Monday, December 30, 2013

Wisdom that Comes from the Young...

Elie said something to me the other day and the meaning of his words are only hitting me now. As a woman, I am very sensitive to comparing rape to...well, virtually anything. I know some women who have been raped and I have seen the long term effects it has had on their lives.

Rape is something I can't imagine - the feel of it, the terror involved, the lasting need to understand how one human could violate the essence of a person with complete disregard.

I am also very hesitant to sanction anyone using the Holocaust as a comparison to...well, virtually anything. It cheapens, lessens, damages.

And yet, Elie said something the other day that continues to reverberate in my head. He, like most of us here in Israel, are trying to understand the logic of Israel agreeing to release murderers and terrorists in exchange for...well...best we can figure it...the honor of having the Palestinians walk into the same room as us.

The idea that releasing terrorists to promote peace is absurd...but perhaps Elie said it best of all with this comparison, "releasing terrorists convicted of murder in order to bring peace is equivalent to releasing rapists to promote gender equality."

No, he wasn't denigrating the damage that rape does; he wasn't cheapening it. The idea of releasing rapists to promote gender equality would have men and women around the world screaming at the stupidity, the absurdity. A rapist who uses and abuses a woman in this way has nothing to do with gender equality; the idea of releasing the epitome of death and war has nothing to do with promoting peace.

Three years ago, young Tamar Fogel went out on a Friday night to meet with her friends. She was a typical 12 year old...until that night. When she returned home, she found that Palestinian terrorists had murdered her mother and father, stabbed her 3 year old brother in the heart, killed her 10 year old brother as well. And, in a crime that defies every ounce of humanity, they had slit the throat of her three month old baby sister.

All this Tamar saw; all this she has lived with. Three years ago, trying to be brave, she explained to people that now she had to be a mother to her two surviving younger brothers.

This week, she stood outside the Prime Minister's house and protested the latest release of terrorists and killers. It is a strange world indeed, when stupidity comes from our leaders and wisdom comes from our children.

Releasing terrorists in the name of peace is as horrific, as incomprehensible, as absolutely moronic...as releasing rapists to promote gender equality.

How sad; how true...

Haveil Havalim

The concept is simple - a carnival of blogs related to a simple topic - in this case, Israel and Jewish blogs around the world, summarized and presented to you in one place. It's been going on for years, thanks to dedicated volunteers and this week, I agreed to host it. I didn't take into account an emergency trip to the hospital (he's fine, thank God). I didn't take into consideration a birth (she's fine and so is her new baby boy). I didn't take into consideration having to deliver about 100 documents rebranded (let's not talk about that one).

So here it is - a day late, but with no less enthusiasm - Haveil Havalim...

Several big stories this past week...

Israel and Politics:

  • On A Soldier's Mother last week, I think my favorite was Jesus was WHAT?

Two from Esser Agaroth - always a Haveil Havalim favorite:

We're still talking about the snow:
Jewish and religious postings:
Blogs I Follow Regularly

On a personal note, I've been following three very special blogs - sadly, all about cancer in one form or another. What strikes me about each one is the strength of the writer, the love and faith they have in their families, and in each case, the dedication of the ailing family member.

This one is very special because although I have either not met Erika, or met her only in passing, I've met her husband a few times. He's a popular blogger, has an amazing sense of humor and a smile that can light up a room. I see pictures of the family and know that he has what to smile about. Unfortunately, Erika was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, and now Stage 4. She writes on Mama Bla Blah and deserves our attention, our prayers, and our love. So many would pull into themselves in her situation, so many would give up...I think I would on both counts...and yet she is sharing her battle, her determination. This is one to follow, and, as you do - please, as I do, say a prayer for the complete and speedy recovery of Erika bat Chava Ehta - and find the time to read, Mama Bla Blah.

The other two blogs that I am drawn to have ended in great sadness and yet I continue to read and watch as the families reshape themselves, dedicate themselves both to remembering and to moving forward. Neither is leaving behind the one they lost; both are struggling to help their children cope.

Crossing the Yarden - is a beautiful blog about Stella, by all accounts, an amazing woman who battled stomach cancer for years. It is written by her husband, Yarden, and you can't help but feel amazingly comforted and grateful that he shares the ups and downs of his life since Stella passed away a bit over a month ago. If you have time (and sometimes a tissue), read Crossing the Yarden.

Superman Sam - written by his mother, Superman Sam is about an 8 year old boy who just lost his battle with leukemia. All you have to do is look at the picture to see the smile, the personality that was Sam. In Stella's case, I met her once in passing at a wedding. I knew her story but didn't really approach her beyond the typical small talk at a happy event of a shared acquaintance. I never met Sam, but I've been reading about him for ages. I wasn't even sure how I connected to the blog...until recently when I saw a comment his mother had made years ago on this blog. At one time, she read my blog - I don't know if she does. I am reading her blog, silently sending as much love and support as I can. I am in awe of her ability to get out of bed in the morning, let alone continue to write so beautifully, continue to share Sam with us, and support her family. Her children are blessed to have her as a mother...and I know she was blessed to have had Sam...for whatever amount of time she had him. So, again, if you have the time (and a tissue), read Superman Sam.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

On The Brink of War

Five years ago...how could it be five years...Israel was under rocket fire, isolated from the world, and waiting to see if war would come. We have lived for 65 years on the brink of war...always on the brink. In many ways, nothing has changed. Last week, mortars and missiles, firebombs and guns and bombs were thrown at Israelis and Israel...last week, last year, five years ago, and sixty years ago.

