Thursday, May 30, 2013

Israel on the Move

For a few weeks now, I've been working on an intensive project for a client, requiring me to work a few days a week in the center of the country - Herziliya/Tel Aviv - Israel's hi-tech center.

There are other places in Israel, other centers, but always, this is considered THE center of Israel's hi-tech. This morning, I was listening to the news, as I usually do, and there is talk of the missiles Russia has promised to Syria; talk of Hezbollah destabilizing Lebanon.

Our neighbors have problems, it is clear and once again, it isn't because of Israel but their own internal issues.

 The news says Israelis are rushing to get gas masks; people write of the exercise last week in which air raid sirens sounded all over Israel and we were asked to go into bomb shelters as being another example that Israelis think war is coming.

I've lived here through two almost wars, two wars, and innumerable operations.

War clouds are always hanging over our borders and threatening - sometimes, yes, war comes...more often, I think/I hope - war doesn't come. So many are convinced this time, it will come.

For once, I have my head in the clouds, in work, in family - I just am not there.

 Instead, I noticed something. Israel this morning - every morning, isn't depressed about the news and what our neighbors are doing. We are moving, driving, working, playing, living. It's Thursday - that means tomorrow brings a day off work, our weekend. The Sabbath for those who observe - family time.

This morning, for some reason I can't explain, I noticed the trucks near me, on the other side of the road, continuing north on the highway, as I exited to the west. I didn't think to take a picture of most of them - but in no particular order, I saw a Coca Cola truck...and to balance it out - seriously - I also saw a truck for Pepsi.

I saw a small Tnuva truck carrying (probably) milk products. And again, to balance it out - and most seriously, I saw a truck - larger even than the Tnuva truck - for Tara - they too package and sell milk products and I wish I'd gotten the picture because the truck was painted white with black patches like cows!

I also saw an Angel's truck - bread products; an Osem truck - tons of products - noodles, croutons, the Israeli favorite Bamba snack and so much more. And I saw two small meat-carrying trucks.

In short - a full diet (well, except for the fruit and vegetables...I didn't see any trucks carrying these items (maybe on the way home).

And then, as I got very close to my client's offices, I saw a tree. A tree. I was standing at the light, waiting to turn into the hi-tech area and there on the corner...the tree spoke to me (no, seriously, not really). But there was a voice in the image, a message on this wonderful day.

It's standing there, that tree, all proud and strong, tall, healthy. It isn't the tallest tree in the world, far from it. But it's there, on its corner, and it's a happy tree. I could see that in the color of its leaves and the thickness of the trunk and branches. It's reaching up towards the sun and the sky and just living. It isn't thinking about tomorrow and war - it's just living and in its living, it brings us joy.

And I think, like the trucks, that this tree symbolizes Israel. On the thirty minute mark, as I rounded the corner, the news gave a short update. Again there was talk of Syria, Hezbollah, and missiles. Look at me, the tree said as I turned the corner. Don't forget. I am Israel.

So Israel was on the move today and standing rooted and proud as well. Our message to our neighbors is simple. Guess what - we'll be on the move tomorrow and next week, next month, and next year. We're living. Our trees grow stronger; our roots deeper. And each morning, as the sun rises, our trucks roll out reaching to the far corners of our small country (okay, that's not that hard to do), but the milk trucks are out there, and Coca Cola and Pepsi and Osem and Tnuva and Tara and Strauss, and so many others. Meat and noodles and bread. Not war rations.

The sun is shining here and what we've learned over time is that the Israeli sun is so incredibly powerful, it can shine through the clouds of war any day, every day.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Amazing Waze to Challenge the World

Here's an amazing video about the company Waze - a social GPS program created in Israel. Recent rumors say Facebook and Google are competing to buy it...

Latest from a Child of Mine....

'Are you trying to take the gray out...because you aren't going to succeed. they're all over." brat... this child is telling me that he/she is not sure I'm allowed to do that and I can be reported to the police. I will let this child keep his/her anonymity...I won't say who it is...I will say - this child is very cute...and this child better go to bed...now... Yup, that's what I am saying...bed now...or I'll start typing a name.... And... 1 2 3 "No, bye" as the child runs off...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What a Stone Can Do....

There is this absurd concept in the media that stone throwing can't really hurt, it's just their expressing their anger.

Rocks kill. Rocks...what a silly word - they are throwing boulders...at cars...with children in them. Several children have been hurt, even killed, little Yonatan Palmer, only 1  year old. Yehuda Shoham...and others. To this day, Adele Biton remains in critical condition...she's three years old.

This is what a stone can do... it's time to let the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) do what it can do...what it needs to do...to protect our citizens.


Crashed Car...

Davidi is in the part of the school year where he is studying hard for matriculation exams. The school gives them off the day before each of these exams and between that and other finals, he is home studying quite a bit. He'd rather be volunteering for the ambulance squad and so there's a compromise - he takes his studying with him and in between calls (most of the time), he's studying without many of the distractions at home.

Each time he goes, I have to give him a signed permission note. They do not allow minors to miss school and so these parent notes ensure that the child (can you really call a 17-year-old who towers above you a child) doesn't skip his studies.

So Davidi was there last week a few times, again on Friday and again today. I asked him if he studied when we spoke on the phone as he was on the way home. Yes, he answered, except for the one call.

I asked him if it was okay and he told me it was a car accident. I asked if anyone was hurt and he said there was a woman in the car but she wasn't really hurt. Despite that, they decided to take her to the hospital.

Slowly, Davidi added details. It is a measure of the type of person he is and likely the man he is becoming, that the details came slowly. The woman was 10 weeks pregnant and though the paramedic didn't find anything wrong, to be on the safe side, he decided to take her to the hospital.

The woman was also an Arab - so much for the charge of apartheid and discrimination against Israelis. She was treated with respect, she was cared for, she was taken to a hospital by Jewish medics and volunteers, to be treated by Jewish (and possibly Arab) doctors and nurses.

I asked Davidi how the accident happened. There have been a number of car accidents in Israel caused by rock throwing and even firebombs - but in this case, it was rather simple, "she took a left in the middle of the road," Davidi said. She drove into the side of the road/mountain and flipped the car...and was exceedingly lucky.

Lucky that she wasn't hurt, lucky that Davidi and the paramedic came within minutes to help her. Lucky that she lives in a country that values life and doesn't discriminate. A pregnant woman needed help today - yes, she is an Arab - and she was quickly helped by Israelis. This accident won't make the news; won't be featured in CNN or BBC or the New York Times.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Eerie Thoughts....

Ever have a thought or concept that instantly summarizes itself in your brain in one word? That just happened to me moments ago, and the thought was - eerie. Today, Israelis all over Israel practiced what it would be like if we were suddenly hit with a massive missile barrage.

Earlier today and then again now, an air raid siren sounded. I was at a conference at a hotel - the Jerusalem Ramada Renaissance Hotel at a conference...I've helped organize two conferences there over the last two years and, to be honest, I'm very upset because when we tried to organize a third one - they hit us with a 25% increase in cost. That bothered me today as I went there for another conference and so I found myself being overly critical about the long lines for the bathroom and the food. Overall, a really nice hotel - not nice to hit us with such a large increase in one year (so, if you have recommendations for other hotels, please add them in a comment below).

In the morning, they announced the siren exercise, which would clearly disrupt the conference, and then announced, "the Ramada doesn't do drills" - so if there was a siren - it wasn't heard and no one did anything. I left the conference a bit early with a headache and came home and I've been on the phone for a good portion of that time.

