Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Blood of An American Hero

I keep hearing the words of Charles Woods as he speaks of his son Tyrone. Tyrone was a Navy SEAL - who did what Navy SEALS have been doing for as long as they have existed - he went to the aid of his fellow Americans. For 7 hours, he fought terrorists. He and Glen Doherty managed to hold them off, managed to kill 60 of them, according to some reports. And in all that time, no Americans arrived to help them, to save them. No one came to their aid despite repeated requests, despite available assets.

During a recent interview, Charles Woods said:
They watched my son die. As far as I'm concerned, there are people, in the White House, whoever it was that was in that room, watching that video of my son dying, their cries for help, their order 'don't help them at all, let them die,' whoever that might be, it might be numerous people, you have the blood of my son, you have the blood of an American hero on your hands. I don't know who you are, but one of these days the truth will come out. I still forgive you, but you need to stand up.  
I don't want to point any fingers, but obviously, people in the White House were watching this happen. Real time. They – someone in the White House, or many people in the White House, watched the events unfolding, and knew that if they gave the order to stand down, that my son would die. They watched my son die.
"They watched my son die." Those words haunt me. I cannot imagine the pain this father feels - not only having lost his son, but having been betrayed by his government. President Barack Hussein Obama is the Commander-in-Chief - even if he did not give the order to leave these heroes behind...and I believe he did give that order - but even if he did not, the one thing we agree on is that this was his responsibility. It is his hands that carry the blood of these men.

Elie told me the story of one of his commanding officers. While the officer was off-base, at meetings or whatever, there was a training exercise and a nagmash (an APC) turned over and a commander was killed. There was another officer, of lower rank in charge of the exercise but Elie's commanding officer was the commander above that officer and so he took responsibility; he took the demotion; he took the punishment.

His advancement in the army was delayed for several years because ultimately, he felt that what happened under his command, was his to answer for. There was never a question that it was a tragic accident; there was no order that could have been given to save the soldier who died and certainly there was nothing anyone nearby could have done to prevent it from happening. You train and you train hard because in war, you'll have to scale those hills and drive over rough terrain. That time, it went wrong.

What happened in Libya was not a training exercise and according to several reports, there was aid that could have been sent in - drones filming it, ships within range. It was not an accident but an attack. And unlike Elie's commanding officer, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces did leave a man behind, two good men, in fact...and even four if you count the diplomats.

They watched his son die - and for the rest of his life, that image, that reality, that horrible truth will forever be his reality. The blood of American heroes cries out to all who will listen. Responsibility must be taken - and it starts at the very highest address in Washington down to the sewers and  streets of Benghazi because no parent should ever have to say those horrible words ever again.

A Day in Southern Israel

Sometimes pictures really are better than words...

Morning Birds

I got up extra early this morning to beat the traffic and go to a client's site up north. It was a bit after dawn, not quite full light yet but the sun was probably just below the horizon. I love that time of the day - it is filled with all the wonders, all the promises of the day to come. I don't know when I stopped being a night person but I'd as soon go to sleep as do anything else as the evening rolls past.

So I walked out of my house to the silence that is characteristic of early mornings and heard...well, nothing for a second. And then, I heard the birds. Overshadowed by the noise humans make, this is the hour of the birds. They were chattering away in the trees, just taking to the skies to greet the new day.

As I left the city, the sun was just beginning to shine on the Jerusalem stone of the buildings, making them golden. We don't listen to the birds enough, I think.

In Israel, the birds are different - no, that's silly, of course they aren't different. But there is this amazing thing that happens each time I see the dawn and hear the birds - I think that if there is peace, this is it. Peace can happen between peoples, between nations - but sometimes it doesn't. Despite all your greatest intentions and your largest sacrifices, sometimes the peace you have to settle for is the peace of the birds.

Let their chatter fill your ears, your heart, your mind. It can be enough - that peace of the birds. It can. It's that feeling that the world is okay, even good; that today will be okay; that your children are safe and asleep and at peace.

I don't always have the time to listen to the birds and too often my day starts after the birds have been intimidated by the noise humans make. But if you listen, they will tell you that sometimes peace in your heart can replace the peace between nations that can be so elusive.

Monday, October 29, 2012

On This Day...

Ever have a day going along just fine until something comes and floors you? I wasn't feeling well last night and thought of skipping work...but I had to do this, I had to do I came in saying that maybe I'll crash tomorrow.

The morning started sluggish, but I hit my stride over an hour ago and I'm chugging along happily cleaning things off my desk. I'm trying to watch what is happening with the massive hurricane hitting the US; I'm trying to switch windows, worrying about whether Gaza has decided to fire another rocket at Israel. And then, I saw this message on Twitter and I just stopped and took a deep breath.

They probably all died - those 2,000 elderly and sick Jews who were deported to Auschwitz. I clicked the link - there is a picture there, of the Jews being loaded on to trains for the trip to their deaths. The sun seems just a little bit less bright; my heart hurts just a little bit.

My eyes are stinging. My brain, ever the smart one is telling the rest of me to get back to work. There are things I have to deliver, a website I have to build, a document I have to edit. It's close to the end of the month and there's accounting coming up soon. 

It's hard to get back to work without thinking about this little tweet. Two thousand people...two thousand Jews. On this day...on this day...

The Russian and the Charmer

It's funny in a way how Israelis think of our leaders. As a young man, Bibi Netanyahu was thought of as a lady's man, a charmer. He's an excellent speaker, motivated, intimate. He gives you this feeling he is talking to you - and he can do it to a room of 20 people, 100 people, 1,000 people. As he did at the United Nations recently, he is a man that speaks from the hearts of many Israelis and you almost forget that it is his gift, to speak, to charm, to touch. The man is in his 60s; he's a grandfather, and still there is this element of charm about him.

Avigdor Leiberman moved to Israel in 1978. That's 35 years ago - and still he is thought of as the Russian - more, he thinks of himself that way. His outlook on life is very much Russian and that's how he runs his political party and his position as Foreign Minister. He is outspoken to say the least, even, at times, a bit of an embarrassment because his concept of diplomacy involves a sledge hammer. Democracy is a concept to him; security a reality.

Both men are, above all else, pragmatic. They will defy logic and critics to shake up the political spectrum. Bibi has done it several times. A few months ago, polls guaranteed him a sure win if he called early elections. The announcements were made; dates were discussed and then, in the dead of night, he made a deal to unite with Kadima. No surprise to anyone, that deal fell apart rather quickly and Israel is once again on the path to elections.

And then another shocker - rather than make a post-election deal to have Yisrael Beitenu (Lieberman's party) join a coalition, the two men announced a joint ticket where the parties would run together. Israel was in an uproar - they had most definitely outmaneuvered the left. They had, to a degree, surprised the right wing as well.

As part of that agreement, Netanyahu announced that Lieberman might even become Secretary of Defense. I did a quick Google search and found that Lieberman had indeed done army service. I smiled when I saw he had been in Artillery, as Elie was. Lieberman finished as a "Corporal" according to Google. That would make him, I think, a רב טוראי. By contrast, Elie finished the army two ranks above as a First Sergeant.

What qualifications could Lieberman have to be Secretary of Defense? I asked Elie and his answer surprised me. I had considered the possibility of this man filling this position a joke - Elie was not nearly as pessimistic or surprised.

It was an analysis that I find myself agreeing with. No one thinks Lieberman is stupid - far from it. What he is, is loud and decisive. He doesn't care about diplomacy - he is most assuredly strong-willed. "If he threatens Iran," Elie said, "the world is going to believe he's crazy enough to follow through."

