Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 25

I'm going to want to use this blessing again and again, hopefully, in the coming 75 days and yet, yesterday reminded me again of a most special blessing in Israel.

I grew up in New Jersey where it rained almost weekly. The truth is, I have always loved the rain - I would choose to walk in the rain often simply for the wonderful feel of it.

This is Davidi...picking
blueberries...he was
4 years old.
I can't say that I ever thought of rain as a blessing outside Israel but when you live here, you understand that water does not always come in an endless supply. We are asked, and we do, try not to waste water on a daily basis. If we peel a pot full of potatoes and keep the in water as we work, we pour the water in our garden, rather than down the drain. We close the water while we soap up during showers. We close the water when we brush our teeth.

Yesterday, as I was driving to my client's office - it rained just a bit. The radio announced it; the people around me smiled. I saw one person open his car window and put his hand out to catch a drop; I almost did the same.

Rain is always a blessing here in Israel. People will say things like, "it's supposed to be miserable, thank God." Even on the radio, the newscasters will express such joy and such gratitude.

So today's blessing is for the first rainfall...tiny though it was. We are all hoping that it is a sign that this year the skies will open and pour blessings upon Israel, the the seas will fill, the rivers run wide.

This is a very special year - it is the Shmitta year, that began just a few days ago with the beginning of the new year. Shmitta comes every 7 years - and reminds us that we are truly an ancient people. During Shmitta, we let the land rest, as we rest each week on the seventh day.

So this year in Israel, crops will not be planted, what grows naturally is free for anyone to take. The land will rest...and God willing, the rain will fall. Blessings from the land or more accurately, blessings of the land.


Sometimes it is as simple as a few words...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bibi Talk

For many years, I hoped the world would listen to Benjamin Netanyahu. For all that I don't agree with him on many issues, he remains one of our greatest statesmen. In a crunch, when we need him to make the most of a speech, he hits a home run, out of the stadium and around the world.

He did it again tonight. But, for the first time, I heard something different in his voice. I don't really know if it was his voice or my ears. Perhaps I'm listening differently this time. Sometimes his tone sounded like he was thinking...here I am, saying this yet again...been there, done that - they didn't listen last time, they won't listen this time.

I felt, more than ever before, he was not only speaking for Israel, he was speaking to Israel. This is what you wanted me to say - and I'm going to say it.

A few key points - the full video is below and well worth watching:
  • I come here to expose the lies that are told against my country from this podium
  • The people of Israel are not occupiers in the land of Israel  
  • Israel used missiles to protect its children. Hamas used children to protect its missiles 
  • Hamas cynically used Palestinian civilians as human shields. Israel did everything to minimize Palestinian casualties   
  • Hamas used UN schools, private homes, mosques to store and fire rockets at Israel 
  • Iran's President Rouhani stood here last week shedding crocodile tears   
  • Don't be fooled by Iran's manipulative charm offensive 
  • To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as threshold nuclear power is to win battle and lose war   
  • ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree 
  • Hamas shares the global ambitions of its fellow militant Islamists   
  • Ultimate goal of Isalmist militants is to dominate the world 
  • The people of Israel are praying for peace, but our hopes for peace are in danger   
  • What would your countries do if thousands of rockets were fired at your cities? You wouldn't let terrorists fire rockets at your cities with impunity.
  • No other country and no other army in history has gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemy. Our soldiers uphold the highest moral values of any army in the world - they should be admired not condemned.
  • Some may still not take Israel's security concerns seriously. Make no mistake. But I do and I always will 

Counting Your Blessings - Day 24

Yesterday, my daughter, son-in-law and I picked up my grandson from his nursery school and drove him to his parent's home. When we got there, my grandson started to cry - he wanted to come home with me.

He had been here over the holiday - he's a joy to cuddle and play with - he constantly amazes me with how much he has learned. He absorbs everything. He was in the synagogue with us on the second day of Rosh Hashana and people came over to tell me how well he behaved. He was wonderful.

