie, in that he has a role model (two even) to follow; and he is less lucky because the path he follows has other footprints on it and it is harder for him to make his own way.

He is the fourth of my children to begin volunteering for the local ambulance squad. There, he is likely to be referred to as Elie's younger brother, as Elie has remained a part of the team while Amira and Shmulik stopped after several years.

Last night, Davidi went bowling on an organized evening of volunteers - some drivers and paramedics went, but mostly, it was the young volunteers that help the drivers on calls. They are, for the most part, below 18. There are strict rules that require them to end their shift at 10:30 p.m. (which is why Elie and now Lauren start their shifts around that time). If they are on a call, on their way to the hospital with injured people - the 10:30 p.m. is automatically extended, but if the call comes in at 10:31 p.m. - these young people cannot go out (they aren't even legally insured) and no chances are taken.

In the event that one of them is on an ambulance and a call comes through that there has been a terrorist attack, the driver must stop the ambulance and get the young person out. Drop them at a bus stop, get them a cab - anything but not take them to the attack. It gives us parents a measure of least until they turn 18.

So Davidi went bowling and somehow - he got sorted into a group of girls his age in the bowling lanes - and he lost ignobly. He was comforted by the fact that he threw the ball faster (and likely harder) than any of the girls (the automated scoring machine reports not just the results but the speed of the ball as it flies down the lane).

"The goal is to hit the pins, not throw the ball fast," I reminded him and loved the laugh I got and the smile that came easily with it. Sixteen is such a hard age. He's already talking about driving lessons.

If you've been following this blog, you'll also know that I have two daughters. It seems so much easier to raise daughters than sons. Daughters are more open to sharing their thoughts and concerns. Aliza at 12 is an endless source of information. Her life, her concerns, her friends (which change almost daily). It's just so easy to know what she is thinking about, what her concerns are, what brings her joy and what frightens her. Yes, I am blessed with the relationship I have with her, but still, it is one that seems almost without work.

Amira awes me, amazes me, impresses me beyond words. She is a young mother, a wonderful wife. She is building a relationship with her husband based on communication and sharing. She studies in university and balances so much and while I doubt she tells me everything, we have a wonderful relationship which is, like Aliza's, one that seems almost without work.

Davidi is work - I have to pull things from him. Not affection - that still comes freely. He will come in and say he loves me. He'll give me a kiss sometimes without my asking (and he'll suffer my kisses back even more often). There is a depth to him, as there was in Elie. Like Elie, there is much going on below the surface that is his life and thoughts.

He joked about being beaten by girls and yet, he didn't really seem to mind it that much and definitely thought of the night as fun. I was talking to someone the other day about this blog. I explained that I'm in a strange place with the army. Other than a few days here or there, the army and I don't have a daily relationship. I didn't really begin thinking about the army until about 2 months before Elie went in. With Shmulik, I was already thinking about it and so it was more of a continuation than an a fresh start.

Davidi is almost 16 and a half. The army is, at least, 2 years away. It's too early to imagine, to worry, to think. We went to friends last week; people who had once been our next door neighbors. We saw their children - so big and grown. One wasn't there. He's a year and a half older than Davidi and he's already in the army. The little boy who was so big, even then, is over 2 meters tall now; his hair still blond...and he's in the army. It brought home to me the fact that 2 years really isn't such a long period of time. Too soon, I think, too soon to think of it and yet too soon it will come.

Another son, another soldier., I'll think about him sitting in the other room studying for a test. I'll think of him bowling with a bunch of girls, blushing more than a 16 year old boy wants to blush, and laughing because though he can throw the bowling ball very hard and very fast, he just kept missing the pins.

That's how I'll cope, from now until perhaps two months before he goes in, when I'll once again be overwhelmed with the reality that tomorrow is coming way too fast.

Friday, May 11, 2012

An Israeli Drunk

My parents enjoyed a glass of wine now and then. I know that had some alcohol in the house, but they were never the martini type and as kids, I don't really remember there being much wine in the house - except maybe before Passover. My husband doesn't love to drink...and neither do I and so each week we make kiddush, the blessing over wine that begins the Sabbath meals, over grape juice.