While the world might doubt someone else, they will believe that an Israeli army under Lieberman would be not only ready and able, but willing and even anxious to attack. That alone might really spur the world to stop Iran. And, added Elie, Bibi knows this.

Though I won't vote for them - perhaps Bibi is right. He will, barring some major stupid action on his part, win the upcoming election. By taking in Lieberman, he has sent a strong message to the left parties - they will have no place in the upcoming coalition. Not only will they remain in the opposition, they will be further weakened as Israelis, in reaction to many world events, turns just that much further to the right.

The left wing will not join a government in which Lieberman serves. He once said, "The peace process is based on three false basic assumptions; that Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main cause of instability in the Middle East, that the conflict is territorial and not ideological, and that the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders will end the conflict." The first of those has been proven again and again in the last year (Arab Spring). On the second and third point, it is something Israelis for the most part have accepted for a long time - but the world (media, Obama, etc.) still fail to understand.

But I liked Elie's interpretation, liked even better his analysis. Avidgor Lieberman is seen as the big ferocious,  Russian bear - let the world be afraid. Let them think that Avigdor Lieberman is a warmongering right wing fanatic that will lead us to war. Let them think it because in their fear, the nations of the world may react, they may stop a madman from carrying out his threat.

And, if they don't stop him, if Israel will have to act to protect its citizens, perhaps the Russian and the Charmer make a good combination. Certainly better than anything Kadima, Labor, etc. has to offer. So, yalla - on to the elections.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Romney or Obama

A friend posted this to Facebook - why she is voting for Obama and a wish for her moderate Republican friends...and below, I post my response, my wish for my Democrat friends and those misguided enough to vote for Obama (even without the issue of what he did and did not do in Libya):

And my response:

The lives of my sons and daughters, my neighbors and friends, mean more to me than some imagined attack that Romney may or may not make on gay marriage; some imagined attack he may or may not make on Roe vs. Wade. If Romney is all you fear, in four years, you can vote him out. Their lives mean more to me than if in Romney's administration women continue not to receive equal pay for equal work - just as they currently do not receive it in Obama's administration.

Four years from now, you can overturn all that Romney may or may not do. You can't return the lives of my sons. You can't recreate the Israel destroyed by Obama's policies. If you vote for Obama - you are still complicit in all actions against Israel and Jerusalem he will take. You are still perpetuating his anti-Israel legislation and cultural anti-Semitism.

If gay marriages are overturned - gay people can still live together in love and in happiness - a piece of paper doesn't make or break a marriage, not between man and woman, not between man and man or woman and woman. Does that piece of paper really mean more than the lives and livelihood of so many others?

If Israel is overturned - the lives of another six million Jews can be obliterated - this time, in seconds rather than years. Your vote will make a difference and if missiles rain down on Israel - each one will be with your hand. You don't get to walk away clean because you say you "disagree" with your candidate Obama on these issues.

A Lesson for Iran

I've been reading about the airstrikes in Sudan. I first read about it as part of a threat from Khartoum, that they reserve the right to strike Israel back. It was, according to the Sudanese, a foregone conclusion that Israel was responsible. My first reaction was a snicker that combined two thoughts simultaneously, "yeah, like they can reach us" and "sheesh, something explodes and they blame us."

I stand by the first response, but retract the second one. The more I read, the more I think it could have been us - that it should have been. There were in fact two attacks - one previously that wiped out a convoy of vehicles loaded with arms for Gaza; and then last week, an arms manufacturing plant owned by Iran.

I find it rather ironic that here the Sudanese are, allowing weapons for terrorists in Gaza and Iran to be manufactured on their land, and they have the nerve to complain when the target of those weapons preemptively strikes and obliterates the factories.

One of the things I love about Elie (whose name will apparently soon be changing to Eli if I can remember to type it that way according to the preferences of the amazingly wonderful young couple...and what is wrong with Elie?...well, never mind...) - so one of the things I love about Elie is his ability to analyze, to keep up to date and digest the information he accumulates. In this case, it is part analysis and part reading the news.

One of the papers Elie read over the weekend showed two maps - a map marking the distance from Israel to Khartoum, and a map showing the distance from Israel to Iran. Significantly, the distance to Khartoum is quite a bit further and so, in this airstrike, Israel is sending another message to Iran.

Oh yes, we can hit you - and we will, if you don't stop. We do not want war. We really truly just want to raise our children and our grandchildren in our land - and oh yes, it is our land. We were ready to share it in 1948 but you Arabs refused it. You turned down the offer of half the land in favor of war and to this day, you haven't understood that you caused the "Middle East conflict" - not us.

Every turn of the earth bears testimony to our history in this land and promises our future. By whatever reckoning you make - history, might, right - this land is ours. It is you who came later, you who have gone to war repeatedly to take it from us instead of choosing to live here in peace.

You can choose peace and life; you can choose war and death. Whatever you choose, we have no choice but to accept your actions and deal with them. This is the lesson for Iran and the lesson for Gaza.

Last week, dozens and dozens of rockets were fired at Israel; people were badly injured, maimed by your violence. Last night more rockets, this morning four GRAD missiles were fired at Beersheva - a beautiful, quiet city in the middle of the Negev desert - where schools are canceled today because we are not willing to risk the lives of our children.

You can choose peace and life - or you will get war and death. That is the lesson Israel delivered last week in Sudan. We can reach you in Gaza; we can reach you in Sudan. We can reach you wherever you are, if the  promises you make are threats against us.

And one more thing - our patience is wearing thin. The rockets will be stopped. Four years ago, when I picked Elie up from the edges of Gaza after he'd fought in the Gaza War, he told me, "Ima, they stopped us too soon." They stopped because Barack Obama had been elected and was coming into office in two days and Israel was feeling the pressure; knowing Obama wanted the focus on him and not a war in the Middle East.

I can only hope four years later, we are smarter. Smarter about Obama, smarter about Gaza, smarter about the Iranians. A lesson for us; a lesson for them.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I hate CNN - I do, I really do

I hate them because they refuse to report the news...why report it when they can make it?

Here's an example...Israel was hit by almost 80 rockets today. How did CNN cover it? Well, for many hours, they just didn't bother at all. And when they finally did....

Yup - I hate CNN.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Saving Lives...Coincidences...

I saw a discussion on Facebook about the concept of coincidence...there are those who say there are no coincidences in life; that all is of a plan. So here's one of those amazing things that happen in stages and when you put them just smile.

I am always amazed by stories of our youth - who are so dedicated to helping others. Davidi has been volunteering regularly for the local ambulance squad here in Maale Adumim - and has taken some shifts in Jerusalem as well. Elie and Lauren sign on together for shifts that run through the night. Early this morning, Elie and I drove in to Jerusalem together. He told me Lauren had taken a call at 6:00. As they realized that they may not be back in time for Elie to go to college for his courses, he stayed behind.

A few days ago, I read a story about a young man who was celebrating his upcoming marriage later this week. He was in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem on Shabbat, receiving the honors that come to a groom the week before his wedding. He had just finished and returned to his seat when his MIRS went off, telling him that his skills as a medic were required.

Without hesitation, he went running outside and found that an elderly man had been hit by a car. The young man, named Aryeh, began treating the man as others came running and an ambulance was called.

A few days ago, Lauren and Elie told me that they are going to a wedding tomorrow night. It's a strange kind of thing - the wedding is taking place in one place; the reception in another. They'll have to jump on a bus, a train, or a cab to get to the second place.