He's three years old - an incredible mixture of his parents and two cultures. He understands English, but speaks almost exclusively in Hebrew. He has identified my house with yogurt and his other grandmother's house with eggs. He eats plenty of other foods in both places, but knows when he comes to my house, yogurt is what he should ask for.

I keep telling my daughter that he isn't old enough to learn the things that my son-in-law and his family keep teaching this child ... and in each and every case, I am proven wrong and they are proven right.

So today's blessing is my grandson. I can't put a picture of him here because my daughter and son-in-law, rightly, don't put his picture on the Internet.

And, if the blessing of one grandchild were not enough, I am blessed with another - Elie's daughter...she just turned a year old - and is running...yes, running. She's sweet and she's strong. She knows what she wants and communicates it in so many ways. She's curious; she's adorable. Sweet, cuddly, so so cute. And I can't put a picture of her here because my son and daughter-in-law, rightly, don't put her picture on the Internet.

And finally, Bill Clinton, aged 68 and Hillary Clinton, aged 66 became grandparents yesterday for the first time - and so, if having two amazing grandchildren isn't enough, I am so blessed that more than a decade younger than both of them, God has blessed me (and my children) with these amazing little sweeties.

So, today's blessing is grandchildren - if you have them, you know what a blessing they are. If you don't have them - I wish such a blessing on you - in the right time.

From this Flour, Bread Won't Come

I listen to the radio on my way into work. It improves my Hebrew which, even after 21 years here in Israel, still needs to be improved. Mostly, I understand everything or close to is; sometimes, I marvel at what an incredibly beautiful language Hebrew is. Other times, like this morning, I smile at the way some things are phrased.

A few years back, I laughed out loud when I heard one of the newscasters condemn both the Israelis and the Palestinians for the deadlock in the peace negotiations by saying, "there are no righteous men in Sodom."

Today, I had to smile again. Much of Israel is furious over the lies Abbas told yesterday at the United Nations. The newscaster outlined much of what Netanyahu is going to say - about the Iranian threat and Abbas' words.

The newscaster continued - Netanyahu will tell the world that the Israeli army is the most moral army in the world, "and they are." On and on, Netanyahu will speak.

And then the newscaster said, "from this flour, bread won't come." What he meant was that the world most likely won't listen; that peace won't come of the speeches made at the United Nations.

No, bread won't come from the flour, truth won't come from the lies, and peace won't come either.

But sometimes, truth is enough. Sometimes hearing words are needed. Israel needs to hear the words that Netanyahu will speak at the United Nations later today. The world may not listen; the world may not care but Israel does.

We have survived another war. I don't know how many we've had. It's hard to decide which to call a war and which were "only" operations. For me, the Cast Lead "operation" was a war; for the army, it was never classified as a war. Operation Protective Edge will likely be called a war - who knows? How can it not be?

There was 1948 when the Arabs attacked; 1956 when the Arabs attacked. There was 1967 when they closed the Straits of Tiran, mobilized their forces to the borders and screamed out that war was coming. Technically, we started the war with a pre-emptive attack but the result was likely a cleaner, faster war than anyone imagined - 6 days - because we took the first shot.

They attacked us in 1973, on Yom Kippur (and then whined this year when we didn't stop the war for one of their holy days). In 1982, they shelled us from the north and so that war began. But there was also the War of Attrition - an endless series of terror attacks and cross-border infiltrations that lasted for years...

There was 1991 when we were bombed from Iraq, but that was America's war. I'm probably missing something that Google could tell me for sure, but I know there was the 2006 Lebanon War - the Second one after they kidnapped our soldiers and again rained missiles on the north.

Then there was "Elie's War" - Cast Lead. And then Operation Amud Annan - Pillar of Defense, where Elie was called again.

Now we've had Protective Edge...

Somewhere in all those wars, we stopped believing there would be peace. Oh we still want it, still dream of it but we don't really talk about "driving to Damascus for lunch" like we once did. I can see the towers of Amman from my window, but I doubt I'll ever get there. I'll never see the pyramids of Egypt or the Sahara.

From this flour, bread won't come.

