Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stuck...Just Stuck

I had this great idea to take "my girls" to an amazing show - an all women's play put on by incredibly talented women in Gush Etzion. I invited my daughters and daughters-in-law and ordered the tickets.

I called them in the morning to tell them that it gets cold in the Gush and they should bring sweaters. We made the plans - 6:30 p.m. pick up. I left the house at 6:32, with  my youngest daughter and Elie's wife; picked up Shmulik's wife and my oldest daughter. I drove up the hill, up, up...made the right...and within minutes found myself in the midst of the kind of traffic you hit at 6:45 a.m., not 6:45 p.m.

We finally made it around the circle, only to find police had blocked the exit towards the front of the city - we were forced to make a full circle and head back towards one of two other exits.

Cars were creeping along - jammed up in the cities numerous circles. It took us almost 30 minutes to get out of the city, using one of the other exits. We caught the light - and after a few minutes, found ourselves on the major Tel Aviv - Jerusalem - Dead Sea highway at a complete standstill.

It was there we learned about a threat to Maale Adumim - my city. Rumors were spreading like wildfire as I closed the engine. We all got out of the car - so many people standing doing nothing. Mixed in the flow of traffic were both Arabs and Jews. Many of the Arabs were passengers of Arab taxis - who decided to hike up the hill to get to their neighborhoods.

One report said the police had found a booby-trapped car; another said an Arab had driven up to the checkpoint at Maale Adumim in a car with no license plates and threatened to carry out a terror attack as a result of an argument he had with another Arab in Azariya. Yet another rumor hinted at a kidnapping.

Behind us was a white van. The man got out and was standing surveying the road. He made Amira a bit nervous, especially when she saw that he had a gun. It took me a second before I thought that I recognized him - I called him by name and he turned to me.

I explained that I was Shmulik's mother - he was Shmulik's commanding officer. I asked him if he knew what was happening. At this point, he is a Lt. Colonel and absolutely knows what is happening in this area, though he was actually off-duty, dressed as a civilian, and accompanied by his wife and some friends.

"A suspicious car," he said.

"I heard it might be weapons or a kidnapping," I told him.

"A suspicious car," he said again. "Don't believe the news."

So, we missed the show and went out to get bagels instead. We had a nice time, though Aliza was very sad at first.

I got home a short time ago to discover that it was, as the first reports indicated, only a suspicious car - and in the end, not even that. No weapons were found in the car; no threat.

But one Arab decided to cause trouble and so he drove up to Israeli guards and told them he wanted to carry out a terrorist attack...and, in some way, he did - he stranded thousands of people in all directions for many kilometers. He jammed up a city of 45,000 people.

In the coming days, maybe we will find out he is mentally ill. Maybe we'll find out it really was because of a stupid argument he had with some guy in Azariya. What I do know is that part of life in Israel is accepting things like tonight philosophically.

On the way back, we joked about the show we didn't see. "It was so realistic how they made it appear like there were thousands of cars in the studio," said one daughter. "And all the lights," said another.

My goal was to have a night with "my girls." I would have loved to see the wonderful play (and still hope I'll get a chance in the coming weeks at one of the next two performances) - but even having missed the play, my main goal was accomplished. Better safe than sorry - and today, with much gratitude, we are all safe.

I still can't believe though, that one man and one car caused so much trouble....

I Could Have Died....

No, no - it isn't what you're thinking - not Elie at all. And everyone is totally fine.

Aliza came home from school today, full of stories about lunch and this girl and that. And then she said, "oh, I have to tell you something, but just remember, I could have died."

My heart skipped a beat - I looked her over wondering what danger there was.

"What happened?" I asked her quickly. I can't really tell you what thoughts went through my mind, so I'll leave it to your imagination.

She went climbing with some friends; slipped a bit, didn't get hurt at all - except for the hole at the very tip of her new sneakers. So I am to be grateful that her new sneakers are ruined...because, after all....

What I am grateful for - is actually so much more. A week ago, I was sitting here wondering when Elie would be home, if the ceasefire would hold or if something stupid would make it all erupt again.

For one week, our children in Israel have played in the sun. They have gone to school and come home, as children all over the world do. For one week, we are forgetting the sounds of sirens and hoping, just hoping, it will continue. For one week now, they are hesitantly going outside and not looking for the nearest hiding space. Our children are resilient - and they are children.

So, it's back to normal; to the child playing on her iPod and telling me she could have died (God forbid) and really, a hole in her sneaker is a small price to pay.

It is actually a very small price to pay for the normal that we have now. No, we don't believe, any of us really, that no more rockets will come from Gaza; that peace has come. But it will be quiet for a while. Yes, Gaza is re-arming, smuggling what they can. Iran has made their support of Hamas known - there are devils in the woods that surround us; evil lurks without doubt.

But it's really okay because we're used to that normal and if I ever hear a child of mine say the words, "Ima, I could have died..." - let it be over something as silly as a hole in her sneaker...her new sneaker...the expensive one she wanted me to buy her because the cheaper ones just would not do.

Yes, thank You, God, for the hole in her sneaker and the whole of her heart, soul, and being. Thank You for seeing her safely off that little hill she climbed and thank You for the piece of metal that was sticking out to pierce her shoe and remind me that You have blessed me with the whole of what my children are.

Rockets to Roses

Look at the amazing, amazing things created by this artist - Rockets into roses....my greatest wish is that he soon runs out of base material from which to create his amazing art and that he never be supplied with more.

Look at this website to see what beauty can be shaped when love and art is stronger than hate and destruction:  http://rocketsintoroses.com/

I hope you'll buy something to support this - but even if you don't - just going there to see what beauty he has created is one way to show support. I hope one day soon to buy something myself...they aren't cheap...but God, they touch my heart.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Summing it up...for now - "War" of 2012

I wanted to look back four years to see how I summed up the last Gaza War and found this post that I apparently never posted. No idea why - though I would guess somehow other posts took pieces.

It was written, apparently, a few days before Elie came home - during those nebulous days when there was a ceasefire, but the army was keeping artillery ready in case it failed. We didn't know when Elie would be released; if he would make it home in time for his youngest brother's bar mitzvah. We were counting the days - watching the clock and feeling, often, like we were going to lose the race and not have Elie with us.

Summing it Up for Now - 2009

The closer we get to the end of this, the less I am able to function - pathetic as that sounds.
I'm going to try to drive down and get Elie on Wednesday so that he can attend our family celebration on Thursday at the Western Wall. Once he gets with the whole family, I don't want to monopolize his time and yet I want a chance to spend time with him and just talk and listen to him. Driving down and spending the trip back with him will give me that time and I'm selfish enough to take it. 
The timing of this "cease-fire" (for as long as it will last), is convenient for my family and for those living in the south. They needed this time,even if it is because Israel very much gave into the pressure of the Obama inauguration to pull its troops back. This was a firm deadline for the current government. We are hearing that most of the deaths of Israeli soldiers can be blamed on friendly fire from our own troops...perhaps in a rush to deliver results in time to get pulled out. That may or may not be accurate - I'm too tired to argue about it and I won't. 
We are well aware, once again, of the attitude of many people and nations - Mauritania, Bolivia, Venezuela and Qatar cut relations with Israel. There were attacks against Jews and synagogues in England, Canada, France (several dozen), Arab countries, Russia and the US. Even dead Jews were attacked, with cemeteries in many countries desecrated. 
Did we accomplish anything? Yes, we actually did. Not enough, though the Israeli government would now argue otherwise. We withstood thousands of rockets and missiles (10,000 since they started firing at us in 2001; hundreds or more in the last three weeks). But we hit their infrastructure and training bases very hard. We took out hundreds of gunmen/terrorists who were firing rockets at us and/or part of the Hamas military wing. We took out at least three of their key leaders. 
Thousands suffered on both sides - though no one can doubt that physically, the Palestinians suffered more. There is a lesson to be learned here - you are responsible for the government you elect. Palestinians chose Hamas because they were sick of Arafat's corruption. They overlooked the bloodthirsty hatred of Hamas, which was directed at Israel. They overlooked it all because they wanted a change. 
Change...isn't always a good thing. 
Tomorrow, change comes to America in the form of Barack Obama. I hope and pray he delivers the hope and improvements those who supported him expect. Today, Israel is pulling out of Gaza - I hope we did enough to bring hope and improvement to Israelis who have lived under the threat of daily rocket attacks for years. 
I can't begin to explain what it is like to have a son in a war zone. To know that someone is shooting rockets and mortars and missiles in his general direction and but for the grace of God and luck, the rocket hits elsewhere. To know that he is firing missiles at targets, and each has the potential to be off by just a few meters...but enough to kill innocent people forced to act as human shields by their own government. To know that whatever happens and wherever his missiles fly, he will have to live with the results. 
He will live with this because he was given no choice. Not because the army demanded it of him; but because his country did. I don't know if I wrote this, but I went down to see him last week, stopping in Ashkelon for a few minutes to buy him a battery recharger for his phone. As I approached the mall there, there was a Code Red siren. It was surreal.  
We went into bomb shelters and the guard closed the door and mere seconds later said, "that's it" and we went back out. I didn't hear the boom of the rocket that had crashed into someone's home a few kilometers away. No one was hurt because they had gone into the bomb shelter, but the top two floors of the house (and their neighbor's house) were badly damaged. I saw people sitting in front of the bomb shelter with bags and kids playing - that's how they have lived for these last few weeks and even in the last few years. 
Within running distance of a bomb shelter - always ready. 
There was a mistake in Jerusalem and a siren went off. My youngest daughter's school didn't know that it was a mistake - they assumed it was, but you don't play games with children's lives and so they moved several hundred children into bomb shelters in seconds...leaving little girls terrified and crying and traumatized for days - and that without the boom that follows the rockets in Ashkelon and Sderot and elsewhere. 
So - Elie's coming home. I'll know soon whether this experience changed him. If, like his little sister, he needs to talk about what he experienced. For now, it's just enough to know that within 48 hours, my stomach will settle for the first time in weeks and maybe I'll get a real night's sleep - at least one. On Thursday, he goes back.

