Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Yes, Jonathan Pollard Again

Whatever you think about Jonathan Pollard, there are some basic facts of the case that cannot be ignored. Chief among them are:

  1. Jonathan Pollard has served longer for the crime he was sentenced for than anyone else convicted of like crimes.
  2. The United States of America made - and broke - a plea bargain agreement they made with Jonathan Pollard.
  3. Jonathan Pollard has no interest in remaining in America. Were he to be freed, he would come to Israel, never to return or hurt the United States.
And one last point - what Jonathan Pollard gave to Israel should have been given to Israel under agreements made between the US and Israel.

With all of that, I'll say one more thing. I don't want Obama to come to Israel. We don't need his pressure, we don't need the traffic headaches, and we honestly don't need his opinions. But if he is to come, let him at least, at very least, bring Jonathan home to Israel.

What Jonathan Pollard did - almost THIRTY YEARS AGO - was wrong. The US was wrong and perhaps Israel was wrong - but it has been Jonathan Pollard who has paid the price, far and above what should have been demanded. It is time, past time, to end this farce.

Obama - don't come...or at least have the decency to bring Jonathan Pollard home.

It Shouldn't be Happening Now...

This morning a rocket (or two according to some news sites) was fired at Ashkelon. No injuries, and of more concern, no siren to give those few seconds of warning. Yesterday, there were riots and many stoning attacks. Hamas has once again called for its "fighters" to kidnap soldiers.

I never for a moment believed this cease fire would last; never thought this was the dawn of a different enemy. But I thought we had more time; I still hope we do. I predicted six months of "relative quiet" - instead, we got only about 2 months.

And the reason....

I believe it is Obama's upcoming visit. I do. The Palestinians have been cooking up this idea of when and how to put on the pressure, to start their next intifada. They have always believed that what they cannot achieve through international pressure, lies, and mistruths, they can accomplish with violence. We all knew it was a matter of time - I just thought there'd be more.

It was an M75 long range missile fired at a city with over 120,000 people.

Barak Obama is coming to Israel - for what, we have no idea. Some say to put pressure on Israel not to attack Iran - and for that I ask what right he has to pressure us, to think he knows more of what the Iranians plan to do than we do.

Some say he wants to restart the peace process, another absurd concept showing his utter lack of understanding. Obama does not know how to deal with the Middle East situation, but I have no doubt the Arabs no how to deal with Obama.

It shouldn't be happening now...and it wouldn't be, if Obama has not announced his upcoming visit. We don't need Obama to visit. We simply do not.

And one more issue - which deserves a post of its own and so I will write about this is the next post.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Where Danger Is...

Do you live in a dangerous place?

I don't. I honestly don't. People think I do and sometimes warn me to be careful, but it's really silly. If they only knew...

Years ago, while traveling from a client's office in Netanya back home to Maale Adumim, a colleague wished me a safe trip and warned, "be careful driving home."

I looked at him and remembered that he lived in Tel Aviv and worked there in Netanya. This was back in 2001 - 2002 when things were exploding regularly in Israel, especially in those two cities. I was astounded that he thought to warn me when I felt, if anything, I should be warning him. With a smile, I answered, "I'll be fine as soon as I get out of Netanya."

The next week, a bomb exploded in Netanya and I wasn't smiling anymore as I called to make sure all my friends were safe. But the memory remains - even 10 years later.

A few days ago, I noticed a sign just to the right as I pass the checkpoint. There is a turn off there - that bypasses the checkpoint into Jerusalem.

It warns people, "This road leads to Palestinian village. The entrance for Israeli citizens is dangerous."

Two thoughts crossed my mind as I saw the sign. The first, I'll be honest, was that once again, Israel had failed the sign making test and someone has to instruct them on the proper use of capitalization.

The second thought was to wonder if there are any signs at any of the entrances to Israeli cities that say, "This road leads to an Israeli village. The entrance for Palestinians is dangerous."

