Friday, January 31, 2014

170,000 Rockets Aimed At Us?

According to Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, IDF Military Intelligence Chief:
Some 170,000 rockets and missiles are threatening the State of Israel from all regions. Up until recently, the number was much greater and it has decreased, but it will go up again.
They are much more precise and a lot more lethal. The most significant thing we would like to point out is the fact that the enemy has the capability to land mass amounts of arms on Israeli cities.
That's a heck of a lot of rockets, let me tell you.

The Brig. General went on to explain that about 100,000 of them are being stockpiled in Lebanon under the control of Hezbollah, Iran's little puppet. The rest presumably are being held by Hamas.

Apparently, the Reuters journalist was stupid enough to ask for clarification and more information (it reminds me of the Indonesia "journalist" Faisal, who wrote to me during the Cast Lead war wanting information about my son, his unit, his job in the IDF), which Kochavi kindly denied.

My mind crashes at the image of a massive missile launch suddenly and without warning unleashed against Israel. Sure, the IDF jets will scramble and Iron Dome will take down a few, but I think we all know that if such a thing were to happen, the initial casualties would be ...yeah, I'm a writer and I can't get myself to write that next word, so I'll leave it to you to fill in the blank.
So, knowing this, what should we do?

Protest to the UN? Seriously? Expect help from Obama? Yeah, not. Begin a war? No, that might set them back a few months, but the threat remains in the long term. If necessary, we may do that, as we did in Jenin and Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Defense and so many other times.

But...

So, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to live my life here in the country of my choice, though not the country of my birth. I'm going to put my trust in God and country, or perhaps God and military.

I'm going to believe that God will steer those missiles to the open fields that seem to be a constant landing ground. During the Iran-Iraq war, 40 SCUD missiles were fired at Iran with a death toll of upwards of 2,000 people. During the Desert Storm war, 39 rockets were fired into Israeli cities, with a death toll of 1...the man had a heart attack. Sure, we had massive damage - but to buildings. If you don't believe in God, well, never mind...I believe in God and I believe He stands between us and our enemies every minute of every hour of every day.

So today, Thursday, I'm going to make my shopping list and go buy things I need to make sushi for 70 people, challah for my family, another family, and a bit for the rehabilitation center nearby. I hope I'll do some of the cooking; I'll definitely straighten the house, do laundry, and add more posts to a personal website that got smashed months ago and I've finally managed to bring back online.

I'll see my granddaughter later today, and hopefully my grandson too. I'll talk to or see each of my children, I hope, and I'll change the sheets and manage to do that load of towels that keeps getting pushed aside because everyone needs THEIR laundry done now.

In short, I'll live this moment and the next with total disregard to those 170,000 rockets because I may have 170,000 reasons to be afraid, but I have a million reasons to be grateful and proud.

It's Thursday in Israel. Shabbat is coming. Each week, it is like a massive umbrella comes down, a cone of silence like from that ancient TV show. Go away, we tell the world...nicely, but go away. We can deal with you on Sunday through Friday because we don't have to deal with you today.

And yes, we'll tell those 170,000 rockets that we aren't going to worry about you today. Today, we will live our lives to the fullest, make the most of who we are and what we are. And the greatest secret of all is that we will do the same thing tomorrow, and the day after that.

We know that those rockets will have to be taken care of...and they will be. In any manner of ways. Perhaps a suspicious explosion. Perhaps a computer virus that reprograms their directional signals. Perhaps some other technical glitch, the marvel of our soldiers and the greatest of minds.

Perhaps there will be a war...perhaps only an operation. Whatever will be, as that old song goes, will be. The future and all that...

But as a citizen of Israel, all I can do is live my life today, marvel at the sun, hope the chicken will be on sale, and hope the avocados for the sushi will be ripe.

May the God of Israel watch over us, our sons and daughters who guard our borders, our military intelligence leaders who watch those 170,000 rockets.

Shabbat shalom from the blessed land of Israel.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

When Your Son Becomes a Father

I guess somewhere in my brain, I knew that as my children got older, they would marry and I'm blessed that three of them have. I guess that somewhere in my brain, I knew that my children would have children, and I'm blessed that two of them have.

It is amazing to watch your daughter become a mother; your son to become a a father. I think they will both be better parents than I ever was, though I know I tried and continue to try so hard to live up to the image of the mother I want them to remember.

Elie came here the other day and told me the cutest story. From a young man who talks more of the harder things in life, this was so special. They need to get little Michal a US passport so that she can fly with them to visit Lauren's family. So while Lauren was at work, Elie was going to go to the photo shop and print out passport pictures and get the process started.

Only, the photo shop's machine broke down minutes before Elie got there and there's only one place in our mall that does this. Unsure what to do, Elie went to the Ministry of Interior office - yes, right there in the mall and learned something. They do pictures...but not for babies.

Except, Michal was so cute and Elie really wanted to get it done, so the women decided to try. After you take the picture, the computer rates whether or not the picture is "good" enough to pass. Two women tried to make sure smile and get the picture right. This is the image in my mind - these women and Elie playing with a baby. They couldn't get enough of her.

Finally, after getting two "14"s - when you need a 15, one of the women went to the supervisor and told him - enough, give this one your signature, and he did.

There are other images lately - of Elie adeptly changing Michal's diaper, of him picking her up with two hands under her arms and holding her at eye level and saying to her and her alone, "Abba love you!"

I am blessed to have children, a son and daughter-in-law, a daughter and son-in-law, who are amazing parents. I don't think I was ever as patient, as calm, as knowledgeable as they are.

When your son becomes a father, when your daughter becomes a mother - the gift they give to you is perhaps among the most precious in the world. They tell you that no matter what you did or didn't do as a parent - they came out not just alright, but amazing.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Yesterday's Ashes, Today's Crime

Sometimes when you read a news article, it has the power to stab you right in the heart. I saw the headlines, "Majdanek Museum Employee Charged with Anti-Semitism." My first problem with this dates back over 10 years, to when I visited both Majdanek (Maidanek) and Auschwitz. These are NOT museums, people, these are/were death camps, concentration camps. These show the worst of humanity, then and now.

They took us to Majdanek first, a short time after we had arrived in Poland. I had already asked the Israeli guides why so much of what we were seeing had not been moved to Israel. The graves that were desecrated...not back then, but now.

First, before Majdanek, I saw this gravestone and I asked, "why haven't we moved this cemetery to Israel?" The guides didn't answer my question, but I left it alone. I was a parent and was supposed to know the answers.

The guides were there for our daughters - it was all about the daughters. I was there to help Amira and other girls; other parents did the same. In one place, the guides came over and said we were in a miserable little village where they hated Jews and were as likely to throw something at the girls as yell at them.

"Walk on the outside," I was told by the guides and so the parents formed a border and as the girls talked with each other and moved forward, we watched on the sides - this was Poland to me...this, and the shattered gravestones.

And then we got to Majdanek - which is the easiest of concentration camps to understand because unlike the others, Majdanek was abandoned by the Germans - perhaps it was too small and they couldn't kill enough people fast enough. I don't remember the reasons - only that it was abandoned whole and remains to this day. Little is left to the imagination. If you want to see a gas chamber...this is where you go.

And as we approached the Har Effer...I realized that I didn't know what "effer" meant. Har means mountain...effer? I asked Amira - we were walking closer and closer to this spaceship type of building. It took her a moment to think of the English word..."ashes."

Mountain....Mountain of...Mountain of Ashes? I thought to myself in horror - no, it couldn't be. No way - it is symbolic, right? Please God, let it be symbolic...it wasn't. It isn't. Once inside the "spaceship" - I faced a mountain of human ashes. And this time, I didn't ask the Israeli guides why Israel had allowed these remains to stay there in Europe, "if we took it all home," I said to one of them, "there isn't enough room in all of Israel, is there?"