Our kids aren't drinkers - most don't even like the taste of wine and none of them like beer. The except seems to be with our other kids - the ones we took in. Yaakov and Chaim are, by our standards, wine connaisseurs. I once called Chaim on the phone to ask his advice on which wine to buy and he was a bit taken back to hear that my liquor store was the local supermarket.

Once, when Elie was in the pre-military academy before entering the army, he stayed over there to celebrate the holiday of Purim with the other students and rabbis. It is a custom on Purim to drink - even to drink too much. Elie wasn't drinking and one of his teachers asked him why. He explained that he didn't really like the taste of alcohol and so the teacher handed Elie his M16 and said - okay, so you be the guard. Elie thought that was way more cool than drinking.

Last night, after having dinner with visiting cousins from the States, I drove one car to where Shmulik was on duty as a security guard for an events hall. My husband had gone back to the office to get his computer and would meet me there. The idea was to give Shmulik the car and drive home together, leaving Shmulik a way to get home when his shift ended.

For whatever reason, there was a rather long delay and so I stood talking to Shmulik while I waited. The owner/manager of the place came over and Shmulik introduced us. He insisted that Shmulik give me some soup and a drink while we waited and told me what a wonderful young man he is. A while later, a couple walked out, leaving the party a bit earlier than most.

"Whose guarding here?" he asked Shmulik, "you or your mother?"

His wife answered with a smile, "he's guarding the place and she's guarding him."

"God should bless you," he told Shmulik, and watch over you."

After they'd walked away, Shmulik turned to me and said, "you know he was drunk, right?"

Yes, I knew he was drunk - and yet, think what amazing things came out of his mouth - not loud, not angry, not silly but rather a blessing for a young man to be safe. I love this country so much - even the drunks among us!

Shabbat shalom - may it come in peace and may Got watch over all of us.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Politics and Lies of Choosing Death

Currently, 1,580 Palestinian prisoners have decided to go on a hunger strike because they want...well, honestly,  I don't care what they want and I won't give them this blog as a platform. What I will tell you is that of this large amount, only 6 have yet to be charged with crimes.

Of the remaining 1,574 - all were tried and convicted of crimes. One of the hunger strikers is Abdullah Barghouti. It is his fact that appears in the media as one of the poor starving prisoners. I know his name. I know his history and I know he deserves no compassion, no regret. If Israel had a death penalty, his name would be listed high among those deserving death for what he has done.

Years ago, I was working on a project and was asked to edit a long list of his crimes. It was a project to document what various convicted criminals/terrorists had done. Each article made me angry; each victim named made me sad. Abdullah Barghouti's article made me sick. By the end of the article, my stomach was in knots and I had to stop for a while. I remember going into Aliza's room and picking her up and holding her while she slept. I needed her purity after touching the filth that is Abdullah Barghouti's life.

He was convicted and sentenced to 67 life terms for his crimes. He is the one who made the bomb that was hidden in a guitar and taken by a young Arab couple to a lovely pizzeria in Jerusalem on a sunny day in August, 2001. Fifteen people died that day - eight of them children.

Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, the "man" who carried the bomb, died in the explosion. When you hear of this attack, the number of dead varies. Some say 15; some say 16. The difference is the terrorist bomber who chose death. I will say 15 people died that day because whatever he was, that man that chose to murder and maim, he was not a person.

A woman who was his cover. Ahlam Tamimi escorted  al-Masri to the pizzeria as a distraction to the soldiers and others. It worked. Her "boyfriend" got the chance to murder while she calmly walked away. She was eventually captured and tried, convicted of murder, sentenced, and recently released as one of the prisoners in the Gilad Shalit deal. She was asked about the children she murdered - watch her smile and see the definition of evil.

The man who made the bomb that Tamimi and her murdering f is still in jail. He was convicted and sentenced to 67 life terms for his crimes. Do you really care if he starves himself to death?

Obama and the UN have expressed concern for the health of the hunger strikers. If I were to tell you that Charles Manson was on a hunger strike - would you insist he be released? Would you care? If I told you Timothy Mcveigh, who murdered 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing was on a hunger strike would you  expect the UN to step in?

