Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Promise and a Reminder

Sukkah: Also called: tabernacle a temporary structure with a roof of branches in which Jews eat and, if possible, sleep during the festival of Sukkot
Sukkot - plural of Sukkah
Sukkot is a holiday that talks to me in ways that few other holidays do.

I love Shabbat - it is, each week, an island of peace that comes in grace and slowly sneaks away with the promise it will return.

Rosh Hashana is nice, but it is the base of a mountain of self-reflection that is Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur comes as a day of judgment and atonement - serious, spiritually uplifting, intense it is; fun it is not.

Passover is so much work, before, during and after, that it is hard to enjoy much of it. Someday, I might find a way to enjoy it, but most years it is mostly torture for me.

Hanukah might be fun and have some deeper meanings to it, but it has been commercialized and internationalized and simply doesn't touch me the way Sukkot does.

I could go on, but I don't want to belittle the other holidays, I just want to explain why I love this one. You see, it is yet another promise from God to me - well, to my people. It says to trust Him, that He will take care of us.

We put our lives in His hands every day without really acknowledging it. When we drive down the highway, when we walk under a building, when we watch our children go off to school, perhaps even when we get on a bus. From the moment we awaken, refreshed and returned to life, until the moment we lay our heads on our pillows, at any moment, our lives could change forever, take directions we never thought of.

So we rise in the morning and thank God for returning our soul to us from sleep, simply for being awake another day to live in this world and see the miracles He creates. And then we do what we do, only to sleep and do it again the next day. Sukkot is about taking that forgotten trust to a higher level.

Sukkot says - stop, take yourself out of the comfort of your homes, your air conditioned rooms and return to the basics. Imagine if the roof over your head was not cement and stone, but mere branches of trees. Imagine if instead of your plush sofa and comfortable bed, you sat on simple chairs and slept on a slip of a mattress beneath the stars.

Would you still thank God for everything He has done for you? Imagine if while you are sitting out there in that hut you've built, the one with the simple roof of branches - imagine if it were to start to rain, would you still be grateful? It's easy to say yes from those air conditioned rooms and so we move out there for 7 days and show ourselves what God already knows. Oh yes, we will be grateful because the cement roof is an illusion; the plush homes a diversion.

Sukkot is a promise and a reminder. We promise to trust in God; He reminds us He has always been there to protect us and always will be. I love Sukkot. It is simple and basic as life really is. It is we humans that confuse the issues; we who fill our lives with meaningless possessions when the greatest gift of all is simply life and the ability to enjoy.

Chag samayah - happy Sukkot - may it come in peace and remind all of us that the only security we can ever know, comes from Above.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bibi Draws Israel's Red Lines

Following is the text of Bibi's speech at the United was a speech that he needed to make, that Israeli needed to hear. But most of all, it was a speech that needed to be recorded so the world can never say it was not warned:

Prime Minister Benjamin the United Nations....

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Three thousand years ago, King David reigned over the Jewish state in our eternal capital, Jerusalem. I say that to all those who proclaim that the Jewish state has no roots in our region and that it will soon disappear.

Throughout our history, the Jewish people have overcome all the tyrants who have sought our destruction. It's their ideologies that have been discarded by history. The people of Israel live on. We say in Hebrew Am Yisrael Chai, and the Jewish state will live forever.

The Jewish people have lived in the land of Israel for thousands of years. Even after most of our people were exiled from it, Jews continued to live in the land of Israel throughout the ages. The masses of our people never gave up the dreamed of returning to our ancient homeland.

Defying the laws of history, we did just that. We ingathered the exiles, restored our independence and rebuilt our national life. The Jewish people have come home. We will never be uprooted again.

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Every year, for over three millennia, we have come together on this day of reflection and atonement. We take stock of our past. We pray for our future. We remember the sorrows of our persecution; we remember the great travails of our dispersion; we mourn the extermination of a third of our people, six million, in the Holocaust.

But at the end of Yom Kippur, we celebrate. We celebrate the rebirth of Israel. We celebrate the heroism of our young men and women who have defended our people with the indomitable courage of Joshua, David, and the Maccabees of old. We celebrate the marvel of the flourishing modern Jewish state.

In Israel, we walk the same paths tread by our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But we blaze new trails in science, technology, medicine, agriculture.

In Israel, the past and the future find common ground. Unfortunately, that is not the case in many other countries. For today, a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval.

The forces of modernity seek a bright future in which the rights of all are protected, in which an ever-expanding digital library is available in the palm of every child, in which every life is sacred.

The forces of medievalism seek a world in which women and minorities are subjugated, in which knowledge is suppressed, in which not life but death is glorified. These forces clash around the globe, but nowhere more starkly than in the Middle East.

Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity. We protect the rights of all our citizens: men and women, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians – all are equal before the law.

Israel is also making the world a better place: our scientists win Nobel Prizes. Our know-how is in every cell-phone and computer that you're using. We prevent hunger by irrigating arid lands in Africa and Asia.

Recently, I was deeply moved when I visited the Technion, one of our technological institutes in Haifa, and I saw a man paralyzed from the waist down climb up a flight of stairs, quite easily, with the aid of an Israeli invention.

And Israel's exceptional creativity is matched by our people's remarkable compassion. When disaster strikes anywhere in the world – in Haiti, Japan, India, Turkey Indonesia and elsewhere – Israeli doctors are among the first on the scene, performing life-saving surgeries.

In the past year, I lost both my father and my father-in-law. In the same hospital wards where they were treated, Israeli doctors were treating Palestinian Arabs. In fact, every year, thousands of Arabs from the Palestinian territories and Arabs from throughout the Middle East come to Israel to be treated in Israeli hospitals by Israeli doctors.

I know you're not going to hear that from speakers around this podium, but that's the truth. It's important that you are aware of this truth. It’s because Israel cherishes life, that Israel cherishes peace and seeks peace.

We seek to preserve our historic ties and our historic peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. We seek to forge a durable peace with the Palestinians.

President Abbas just spoke here. I say to him and I say to you:

We won't solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN. That's not the way to solve it. We won't solve our conflict with unilateral declarations of statehood. We have to sit together, negotiate together, and reach a mutual compromise, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish State.

Israel wants to see a Middle East of progress and peace. We want to see the three great religions that sprang forth from our region – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – coexist in peace and in mutual respect.

Yet the medieval forces of radical Islam, whom you just saw storming the American embassies throughout the Middle East, they oppose this. They seek supremacy over all Muslims. They are bent on world conquest. They want to destroy Israel, Europe, America. They want to extinguish freedom. They want to end the modern world. Militant Islam has many branches – from the rulers of Iran with their Revolutionary Guards to Al Qaeda terrorists to the radical cells lurking in every part of the globe.

But despite their differences, they are all rooted in the same bitter soil of intolerance. That intolerance is directed first at their fellow Muslims, and then to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, secular people, anyone who doesn't submit to their unforgiving creed.

They want to drag humanity back to an age of unquestioning dogma and unrelenting conflict. I am sure of one thing. Ultimately they will fail. Ultimately, light will penetrate the darkness.

We've seen that happen before.

Some five hundred years ago, the printing press helped pry a cloistered Europe out of a dark age. Eventually, ignorance gave way to enlightenment.

So too, a cloistered Middle East will eventually yield to the irresistible power of freedom and technology. When this happens, our region will be guided not by fanaticism and conspiracy, but by reason and curiosity.

I think the relevant question is this: it's not whether this fanaticism will be defeated. It's how many lives will be lost before it's defeated. We've seen that happen before too.

Some 70 years ago, the world saw another fanatic ideology bent on world conquest. It went down in flames. But not before it took millions of people with it. Those who opposed that fanaticism waited too long to act. In the end they triumphed, but at an horrific cost.

My friends, we cannot let that happen again. At stake is not merely the future of my own country. At stake is the future of the world. Nothing could imperil our common future more than the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons.

To understand what the world would be like with a nuclear-armed Iran, just imagine the world with a nuclear-armed Al-Qaeda. It makes no difference whether these lethal weapons are in the hands of the world's most dangerous terrorist regime or the world's most dangerous terrorist organization. They're both fired by the same hatred; they're both driven by the same lust for violence.

Just look at what the Iranian regime has done up till now, without nuclear weapons. In 2009, they brutally put down mass protests for democracy in their own country. Today, their henchmen are participating in the slaughter of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians, including thousands of children, directly participating in this murder.

They abetted the killing of American soldiers in Iraq and continue to do so in Afghanistan. Before that, Iranian proxies killed hundreds of American troops in Beirut and in Saudi Arabia. They've turned Lebanon and Gaza into terror strongholds, embedding nearly 100,000 missiles and rockets in civilian areas. Thousands of these rockets and missiles have already been fired at Israeli communities by their terrorist proxies.