If I were to copy below how much of this 2009 post is relevant to 2012, I would be copying nearly all of it. Four years ago, we knew that Israel had done all that it was allowed to do - now, we don't even know that. Four years ago, we knew we'd be going back...and we know this now as well. All I can add is what I wrote before:  I hope we did enough to bring hope and improvement to Israelis who have lived under the threat of daily rocket attacks for years - though this time, I know that whatever relief we brought will be temporary.

More thanks from the people....

Elie went to his engineering courses today, as he did yesterday and every day before he was called to Operation Pillar of Defense. Last week when he was near Gaza, there was a homework assignment he should have handed in and last week, students were given an assignment to hand in this week. He is now two assignments behind the rest of the class and they are learning now what they need to hand in next week.

The first thing the instructor did after the class gathered was to say, "To the miluimniks [Reserve soldiers], first, thank you."

I have to admit, for that alone, my eyes filled with tears as Elie continued. The two assignments he did not turn in - have been marked as if he did them, "I still recommend you do them," said the instructor, "but you already have credit for them." In addition, there are pages and pages of notes that need to be copied - the school is granting each soldier a budget of 50 NIS per day (enough to copy close to 150 pages of text per day) to compensate their having to copy notes from their friends.

They are still trying to find tutors to come in and help the Reserve soldiers but already the instructors themselves are moving in to make up for lost time by offering to re-teach classes for those students that missed it.

And finally, I asked Elie - how many soldiers are there in his class that missed last week? It is so much effort - that the school is making - so much time planning for how they will help these students catch up so that they don't suffer for having answered the call to serve their country. How many, I asked. And his answer, "Six or seven."

Six of seven...for these, a college shows its gratitude, offers special benefits, teachers offer their time, and all is done to help them.

For all, and for each of our soldiers - combat and support - the country is showing its love. From bus drivers who take that extra time, to teachers who thank them...this is my Israel.

What Came Out of Operation Pillar of Defense

There are so many ways to show the difference between what is important in Gaza vs. what is important in Israel. Perhaps, to be fair, I should say the difference between the leaderships in both places but since we Israelis and those in Gaza voted in our governments, it really does amount to the same thing.

What came out of Gaza is the knowledge that they can indeed hit Tel Aviv and though they didn't manage to hit Jerusalem, they took aim and got close. The Fajir 5 is a missile they created to kill our people. At least one couple in Gaza named their new born baby "Fajir5".

What came out of Israel is a new defense missile called "Magic Wand" that will protect Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from these missiles that can fly 75 kilometers to kill and maim.

This morning, an Arab crossed into Israel from Gaza and broke into a Jewish home very close to the border. Inside the house, the Arab stabbed a Jewish girl before soldiers caught him and killed him.

In Syria today and yesterday, the government opened fire on its people, murdering dozens and destroying buildings, property and lives.

In the United Nations, they are likely soon to discuss and condemn Israel for this aggression or another. The Fajir5 will not be discussed. The deaths of 5 innocent Israelis are nothing to the world, though they are everything to their families.

What came out of Operation Pillar of Defense is almost exactly what went in - one culture determined to injure, murder and destroy another; one culture determined to defend its people at all costs; and one world, silent, oblivious, fooled.

And lest you think I am silent, oblivious and fooled, what also came out of Operation Pillar of Defense is knowledge spread among a few, shared with friends - who love Israel and support her. They were not silent in giving us their support; they were never oblivious and I am so grateful that they are not fooled by endless claims of massacres that never were; destruction that was on a huge scale completely justified by the offense weapons that were destroyed within their walls.

I am grateful, again, for the swift and tireless efforts of the Israel Defense Forces - but also of the IDF Spokesperson's Office and tireless bloggers who didn't let them get away with re-using pictures from Syria (and even Israel, if you can believe that) and say it was Gaza.

What came out of Operation Pillar of Defense is a few days of quiet for our children in the south; no sirens in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Last evening, Aliza called as she walked home. She said we didn't have to keep talking, she wasn't afraid of a siren. She just wanted me to know she would be home soon. What came home, for so many of us, were our sons. We know that had there been a ground invasion, more mothers would not be saying that today. We know the future, but it won't be today. We believe today will be quiet, another day to heal our children, our hearts.

It's too early to know whether Netanyahu's folding before Washington's pressure was a good thing or a bad thing in the long term. Few believe we won't be going back in to Gaza in the future to stop the missiles at our cities, the Fajir 5 and its next generations. But we are a people that look to today and the sun is shining, it is a beautiful, clear, pleasant day here in this most holy land. There were no missiles this morning as our children went to school and we need to believe there won't be any as they return in several hours. The early morning threat to one Jewish home ended in their loss - the child is in fair condition and though she will be traumatized, we'll take care of her with love and she will be fine.

So, today is good - and yes, part of that is a result of Operation Pillar of Defense.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Israelis Do with Rockets

There's this concept of life throwing you lemons so you make lemonade - and now, if life throws rockets at you, I guess you take it to make a symbol of light and triumph - the Chanukah Menorah.


The Bus Driver

I don't know his name; I probably never will. I know he started work at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday morning and twelve hours later, was still driving - special runs to pick up soldiers from near Gaza and drive them to bases from which they were released back to their lives.

I know he is a civilian. I know he was very tired when he picked up Elie's unit near Gaza on Thursday evening. I know that he needed to rest and so stopped the bus in Beersheva to give the guys some time in the mall while he took some much needed down time and finally, I know he lives in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv.

The other thing I know about him is what he did for my son and dozens of other soldiers on Thursday night. He drove them to a central base, where they were to turn in their weapons and be released/checked out of the army. The base is about a 10 minute walk from a major highway, on a small road which few cars need to enter. The bus driver finished his final task of the night as he entered the small road, pulled up to the base, and let the soldiers get off.

Despite his exhaustion, he realized that once the soldiers were done, they would have to walk that 10 minute walk to the main highway and try to catch buses or rides to get home. It would take hours for some of them. He decided to wait. He told the soldiers to go - give in their guns, and he would wait. He waited an hour - a full hour, this man who had worked more than 12 hours already, this man who had a family and wanted to get home to them.

When the soldiers were back on the bus, he drove them to the main highway and stopped. If they were going towards Jerusalem, as Elie was, they got off there and waited to catch a bus. Elie caught a ride to the eastern edge of Jerusalem; I drove with Lauren to meet him from there.

As for those who lived towards Tel Aviv, the tired bus driver told them to stay on the bus. As he drove home, soldiers would tell him where he could let them off to catch the nearest bus or train to get home. This kindness saved them hours of waiting in the cold and the rain.

It was a kindness that was being repeated in many ways throughout Israel - our thanks to our sons. I'll never know that man's name; never know how to thank him. I can only hope that somewhere he has a son who serves and that someone has or will someday do for him what his father did for mine.

Back to School

All over Israel, children are back at school today. This shouldn't be something I post towards the end of November in a country where schools begin in early September. But there you have it. For more than a week, Israeli children living within 40 kilometers from Gaza did not have school.