The last was with a family friend (and our insurance broker) who lives about an hour away - closer to Tel Aviv. As we were talking - I heard the siren - there was a split second of hesitation but immediately, I remembered the exercise and explained to our friend that this is what was happening. Seconds later, he said, "yes, by me too."

And so I listened to what was supposed to symbolize a massive missile attack - sirens wailing all over Israel. I didn't go to my bomb shelter, nor did our friend. But there was this eerie feeling hearing the echo of the siren coming through the phone, hearing it here in my neighborhood.

It wasn't long ago that the siren sounded here and it was real. I saw two children in the distance hesitate - and then continue on their way to home.

Today, we were not attacked by Iranian missiles; nor by Syria. Lebanon's Hezbollah didn't unleash some of their 40,000+ arsenal of rockets and Gaza didn't fire either. That's a lot of places from which to expect attacks for such a small country.

Meanwhile, as Syria crumbles and Iran and the Hezbollah seem to step up their interference... Israelis who have not yet updated their gas masks are rushing to do so. We have ours in the living room under the small table...

Eerie - yes, that's the word. Eerie.


From this morning:

This is kind of a silly video because no one reacts...than again - what were they expected to do? It was not an enforced event, it wasn't real and certainly, unlike Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day, traffic was not expected to stop. In any event, I'm posting it because what it does is give you the sound and length of the experience.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Egged - I Complain

Egged is Israel's main bus company. Every day, without exaggeration, I would guess they move millions of people in hundreds of cities, towns and villages in Israel. The challenge they often face - is not forgetting that each of those million is a person. You'll often see the last person get on the bus...and still the bus doesn't move because as the driver was preparing to leave, he noticed someone running for his bus and he chose to wait.

For the most part, they are efficient and do their best to get people where they need to go. For the most part, they are kind and patient. They'll greet you as you get on the bus and respond in kind as you wish them a good day. They'll go that extra bit to explain where something is...

And sometimes, they go beyond...

In 2003, I wrote this:
Egged Prepares for Gulf II: Egged has trained 100 drivers to drive with gas masks and protective suits so that they can drive INTO an area where potentially bio/chem weapons have landed to evacuate wounded).
In 2008, I wrote about how a bus driver heard that a soldier had left his backpack on a bus. When he realized, he jumped on the next bus and explained to the driver what had happened. That driver radioed ahead and the second driver pulled to the side of the road and waited for them to catch up so the soldier could retrieve his backpack. (Even the Bus Drivers Love Them)

I also wrote another story in that post about how bus drivers in Israel sometimes do amazing things, like this:
When the bus driver realized that a former prime minister had boarded his bus, he insisted on driving the astonished leader to his doorstep, even though it was off the usual bus route. Embarrassed at the attention, the leader tried to argue with the bus driver, but the applause of the people on the bus made it clear that they agreed with the driver.
More recently, a bus driver was confronted with a crying a first grader who had missed his stop. He turned the bus around and took the boy home before resuming his trip.

So, having told of the amazing, I feel free to tell about the less than amazing. Sadly, the less than amazing is often more the norm and for this reason, I've decided to write this post.

This morning, Aliza and four of her friends went to school. A bus, the Egged 175 pulled into her stop at 10:15 - perfect timing to get the girls to school at 10:30 (they had a weekend event and so were given permission to come in late). The bus pulled in on time - the driver refused to let the girls get on the bus - and merely yelled at someone else to get out of the bus using the rear door.

He didn't bother to explain - rather, he left 5 young girls upset on the side of the road, missing the only bus that would get them to school on time. I decided I would complain - and I have. I could write this to Egged, but they don't want phone calls. They prefer we fax our complaints...and honestly, I doubt a call or a fax or an email will change. I don't think if they will track down that driver or not.

I would have preferred the driver leave me standing on the side of the road, in the heat of the day, causing me to be late, than leave 5 girls standing there as he did. Perhaps there was a reason - perhaps they were sending out a new bus and he'd been ordered to end his trip at that point and not take on additional passengers.

All it would have taken was his opening the door and explaining this to the girls - that act of kindness, of patience, would have been the difference between their calmly waiting for another bus or finding an alternative, and the phone call I received from an upset child who was going to be late through no fault of her own.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Again

Fridays are interesting for me. The week speeds by, days of work and travel and teaching. Organizing what needs to be done; marking off items on a check list. I have meetings next week on Sunday, a conference on Monday, onsite work on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thurdsay and a wedding next week one evening as well. In short - the week hasn't even arrived and I'm exhausted from thinking about it.

I have to finalize two agreements, a contract, and at least one project. I have two meetings set up on one of my onsite days. And then, as it happened this week, it will happen next week as well - it will be Friday again, as it is today.

Friday is the day my world slows a bit. I push the business off my brain as much as I can, for as long as I can. Friday is laundry and cleaning and cooking. This past week, I went to a town meeting  with the mayor of Maale Adumim. He arrived - with a huge number of people from his various departments and committees. It was a wonderful way to give anyone/everyone, access to him and to those who make decisions about our lives. The meeting lasted for hours and the topics were varied.

The speed bumps in our neighborhood are TOO high - my Honda can attest to that. There's not enough equipment for the children in the parks and for the parks to be usable, we really need shaded areas - and better, tarps over the playground equipment. There aren't enough buses - but more are planned. A few times, the discussion turned to security.

There have been several break-ins in the neighborhood in the last few weeks. Because in the past (and likely in the present), those coming in through the nearby valleys are Arabs, there is a security concern as well. Terror attacks are the responsibility of the army, not the police. Break-ins are the responsibility of the police, not the army - here, both are involved.

The one clear message is that it's getting hotter in the Middle East - yesterday, there were dozens of reports of stoning attacks - one that took place shortly after I traveled Route 443 on my way home. Five people were hurt; vehicles damaged. The rhetoric with Syria is building as several times this week, Syrian armed forces and/or rebels fired at Israel.

But those are external world pressures for the most part and Friday is about lessening the pressure of the week, not intensifying fears of what is to come. Tomorrow and next week will come in its own good time. If I fail to focus on today and what it brings during the week, Friday I work doubly hard.

Last night, Davidi asked me to pick him up on the way home from school for the weekend.

"Where are you?" I asked him, calculated how long it would take me to finish shopping and loading the car with my son-in-law.

"Shaarei Tzedek," he answered.

Shaarei Tzedek is a hospital in Jerusalem - to most parents, hearing that their child is at a hospital is enough to cause a heart attack. For me, it means one of several things...he's volunteering with the ambulance squad (MADA - The Red Star/Shield of David, our version of the Red Cross); or he's visiting children or elderly with class members or...as it turns out, neither of these. The thought that he was hurt (and he wasn't/isn't) didn't cross my mind.

He was visiting someone, just not the children I would have guessed. Instead, he was visiting someone from Maale Adumim who was hospitalized and luckily for everyone, I only got the story slowly as I was driving Davidi home. I thought "a friend" and "he's being released tomorrow" was enough but there was a much longer and more troubling story there.

I'm not sure how Davidi knows him - I think the man also volunteers with MADA. He came out of a building to find an Arab trying to steal his car. The man is large and well trained, spent time in the Border Guards and didn't hesitate for a minute to grab the Arab and throw him to the ground. Once he had the thief on the ground, he called the Moked (the 24-hour hotline to security, the city, etc.) - and that's where he messed up. His attention was diverted as he put his phone away, and, according to Davidi, the Arab accidentally stabbed the man in the stomach.

"Accidentally?????"

