Sunday, December 30, 2012

From Sad-ish to Glad-ish

I've been chugging along for the last few days trying to think what to write, not feeling there was much to say. The wonderful thing about the flat of the roller coaster is that time seems to stretch without a sense of urgency. It's so boring on the flat of the roller coaster and I am grateful for boring. I am grateful that I can go to sleep at night and not worry that my phone may not be charged enough. Everything is okay; missiles aren't flying and my sons are home safe. Boring is one of God's greatest gifts!

Elie is studying engineering; Shmulik is looking into studying computers and Davidi needs a haircut! Aliza is cruising towards her 13th birthday, just as Davidi is in the final days before he turns 17.
My oldest daughter is studying and watching her baby gain words and actions every day. It is amazing how quickly babies learn - at least this one. I know they all must, but I just don't remember seeing a baby understand so much, so fast, so early.

My children were the most amazing...how is it possible that a grandchild can be as amazing (perhaps even a bit more amazing in some ways?). He calls me "Savta" - grandma in Hebrew, and my heart melts. He gives me a kiss and I am unsure I can ever put him down. You can talk to him and he talks back. He was over today and when Aliza went upstairs for a minute, he walked over to the steps, looked up and called, "Iza! Down!" He walked around the room identifying things, calling out words. This is the beauty of the calm oasis of today.

Sometimes I feel that something is coming - and it's scary. I don't know what it is, if it is. I saw a report that 400 people were killed in Syria today - bodies are being found and there are reports of chemical weapons being used. Iran remains an open sore; a danger on the edge. The Egyptians aren't particularly stable; God knows what is happening in Lebanon and Jordan issued a warning to Jews last week not to visit dressed in apparel that easily identifies them as Jews...for their own safety of course. Personally, I'd cut to the chase on that one and tell Jews not to visit, but never mind.

Driving home today with Elie on a beautiful sunny day, I felt this pressure, this concern as we drove up the mountain to Maale Adumim. It's probably a combination of a lot of things. For one thing, I'm busy at work - two courses running, a new writer starting, and to top it off, we're coordinating an amazing national conference for February 7 (www.megacomm.org).

The Executive Director of an organization wrote to me explaining their interest in attending the conference. The conversation turned a bit personal and wanting to show that I have an interest in the work they do, I mentioned that I was "A Soldier's Mother." I provided a link to the blog - hoping she would come here and read a bit and see that we share common interests.

And in the response - sadness turned to a smile. "Oh my goodness," she wrote, "YOU are asoldiersmother?...I read your blog and have shared your pieces often."

I guess it's my ego, but I find that so cool. I like when people say, "oh, I've heard of you" or "I read your blog." But, I just loved that "YOU" are a soldier's mother? I'm not sure, but I think I wrote back, "I am, I am." If I didn't write it back, I certainly thought it.

I am, you see - for 31 days this year, an active soldier's mother; and for 365 days a year for the next 25 years or so, the mother soldiers that can be called - any time, without warning. I've experienced the "Tzav Shmona" - an immediate mobilization and I can tell you that I pray to God I never experience it again. I can still feel the air leaving my body when I heard Lauren tell me that they were on the way back to Maale Adumim for Elie to get his army gear, that he'd been called in.

I don't think I will ever forget those first 30 seconds. I heard Lauren telling me to sit down. It sounded like a mighty find idea and I did. I heard her talking, telling me everything was okay and honestly, I'm not sure what else she said. All I knew is that I had thought I wasn't even ON the roller coaster and here I was flying down into the drop.

Maybe part of that impending feeling I was having is the knowledge that in just two weeks, Davidi goes for his Tzav Rishon. Today, I can tell him to get a haircut and get him out of school tomorrow night for an event in memory of his grandfather, for whom he was named.

The Tzav Rishon is the army letting me know soon enough, too soon, that darn roller coaster's going to pick up speed and I know, I just know, it's going to start climbing and falling again. What that nice note did was let me push those other thoughts away. I'll go to sleep tonight with a smile and for that, I am grateful.

May God bless our soldiers this night and every night. May He keep them warm and watch over them as they sleep and as they guard us and may tomorrow come in health and safety for all of them.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Settling Back to Quiet

When Elie's unit was moved south and put in position near Gaza before the Cast Lead War in 2008, I experienced about a month of unbelievable fear and all sorts of other things (I won't even attempt to summarize it all here, but it's available if you want to click back to late December 2008/January 2009). I also, amazingly enough, had a blog whose readership soared into the tens of thousands a day. It is, on the one hand, the dream of many bloggers (and the reality of a select few). The only problem was - I was too distracted to "enjoy" it. 

And with all those visitors, I had so many comments, so many. A lot of those that visited came to leave these really nasty comments. More though, left comments  that were so incredibly supportive - touching beyond anything I could express. There were the veterans who knew war and assured me that Elie would be fine, that he'd cope, and overcome and they were so right. There were the mothers of other soldiers (and the fathers too) who sent their love and prayers and told me to be strong...and I was trying to do that so hard. There was one woman from Montana who told me it was 3:00 in the morning and she woke worrying about Elie and me and I cried in gratitude and thought God would protect Elie just on the basis of all these amazing people.

And for some reason, I read the ones that were so nasty too. The ones that wished such horrible things on my country, my family, my son and these made me angry...and sometimes they made me cry too. Some I deleted, some I put through. Some I turned into posts called Comments on Comments and responded.

When the war was over and Elie was back home, a few weeks went by and I noticed my blog was back to its normal daily rates - nope, not 10,000+ a day, but just fine for me. I was back with my friends, back to normal. And I was happy.

A few weeks ago, Israel was again being shelled by hundreds of rockets - sometimes in a single day, certainly within each week. We moved to the edges of war - Israel and our sons, my son. Our air force flew into action hitting over 1,500 important MILITARY targets that needed to be taken out. Elie was there - again and I balanced my fears with work, blogging, and worrying about Elie's wife (who was amazing and comforting and worrying about me).

Once again, my blog stats showed a surge - not to the level of tens of thousands but still, a really hefty increase per day. I got a few nasty comments, not nearly as many as last time and not nearly as vicious.

And then the cease-fire was declared and Elie came home...for a while, I would hear a sound and stop to listen to see if it was a siren; I would check the news to see if a rocket had been fired. Friends in the south told me how their children were having a hard time getting back to school. They were afraid.

I've stopped hearing sirens in my head; stopped thinking that a revved up motorcycle is the beginning of a siren. I've stopped checking some news sites; check others less often. And my blog stats have gone down - still above normal, but a nice above normal.

We're settling back to the flat of the roller coaster - Israel and I, settling back to quiet. I don't know how long it will last; you can go crazy if you even attempt to calculate it. Oh, I'm sure there will be more rockets (hey, there was even one on Sunday that was fired, but it fell short and was mostly ignored with the hope that it was nothing more than one idiot with a missile and a match...do you use a match to launch a missile...probably not). I have little doubt that there will be another war with Gaza, maybe even one with Lebanon. With the upheaval in Syria - at some point they are going to realize attacking Israel might save them and then, again, we might be facing war.

But that's tomorrow, next week, next month. God willing, at least next year or the year after that and if we are very lucky, maybe it will be another four years or five. Maybe, please God, it will be long enough for Davidi to go into the army...and out...before the next one.

So for now, I'll rejoice in being where we are because I've decided my favorite place in the WHOLE world...is that flat of the roller coaster. You can believe, you really can, that it's okay. That this time, you're near the end of the ride and you can finally coast. Just relax - life is good. No sudden falls ahead...just flat, safe, calm.
My grandson was here for a few hours. He gives kisses now and says so many words. He's back with his parents - my living room floor is full of toys; the coffee table pushed to block the entrance. The chair where I fed him a yogurt still faces the couch where I was sitting.

The window of our bomb shelter remains firmly sealed - but it's winter and we don't use the room very often for more than storage and shelves, so I'm not really sure that the closed window is a reaction to anything more than the cold weather and laziness.

And most important of all, for a month now, our children in the south have been going to school and coming home and playing outside. They are slowly learning not to listen for the alarm; not to calculate where to run.

May God forever bless us with these messy floors and children who never listen for the siren, never look where to hide. May the path ahead be calm, flat....quiet.

So They Won't Serve...and Merry Christmas

I love this blog. I think that's the bottom line. My writing appears in many places - I've got one strand on Times of Israel going on now and I need to post the next part. I logged in to write there this morning and then thought, nope, wrong audience.

I write on Facebook groups that I belong to but I just closed the group in frustration and came back here, back home. You'd think, this being my site, that I'd feel isolated or lonely - no one writes here but me, right? But actually it's great - I have my commenter friends - you guys are the best...even the ones who disagree with me.