I've visited most of Israel's cities - there aren't that many and it's a tiny country. I haven't visited all of Israel's villages - there are many - but I have visited many and I can tell you in almost 20 years in Israel, I have never seen a sign warning Palestinians that their lives are in danger if they enter an Israeli town, village, or city.

I have seen thousands of Palestinians - in our stores, on our trains, in our cities. I have never seen any being harassed.

Today, the UN Secretary General urged Israel to return to the peace table. How funny. We've been there so many times and each time we arrive, the other side isn't there. What purpose is there in calling us to the table when there is no one there with whom to speak.

Rather, Mr. Secretary General - perhaps you could ask the Palestinians WHY it is dangerous for Israeli citizens to enter an Arab village? That is the reason there is no peace here - not Israel's lack of a willingness to meet a real Palestinian partner in peace.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bowing before Others

Did you ever write something a while back and read it and realize...wow...yes. That is what I meant. I was looking for something and found this article I'd written back in 2007...I could try to look up what triggered the article, but really, it doesn't matter. It was called Bowing to the Enemy - but in truth, I would not call Barak Obama an enemy and so, I'll modify this to Bowing Before Others, because even to Obama, we will not bow.

Bowing Before Others...2013

By: Paula R. Stern

February, 2007 (and today as well)

If we Jews learn only one lesson about our relations with other religions and nations from the Holocaust, it must be that there can be no future for the ghetto Jew. With our backs to the wall and the enemy at the gates, the ghetto was a haven, a place in which our only hope was to survive today. There was no tomorrow in the ghetto, no future beyond the moment.

As a nation, Israel is blessed not only to have survived yesterday, but to be given the opportunity to plan for and even create our tomorrows. Sometimes, a look back is all that is needed to help guide us to that future. We need to remember that those that emerged from the fires of Europe joined together with those who had lived here for generations, and the Jewish community in Palestine grew. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, this growing number was joined by hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries who fled or were forced to leave their homes and possessions.

What is forgotten, too often, is that this massive ingathering strengthened a community of Jews who had managed to survive in an unbroken presence. This is the truth that Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would deny. There never was a time, in all the two thousand years between the Roman conquest and our reestablishing Israel that there wasn’t a Jewish presence here in Israel. There never was a time that Jews throughout the world didn’t turn daily to Israel in prayer and yearning. And, it was those daily prayers as much as the world’s reaction to the Holocaust and as much as the Haganah victories that ensured the rebirth of Israel.

This is something we need to repeat again and again, each time the Arabs propagate their Big Lie that their claim to this land is older, deeper, or more just. If there is a mistruth in the Middle East today, it is about the history of the Palestinian people, not the Jews. It is they who are the newcomers here, they who did not exist a mere century ago. Their roots are shallow, their ties weak, and worst of all, their contributions to this land’s development almost non-existent when held in comparison to what the Jewish people have brought to this land.

We built Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. We drained the swamps in the north and established the beautiful city of Haifa. We made the desert bloom and created an internationally known resort in Eilat. We have created, shaped, planted, invested, loved and cherished this land through the millennia – only us. Only Israel, among all the nations of the world, can claim a great number of trees today than a century ago. It was Israel and the Jews who built hospitals with international reputations, where people from around the world come to seek our assistance.

That there is today a Palestinian people is undeniable and that they have rights, as all humans do, is also not something that we as a people can or should deny. But we do not have to let them attempt to birth their nation by denying ours. The ongoing destruction of Jewish facts underground on the Temple Mount is just one example among dozens of the Arab attempt to destroy and deny what is obvious and easily proven. Their goal is to deny our connection to the land but you only have to dig a little bit to uncover it. The ground does not hide, nor does it lie. And so, the Arabs will riot, lest we continue to uncover more proof amidst the digging below the Mughrabi ramp. That is the true reason the Arabs are rioting and protesting. It has nothing to do with the status quo.