Davidi explained that he meant accidentally because it wouldn't have happened if the guy knew the Arab had a knife and if he had paid more attention. So what he meant was that the Arab intended to stab the man; but the man could have dealt with it...so it was an accident that the Arab successfully stabbed the man and was able to flee.

After all of that long discussion and several clarifications because I wasn't really calmly letting Davidi explain, we came home. I was exhausted from a week that looked strangely like the upcoming week except in involved 2 days onsite and 3 days of teaching. By Thursday night and the onset of the weekend, I have to tell you - teach 3 days and work 2 days or work 3 days and teach 2 days, you're still exhausted.

So I went to bed last night after putting away the weekly groceries - and woke this morning to a beautiful, hot, sunny Friday in Israel. I'm making meatballs and rice this week, in addition to chicken and whatever. I have two frozen, shaped dough challahs that I made two weeks ago. I just have to let them thaw, rise and then bake them.

I need to wash the floor - hopefully Davidi or someone can help me with that because more than a month after falling...my arm is just not 100%. I can lift it higher - so that is encouraging. But somehow from week to week, I don't find the time to do what I have to do and getting to the doctor, ultrasound and physical therapy isn't happening.

On the bright side, my blood results came back and I'm not Vitamin D deficient anymore...now it's Folic Acid. I just can't win.

But I think what saves my life is Fridays. I love Fridays because it means I can throw the last week away and before I get embroiled in the next one, I have 2 days to write, to read, to sleep, to relax...to be. Friday can be a lot of work some weeks - overwhelmed with guests and preparations. Other weeks, it comes easy. This is an easy week and I'm grateful for it.

And I'm finalizing plans to be in England (and Rome) in 2 weeks. I'm stealing days again. I've booked a ticket to land early and go around London the day before the conference. Beheadings aside, I'm looking forward to a day of touring and I'm relatively confident I speak the language well enough to get around.

Three days in Manchester - and then I'm back in London for another two days I've stolen. One is Shabbat - so I'll sleep and eat and not much more. The second day is a full day of touring - hope London is open on Sundays!

And then early, early Monday morning, I'm flying to Rome for a stolen 10 hour visit. I'm happy to take suggestions of where to go in both London and Rome. As the trip comes closer and closer, I realize how little I have traveled in my life.

This is why I love Fridays - I can dream about this upcoming visit. I can fill my house with amazing smells as the meatballs begin to boil and the chicken is cooking in the oven. Maybe I'll make potato kugel...

Shabbat shalom - may it come in peace.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Who firebombs a grave?

It's an amazing concept. Why would someone firebomb a grave...and an ancient one at that?

I just read a news article that Arabs have thrown 290 firebombs (and or planted explosive devices) at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem in the last six months alone (that doesn't count hundreds, perhaps thousands, before that).

I actually know the answer as to why - it comes back to that concept of hating all that is different from them and worse, an attempt to erase any one else's past. Okay, I got that...sick...but I got it.

But seeing that headlines also reminded me of an article I wrote a decade ago. Only, it wasn't about Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, but her son, Joseph's tomb in Nablus (Shechem).

In February, 2003, Arabs rioted and burned the grave/tomb of Joseph, son of our patriarch, Jacob and his beloved wife, Rachel. Joseph was buried in Shechem after his bones were exhumed by the Israelites as they were leaving Egypt - a promise fulfilled not to leave his bones in a foreign land. His bones were carried through the desert, until they were brought home to rest in the land of his fathers. Only today, his tomb is found inside a Palestinian city. To get there is nearly impossible and only accomplished with an army escort, under strict protection.

Rachel was buried, according to tradition handed down over the centuries, in Bethlehem. You can get to her grave site, but you need to leave your car in Jerusalem and take armored buses - silly...it's only a few hundred yards. The area around the tomb has been fortified, cement barriers erected to protect those wishing to pray beside her grave.

Back then - in 2003, I wrote an article, "Rachel is Crying". I thought of that article as I read the news about the firebombs. Then it was Ariel Sharon as prime minister when they attacked and burned Joseph's tomb and now, as they attack Rachel's tomb it is Bibi Netanyahu.

Back in 2003, I asked that Sharon either defend the tomb of Joseph, or go in and remove the body and rebury him near his mother's grave in Bethlehem. Nothing was done to defend the tomb, to bring his body to Bethlehem. Jews sneak in to visit Joseph's tomb under heavy guard, usually at night. It's ironic that some 10 years later, it is Rachel's grave that has come under attack.

Rachel is Crying (February, 2003)

There is a pain felt deep in a mother’s heart. The anguish only another mother can imagine. It transcends all, even death. It is a bond created and nurtured that never, ever weakens. She’s crying for her son yet she is too far to offer comfort. She lies as isolated as he was but the desecration of his burial place is even worse to her than if they had desecrated her own grave. I can hear Rachel crying.

She is bewildered by her people, the children of the children of her children. It doesn’t matter how many generations separate her from the current generation. We are all her children, but we have betrayed Joseph, her son, our brother. It isn’t the first time that he was betrayed by his brothers, but it is the final time, the final desecration, the breaking of a vow.

Out of the ashes of the concentration camps, many argue, the foundations of the modern Jewish State of Israel was born. Certainly, there was great sadness, overwhelming grief and shock. There was a sense of desperation and a knowledge that we had reached the lowest point in the collective memory of the Jewish people. But even more than all this, there was rage. An anger born in Auschwitz, flamed in Bergen Belsen, and fed in camp after camp throughout Europe. I believe it was the rage that won us a state. Enough was enough and we would have what was rightfully ours back. We had never abandoned Israel. Always there were Jews here, dead and alive.
The graves of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and the matriarchs that rested beside them. And there is the lonely grave of Rachel in Bethlehem, buried beside the road to weep for the Jewish people as they were sent into exile and as they returned. There was the Tomb of Joseph, a monument to the keeping of a vow, the fulfillment of a promise that his bones would not be left in Egypt.

Rocket after rocket is slamming into our country, into Jewish homes and cities. Where is the rage? Tell me another country that would allow this to happen. Yesterday and today,  Jews running for cover, hiding under their beds and in bomb shelters. Where is the rage? Mothers and fathers murdered in front of their children, in their own homes. How is it possible that the rage is failing us?

And now the heartbreaking news, the irreversible pain of desecration. In the last few weeks, the Palestinians have vandalized the grave site of Joseph, son of Jacob. Rachel is crying, her son’s resting place in ruins. Where, where is the rage? The tomb was abandoned for a promise that there would be no desecration and yet within hours the building above the grave was ransacked, burned, smashed. Little consolation, but the grave was untouched. Joseph rested. Rachel watched over her son and her people.

Does Joseph lie beneath the rubble? The Arabs claim it is the tomb of Sheikh Yussif. What better proof is there that this is yet another attempt at denying the Jewishness of this land and the very history that permeates every layer of earth here? Clearly, if it were indeed the revered grave of Sheikh Yussif, what justification would there be in destroying it? By their own actions, they have confirmed what we have believed all along. It is Joseph that lies there.
Joseph’s role in saving the Jewish people from famine is often overshadowed by the roles of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. Yet it is his death that closes the book of Genesis, and his words that remained in the collective Jewish memory of the Israelites. With supreme faith, he foretells the Exodus from Egypt and makes the people swear that when they leave “you must bring my bones up out of here.” And so they did. Centuries later, on the eve of the Exodus, Moses remembers the promise and took Joseph’s bones as they left. For forty years, they carried those bones with them through the desert until they finally were interred in Shechem, in the place from which he was exiled, in Nablus.