I have things bouncing around in my brain and I need to work them out...I need time to write, which I don't have now and I'm tired and it's only Tuesday. I have blog posts I have to write for one customer, two documents I have to finish for another. I have a course to teach tomorrow; another I have to record tonight. I have to babysit this afternoon, which means if I get any sleep at all tonight, it will be a miracle.

And  last night, at the very end of my day - already close to midnight, I headed home, stopping by my daughter's house to pick up the car seat for the baby. There in the quiet of the middle of the night, knowing I'd have to be up in 6 hours, I had a short talk with my son-in-law. He is a very special person in so many ways, more than I could ever explain without my eyes filling with tears. I'm so blessed to have him - well yes, my daughter has him, but he has her and together, they have each other. For a mother to see that...is beyond words. After two years, he finishes the army this week, returns his uniform and will be free to do what he wants, when he wants. It hasn't sunk in yet, he told me.

I told him that it was good he had served and how it is good for a son to have a father who has gone through the army. Elie didn't have that - what he brought to us, the stories, the process, the problems - were all new. My husband listened but couldn't offer his own opinions, advice, army stories of his own. Each thing that happened to Elie was a discovery for us, an unknown, a path never traveled by any of us. It was easier for Shmulik and Chaim because they had Elie to guide them, advise them. Where a parent might call a commanding officer, Elie has taken that role if it was needed; Elie answers the questions, explains.

So when my grandson gets to that age, I said, if he serves in the army, Haim will be able to guide him, to share from the side of knowing. Haim is happy he served, enriched in many ways by the experience. There is a lot that is good about the army, he told me, but he looked down and around when I mentioned his son serving. It is years and years away - his son, my amazingly special grandson, is just a baby.

When you get to be my age, you understand how fast time goes - when your first is just a young toddler, it seems the future is ages away. And then Haim told me something I had forgotten, something friends of mine had told me when their son went into the army.

"It wasn't supposed to be like this," my friend said. "We served so that he wouldn't have to."

My son-in-law wants to believe in a future in which there will be peace and no reason for his toddler to ever grow into a soldier. He served so that his son wouldn't have to. I'd forgotten that. My son-in-law needs to believe that there will be no need for soldiers in another 18 or so years. Deep down, I want to believe that too, but there is this massive wall inside me that doesn't believe.


It is December 25th and in Israel, it's a normal workday - so distant from what is happening in the rest of the world that I almost forgot. Christmas is not my holiday, you see, not part of my life. That was the choice I made and it was and is the right one for me and my family. When it was my holiday a few weeks ago -  many wished me well but went about their lives as normal; it wasn't their holiday. And today, I do the same.

I wish my Christian friends and neighbors a very merry Christmas - may it truly be a season of peace for you, your families, your friends and neighbors. May your countries know peace - peace within your own world and peace among your neighboring countries. And though our sons and sons-in-law may be soldiers today, may the day come soon when our grandsons (and granddaughters) won't be.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Coloring a Camel

I don't know how to start this post. Do I write about a young girl, a camel, or a terrorist attack? Do I write as a parent?

It's a sad story that began ... no, maybe it's better to say it ended...on March 5th, 2003. On that day, a young girl went with her friend to plan the end-of-year celebrations for her school. An Arab terrorist boarded the same bus and blew it up. Tal and her friend Liz were among the 17 people killed; another 53 people were wounded.

I looked at her birthday - she was born three months and ten days before my oldest daughter. It's part of every terror attack - what is stolen is not just a life, not just a moment - but so much more. All the future that would have been - a husband, perhaps, and children. Grandchildren for her parents, nieces and nephews who will never know her. It's enough to break you, if you let it.

So there you have the young girl and the terror attack - and now the camels. What comes to mind for many who lose a loved one, especially a child, is how to help their memory live on. Each wants their way to be unique and also related to something of their child.

After their 15-year-old daughter Malki was murdered in the Sbarro terror attack, Arnold and Frimet Roth created the Keren Malki Fund. An Israel-based, non-political voluntary not-for-profit organization providing support and help without any regard for the religious or national background of the family. Keren Malki is focused on empowerment, allowing families from every segment of Israeli society to provide quality home-care for their special-needs child the way they believe it ought to be provided.

After their 13-year-old son was murdered less than a kilometer from him home by Palestinian terrorists, Rabbi Seth and Sherri Mandell created the Koby Mandell Foundation to offer a Jewish response to the impact of terror and tragedy— helping bereaved mothers, fathers,widows, orphans and siblings re-build their lives, and create meaning out of suffering.

There are too many instances of parents doing similar things but each one touches. On March 5th, 2003, Tal Kehrmann was killed. We know little of her life - it was filled with smiles and laughter and friends, but it was so short. Her father tells us she loved animals, especially camels and so he has a request for us as the 10 year anniversary of her murder comes close.

It's a whimsical, almost silly request but it is important to Tal's family and will bring them comfort. It will tell them in a world of too many victims, we still remember Tal. They're asking us to color a camel for Tal. In her diary, they found a picture of a camel, but it had not been colored in - so they have asked people from all over the world to download the picture, color it in, scan it and send it back. There are already close to 2,500 camels posted to the site - they want to reach 10,000 by the 10th anniversary in just under 3 months.

We can't always donate money to every worthy cause or donate the time to help - but can you spare a few minutes to color a camel? If you can, please go to:  http://www.tal-smile.com/DrawTalCamelE.htm

Download Tal's drawing and color it - use as many colors as you can - let her memory bring light to all who remember her and may her family continue to find comfort in the wonderous memory of this special girl. They  do not have her future, but if we take her with us into our future, we help them keep her memory alive. Please, color a camel for Tal.

Just two days before Tal died, she wrote a poem - it is, in many ways, a message to all of us, if we will but listen to her.

"People tend to disregard happiness,
And I think I know why.
Because, when you're happy you don’t care why,
And you do not deal with it too much.
But when you are sad, you think of it and analyzed
Why you are sad,
Instead of let it be, let it go and be happy again.
I’m happy with no reason and I’m proud of it"

                                                  -- Tal Kehrmann - March 3rd, 2003




Thursday, December 20, 2012

That's the Way the World Is...

I was talking to Elie about the Sandy Hook/Newtown tragedy and about some discussions I've been following on Twitter. The consensus of one group is that teachers should carry concealed weapons, making them better able to protect the children under their care.

"That's stupid," said Elie. "They need trained guards, and fences around the schools. And even if the security guard is killed..."

He continued but I got stuck at "even if the security guard is killed." My sons are security guards. I can't quite just walk past that statement of Elie's without pausing but he was going on.

"And it would help the economy; give people jobs."

He's right. Securing schools in America so that they are all surrounded by fences and guarded by trained security would provide more jobs. But would America agree to live that way? The way we have been living for so long?

"That's the way the world is," Elie answered back. He's too young to mourn the cynicism of that statement, too used to it being that way to know that it shouldn't be natural to have to guard children with guns.

"I'm not even only talking about terrorism," Elie continued while my brain took a quick trip down memory lane to when I was a child in the schools of America. "Even just against sick people."

When I was a child, my school had a fence - around the playground area only - so that the balls didn't go into neighboring properties. The schools were not locked; no guards, not metal detectors. There were no cameras, no monitors.

My children go to school behind fences, with an armed guard at the gates. A few times a year, and at times when security is heightened, policemen are added in front of the schools.

Part of me mourns that my children need to be protected in this way and part of me mourns that fact that it doesn't bother them. The security guard is their friend; they know his name and greet him each day. That's the way the world is...

Silly to wish it wasn't but even sillier to ignore that it is. No, I do not believe teachers should be armed; that principals should be responsible for guarding children with their lives. If you put a security guard in front of a bank, then put one in front of your school. Your child should be the most precious part of your life.

In Israel, we have become accustomed to certain infringements on our lives. We go to a mall and do not hesitate to open the trunks of our cars, our purses. We empty our pockets. I sometimes feel "honored" to walk into the mall with Elie or Shmulik because they flash their ID and gun licenses and not only are they allowed to enter without being searched, but I get to go along for the ride.

The concept is logical - if he's okay and he says you're okay, go through. Years ago, an American security officer was explaining to an Israeli officer how they search every person. The Israeli answered, "if you search all, you search none."

The goal here is not to be politically correct, it is to save lives. If a person who is acceptable and known to pose no security risk takes you through security, you are trusted too - but only so long as you are with them.

Actually, not really. Some of the people at the mall know that I am Elie and Shmulik's mother and let me in without being checked - but it still feels like a privilege to me, something strange. For the most part, like all Israelis, I open my backpack or pocketbook; I walk through the metal detectors and answer the questions I am asked.