At this time of year, I can close my eyes and remember so clearly what I was feeling; knowing that Elie was about to be sent to war, to fight. There are moments and events that change your life forever. Good moments and terrifying moments. Good ones are the ones when you get engaged, get married, bring a baby into this world and hold your grandchild for the first time...and so many other moments. But this time of the year, the horrible, terrifying moments come back to me.

Five years ago, I sat paralyzed at my desk and poured out my fears. I was waiting minute by minute for the phone to ring, for Elie to tell me if he was being moved to a war zone. He was stationed in the center of the country, about to move north where Lebanon was threatening...unless they moved him south where Gaza had fired over 120 missiles at us in less than a month.

Each time I spoke to him, I knew the decision was coming soon...I just didn't know which front and what would happen when he got there. He knew so much more than he could tell me; I remained in the dark until the call I was dreading came.

"I'm not where you think I am," he said.

I knew enough not to as him where he was, "are you south of where I thought you were or north?"

"South," he answered.

Gaza.

The day before, I had written a blog post that defined so much of what it is like to be a soldier's mother. I read it from time to time and remember that feeling of having your world spin out of control. You just want to hold on and beg it to stop.

Five years ago, I wrote these words...in many ways, they remain the truest of all that I have written here:

What I want...and what I'll do: (first posted December 29, 2008)

What I want...is to go collect my little boy and bring him home. I want to lock him in a room and tell Israel that no, you can't have him. I've changed my mind. No, I'm sorry. He's not allowed to play with guns and big things that go boom. No, I'm his mother. I gave birth to him and no, you simply can't take him.

What I want...is to call him and make sure he is where I put him, where he told me he was yesterday. Not in the north, where Hizbollah is promising to burn the ground and open a second front and not in the south, where dozens of rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel, where a man was killed and dozens were wounded.

That's what I want...

And what I'll do, is sit here at my desk and keep editing this document for my client. I'll update the copyright statements and change the installation information to reflect the new platforms the product now supports. I'll answer the phone and I'll talk to my accountant.

And what I'll do, is tell my heart to settle. I'll tell my eyes to take a moment and look at the next beautiful wave of clouds rolling in over Jerusalem. I'll sign the papers I need to sign; type the words I need to type. I'll tell my younger daughter to clean her room and my younger son that he has to study for his test NOW. I'll tell my middle son he can borrow the car like we agreed, but he has to drive carefully. I won't talk to my oldest daughter because she's old enough to see the cracks in my smile and know that outside, it's all a front.

What I'll do is answer the phone if Elie calls and I'll talk to him calmly. I'll listen if he tells me he's staying where he is. I'll listen if he tells me they are moving him up north. I'll listen if he tells me they are moving him down south near Gaza. I'll listen, I'll tell him to be careful, and call me when he can. I won't for a single moment, tell him that I'm scared, that I have no real experience with this war thing and that I don't really want him to have any experience with it either.

What I'll do is continue to listen to the news and pray for our civilians who are under attack, and our soldiers who are risking their lives to defend them.

And most of all, what I will do is dig deep inside where I store my faith in God and in my country and my people. I will do what every Israeli is doing today, hoping this will end soon, but not too soon that we only succeed in putting off to tomorrow what should have been dealt with today. I will do all of this because we are what we have always been, a nation with no choice but to deal with what our enemies choose.

You can read the whole post at: What I Want...and What I'll Do

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

So, What's New?

This is one of those posts you can't do much about...what you have to do, is file the information away in your brain so that in the future, perhaps the very near future, when Israel remembers how to defend itself and finally says enough...we will act.

And much of the world will be stupefied. I love that word...stupefied. It means...duh, how the heck did you miss that this was going to happen?

In the last 30 hours in Israel...

  • A short time ago, a man was murdered. He was fixing a fence that separates Israel from Gaza and Palestinians opened fire on the civilian...and killed him. In the civilized world, that's called cold-blooded murder.
  • As a response - Israel told its civilians to stay away from the border fence...gee, there's a great response.
  • A police office was stabbed in the back last night by a Palestinian. Now, that might not be considered cold-blooded murderer...because thankfully, the man didn't die but stabbing someone in the back...yeah, that's cold and it's also cowardly.
  • A firebomb was thrown at an Israeli vehicle...
  • A rocket was fired and crashed in Ashkelon, thankfully, no injuries.
  • A mortar was fired from Gaza as well.
  • A bomb was placed on a bus in Bat Yam...only a police officer attempting to defuse the bomb was injured...because the passengers noticed a suspicious object and told the bus driver. He quickly evacuated the bus...likely saving his own life and that of his 12 passengers.
  • Arabs attempted to attack/stab guards near the Mishor Adumim checkpoint - the guards noticed that the Arabs were armed and took action, capturing the Arabs while avoiding injury.
So...what happened to you over the last 30 hours?