When Yusuf Madhat, an IDF soldier, slowly bled to death defending Joseph’s Tomb from Palestinian rioters, I wondered why the simplest of solutions wasn’t followed. Why didn’t the IDF send a tank to ram its way into the city and evacuate him? Why was he left to die? Now I believe the twisted political outrage that began so many years ago has led to this inevitable conclusion. As a realist, I know that we will never return to Nablus. The world and the army won’t allow it and I can accept that because there are some mistakes that cannot be fixed, errors that are too costly to repair.

But before we surrender our last right to the city of Joseph, there is one thing that Ariel Sharon must do. He must send in the tanks and some troops and with the respect and dignity due to Joseph, they must take his bones and bury him in a safe place, beside one of his parents. Bring him to his mother. Bury him in Bethlehem beside Rachel. Bury him beside his father and grandfather in Hebron. Bury him on Mt. Herzl as a warrior of his people, one of the first Zionists who longed for his homeland. Just don’t abandon his bones.

The Jews are commanded to believe that collectively as a people, we received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Collectively, we left Egypt and so collectively we carried Joseph through the desert. We have given up too much already, but if the world would force us to give up Shechem, they must not be allowed to force us to break the vow we made to Joseph.

As a mother, I beg you to bring Joseph home. Don’t abandon him as you abandoned his tomb. His grave is destroyed. Desecrated. Ruined. Rachel is crying.

There is an understanding in Jewish tradition that a grave should not be left in danger. Bodies have been exhumed and relocated to protect the grave. Joseph's grave is in danger - if we do not have the courage and the strength to protect his resting place; if our government lacks the nerve, it is time to go in and remove the grave. I said this in 2003 and I repeat it now. I am not in favor of surrender but a young man was killed today, babies left fatherless because our army is crippled by a government that allows rioting mobs and enemy security forces to be victorious in our land.

Defend Joseph's tomb, Ariel Sharon - so that all Jews have free access to it; or move him to rest beside his mother. Listen to Rachel's tears as she cries for her son, all her sons.
Defend Rachel's tomb, Bibi Netanyahu - so that all Jews have free access to it - we cannot move her grave; we cannot abandon our heritage, our history, the places that are holy to us.

Listen to Rachel's tears as she cries for her son, all her sons, for all of us.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

That's Just Sad...

It's a fact that I'm a disappointment to my sons. I am, without doubt, completely car-illiterate. Worse, I have this notion that you can credibly identify cars by color rather than make and model. So, as Shmulik and Davidi go about their lives, there is an unspoken contest. Which of them can photograph the coolest car?
eBay company car in Israel

My first attempt shows I'm more interested in the interesting than the exciting. I thought it was really cool that eBay has offices (and cars) in Israel.

I've seen Microsoft cars here, IBM, Intel...in short - tons of company cars.

But I digress....

Davidi's RT - okay, that is a cool car...but, well, it's not sparkling
With my latest picture, I've upset the order of things and best of all, I've clearly won the contest!

Worst of all, however, in the eyes of my two youngest sons, is that I didn't even know I had won.

For months, they've been showing each other the amazing cars they've found.

Shmulik's old...something
Each time I try to point one out...it turns out to be something quite mundane. Davidi was, I believe, in the lead having captured a GT or an R-something...or maybe it was an RT and a G-something.

Shmulik's been up there with brand new BMWs, not my thing at all.

A new Camry, a Cougar and an old American car that Shmulik thinks I should recognize (me? seriously?).

He offers me hints - a Chevy, blue...yeah...
On the day Shmulik drove me to my client because of my arm, he got really excited about one car and was trying to figure out if it was what he thought it was. He said the name and I was rather impressed - Maserati - but I have to be honest and say, it wasn't nearly as exciting as I thought.
Shmulik's Orange Something...

"It's an old one," Shmulik conceded.

And while we sent it to Davidi, it didn't seem to tip the scales in anyone's favor. And then...

Last week, I was walking in Jerusalem towards the light rail. I passed a fancy-shmancy hotel just as a couple drove in and got out of their car.

She was dressed quite nicely - wish I knew where she got that shirt...and he was dressed quite expensively as well. And the car - well, it looked like something that would win a prize.

I took the picture - not really sure what I'd gotten. I don't really know cars, but it looked like something that they'd want me to capture...and so I did.

I only took one picture because I'm not a kid and really, you just don't stand around taking picture of other people's car if you want to be a professional.

I had to rush to get to the station and I was thrilled that I got there about 2 minutes before the train. A few minutes later, I got a great connection on the bus and though I was tired, I was happy to be home.
Maserati (an old one) in traffic in Herziliya

And...then...a few days later, I said to Haim (my wonderful daughter's wonderful husband) - oh, I got a good picture. He looked.

"It's a Ferrari," he said.

Now, Haim is a very special person but I have to admit - I don't really think he wastes nearly as many brain cells on cars as my sons do and so I was hesitant to believe that I'd captured a Ferrari.

Please. Me? Ferrari...are you SURE? Not that I don't trust him, but we're talking about the prize. We're talking beating Shmulik and Davidi at CARS. We're talking Ferrari here!

He zoomed in and showed me the logo or insignia or whatever you call that thing. A horse. Okay...now if I only know the insignia of a Ferrari. I tried sending it to Davidi, but couldn't attach it to the SMS.

So, last night, as I was driving Davidi - I remembered the picture.He didn't believe me. Yeah, Ima (mother in Hebrew)...Ferrari...no way...no way...no...wow....

He confirmed it was most definitely a Ferrari - in mint condition. I win!

And the winner is...Ferrari...
"That's just sad," Davidi said. He can't get over the fact that not only did I win, but I didn't even know what I was taking a picture of!

"A Ferrari isn't a pig," he told me. Like I was supposed to know? Oh, bad...I actually asked him what it was, "That's just sad," he said again. "Horse. Ferrari."

"Oh."

He transferred the picture to his phone - clearly expecting to take credit for it. I would have none of that! So I called Shmulik to make sure I got credit.

"Is it red?" he asked me.

"No," I answered, "it's a white Ferrari."

"It can't be a Ferrari, then," Shmulik answered. "All Ferraris are red."

"Nice try. No way. I won," I said, pretty sure that Ferraris can't be all red because I caught a white one!

Anyway, my two sons have decided - apparently they have concluded that I wasn't in the game and so my Ferrari doesn't count. If you ask me, that's just sad! I won!

Well, me and the elegant couple driving the Ferrari, that is! Now, if only I could actually drive one of those things - man, I would so so win for sure!

Friday, May 17, 2013

In Appreciation - Israel (and a bit on BBC)

I'm in a holding pattern with this blog. Not much to write about in terms of being a soldier's mother because thankfully, my sons are home - two with their wives; another happily and unhappily studying away in high school. Yaakov is coming home this summer to begin further studies; he brings with him his wife and two daughters. Chaim is blooming in university, finding facets of himself, polishing his abilities and finding the voice that is uniquely his.

My daughters are doing well - my oldest is finishing university - she is the kind of mother I always wanted to be. Aliza is grace. Hard to explain it with another word so I'll leave it at that. They've grown to be people - something that a mother has to learn to accept. They are individuals - all of them, with their own directions and lives.

I'm going through a rough time personally - not things I really want to write about, but things that weigh on my mind. The BBC show aired and it was...okay. That's a ridiculous word but an excellent one. I never thought it would be pro-Israel - but the fact that it wasn't anti-Israel pleases me greatly. They were fair. Over and over, that word comes to mind.