He smiled the saddest of smile at the greatest of truths. We could fill the land of Israel with the bones and ashes and gravestones of 6 million and still it wouldn't be enough. Majdanek remains in my heart - my first experience with a death camp, a gas chamber, crematoria...and the ashes, so many ashes.

According to the article, a man who worked at the camp for 20 years, has been arrested for distributing anti-Semitic posters...and it only gets worse. He used the facilities at Majdanek to print some of them.

Each time I read a story like this one, I find I have nothing to say to the Poles, to Europe in general. Each time, I want to turn to the Jews - there in Poland still, those in France, and even England. Get. Out. Now.

Why. Why. Why. Why do you stay there? How can you live in the shadows of these camps and the people who still live there, still hate you?

In the distance, just behind Majdanek, there are houses. What bothered me when I visited, what bothered me now - were not the old houses. If you love where you live and someone comes and builds a concentration camp next to your home, maybe you could remember a time before...but who in their right mind builds new houses next to a concentration camp? Who buys these homes? Who stands in their backyard, in the shadow of these death camps and makes a barbecue?

I could imagine, then and now, through my tears, the Poles giving directions to their guests, "yeah, go straight, go straight, and hang a left right after the concentration camp."

Then, as now, there is a fury in side of me. "We're shocked by these revelations," said a spokeswoman for the museum. And that infuriates me even more. This has been going on since 2010...but maybe, really, this has been going on since 1939. Or maybe, really, this has been going on since 1920 when my grandfather fled Poland for America.

Or maybe, really...never mind. Poland is not the home of the Jews anymore. Let them do what they want. Butcher us, kill us once - shame on you. If we allow this to go on, shame on us.

Jews of Poland...Get. Out. Now.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It Will Be Okay


I'll start by explaining that in Israel, a common phrase is "yehiye b'seder" - it will be okay. Israelis say this all the time - sometimes sarcastically, sometimes seriously. Yehiye b'seder.

It's 10:30 p.m. in Israel and I know where my children are.For those of you who don't get the reference - years ago (do they still?), there was an announcement every night at 10:00 p.m. saying, "It's 10:00 p.m. Do you know where your children are?"

For the last 3 hours, I didn't know where Aliza was...actually, a bit less - perhaps 2.5 hours. She went to a new friend about an hour plus away in a Jewish community called Kiryat Arba...which is also Hebron. The buses that go there are bulletproof - and they need to be. Often, Arabs stone the buses; sometimes they throw firebombs.

More often than not, the bus travels the route in complete safety...just once in a while...

Since Aliza has never traveled this route before, she went with an older girl from our neighborhood (courtesy of a dear friend's daughter who made the arrangements). Saturday night, another girl from our neighborhood was supposed to get on the bus at one place; a bit later, Aliza was supposed to get on, and together make their way home.

Except...

Aliza's phone battery went dead. She got on the bus, but the older girl wasn't there. So Aliza got off the bus. She borrowed someone's phone to tell me that she had gotten on and gotten off...by the time I called that number back, Aliza was not with that woman anymore. I was too frantic to ask enough questions. The girl she was supposed to meet got on the next bus; Aliza wasn't there.

My friend's daughter had a car and went driving around; she met up with Aliza's friend and together they searched the bus stops in Kiryat Arba. We all figured Aliza had gotten on a bus to Jerusalem, just not the same bus as the older girl.

I was left unable to reach her, unsure of where she was. I knew that if she got on a bus to Jerusalem, she would know to stay on until the end of the trip, when it arrived at the Central Bus Station. What I wasn't sure about was whether Aliza knew how to get from Jerusalem to Maale Adumim.

The thought that kept going through my mind was that she had no phone to call us or anyone else. I pictured her alone and frightened. She told me she didn't love the idea of traveling at night. Unsure what to do, Elie and I drove to the Central Bus Station; I could barely speak.

When we got there, Elie went to check incoming buses while I found a place to park the car. I walked to the Central Bus Station, desperately hoping he would call to say he found her.

I called him as I went in the entrance where long-distance buses arrive. Elie walked to meet me. We agreed that he would go to where the Maale Adumim bus leaves Jerusalem while I watched incoming buses. Twice, buses came in from Kiryat Arba and I watched as people got off. Both times, I asked the bus drivers if they had seen a young girl get on the bus and get off. The first said he didn't remember.

The second didn't think so but when he saw how upset I was, he said, "it will be okay; don't worry." I could barely talk to him because my throat was clogged with tears and fears. I asked him what time he had left Kiryat Arba. 8:00 p.m. - the other bus had left at 7:40 p.m. "Yehiye b'seder," he said again. I just nodded, unable to speak.

As near as I can figure, Aliza caught the bus right before these two. By the time we arrived at the Central Bus Station, she had already left to walk to the Maale Adumim bus line. By the time Elie got there, she had already caught the bus home.

For the next 35 minutes or so, while Elie walked back and forth and while I  waited and worried, she was riding the bus to our home. Mostly, I tried to block all the terrible thoughts out because logically, she was either safe in Kiryat Arba, or safe in Jerusalem. Through it all, I had no feeling that anything had happened and mostly, I think I was afraid of her being afraid.


Shortly after 9:30, my husband called to tell me that Aliza had arrived home.
She didn't cry once...I cried enough tears for both of us. But there is a huge difference between being scared and being terrified; about being afraid your child is upset, and being afraid your child is being hurt.

Not for a single moment did I fear she had been kidnapped. Not for a second did I experience the paralyzing fear a parent must have in other countries. All along, my greatest fear was that she was lost somewhere and afraid and without a phone, I didn't know how to get to her.

I can't begin to explain how much I appreciated a perfect stranger - the bus driver - assuring me that she was fine and all would be well. And it is...she had a great time; enjoyed the visit with her friend's family. She liked the food (but likes mine better). The challah that her friend's mother made was delicious (but mine is better, she told me). She met friends; walked around, had a very nice time.

"I should have called," she said when we talked about the evening. But I assured her that she did great. She got herself home; and she did call once. She had no idea that I was so concerned. She also knows, deep down, that I'd have gone to the end of the world for her.

I can't be upset about this evening because it couldn't have ended better than it did...it's 11:00 p.m. and I know where my children are. Amira is with her husband and her son; Elie is with his wife and daughter. By now, Shmulik is back home with his wife and Davidi is at his dorm in Jerusalem and Aliza...Aliza is going to bed in her room, knowing that we love her so very much.

It will be okay, it is okay. It is a national saying, a promise, if you will. Yehiye b'seder.




Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Third Target

According to Israel National News, Israel's intelligence agencies and security forces nabbed a terrorist cell operating in East Jerusalem - that's a politically correct way of saying Arabs.

So, as I read an article detailing what the terror cell had planned, I could feel my heart coming to a complete standstill. Yes, that's figuratively speaking...at least mostly.

From other sources, I had heard there were two potential targets...turns out, there were three. Three targets...and I've been in each...

The first was Binyan HaUma - the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. I have hosted four of our eight annual conferences (MEGAComm) there in the last decade bringing hundreds of hi-tech professionals from all over Israel and international guests from the United States, England, and Belgium. I have attended perhaps a dozen weddings there and twice attended The President's Conference. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people could be there on any given day. I have a neighbor who works there daily; the bus to Maale Adumim starts from right outside. It is roughly the equivalent of Madison Square Gardens, if you are familiar with New York City, the Louvre for Paris. It's simply huge. You know how sometimes you joke something off even though it is very serious. I did that yesterday when I wrote - good thing we scheduled the upcoming MEGAComm conference at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel this year. It was a joke - the potential of the tragedy pushed aside simply by my inability to grasp the possibility. Guards are there at the entrances and during huge events, metal detectors and additional security is brought in.