The Lies and the Flaws of Mahmoud Abbas

Much is being made of the speech that Mahmoud Abbas made at the United Nations. A lie told often enough, said Vladimir Lenin, becomes the truth. It is ironic that the Arabs hold so much faith in this notion and it is even more ironic that much of the world is stupid or ignorant enough to believe it.

Abbas at UN.No, it's not true. No matter how many times you tell a lie - it remains a lie. A situation can change to make something into a truth. For example, I can say I am 60 years old...I'm not, but God willing, eventually I will be. So, on my 60th birthday, it isn't that the lie becomes truth, but that the situation changed.

The Soviet Union was built on a lie - and you'll note it no longer exists. Lenin's great theory never really worked - ultimately, the lie that people could live better under a totalitarian, dictatorial regime failed. Except the Arabs never learned the lesson, never got the memo and so Abbas unashamedly stands before the United Nations and lied for all he was worth.

Let me give you some examples...
Lie: Abbas spoke of the "Palestine refugees, who are the victims of Al-Nakba (Catastrophe) that occurred in 1948."
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 - they were not victims; they were the aggressors. They believed, they were led to believe, that five Arab nations could "push the Jews into the sea" - their words, their promise. They failed. No catastrophe and certainly no victims on their side.
Lie: A year ago, at this same time, distinguished leaders in this hall addressed the stalled peace efforts in our region. Everyone had high hopes for a new round of final status negotiations, which had begun in early September in Washington under the direct auspices of President Barack Obama and with participation of the Quartet, and with Egyptian and Jordanian participation, to reach a peace agreement within one year. We entered those negotiations with open hearts and attentive ears and sincere intentions, and we were ready with our documents, papers and proposals. But the negotiations broke down just weeks after their launch.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and they did not come to any negotiations calling for peace - not then, not later, and not last year with "open hearts and attentive ears" and certainly, there were no "sincere intentions." They were not ready for anything. Israel released prisoners - killers - the Palestinians did nothing but threaten and whine until they accepted a unity deal with Hamas, a terrorist organization which has fired over 20,000 rockets at Israeli cities, murdered our children - including three teens this past summer. Negotiations didn't break down, they were sabotaged by the Palestinians.
Lie: But all of these sincere efforts and endeavors undertaken by international parties were repeatedly wrecked by the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and last September they chose a terrorist organization as their partner. There can be no negotiating with someone who not only refuses to recognize your right to exist, but promises at every turn to do all it can to annihilate you.
Lie: The core issue here is that the Israeli government refuses to commit to terms of reference for the negotiations that are based on international law and United Nations resolutions, and that it frantically continues to intensify building of settlements on the territory of the State of Palestine.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948. They have ignored international law repeatedly - as they target civilians, including children. They continue to build illegal housing at a much faster pace than any building we have done. New settlements? Not for a long time - new neighborhoods on established areas - yes, some, but not much - and nothing compared to the thousands of new apartments and buildings the Palestinians have added.
Lie: The occupying Power also continues to undertake excavations that threaten our holy places.
Truth:  The illegal excavations done by Palestinians on the Temple Mount have resulted in tremendous damage - so much so that some of the ancient walls have nearly collapsed. We have found numerous relics and evidence of a Jewish presence here in Israel dating back thousands of years has repeatedly been thrown out amidst mountains of dirt from the Temple Mount. It is they who deny our history here - claiming, among other things, that the Western Wall, the last remaining retainer wall for the Temple Mount, was nothing but the place that Mohammed parked his donkey. Many of their "holy" places were built on top of our holy places - the Temple Mount, Samuel's Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarch's, Joseph's Tomb...and on and on. Their crime, not ours. Their lies.
Lie: At the same time, the occupying Power continues to impose its blockade on the Gaza Strip and to target Palestinian civilians by assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling, persisting with its war of aggression of three years ago on Gaza, which resulted in massive destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques, and the thousands of martyrs and wounded.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and they chose war this summer. Most of what Abbas said above is true - with the exception of one key word. We did not target Palestinian civilians by "assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling" - not once. We targeted Hamas and other terror organizations. By contrast, the Palestinians targeted most of Israel this summer, including my home and the homes and cities of many of my friends - perhaps even 90% of them. As for the "massive destruction of homes, schools, hospitals and mosques" - they ceased to be these things the minute the Palestinians turned them into arsenals. A mosque cannot be an arsenal and an arsenal cannot be a mosque, a hospital, a school. As for the "thousands of martyrs and wounded" - this is true - we targeted their terrorists, their gunmen, their fighters and if we wounded them and turned them into martyrs...good.
Omission: In 1974, our deceased leader Yasser Arafat came to this hall....stating 'Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”.
Truth: He came with a "freedom fighter's gun"...remember that? And he started off by mentioning that - he carried an olive branch and a gun...heck of a way to make a statement that you want peace. It was a warning. At least Arafat was more honest than Abbas.
Lie:  [Palestinians]...were forced to leave their homes and their towns and villages, carrying only some of our belongings and our grief and our memories and the keys of our homes to the camps of exile and the Diaspora in the 1948 Al-Nakba, one of the worst operations of uprooting, destruction and removal of a vibrant and cohesive society that had been contributing in a pioneering and leading way in the cultural, educational and economic renaissance of the Arab Middle East.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and told the Arab population of Palestine to get out of their way...and most CHOSE to leave. What they took with them was up to them. Unlike the Jewish populations of the Arab countries - close to 900,000 of them who were truly forced from their homes - usually with nothing. Diaspora? Exile? Look how Abbas attempts to hijack the very terms Jews have used for 2,000 years. Sinister, this man is; evil in his attempt to turn a lie into truth. "A vibrant and cohesive society" - the Arabs of Palestine were a bunch of clans and nomadic tribes - there was nothing vibrant about them and certainly nothing cohesive. They lived on land owned by absentee landlords and lived simple lives with almost nothing. "Contributing in a pioneering and leading way in the cultural, educational and economic renaissance of the Arab Middle East"? Wow - he should get an academy award for that lie. Just wow.