Oh...and when Israel wakes up and takes action...please don't tell us you never heard about these incidents, that we were not provoked, not attacked. Don't tell us that our response is disproportional. Had the missile hit, had the bomb gone off, had the knife entered the police officer's body a few millimeters to the left or right...

Today, an Israeli was murdered in cold-blood; yesterday an Israeli was stabbed in cold-blood. A few short hours before, a bomb was planted on a bus...

What's new here? Truthfully, not much...and that, that is the point here. 

Latest update: As of a short while ago, Israeli jets were bombing military targets in Gaza, including a Hamas training camp.

Jesus was WHAT???

Christmas and I have an understanding. I'll smile and wish my Christian friends the merriest and happiest of holidays, white and laden with decorated trees. Jesus and I have an understanding too. He was born a Jew; died a Jew and was a Jew every day in between those dates. Whatever was done to him, whatever was done in his name in the centuries that followed, doesn't change who he was, what he believed in. No, I don't believe he was the son of God...well, anymore than my sons are sons of God, my daughters, the daughters of God. But, like Jesus, I never claimed to be a Christian; never claimed to believe that God is more or less than what He has always been.

I believe Jesus was a man of deep thought, but only a man. And I think somewhere, his neshama, his soul, remains Jewish to this day and I assume would accept not only his Christian followers, but the Jewish people to which he belonged.

I believe he would condemn Muslim suicide bombers...even if the Christian church often fails to do that. I just read that Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal is going to be condemning Israel on Christmas night in Bethlehem. He won't condemn the Arabs that took the Church of the Nativity hostage; the Arabs who urinated in the church and apparently sexually abused the priests and nuns they held for days. He won't condemn Syria or Egypt or Iran or Hamas or Hezbollah.

I can deal with that because no matter in whose name he thinks he speaks, I'm going to believe that God knows the truth and the rest of us are smart enough not to listen. But one comment finally got to me...the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas has decided, once again, to float the idea that Palestinians have a history that lasts more than a century or less. Despite conclusive archaeological proof that not a single Palestinian relic has been found dating back 200 years, never mind 2,000 years, Abbas has decided that Jesus was a Palestinian.

The truth, as we all know, was that Islam didn't exist at that time, nor did Palestine. Jesus lived and died as a Jew - not a Christian and certainly not as a Muslim. He had the honor, as I do today, of living in the Jewish land - then called Judea, today called Israel. Like millions of others, Jesus was murdered by those who hated us, who wanted to kill us.

No, Jesus was not a Palestinian...nor was anyone else for another 1,800 years after he lived. There were no Palestinians according to the current use of the term until, at most, 100 years ago. Before 1948, there were Palestinians - they were Jews and Arabs who lived in this land, ruled by the Turks, then the British. And then, as today, when the Arabs wanted to go to their holy of holy places...they turned their backs to Jerusalem and prayed to or went to Mecca.

And yet, later tonight, as this Archbishop stands up in Bethlehem, among a dwindling Christian population that is often harassed by its Muslim neighbors and seeks refuge among its Jewish neighbors, Jesus may well watch from above and wonder why in his name, the only people he ever knew, remain standing alone, as we have always been...as he was once...

Jesus, a Palestinian? Not be a long shot. Not now, not then, not tonight and not in any of the tomorrows to come.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hypocrisy's Fury

About 18 months ago, I wrote another post about the ongoing injustice being done to Jonathan Pollard. Yes, Jonathan Pollard transferred classified information to Israel and, in doing so, broke a trust placed in him by the United States of America. Many have argued that America broke the trust first, keeping secrets from Israel that several agreements between the two countries mandated be shared. You can accept that - or not.

But it is amazing how ignorant people are and despite this ignorance, how forcefully they hold an opinion that Pollard deserves to rot in jail - as he has for 29 years. Never mind what the courts convicted him of, never mind the US bargain, never mind the facts.

The fact is, Pollard did not commit treason - nor was he EVER charged with treason. He was convicted of ONE crime, to which he pleaded guilty. That ONE crime typically gets something like 4-7 years (I think it was even less, but honestly after 29 years, what difference does it make?), for transferring classified information to an ally. Note that a life sentence for murder often means serving far less than Pollard has already served and those who have spied for enemies (Russia, for example), have all served less time.