The second target was the US Embassy in Tel Aviv - I have been there too. It is beautifully situated very close to the Mediterranean Sea, a fortress of security. You can't even take your phone in there. To visit is to go radio-silent and the security to enter is incredibly impressive. I can't imagine how these terrorists thought they'd be able to penetrate it but certainly catching them before the attack is better than after. We don't want a Benghazi here...though of course, that wouldn't happen because unlike what happened in Libya, the host country's armed forces, our army and police, would have worked to save the Americans and any mob outside would be doing the same, not burning American flags. Nevertheless, that joker in me got me to post asking Obama to thank us.

So, overall as a philosophy of life, I go with the theory that it is better to laugh than to cry; better to shake off fear and live for the day. I did that yesterday with the first two attack targets because they are so far-fetched, so out of this world that I can't see how they would succeed. No images of tragedy fill my mind - just a void buffered by disbelief...yeah, no. They would never have succeeded. Both places are secured and ready for such an attack.

The third target stopped my heart for two reasons - first, because the third target was me and so much of what I love in this world. Second, because I can see part of it happening. From the moment I heard about it, my mind has filled with the images of it happening...
Israel National News report: According to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), one of the plans was to carry out a suicide attack on a bus traveling from Jerusalem to Maaleh Adumim.

That attack would have involved firing at the bus's tires first, in order to cause it to overturn. Then the terrorist was to murder the bus's occupants at close range and await rescue forces, whom he would also fire at.
On any given day - at least two of my children are taking these buses; both my daughters-in-law, my son-in-law travel this route daily. Some days, three and even four of my children are taking these buses, sometimes Lazer, sometimes me. Even Aliza, at 14 has been known to go into Jerusalem and return on the buses with friends.

In a broader picture, hundreds and even thousands of my friends and neighbors ride the buses. They come regularly, stop in convenient places...buses in Israel are an essential and fundamental means of transportation for the majority of people who live in Israel, and Maale Adumim is no different.

My first thought was that of all the targets, this would have been the most difficult to defend against. We do have buses to some places that are bullet proof - currently, the Maale Adumim buses are not. I'm not giving any secrets away here - you can easily tell which buses are protected and which are not.

I've walked around today, several times coming to tears at the thought of terrorists targeting any bus in Israel, but yes, "my" buses too. I've always had an excellent imagination - it's why I don't watch horror movies. I can see the bus traveling; I can imagine the tires being shot out there in the open. I've watched it in my mind, swerve into the divider and come to a stop, only to be fired upon. The images keep coming in my mind.

I told Amira about the third target and there were tears in my eyes. How amazing it is to have a daughter so filled with what we call emunah - faith. "It will be okay," she assured me with a hug.

The fact is, we have amazing intelligence agencies - they caught them before the attack, remember? It didn't happen. It could have, but it didn't. I was holding on to that thought...trying to find comfort in it, when I spoke to Elie, he too had not heard of the third target. His response came from the soldier, "that's why there are people carrying guns."

Reality - the chances of gunman shooting out the tires is there. Yes, they might succeed. But there are several additional factors - first the buses all have double tires - 8 instead of 4. Yes, terrorists could shoot out the tires on a bus...but most likely, the bus could continue - the scenario of my mind - the stopped bus being shelled mercilessly is just not realistic.

And another reality in Israel, almost always, there are people on board - like Elie - who are armed. As others would drop to the floor at the first warning that there was trouble, the armed and trained among them would rush to defend.

And as I begin to think with my brain, my heart begins to fight back. How stupid do these terrorists think our rescue forces are? Do they really think they would rush in without anticipating that the attackers were hoping to kill others? Do they expect those on the bus to just sit there and not do all they can to get away?

I like Amira's reaction...I like Elie's reaction.

I'll find my calm and push the image, Hollywood like, of a bus careening off to disaster after its tires have been shot out away - the bus would never stop, those on board would be protected. Within minutes, the army would swarm in....surround, disarm, capture or kill the attackers.

For all their glorious planning, they didn't even manage to get out the front door. Stopped in the tracks before they even got to pointing a weapon...not at the largest gathering point in Jerusalem, not at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, and not at the buses that travel to and from my home daily.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reflections from the Past and the More Distant Past

I had visitors today - and in the back of my mind was another who wasn't here. In my last years in the States, I had a job I loved - it was fun mostly because my boss was someone who seemed so balanced, able to handle stress as it came. He married a most amazing woman..the daughter of a former boss who in less than a year, found a permanent place in my heart.

So, I managed an office for a doctor who by all that's normal in this world, should have been overwhelmed by his patients and their problems - but he never was. Somehow, each day it seemed we came into the office and left as relatively normal people.

I won't write down the stories of the patients - I have guarded their names through the years, though I've occasionally shared pieces of what I experienced over that time. Working in a psychiatrists office is an experience, let me tell you.

So the Dr. and his wife came to visit with two of their three daughters. At one point, the Dr (no, I don't call him doctor, but he's the only person I ever met with his specific first name and her's is not very common as well, so if I were to write their names, well, it's not my right...so, with apologies - Dr. and Mrs. H...at one point the Dr. asked me if I was famous because of the blog...that was kind of funny because no, I'm not - but it's fun when occasionally someone recognizes me or says something like "oh, YOU'RE a soldier's mother?"

The more important question he asked was if I was happy here - there are no words to describe how much I love it. I can only hope it comes out in each word I write.

Elie and Davidi were here. It was nice to catch up - we've seen them only once in the 20 years since we moved to Israel. Two daughters will be studying in Israel - we offered to adopt them - Aliza will be so grateful to have some girls in the house for a change (not that she doesn't love Yaakov and Chaim, of course).

After some shmoozing, I took them for a trip around Maale Adumim, showing off the lake that by all that is normal, no one would build in the desert. I looked at it through their eyes, or imagined what they were seeing and for the first time realized how tiny it is...it's more of a puddle than a lake. For one thing, I'm usually driving and rarely go down that side of the road; for another, if I'm down there, it's usually in the evening and getting dark.

Perhaps in another world, they would call it, begrudgingly, a pond - but here, it is a lake. How pretentious it is, I thought to myself, that we call it a lake and yet...it is, you see, that very thing. It represents a dream - see, look at us. We Israelis can even build a lake in a desert!

I showed them the new music conservatory - yes, that too is pretentious, and the library...and the statue of two peace doves - the water fountain was being fixed...I didn't even get a chance to show them the museum...what an amazing city I live in!

I talked and talked - and kept thinking I wanted to hear about them and I should have asked more.

I didn't get a chance to tell them that in a few weeks, Davidi is going to Poland. Actually, the Dr. said he reads the blog, so I guess they know that. There was a story that I shared with them - I think I've shared it before here, but I'll write it again  now.

Years ago, I worked for an amazing man, kind, sweet, so intelligent. He is the Dr.s father-in-law but I worked for him...he was a Dr. too, so I'll call him Dr. G. - I worked for Dr. G. for a bit over a year...mabye even close to two, I don't remember. Dr. G. is the one who suggested I work for his son-in-law after I had to give up the job with him. It was a brutal commute  by car to the train to the bus to another bus or a walk across town only to do it again in reverse to get home...almost 2 hours door to door. I loved the job, but the cost of daycare and commuting overwhelmed me.

During the time I worked for him, Dr. G. took a trip to Poland. On the one hand, it was to join the March of the Living; on the other, it was to return to Poland after having left it after the war ended. We talked about Poland a bit before, a bit after the trip. He was so sad when he returned. I didn't know then, as I know now, that going there changes you, fills you with such despair.

In one conversation, Dr. G. described what it was like to live in Poland before the war, before the Holocaust. I listened and with the arrogance of ignorance, told him I didn't understand. The Jews of Poland, explained Dr. G., would lower their heads as they walked past non-Jews; if they were on the sidewalk, they would step in the gutter to allow the Poles to pass.

