Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Next War via GPS

In the days before Elie was called to Operation Pillar of Defense, he showed me an iPhone application he had found on the Internet. It was called "Color Red" - the same name used to indicate an incoming missile. And what it did - was alert you that a missile had been fired from Gaza and tell you how many seconds you had before impact. It even had a stop watch which you could start and then time yourself as you ran. Sick humor...

Elie called a short while ago - he found another application - it's called, "The Next War" and what it does is tell you where the nearest bomb shelter is - based on your location as identified by GPS. Wonderful. He thought it was hysterical. He was particularly amused that according to this application, the nearest bomb shelter to where he was - working as a security guard in the mall in Maale Adumim - is a 40 minute drive to the southern part of Jerusalem (ignoring the bomb shelter that is in the mall in Maale Adumim and every other bomb shelter between us and Jerusalem).

There was a link to report additional bomb shelters...

What does it say about us that we create programs to measure how fast we can run and where we can seek shelter? I actually think it shows how well we are adapting. No, I really doubt that either of these applications would be used in a real war. Who has time to pull out your phone, open the application and then consult it as you run for the 15 seconds to 1 minute it takes for the missile to arrive?

So maybe the better question is what is says about our enemies...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What you don't put on Facebook...

And there goes my stomach again...sort of that deflated feeling, a bit sick.There is a line, sometimes hazy, sometimes imagined, of what can and cannot go on Facebook. When Elie was in the Gaza war, he got a call from his commanding officer, who had gotten a call from his commanding officer.

Towards the end of the war, more than 5 weeks after Elie had last been home, everyone knew the war was winding down, or at least we hoped it was. To give the soldiers a break, a few at a time, they were allowed to take a 24 break, go home, see their families, sleep in a normal bed, take a warm shower.

Elie could have come home, but he was holding out because he wanted to make sure that if the war didn't end before his younger brother's bar mitzvah, he'd ask for the 24-hour break then. So, he got a call from his commanding officer telling him something that was very disturbing.One of his soldiers had gone home and in his spare few minutes, had uploaded to Facebook some pictures from the war.

Elie called the soldier and asked him if he had done it and ordered him to take them down. The soldier explained he was already on the way back to join his unit. Elie told him to turn around, go back home and get those pictures off now! And so the soldier did. There are things you don't put on Facebook (the above picture appeared elsewhere and, in any event, Elie assured me later that after the war and the cannons had been moved, it wasn't nearly as serious).

So yesterday, Davidi came home to give me an update. He received papers from the army ordering him to report to join the army - mere days after he finishes high school. Stomach dropping number one.

"I'll take care of it," Davidi assured me quickly. He plans to study and prepare - as his brothers did. It is better for him - and for the army. Then he told me his scores in the testing that was done. He did well and based on those numbers, may well get his wish to be a paramedic.

And then, being the kid he still is, this morning he posted his scores and details to Facebook. Elie called me and said, "Davidi is an idiot!"

"Why?" I asked him.

"Did you see his Facebook page?"

"No," I answered. And as Elie explained, my stomach dropped again, filled with this horrible worry.

"I tried calling him but it went to voice mail," he told me. "Do you know his password?"

"No," I answered.

"Wait, he's calling me back," Elie said, and disconnected.

A few minutes later he called me back and asked me to check Davidi's Facebook page (I did and he's removed the post...thanks, sweetie).

"Look," said Elie, obviously hearing the worry in my voice, "I'm exaggerating, but it just isn't smart."

"He doesn't know," I told Elie. "Is it dangerous?"

"No," Elie answered, "not really. Just not smart."

Okay, I tell my insides, settle down. And I will.

Facebook is an addiction, or it can be. It lets you reach out and share so much, so fast. I teach people how to use social media tools - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. and I warn them - be careful what you post. I am friends with each of my children on Facebook - at my insistence, though at least three really don't need me to be anymore and are too old for me to control.

I haven't let Aliza have Facebook yet. She asked me once if she could have a gmail account, "It isn't like I'm asking for Facebook," she begged. So she has gmail, but no Facebook.

I'll talk to Davidi again; I'll thank Elie again. Where Davidi will go in the army, what he'll do there - no one knows yet, not even the army. He's just beginning the path. I'll wonder with him, as I did with Elie and Shmulik, whether the army will find within him all of the amazing qualities I already see in him.

And I'll force myself to remember that what Elie has learned in the army and in the years since, Davidi still needs to learn. No, despite what Elie said, we all know Davidi is not an idiot - his test scores proved that. What he is, still, is young. As he did today, I know Elie will watch out for him, watch over him. That settles my stomach a bit and reminds me how much I love my children ... all of them, each of them.

May God bless my children this beautiful, rainy day and keep them safe.

Friday, January 25, 2013

BBC ... 15 Minutes of Fame?

Well, it's over. My 15 minutes of fame (well, likely not even that) is over. I agreed to meet a BBC team to show them, from the point of view of an Israeli, what our lives are like. Specifically, they were interested in the point of view from Maale Adumim, a beautiful city just minutes to the east of Jerusalem. Some, including BBC, would call it "occupied territory" or, being diplomatic, "disputed territory."

The fact is that there were never Palestinian homes on the land I call my own; never a Palestinian village. It was governed by the Turks, then the British, then the Jordanians. Jordan decided to ignore a plea made by Israel in 1967, choosing to attack. They lost, and lost big - including the area on which my home is built. One might say we were occupying Jordanian land until 1988 when they chose to renounce any claim. Without question, it has been under Israeli sovereignty since 1967 and the only people to build on these barren hills - was Israel.

BBC came to Maale Adumim to see, to listen and overall, I think they did.

I expected so much, feared so much. Instead, it was mostly what I wanted it to be - here is my home, here is my city, here is my life. Here is where my sons work, where my children go to school. Here is where I have chosen to raise my children. Yes, I have five children and even two adopted sons. No, I'm not an extremist. No, I don't have much hope for peace.

"Why did you choose to live here?" The answer was easy - for the quality of life and yes, for ideological reasons. Some choose for economic reasons, but not me.

Many of the questions were sensitively phrased - "How do you answer the claim....?" and "What do you say to those who say...?"

I searched for the bias BBC is famous for; I waited for the agenda to come through. I have to be honest and say they were fair. I think they were even pleasantly surprised to see that Maale Adumim really was a modern city with all conveniences close at hand. As they gazed at the apartment buildings, the grassy children's park, the buses traveling in and out of our neighborhood and people walking the streets, I think they even got the message that Maaleh Adumim is a permanent fixture in the Israeli reality. One question was why I didn't choose to live in Israel proper, and I answered that I most definitely do live in proper Israel.

I took them to Rami Levy to see what it was like in an Israeli supermarket. They seemed to be impressed by the size of the place and how Palestinians and Israelis work together, shop together. They kept asking me if that person was a Palestinian, and him, and him...and in each case, the answer was yes.

Am I a settler? I was asked near the milk section of Rami Levy. I am, I answered - all Israelis are settlers, all Americans are settlers too. All Brits, all of us - it is what humans do - we settle in a place and make it home. Not the answer that they wanted, but the one that is in my heart.

They said the world sees settlers as gun-toting religious Jews with beards and yarmulkas. I don't have a beard, I answered. I've never fired a gun and I don't wear a yarmulka. "The world is wrong," I said. We are people. Men and women, adults and children. Religous and secular. We are Israel, that's all. Just people.

I showed them the barren mountains around Maale Adumim and said  - as those hills are now, Maale Adumim was before we Jews came and built here. They took pictures of the mountains and I think I showed them as people, as well as reporters or BBC employees.

I showed them the TEREM emergency center and the ambulance squad, the silly but charming lake, the parks and the schools. I pointed to the flowers we plant in abundance and the palm trees. Palm trees! I said to them - and we're in the desert!

In the vegetable department, some Arab workers asked why we were filming and I answered them, and then later we took some still pictures of the TV host and me (I didn't even have the nerve to ask them to send me a copy by email and I don't know if they'd give me permission to post it here anyway). In the chicken department, the Arab workers smiled. At the checkout, the Arab packer told me where he lived and asked about the cameras. They filmed me  walking out of the store and then asked me to take the cart and walk back in...three times!