The ONLY pioneers in the Middle East have been the Jews.  There is no Palestinian culture, no economic or educational renaissance. There isn't a single university in any Arab country (including all areas under Palestinian authority) in the list of 200 top universities in the world. By contrast, five out of six of Israeli's universities appear in the top 200.

Some facts from Wikipedia:
  • As of 2012, ten Nobel Prize winners have been Muslims. Half of the ten Muslim Nobel laureates were awarded the prize in the 21st century. Six of the ten winners have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, including a controversial award to Yasser Arafat. Muslims make up over 23% of the worlds population and have earned 1% of Nobel Prizes.
  • Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 850 individuals, of whom at least 20% were Jews or of Jewish descent, although Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world's population, (or 1 in every 500 people). Overall, Jews have won a total of 41% of all the Nobel Prizes in economics, 28% of medicine, 26% of Physics, 19% of Chemistry, 13% of Literature and 9% of all peace awards. Jews have been recipients of all six awards.The oldest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize was Leonid Hurwicz, a Polish-American Jew who received the 2007 prize in Economics when he was 90 years old.
Omission: The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of their inalienable national rights in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the land of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the June 1967 war.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and they chose war in 1967. And when they lost...worse than even THEY or WE could have imagined, they began a path or rewriting history. THEY attacked. They lost. Jerusalem was never - not in 1947 and not in 1949, not in 1967 and not in 2014, nor in any year in between those dates, the capital, past, present, or future, of any Palestinian state. Only in their wildest dreams would they, could they, ever get Jerusalem. A few years ago, I heard a previously-Muslim woman state one of the fundamental truths, "Even if you give them Jerusalem, EVEN if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace." True then, true now. The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of an Israel-free Middle East. That was their goal; that is their goal. THAT is the truth.
Lie: Achieving this desired peace also requires the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay.
Truth: So long as the Palestinians continue to claim that a man who butchered a three-month old child or stabbed a three year old in the heart is a "political prisoner or a detainee, there will be no peace agreement and there will be no peace.