Before you jump on the wagon of sympathy - please know the facts. There are only six out of more than 1,580 prisoners who have not been charged. Each of these six cases is being or has been evaluated by legal authorities. Two of them - the ones who started this whole nonsense, are leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the court has rejected their demands because they present a clear danger to Israel and Israelis. They are not innocent people leading innocent lives. If they had the chance, more Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masris and Ahlam Tamimis would walk into more Sbarros and murder more Malki Roths. This is their life's mission and one they are willing to die for.

Each of these 1,580 prisoners has a choice to eat and live or starve himself to death. That choice, to live or die, is more than they gave their victims.

See The Ongoing War to learn more about one of the victims of these prisoners - and an article by her parents about the hunger strikers. Their beautiful 15-year-old daughter was never given a choice. She would have chosen life. See to see how loving parents turn tragedy into a true memorial.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Brutalizing a Brother

This man was shot 6 times - by Hamas, his brothers. He is a Palestinian - saved by Israeli soldiers he expected to kill him...the translation isn't least from Hebrew to English. According to the Hebrew, the man says, "the Israelis saved me" and according to the English, he says, "the Jews saved me."

Jew or Israeli - it clearly wasn't the Palestinians - his brothers. They are the ones who shot him six times, wanting to kill him.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why does Israel have checkpoints?

This morning, alert soldiers stopped an Arab attempting to go through the checkpoint and found this gun. Yeah, it doesn't look in great condition, but I assume if the Arab cared enough to try to smuggle it through, he was convinced he could do something with it in the end, and I doubt what he wanted to do would have pleased many of us in Israel.

Bibi Challenging Israel's Democracy

Israel's democracy is a vibrant thing. For all that our enemies criticize alleged discrimination, according to the law, all our citizens are equal. A bit over 10% of the population of Israel is Arab. They vote and have elected many Arab parties and leaders who then stand up from the floor of our parliament and demand our destruction. They work against us as a fifth column, betraying information to our enemies and then running off if caught (for example, Azmi Bashara, who aided Hezbollah).

Israeli Arab schools are funded by the government; Israeli Arabs have access to medical care like all other citizens, get regular benefits, etc. Including, amazingly enough - suicide bombers who kill Israelis...and then expect the government to pay benefits to their surviving families (and for many years and perhaps still, Israel has done this).

I was in the hospital last week after my father had an operation. At least two of the nurses were Arab men - sweet, kind, helpful, educated and equal to the Jewish/Israeli nurses that serve with them. In the cafeteria, watching the monitor for hours as my father was transferred into the operating room, then to recovery and then finally back to his room - we sat among Arabs, waiting, watching, worrying as we were. There was no discrimination as they waited in line - in front of us, behind us - to buy coffee or a sandwich, to sit at a table, to look, to wait.

I went shopping last night when someone told me the price of tomatoes and other vegetables was skyrocketing (still don't know why). Half the checkout people were Arabs; the assistant manager is an Arab; most of the men who work in the meat department are Arabs; most of the men who stock and restock the fruits and vegetables are Arabs. To say we are an apartheid country is a vicious lie told by those who wish, despite the facts, to damage the image of Israel for others. Do the research and you'll understand the truth.

Yes, there is that moment each day when we and they pass through the checkpoints - and yes, they are scrutinized in the 10 seconds it takes to pass through while we are observed in the 5 seconds it takes us. That is a measure of discrimination brought about by need and not apartheid. Blacks in South Africa didn't blow up bombs, sneak into the homes of whites and slit the throats of their children.

There are reasons for this 5 second delay the Arabs face while we do not - legitimate reasons. The simplest is statistics - Arabs are somewhere between 99-100% more likely to be a suicide bomber than Jews.  No, stop - do not put words in my mouth. I did not write that 100% of Arabs are terrorists (and there would be BBC quoting the last 5 words of that sentence). The vast majority of Arabs are NOT terrorists. The vast majority just want to live, as I do, as we do, in peace. That is what I firmly believe.