And when it was all done, I came home and pondered what I would write here. I get the first chance to post about my hours with some BBC employees and a seasoned BBC reporter. They and he will get the last word when the documentary airs. It will be an hour in length, covering hours and hours of footage shot all over Israel - the Negev, the north, Tel Aviv, and Ramallah. From all the hours of walking and driving...a few short sentences will be taken.

I told them that Israel wants peace - that it has always been ready to meet the Arabs at the negotiation table. What will happen there, I refuse to guess. We are ready, without preconditions. Land for peace has never worked - let's try peace for peace. Name the day and we will be there. That was one quote. Maybe they'll take it; maybe they won't.

Maybe I didn't say it on camera - I don't know anymore. There were conversations on tape and others off. I know that I was not being recorded when I admitted that I just don't see how there will ever be peace. I don't. On tape, I spoke of this being a normal city - buses, gardens, many schools, city hall, shopping, synagogues, pizza, medical centers and even a bowling alley...wait...did I mention the bowling alley? It's all a blur - so much to tell them about our city. They seemed surprised by how big the mall was. They liked the Skippy peanut butter being sold in the store (I bought two - it was on sale!).

After a while, it's hard to remember what I said and even if I remembered, I can't know at the end of the day what they will pick. I got a glimpse of what it was like to film a show - I can't tell you how many times I walked into the supermarket; how many times I strolled down the front of the store. I put the milk in the cart twice.

What I'm left with is a feeling that I did all I could do, shared all I could share - we are people, not settlers. We are humans, not creatures. We care about our lives here. We have made GOOD lives - for us, for our children, and yes, for the Arabs who work among us, for us, with us.

I can't know now which seconds of the hours I spent today they will select. What I can say is that I provided them with a palette filled with colors but I have to accept that what painting they will produce is up to them. A masterpiece of honesty or a crass image of distorted life can be weaved from the same colors of the rainbow. It's what you do with the colors once you have them that leaves a lasting image. I have given them the colors.

They said they wanted to show their audience the real Israel, the side the media doesn't have a chance to show. I tried...I hope I succeeded in showing them that we aren't fanatics, maniacs, strange beings from a different planet. We are simply people who live in a beautiful city, a beautiful land.

You can paint so many pictures with words, with images, with pieces of conversations. I hope they will choose to paint a masterpiece of life in Israel, an image of how we have built such beauty. Of the kindness we offer our neighbors - those across the street, and those across the valley.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Mother Moment...Dealing with Death

If you made a list of things you don't want your children to ever see, I think death and war would be right at the top. On the one hand, I don't want to feel like a failure as a mother, on the other hand, my sons have known both.

Elie went to war...if you've never had a son go to war, I can honestly and openly say that you probably have no idea what that is like. The all consuming terror that lives with you every moment. I slept more than one night holding my phone in my hand, desperate to hear from him, even more desperate to have it not ring with someone telling me he had been hurt. I waited for him to come home and wondered if I would have to put the pieces back together. But it didn't break him. He came back with the strong (and proper) conviction that he had done what he had to do. He was a soldier, tasked with protecting his country, his people, his land.

We were being attacked by hundreds of rockets - to stop it, we went to war. Within the scope of that war, he and his fellow soldiers did all they could do - to stop the attacks while avoiding civilian casualties on both sides. My son knows war. Other than hearing it through the phone a few times, I don't really have more than a slight sense of what it was like. Two rocket attacks on the Jerusalem area sent us flying to bomb shelters but these were not sustained attacks lasting throughout days and nights as in the south.

I don't know if it was the first time, probably not, but I remember very clearly being at a client's office in the north when my husband told me that Elie had been driving, saw an old woman collapse, and immediately pulled over to begin CPR. He kept at it until the ambulance came, but the woman was very old and she didn't make it. I was terrified how Elie took this and wanted to come running home. My husband and I talked as I drove and I asked him how Elie was and what he has said to him.

The love of my life said the most amazing thing to our oldest son. For the rest of their lives, he told our son, this family will know that it was their mother's time to go. That nothing more could have been done to save her; that it wasn't an issue of someone having gotten there sooner. Elie was okay with what had happened - but in that moment, I knew that my son had met death.

Two nights ago, Davidi volunteered on the Intensive Care ambulance, having passed his training course a few weeks ago. On their way back from one run, they were called to another. A 30 year old man had collapsed at a wedding and though the paramedics (and Davidi) tried to bring him back, he died. Davidi went into details about what happens to a dead body after its life ends. I let him talk.

Amazingly enough, he got to the same concept as my husband did with Elie. There was a medic at the wedding and others within meters away. The minute the man fell to the ground, there were people trying to help him. Nothing more could have been done. He was born with a heart defect; God gave him just over 30 years of life.

As Davidi spoke, I watched him - he's taller than me, stronger than me. He's so smart and he has gorgeous blue eyes. His room is a mess and he hasn't yet learned to find the amazing depths he is capable of reaching. As Elie was when I started this blog...Davidi is on the edge of tomorrow.

And I am amazed that even with my fourth child, God is telling me there is still much to learn as a parent. We can't shelter our children. God knows, we've tried. It still hurts though, deep down inside, to know that we want our children to know only happiness, life, and sunshine.

Once, when my children were very young and one of them walked into something and was cut - enough to know that he'd have a scar, I told my husband, "We give birth to these perfect little things and they go through life messing it up and collecting scars!" More and more, I see that the scars on the outside are nothing to the scars on the inside.

No, that's not true exactly. They aren't scarred by these experiences, they are strengthened by them. Maybe that's the point here. In dealing with that which could weaken them, they build themselves into better people, kinder people, more caring.

And yet, the heart of the mother inside me still wishes it didn't have to be that way...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Ostrich Calls to Me

I wrote this article in 2004, when my oldest daughter was taking a course that allowed her to volunteer in assisting victims of a terror attack or, in more general terms, a multiple casualty incident. At the end of the course, they had a ceremony for the parents to come and see what our teenagers had been doing for the better part of a week. I watched, experienced, and then wrote (as I so often do)

I'm posting it here for a reason (wait for the next post). I called the article...The Ostrich Calls to Me. A few years later, Elie took the same course and I found myself in the same place, near the sea, watching Elie take his part in the exercise for the parents. This time, they picked up on a report of a terrible traffic accident in which a bus crashed into a truck (or vice versa). The actions of the children were the same; my reaction was completely different. I watched, I smiled, I enjoyed. And once again, I marveled at how the human mind can rationalize.

A few years after that - I watched as Shmulik took his turn and again, I was calm throughout. I already know that Davidi wants to do the same course.

The Ostrich Calls to Me (written in 2004)

As a typical news-hungry Israeli, I wake with the news and go to sleep with the news. I've got my phone programmed to beep when something happens and I can't walk past a newsstand without taking a long glance at the headlines. But more and more, the ostrich that lives deep inside all of us is calling to me. Can't I just ignore this latest warning of impending terrorist attacks? Just this once, do I need to know what America plans for Iraq? Which road was attacked with stones? How many mortars were launched against Israeli towns and villages?

I find that the ostrich manages to sleep for long periods, even days at a time, though that is rare. We've developed a very good relationship, that ostrich and I. In bad times, it leaves me alone to listen obsessively to the news, check the Internet and know within minutes of every major newsworthy event in a 1000 mile radius.

Then the ostrich will demand its due, and I'll get an evening in a restaurant in which I will not think about the next person to enter, nor worry if the guard really checked that man's bag carefully.

The ostrich and I have developed a relationship over the last two years and that is why I suddenly find myself quite perturbed to find that the ostrich has not been happy. The ostrich is demanding more time away from the news, just as things seem to be getting more serious. More threats from the Palestinians, Iraq getting more defiant and Bush getting more insistent.

This morning, before I thought the ostrich was even awake, I read that the Education Ministry in Israel is planning to teach a civil defense program in the schools. Psychologists and police will visit the schools to teach my children what to do during a terrorist attack.

I don't want my children to know this, I want to scream. And suddenly realize that it isn't my voice, it is the ostrich in me. As I think about the ostrich, I realize that this is not the first time it has decided to completely take over. Only a month or so ago, the first real mutiny occurred.

My 17 year-old daughter took an advanced course with the Magen David Adom to learn how to set up and work a medical staging area for multiple victims of a terrorist attack.

