Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Message to the Pope

Dear Pope Francis

You remember that wall you went to visit, thinking it was a sign of oppression and occupation?

What you don't realize is that it is a wall of millions of Jews...and it will remain in place...until the other side, the one you were so solicitous to, wakes up and renounces the violence you say you are against.

Thank you to: for the graphic

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Jerusalem Day - Yom Yerushalayim

Today we celebrate the day, in 1967, when Jerusalem was finally reunited. It will stay that way - forever ours...

Explaining Me

A group is coming to Maale Adumim today. They have given themselves a wonderful name - Unity in Diversity and they're open minded enough to transverse the meaningless green line to come to Maale Adumim, as they did to Ariel and Efrat, to listen and learn. I've been asked to speak to them - twenty to thirty minutes to explain, to show, to what? Justify my right to live here?

IMG_2510Is anyone going to Raanana to justify their homes? Is anyone coming to your house to justify where you live? Ah, you're thinking, but it's different. And in that, we disagree.

You see, to the Palestinians, it really isn't different. Note that every one of the 15,000 or so rockets that have hit Israel in the last decade plus - certainly all those that have landed since 2005 - have not distinguished between sides of a line that hasn't existed for more than 40 years.

I've made notes to myself - something I never do when I speak in front of people. I can get up in front of 200 technical writers and speak without hesitation - but that's my job, and this is my life. So much to tell them, so little time.

First, I'll recognize the obvious. I AM an obstacle to peace...but then, I'll tell them, so are you. We are all obstacles to peace simply because we live here and more, we are infidels - the ultimate and irreversible tag given to those who can be murdered in the name of their god.

I'll tell them that every successive government since 1967 has supported the establishment and existence of Maale Adumim and I'll explain the physical terrain.

IMG_2513To your left is Azzariya - a hotbed for Hamas. They celebrate their weddings with fireworks that sometimes land in Maale Adumim and recently started a fire. Their muezzins belch out prayers way above the legal limits at ungodly hours; they come to work here, sometimes to shop here; sometimes to get medical help.

We are a series of neighborhoods - some still called by numbers. 03, 06, 07. I don't know what happened to 01 and 02. I know that 04 and 05 have been given names that stick - 05 is called Klei Shir because the streets all have beautiful names of musical instruments.
I'll tell them about the music conservatory we have, the museum, the library and I'll smile and tell them we have bowling too.

I'll point to the barren hills that surround my city and say THAT is what was here before we were here. And I won't say that THAT is what would still be here if we weren't here (and likely would be returned if we ever leave).

I'll point across the road to E1 and laugh because 160,000 people can be killed in Syria, massive earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis can hit the world but God help us if we dare to put a few homes on E1. And I'll tell them it's just a hill; you can't even call it a mountain!
And I'll point to Route 1 - the main highway that goes from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, skips past the northern edge of Jerusalem and then continues down - right there before them to the Dead Sea. No one is cutting off the Dead Sea from Israel; no one is stopping four lanes of traffic and so claiming that building on the side of that hill will stop the highway below is an absurd lie. Born of propaganda and ignorance, I will urge them to look to see the truth.

And I'll tell them how our sons, my sons, serve in the army in averages above the national numbers. They are commanders and officers and serve with pride and honor. Sunday mornings, like all over Israel, they leave their families and go to protect Israel - in the air, on the sea, and on the ground - the ground where these people live and the ground where I live - and there is no difference. My sons protect them, as their sons protect me.

I'll remind them that they are in the desert and urge them to think desert each time they see the beautiful flowers we have planted. And when I'm done, what will they do?

Will they go back to the safety of their distant homes and count their blessings that they traversed the wilds and returned safely - or will they realize that this is Israel - as safe and calm as their homes. Will they see the beauty we have created as the testimony it is to an area we love. Will they ask the ridiculous - as an Irish journalist once did - about what right we have to build such a beautiful park for our young when Palestinians don't have the same for their young? And if they do - I can answer as I did then - tell them to spend their money on parks and not weapons, as we do.

Will one suggest I live on stolen ground, as a Korean journalist once did? No, not stolen, I'll tell them. Once it was ours, then the Romans came. They're gone now, as is their mark on this land. Then a series of rulers, all gone now, until the Ottoman Empire took it over in the 16th century.

The Ottomans are gone; they were pushed out by the British Mandate....that gave way, at least in this area, to the Jordanians. Maale Adumim's land area was first covered by the Turks as state-owned land (the state being the Ottomans); then the British as part of the mandate; then the Jordanians.
In 1967, we told the Jordanians to stay out of the war that raged between Israel and Egypt and Syria. The Jordanians refused - attacked Israel to fight along with their brothers - and they lost. Israel gained this area and we built our homes, this beautiful city, on open, barren, unoccupied land.

No Palestinians homes were stolen or destroyed - and in fact, many Palestinians benefit regularly from the city being here.

Yes, this what I'll tell them...and then, I'll do what I do everyday - I'll return to work, to life, to home. Maybe I'll get to see my grandson later this afternoon; I'll see my granddaughter later too. She's started to stand...and she's only 8 months old!

So young, these two precious souls that I love so much - and already, they are obstacles to peace...or they would be if there were actually an entity on the other side that wanted peace. But there isn't, there hasn't been, and until there is - they are simply Israeli children, innocent and loving, growing up in a beautiful city surrounded by love.

Yes, that's what I'll tell them - this Unity in Diversity group that comes to a city that practices that very thing. We are religious and secular; we come from every corner of the world and speak many languages. We own homes or rent; we drive cars, take buses or walk; and apparently, we like to bowl.

 If you want the very definition of unity in diversity - it is Maale Adumim...

Monday, May 26, 2014

As May Slips Into June...

It's getting hot in Israel. Elie did his national reserve duty last week in the north. There's a budget war going on; the army is threatening to cancel all training if it doesn't have the budget to pay for it. What Elie did last week was provide support for others to train. Since the heavy artillery cannons weren't needed (and cost a fortune to run), the army substituted Humvees. I could imagine them maneuvering around and then radioing back with someone saying "BOOM."

Each unit was given a budget - Elie's unit used it to buy the guys hamburgers, fresh eggs, and beer - they had a great time and ate well. The only real downside was that they didn't have showers...not good.

Beyond that, the school year is coming to an end and we're all looking forward to a break. I've started working twice a week in the center of the country's hi-tech area. Today was an amusing day. Once again, the company has decided to shuffle my place - it must be at least the 10th time they have moved me in as many years. But I can't complain because they're moving most of the rest of the company around as well.

Today, the tech support people who currently sit near where my desk is (until tomorrow when they move my desk), were speaking to a client in China. So what you had was two Russian speakers and an Israeli speaking English to two people in China. In between the conversations, when one side or the other asked a question, there was a pause.

Over the video transmission, you could hear the people on the other side of the world, in the middle of their night, speaking to each other in Chinese while on our side, the Russian Israelis and the Israeli Israeli were speaking Hebrew. Then they'd switch back to English to answer. At one point, the Israeli went off to answer another call, and so the Russians switched to Russian.

What a wonderful world it is, I thought to myself. At one point, the Chinese man told the Israelis that it was his son's birthday. One of the Israelis launched into an explanation of what Mazel Tov means (literally, "good luck").

There are days I just love working in this multicultural company! I left late enough that the worst of the day had burned off and it was actually comfortable.

Traffic wasn't too bad and I was able to slip in and out of Jerusalem just ahead of the Pope's visit to the Old City. Yup, a good day all around.