But the truth of why Pollard must rot, was posted in a comment to me. And eighteen months later, that comment remains in my mind - and I have yet to answer it because each time I tried, I couldn't find the balance I need to answer it with anything but anger. The comment was this:
It is really harmful to Jews in the Diaspora that some Israelis have elevated this man to hero status. He represents every anti-Semitic stereotype that we have to deal with: disloyal to his country, willing to do anything for money, morally self-righteous, convinced of his own intellectual superiority. Please, please, shut up about this man.
There you go - it isn't what Pollard did - but that he embarrasses American Jews. "He represents every anti-Semitic stereotype that we have to deal with"...so writes yet another anonymous commentator who I can only assume is an American Jew.

Today, finally, I am free to answer - with all the anger well aimed at the hypocrisy of American Jews and more, of America itself.

You dare to hold Jonathan Pollard in prison for 29 years for spying on an ally...when you've been doing the same thing all along? Are you kidding?

I have nothing to say to the Obama administration - history will remember you for the farce you have created. History will remember the lies and betrayal - how you abandoned your allies and more.

But I will, finally, address my fellow Jews - we are brothers and sisters to each other and as a sister, I can tell you that you are losing your way. Day by day, you are losing your future as your children go further and further from the joint roots of our grandfathers.

But more, you betray our grandfathers by turning your backs on Pollard and on Israel. Jews have found a way to survive, to thrive, in the most unlikely of circumstances. There was one secret to this survival. Through the horrors of the centuries and all that was done to us, above all else, we remembered where we came from and who we are.

If the story of Jonathan Pollard is harmful to the Jews in the US, there is something wrong with you, not him. He saw that the US was not living up to its agreement to share intelligence reports - though Israel was in fact doing this. He took action - right or wrong...probably wrong...he made a mistake and has paid far and above anything that could be termed justice.

Now that the truth is out - that the US was doing at least the same thing to Israel, American Jews must rise up and demand that Pollard be freed and an apology from the US government should be made. Obama can bow to Netanyahu the way he bowed to the Saudi king. He can stand up in Jerusalem as he stood up in Cairo.

But above all else, before all else - put Pollard on the first plane to Israel and, if I were you, my American Jewish friends, I'd be on the second.

The fact that Obama pardoned drug dealers and thieves recently just adds insult to injury. If the US can use all assets and all means to spy on its allies, than the allies have the right to do the same right back and to inflict such an absurd and disproportional response to one man is unfair.

I can't help but think that the same American Jew who wrote to me in the past that Pollard was embarrassing American Jews will now write and say the same of Israel. How dare we protest when Obama stabs us in the back with the Iran negotiations? How dare we think we have the right to defend ourselves and consider acting alone?

And to all of that - I would answer...how dare we??? No, how dare you!! How dare you forget that it was this collectivism that helped us survive 2,000 years of exile and I would remind you - you are still in exile.




Friday, December 20, 2013

The Other Side of a Crisis

There are two sides to every crisis - the horrible situation and all the details you can find...and the better side which too many ignore.

Israel got walloped by a huge winter storm - the likes of which we have never seen before. It was called the storm of the century - which, given that we've only past 13% of the century and have another 87 years to go...it kind of saying something.

It was bad - really bad, in many places. Four people died; many were injured and well over 100 slipped on the ice. Tens of thousands were without power for as many as five very cold nights and most of six days. Buses and trains were crippled and yes, as one rather insensitive person pointed out, newspaper delivery was canceled for at least three days for some people.

But....

The other side of the crisis was a beautiful showing of what this country is really like. Let me give you a few examples:

The Commanders Course in the army was suspended, so that the soon-to-be commanders could go door to door in Jerusalem and check on the elderly and the people who were cold and without power.

Neighbors shared food and whatever was needed to get through the storm. In one village, there was a generator, but it wasn't strong enough to give everyone heat and light and so they asked anyone without an infant in the house to turn everything to off so that those who really needed the heat, could protect the babies.

Buses couldn't run in many places, so cars stopped regularly and went out of their way to take people where they needed to go.

A call went out Friday afternoon for all ambulance volunteers and medics and those with four wheel drive to help evacuate people - and so many went rushing in. Davidi went to volunteer on Thursday, on Friday, and on Sunday. At one point, the ambulance couldn't even make it up a hill even with the chains they had tied on when they got to the army checkpoint and the entrance to Jerusalem. They had to turn back and a four-by-four was sent in.

And through it all, not ignoring the hardships but remembering there is another side to every crisis, Jerusalem showed its sense of humor in art - someone fashioned a headshot of a famous and much loved rabbi who recently died out of snow; someone built a snowman at the Western Wall, and keeping with the holiness of the place, put a kippah (yarmulka/skull cap) on its head. Someone built a small bathroom and toilet and sink out of snow; someone fashioned a small version of the Old City walls.

In Maale Adumim, we didn't get snow - nothing worth mentioning and nothing that stuck to the ground, and so the city trucked in snow so the children could play; and on Friday morning when it became apparent that the delivery trucks couldn't make it into Maale Adumim with challot for Shabbat, people went on Facebook and offered to share what they had, to bake for others.