Following an intensive four days, parents were invited to a "Conclusion Ceremony" in which we watched approximately 100 teenagers simulate the moments after a terrorist attack. The ostrich didn't want to go at all, but how could I not go? We packed up some clean clothes, some soda and cake, some apples and more, and drove to Netanya, where the course was being held.

Overlooking the beauty of the Mediterranean, sitting on plastic chairs after being served light refreshments, the ambulance siren wailed and a single ambulance rushed to the center of the grassy patch before us.

"Many wounded, bring everyone," said the first ambulance driver who arrived on the "scene."

I was only glad that I didn't have to see and hear and smell the actual attack that was supposed to have preceded this exercise, but the ostrich was not satisfied. "Better to look out over to the blue sea and the green trees," the ostrich urged me. "Don't look, don't listen, don't imagine."

More sirens and now the field resembled an ambulance parking lot. The doors flung open, and groups of teenagers began unloading boxes and meticulously setting them up in rows as they had been taught over the last four days. Each ambulance crew was ready to treat ten patients before they even started carrying in the wounded. We could hear how many were wounded being broadcast over the ambulance radio and then their conditions reported back to some imaginary command station.

More stretchers and the ostrich was in tears, frantic to get away from the images that only it could see. "Isn't it enough when it's real?" it cried with silent, invisible tears. "Do we have to imagine it when it hasn't even happened?"

The wounded were more teenagers who put their hearts and souls into the act. Arms waving, bodies shaking, stretchers moving quickly. One boy almost fell off, and the others laughed.

For my daughter and the others, this was a chance to prove that they could act quickly and knew what to do. This would assure that they function first and react later if and when the real attack comes. They wrapped wounds that did not exist, taped infusion lines with gusto. They calmed the victims and tried not to have too much fun and I stood there staring at them as the ostrich asked why we have to train 16 and 17-year-olds to deal with this.

For me, this was as real and as close to the aftermath of a terrorist attack as I ever want to get. I don't want to be here, I thought at the time, and the ostrich understood and agreed. I want to be high in the sky, like the hang glider that circled above, obviously curious about the strange scene below. I don't want to see this, I kept whispering to myself.

"Now do you see why the sand is so appealing?" sympathized the ostrich.

"Then go put your head back in the sand," I almost whispered back. Stop imaging that this is real, I told myself repeatedly.

Then the exercise was over and my daughter concentrated on what dirty laundry she wanted me to take home and what fruit and cakes I had brought her to help her survive the last 24 hours of the course. The ostrich went back to sleep; my daughter passed her test with flying colors.

I fear that this relationship seems to be getting worse, with the ostrich demanding more attention, more time, more oblivion. It lives in Israel as I do, knowing that this is the reality we must face.

It would never leave this country, this ostrich - just as I will never leave it. It is a product of all that is good and all that is bad here, and I know that when it takes its head out of the sand long enough, it loves this country so very much. 

But I also wonder who will find peace first? Israel and the Palestinians, or the ostrich and me?

What the Election Results Mean....

I wrote a post on my other blog...on the Times of Israel and it came out really nice - what I was thinking...I'm not allowed to post the whole article here, so with apologies, I'll ask you to continue reading it there.

Election Will Bring War, Poverty, Pestilence...

There, now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you that the Middle East of this morning is fundamentally the same as it was yesterday. We have not had a major upheaval; lives are not at risk (at least not in the purest, most direct sense of the word).

I’m not in mourning – in fact, quite the opposite. I celebrate the democracy we are. The people have spoken. No, not exactly as I had hoped but that is for another time. If you are right-wing and you went on a tiyul yesterday instead of voting – you (and I) will live with that decision. In truth, I don’t believe we will live with it long because I believe the election results have put Bibi in a difficult position. With each partner he takes into his government, he will face a contradiction with another.

Bibi, who likes to make broad, large governments (because it gives him more power to maneuver), finds himself this morning in the narrowest of coalitions. His basic format is likely to be to form a coalition with Yesh Atid and Bayit HaYehudi. That makes 61 – you can’t get more narrow than that. From there, he’s stuck.

To read the rest...please click here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Israel Votes Today

...in the truest democratic sense of the word. We are choosing from no less than 32 political parties (I think I even heard 34). You can't say we aren't diverse. We have several religious parties, several secular and even anti-religious parties. We have several Arab parties, nationalist parties - left wing and right wing. We have a party promoting the legalization of marijuana and parties that focus on social issues.

Someone asked me if Israelis were forced to vote or they had a choice...we so have a choice and we choose to vote. Pick your issue - and there is a party for you. Our government is formed by the party with the most votes - its leader will be our next prime minister. Of course. that isn't a given. The President - mostly a figurehead, has the power to choose another party with less votes if he thinks they have a better chance of getting a majority of the other parties to agree.

This time, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Bibi Netanyahu will win big enough to remain in office. But it is also assumed he doesn't have a chance of winning big enough not to have to deal with smaller parties. Some of the smallest parties may not cross the minimum 2-seat threshold. It's exciting; it's fun - it's Israel at its best. Today, people are urging each other to vote - no matter who - make your voice known.

I've been debating who to vote for - which party to support. Ideologically, I'm limited to about 2.5 parties. I came to Israel with the firm belief that Likud was Israel's best choice. As soon as I moved to Israel, finally having the right to vote here - I joined the Likud party. Although technically, I left them a few years ago, they had long since abandoned their own mandate and beliefs. It is with great relief that I never even bothered thinking, never mind regretting, that I would not vote for Likud this time around.

Yesh Atid, run by Yair Lapid, is a party that I detest. I am smart enough to know that the anger I feel towards them is present at a level higher than they deserve. I was urged to listen to Yair Lapid speaking before an audience of Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Kiryat Ono. I found him insulting, patronizing and obnoxious. Oh, sure - he's handsome and charismatic - but he is so filled with himself, it's hard to see that Israel will ever have a greater place in his mind than his own opinions. No vote for Yesh Atid. 

Shas is one of the Ultra-Orthodox parties that Yair Lapid detests - and his endless attacks added to the dirt of this election. Sadly, he isn't completely wrong. Shas has engaged, once again, in a disgusting campaign of negativity. Their spiritual leader, a great rabbi whose words are often taken out of context...often speaks words that shouldn't be said. Shas does some amazing things at the community level - if only they would spend more time promoting the good things they do rather than attacking others. If I ever considered voting for them - which to be honest, I never have - two remarks would have cost them my vote this time around. The first was when Rav Ovadia Yosef said that if there is a forced draft - he would tell his followers to send their children out of Israel. This concept of not serving while benefiting from the state bothers me no end. His second comment was that those who support Bayit HaYehudi are not Jews. I don't need Rav Yosef telling me who is a Jew but I've wasted enough time on a party known for its corruption and rationalizing political positions based on the money for which it can sell its support. No vote for Shas...

HaTnua, Labor, Meretz, Kadima - I'll throw them all together and I'll throw them all out easily. They are, for the most part, ignorant or ridiculously naive when it comes to Israel's position in the Middle East. They demand social justice but have no real platform and more - when they had power, the situation wasn't any better so they have no right to claim they know how to improve teh situation. As for security and Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, a former Chief of Staff of the army - I can only assume delusional is a better word for the weakness he would have us show to our enemies. Or, perhaps like the others, interest in his own sense of importance makes him willing to risk Israel's future for political gain? Whatever the truth - no vote for these parties.

I could go on - as I have over the last few weeks - or make it simpler. There remain two parties with whom I agree - Bayit haYehudi (Jewish Home Party) and Otzma L'Yisrael (Strength to Israel). I would vote for either (or both, if I could). I have to choose one and so I went and I listened, I read, I thought.

Bayit HaYehudi will work to pull Bibi Netanyahu to the right; to force him to remember and answer to his supporters, the bread and butter of the Likud party. They are also likely to get a large number of votes - currently as many as 12-14 seats in the Knesset. But...by being in the coalition, they will be forced to support measures I don't agree with - measures they don't even agree with. 

More, I've been betrayed by Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud more than once. The first time was when Ariel Sharon promised me security for my vote and then took my vote and used it to implement the so-called Disengagement Plan that resulted in our expelling 9,000 Jews from more than 20 beautiful communities. The unilateral move, which Bibi Netanyahu voted for, brought us the Lebanon War and that in turn, brought us the Cast Lead War. My son knows war because Likud (and then Sharon's new party Kadima) showed weakness and stupidity.