In the last year, they've spread their international terror networks to two dozen countries across five continents – from India and Thailand to Kenya and Bulgaria. They've even plotted to blow up a restaurant a few blocks from the White House in order to kill a diplomat.

And of course, Iran's rulers repeatedly deny the Holocaust and call for Israel's destruction almost on a daily basis, as they did again this week from the United Nations.

So I ask you, given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons. Imagine their long range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads, their terror networks armed with atomic bombs.

Who among you would feel safe in the Middle East? Who would be safe in Europe? Who would be safe in America? Who would be safe anywhere?

There are those who believe that a nuclear-armed Iran can be deterred like the Soviet Union. That's a very dangerous assumption. Militant Jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet suicide bombers. Yet Iran produces hordes of them.

Deterrence worked with the Soviets, because every time the Soviets faced a choice between their ideology and their survival, they chose their survival. But deterrence may not work with the Iranians once they get nuclear weapons.

There's a great scholar of the Middle East, Prof. Bernard Lewis, who put it best. He said that for the Ayatollahs of Iran, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent, it's an inducement.

Iran's apocalyptic leaders believe that a medieval holy man will reappear in the wake of a devastating Holy War, thereby ensuring that their brand of radical Islam will rule the earth. That's not just what they believe. That's what is actually guiding their policies and their actions.

Just listen to Ayatollah Rafsanjani who said, I quote: "The use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything, however it would only harm the Islamic world."

Rafsanjani said: "It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality."

Not irrational. And that's coming from one of the so-called moderates of Iran.

Shockingly, some people have begun to peddle the absurd notion that a nuclear-armed Iran would actually stabilize the Middle East.

Yeah, right. That's like saying a nuclear-armed Al-Qaeda would usher in an era of universal peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I've been speaking about the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons for over 15 years.

I spoke about it in my first term in office as Prime Minister, and then I spoke about it when I left office. I spoke about it when it was fashionable, and I spoke about it when it wasn't fashionable. I speak about it now because the hour is getting late, very late. I speak about it now because the Iranian nuclear calendar doesn't take time out for anyone or for anything. I speak about it now because when it comes to the survival of my country, it's not only my right to speak; it's my duty to speak. And I believe that this is the duty of every responsible leader who wants to preserve world peace.

For nearly a decade, the international community has tried to stop the Iranian nuclear program with diplomacy. That hasn't worked.

Iran uses diplomatic negotiations as a means to buy time to advance its nuclear program.

For over seven years, the international community has tried sanctions with Iran. Under the leadership of President Obama, the international community has passed some of the strongest sanctions to date.

I want to thank the governments represented here that have joined in this effort. It's had an effect. Oil exports have been curbed and the Iranian economy has been hit hard. It's had an effect on the economy, but we must face the truth. Sanctions have not stopped Iran's nuclear program either.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, during the last year alone, Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges in its underground nuclear facility in Qom.

At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Red lines don't lead to war; red lines prevent war.

Look at NATO's charter: it made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all. NATO's red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century.

President Kennedy set a red line during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That red line also prevented war and helped preserve the peace for decades. In fact, it's the failure to place red lines that has often invited aggression.

If the Western powers had drawn clear red lines during the 1930s, I believe they would have stopped Nazi aggression and World War II might have been avoided.

In 1990, if Saddam Hussein had been clearly told that his conquest of Kuwait would cross a red line, the first Gulf War might have been avoided.

Clear red lines have also worked with Iran.

Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormouz. The United States drew a clear red line and Iran backed off.

Red lines could be drawn in different parts of Iran's nuclear weapons program. But to be credible, a red line must be drawn first and foremost in one vital part of their program: on Iran's efforts to enrich uranium. Now let me explain why:

Basically, any bomb consists of explosive material and a mechanism to ignite it.

The simplest example is gunpowder and a fuse. That is, you light the fuse and set off the gunpowder.

In the case of Iran's plans to build a nuclear weapon, the gunpowder is enriched uranium. The fuse is a nuclear detonator.

For Iran, amassing enough enriched uranium is far more difficult than producing the nuclear fuse.

For a country like Iran, it takes many, many years to enrich uranium for a bomb. That requires thousands of centrifuges spinning in tandem in very big industrial plants. Those Iranian plants are visible and they're still vulnerable.

In contrast, Iran could produce the nuclear detonator – the fuse – in a lot less time, maybe under a year, maybe only a few months.

The detonator can be made in a small workshop the size of a classroom. It may be very difficult to find and target that workshop, especially in Iran. That's a country that's bigger than France, Germany, Italy and Britain combined.

The same is true for the small facility in which they could assemble a warhead or a nuclear device that could be placed in a container ship. Chances are you won't find that facility either.

So in fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb. So, how much enriched uranium do you need for a bomb? And how close is Iran to getting it?

Let me show you. I brought a diagram for you. Here's the diagram. This is a bomb; this is a fuse. In the case of Iran's nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages.

The first stage: they have to enrich enough of low enriched uranium. The second stage: they have to enrich enough medium enriched uranium. And the third stage and final stage: they have to enrich enough high enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Where's Iran? Iran's completed the first stage. It took them many years, but they completed it and they're 70% of the way there.

Now they are well into the second stage. By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I told you now is not based on secret information. It's not based on military intelligence. It's based on public reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Anybody can read them. They're online. So if these are the facts, and they are, where should the red line be drawn?

The red line should be drawn right here. Before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb.

Before Iran gets to a point where it's a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

Each day, that point is getting closer. That's why I speak today with such a sense of urgency. And that's why everyone should have a sense of urgency.

Some who claim that even if Iran completes the enrichment process, even if it crosses that red line that I just drew, our intelligence agencies will know when and where Iran will make the fuse, assemble the bomb, and prepare the warhead.

Look, no one appreciates our intelligence agencies more than the Prime Minister of Israel. All these leading intelligence agencies are superb, including ours. They've foiled many attacks. They've saved many lives. But they are not foolproof.

For over two years, our intelligence agencies didn't know that Iran was building a huge nuclear enrichment plant under a mountain.

Do we want to risk the security of the world on the assumption that we would find in time a small workshop in a country half the size of Europe?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb. The relevant question is at what stage can we no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb. The red line must be drawn on Iran's nuclear enrichment program because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target.

I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. This will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether. Two days ago, from this podium, President Obama reiterated that the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran cannot be contained.

I very much appreciate the President's position as does everyone in my country. We share the goal of stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program. This goal unites the people of Israel. It unites Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike and it is shared by important leaders throughout the world.

What I have said today will help ensure that this common goal is achieved. Israel is in discussions with the United States over this issue, and I am confident that we can chart a path forward together.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The clash between modernity and medievalism need not be a clash between progress and tradition. The traditions of the Jewish people go back thousands of years. They are the source of our collective values and the foundation of our national strength.

At the same time, the Jewish people have always looked towards the future. Throughout history, we have been at the forefront of efforts to expand liberty, promote equality, and advance human rights. We champion these principles not despite of our traditions but because of them.

We heed the words of the Jewish prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah to treat all with dignity and compassion, to pursue justice and cherish life and to pray and strive for peace. These are the timeless values of my people and these are the Jewish people's greatest gift to mankind. Let us commit ourselves today to defend these values so that we can defend our freedom and protect our common civilization.

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

And the lie continues...

Once again, the nonsense that a child is wiping up blood in Gaza as a picture is used again. This time, it is claimed by Syrian rebels to be a child there. In defending the Syrian rebels, Linda Juniper attempts to set the story straight...and misses completely.

Nice try, Linda - but it isn't a "photo of a child wiping blood after an air strike on school in Gaza" - and though the rebels try to claim it was in Syria, it has already been proven here that this image is of a young Palestinian boy in HEBRON (not Gaza, not Syria), who was wiping up the blood of a COW (not his brother's blood and not the results of an Israeli air strike).

There is no honor in combating one lie, Linda Juniper, by spreading another.

Settling with God...

My post reprinted from the Times of Israel - A Settler's Blog

I wanted to write about the unique feeling in Israel that is the day before Yom Kippur. There is something in the air here, something that defies words. There is an explanation of sorts - anticipation. Yom Kippur is very much about settling with God. This is what I did with the last year you gave me, God; this is what I hope to do.

Last year, for the second one in a row, one of my children was married; a new daughter of my heart. My grandson grew bigger and stronger and learned to walk, to talk. He's just amazingly adorable. My youngest child reached the age of bat mitzvah; that means this is the first time all of my children will be fasting. More to worry about, in many ways.