A few minutes ago, we were talking about running off to war in the midst of something; and I remembered the story of the young man. I told Elie about the young man running off to help...and then we started putting the pieces together. Elie was sure it was the same young man - a friend of Lauren's - the groom of the wedding that Elie and Lauren will be attending tomorrow night. I looked up the story and asked Elie the name of the groom - Aryeh...

Here's the wonderful story:

And the sweet part - Aryeh promised his bride that tomorrow afternoon by 3:00 p.m. - he will do something he probably never does - not even on the Shabbat before his wedding in the middle of celebrations   - he will close his MIRS so that their wedding will no be interrupted.

Mazel tov to Aryeh and his bride, to their families - and to all of Israel, that we are so blessed to have the children we have - the Aryehs, the Elies, the Laurens...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Turning Point 6

Every year, Israel similuates a nation-wide emergency...a natural disaster of some sort. Today, day 2 of the exercise, we will simulate an earthquake near a hospital in Ashkelon and a building collapse in Haifa. There has to be some irony in the fact that Ashkelon's hospital is being tested...on a day when five rockets were fired towards the city.

Yesterday, as Elie and I drove home, we discussed the exercise and he told me that a friend of his had explained that recently city officials had come to his parent's house and told them that because the house was built in the 1970s, before so many earthquake regulations had been put in place, the family had to bring in an outside consultant (at their expense) to have the house tested and, as it turned out, strengthened and reinforced.

Israel knows that this is a tough region to be in. As if our neighbors and their hatred were not enough, Israel sits at the crossroads between Africa, Europe and also sits on the Syrian-African fault line. Every 70+ years, there is a major earthquake and we are a good ten years or so overdue (1927, 6.2 on the Richter scale). Several years ago, on a trip to Eilat, my husband and I took a jeep tour into the same mountains that we hiked in this past week (A Canyon So Deep). The guide was amazing, informative, entertaining.

At one point, he took out a map and showed us mountain ranges in Eilat and Syria and how they line up almost exactly. It was amazing to think that the ground had shifted so violently over time that now land that had once been connected was located hundreds of kilometers to the north.

Syria is located at the northern most points of Israel; Eilat is the southern most point. If you travel by foot through the Red Canyon, as we did last week, you'll quickly notice the rock formations...and in a sense, you can imagine the violent motions that pushed the earth up, around, down, and against other rocks. This is the violence that spurs us to practice, to prepare.
We have stringent building codes - we know what is coming. We know it is a matter of time - the earth will not be denied. But we are calmed by these exercises, by these building codes, by the amazing doctors and rescue teams. We watch them in action and we understand. All our lives, we live in the Hands of God. What man can do, he will - the rest comes from Above.

Inviting Tragedies?

There's a superstitious thought that when you invite tragedy, it happily walks through the door. A second, more pragmatic view, is that when you prepare for it, you are better able to cope. Israel takes the second view as today we once again take part in the Turning Point 6 nation-wide exercise preparing us not only for earthquakes, but several other disasters.

According to INN, yesterday's drill included:
The IDF rehearsed an emergency scenario in which an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale takes place in Eilat at 11:00 a.m. and a second, even stronger quake, subsequently hits northern Israel.

According to the scenario, MDA then receives reports of thousands of buildings collapsing throughout Israel, damage to hospitals, power outages and more.

In addition, the drill included a tsunami wave, a school in ruins, a mass casualty situation on Nahariya's train station, a crash landing of a jet plane in Eilat, building collapses at Hebrew University and two prisons, a train wreck and more.

The drill had MDA emergency crews treating 2,600 "casualties" throughout Israel, 1,800 of them in moderate to serious condition.
Over two THOUSAND casualties...take a look at this video - it is, in every sense, a real exercise. Yes, there are subtle differences - the soldiers are not running around - many are standing and watching. In a real tragedy, they would likely all be in movement, trying to help where the could. Another difference, the "wounded" soldier on the stretcher was smiling and talking to the other soldiers as they carry him away. These are the faces that calm us as we watch - let them smile. Let them laugh. Please, let it never be real.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

More Simulations....

They are now simulating not just an earthquake in the north and another earthquake in the south, but also a tidal wave on the coast (west). In short, I have to tell you when my country runs an exercise, they don't hesitate to lay it on thick.

In general, the attitude in the country is relaxed. It's good that we are practicing, good that we are imaging and preparing. Meanwhile, David goes back to school after the weekend; Elie starts college today for Engineering; and Aliza is in school, likely taking part in some sort of exercise.

A helicopter is circling overhead. Why? Who knows...maybe after two earthquakes and a tsunami, they're cooking something up for Jerusalem. I wonder what the radio will play for it...

Laugh or Cry? We Choose to Laugh

Israel has started its week-long emergency drill. It started at 11:00 a.m. with sirens. A few minutes ago, Israel's emergency services sent out a wire, "EXERCISE - EXERCISE - Earthquake in the north. 6.5 on the Richter scale - SIMULATION ONLY." Then, seconds ago, another update, "EXERCISE - EXERCISE - Second earthquake in the south 5.6 on the Richter scale - SIMULATION ONLY."

By the end of the week, we will have "practiced" a death toll of 7,000 people in a tiny country the size of New Jersey. You could laugh or cry...

Israel radio chooses to laugh - they just played, "I feel the earth move under my feet..."

I love this country.

Preparing for...Everything

Two major drills are starting today in the country. One is a joint military drill between US and Israeli forces. There have been others that the Obama administration has canceled. Desperate to give the appearance of being pro-Israel, the Obama administration couldn't get away with canceling this one. The IDF's spokesperson's office explains the drill:
Tomorrow morning (21 October 2012), a combined United States European Command (US EUCOM) and Israel defense forces (IDF) exercise, Austere Challenge 12, will begin. Austere Challenge 12 is the largest aerial defense exercise to take place between the two militaries. 
These exercises are part of a planned training schedule that seeks to increase cooperation interoperability between the militaries. Planning for the exercise began over two years ago and is not a response to specific events in the region. 
During the course of the exercise, EUCOM soldiers will be deployed in a variety of locations, including near civilian areas. Increased military activity may be noted and roads may be closed for short periods of time in order to ensure the safety of civilian vehicles. All EUCOM soldiers will depart Israel following the exercise's conclusion.
The second drill is an internal one for Israelis. It will prepare Israelis and more importantly, our emergency services for a massive earthquake - it will simulate the deaths of 7,000 people. I was talking to Davidi a few weeks ago and he mentioned that every 70-80 years, there is a massive earthquake in Israel...we are, he told me, quite overdue. I kept meaning to mention the drill to Aliza, to prepare her for it. I know the schools will tell them in advance, but I still wanted to say something...with all that's been happening, I forgot. So, she went to school today - hopefully to be told well in advance of the beginning of the exercise. Elie expects to be notified, as he likely would in a real emergency - though he won't have to do anything.

Here's the IDF spokesperson's office explaining this exercise:
Tomorrow, Sunday, October 21, 2012, the national Home Front exercise Turning Point 6 will commence and run until Thursday, October 25, 2012. The Home Front Defense Ministry, the Home Front Command, the National Emergency Management Authority, the regional councils, government ministries, security and rescue organizations, the social services and education system, the health care system as well as public and private bodies will participate in the exercise.

The exercise provides an opportunity to prepare the public and local authorities for an earthquake. This will improve the national readiness and response by examining the cellular alert system, emergency public broadcast, preparing homes for earthquakes, understanding and implementing new directives in an earthquake and coordinating between emergency services.

