Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Committee Builds Barriers Between Nations

Yup, there you have it - the true nature of the Olympics has come out within the first two days. The Lebanese refused to train next to the Israeli team. The Olympics Committee quickly capitulated - and put up screens lest the Lebanese be forced to continue seeing the Israeli team.

Of course, the IOC will now have to explain how this isn't politics - but then again, they should have no problems twisting lies and deception into their own unique type of reality. After all, after steadfastly refusing to honor the eleven Israeli athletes murdered at their Olympic games, on their watch, because of their failed security - they did allow a moment of silence for the London terror victims of July 7, 2005. Please don't misunderstand - I don't have a problem with the city of London remembering their own; I just find it grossly hypocritical that in that moment of silence, no one could think to dedicate it to someone else's victims of terror.

It could have been a moment for all victims of terror; it could have been. It should have been. But it wasn't. And according to the son of one of the Israeli victims, the International Olympic Committee had the nerve to tell the Israeli families that if they were to give a moment to the Israeli dead, they would have to likewise give a moment to the Palestinians who died at the Olympics games - to be fair of course.

Of course, the only Palestinians who died at the Olympics games were the terrorists themselves. Can you imagine the utter stupidity of that suggestion? But what becomes crystal clear, day after day, humiliation after humiliation, is that the Olympics are NOT about the brotherhood of man and the unity of nations. It is very much about politics and division and so very much about building barriers between nations.

Most of all, it is a reminder to Jews that in silence there is complicity; support; even agreement with the hatred of others. There are numerous examples of times when the Olympics has stopped for a moment to remember terror victims and fallen athletes. I do not begrudge anyone their moment of respect and honor. I am disgusted that while the Olympics can remember the terror victims of other nations and the memory of Olympic athletes that have died - they couldn't stop to remember Olympic athletes that died in a terror attack on their watch (or lack thereof).

I am disgusted that after ordering all flags to fly at half-mast in 1972, the Olympics Committee rushed to raise the flags of 10 Arab nations who protested mourning the massacre of Jews/Israelis. And today, I am beyond sickened by the thought that complicity has turned to action; that the Lebanese could demand a wall be built - and the Olympics Committee complied.

They did not tell those Arab nations that it is not in the spirit of the games, they complied. They did not tell the Lebanese - NO - that is not in the spirit of the Olympics games - they built the wall. And they had the unbelievable nerve to tell Israel that there could be no moment of silence for the Israelis because they could not allow politics to enter into the games.

What they have allowed into the games instead, is something that is old, something that remains vibrant, something that slithers in the underbelly of Europe. It has a name as ancient as my people and as modern as the most amazing and innovative technology coming out of Israel. The old name is anti-Semitism. The new name is anti-Zionist. They are the same disease and the International Olympic Committee's infection is both critical and contagious.

The only difference between now and 70 years ago or 700 years ago is that we recognize this disease for what it is and we recognize the games for what they are as well.

Brotherhood of man? Not even close. I pity the British people for having spent a reported billion dollars to be remembered for having hosted the Games of Hatred. All the gold medals in the world do not cover the ugliness that is being allowed, even supported by the Olympics Committee.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Olympic Story that Wasn't News

If you buy into the concept that news is not news unless it is covered by the major media players, than I guess the fact that the Lebanese judo team refused to practice next to the Israeli team until the Olympic organizers erected barriers to divide the room and place the Israelis out of sight...wasn't news.

After all, a quick review of CNN and the New York Times came up with nothing about this story. That's right - the search turned up nothing.

Guess it wasn't news enough after all, no one was massacred other than the Olympic spirit.

BBC, on the other hand, did choose to cover the story - in typical BBC fashion. You have to hand it to them - I can't help but wonder how long it took them to come up with a headlines that would imply somehow that the Israelis are to blame.

There you go, "Israeli Olympic team says Lebanese judo fighters refuse to train next to them." One would think that the Olympic officials would have gone over to the Lebanese to confirm this before spending time and effort erecting a screen between them. And one has to wonder why the Israelis went over to the Olympic officials to act as agents of the Lebanese.

Logically, one would assume that the Lebanese went to the Olympic officials. Judging by the incredible bravery of the Olympic officials in caving in to every demand of the Arab nations - not wanting to insult them by honoring the murdered ISRAELI athletes, etc. etc. - one would assume they quickly built the demanded screens based on the Lebanese request. So what exactly did the Israelis do in this?...Ah yes, perhaps they were the ones who refused to remain silent at having, yet again, Arabs murder the Olympic spirit.

That's right - thankfully, no Israeli lives have been lost at the Olympics, but the Olympic spirit took another beating as the Olympic officials gave in and allowed this apartheid wall to be built. No wait, that isn't quite accurate - they didn't ALLOW it to be built...they built it.

So, once again - BBC can't take all the glory in the shame. This one must be shared jointly - with CNN and the New York Times for not covering the story at all, and with the Olympic organizers who once again caved in to the twisted logic that allows the Palestinians to say holding a moment of silence for the Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists is racism but building a wall between the Lebanese and the Israelis is acceptable.

Olympic spirit? Brotherhood of sports? Unity among nations? What a farce!

Oh, and here are those Olympic barriers - note the logo on the back of the worker's t-shirt. The symbol of the Olympics - building bridges...I mean barriers...between nations ... yup, what a farce!

And More...CTV's Brian Williams

another voice for what should have been at the Olympics

Where IS the Capital of Israel?

You'd think this was Geography 101, but apparently both BBC and the Obama administration are unable to confirm what every Israeli knows...we, who choose our own capital - as every other nation in the world has a right to do.

So, where IS the capital of Israel - please, just ask Israel. Huge thanks to Honest Reporting for this wonderful video:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

And from the Italians at the Olympics

According to a report on Voice of Israel radio, the Italian Olympic team has paid their respects to the Munich 11 -  again, more than the International Olympic Committee has managed to do. The team cane and sstood in silence outside the quarters of the Israeli team, in memory of the 11 athletes slain in the Munich Olympics 40 years ago.

About 30 Italians were present at the ceremony, including Italy’s Minister of Sport, the heads of the Italian Olympic Committee and athletes. Israeli Olympic Committee head Tzvi Varshaviak and Olympic delegation leader Efraim Zinger also took part.

It is actions like these that represent the Olympic spirit so missing in the International Olympic Committee decision. With deep gratitude and tears in my eyes, I thank the Italian team for their incredible gesture. I wish them many medals, but have to be honest and say that nothing they could possibly win will show more about the kinds of athletes and people they are, than this simple gesture. 

EasyJet's Moment of Silence

On Thursday's flight from Luton, England to Tel Aviv, the pilot came on the intercom and informed the passengers that the crew will be observing a minute of silence as they fly over Munich and he invited the passengers to join them in remembering the Israeli sportsmen who were murdered there at the Olympic Games 40 years ago.

Such a simple act. Kol HaKavod (All honor) to that pilot and crew who showed a greater sense of humanity in those 60 seconds than the International Olympics Committee has in forty years.

Guest Post: The Mother of All Mourning

This post is a guest post by Eli Birnbaum

Tisha B'Av: 'Mother of all mourning'

Second Temple was destroyed on Tisha B'Av for one reason only, according to traditional sources - 'sinat hinam,' or baseless hatred. Jews at the time (70 CE) simply hated one another for no reason, and had absolutely no compassion for each other

Tisha B'Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, can be called "the mother of all mourning."

Many Jews use the ninth of Av as a day to pause and reflect on the nature of tragedy in general, and, more specifically, the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.

It is a time of reflection and the rediscovering of unity within the Jewish people. Traditionally, one fasts from sunset to sunset, reads the Book of Lamentations (attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, details the trials and terror of the destruction of the First Temple), and, in addition, abstains from activities such as listening to music, sitting on comfortable chairs, and sexual relations.

This year, Tisha B'Av falls on Sunday. Throughout Israel, people will gather Saturday night after the end of Shabbat to read Lamentations. A special, mournful tune is used in the chanting. Synagogue attendees usually sit on the floor in a symbol of mourning.

This idea is reflected in the destruction of the two Temples. The first was built by King Solomon. His father, King David, was not allowed to build it, because he had "blood on his hands" from the many wars he fought. It would not have been proper for the Temple, symbolizing peace, to have been built by a warrior. Yet the First Temple was destroyed in war by the Babylonians, and the resulting exile lasted for 70 years. The Talmud relates that the reason for its destruction was the relentless pursuit of idol worship, sexual immorality, and murder.