Papal Abuse or Papal Ignorance

When I first moved to Israel, things were exploding here all the time. Twenty years later, and I still carry this trauma inside. No, I was never in a terror attack (though there were occasions where fate could have led me in a different direction). But I know people who were more directly involved; a friend who was killed; a friend whose mother and sister died in ad terror attack; a friend whose daughter was murdered. A neighbor was lynched; someone from our area whose children were on a bus that was attacked; another who was there close by when something blew and helped deal with the aftermath.

We all know someone who knows someone. We all remember. I still count ambulances - one is a woman in labor (God willing); two is a car accident...three is always a terror attack, or at least it was.

It was, it seems now, almost a daily occurrence. And the worst was when it happened two days in a row so that we couldn't even come to terms with the first one before the second one hit.

It was worrying about your children taking buses; volunteering to drive them places and hoping they were fooled by your sudden need to go somewhere. It was having a standing order in the family - if anything blows up, if anything happens - you call home. I don't care where you are or where it was... you call! And they did. And once it was in Netanya - and they called me because I was there that day.

And once it was Haifa and so I frantically called my parents, knowing that there was no logical reason why they would have been close to where it was and still needing to hear that they were fine.

And then it stopped...or mostly.

The bus bombings became not even once a year; the malls are full again. The pedestrian lane in the center of Jerusalem is always packed with people - we even have street fairs where thousands walk - Arab and Jew...

They stopped for a simple reason. Israel built a wall. I know - that sound like the Berlin Wall, but it's not. Only 3% of the miles of fence is actually a wall - and where it is a wall, you'll quickly see why. Arab houses come within meters of Jewish houses - a sniper can have a field day. An Arab can walk - just 15 minutes - from the nearest Arab village to Kfar Sava - and they often did. Now they can't. Now they have to go to crossing locations where they are checked.

If you have a permit to work in Israel, if you have a medical need - you get admittance. If you don't have any reason to be here - you don't get in. A journalist once asked my friend to justify the damage that the "wall" did to the quality of life of the Palestinians and his response was simple.

His beautiful 15-year-old daughter was murdered by a terrorist - there was no wall. He hid explosives in his guitar case and was escorted by a terrorist named Ahlam Tamimi who was sentenced to several life terms and then released in a prisoner exchange.

Apolitical? Pope Francis leans on security fence in prayerToday, the Pope, the head of the Catholic world went to the security fence...the wall that we have built.

The wall that has stopped 90% of all terror attacks and made us able to live normal lives again. We built the wall to stop men and women like the one you see in this video...and we did stop them.

My friend responded to the journalist - "how dare you speak to me of the quality of life of the Palestinians when my daughter has no life." Her life was stolen from her after only 15 years. Because of that wall, other 15 year old girls are alive today.

The Pope went to the wall and solemnly touched it. It was a gesture he would repeat at the Western Wall - and how absolutely insulting and appalling is that gesture? The Western Wall is a symbol of so much - we dance there, we celebrate there. On the day of each of my children's weddings, we went there early in the morning...what an abomination it was to see this man touch the wall as he did.

Either he was lied to and manipulated, or he is a fool...or both. The Pope came to the Jewish State and without question - he charmed the few Christians who remain after decades of abuse by the Arab communities in which they live...and he charmed the Arabs by checking off each of their carefully orchestrated requirements.

What he also did is infuriate much of the Jewish population with his insensitivity and I can assure you that his brief and sudden stopover (90 seconds, I heard) at a memorial to terror victims, a few minutes at the Western Wall and a few other token stops mean close to nothing to me.

He referred to the "State of Palestine" - well good for him - now if someone could please show him the world map, I'd be very grateful.

I'm glad the Pope has left, that the flags of the Vatican that are flying over Jerusalem will be taken down and put away. As I drove through the country this morning from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and back again, I looked at my country - it is beautiful, it is alive and bustling. It was a regular day in Israel, sunny and comfortable. The main highway is under construction - we are adding another lane to handle the ever-growing traffic. We are putting in an underground speed train that will bridge the distance between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in 28 minutes.

The roads were packed today; the buses full. While the Pope attempted to walk through the minefield that is Middle East politics, and failed miserably, Israelis pretty much took it in stride. We didn't expect much better, so we weren't disappointed. We know why the security fence is there and we place the lives of our children way above the manipulation and the photo op the Palestinians got today.

At the end of the day, as the Pope flies back to Rome, the land once destroyed by the ancient occupiers of his city, is alive and back in Jewish hands. I thought of this last year when I was in Rome - what was ancient is now dead.

As I drove around in Rome, I thought about the ruins they take pride in...and the pride we take in what is alive in Jerusalem. In a few weeks, I'll go again with my children to the light show in the Old City of Jerusalem, home to thousands of Jews, Christians, Muslims and even Armenians. The lights will shine over a city that is alive; one that has seen conquerors come and go.

At the end of the day, we are here and we will be here, despite the politics of the Pope, the insensitivity he showed, and worst of all, his ignorance.

He caused a lot of pain to many people today - to the father whose daughter was murdered; to tens of thousands of others who might well have had loved ones alive today if only Israel had built that wall sooner. And whatever message of hope and peace the Pope hoped to have delivered, was hopelessly lost as he bowed to a culture that celebrates hatred and war.

Whatever suffering the Palestinians endure is a product of their leaderships ongoing quest for violence and glory. If they had truly been educated to want peace, had the Pope truly delivered a message of peace and anti-violence, his visit might have had some meaning.

Instead, we go to sleep tonight, confident that tomorrow in Israel, the sun will shine, we will all hustle to work, continue forever reaching towards innovation and celebrate the peace, or at least the absence of death, we have gained by our vigilance and a wall we built to block hatred on the other side.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

And it's Official! A Soldier's Mother Goes to Print

So, it's official. I've opened a campaign to raise money to print the book, A Soldier's Mother. I'm hoping to raise somewhere around $15,000 to cover the printing costs and production.

And then use the proceeds of sales to either print the second book or another novel that I wrote called Seeds of Aaron.

If you can help spread the word, I'd be very grateful.

You can follow the progress of the fundraising campaign here:

If you donate $25 or more, you'll get a signed copy of the book which is well over 300 pages long and covers the first three years that Elie was in the army. It includes some of the draft posts that I didn't publish at the time and some post-army commentary as well.

I don't usually ask for money and if you don't want to contribute how, I hope you'll consider buying the book later - but for those who want to help me bring A Soldier's Mother to print, I thank you.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

To Martin Indyk - from an Israeli Jew

Dear Martin,

Yes, I know - I've never met you and I'm calling you Martin. That's how it is in Israel. Soldiers call their commanding officers by their first name; many students refer to their teachers by their first name. I regularly call Einav, my bank manager or Gil, the CEO of a major client. We even call our Prime Minister, Bibi - so don't be insulted. It's part of what makes us the country we are - strong, connected, focused not on our ego but on what needs to be done.

Martin, I sympathize with you. I was where you are now - in the land of my birth, but not my homeland; using the language of my mother-tongue, but not the language of my heart or people. From the distance, it is so easy to forget; so easy to rely on the facts others put before you. With you especially, I get the feeling that you just don't understand Israel (or the situation here). That lack of knowledge makes your job impossible and more, endangers my country.

I know you didn't ask me, but what I see is that you are distanced from the Jew inside of you, fighting to be the American others expect to see. You have to out-criticize Israel, lest you be accused of showing favoritism. Mostly, being American and being Jewish is easy; certainly easier than being a Jew and something else.

But other times, it's a war between where your body is and your roots, your foundation are. It's denying certain truths because they come from a deep ingrained knowledge that Israel and the Jews wouldn't act that way simply because it isn't who we are. You can't take that knowledge to the international community. They have grown accustomed to barbarity, senseless killings, occupation and dictatorship.