They want food for their children, medical care, a home, a job. So, to be clear - the vast, vast, vast majority of Arabs are not terrorists. BUT....yes, there is a but...BUT, the vast majority of terrorist are Arabs. Please, read that again - understand the difference and understand that if you fail to comprehend that, accept it, live with it and take precautions, people will die. Young children - like the three Fogel children murdered in their home, pregnant women - like Tali Hatuel and her four daughters, shot at point-blank range and murdered on the road from their home. And countless others.

The need to protect one's people is one of the ultimate signs of a democracy. Assad of Syria does not care about his people; Mubarak of Egypt didn't care; Muammar Gaddafi of Libya didn't care. Democracies care and so they enact laws and run governments to make lives better.

Eight years ago, in the summer of 2005, Israel's democracy was under the control of Ariel Sharon. He was swept into office by the votes of the majority of Israel. We voted him in with a clear plan of strength and security and in the end, he gave us neither.

He turned his back on his supporters, we who had brought him to office by implementing a unilateral evacuation of Gaza. In plain terms, this means he turned more than 20 Jewish communities to rubble, pulled people - figuratively and literally - from their homes without a plan in place to see to their needs. And for this agonizing sacrifice, he gained Israel humiliation as we watched the Arabs move into the areas where we had evacuated - to set up a mosque in a synagogue that remained (as they so often do); to set up a university of hatred; to launch rockets from the rubble at Israel's cities and civilians. Only months after doing this, Sharon broke away from Likud to form Kadima - a backwards party despite its name. I was glad when he left; I felt he had returned Likud to me, to the truth, to strength.

Eight years ago, our democracy was used against us to protect the government of the man and betray the people who put him in office. Kadima ran out of steam and Likud returned to power - another show of democracy.

And while Israel's democracy is alive and well, last night, again, it took a turn that I am not happy with. After weeks of speculation, Israel was heading towards new elections, another chance for the people to come forward and reiterate their choice and realign the government to any shifts that might have occurred in the last three  years. But a few hours ago, in the dead of night, after secret negotiations, Bibi Netanyahu signed a unity agreement with Shaul Mofaz of Kadima.

By all polls I have seen lately, the Likud was in for a smashing victory in the election that will never be. Kadima was headed for self-implosion. Bibi has become their lifeline - betraying tens of thousands (likely more) of his "supporters." Years ago, Sharon took my vote and betrayed it. Last year, after 10 years as a Likud member, I took my vote back. It will not be with my vote that Bibi extends his mandate; it was not my support he betrayed last night.

What happened last night was legal. After weeks of speculation and even a first reading for a call for early elections to be held September 4, Bibi fooled many people. There is a story told that God was angry with the Israelites after leaving Ancient Egypt. He told Moshe (Moses) that he would destroy this nation and give him a new one to lead.

Moshe responded that if a chair could not stand on three legs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), how could it stand on one (Moshe)? In this case, my response to Bibi would be the opposite. The Likud party and the nation could stand on the strength of one but is likely to flounder on a chair made of three weak legs (Bibi, Mofaz, Barak).

Israel's democracy is alive and well. Just as it was legal but not democratic for Sharon to take my vote and betray it, what Bibi did last night was legal, but not very democratic. He was voted into office, not to betray, but to fulfill the will of his supporters. Last night, he betrayed his supporters. The answer to his actions will come - just as the answer to Sharon's actions led to Kadima's defeat and near-obliteration.

For now, Israel goes on a path led by leaders who may or may not have the strength to do what must be done. It is, indeed, a dangerous time for Israel given US elections coming up and Iran's ongoing belligerence. It is at times like this I turn to faith.

Above all else, Israel remains our home. What Ariel Sharon's weakness could not destroy, Bibi Netanyahu and his new unity government will not destroy either. Whoever leads this country, we have only One who truly determines our future. We will remember this in the months to come.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My children live a mixture of America and Israel. For the most part, they have grown up in Israel and so Hebrew is their stronger language and their culture is Israel. They think as Israelis. It is interesting when we add Chaim and Lauren into the blend. Both came here as adults and often smile when they realize how much of American culture my children simply do not know. It is there in the language, there in the popular characters and actors they don't know.