The Second Temple was destroyed, according to traditional sources, for one reason only - baseless hatred (in Hebrew "sinat hinam"). The Jewish people at the time simply hated one another for no reason, and had absolutely no compassion for each other.

The First Temple lasted 420 years, while the Second Temple lasted 410. The two are separated by only a difference of 10 years. Ten is the number of Jews required to form a minyan, a prayer quorum, the bare minimum for a community. The senseless hatred of the Second Temple period destroyed all sense of community among the Jewish people.

It would seem that God must have viewed the transgressions that destroyed both temples on an equal level, and, in fact, it could be argued that senseless hatred was the more grave offense (the first exile lasted but 70 years, the second . . .).

Judaism believes that there are two types of commandments - those that regulate interpersonal relationships, and those that regulate the relationship between an individual and God. These are like two legs. It may be possible to stand on one, but if we wish to take a further step in our spiritual evolution, we must stand on both of them at the same time.

If we wish to make this day relevant we must look at ourselves in a true light regardless of our backgrounds and ask what have we done to overcome the enormity of the destruction.

Historically, this day marks many tragedies:
  • The worshiping of the golden calf. 
  • The returning of the spies from the Promised Land, and their negative report - the rejection of the belief in God's ability to help us in the physical world and the rejection of Eretz Yisrael as the focus of our freedom. 
  • 586 BCE: Destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians. 
  • 70 CE: Destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans and the beginning of the Exile. 
  • 135 CE: Fall of Betar, last stronghold of the Bar Kochba Revolt. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were either killed or exiled while, at the same time, the last hope of regaining independence from the Romans was destroyed. 
  • 136 CE: Jerusalem destroyed and Roman city of Aelia Capitolina established in its place. 
  • July 18, 1290: King Edward I expels all Jews from England. 
  • August 2, 1492: Jews expelled from Spain. 
  • July 26, 1555: Ghetto established in Rome. Pope Paul IV moves all the Jews into foul smelling area near the Tiber River. The Jews were forced to pay for the wall which was built around the ghetto.
There is a story of Napoleon related to this idea of mourning. One day on the ninth of Av he was walking past a synagogue when he heard the crying from within. He inquired as to the reason for their wailing and was told that they were weeping over the destruction of the temple.

When was it destroyed, he asked. They told him 1,800 years ago.

Napoleon reportedly responded: "I vow that this people is destined for a future in their own homeland. For is there any other people who have kept alive similar mourning and hope for so many years?"

Do you know anyone involved in a terror attack?

This time - I do!

Last night, kids from Maale Adumim joined thousands of others to walk around Jerusalem - walk...walk...and to finally stop at the Western Wall and pray. Pray for peace, pray for Jerusalem. At one point, they stopped near the Gate of Compassion (Sha'ar Rachamim) and sang. Then, as they got up to continue on their walk around the Old City and towards the Western Wall, Arabs began pelting them with rocks. One young person was hit in the head, on the side of the face and required medical treatment.

This is the "holy" month of Ramadan - this is how the Arabs behave to honor their god and their culture.

With much thanks to God, David and his friends were not hurt, though a girl from Maale Adumim was. Her parents would have gotten a call last night and gone running to meet her at the emergency medical center where they took her.

David is a bit upset with himself because since he joined the ambulance squad, he's been carrying some first aid supplies with him and last night he forgot to take anything with him. Why should he think he would need it? As when Elie and Shmulik were in the army, I'll just tell myself again that he is fine. He's safe. The girl will be fine as well. There were people there with guns, but while they pointed them towards the Arab rock thrower, they did not open fire.

The police knew about the kids walking but didn't escort them and were not nearby when the attack began. There was no provocation on the part of the Israeli teenagers, only songs in one location, prayers in another. It was their very existence, you see, that set the Arabs off. The reason for the attack was simple - our children were WALKING in the capital of our country. They were doing nothing and they were attacked.

Next time you hear of a rock attack - imagine what a parent feels to know that while they slept in their bed...their child was being pelted with rocks. Yes, I am comforted that as with the missiles, the cowardly Arabs seem to have bad aim and missed my son and most of the others. But it was enough that one child, because yes, at 16, they are still children, required medical treatment.

Was this a terror attack? It was done in violence to instill fear. That makes it a terror attack. The fact that the children came home more annoyed than scared; more determined to continue going to our capital and to our holy sites means that they failed. It doesn't mean the Arabs didn't try.

I've just heard that tonight at 11:00 p.m. at the Western Wall, a group, hopefully a large one, will be gathering at the Western Wall to honor the memory of the Munich 11 athletes. I'm going to ask David if he wants to go with me. To our capital, to our holy place. To our Jerusalem.

Is this picture a fraud?

or should Jacques Rogge immediately be dismissed as the IOC President responsible for denying the request of the families of the Munich 11, the petition of more than 105,000 people, and the support for a moment of silence by world leaders. This picture would suggest that rather than wait for Jacques Rogge to resign - he should be fired immediately.

Danny Ayalon on the IOC

Danny Ayalon, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister has released this statement: 

We were deeply disappointed that the IOC did not see fit to remember during the Opening Ceremony the eleven Israeli athletes murdered during the Munich Olympic Games 40 years ago. Only a few days we were told by IOC President Jacques Rogge that "the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident". However, the Opening Ceremony did include moments of silence and respect for those British citizens who died during terror attacks. We can only conclude that Rogge meant that the opening ceremony was not fit to remember a tragic incident involving Israelis. 
On Friday night, Rogge finally ran out of excuses. He said a minute silence was not part of the protocol, yet many previous Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies held a minute silence. It was claimed that it was too political, yet many political causes have been remembered and utilized during opening ceremonies. Finally, he used this his card, that it was not an atmosphere fit to remember such a tragic incident, yet other tragic incidents were remembered. 
On Friday night, Rogge lost our respect and lost his ability to legitimately represent the Olympic ideal that all are equal in the international family of nations. He was exposed as a hypocrite and as someone who was led by political interests and not the interests of the Olympic Games whose darkest moment saw eleven Israeli athletes tortured and murdered in the Olympic Village, during the Olympic Games under the auspices and supposed protection of the IOC.

A Warm Breeze

Last night began a 25 hour fast - Tisha B'Av (though this year, it takes place on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Av instead of on the 9th day because other than for Yom Kippur, we do not fast on the Sabbath). My husband and I joined a small group, including the mayor of Maale Adumim, on a mountain that sits between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim.

Politicians call it E1; Israeli governments have called it Mevasseret Adumim. Currently, there is a huge police station built there and nothing else; plans exist to build apartments and a hotel. The Arabs want this hill, hoping to stop the connection between Jerusalem and the 45,000 people who live in Maale Adumim.

On Tisha B'Av, we mourn the destruction of both our Holy Temples, hundreds of years apart and yet destroyed on the same calendar day. This is a day through history when terrible things have happened - there's a long list that maybe I'll post later. We sit on the ground or on low chairs as we do during the week of mourning when a loved one dies, and we read the Book of Lamentations, Eicha.

If you really want to see a city, go on the next mountain over at night. Maale Adumim stretches across several hills. At one point, I saw the mayor go to the edge of the clearing and stare at his city; at another time, an ambulance came down and I watched him focus on the ambulance and watch as it made its way out of Maale Adumim and begin the climb to Jerusalem. His city. His people. I have to admit, I'm a fan of his. He has dedicated the last 20 years of his life to making this city grow. While many use political positions as a stepping stone to greater and higher positions, Benny Kashriel has remained loyal to our city and has watched it grow.

He had a vision of a lake. A lake in a desert, can you imagine? How silly, many of us thought. A lake. A desert. How ridiculous. And yet, today, there is a lake and a lovely cafe visited by hundreds of people each evening. This is a man that makes things happen. He came quietly to this gathering, sat with us, followed the reading, and only spoke to those who spoke to him.

After seeing him looking at his city, I couldn't resist, "how does it feel to look over there and see how much it has grown?" I asked him. Silly question, but I wanted to hear him say what I knew he would - on this night when we mourn so much we have lost, I wanted to hear a small celebration of what we have built.

"It's something fantastic," he told me, "and there's more to come."