On Sunday, at 11:00 a.m and 19:00 p.m a one-minute long broadcast will be aired on the major television and radio channels- Channel 10, Channel 2, Channel 1, Channel 23, Channel 9, "Kol Israel," "Galey Zahal" and the regional radio stations. The broadcast will inform citizens that an earthquake is taking place, and will include instructions. These Home Front Command instructions should be followed, as they have proved to be life saving in an emergency.

On the first day of the exercise, the Home Front Command will activate the "Personal Message" system, testing the sending of alerts directly to cellular phones. Therefore, text messages will be received throughout the country at 11:00 am and 19:00 pm.

As part of the exercise education facilities and kindergartens, government offices and public institutions will practice going out of closed buildings. In addition, 250 local authorities will be part of the drill in coordination with the Home Front Commands liaison units to regional authorities. Traffic and vital services (including hospitals) will operate as usual.

The exercise, taking place for the sixth consecutive year, was planned in advance as part of the IDF's 2012 exercise schedule and in coordination with organizations on a national and regional level.
So, sirens, traffic delays, and in the evening, pictures of people lying in the street, as if they had been killed. Israel - preparing for war and's a smart move, even if it does fill my stomach with butterflies.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Canyon So Deep

Okay, I'm being theatrical. It wasn't really that deep but what it lacked in size (if you're thinking Grand Canyon here), it made up for in two major areas...even three.
1. It's close enough for me to get here.
2. It's so beautiful.
3. It's mine, mine, mine.

The Red Canyon is about 20 kilometers north of Eilat. We got there to find ahead of us two groups of young students - one a large group of Arabs; another a smaller group of Jews.
At one point, the Arab group called out to the Jewish group and asked a question; without hesitation, the Jewish group answered and both continued. They were leaving the canyon as we were entering it. It's less than two weeks after a month of holidays.

While Eilat has many people visiting, it is still far less than the very crowded times we've often been here.It's hot, but not too hot - just wonderful. The entire walk through the canyon lasts about an hour - you walk through it, sliding down in some locations, squeezing between rocks in others.

Then, you have a choice - this way back to the parking lot; that way to go deeper into the canyon. The sun was setting and the colors were amazing; as the sun touched the mountains, the red stones deepened and the golden stones glistened.

We turned back to the parking lot because I didn't want to be out there in the dark.

The return path led us up the side of a mountain, at times holding on to handrails along the edges. We walked along the canyon rim, seeing the path we had traversed below us.

As we were about midway, we heard a young Israeli family - a father, mother, and two small children making their way far below us. At the area where there are handrails to slide down, the father took one of the children on his back; then reached to take the second.
We continued back...all along loving the colors of the mountains, the shapes of the rocks. At one point, in the distance - far beyond the point that my Blackberry phone could capture them, we saw deer (ibeks) walking the rims.

Mine, mine, mine, I kept thinking. Mine. So beautiful. Next I'll write about the road to get there but here, I'll put up some of the pictures because there truly are times when pictures need to do the talking.

If you ever find yourself in Eilat - take the time to go to the Red Canyon. You won't be disappointed.
There are deeper canyons in the world. There are higher mountains. There are seas that are bluer; skies more sunny. There are lands that are richer; with trees that are taller.

But no matter where I go in this land, I am left with the one great truth in my life. This is my home and there is nowhere more beautiful for me, no canyons more magnificent than those we have here, no higher mountains that call to me. There are no seas I would rather see, no skies under which I would rather live. The riches of other lands do not call to me and no trees under which I would rather sit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's Important to America?

Here on vacation  I woke up in the middle of the night to watch the second debate. I had not seen either the first one or the VP debate, though I saw and read clips. I thought I would be bored; I wasn't. I hoped I would be impressed - I Mitt Romney.

Obama is a known quantity, struggling again to run not on his record, but on words again. I don't believe he should be given that grace again. Romney isn't asking to be judged by his words, and that is refreshing. He wants us to look at what he has done in his life - built a successful business, raised a successful family, governing successfully for his state.

Obama lied. I listened to his suddenly claiming from the start that Libya was a terrorist attack. He said that the day after the attack, before flying off for his next fundraising trip in Las Vegas, that he had condemned the Libyan Consulate attack as a terrorist action and said the US would hunt down those who had perpetrated the crime. That's not what he said at the time. In fact, it was many lies and two weeks later, before he admitted it was, without question, not the movie but terrorism.

The fact that Candy Crowley tried to help the president out should, justifiably, be ashamed. If there was a loser in last night's debate, I think it was the moderator. She had the chance to be fair; she wasn't. She had the chance to truly shape a debate of the people; she chose questions that were what she wanted and asked her own questions.

The president lied about licensing for federal lands. It's been proven that Romney was, again, speaking the truth and the president was lying. Why were lies allowed?

I had heard this would be a debate focusing on foreign policy and I was interested to hear what Obama thinks about Iran and Israel. It wasn't covered and I'm still not sure why. Israel was mentioned only once - by Romney in an accusation that Obama has not been supporting Israel. Obama did not respond, did not say anything about Israel. Iran, a major threat to my country, was not mentioned at all.

Again and again, I listened to the questions and I watched Obama. The simple fact is that after being absent at the first debate, as most people felt he was, there was no question that he would do better - and he did. But I don't think it was enough.

The simple truth is that few are likely to change their vote based on this debate - but hopefully, people will take the time to swim through the lies. Again and again, I turned to my husband and said - well, that's nice, if only that was the question.

Again and again, the questions came back to what seems to be the most important issue for America - the economy. I heard plans from Romney; I heard words from Obama. When he did speak of plans, I kept wondering why he did not implement those in his first four years. He accused the Republicans of blocking his plans - he is always quick to blame others for his failures. But for the first two years, he had the full support of a Democratically-controlled Senate and House for the first two years he was in office. The Republicans couldn't have blocked him from doing

I found the president to be filled with words...words aimed at creating a picture that he has failed to create in four years. Why should he be given another four? Worse, why would we want to put in a lame duck president at this critical time, who won't be able to run for another four years and therefore will do whatever he wants.

In short, putting Obama in the White House is just not an least for me, and hopefully not for the majority of Americans.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Eilat and Israel

What do you do when you've already written the post you want to write? There you go - I guess you copy it again and then go snorkeling.

Eilat is a different world from most of Israel - they like it that way; they want it that way. But more and more, security is coming down here. My overwhelming memory of Eilat remains that one visit, four years ago, on our 25th wedding anniversary, when Elie's unit came under terror attack in Jerusalem as they were walking to the Western Wall days before Rosh Hashana. If' you've been reading this blog a long time, you might remember my post, It Could Have Been Elie.

Elie wasn't there that night. He told me he was on the check point, and then laughed at me years later when he asked why I would think they would change shifts at that ridiculous hour. He was on an operation in an Arab village going in to arrest a known terrorist. More than I could have handled at the time, for sure.

I love Eilat for short periods of time when it is just me and the sea, the fish, the glorious heat of this city and, to some extent, the innocence of believing there could be a terror-free zone in Israel, or there should be.

So, since I've written it already, I'll just repeat it here -

Reflections on Eilat

There are vacations and then there are vacations. We take vacations with our children - fun trips camping and kayaking and hiking. And, not often enough, my husband and I slip away for a few days together. It is so necessary, so important. We waited years and years until our older children were responsible enough to be left with the younger ones. We would carefully divide up who would walk the dogs, care for the birds and finally try to find the time, a few days, to be a couple.