No, it is not a violation of my rights; it is a protection of my life and those around me. I can't imagine the US putting security guards before their schools...and yet, I can't avoid the reality that a security guard would have questioned and even blocked a young man who didn't belong where he was going from entering the school.

Elie says, "that's the way the world is." I accepted long ago that this is the way we live here in Israel and it has never bothered me. I want that guard there because I have to know my children are being protected.

And yet...and yet...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Grieving Mother's Parting Words



What words of comfort could I offer the mother of a six year old. May the family of Noah Pozner and all the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre be comforted. The sky is indeed crying and your loved ones are mourned around the world.



Monday, December 17, 2012

Tzav Rishon - First Command/Callup

January 13th is looming larger and larger and as it comes closer, I know it is silly for it to make my stomach sink. It's the first time Davidi will "meet" the army and the first time the army will "meet" him. It's just days before his birthday, days before he will turn 17 and come so much closer to that bridge of manhood. He's already stepped up to meet it in so many ways while turning from it in others.
Davidi...about 4 years old

He's got the most incredible blue eyes...yes, the same as Elie's. While Elie's blue eyes were a shock to us (my husband and I have brown, even dark brown eyes; my parents and his - all brown; our siblings - all brown; uncles and aunts for the most part - all brown). Those who have/had blue eyes count in the single digits, generations ago. By all that is genetics, Elie should not have had blue eyes.

Davidi's blue eyes were my comfort. God's gentle message to me that I was an idiot; that genetics rules above what a mother thinks should be and that of course, Elie was completely ours. If it took God giving me a SECOND son with blue eyes, that is what He gave me. Davidi was my proof that Elie was not switched, that he was ours. I had already decided he was ours and that I never wanted to know. I could love him with all my heart - mine or not. Davidi was God's laughter - you silly woman, of course he is yours.

And Yaakov and Chaim were God's laughter again - remember how you wondered? Here there is no question - they aren't yours and still you love them. Humans are so silly, God tells me, love truly doesn't care about the details of blood and birth. But Davidi was the first messenger; the blue eyes a sign to release any concerns I still had deep inside me.

Davidi and the turtle
Like Elie's room before he went to the army (and yes, even during that time), David's room is a mess and all attempts to get him to clean it are temporary and half-hearted. He's beautiful, this third son of mine. Not that the other two aren't amazing, because they are, but Davidi has only recently come into his height and strength and there are hints of the man he will be some day. I like him. Oh, I love him, don't get me wrong, but I like him too.

This weekend, I drove to pick up my parents and bring them to our house for Shabbat and the last days of Chanukah. And then, Saturday night after candlelighting, I drove them back. Davidi came with me in both directions - an hour each way. Four hours with him - I like him.

When he got the Tzav Rishon, about two months ago, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I sat down - I'm not ready for this. He's 16 years old. No, you can't have him. I can't do this again. Big talker, me. Soldier's mother, ha! I can't. Please, he's just a baby.

No, he's not, I am telling myself. He's not a baby. He is the tallest in the family. He could probably be the strongest if he had the training that Elie and Shmulik have; and the dedication to care for his body.

My amazing son-in-law tried this weekend to explain that the Tzav Rishon is nothing. They give you some tests, ask if you want to be in combat. They test your math abilities and Hebrew and whatever else they feel is important on the road towards picking the unit in which you will serve. They want the unit and the man to match and so the process begins.

David's birthday; Shmulik in the back,
Elie with "the gift" and my
beautiful girls
And they know that a motivated soldier will work harder and so they ask about preferences and determine whether the physical body matches the mental and emotional preferences.

I want him to go into Artillery - but no one will ask me. He wants to be a medic. I don't want that. Do you know where medics go? I didn't when Elie went in and when I explained to a bunch of my colleagues (all current/former soldiers and Reservists) that I was nervous about Elie going into combat. I told them I was happy that he was thinking of being a medic and they looked at each other with this strange look. Moments later, I realized they were trying to figure out which one should tell me. Finally, one said, "you do know that medics are combat soldiers, right?"

No, of course I didn't know that! I thought...I thought...well, don't they bring the wounded soldiers to the medics way way way in the back? The indulgent smiles might have annoyed me if I wasn't still holding on to some desperate thread. But no, I can't even hide behind ignorance anymore.
Davidi and Elie

I don't want him to be a medic. I want him in Artillery. They stay behind. Ohr told me so (The Uniform and the Visit) and I believed him (Between the Lines). I now know that what Ohr told me, and much of what Elie told me, isn't true; that soldiers tell their mothers what they need to hear. But I'm hanging on to the hope they'll put him in Artillery, that if he chooses to be a medic, the worst injury he will treat is someone who gets a splinter or a blister.

I remember starting this blog six weeks before Elie went into the army; I am still years away from David going in. He's got to finish 11th grade first; and then 12th. As Elie and Shmulik did, I hope he'll take a year to study and strengthen himself before going in...I've got time to worry, time to accept that the roller coaster is waiting for me to get on.

Then again, if I learned anything this last month or so, it is that once your son is a soldier, you never really get off that darned roller coaster. The most you can hope for is finding a way to have your stomach get used to falling without warning.

I can still hear ringing in my head the sound I made over the phone when Lauren called to tell me that she and Elie were returning home; that Elie had been called to the army. It was so much worse than the sound I made when I realized that thick envelope from the army was for David - his first order to appear, his Tzav Rishon.

But it's like the army created a brand new roller coaster and put it on the rails. It's waiting at the station for me, shiny and new. It's promising me a new and different path than Elie's roller coaster or Shmulik's. And silly army, they think I am happy to see it there waiting in the station.

Other mothers handle this better than I do; other mother's don't run to start a blog to pour out their fears and concerns. You'd think the third time around, fifth time if you count Yaakov and Chaim, sixth if you count my son-in-law, seventh and eighth if you count my nephews...tenth, eleventh, twelfth...if you count...if you count....

But the army has the last laugh - because it never seems to be the same roller coaster. Yaakov finished as Elie was beginning. Then Elie finished the same week Shmulik began and the transition from worrying about Elie to worrying about Shmulik was so smooth, with the added measure of Chaim going in just at the same time that I never realized something that comes to me now.

The army switched the roller coasters on me and I didn't even know. All along, I thought I was on the same one...but I wasn't. Each son has their own and now the army is telling me to get on another one. How many roller coasters can a mother handle? How many ways can your stomach fall?

I guess I'll find out because the Tzav Rishon isn't, apparently, only for the son. It's for the mother too...get ready to board, get ready.

And they do it now because he's only 16, soon to be 17 and I know that even though they are telling me to get ready, he's not going anywhere so soon. It's a slow process that lets you adapt - let's the boy adapt. Here's the idea - you are going to be a soldier; your son is going into the army.

Just an idea - let it sit in your mind, your stomach for a few months.

Then the first visit - just a day, really, just tests and things and then he's home and no more army for more months after that. And then another and another until...until...until the night before and then induction day and then the knowledge that once again, my son, my baby will be a soldier.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

From Sandy Hook to Netiv Meir; From Maalot to Newtown

Thirty-eight years ago, Palestinian terrorists attacked a school in Ma'alot and murdered 22 Israeli school children. It was so different than the horrible massacre that just took place in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and 7 adults were murdered. I have no words to ease the pain of parents who have lost children, those who have lost their beloved relatives - not then, not now, not ever. In Ma'alot, we knew the motive - it was hatred and a belief in a radical interpretation of Islam that allowed, encouraged, and blessed murdering infidels, even if they were children. Perhaps especially if they were children.

What we understood in Ma'alot, we cannot comprehend in this tragedy. In Newtown, we are lost. Why? What makes a human being do such a thing? There was anger after Ma'alot; but here, there seems to be only tragedy. There is such sadness and pain for the families, for the community, for all of America.

If there is any comfort to be found for those in Newtown, it is the universal mourning that takes place today throughout the world. Even from the family of the young man who did this. From the father, Peter Lanza, these words must offer comfort.
"Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured. Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so. Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired."
It's impossible for Israelis not to think of Ma'alot when we hear about Newtown; impossible not to think of children becoming victims in a place where they are supposed to be safe. And for me, it brought back a thought I'd had a few weeks ago. I had wanted to write about it then, but I didn't have time to get to a computer and it slipped my mind.

A few weeks ago, Elie picked up Aliza and my heart stopped. He was joking; she was laughing and still I felt such pain. He has picked her up since she was an infant, but never the way he did this one time, with his arm hooked under her legs. 

A brother carrying his wounded sister
to safety in Ma'alot, 1974.
It reminded me of a picture from Maalot, of a brother, who was serving in an elite combat unit, who had raced north when he heard his teenage sister's youth group was being held hostage in Ma'alot. She and her group were sleeping in the school when Palestinian terrorists went in and caught the world's attention. 