I made four kilo of challah dough rather than my usual three and then gave the loaves to several friends to bake in their own homes. It was all about helping, all about making it easier for others.

There is always a crisis in our lives - but the important thing is to remember that for every crisis, there is usually another side.

At the best of times, Gaza is too busy dreaming up ways to attack Israel or build rocket launchers and fancy malls to both with maintaining any semblance of a sewer system and so when they got 60% of their yearly rainfall average in 2 days of massive rain, their solution was to scream out about a conspiracy.

They asked the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah for assistance - to send them fuel for heating...the response was that as soon as they paid their massive outstanding bill, Ramallah would send more. The United Nations didn't have a problem with Ramallah, or they were wise enough to realize that Ramallah wasn't going to budge and so they petitioned the Israelis to send in fuel urgently...and we did. The other side of the crisis - ignored again.

Oh, and we didn't open any non-existent dams towards Gaza either...

But getting back to my point - there are those who complained that Israel didn't declare a state of emergency - and I responded that "state of emergency" is an American term. Israelis do, and that's what they did - they sent in the most talented search and rescue team in the world - our very own and they came with smiles and love (and a bunch of cameras to take pictures of the snow to show their families). They evacuated people, acted as ambulance drivers. They moved snow, removed cars. They cleared pathways and showed their dedication hour after hour until the tide had turned and Jerusalem felt like it was back in control.

And now, people see the mountains of snow slowly melting on the sides of the street and smile.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gaza and Their Dam Lies

I keep thinking that someone will look at this and get a real laugh. Oh, not for the tragedy of three people dying and 5,000 being evacuated...but about blaming Israel for the worst storm of the century and saying we opened the dams.

We didn't. We really didn't. And we didn't - because the damn dams, damn well don't exist. That's right...there are no dams that we dammed up...in fact, if I'm not mistake, there are no dams at all between Israel and Gaza...and, if there are any rivers that flow into Gaza, well, by the time they get anywhere near Gaza, they're more of a tiny, tiny, tiny stream than anything that anyone would ever call a river.

Excuse the vulgarity, but his point remains...there's not a lot of water here unless it falls suddenly from the skies and while we appreciate the Gazans recognizing that Israel has a special connection with God, I really don't think they can blame us for this one.

Of course, if they spent a fraction of the money they receive from the United Nations and European Union on...can you imagine...infrastructure, well, Gaza still would have flooded - we got a lot of rain and snow, folks, but it would have been better. 

On the flip side, we could make them an offer - we sent military vehicles into Jerusalem to save people...we could do the same in Gaza and really clean the place up.

By the way - in their desperation, Gaza asked the Palestinian Authority to send them fuel. The answer from Ramallah was that you have an open bill and when you pay that, we'll send more, and so it was Israel that the UN turned to - and Israel that sent in truckloads of fuel to help the Gazans heat their homes during the latest storm.

And, from what I understand, they thanked us by launching a couple of rockets at us.

I wish, just once, if they were going to accuse us of something, that it was at least halfway credible (hat tip to George on this one).

Those damn dams don't exist.



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jerusalem invaded by APCs...to save lives





In a place which sees snow once a year, usually a dusting or at most a few inches - complete havoc rained down...or should I say snowed down on Jerusalem over the last three days...in some areas, up to a meter.

On Friday, Davidi volunteered for the local ambulance squad. When he came home, I asked if they'd gone into Jerusalem - they tried, but as they were attempting to drive up a hill into an Arab neighborhood, the ambulance couldn't handle the steep incline and was sliding down to the bottom. They radioed in that they couldn't make it up the hill, even with the chains they had stopped to put on the tires.

They were ordered back to Maale Adumim where thankfully, it was quiet and he made it back before Shabbat. In the hour or so before candlelighting, he walked around the house with his phone in his hand. He was itching to go into Jerusalem to volunteer there and I was adamant that unless he had a way to go in - which meant a four-wheel drive car and driver, he wasn't going.

"MADA [Magen David Adom - the equivalent of the Israel Red Cross/ambulance services] are collapsing," he told me in a voice that showed some surprise. "They've been on for more than 24 hours and they can't get anyone in to relieve them."

"They're asking for volunteers, medics, anyone with a four-wheel drive because they can't use most of the ambulances."

"There are 25 calls waiting; 5 of them for the intensive care ambulances...they can't get to them."

And on it went. I spoke to Elie for a few minutes, "they can fly all over the world, why aren't they sending in Pikud HaOref" - the highly trained search and rescue units that have been working in other areas to save Israeli endangered by the massive storm that was pounding Israel and neighboring countries.

"They're in there," Davidi answered.

By accident and perhaps divine intervention, I made a mistake and made 4 kilo of challah, the sweet bread we eat on Shabbat and so I offered the extra to friends and neighbors because deliveries were limited because most is brought out of Jerusalem in the early Friday morning hours...except this week.

We started the Sabbath hoping to retain power - and we were very lucky that we did. After Shabbat ended - Davidi told me, "they brought nagmashim into Jerusalem.