Lie: The PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.
Truth:  Tell that to the family of Baruch Mizrachi, who was murdered as he drove his family to their Passover Seder; tell that to the families of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad. Tell that to thousands of families in Israel who know the bitter truth - that the Palestinians believe firmly in the use of whatever methods will get them their goals - terror, lies, death, suicide, rockets, firebombs, missiles, boulders, tractors, bullets, arson.
Lie: We adhere to the option of negotiating a lasting solution to the conflict in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy. 
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and all they have ever offered since that time was a hudna - their word for Mohammed's deceitful actions. It is allowed, even honorable in the eyes of Islam, to make an agreement with an infidel, and then break it. Mohammed agreed to ten years of peace and broke it after two. So too, would Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Palestinian Authority. Hudna is NOT peace; peace is NOT hudna.
Lie: Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation and its settlement and apartheid policies and its construction of the racist annexation Wall, and they receive support for their resistance, which is consistent with international humanitarian law and international conventions and has the support of peace activists from Israel and around the world, reflecting an impressive, inspiring and courageous example of the strength of this defenseless people, armed only with their dreams, courage, hope and slogans in the face of bullets, tanks, tear gas and bulldozers.
Truth:  There is nothing peaceful about the Palestinian "resistance" - the only question is how violent they choose to be, how much death they succeed in accomplishing. Their people are armed with a heck of a lot more than just "dreams, courage, hope and slogans." Try 20,000 rockets fired at Israel already and more where they came from; try knives with which they slit the throat of an infant; guns used to kill fathers and turn children into orphans. Try boulders that have murdered child and adult. Try bulldozers that they have used to attack buses and cars. Yes, there were two truths in what Abbas said above - they won't stop, and they thankfully don't have tanks. They do, however, have anti-tank missiles, which they shot at a school bus and killed a 16-year old.
Lie: Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine.
Lie: We only aim to de-legitimize the settlement activities and the occupation and apartheid and the logic of ruthless force, and we believe that all the countries of the world stand with us in this regard.
Lie: I am here to say on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestine Liberation Organization: We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peace-making..
Lie: During the last two years our national authority has implemented a program to build our State institutions. Despite the extraordinary situation and the Israeli obstacles imposed, a serious extensive project was launched that has included the implementation of plans to enhance and advance the judiciary and the apparatus for maintenance of order and security, to develop the administrative, financial, and oversight systems, to upgrade the performance of institutions, and to enhance self-reliance to reduce the need for foreign aid. With the thankful support of Arab countries and donors from friendly countries, a number of large infrastructure projects have been implemented, focused on various aspects of service, with special attention to rural and marginalized areas.
Truth:   They have squandered billions of dollars on greed, luxury homes and malls and fancy cars. They built a vast underworld of tunnels used to smuggle drugs, women, and weapons in and planned to use other tunnels to attack and murder Israelis. The cement that could have, should have been used to build schools, hospitals and homes was used to build these tunnels. THAT is the truth Abbas refuses to admit.
Omission: It is neither possible, nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual, as if everything is fine. It is futile to go into negotiations without clear parameters and in the absence of credibility and a specific timetable.
Truth:    As Abbas attempted to hijack terms that we have used for centuries - diaspora and exile, here too he is attempting to hijack an often-used complaint of Israel - we have no partners in peace and it is neither possible, practical or acceptable to continue negotiations with the Palestinians at this time.
Omission: I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough.
Truth:     Gee, let's ignore the Jewish people; the history written in the Bible that supposedly Islam believes is holy. God gave this land to the Israelites...that would be the Jews. If he wants to invoke history - I'm right there with him - but you can't quote Jesus and ignore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As for peace be upon Mohammed, the man wouldn't know peace if you slapped him across the face with it.

Abbas came to the United Nations to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people - that I believe and after 66 years (I have no clue where the idiot came up with the number 63...do the math, Abbas), of ongoing terrorism and war that began long before 1947 when the Arabs chose war, it is, indeed, time to say enough.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 23

Okay, this is a weird one, but then again, this is a weird day. So...today's blessing is crazy people.

I told you it was weird.