There were 115 hostages, including 105 students, teenagers from the city of Safed being held in the Netiv Meir school in Ma'alot (the same name as my son David's school in Jerusalem). The terrorists threatened to kill the children if Israel did not release 23 convicted Palestinian terrorists. Twenty-three, can you imagine? At the time, it was so many; today it would be considered so few. Then, they asked for 23 in exchange for over 100; it's just over a year ago that we released more than 1,000 for Gilad Shalit. 

That is what happens when you give in to terrorists - but back then, in 1974, they were holding children. What could we do? Golda Meir announced the decision to negotiate. At that time, the decision was almost unprecedented. She explained, that Israel "cannot wage its wars on the backs of its children."

The Palestinians had come to kill and death was their goal more than the hostages and they opened fire. When the terrorists hurled grenades at the teenagers, some of them managed to jump out of a window, a ten foot drop to the ground. One of the wounded was a 15-year-old girl named Tzipi Maimon. Waiting below was her brother. Somehow in all the confusion, he saw her jump, ran to her, picked her up and carried her to safety. The pain, the terror, is clear. I cannot let my mind think what thoughts were in her brother's head, what agonies he suffered while waiting helplessly outside that school. He was a combat soldier trained to respond, trained to act, to do; and he was forced to wait, to watch. 

The picture of Tzipi Maimon in her brother's arms came to mind when Elie picked Aliza up and I tried hard to push it away even as I told him to put her down in a voice that sounded, even to me, strained and upset. No one was hurt; they were both playing, laughing even. I don't even remember why he picked her up - he really never does anymore. But I wanted him to put her down; I even told him to; I'm not sure if I explained why but the image of Tzipi Maimon went through my  head and it made me sick to think of Elie ever holding Aliza that way. 

It also shows you how images remain - even almost 40 years later. Ma'alot is a wound that will never heal - that is the reality of Ma'alot and it will be the reality in Newtown. We will never forget the images, the agony, the pain and yes, the sacrifices and the miracles - not then, not now. What you learn is that there are tragedies that stay with you all your lives.

In 1974, I was about the same age as the Ma'alot hostages, as those who survived. They have gone on to have families of their own, quietly remembering that horrible experience. I wasn't there but I remember the hours of waiting, knowing the terrorists had booby-trapped the school and though I was, essentially, a child at the time, I remember the panic and horror of knowing that those being held, those being terrorized, were the innocents of the world.

May the survivors of the Sandy Hook school be blessed with the knowledge that God watched over them and may they dedicate their lives to living and being happy. May the wounded, of body and soul, be granted a full and speedy recovery.

May the families of those who died find comfort somehow in the knowledge that God will care for their loved ones in a better place than this world could ever be, that many are grateful to the teachers and principal who tried to protect the children. And may the Lanza family also find comfort for what they have lost.

No Palestinians ever expressed shame or pain for what their relatives did in Ma'alot. I hope the families of the victims and survivors will find comfort in the knowledge that no one celebrates what was done in Newtown. 

From around the world, we mourn with them. From a country that understands so much what it is to have someone attack their children, we send our love and our prayers.

Friday, December 14, 2012

If you talk to them, what would you say?

It's an interesting question my mother asked me.

An international media organization has contacted me - no one would ever accuse them of being pro-Israel; few would even really consider them balanced when it comes to coverage of the Middle East. They want to ask me about my life, my blog, where I live, and what I think. They want me to talk about E1 - not that that topic would take long...hill, no building, no disruption, next...

I've seen media twist words before - I'm not naive. I know the way the game is played. I've seen instances where reporters leave out parts of a statement to make it seem so different than what was intended. Should I open myself up to having my words distorted, to allowing them to take the beauty of where I live and turn it into something wrong, ugly, even stolen?

Years ago, I took a reporter around Maale Adumim and then to the Jewish communities in Gaza. She had once worked for this very media organization now asking to interview me. I took her to the home of a woman who has two children who were injured in terror attacks. The reporter didn't ask about how her children were coping with their injuries and their trauma...she asked how it felt to live in a house that was stolen?

No, this woman didn't live in a house that was stolen, not even on land that was occupied. She moved here more than 20 years ago and bought an apartment. She made it a home and raised her children here. There was so much she could have spoken about, but that first question was so telling. It was phrased with cruelty and ignorance, with the reporter's agenda clear to all.

Before we left the city, I was already regretting my decision to take her to Gaza. I wanted to show her the amazing things Israel does. In Maale Adumim, I took her to a beautiful new children's park nearby - built in sections so that children of varying ages can play, so many safety issues addressed - soft ground under climbing equipment, things that could withstand the sun, railings and fences and benches for the parents to sit and watch. Surrounded by gardens and paths where it is pleasant to walk, it's a gathering place all week long for so many.

She didn't compliment the park's planning  - she asked why Palestinians can't come there. She asked why the Palestinians don't have similar parks in THEIR neighborhoods in a tone that made it clear she blamed us, that it was OUR responsibility to build for them the things they didn't bother building for themselves. I told her she should ask them. The money we pay in taxes goes to building parks here - where does the money go in Palestinian areas, and what happens to the parks and schools we do build in their areas?

In Gaza, I took her to several families - to a man who lost an arm in one war and then several fingers on his remaining hand when he was attacked years later by a terrorist. He told her of the body of a young mother that he found in a car on the side of the road - and how the terrorists had sat in waiting. The dead woman was bait for whatever target came next. They relied on the goodness and caring of the next person to stop and see if she needed help. He was badly wounded, saved more by a malfunctioning grenade than the soldiers who followed and eliminated the terrorist.

I took her to the greenhouses to show her the incredible farms and produce and to meet other people and see other places. And finally, I took her to the home of a family who had lost a son in war and was about to not only lose their home but would be faced with digging up their son's grave and having it moved rather than leaving it to be desecrated in Gaza. It was the one time I begged her not to ask anything about politics, "please, don't do that to them - don't ask them about stolen land and how it feels to lose their home..." She was very good, actually, and I appreciated that she simply asked them to tell her about their son.

In the middle of the night we spent there, mortars were fired at the village and we heard the explosions. There wasn't enough time to run - not even the 15 seconds they have in Sderot. I listened to the explosions and waited for the ambulance sirens. After a few minutes of quiet, I smiled in the dark and thanked the Arabs for showing her what life was like for too many Israelis - then and now. In Hebrew, the hosts apologized in the morning and I laughed, "did you fire the mortars?" They smiled and wished me a good day. I turned to the reporter and said it was time to go.

A bit shaken, she asked me to confirm that she had been awakened by the firing of mortars or rockets nearby. "Yup," I answered without hesitation. "Yes, indeed."

The time I finally lost my ability to watch her be a journalist in silence was when I was taking her through the beautiful zoo in Neve Dekalim, past the animals and the green lush gardens there. I had let the people speak for themselves but realized there was no one to speak for that place, the animals, the young children who had taken the time to paint such beautiful murals on the walls, for Shauli the Camel, and so much more.

As she took pictures and interviewed the zoo keepers to ask what would happen to the animals, I remained quiet, feeling the anger growing inside and finally I asked her if I could speak. We walked quietly and as we did, I began.

"What harm does this zoo do to anyone?" I asked. "If it wasn't here, do you think there would be peace?"

"Why can't the Arabs come to the zoo? Why don't they have one?" she asked me.

"Because," I answered in anger, "when they come into this community, they come with weapons. They come to kill and so no, they cannot come to see animals when in coming, some would use it as a chance to murder people. If they made peace, they could come to the zoo but if all they want to do is kill us, then no, we can't safely let them in."

And then I asked her, "but why don't you ask the Arabs why THEY don't build a zoo? Why they spend money on rockets instead of playgrounds and zoos and hospitals? Why do they find it acceptable to shoot rockets at us? And what do you expect us to do? Not only do you not want us to shoot back, you think we should open our homes up despite the security threat! You think it is okay for them to shoot at us, but not okay that our zoo is closed?"

And more, I told her in the anger that was boiling inside me, "okay, so we'll destroy this zoo; we'll move the animals to other zoos all over Israel and we'll ruin the beautiful communities these people have built...will THAT bring peace? We'll evacuate all the Jews from Gaza - and what will happen? Do you think the Arabs will be happy and use their money to build zoos and parks? Will the poor Palestinian children across the road who don't have a playground like this, suddenly get one?"

Instead, I told her, what was most likely to happen is exactly what did happened a few weeks ago and has been happening for most of the 7 plus years since we left Gaza: rockets on Askhelon, Ashdod, Beersheva and even Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

And now I have a choice - I can talk to this international media organization and answer their questions. I can show them E1 and ask them how building up the mountain would cut off a four lane super highway that offers both Jews and Arabs free movement to points north and south, east and west. I can show them my beautiful city and I can point to the barren mountains that surround it on all sides and say - THAT is what these hills looked like before we built here. No one lost anything; nothing was stolen.