The disruption this caused in their lives may take weeks to repair - children who were learning to read and suddenly stopped; and older children who were learning for matriculation exams have lost precious time. And still older children - Elie is going for a degree in engineering. He hasn't missed a class yet - until now when he just missed an entire week.

So, a ceasefire was declared and Elie has returned to school. The college will offer him all sorts of help to enable him to catch up. A friend in the south writes that her young son is afraid to go back to school. He cried and refused to go back. He asked what would happen if there's a siren and what if a missile hits his school.

Meanwhile, a short time ago, Elie called after his first day back at school. During a break, he went to the office to find out what the school could do to help him catch up. They told him that he needs to bring a certificate from the army saying that he'd been in the Reserves and with that, they would do all they could to help him. Even before that, Elie walked into his chemistry class to hear the teacher call over the students who had been called in. She wanted to know when they were available - on her own time, without additional pay, she will hold special classes to help them catch up.

All over Israel - the gratitude of a nation is coming through. Another amazing story that I haven't had a chance to write about is the bus driver...next post.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Preparing for the Next War

There was some confusion, even up to the last minute, whether Elie would be able to come home last night (he did), or today. There was also some confusion about whether or not he would have to go back next week for a few days (he won't). Other soldiers will go in. Elie has served 29 days this year already in the Reserves this year. 29 days - nearly a month of his life.

And so others who put in less time will take over the task of preparing the equipment. Preparing for what? "Next time," Elie answered.

Next time...

Thanksgiving...

When I married my husband, I was surprised to learn that his family didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. His parents were Holocaust survivors, born and raised in Europe, threatened and nearly killed by the Nazis. They immigrated to the United States because anywhere, everywhere was better than Europe and the US was the first place that came through with enough visas for the brothers and sisters on both sides that had survived. Gone were the parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Each had lost siblings, cousins, friends, neighbors.

They were a generation cut off from their roots but not their future and the one thing they knew for sure was that their future would not be spent in Europe. As far as I know, the only other time they went back to Europe was on a personal "heritage" tour in which they went with my sister-in-law and at one place, were met with a woman and a knife because she thought they had come to take her home - the one she had stolen from my father-in-law's family - away from her.

It was the United States of America that accepted them, welcomed them, and gave them a secure place to raise their children. They accepted many things from their new homeland, but not this holiday of Thanksgiving. For them, as Orthodox Jews, thanksgiving was something you gave every day, not once a year, they explained to me (as others have as well).

In practice, the concept of thanking God is so ingrained in the Jewish religion that it is the first words we speak each morning - Modeh Ani -

מוֹדֶה (מוֹדָה) אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּים. שֶׁהֶֽחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמֽוּנָתֶֽךָ
I offer thanks before you, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

I tried to explain to them that for me Thanksgiving was about family - it was the chance to gather everyone close on a day that was not Shabbat, when Jews are unable to travel, use electricity, and generally stay close to home.

So, each year, most years, we made a Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. When we moved to Israel, we made a few dinners with American friends, but for the most part, the tradition fell away. It's been years since I did it. Until Lauren came into our lives and asked about the holiday.

I decided this year to make a turkey and invite my parents and my sister - her children, my children. And then, Israel went...well, as it turns out, not really to war but into Operation Pillar of Defense. Elie was called in and I wasn't sure what to do. I decided that whatever Lauren wanted, we'd do and so I asked. I think she was surprised that I asked - hadn't considered canceling. You don't cancel Thanksgiving, after all - it's there. And so my husband picked up the turkey, I stuffed it and cooked it. Lauren made pumpkin pie and a delicious soup - and my parents and my sister and one of her kids (and her fiance, who is also named Elie), came.

And though he didn't make it in time for dinner - but rather time enough to grab leftovers and eat them straight off the plate as a happy Lauren packed him food - Elie came home.

Thanksgiving is a time - one time along with every day and every minute of your life that you should stop and give thanks. Some families go around the table and have everyone say one thing for which they are grateful. That's not something we have ever done, but perhaps we should.

I am so very grateful, God, that You brought my son home safely. I'm grateful for the rain that pours down on this land at this moment, and even for the thunder and lightning. I am grateful for the land in which I live; that we are able to defend ourselves as we were not able to do when my in-laws lived and nearly died in Europe.

I am so very grateful for the blessings in my life - my husband, my children, my grandson, the three that have married my children to form families of their own. I am grateful to the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces who answered the call without hesitation -in staggering numbers and with staggering efficiency. They rushed to answer the call - out of love and dedication.

I am grateful that though there was so much property damage and waste, despite the terrors and fears, I am grateful that so many were spared; that miracles happened every day to lessen the injuries.

I thank You, God, for the promise that is Israel and I thank You for the deep friendship Israel shares with the American people, who stood by us, comforted us, and showed their tremendous support through the last 8 days.

May God bless the United States of America, its people and its way of life and may the blessings of this past week continue here in Israel - may our sons and daughters be safe, our land protected and secure.

There is a culture so different beyond our borders - it is not ours. One person was killed in Gaza, three wounded from the bullets shot into the air to celebrate what they consider a victory. Personally, I'd rather live in a land that does not celebrate war. Our sons came home last night - and they were welcomed with hugs, warm food, and the gratitude of our nation.

Whatever the politics, whether we should have gone in to Gaza with ground forces or not, the most important fact right now is that at this moment, rockets are not being fired at Israel. How long that will last is anyone's guess and no one is naive enough in Israel to believe it won't be happening again.

I have theories that I won't share here as to why Bibi Netanyahu accepted Washington's command for a ceasefire - but whatever the politics...at this moment, Elie is with his wife and tens of thousands of other soldiers are home or safe on base. It's raining in my beautiful country, a land that blesses each drop of water that comes from the skies. We are filled with thanksgiving which is, in all honesty, so much more fulfilling and meaningful than being filled with some misguided sense of victory or hatred.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What if the siren goes off when I'm alone?

I'm in the office today until late. I spoke to Aliza shortly after she came home. I explained I'd be here for a while, at least. She's home alone until my husband returns from work and some errands.

"Ima, what if the siren goes off when I'm alone?" she asked me.

"Go quickly into the bomb shelter and close the door," I told her, my heart clenching at the thought of her in a  bomb shelter alone.

"I'll take my phone with me," she said, and I quickly agree.

"I'll call you right away and you can call me," I answer back.

"Can I take Simba in with me?" she asks. Simba is our dog.

"Of course you can. That's wonderful. You take care of Simba and call him into the room."

What world do we live in that a 12 year old has to consider going into a bomb shelter alone? If I could leave now, I would but Al Jazeera English contacted me and asked me to be on their show. Check out my next post on that...

Bus Bombings

A bus was blown up in Tel Aviv today. Reports seem to indicate no one was on the bus - though there were many injuries. Twenty-three wounded, 21 still hospitalized, 3 being operated on now. None of the injuries were life threatening, but many will bear the scars of today for the rest of their lives.









Bus bombings...what an amazing concept.

Shortly after the attack, reports came in that they were dancing in the streets of Ramallah and shooting in the air in Gaza. Celebrating death....what an amazing concept.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Missing Pieces

It's funny how sometimes two simple words can describe so much. That's what Israel is like today - missing pieces. Our sons are where they need to be, poised and waiting for a command to do what they need to do. We are perched, there on the edge - so very very close to the edge - war or cease-fire? That seems to be the question most of the world is urging Israel to answer.

Silly, really because that isn't the right edge, it isn't the right question. We don't want war, but a cease-fire that simply postpones the inevitable for a few weeks, months, even years, is not enough. We have a generation of traumatized children and adults who have learned to walk with one eye on where they can hide. I had a brief taste of that Friday night as I hurried back from Lauren and Elie's apartment to my house.

As I walked, I looked - there....no, not here....where? The second siren came as I was passing Shmulik's little yard where he's planted tomatoes, melons and tons of flowers for his wife. I ran up the steps and into the house as everyone in the house was entering the bomb shelter. This is how Shderot has lived for 12 years - children Aliza's age have never known a time when they didn't have to know where and how fast to run. We have 90 seconds; they have 15.

We have mobilized tens of thousands of men, women and equipment - no, this isn't about the cost involved but about the disruption to lives, the lives that have already been lost, so many wounded, so many homes, businesses and at least two schools damaged by rocket fire. What logic is there in pulling back now only to have to do it again in the near future? So the question for Israel, at least, isn't really war or cease-fire - it is war or ....what? Peace? Too much to even dream about - but it has to be longer than 4 years.