I dream of taking a vacation outside Israel. I dream of Scotland, Ireland or Italy. I can't explain why, other than that I have heard they are so beautiful. Short of taking up a collection, that's going to stay a dream for a while. I'd love to go to England, where we speak the language and where it rains a lot. I miss the rain, have always loved it. But I've come to miss it even more since since moving to a country where it rains sometimes during a four or five month period and then not at all for the remaining seven or eight months.

Each time we face the option of going abroad, I cringe at the idea of leaving Israel. There are two reasons for this - the first was so long as I had a soldier in the army, I refused to leave Israel, to be that far away. The second is deep down, I just can't bring myself to board a plane and go so far away.

The last time my husband and I slipped away, as we sat in an Eilat restaurant celebrating, I learned that there had been a terrorist attack in Jerusalem...a few hours later, I would learn that it was Elie's unit...that it could have been Elie.

So this past week, with Elie about to start on an engineering degree and Shmulik about to return to his studies as well, we again slipped away to Eilat. It's close; it's convenient; it's relatively inexpensive and it opens the door to a whole underwater world that enthralls, delights, and calms, all at the same time.

This time, just a few weeks after a series of terrorist attacks that killed 8 people and wounded more than 30 others, Eilat was a little bit different, a but more somber, a bit more reserved. There is an anger among the people. Anger at the government, at the Arabs. Anger.

"We didn't feel it here," said one cashier in the supermarket. And yet it was on her mind enough to discuss it.

I spoke to a young man who works on the beach, attending to tourists. He sets up the beach chairs and umbrellas, assists however needed, and cleans the beach at the end of the day, and he too is angry.

"Did you hear about the rocket that hit Ofakim three weeks ago?" he asked me.

"I hear about every attack," I said to him. "Was your house damaged?"

"No, it hit down the street," he explains. "We're a messed up country, that we don't stop this!"

"What will be in September?" I ask him. What a funny world that I am asking someone Elie's age what he thinks the future will be.

"We'll hope for good and know we have the ability to stop them all, but will we?"

He heard sounds of explosions coming from the Egyptian side of the border and looked up, "what were those booms?" he asked. I had no answer, and never found out. The entire three days of our vacation, an Israel naval ship.

Several years ago, while vacationing, I saw the navy ships in the Red Sea, but I had never seen one stand, as this one did, every day, all day.

"How long have they been here?" I asked the young man.

"They've always been here," he answered, "and they always will be."

Maybe that's the part that got to me. So young and already he knows - we have always been at war, and we always will be. We have always needed our young men and women to protect us, and we always will. And most important, we, the Jewish people, have always been here, and we always will be.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Those Post-Tragedy Images...Before?

No, let me start right off by saying I do not expect anything to happen. I've got pancakes on the stove as I write this. What this is, is another post that shows how the human mind wanders - and how that meandering of thoughts differs here in Israel than in other places because of the reality we live.

I'm heading down to Eilat for a few days today. The kids are being wonderful, all pitching in to deal with the house, pets, etc. Aliza doesn't want me to go. No, I do not believe Aliza's upset to be a premonition of things to come.

As I was mixing the batter for the pancakes (Aliza's lunch, something to nosh on the trip down), I thought of two movies I had seen - one about the Entebbe hijacking (the separation of Jews/Israelis, the release of the non-Jewish passengers and finally the daring, amazing rescue by the Israeli army) and the second movie - in stark contrast - was of the Munich terrorist attack on the Olympic village (the holding of the Israeli athletes, the bungled attempt by the Germans to save them - and the resulting death of ALL the hostages and SOME of the terrorists).

Three pancakes later, what do these two acts have in common - well, other than the obvious - both against Jews, both by and in the name of Palestinians, etc....not much except...both had movies made of the them - Hollywood realizing sometimes fact sells more than fiction.

The movies began not with the attack, but some earlier moments in the lives of those involved. The purpose was both melodramatic and effective. Before you see them in crisis, learn who they are. Let's build the connection you feel...before we knock them off...or at least terrorize them.

They showed the people packing, saying goodbye to their families, traveling, joking - all unaware that their lives were about to be changed.

And thus my imagination...silly, right? To imagine a movie in which they show some actress wearing an old black skirt and a print shirt making pancakes and checking her packing list...yes, silly.

There are warnings of increased terrorist activity in Sinai - along the Egyptian-Israeli border. Again, I really don't see anything happening - I'm not worried at all. I'll be traveling down the Jordan-Israel border, not near Egypt at all; I'll be staying in the city of Eilat, and not in the hotels and tourist area. A few rockets have been fired at Eilat - no one was hurt. Last year, or perhaps it was the year before, there was an attack in Eilat but just shows Eilat is no more, and likely less, of a target than most of Israel.

I just want to relax and snorkel a bit in the beautiful Red Sea. But then again, to play devil's advocate here, did those people who boarded the Air France jet expect to be hijacked; did the athletes expect to be murdered? Okay, enough silliness - this was more an example of how Israelis think - or maybe that's not fair. Maybe it's just me? It just seemed weird to be mix the pancake batter and think of a reenactment for a movie of some actors playing the parts of dozens of tourists - the morning before....

More, this goes back to my ongoing point - terrorism is the act of terrorizing. It can result in murder and mayhem - or it may only result in one side of its purpose - to instill a sense of terror, to change how people think and behave. The fact that a missile misses its target and explodes in an open field does not negate the terror it caused in the moments before and after.

It is not normal to contemplate a terror attack as you pack for a much needed vacation. It is not normal to wonder if the action you take now will feature in a movie later. The people who died on 9/11 never thought their morning routine would be reenacted for millions of television viewers. Terrorism was not in their mind scope that morning.

And this feeds into a side of my personality I'll confess - I have always had this agreement with God - if I think of something, He can't do it. He is so much more creative than I, I've claimed this terrorist idea...the movie etc.

Hopefully, the next few days will be quiet - especially for Israel's southern residents who have, once again, come under endless rocket fire from Gaza ... yet again. Hopefully, I'll snorkel and swim and sleep and eat and barely touch a computer.

Hopefully, the Palestinians will learn that terror will not bring them victory; hopefully the Iranian government will realize that they will gain more from negotiation than nuclear weapons.

And hopefully, you'll never see my life featured in any movie other than one about people who die at the ripe old age of 120, peacefully in their sleep after seeing all their children and perhaps even their grandchildren married and settled. Oh, and if they could be a little rich too, that would be sooooo coooooool.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shimon HaTzadik...Simon the Just

What sets us apart from most people can be summed up so easily. Did you know that today is the anniversary of the death of Shimon HaTzadik? He died about 2,300 years ago, give or take, and we know who he was, who is father was, what he did in his life, and where he is buried. And, in the next 24 hours, hundreds of Israelis will go visit his grave.

Have you ever gone to the grave of a man who died 2,000 years ago? I can't even begin to count how many of these I have gone to, or long to go to but can't because of where the grave is buried. I have been to the graves of Abraham, Yitzchak (Isaac), and Yakov (Jacob). Of Sarah, Rivka (Rebecca), and Leah. I have been to the graves of Rachel and of Shimon HaTzakik. 

That we know when they died and go to their graves and honor that memory tells you so much about who we are and why we are so tied to this land. If you want to understand Israel, you must understand this unshakable connection we have to our past and to the great men and women who have guided us and led us to where we are today.

I drive to my accountant - a few times a month...past the Old City walls of Jerusalem that have stood for more than 500 years, replacing the ancient ones built long ago. And I drive past places mentioned in the Bible almost every day. 

In America, I went to school near General Grant's tomb...the running joke at the time was that his wife and horse were buried there. I don't actually know if that was a joke or if General Grant IS buried there. We lived near Washington's headquarters...their memories go back less than 250 years...can you imagine a history that goes back 10 times as long?