It was a beautiful evening last night; pleasant with a nice breeze. We sat on the middle of a barren hilltop - behind us the amazing city of Maale Adumim and to our front, the united capital of Israel, Jerusalem. No, we don't have our Holy Temple (yet) rebuilt, but Jerusalem is in our hands.

I'm balancing the sadness of the day with the added cruelty of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics and trying to get a bit of work done from home. For the first time, all my children are fasting. It's a strange feeling, even little Aliza, who is now 12 years old and after her bat mitzvah.

Later this week, Elie goes into miluim and I'm a bit worried about this one. I'm so glad it is after the three week mourning period and not during it.

Tisha B'Av is a not so much a day of introspection, as Yom Kippur is. It is more a day of deep and endless mourning. Today, as we watch the triumph of silence over honor, that is particularly easy.

The True Place to Remember

Tonight, with the world watching, is the true time and place to remember those who were lost and how and why they died.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Moment of Silence

It happened at the Olympics on London, despite all claims that it would not. Oh wait, it wasn't for the Munich 11. It was for the British victims of 7/7 and a tribute to British soldiers. Nothing for the Munich 11 - nothing.

Despite requests from tens of thousands of people around the world, the families of those murdered athletes, leaders of Israel, Canada, Australia, the United States and Germany - it didn't happen. Just one minute...that didn't happen, to the everlasting shame of the International Olympic Committee. A British commentator made reference to the Munich 11 - more than the IOC did. An American commentator made reference to the Munich 11 - and in all of this, the IOC did nothing.

It makes me furious; it makes me bitter. It reminds me that there remains anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israel and yes, when the IOC can spend 40 years denying this for all sorts of reasons and then allow a moment of silence for something else, for someone else's victims of terror - yes, there can be no other source or reason than the hatred they must have in their hearts.

Eleven athletes came to Munich to share in the Olympic spirit of sports and brotherhood. Promises of security were made and broken. The IOC's actions cross all lines of cruelty and hypocrisy. The crime committed by those terrorists 40 years ago continues to be amplified by the actions of these people. What an incredible slap in the face to every Israeli athlete at the games, to every Israeli, to every Jew, and to all victims of terror.

The Olympic committee had one minute to choose - and they chose wrong. Meanwhile, they are the recipients of the thanks of the Palestinian delegation who has the nerve to say that honoring the 11 murdered athletes amounts to racism. That, my friends, is how you spin propaganda.

That's right - if you dare to honor the people we murdered in a vile terrorist act that resonates with cowardice and hatred... you are racist. No, this is not about the brotherhood of man and sports and everything about politics. Every gold medal they hand out is tarnished by this insensitivity. It is not about how fast you run, how far you swim.

The Olympics is supposed to be about the spirit and the people. That moment of silence that didn't happen rang louder than any cheer that will come out of the stadiums in the next 17 days. May the memories of the Munich 11 haunt the Olympic Committee members all the days of their lives and may they remember that in denying those families this little comfort, their actions are unforgivable. I accuse the International Olympic Committee of racism, for promoting and honoring terrorism, for cruelty. I damn them for their mean-spirited, selfish and warped ideals. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Munich 11 - They're All Gone

If I understand the timing correctly, the London Olympics will begin on Friday night, July 27 - at 9:00 p.m. London time. I won't be watching it - in a few hours, the Sabbath will come to Israel. It is the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av, Tisha B'Av. This year, the mourning associated with this sad day will be pushed off to Sunday. We do not mourn on the Sabbath, not as a nation and not as an individual.

We will begin our mourning as the Sabbath leaves us. Tisha B'Av is, without doubt, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. we have a long list of tragedies that have befallen our people on this day and each year we remember. There are those who are against remembering the Israeli athletes who were murdered 40 years ago. They want us to move on, to stop remembering. This for a people who remember the day both our Holy Temples were destroyed more than 2,000 years ago - and even more for the First Temple.

We remember each Temple; we remember each massacre. We remember the expulsion from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition that started on this day in 1492, and so much more. I won't be watching as the opening ceremonies mark the start of the Olympics, but I will remember.

I was only 11, just about 12, but there were several moments that remain clear to me - the first announcement and confusion...how could the Olympics be continuing as if nothing is happening? They're playing while the Israelis are being held at gunpoint. And then the world seemed to straighten a little and the games stopped.

And then the announcement that they were being moved to the airport and the quick glimpses of the tied athletes. And then reports of gunfire and finally, an announcement that the Germans had launched a rescue attempt and that the Israelis were saved.

And then Jim McKay....they're all gone.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On a Personal Note

I've been posting all week about the Olympics because...well, because I can't stomach injustice. I can't stand  silence in the place or wrong doing. So, after a week of this and that, here's a post about me and mine. It's the middle of July; the middle of the summer in Israel. Each day is hot and dry - it hasn't rained in three months and it likely won't rain for another three. Today was hot; tomorrow will be hot, Saturday will be hotter, and God knows what Sunday will bring.

I'm balancing work with the kids being on their own and feeling guilty for it. I have Aliza coming to work with me some days and I'm trying to get home earlier when she doesn't. Last night, she slept at a friend's house; tonight, she has a friend sleeping over. Deprived she is not and still I feel that maternal guilt.

Davidi is out and about with his friends - a true 16 year old. He's been volunteering with the ambulance squad constantly over the last week - once earlier this week and again tomorrow. It's good for him though he doesn't yet have the confidence that I see in Lauren and Elie. They both see something and jump in to handle it. Davidi still hesitates.

Shmulik is working long hours and he's mad at me. He has his reasons; I have mine. He's more stubborn. We'll see how that's going to work out...

Elie's got things happening and he's taking a summer course and working hard. He's been driving me around for the last few days - giving my arm a chance to heal. I'm still on pain killers...which last an hour or two less than they should and remind me I need to take another. I killed it again last week pushing myself too hard and have a feeling I'll do that again tomorrow.

And some exciting news...I'm going to have a bed set soon! Silly right? I've been married almost 29 years. We didn't buy a set when we married and it was a mistake. When Amira got married, it was very important to me that she have a bedroom set because I had learned that putting it off would likely mean never. Both Elie and Shmulik got bedroom sets when they got married and I hope that this will be the case with Davidi and Aliza as well.

So, today we ordered a bedroom set...well, at least the bed and nightstand parts. It will take several weeks for it to arrive but I'm already trying to imagine our bedroom with it in place. We'll have to move some things around but it's exciting, for all that.

I've been writing a series of blog posts for my professional blog and in the last post, I wrote about lessons that I had learned from a particularly challenging project that we just finished. Life is about learning lessons, I think - and we should never stop learning them. One lesson in life is that you shouldn't put off what you want too long, or you may never get it. I had almost stopped believing that we'd actually get a bedroom set. I was tired of the mismatched pieces and just wanted that nice clean look of a room that I see in so many places.

Maybe I'll even post a picture here when we finally get it set up...

A Message from the Athletes of Israel

to BBC...

Watching the Olympics

It's starting and people in Israel are asking where they can watch the Olympics live. I don't have a television. I did up until a couple of years ago and for many years before that I was angry with SONY because I wanted our television sets to break just to get rid of them. There is quality programming - but just so little of it. I just wanted quiet.

There are many people I know who don't have a television - but watch all the shows they can over the Internet. I don't. I have no patience to sit and watch a screen when I could be reading, sleeping, or more - writing. So, unless something is major - like a breaking news story or a speech of an international leader I want to hear, I don't.

For days, I ignored a Facebook discussion about how to access a live stream of the Olympics or what channel to watch in Israel and this morning, the thought crystallized for me that, probably for the first time in my life, I don't want to see the Olympics. I've been blogging and tweeting a lot about the IOC's refusal to give just one moment to remember the Munich 11 - they've been refusing for every one of the last 40 years.

And, I"ve been reading about what happened in Munich 11 years ago. It is chilling - how incredibly the Germans bungled every aspect; how the security was a joke from the beginning...how there were warnings. Yes, I love watching the Olympics, the swimming, the diving. I won't this year because the thought of what was done to our athletes haunts me. Who am I hurting? What point am I making? Who gains (who will even know) if I watch it in the privacy of my own home? No one gains, no one is hurt, no one will know except me (well, and whoever reads my blog).

But I just can't stomach watching the crowds cheer without remembering how the crowds cheered for 12 hours while Israelis were being held, and how the crowds cheered the day after a "memorial service" which talked more about the games than the men who had died.