So many things I did; so many things I didn't. So many people I made peace with; so many I didn't. So many days of worry; so many days of joy.

On Twitter, Arabs are complaining about a closure being imposed on "Gaza and the West Bank" - it's yet another lie, of course. What closure? That they are denied entry into Israel? Of course they are being denied - what would they do if they came here? All stores are closed in Israel on Yom Kippur; there is no public transportation. All work places (other then emergency services) are closed. There are no restaurants open, no supermarkets. No building is done.

The closure is on us. We do not drive - we stay in our homes, our synagogues, our communities. We shut out the world....

For more, read here: Settling with God

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Say a Prayer Today...Please

Have you ever wondered if the power of prayer, the same exact prayer said around the world at the same exact moment would be strong enough to bring about the most amazing event? It can. You have to believe.

Someone started an amazing idea. But first a story.
Many years ago, a rabbi from the Midwest told a journalist that the Messiah, what we call Moshiach in Hebrew, was going to come on a specific date. The journalist was skeptical at first; the rabbi was insistent. What a coup, thought the journalist, as he reported in the citywide newspaper of this expected event, citing the date and crediting the rabbi with the news alert. Days turned into weeks and the date finally arrived; only the Moshiach didn't.
The journalist was furious. He went to see the rabbi. "You told me that Moshiach was coming on this date!" he said in anger. 
"You're angry?" asked the rabbi. "YOU are angry? Can you imagine how I feel? I don't know why the Moshiach didn't come; it should have. I'm as angry as you - even more!We have to all demand that Moshiach comes NOW!"
So today at 5:00 p.m. that's what people around the world are going to do. They are all going to join together and say a prayer and hope, believe, that today it will come.

Please say this prayer at exactly 5:00 p.m. today (Israel time) – it is being said all over the world. You never know if just one more person…you…could be the one voice God will hear above all others.

Please note Israel switched to Israel Standard Time not Daylight Savings Time so we are 6 hours ahead of NY, not 7 hours (GMT + 1).

The prayer that we are being asked is short - first - please give one coin of your local currency to any charity of your choice. A shekel, a dollar, a euro. Any amount.

Then say this short prayer - at exactly 5:00 p.m. Israel time - each voice, all voices, all of us together - it could change the could. It is repeated in several languages below. First a few of the times around the world:

Choose your language...

In English:

In Hebrew:

If you want to say it in Hebrew, but can't read it, here is a transliteration of the Hebrew:   
Reebono shel olam, Anu, Bn'ei Yisrael, Mivakeshim Shemashiakh Tzidkaynu Yeegael Otanu Akhshav Mehagalut Berakhamim Laseem Sof Lekol Sevel Legalot et Shimcha U'lehavee Shalom Le'olam
In French: 

In Spanish: 

In Russian 

In Italian:

Traditions Continued - The Recipe

Last week, I wrote about making potato kugel and how it has become a tradition that I got from my mother-in-law (z"l, of blessed memory) who, I am sure, got it from her mother. As I was making it, I wondered if the day would come that my daughters and daughters-in-law (and sons and sons-in-law) would make it for their own children some day.

As it was in my mother-in-law's house, it has become a standard in my home. A Friday afternoon treat everyone loves. Elie likes the crust and so has declared the corner piece (of an oval bowl) to be "his." Davidi has been known to munch on it each time he passes it until I suddenly discover that, along with others taking a normal piece, half the kugel is gone.

I didn't post the recipe, though I did put in a picture (repeated here). I thought about posting the recipe, but when I post one, I like to try to make it as accurate as possible and this recipe is one of those - "a little bit of this, a little bit of that" type of ones that I hate to write about because I feel guilty that it isn't more accurate. I can tell you what I do, but it's so much a matter of how big the potatoes are, how many eggs, how much salt...but I'll try.

So - to make a nice size potato kugel, here's what I do:

  1. Peel and soak about 12 large red potatoes (red skin, not sweet potatoes). You can use other types, but there really is a difference and if you can, use the red ones. You only need to soak them in water while peeling. 
  2. Grate the potatoes - yeah, by hand. I've tried machine - it just isn't as good. Grate it by hand one time - if you can see the consistency and match it, please let me know!
  3. As you are grating the last potato - take about 1 cup of oil (I use canola) and heat it to the point where if you were to drop water, it would sizzle/splash.
  4. After you finished grating, pour the very hot oil over the potatoes - this bleaches them if they began to turn colors.
  5. Mix the oil into the grated potatoes.
  6. Beat (about) 8 Israeli large eggs (probably 7 American medium eggs) in a separate bowl (you can do this before you grate the potatoes also).
  7. Mix the eggs into the potato/oil mixture and add salt. I can't tell you how much - probably about a teaspoon, but it could be more. My mother-in-law always tasted the mixture and added salt until it tasted right - not too salty, but not bland. I know you shouldn't do this - it's eating raw egg and raw potato. And yes, I do it too. And it works...if you don't want to - I guess add a bit over a teaspoon and see what happens - if the kugel isn't salty enough - add more the next time? Sorry...
  8. Pour the mixture into a deep dish - I use a large Pyrex pan that works great and cleans like a dream. My mother-in-law used a special metal pot with no plastic handles. Aluminum foil pans work too - so this is not a big deal.
  9. Bake it in a very hot oven for about 1.75 hours - my mother-in-law would tell me that initially the oven should be very hot (probably 200 C or 400 F) for about a half an hour - this gets the outside crust going; then lower it to 180 C or 350 F) for another hour and a bit. 
  10. Close the oven (turn it off) and let the kugel sit for about 10 minutes.
If you are warming it for holidays or Shabbat - I can tell you that it is very dense and takes a long time to warm enough. Eating it out of the oven (give it time to cool some because it is very hot) is always best.

My mother-in-law used to take the left-over kugel, slice it and then fry it. Reheating it in a regular oven dries it out - however with microwaves today, you really can reheat it for days after and it is still wonderful. Please, please, write to me and let me know if you make it and if you like it!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lost Peace....

On Friday afternoon, news of yet another terrorist incident on the Egyptian border came through. The first news said three Palestinians had died after they blew themselves up. The next report spoke of an exchange of fire.

Minutes before Shabbat, I heard that one soldier had been killed, another wounded. This shattered so much of the Shabbat peace I was looking forward to. As I was lighting candles, I remembered speaking with a friend the night before. She told me her son was stationed on the Egyptian border. There are miles and miles of border; no real reason to worry and yet, of course, I did. But truthfully, no matter whose son it was, some family was in shock and mourning.

After the Sabbath ended, we learn his name. He was 20-year-old Corporal Netanel Yahalomi, and he is being buried tonight. Jewish custom is to bury within the first 24 hours, even sooner if the deceased is in Jerusalem where a funeral could be held within hours of the death. The only exception is when the person dies too close to the Sabbath. Netanel died Friday and so for the Sabbath his family was in a no man's land of mourning. The hours before burial are complex in terms of Jewish law and they are extremely difficult, perhaps among the most difficult for a family. The healing, the acceptance, even the lessening of shock does not begin until the funeral is over - in the week of mourning known as the Shiva.

Tonight they will bury him and in the next week, morning, afternoon and night, friends will come, his army brothers, commanders, and more. The house will be filled with talk of who he was, how he died. Pictures will be shown; friends will talk. The family will be surrounded with love and eased through this time.

Only tonight did I learn his name and that he was in an artillery unit protecting workers who were building a border fence between Egypt and Israel - to protect our citizens from similar attacks to the one who killed him.

But there is a bittersweet piece of news I only read tonight - Netanel was hit by gunfire as he drew close to the Egyptian border. He and another soldier had noticed a group of African refugees and had taken them water to drink. In performing this life-saving act, Netanel lost his. The bittersweet becomes even more bitter as we learn that Netanel was initially given a lower profile, placing him out of combat. He, like many of our sons, fought hard to have his profile raised enough so that he could be in a combat unit. On Friday, he was killed - as a combat soldier serving his country.

So, a nation that some call apartheid lost a beloved son because in his humanity, he tried to help black Muslim refugees who were fleeing their homeland as they huddled in fear in a Muslim country.

The good news is that the second soldier who was injured is doing very well and expected to recover.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bringing in Peace

Judaism is about cycles...we even have some holiday songs that children love to sing, showing how tied we are to time and the cycles of our week, month, year. We're in the midst of our holiday season - days after Rosh Hashanah (New Year), days before Yom Kippur (how do you translate Yom Kippur into words that explain what it is...).

But today is an island between the two...Shabbat is coming. The house is filled with the smells of what has been cooked, and what remains to be cooked. I have meatballs simmering on the stove; rice yet to be made. I have two types of chicken in the oven; potato kugel yet to do.