We aren't Syria. We aren't Egypt. We aren't Lebanon or Jordan and we certainly aren't the Palestinians. We don't target innocents; we don't exploit our young. We don't hide behind our citizens (or anyone else) and we sure as heck don't deny others basic rights.

American Jews are squirming at that any suggestions that there could be a conflict between being a Jew and being an American or that you have to ultimately choose one. For many of us, we know the truth of that but you and so many are still in denial. What do you do when your government betrays Israel? Ah, the horrible question no one wants to answer.

Ultimately, it comes down to this...and it terrifies most American Jews who want to believe that America will always be the "golden medina," that this choice will never be put before them. Obama is testing this theory and the only question will be whether we are all lucky and his term runs out before we have to answer it.

You have it really rough right now. You are a Jew in a government that does not really support Israel. Oh, I know - they mouth the words but we all know it isn't there. And now, wow, it's hard, you've put your foot in your mouth this time, haven't you?

It's like that time, honestly, the ONLY time in my life I "re-gifted" something, and I had to go and give that gorgeous baby outfit that just didn't fit the seasons here in Israel...back to the person who gave it to me. EMBARRASSING!

And you got caught towing the US line, blaming Israel for the breakdown in the US-driven peace talks? So now, you have to add STUPID to EMBARRASSING and that doesn't go down well, does it?

Blaming us for the breakdown? Sheesh, yeah - dumb. And worse, you blamed in on the fact that Israel won't freeze the settlements. The only one dumb enough to ignore the fact that we issued a freeze for 10 months and the Palestinians refused to talk during that whole them...oh, and you.
Yeah, you believe it's because of the settlements? Where was it written that we couldn't build during these talks? Didn't we specifically refuse that clause? Been there; done that. Nothing has changed; there was no agreement on the settlements prior to the start of these negotiations.

We specifically said we were NOT going to freeze until such time as an agreement with that requirement was made. So if that's the excuse the Palestinians are using, blame them, not us.

Why blame us if the Palestinians are coming up with new conditions? We came to the table, as required, until THEY began raising new requirements and worse, they changed the ground upon which we could have perhaps found an agreement. We released prisoners, as required (and despite ongoing violence and rocket attacks by Palestinians).

During the months that we were supposedly talking peace, Israel released the killers of hundreds of Israels. Have you forgotten that? What did the Palestinians do? Other than show up at the designated time and place, that is? Here, I'll help you because you seem to be particularly fact-challenged these days. They did nothing. Zero.

Did we change the conditions of the negotiations? Well, only after they did. We demanded they recognize us as a Jewish state but we did not stop the negotiations on that condition. Just as they float their balloons describing the Middle East they want (including claiming OUR capital as theirs), we floated ours. This is what we have been, the only Jewish country in the WORLD, for 66 years. But even when they said they wouldn't accept this fact (one that is obvious to everyone), we did not stop the negotiations.

The Palestinians did that when they demanded that we release more prisoners/terrorists before they will deign to come back to sit at the table and most of all, they did that when they created a unity government with Hamas.
Even...even...even...the US government accepted that it was impossible for Israel to negotiate with Hamas, an organization that demands Israel's destruction and does all in its capacity to achieve that goal.

Have you read the Hamas Charter? It's available online. Really. You just go to google ( and enter "H a m a s   C h a r t e r." I know it's long but honestly, it's a good read for those who want to understand.
Here, let me give you a few of the highlights:
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.'
That's kind of clear, right. A bit harsh, but hey, they hate us. Did we threaten to obliterate anyone? Not even when they slit the throat of an infant; not when they murdered a father of 5...even then, we didn't take any action or make any threat to obliterate their culture of hatred.

Oh, and there's this one, Martin - this one is like SO them:
"initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement... Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam... There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.'
So, there you have it - "initiatives" - that would be what Hamas would call your government's attempt to find a solution. The problem, of course, is that last line, "there is NO solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad."
You know what Jihad is, right? That's what blew up the World Trade Center, remember? Listen, Martin, you really have to read the Hamas Covenant because if you want to know what blew your peace talks out of the water, it's all there in that document.

The fundamental, clear, uncompromising belief that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is in Jihad, not in negotiations.
Beyond that, Martin, you have to understand that there are things Jews can do in this world and things that we can't. Going to Klu Klux Klan headquarters - that's a no-no (okay, I was young and stupid, but I wouldn't do it now!). Calling the #2 KGB guy at the Soviet Embassy a Nazi...yeah, young and stupid - don't do that.

But the main thing a Jew can't do is get involved in the State Department and White House manipulations because they are doomed to failure. Kerry never had a chance. We all knew that. He came to the talks with the blind ignorance of a fool. He thought that if the US snapped its fingers, Israel and the Palestinians would dance.

Bibi was dumb enough (or perhaps smart enough...only history will tell) to dance a little while the Palestinians looked on with amusement and wondered how long they could string you along. They did good; I have to hand it to them. They got hundreds of their murderers free without making a single compromise.

But when the US puts an American Jew in the talks, it's instant disaster. Martin, you're efforts are more doomed than Kerry's, and that's saying a lot. If you take Israel's side, you're accused of dual allegiance and favoritism. Obviously, you aren't being honest because you are a Jew.

If you take the Palestinian side and blame us for this, well at least in this case, you have to be blind and stupid. And that's what you were the other day - blind and stupid. Because while there are times my government or country may do something wrong, like all countries and all peoples, this time, we didn't.

We went along with your finger-snapping president and your insulting, condescending Secretary of States; we met your requirements and fulfilled our side until the other side balked. We knew they would at some point. It was obvious that they would...and they did. Now, don't be blind and stupid. Call it for what it was.

So what are you going to do now, Martin? No one believes that nonsense that you were misquoted. Too much detail to be fake. So what now?
Well, you could try honesty. What a concept.

Martin - go for it. Announce that what blew the talks wide open was Fatah (yeah, the Palestinian Authority) aligning itself with Hamas. And more, until such time as an agreement says otherwise, Israel has the right to build - just as the Arabs are building all the time in the areas all around me. Go look at Issawiya, Azariya, A-Zaim - nearly every building has a new floor on top - most have several. New buildings and floors in Arab neighborhoods - to the left and to the right. That's what people do when they need more homes...they build. They're doing it and so are we. That didn't blow the talks out of the water.

When the Palestinians want to talk, let them call. In the meantime, we build, like every other country. And if we are opening up the negotiations to new terms, here are a few items I'd like to add - as an Israeli Jew:
  1. A complete halt to ALL missile attacks (and yes, that includes mortars).
  2. A complete overhaul of the Palestinian education system such that incitement and hatred of Jews and Israel is removed from the text books and lectures. Hatred of Arabs and Palestinians is NOT in our text books - tell them to take it out of theirs!
  3. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital (hey, if they can make demands, so can we).
  4. Immediate halt to the systematic denial of our historical connection to this land and an immediate cessation of ongoing destruction of archaeological remains in areas under their current control.
  5. Freedom of religion in their areas (and ours). For Muslims, Christians, and Jews. We want the right to pray freely at our holy sites without being constantly attacked by firebombs and stones. This means in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, Joseph's Tomb in Nablus and yes, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Tell them to stop rioting when a Jew dares mumble a silent prayer near the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque...which were built on top of OUR Temple Mount. And while you are at it - tell them to stop denying our history. No, the Western Wall is NOT where Mohammed tied his damn donkey - it was (and is) the retaining wall for the are where our Temples were built.
I'm sure there are other demands - give Bibi a call and he'll give them to you. In the meantime, Martin, think well over how you can continue to function in your job and still remember who you are.