Why? I thought...and asked. I would and do step into the street to allow the elderly, the handicapped, someone with a baby carriage, etc. to pass...but to do this on the basis of religion? Never, not me.

Why, I asked, Dr. G. and he looked at me for a moment. I don't remember his exact words. I wish I did. What I do remember was the pause before he spoke. That silence said so much. The essence of his answer was that to live in Poland as a Jew meant yielding, meant stepping in the street, bowing one's head.

"I'd be dead," I blurted out with an honesty I now regret. I who had never known the kind of hatred this man I so respected had lived through had no right to speak, no right to assume that in his situation I would have done differently.

"I don't know how to do that, how to act that way," I tried to explain.

That memory has lived with me all these years...I have raised my children to not know how...more, to believe that there is no reason in this world why they should ever bow to another. They are proud Jews, proud Israelis. My children have grown up in a country that they own - their land, their government. They rule - we rule. It is our responsibility to ensure that we rule justly -and we do.

Last week, a Palestinian fired five rockets at Ashkelon in the middle of the night. Today, Israel targeted him as he rode a motorcycle in Gaza...Israeli justice, delivered swiftly.

In a few weeks, Davidi goes to Poland. I have to tell him this story, of a time when proud Jews were forced to bow...in order to survive so that he could live in a land where we do not.

I have to tell him thathe lives in a country where we raise our children to stand tall...and somehow, I have to teach him to understand that those who once lived such a life did so because there was no Israel to rescue them, no place where they could go.

We picked out a camera for Davidi to take with him...the unspoken message is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Once, you go there to see what there once was, to pay respect to those who live no longer. Once, you go there to try to understand how we once lived and perhaps most of all, to come home to Israel and celebrate how we live now. Once and perhaps only once and then you leave it behind you. Poland is not the future for young Jews.


In many ways, the best part of the trip to Poland is not what you see, and the heartache you are forced to endure. The best part is coming home to the sunshine of Israel. From one of the lowest points in our history to one of the highest points...that is where Davidi will go...and I did with as with Shmulik, I hope to get up at the crack of dawn and meet him at the Western Wall to welcome him home.

I long for that day...because I know that this journey through history will be so hard...like Elie and Shmulik, Davidi was never taught to bow, to bend.

On the bright side, for now, it was so wonderful to sit with these friends of ours...I loved seeing them, their beautiful daughters and I hope that we will maintain the connection (and that I'll be better at answering emails!).

I loved showing them Maale Adumim and even the lake that is so small...because like much of what I learned from Dr. G, the lake, like Israel itself is a monument to determination.

And one more thing...if Dr. G sees this - I send my love. You taught me much and you hold a special place in my heart - always.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ariel Sharon's Funeral

Ariel Sharon's will begin in less than 15 minutes. The news will tell you who will be there, what they will say. I didn't think I'd watch it but as it turns out, I will. When I think of his family, I'm sad for them. For all that he was, his sons lost their father and their children lost a grandfather. On a national level, Sharon has been asleep and largely irrelevant for the last 8 years.

But there is an interesting side issue here. I'd forgotten about it until I saw mention of it in Israel's major news sites. During Cast Lead and again during Operation Pillar of Defense - both times when Elie was in "open fields" and I listened to where every rocket fell, I remember now hearing that some had fallen on Sharon's ranch.

Ariel Sharon's home and his final resting place is within rocket fire from Gaza. In effect, his great idea to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza and destroy the Jewish communities there, endangered over one million Israelis - in Beersheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon. Add in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv - both of which were hit during Operation Pillar of Defense, and you up that to at least 2 million. It also endangered his own home.

Israel has issued a stern warning to Gaza - not today, of all days. Don't you dare fire rockets towards this area. Thousands will gather there - members of our government and international guests, the Vice President of the United States, Chief of Staff of the Israeli army...all within rocket fire. I wonder how many eyes will look to the skies and wonder.

For now, as they wait for the guests to take their seats and for Ariel Sharon's casket to arrive, I watch pictures of the crowd - of Tony Blair laughing with others; of Knesset members on their phones looking busy. Of the Chief of Staff walking over and speaking his soldiers.

The news points out how beautiful the area is, Sharon's ranch and the area around it. The screen is divided - showing the honor guard - the casket and police guards as they arrive for the funeral.

The public has been invited - Ariel Sharon's final ceremony will be a national happening. The skies are the deepest of blue with a few clouds here and there...

What will they do if the Color Red siren is sounded indicating an incoming missile? Where will they hide? The people there will try not to think of it...the army will think of nothing else.

The irony of it all is that while Sharon claimed to be concerned with the security of Israel above all else, his funeral takes place under the shadow of Gaza's rockets. It is fitting, is it not? To be fair, we lived under this shadow before Sharon took office, before he betrayed our votes and decided to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza - but still, the shadow is that much larger, the missiles that much closer.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Long Term Effects of War on Military Moms

Well, that title is a bit pretentious when what I was aiming for was something else.

Of all my posts - I think one of my favorites came out of the Gaza War. It's called Scatterbrained...just Scatterbrained. I was trying to act so normal; trying to let everyone think that I was handling everything calmly. I decided to bake a cake on a Friday morning...as I do many weeks of the year...could life be any calmer than that?

I got through the first one...thinking here I was doing just fine. So what if my oldest son was in the middle of a war zone and I was terrified every single second of the day and night? So what if I hadn't slept in days? If I would regularly go in the bathroom and cry? I was handling it - proof was in the cake, right?

I got the first cake into the oven and decided to go for a second...that was when I realized that I hadn't quite succeeded nearly as well as I had thought with the first cake.

As for the long-term effects - I'm proud to say that since that day 5 years ago, I've baked a lot of cakes and brownies and managed quite well. Elie successfully finished the army, as did Shmulik; they both married very well and all is good...

So, if there is a lesson to be learned from this, I guess it's that even brains scrambled by worry...do get unscrambled.

I'd love you to read the post - but more, I'd like you to please read the comments...I did - every one of them...several times. They helped me through so much.

More, as I read the post again, I can hear the hysteria...I'm attempting to be normal...but it just isn't there. I like to think if I were put in the same situation today that I'd handle it better...but I really don't think I would.

From January, 2009 - Scatterbrained...just Scatterbrained.
I went into my bomb shelter - where I keep my pots and pans and mixing bowls. I'm making vanilla cake muffins with pineapple. I looked at the stack. The white or the yellow bowl? Definitely the yellow. I took the white one to the table and began mixing the cake.

All done. I made 24 little muffins, each with a bit of pineapple in it, and put them into the oven. When they are finished, I'll continue making more. Maybe I'll make brownies. Good idea. Well, the white bowl still has batter in it, so I got the yellow one. This time, I got it right.

I went to add eggs to the mix. There's already an egg in the cup. That means that instead of adding 6 eggs to the white cake, I added only 5 and left one egg in the cup.

The Funny Side of War?

Five years later, I can laugh about something that nearly broke me back then. I was writing my guts out, trying not to think where Elie was...and trying to forget the huge booms I heard in the background the few times I was able to speak to him on the phone.

In the midst of all of this, I was contacted by some journalists. I don't know whether my blog appearing in The Guardian and the New York Times came before or after these contacts. Only later did I find out that these newspapers had found my blog and quoted a small section. It was enough to send my daily visits above 10,000 per day...but not enough, for me to notice.

I was focused on getting through each day; trying to keep Elie's brothers and sisters from understanding that I was terrified. So, I spoke to a journalist from Italy, and another from Korea. And then I got an email with a request from a journalist in Indonesia name Faisal.

I didn't trust him - rightly so. And so I suggested that he send me his questions and I would answer them. That way, I thought, it would be documented and he couldn't edit or censor it without my having proof of the context in which I placed my words.