I could tell them they were talking to the wrong side. We are the ones building the parks and the zoos and the schools. We built the bowling center, the gardening shops, the furniture stores, the fire station and the ambulance squad that covers a huge region treating Arabs and Jews equally.

No, don't ask us why we build parks and schools, I could say...ask the Arabs why they don't. Ask them why they need to come to OUR health centers for real emergencies and why their ambulances have to be stopped and searched and don't accept any answer other than the truth - when you put weapons on an ambulance - you force Israel to search them.

Ask them why my sons who regularly volunteer for the local ambulance squad have to wait for an army escort to go into the Arab villages to help injured or sick Arabs who need medical treatment. Ask them why they oppose our building on barren hills. If their claim to having lived here for generations were true - why didn't they build?

And if they oppose our building - what gives them the right to build? Ask them how it is possible that Isawiya has almost doubled in size in the last few years and ask them why we had to build the bypass road because they were stoning cars - and the bypass to the bypass road because the attacks had escalated and they were shooting, attacking with rocks and even throwing washing machines and couches down on the cars below.

Ask them why they opened fire and killed a monk from near Jericho on his way to Jerusalem...and ask them why they sent a suicide bomber up the road. We were lucky that time - a brave police officer paid the ultimate price when he suspected the car and driver and pulled it over. The driver blew himself up, killing the Bedouin policeman on the side of the road - I heard the explosion and just knew it was a bomb. I heard the sirens - and it was Israel that built a memorial site near where he was murdered.

What would I say to this news agency? This is my home - we have made the desert bloom, as we were promised. From a barren hill, we have created such beauty. Don't ask me why the Palestinians don't have playgrounds like we do - ask them. And if they claim poverty - look at the cars they are driving...the BMWs, the Volvos, the large cars and buildings and more.

And if you come into my city, take a moment to look in the mall - see how many Arabs DO come into the city every day, to work, to shop. And ask the Arabs why it isn't safe for me to go into their neighborhoods as they come into mine. Ask them about my neighbor who was lynched and his body partially burned.

Ask them why they never have to worry about being lynched in Maale Adumim.

Ask them why in the last few months, Arabs have come and stabbed a security guard at the gates of our city and another came up and said he was going to attack. Ask them why they don't feel they have to build a security fence around their neighborhoods and hire full-time guards at the gates to protect them.

And ask them why, if we are the aggressors, why it is OUR homes that have bomb shelters and not theirs.

So many questions, so many thoughts - but maybe I'm not the right person for this. I can only show what we have built, the gardens and flowers. I can show them the lake in the desert that we built - silly and charming at the same time but I can never answer why the Arabs haven't channeled their resources into similar things for them and I can never answer why our enjoying the fruits of our hard work is wrong.

If I talk to them...what would I say? This is my home, my land. By God, by right, by history, perhaps by might, but most of all, by love, this is my home.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Obsessed

The more I hear about the world being enraged that we plan to build a small neighborhood on E1 while so much of the world is on fire with violence, the more confused and amazed I am. Egypt has tanks in their streets; Syria is murdering dozens of their own each day and threatening to use chemical weapons on them.

The dots at the top of the mountain to the right are sheep...
North Korea fired a long-range rocket that landed past the Philippines and neither Japan nor the US is particularly pleased.

Three were killed in a mall in Oregon when a gunman opened fire, the Greek economy is collapsing or has already collapsed, and so much more

...and yet, the world is obsessed about E1.

No buildings here...nothing...E1
And, as I can see that mountain from my home, and as I drive past it every day, I am obsessed with capturing it in pictures.

It's so silly really, and yet, each day, I snap a picture thinking maybe one more picture and the world will be convinced. Today as I drove past, I asked Elie to take some pictures. He hates my BlackBerry camera and complained...and yet, he captured what is there...and what is not.

It's just a hill, people.

It's just a bunch of rocks and a road and yes, it's beautiful because it is part of Israel, but there's no big issue here.

No Palestinians live there, so none will be hurt.
A highway sign warning trucks they can't travel
between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and a road
that leads to a police station.

The road on which I travel is called Route 1. It starts in Tel Aviv and continues to the east, climbing through the mountains into Jerusalem.

It crosses the northern points of Jerusalem and then continues down the mountain towards Maale Adumim.

At the bottom, it makes a curved turn and continues down, down, down - below sea level - down, down, to the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea.

E1 from Route 1...empty land
Today, I saw about 40 sheep grazing on the edge of the mountain - but honestly, they can graze on the next barren hilltop just as easily as on E1.

I look at E1 and I'm obsessed with taking that one picture that will convince the world that 100 dead in Syria is more pressing than this mountain - yes, even if we build on it.

That rocket from Korea deserves more attention than E1.

By the edge of the road, trees grow...on E1, almost nothing
For God's sake there are tanks in the streets of Cairo and nine people were wounded there this morning.

Did you know that Mali's prime minister was arrested and has resigned?

Did you know Iranian warships have docked in Sudan?

That another bomb has exploded in a Somali neighborhood in Kenya?

What, for heaven's sake, is so important about this silly little mountain across from my home? Why is the world obsessed with what isn't there and, even if it were, would do no harm.

There is NOTHING there. Palestinians today drive on Route 1. They will be able to drive on Route 1 during any construction period and they will continue to drive there after those apartments are built. There is NO harm done. It is a barren hill that connects Jerusalem to the west with Maale Adumim to the east and I hope, deep in my heart, that perhaps some of my children will settle there, so close to my home. I hope they will build affordable houses for young families.

I know that if they build there, the homes will glisten in the sunlight, covered in Jerusalem stone. I know that there will be fine roads there, perhaps even a school. Some shopping nearby and roads to connect it to Jerusalem and Maale Adumim.

I have little doubt that many of the construction workers will be Palestinians, able to earn money for their families. They won't object to building there; they'll be happy for the work.

The only thing standing in the way is an obsession born of ignorance and exaggeration. Please, look at the pictures. There is NOTHING there to protest against. Nothing to be bothered. Nothing to be damaged.




I'd Rather Go to Jail

So spoke Elie this morning as we were driving in. For a change, I was driving and he was reading the newspaper. He would laugh at a cartoon and then explain it to me (including the cultural references I don't always get). There was a cartoon of Bibi Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman sitting with someone else - I think the Labor Minister. Bibi says, "the whole world is against us" and the Labor Minister responds, "yes, even the nurses." The nurses in Israel are on strike and Elie found the cartoon entertaining...

And then he got to an article about some soldiers who had left base without permission. They were driving away when they accidentally hit someone and in fear of being caught, ran. They were tracked down, though at first the news reported that the incident might have been an attempted attack. "Stupid," Elie commented. "They should have stayed and turned themselves in." Elie has never been one to accept weakness easily and something was done, responsibility had to be taken.

And then he got to an article that disturbed him greatly. Photographers filmed a demonstration in which Arabs were pelting soldiers with rocks. Rather than stand/respond, the soldiers were ordered to run for cover. Israel is doing all it can do to hold the ceasefire; and so soldiers are being given orders to withhold fire - at almost all costs.

"They should have shot in the air, not run. And if the Arabs still were throwing rocks at them, I'd have shot one in the legs to show them we were serious."

"You'd go to jail if that went against orders."

"I'd rather go to jail," Elie responded - than appear weak and encourage more violence. This is the reality of what will happen now. Emboldened by their "victory" - more soldiers will be attacked.

The soldiers responded that they ran because the photographers were there and the world would scream about soldiers responding to rocks with bullets. Of course, the photographers and the world would ignore the fact that while the Arabs did not care what damage their rocks would do, the soldiers would have been firing in the air in warning; or at legs to stop the assault while minimizing damage.

Today or tomorrow, more Arabs will attack soldiers because they believe the soldiers will run again. They won't this time. The next commander won't be so stupid as to order them to flee. And so soldiers may be hurt; Arabs may be hurt.

This is the nature of violent confrontation. The problem is, however, that the solution to being confronted with violence is rarely to run. This is a lesson Israel has learned again and again. Run and they will chase. Stand and fight, show strength, and more often than not, they will back down.

I don't like hearing from Elie that he'd rather go to jail. I just wish I didn't agree with him.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Bravery of the UN Peacekeepers Tested Again...