Many years ago, Elie was trained to drive a nagmash. As he rose to be a commander, he became responsible for directing the nagmashim as the drivers managed the vehicles...I doubt he's ever driven one through a city. I was hoping to find a video - and here is one...yes, for the first time that I know of since 1967, armored personnel carriers are in the streets of Jerusalem.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Things I Miss Because I Live in Israel



When I first moved to Israel, I had a list of things I'd ask people to bring; things I thought I NEEDED to live...they were, I realized over the years, silly things.

I needed onion powder because the onion powder in Israel seems to clump with moisture in a very short period of time.

I still ask people to bring it when they can, use more fresh onions, and occasionally use the Israeli brands. I don't NEED it from America...but it's always nice to have.

I needed tuna...the Israeli brand seemed awful - now they sell the same American brand I used in the States and it's priced pretty reasonably.

I needed American peanut butter...now they sell Skippy here, but I prefer the Israeli brand for cooking (it's healthier and blends better with other ingredients).

I needed...I'm not really sure what else. I loved Entenmann's cakes in America...I still do...but the last time I had it here, I felt this chemical taste and realized that Israeli foods use so much less chemicals.

Time to market is faster here - the market is so much closer and smaller, and so it seems shelf life is shorter.

Whatever the manufacturing reasons, I've learned to bake what I need or buy what I need here.

When we first came, Heinz ketchup was rare and a fortune - we used Osem. After a time, my husband brought me a bottle of Heinz and my kids thought it was too spicy.

I was a fanatic ketchup user in my youth...but truthfully, I don't NEED Heinz...though I still like it.

After 20 years here, I'm left with two things they just don't have here. I can live without both of them...but how I miss them...what I figure is that if the only thing I lack from America comes to these two things, I'm not doing to badly.

I love so much about this country, I can live with the fact that there are two things I had in America that I really can't get (or get enough of) here.

The first is Sunday. Oh, I want a day where I can sleep late and then get up and go traveling. I miss Sundays; I really do.

Sometimes, I steal a day for myself...I go where I want; do what I want.

Considering I've spent the better part of the last three months since my operation not working...I really shouldn't complain, but there's something so wonderful about the concept of a Sunday. Maybe it's the guilt-free part.

And the second thing that has been missing from my life for so long is snow. I love snow. I love rain...but I love snow.

And today...after so many years in Israel, I was like the silliest kid on the train.

I took picture after picture after picture...and the funny part was hearing that same Android click from all over the train.

There are few more beautiful places in the world - than Jerusalem in the snow.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What's new since we last met?

About two years ago, before Elie married, before his beautiful daughter was born, I wrote this on the occasion of his first stint in the Reserves:

(July, 2001)

Next week, he'll be on a base learning; the week after, he'll be in the field shooting. The loud cannons that fire far into the mountains - this time, again, the booms will be his...this time, he'll be back with a new group of soldiers. These are the men he will accompany through the next 15+ years or so of his life, until he reaches the age of 40 (or so, depending on what the army decides in the years that come) and is discharged from the army.

What amazes me is that this same group will meet up each year and share life's phases. Now they are single, or perhaps a few are married...next year, or the year after, or the year after that, more of them will be married and then most and then hopefully all. After that, they will begin showing off pictures of their children and talk of how doing Reserve duty gives them a chance to catch up on their sleep. Their sons and daughters will start to talk and walk and then enter school around the same time. Their sons will reach the age of bar mitzvah while they meet up each year and though 40 may be pushing it, one or two might even have a child married during this time. Lives will develop and be lived - shared each year for a few weeks at a time and maybe an occasional get-together here and there. A barbecue, a family event. This is the way it is in Israel - their "miluim" (Reserve Duty) buddies.

In a very small way, it reminds me of a movie I saw years ago with Alan Alda - "Same Time Next Year," I think it was called. Only there, Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn were having an affair, betraying their families once a year to come together. It was a lovely movie built around a nasty concept. There was nothing right about it - a betrayal of family, of vows. There was nothing holy or honorable. I tried seeing it for the message Hollywood was trying to send, a cute idea, a gimmick, a catchy concept, but never got beyond that sense that despite the lovely relationship they were building, it was wrong. Just wrong. They followed each other through their lives - births of children, school, etc. and with each phase, I felt how wrong it was.

But to follow this to the army connection, the point was that the actors...or the characters they portrayed entered and exited each others lives that one weekend only, quickly catching up on all that had happened. They knew each others lives only through the one's eyes and laughed and showed pictures and then promised to see each other again the following year.
Elie will go off - perhaps not the same time each year, but likely with the same group of guys. That really is where the analogy ends because in his case, the cause will be noble, honorable, just. He goes not to betray but to serve and the relationships he builds starting next week will be deep bonds of friendship between brothers.
So, by now, Elie is on base, in uniform. He'll have met his Reserve duty "brothers" and they'll have asked each other what's new. Some may be engaged; some will say nothing much. For Elie, since his last time with them, a whole world has changed. This time Elie will tell them about little Michal Gavriella, his precious daughter. And somewhere deep in what he'll over the next few days is the reality that what he does, in many ways, he does for her. 