His questions were hilarious...and so I decided to answer them on MY blog rather than in his newspaper. At one point I asked him how stupid he thought I was. I wrote the post here:

Journalist Uncovered - Liar Exposed

What I should have done in the first place, was to search for Faisal Assegaf. Then, I would have come to his blog, Hamas Lovers. He claimed that he picked the name to attract attention. Whatever his reasons, it appears then and now, he makes a policy of stealing pictures from other sites and doesn't easily understand the concept of copyright infringement.

When I found his blog, I was shocked to see a picture of Elie there. I lost it, plain and simple. I threatened to sue him for international copyright infringement and in an email I sent him - I think I also threatened to sue his newspaper, his city and maybe even his country. It's kind of a blur. I gave him 24 hours...amazingly enough, Elie's picture was down within 5 minutes - later replaced by another picture of another Israeli soldier...and there are others there as well.

Hamas Lovers and Copyright Infringement

Frank McDonald and the Idiocy of Simplicity

Frank McDonald is the Environmental Editor of the Irish Times and apparently lives in Dublin. It seems, being the Environmental Editor means he is an expert on Israel, Gaza, World War II, the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the life and times of Ariel Sharon.

He's also, from what I can tell, an idiot.

McDonald wants to rant about Sharon and how unfair it is for so many to focus on praising Sharon rather than condemning him. One could argue that this has been the norm when someone dies but why bother. I'm not about to praise Sharon here - because despite the many things he did for his country and his people, he also caved in to those like McDonald who had the audacity to judge Israel by one standard and the Palestinians by another.

McDonald thinks it was Israel's responsibility to protect the Palestinians in Lebanon from being murdered by a Lebanese Christian group...I would wonder where McDonald was and why he did nothing to stop the Christian group himself. I would wonder why he never blamed the UN's Multinational Force in Lebanon for withdrawing and not protecting the Palestinian refugee camp.

With all his holier-than-thou judgmental personality, McDonald misses the fine points in just about every one of his arguments.

But his audacity turns to ignorance and stupidity when he dares to compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto...

Several people tried to show McDonald the error of his ways by point out that the Warsaw Ghetto was liquidated and its residents either massacred in the streets of Warsaw or herded into cattle cars and deported to death camps. One person posted pictures of Palestinians at a mall with their latest iPhone 5 purchases. For the record, there were no luxury malls in the Warsaw ghetto, no fancy restaurants and expensive cars. There were no mansions, no pools and they sure as heck didn't have miles and miles of sandy beaches.

But there are none so blind as those bent on spreading hatred and clearly Frank McDonald is that. Rather than admit his ignorance, he compounds his idiotic remark with a defense...attempted defense...nope, not even that.

Oh, wonderful..."an Israeli guy" said something stupid...therefore, McDonald's idiotic comparison must be fact and Sharon and Israel are elevated to the level of Nazi Germany? Seriously?

For the record, "some Israeli guy" is Dov Weisglass, advisor to several Israeli leaders, who has denied the comment and the only place where this quote can be found is on anti-Israel sites. An extensive explanation and debunking of this quote can be found here: http://bbcwatch.org/tag/dov-weisglass/
Let's ignore the facts, McDonald. Forget that Dov Weisglass never actually said that. Forget that Israel delivers thousands of tons of food and supplies to Gaza every month...I don't recall the Germans ever doing that in the Warsaw ghetto.

Injured and sick Gazans are regularly admitted to Israeli hospitals for the most advanced medical care in the Middle East...I don't recall the Nazis every doing that in the Warsaw ghetto. 

The Prime Minister of Gaza's own grandchild was brought to Israel for medical care...you want to know what the Germans did to Jewish children?

There were regular roundups in the Warsaw ghetto - where innocent men, women, and children were pulled off the streets, herded into cattle cars and sent to death camps where they were gassed...I know for a fact there are no gas chambers in Gaza (or in Israel); innocent men, women, and children are NOT rounded up and sent to death camps in Gaza.

No residents of the Warsaw ghetto attempted to infiltrate German cities, board German buses to blow them up. Residents of the Warsaw ghetto never fired a rocket or a mortar into a German city.

The comparison of Gaza with the Warsaw is NOT valid. It is an outrage; it is a crime of slander against those who fought courageously in the Warsaw ghetto against Nazi tyranny. It is libel against the Israeli people. It is an insult to the lives and deaths of over 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and over 6 million Jews alive and well in the land of Israel because we protect ourselves against people like McDonald and the lies they spread.

What Frank McDonald said was vile but more it was inaccurate, false and intentionally misleading. If the Irish Times does not fire him, if they continue to keep him as their environmental editor, they are complicit in McDonald's slanted journalism.

But it gets better...

If you do a bit of research into the life and times of Frank McDonald, what you find is that he doesn't like noise...so much so, he apparently hit a woman in the  River House Hotel in Eustace Street because he was "frustrated" about the noise level...now there's a sane man for you.

I'm sure if I was concerned about noise levels in Ireland, or at least Dublin, McDonald would be the first person I'd run to (well, I'd probably try to stay a few feet away from him, just in case), but where the heck this man thinks he has a right to comment on Gaza and Israel and Sharon is beyond me.

Ariel Sharon will remain a complex part of Israeli history. Like any man, like most men, he was good and bad. He made good decisions and bad.

What McDonald did to Sharon is equivalent to my erasing whatever good McDonald might have done as a journalist in favor of referring to him solely as an abuser of women. Oh, and lets be clear. McDonald didn't hit the woman because he was fighting for some great cause, protecting innocents. 

No, he hit her because he lived across from a pub and there was a lot of noise (duh) coming from the pub and he couldn't sleep. So he went there to complain and the woman asked him what he expected, given that it was a night club.

His response was to abuse her. (Journalist hit hotel manager in row over noise)

By contrast, no matter how you feel about Sharon's actions, you cannot say that Israel was unprovoked in its war against Lebanon. The war was a result of numerous terror attacks, an attempted assassination on an Israeli ambassador, and much more. 

We're talking terror and death here, not some noise that stopped someone from sleeping. Lebanon did nothing to stop the Palestinians from using their land as a launching ground against Israel - then or now.

In the midst of that action, longstanding allies of Israel, the Christian Phalangists, did something despicable. One could follow Frank McDonald's pattern and make the following comparison: Just as McDonald allowed his frustration over some noise to spill over into violence, the Phalangists allowed their frustration over numerous massacres and murders by Palestinian militia to spill over into violence as well. In McDonald's case, it was physical abuse; in the Phalangists case, it was a massacre. 

Are they equivalent - McDonald's physical attack of an innocent woman and that of the Phalangists' murder of 800 Palestinians? About as equal as McDonald's comparison of Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto, would be my response. 

And if I'm lucky enough to have McDonald read this and get really angry...I've accomplished my goal.

If McDonald can hold Sharon personally responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon - a massacre that was conducted by Christian Phalangists, not Israelis, than we should be allowed to hold McDonald responsible for the fact that Dublin is considered "Ireland’s crime capital."

As for Sharon, as least his motives were to defend his country - while McDonald just wanted to get some sleep after choosing to live across the street from a night club. I guess it seems so simple to McDonald - go in, rough up a woman and demand that a pub be quiet; or make an outrageous comparison between Gaza and the Warsaw ghetto, completely ignoring the fact that were Gaza to stop attacking Israel, there would be peace and the blockade (that does NOT involve preventing food, supplies and medicine) would be eased.

Yup...the idiocy of simplicity strikes again.



An Obligatory War Remembered....

Tomorrow, Elie goes into the reserves...it's going to be hard for him to leave his baby daughter; harder still for Lauren to handle everything on her own. We'll try to help...but it's still an incredible thing to have your husband go away for days. It's another part of Israeli life - one of the hardest for young couples, young parents to face.

My Twitter feeds are filled with posts from those in Gaza who want us to remember the Gaza War, that five years ago, Israel responded to being hit by hundreds of rockets in a matter of a few weeks. Today, Ariel Sharon died - as much as he fought for Israel bravely and fearlessly, in the end, part of his legacy includes having weakened Israel by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza.