Today, my husband mentioned Shirley Temple and my children were oblivious to who she was. It happens quite often and is, for many people, unexpected. For the most part, their English skills are quite good. They are, most definitely, all bilingual. They understand English, read it, and speak it quite well. But where they "fall" - is with the culture and the sayings related to it.

In the US, for example, people will say that something has fallen through the cracks. the concept is simple and definitely cross-cultural. Elie and I were discussing a situation in which things regularly were missed when they should not have been. I was listening as he was giving me his opinion. He was trying to encourage me to do what I know I have to do...and explained that everyone can miss something but when more is "falling between the chairs" than being caught, something has to be done.

I understood the reference, did the automatic translation for him and only after he'd continued speaking did I realize that I had made the translation. "Between the chairs? You mean between the cracks."

"Ben hakisaot," Elie explained. In Israel, people speak of things falling between the chairs. In the US, people speak of falling between the cracks.

I'm sure there are many examples of this...but I enjoyed this one tonight. I don't know the reason why there is this difference of references, but it made me smile. I grew up with the "between the cracks" and so it works well for me. It tickles my fancy to hear the Israeli version.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's in a Name?

Do you ever have amazing coincidences that just made you want to say, "wow?"

So here's mine - in several phases. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimers about 2 years ago. All along, my sister thought maybe it was another condition called NPH (roughly explained as water on the brain). I wrote about this a few months ago. After two years, my father had a slow drain test that showed marked improvement in his condition. A wonderful doctor agreed he should have an operation to put in a shunt.

The operation was performed in Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah almost a month ago. After the operation, a CT was performed and the next morning, as the doctors made their rounds, my mother overheard the head of the department explain to the other doctors that the shunt they put in was too short. No one bothered to explain this to my parents.

When my mother asked, one doctor assured her that although the shunt was short (it wasn't), it was fine (it wasn't), it was in the right place (it wasn't) and it was working (it wasn't). A second doctor, the one who performed the operation, had the audacity to actually scold my mother.

So my father was discharged and sure enough, within two weeks, his condition had deteriorated enough that they returned to their doctor who felt around my father's head and in an undertone said the obvious, "the shunt isn't working."

Three weeks later, my father was admitted to Beilinson again - this time to do the work that should have been done in the first place. With their doctor as the surgeon, we were hopeful. They got a call on Sunday afternoon telling them to come to the hospital. When you go to a hospital in Israel, you need a "Form 17" which authorizes the visit and assures the hospital it will be paid by the health organization.

My parents were given so little time, the health organization said it was too late that day to generate the form, but it would be faxed the next morning to Beilinson Hospital. I drove my parents to the hospital and went with them to the Admittance office where we were told we had to either give them a Form 17 or a 10,000 NIS deposit check. Despite the explanation that they had called us too late in the day and the fax would be coming the next day, we had to leave a check.

The surgery was performed and thankfully, this time, it was done properly and my father was returned to his room. At this point, I called the hospital's Admittance Office and found they had not received the fax. I called the health organization and they explained they had the form but didn't have the fax number.

I asked if they could hold on the line while I called and got them the number and the woman was wonderful. With a phone in one ear connected to the health organization and a phone in the second ear connected to the   Admittance office, I related the fax number. Shmulik was there and suggested that I get the name of the person with whom I spoke at the health organization - always a good idea, I've taught my children.

So, after I had finished repeating the fax number and got the assurance that it was being faxed, I asked, "what is your name?"

And heard, through both lines - two women say, at the same time, "Ilana." I couldn't believe it. "Ilana?" and heard "yes" and "yes, definitely" - in both ears.

So, two women named Ilana. I thought that was pretty cool. If you have any similar stories...I'd love you to share them. I just love stories like this!

How Far We Reach

After the army, many young men and women leave the country for a few months to see the world beyond. They are free - perhaps for the first time in their lives. Most went from high school to the army; from their parents telling them what to do to the army commanding it. When the army ends, they are suddenly adults, suddenly free.

We live in a very small country and they want to drive on a road that seems to never end, to hike mountains as tall as the sky. They don't want to carry a gun, look at an Arab's document. They don't want to wonder if this bus will blow up, if this car contains explosives. They want to be in a restaurant without watching the door to see if the person who walks in is suspicious. They don't want to hate or be hated. They don't want to hear about rockets being fired and landing near a school or a playground. They just want to be, perhaps for the first time in their lives - young and without responsibilities.