I don't want to go into all the details, but every once in a while, I come across a person whose values are so messed up, whose priorities are in the wrong place. A few weeks ago, a woman came to argue with me about something. She was doing something that was, according to the city of Jerusalem, illegal. And she was doing it near my office. When I complained, seeing that I was religious, she told me that I was wrong and that her cause was the first commandment in the Torah...um, it's not.

Today, a man, doing the same thing, screamed at me to watch out for the Yemenites. Okay....personally, I like the Yemenites - well, at least the one's I've met - I haven't actually met any current-day Yemenites from Yemen but I have nothing but respect for the vast majority of Yemenites I've met - except for this one...he was just bizarre.

A while back, a woman on the train station across from my stop started screaming that everyone was jealous of her because she was beautiful (um....she really wasn't...I mean, maybe at one point she was...but that was long ago and in a far off place). I was so happy that she was screaming in English so that the men around me hopefully didn't understand what she was saying. It was just embarrassing!

All this came to mind because two of our guests over the holidays are mental health professionals and it made me remember the time I worked for a psychiatrist many years ago. At one point, one of his clients walked in and said, "We are very angry at you."

Okay..."they" had some serious problems...she really did.

I walked into the doctor's office, told him what the patient had said, and told him, "you have some really crazy patients."

To which he responded, "thank God."

Yes - thank you, God, for everyone - even the crazies that enrich our lives and more, help us remember how lucky we are to be blessed with the lives we have, to those things that we prioritize.

In many ways, much of the world is crazy - crazy with hatred, crazy with misguided notions of what they think God wants from them. Someone took a shot at Jews standing in Baltimore near an Orthodox synagogue - by the grace of God, while the building was damaged, no one was hurt. Crazies...

Abbas stood at the UN and accused Israel of genocide (and, as a Lebanese woman recently said, if that was true, we are the most inept genocidal killers in the history of man)...crazy. And, of course, Israel's left-wing Labor Party Chairman, Isaac Herzog, was quick to say we still prefer to deal with Abbas...yup, certifiable.

The trick, I think, is just to accept what you know, where your world is, and allow others to do as they will. I've said many times that I'd rather live in a land that is in mourning for the loss of three precious teenagers than live in a land that celebrates their deaths. I'd rather live in a land that released 1,000 killers for one innocent young man; than live in a land that welcomes those killers back as heroes. And yes, to some extent, the insistence of the Palestinians to celebrate the calamities of Israel makes them just a bit...off...just a bit...crazy.

When I started this, I didn't think I'd get around to blessing my enemies - near and far, but maybe there is something to this. Your enemies help you clarify so much. I don't want to celebrate death - even the deaths of my enemies. I don't want to celebrate the murders of innocents - even the innocent of my enemies. That is beyond what is normal to my world...just on the other side of crazy.

So today's blessing is crazy people...and yes, to some extent, I'll say that includes our dear neighbors...may God keep them far away from us.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 22

After an amazingly wonderful holiday filled with food and friends and family and prayers, today's blessing is about the power of the voice. The prayers of Rosh Hashana are very beautiful, almost overwhelming at times. We were blessed with the beautiful voice of Yehudah Katz, founder of the Reva l'Sheva band. We were doubly blessed with the honor of hosting his family for two of the meals.

So first, there was the power of Yehudah Katz's voice joined with many of my friends during the prayers...that in itself was very meaningful. Then there were the words of the prayers saying, guiding us, in so many ways, to deliver our hopes and dreams for the coming year, our retrospective of the past year and what we want to do differently, better.

And then yesterday, in addition to the Katz family, we were honored to host a family from our neighborhood. It was quite a meal - 17 people...and while I was in the kitchen shifting between the meal and the dessert, I heard a single voice singing. At first I thought it was Yehudah's voice but when I went to listen more closely, I saw that he too was listening. I searched around the room - from where was this voice coming?

In the end, it was from a very talented 15 year old. I'm not sure yet if he knows how incredibly talented he is. He seems to enjoy it but also be a bit embarrassed by all the attention.

It brought the room to silence and then to cheers. So today's blessing is the human voice - it can bless; it can harm. It can heal; it can encourage. It is at once our most powerful weapon and our greatest resource.