What I didn't like about the show - was the ridiculous things that came from the people they interviewed. We are, I remind myself often, our own worst enemies. Avrum Burg is nothing. He is a man living on the past glory of an amazing father. His commentary was, quite simply, stupid.

He blames Israelis for the lack of peace - something his Arab brothers will readily agree. We are responsible, says this ridiculous has-been, because we can't get over the Holocaust and put our determination to stand against any future genocide into all that happens. Well, yeah, okay. Wouldn't you?

If you'd been hounded and hunted, and then are surrounded by a few hundred million people calling for your extinction - wouldn't you remember what was done once before and do all you can to ensure it doesn't happen again? What am I missing here? The answer, of course, is the one who is missing something is Avrum Burg, but we all knew that here in Israel. It was a silly choice to interview him, but I can't blame BBC. Burg is the one guilty of opening his mouth.

Then there was David Landau, a journalist/editor from Haaretz. Well, duh - you choose the most left-wing paper in Israel, you're going to get left wing drivel. Landau didn't disappoint. He too loves to beat his chest in shame for all that is, all that we have built. Again, the guilt lies with Landau for the nonsense he spoke, not with BBC.

My greatest concern was having my words twisted - they weren't. The fact that BBC didn't have to twist the words of Landau and Burg to beat on Israel means the fault lies with them.

The other part of the show that I didn't like - again, lies with the speaker more than BBC. There was a whole section on the Ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredi) in Israel and the "great divide." Overall, unlike many, I'm not really overly worried about this. Those among the Haredi community who are committed to living in Israel will stay - even if it means their sons serving to protect this country; those who are not committed will send their sons abroad - and that too is fine with me.

If you aren't committed enough to fight and defend the country in which you live, my personal feeling is that you should leave. And finally, a last comment on BBC's show - there was a wonderful clip, a few minutes into the show, in which John Ware spoke about a band in Tel Aviv playing at a pub. The band members are all current/former IDF pilots. I loved it.

And so, this brings me to the point of this post - I live in a land that I love. People have told me that came through in the show and if it did, I am grateful. I would take that defending thing one step further - if you don't live in a land you love, find one that you do. To love your country is not a thing of shame but of honor.

Again and again, Israel stands for what is right. Yes, Avrum, we will prevent the next Holocaust because we remember, because we honor, because we are on guard and wary. That bothers you? Really, truly - tough. And while we are doing all that defending and protecting and guarding and whatever - you know what we are doing here?

We are living - in a land so beautiful it can bring tears to your eyes and steal your breath away. The majesty, the dignity, the absolute holiness of this land comes through as you drive, as you walk, as you sit on your balcony and stare out at the mountains to the east, south, west or north. From my backyard, I can see Jerusalem and the mountains nearby. From my front porch, I can see the Judean Desert and the low hills that lead down to the Dead Sea.

Far in the distance are the first mountains of Jordan and on a clear day, I can see two tall towers - Amman, the capital of Jordan. Isn't that something? How many people can see the capitals of two countries from their home?

I do believe that some day - perhaps and most likely far into the future, there will be peace. It won't come soon; it won't come easy. Probably not in my life time, perhaps not even during the lives of my children. I can hope that my grandchildren will live here in peace, but then again, I hope and pray that even my children have that opportunity.

For now, I'm in this flat of the roller coaster that is life. I know Davidi is on the track towards the army but that seems to distant right now. Much sooner, Elie will be called to the Reserves. Shmulik has been studying in yeshiva, the last leg of the Hesder program that combines army service with study. He leaves the army officially in a few weeks and then he too can be called for Reserve duty.

I'm not sorry that I did the BBC program - and that is probably also the most I could have hoped for. They didn't show the Israel I would have chosen to show. Too little time was spent on showing Israeli innovation and the massive hi-tech world that we have here. Too much focused on strife, missing the amazing things we have and do here.

They didn't show Yad Sarah - an amazing organization that lends out medical equipment (wheel chairs, crutches, nursing pumps, and so much more) merely for the cost of a down payment that will be returned. They didn't talk about how Israel regularly sends emergency teams around the world, often landing hours and hours before others.

They didn't show the cornerstones of Israel's psyche - the places that show the many facets of who we are as a nation...Masada's towering legacy to a nation determined to be free and independent, Yad Vashem's dedication to remembering what was done so there will never again be another Holocaust. Israelis kayaking the Jordan, snorkeling near Eilat, floating the Dead Sea, and yes, surfing the Mediterranean (which they did show) - all testimony to our determination to hike and swim and enjoy our land.

They didn't show how we stop and give beggars coins and sometimes warm soup. They didn't show how people quickly help young mothers load their baby carriages on the bus and how the bus drivers will wait for the old woman running to get the bus.

But, I never expected BBC to show this picture of the Israel I love. On this cool morning in Israel, as I begin preparing to welcome the Sabbath, as the soup begins boiling and I know the my older children are also preparing for Shabbat, it's enough to know we are here - again, always, past and future.

I live in a land that I would serve proudly. My sons have served; my sons will serve. The flowers are blooming all over the land. There's a bird sitting on my neighbor's roof; in the distance, I hear a car door slam. Our greatest gift to ourselves is to live here in this land. The Israeli flags still fly from my house and those of my neighbors. We need to take them down or the harsh Mediterranean sun will ruin them - and yet, they remain. No one seems to want to be the first to take it down.

Shabbat shalom, Israel - may you forever grace this world and may we always have the honor of knowing you are ours.

Ceremony of the Tank Division

Here's a great video - only 5 minutes long but worth watching. It's the induction ceremony of Yonatan Gordon. His father is a talented writer, editor, etc. He posted the video to YouTube and it includes English subtitles to help those of you who don't understand the Hebrew.

Even if it isn't your son there, it fills you with pride. These are our sons - it closes with the singing of the national anthem - Hatikvah.

Congratulations to Yonataan and to his very proud family! Welcome to the family of soldiers - it is an amazing journey. Be safe and know that we are all proud of you.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Message to Ahmadinejad

A few years ago, I saw a video of a most amazing young man who was brave enough to walk in the midst of an Arab demonstration and stand for the truth. The young man's name is Daniel and he is of Persian (Iranian) descent. He took to the streets with an Israeli flag. At the end of the video, there's a very interesting statement by a young Arab girl who readily admits there can be no peace; that they do not and will not accept the Jewish state of Israel. If you didn't see that video - it's here... (but the more important one is just below).



"Daniel" is at it again - with his wisdom. He's older now, a bit anyway, and though he was very wise then, he is even wiser now. In the language of his ancestral home (the one before he came home to the only real home his people has ever known), Daniel has an important and inspiring message for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I hope this message is delivered. I hope it is seen in Iran. Please watch the video and spread it to your friends. It should  "go viral" - around the world...around and around - until it reaches the streets and ruling halls of Tehran. Am Yisrael Chai - the nation of Israel lives.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Being Intellectually Honest - Professor Stephen Hawking

Last July, I went to the President's Conference in Jerusalem, invited as a blogger and treated with such respect. My political agenda is pretty obvious to anyone who takes the time to read about my writings. I am, if nothing else, intellectually honest in my feelings. I object when someone says I hate Arabs - I don't. I don't object when someone says that my political realities leave no room for the hope that peace is just around the corner. It isn't.