And while we all contemplate that question, Elie and unit wait. Impatient, most likely, anxious to move on or come home. He's missing his classes. He studied so hard to get into engineering school. He hasn't missed a single day since he started - and now he's missed three days of classes. And that's where I thought of those words - those missing pieces. Everywhere you go - there are missing pieces.

A store can't deliver something because someone has been pulled into the army; a class will happen today, many classes - and there will be so many missing students. A teacher won't be there because he too has been called in. Amira goes to Hebrew University - she received a note from Hebrew U. telling its students that they should go in safety and return in safety and afterwards, the school and the lecturers will do all that is necessary to help them fill in the missing pieces.

If we go to war - some of those missing pieces may be gone forever - another reality that weighs on my mind. I don't have an opinion about the answer to what is facing Israel. But four years ago, despite my own fears, I knew that what Elie was doing was important and needed to be done. At some point, the Palestinians got the wrong impression that they would be allowed to attack Israel endlessly and constantly and so long as we were all blessed by the miracles of God and they didn't manage to kill dozens in a single attack, we'd take it.

Well, we can't take it anymore, if we ever could. People in the south have been missing pieces of their lives for over a decade. They have the right to run in the fields and not worry about the skies. They have the right to live a normal life without fear. What the army did four years ago gave them a measure of quiet, even if it didn't last long. Within a short while, rockets were again being fired, sometimes dozens a day, now hundreds. What kind of life is that, to live this way? The children miss going to school, as amazing as that sounds; they miss playing outside. Parents are missing work, missing sleep, missing a sense of peace if their children are out of sight.

The one thing on which all of Israel agrees is that the question here is not war or cease-fire. Perhaps it is about continuing to live with these missing pieces or finally asserting our rights to a full life for all our citizens, for our children.

It will take me a long time to forget Aliza's quiet whisper on Friday night, "I'm scared." She didn't want to admit it; she didn't want to give in to it, but it was there - after only two sirens. Imagine forty a day. Imagine living with this need to ensure a clear path - every day....for twelve years.

Right now, all of Israel has missing pieces - our soldiers who are down near Gaza waiting for an order to begin. Perhaps the real question is if a nation can live with missing pieces or do something to return them. Perhaps the real question facing Israel is War or Missing Pieces?

Orange Juice?

I'm trying to be very careful about what I write - not something I've particularly had to worry about for a while now. I won't say where Elie is or what is happening, but I can, after the fact, write that yesterday as he traveled to his current location in an armored personnel carrier (Nagmash, in Hebrew), apparently the vehicle drove too close to an orange grove (or perhaps the path was too narrow and they had no choice).

As the huge vehicle passed - some ripening oranges were knocked off the tree - only to be squished by the next nagmash that drove behind Elie's. Elie told Lauren; and Lauren wrote the story to me, starting with the opening sentence that Elie had made orange juice on the way to Gaza yesterday.

I didn't handle the news that Elie was being called up as well as I would have expected and his telling me that he was going to be driving from point A to point B was a bit of a shock as well. I had expected them to drive them down in buses; bring in the military equipment separately. Instead,  they drove the armored vehicles themselves into the area. I guess it makes sense but I was worried about the drive and was glad to hear they'd arrived and were preparing.

No one really knows what the next few days will bring - we are on the brink of war or cease-fire. We walk a thin line - retreat from the operation - and perhaps we save lives...perhaps we cause more deaths. There is pressure to move forward, having mobilized so many, disrupted so many lives. There is pressure to stop before even more harm comes to civilian populations.

Hamas is desperate for a cease-fire. We know that this desperation is not based on worry for its own people - this is a "leadership" that hides its weapons behind its wives and children; encourages its youth to go on suicide missions, and rivals Syria for its brutality and suppression of human rights. And so it is likely that they are feeling the need to re-arm, to smuggle in more missiles to replace nearly 1,000 fired at Israel and many others destroyed by our air strikes.

Four years ago, we retreated, knowing we would be back. Today, we are on the edge of going back in. You could go crazy if you spent too much time considering all the angles, all the possibilities. So maybe, for now, I'll focus on the image of huge APCs making orange juice to the amusement of its soldiers.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Creative Thieves

The Palestinians are creative, I'll give you that. Take a look at what was fired at Israel today. Nothing really unusual - another kassem rocket...oh wait...


Those are charity boxes - commonly attached to poles in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and other cities. The Palestinians actually stole a street pole (charity boxes included) to fire at Israel. They are a creative bunch. My guess is that charity within did its job and protected Israel's residents from harm.


What is an army?

The latest lie-line of the Gaza propaganda machine is that Gaza has no army, no forces. They want you to believe Israel is attacking Palestinian civilians (we aren't) who are unarmed (they aren't) simply because we want to steal their land (we don't). In fact, the Palestinian fighters are armed.

They have fired over 900 rockets at Israel in the last 6 days. Dozens each day - at our southern residents, at Tel Aviv, at Jerusalem - in total, three million people - 45% of the entire population, is under attack.
What is an army? Perhaps that is the question. Perhaps an army is more than large amounts of soldiers with weapons.

There's no question they have weapons - they have been firing rockets for more than 12 years. They have uniforms, certainly. They have training facilities and they pay these soldiers to attack Israelis.
But maybe they are right because maybe, just maybe, an army is about the country which it defends.



Perhaps an army is more. I looked up the definition in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary. It defines an army as: "a large organized body of armed personnel trained for war especially on land"

Well, Hamas and the Palestinians are a large body of armed personnel - but perhaps they aren't so organized? And have they trained for war? Evidently not. I think their specialty is terrorism - suicidal attacks and shooting rockets. They really don't handle war well - already, before the war has even begun, they are begging the world to stop Israel. For once, apparently, at least so far, the world is properly asking them how they thought they could get away with firing on Israel for so long without a response. But who knows what will happen tomorrow.


The second definition is, "a unit capable of independent action and consisting usually of a headquarters, two or more corps, and auxiliary troops."

The second definition is, "a unit capable of independent action and consisting usually of a headquarters, two or more corps, and auxiliary troops."

Well, they certainly have...oh...well, had a headquarters until we blew it up a day or so ago. They have several divisions and plenty of auxiliary troops.

At first, I thought that maybe the definition proves that those who say the Palestinians have no army are correct. No, I do not believe their "army" is capable of independent action, let alone independent thought.

The greatest victories in Israel's history were accomplished by commanders and soldiers who used their minds and made decisive moves to accomplish their operations. The other thing that the Palestinian army lacks is a sense of morality. They have been firing on Israeli towns and villages. Today, they hit a school, more homes and stores. But then, morality does not necessarily go hand and hand with most armies...look at the Nazis, the Iranians, the Iraqis...

But finally, what convinced me that they have an army, despite the somewhat restricted definition, is that this force has managed, in the last 6 days, to attack threee million people by firing almost 1,000 rockets. No, it isn't that they lack forces; rather, they lack the ability to want peace. The best soldiers are those who do not want to fight because they will fight with more determination to return to their homes. The bravest soldiers are those who want to live and want to make sure their families are there when they come home. They do not hide behind their wives and children, put guns and explosives in holy places.

So, what do we have? An army - oh definitely. They are an army of terrorists determined to fight civilians. And, as expected, they quake and run when confronted with a true army. More than 100 people a day are dying in Syria, yet the Arab governments, even the Syrian government, is focused on getting Israel to stop, to accept an enforced ceasefire.

More people died in Syria today than have died in all of the last 6 days in Gaza, in fact, more people were killed today in Syria than in the last four months in Gaza. So what is the big deal?

The big deal, I think, is the utter embarrassment it will be to the Arab world when a true and trained army takes on a terrorist army on their own terms - force to force, soldier to soldier. I hate that this has to happen; that my son will be part of it. But if our soldiers don't face theirs, the Palestinian soldiers will continue to fight their chosen target - the people of Israel, our civilians, our children.



For Whom We Pray...

A good friend posted to Facebook a request in our neighborhood for everyone to pray for these boys. They are soldiers that are fighting now.

Iron Dome intercepts 6 rockets fired at Ashkelon 
  • Natanel Avraham Yona ben Sima Faiga
  • Eliezer ben Tanya
  • Binyamin Elimelech ben Penina 
  • Mordechai Zev ben Varda Rivka 
  • Avichai Moshe ben Ilana Chana 
  • Chanan Yona ben Bracha 
  • Simcha Avraham ben Bryna Leah 
  • Natan Elisha ben Lea 
  • Mordechai Eliezer ben Rivka 
  • Efraim Yehoshua ben Rivka
  • Elimeyer ben Rifka Rena
  • Elisha Ben Yehudis
  • Gavriel Ben Yehudis
  • Yamin Raphael ben Tzviya Rachel Miriam
There are thousands of soldiers whose names belong on this list - pls send me others and I will add them here and to whatever lists I know of.