Again and again, we allow the Palestinians to publish lies and mistruths and the world believes. When they claimed that we had killed a Palestinian family on a beach in Gaza, the world believed and the Israeli government tripped all over itself until days later it became clear that we were not responsible. When Mohammed al-Dura was murdered by Palestinians during a firefight with Israel (and all circumstances of his death suggest a massive manipulation of the facts), Israel apologized first and only then began an investigation which would show that only through the breaking of most of the laws of physics was it possible that Israelis were responsible.

German and French investigations concurred that Israeli soldiers were not responsible, and still, to this day, there are those who continue to lie about who really killed Mohammed al-Dura. In Jenin, during a military operation that cost the lives of 52 Palestinians (the vast majority armed and engaged in the battle), Palestinians immediately went into high gear to condemn the massacre of as many as 5,000 individuals. The UN condemned, Israel promised to investigate, and months later, quietly, the Palestinians confirmed what Israel had been saying all along. There never was a massacre in Jenin, just a battle between soldiers and armed terrorists hiding, as they often do, in a civilian neighborhood.

Amid a massive and successful propaganda machine, the single message that we must deliver to the Palestinians and to the nations of the world is so very simple. We don’t live in the ghetto anymore.

From 1948 to 1967, Jews were denied the right to pray at the Western Wall and on the Temple Mount. The world was silent to this ethnic and religious discrimination. The Vatican was silent to this religious atrocity. In 1967, Jordan chose to attack Israel in a show of solidarity with Egypt and Syria. In so doing, a third front was opened in the war, and Israel pushed the Jordanian army back beyond the Jordan River and claimed all of Jerusalem.

In a clear victory for the ghetto, the Temple Mount, the single most important and holy site in Judaism, was turned over to the Arabs, leaving us with security control only and opening the door to Arabs once again denying us our right to visit and pray in our holy places.

A few years ago, a ramp beside the Western Wall collapsed during winter rains. It is thought that a previous earthquake and repeated illegal construction by Arabs on the Temple Mount created the weakness that contributed to the collapse of the Rambam Gate (also known as the Mughrabi Gate). This gate was used by Arabs, Jews and tourists to allow access to the Temple Mount.

Realizing the area was unsafe and in danger of further collapse, Israel quickly constructed a temporary ramp to replace the one that had fallen. Now, years later, Israel is acting to build a more permanent structure, and the Arabs are once again rioting. They say we are changing the status quo and, of course, our leaders and the world are quick to believe the lies.

In the last few years, Palestinians have been digging below the Temple Mount, emptying the area known as Solomon’s Stables to create yet another mosque. This is certainly a violation of the status quo the Palestinians are so bemoaning today. After closing the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors, another violation of the status quo, the area was eventually reopened with the stipulation that Jews be allowed to visit, but not pray. A Jew who closes his eyes and silently mumbles a prayer on the Temple Mount will be forcefully and efficiently dragged out of the area, less it insult the sensibilities of the Moslems. This too is a violation of the status quo.

It is they who created the collapse of the Southern Wall – and it is the world and our government that has allowed ongoing illegal digging and destruction of archaeological treasures proving Jewish claims to the Temple Mount.

Insult upon insult has been heaped upon our legitimate claims to the areas. It is the Arabs who build their mosques on top of our holiest sites, as they did in Hebron, in Jerusalem, in Nablus, and in countless other places. Amir Peretz, ever one to bow in the face of international pressure, has once again offered his backside to the world in his latest call to stop construction of the ramp. It is only the latest example of why this government must fall.

Until we rid ourselves of the ghetto mentality, until we show that we are worthy of this land and will do all to protect our right to live and pray in all areas, we are condemned to watch the world believe the lies of the Palestinians. So long as Peretz and Peres and Olmert bow to our enemies in weakness, our holiest places will be desecrated, our cities targeted with rockets and bombs, and our civilians endangered by a weak government and army.

How is it possible, I keep asking myself, that a nation as strong as this one can be lead by such incompetent and weak fools? Sadly, the answer lies in the ghetto mentality that plagues this government and our leaders.