So, I'll make this short and simply wish you all a Shabbat shalom. No matter what pressure there is in the world, Friday comes to bless us with the knowledge that Shabbat is not far behind.


For most of my life, I've thought of tradition as those things that our parents hand down to us. For the most part, my parents didn't really have religious traditions that I inherited beyond those that are generic to the Jewish people. I'm sure there are some; I just can't think of them.

By contrast, my husband's family has so many traditions; we call them minchagim - or customs. Some are accepted as a standard minchag of many; others are specific to his family (though I'm sure others have this tradition as well). For example, my husband's mother (z"l - of blessed memory) made potato kugel every week. You could call it a potato casserole, but kugel just seems to fit it better.

She taught me how to make it and I am forever grateful. She described it in so many steps - and I wondered if all were necessary to create the wonderful, creamy, pre-Shabbat treat that everyone loved. The tradition wasn't just to make it, but to eat it Friday afternoon during the afternoon hours when you are hungry. You don't want to eat a big meal - as dinner will be large and festive. So - potato kugel.

I listened to my mother-in-law's recipe and thought how much work it took. It was all done by hand, rather than with a food processor. There were steps and steps and methods and methods and I wondered if I could simplify it and still get the same taste. And so began a quest to see, to test.

In the end, there were many things I didn't need to do - but the hardest part, hand grating, was not something that I have succeeded, at least this far, in replacing. At first I would make the potato kugel once in a while. For months now, perhaps even longer, I make it almost every week and miss it when I don't. When Davidi is home, I get him to grate the potatoes. Otherwise, I do it - which isn't easy, given problems I've been having with my right arm.

It's a simple, basic recipe - the more you try to get fancy, the more is taken away from the simple, good taste.

She made it every week. Many were the times we arrived late Friday afternoon to the amazing taste of the creamy, warm dish. Somehow, it has now become a tradition in my home as well. Elie fights for the end piece - he loves the crust. David could eat almost half of it, if we let him.

So, off to make it again.

Simon Wiesenthal, of blessed memory

On the seventh anniversary of his passing...we remember Simon Wiesenthal.

He was a man who would not let the world forget or deny the Holocaust. The world is a much worse place for his having left us. May his memory be blessed for all he did for those who could not and may God avenge the blood of the innocent and curse those who deny their memories, their lives, their deaths.

Melancholy ...

I'm melancholy. I've always loved that word. It's just so descriptive. It's not really sad or happy; it's a combination of so many things. It's part philosophical; part whimsical. The dictionary defines melancholy as "a deep, pensive, sadness."

I'm not really sad...not really. Pensive - perhaps that is closer. I'm feeling the weight of a ton of thoughts on my head. It's part the season, I guess. This is the Jewish month of Tishrei - the start of the new year and Yom Kippur is coming.

Yom Kippur is our Judgement Day - the day we stand before God - every year and pray while God above does an accounting of how we behaved, how we treated others this past year. Our good on one side, our bad on the other. If that doesn't put you in a melancholy mood, there's the discussions going on around Israel and the feeling that there's an avalanche coming our way - too big to ignore.

Those of us who have been here for two wars (three if you count the Second Gulf War, which wasn't really a war for us despite all the worry and preparation), yield to those who have been here for three and four wars. Those who have come more recently listen. "I feel sick," writes one woman in my neighborhood after a discussion on gas masks and preparation.

I understand what she feels. The discussions sometimes make me feel sick. I have the good fortune...(a bit sarcastic here)...of having more experience than she has and I know how often the winds of war seem to blow in the Middle East without actually resulting in war.

As always, you never have the peace of mind to know whether these winds are the real ones, whether there will be a war with Iran. Elie says that we can't have a war in the traditional sense with Iran because it is so far away - and so what we would have, essentially, is an exchange of missiles. That doesn't really help much. On the other hand, any action we take to stop Iran's nuclear threat, could trigger a reaction (or even proactive action) from Hezbollah/Lebanon, Syria looking for a way to distract the world, or Gaza. Lovely.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of watching my grandson for a few hours. He is so active now, so playful and even so communicative. Little words and gestures that show there is such an amazing brain at work there in the gorgeous head. He walked/crawled over to our side table and began pulling out the gas mask boxes that we've stored underneath, out of sight but never quite out of mind.

A thought went through my mind as I watched him play...please God, please, let us leave those masks inside the boxes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Over the Rosh Hashana table, I shared a story with my parents that my husband had told me long ago. Even as I was telling the story, I thought that I should share it here on the blog. My mother agreed and so here it is...

In 1973, when the Egyptians went to war against Israel on Yom Kippur, a young Egyptian soldier was sent into Sinai. He was a Coptic Christian in a unit of Muslims. His mother sent him to war with a Bible and in it, she wrote, "May the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob protect you."

Not long after they arrived and before they could confront the Israeli army in battle, other soldiers found the inscription and reported him. He was taken back to Cairo, suspected of being a spy for Israel. He explained that he was a loyal Egyptian soldier, had no contact with Israel, and his mother had written that because they are Christians.

He was cleared, as there was no evidence against him to support his having had any contact with Israel and yet, by the time he was able to return to his unit - it had been entirely wiped out by the Israeli army and so, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel, had indeed protected him.

I've always loved that story...and so I share it with you. The lesson is that there are things happening everywhere, all part of God's plan. Whatever is meant to happen, will happen. The best thing we can do is simply have faith.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beginning Anew

It's 2:25 a.m - I've made the dough for the challah for Rosh Hashana; I've made the fish (two types) and I've made two salads. I need to close down and sleep a bit but my mind is racing. With all the cooking, I haven't really had time to contemplate what last year meant to me, what I hope and pray for in the year to come.

This past year was so different than I expected it to be in so many ways. Shmulik was married; Amira was a new mother. I was hoping Elie would find someone - never really believing it would be Lauren though I had always had a feeling she'd be perfect for them. Now, a year later, they've been married 5 months already!

Aliza has grown so tall - she's within an inch or two of me...and will likely pass me this coming year, officially making me the shortest one in the family. Davidi got his first call from the army - I wasn't expecting that either, though I should have been.

It's been a good year in many ways; a hard year in many others. I'm more tense starting this year than I was about last  year; there seems to be more uncertainty, more stress, more things to worry about.

I don't want my sons to go to war; I don't want Israel to go to war. I don't want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and I know that it could be to prevent this, I have to forego the previous request.

I don't want Obama to be re-elected. I think he's the worst president the US has chosen in many generations. I believe the mistakes he has made and would make, endanger Israel, the US, and even the world.

I don't want anti-Semitism to continue to rise - not in Germany, not in France, not in Sweden, and not in all the other countries where there are Jews today. I don't really care about the countries where there are no Jews.

I don't want the world to believe for a moment that the Arabs will settle for anything less than our complete destruction - this is the message they send to us, this is their promise. All the times they say otherwise are lies for foreign consumption. Listen to what they say - in Arabic, to their own people - this is their truth. Believe them.

And what do I want?

What do I wish for this coming year - in all honesty - I would ask for what I always ask for, and thankfully, what God has granted me each year - sometimes more, sometimes less - this year, I pray for more. I want His blessings to continue in health - for my children, for my husband, for me, my parents, my siblings and their families, my husband's family, and more. I wish for health for the sick of Israel and for a speedy recovery for those in need.

I wish for safety and security for Israel. That means that our borders are safe; our lives not threatened. That means an end to the rockets that are being fired at Israel almost daily and often several times a day. It means our sons will be bored on the borders of Israel - oh how I want them to be bored!

I wish and pray for peace - in my home, in my community, in my country and in the world. Peace is not the same as security - and so I pray for this above all else. Security will not bring peace but it means we will be safe; peace means safety and security. It means not only the absence of war, but the advent of quiet and an end to incitement. It means a man can make a movie - even a bad one, and that will not cause people to riot and murder. It means Israelis can travel and not worry about someone blowing up the buses they use.

I pray for wisdom that will teach me how to treat my family properly, that will help me continue to prosper in business. And may God grant our leaders wisdom to see the right path and the courage to take it.

May God bless the men and women of the IDF and may He watch over them, as they watch over us.

And may God grant me a lifetime of todays and tomorrows in this land. I want to watch my children grow in so many ways - always in happiness, in body and spirit and may God bless them with children (and more children). I want to see my grandson grow bigger, stronger, wiser, and even more beautiful than he is today - I want to live to see him marry and, with the many cousins I hope he will have, bring me great grandchildren.

I ask for so much after God has given me so much already. I can only be thankful that God knows this is the way and the wants of mothers.