So, they take a backpack and a flight and go...just go. As exotic as they can imagine - to the mountains of Nepal or Bolivia; to the beaches of Thailand. To wander through India and a culture so different from our own. Anything, anywhere...just not here. For now, they promise their families and themselves. Just for now. We need to breathe but we'll be back. Trust us. We fought in the army; we were soldiers. For three years we stood, we defended. If we survived that, we can survive anything. Trust us, free us. And they go.

This is, I believe, less typical among religious men and women, who often tend to get on with life without this interval - school and marriage. For them, it isn't so much about going free as about going on with life. Yaakov married soon after the army; Shmulik married at the very end of his service. Elie thought about taking "the trip" but never did. He looked into finding work, finding a place to study and somewhere in between, found Lauren (though I like to think that I kind of had a part in finding her too).

By contrast, both my niece and nephew went off to discover. My niece is back in Israel in school and seriously involved with a wonderful young man that is much adored by the family. She has a job and is studying - in short, the Israel experience.

My nephew Yair finished the army a few months ago and is now off in South America with his girlfriend and others. Usually, from the pictures I glimpse on Facebook, there are at least two couples traveling together - four young Israelis, four ex-soldiers taking on the world - one country at a time.

The pictures they post are amazing - such vibrant colors of green; so many shades of grass and land and trees. In places I doubt I will ever see. Breathtaking views. So different from what Israel looks like (for the most part).  I grew up in America - where beauty was found in the green mountains, the autumn colors. We are a land short on water. Desert in the south and to the eastern parts. The Negev Desert and the Judean Desert. Such a small country and we have two deserts! And we border there seas - the Mediterranean, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea - such a small country.

From top to bottom, we are about the size of New Jersey and though we have desert and forests, seas and rivers, it is all contained in a small area. You can drive from north to south in about six or seven hours (and that's only because most of the roads are winding.

It is no wonder some of our children feel a need to go and see the lands beyond. I have peace in my heart when it comes to Yair. He will roam and then he will come home. Israel will always be his home. So, quietly every few days or so, I check his Facebook page and watch from afar. Such amazing smiles they have, so free to roam where they want.

Maybe I'm experiencing Bolivia and Peru only through his images - so beautiful and enjoying most the pictures of him towering above a cliff and smiling; or the fun images they post with the smile that is so Yair.

And then I saw a picture with a lot of people sitting in the audience listening to a group of what appear to be singers. All eyes are forward in the crowd and there are so many. If you look at how the people are sitting - you'll see many are leaning forward. One had his head down. At the bottom of the picture, in the very corner, is a young man with his chin perched on his hands but clearly listening intently. There are no slouching bodies and again - I see how they are all focused forward.

They are watching the middle of the soccer field where a young man is playing a guitar and several others stand before microphones. If you look to the left, you'll see the Israeli flag and Hebrew lettering. "In their deaths, they commanded us to live." (rough translation and thanks to Amira for the help)

Yair added a title to the post explaining it was a ceremony marking Israel's Memorial Day.

The picture was taken somewhere in Peru - somewhere where hundreds of Israelis gathered on Memorial Day to remember 22,993 soldiers and 2,477 victims of terror. So, in Peru and presumably in other places around the world, those who were soldiers just a short time ago, gathered to remember and honor Israel's fallen.

The concept touched me so deeply - see, they haven't run away to forget. See how they dressed in white shirts and blue/dark pants - as they would have at home. See how they stand, how they joined together so far away, just as we did here. They've gone to explore, to experience, to learn but their hearts are here. They are having fun...and took the time to remember. I am humbled by this on so many levels.

For three years or more (in Yair's case more than four years), they were told what to do - no one told them they had to mark this day. This is how deep Israel is inside of us, this is how far we have reached. From Jerusalem down the mountains and across our land, across oceans and seas, in India, Nepal, Thailand and even in Peru...we remember.

Stay safe, Yair - we love you!

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