When I was first invited to the conference - I was a bit surprised. Truthfully, I despise much of what Peres has done in his life and certainly, dislike many of the words that come out of his mouth. I think at age 90, he has finally found his niche and he's an excellent president - if he would just stay out of politics. But he won't, and I won't, so he and I have a nice truce most of the time. He talks; I write. I was concerned that being invited meant I'd have to write his words, break this quiet truce we've had going for the last 20 years - I couldn't agree to that.

But I was assured that I had complete freedom to be, to write...and the promise was most definitely delivered - I wrote what I wanted...I did. I blasted several of the speakers. I called them naive. I argued that some had no right to come here and draw lines on the map or lecture us about how we can do more. And the one who amazed me beyond all others, was the one who spoke in direct contradiction to most of what Shimon Peres believes. "Even if you give them Jerusalem," Ayaan Hirsi-Ali said, "even if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace."

So I went, I wrote, and felt that I had fulfilled two commitments - the first, to attend and write as much as I could to provide the noise and the bang any conference organizer wants associated with an event, and second to be true to myself. Obviously, the conference organizers agreed, because I was invited back again this year.

It truly is an amazing event - and this year, Professor Stephen Hawking was invited to attend and speak - and he agreed. And then, as would be expected, Palestinians started writing to him demanding that he boycott Israel and the conference and - amazingly enough, as would not be expected, this intelligent man, this icon of British intellectualism, caved in and agreed. He wrote the organizers that he has agreed to the boycott of Israel and will not be coming.

I have no problems with his boycott. I understand and respect his sentiment. I ask only one thing - that he be true to his convictions and boycott Israel entirely. Do not come here, do not speak here. In fact, if you want to be intellectually honest, don't speak at all. You see, the device that you, Professor Hawking. use to communicate despite your crippled body, includes a computer with an Intel Core i7-based communication system, which runs on a chip designed in Israel. So you see, Hawking, every word you say bears testimony to your hypocrisy.

Please go ahead - truly boycott Israel - I can think of no easier way to silence your absurd position. You don't want to come to Israel to thank those who enable you to sustain a higher quality of life - no problem, don't come. This year's President's Conference has a rich list of speakers and unlike some others, I personally don't think you'll be missed.

But I do hope a man of your...um...intellectual honesty...will have the decency to truly fulfill the boycott you support. I wonder if maybe the scientists in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon have developed an alternative device...yeah, I didn't think so either. In the meantime, there's always pen and paper...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Will Mohammed come to the Mountain?

If you haven't read the previous post, please click here.

This is the update to the Mohammed and the Router story...otherwise known as "When is a messenger not a messenger?


UPDATE: 

It's now 12:20 p.m. in Israel - three hours after this story began. Mohammed is still refusing to deliver and קבוצת בר has given in to this, causing us quite a bit of inconvenience. As far as they are concerned - it is not their problem that I can either have Elie disable the Internet and function without Internet until next week (not possible) or have to climb up a ladder by myself on Sunday or Monday to attempt to install a router. They work for Bezek, after all - what do they care?

I'll add here that I'm a technical writer, not a technician. קבוצת בר will not compensate us for their driver's behavior and really couldn't care less about the damage they have caused. Okay, good to know. See if I ever use them! More importantly, hopefully, Bezek will drop them!

Bezek has offered to compensate us - their first offer was 100 minutes of free airtime - on lines that already have plans large enough so that we don't get to our maximum amount (in other words - worthless).

We asked them to cover the cost of sending a technician to uninstall and install the routers for us. I had taken care of this by having Elie here today; on Sunday, he has classes all day and can't come to the office. To uninstall the router, you need to climb up a ladder to about 2 meters above the ground, disconnect the existing one and then reconnect the new one. On a good day, I'm not sure I could do this; with one arm...so not.

They won't cover the cost of sending a technician, explained the manager, because this costs them money. Seriously? Whose fault is it that I need a technician in the first place. I didn't hire that dumb delivery company and I certainly didn't hire Mohammed!

Their next offer was to pay for the delivery service...great - see where that got us so far...and two months free phone line (comes to about $12). Delivery would be made on Sunday. After arguing, they agreed to pay for another delivery to pick up the old router after someone (not me) manages to install the new one.

And after all this, Elie came over and asked me for Mohammed's phone. I wasn't really sure I wanted him to do this...but Elie is Elie. He called Mohammed. He asked Mohammed what the problem was and why he didn't deliver the package. After 5 minutes, Mohammed agreed - if we would give him parking. Mohammed was, apparently, right in the area - this was really all a game. Within about three minutes, Mohammed called back and asked us to open the parking gate. We opened the gate - Mohammed drove in and came upstairs and delivered....

One router...um...we were supposed to get two. Ah....well....at least Mohammed came to the mountain...

When is a messenger...not a messenger?

So, my company has jumped from 10 MB for Internet to 100 MB. To do this, we need new routers. The deal was made - they'd bring two today and take back one. I got a call from the delivery person - he's bringing it now! How exciting.

Wait, he wants us to come downstairs. He doesn't want to take the old one. He won't come up to the office.

"So, you don't want delivery?" he asks. We want delivery. We need delivery, we told him very clearly.

"I have no parking" he says from the driveway in which he is parked next to the building. We see him from our window speaking to us. Elie is here - he came specially to help me climb up the ladder to take out the old router (not that I could manage that even if my arm wasn't hurting me, but I like to believe).  Cars park in the driveway all the time. The police won't give a ticket - the printer downstairs will get annoyed and honk if he needs the driveway cleared. They've taken my parking space enough that I'm not concerned if one time I am responsible for blocking the street.

Elie tells the delivery person to come deliver the routers. The man refuses and pulls out of the driveway, nearly causing a traffic accident. We see him drive less than 50 meters - and pull into a parking spot that opened minutes before. He pulls in legally and we assume we are about to take delivery.

And then the unbelievable happens. After a few minutes (as we assume he's organizing something in the car), he pulls out and drives away. Elie calls him and the man says that the Moked (the main line of the delivery company (called Mishloach Bar part of the קבוצת בר (The Bar Group) which was founded in 1990, says their website: http://www.bar-ltd.co.il/default.htm) has told him he doesn't have to make the delivery.

Elie is arguing with the man and I ask Elie for the phone. I take it and ask his name. Amazingly enough - he answers.

"Mohammed."

"Mohammed?" I ask him again. Really? "What is your family name?"

"Shelbawi," he answers. I ask him for his telephone number (which I won't put here) and for the company number, which I will - +972-3-942-6010.

We called the number - their answer is that Mohammed is refusing to deliver, is already in the next neighborhood. If we want, they will deliver the routers tomorrow (Friday - a non-working day in Israel) or Sunday. I believe our Internet will die before that. We are being kicked up to a more powerful speed - there is a reason why we are getting a new router - the old one can't handle the speed, the protocols, or whatever. Bottom line - thanks to Mohammed and Mishloach Bar - my company may not have Internet.

The damage right now is relatively annoying - Elie came in specially and is now missing school waiting for Mohammed to decide whether he will deliver the items in his car, whether Mishloach Bar will, at least, fire the heck out of this ridiculous worker, and whether Bezek and/or Mishloach Bar will pay my company the compensation legally required to avoid this very situation. If a technician schedules to come to you and does not come - Israeli law says you are entitled to compensation. This is intended so that companies will value the time of its customers.

It is incredibly unprofessional and annoying for Mishloach Bar to hire independents who use their own cars and save them money - while costing their end-customers so much aggravation. The company tells us that Mohammed is refusing to return. Amazing that we are all hostage to this one man in a beat up old car, amazing that קבוצת בר allows themselves to be held hostage this way.