A new year begins tomorrow night...may God bless His people of Israel with the blessings of a year of life, of health, of peace and prosperity.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Can't Argue When it Comes from Them...

According to a local news story - more than 500 people are demonstrating at the US Embassy in Kuwait. I can only hope that at least THIS demonstration will not turn violent. So far, there have been demonstrations in Egypt, Yemen, Libya (of course), Gaza (duh), and now Kuwait. What is interesting here is that in many of the places, not only do they burn the US flag, but they fly the Al Qaida black flag.

This is what they are doing in Kuwait at this moment, as I start mixing the three quiches I plan to bake in about an hour, as the challah dough sits on my table rising. My house already has the smell of Shabbat, though the living room is filled with piles of laundry that still have to be put away. But what pulled me here was a brief look at a news item and the report of the chants coming from the demonstrators.

You can't argue when the words come from them... "Obama, we are all Osama."

Was it the movie?

I've been to some bad movies in my life. Although, having watched 5 minutes of the 13 minute trailer on YouTube of a movie that has, apparently, set the Arab world on fire even before it is ever premiered, I have to admit, I might not have seen any dumber or less professional.

Many years ago, on a date with my husband, we went to see a Popeye movie. I hated it. My response was made clear to all who were around me - I fell asleep. It was, at the end of the day, a magnificent use of my time and served a far better purpose than watching it. I also watched the Last of the Samurai. The photography was amazing; the endless bloodshed boring. My response was clear - I yawned and waited for it to end.

I've walked out of perhaps 3 movies in my life. Not wanting to insult other viewers or disturb them, I waited until the uniquely-Israeli intermission. As others filed back in; I filed out, or, in one case, we complained to the management and were allowed to go into any other movie we wanted.

That is the extent of my life as a movie-goer gone wrong. On those rare occasions when I wanted something differert or was perhaps even insulted by the contents of the movie - I would make myself a promise, usually forgotten, not to waste money seeing that director or that actor again.

I have actually never gone out on a rampage following a movie; never burned a flag, never attacked a US embassy - or any other consulate, restaurant, or, in fact, buildings in general. I have never murdered anyone based on what I saw on a screen - or off the screen, if we are discussing murder.

Out of curiosity following the vicious and barbaric attack on the US Embassy in Libya (and Egypt and Yemen...), I went to YouTube to view the clip. Besides the obvious opinion that it was so pathetically done, is the more incredulous thought that four men were murdered supposedly in the name of this movie?

I can understand anger, even hatred. I have been angry; I have felt such hatred at certain times in my life. And in that instance when the anger rages and the hatred burns, something inside me knows it has to be turned. It will, in the end, do me more harm than the person, people, or action that initiated it.
And that is where the reality comes forward. No one really believes that the Americans in Libya were killed because of a movie - even one that insults their beloved prophet. The true reason likely lies deep in connections to Al Qaida, 9/11 and recent US anti-terrorist activities.

But what I find interesting here is that the motive of the movie was given, and accepted by much of the world. They really believe that we would accept this as the reason. In that, they are correct - they've done it before, after all. The Danish cartoon. Salman Rushdie's writings.

They COULD have killed and rioted, burned flags and buildings because of a 13 minute trailer to a movie, because of a book, because of a cartoon. That this time they didn't, doesn't change the culture that could have.

And so, once again we return to the constant discussion - of their culture versus ours. Of their morality versus ours. Of their worshipping death and martyrdom versus our choosing life.

This is the fundamental truth behind the Libya attack and more than that, it says so much about them that we would believe the lie that this is about a movie. We were astounded when they rioted over a cartoon, deeply perplexed at their issuing a death sentence over a book. Their actions have brought about the results. We are no longer shocked that they would murder over a movie.

And so, Al Qaida once again attacked on 9/11 and murdered in the name of Islam and the belief that terror, death and violence bring their own rewards. But this time, we did not believe them, suspecting almost from the start that the claim that they attacked because of an insult to Mohammed in a 13 minute YouTube trailer was bogus. But this time, they managed to fool themselves. This time - the Arabs in Yemen and Egypt and Gaza believed it. And so, though Libya was about murder, the other places are indeed about the intolerance of ideas.

At the end of the day, however, their motives mean little. It isn't about why they murdered - because that would be to justify terrorism - but that, in the name of their religion, once again, good, innocent people have died and others are being attacked.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stages of War

I've done this twice before - but really not. Twice in the 19 years that I have lived in Israel, my country has gone to war. The first was after an infiltration by Hezbollah that captured two soldiers - and a massive missile barrage on the north that endangered the lives of over one million Israelis. The war was in the north, far from my home and while I agonized for all of those in the north, there was never a moment when my life or my home was in danger.

There were four days in which I could not breathe, four days in which I lived with the terror of those up north. Amira, my oldest, had decided to volunteer in Tsfat (Safed, in English). She would play with children and help families, often restricted to bomb shelters. Play with them, distract them, whatever it took to get through the day. It's an aside to what I wanted to write - but then again, that's my norm. So here's a little side story.
A relative didn't think Amira should go into the war zone, even to help. She said that it was too dangerous. Rockets were falling all over and she had a point but there is something inside of me that needs to give my children the freedom to be who they are and this need to help others is so much of what Amira is. Then, this relative invoked Jewish law, saying that one is not allowed to do something that would endanger one's life. This is true...and so I did what most Orthodox Jews do - I asked. Boy, did I ask. I called the Chief Rabbi of Maale Adumim and explained my problem. 
"Is she going on vacation? Of course, she can go! What a wonderful thing she does." But, he warned me, "I can't promise she will be okay. I can't tell her to go. But if she goes, tell her she goes with the blessing of a Kohen." To this day, my eyes fill with tears when I think of those precious words. A Kohen is a direct descendant of Aaron, the High Priest of Israel. His blessing meant so much to me. I held on to that for all the time that she was there. 
There were massive attacks in the north daily - including on Tsfat. There was a direct missile attack on Tsfat on the Sunday morning that Amira left. That didn't stop her. She agreed to my pleas to call me often, especially if something happened. She was there by mid-afternoon and stayed that night, the next day and the next. Finally, on Wednesday, she left that northern city and came home. As had happened while she was heading to Tsfat, a missile hit the city after she had boarded the bus and begun her journey home. But for the entire time she was there, nothing had hit - this was an amazingly long period of time for a city that had been hit practically every day and often more than once. Without doubt, I have always recognized this lull in attacks as the blessing of a Kohen.

The second war that occurred while I was living here was the Cast Lead Operation - what I often call the Gaza War. Again, it was not my life or my home that was endanger, but my son was on the front lines and it was a period of my life I will never forget, ever. There was no Kohen who blessed Elie as personally as this Chief Rabbi blessed Amira, but I know that there were blessings said every day - for Elie and for all the soldiers.

The stages of war include:

Rhetoric - that buildup of threats and words that backs nations into corners. And during the rhetoric stage there are threats and sometimes more.

Preparation - at some point, the tide that this rhetoric brings to our land becomes overwhelming and you know, deep down, that war is really coming. This starts the stage of preparation - mentally and physically. We had this when we knew the US was going into Iraq and Israel was a likely target. I don't consider that a war I have lived through because other than tension and worry, there were, thankfully, no missiles, no physical damage to contend with. In the north, in the south - preparation was real, as was the war that came after it.

Explosion - that first moment when the planes fly, the soldiers march, the tanks move. In Lebanon, it came swiftly; in Gaza it was a buildup that happened over days...weeks if you count the incessant rocket attacks that preceded Israel finally making its move.

I think we are somewhere between the rhetoric and the preparation stage in this "conflict" with Iran. We are passed the rhetoric and threats stage, into the belief that the tide is building. We are not really in the preparation stage - we in this case being the people of Israel. The army has long since been in the preparation stage. They know what they have to do; they know if they have a reasonable chance of doing it. The Prime Minister knows, as does the Secretary of Defense (the general, not the politician), as does the Chief of Staff and others in the army.

When we enter the real preparation stage, the Home Front will begin making it clear what we should do, what we should have on hand. A news website has already listed the things that we should have at home. The Home Front has not commanded this yet and I'm not ready to go out and stock up on water and tuna and other essentials but the thought has been planted.

If this war is to come, there is so much unknown. I don't know if my home, my family will be in danger. Certainly, large portions of Israel will be. I don't know if two of my sons will be called into the Reserves, though so many of our other sons will be. I can't start this thought now because it will cripple me.

If I stop to imagine a massive barrage of missiles hitting Israel, I can bring myself to panic. Not because of the missiles themselves - I want to believe our bomb shelters are strong enough to withstand them. But truthfully, it is the moments before the bomb shelter that terrify me more. The stage between preparation and explosion.