At what cost is this concept "the games must go on"? For what? Why must they go on? Do they really symbolize the best of what mankind could be? Is there really a sense of brotherhood among athletes there? I was watching the videos on YouTube as they interviewed the "brother" athletes of the Israelis - and one after another spoke only about his own security - should he stay or should he leave. Men were being held at gunpoint but their concern was for themselves. Brotherhood? Not even close.

With incredible dignity, the Israeli team left after the token memorial service, still in shock, still in mourning. Always in mourning, even 40 years later, always in shock.

Anyway, this is not a judgement of anyone who chooses to watch...I personally, can't stomach it. Yes, I hope our athletes come home with gold (and beat the heck out the Iranians)...but more, I just want them to come home alive and safe.

And a final comment. Friends and readers - this is my blog. If you think I"m being selfish by writing about what is on my mind, I guess you have the option not to read. I know it's about being a soldier's mother - and next week, I'll write about Elie and his reserve duty, which is coming too fast for me. I'll get back to writing about my family and how things are...but for now, what is on my mind in these long summer days is not the camping vacation I want to take and of families here in Israel - but of the hopes and dreams of the families of the athletes - the Munich 11 families.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guest Post: BBC, I'm the Capital of Your Mom

Benji Lovitt is a comedian. He's a funny guy. You can't meet him without smiling; you can't listen to him talk without laughing. He's a blogger too, and a nice guy even though he made the silly choice of moving from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv...which I'm working on forgiving him for. He also writes really funny stuff on his site: www.benjilovitt.com. Wait, and I'm also supposed to tell you that he'll be touring North American in October/November and, if I can add a word here, you'd be crazy not to arrange to bring him to your organization, school, synagogue, governor's office or White House dinner. You can contact him at benji@benjilovitt.com or just follow him on twitter (@benjilovitt).

Okay - why this whole introduction? Because for most of my life I've had the freedom and yes, the gift to write what I want and sometimes, even often if I can be so bold as to admit it, I get these great emails or comments that I've written just what you've had in your mind. Those are among my favorites, so please, if I hit that note, take a minute and tell me. Yesterday, Benji hit that note for me and I can't stop thanking him. I've been struggling with words I could use. I wouldn't use most of the words Benji used - but since he did, I'll let him use his words. You see, BBC - which calls itself a news agency responsible for reporting the news, has once again decided to ... you know what, I can't say it better than Benji - so...thanks for permission to reprint a blog post that first appeared in the Times of Israel website.

BBC, I'm the Capital of Your Mom 

By: Benji Lovitt
Just days away from the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics, controversy is already brewing. Turns out that in the spirit of the Olympic motto, “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” the BBC has decided to change its journalistic standards to “Lower, Dumber, and Jesus Christ, who wrote this crap?”
In case you missed it, the powers that Beeb decided that of the 200 nations profiled on their website, only Israel does not have a capital city. This came as a small surprise to approximately 800,000 residents of Jerusalem. It’s not that they listed the capital as “Shawarmatown” — they simply didn’t list it at all (although if you’re ever planning to visit, I’m all in — I hear the tehina is sublime).
Last I checked, the BBC is not a policy-making body. It exists to report the news, not make it. What if Sports Illustrated decided that Maccabi Tel Aviv won the World Cup? BBC, you can’t just make things up. Reporting that Lindsay Lohan took home an Oscar for her tear-jerking performance in “Schindler’s List” doesn’t make it so. If you write a story that Bar Refaeli and I were seen canoodling on Gordon Beach last night and expect people to believe it, think again. (Even though this did actually happen.)
Journalism is a serious field where the best reporters pay their dues for years to climb to the top of their profession. So what in the hell is going on at the BBC? How did the people over there determine that Israel simply has no capital? Did they send a crack reporter here to search and he just couldn’t find it? Was he embedded in an alpaca farm in the desert?
Or could it be that they simply chose the wrong news sources? Is their Middle East informant Perez Hilton? Is their Deep Throat a four-year-old drunk kid in gan? Hey, BBC, when your source of information on Israeli geography is a card-carrying member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, it’s probably time to re-examine your objectivity.
As a media outlet, you have a responsibility to report what is, not what you’d like. What if everyone reported what they wanted?
Responding to the uproar later last week, the BBC edited Israel’s profile on their site. Did it list Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Of course not. It listed it as the “seat of government.” What the flying falafel does that even mean? Okay, BBC, as far as I’m concerned, the city of London is no longer hosting the Olympics. It’s hosting “the seat of track and field.” Have fun reprinting all your souvenir t-shirts.
Seriously, BBC, if you’re willing to list Jerusalem as the “seat of government,” is it such a stretch to simply write the word “capital?” You’re being stubborn over semantics? That’s like me going the distance with you and claiming that we didn’t have intercourse — I just inserted the seat of my penis.
And what does it even mean that you don’t recognize our capital? Are the British that poor at recognition? Can you imagine the BBC in Ikea? “What is that, a cabinet?” No, idiots, it’s an Ektorp chair cover. And how do your athletes expect to compete in the Games with such poor recognition skills? Your basketball team won’t be scoring much if the point guard is mistaking cotton candy for the hoop.
BBC, if you’re lying about something as fundamental as our capital, what kind of favorable coverage can we expect during the Games themselves? That the Israeli swimmer finished in ninth place out of five? That the Israeli sprinter clocked a time of 25 hours in the 100-meter dash? I look forward to learning that the Palestinian shot-put thrower was attacked by Israeli security with disproportionate force or that the Israeli team is occupying the Olympic village.
Fortunately, Mark Regev, spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office, sent a letter to the BBC demanding that it correct the mistake. However, I have to question his choice of communication in a world where a message can be delivered faster than you can say “epic fail.” Mr. Regev, let me help you out. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take over 140 characters to say “@BBC, f*** you, a-holes. #suckit.”
BBC, you disappoint me. You’re manufacturing news when you should be reporting it. You can’t just decide what another sovereign nation’s capital is. At least not unless you’re comfortable with someone else deciding yours.

See, here'll I tell you that I disagree with only one of Benji's points...he says, "BBC, you disappoint me." I'd have written, "BBC, you disgust me."

A Wife's Plea, A Wife's Demand

Three weeks after giving birth to her baby daughter, Ankie Spitzer walked into the room where her husband, Andrei had been held as a hostage in Munich. By then, at age 26, she was a widow. She has told of the horrendous security - how she would enter the Olympic village through the exit because to the Germans it was only logical to guard the entrance where people were supposed to enter. She has described how the games continued for hours while the Israelis were held prisoner - only stopping hours later 12 hours later, after the conclusion of a volleyball game.

She tells of the announcement that all the Israelis had survived the bungled German attempt to rescue the hostages and of how her parents, so excited, wanted to celebrate with champagne. She told them to wait until Andrei called; he never did.

Her husband was one of the Munich 11 and for the last 40 years she has spearheaded a request, a plea, a demand for two things. The first was that the Germans admit how they blundered the handling of the terrorist attack  - this has been done in part by the German government and even more so by the media. If you read the Wikipedia article about the Munich Massacre, you are filled with such anger. It is hard to think how they could possibly have been more incompetent - first in the handling of the security and second in every facet of the hostage situation.

Ankie's second request was that the International Olympic Committee honor the murdered Israeli athletes and coaches with a moment of silence. Each time, she has been denied.

Last week, Andrei's daughter was married in Israel - within a few days, it seems, the International Olympic Committee will again ignore her request and that of thousands of others for one minute, one stinking minute of silence.

An Israeli Athlete

One of Israel's hopes for gold in London...be safe, Shahar - and know Israel is proud of you. But most of all, be safe.

Remembering the Bloody Olympics

Nucleus of international cooperation?

The games must go on?

Yes, indeed - something is wrong with mankind.

Petty Grievances, Murderers and Mourners

One moment of silence, was all we asked. One moment to show that we remember them. The International Olympic Committee declined this request - to their everlasting shame.

New reports have come out that the Germans had been warned in advance of an impending terrorist attack.

They were ever so efficient in creating a report detailing possible scenarios.

Of the 26 they imagined, one included the very scenario that became reality and cost 11 Israeli athletes their lives.

One moment of silence was all we asked. One moment to show they will never be forgotten.

At last count, a force of more than 35,000 (police, special security, etc.) and no less than 6 anti-missile launchers will be protecting the athletes.