We try to speak to a manager at the delivery company - the woman refuses. Then she tells me that we need to wait 3 hours. We say fine - but we are not closing the phone. In general, a service person in Israel is not allowed to close the phone. She tells me again it will take up to three hours and again I say I will wait. In the middle of my next sentence, she puts me on hold and within three minutes, a very polite man picks up the phone to talk to Elie.

In between the delivery company - we try to reach Bezek - the phone company who is sending the delivery, which chose קבוצת בר, which Mohammed. Bezek offers us compensation - 100 minutes on every line - not the 500 shekels required by law. They say, "but he tried to deliver it, he was there." To which Elie offered the best line of the day, "and if you order pizza and the delivery guy drives past your home, will you pay for the pizza?"

What will happen? I don't know - we've spent the last almost two hours arguing over something that could have been resolved if Mohammed had simply exited his legally parked car and done the job he is being paid to do. Instead this is being raised to the level of a national telephone company running after one messenger in an old Toyota Corolla who has our routers and is refusing to deliver them.

Will Mohammed come to the mountain? Will the mountain have to wait...stay tuned...the manager says he will try to resolve this in two hours - the time I have before I have to leave for a meeting. All I can say is that I'm glad Elie is here with me. I would not want to be here alone when Mohammed gets here.

For the update - see the next post...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Neo-Nazis on Twitter

I woke before dawn today, a bit disoriented and very tired. I need to avoid the traffic because, yeah...I've abused my arm enough and driving isn't the easiest of things to do. I've got two working arms, but one that needs babying a bit. It's kind of funny to watch my arms, almost as an outsider. The left, always sure of itself, is in pain and quite annoyed at the right. The right arm is less sure, clumsier, more inexact.

Can't you pick up that stupid pen, thinks the left with impatience I've been doing it for you for well, more years than my brain wants to admit on this blog.

Sheesh - just dip it in the sauce and put it in the breadcrumbs...how much effort does it take? Oh, forget it, I'll just do it myself - OUCH. And so it has been for almost two weeks - an endless argument from the left, which wants it done as I've always done it, to the right, which is trying so hard.

So, I dressed in the morning - also not the easiest of tasks and left the house early, hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic. In doing that, I probably found the best of the day. Dawn was breaking as I climbed the mountain up to Jerusalem, leaving the Judean Desert behind. The desert has bloomed over the wet winter and there is more green than you can imagine.

I passed through the northern roads of Jerusalem, between the slumbering neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo on one side and the hi-tech, Har Hotzvim area on the other. Golden stones begin reflecting the light as I drive through the still-sleeping city.

The Jerusalem forest was to my left and right as I pass the neighborhood of Ramot and exit through the latest tunnel built to help traffic flow. Free of Jerusalem, my car climbed slowly to join the old Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway.

To my left are the graves of tens of thousands of Jews - Har Menucha...the Mountain of Rest, the largest cemetery in Jerusalem. Having cleared the city in little time because of the hour - I began the descent down to flat areas of Israel.

Past the beautiful suburb of Mevasseret Zion, the road descends again. The first reports of traffic in  the north didn't faze me as I continued down. There to the left are the beautiful hills covered in trees while to the right, Neve Ilan and further down, Abu Ghosh - an Arab Israeli city known for its humous and the fact that Jews can actually enter and exit safely.

Shoresh is located almost at the edge- where the hills give way to a view of the sea sparkling in the distance, a reminder that we are really a very tiny country. You get the first glimpse of miles and miles of land and towns below. As you approach the bottom, to the right is the Burma Road - a dirt path used by amazing heroes who trekked into Jerusalem under cover of darkness in 1948 to break the Arab siege of the Old City and bring food and medicine to the starving elderly Jewish population. And there, in the center between the two pathways of the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem highway are a series of ancient relics.

These are the seemingly ancient trucks and vehicles used in the 1948 war. Close to here, as they began the ascent to Jerusalem, they were stopped. This is a memorial we leave to them as we pass this site - always to remember their bravery and sacrifice. On Memorial Day, they lay wreathes of flowers here and drape the trucks with Israelis flags - there to remain through our Independence Day.

And then you are down off the hills of Jerusalem. I pass Latrun, and a memorial to the tank division, as I see signs to Beersheva - ancient and modern, it is a name that comes from the Bible and reminds us that we were here long ago, still are, and always will be.

I reach the open fields - between the cities of Beit Shemesh and Modiin - they are building a speed train deep in the ground to connect Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I drove into the fog, not really minding it a bit. It changed the light as the sun hid behind the fog but I knew the sun would be out soon. I drove past the relatively new intersection that shortens the trip to several points south - more cars on the road; more reports of traffic.

Israel was waking up and starting another day. I called Aliza to make sure she got up and reminded her that she had to call Shmulik, who had offered to drive her to school because her stomach has been bothering her lately.

And on I drove - simply enjoying the time, the road, the view. Israel coming awake is a beautiful thing to watch - fields and fields of green passed my view and Route 1 from Jerusalem joined with Route 6 - the newest "super" highway that travels from up north to far into the south.

And then I was into the central area - Gush Dan, because this is the land given by God to the tribe of Dan...yes, we still know where those lines are and even today - in Tel Aviv, they know they are located in Gush Dan, as Jerusalem knows it lies in the land of Binyamin (Benjamin). Now on the main roads of central Israel, there was a lot of traffic and little time to enjoy the views other than to note passing through Petach Tivkah (the opening of hope) founded in 1878, home today to over 200,000.

And then, the first glimpse of the sea - the Mediterranean. A right turn, another major highway, and I've arrived at my destination where I will spend much of the day working onsite at a client's offices before going to a meeting later today.

A few days ago, I saw a strange and horrible avatar (picture) on Twitter. It was a swastika; the Nazi flag. I thought perhaps it was a joke; perhaps it was ignorance. It certainly is ignorance, but not the kind I had expected. There are whole worlds on Twitter and it would be impossible to find them all. I am connected to many different worlds, but this was a new one.

I know it sounds hopelessly naive to say this, but it just never occurred to me that they were there - this underworld of hatred. Oh, I know there are those filled with hatred - I follow the #GAZA stream all the time. I know there are those who will lie and deceive - did I mention I follow the #GAZA stream?

But this was a different kind of hatred, a deep, ancient one. I understand the Arab hatred - I know what they want. But this one is a mindless hate bred into their bones, their souls, if they even have souls. Not all Arabs are filled with hatred but to be a Nazi, to be a racist, is to believe in the extremes. All Jews must die; all Jews are guilty. All Jews caused all tragedies and are responsible for everything.

It's hard to believe, I wrote one twit, that in this day and age, there could be people who are so ignorant, so stupid, so naive. But of course, there is an agenda, a cause behind this. It's there in the avatar...it is as new as the concept of Twitter, and as old as time. It is a hatred so strong, so evil, it touches and destroys anything, everything, in its path.


Hate-filled, ignorant, small minded, racist. For a day or so, I responded. It felt good to show them, to answer them. We will NEVER fall to you again, I told them in anger.

But that was the problem - this discussion, this discovery that they live and breathe among us and spread their hatred filled me with fury. We are strong. We will not ever, ever let you do what you did once.

I even laughed when one wrote, "Have no Mercy! Cry for vengeance! The enemy Jew will turn pale! Beat the enemy Jew and push him back!" He was quoting Goebbels, but I couldn't resist the simple response, "HELLO? IDF? Duh"

Quickly, the "discussion" got to the Holocaust and, of course, they denied there ever was one. They deny the gas chambers I have seen with my own eyes. They ridicule the Jews as weak.