Maybe you can be a Jew and an American in most locations and professions but when you have to stand between Palestinians and Israelis, it just won't work. Not for the Palestinians, not for the Israelis and ultimately, not for the Americans either.

As for the current round of talks - accept that you can't build peace on a faulty foundation and the ONLY foundation on which you can build a lasting peace requires both sides to be fully committed. The rest is details...

Guest Post: Religion of Hate

This article was posted by a friend on the Times of Israel and then removed. It is sad to see how basic rights - freedom of the press, for example, are being limited for fear of ... of...of what? Reprisal? Bad ratings? Insulting someone? Everyone is entitled to their opinion. This one may not be politically correct, but it certainly is correct.

It is truly sad when the greatest thing people truth.

Religion of Hate

By Rabbi Zev Shandalov

Not a single day goes by--not one--in which we do not see reports of murder and terrorism in the name of Islam. Not a day seems to go by without some declaration or fatwa being issued against infidels.

What was the impetus for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the USA? Why is there a need for the TSA to act with extreme precautions in airports in the USA? Why are there counter-terrorism units in all Western countries?

The State Department in the United States lists no less than 49 Islamic terror organizations. Whether the name is Boko Haram or Hamas or Al Qaeda or any of the others on the list, one must realize that there are TENS OF THOUSANDS of people who wake up every day who wish to see Jews dead; gays hanged; female rape victims executed, and desire the imposition of Sharia law around the world. Nothing short of a world-wide Caliphate will satisfy their blood lust.

And all in the name of Islam--a so-called peace-loving religion. A very clear picture of this peace-loving religion can be seen here ( if you have the stomach to read about all of the "activities" they perpetrate.

There are no worldwide protests against all of this for a simple reason: fear. The fear that any public outcry could end with bloodshed--a fear that is NOT unfounded at all. And what of the religious leaders and those saying that Islam is getting a bad rap due to the small minority of those extremists. Why isn't there a document signed by hundreds of Moslem clerics decrying all of this violence in the name of Allah and peace?

There are thankfully some exceptions in the Moslem world: notable Islamic scholar Tahir ul-Qadri spearheads a movement among Muslim intellectuals to rescue their religion from association with the murderous ideology and terrorist practice of Al-Qaeda and its fellow-travellers, who claim a religious basis for their actions. In a 600 page fatwa issued in London, this world-renowned and prolific interpreter of the Quran and Islam, unreservedly attacked terrorism’s claims to be acting in the name of Islam.

Sadly, in place of the world living in fear and awe of G-d, the world lives in fear of Islam.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why We Are Normal

I don't think any other country in the world has to explain why it has a right to exist, why it has the government it has, where its capital is, or why it is normal. And yet, Israelis spend a ridiculous amount of time doing just that.

An international guest came to Israel from India and when I offered to give him a tour of Jerusalem, our capital, he was surprised. "Isn't Tel Aviv the capital of Israel?"

"No, never," I responded.

"But that's what we were taught," he said.

"Well, they are teaching you wrong. The capital of Israel - always has been, always will be, is Jerusalem."

We have a right to exist for so many reasons. My favorite phrase is simple - by right and by might, by history and in justice, this land is ours. We were here 2,000 years ago - no one else was. We had this land and lost it and still Jews remained here - always, there were Jews here. In large numbers, then small numbers and no again in large numbers.

We have a right according to international law. The League of Nations offered 50% of this land to the Arab population and 50% to the Jewish population. The Jews agreed; the Arabs chose war. Why is that simple fact ignored again and again. They CHOSE war in 1949 and lost. End of story and end of the Palestine that might have been. They were given an opportunity and chose to say no.

An agreement of sorts was worked out - it lasted for 7 years until they attacked again; that new agreement after the 1956 war lasted 11 years, until 1967. So, for 19 years, there was a set of borders until the Arabs made it clear they were going to attack again. This time, we didn't let them and we made the first move (with Syria and Egypt only; Jordan was told that we were not going to attack...and so they attacked us). Again in 1973 and again and again since then.

And yet we are constantly being told we don't exist, that we don't have a right to exist as other nations, that we have to justify our right to be here in our land. We have the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean - because Jordan attacked and lost; because 5 Arab nations invaded a tiny country hours after it was declared.

By contrast, Americans came to their land less than 300 years ago. We know clearly from whom they took the land...and yet does anyone question the United States' right to rule from the Atlantic to the Pacific?

But all of this has been said before. Do you want to know why we are normal? Not because of politics but today it is because of sports. Yup, sports. I'm so not into sports, but even I am excited that we won the European championship. Maccabi Tel Aviv swept into victory and took with it the pride of Israel.

There are so many reasons why we aren't normal - and it's important for us to remind ourselves every once in a while that a normal country doesn't accept even one missile fired at its cities by its neighbors, while we pretty much accept it as a weekly, sometimes daily, event. Normal countries don't have to issue separate pages at the airport on which to stamp proof that they have entered and exited - they just stamp in the person's passport, but not us.

Normal countries put "Made in " on the products they manufacture. Israelis are quiet about it and so we can quietly laugh on the side because so much of our technology IS being used (and paid for) by countries that hate and deny us. And yeah, the jokes on them.

So last night - just as any normal nation would, Israel erupted in pride and joy. We won the European championship! We are the champions!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Time Stops for No One

Elie will turn 27 in another two weeks or so...

This morning, as I once did long ago, I drove him to the Central Bus Station and took my place in a long line of parents dropping their sons off - to catch a bus up north or down south. Each soldier has a huge backpack; many have guns. Most are in the dress uniforms required for travel and ceremonies. The army looks good as its soldiers return to base after a weekend at home...except for those other guys.

They are older, dressed not in the crisp uniforms but in the wrinkled ones. Some have gained weight; their hair is often longer. Today, Elie was one of them. Yes, for the first time, Elie looked like what he is, a man...a married man with a child compared to those boys on the brink. The walk is different; the way he held himself compared to them.

It's a strange feeling seeing him go off in that uniform. It's the first time I see the physical differences. A man of 27 doesn't have the same body, moves differently, than a boy/man of 18 or 19. And the differences aren't all on the outside...perhaps most are actually on the inside, unseen by most. He goes off with a heavier heart; home calls to him more. His stride is more confident, older. He's walked this path so many times already. There is no hesitation and he doesn't look around.

He has no gun - he'll get that in a few hours. He is not in dress uniform. As a member of the Reserves, he can travel in "work" uniforms...they are more comfortable, can breathe in hot weather, and they look wrinkled and worn in.

Last night, his daughter had a fever and today his wife will stay home with the baby. He will miss a week of school - engineering college that will shape his future. All this is put aside, painfully - especially leaving Lauren and the baby, because the country calls to him.

He's on a bus now, headed for a training exercise that has made some of the newspapers. Like regular soldiers, they go prepared - yesterday, Elie raided my cabinet for Turkish coffee and another guy who is driving up north went shopping. Whatever food the army will serve them is nothing to what they will bring.

I'm calm - maybe because I understand more, maybe because he's not "IN" the army...he's training. He's close to one enemy, far from another. I know when he'll be home to his wife and baby and I know that he knows the army, the task, the job. This isn't war that he goes he has already done twice. And so I can feel pride in his going, not fear. I can look back to those first days when he went off and smile because that mother was so different than I am today.

I guess that's the point here - time stops for no one...not for Elie, and not for me. It's been an amazing 7 plus years since I started this blog here. He was so young; I was so scared. I've made three weddings since then - including Elie's. I've had two grandchildren - including one that is Elie's.