How will I gather my children to me fast enough? Three are married. They are adults - not to be gathered as one gathers small children and yet I have this urge inside of me to do just that. I have to force myself to be logical...I do.

Amira's bedroom is a converted bomb shelter - she and her small family would likely stay there comfortably - even with Haim's family sharing the space. Shmulik would come upstairs to our bomb shelter or go to his in-laws; I hope Elie will come fast to our house with Lauren - I've already mentioned it to them. Davidi goes to school in Jerusalem - will we have enough warning to get him home? The schools will have bomb shelters but his gas mask is home still and how will I know that he is okay? Where will Aliza be?

If it happens at night, she'll be home with me. I hold on to that thought. If you go much further, that is the path to madness, to crippling fear and so I stop. I breathe deeply and I look outside to the sunshine. The trees sway in the gentle breeze. Cars drive past; honk as they go. A truck stops to unload and the traffic cop argues with him - it's all normal. It's all natural. It's beautiful in Jerusalem today, still very hot but with the barest of hints that the summer heat is beginning to relent. The holidays are coming - family time, meals together, no work.

One inevitable fact I have learned after almost 20 years here is that tomorrow will come, as planned, as designed, no matter what I do. This war with Iran will come - or not - depending on forces greater than I can ever affect. What will be is what is intended to be - that is the cornerstone of faith.

And so, I'll put away my fears and worry about the stages of war for later. Maybe I'll buy a six-pack of water - but if I do, I'll tell myself to believe that it is for the holidays and not for war; for pleasure and not for fear.

And I'll get through today and tomorrow and the I got through every day of five years being a soldier's mother. It is what we do here in Israel - we get through. We live. We choose life as no other people in the world ever does because we have tasted death and we know where our enemies will take us.

I'll write this document; I'll attend that meeting. I'll go home and throw in a load of laundry, plan the meals and the guests for the coming weekend. I'll change the sheets in the room where my parents will sleep and I will know that all around us - in the north and in the south, from the top of Israel to the southern most tip - we are protected. By our sons, by our army - and most of all, by God above.

Never does the Guardian of Israel slumber; never for a moment does He turn His eyes away. There are stages to all things - to live, to war, to this day and the next. May God forever know the love and gratitude of His people as we know His protection.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Red Lines for Iran and Israel

This is going to be my shortest post ever - but it says so much. I wish sincerely, that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton would listen. I wish the UN would listen, the European Union, and so many others. A simple statement by our prime minister - so simple, so accurate:

PM Netanyahu: Those in the international community who refuse to set a red line for Iran have no moral right to set one for Israel.

Yes, absolutely.

Where were you on 9/11?

Another post on Times of Israel that I just made - again, I wish my agreement would allow me to reproduce it in full, but part is here and you'll need to follow the link for the rest...with apologies....

It’s the question of a generation, I think. In my parent’s generation, it was where were you when John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas. Everyone remembered; everyone knew. Now, it is where were you on 9/11. We had just moved to Maale Adumim a few months before. The children had come home from school and had turned the television on (for some reason, I feel I have to explain that I no longer have a television, but back then, we did).

They called me, or perhaps I saw the news bulletin. I don’t remember. It was just moments after the first tower had been hit, before the Pentagon, before the second tower. In that split second, I knew it had been a terror attack and I was amazed to hear the broadcasters wondering. “How can you wonder about that?” I remember thinking. “How can you possibly doubt it?”

It seemed like minutes later when they announced the hit on the Pentagon and then watched live as the second plane hit. Gone was the hesitation, the confusion. It was now clear to all that this was a terror attack in the United States.

To read the rest, please click here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Have you ever actually liked a politician?

As a person, I mean?

One of our major politicians reminds me of a weasel (and not in a good way). I don't really trust several others. I think one national leader is charismatic but not sincere and I think most have egos that rival the size of Texas...which might work in the US, but definitely not here. When I have met politicians, I usually felt that they had the feeling they were coming down to my world - a sad but necessary reality if you live in a democracy, they make it clear. Once in a while, you have to meet the people. Probably the only thing worse than a politician, is a celebrity!

So, I was pleasantly surprised when I went last week to a "political" meeting to meet two relative celebrities who have decided to run for the Knesset. I'd seen them once before from a distance that cannot be measured in meters but rather in concept.

Friends pulled us along to a creative and witty show - Tuesday Night Live. We got seats up in the balcony – miles from the stage. We could see the people but large screens helped us see the faces. Broadcast globally but hosted here in Jerusalem, Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel are entertaining and dynamic, and more. They are smart - and know their audience - both here in Israel and abroad. Celebrities, I thought – but hey, I laughed and clapped and enjoyed it so it was an evening well spent with friends. Pizza and diet coke made it perfect and that was that. Maybe I'd try to catch them again if I found the time…I never did.

But the memory of that one evening remained with me. There were two things I noticed and appreciated. The first was that as they spoke - they automatically translated any Hebrew word into English. This was out of consideration to foreign audiences. Others might have given up on the Hebrew completely – but they didn't. It was important to let others hear the Hebrew but consideration and wanting to make sure they were understood meant spending that extra few seconds translating. They were naturals, that was clear. They were funny and lively...but most of all, what touched me as they interviewed the mother of a fallen soldier - was that they were sensitive too. They let her talk; let her tell the story of her son. The ego of so many celebrities and politicians just wasn't there. It really wasn't about THEM, it was about the message they wanted to send out from Jerusalem and we were all part of that message.

I got an invitation as a blogger to go meet them. They had set up an evening for bloggers, treated us like royalty with front row seats and the first chance to ask questions. So I went, wanting to see if these were truly the same people I had liked from afar and what these celebrities were doing wanting to move into politics. The first thing that struck me was a comment they made as they each explained where they were going. More important than getting into the Knesset, they told the audience, was getting their message across. But it was not said in a politician's voice meant to fool you into thinking they are humble – they came across as people who wanted to make a difference in this country.

And what is their message? It's time for a change in Israel - but not the same change that is promised every election year and then forgotten. Jeremy and Ari have a plan. They have a plan for implementation; they have not just ideas but directions and they detailed what they plan to bring to Israel, their party, and the country:

Accountability - Jeremy and Ari plan to report back to their constituents - and there's a concept that is foreign for most Israeli parties. I was a member of the Likud for more than a decade and never felt I was a constituent. The opposite, actually. Each time there should have been primaries allowing me to vote, there was a tremendous effort, often successful, to block the vote of the membership. Those in control didn't want to give people a chance to really tell them how we felt. I was nothing to them - until they needed to roll me out to vote and then I was tucked back into a corner and ignored. More than once, they "stole" my vote to implement policies that were in direct contradiction to the ones they used to get our votes!

Transparency - Jeremy and Ari plan to let us know what they do, why, when, where. They'll tell us what they vote for and what they vote against. There won't be any of these backdoor, under the table agreements and that too is revolutionary in Israel.

Accessibility – And they'll make themselves available to the people – but really. Within two weeks of my trying to reach them - they promise someone will get back to me. They gave me their phone number - not just me - everyone. It's on their posters! I wouldn't have a clue how to speak to Netanyahu and the few times I was in the same room with him, he was whisked in while we were told to remain seated. He spoke while we were encouraged to clap; and then he left, while we were again told to remain seated. I want to reach my leaders; I want to tell them what I'm afraid of, what I need, what I want. Accessibility…wow.

Empowerment - Jeremy and Ari plan to empower their party members - especially those of us who were born in Anglo countries. We accept, too often, the way things are and don't realize we can fight for our rights; we're entitled...and there's a concept...we're entitled to an explanation and they want to help us get it. And more, as English speakers, they have a unique commitment to make government available – in English. Dial 1 for Hebrew, 2 for Russian, and 3 for Arabic – and they want to add Dial 4 for English.

Another huge difference is that most politicians speak in the negative - they'll tell you all that is wrong with the current government and eventually, hopefully, and usually with not much detail, they'll tell you what they hope to fix. By contrast, Jeremy and Ari seem particularly confused by one simple thing - how is it possible that every Israeli doesn't know and believe that this is absolutely the only place, the best place to live in the entire world?

They are enthusiastic about Israel, the land, the people, the future. Both have served in combat units, both have fought for this land. I really hope they will have a chance again to fight - this time in the political arena. The work they could do there could easily be as important as what they did years ago in the army and what they have done in the years since.

They bring excitement, vitality and determination to a jaded world filled with political favors and corruption. I like them. I can talk about politics and positions, theories and promises - but I can't remember the last time I actually liked someone I voted for...I like them!

Sh! It's a Secret...

I'm always entertained when I read a the news. Recent headlines were full of secrets and yesterday I got an email that just made me have to write. Rumors are flying; regular activity is being taken to mean anything and everything.