Somehow, the meaning of the games, the concept of coming together in peace from all nations, has been lost. If it takes this much to bring athletes together, the world is not ready for these "games of peace." The Iranians announced their athletes would compete against Israelis in honor of the spirit of the Olympics - and then denied that they had agreed to such a thing.

A leading sports anchor has announced that as the Israelis walk around the stadium, he will announce his support for a moment of silence for the athletes and condemn the IOC decision.

I am worried about our athletes. I want them to be safe. I used to love watching the Olympics. But I have never been able to get passed the split screen image in my mind of the funerals in Israel as the games continued in Munich.

I have friends here in Israel asking what channel will be broadcasting the games - how can they watch it live. I used to love watching the speed of the swimmers, the grace of the divers, and the glory of the athletes as they lifted their bodies and soared over the bars. I would tense up in that moment, praying they would make it over and the bar would not fall. I felt their frustration when it did; and celebrated with them when it didn't.

I hope the one from the smallest country would win - just this once let him bring home the gold. I cried when an athlete was hurt and felt such pride when another gave up the run to help the injured runner. I won't watch this year because I'll spend my time waiting for gunfire or be angry that no one will give those 60 seconds.

I won't watch because I want it to pass quickly and I want to be busy with something else so that the time will go and they'll come home safely. On another post I made, yet another Anonymous wrote this:
People who insist on using the Olympics and these young athletes and this joyful occasion to settle scores or have their grievances heard or to punish other countries for their political views or any other negative reason need to do some serious soul-searching and get over yourselves (or do us all a favor and take an antidepressant). Stand up and cheer, cheer for everybody. Make yourselves and all those around you feel good for a change. We don't want to wallow in your defeatism!
The part that gets to me about this comment is the "get over yourselves" - you see, it bothers these people that we mourn for these athletes. How dare we continue, how dare we fear yet another attack. Sure, someone blew up a bus of Israeli tourists just a short time ago in Bulgaria, but still, Anonymous wants to be happy and soak up the wonder of the Olympics. It isn't, after all, her/his people, her/his blood, is it?

I have little doubt that this Anonymous would have been right there in the stands cheering the games on as we buried our dead and she/he would willingly do it again in case of another attack. No, Anonymous doesn't want to wallow in my defeatism and certainly, certainly, my petty grievance shouldn't stand in the way of the celebrations. Petty grievances...11 lives. Petty....

"People who use this to settle scores"...I assume this is a reference to the Palestinian terrorists... (at least I hope so) and "have their grievances heard..." - I guess that would be me/us. So in one sentence - congratulations, Anonymous, you have attempted to equalize murderers with mourners.

Yup, I just want these games to end...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer in Israel

Is about the heat. It's very hot here; tomorrow will be hotter; the day after, hotter still. It's funny listening to the weather report - it's pretty much - tomorrow will be the same as today; tomorrow will be even hotter. Or, sometimes, slightly cooler, which means it will be kind of really hot, rather than unbearably hot.

We had a nice weekend - mostly. Elie came over but kept teasing Aliza. She was getting upset; we all wanted him to stop. And then she giggled and I knew we were defeated. Discussions continued and then Elie reached over and took something from Aliza and she got upset again. He tried teasing her; she got upset. And so it went for much of the evening and lunch the next day.

At some point, I realized what was happening. Aliza is 12 years old. She's right there on the brink of the young woman she wants to be. She's grown so much taller. She's slim and grace. She's an aunt now; no longer the baby of the family - that has gone to our grandson. She doesn't seek the attention, but rather gives it to her nephew as he toddles around the house for the first time. She is there to catch him, to coax him to stand and run to her. She adores him...as Elie adored her when she was small and easy to play with. She loves lifting him, playing with him and making him laugh - all that Elie once did with her.

And Elie wants her to be his little sister - the 7-year-old who flung herself in the air knowing her strong brother would catch her; the child who came running when she heard he was near. He doesn't know how to relate to this swan of ours, the gentle young woman she wants to be. He pulls her back to what she was and she doesn't like it. She wants to be the aunt, the big one. And then, she forgets herself and falls back and they play and then she remembers and is upset. Each time I look at her, I see the child so much less; her eyes so much more aware of the world. We were in the car a short time after the bus bombing in Bulgaria. I turned on the radio to listen and looked into the mirror to see Aliza's eyes watching me with sadness. Someone will treat her badly and instead of anger, there will be understanding - an adult's heart...or at least a young woman.

I remember looking at Elie when he was 19, knowing he was on the brink of what he would some day be. It seems to have happened so much earlier with Aliza. She is still young, please understand, but for the first time, we understand that time is flying. As Elie rushed to be the man he now is; Aliza is rushing too. There was no one pulling Elie back - I knew the army would take him forward and he needed to go. It's funny to see Elie coaxing Aliza to be silly, to wrestle with him and try to turn the clock back. He swats at her, takes her cup, drinks her juice, steals her piece of bread when there is plenty on the table. It's all about making her the little sister to his being the big brother.

Finally, after Shabbat had ended, I sat with Elie and tried to explain - "she isn't 7 years old anymore," I told him. "You have to let her grow up. You have to see who she is now."
Chaim, Aliza, Elie, and Yaakov

He answered that he knows; that he understands, that he'll try. There were times when he was in the army that I would think he was lonely, or that there was something in him that I felt I understood. Sometimes, after the thought came to my head, I wondered if I was imagining it, if I was projecting my thoughts rather than reading his feelings. I don't know if that was happening but it almost felt as if he was sad.

I don't think he wants her to grow up because growing up means growing away a bit. She won't depend on him to be the strong one, to lift her in the air and make everything right. His coming home won't be a special gift for her and anyway, she has her friends, her things to do, her places to go. She's 12, you see...12 on the brink of tomorrow.

He's 25 years old. He's married. He doesn't live at home but with his wife. Lauren and Elie are building what their future will be and yet, he's not quite ready to recognize that in the years that he grew from 19 to just 25, Aliza went from just 7 to 12. It's almost as if she broke some unwritten agreement to always be small.

What does this have to do with summer in Israel? I guess things slow down and you have time to think. Another school year has ended; so much has happened to our family in the last few years. Three children have gotten married; two have gone into and come out of the army. David now towers over all of us and little Aliza has turned out to be not so little.

It isn't easy being an older brother. In some ways, it's even harder than being the baby sister.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Surrender...

I try not to be defeatist; not to give up hope. I try to believe that it will all be okay. I really do. I do believe I have faith and I do trust God. And having said all of that, I hate to introduce a "but" in there...but...

I surrender. I just give up. I've been reading about the Munich massacre in 1972. Only weeks before it happened, I had come to the conclusion, at 12 years old (the age my youngest daughter is now) that I wanted to live in Israel. I watched the Israelis march into the stadium with the Israeli flag and my heart soared - that was my flag! I was proud of the American flag; I really was, but my heart was already Israeli.

And then the report of an infiltration in the Olympic village. The Israelis. The hostage situation and the bungled rescue. A report that the Israelis were safe...and such relief...and then utter and complete shock that not one had survived...not one of the hostages. It would be only later we would learn of the incredible, criminal incompetence of the German police and "rescue" squad.

For weeks now, I've been posting and writing about the International Olympic Committee's pathetic, disgusting and disturbing decision not to grant one moment, sixty seconds, of silence in memory of the Israeli athletes murdered in Munich - not once...in forty years. And today, I read an article about the heightened security concerns. Days after Israelis were attacked in Bulgaria, I surrender.
In London, Israel’s Olympic team of 38 athletes is training under tight security at the Olympic village, and British forces have even placed surface-to-air missiles at six locations.
 --Reports Israel National News
More than 17,000 troops and 7000 private security guards will protect the London Olympic Park and 26 other venues, with a further 12,500 police patrolling city streets in a series of "rings of steel".
-- The Australian

Tight security; 24,000 guards and an additional 12,500 police. Is it worth it? If this is what we need to have these games, does it truly represent the great gathering of all nations? Where is the peace and brotherhood that should be symbolized? I surrender - it just isn't worth the risk. I don't want the Israelis to go to London. I don't want to spend my time checking the news to make sure they haven't been attacked. 

I don't want to trust those guards, those police and those missiles. I don't ever want to feel what I did back when I was 12 years old watching as the world moved on and continued their games while I watched them loading coffins on planes that flew home to Israel. I couldn't bring myself to watch them play while we cried.