Rocket explodes near Beersheba

It's a beautiful concept to ask others to pray for the safety of our sons and so I too ask that you pray for these and for all our sons. 

Ashkelon: 2 rockets hit residential area 

I'll also add that there are few things harder in life than having your son's name on the list. I want to tell her to take it off; I don't want him there. 

2 Rockets fired on Eshkol 

I just don't. I won't ask that his name be taken off the list, of course. 

2 rocket explode in Ashdod 

I'll continue to breathe deeply; I'll go among my friends and teach my class. I'll finish this document and have that meeting in 30 minutes. 

Rocket explodes in open area in Beersheba

And the whole time, my head is reminding my brain to pay attention and my heart is snickering at their foolish discussion. 

Rocket explodes outside Sderot 

Pay attention? Are you idiots? 

5 rockets explode in Eshkol 

There is no pay attention right now. 

Ashkelon school hit by rocket 

I'm working to keep the fear deep inside me. If you watch the news sites, the reports of incoming rockets can cripple you. Rockets are hitting the south and have been aimed at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

3 rockets explode in Eshkol 

And through it all, now, is the reality that these rockets are flying over my son's head. They are crashing into the ground not far from him.

Rocket lands in Sha'ar Hanegev; none hurt 

My head tells me that he knows where the rockets are; that he has protection where he is. He is so smart, my son. I have to trust him to do what he has been trained to do. A few months ago, he had Reserve duty - three weeks. This is what they trained for.

Siren sounds in Hof Ashkelon, Sha'ar Hanegev 

I haven't found my balance yet - that really is the problem. I'll find it. I will. But I'll probably cry some more tears first. .

Feel Free to Say Yes, Hamas

Some days are better than others; some mornings worse. I don't know what the formula is only that what I remember from last time is happening again, this steady sinking feeling. It's happening earlier this time than last time - almost in anticipation of what I know is to come (or, to be more honest, in anticipation of what happened last time).

This is a whole new war - it could go the same as the last one; it could go differently. I have no idea what will happen in the next hour or two, let alone the next few days or weeks. Hamas has offered a ceasefire - if Israel agrees to open all the borders. Yeah, sure, I think to myself, maybe they ARE running low on missiles and have no doubt the first thing they'd bring in would be more weapons.

For once, it seems, Israel has responded back brilliantly - we too are willing to offer for a ceasefire - on the condition six key points are agreed upon. I read them and smiled for the first time in hours. A few weeks ago, dear friends had to go to the States for a very sad reason. My oldest daughter is in her final year at Hebrew University and with a (beautiful, amazingly cute) young son, she needs to use every spare minute she has to study and bus rides are wasted time or valuable time, depending on how it is used.

Amira decided to buy a tablet computer - much, much cheaper in the US than here. So she asked, with much hesitation, if this couple would mind bringing it back with them when they came. She didn't want them to feel obligated and so she said, "feel free to say 'yes'" - what she meant, of course, was that they should feel free to say NO...but of course they didn't and she has her computer. Unfortunately for her, the "feel free to say yes" has become a part of our family dialog now, each time bringing a laugh or a smile. She's great about accepting it, still a bit embarrassed but finding the humor in it. I thought of her and that phrase. So, here are our demands, Hamas - feel free to say yes.
  1. A lull for a period of more than 15 years.
  2. An immediate cessation of arms smuggling and the transfer of weapons to Gaza.
  3. Cessation of rocket fire on the part of all armed Palestinian factions and an end to attacks on soldiers near the Gaza border.
  4. Israel has the right to hunt down terrorists in the event of an attack or if it obtains information on an imminent attack.
  5. The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt will remain open, but the crossings on the Gaza-Israel border will remain closed.
  6. Egypt's politicians, headed by President Mohammed Morsi, will be the guarantors of any ceasefire agreement. Meaning, the agreement will be backed by Egypt's political echelon rather than by its security establishment.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When there WILL be Peace

I've quoted this before, but today, as my son goes to war for the second time against Gaza in a conflict they started by firing dozens of rockets at Israel, this seems more appropriate than ever...


To Return the Calm

A few moments of broadcast from Ashkelon a few minutes ago - it starts with a report of a direct hit on a building. One person moderately wounded; another 4 treated for shock. In the midst of the report, there is a siren - another attack. They leave the camera and run for cover and so you watch and listen as the reporter talks from the bomb shelter while the camera shows the street.

Mere seconds later, it is over. Then they switch to the mayor of Beersheva. He is angry. He stands before a bus being filled with children who are being taken to Eilat, over an hour away, for a bit of a break - a day or more away from the missile attacks.

They switch locations to Ashdod to hear from the reporters that this morning, at least, it has been quiet. He shows where a rocket hit a store yesterday, smashing through the windows. On Friday, the store owner had the store closed - today, with a smashed window, he has opened his store and put out his wares for sale. As the reporter continues to speak, a man passes by and calls out, "Am Yisrael Chai" - "The people of Israel live." It is our battle cry - our promise.

And the mayor's words were interesting. He does not scream of violence and ideology. He says all they want is a return to calm. They want Gaza to stop firing rockets - but a permanent stop. Not for a day or two. Just stop.

Finally, the camera returns to Ashkelon to show the results of the attack we witnessed. A missile hits the edge of a street - damaging the garage, destroying the small car that was in it, sending hundreds of pieces of shrapnel at the house beyond the car. No one was hurt - and that's what we care about.

We want peace - we want quiet. And finally to a different politician - all we want is for Gaza to stop firing rockets our our civilians. There is room to talk, room to discuss - there is no room for violence.

Damage to Life and Property

Wow...it must be awful to be in Gaza right now...oh, but wait...


Rocket Attack from Gaza

This is the beautiful city of Shderot - it's a quiet town filled with people who want the quieter life. They have been under attack for 12 years and counting. When they hear either an air raid siren or the announcement "Color Red" - they know they have 15 seconds to get to safety.

On Friday, it took us at least 15 seconds to move everyone from the dining room to the bomb shelter. 15 seconds. It's taken you longer to read to this point in the post.

This is a video, taken yesterday by someone who was not very smart. I don't want others to do the same and yet, it's a wonderful opportunity to let you feel what it is like. Imagine your eyes were like the camera - searching the skies, looking, waiting. You know it is coming...and then the BOOM...that is so loud, the shock knocks the person down and we lose the picture - and then it comes back...look at two things at the end of the short clip.

First, look at how close it is to this person and second, notice that it is in the middle of a city. There is no military installation there - just a city, just people, who want to live in a quiet city that because of Gaza, hasn't been really quiet in 12 years.

On the Mind of an Israeli Mother

It's 5:30 a.m. - I finally closed my eyes around 2:30 a.m. - got about 2.5 hours sleep. Not enough. I'll confess...my husband snores. I've tried asking him to turn on his side - it works...till he rolls back onto his back. I don't want to sleep in another room, away from him, and so already years ago, I took to wearing ear plugs. They don't bother me, I stay close to him, and sleep well.

I'm afraid to wear the ear plugs now - what if I don't hear the siren? My bedroom is next to the bomb shelter - it would take me 5 seconds to get there. My bedroom is on a lower floor of the house...above my bedroom one son sleeps and next to his room is my youngest daughter's room. They are more exposed - less protected. They are both young... 16 and 12. Davidi is being so brave though there is this look in his eyes sometimes. Something between shock and wonder at how this is happening, what will happen.

He's too old to ask me questions as he did the last time his brother was sent to war. Then, I was the mother who had all the answers. But just four years later, he understands that I'm just a person. He's taller and can reach the higher shelves; he's stronger and can open the jars and lift the heavier boxes and bags. So he won't ask; he'll listen and if I catch the look in his eye when we drive and the radio announces a missile has just been fired at 540,000 people, I will offer comfort if I can.

She's not yet old enough to hold her questions. She'll ask where Elie will go, what Elie will do. She asks why they have to take him and not someone else and she wants to know when he will be home. She's old enough not to hesitate when Elie says he wants to take her cell phone. She's young enough to smile at the new one and play with the slider.