I don't want my vote used, abused, betrayed. And I want to vote this time for a party that won't promise ridiculous things to get my vote. Okay, Bayit HaYehudi, to its credit, didn't promise ridiculous things. By contrast, I got a call from Bibi (okay, it was a taped spam message that I have to assume Likud inflicted on as many phone numbers as they could get). Bibi told me he was going to deliver security and lower housing...yeah, I believe him...not.

By contrast, Aryeh Eldad jokingly said he was "a lousy politician because I can't promise peace, gas will be free, birds will fly backwards...and there are no taxes on words."

But the first crack in my supporting Bayit HaYehudi was when I realized that they will get what they will get from Bibi whether they have 12 votes or 14. And to go against Bibi, they need a party to the right, an alternative, a warning. Betray me and I will go to this other party, we can say to Bayit haYehudi...if there is a party to go to - Otzma L'Yisrael.

I want to finally vote for a party not based on politics but belief. Otzma L'Yisrael - Strength to Israel - is comprised of people who simply are. There is no pretending and little grandstanding. They will not shift with the wind, float to the left.

They are against a Palestinian state for the simple reason that they believe, they understand, that a Palestinian state will be used as a launching ground for phase 2, the complete destruction of Israel. They are not trying to deny Arabs the right to pray at the Dome of the Rock, nor do they call for its destruction - they simply demand that Jews too have a right to pray at their holiest site.

They are not racists when they declare that Israel is a Jewish state; nor are they racist when they say that Israel is not an Arab country. There are 20 other Arab lands; this one is not. Their leaders have introduced petitions for important laws on the social front. Aryeh Eldad is a doctor by trade. He has petitioned to allow us to choose our doctors, our surgeons. 

I voted. I went to vote in the only real democracy in Israel. I waited in line for 20 minutes - everyone in a jolly mood simply because we are enjoying our freedom. As I left, there was a young woman from Channel 10 doing a poll. She asked who I voted for and I told her - I voted for the strength of Israel, for the strong. I voted so that Bibi won't betray my vote. I voted because I live in a land I love, a free, democratic country and to keep it that way, we need a spectrum in the Knesset. We need a counter as strong on the right as there is on the left. 

If Arabs can have their seats in the Knesset - and they do, we too can have a voice. 

As I drove home, I saw a friend's son putting out fliers for Shas. Seriously? I asked him and he made a face. "How much are they paying you?" I asked him. 

"Forty shekels an hour," he grumbled.

I smiled back and said - here, give me three fliers - I'll throw them out when I get home. He smiled and handed them to me. 

Shas, you are SO in the wrong neighborhood. I live among those who are religious Jews, proud Israelis. We are the Dati Leumi - the national religious. When I was 13 years old, I read a book and fell in love with Israel, the wonder of our return to this land. I read, I learned, and as I did, I decided there are two parts to being a Jew - Torah and Israel. To fulfill the truest meaning of both parts, to be whole inside in heart and body - is to combine these.

Today, among friends and neighbors, in more joy than you can imagine, I voted. I voted for Israel to be strong. Otzma L'Yisrael.



Sunday, January 20, 2013

BBC's A 'Coming....

So, I've agreed to do the interview and show BBC the city where I live.

Should I do it?

It is amazing how many people are warning me not to - that BBC can't be trusted to give an accurate and fair picture of my beautiful city. One friend writes that they'll take things out of context. All they care about is twisting what you say. No matter what you tell them, writes another, they'll turn it around to give the idea that what we have is at the expense of the Palestinians. It's about E1, writes a third and warns me to at least take someone along to tape at the same time so I have proof of what I've said.

Am I insane to want to believe that just one journalist wants to really show the Israel that I know? That this man and this team will finally show how silly the whole debate about Maale Adumim is. Will they finally let their audience see how close Maale Adumim is to Jerusalem, a few minutes by car? Will they turn their cameras to E1 and show there is nothing there but one building; that no Palestinians will lose their homes, their jobs, their freedom to travel because Israel might build homes up on the mountain?

If they come to my city, will this reporter see the beautiful parks, will he show that we have built a place where our children can play safely...and can he do this without asking us why the Palestinians don't do the same in their cities and neighborhoods?

If I show BBC the gardens and beautiful open spaces where we let our children run, will they make it something ugly? Here is where we gather on important days such as Memorial Day to cry and Independence Day to laugh and sing, I want to show him. Our streets are clean - we put up bins for recycling and have city-wide "clean up days" where we encourage people to walk around with plastic bags and pick up any garbage. And yes, dozens of Arabs are hired and paid to sweep the streets on a regular basis. It is good for them; it is good for us. We treat them with respect; we offer them hot coffee in the winter and cold water in the summer and greet them with a wave as we enter our cars.

Arabs work in the mall and are happy for the pay. They work in the medical center and in other places. No one harasses them; no one hurts them. Will this reporter take the time to admit to his audience that a Jew would not be nearly as safe; their freedom to move in an Arab neighborhood almost non-existent?

Years ago, I escorted a journalist from another station around and was made to feel that I had to justify my life. Will that happen again? What right does any journalist have to come and suggest that my city is any different than London or any other place? Do you blame the man who works hard and lives in a nice home for the slum that exists mere miles away? We didn't build Abu Dis and Azariya; we built Maale Adumim. Come see MY city; come marvel at the wonders of trees and gardens blossoming in a desert.

When leaving my city, to the left, in a direction I do not travel, there is an Arab neighborhood a few hundred meters from the entrance. I have only ventured on the main road of that area twice...we bought a kitchen for our downstairs apartment and we went there to order it and then again to arrange delivery. We could venture to the first circle within, but were told beyond it was too dangerous - "Hamas territory," we were warned.

I shop in stores where Arabs work and shop; I walk streets where Arabs walk and go to a medical center where Arabs are treated - and all of this is in MY city, not their neighborhoods or villages. In the store where I buy my groceries, Arabs stock the shelves, man the checkout lines, fill the lines to buy food, and the Assistant Manager is an Arab. That is life here in Maale Adumim - that is the image I would show the BBC.

The lake...the schools...the flowers and green areas - we have planted them; we nurture them all. Some say BBC is incapable of seeing the lake for what it is. Will this be the time an Israeli is given a fair and honest chance to show the beauty of what we have built without it being denigrated and twisted or used as a weapon to show the agenda that seems hidden in most of BBC's news casts?

The reporter who is coming did a story years ago about money being raised for a charity in England that was going to fund Hamas. He didn't say Hamas was a terrorist organization - that was left to the minds of the viewer. And yet, he was accused of being pro-Israel, even called a Zionist!To show that he wasn't either, the journalist countered that he had also investigated and broadcast against an Englishwoman who was known to be extremely pro-Israel. Can I learn from this that he is really interested in truth and presenting a balanced picture?

As the day draws closer, I ask myself if I am sorry that I agreed to do this interview. And if I am to be honest, I would answer that yes, I am a bit.

BBC wants to present the view of an ordinary Israeli - I guess that would be me. If they asked me what it was like to have a son in the army, I could answer that easily. It is its own kind of glory and its own kind of hell. It is a pride beyond motherhood and a fear beyond any words I have ever written.

If they asked me what it was like to have my children grow in the Israeli sun, I could tell them of the joys and the peace to be found here. This weekend, my parents came for the Sabbath and my children all were around to celebrate Aliza's 13th birthday. Friday night, my oldest daughter and then her husband stepped forward and received a blessing from my husband. My son-in-law blessed his own son and then, as he pulled back, my grandson, all of 20-months-old, reached out his hand, put it on his father's head, and said, "Amen."

We were all delighted and so, my daughter took the baby around to each person and said, "give them a bracha" (a blessing) and each time, this gorgeous child reached out, touched the person's head, and said, "Amen."

This is what we teach our children - to bless and not to curse, to love and not to hate, to live and not to die. But perhaps they will ask me what it is like to be a settler. And therein lies the problem. I am a settler but how can I make the BBC understand that we are all settlers - those who live in Maale Adumim and those who live in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. That is what Jews were commanded to do - we settle this land, our land.