Let them play - let them play among their missiles; praying they can finish before they are attacked. Let them watch the skies for missiles, the buildings for snipers, the roads for explosives. I know the Israeli team will go; I know they will play. I know others will hope they bring home some gold, some silver, some bronze. 

I just want them to come home safe so that we never have to beg the International Olympic Committee's cold-hearted members for sixty seconds to remember them. Go in peace, I'll pray to each one...and most important, come home in peace.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Trying to Be Normal

My stomach is tied in knots. I'm tense and I can feel my heart racing. It's been so long since I had this sense of dread choking my throat. A terrorist has blown up a bus of Israelis. Not in Israel - in Bulgaria. I'm following the news. Three dead. Five dead. At least seven dead. They aren't saying children, but there were many children on the buses. And I remembered an article I had written long ago called, "Trying to be Normal." It's not my normal style - whatever that is.

It's a strange article. I thought it was strange when I wrote it - back in December, 2002...almost 10 years ago.

Trying to Be Normal 

There is a point when sadness turns to anger, when the body ceases to be numb. Even though you dread it, you know that point will come. First there is the shock that it has happened, yet again, on some sunny day when normal people don't think of despair. Then, the shock gives way to an endless need to see, to hear, to watch.

In part, you watch because you believe that if you can just see it, somehow it will be more real. But, of course, it never is. So you give up on believing that it is normal to feel this way or that way and you accept that you just need to see it. You'll worry about normal tomorrow because normalcy doesn't exist today.

As the numbers rise, as they almost always do, sadness comes next. It is the feeling of being haunted and hunted, hated to such an incredible depth that you don't think they, whoever they may be, can overcome their hatred. The waste of it all, the lives lost. The old, the young, the parents, the orphans. The perfect ones, the good ones, the brave ones. Frozen in time, leaving you to move forwards through the grief and the sadness alone.

The brutality of the attack makes you so depressed. How could someone do such a thing? How is it possible to shoot a baby, target a little boy? How can a human being explode himself intentionally next to a teenage girl, stab a pregnant woman, lynch a 67-year-old grandfather? Such anger they must have, such hatred.

Faced with the cruelty, you realize that you are as much a prisoner of their hatred as they are and that begins to call forth the anger. You cannot be the master of their feelings, but shouldn't they find a normal way to express their anger? You've been angry, you've hated, but you didn't explode yourself, you didn't shoot anyone. Is this the only way for them to get what they want? And if it is, do they have any right to it?

If you can only birth a nation on the blood of innocent children, what worth will that nation have, what compassion for others? How can it take its place in the family of nations when it is born out of hatred and death and cruelty? But that is their politics and today is for your dead and wounded. Today, it is too much to worry about their dreams for tomorrow when yours wait to be buried. Isn't it normal to focus on your own grief, you wonder? And again you remember that you no longer know quite what normal is, and that too brings forth the anger.

The anger is like those first moments when the circulation returns to a leg that has fallen asleep. It's a tingling sensation, unpleasant, sometimes dull and sometimes sharp. The more you explore it, the more painful it becomes. Is it better not to move, not to feel? Is it better to get it over with quickly by releasing it or hold it inside? Wouldn't it be a relief, just once, to scream and cry and release all the frustration and anger? Wouldn't that be normal?

You think of bombing them back, of horrible pain inflicted with the hope it will ease your pain. The thoughts bring you no comfort because you don't want to be like them, you just want it to stop. This isn't about revenge. Revenge won't bring them back, won't erase the pain, the tears, the empty chair in the classroom that will forever be his chair, her place by the window.

You'll sleep tonight, thinking that by tomorrow, maybe the anger will go away. But of course it won't. Tomorrow brings the funerals, the women wailing, the fathers standing staring off into the distance with their haunted eyes and devastated glances. A grandfather crying over the loss of two grandchildren cripples you. They haven't slept, you can see the exhaustion, but maybe that's merciful.

They are numb, beyond the anger, but not beyond the pain. Such anguish will never go away. How can it? It just isn't normal to go on after having such horror thrust upon you. Today, you'll go with the flow, and tell yourself to just get through the funerals one by one. You'll cry a little, or maybe a lot. It won't help, but you have to anyway.

The anger can consume you if you don't know when to let it go. The funerals continue, and the stories of who they were and what they were able to accomplish before their lives were cut short will bring you to your knees. You will know in death someone that you probably never had a chance to meet in life. Their dreams lay shattered in pieces on the buses and in the streets of our cities, in the stores and cafes and even on foreign shores, and you have to walk over them, or you'll never move on, move back to normal.

The newspaper shows their pictures and so you hesitate to throw it away. A pile of newspapers with names and faces that haunt you. The young mother that left behind two children, the middle-aged couple that left nine orphans. It was his birthday, and soon his wife will give birth to the child he will never see. Another generation being born, already touched by the sadness.

You stare at the faces and when you close your eyes, you can still see their smiling faces. But you can't smile now, and that too is normal. Often, in the midst of the sadness and the anger, comes the thought that it could have been much worse. It seems there is always a grenade that didn't explode, a rifle that got jammed, a plane that didn't get hit, a bomb that was found.

There's the fact that most of the people were able to move away in time or the weather was bad and so less people came to the mall. There's the bus driver who miraculously shoved him out the door, but an old woman died anyway. So you play a game with yourself and convince yourself that it is normal to be relieved because it could have been worse.

Then the guilt comes because you realize for that family, it was worse. They now live with a nightmare beyond any that a normal person could imagine and so the sadness, that never quite left, pushes away the anger. The anger won't help and the sadness won't leave. After the funerals, the sun shines or the rains come and wash the streets.

If you pass that bus stop, there are candles and flowers, but the broken glass is gone. They are already rebuilding the restaurant, newer, stronger. This time the gate might keep them out, or maybe not. Maybe a small memorial will be put there, but the carnage is what you remember, the old facade under the new paint and glass windows. The picture in your head doesn't match the image before you and your eyes insist on focusing on what you see, not on what you imagine.

And you wonder why that is normal too. Human nature pushes you to move on, when you know there are those that can't. When you stop to think about it, you realize the basic truth, the normal truth, is that until they learn to stop hating and killing, you will continue to be shocked, and saddened, and angry.

You will survive this. For a short time, you may change the routine of your life, avoid buses as much as possible, stay home, lock your doors. You may keep a radio playing and tell your children not to go to the mall.

But soon, that too will stop because the one great truth is that you want things to return to normal... until there is the shock that it has happened, yet again, on some sunny day when normal people don't think of despair.

May God avenge the blood of those who were murdered today in Bulgaria and may their loved ones be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Haveil Havalim # 368

I'm up again to host the weekly Haveil Havalim - a carnival of Jewish and Israeli blogs.The Haveil Havalim blog carnival was founded by Soccer Dad and every week a different blogger takes a turn to host a weekly collection of blog posts.

The name "Haveil Havalim" means "Vanity of the Vanities" and is taken from the book Ecclesiates in the Tanach (Old Testament of the Bible). If you blog about Israel or Jewish-related subjects, please feel free to join the Haveil Havalim Facebook group or go and have a look at the Haveil Havalim website.

Israel, Of Course

There's a lot this week about Israel and Israeli politics. I've decided to split it into two. 

Israeli Politics

US Politics from This Side of the Ocean

  • And since I find this funny and I like to be balanced, here's someone who says you SHOULD vote...none other than Batya's husband in My Right Word. Yisrael's post: Register AND Vote.
I'll apologize in advance to those I might have left out - it was a busy week (you can read about it here: The Life of a Project, in which a 20 hour project ended up taking 120 hours in the midst of my commitment to do the Haveil Havalim).

So, that's it for me this week - thanks for joining me on a tour of the Jewish and Israeli Blogosphere!

Security in Israel

I don't remember a time when you weren't asked to open your purse or the trunk of your car when entering a mall. I do remember a series of suicide bombers that exploded themselves in restaurants and the resulting order from the Ministry of Defense that security guards be placed at the doors of all restaurants beyond a certain size.

A few nights ago, we went out to eat in the center of...well, a city in Israel with friends that had come to visit from abroad. The area looked like any open, free space in any number of cities around the world and around Israel. Shops and shoppers. And on the sides were cafes with tables set outside to tempt the weary shopper to take a break and rest, order a cold drink or dinner. It was so European, so Israeli, so scary for me.