That's right...once again the Middle East is testing the bravery of the United Nations peacekeepers, and once again, they are failing that test. The United Nations Emergency Force was created in 1956 as part of a resolution agreement to the Suez Canal Crisis - that was when Egypt attacked Israel hoping to destroy her. In the end, they lost the Sinai Peninsula. The ceasefire agreement, yet another example of Israel doing above and beyond what most countries would do, included Israel withdrawing from the Sinai. They gave the Egyptians back what Egypt had lost in war because they hoped it would serve as a lesson. The lesson didn’t even last a decade. But back in 1956, a hopeful world agreed to established an international force that would be placed on the Egyptian side to prevent further violence.

In May, 1967, as part of their intention to launch another war against Israel, the Egyptian government under President Nasser ordered the UN out of the way...and they agreed to leave immediately. Whatever the purpose was for them having been stationed there, the reality was that they ran at the first threat to themselves. In the end, they proved to be more vacationing tourists than peacekeepers.

Likewise, after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, in which both Syria and Egypt attacked Israel, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force was established as a buffer between Israel and Syria. As in Sinai, their goal was to stand between the nations to preserve the peace.

Given the unease in Syria and rising tensions on the border with Israel after numerous instances in which Syria has fired mortars and bullets across the Israeli border, it seems the UN is worried about its troops. Today's news indicates that Japan is pulling its troops out of the UN Observer force in the Golan Heights. No, it isn't the entire force, not yet anyway, and yet it makes me wonder. If they are going to pull out at the first hint of trouble, what are they there for? What good do they do? Honestly, who needs them?

I know they watch over Israeli forces on the Golan. Elie told me how they used to come visit the bases in the Golan Heights. I can't honestly believe they were as diligent on the Syrian side, but it doesn't matter. The fact is that there really is no difference whether they are there or not. That is what today’s news reaffirms. Syria is a country that will plow over its own people, use chemical weapons on them, murder their own children in the streets. Is anyone fool enough to believe a bunch of unarmed UN troops would stop them?

In fact, there is ample evidence that more than once UN troops have collaborated with the Arabs (in Lebanon, in Gaza), so truly, Israel is probably better off without them.

So, why this post? Because the hypocrisy, the cowardice, and the incredible nerve of the UN to preach to Israel, sometimes rises up to choke me.

And then, at these moments, I read that it is snowing on Mount Hermon and I look out my office window and watch the rain in Jerusalem. Protection comes from Above - blessings of rain and snow. I wish the Japanese peacekeepers a safe trip home. They are a symptom of the impotence of the United Nations, nothing more.

You can't keep peace in a nation that wants death and violence. Their leaving simply reminds us of who they are, and who we are. There is no fear in their leaving because there was no protection, ever, in their presence. It was known they would pull out at the first sign of trouble - it is their way, it is their cowardice, it is their shame.

Today, as yesterday and tomorrow - we are protected by the soldiers of the army of Israel, Lauren's cousin who is up there, and so many others. And we know that they and all our sons, are protected by the Guardian of Israel, who sent us the blessings of rain on a day that shines bright, right through the thickest of clouds, in this holy land.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Twenty-Seven World Idiots Meet On a Hill

To discuss a hill where no one lives...

I just can't get over this. I'm trying to understand the urgency. Britain's Foreign Minister says there is an "urgent need to restart the peace process."

I'm all for peace but honestly, what is so urgent today, this week versus last month. One hundred rockets rained down on Israel in a single day - and I heard nothing from the European Union about urgently seeking peace. A mother was attacked in her home, stabbed as she defended her children - silence. Two years ago, an infant was murdered beside her mother, her father and two of her brothers...silence, no urgent need.

Why? What is it about that mountain that brings such urgency? Have they ever actually seen it - it is, to be honest, incredibly humble as far as mountains go and rather an embarrassment on the scale of causes of a world crisis.

And then, I thought - it isn't actually that mountain - it really isn't, and it never was. If you drive down the highway from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea - it'll take you 25 minutes. About three minutes out, on the left side for all of 4 seconds, you'll pass E1. Actually, I'm not sure it would even take 4 seconds to pass it and it might be less than 3 minutes from Jerusalem. Most likely, your eyes will be drawn to the right where up on the top of the mountains is Maale Adumim.

E1 (the area in the background), as seen from Maale Adumim
You probably wouldn't even think to look to the right - there's nothing there...except for a narrow 2 lane road and one big building with a lot of windows.

So, if it isn't the mountain, why are 27 world leaders meeting? They'll never tell you the truth - but it really is about Israel itself. You see, to be honest, the Palestinians and more specifically, the Arabs, don't want us here. They never did; they never will. Hamas will tell you honestly - their goal is to replace ALL of Israel with yet another deeply Islamic country.

The more moderate Arabs will tell you they only want to talk about an interim issue. First, they say, let's get Israel out of any land it conquered from the 1967 war. No, no, they aren't accepting the pre-1967 borders, they are simply rejecting the post-1967 borders.

So, they say - let's go back to 1967 (then we'll talk about 1949 and then, if they're successful, they'll go back to 1945, or perhaps 1942 - when there was no Israel and Jews were dying in Europe.Whatever it takes.

As a footnote, it was mentioned that the 27 leaders would discuss Syria as well. I am astounded that each day as many as 100-200 people are dying in Syria...there is talk of chemical weapons being used - and the European Union, which was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace today...thinks the most pressing issue facing them is a stupid little mountain that would not impact on the Arab population - even if 6,000 apartments were built there.
View of E1 in the Background...Nothing There...Nothing...

It really is so very simple. There is a direct highway that runs from Abu Dis and Azariya to our west - directly east all the way to the Dead Sea. Just passed Maale Adumim, there is a left turn that links that road to all the major Arab areas to the north of Jerusalem and further down that road - without a single check point between Abu Dis and the Dead Sea, there is Jericho. Just after Jericho, there is another left turn, giving the Arabs full access to the Jordan Valley and beyond.

In short, whether Israel builds 3,000 houses on E1 or not, the bottom line is unfettered movement for the Palestinians. The roads are major highways that will not be shut down - how can they be? They are the same roads Israelis use to get where they need to go everyday.

With no understanding of facts on the ground, the European Union has caved into the hysterics of the Palestinians...again.

And this time, if you look carefully, you'll see Syria's Assad, Egypt's Morsi, Nasrallah in the north, and a million or so Palestinians laughing hysterically because as blood flows freely in Damascus...the European Union continues to focus on a hill that goes nowhere.

I Missed One Shot

If there is one thing they teach Israeli soldiers before handing them a gun, it is the responsibility that comes along with it. I've never fired a gun. I can honestly tell you that I've never even held a gun in any fashion close to the way you would hold it as you shoot.

I do know, though, that both Elie and Shmulik are excellent shots. I remember both of them telling me about shooting training while they were in the army. Both are now security guards as they prepare for the next phase of their lives. Shmulik is still undecided, though he is leaning towards computers; Elie has chosen to go into engineering.

Part of their job, as a security guard, is to go every six months for a day of training. Shmulik went last month; Elie went today. He came back to my office and told me, "I missed one." And then he qualified...

He shot 30 bullets - in rapid fire succession - and hit the target every time. To pass the day and be allowed to continue to carry a gun on the job, you have to get 70% of 100 bullets. Elie nailed the first 30 and so the instructor quickly realized that Elie knew what he was doing.

He went over and asked Elie if he wanted to try something different. He took Elie to the side and had him fire the next 30 bullets at an angle - Elie nailed those as well, as well as the next 30. The last 10 were different. . . I forgot how - but of the 100, he missed....one.

Also included in today's training was hand-to-hand combat, Israeli style. It's called Krav Maga and despite being internationalized, remains very Israeli. He also trained with a knife - specifically how to fight when an attacker comes at you with a knife. More than a mother wants to know, really, and yet that is very much a reality here - a few weeks ago, an Arab attacked some soldiers with an axe.

Part of the day included rules for when to engage in combat and what is not allowed. For Elie, it wasn't a bad day and he enjoyed the opportunity to shoot his personal gun as well as the one that was given to him.

I can tell you without doubt that when I was packing boxes and imagining my life in Israel, I never imagined the day that my sons would own guns. I'm not anti-gun. I believe, truly believe that it is people who kill people and while a gun may be the method, people are ever creative and if the goal is murder, murder will be done...by gun, by knife, by axe...




Friday, December 7, 2012

Craving Normal


Normal is that status where life just is. Normal is when you don't hear sirens in your head, listen for ambulances, imagine the phone ringing. When your country is at war, when your son is a soldier, when you have friends and family living in areas where rockets are falling, you crave normal to a level that I doubt most normal people can understand.

Normal.

There are so many things that aren't normal about life here. Having a pile of gas masks in a corner of the room isn't normal. Buying 12 bottles of water to take to your son's unit isn't normal and when you end up not delivering them so they are in your house - normal would be to drink them. Not normal is to take six of them and put them in a room that has been specially built to withstand missiles and explosions.