A week ago...God, less than a week ago, I drove Elie home from college and said I had to stop at the mall. Aliza needed boots for the big storm and Elie told me about a phone to buy. It was simple, relatively cheap, and Aliza would love it. Her phone keeps shutting off - it's very old - and wasn't working properly. So we bought her a phone - a white one! And each day she told me how much she loves it. What it can do! Everything...and then, just days after, Elie told her that he couldn't take his phone to war (an iPhone is not durable in a war zone and will shatter so easily) and so he took her Nokia. She is on one edge of maturity, just starting. Davidi is perhaps in the middle.

We have no bar mitzvah coming up as we did last time. It was on my mind four years ago - if Elie would be home in time to celebrate with us and how I could manage to celebrate if he wasn't there. We don't have it this time - no pending dates large enough to come to mind.

On my mind, at almost every moment is worry - some for Elie...okay, a lot for Elie - though as a commander of an artillery unit, if that's what his function will be, he'll be on the outside of Gaza. And so I worry about so many other sons (and daughters) from our neighborhood and all of Israel. So many are preparing, waiting, wondering if they will be sent in to do what they have to...

On my mind, almost always, is a low burning anger that the world is stupid enough to believe the Palestinian lies. Two are killed in an Israeli airstrike they say - but don't bother to admit they were the two firing a rocket at Ashdod, or Ashkelon, or Tel Aviv. And so the Palestinian death count goes up by two...murderers or attempted murderers is what they were when they were eliminated to save the lives of one million Israelis.

On my mind, is that the number "one million Israelis" no longer applies. I don't know the latest number but it has to be over 3 million when you add in the population centers of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. No one in their right mind thinks that Israel is targeting all of the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza. With as many military operations as we have launched in the last three days - almost 1,000, trust me, if our goal was to annihilate Gaza, we'd be just about ready to bring in the steam rollers to make it a parking lot.

On my mind, is the knowledge that the world will believe what it wants to believe. The Palestinians have petitioned the United Nations to stop the Israeli operation. And I know that the United Nations does not have the guts to answer with the single word, "Seriously?" the request so deserves. "You shoot 800 rockets at a country, you target their cities. What the heck did you think they were going to do, you morons?" - That should be their response. But it won't be. It never has been before. That is the response that should be coming from David Cameroon of the United Kingdom, who instead turned to Israel and asked that it do all that is possible to resolve the conflict - and I don't think he means ordering in the steam rollers.

On my mind is gratitude to my friends and neighbors. If they hear that Elie has been called in, they quickly say a prayer for his safety. All of Israel is praying for its soldiers. A friend stops me in the street and gives me a hug - another sends an email, a Facebook message - that is Israel. We stand behind our soldiers - but also their mothers and fathers, their wives.

On my mind is Lauren - she is so strong and she loves him so much. I couldn't ask for a better daughter-in-law. My oldest daughter told me that Lauren takes priority now, we have to take care of her. On Friday night, after Elie left, Lauren just wanted to be alone. She couldn't eat, couldn't sit there. I was so torn between letting her go (as if I could stop her) and hearing her mother say to me, "you let her be alone?" We're trying to be around without pushing too hard, trying to help her cope but she's a war behind us and it was so desperately hard the first time for me. On the other hand, Elie's gong to a base where they are staging the ground for what will be - and the worry is only beginning. Perhaps I am fooling myself with thinking that I'm coping - and that too, is on my mind.

Lauren met Elie through this blog. We adopted her a bit (she already has one adopted family so we're sort of second tier in the adoption realm) and I'm so happy that her first impression of him was that he was, perhaps just a little, a bit of a jerk. What he was, was a typical just-post-army kid making his way and I love that she didn't judge him or see him from the portrait I paint here.

He's a bit of the blog and so much more of his own person beyond it. It was only after months and months of her coming to visit, being friends with my daughters and sharing "war" stories with Elie about being a medic and ambulance runs, that they recognized that they were perfect for each other - and I love teasing them that I knew so much before they did. I also love feeling that she is not only a daughter-in-law but a daughter too. There's a picture from their wedding that I love - it is a picture of Lauren and me and her mother as the three of us walked towards the chuppah, the wedding canopy. Lauren was saying something; my head is bent towards hers and we are both smiling. I don't know what she was saying at that moment - but I love the image of friends beyond the relationship and love beyond the friendship..

Lauren is now the wife of a soldier, and more, a soldier at war. It is a reality I have never known. It is agony having a son in war; I can't imagine having a husband there. I can't imagine sleeping alone at night not knowing where he is. I can't imagine the fear. And when I tell her all the reasons why she doesn't have to be afraid, she smiles and says she knows. She is so strong, too strong, and I've asked her not to read the blog now, maybe her mother and aunt too. I need this place to pour out my feelings and I want others to know. But I want them to believe me when I tell them there is nothing to worry about; that he's fine; that he's smart. That he has a place to go when a missile is being fired and the time to get there. I want them to believe what my mind keeps telling my heart - he's okay. He's fine. He will come home...though at this moment, I understand it probably won't be soon.

I was lucky last time - I never imagined I would not see him for three weeks. Three weeks was an eternity but it was dealt with one day at a time. Now, I know it may be weeks before I see him and I can't control my stupid eyes from filling or the block of pain that comes from my heart as my brain gives this sort of superior snicker and shakes it's shoulders in surrender (you didn't know a brain has shoulders, did you?).

And yet, on my mind - but not really my mind, constantly, is fear. It is that endless conflict between my heart and my mind. On Friday, a woman wrote to me that she was terrified of the rockets. I asked her where she lived and she told me Jerusalem. I was surprised and then wrote her, being the long-term Israeli here at all of 19 years, that Gaza can't hit Jerusalem, that she has nothing to worry about. She thanked me for having calmed her...hours later, I'm wondering how to write to her and tell her I was an idiot.

That night, Gaza hit Jerusalem with three rockets. What can I say to her? And too my children when they ask. My mind knows that it is virtually impossible for them to send rockets into Maale Adumim - we are a few critical kilometers even further away.  But I know nothing of these missiles, of wind and angles.

And on my mind is that four years ago, Elie had it easier than he does now. He was younger and not married. He didn't look over his shoulder to see what was being hit; his concentration was on what he was doing, facing forward to get the job done. He left a wife an hour after rockets were fired in this direction. In the last war, the boys from Ashkelon, Ashdod, Shderot and many other places, know they were fighting for their families as well as their country and carried that extra burden. Each missile that flew over their heads was one that could slam into their homes. Literally. To an extent, that is what Elie must be feeling as well - and this time, he has a wife here. It was always about protecting Israel - now it is about protecting Israel AND protecting his own home and family.

And finally, on my mind is the reality that four  years ago, Israel gave in to US and international pressure and stopped the fight. Hamas was beaten down but not defeated. It was a mistake we have  to correct now. And while my mind knows that, my heart is with my son, with his wife, with all the sons, the wives, the mothers and fathers. My heart is with the brothers and sisters, on the brink of understanding.

May God watch over the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. May they go in health and may they return in health. May God bring peace to His beloved land and bless us all with safety and life.

Where does Gaza hide its rockets?

In this case, the answer is: 94 meters from a mosque and playground on one side, 77 meters from a gas station on the other.


Gaza's Target

On Friday night, we were sent to our bomb shelters three times by air raid sirens. The first was a shock. In disbelief, we hurried to the shelter. Jerusalem is not even on this map...this is the Hamas rocket threat - in numbers. Please not that ALL these numbers relate to civilian populations only. The rockets that hit near Jerusalem were not "homemade" - they were smuggled in from Iran - Fajr 5 missiles with a range of 75 kilometers.

The Ache in the Heart

I wrote once, long ago, of how having a son in the army changed your relationship and part of being a parent is accepting that relationship and going with the flow of it. One of the things I noticed early on was that I was more aware of the ache inside me when my sons were not home. When you first have a child, you are still connected to them in many ways. You feel, sometimes before they even let you know, that they are hungry or they need you.

Over time, the incredible connection that began when they were within you stretches. At first, you are with them almost 24 hours a day; slowly it becomes less intense. They learn to crawl, to walk, to run. They go to school and friends and you become two human beings - there's a connection, of course, but you don't feel them as deeply as you did before.

Hours can go where you concentrate on other people and other things. It was a shock to me, initially, to find that after Elie went into the army, a part of my heart and brain remained engaged with his well being. What I mean is, it was like a dull nerve always being pressed. I was constantly aware that he was out of reach, out of contact.

Though there were times he was in more danger than others, that feeling of connection, of worry, never went away unless he was at home. Only then did I feel that I could turn my phone off over the weekend, sleep deeply etc.

When Shmulik left the army, I thought that I had finally earned a full night's sleep; peace in the heart and mind and soul. When Elie went into the Reserves, here and there, the connection didn't come back and I thought maybe I'd moved past it, come to terms with this army thing.