It allows us to speak our hearts and our minds - to all, to any, to God. Of all the blessings that God gave to man alone, the human voice is perhaps the most precious.

A long time ago, I started a website - a collection, an archive of articles I had been writing for many years - even decades. I didn't know what to call it, but friends chimed in with "PaulaSays" and I tried it. I never loved the name and yet it remains. But the tag line was mine - "A Voice from Israel".

A voice is a very precious thing. There are many crimes that humans commit, unspeakable horrors in the name of so many things. Silencing someone's voice is a crime - whether it is done by violence, by out-shouting the other person, by closing one's heart to someone's voice - all these are wrong.

A voice - a true blessing...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 19, 20 and 21

I'm cheating. Starting at sundown tonight, the people of Israel will go "radio-silent" for three days. Two days of Rosh Hashana and one day of Shabbat. No television, no phones. No computers. No cars or buses. Nothing but peace and quiet and family.

This is a hard Rosh Hashana - we will be sharing Amira with her in-laws - that's the good news. It's her birthday so she's wonderful about sharing - and so they get half and we get half and we're all happy. Aliza will be home - and that too is wonderful.

Elie and Lauren are going to close friends/family so they won't be here. Shmulik and Naama will be going to her family and won't be coming and Davidi is in yeshiva and so won't be home either. We have guests for almost every meal, so we'll have a house full of people...and quiet time too. Nice.

But I won't be back online until Saturday night - so I'll cheat and list three blessings now.

Day 19 - as the challah rises for the holidays - today's blessing is yeast. It makes our bread what it is; it's a blessing. It really is. So today's blessing is the yeast that makes our bread rise...and the bread itself.

Today we will shape the bread in a circle - indicating the way the year goes around and around. It has no real beginning and no real end - and that's what we want from life - for it to continue...and so - thank you, God, for the bread you give us (and the yeast the makes it rise). I guess I should thank you for the flour and the other stuff, but let's wait till I get closer to 100 - I doubt I'll run low on finding things with which You have blessed us, but I'll hold those for later, just in case.

Day 20 - I'm not sure if this blessing is daughters in general, sensitive daughters, pen and paper, or English teachers - but this blessing is about a note that Aliza wrote to me and left on my computer last night. I didn't have time to do any real cooking or baking before last night and so in a whirlwind couple of hours, I made a tray of chicken, two trays of mixed potatoes, a tray of roasted squash, a meaty stew that I'll put in the refrigerator and serve on Shabbat (cholent), two different kinds of noodle casseroles, cucumber salad...and I'm pretty sure something...oh yes, two kinds of fish. In the middle of all that, I was feeling really sad and overwhelmed by life and things I can't change (see Starting Over).  And as I passed my computer, I saw the note she had left for me. The outside says 'Dear Ima [mother]. Shana tov [good year]. Love you." Her English teacher told the girls - write your mother a note - as the classroom assignment, and she did. She took it very seriously and wrote all the right things to make me feel a bit better about all that is wrong. So the 20th blessing I will acknowledge is a combination of sensitivity - the teacher, my daughter; the elements that enable us to communicate - pen and paper, perhaps computers, whatever.

Day 21 - This blessing is about community - during this three day holiday, we will immerse ourselves in our community - dear friends who gather together to pray, to talk, to eat. We have guests coming for three of the six meals; one will be a shared community meal; two will be just family. Over the last year, my community has joined together to help us so many times. They brought many meals over for weeks and even months after my operation and then again for a week or so after my car accident. Every year, there are numerous events to help raise money for the needy in our community and in our country. So many events, so many offers to help. If you are truly blessed, you live in an amazing community that reaches out to help others. I am truly blessed.

God willing, I will post Day 22 after Shabbat ends. For now, as I go back to my kitchen - I wish you all a most wonderful holiday and a most wonderful year. There are many who celebrated births this past year - as we celebrated Michali joining our family - may all our families be blessed this coming year to continue to grow in health and number. Many suffered by losing a loved one...all of Israel lost so many - may these families find comfort in the new year and may the memories of those they love, always be blessed. May this year be a year of peace, safety, prosperity - but most important, may it be a year of health, of love, of forgiveness, of unity.