The tables were full outside, hundreds of shoppers, including Arab families, window shopped. I found myself listening for trouble - shouts or worse, a boom. There were no security guards there - the first time I had seen this in at least 15 years, if not more.

I entered with my husband and my youngest daughter, meeting these friends and others. We sat and ate slowly, enjoying the chance to catch up on the past few years...sadly, who died, happily, who got engaged, married, born. I showed pictures from Elie's wedding, and Shmulik's before that I showed the pictures of my grandson I'm not allowed to put on the Internet, and when we finished, we left, happy to know this family will be coming back in October and we'll see them again soon.

As I left, it struck me again - no security. I looked all around, even further down the block. Nothing.

Now someone has left me a comment - asking if I've noticed the lack of security at a major location in Israel where thousands pass each day, tens of thousands more likely. I'm stuck. Do I approve the comment and let the world know this place is now unprotected.

Not unprotected, Elie assures me, protected differently. Yes, differently - but we won't know if it is more effect until something blows up, will we? I won't say the measures that Elie detailed, just as I won't identify the location. Whenever I passed this place, I noticed long lines waiting to enter; I have often been deterred simply by the lines. Now, there will be no lines to the benefit of the stores who want people to enter, to the benefit of the people, who will get inside, But at what risk? Doesn't this also benefit the terrorist who can now get inside to a more concentrated, enclosed area.

If you've lived here long enough, you understand that an explosion set off inside a bus will kill more than one set off near it; that an explosion set off inside the cafe will result in more deaths than if the security guard catches the terrorist outside. Security guards have died this way; people inside sometimes (often) survived.

I'm afraid to put the comment through - how silly, I think to myself. Do I really believe Hamas is reading my blog? Islamic Jihad? If this place is where they will target, do they really have to read my blog to now know it is vulnerable? If it is vulnerable. How silly and arrogant that would be for me to believe that they are reading it.

If I put the comment through - perhaps it would shake those responsible for this decision. But again, that would be arrogance to assume the Ministry of Defense was reading my blog. And yet, the comment names a specific location and what security measures have been removed.

In August, 2001, there were no security guards at the entrance to the Sbarro Pizzeria in the heart of Jerusalem. Two Palestinians -  Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri and Ahlam Tamimi made their way through a checkpoint. Al-Masri was carrying explosives in a guitar case, Ahlam Tamimi flirted her way across the checkpoint providing cover and distraction (she also was one of the main operatives in choosing the location). Fifteen people died that day - including 8 children. Ahlam Tamimi - may she be cursed all the days of her life and may it be filled with the agony of death and suffering akin to what she has caused - in this life and in the next - Tamimi was released as part of the exchange of 1,027 terrorists for Gilad Shalit.

As for the comment that triggered this post, I'm afraid that in August 2012, a situation in which there are no guards may well return us to the terror attacks of August, 2001. Maybe I'm wrong - here's hoping. But I'm sorry to Anonymous who posted the comment...I just don't want to post it. So to answer - yes, I know they've removed the security there and yes, I know it is for budgetary reasons and yes, I know they are implementing other security measures that they believe/hope will be just as effective.

And God, I pray they are right.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Today's Exodus

There go those circles again - those little bits of coincidence that show you that nothing in life is really a coincidence. On November 9th, 1938, the Germans launched a wave of anti-Semitic attacks against its Jews. It was not the first and certainly not the last, but it represented that critical moment when Hitler's plan could no longer be denied.

Jewish businesses were attacked and set on fire; books were burned and worst of all, of course, was the murder of at least 91 Jews.

I was born on November 9th, many years later carrying the weight of that day all my life. I didn't know, until today, that on that same day in 1946, the Hagannah, the predecessors of today's Israeli army, bought a ship called the President Warfield.

The President Warfield was refitted and renamed and given a purpose. The new name was the SS. Exodus and the purpose was to carry 4,515 Jews, mostly survivors of the Holocaust to the land of Israel. Israel at that time was called Palestine and the British, hoping to maintain some sort of balance between a promise they made in 1917 and another promise they made later; a compromise between giving the land to the Jews and giving it to the Arabs.

Their response was the White Paper, a document and a practice that involved blocking entry to Jews. Perhaps the Hagannah knew that war was inevitable; that the Arabs would not accept a Jewish presence in Palestine. Perhaps they knew. But without question, what was clear in those days was that the Jews needed a home, the only home they had ever known - the land of Israel.

The SS Exodus set sail on July 11, 1947 - 65 years ago today. From the start, they knew they were on a collision course with the British army and new it was a battle that they could not win. The trip was to have taken 2 weeks. Several babies were born during the short voyage. One woman...Paula...and isn't that another coincidence (Paula Abramowitz) died in childbirth, her infant son died a few weeks later in Haifa. Three people - a crew member and two passengers, were killed by the British when they fired on the ship.

The British refused to allow the passengers entry to Palestine; ultimately forcing the ship to France. The passengers refused to disembark in France, demanding they be taken back to Palestine. The British decided, in an irony that still stabs me in the heart, that the only place to take the Jewish passengers - was to Germany. Even a British diplomat was smart enough to realize the idiocy of this decision as he wrote to his superiors:

You will realize that an announcement of decision to send immigrants back to Germany will produce violent hostile outburst in the press. The pros and cons of keeping the Exodus immigrants in camps ... there is one point that should be kept in mind. Our opponents in France, and I dare say in other countries, have made great play with the fact that these immigrants were being kept behind barbed wire, in concentration camps and guarded by Germans.

If we decide it is convenient not to keep them in camps any longer, I suggest that we should make some play that we are releasing them from all restraint of this kind in accordance with their wishes and that they were only put in such accommodation for the preliminary necessities of screening and maintenance.

The legacy of the Exodus, captured by Leon Uris in his book, changed many lives - including my own. The stand taken aboard the Exodus was a response to a world that didn't even realize a question had been asked; it was a demand, to a world that had forgotten Jews had a right to demand.
Decades after the ship was sent back to Germany, I read the story and it changed my life. It sent me on a journey to learn about Israel, about the Holocaust, about my people's history, and ultimately, about myself and my place in this world. It was the first time I learned that such a people existed - beaten and humiliated, starved and persecuted - these people crossed a continent and let nothing stop them to come and help build the land of their forefathers. These survivors came here to make their stand, to tell the world that there was simply no other place for a Jew, here, in Israel.

On July 11, 1947, the Exodus began its journey. Some of those Jews never made it home. The British stopped the Exodus and refused to let the refugees of Nazi Germany disembark in Palestine. By force, all were sent back to Germany. For most of them, Holocaust survivors, there was no worse place on earth, no more devastating end to the journey they'd hoped would end in their finding their peace, in their piece of the earth.

Today, another Exodus story occurred. Yesterday, 229 Jews left the United States on a special flight organized by Nefesh b'Nefesh and the State of Israel. Of those on board, 99 were children. There were 38 families - and 59 singles. The oldest person on the flight is 86 years old, the youngest, only 6 months old. No one stopped them before they could touch down on Israeli soil. They didn't meet British troops who stopped them; but Israeli soldiers who welcomed them. Government officials praised them; people sang and laughed and cried in joy.

Sixty-five years ago, more than four thousand Jews tasted the bitterness of defeat; it would take some of them years to finally come to Israel, and some never did. Today, our joy is there for all the world to see. The ceremony at the airport, attended by thousands, ended as it always does, with the singing of Hatikva - Israel's national anthem - The Hope. We have fulfilled the dream of those on the Exodus - to be a free people in the land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Welcome home to our newest citizens - may the bravery and the yearning to be free that was within the passengers aboard the Exodus remain as a shining light as you make your way into this land.

Welcome to Israel - a land like no other.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shattered Glass...Imagine...

Take a look at this picture. What do you see? If you look carefully in the background, you'll see that the back window is smashed and there is glass on the inside. Whatever shattered the glass was on the outside traveling into the car - otherwise, had the object that shattered it been inside traveling outward, the glass would have been outside, right?

What shattered the glass? That is quite frightening, when you look at the picture. The answer is a bullet -fired at the car. The bullet came from Gaza yesterday - without warning, without a thought as to who was in the car.