Tomorrow, Amira will celebrate the third birthday of her son - it's a special and beautiful custom in our religion. For three years, they have let his hair grow long. Tomorrow, they will cut it for the first time. He's got the most amazing long hair - filled with curls upon curls upon curls. Tomorrow the family will gather as his hair is cut and this little boy, my first grandchild, leaves his babyhood behind and becomes the little boy that has been shining through more and more each time I see him.

Yesterday we had yet another long conversation. He remembered our camping out in the backyard - I am hoping that he holds this memory into his adulthood. That even when he is 27, he'll come to me and say, "Savta, we played in the tents and I slept in the tent with Aliza and you slept with Saba, and Ima slept with Abba and everyone ate."

Amira feels time flying as she watches him. I wish I could help her slow it down or not mourn just a bit how fast it goes. I can't tell her that it never slows down, though I think by now she suspects it.

Elie won't be here to see his nephew change into that little boy; see the full beauty of that face emerge from the hair that he has worn tied back for so many months.

My baby is 14 years oldest about to turn 29. So much of this has sped by without my noticing. Wasn't Amira just three as her son is now? Wasn't Elie just an infant learning to crawl and just starting to pull himself up to stand as his daughter is now? It all seemed to crystallize as I watched Elie cross the street and enter the Central Bus is the same uniform but a different person. This is a father who yesterday diapered, fed and rocked his baby. This is a husband who will have called his wife several times this morning already. He left them, as he has before and as he will, God willing, do in the future, because the country calls to him.

This is a brother and an uncle, who will miss an important moment in our lives tomorrow, because the country calls to him. If you need to understand Israel, understand this moment, this day because it says so much of what Israel is about.

Amira (her mother-in-law and I) will be cooking our hearts out today for a celebration tomorrow. Lauren is home today with the baby because that too is Israel - we are families who love our children, watch over them in health and in sickness. Aliza went off to school this morning because we are a modern nation that educates its children. Davidi spent the night with his friends, celebrating the Jewish holiday of Lag b'Omer and today will continue studying for his final exams as he nears the end of high-school.

Shmulik went off to work this morning, starting a new job - an entry into the hi-tech, computer world that represents the innovation and brilliance Israel brings to the world.  

And Elie left his family, his tiny family and our larger one. He won't be there to help Lauren; he won't be there to join in celebrating Amira's son's third birthday. He'll soon be somewhere with thousands of soldiers simulating battles we hope will never come. Soon enough, Shmulik's year-after-the-army will end and he too will be called into the Reserves. Soon enough, Davidi will enter the army.

On the day Elie first entered the army, I wrote:

My son is a soldier in the army of Israel. Why that makes me want to cry, I can't explain when it is something that I have accepted, something in which I feel pride. For now, the fear and worry that threatens to push the pride aside will be my personal battle in the next day and week and year. My son is where I have always wanted him to be, doing what he must do. It is something that Jews have been unable to do for thousands of years - to defend their land and their right to live here. My son is a soldier in the army of Israel.
And because I can laugh today instead of cry, I'll add this story I had forgotten...from Shmulik's first day in the army:

Shmulik left this morning and as they approached the Induction Center...realized that he'd forgotten slippers. He'll be issued boots...reddish brown ones it seems to go with his uniform but when he'll shower or for that hour a day when he can's slippers or sandals or something.

He had only his sports sneakers.

Luckily, Elie was wearing his waterproof, perfect-for-the-shower Crocs and the two made a switch. Elie gave Shmulik his Crocs, which soon, perhaps even now, Shmulik will put in his backpack in place of those army boots. Elie put Shmulik's sneakers on...and almost limped back to the car. Elie is a few centimeters taller and at least a size larger than Shmulik in the shoe department. Elie's feet fit in Shmulik's sneakers...right up to the end of the show.

He got in the car, removed the painful shoes and drove home. No great lessons to be learned from this, other than a smile at two brothers who handled the situation brilliantly. Shmulik's sneakers are back in his bedroom waiting for his return; Elie's Crocs are somewhere near Tel Aviv wondering how they got drafted again.
May God watch over Elie as he serves his country.

May God watch over Shmulik as he begins his new job.

May God watch over David as he begins the long path to where his brothers are now.

And may God watch over Amira, her husband and her son - as well all celebrate how a baby becomes a child, beautiful and smart and sweet.

And may God watch over Aliza, my baby.

And may God watch over Lauren and the baby (refuach shlayma).

And may God watch over Na'ama, Shmulik's beautiful wife. 

And may God continue to bless this land, this people, this nation, His promised land; His chosen people, His blessed nation.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What is HappyLanche....

It's an avalanche of smiling and being happy and looking at the best in the world rather than the worst. It is the inspiration of an amazing woman...

Join the #HappyLanche

Read all about it here! 

Metastatic Happiness

I am happy.
If a stranger were to bump into me on the street, for the first time, they might think that I'm a woman with a very funky buzzcut. I don't think they would know what lurks under my physical facade.

How Long is 90 Seconds?

You ever feel time is getting away from you? Well, I just lost 90 seconds. According to Israel's Home Front Command, where previously I was told that I had 3 minutes to get to shelter in the event my area was attacked by missiles, the latest announcement says I now have 90 seconds.

What does that mean? Nothing really - I mean, they aren't expecting a missile to hit here any time soon. My bomb shelter is on the main level of the house. It's a nice size room we use as storage, a guest room, and an office. It's right next to my bedroom, maybe 20-30 feet away. I could count the tiles and give you an exact amount, but it doesn't really matter. My granddaughter could probably crawl there in 3 minutes. You can run there in seconds.
Even from upstairs, in the event of a siren, the two children who sleep upstairs could be down here in isn't the time. More than anything - it's the concept. Three minutes is forever when the siren sounds. I know. I remember last winter. We walked to the bomb shelter - feeling silly. Would they really fire a missile at Jerusalem? It must be a it was during the Gaza War in 2007.

Only this time, it wasn't a mistake. This time it was real...and still we walked there. More than one missile did hit the Jerusalem area and though we don't like to talk about it - one hit Tel Aviv as well. We don't have 3 minutes anymore.

Beersheva still has 60 seconds. I'm glad for them...I was afraid their time had been cut in half as well.

Ninety minutes isn't a long time at all...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What Wasn't in the News Today

A quick look at the news tells you that there are fierce battles raging in Syria (which still has not completely destroyed its arsenal of chemical weapons), the Vietnamese and the Chinese are shooting water cannons at each other, and South Korea expects North Korea to “disappear soon.” The Pope is coming to Israel – Hezbollah is threatening one of those who would come along. Kerry and Abbas are meeting in London to discuss talks…guess they forgot to invite us…

And here in Israel, we’re doing just fine.

Last night in my city – one the world knows largely only for the controversy over our existence, and not for all the beauty we have built here - the museum, the music conservatory, the library, the parks and schools and more - we did something amazing. Quiet but so amazing. It started weeks ago.  Actually, it started years ago. The brilliant idea of a dear friend (Bat Aliyah) who moved to Israel a few years ago, the first event was held in my back yard and raised about $1,000 for charity. But the idea exploded – yeah, ideas can do that and this one did. So twice a year, with great anticipation and tremendous help from dozens of volunteers, we’ve been hosting this event in Maale Adumim and last night we did it again.

It is, I think, more important than the Pope coming, more important than the fact that Olmert will be sentenced to go to jail this morning for all sorts of things he did. It’s actually more important than the peace process…because we all know there isn’t one and for all that Abbas and Kerry are talking in London, that dance won’t work any better than Kerry’s other ideas.
So let me tell you about Israel in a nutshell, because that’s what the last two days and nights in my city was all about. A few weeks ago, we began announcing, to great anticipation – that May 11 and 12th were the days. One synagogue donated its social hall – without question or hesitation for three nights – one to prepare, two to host.