That sent the signal to the Arabs that we could be defeated; that we would accept rockets fired on our major cities. Today, again, a rocket was fired at Israel...they want us to remember, and I do.

I remember the rockets they fired - those that killed Israeli children - a small boy whose parents had tried for over a decade until they were graced with a miracle...Afik Ohayon was 4 years old when he was killed by a rocket fired from Gaza.

Ultimately, the war they want us to remember will never be forgotten by Israel. For me, it was my second real war...but the first in which I had a son fighting. One of the posts I remember most from that time was called An Obligatory War.

Davidi who just turned eighteen, was approaching his 13th birthday, a very important milestone in the life of a Jewish boy. His bar mitzvah was all planned...guests invited...we knew who was coming...all except for his brother. We didn't know until the last minute if Elie would be there or not. The radio was announcing that they expected the war to continue at least another two weeks...but Davidi's birthday was less than a week away.

He finally asked me the question I had been dreading - would Elie be there? I debated how to answer. I could have held off a little longer, but I didn't want to lie. So I told the agonizing truth - I didn't know...and it didn't look good.

Davidi took it is in silence, but what I hadn't counted on was little Aliza. She was 9 years old and thought there was little justice in Elie not coming home. She wanted me to tell them...them being the army, I guess, that Elie just had to be here. I shattered inside as I turned to look at her and words scrambled in my head. Before I could say a word, Davidi answered.

From January 11, 2009... An Obligatory War

There is a concept, in Judaism, of an "obligatory war" (known as melchemet mitzvah, in Hebrew). It means a war that must be fought, one where there is no choice. In Biblical times, the term was used most often in connection with defensive wars, when vital interests were at risk. Some incorrectly refer to this as a "religious war" with undertones of Jihad, but that isn't what the term means at all. There is no glory in death, no martyrdom.

Rather, it refers to a war that we are obligated to fight and as such, no one is exempt from it. Why do I mention this (when in truth, until tonight I'm not sure I ever even heard of the concept)?

I was sitting having dinner with my two youngest children, exhausted from another day of teaching and wondering where Elie was, what he was doing. Listening to news of more and more rockets hitting Ashkelon, Sderot, Ofakim, Ashdod and finally coming home to deal with dinner, questions, a stack of laundry that has to be folded and plans for tomorrow that need to be made.

It was easier to let them talk and remind them, now and again, to finish eating or pass me the ketchup or tell them no, you can't have soda today, but there's apple juice. My daughter finished another book. It's amazing how fast she reads. She told me the story, the whole story, of a mother who walked for hours and hours to get her son medicine. She warned me that it started off bad, even "very bad," but then ended "good."

She was getting ready to tell me another story when my youngest son interrupted. "Will Elie make it to my bar mitzvah?" he asked me. It's funny how he chose today to ask that question. Just this morning, an army officer said that it is very possible the war would last through to the end of the month and his bar mitzvah is before that. For the first time, earlier today, I began to contemplate a bar mitzvah without Elie there. No, I can't call it off. Yes, it will take place whether Elie is there or not and yes, the idea is killing me deep inside.
 You can read the rest of it...and Davidi's answer...here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Eighteen...

By the time I started this blog, Elie was 19, almost 20 years old and about to enter the army. By the time I really introduced Shmulik, he was close to entering the army as well. Somehow, with the lull between Shmulik leaving and Davidi entering, I have more time to share who Davidi is, long before he will enter the army.

He turned 18 this past week (though his English birthday is actually next week), full of school and wanting to start driving lessons and one other major milestone that will change who he is. He is going to Poland in a few weeks. If you've never been there, you can't imagine the impact standing in a gas chamber will have on you. You just can't imagine seeing ashes and ashes, ovens that were used to burn the remains, cemetery after cemetery, and so much more. To go as a Jew to Poland is to focus, for a time, not on those who walk the earth today, but those who are buried beneath it (if they were lucky enough to be buried).

Right before Amira was going into her last year of high school, she told me she wanted to go to Poland. Her school has a policy not to take students out of Israel and so they don't organize a trip to Poland. It was something, this pilgrimage, that was very important to my oldest daughter but she was afraid it would be too much for her and so she asked me to come along, told me she needed me.

What could I do? I went. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done...for many reasons. I left in Israel, tiny Aliza - only 2 and a half years old. Amira's son is now 2 and a half years old and I think Amira now realizes how hard it was for me. I missed the others terribly, but somehow, my arms ached to hold Aliza most of all. My husband was amazingly supportive. I wish, sometimes, I had gone with him. I felt bad crying in front of Amira and had I gone with Lazer, we would have cried together. But his parents were Holocaust survivors; he has no interest in going back to the places where they lost so much.

I dreaded the trip that would take me out of Israel, away from the others.Once I landed in Poland, I realized that it would be impossible for me not to see, not to feel. I had thought I was going to support Amira and yet, in many ways, she supported me. It was a brutal trip, agonizing in so many ways.

As I sat this week, listening to the itinerary of where Davidi will go, my eyes filled with tears. I know the route they will take, the places they will see, and the agonies he will feel. He is supposed to tell them if we had relatives in one of the cities where they will visit. My great-grandmother lived in Cracow with my grandfather's two sisters. They will spend Shabbat there; walk on roads my grandfather once walked. I know only the names but not where they lived. My mother has copies of letters that her grandfather wrote to her father. I'll have to ask her if she has copies of the envelopes...if she has an address. Do I want my Davidi to go there?

When my mother-in-law and father-in-law went back to the small village where my father-in-law had grown up as a child - many years after the war had ended - he was greeted with a knife by the woman who had moved into his father's home. It seems Lazer's father, had lent her some money and she thought his son had come to call in the loan. When my father-in-law explained he only wanted to show his wife and daughter the home in which he had grown up, the woman allowed him to enter.

One of the mass graves at Chelmno
And they want Davidi to come with the names of relatives who died in the Holocaust...it's such a long list. It will break his heart to read them - name after name after name. He would have to say the names of both his brothers...because they carry the names of uncles who died in the Holocaust. He'll have to say the names of his aunts and uncles as well.

I'll have to make him a list...so many names to include and I have to find the strength to tell him about each one...what little I know, so that they won't only be names.

Binyamin Elimelech - Elie carries his name...he was newly married with the Germans came to their village just after the Passover holiday and took him away. He and his young wife never returned. An uncle he would never know was lost to my husband. And now, Elie's daughter carries the name Gavriella - who was Binyamin Elimelech's sister - she was murdered in Auschwitz by the Nazis - an aunt my husband would never have a chance to meet. She was only 12 years old when they killed her.

And my great grandmother, Raizel...my sister carries her name. She sent her son, my grandfather,  to America so that he wouldn't end up in the Polish army...and saved him from the German army as well.

And Shmuel...who fell in the forest and told his cousin to go on without him...my Shmulik carries his name.

And Shaye, my husband's grandfather, who sold shoes and kept a Gemara, part of the Talmud, under the counter so that when there were no customers, he could take out the book and learn.The Germans murdered Shaye...and today, there is one in Canada, several in Israel and in New York including Davidi's uncle, my husband's brother. And on and on it goes...so many names.

Eighteen is such a strange age. He's so tall, my Davidi, so beautiful. He has the most amazing blue eyes - like Elie. He is the tallest of my boys. I know that what he will see in Poland will cripple him, change him, and ultimately make him stronger. "You won't recognize your son," said the principal of his school as he explained more about the upcoming trip.

It's right that he goes to Poland because when he returns, he will know the great secret of Israel - we have fought for our survival across battlefields and ghettos. We rose from the gas chambers; walked across deserts to get here. Here in the land no one will take us from; here in the place God intended us to be.