We have no interest in taking away the rights of others; we want only to live - to watch our grandchildren bless us; to watch our daughters celebrate their birthdays and watch our sons live their lives. Like Shylock, I am human and I am a Jew. I am a settler and a mother. I am an Israeli and a writer, a grandmother and a wife. There are so many facets of my life - how many can BBC correctly portray? I know - it isn't about me. It's about Maale Adumim - but you see, my city has so many facets too - it is an Israeli city, welcoming people from all over the world - from the United States, from Russia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, France, England, Australia, Libya, Ethiopia, Poland, Argentina, Canada and so many other nations. And there are those who have lived here all their lives - children of people who can mark their lives by the generations who lived here in this land before them.

If BBC comes to Maale Adumim and they twist what we have built, it is their loss. The story of the Middle East is in that child's gesture, in the culture that raises them. Yes, my sons have served in the army. One son has been called to war twice.

If you want to understand Maale Adumim; if you want to really show our lives...our community is an open book...it's all there - all out in the open. We are proud of what we have built and how we welcome guests to our city. Come as a guest, see the beauty we have built in the desert.

But please - if you want to educate your audience, leave agendas behind. Come SEE my city, not through the eyes of what others don't have but rather what we have built. No Palestinian was denied land, schooling, health care or opportunities in the building of Maale Adumim. Rather, our city has created opportunities for Palestinians and if there had been no intifada, if it was safe for Israelis to travel into their neighborhoods (as it is safe for them to travel into our city), we would likely be purchasing more products from them.

Those who have lived in Maale Adumim for 15-20 years remember buying from the Arabs on a regular basis. And yet, a neighbor of mine was lynched in Azariya, just to the left of our city, because he thought it was still safe to go there.

So much I want to say; so many impressions I want them to get. It's almost like trying to swim upstream against the current of so many instances of anti-Israel reporting that I could easily give up, give in. And yet, despite many warnings, even a note from a friend that the mayor of the city has decided not to give BBC an interview, I have agreed to meet them.

Anne Frank said that despite what was being done to her in the midst of World War II, she still believed in the decency, the essential goodness of man. It's an amazing concept, especially coming from a child in the midst of hell. I can't help remembering that she died in Bergen-Belsen in a world that honored its silence.

Not a good feeling.

BBC is coming. Am I a fool for hoping that this time they will come not only with cameras but with open minds?

20/20 Hindsight Makes them Lie

Israeli politicians are rushing to try to deny history. They seem to have forgotten the concept of video. No longer can a leader claim not to have voted for something - it's all there.

There were many of us who opposed the "Disengagement Plan" of Ariel Sharon. We said it would bring the rockets falling on Shderot to Ashkelon and Ashdod. The most forward thinking among us even warned of rockets on Tel Aviv. I don't remember them saying rockets on Jerusalem - but this too has happened. 

If you are thinking of voting for Kadima and Shaul Mofaz, if you are thinking of voting for Likud and Bibi Netanyahu - take a look at this news report.

From their own mouths...they prove their ignorance. There is a lie going around Israel today that Bibi Netanyahu did not vote for the Disengagement Plan, referred to by many as the Expulsion Plan because it failed to disengage us from the Palestinians in Gaza while merely resulting in the expulsion of 9,000 Jews and the destruction of more than 21 Jewish communities in Gaza and Northern Shomron.

From their own lips - these would be our leaders - blind then, blind now...


Simply Put - Israel vs. Hamas

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When Others Speak....

When others speak in your name, they usually get it wrong. Sometimes, I write about what is happening with my family or what is on my mind and sometimes, I see a few news articles and realize there is an underlying thread that ties them together. Such it is today.

A few days ago, Obama was quoted as saying that Israel doesn't know what is in its best interest. A Canadian network (CTV), quoted Israel's capital as Tel Aviv; and Admiral William Fallon says that Israel won't be able to take on Iran alone.

I feel like the person sitting in the room while all around me, people are talking ABOUT me, instead of just asking - so allow me to respond.

Let's start with the easiest one...

Dear Canada Television Station (CTV) - let's make a deal, you don't tell me where my capital is, and I won't lecture you on the concept of researching reports before you make yourselves look stupid. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. You want to argue about East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem, North or South...you want to discuss Old City vs. New City - that's up to you - but you can't erase the entire city because you're too lazy to read a map. Jerusalem - all of it - yes, that's right - all of it, united, undivided, eternally ours and eternally our capital.

Dear Former Admiral William Fallon - I understand in your military assessment based on whatever facts you think you have (and one has to wonder how old that information is, former admiral), you believe Israel can't go it alone with Iran. A fundamental concept in warfare is to know your enemy (and perhaps, your allies). If you want to go according to standard equations of military history, Israel would not be here today. We never would have left the starting gate back in 1948. By all that is logical, the Arab armies that invaded to push the Jews into the sea would have succeeded - in 1948, in 1956. Certainly in 1967 and most definitely in 1973. When Iraq fired 39 SCUD missiles at a major population area, they should have killed hundreds. Hezbollah's rocket bombardment in 2006 should have resulted in catastrophic casualties as they fired at over 1 million people and Gaza's 15,000 rockets fired at Israel over the last decade or more should have decimated perhaps thousands. They fired rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. If you apply "logic" to this situation, you are correct, logically, Israel can't eliminate Iran's nuclear threat alone. Ah, but Former Admiral Fallon, what you fail to see is that our pilots never fly alone. As in 1948, so shall it be now. Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Chelmno, Treblinka. Warsaw....what we couldn't do then, we will do now.  If you don't understand that, you don't understand anything and you can't possibly know what Israel can do, will do, to make sure we are never again where once we were.

And finally, President Obama - my first response to your absurd and patronizing comment is that one could easily accuse the US of not knowing what is in their best interests, after all, they re-elected you, didn't they? But that is childish and though it tickles my fancy, the fact is that Israel DOES know what is in our best interest and deluding ourselves that we have a chance at peace any time soon is not helpful. We do not have a peace partner. The President of Egypt, one of our so-called peace partners, has repeatedly attacked not only Israel, but Jews in general (see In the Words of Our Enemies). You didn't ask me, Obama, but I can tell you that Israel is indeed finally coming to the realization that we can't dance to your tune; that we have to watch out for what is best for us and baby, you ain't it.

In the Words of our Enemies

Is the truth of what they feel...

We signed a peace agreement with Egypt; we evacuated towns and homes to give the Sinai desert back to Egypt after the wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973. In each war, we defeated their armies; decimated their defense lines. We'll do it again if we have to. But we don't want to - we don't want to fight and so peace was agreed upon. But the peace with Egypt has always been a cold one - perhaps on both sides...certainly on theirs.

Will the peace hold? It will - so long as the Egyptians believe that we are strong enough and well trained enough to defeat them again. But there will likely never be real peace - the peace we dreamed about when Sadat came to Jerusalem. It didn't happen under Mubarak and it is clear it won't happen under Morsi.

This is a man fueled by hatred but the most unforgiving part of it all is that he would have us give his hatred to the generations to come, fed to them as their mothers nurse them. Not my words and certainly not the words of a peace partner.

Kudos to MEMRI for translating and making these videos available - someday I hope the western world (and that idiot in the White House) will learn that what they say in English is not the language of their hearts. For that, Obama, you need to listen to them in Arabic.

Guess what? They can't stand you any more than they tolerate us.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Israeli Profiling....

Profiling is a reality in Israel.Yes, we profile people as they quickly pass through checkpoints, malls, restaurants, even in the cars that pass us. After Arab tractor drivers began ramming their vehicles into buses and Israeli civilians, we began profiling the tractor drivers too. The profiling is done in seconds. The army  has its own rules and recommendations; bus passengers have theirs; we all do. What is the possibility that the person getting on the bus is going to blow it up - once that was a major issue; today, thanks to massive, on-going intelligence work, the Security Fence that separates Palestinians from Israelis, and vigilant guards, this thought is in our minds less and less - but it is still there.

Years ago, a woman was on a bus in Tel Aviv and an Arab got on; everything inside of her said he was a terrorist. Without thinking, without hesitating, she got off the bus. Feeling silly because she would now need to wait for another bus to take her to work, she turned for a second and then heard a huge explosion - just one block away, the bus she'd been on had been attacked by the terrorist she correctly profiled.