I wrote this five years ago...I don't think much has changed....

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Train Nice

Living in Israel is often a study on kindness between people. There are little things that people do that cost them nothing, or cost them very little and yet they make that extra effort that results in someone feeling so good. I had two meetings today in the center of Jerusalem. It was silly to take the car and so I parked it at a park-and-ride lot near the train station.

As I walked to the train, pulling out my magnetic card - a woman handed me a one-ride ticket. In Jerusalem, when you pay for the train, the ticket is good for 90 minutes. During that time, you can hop on the train, hop off and grab a bus, likely even another one. She obviously was finished with her ride and heading back to her car but instead of tossing the card in the garbage, she handed it to the first person in her path...me.

I got on the train and rode it to my stop - for free.

Although that wasn't the intention when they started it, and perhaps I am rationalizing, I don't consider it stealing. Plus, months ago, I had gone on the light rail train with Aliza - and wanted to take that second ride after we'd stopped in the center of town for a few minutes on our way to the Old City. The first train dropped us off; we ran our quick errand and then waited more than 40 minutes for the train. It was raining; it was when the train first started and it was running very slowly. We saw four trains going in the opposite direction - the one in our direction only came 5 minutes AFTER the tickets had expired.

Considering that the trains were supposed to run every 10 minutes and taking into account the fact that there is only ONE train line, we were astounded that FOUR trains had gone one way and not one had returned.

So, today, I feel like maybe the train gave me back one of those tickets but more than that, yet again, a woman reached out to help a stranger. I truly love this city...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ima, Don't Freak Out...

Guaranteed words to freak out a mother, no?

So, apparently my 13-year old daughter "got stuck in a tree." What that apparently means is that she was walking and not paying attention and walked into a tree and scraped her cheek and forehead. It's also quite a literal translation for how a child would say this in Hebrew...but the translation doesn't quite work in English.

And thus began a conversation to understand how bad the injury was - considering that I'm a good 2 hours away by car and her father is in a meeting.

"It's not bad. You can barely see the scrape on my forehead. And my hair covers it."

"Can you send me a picture?"  I wasn't sure what to think, but she sounded fine, even cheerful.I asked her so I figured a picture might tell me what was happening more than her description.

"No, because then you'll freak out. And it will look bigger than it is. I only lost a little blood and I put ice on it right away."

Blood? Ice? She sounds fine, I kept reminding myself, despite the amazing logic of a child. So, with a promise not to freak out, she sent me a picture.

Not so bad...considering she got stuck on a tree...

Early Responders...

For a while now, Elie has been part of a first-responders group of young men who answer any beeper call within reach of wherever they are. At our recent conference, Dave Carroll sang a song that I've come to like very much (it's called Everyday Heroes Song) and is featured on his site.
“When People in the world need saving the saviors who answer the call
Don’t get paid anymore for danger or get to pick the one’s they want
They just go to where the few will go and maybe lay it all on the line
As they do their job, and do it one more time.”
I wanted to support Elie's group and so I invited them to set up a table at the conference to tell others about what they do and some people even donated money for their organization. The men who did the videos included my son-in-law, who recently finished the army after giving two years of service to our country, and three others - who not only videotape, but are also first-responders.

All together, there were four different organizations of first-responders represented in some way at our conference. At one point, someone in the hotel, floors above us, had called for help of some sort. I never did find out, but in seconds, Elie and the others went running out of the conference to see if they could help.

I thought of the song as I waited to know they'd returned to the conference and all was well. Silly that I worried, knowing where they were but I just can't get passed that feeling when Elie goes running somewhere. But he goes, they went ... in seconds...they were off.
Cause they made a promise and here they come
Someone hurtin’ called 9-1-1
And the siren’s sayin’ hope is on the way
There’s a hero racing to help a stranger today
If you haven't seen Dave's video, here it is again....

February 13 - Starting Young...