When Shmulik married last year and Elie married this year, I accepted that my relationship with my sons has changed. Each has a wife that needs to take priority in their attention. Sure, I'm still their mother, but it's a background position.

Moments after Elie left last night, I knew that he hadn't really left. I feel that ache deep inside, that feeling that he's missing and I can't be complete without him home - even knowing that that home isn't really mine anymore. His home is his apartment with Lauren and she's missing him and worried and going through so much and more of what I feel.

At one point, half joking, and half not, I said to Amira, "I don't want to do this again. It wasn't fun the first time." I think we both laughed but the truth is that I don't want to do this. I don't want him to go to war. I don't want him there. I just don't want it.

And the second truth is that this is going to happen. I finally spoke to Elie hours after Shabbat had ended. I was so grateful for the call. I had expected to hear about him from Lauren (and he called her hours ago and she was wonderful and called me right away). It was so nice of him to call me too - I'd needed it more than he'll ever know.

He's still on a base, waiting to be moved south; still preparing. The Israeli air force has done a tremendous job of laying the foundations of the ground invasion that is to come. No nation can withstand hundreds of rockets being fired at its cities. Hamas chose this battle and Elie and so many others from this neighborhood and throughout Israel are preparing, at this very moment, to respond to that call to battle.

It will not be easy. It will not be short but maybe this time the leaders of Israel will realize that we have no choice but to finish what was started 4 years ago.

A Mother's Perspective

I watched this video - I'd seen pieces of it elsewhere. What got to me was one of the last lines - that this will stay with them forever. I don't think Aliza will ever forget what it is like to be so afraid; afraid that a missile will come down on her home; afraid to go out and be too far away.

I had to explain to her - and to others, the order of what to do during an attack. "Why haven't they prepared people in Jerusalem for this?" I was asked today. And the answer is that the army has been telling us for days what to do in case of a rocket attack but we who live so far never believed they would fire at Jerusalem. And now we do and so gone is that small measure of security. I find myself listening for sirens, imagining how long it will take me to run up the stairs and get everyone down to the bomb shelter and I imagine, sometimes, that they will never forget these days. I certainly won't.


Random Thoughts

Perhaps more than thoughts, these are images of the last few hours - moments I can't imagine I'll ever forget...
  • During the first siren, as we went quickly into the bomb shelter, Elie was the last to enter and as he did, he called to the dog to come inside. This would not be exceptional, except that in all honesty, Elie is not a pet person. Over the years, we've had cats and dogs and birds and fish. We even had a hamster and I think a mouse. I drew the line at snakes! Our goal was to have our children love animals and not fear them; to recognize the responsibilities involved and to benefit from the unique and special love an animal shares with a human. Mostly, we succeeded. Elie doesn't hate animals, he just doesn't love having them so it was sweet that he, of all of us, was calm enough to remember to call Simba into the house.
  • When it was really time for Elie to go, Lauren and I walked him outside. As we walked down the steps, the neighbor from next door came out. They are wonderful people - both. Shalom is the husband and he called out to Elie to wait. He walked around the front of his house, through the gateway and by the time I came down the stairs he was giving Elie a hug and giving him a special bracha, a blessing. Elie should go in peace and come home in peace; he should return, whole in body and spirit. After, I gave Elie a kiss goodbye - I think I did...and then Elie and Lauren went across the street to say their own goodbyes. It was heartbreaking to watch them. They've been married only 7 months. How long this separation will be is anyone's guess.
  • Our house is located on a hill; the house above ours is about 1/2 a flight above and so, if I walk out my front door to the dividing wall, I can look down to one neighbor and up to the other. After the second siren, we were all outside talking, checking what the other had heard. Three missiles hit the area; we all agreed one had hit south of Jerusalem. At one point, as I was saying something, I thought I heard the beginnings of a siren and I hesitated. Both my son and Shalom quickly said it was a motorcycle revving up to climb the hill to Jerusalem. That was how much of the weekend passed - waiting to hear the siren.
  • The boy's junior high school had lent out its rooms to people from the south to come and stay the weekend. It wasn't hard to imagine the shock these people must have felt when here where it was supposed to be safe, there was sirens as well.
  • At one point, I walked outside - forced myself to go out because I can't let "out" be my enemy. I can't fear going outside...I just couldn't stand that. And so I stood outside, listening, not wanting the "out" to betray me. At one point, Aliza came next to me and gave me a hug and whispered, "I'm scared." These are terrible words to hear from a child and once again that which she fears is beyond my control. This isn't about turning on a light or checking under the bed for monsters. More than once I have explained to her that the rockets they are now firing can travel 75-80 kilometers. Jerusalem is just above 70 kilometers from the edge of Gaza; we are several more. Can they actually hit us here? I don't really want to know.
  • Acts of kindness abound in Israel today - the Eldan rental car company is offering free rentals to people whose car was damaged by rocket fire. 
I have so much more I want to write about. It will come slowly...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

War Comes Again

I knew that when I finally sat down before the computer, my mind would be blank. So many thoughts I wanted to share, so many things that were said and done in the last 25 hours. I'll try, in the next few posts, to remember them all, to write them down.

The first, and perhaps hardest of all, is the one I'll start with. Elie's wife Lauren has a family in the center of the country. The wife was friend's with Lauren's mother; Lauren's mother married and has raised three wonderful daughters in America while her friend married and settled in Israel to raise her children here. In effect, what it means is that whenever Lauren or her siblings or cousins come to Israel, they have a home here and whenever Rita's children go to America, they have a home there.

Several times over the last few months, Elie and Lauren have gone there to visit. That was their plan this past weekend. They borrowed my car and drove there on Friday while we finished our plans for Shabbat.

A little while before Shabbat - not very long at all, Lauren called to tell me that Elie had been mobilized. He had to report as soon as possible. They were on their way back to Maale Adumim for Elie to get his army stuff. They expected to be back before Shabbat came in. She said other things; I heard very little.

I closed the phone and started to cry. What else could I do? I've done this before, you see. It wasn't easy the first time. So many others in the neighborhood have been called - this one has two sons in; this one has a son and daughter; this one has two sons-in-laws.

Elie came home and started grabbing army equipment. I packed a bit of food for him. Lauren was at their apartment gathering some things there - they had made a list on the way home. Lauren is the most organized person I have ever met (except her mother!). Elie was here in our house. We had already lit the Shabbat candles and Aliza had gone to meet her friend and go the synagogue together...

and then what I would have told you was unthinkable just two days ago, actually happened. An air raid siren sounded. Loud, wailing, going up and down. Incoming missile suspected. Here, near Jerusalem...

I have, for many months now, imagined this moment - if it was to happen, I wanted it to happen on Shabbat - which it did. But other than that, it was all terrifying and unpredictable. The pieces of my family kept going through my mind - where is Aliza - she's outside somewhere, has she found shelter? Amira wasn't supposed to be with me. She'd come down on Friday afternoon and her husband was going to come down later with the baby.

She was with us; her baby and husband were not. She began to cry - sheer terror for a mother not to be with her baby, not to know. My baby was 12 years old; her's is 18 months old. The siren stopped after what seemed like a minute or two.

I sent Davidi to get Aliza; Amira went to be with Lauren. We had no radio to know what had happened, if anyone was hurt, if it was even real. What was terribly real and has become more real, is that Elie had to leave.

He's 25 years old and this is his second war. The first time, he went with a clear head. He moved from one army base to another. This time, he left his wife behind and more, he left with the knowledge that it was very much his home under fire.


Friday, November 16, 2012

An Obligatory War, Again

So much of what is happening now reminds me of the war in which Elie fought four years ago. It isn't just me. All of Israel - Elie, friends I meet - we all remember. Elie's final words on the war were, "Ima, they didn't let us finish." Even then, we all knew. We can only hope that this time, the Israeli government has the strength to withstand international pressure and finish. Cripple Hamas, even destroy it.

We are obligated to do this - obligated to our children, our country, our future. The concept of obligation reminds me of another of my earlier posts and reminds me of my earlier post (The Jewish Way).