The Blessings of Rain

Each time it rains in Israel, it is a reminder that we live off this land. In a water-starved country, you do not take water for granted and there is a direct link between how much rain we get, where it falls, and how easily we can turn on the taps in our homes. After a bad winter, we can't wash our cars - never with hoses, only with buckets in any event. After a bad winter, we have to minimize how we water our gardens, if we water them at all.

When you soak potatoes - what do you do with the water left in the pot? I take the water and pour it into the garden. When you take a shower and are soaping up your hair, do you close the water? When you brush your teeth, do you leave the water running?

We close the water when we soap our hair and bodies. We close the water while brushing our teeth. We catch precious drops of water and we use them carefully and in the wettest storms as the water drenches through our coats and we are chilled to the bones, we smile and say, "it's really miserable today, thank God."

Today, it is pouring in Jerusalem. Our offices are in a building with a central area made of what I think is shaded plexiglass - it keeps the heat of the sun out, the wet of the rain. When it pours down, the sound of the rain hitting the roof is so loud, so precious.

My daughter just walked into the office, "I'm soaked, thank God," she said.

I love so much about this country - I love how we see the blessings, even in the miserable. It is raining so strong today, delaying the train, making puddles all over...it's cold and damp...thank You, God.

Have you been to Tennessee?

Raising bilingual children is a wonderful experience because you see, in real time, that you are giving them an incredible gift. Language opens doors to other cultures, other people, and more. The thing is...it's important to remember that there is mine and theirs, here and there.

In high school, languages were very important to my parents and so, at one point, I was taking French and Latin - until I realized that I just couldn't handle it and so dropped Latin - after 2 years, my goal (and my parents' goal) was accomplished. To this day, I can take apart words and understand the roots that make the whole to get a better understanding of words that may not be automatically understood.

That's all I ever needed Latin for - mission accomplished. It is not a spoken language, not one that brings me closer to people or cultures alive today.

I started learning French in 7th grade. Into my fifth year of study, I was pretty good at it...but that fifth year defeated me. The school began offering Hebrew and I signed up right away - so instead of Latin and French, I had Hebrew and French.

The problem was, my heart was in the Hebrew and began resenting any efforts I made to continue learning French. Suddenly, it was just so much harder to get my brain to think in French. I so clearly remember the day the French teacher asked a question and thankfully chose someone else to answer. As the other student was answering, I realized that it sounded funny...and then realized that no, it was the silent answer in my head that sounded funny because I had, in my mind, answered the question in Hebrew.

I sat there trying to "fix" my mistake and realized that I couldn't; after 5 years of studying the language, I ordered my brain to think of the word "I" in French...my mind kept saying, "Ani...Ani...Ani" - I in Hebrew. Gone was the word "je" and so much else...

I went home that day and told my mother what she already knew - that I was going to live in Israel, that I needed Hebrew, and that I was dropping French...and I did.

If I am bilingual, it is because I was born in a country where English was spoken, and somehow transplanted my heart at a very young age to a country where Hebrew is the main language. I fight here to learn more Hebrew all the time; and refuse the kindness of many Israelis who offer to speak to me in English. "I didn't come here to speak in English," I tell them. And no matter how many times an Israeli addresses me in English, I'll respond in Hebrew.

"You can speak English," they'll tell me. "Yes, I can," I'll answer back in Hebrew and continue.

My children, the ones born there and the ones born here, are bilingual. They can carry a conversation fluently in both Hebrew and English, read both languages, etc. For most, if not all of them, Hebrew is their mother tongue. Ask them to count a stack of something, they'll do it quietly in Hebrew. They'll fight with each other - in Hebrew...and they'll speak to their parents in English. What they lack is a knowledge of culture - and I'm fine with that.

So, around the Shabbat table this week, we were only three. Amira was with her husband; Elie with his wife. Shmulik was with Naama, but came to visit a few times; Davidi was with the other counselors of his youth group up north, and Aliza was home with us. Three at the table...

During lunch, I said something about a tendency...and she asked, "Have you been to Tennessee?" It took me a second to realize that she had done her best to match the word she'd heard with the words she knows. Apparently, she knows there is a state called Tennessee, but not a concept known as a tendency.

I explained what it was but kept smiling...I don't mind that there are gaps in their knowledge of English - I'm proud that they all are comfortable in both languages but pray they will never make their homes anywhere but here. For me, it's all about living here and having my children and grandchildren here. Language and knowledge of another culture is fine, so long as it is remembered that it is "other" and not ours.

No, the grass is not greener on the other side of the ocean...or, perhaps it is, actually...but it isn't our grass, it isn't our home. I know people who have gone back to live in America - most never really planted both feet here in Israel, others continue to focus on the materialistic things that can be had there. Those who come here and say, "back in America, we did this" and "well, in America everyone always..." are often the first to leave because the reality is that Israel is not America - for the good and the bad...but mostly for the good.