Recent secret headlines:
  • America’s second-highest ranking army officer on secret visit to Israel for Iran security talks - Secret every one of Israel's major newspapers and news sites? Secret? 
  • Israeli strike on Iran not likely - that's according to the Turkish Prime Minister  - ok, who's been feeding him secrets? 
  • Netanyahu canceled a Security Cabinet meeting due to leaks...what leaks? Who needs leaks when you have all this free advice on the Internet?
  • US urges Iraq to inspect Iran supply flights to Syria - now who's bright idea is that? Are we seriously going to trust Iraq to check Iranian flights? 
  • The IDF has deployed the Iron Dome anti-missile system around Tel Aviv - okay...
  • And Likud-then-Kadima-now-Likud-Again Knesset Member Tzachi HaNegbi says the next 50 days are the most fateful since the Yom Kippur War - which means he has absolutely no connections with the government and hasn't a clue what is happening, and wants to feel important.
Are you wondering if there will be signs before Israel attacks Iran? It's a secret but here, I'll write it here anyway. Sure there will be signs - and there will be things that aren't signs that people will take as signs.

Here are signs that probably have no significance but since people need some, I'll add a few:
  • The price of toilet paper will go higher.
  • The price of bottled water will be lowered and people will be told they should buy some - in fact, major stores will offer a 2 for 1 sale. They'll say it is in honor of the upcoming holidays, but I'm sure it's because of Iran.
  • Everyone will get an SMS (secretly) telling them to fill their cars with gas and point them to the west.
  • The Iron Dome will be deployed around Yokneam - as soon as we can find that small city in the north...I know it was up Route 70 or something....  
  • Bill Clinton will announce that he has decided to go into the car sales profession and is moving to the capital of Israel - the united city of Jerusalem for this endeavor.
  • The IDF website will publish a web page with detailed instructions for how to insulate and seal off your Sukkah so that in case the attack comes during the holidays, we can still sit and enjoy our week in the huts we build.
  • Bibi Netanyahu will instruct the IDF Spokesperson to open up a new Twitter account to launch his "Sh! It's a Secret" campaign to avoid more leaks. He'll call it @SHITSASECRET and then realize that's not a good idea and change it to @IDFinIran (taken from the @IDFinHait success).
  • The Israel Air Force will want to have its own Twitter feed - this will be @IDFoverIran
  • Ehud Barak, not to be outdone, will open up a Twitter account as well  - @Ihaveabigmouth
  • Schools will be told that they have to continue to act as if Israelis are sending their children to school - so all schools have been granted an additional budget of 250 NIS to put timers on all the lights. Special auto-flush devices are to be installed on at least two toilets as well.
  • Although the tank division is not likely to be involved in a war with Iran, they've been instructed to park their tanks in various places and make a lot of noise at least twice a week. This way, when the actual attack comes, the Iranians will think it is those crazy tank drivers again.
  • The national Israeli winter snack - Crembo - has been ordered to speed up production and get supplies into the stores as fast as possible. (Warning: I saw them this week!)
  • The health ministry will announce everyone over the age of 25 should drink lots of green tea and take an aspirin a day.
  • The army will start bringing thousands of soldiers to the Western Wall ( they do every year before Rosh Hashana)...but people will still say that it is because of Iran.
  • A sure sign of an impending attack will the birth of 7 sets of twins and 1 set of triplets - this will probably happen in Haifa...oh did...uh oh....
I hope I haven't missed any sure signs of an attack...if you think of any - please do feel free to share.

In the meantime, let me say that whatever will be, will be. The future is not ours to...wait, that's a song.

Okay, so let me say that part of living in Israel is believing in miracles and having faith that there is a reason why God gave us this land. That's right - He did. And as God is, by definition, all knowing, He knew that one day, we'd be surrounded by 23 Arab nations, including the King Lunatic in Tehran.

Have faith. Believe that God did not return us here to our homeland after 2,000 years to be obliterated. Here is where we belong - here is the sunshine and the land that has always been ours and always will be. From Metulla to Eilat; from the sea to the river - may God bless Israel - yeah, including the politicians who can't keep their mouths shut...and the very few of our sons who at this moment probably know the truth of what our plans will be.

If it is to happen - know that we love you, we pray for your safe return and success on your mission. Fly safe; fly true - and take some crembo with you!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rockets, But Not Here...

Yeah, I'm insane keeping up another blog and I want to share what I post on the Times of Israel here too - so here's my latest,

No Rockets in the Settlements

That's right. None.
This morning, two rockets slammed into Israel - perhaps more will have been fired from Gaza into Israel by the time you read this. A rocket hit a house in Netivot, badly damaging the house as well as a neighboring one. The man inside the house, with the grace of God, was not injured. A rocket hit Beersheva and schools in both that city and Ashdod have been closed for the day.
"We claim responsibility for firing two rockets on Friday against the region of Sdot Negev," said the terrorist group that fired the rocket. So, they know where they aimed, where they hit. There was no apology that they meant to hit somewhere else.There is no confusion here. It is not that they were aiming at a military target and missed.
By contrast, here in the "settlements," my children went to school - on time and without fear of where they would need to hide if a siren suddenly went off and they had to go running.
Catch the rest of it here:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Jerusalem on the Democratic Party's Platform?

Take a look at this video...the Democratic Party Platform reads:

Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.

Yup, that's what the Democratic Party platform reads NOW...after the democrats realized they'd messed up and by eliminating support for Jerusalem and Israel from the platform, for the first time ever, they were showing their hands a bit too much. Even the American Jews were protesting this - even the American Jews. And so they set about taking a vote.

How utterly humiliating that in the end, to pass this "amendment" - the speaker had to lie. There was a vote - he didn't get his 2/3 majority voice vote that was required and so he ran the vote again...and finally, he ran the vote a THIRD time. Finally, not getting his results - one has to assume he either was hard of hearing or, much more likely, realized the only way to get Jerusalem back on the platform was to lie.

What an amazing abuse of the concept of democracy - take a vote, and if you don't like it, take it again. And, unbelievably, if you STILL don't like it - go for a third one. Look at the anger and the body language of the democratic delegates. This is the America of Barack Hussein Obama and if Jerusalem was added this time to the platform, I firmly believe it won't be there next time.  More and more, the democratic party is becoming the voice for Arab Americans - Obama speaks their language.

They lost this vote - with God's help, they'll lose the vote in November as well.

Ok, Seriously, Barak, you're an idiot...

Israelis love their soldiers - love their generals. So much so, we sometimes elevate them to a higher-than-they-can-handle position. Such it is with Ehud Barak.

I won't go into all the details of why I have little respect for Ehud Barak; I won't mention all the stupid, insensitive, self-serving things he's said and done. I won't...really.

But today, in greeting the US Army's vice chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James Winnefeld, who arrived in full military uniform, Barak said "Wow, I can’t believe you came here with your uniform."

Couldn't the Secretary of Defense of the State of Israel think of anything more clever to say?


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Oy Vay, What Have I Done?

Yup...I can't believe I don't have enough to do? Seriously?

I started a blog. Another one, yes. Why? Well, it needs to be written. Sure, someone else can do it. But, it's done. I clicked Publish. Finished. I am going to do this. I'm going to explain - where it belongs, not here, but there.

So here it is, the blog I shouldn't have to write...but I will...
A Settler’s Blog: Introduction
If I were to tell you that as a Jew, I am not well understood by much of the world, I can also tell you that as a settler, I am an enigma even to many of my own people, even to many Israelis. The very day I came to Israel, more than 19 years ago, I became a settler – I moved to a beautiful village that was 3 kilometers to the east of a mythical line. Had I moved just 4 kilometers to the west, this blog would not exist. 
But more, the life I have led for the last 19 years, the friends I have made, and the homes I have built, would not exist either. For the first 8 years, I lived in a small village perched on the side of one high hill, down across a dry river bed, and up the side of the next hill. There was a country club with a large pool for adults and older children and a shallow pool for the younger kids. There were three synagogues, a mini-market, a pizza shop, a bookstore, and even, for a while, a hair cutter. 
When I first moved to Israel in 1993...
Wanna read the rest? Guess you have to go to: A Settler’s Blog: Introduction

Sunday, September 2, 2012

History Does Repeat Itself

A few weeks ago, a court in Germany ruled against performing circumcisions. I wrote then that it was time for Jews to leave Germany. Last week, a rabbi was beaten by four Arabs. The beating was done in front of his 6-year-old daughter. Today, a rabbinic seminary told its students not to wear kippot (also known as a skullcap) in public. Yes, this call was rejected by others, but the fact that an organization felt it was necessary is extremely troubling.