To fight for Israel is to understand our history and our destiny. Our connection to this land, our right to be here, didn't start with the Holocaust - that is just one of many absurd claims that the Palestinians make. But the need to be here and nowhere else crystallized post-Holocaust. If they can do that there...than we cannot live there...and there can be defined as all of Europe, the Arab lands where the Jews were driven out in 1948 and the early 1950s. And it can include America too.

The army is a journey, a life-altering experience. But Davidi is about to embark on another journey. Compared to Poland, the army is, in many ways, easy. It makes sense; it is tangible, and for a young man, it is physical as much, if not more, than emotional. Poland is all emotion - there is no one left to save; no one to bring home. No matter how strong you are, the past cannot be changed. You can't run faster, fight harder. For all the times Israelis have flown around the world to save others, we couldn't save our own. That is the ultimate truth of the Holocaust.

I've written about breaking points - we all have a point that breaks us, a moment where we just don't think we can go on. Some are more real than others; some take you closer to the edge. I had two in Poland -

Crematoria ruins in Auschwitz...and
a picture I left there...of the Kotel
and my children
The first was near the ruins of the crematoria in Auschwitz. I had brought a picture from Israel - of Shmulik's bar mitzvah celebration at the Western Wall, the Kotel. I pressed it into the ruins of the crematoria - a gift to my great-grandmother and to Lazer's four grandparents, uncles, aunts and more who died there. And then, when I saw it there, I broke inside.

The second was in a place I never expected. I knew the minute the bus turned into this tiny village that it was going to be bad. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and the bus had to back up a few times to make the turns on the tiny streets. And the harder it was, the more I knew they would only be bringing us here to see something really bad.

What I saw was a wall surrounding a large area, and in the center a small monument. Fields behind and to the side. And I listened to what 1,600 Polish villagers did to their 1,500 Jewish neighbors...they rounded them up, herded them into the synagogue, and set fire to the building and watched them die...here on that spot where we stood...once there had been a synagogue and 1,500 people, men, women, and children had died here. I looked at the ground and felt I was standing on their blood and I felt sick. But if the sin of the murder was not enough, for the next 60 years, they lied and refused to admit it.

Jedwabne - they blasted a stereo from those houses to disrupt
the ceremony recognizing that it was the people of Jedwabne
who murdered their Jewish neighbors in August, 1941
At the end of the war, Jedwabne said their Jews were murdered by the Nazis...though not a single German was in the small village in August 1941 when the Jews died. Jedwabne is about betrayal and murder and represents the ugliest of what is in man. I listened to how in 2001, on the 60th anniversary of the massacre, Poland admitted that it was Poles and not Germans who murdered the Jews of Jedwabne.

As I stood near the monument with the Jewish star and the Israeli flag, and heard about how the villagers made noise and tried to disrupt the ceremony and how, to this day, the monument that stands there only refers to the "1,500 Jews who were murdered."

It was a huge improvement over the one that had stood for 60 years with the lie, "For the 1,500 Poles who were murdered by the Hitlerites." Only it wasn't the Nazis who murdered them and they weren't murdered because they were Poles. It was Poles that murdered them, and it was because they were Jews. There were no Russians, no Germans in Jedwabne on the day the townspeople murdered their Jewish neighbors.

I listened. I saw the monument, and I just broke inside. I told the tour organizers and Amira that I was done...right there in that village...and couldn't take anymore. I wanted to take a cab to the airport and wait for the rest of the group. I told Amira to stay with the group but I had to go. We were leaving Poland that night, but I couldn't wait. They wouldn't let me go. I told them I was an adult, though I probably wasn't acting like one. Ultimately, I somehow found the strength to stay with the group, to go to yet another concentration camp - Treblinka...but all I could do was wait for the wheels of the plane to leave Poland. And when they did, I took my first real breath and prayed the flight would go quickly. All I wanted was to put my feet down on Israeli soil, to touch the ground, to be home.

I think the hardest thing for a parent to handle is the knowledge that their child is somewhere in pain - physical or emotional. It is impossible to go to Poland and visit the concentration camps, what remains of the ghettos, the abandoned synagogues and endless mass graves...and not cry, not break. The tears that come in Poland come from the depths of such agony.

When Amira and I went, we had the most amazing guide - an Israeli who had been to Poland 60 times...whose parents and grandparents came from Poland. He took us to his grandfather's grave, one of 85,000 in a huge field of mostly unmarked graves...a few years before our visit, the guide had used German records to find where his grandfather was buried so at least his grandfather had a headstone, unlike those all around him.

Moments before we were about to walk into the gas chamber for the first time, in Maidanek, Chaim said to us, "I'm going to take you in there, and I'm going to take you out." To this day, those words bring tears to my eyes. I'm going to take you out...that's what Israel couldn't do in the 1940s...because there was no Israel, and that is what Israel has been doing for the last 65 years. We took the Jews out of Yemen, out of Ethiopia, out of Iran and beyond. We took hurt people out of the rubble in Indonesia, Kenya, Haiti and beyond.

I wish I could be there for Davidi, to promise him that I would take him out. He's 18 years old. He will survive the trip to Poland - they go with Israeli guards and the power and protection of the State of Israel. And still my heart breaks because while Israel can protect him physically, no power on earth can protect his heart, his soul from the devastation he will see. Even 70 years later, it is crippling. He'll come back stronger...he'll come back changed...but in these weeks before he goes, I can only think about what I saw, what I know he will see...

There are ashes that remain in the ovens, ashes piled into a mountain in Maidanek - it is called the Mountain of Ashes...I thought it was a symbolic use of the word, but it's not, it's very real...

The cemeteries are being destroyed. Unlike the Polish cemeteries that are so neat and often have beautiful flowers, the Jewish cemeteries are overgrown, abandoned, desolate. Many of the headstones have been desecrated.

The bunkers at Auschwitz, the suitcases, piles of glasses, and human hair that remain decades after later.

We went in the summer. Saba Moshe, grandfather Moshe, went with us. He looked at Auschwitz and said, "it's all wrong...all wrong." He was looking at the grass-covered feels. "There was no grass here. If there was, we would have eaten it." When Davidi goes, there will be no grass. The cold will be incredible, especially for a child born and raised in Israel.

All this and more, he will see, he will experience - and I keep thinking to myself...he's only 18. Amira was the same age, but I was with her...I wasn't there for Shmulik when he went and he came back stronger and better for having gone. I won't be there for Davidi...I have to believe he'll come back stronger and better as well. For now, I just want it to be over.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Time to Say Thank You...

My mother always taught me that it is not only proper - but it is also never to late to say thank you to someone who has helped you. I got this email - I've seen it before, but then I thought to share it because what I assume is public knowledge, often isn't.

This may surprise you!

So, America - please say thank you to ALL of the countries who helped the U.S. after hurricane “Sandy" & the Oklahoma Tornado's.

Time to send THANKS to all of the countries that reciprocated for all the times America stepped forward to help with their disasters, misgivings, social turmoil, & poverty by returning the favor, and sending the United States of America monetary and physical help when "Sandy" ravaged our East Coast leaving dead, homelessness, and pure disaster along with the tornadoes that have hit Oklahoma towns.

Listed below are ALL the countries and worldwide organizations, that sent their gracious assistance as a means of showing their humanity, their caring, their recognition of what America has done for them. 

Please assist me in thanking these entities by passing on this email so people from all over America can join in and THANK ALL of our neighbors, to whom the US has given billions of dollars and in many cases risked the lives of their soldiers and emergency rescue forces!!!


Here they are...

1. Israel
2.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.

Yes, the "list" is complete. 

So, THANK YOU to 

the People of Israel

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Once He Was My Hero

I'm listening to the news as Israel waits for Ariel Sharon to die. He's been in a coma for 8 years...8 years...since right after he pulled 9,000 Israelis out of Gaza in a unilateral move that most of Israel today realizes was nothing short of idiotic.
Synagogue in Netzarim...before


I voted for Ariel Sharon the last time he ran for office because I firmly believe that only in strength, can we make peace and Ariel Sharon was once the strongest of the strong, the bravest of the brave.