Now look at the foreground of the picture. You probably have already - and noticed the baby seat(s). The car was empty when they fired at it. No one was hurt. Imagine, though, if a baby had been in the car, or two babies, because there are two seats.

I can't tell for sure, but it looks like there are small pieces of glass on the baby seat. Maybe it's cereal. I hope it is. It doesn't change the horror of what could have been. That's where the baby would have been. A bullet going through the glass would shatter the window with enough force to propel the glass inwards...imagine a child in that seat.

Imagine, though it is painful and horrifying and unimaginable - imagine if it was your child, your car, your country.

This is terrorism - firing at a car without any knowledge (or caring) as to who or what is inside. This time, with the grace of God and the miracles we see almost daily here, this time, the car was empty.

When the Palestinians quote numbers and their numbers of injured are higher than ours - remember two important things:

  1. Who is included in their numbers - what was that person doing when he/she was injured. Was he traveling in a civilian car...or was he firing a rocket.
  2. By the grace of God, and not the Palestinians gunman, no child was hurt this time. The credit does not go to the shooter. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Unanswered Prayers

Did I ever mention that I am a country-music fan? Okay, that's actually less than I am, but I'll leave it at that. And yeah, Garth Brooks. And if you ask "who?" - I'll cry. I respect him for retiring when he did - at the top of his career. I don't want to get into his life, although there is respect there too. What I will say is that I do love his songs. He's got one song called, "Unanswered Prayers." The chorus goes like this:
Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers
I think we Jews have a different, though similar take on this. What we say is that all prayers are answered - every single one. Just sometimes, the answer is "no." I don't know which version I prefer. What started this...an email I have received a few times. I can hear the pain, the prayer, the desire just to know. There are a lot of prayers that went unanswered during and after the Holocaust. I'll tell you a story that I know to be true. I'm going to change a few details because the people are still alive. I won't identify the place where they came from. But here's the story.

A young man and a young woman were in love; engaged to be married. The Nazis came to their village and took them and their families. The woman survived and returned, but didn't find her fiancĂ©. She had lost so much; she had hoped to find him there. She left the village - there was nothing there for her, and made her way with others to Palestine. She would live in a land where no one would attack her because she was Jewish. She married and had children and one day decided to go on the March of the Living - back to Poland where she'd been born.

The young man survived and returned to the village, but he didn't find his beloved. He had lost so much, parents and siblings and more; he had prayed to find her there. He left the village - there was nothing there for him, and made his way with others to the United States. He wanted to live far from Europe and only an ocean away would do. He married and had children and one day decided to go on the March of the Living - back to Poland where he was born.

They were there together, this man and woman, no longer young. They turned around and saw each other.

"What did you do?" I asked him as my eyes filled with tears. I had noticed him acting sadder than usual - something to be expected after visiting Poland and still more than I'd expected.

"What could I do?" he answered me. "I have a life here; she has a life there. I have a wife and daughters; she has a husband and children."

There were no words I could offer him - two lives...two people...branched away from each other; too late. Unanswered prayers.

Read the next post and you'll understand why I wrote this...

A Man's Man

Shmulik's commanding officer pretty much defines the concept of a "man's man" - at least as I would think of him. He's the quintessential definition of an Israeli officer in war, in battle, and in command. He's been in the army since he first entered as a paratrooper somewhere back in his late teens.

He's steadily climbed through the ranks, moving up very fast because he is charismatic, intelligent, young, handsome and dedicated. Shmulik met him just before he became a Major, now he’s a Lieutenant Colonel and I have no doubt the only limitation on where he will go is within him. Shmulik is convinced he could become Chief of Staff someday. He’s certainly capable, I think.

I heard him speak to a huge gathering of soldiers and parents. He's a hero of sorts, a man of action. He epitomizes the Israeli commander who will command his troops with the traditional, “follow me” order. He was badly wounded by terrorist fire and when the doctors said he may never walk again, he prove them wrong. He walks - and he runs. Faster than Shmulik, longer distances. He guards what he eats (but he likes my chocolate chip cookies).

He's a realist and he knows how to play the crowds. When we went up to the base for an introduction to what our sons would be doing in the next few months, S. was head of the base and did the talking. He introduced the weapons our sons would learn to fire, narrated the exercises the soldiers would learn to identify, quarantine, and eliminate terrorists. He walked us through an ambush of a terrorist hideout and explained that the soldiers there up on the hill were one session ahead of our sons. In four months, he told us, your sons will be up there doing this for other parents, “only you’re not invited,” he said with a laugh.

At one point, shooting the various weapons at a target in the distance started a brush fire. No problem, S. explained as a bunch of soldiers went out with what appeared to be poles or brooms, to fight it. This was the desert and there wasn't really much to burn except brush so there was no urgency. People turned to watch the fire. I could hardly believe what I was seeing – they didn’t bring out fire engines and pour water – they beat the fire down. In a country always short of water, it was a fascinating display and we were glued to the progression of the fire, burning in almost a perfect circle because of the lack of wind.

S. wanted our attention for the program to continue. Like most of the audience, I watched the fire. And then, I turned to him and watched him watching the crowd. I videotaped (and later gave it to him) the part where he called out, "hello? To me...to me. It's just a fire. Don't worry...okay," he said as the realist in him came through (and the humor), "ok, watch the fire for a few minutes and then we’ll continue."

I thought it so funny at the time. The humor, the acceptance. I didn’t know then what a wonderful role he would play in Shmulik’s life a few months later.

S. waited a few more minutes while the soldiers did their work and got the fire mostly under control and then he began again. He isn't ashamed of his emotions - another thing he taught Shmulik. Shmulik saw his fury when they went to the site of a horrible terrorist attack in which two parents were murdered, leaving orphans behind. The rage burned inside him and yet he controlled his anger as he ordered troops into action and monitored the situation.

Shmulik learned about humor when S. told him to use the fast lane meant for cars with many passengers, "and me," S. told him. And he learned about humor when S. laughed endlessly because Shmulik had made some cute CDs for S.’s daughters, never noticing that they were in English with Hebrew subtitles. When he asked Shmulik about the English, Shmulik answered that there were subtitles, which made S. laugh even harder. S.’s daughters couldn’t read Hebrew; couldn’t understand the English that was so natural to Shmulik.

Shmulik learned about arrogance as S. asked him why he was driving so slowly, pushed him to speeds that were necessary, and cautioned him to slow when conditions required it. He told Shmulik he was driving “like a girl” – and laughed when Shmulik responded back with a comment about S.’s family.

One of the things that meant the most to me was the fact that in his being this big commander of the base, S. is also humble in his way. At least when it comes to his wife, "she's the fighter," S. told thousands of people and it was clear that he meant it. "She's what lets me be here." While he is at the army several nights a week, his wife is home taking care of the family, a much harder job, he would have you believe, than his.

He was explaining where he lives, a bit about himself, "I'm married," he explained, "and I have four daughters." When he didn't get the expected laugh, he said it again, "yes, four daughters." This from a man who spends his life training young men to be fighters. I heard a similar speech a few weeks later when we attended Chaim's ceremony. He and Shmulik were on the same base for a time and so a similar speech was made to the parents of Chaim's unit. This time, people laughed right away and he grinned proudly.

The thing about S. was that he pushed his soldiers to find the best in themselves and he did it in a way that inspired them to want to reach down and find more. He inspired Shmulik with his dedication and his love of Israel. This is the land he defends and he treats his soldiers as his sons.

I know he'd like to have a son, but what came through each of the times he mentioned his family is that he is clearly a man in love with his ladies and felt that all children are gifts from God. He thought it was funny, I think, that here he is in a world of men, with a world of women at home. And the respect with which he spoke about his wife, how she is the support of the family, the true fighter, that showed what a man he is.

Shmulik works as a security guard now at the local mall. Several times, he has seen S. come to the mall with his daughters. "They walk behind him like a row of ducks," Shmulik told me with a smile. "They just follow him and he knows they're there!" And they remember him. The come running up to him and call him Abba’s chayal – their father’s soldier.

Last week, Shmulik told me that S.'s wife was expecting again - and today, he told me she gave birth to another daughter. Five daughters. Shmulik thinks that is very funny and wants to call him. Somehow, I have no doubt that S. is smiling too. Yup, he's a man with five daughters and he remains an inspiration to hundreds of sons.

Mazel tov to S. and his wife, the fighter – I don’t know if you will ever truly understand what you give to your daughters…and to your sons.

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