Personally, I feel that this was a stupid announcement by the seminary. The announcement should have been that their students should go home and pack. The next plane to Israel would be leaving at whatever time planes leave Germany, and they recommend everyone be on it. I know it sounds extreme - even shocking. Good. I'm glad but I do not believe that Jews belong in Germany. It is time for the community to leave.

Now, before it is too late. Now, before anti-Semitism is justified, main-streamed, rationalized. You don't believe it could happen again? But you were wrong before, weren't you? Weren't we all? Then, we had an excuse. It was inconceivable that someone would round up Jews, put them in a ghetto, transport them by train, and then gas them to death by the millions. Then it was inconceivable - now is it not.

That is the eternal present that the Germans gave to the world and to the Jews. Yes, it was the Nazis - but don't you dare attempt to cleanse what they did by calling them Nazis and not Germans. Germans are what they were; Nazism is what they believed. They were not German Nazis - as if there were other Nazis in the world; they were Nazi Germans - because not all Germans were Nazis.

It is semantics, perhaps a play on words - it is also my legacy and that of my children. When I was in Poland, I met several Jews living there and each time I asked, "Why? Why do you live here?"

I have the same question for every Jew living in Germany today. Why are you there? How can you remain there? In Poland, they told me how hard it was to leave the land where they had been born, ignoring the fact that it was also the land in which their parents and grandparents had been murdered. Enough. I'm sorry.

When a Jew cannot live in peace; when a Jew cannot wear a kippah or circumcise his or her son according to Jewish law, it is time for the community to close down. Someone contacted me from Germany to tell me that hundreds today appeared in the streets walking with kippot as a sign of unity. That's a wonderful gesture. It really is...but my first thought was a question - why weren't there thousands?

Why didn't Germany itself stand up and scream against this horror. A Jew, a man in his 50s was beaten only because he was Jewish. They threatened to kill his 6-year-old daughter. Enough. They told him “I’ll f*** your daughter... your wife and I’ll f***... your God.” Enough. Someone said there was a flash mob in support of the Jews, showing people putting on a kippah.

That's all well and good. But, the bottom line for me remains - we cannot wait any longer to see if gas chambers and ghettos will follow. Been there, done that. Just no. The only answer is a one-way trip to the airport.

 Now, before history repeats itself.

Haveil Havalim #375

Havel Havelim is the most veteran of the jblogger carnivals and probably one of the longest running blog carnivals there is. Blog carnivals are like "floating" internet magazines. They float from blog to blog, like "floating crap games," l'havdil.
Havel Havelim, the international jblog carnival, was established by Soccer Dad. The term “Haveil Havelim” is from Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, which was written by King Solomon, who built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other “excesses” and finally realized that it was nothing butnorishkeit, “havel” or in English “vanities.” I think that King Solomon and his father King David were the original "bloggers." The books they wrote, when you take them chapter by chapter, can easily be described as blog posts.
I have to say, I'm overwhelmed with posts - not just the quantity, but the quality. When you host Haveil Havalim, you are often challenged to go outside your own opinions to present others. On the one hand, we are free to accept or refuse any post - on the other hand, we want to share a spectrum of opinions and voices. I found this a particular challenge this week as I thought that some of the posts may not be politically correct and yet offered a slice of the very Jewish blogging world we claim to be presenting. How can you make that claim and the filter out someone's voice because they might write words you would not write, thoughts you don't necessarily think? They are all so clear, so important - please take the time to read each'll be better for it. I know I am!

So - here's this week's Haveil Havalim - a roundup of posts from the Jewish blogsphere:

Let's Talk about Israel...

In Israel at Ground Level, Dave republishes his Southern Israel: life in bomb shelters with revolving doors. Written several months ago, it is sadly still so relevant as Israeli children returned to school last week - again under rocket fire.

In Exiled Warrior, a soldier (Ruti's son!) tells about life with an uninvited guest and says it's the best argument ever for why we need cats in Israel. I don't want to give too much away, but I will tell you that it has to do with an evil brown mouse!

Wanna know what life is like in Israel, well - here's one post that may help you understand. In Bat Aliyah, Rivkah writes It's Complicated - and it is. I've thought these thoughts so many times; I love reading someone else's explanation and opinion.

As with Dave's post, Arnold and Frimet Roth were clearly thinking of the endless rocket fire from Gaza and the fact that once again, Israeli children were returning to school under attack. In This Ongoing War, they posed the same rhetorical question many Israelis were asking themselves. First day of the week, and a school day. How surprising that there's a rocket attack on southern Israel at 7 am?

Treppenwitz also posted about the First Day of School and what it's like to have the Prime Minister come to school!
Esser Agarot offered two challenging posts this week, perhaps even controversial. The first was titled There Are (At Least) Two Religious Zionist Camps, Not One - I think some people are going to disagree and that is your right, but still, a post worth reading. The second one is about the Sudanese refugees who have been coming to Israel for a long time. In Where Are All The Sudanese Infiltrators Coming From? Esser Agarot offers some interesting thoughts and background.

If you are hungry, don't read any further - it will just make you jealous. But if you have already eaten, in What We Ate on Our Hike in Nachal Shiloh, Batya takes you along for a family picnic in the Biblical and fertile land of Israel.

In Ki Yachol Nuchal, Ruti offers Hebrew Lessons in Cyberspace, a collection of several online resources for learning Hebrew, for the oleh chadash who means to get out of his chair in front of the computer, but just can't quite get to ulpan class.

In light of the Israeli court's recent decision that Rachel Corrie's parents had NO basis for a lawsuit, The Muqata posted The Forgotten Rachels - a very special video about the Rachels of Israel who WERE innocent, who did not seek out martyrdom or glory, who simply wanted to live and were denied this right.

In Real Jerusalem Streets, Sharon shows off Jerusalem as August Ends as 2 million Israeli children go back to school.

And debuting in Haveil Havalim is my son, Elie's wife - Lauren and her blog post, Honey, uh, did you get my gas mask? 

Let's Talk about Judaism...

In Enough Already About These So-Called "Rabbis!", Esser Agarot discusses how President Obama's re-election campaign has announced the launch of "Rabbis for Obama" - and what the term "Rabbi" means (and doesn't mean).

In Jewish Journal's post on What Do You Want to Know About Synagogues? Susan Barnes tells of opening a recent edition of the Reform Jewish magazine expecting to find an intelligent discussion of what is important in a synagogue and instead found a list of completely useless trivia questions. And so, she sets about writing the quiz that she feel should have been there. And then gives her answers as well.

In Think Judaism, Yitzchak asks the question Is It Possible to Keep the Mitzvot Without Believing? which offers a translation of a correspondence between Yeshayahu Leibowitz and someone who practices but does not believe.

Let's Talk about Life and the People We Love

In Raising Asperger's Kids, Elise posts a beautiful tribute to her father, Richard Krieger, who died last week at age 78. He led an amazing life, dedicated to helping others. He helped plan and organize the airlift of Ethiopian Jews our of Sudan; he wrote the original proposal for the US Holocaust Museum. He was one of the first to work towards obtaining the release of Jews from the Soviet Union. The list of his accomplishments is long and so impressive. And after sharing her father's history, she concludes,
My father lived his life to help others. To make this a better world. The Torah says that God does not destroy the Earth because he can always find a sufficient number of the righteous among us. I have never thought that to be righteous meant that you pray all the time or study Torah all the time. I have never thought that to be righteous means you are perfect all the time. How can we be? Afterall we are all human....So no, I do not think my father was perfect by any means...But to be righteous is to do what you can to save the world.....My father was one such righteous man.
Over the last few weeks, Ruth - known as Ricki's Mom - has been sharing pictures and stories about Ricki on her blog, Beneath the Wings. Ricki recently passed away, leaving a much sadder world behind her. The pictures show a special girl, as she grew and despite her Downs Syndrome, there can be no doubt that Ricki filled her family and world with love. In The Photo, Ruth posts a beautiful picture and poem in Ricki's memory. And in The Pendants, she writes of how she and Ricki made ceramic pendants that will be given soon, on Ricki's shloshim, to her nieces.

Let's Talk about Upcoming Events:

Batya shares with us information on Tefilat Chana, an evening of prayer, slichot and song at Ancient Shiloh. It will take place September 12. I hope I can go...and hope to see many of you there! Free admission - and there will be organized buses. Click the link and learn more!

And besides all that...

In Miriam's Words, Miriam writes that six of her grandchildren decided to have a cooking contest. The long awaited results have finally been announced in The Cook-off - A Wonderful Lesson in Cooperation


Stay tuned for next week's Haveil Havalim and thanks for joining me on this trip around the Jewish world of blogging.

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