No, having a bomb shelter in your home isn't normal either.

Normal is a day like today - and they come so rarely here. The sun is shining. The sweet challah dough is rising on the counter. I made a blueberry pie and soon I'll be making a spinach/broccoli casserole and a carrot casserole. That's normal. The soup is boiling on the stove and the house is filled with the scent of that and the finished chicken cooling on the table.

Normal.

Tonight my daughter and her husband and baby will be staying over - Elie and Lauren will come over, along with Lauren's cousin, who is a soldier. Technically, he's a lone soldier because his parents live in the States, but he's got Lauren, who is as close as any sister could be; he's got an adopted family near Jerusalem, another nearer to the center of the company.

Davidi is home this weekend, though right now he's taking a shift on the ambulance squad. Chanukah is coming Saturday night - we'll light the first candle.

I'll make the potato pancakes my mother-in-law taught me to make. We'll sit around and talk and be a family and somewhere in all that normal, I'll push away the thought that we have to work so hard to reach normal, it just isn't normal.

Aliza told me that when the siren went off, she cried. The children went running to shelter and she was frightened. I don't remember what we were talking about, why she mentioned it but we all have this poison inside ourselves that we have to release.

On Sunday, I'm going with a group of women to Netivot. It's a closed group from all over Israel and we share our mornings and our thoughts and meet a few times a year. I missed the last meeting, decided I really wanted to go to this one and so we are stealing a day and traveling to Netivot, so close to Gaza. There, we'll go shopping to help the local community.

I don't know what I'll buy - I don't usually go shopping on Sundays...I'll find something. I'll go there to that beautiful city and I'll buy something and most of all, I'll crave normal. I won't listen for a siren or an announcement that there's an incoming missile.

It's too soon, anyway. The Arabs still have what to get from this short period of quiet. They are sitting back and letting the world condemn Israel for whatever the latest complaint is about. That's okay - that's kind of normal too. What would a week be without some nation somewhere finding fault in what we do - ignoring all that others do?

Syria is about to fire chemical weapons at its own people; Egypt is hounding demonstrators in the street. There is unease in so many places - perhaps, perhaps I'm wrong and Israel is the most normal country in the world.

At least we find islands of peace each week; at least we find ways to simulate normal. Yes, I have a bomb shelter in my house - but it's also got a bed in there and an extra freezer, some bookshelves, tons of books. It looks like a normal room - it's even painted pink. The only sign that it isn't a normal room comes from the door as you enter, and the second metal window outside.

I haven't managed to open the metal yet. Elie and his father quickly ran to slam it closed when the first siren went off and it has been closed since then. Maybe I'll know normal is back when one of us opens those metal shutters?

Tonight, I'll light the Shabbat candles; tomorrow we'll begin lighting the Chanukah candles. I guess that is the normal that is Israel.

Shabbat shalom.

Monday, December 3, 2012

History of E1

The world is up in arms, as it so loves to be. What is it about now?

No, no - not Syria and the violence there. Not Afghanistan; certainly not Iran. They aren't condemning Turkish television fining the Simpsons for mocking God; or a social club at Harvard University saying Jews need not apply. No, it isn't about Hungary cataloging Jews as they would cattle and certainly nothing about Iranian warships sailing towards Sudan.

It's all about a mountain that sits between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem. Even left-wing papers in Israel mistakenly write that Israel is threatening to "bisect" the West Bank and the news is filled with country after country condemning Israel for damaging chances for peace. Chances for peace? We were at war two weeks ago and little has changed. There are currently NO chances for peace on the table. In fact, there is no table.

No, no, no - what we have is a mountain - not a very tall one, smaller even than the ones next to it on three sides.

It is barren, but for a road that snakes its way up to a midpoint where a large police station has been built - barren, but for that building. No one lives there - no one has.

The land was once part of the Ottoman Empire - no village, no homes, no dwellings. Sheep and goats sometimes graze on the lower areas of the hills, but that's about it. When the Ottoman's made way for the British, it was under their rule, and still nothing but the camels and the sheep and the goats and, perhaps, an occasional ground hog.

In the 1920s, England cut off 2/3 of the land that was called Palestine and gave it to the Hashemites - and thus Jordan was born. The remaining 1/3 was ruled by the British until 1947, including that land that today we call E1. In 1948, the Arabs chose war over peace, death over life. They attacked and lost - but they got E1 - the barren land between Jerusalem's eastern border and the west bank of the Jordan River.

And then, in 1967, it was clear that Egypt and Syria were preparing for war - Israel launched a pre-emptive strike and sent a message to the Jordanians. We have no quarrel with you; stay out of the fighting. We will not attack you. The Jordanians sent back their message in two ways - in words or action, the message was the same - we fight with our brothers...and so they did. They attacked - as they had in 1948 and the result was the same - they lost.

This time, E1 came into our hands. State-owned under the Turks; state-owned under the Jordanians, and now state-owned under Israel. Never the home of Palestinians; no villages there, no buildings but for the one we built a few years ago...and the ones we will now build.

The history of E1 is very simple. It is but a mountain that lies between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem. Arabs regularly travel on the highway between Maale Adumim and the Dead Sea - the highway remains. There is no bisecting, no blocking, no break in the passage.

It is a mountain, soon to be green and developed. That is the history of E1, except for one huge point that the world forgets. Before the Jordanians, before the British, before the Ottomans, before the Romans...the land was, as it is today - ours. It was the ancient land of Israel; it is the modern land of Israel.

As for the countries of the world who say Israel threatens the peace - where were you two weeks ago when I ran with my children to our bomb shelter? Why did my son have to leave his wife to protect Israel's south from a thousand rockets?

It is too late now to tell us of peace - speak to Hamas first. You support a Palestinian state? Clearly you do - but it is Israel that must live with it and so we shall - if we have to. We will build and the world will scream. But we have learned that the world screams easily for that which is so minor and ignores that which really matters. Dozens died today in Syria as they did yesterday and as they will tomorrow - but yes, certainly, let's discuss a barren hill across from my back yard.

To Germany from a Jew in Israel

Of all the countries in the world, it seems the one I am least able to understand is Germany. I can't tell you when I determined that nothing I own would be German - not my cars, not my appliances, and sure as hell, not my ovens. I cringe at the thought that any Jew could buy a German oven.

When I say this out loud, people tell me I am wrong to blame today's Germans for what was done 70 years ago. For a while, I laid this on my in-laws. So long as they lived, I would not bring something German into my house. Davidi is named for my father-in-law; he was born a year after we lost my husband's father. Aliza is named after my mother-in-law; she was born five years after we lost my husband's mother.

I can laugh off criticism of Israel from England and France. I think they have enough problems in their own countries without trying to interfere in mine. It annoys me that they run to condemn us for building houses on empty mountains next to the capital of our country. I see that mountain every day of my life - there is nothing there; no Palestinian homes - at most, a few Bedouins sometimes graze their sheep there before returning down the mountain to their camps.

But there is something about Germany that simply infuriates me. I know you want to take your place among nations; I know you want people to move on and recognize you for the power you are and not the misery that was.

I read that Britain and France are considering sanctions against Israel...and I am astounded - for building on a hill? I want to ask them. My voice in my mind even takes on a British accent as I say that last line. For building on a hill? Tell me, did I miss it when Britain and France applied sanctions against Hamas and Gaza for firing thousands of rockets into our cities? Sure, they condemned the last bus explosion in Tel Aviv - the one for which Hamas claimed responsibility...but did they actually DO anything?

And I think of the struggle I have inside of me to move beyond, to allow the Germans their future, untainted by their past. I long for the day that I will buy something German and not feel that I have betrayed the memories of 6 million and broken a promise to those who survived. And as I hear Germany speak of morality, my stomach turns and I know that day is not today. No, Germany - you have no right to dare to council us on where we build our homes. It is an abomination from a land that built not homes but gas chambers.

Russia and Sweden have expressed their "concern" too. Gee, I think I missed their concern when I was running to the bomb shelter two weeks ago. So, I look at that mountain across from me. It is barren, but for the large police station Israel has built there.

For this, Germany, France and England will condemn us. People will say we steal Palestinian land and yet, interestingly enough, the land is today as it was for generations, even hundreds of years. Barren, empty, waiting. It waits for us to come home - and look what happens when we do.

The land waits for us - to make the desert bloom. We have, we are, we will...our land.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

To Palestine from Israel

I heard the United Nations had a vote about the Palestine thing and it was overwhelmingly passed. Well, it was expected and overall, probably a good thing. We've all heard the message of the Palestinians, though if you ask me, Israel has been hearing it for 64 years, God knows how many wars and terrorist bombings, 15,000 rockets, thousands dead and injured.