An Obligatory War - (reposted from 4 years ago)

There is a concept, in Judaism, of an "obligatory war" (known as melchemet mitzvah, in Hebrew). It means a war that must be fought, one where there is no choice. In Biblical times, the term was used most often in connection with defensive wars, when vital interests were at risk. Some incorrectly refer to this as a "religious war" with undertones of Jihad, but that isn't what the term means at all. There is no glory in death, no martyrdom.
Rather, it refers to a war that we are obligated to fight and as such, no one is exempt from it. Why do I mention this (when in truth, until tonight I'm not sure I ever even heard of the concept)? 
I was sitting having dinner with my two youngest children, exhausted from another day of teaching and wondering where Elie was, what he was doing. Listening to news of more and more rockets hitting AshkelonSderotOfakimAshdod and finally coming home to deal with dinner, questions, a stack of laundry that has to be folded and plans for tomorrow that need to be made. 
It was easier to let them talk and remind them, now and again, to finish eating or pass me the ketchup or tell them no, you can't have soda today, but there's apple juice. My daughter finished another book. It's amazing how fast she reads. She told me the story, the whole story, of a mother who walked for hours and hours to get her son medicine. She warned me that it started off bad, even "very bad," but then ended "good." 
She was getting ready to tell me another story when my youngest son interrupted. "Will Elie make it to my bar mitzvah?" he asked me. It's funny how he chose today to ask that question. Just this morning, an army officer said that it is very possible the war would last through to the end of the month and his bar mitzvah is before that. For the first time, earlier today, I began to contemplate a bar mitzvah without Elie there. No, I can't call it off. Yes, it will take place whether Elie is there or not and yes, the idea is killing me deep inside. 
I looked at my son. Truth. I have to be honest. "I don't know," I said. "They said this morning that the war may not end in time. I just don't know." 
My daughter was very upset, "that's not fair. He has to come home. Tell them it's for the bar mitzvah." Truth might work with a 12-year-old on the brink of maturity, but it has no place in the heart of an almost 9-year-old who misses her brother terribly.
Before I could say a word, my son turned to my daughter and answered, "It's a melchemet mitzvah," and then went on to explain, "even a chatan [a groom] under the chupah [wedding canopy] has to go if it's a melchemet mitzvah." 
According to the Talmud, “For a war of mitzvah, everyone has to join, even a bridegroom from his bridal suite and a bride from under the wedding canopy.” It was amazing on several fronts. First, that my son could so easily quote this information; so easily associate it to this situation, and most important, find comfort in the fact that though his brother may not attend his bar mitzvah, what he will be doing is of great importance. 
While I struggled inside myself to find a way to comfort each child, in the end, my son comforted my daughter and, to some extent, comforted me. I'm still not sure how I will cope with celebrating this huge moment in our family's life without Elie and so I will play the ostrich just a bit longer and hope he'll make it home for this day. 
Beyond this, there is an important concept to consider - an obligatory war. A war we did not choose to wage, but one that we are now commanded to fight. 
I want to pray that God brings Elie home in time for his brother's bar mitzvah, but I won't do that because what Elie does there is very important and he'll come home, God willing, when it's done. It is our obligation to protect our people, our land, our nation, our civilians, our children. This is what Elie is doing - a melchemet mitzvah
May God grant us victory in this war - victory such that our towns and cities will no longer be bombed, that our sons no longer have to go to war, that our daughters no longer miss their brothers.

The Jewish Way

What a funny title - the Jewish way...I had something I wanted to say, started thinking about the title, and that came out.

The Jewish way...

What I meant to say, was that today is Friday and the Jewish way is that no matter what else is happening, Friday means the Sabbath is coming. Our beloved Shabbat. Tonight, in my home, the radio will be off; computers put away so that a beautiful white table cloth alone will cover the dining room table. Candles will burn gently in the window; the house filled with the scent of all the dishes I'll be cooking in the next few hours.

No matter what is happening, Shabbat will come to all of Israel - everywhere, even in the south where people are all but living in shelters, they'll be lighting those same candles. They may not go to the synagogue for fear of being in the open during an attack; they may not take a leisurely stroll through their neighborhood, speaking to neighbors and friends, but it will still be Shabbat. That is the Jewish way - a reminder that all is controlled from Above.

But...

There is another Jewish way happening now in the south that cannot be ignored - or rather, it is being ignored and should not be. The Israeli army is many things - so many adjectives - but it is, above all else, a Jewish army; it follows the Jewish way.

And so yesterday, again, we dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets - in Arabic, explaining and warning the citizens of Gaza. We have no choice; your leadership, the one you elected to power, has left us no choice. We cannot live this way; we will not allow our children to grow up this way. And so, once again, as we did four years ago, it is time to enter Gaza and clean out the weapons that threaten our children.

We will do it the Jewish way - others would simply bomb Gaza to smithereens and worry about world opinion later. No, we are not bombing Gaza indiscriminately, if we were, they wouldn't so easily be able to claim numbers. Already the fraud on their side has begun. Pictures from Syria claimed to be from Gaza (I posted one two days ago and there are others). A man claiming to be wounded, rises and walks off stage when the cameras seem to go quit.

In Jenin, they claimed hundreds were wounded, even thousands - one report said 5,000. It was a massacre beyond all proportions. Except, it wasn't of course - it was 53 dead - 42 of whom were gunmen/terrorists (at least). No massacre, All lies. That is Gaza - all lies. The Gaza way.

We put our children in bomb shelters, our women, our innocent - and we tell them to stay there, we beg them. That is the Jewish way.

We use precise technology to the best of our ability and so we take out a car - when it is separated from others and at an intersection to minimize damage and casualties - and we kill an arch terrorist, mastermind of violence and rocket attacks on our people...that is the Jewish way. And the Gaza way - they claim casualties without telling you how many were standing there firing a rocket at Israel at the moment our missile came raining down on them - only on them. Three dead, says Gaza. Three martyrs of Islam. But they are, according to the Jewish way, three dead men who chose to fight and kills us and we killed them.

I also wanted to write that despite being glued to the computer for the last two days, I have to cook, I have to clean. I have to shower and dress nicely. I have to set the table (actually, I'm cheating - Aliza does that!) and tonight I have to...no, I want to sit next to my husband. Amira and Haim and the baby are coming for dinner. Shabbat is a gift that God gave to the Jewish people. Tonight, we will honor that gift and beg Him to watch over the people of the south and our precious sons as they enter Gaza in the coming hours, days, and perhaps weeks.

While in Gaza, they will do their best to follow the Jewish way - unlike the Arabs, they will not intentionally aim at civilians; they will not target the innocent. They will cancel an operation if civilians come within range and again act to protect terrorists. But, we will not save their mosques, homes, schools and even hospitals if we know they are hiding weapons there.

Four years ago, I wrote a simple fact - if you put weapons in schools, homes, mosques and hospitals - the deaths of innocents are yours, not ours. A mosque is a house of God; if you put weapons and explosives in it - God leaves. You may call it a house of Allah, that is your choice. I don't know this Allah of yours; I know only God. If God and Allah are the same, Allah will leave the mosque when you desecrate it with weapons. And then, that structure, which once might have been holy, is holy no more. It is an arsenal - a legitimate target for a nation at war.

This is a war, Gaza - a war you started by firing out our homes, that do not contain weapons, at our synagogues, in which we only pray. You fired at our schools, and yes, our hospitals. And so, the Jewish way - after 2,000 years, is that we will fight back. We will fight - even on Shabbat. Especially, on Shabbat.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Proportionality


Proportionality was a big word during the Cast Lead War. Many felt Israel's response was disproportionate to Gaza's success. You see, poor souls, they kept firing rockets at us - but mostly missed so therefore our ability to hit our target was seen as our advantage - even, can you imagine, an unfair one. 

Then again, the few times we missed our target, we were criticized for that too. Sometimes, you can't win and so you have to settle for being right, and being safe. Four years ago, we were worried about what kind of President Obama would be; what kind of support he would give Israel in real terms, not in the fancy talk of his campaign. We are so much wiser now, the fears we had about Barack Hussein Obama have largely been realized, though, to give the man his due, his administration did give Israel a boost yesterday when it sided with Israel, faulting Hamas completely for this latest round of violence and declaring for all to hear that we have the right to defend ourselves.

Of course, the longer this war will go, the more we will again hear proportionality. Eleven people have been killed in Gaza...I know that number includes al-Jabari; that makes 10. Two teams of rocket launching terrorists are in that group, that brings it down to 5. I suspect, even among the five, there is at least one more active combatant - a soldier, if you will, who bet on war and lost his gamble.

In Israel, we have three dead - all civilians. We have many wounded. As far as I know, they too are all civilians. So, from what I see, the Palestinians have about a 20% civilian casualty rate while we have about 100%. 

Here's another example of proportional - it's hard to imagine, for some, the area that is under attack. We are talking of a reach of 40 kilometers - more actually, as today Gaza shot beyond 40 kilometers. Imagine, then, if this same geographical space were spread over the east coast of the United States...take a look...


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