On February 13, 2007, I stared at a blank screen and began to write. I went through the form to create a blog...something I'd been thinking about for professional reasons. I wanted to understand this blogging concept and it seemed a good time.

I got stuck on the first section - what would I call it...at the time, there were two huge things coming at me fast in my life. One was my daughter's wedding...the second was Elie going into the army. The wedding seemed pretty straight forward - a band, a hall, photographer, invitations. All of that was done, just six weeks before the wedding.

Most of the clothes were arranged - I don't even remember what else had to be done at that moment when I sat there pondering. We had someone to do her hair and her makeup; we knew how we would get there and back physically and what would happen in the immediate days after the wedding as the young couple began to settle into their lives. But even if we weren't completely ready...I knew the concept - store, money...finished.

A wedding is all about preparation - then those 4-5 hours zoom past and it's over. The wedding gone, the important part - the life and what they would build together just beginning.

Now, that other thing was something else. There was little preparation - and it seemed back then (and sometimes even now), like it will never be over. I sat and looked at the screen and thought - yeah, soon Elie will be a soldier and I'd be...I'd be a soldier's mother. A soldier's mother...

I typed in those words...and began to write...six years ago. Six years...over 1,200 posts...

Elie went in and with the blessings of God, came home safe and well. He's married now and so happy.

Shmulik went in and with the blessings of God, came home safe and well. He's married now and so happy.

Yaakov was already in when I began writing, but he too came home safe and well and is married and a father of two gorgeous little girls.

Chaim went in and with the blessings of God, came home safe and well. He's not married and no, I'm not going to try to set him up...unless he asks me...

And Davidi has his bar mitzvah, grew inches above me, entered high school, and was called for the first time to the army

...and Aliza finished elementary school and had her bat mitzvah and has grown into a gentle swan

...and my oldest, the one who made me a mother...she's been married almost six years and made me a grandmother for the first time.

And still there is a part of me that needs to look back sometimes, almost like scratching a scab...needing to remember that for those who don't know, the army can be frightening and unknown...and six years later, I can smile about how little I knew, how little I understood...and know, even now - it remains frightening at times, unknown at times. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled on the idea of the army being like a roller coaster for parents - the ups and the flat areas are easy to handle - even enjoyable at times. They grow into fine human beings, they learn, they get stronger...and the falls are a terror beyond anything I could have imagined. There is no safety net, or so it would seem in those harrowing hours when you don't know where they are, what is happening, when you'll see them next.

It all started...six years ago today...on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 with this post.

Starting Young

Starting from a very young age, Israeli boys (and girls) know that they are destined to go to the army. It's part of how they grow up, where they are headed, who they will become. For those of us who came to Israel as adults, it's something that is harder to assimilate. It's so easy, year after year, to deny that it will happen, to postpone dealing with it. So, here I am, six weeks away from when my son will enter the Israeli army, suddenly having it all become real. This blog is a soldier's mother's story. 
Elie is 19 years old. A handsome boy with the most incredible blue eyes. He's smart, a volunteer in the ambulance squad, and lest you think that I think he is perfect, he's got a mighty fine temper and his room's a terrible mess. Elie is the manager of the family, the one who analyzes everything. From the time he was young, he didn't trust us mere adults to manage things. When everyone else would fall asleep on those long evening drives home after a long vacation or whatever, Elie would stay awake and keep watch. "Are we lost?" he would ask when I hesitated. Only Elie. 
Once, on a trip to Eilat, we really were lost. Only Elie was awake when I pulled up to the roadblock and queried the soldier why he wouldn't open the gate to let us pass.
"Where do you want to go?" the soldier asked. 
"Eilat," I answered. 
He smiled, "Back 29 kilometers and make a right." 
"What's that ahead of us?" I asked. 
"Egypt" was his answer. 
I made a u-turn, while everyone else was sleeping and looked in the mirror to see Elie's eyes watching me. Always watching. Always Elie. 
So - Elie is all grown up now, a man about to go to the army. We got his "marching" orders last week - artillery unit, and already I am panicking. Not because I don't want him to go, but because I haven't had the time to accept it all. My daughter, Elie's older sister, is getting married in a few weeks and two weeks after that, Elie goes in. I've been up to my elbows in wedding plans and jitters. Dresses and caterers and invitations and most importantly, smoothing out the nerves of a happy and excited bride. 
And, in the middle of all this, quietly moving closer and closer was this date - end of March, 2007, my son will be a soldier.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Terror Alert - Another Side