On May 1, people began bringing boxes and bags and parcels to my house. Some knocked on my door; others just left them there. My friend Rivkah did the hard job – tracking thousands and thousands (total over 5,500) books…all in English. Best-sellers, classics, you name it – we got it. From Beit Shemesh, Shilo, Efrat, and Jerusalem, people donated. Someone who couldn’t give books, offered money.

We filled more than a dozen tables, with full boxes of reserves below. On Sunday night, people were waiting at the door – the 7th Maale Adumim Great Book Swap was underway. 

For the next two hours (three really), people laughed, talked, selected, collected. All for 5-10 shekels a book. Children were as excited as adults – maybe even more so. And as people paid with a smile to more volunteers, they thanked us and congratulated us.

Still more volunteers helped us re-arrange the books and knock down a few tables that had been emptied after the purchase of probably close to half of what we’d put out. But still, all those best sellers were well represented – and another night to go.

And last night, they came again – as with the first night, they came from all over Maale Adumim – but from many other places in Israel as well. When it was time to clean up the much depleted reserves, there were more volunteers to move the remaining books. We’re talking about getting an outdoor shed so that I can clear my steps (I’m hoping an Israeli company like Keter will volunteer to donate a small outdoor shed for storage as a sign that they too value Israel’s endless efforts to help others).

All told, we raised…in two nights, just under 12,000 shekels (about $3,450 at today’s exchange rate). Six months ago, it was just over 10,000 shekels. Each time, a bit more, a bit better. Even when I think we can’t possibly raise more or handle more books, my friends and community prove me wrong.

I have to admit there were unexpected tears in my eyes at the end of the night – what an amazing thing to do I kept thinking. Just wow…and then I realized that the “we” that had accomplished it encompassed hundreds of Israelis. They came, they donated, they organized, they purchased and then they didn’t leave until all the work was done.

The money will go to four amazing charities – to help those in need, to help those who are orphaned, to help those getting married, to help those who are very sick.

This morning I came to work and read the news as I always do and realized that all those newspapers and all those websites were wrong. They’d missed the most spectacular news of all. Last night, Israelis did what they do every day – they took care of themselves and their neighbors. They opened their hearts (and their wallets).

They did it in a beautiful city called Maale Adumim. Perhaps Kerry and Abbas spoke of Maale Adumim in their talks in London, perhaps not. And as many people left last night, again thanking us and congratulating us, they said the most wonderful thing of all, “see you in six months.”

Oh, we’ll be seeing them much more often than that – they are our neighbors and friends – but they know now, that in six months, they’ll be back there in this hall buying more books, knowing that more charities will be benefiting. And six months after that, and six months after that.

No matter what happens in Syria or London, China, Vietnam, Washington or Vancouver…we’ll be here in six months and six months, and six months after that. And not only will we be here, we’ll continue thinking of those in need and we’ll continue helping as we can because ultimately, what the media misses, is that this is what Israel is all about.

First posted on Times of Israel:  What Israel is All About

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Want an English Book for Like...Nothing?

English books in Israel - best sellers like Grisham, Patterson, Steele, and well, tons of other names cost a fortune in Israel. If in the States these books cost $10, in Israel, they cost close to $30 (for a paperback)! Why? I can't tell you. It isn't because of the shipping, that's for sure.

So what happens, you buy a book...and read it...and then, you wish you had something else to read?

So a few years back, a friend came up with a brilliant idea. We called it the Book Swap - but it took a while till the swap part became reality. People donated their books - in the hundreds...then in the thousands. They piled up on my stairs, in the entry to my house, outside my friend's front door...

Then, one night, people converged - first time in my backyard - since then, with the amazingly generous contribution of a synagogue's social hall to buy the books for the price of about $1.25 ($3.00 if you didn't donate a book). We made thousands of shekels (and then thousands of dollars) in a single night. And the money our favorite charities - to help first responders, to help children with Downs Syndrome, to help needy families, to help).

We're doing it again - tonight - Pnei Shmuel Synagogue in Maale Adumim - funds will go to four different funds.

Sunday evening, May 11, 2014
7:30-9:30 PM
Social Hall - Pnei Shmuel, Maale Adumim
"The Down Shul" Rechov Mitzpe Nevo 102

We have...ready for this...5,000 books! We're hoping to blow away any and all past revenue so that we can help FOUR amazing charities. If you can come...tonight or tomorrow night - really, come. Tonight books are 5-10 shekels - tomorrow night - ALL books are only 1 NIS - imagine getting top best sellers for only $0.30.

They Put Her in a Gas Chamber

Like many Israelis, I work in the hi-tech world. More and more, there are less and less cyber-borders. In minutes we bridge the gap of thousands of miles to sit and chat with someone in India, Iceland, the US, and Germany.

When the hi-tech boom burst in 2001, a company in Israel fired almost all of its personnel…and hired me. I’ve been there ever since. At some point, they purchased a company in the US that did similar things and by merging, they hoped to expand and enrich the technological offerings of the new-larger company. I was asked to work on their documentation and added it to the responsibilities I had. When needed, I brought in extra help; otherwise, I’m their documentation team. More recently, they bought a company in Iceland, another in the US, and one in Germany.

My mother-in-law was a teenager when the Nazis came into her small town on the Hungarian-Czechoslovakian border. They took her oldest brother and his new wife first. Then they came back and took the rest. They murdered her grandparents, uncles and aunts. They murdered her father, her mother, a young sister and a second brother.

They put her and her sister in a gas chamber and closed the door…seconds must have seemed like forever standing there naked and in the dark. And then…the Nazi guards opened the door because they needed a few more women for a work detail and she and one sister were pulled out. Those who were left behind, became part of the six million.

When hi-tech companies merge, you have to evaluate the strengths of each of the components. What is done where – and does it have to be done twice. Where once I met only with Israeli engineers, now I meet with teams in far off lands. It’s quite cool, actually. I go into one of three video-conferencing rooms, access a joint virtual room, and have a meeting with someone in a different time zone. We sit across the world, as once people sat across a table. No delays, no interruptions.

He can share his screen so I can see and comment. We hear, we see, we talk. We plan for the week, discuss the company, what documents will be needed, the overall flow of information and the constant need to improve communication between development and documentation. Sometimes we speak of an upcoming holiday when one or the other will not be in.

The more he speaks, in his pleasant and calm German accent, the more my brain thinks in Hebrew. I force myself to speak English only – it’s quite funny because English is the language of my birth, but not my heart. I can express things in English that fail in Hebrew simply because English remains my mother-tongue. But in those moments when I understand Hebrew is impossible to use, it is Hebrew that fills my brain.

They put her in a gas chamber; this gentle woman who had never hurt anyone. And when she came out of the war, she had one sister and one brother, where once she had five. They met up with some cousins around her age; ultimately, one of her cousins became her husband. It was a young generation whose foundations had been stolen from them. No parents, no aunts, no uncles, no grandparents.

They were all young – early twenties at most but they were all the family they had. He bought a house for all of them to live in and when she said it was time for her to move on and find some work, he hired her to clean his big house and then quietly warned everyone not to make a mess so she would not have to work too hard. They moved to America because it was the only country that would give all of them visas, and she brought four children into the world. And if they, like she, were scarred a bit, it wasn’t her fault. How could she not be? How could they not be?

He is very polite, very intelligent, very practical, and very aware of the needs of the company. It is a pleasure to work with someone who values what I do and sees the benefit of it. Technical writing is a precise craft. Errors and inconsistencies confuse the user. He appreciates this where most see it as a bit extreme and absurd.