But there's a message Israel should be releasing to the world and to the Palestinians. It's really a very simple message and we should say it in a language they understand; in words they can relate to. We do not fear your nationhood; we welcome it. 

Here is the message our Prime Minister SHOULD broadcast to the world:
Dear Palestine, Welcome to the world of nations. 
It's an awesome place to be. Frankly, we thought you'd come along long ago. You had that chance in 1947 that you turned down, and numerous other times when peace was just a seat at the table away. But never mind, 64 years late and thousands dead and injured is water under the bridge. 
So let's talk about today. Today, you have independence - certainly in Gaza, right? There are no Israelis in Gaza to effect how you rule your people; and with the Rafiach crossing to Egypt under Egyptian controls, there is no closure, no blockade
So let's talk about what it means to be an independent nation. It means you must see to your own survival - no, not with weapons - you've got that covered just fine. But you need to take responsibility for the infrastructure. You have to fix the sewers leaking into your streets; and build shelters if you plan to attack Israel in the future. 
You have to make sure your people have food and water and electricity and health care. It's time for you to stand proud - and not on Israel's benevolence. No, you don't need our electricity anymore, do you? Why should Israelis foot the bill for the independent nation of Palestine? 
And food and medicine - get it from Egypt. Stop sending us your wounded, your sick. Be independent. 
Oh, and if your people come into Israel to work - no, we aren't going to give you the taxes we have collected from their wages. Why should we? They work here; they pay taxes here. If they choose to live in Gaza and work here, they'll know that their taxes go to help the Zionist entity. 
When Israel was in Gaza, we had more than 20 thriving communities, offering work to tens of thousands of Palestinians. They worked in the communities and in the numerous hot houses that grew the most amazing fruits and vegetables. Yes, yes, I know you burned them down - those millions of dollars in farming equipment that the international community purchased for you. 
But you have so many friends around the world - look how many voted for you - go to Italy and France and Germany - I'm sure they'll just love to help set up those industries again and supply you with jobs. 
And if you burn them down again, never mind - I'm sure Europe will come to rescue you again, you little darlings. That's right - Palestine is the new darling of the world - loved and supported by all... 
Israel, tiny little Israel really doesn't have to be responsible for you anymore. It's a wonderful day here in Israel - I think my lights are shining brighter than ever - perhaps we are already channeling our electricity back into our own system so that on the coldest and hottest days maybe we won't have rolling blackouts anymore. 
Yes, it's a great day in the Middle East - the dawning of a new day for Israel. The world has cut off the lump that was Gaza from around our necks. Just as all nations have the right to close off their border, we're closing ours with Gaza. No, no more trucks, no more medicine. No more food, no more building supplies. No more luxury cars and candy. No more jobs, no more healthcare. The border is closed, Gaza - to the west lies your salvation. Look to Egypt and beyond for all you need. 
And one more thing, Gaza. If you dare, if you dare attack us - as any nation would - we WILL flatten you. Gaza will become an island set adrift in the Mediterranean. 
You are a nation now, Palestine and Israel is at the front of all the nations of the world in welcoming you to responsibility. 
Use it wisely because you'll only have one chance. 
Yup, that's JUST what Bibi Netanyahu should say...will he? I guess that depends on what happens next and whether he has the courage, this close to the elections, to say what he should.

From Arab Lands Came the Jews


A Lie Told Once....

seems to be repeated over and over again. Once again, it is the story of a small Palestinian child swapping up blood. And so, they post, "oh god, Gaza..." but no, it wasn't Gaza - not then, not now.

The original tweet:

And the picture to which they refer:

A lie repeated many times - is still a lie.The picture isn't from now. It wasn't from March, 2012. The picture isn't from Gaza. The blood wasn't from his brother. The Israelis weren't involved. It is a young Palestinian boy told to wipe up the blood of a cow slaughtered in his family's slaughterhouse in Hebron.

I documented it back in March, here: Palestinian Child Washing His Brother's Blood?

A lie told once, or twice, ore more - is still a lie.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

More Thoughts on Stuck

The other night, the frustration of missing a play we really had wanted to see, and losing close to $60 worth of tickets for nothing, not to mention the inconvenience of being stranded, among thousands, on a cold highway for close to an hour, made me write of how it felt being stuck. A day or two later, another thought came to mind.

First, let me tell you about something that happened many years ago. Elie was on call on an ambulance. A pregnant woman in an Arab village nearby, an Arab woman, was in the car with her husband and children when the car was rammed from behind by a truck, a truck driven by an Arab. The family was not wearing seat belts and the results were - predictable. Though everyone was shaken, people were most concerned about the woman, who was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, a bit hurt and very upset. It was decided to rush her to a hospital to check on her condition and that of her unborn child.

The Israeli ambulance from Maale Adumim was called; Elie inside. They went running, these medics and volunteers, without any hesitation. A hurt, pregnant woman pushed them to drive the speed limitations of the road and beyond - they sped through the city, to the front entrance, made a left turn, rather than the right to Jerusalem I always take.

They traveled mere moments to get to the entrance of the Arab neighborhood, and stopped. Stopped? I asked Elie - yes, stopped.

"We had to wait for an army escort," he explained. Arabs have stoned ambulances, set them afire. Seeing to the safety of the ambulance crew is drummed into every volunteer. An injured medic isn't of much value. First, you secure the safety of the team, whenever possible. You don't take careless or unnecessary risks. And so they are not allowed to endanger their lives by entering an Arab village without an army escort to protect them. The alternative was for the Arabs to bring their wounded out to the road, and this is what happened. An Arab ambulance took the injured woman to the main road and she was transferred to the Israeli ambulance.

But why, I asked Elie, if she was already in an ambulance, why did she need to be transferred to another? And so he explained. When the Arab ambulances get to the army checkpoint just before entering Jerusalem, they have to be searched. Many times, Arabs have used their ambulances to smuggle weapons, even explosives into Israel.

And so, by moving her to an Israeli ambulance, the medics were ensuring she would get to the Israeli hospital faster for treatment. I heard this story with much anger. This is what the Arabs have done to themselves, I thought to myself. They have harmed their own interests, in addition to ours. Our ambulances are endangered, but so are their own lives.

And now, days after being stuck on a road because an Arab man went up to the entrance of Maale Adumim and tried to enter, another thought occurred to me. When stopped, the man told the guards he had planned to attack Israelis - a terror attack - because he has an argument with another Arab. The guards, rightly, did not hesitate to sound the alarm. The city was shut down, traffic diverted. The result was equivalent to thousands of cars attempting to enter a huge traffic circle. Those coming up from Jerusalem were unable to enter the city and there was no where for them to turn. The traffic that caused, reached several kilometers, all the way down to the back entrance of Maale Adumim. As we tried to drive up to Jerusalem, long before the turnoff, we ran into the tail of that traffic. A huge circle.

Within the city - by single file, cars entered circle after circle - merging from as many as three directions - all trying to go back into the city because the front was closed. More cars, unaware the front of the city was closed, were moving forward - in short, no one was going anywhere.

That was the result - but for a moment, consider a different angle. Were I to go to the front of Maale Adumim and tell the guards that I wanted to launch an attack - they'd laugh. Perhaps, they would search my car. They would most likely not sound the alarm and freeze hundreds, thousands of people and cars in a frustrating jam.

The Arabs have proven themselves credible. Yes, they are capable of attacking with the intent to kill and so, days after a bus exploded in Tel Aviv, yes, we believed they would do something somewhere, so why not here?

This time, there was no attack - the time my son might have gone into the village, it is possible the residents wouldn't have attacked the ambulance - but a culture that accepts and even praises violence is one that is to be believed.

Yes, I was stuck but the guards did what they had to do. All of Maale Adumim and all of Israel does what it has to do. We'll have those checkpoints and we'll search cars and pocketbooks. We'll watch our buses and guard our schools and accept that I'd rather live on this side of that great divide. I'd rather live in a society that sends ambulances than one that stones them. I'd rather live in a country that guards its people and its children than one that encourages them to murder innocents.

The UN has voted to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. If you think about it, it was a dumb vote. They'd already approved that in 1947. It was the Arabs who decided against the plan; who went to war and chose the route to violence. No, I don't believe there will ever be peace; that they will accept Israel's right to exist. What they lost in violence in 1947, they will never get in 2012 or 2013 or 2014.

The path to this mythical Palestine they crave, has always been in the one place they refuse to go - peace. In peace, they can live here with us; in peace, neighbors can survive. In war, there is no freedom - not for them and, to an extent, not for us. We were imprisoned in a wall of cars Thursday night because what that Arab from Nablus did was a terror attack. And so long as the Arabs choose violence and terror - the fact is, we are all stuck.

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