Life is, in many ways, harder here than in the States. I won't deny it. But best isn't always easy. Right doesn't always get handed to you' sometimes you have to work for it, and sometimes you have to work for it.

This morning, Elie did something really hard - he left his wife and infant to do some Reserves duty. It isn't a long stint - only a few days and he'll be back with his family. Schedules were coordinated and he was able to arrange a ride with his commanding officer if he could be at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem early enough. I agreed to drive him and was outside near my car as he approached. I watched him as he walked to my car, back in uniform with a large backpack on his back...pushing a baby stroller.

"You can't take the baby with you," I said as a joke and then saw his wife walking a bit to the side. She's going to spend the night with her mother, lucky that Elie's Reserves duty coincided with her mother visiting Israel. I'm so glad Lauren will be with her mother; that together they'll take care of this adorable little baby...who will never remember that on this night, her father wasn't there...though with another 15 or so years in the army, it's likely at some point, she'll watch her father walk off as her mother watched her husband and I watched my son this morning.

And as I watched him, I thought of Aliza and what she said yesterday. Although my children never have, I've been to Tennessee - it's a beautiful state with magnificent views...but this morning, and every morning - even those in which my sons go off to the army...I'd rather be here, I'd rather they be here - in their country, speaking their language.

Maybe if Elie lived in America, he wouldn't have to go back into the army, giving them weeks of his life every year. Maybe he wouldn't have fought in one war and almost in another...it's a burden a mother carries because I'm the one who brought him here. At some point, I'll accept that even if I brought him, he's the one who chooses to stay.

But this morning, it sits heavy on me...it isn't easy for a new mother to handle an infant alone and in the darkest of hours, having your husband with you is important. My head understands why Elie had to go; my heart wishes life were different here while accepting it as part of the whole.

Nowhere I'd rather be; nowhere I'd rather Elie be...I just wish the burden of it was falling on me...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who killed the light of Chanukah?


Chanukah is the festival of lights, a message of triumph that shouts out that we defeated our enemies enabling the light of our tradition to beat back the darkness. We share this light by placing the menorah in our windows and lighting it night after night. See the miracle? Remember what we did? What God did for us? Remember we are here again in our land...

In my neighborhood, and throughout this land, you can count dozens of menorahs burning in the early evening hours. We counted 70 a few nights ago in a one block area! And thanks to the wonderful emissaries of Chabad, many of the entrances to cities and large intersections feature huge menorahs as well. From north to south, east to west - the country is alive and spreading light.

A few months ago, Palestinians decided to try to occupy E1, a small hill that connects Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, home to a huge police station and not much else...yet. The Palestinian protesters were there for days until the police/government decided the threat to Maale Adumim was enough to have them removed and the courts agreed. Days they were there...while hundreds of Israeli border guards, police, whatever, patrolled, watched, waited.

Despite repeated promises by virtually every Israeli government in the last decade or two, E1 remains largely vacant as Bibi Netanyahu plays his game of cat and mouse with the US, first saying he will build, then canceling.

He needs our votes and it becomes "Me, Bibi. I build."

The US puts pressure and suddenly it's "Me, Bibi. Say what? Where? E1? Huh? Let me look at the map and I'll get back to you on that."

Several years ago, an artist decided to build a menorah using hundreds of candles on the slopes of E1 for all of Maale Adumim residents to see and enjoy. It was lovely...and though that artist recently returned to live in the States, the tradition goes on...

Only, last night, the darkness struck back and defeated the light. At least a bit. Yesterday, Arabs threw stones at a bus; a few days ago, a two year old Jewish child was severely injured when the car in which she was riding was pelted with stones and one struck her in the head. Usually, Israeli police are busy trying to protect us from so much...they patrol the streets, they investigate, they...well, whatever police do...

Israel is a relatively low-crime country but there is still plenty calling for their attention. My husband volunteers for the local police and we were surprised to find out that a large percentage of the Israeli police force is comprised of volunteers who give of their time to patrol, to watch, and often to catch those who would violate the law and endanger Israelis. I'm so proud of him and of the police in general...well, usually.

Yesterday, apparently, the brave police of Israel took on and defeated what they considered a threat...it was, or would have been, this year's giant menorah lit on a hill about 3 kilometers outside of Jerusalem. It was made of small candles, 450 I remember reading...it was to send a message of brightness to the people who live across the highway, to send a reminder that we are here again, in our land, to those who pass on the road below. Palestinians could remain on E1 for days; a few hundred candles couldn't be allowed even for a few hours...how ironic, how sad.

Apparently, this wonder of light posed a threat to the security of our nation; it would shake the foundation of our society, I suppose. And so, within 30 minutes of it being lit, police quickly and bravely mounted an operation to extinguish the light from this menorah. This video is brilliant...watch the young people, the children as they diligently work to bring light to E1...and watch from the distance, as that light was extinguished...

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