More, he appreciates the knowledge I have accumulated in this field over the last two decades. I ask for an upgrade and feel I have to explain why purchasing the latest version of a software tool will make my work easier and more efficient. Within minutes, he gets the purchase approved. He is a dream to work with for any technical writer, and he speaks with a German accent.

It’s been 70 years…70 years since they put her in the gas chamber. She died 19 years ago. She lived to see and hold three of my children; my youngest daughter carries her name, her grace, and even her eyes. My daughter, all my children, live in a world so far from the one where my mother-in-law was born. Never, never in a million years, could a Hitler do today what was done then. Not because he wouldn’t try, but because we would not let him. The might of our army, our sons, stands, flies, guards, and sails for all of us.

For all the years of my marriage, I have not bought things made in Germany. People say I am punishing the wrong people; that today’s Germans did nothing wrong. They are right…but so am I. While my mother-in-law lived, how could I buy things made by the nation who had robbed her of so much. Would I buy a German oven? The thought sickens me.

They put her in a gas chamber; murdered almost all that she loved. She gave her children their names, where she could. I named my first son for her older brother who was taken first; my next son for my father-in-law’s younger brother who died in the forest. And my baby granddaughter carries the name of her little sister, who was murdered when she was only 12 years old. Gavriella…little Gavriella.

Why should today’s Germany be blamed? Without doubt, they should not be. Should we hate them? No, oh no. Definitely not. But…but as we carry a responsibility to remember, so do they.

Why should they be scarred for the wounds inflicted by their grandparents and great-grandparents? Ah, finally, there is the question. Why should we be scarred? My children know where their names come from; know what was done to their grandmother. We aren’t yet talking about some distant relative generations back – we are talking about their grandmother. My husband never knew a grandparents love because the Nazis murdered all four of them long before he was born. Now he is a grandfather himself, learning to be something without a role model, without a memory.

And this man that I meet with each week speaks with the same accent. And so here in this world so far from my job I can admit that it is hard for me. Hard to hear the accent. It isn’t his fault; but it isn’t mine either.

One of the Israeli managers flew to a meeting in Germany. During friendly discussions, one of the Germans asked her what Israel was doing in Gaza and said it was wrong for Israel to create concentration camps there. I asked her what she answered as the anger welled up inside me. She said nothing, ignored the comment. I would never have been able to show such restraint.

Concentration camps in Gaza? No, not even close. No one is putting Palestinians into gas chambers as my mother-in-law was put and no one paid my father-in-law or my mother-in-law for the back-breaking work they were forced to do. It was be a slave for the Nazis or die. Palestinians who work for Israelis are paid and many live like kings in large homes, have nice cars, and several phones on their belts.

My mother-in-law lived on rations that barely kept her alive; Palestinian stores are full of candies, meats, vegetables and more.

If someone got sick in the Nazi death camps, they had to keep working and hide their illness, especially the young ones. Palestinians who need advanced medical procedures often come to Israeli hospitals for treatment, especially the young ones.

So each week I go to my meeting and wonder if this will be the week that my heart breaks free and asks – were you the one who compared Gaza to a German concentration camp? Was your grandfather the Nazi who murdered my husband’s grandfather? Are you scarred from what your nation did, as mine is from having it done to us? If my husband is scarred and my children are scarred, why shouldn’t you be scarred to?

It is ultimately, like that huge pink elephant sitting in the room. We finish our meeting, wish each other well. We smile, genuinely smile, when we greet each other or laugh over the latest changes in the company. I genuinely like him and maybe if he comes to Israel, I’ll offer to take him around and show him some of the amazing things we have built and in the midst of our meetings, I’ll listen to his words, not his accent.

They put her in a gas chamber; murdered almost all that she loved.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Too many thoughts are going through my head - it's been a month of holidays - always exhausting.

Yesterday, we had the prerequisite barbecue - us...and all of Israel. The day before, I saw the fireworks...I love, sit back and enjoy.


Monday, May 5, 2014

The Switch

I wrote this last year...and yet each year, every year, for the last 20+ years, I have marveled at our ability to accomplish what mere hours ago seemed impossible.

The Switch - Israel Style...

It's just after 6:00 p.m. here in Israel. Memorial Day is fast coming to a close. I lit a memorial candle last night. It burns for 24 hours. It is mostly gone and soon it will go out. At 8:00 p.m., Israel will do what it does each year at this time - a most amazing and hard to believe thing. It will, in an instant, switch from our deepest sadness to our greatest joy.

Before we can celebrate our Independence Day, we honor those who made it possible, by commemorating our Memorial Day. Soon, all over the land, we will go to parties, barbecues, and fireworks. I am on the flat of the roller coaster of life as a soldier's mother - Yaakov, Elie, Chaim and Shmulik and Haim - are all out of the army. One nephew is out - one remains in the army. Elie did Reserve duty a week ago - a few days with other commanders to give him a heads up on where they are and what's likely to come at them in the next few months. Most of the unit wasn't even called in...
For the most part, my sons are home while other sons and daughters guard our borders, our seas, our skies. Davidi has begun the process but it is the very early stages and it will be more than a year - perhaps even two or three before he enters the army. He has chosen something dangerous but I can't worry now - perhaps he will change his mind; perhaps the army has other plans. For now, the roller coaster moves along and, as is its way, I can't see any fall ahead (of course, that's the point of the roller coaster - you never can see a fall), but you have this wonderful sense of calm, here on the flats. Not today...not tomorrow...
I am, for now, in the back lines. My sons are not in the front lines of the army and as a mother, I have stepped back behind the other mothers with sons on the front. Tonight, in a few short hours, my older sons will go with their wives to celebrate. Davidi will join his friends on the ambulance squad to help young children who fall and hurt themselves during the celebrations, or older people who need medical assistance as thousands converge on the center park of our small city. Last night, they came in the thousands to cry; soon, they will come with laughter. As hard as Memorial Day has been, I can only hope that's how happy Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Independence Day) will be.

Happy Birthday, Israel - may you go from strength to strength.

Israel's Heroes - Happy Birthday Israel

Four Planes, Not Five

The standard is five jets flying over as a sign of respect...and then one breaks off and four keep flying - as a sign of mourning.

Moments after the siren sounded, four jet fighters flew over my hours. One in the front, two slightly behind, and then the fourth on the left side, slightly behind...missing was his counterpart, the fifth plane that should fly on the right. It is a sign that someone is missing, that we go on, without the one.

I'm sure as the siren sounded in Mt Herzl - the national military ceremony (similar to Arlington for those in the States), these jets flew over, and the fifth broke away.

It must be a powerful thing to watch...a sad thing...something that brings home the lose of the one so powerfully. I watched the planes fly south over my house touched by the sight of them flying...and saddened for the ones who have been lost to us.

To Stand at the Siren or Not

I just got an email from David's school. It has a link to a page on the Internet...and on it are pictures, faces...the fallen of Netiv Meir. There are 41 faces there, 41 boys who fell in the battle to keep our land and our home.

In a few minutes, the siren will again sound throughout this land. Most Israelis will stand; sadly, some will not. I don't care what their reason is; it offends me. They will talk of the Jewish way for mourning and perhaps, in this sense, they are right. When Jews mourn, there is a very detailed plan for how it is done. There is the 7 days of mourning immediately following the burial - which is done as quickly as possible, almost always within the first 24 hours.

Then there are the first 30 days, another level of mourning, less intense than the 7, more intense than the rest of the year. For the loss of a parent, the most natural of losses, we mourn for a year. We lose not only someone we loved, but part of the foundation that we have taken with us all of our lives.

And then...and then once a year, on the anniversary of their deaths, we mourn again - all very organized. Prayers to be said; candles to be lit. But these are the natural deaths and the natural way of mourning.