I don't know why I wrote all this - it isn't the profiling I wanted to talk about - the one I wanted to write about is the profiling we do of our own sons as they enter the army. There is a concept in Judaism that we strive to be perfect, knowing we'll never get there. God is perfect - the rest of us...we try to emulate God in all we do, knowing we'll never succeed but will be rewarded for the effort.

I cringe when I hear parents say they have a perfect child - no child is perfect...nor is any human being. One of the things I love about Israel is the army rating system. They have to choose which sons can go into combat units and which ones cannot. They do this with a profile - a rating system. It ranges from down in the 20s (these will be given a deferral and not have to serve) up through the 70s where they participate in the army in non-combat roles. Somewhere in the low 70s, they are borderline combat and up on the 90s, it's only a question of which unit, and their agreement.

The highest score is not 100 - that would mean perfection. I don't know if it is true, but I heard once that they deduct 3 points from boys because they are circumcised and 3 points from girls because they have a menstrual cycle. It isn't that either of these are bad (in fact, they are very good), but it's as good a reason as any...and so, the top score you can get is 97.

Davidi came to my office a while ago - I was so glad to see him. I didn't realize how much I wanted/needed to see him until he came in - just as I was finishing a class. "97" he told me and I remembered how Elie and Shmulik had told me the same. It's a blessing, that high score...a blessing...and a bit of a curse. The first thing the army thinks of with a 97 is - here's a combat soldier, where should we put him?

What's nice is that they ask. There's no use forcing a boy into a combat unit if they aren't willing to make the commitment. There is a discipline he must follow; a way of life he must learn. With that simple question, he is agreeing to follow orders, to sleep when he is told to sleep, to use the allocated amount of time to do each task. He's committing to three months of basic training, perhaps more and then more training, and then more. Davidi told them he agreed to go into a combat unit. He told them he wants to be a paramedic.

He didn't tell them that I want him to go into Artillery - where you fight .... so many kilometers behind the front lines. He didn't tell them that I'm holding on, not wanting him to rush into what he will do and where he will go. The man went to the Recruitment Office today, but the boy returned to me today - he played on the computer in my office and told me he was hungry.

We laughed about some of the things - the computer test, the medical parts, and the physical examination. He turned a bright shade of red when I joked about the 97, "how do they know? Do they check?"

And he answered, "yes" as he looked towards the front of my office to make sure our secretary couldn't hear the conversation.

I had no idea the physical examination was...so physical and yes, he was circumcised when he was 8 days old, as is our tradition. He was given the name of his grandfather who had died almost exactly a year before Davidi was born. His grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, whose grandsons will be fighters in the army of Israel. David Levi couldn't raise a weapon to the Nazis, though he fought back in so many little ways.

I can't help but believe he is watching my Davidi from the heavens and I know he would be so proud of this so-tall, so-beautiful boy.

Today, my son was profiled. 97....

May God watch over my son, my sons, all the soldiers of Israel and may they be protected, with the names and in the names of their grandfathers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Daoud? Is this yours?

I met an Arab contractor from Hevron many years ago. We were considering having him build our home. He invited us to his home in Hevron but since it's illegal for me to go there, not to mention potentially dangerous, I never managed that visit.

We got in a discussion one time about cultures and soon realized we were speaking different languages. He was trying to explain about his family and why it was really so much better than my culture. You see, he has two wives. One is this beautiful young Russian woman who was in her very early 20s at the time. The second one was an Arab woman, "the pathetic one" he called her. She was 46 at the time (and so was I). She had borne him his children and was still his wife but he had taken another - the young one.

He had built them a beautiful home, he told me and kept them both there - the beautiful one and the pathetic one. And, to show you how amazing Islamic law was, he told me, he was very fair. Each night, in succession, he visited each woman. One night here, one night there. I was to commend him, you see because if he wasn't such an amazing person, he would likely have been unfair and spent more time with the beautiful one.

I didn't handle it very well. I wasn't duly impressed. I told him that if I were his wife, I would show him the door and tell him to get out. He thought that was ridiculous. He pointed to my husband and asked if I thought it was better that my husband would sneak off and find another woman instead of being honest and bringing her home as he had. My husband was a wise man. He sat there with a smile on his face, knowing I could and would have what to say.

I smiled back and turned to Daoud and said, if my husband wanted to go to a woman in Tel Aviv, he knows he can go...he just can't come back. Daoud didn't believe me - luckily and happily, my husband does.

In many ways, Daoud crosses cultural lines. He is completely fluent in Hebrew and knows many, many Israelis. He lives a good life, even a rich one. I don't know if this is his house, but I thought of him when someone posted this picture to Facebook. It is an Arab house in Hevron. Daoud told me he had experience building pools and that his house was very large - so that the young wife and the pathetic one had plenty of space.

And I remembered a discussion I once had with someone from the States. He accused us of persecuting the Palestinians, keeping them without electricity and indoor plumbing. He somehow believed that Arabs still ride camels and live in tents.

There are hundreds of homes like this one in Arab areas, perhaps even thousands. Some are in the Bedouin city of Rahat in the desert; others in Ramallah and even in Gaza. If this is how the poor Palestinians are living, I can only wish some day God grants me such poverty.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Within Range

I've written about E1 several times - its history in one post and the world's ridiculous obsession with it in another post. Late last week, 200 Arabs, accompanied, of course, by many of Israel's leftists moved on to E1 and set up tents - establishing, they claimed, an Arab settlement. Of course, they claimed they have papers that say they own this land.

One has to wonder where those papers were for the last 40 years while Israel held E1 after Jordan attacked us in 1967 and lost it, but I guess it took that long for the ink to dry on the forgeries. Isn't it funny that these Palestinians never came forward during the 19 years of Jordanian rule (1948 - 1967) over the area, not to mention the years of British rule (pre-1947) or Ottoman rule (pre-1917) before that.

I've been living here in Maale Adumim opposite the barren E1 hill for almost 11 years - funny how they never came forward with these documents despite numerous announcements of previous governments, despite our building that police building. But this weekend, they decided there were suddenly papers claiming the land was theirs and the ignorant, left-wing Jews rallied to come and support this absurdity.

Though the left regularly condemns any attempt (usually fictitious attempts at that) of so-called right-wing settlers to establish new settlements, they are quick to show their hypocrisy in rushing to support Palestinians who do the same. What was interesting was how quickly the army moved in. The Palestinians were told they could leave their tents while the courts dealt with the legalities, but they were going to be removed immediately and this morning driving into Jerusalem (and much later on the way home), I saw Border Police guarding the roads up to E1 to prevent the return of the Palestinians.

Why did the army move relatively quickly? Well - on Facebook, some neighbors of mine began a discussion about what the Palestinians had done. One person wrote that from E1 and those tents, Palestinians have now put my entire neighborhood within range of a rifle. Absurd, I thought. Come on - I don't want them to be up there either, but let's be realistic here. It's a mountain away, across a narrow valley which bottoms out with Highway # 1 to the Dead Sea, across a major four-lane highway. Guns can't shoot that far, right?

I wanted to bring some sanity back into the discussion. There is no question the Palestinians are lying yet again about any land deeds - they simply don't exist. No question, they have no legal right by Israeli law and international law, to that land. But let's deal with reality, I wanted to say. I was about to write how silly the argument was - that we were now within range of rifle fire from way up there...but thought maybe I should check. I called Elie, my resident firearms expert and asked him. I was sure he would laugh and start quoting ranges to prove my point. My computer was opened to type the numbers he quoted...

"Of course, it's in range," he said, "Ima, even with an M16, I could easily hit the houses. A sniper with a more powerful rifle? No problem."

Oh....

Well....

Um....

And so I understand two things - first, why the army moved them so quickly and second, once more, how important E1 is. You can count on one hand - perhaps two at most, how many times Israelis have shot into Arab neighborhoods in an attempt to hurt innocent Palestinians. You know what, go back to the one hand and you'll still have fingers left over.

Now try the same thing for how many times Palestinians have shot into Israeli homes and cities.The list is quite long on the other side - a room full of hands would likely not be enough.

Shalhevet Pass was 10 months old when an Arab sniper intentionally focused on her head and pulled the trigger.

The neighborhood of Gilo in southern Jerusalem regularly came under sniper fire until a wall was built to protect it.

A 7-year old Israeli girl was shot and killed while driving with her family. And that's without even using Google or thinking about other Arab attacks that used weapons other than guns.