Our land is filled with such and ancient...and yet, despite this long history, we remember the details. We still mourn the exact day the Holy Temples were destroyed; we can tell you when Rachel died...when Shimon died...and quietly because really it is between God, us, and the memory of long ago, we go and pay our respects. In a very real sense, these are our forefathers. This is our history. This is our land.

And in tying ourselves to the land and the history, we ensure our connection to the future. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Two Old Men

As the men danced around below us, I had a lot of time to notice the people who were there - many are friends and neighbors of mine; children and grandchildren of people I know. The rabbi that is so loved in this community; a woman who regularly collects food for needy people. This one has a child who is ill; a boy with Down Syndrome who is so loved and cherished. This family has more boys than I can count; this one just had a daughter who got married. She's a grandmother now. Her son just got engaged.  That one there is married to her over there. And on and on - a community of people.

Around and around the dancing went as I pointed out different people and stories to my mother. The ages ranged from a newborn baby held in her mother's arms, transferred to a young aunt, to the grandmother and back to the mother. The baby was at most a few weeks old, sleeping happily despite all the noise.

And back to the dancing - the boys playing on the side; several men sitting down to rest and talking (and they accuse women of gossiping too much!) and finally my eyes turned to two elderly men. One was the one I wrote about in A Torah and the second, not nearly as old, was in a wheelchair. Both were afforded so much respect; as the men danced around they were always so careful not to bump into these two older men.

When the older one walked with a cane, there was always someone who walked behind him; sometimes three men would join together and dance moving backwards, their faces towards the elderly man - almost clearing the path for him. When the other was pushed in his wheelchair, he was often given a Torah to hold and he too was often escorted by others. His voice was amazingly strong when he was given the honor of singing out the beginning phrases of one of the hakafot (circles) as he held the small Torah with the green velvet cover.

Later, after the dancing and the seven hakafot had been finished, each man was given a chance to say the blessing over the Torah on this special day that we end and begin again. Each Shabbat, the weekly Torah portion is divided into 7 sections. Seven men are called up each week to recite the blessing - one at a time. They recite the blessing, the section is read, they say another blessing, and then the next one is called up.

In a synagogue where there are 200 men - giving all 200 the opportunity to say a blessing could take many hours and so - they divide up into several areas - and still each section is read 10-15 times before each man finally gets his chance. For close to an hour, again and again, they began the section:

וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה, אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַךְ מֹשֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים--אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: לִפְנֵי, מוֹתוֹ.

And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.

The next to last chapter of Devarim (Deuteronomy) was read until almost all the men had been given the chance to bless the Torah. There were now two blessings left to be said - the one to say the blessing over the final section of the Torah, and the one to say the blessing over the beginning of the Torah.

One man came up and began a special prayer honoring the one who would be given the opportunity to say the blessing for the final section of the Torah for this year. Calling up the Hatan Torah (the one to receive the last blessing) is done with much fanfare, "Arise, arise, arise," and then they call out his name Eliezer, son of....and come give honor to the God who is great and awesome."

And then, four men raised a tallit, a prayer shall over a man as he was escorted to the central area where he would say the blessing and the final segment of the Torah would be read. Four men, perhaps even six, held the edges of the prayer shawl high above their heads to create a canopy...and under the canopy, in the center, about to be honored, was the man in the wheel chair who was rolled down the aisle as all stood and sang. His chair was gently lifted in reverse up to the raised platform where the Torah is read. Usually before saying the blessing, a man kisses the Torah.

Obviously, they realized that the sacred scroll was too high on the table and so two men carefully moved the Torah scroll to the very edge of the table so that the man in the wheelchair, with his hand wrapped in his prayer shawl, could reach out and kiss it before reciting the blessing.

"Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, who chose us from all the peoples and gave His Torah. Blessed are You God, the giver of the Torah." His voice was so clear, so loud, so strong, it was hard to believe he was sitting in a wheelchair.

When he finished, another man read out the final section until the final word of the Torah - Israel. And then the older man spoke again, "Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, who has given us the Torah of truth, of eternal life implanted within us. Blessed are You, Hashem, the giver of the Torah." And when he'd finished, everyone sang, candy was thrown around and slowly the man was lowered back to the floor.

A few minutes later, again a special prayer calling up another man - this one is called the Hatan Bereshit - and he is the one given the honor of saying the blessing for the first section of the Torah that would now be read. Again there was singing; again six men came to escort him under the canopy of a prayer shawl. There was an interesting contrast. The elderly man was probably in his 70s; this man is likely in his 40s. This time, the man was very tall, taller than the men who escorted him and so he lifted his hands up to push the prayer shawl/canopy even higher as he made his way to say the blessing that would begin the Torah reading.

The images are there in my mind - of the old man, bent over and walking slowly carrying the Torah that he and his family had saved from the Nazis; of the elderly man whose body was frail enough that he needed to be in a wheelchair with a voice strong enough to be heard throughout the synagogue; of the tall, younger man who welcomed in the new cycle of reading the Torah.

Images of hundreds of men dancing - fast enough to show the joy and the energy with arms and legs moving quickly...and yet careful enough never to hurt a child or bump into the older men. Images of the children hoisted onto their fathers' shoulders. And the sounds of singing and joy that drifted up to the balconies where we watched - there are those who find the balconies demeaning...I love them. I love the view and I love the sounds. I can imagine God looking down and watching us - and I believe He was smiling on us. And to be there in the balcony is to be closer to God as the sounds from below mix with the singing above to celebrate all that was, all that is, and all that will be in the coming year.

To close your eyes and listen is to see beyond all vision; to open your heart to the glory of a people so much in love with their God, their Torah, their land - is to understand that so long as we have days like this, so long as we have our Torah - all else is vanity, all else is nonsense.

Iran? Syria? Problems in the Sinai? North Korea? Obama? Hatred of the Swedes and their foolish flotilla? Swastikas on graveyards throughout Europe?

It is nothing compared to the power of what happened in synagogue after synagogue this week. Nothing compared with everything. All who stood in the past are gone - the Romans, the Greeks, the Ancient Egyptians (and the modern ones), the Philistines, the Amalekites, the Persians (old ones and new ones), the Ottomans, the British, the Russians...Haman, Hitler, Amalek, they fall to nothing as the Torah circles and we sing and dance.

It was Simchat Torah - the joy of our Torah...I hope you can see it in your minds, feel it in your hearts. It is all about the most powerful thing in the universe - love.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

55 Rockets and Mortars in a Single Day

Did you hear about it in your local media? If you didn't, please call or write to them and ask them why not?

I want to write about a friend who lives on one side of a village there - while her daughter lives on the other. There was a siren - a Color Red alert - only the mother didn't hear it and so wonders about her daughter and grandchildren on the other side.

I want to write of the sheer terror of hearing a siren and knowing you have no time to freeze - you must run and run fast to shelter.

I want to write what it is like - but I've only ever experienced two such where there was an alarm but I never heard the explosion; and one where I heard the explosion but never heard the siren.

I want to write that I know what it is like - two times over - to have your child in the area where you know there are rockets falling but at least I had the knowledge that one was coming home in a matter of days, away from the rockets and the other had a reinforced armored vehicle around him.

I want to write of the anger I feel that there is a ship sailing from Sweden ready to preach to us what we should do for Gaza. I know they will continue to ignore the dozens, even hundreds being killed every day in Syria; they will ignore the terrorist attack on a synagogue in their own country. They will ignore FIFTY-FIVE rockets and mortars...and counting in the last two days.