Yom HaZikaron is about the unnatural - people who were taken from us not from illness, disease or acts of God such as storms, earthquakes, whatever. These were not accidents we could have avoided but the sudden taking. It is that split second you dread all your life - when you know there is no going back to what was, the family you were, the relationship you had.

So we have, perhaps, an unnatural way to mark this - and it is done as a nation. What harm does it cause to stand and listen, perhaps to silently whisper a prayer for someone lost to us? Because it isn't said on the anniversary of the day the person died, does that mean it is not recognized by God?

You speak of Ahavat Yisrael - love of Israel...does it show love to hurt people who have already suffered a loss that no person should ever know?

You speak of the Jewish way, of unity? But what of the Jewish concepts of compassion and kindness? If you can bring comfort to someone who mourns, what matter that it is something that non-Jews do - a moment of silence, standing rather than...what? Sitting and reading Psalms (Tehillim)? Can't you stand and say Tehillim?

If you sit during the siren in the next few minutes - shame on you. Shame on you for your hypocrisy in calling upon the secular to practice Ahavat Yisrael, for showing unity, for showing respect because you aren't prepared to do the same.

Each time I hear the siren in a public place, a part of me watches. I see the Arabs who continue walking, continue driving. Their lack of respect is expected. Our mourning means nothing to them; only that they wish more of it upon us. They will not give our dead respect. Of course, if we were to treat their dead with a lack of respect, more bombs would go off, the UN would condemn us, and Kerry would say we were being unreasonable and should make it better by releasing more killers.

But that is them...and I speak to you. If you want the secular to respect our religious way of life; you have to give something - and that might be as simple as standing in respect for what they...what I...what we believe.

A mother should never have to bury her son; too many mothers in Israel have. If your standing for one moment brings her comfort - where is that against the Torah? Against Jewish law?

Your standing will bring her more comfort because she knows, as we all do, that this thing we do comes from outside our religion. So stand - stand because you live in this country and because in each case, soldier or terrorist victim, they died because they lived here too (or visited here, or went in the wrong restaurant, or took the wrong bus).

Stand because that is what Israel should do - stand together. You can say your prayers; I will. You can mourn on the day the person died; they certainly do that too...and every other day of the year.

But on this day, stand. Stand because it is the right thing to do. Stand because it brings comfort to those who deserve our compassion. Stand because if you sit, you are like the Arabs who fail to recognize all we have done to keep this land. Stand because if you sit, you have no right to live here.

Yes, I wrote that and my hand shakes as I do but's true. This is our land, fought for and defended by those we mourn today. Stand.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Days I Hate and Days I Love

Tuesday is probably the day I love most on the Israeli calendar - it is Yom Ha'atzmaut - Independence Day. We'll hopefully go see the fly-over in Jerusalem - where Israel's air force will fly across Israel - from north to south and east to west in all its glory. I'm going to try to videotape it. Then we'll get together here and have a barbecue. We'll go see the fireworks at night...I LOVE fireworks...and as I do every year, as they explode in the sky, I'll whisper to Israel - happy birthday and thank you, God, for giving us this land.

And tonight and tomorrow are probably the times I hate the most. They begin with a heart-wrenching siren that wails into your heart. It goes on and on...though it really is only a minute tonight and two tomorrow. You stand at absolute attention wherever you are. The worst was the time I was in the store and though I knew it was coming, I tried to act normally...I had a tomato in my hand at the moment the siren went off...I held it for a second, not knowing what to do and then I put it back with the others and stood for the remaining time.

Each year, I go to the ceremony at night and I listen to the stories, the numbers of how many more died this year. I experienced my first Memorial Day as a soldier's mother just weeks after Elie had entered the army. I knew that he was fine - on a training base far from all our borders. But as the day was coming closer, I knew it would break me if I let it.

Israel's Memorial Day is sadly a bit unique in the world in that it is truly a day of mourning. There are no barbecues, no sales, no discounts, no playing on the beach. It is somber, it is heartbreaking, it is agonizing. Cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. are all closed - by law and by desire, there are no places of entertainment open.

Even children's stations run sad stories - interviews with children who have lost siblings or parents feature highly. One station has the simplest of broadcasts - a slow roll of the names of each soldier, each terrorist victim, lost - from the first to the last, most recent death. You watch the names scroll across the screen...each a family devastated and likely still in mourning.

The first year, as a soldier's mother, I refused to go to the ceremony in our city. It was more than I could bear, to hear the stories of those we had lost in this town, to see parents that I know explain or speak of their sons.

April, 2007
I promised myself that I wouldn't think today, knowing that this Memorial Day, my first as a mother of an Israeli soldier, would be that much more difficult.

I would light a candle in memory of Israel's fallen soldiers, as I do each year, but I would not allow myself to imagine, to think for even a moment. There are ways to mourn, ways to feel sympathy for others without taking the pain in too deeply. That's what I tell myself each year, and then I watch the names and see the faces and listen to the stories of those we have lost.

Israel's Memorial Day commemoration begins with the wailing air raid siren. Once again, cars come to a stop wherever they are. Israelis are notoriously late - but not for this ceremony. At exactly 8:00 p.m., the siren wails. It is the signal for a nation to begin, or perhaps to acknowledge, their mourning and their gratitude. For the next 24 hours, we will hear only about those we have lost. The bravery, the courage, the dedication, the sacrifice.

Memorial Day (2008) - Who Elie Stands Beside

Last year, I read the story of what the paratroopers division does to remember their own. The article in the newspaper spoke of how beside the grave of each fallen paratrooper, a soldier in the current paratroopers division stands. The families come and see that their sons have not been forgotten. I couldn't imagine what goes through the head of that young man, whose job it is to simply stand there, in honor and in mourning. I can't imagine what the family thinks, seeing this young man stand so proud and straight, beside the grave of their son.
Last year, when I read that article, I didn't know that the artillery division does the same. I didn't know that my son would be asked to go and stand beside the grave of a fallen artillery soldier. I don't know what will go through Elie's mind as he stands beside that grave. How old will that boy be, that young man who died protecting our country.
Finally, two years after Elie entered the army, I felt strong enough to go to the ceremony. It was so much easier, in the end, because Elie came with me.

The Ostrich and the Ceremony (2009)

I don't want to project, to imagine, to think. For the last two years, I have told myself that I didn't have to be cruel to myself; that I was entitled to skip these ceremonies; that the mothers would understand. Maybe they too skipped the ceremonies before their sons were killed fighting for this land.

This is the first time I almost feel strong enough to risk going, dare to listen as the stories are told. I'll light the memorial candle, as I do each year. I'll stand and listen to the siren, as I do each year. I'll think, or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just stand there and listen to the siren and pray.
And finally, I'll explain that the day I hate the most, and the day I love the most, are found right next to each other on the calendar. And each year, though it seems totally impossible, we in Israel experience, The Switch...

The Switch - Israel Style
Before we can celebrate our Independence Day, we honor those who made it possible, by commemorating our Memorial Day. Soon, all over the land, we will go to parties, barbecues, and fireworks. I am on the flat of the roller coaster of life as a soldier's mother - Yaakov, Elie, Chaim and Shmulik and Haim - are all out of the army. One nephew is out - one remains in the army. Elie did Reserve duty a week ago - a few days with other commanders to give him a heads up on where they are and what's likely to come at them in the next few months. Most of the unit wasn't even called in...
For the most part, my sons are home while other sons and daughters guard our borders, our seas, our skies. Davidi has begun the process but it is the very early stages and it will be more than a year - perhaps even two or three before he enters the army. He has chosen something dangerous but I can't worry now - perhaps he will change his mind; perhaps the army has other plans.

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