On and on...all people shot and murdered by Arabs with rifles...

My neighborhood, homes of my friends - Elie and Lauren's apartment - all within range of a gun.

Yes, E1 is a barren hill....

And if we build on E1, no Palestinians will be shot, no terrorist attacks launched from the neighborhoods we build there. How do I know this? Simple - Maale Adumim has existed here for more than 40 years and not a single attack has been launched from Maale Adumim towards any Arab neighborhoods - not one. By contrast, attacks HAVE been launched from Issawiya, Abu Dis, and Azzariya - all Arab neighborhoods nearby. Today, an Arab boy...15 years old, went into the industrial area of Maale Adumim and attempted to stab a security guard with a knife. The Arab was arrested; no injuries on our side.

And no, no 15 year old Jewish boy attempted to stab any Arabs today - not a one.

If Jews build on E1, my neighborhood will remain quiet and safe - a place where children can play in the parks and people can sit in their backyards and porches and enjoy the view of Jerusalem to the west. We'll build some parks there, maybe a school.

If Arabs build on E1, my neighborhood may be the next Gilo and a large wall will have to be built to protect us.


Tomorrow a Journey Begins

It's a silly start of the journey, perhaps in many ways a false beginning. When Elie got his first call to the army, it didn't faze me. I drove him to the Recruitment Office in Jerusalem but I didn't go it. His induction was months away; I must have known that even then. I dropped him off and went to work. Mothers don't go in. It's an agreement we have, unspoken but there.

They walk in there alone, these babies of ours; the first of many steps where they leave their mothers behind because they are babies only in our minds. In their eyes and in the army's mind, they are men or, if not men, boys on the brink of manhood. It is only we mothers (and perhaps the fathers) that see the little boy we cradled and watched grow. He walks in like a man; we remember how old he was when he began to crawl.

The man walks in and the boy stays outside with us. We want the boy to remain, knowing we are watching him slip away. Even he isn't on our side. He's with the army - as anxious to become a man as the army is to make him one. They'll win this battle every time - the boy and the army. They did it before; they are doing it now. They'll do it to my little boy who is taller than everyone else in the family.

Elie went; Shmulik went...Yaakov and Chaim went...and this one is crippling me. It's so stupid. It really is. I can out logic myself. My heart looks at my brain and thinks how stupid it is. This is a mother's heart, you silly brain. Stop with your logic.

You know you are being dumb, says the brain with a sneer. Davidi is 17, though I can't really tell you when that happened because to me he's still that gorgeous three year old with those huge blue eyes.

He's a January baby, among the oldest in his class and he's only in 11th grade. The army begins drafting at 18, but when Davidi turns 18, he'll be in the middle of his senior year in high school. The earliest the army would draft him would be the rotation after he finishes in June of next year. That alone is 18 months or so away. Tomorrow is really nothing, the brain explains to the heart.

You aren't telling me anything I don't know, the heart answers back and reminds the brain that it knew Davidi was a boy long before the brain was told. It knew we were expecting a baby before the test results came in; it even knew that he would look like Elie when all the others had dark eyes and dark hair. It was the heart that said this one would have blue eyes like Elie.

The brain quoted genetics and said a baby's eyes can change up to three years. The heart knew they would stay blue - and they did. It was the heart that sang first, smiled first, cried first, when he was born. The boy may always become a man, but the brain will never win a war with the heart; logic has no place when your baby is going to the Recruitment Office in the morning.

Most religious boys take a year or two and go to either Hesder (a combination of learning and military service - as Shmulik did) or Mechina - a preparatory academy of learning and physical training before doing the full three years of military service (as Elie did). Like Elie and Shmulik, Davidi will probably be 19 or even 20 before his actual induction, before he is given a uniform...and a gun. I have time before I have to fear; time before Davidi's roller coaster leaves the station (do roller coasters leave stations?). That's the brain in me. The rest of me isn't working nearly as well.

Tomorrow, they'll test him, check him out physically. They'll begin to learn the boy behind the man they will construct. What does he like? Where are his talents? Where should he serve in the army? I don't know what else.

With Elie I wondered if they would discover the leader inside the boy - and they did. They made him a commander despite his thinking he wanted to be a medic.With Shmulik, I wondered if they'd find the smile, the sweetness, and they did. He served with a commanding officer that to this day has a special place in his heart for Shmulik.

There is a depth to Davidi that is only now beginning to come through. He's a genius when it comes to math. In second grade, they finally accepted that he was very advanced and put him in a fourth grade class. He was explaining fractions and negative numbers years ahead of schedule. What does this mean for the army? Will they find this? Use it? Develop it? Will they find inside the boy the roots of the man we have yet to see?

I've done this before and yet it seems so new. And as I start this contemplation again, there's a secret I carry inside me. I don't want the army to take this son - there, I've said it. I don't, screams the heart in a language as ancient as motherhood. You do, answers the brain in a voice that is loud and insistent. You do, so stop being so stupid.

The heart is never stupid, says the heart and the brain looks back in frustration. Smart enough not to argue with the heart because there is no arguing; frustrated enough to try, one last time to explain that tomorrow is just the beginning and really not much of a beginning at that.

They'll come to an agreement, my heart and my brain. They always do. It is Davidi's responsibility as an Israeli and the man they build will be better, stronger, smarter, than the man he would likely be without this service. My heart doesn't want to hear this, though it accepts it as truth. He will serve, this third son of mine. The first of my children to be born in Israel - my first sabra. No one can ever say this is not his land; the land of his birth.

Davidi wants to be a paramedic. He's been volunteering for a year now with the local ambulance squad and he just finished (and passed) the next level that allows him to now volunteer on the intensive care ambulance.

He's gone to the doctor to get his medical form signed. He has all the paperwork and he's going to go there and they are going to ask him if he is willing to serve in a combat unit and he's going to say yes and my heart and brain know enough to be silent and let him choose his path.

They are going to see that he is tall and so beautiful. He'd kill me if he heard me say that about him...no, he wouldn't kill me. That's a silly word to use in a world that knows such violence. But there is no violence in him; he's not violent at all. He loves animals, as Shmulik does; he saves lives as both his brothers, his older sister and his sister-in-law have. He's so smart.

I don't want to do this again. There, I said it here where I'm allowed to say it.

Tomorrow is coming so fast and then when it gets here, it will slow down and drag for hours until he calls me to tell me how it went. I know what happens there - but it isn't really about tomorrow, it's about the journey. I have friends who have had more than one son involved in a war at a time. I don't, for the life of me, know how they stay sane. I'm blessed that my sons are far enough apart in age to have me avoiding that reality. Elie went out the week Shmulik went in; Shmulik officially finishes this summer...it will be at close to two years before Davidi goes in. I still have time.

Tomorrow Davidi will begin the journey where he will become David. I'm going to have to change his name in my mind; let go of the little boy's name that stays in my heart.

The man is coming closer, walking towards me, demanding I accept him, love him, recognize him. He's already there inside the boy. I saw him a few weeks ago when he was telling me about an ambulance run with an old woman whose family had given a non-resuscitation order. He's there, that man and though I can't tell Davidi, I don't want to meet him, not yet. I don't. Maybe that's part of what I'm afraid of...not the journey after all...

Tomorrow the man will walk into the Recruitment Office; I just hope my boy will walk out with him for a bit longer.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Snowpeople and Missile People

When you last got hit with a snow storm, what did your children do? Mine have built snowmen in the snow, had snowball fights and when I was young, we built castles and fortresses. I've seen amazing ice and snow sculptures but I have to admit, I've gone all my life never once seeing something like this...

This is a picture taken near the Dome of the Rock - you can see the gold dome in the background. This is, to the Jews, the holiest place on earth - the site where our two holy Temples were built and destroyed. It's very common in Israel to find many of our holy sites have now been built upon - mosques over what was ours. 

Joseph's Tomb, Samuel's Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarchs, on and on....

We've grown accustomed, to these sites. And now this - it isn't enough that on our Temple Mount, they build their mosques. It isn't enough that it is we Jews who are forbidden to pray there for it might offend...can you imagine...it might offend the Arabs. In limited numbers, we are allowed to visit this site but if we dare to whisper a prayer, even move our lips and close our eyes, the police will swoop down and arrest us.