Dreamers don't make peace in the real world, at least not in the Middle East. Peace is made by the strong. By those who force the other side to come to the simplest of truths - no one wins in war. Peace is made by those strong enough and brave enough to take a risk; not those too dumb to realize they are endangering themselves for nothing.

Arabs celebrating the destruction of Netzarim Synagogue
Menachem Begin made peace with Egypt - and though he was criticized by many in his own party for giving up land, the fact remains that Egypt has not attacked us in decades and now, in a way, is a partner in keeping Gaza under a naval blockade to ensure they don't continue to amass weapons that they have and will turn on us (and Egypt) when the whim strikes them.

Netzarim Synagogue Set Aflame
Rabin made peace with Jordan - no, not a particularly strong move, but Jordan was easy. And since this is my space and everyone should be allowed a bit of inconsistency in their lives, I will admit that Rabin was never my hero and I don't think he was particularly brave or strong. At the time he made peace, it was the easiest of nations with which we had to deal and its king was the most reasonable.

Good or bad deal, like or hate Rabin, the peace has mostly held, so I'll credit him for that even as I continue to resent the way he divided Israel and created the very unfortunate culture that led to his death.

Arabs burning Yamit Synagogue in Neve Dekalim
Getting back to Ariel Sharon - he made peace with no one - no Arab country, and no peace within the nation. He created a rift that remains to this day, the orange people, the settlers and those who would wish them gone so that they could continue to live in a land of peace...except for the occasional bus blowing up, the firebombs, the missiles.

They didn't bring Sharon to office, we did. We, who believed the promise that he would act for Israel; bring the strength and fortitude he brought to each of the battles he fought...to the diplomatic front.

As good a soldier as he was, that's how bad a politician he was. His government was corrupt; his policies suicidal. Now, I leave his fate where it has always been, not with the left or the right, not with the media and the historians. I have complete faith that the Dayan Emet - the True Judge, will grant Sharon what he deserves - for the good and the bad. Yes, God will remember the bravery, but also the misery he caused. God will remember the building of the land, and the disengagement from it. God knows...
The Devastation of Gush Katif

I heard Sharon speak a number of times - and listened to each word. I stood near him once almost 20 years ago as he pointed to the Mediterranean Sea in the distance. We were all standing in a small yishuv (settlement), less than a kilometer from my home.

In front of us was a most magnificent view...with the waters of the Mediterranean sparkling from the setting sun. Sharon said, "you see that, the sea? This is the first line of hills from the sea. You don't surrender the hills." A few years later, my yishuv was battling for its life, wondering if it would be in or out of his plan.
Broken toys amid the ruin of what was once a community

Sharon's Legacy...Netzer Hazani
In the end, the mighty Sharon buckled, caved, bowed, failed. He surrendered all that he fought for, and more. He had built Israel...only to turn around and destroyed whole Jewish communities and homes so that they could, as we warned, become launching grounds for rockets.

He abandoned our synagogues so they could be burned and desecrated - the likes of which have not been seen since the Nazis rampaged Europe's synagogues.

Sharon was stupid enough to accept their promises that they would not destroy them...and then we watched as they burned, as the Arabs turned them into mosques, as we knew they would. They fired rockets from the rooftops...as we predicted even before Sharon pulled families from their homes.

The families were pulled out of Gaza and for the past 8 years, as Sharon remained in his silent world, they struggled to come to terms with a country that rushed to remove them, but failed when it came to ensuring they had permanent homes.

The Crumpled Remains of a Study Hall in Moshav Katif
I find it interesting that at long last, as the Gaza Jewish refugees are finally making strides towards completing new communities...Sharon is about to slip away.

There is, ultimately, something ironic in the timing, and even more ironic that the ones who will mourn the most for Sharon are not the ones who most supported him during all the years he fought and led Israel.

We will not celebrate his death; that has never been a Jewish concept. Perhaps our final gift to Sharon is even worse - we will ignore it all.

Yes, he was a hero, my hero. He crossed rivers to save his country...but he caused rivers of tears years later.

Long ago, before sickness took him, he lost my support; betrayed my vote. He lied to get my vote - that only a strong Israel could survive in the Middle East - that was the truth. Then he said he would keep Israel strong - and that was the lie....he pushed to make us weak, to teach the Arabs that we could not only be beaten, we would be stupid enough to beat ourselves.

The Second Lebanon War, probably the closest Israel has ever come to defeat...that was a gift from Ariel Sharon and his disengagement plan. The rockets on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beerhsheva, Ashkelon - those were gifts of Sharon as well.
This too is Sharon's Legacy

For me, the Ariel Sharon that stood as a lion of Israel, that defended our country and fought with all he had in him...that man slipped away a long time ago, overpowered by the dirt of politics and the weakness of those who crave power.

I can't deny what he did for Israel in the past...but I believe that those who wish only to remember Arik Sharon, the general, the fighter of Israel are wrong to deny what his later actions cost us.

Once he was my hero...now, his memory lies in the ruins of Gush Katif and with each missile, I remember not the brilliance of the soldier he once was, but the devastation he caused tens of thousands of Israelis...and more, the constant danger we face now from missiles that never should have been allowed to be placed so close to our borders.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

בזק בינלאומי - Bezek Beinleumi Charging for Services Not Rendered

So, the lesson to learn is that you need to check your bills regularly. Yeah, I knew that, but who has time...

So, thanks to our wonderful accountants, we've just been informed that בזק בינלאומי has regularly been taking money from our account at a much increased rate than we agreed. So, we called them up and Tamar answered the phone. We signed for a one year contract...apparently, they felt free to extend it, cancel the discount, and raise the price.

We asked why they were billing us, why we have not received any invoices, why the rate is so high. Apparently, according to בזק בינלאומי (Bezek Beinleumi) we are supposed to know that we are being billed for services we aren't receiving against invoices we aren't receiving.

From there, it just gets more and more amusing. First, we spoke to Tamar...who screamed her lungs enough that apparently, according to someone else, she needed to faint and so they called an ambulance for her and then put someone else on the line.

The second person told us that they could not send us invoices dating back to 2011 for about 45 minutes until she agreed and so she sent it. Then, she said she couldn't send it because the network is down...בזק בינלאומי 's network is down. Amazing...and two hours later, it is still down.

As for the real paper invoices. They claim they were mailed each month...and yet we never received on. They were sending the invoices to the wrong address - a place we haven't lived in five years and yet they maintain that not one of those invoices was ever returned to them. Strange...we moved our offices 7 months ago and in the last month, 6 things were returned to other companies until we realized and extended it.

What bothers me is the ease with which they feel they can raise prices. What bothers me is the fact that they never made an attempt to do any more than collect money and didn't care what kind of service they were giving for it - in this case, no service at all.

We've canceled the contracts we had with בזק בינלאומי  and even if they offered me a better deal in the future, I wouldn't take them. I don't deal with dishonest companies and taking money for services not rendered is wrong.

Yes, we should have noticed - but so should they...don't they have records to show how much bandwidth is being used? If the line is constantly at zero, shouldn't they investigate. I guess if all the company cares about is money, why bother.

So, now we are on hold, waiting for a manager...no, I have little hope that they will agree to shoulder some of the responsibility - for sending invoices to nowhere. Yes, we should have checked each line of the bill and recognizing the company name isn't enough, I now realize, to know you aren't being cheated.

We agreed to a one year plan - nice of them to extend it without speaking to us (though they claim they tried); nice of them to regularly up their prices for services that weren't being used.

So check your bills and if you are unfortunate enough to be working with בזק בינלאומי check it regularly because without telling you, they'll feel free to up the prices...

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