Sometimes, behind the news, there is the impact something has on our lives that few will see. A few hours ago, the Israeli army raised the alert level in Jerusalem anticipating a possible terror attack. Police spread out all over the city - this part is in the news.

Davidi came home to study for one of his matriculation exams. He has a huge amount of material he has to study and he wanted quiet. He got a message from his dorm counselor asking where he was and telling him if he was planning on going back to the dorm tonight (which he isn't), he was to  head back immediately. This was on the instructions of the police, given to the schools. Get your children inside; account for them, know where they are and keep them safe.

Moments ago, the alert level was lowered, though police are still on alert.

What's the story here? We may never know...or in a few days, we'll hear something of a terror cell apprehended or some such thing. I'm not sure why I wanted to post this, other than to show that beyond what is in the news, there remains the lives we lead.

A terror alert is not just a news item - it is police taking to the streets but there is also the human side - of children called back to school. It's a new immigrant posting that she'd heard what sounded like gunfire...it was fireworks set off by children as the countdown to the joyful holiday of Purim begins.

And there it is...this time, apparently it won't even take a few days. I just heard that a suicide bomber has been caught at a road block just north of Jerusalem.

Music's Words

I love to write; I love the power of words. I can't carry much of a tune, and what I can carry, you wouldn't want to hear. Just because I really can't sing, doesn't mean I don't really listen. The problem is, the songs I like are those that speak to me, tell me a story. The music is used to support the words. Those that repeat a few meaningless words just don't call to my heart and feelings.

It's sometimes a bit embarrassing to admit who my favorite singers are - my children certainly laugh (except for my oldest daughter, who shares my love of Harry Chapin, Garth Brooks, etc.). Every time Shmulik hears an old English song on the radio, he says, "oh look, Ima, one of your songs."

Garth Brooks has retired and Harry Chapin is long gone but I think I found a new singer. He isn't famous yet - well, a little, but he should be more famous. He's got an amazing story that started several years ago when he got on a plane, only to hear that United Airlines workers were throwing his band's guitars...his guitar, that is...his TAYLOR guitar...that cost him $3,500...around.

The expensive guitar was badly damaged; United refused to take responsibility. And the rest, as they say, is history. Dave Carroll tried to work through their system but after almost a month, he did it his way. He promised he'd make three videos telling his story, and he did. The full story is posted here: United Breaks Guitars.

He's got other songs. He came to Israel last week to speak at our conference and he sang several. So many of them touched my heart and reminded me that there are still people who put meaning and stories in song. As a present, Dave gave me two of his CDs. I keep listening to them, hoping others will realize how talented he is; how HE should be on the radios of the world. Before his music career was boosted by United Airlines negligence, Dave and his brother were firefighters. One song - The 911 Song has been made into a video.

It's just inspiring. I can't tell you yet which one of his songs is my favorite yet; I can only tell you as I drive from client to client, my car is once again filled with music. Watch this video, and you'll see why. His website (if you want to buy his amazing music), is www.davecarrollmusic.com.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What a Cup of Soup Means

For most people, we live our lives within circles. We travel from our homes to our work, an occasional night out and perhaps, if we are lucky, once or twice a year, we break out of the circle and fly off or drive off somewhere exciting for a few weeks. And then we return to our circles and remember the last vacation or dream of the next.

A few among us break this pattern and spend part of their lives flying very often as part of their jobs. As I organized this year's MEGAComm (www.megacomm.org), I met two of these men. One came from India, one came from Canada. In addition to an amazing day of sessions and all, I had a chance to take each around a bit.