But what I really want you to do is go to your local media and ask them why you are hearing from me and not from them - about my country being attacked.

Today, as yesterday, there were many rockets fired at Israel - ask your media why they didn't report it. Please!

A Torah

The Torah is the holiest of books in the Jewish religion. The Torah is the first 5 books of the Bible - in English - Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Hebrew the names flow more easily, have more meaning. They are - Bereshit, Shmot, Vayikra, Bamidbar, Devarim.

The Jews and the Torah have a very unique and ancient history. The Torah is a gift that God gave to us thousands of years ago. It is something we as a people cherish. We stand when the Torah is taken from its resting place in the synagogue. We kiss it as it passes us. We stand as it is walked to a center table where it is read aloud, three times a a week and on holidays. We stand in respect, and in love - always in love.

On Simchat Torah - a holiday that translates as the "Happiness of the Torah" - we celebrate having successfully read the entire Torah over the space of a year. We dance with the Torah and sing. We gather our children and bless them before it - and then, having finally finished the very last word (which is the word "Israel"), we immediately start reading it again so that not a day goes by without there being more we have to read.

On this Simchat Torah, I sat with my mother and watched the men circling and dancing below. And I pointed to one Torah, smaller than the others and started to tell my mother its story. Unsure of some details, I turned to the women behind me and asked them to again tell me about it. These are the daughters of the man who owns the Torah, who saved it and brought it to my synagogue.

On November 9, 1933, the Nazis went on a rampage and burned synagogues, Torahs and holy books throughout Germany. They beat and murdered Jews - it was a national celebration of hatred that would herald more than a decade of agony and anti-semitism and culminate in the murders of more than 6 million Jews. It was called the Night of the Broken Glass - Kristallnacht - for all the broken windows and destruction. It should have been a signal to the world, had they only listened and in the deafening silence that resulted, it was a signal back to Hitler. Go ahead - murder your Jews, burn their holy Torah scrolls. Go ahead...and they did.

Yesterday, there were about 8 or 9 Torah scrolls around which the men in our synagogue were dancing. One was written a bit over a year ago in memory of a friend of mine and so I watched the men dance around Ziva's Torah. Ziva was a beautiful and lively woman who died too young and as I watched her Torah circle below, I saw the beautiful woodwork on the edges of her Torah and smiled - she always had so much style.

But the one that caught my eye over and over again was the small Torah in the green velvet wrapping. The green material was a bit faded and looked very old. In 1933, that Torah had been in a synagogue in Germany when the Nazis came and set the building on fire. The roof collapsed the next day and it rained; the Torah scrolls in the synagogue were badly damaged. The elderly father who lives in our neighborhood took the Torah scroll and tried to have it fixed but it was too badly damaged.

Most Torah scrolls are buried when they can no longer be used. This one could never be read again to a congregation to fulfill the commandment of reading the Torah out loud three times per week. It was taken to France and then, after the war, when the family came to Israel, the Torah came with them.

It is taken out each year, honored for its history - it survived the Nazis; today, they are long gone but the Torah remains. It is given a special honor - it leads the other Torah scrolls around as the men dance and circle and sing.

Seven hakafot - seven circles are made on the holiday - each circle taking long moments as everyone sings and dances. One of the circles was led by an elderly man who walks painfully slow. He is bent over and I cannot even begin to guess his age. He held his Torah, wrapped in the ancient green material and I watched as my mother's eyes filled with tears.

They surrounded the elderly man and his Torah, dancing in a circle around them - circling around and around. This is our history - always in a circle and it all comes back to the Torah, to the joy of family, of community, of history, of survival.

It is a picture that I do not have - I could get one, of the Torah perhaps but not of the men dancing, of the old man walking slowly with the Torah that has been a part of his life and that of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is one of those pictures I can paint with words. I hope you can imagine it if you close your eyes and I hope you can hear it. Maybe it isn't a picture; maybe it is a more of a video, if I think about it - one constantly in motion - circling the synagogue year after year. A man and his children. His children's children and theirs. His friends. His community. His Torah.

Images of a Holiday

My mother and father joined us for the last days of this holiday month. We went to the synagogue, my mother and I. She has memories of her childhood that are brought back by the things she sees. She reads the prayers and sees their beauty.

"You have to write about this," she told me. "All the stories of the people."

It's a challenge. You see, on Jewish holidays, we are restricted in what we can do - for example, we don't use electricity, we don't take pictures. And so what pictures we have are saved in our minds; what images we draw are done with words. She's right, of course, the pictures should be shared.

Okay, here's a list of the stories I want to write - one by one, I'll write them. I can't write them all today and there will be more. For today, I'll write the list - (I'll link them here later), and I'll write the first one.

Here are images of a holiday
  • A Torah
  • Two Old Men
  • Two Dancing Men in White
  • A Man and His Sons
  • A Father and His Daughter
  • A Smile
  • My Husband
  • My Grandson and His Mother and Father
  • Sharing a Son with His Mother
  • Food, Glorious Food
I really hope I do all of these...

Sunday, October 7, 2012


It's no secret that I think Obama is the wrong choice for President of the United States. He was the wrong choice 4 years ago, despite his "re-imagining" himself a Nobel Prize, and he is the wrong person now.

I know that he presents a clear and present danger not only to the future of Israel, if such a thing were up to him (which it is not), but also to the United States. I have no doubt that Israel will survive Obama because I live in a land of miracles. They happen here every day. A mortar is fired into Turkey - and it kills a mother and her children. And yet, close to 15,000 mortars and rockets have been fired on a regular basis into Israel for more than a decade and the vast majority, despite their targets, land harmlessly. Yes, too many have been hurt, even killed - whole worlds for their families and all of Israel, but the sheer magnitude is amazing.

Forty SCUD missiles were fired from Iraq to Iran; thirty-nine were fired from Iraq into Israel. Almost 2,000 people were killed in Iran; one man died of a heart attack in Israel. Obama ... no, he is not a friend of Israel; he is not to be trusted because he remembered it is election year and the American Jews seem to need words to buy their vote.

Four years ago, I had my last conversation with one cousin. She told me her father would be proud of her for supporting a black man for president. Her father was the worst bigot I ever met in my life; I remember his comments about black people. I grew up in a town that was about 1/3 Jewish; 1/3 black. My best friend as a young child was a black girl named Sherri. I was in first or second grade and someone called her a bad name and said something about her father.

"Is your father black?" I asked her.

"Yes," she said.

"Okay," I answered back. I had no idea - nor did it make any difference what she was other than my best friend. That's how I was raised - and so going to my uncle's house was a shock when he spoke against black people. But four years ago, his daughter "got religion" and was supporting Obama.

I told her should could support Obama for president because she believed it was time to put a black man in the White House. I told her she could support Obama because she thought it was time to have a man in the White House who looked good in jeans, or had a vowel for the last letter in his name.

What she could not do was vote for Obama and have the nerve to say he would be good for Israel. I was the Israeli - it is my sons who are on the borders of Israel while she has barely raised her children as Jews. Never have they been to Israel.

She was adamant; I was tired of arguing. There were several times my cousins stepped out of my life for various reasons - some good, some bad. Four years ago, I stepped out of their lives. Obama is NOT good for Israel. It is interesting to see however, that he isn't good for America either.

And, so, for no other reason other than it made me smile, I offer Obama in a few words....uh...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Turkish Hypocrisy?

For many years, Israelis cities have been pounded by rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. We're talking close to 15,000 of these "projectiles" fired primarily at Israeli civilians. There have been numerous deaths, injuries and millions of dollars in damage. Israel has repeatedly complained to the UN, which remains, by and large, silent to this atrocity.