For a day or two, I responded. To the lie that the gas chambers never existed, I wrote that my mother-in-law had been in one and was pulled out at the last minute for a work detail. That too he called a lie. The proof that the Holocaust happened was made by the Nazis themselves. They were so proud of what they did, they kept records of who they killed; they filmed their tortures and genocide. I doubt any crime in the history of man has been so meticulously documented as the Holocaust against the Jewish people.

And I find it ironic that what Hitler took great pride in doing - advancing the destruction of the Jewish people, these idiot modern-day followers are struggling to deny.

A few joined me in expressing their disgust, more wrote to me and told me it was no use even wasting time answering them. I had to get to that conclusion on my own.

As I often do, I came here to write. I started with the title - Neo-Nazis on Twitter and I started to copy in images of the tweets I have seen in the last few days. And then I stopped. I went home and this morning, as I drove, I realized the truest answer was to come here and write about my trip this morning. And that's what I did...

These Nazis of today are pathetic losers living on past glories. Their king is dead...such a coward he killed himself. Those that survived - on their side, have spent their lives looking over their soldiers. It is not over until they are in the grave. Until then, even in their 90s, they could fall to the incredibly slow justice system.

And when they die, for those of us who believe in hell and justice, we know that what man did not give them, God most certainly is. I can fight them, we can all fight them, but perhaps the best thing to do is let them live in their dark caves while we drive in the sunshine.

Every step I took today, every mile I drove was the greatest response. Yes, you murdered millions of Jews - men, women - over a million children....but four of my children carry the names of those you harmed. Through their namesakes, they live on.

The truest answer is for me to do two things. First, I will write to Twitter and ask them to delete the following accounts - these are the Nazis I found (and will continue to report as I found others):

@NS_ChiefofStaff
@NSofAmerica (an alternate account for the previous one)
@NSFM_CoS (an alternate account for the previous one)
@TheNSFM_CoS (an alternate account for the previous one)
@_northerner
@AryanFamily
@SkinheadPride88 (more racist than anti-Semitic, but neo Nazi for all that)
@Usnazi

One account boasts that he has already had several accounts deleted - they know they are being hunted. So many of the accounts were new, and few had many followers. This shows that Twitter is vigilant and I hope they will continue to be.

And the second thing I will do - is live in this land, continue to be all the Nazis hated most of all. My children will live here - my grandchildren and on and on. I started this post wanting to describe the horrible tweets I have seen in the last few days - those that deny the Holocaust, the gas chambers. I have stood in those gas chambers. I have seen the ashes of my people left in the ovens built by theirs.

I thought I was not naive, but I am. I know there are Nazis in the world today. They don't scare me, but they do bring forth an anger so deep, so sharp, so strong, that it can cripple me if I let it. They are nothing because we are strong.

I have the greatest answer of all for these worthless things that plague the earth - I have the sunshine and dawn in Israel - only surpassed, perhaps, by the sunset I see out the window nearby, as the sun sets on another day in my land.

May God bless the people of Israel and bless the memories of those who didn't make it into the sunshine I enjoyed today - because Hitler's cursed plan condemned them to death. Yes, there were gas chambers and yes, the Nazis murdered over six million of my people. And yes, remembering brings back the pain and the anger but it also brings forth the pride.

From what they did to us - look what we have built. The mountains have been here throughout time, but we've built cities, planted the trees. We've paved the roads and built a hi-tech community known throughout the world. We've built an army of our sons - not something we would have wanted, but something that had to be - and with that army, we have sworn to protect Jews everywhere. It is in their names - our sons and daughters - that we can promise that never again will they have the power to hurt us, to torment us. And so my final tweet will be the simplest of all.






Jerusalem Day - 1967 - 2013 and Forever

Today is Yom Yerushalayim - the 46th we have celebrated since the reunification of Jerusalem. From 1948 - 1967, Jews were barred from the Old City, from the Kotel and the Temple Mount - that was how the Jordanians and the local Arab population dealt with the issue of religious freedom - there was none. The UN did not condemn them; the world was silent while we could not visit our holy places.

In 1967, Israel was facing war with Syria and Egypt - the rhetoric and belligerent movement of their troops made their intention clear. Even as we launched a preemptive attack (though Egypt's closing of the Straights of Tiran was clearly an act of war and intent), we sent a message to Jordan - stay out of this war. We don't want to fight you....we will not attack.

Jordan sent back a clear message - we will fight with our brothers, and they attacked. Like the Egyptians and the Syrians, the Jordanians fell in days and what was known as the West Bank of the Jordan river, was conquered. Jews were allowed to their holy sites but we did not do what the Arabs had done. Though we found our holy places desecrated, we protected theirs. Centuries old Jewish grave stones were turned into bathrooms, smashed and crumbled, we rebuilt them.

We reunited Jerusalem - while allowing the Arabs access - virtually unrestricted - to all their holy places (there are times it is restricted to men over 40, for example - but this is usually when there is a clear danger of violence (or just after there was violence from there). We have never taken control and made it ours - as they did.

It was our Holy Temple - our Temple Mount - on which they built, centuries later, their mosques. If anyone is restricted today - it is Jews, who are warned they will not be allowed to visit the Temple Mount if they dare attempt to pray...can you imagine? Pray. We are not allowed to move our lips in a whispered prayer.

But for today, I will think of the greater celebration. The Temple Mount is not free, but the rest of Jerusalem is - free, free these last 46 years - for all.

This is the video from 1967, below is a translation/transcription... (courtesy of Yitschak Horneman / Quality Translations, Jerusalem)




Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.
[The open square of the Temple Mount.]

[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]

Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.

[Gunfire.]

Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.

[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]

[Yelling of commands to soldiers.]

[More soldiers’ footsteps.]

The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.

[Gunfire.]

We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.

[Gunfire.]

Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!

All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.

Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.

[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]

Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.

Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.

Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance [but don't touch anything in the houses], especially the holy places.

[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]

Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?

Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.

Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]

Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and bulids Jerusalem]

Soldiers: Amen!

[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]

Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel:

[Soldiers weeping]

El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen!

[Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.]

[Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.]

Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! 

[Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!] *

Friday, May 3, 2013

Kobayashi Maru

If you aren't a Star Trek fan, you might not know about the Kobyashi Maru test. I don't doubt that someone (or more) has written an entire doctoral thesis on the Kobyashi Maru test. What it is - simply - is an impossible situation in which there can be no winner.

As with so many things from Star Trek, there are deeper questions, challenges, that reflect back on the lives we lead - as people, and as citizens of nations. The paradox presented in the Kobyashi Maru test is simple. A starship is given the option - break an international...let's say...interplanetary...treaty to rescue 300 lives that are in imminent and immediate danger...risking war...or let them die.

If you do not enter the "neutral zone" - 300 lives are lost. If you do, you are surrounded by enemy forces with little chance of successfully shooting your way out.

What do you do when you find yourself in a no-win position, caught between two immovable options? Where there is no way out but to hurt someone you love...where each side presents you the option of choosing their solution or the promise of a destroyed relationship? What do nations do when they must sacrifice some lives or risk many?

What does a nation do when it is caught between the need to protect some of its citizens, which requires, in many cases, curtailing the rights of others? What happens when as a society you want peace - and to maintain whatever peace you can manage, you must be constantly ready to wage war?

What happens when you are surrounded by enemies who are ever on alert for an opportunity to destroy you. What happens when on a personal or national level you face the Kobayashi Maru test?



 Of course, the difference between fiction and reality is that, in fiction at least, you can cheat.

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