It is quite an experience to see your country, your world, through another's eyes. On the first day, I took our guest from New Delhi around the walls of the Old City, parked on Mt. Zion, and walked with him through the Jewish Quarter and a bit of the Arab shuk (open market/bazaar). On the way down to the Kotel, the Western Wall, a woman stopped us.

She had a cup of hot liquid (soup, I guess) in her hand. I thought she was asking for money, as often happens there. Usually, I give a few coins, here and there. But this time, I realized that I had left the car with only my keys and cellular phone. I began to apologize when she said she didn't want money.

She then handed me the soup and said, "could you give this to Shoshana?"

Almost as a reflex, I took the hot soup but looked at her in confusion, "who is Shoshana?"

"She's sitting at the bottom on the steps, on the way to the Kotel," she answered.

Now, I've never met Shoshana and it all seemed a bit strange. On the other hand, why not? So, I took the soup and set off with my guest, explaining about various sites in the Old City while carrying a warm cup of soup.

After a few minutes of walking, I came to the top of the many steps that lead down to the plaza where the Kotel stands. I've never counted the steps...but there are dozens of them - at a guess, I would say at least 90-100. I had planned to go about half way down where the view is incredible. Apparently, God and Shoshana's friend had other plans. So, I gave my quick explanation, aware the soup would get cold.

Then I glanced down the steps - and found not one woman, but two, sitting on the side in chairs hoping people would give them money. Which was Shoshana?

I approached the first, "Are you Shoshana?" I asked her and she said she was not.

I approached the second, already sure this was the intended recipient. She already was looking at the soup, "Shoshana?" I asked and she confirmed that she was, gratefully took the soup, and thanked me - even gave me a blessing.

I think my guest from India was wondering in what kind of society does a stranger hand you a cup of soup? In what world do you then go searching to deliver it?

We walked down to the Kotel plaza; I explained about how this was retaining wall for our ancient Temples. I pointed to the levels of stone and explained about how the land on the other side is so much higher that a century or two ago, Arabs would throw garbage down on the Jewish worshipers and so a generous man from Europe donated funds to add the smaller stones and raise the level of the Wall.

I explained about how we turn to this Wall, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, three times a day in our prayers and finally we began to climb back up those 100 or so stairs. Around 50 stairs up, a man stopped us, took my guest's hand and as he began blessing him in rapid fire Hebrew (not a word of which could my friend understand), the man tied a red string around his wrist. Then he turned to me, carefully tying a string around my wrist as well.

As we left the man behind, I began to explain the red string, the warding off evil, the meaning of the blessings. You should have a long life; you should be healthy and be granted parnasa (livelihood), and finally, you should have many children.

"You can't ask for more than that," said my guest.

We continued to talk as we exited Zion Gate, leaving the Old City walls behind us. And then, as we were talking and walking, a woman approached from the other direction. She was trying to fasten a bracelet. She looked up and said, "Could you help me? My mother-in-law gave this to me. Just push it until you hear the click."

And so I helped her with the bracelet and told her that I didn't hear a click at all. Perhaps it is broken and she should be careful.

By now, I was thinking that my guest must think us truly mad. What kind of person holds out his arm and asks a complete stranger to help her fasten her jewelry? No fear that the other person will grab it and run? No worries other than needing help?

In what world do people act this way? Stop to deliver soup to a stranger; give a blessing; ask someone to fix your bracelet...or fix someone's bracelet. In what world? In my world, of course. In Israel, where we really are one family, one people. Israel.

OECD Rates "Most Educated Countries"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Only in Israel Story from India

We're hosting the 7th Annual MEGAComm conference this week (www.megacomm.org) and it's shaping up to be an amazing event. A little over a week ago, we got word that we'd have an honored guest from India, sent by Adobe. This is an incredible recognition of the value Adobe places on our community.