And now, on a site meant for prayer and peace, Arab children take the blessing of snow and turn it into a missile - an M75 missile that they would shoot at us. And, as if that wasn't enough, they are re-arming in Gaza. A news report said that missiles are pouring into Gaza...preparing for the next war.

We celebrated yesterday with snowmen and angels in the snow - and they built a missile on holy ground.

A Blessed Land - Wet or Dry

The last several posts have been about the rain, hail and snow that has hit Israel in the last week. According to a news item I just saw, Israel received over 100% of its needed annual rain - in just this last week. In many places the rainfall was in the range of 150 - 200% of the seasonal expectations.

I opened this post because I wanted to write about something else, anything else, but the rain and the weather. Not because I'm sick of it - but because I thought maybe you were. But here I am again, summing it up because perhaps in making this many posts, those of you outside of Israel will realize what the rain and the water means to us. It is our yearly communication with God (from a people who communicate with Him daily)- yes, we see it as a blessing.

Every drop - even when it brings us mud, floods, and cold.

Sometimes, we see the rain as a message of comfort - I can't tell you how many times there have been terror attacks and as the victims were being buried, the rain poured down. Some referred to the rain as God's tears, that God was crying with all of Israel. Sadly, some very religious people take the rain as an indication of God's whim. But God doesn't have whims - He has plans; He makes promises and He keeps them.

There are things we do not understand - so many things, but I believe God answers EVERY prayer that is sent to Him. What we, as human beings, fail to accept is that "no" is as much an answer as "yes." When we tell our children, "no, you can't do that" or "no, you can't have that" - we never mean that we don't love them or that we aren't listening or trying to do what is best for them. It is no different with God, who is the Father of all we are and all we have. I think God loves us - despite ourselves.

And what all these posts were meant to say is that we felt God's love this week - yes, even in the floods, even in the damage. Trees were knocked down - okay, they will be replanted or re-planned. Houses flooded - okay, they'll dry out and be repainted. There were, as there always are - so many miracles and so much positive.

A bus of soldiers was hit by a flash flood and swept away - it could have ended so badly - but they were all rescued. Children in several places were also swept away - and again, saved. Two Palestinian women were drowned but many Arabs were saved by our emergency forces.

From trapped cars, trapped homes - from roof tops and elsewhere, Israel's emergency forces deserve our tremendous gratitude and love as the sun slowly works its way through the clouds and the weather forecasters promise a few warmer days of sunshine ahead.

 Yes, Israel got hit with a storm of historic proportions this week - but we had a lot of fun. We saw some pretty silly people try kayaking down swollen waterways (and yes, one needed to be rescued) and since we're less than two weeks from the elections, even politics made it into the weather with pictures of Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party photoshopped into various places.

He is, in many ways, the darling of the election. He is young, handsome, dynamic and fresh in a system that is predictable and dirty. While most others attack him and put words in his mouth, he has run a surprisingly clean and positive campaign. Several times, over Shabbat, his political enemies have attacked him - putting words in his mouth that he didn't say, twisting and spinning. Bennett is a religious man and so keeps the Sabbath.

But I saw a report in which he said (paraphrasing here) - something like - "but Saturday night always comes." There are reckonings to be made in all things. For all the nastiness that has come his way, his party has risen above all expectations and much of Israel laughed as his image was placed water skiing on the flooded highways, rising from the snow below Netanyahu's feet, and elsewhere on Facebook.

 And, I've just come home from the local mini-market (called "makolet" in Hebrew) and saw snow on the roof of someone's car. I took a plastic bag and filled it part way; Elie wanted another. As I was doing it, a little boy across the street said, "Daddy, look snow." And so I took him a handful too. I gave a snowball to Aliza and one to Davidi and put the rest in my freezer. I've done this before - it will turn to ice and be thrown out around Passover time (about 3 months from now). but for now, I have snow in my freezer and my house is warm. Shabbat is coming.

The Sea of Galilee is rising and Israel was reminded this week that blessings come from above, that sun follows rain, that we are forever protected, watched over, loved.

 All the rest is the little stuff...I have snow in my freezer!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Only in Israel...Really

Well, maybe not. I'm not sure - but it tickles our fancy to have our prime minister be videotaped in a snowball fight with his son. It's corny; it's silly - and it is so much fun to know it snowed today in Israel.

A White Jerusalem and Nearby

This first picture is from my son, David, who sent it to me because he knows I love snow...


And now for some others collected from cyberspace - for the purpose of showing the beauty of our land...

Gan Sachar in Jerusalem

And around the city:




And in this one, we can see someone found good use for some of those umbrellas:





Har Hevron Area

Jerusalem in Snow...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hail Away....

They say man plans and God laughs... well, I had plans this morning. Jerusalem is expecting to be hit by a huge snow storm - and I started trying to plan who had to go where, when, etc. This time, I decided to drive Aliza to school - it's cold out there and she really isn't used to it. Elie's schedule and mine blend pretty well - he often drops me at work, takes the car and then comes to pick me up after he finishes his courses. 

We often leave a few minutes earlier so that we can drive Lauren somewhere where she can catch a bus. The "odd man out" this morning was Davidi. He needs to get to school which is geographically very close to Elie's college but...there's often tons of traffic in both directions from the college to the high school and back. 

So, Davidi lost out. I offered him a ride to the front of the city or something - but he decided to just catch a bus. I felt bad for him, but he has to take responsibility for getting himself to school if he makes plans that take him away from the dorm in the middle of the week. He was home last night - happily found out he passed the course and can now volunteer on the intensive care ambulance in addition to the regular one (the "lavan"). 

Davidi caught the bus moments before we left the house to drop Aliza. We saw him at the bus station, but he decided to stand there rather than accept the lift. He wasn't annoyed - it was fine; so we drove on to Aliza's school and out one of the alternative exits of Maale Adumim and within minutes, knew there was something not normal about the morning's commute. Bumper to bumper, according to Elie's amazing telephone and the WAZE application (a social GPS that takes in feedback from other participants to warn you where there are delays and redirect you.

WAZE said it was completely clear AFTER the checkpoint and barely moving before. It took us almost 2 hours to get through the jam - to find, as WAZE indicated, that though there are three lanes of traffic through the checkpoint, only one was working. Thousands of cars had to filter through that one lane because...there was a power outage and the bars on two lanes were stuck down.
Davidi actually made it through before us - but we continued on, dropped off Lauren...went a few meters, and the car died.  We called my husband who got some things and came to see if he could help, and we called the towing company - it took them three hours to get there. While we were waiting, it was hailing outside. This is a picture of the front window as the hail came down. Several people tried to help us but the battery wouldn't be boosted and nothing helped. The two truck finally got there and took the car. Elie went along for the ride while my husband drove me home and then went off to try to help figure out what the problem is. 

So, it's mid-day in Israel - the work day was a bust. I can work from home now finishing off things that need desperately to be done. 

Davidi called a while ago - it's very cold and his hood is full of snow. He's going to send me pictures. I checked to see where Shmulik is - he's safe, at work. I'm not sure where my older daughter is, or my son-in-law. 

But Israel is being pounded by rain and snow and hail and it's really cold and despite all of that, it seems that Israel is united in being enthralled by this storm. The Sea of Galilee is filling with water; the desert has small rivers running through it and whatever tomorrow will bring - today the children of Israel are celebrating snow and rain and winter. And even if the car needs to be fixed...I'm happy to have it hailing away for a while!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

And now for some fun....

Israelis have an amazing sense of humor; a deeply felt need to remember to laugh. Here are some of the lighter pictures that have been shared on the Internet today...

This one is true - people in a flooded mall enjoying their coffee as if...as if...as if their feet weren't soaking in a flooded mall that was apparently built - well, rather stupidly.

And this one, which starts with true and touches on ridiculous - yup, three people in the middle of a rain storm in an area that is normally little more than a trickle...



And now, on to the ridiculous:

This one...


The Hebrew says: "You and your shopping! Last time I come with you to Modiin" - and you thought this was from the movie, Titanic, didn't you?

This one comes with a heading - as a result of the huge downpour, the Israeli navy has opened a new training area:



And what would a flooded highway be without the parting of the waters:


And finally, a reference to the Loch Ness monster of Tel Aviv (or, my preference - Reuters covering the story of the flooding of a Tel Aviv highway:

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