When Israel locates the source of the fire and takes action, Palestinians and their supporters speak of martyrs and "victims" - ignoring what those "militants" were doing at the time they died. This past week, Syria shot a mortar into Turkey, killing a mother and some of her children. The Turks were enraged. They complained to the UN, which immediately condemned the attack.

That wasn't enough for the Turks - they opened fire on Syria. Their right, they claim - to defend their land. Gee, what a concept...and what hypocrisy!

Thanks to Mideast Truth for this one!

An Iranian Test?

Here's the story. As much of Israel was enjoying a quiet Shabbat - the IDF was, as it always is, protecting our borders, our skies, our shores. A potential threat was identified - an unmanned drone attempting to enter our air space. Why?

Good question - some sites are saying it was an Iranian test. It could have been. It could have come from Hezbollah - again, with Iranian backing...or from Hamas - again, with Iranian backing. Whatever truth there is will be found; whatever it hoped to accomplish, likely failed. The drone entered Israeli air space; Israeli jets scrambled and easily intercepted it. It was shot down over an open area where none could be injured. Bottom line - score one point for the IDF; nothing for our enemies. 

This is a 10 second video. According to the IDF's YouTube channel, it is:

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was identified penetrating Israeli airspace this morning, and was intercepted by the IAF at approximately 10:00 AM. IDF soldiers are currently searching the area where the drone was downed, in open areas in the northern Negev, to locate and identify the drone.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Lake that Man Created

It is the arrogance of man to make a lake in a desert. It goes against nature, doesn't it? And yet, despite laughing when I first heard the dreams of our mayor to build a lake in the desert, I have to admit, I am completely won over. That's right - Mayor Benny Cashriel and the Jewish National Fund have done...well, what Israelis have been doing for 100 years (even before the State of Israel was re-established) - we've been making the desert bloom.

This week, in honor of the holiday of Sukkot, Maale Adumim held a "Happening" near the lake and thousands attended. It was wonderful - music, arts and crafts, games, tents, sunshine and, oh yes, our lake.

Because pictures speak louder than words - the lake that man created in a land that needed our nurturing love. It is true that while there were always Jews in the land of Israel - throughout the 2,000 years in which the majority of Jews were exiled from this land - still, the land waited for our return. No other people - not the Turks, not the British, not the Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians/Romans/Philistines, etc. ever loved this land or developed it as we have.

We have returned to the land and under our hands, the land returns as well.

A lake - it really is. Fish and a water fountain with colorful lights; and in the far distance, to the left - Jerusalem; to the right - the Dead Sea...amazing, no?

A new cafe on the shores of our lake...and the homes of Maale Adumim above...

An arts and crafts fair on the shores of the lake - some of Maale Adumim in the hills above the lake - and the beautiful palm trees we have planted in our desert.

Hiking in Our Land

Israelis love to hike - it is a national hobby, a collection of stolen days that allow us to walk this land, climb to its heights, explore its depths. There are so many places to hike - for all ages. Some places have water; others are dry. Some are a combination of water and mountains. The water is the reward after the hike - or sometimes it is the destination in the middle.

We live in the beautiful city of Maale Adumim, perched atop hills to the east of Jerusalem, just to the west of the Dead Sea. We are less than 10 minutes from Jerusalem - and 20 minutes on the clock from the Dead Sea.

In between us and the sea are a series of deep gorges and a series of streams that run through the oasis. It's so incredibly beautiful. There are two places that we go to - both about 10 minutes away. One is more easily reached; the second deeper into the mountains. The first is near an Israeli village; the second is called Wadi Qelt. A wadi is a dry river bed that floods in the winter. We hiked there yesterday for a few hours. Cooled off in the water and then hiked back up - all 130 meandering steps to where we'd left our car.

We took a lot of pictures - mostly on Aliza and Lauren's cameras...I only took one with my phone. I'll try to post the others soon. 

I've been wanting to go to Wadi Qelt for a long time. But at least three times in the last decade or so, Palestinians have attacked and murdered Israeli hikers there. Other than a few times a year when the army sends in units to protect hundreds of tourists, it is no longer safe to go without a weapon. 

I didn't want to go without someone (in this case, Elie) being armed. Though we saw Israeli soldiers later in the hike, I was painfully aware of how isolated the area was - despite seeing so many others hiking along various routes.

As I love to do, we chose the area less traveled. While most people went off to the left where there are some pools and beautiful scenes, we went off to the right. We walked in a water channel until we came to an area where the water had been diverted to form a small pool. There were two other families there initially. One left and we joined the other for a short time.

I only thought to take a picture with my Blackberry as we were driving away from the pools. You can see the road we drove along on the right side of the picture. I had many mixed thoughts as we walked. One was of those - two couples and a pair of friends - who had come here alone and apparently unarmed - simply to enjoy the amazing views in our land and were murdered. 

At one point, we weren't sure if we were going the right way or if we'd have to backtrack to find a place where we could cross over to the other side. Elie said he'd scout ahead to check things out. That left him out of my sight. He has a gun, I kept telling myself but I found myself listening harder to make sure I didn't hear anything, shouts, gunshots, was a bit upsetting.

We caught up with him as he was hiking back to us to say that he'd found a place where we could cross to the other side. Nothing happened; all's well.

The "crossing point" was near a few houses occupied by Bedouins who live deep in the gorge. They have chickens, a goat, a donkey, and two or three cars. They sat hear their house watching hundreds of Israelis trek through the wadi. A bit entrepreneurial, one man was using his ancient BMW taxi, probably long banned from Israeli roads, to ferry hikers up the long path for a free as we drove to leave. 

Two Israeli teenagers asked us for a ride, but we explained our car was full - we saw them in the back of the taxi later. It was there we saw Israeli soldiers, making their presence known. We are here, the message was clear - today you will let us hike in our land and you will not do anything violent.

We did not bother the Bedouins; they did not bother us. There is no common language we share; no common destination or path. They live as they have for hundreds of years - they will spend today searching to see if anything was left behind, tend their livestock and live, for the most part, in peace.

We will return to the heights - literally and figuratively, where we live. It is incredibly sad to know that Wadi Qelt and other places in this land are only accessible behind the protection of a gun - because too often, Israelis in their love of hiking, have learned that even those who live in seemingly quiet and peaceful places, can turn violent and attack them.

Yesterday and for the last three days, Arabs have rioted on the Temple Mount? Why - simple - as we did in Wadi Qelt, Jews felt the need to go to the Temple Mount - some would quietly whisper prayers. Jews are not allowed to openly pray on the Temple Mount, our holiest site in the world because Arabs built a mosque on top of the ruins of our Holy Temple and now occupy that area. And so, in their occupation, we are not allowed to pray there.

It is an amazing concept - in all the world - Jews are forbidden to pray at what we believe, what we know, to be the holiest place on earth. It is a site that is holy to three religions - but one controls it. No, not Jews - but Arabs. And their control means that the mere sight of Jews up there is enough to turn them violent. 

They have to riot, you see. Because if they don't, they will give the impression that it is acceptable that we dare to worship from the same location. They deny our history again and again. They say the Western Wall, the last remaining retainer wall of the Temple Mount, is where Mohammed tied his donkey. 

A few times a year, we rebel slightly - no, not in violence - but simply by going to these places. It is a reminder that the Arabs hate because in putting ourselves in front of their eyes, we remind them in the simplest of terms that even in their own Koran, it says Israel was a gift God gave to the Jews.

They must hate that...

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