I've been working hard to finalize so many details - the conference bag, the magazine (with help from an amazing editor and designer, proofreaders, writers who have offered articles, etc.), fliers that need to be printed, and so much more. And, in the midst of all of this, I wanted to pick up our guest at the airport to ensure his entry to the country was smooth and more, to begin a dialog that has taken place for many months, even years, over email and telephone alone.

Elie knew that I was tired and so offered to drive, leaving me free to go into the terminal to welcome our guest. As we drove back to Jerusalem, I began pointing out some of the sights - how the land is relatively flat but soon we'd be climbing up to Jerusalem (and explained how we mean this in both a physical and spiritual sense). Of the battle of 1948, and the military vehicles that remain, to this day, to a monument to those who died in the war of our independence. Of the open areas that stretch out between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the cities and towns along the way. Of the train passing, the lake that isn't really there - except now because of the massive amounts of rain we've had recently.

And finally, we pointed to the tank museum to the right. Latrun. Our guest seemed interested and so we took a small detour to drive up and show him a few tanks that are part of the museum. A large part of Elie's life remains the army and this became part of the discussion on Israel and life here as we drove.

And then our guest shared a story that has had me smiling since. He has family members in the Indian army and some have served in Kashmir an area known for the strife that plagues it. Apparently, there was an attack and hostages were taken - among them, four Israelis. The Indian army prepared to move in and when they got there, they found that the Israelis were so annoyed at having been kidnapped, they overpowered their kidnappers, tied them up and handed them over to the army.

I explained how so many Israelis after the army take off for foreign lands for a few months to see a world beyond our small borders. They leave behind family, friends and country - and take with them so much of who they have become. No, Israelis wouldn't sit around and wait to be rescued if the opportunity arises.

I told this story to my son-in-law, who just finished the army, and to a soldier we needed a lift into Jerusalem this morning. When I got to the end of the story, about the Israelis rescuing themselves, they both laughed and smiled.

Even from India, there are "only in Israel" stories!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What would you do with a NEW Mercedes?

Now, if that title doesn't hit high on the spam charts, I don't know what will...but stay with me.

Last week, a representative from a very large company came to our offices to discuss potential new business. As with most meetings in Israel, it was a blend of personal and professional. The contract was signed, but the discussions veered off into so many things that are Israel, including the army and the recent Operation Pillar of Defense.

I mentioned my blog and how Elie had been part of the call-up. He mentioned his brother - in the Military Police - being sent there and told me how he had never seen his mother so devastated, so paralyzed, so terrified, as during those days.

And then he told us what his brother was doing - basically guarding an entry point to the "closed military zone" where the fighting would take place...if the government had chosen to send in the ground forces. Elie told the man about his mad drive with the artillery vehicles. And the man told us two stories  from his brother.

The first was of a young man who drove up and demanded entry. The representative's brother explained that it was a closed area and he couldn't let him in.

"I'm a pilot," said the young driver rather arrogantly.

A bit sheepishly, the rep's brother explained that he needed to see identification, which was quickly produced and the pilot was allowed to enter. The next day, a general showed up in full uniform driving a brand new, sparkling clean Mercedes. I can't tell you what model, but it was enough to impress the young soldier. This time, without asking, the general pulled out papers to prove he should be allowed in, though I wonder if it even crossed the mind of the young soldier to deny the general in the first place. But deny him he did.

"You can't go in there!" he told the general.

The general hesitated for a moment and then asked the soldier, "why NOT?"

"Your car," said the young man. "It's new. The mud. Look. You can't," he stumbled as he turned to point behind him to the tanks tearing up the wet, muddy ground.

And then the general did the most extraordinary thing. He laughed and told the soldier, "I have that car because of everything this country did for me. I'll give it all back if I have to - including the car."

With that, he got in the Mercedes - the brand new, sparkling Mercedes, and drove it into the thick mud, covering the tires and splattering the side within seconds.

All that we have, we have been given because we are here - our safety, our lives, our freedom, our blessings.

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