Starting Over...

Sometimes, you can't do the "right" thing simply because there isn't one.

Sometimes, you do the best you can and it isn't good enough.

Sometimes, you see things one way and take action, knowing that in doing it, you are going to hurt someone else.

That's what being an adult is, a parent, a spouse.

I've often heard the concept "turn the other cheek" - to which I've heard the humorous response that when Jews try to turn the other cheek, we just get slapped on the other side of our faces. Turning the other cheek is not a Jewish concept and expecting someone to be in a permanent state of forgiving isn't possible - except when you are actually hurting yourself more by not forgiving than the person asking to be forgiven.

It isn't that Jews don't forgive - we do...but we do it differently. It isn't an automatic thing - it has to be earned. It has to be requested. The wrong has to be made right as much as is humanly possible.

If someone steals a painting from you - until they make amends and give it back, you don't have to forgive them. All the times they say "I'm sorry" is proven false simply because they continue to hold the painting.

On the other hand, if they give it back, perhaps going around and telling people that it was always yours and they had no right to it and come and tell you that they were really wrong and they apologize - you are supposed to find it in your heart and forgive them. They have the obligation to ask three times - in all sincerity and after having tried to make amends...fixing misconceptions their actions caused, etc. After three times, the sin is on you, not them. If you won't forgive them, God will.

So in the period before Rosh Hashana and up to Yom Kippur, Jews go around thinking what they did wrong, how they can fix it. They ask people to forgive them - and they mean it because we are all facing this huge mountain we have to climb - it's called Yom Kippur - Judgment Day and on that day, as Jews the world over gather in synagogues and fast, somewhere late in the day, it isn't about the individual anymore - it's about the nation.

We climb that mountain together - each helping the other get to the top. We start confessing sins we never did - because one of us did. All our good deeds, all the things we did to help others, seems to be put in a massive pot and handed to God. I may have done this badly, but look what that person did - maybe I'm not good enough to get that blessing, but she's so good, maybe a little extra could come my way and together we can both scale the mountain.

And God accepts it - He really does. Every. Single. Year.

So the pressure is on now - and somewhere in the middle of cooking a billion and one things for a ton of meals and a ton of guests, I'm thinking about the past year - so much I could have done better. So many blessings I was given.

Sometimes, in the thick of prayer, I just surrender. Please God, read my heart - look past my thoughts and the deeds I didn't do enough of - you've blessed me so many times in so many ways - for whatever I did, or someone did to get me what I have, please let it continue.

No - you can't force someone not to be mad at you. You can't make someone love you. You can't undo things in life - not really. And so as the holiday comes, I surrender to what I am, what I've done and what I haven't and ask God to fill in the rest.

May God bless you (and me) and our families with a sweet year filled with health and peace - if not with our enemies, at least with our neighbors, friends and family.

Shana tova - have a good year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ending and Beginning Again...or...Their Aim Was True

On June 30th, Israel learned the news it had been dreading. For 18 days we were consumed...please God, bring them home...at least two...at least one. Please God, don't let us lose all three. We can't bear to see the families suffer more; those precious mothers and fathers who continue to offer us hope and courage and faith; who demand that we hold on and be optimistic.

And then, on that day, word began to leak out...it's bad. Very bad...as bad and as horrible as it gets. The next day, there were the funerals...and shortly after that...the war began.

We are waiting now - waiting to see what happens on Rosh Hashana. The boys' deaths helped uncover a plan to launch a massive attack on Rosh Hashana - hundreds likely would have died, been injured...we can only imagine the damage that could have taken place as Jews gathered in synagogues across the country.

Instead, the tunnels have been destroyed - it not all, than most. Hundreds of Hamas operatives (terrorists and killers) are dead and we enter this new year with hope and faith. And as we do, the news comes that our soldiers have tracked down the killers of the three boys. Justice has been done.

There will still be a trial but the trial is taking place at this moment in the Courts of Heaven.

On June 30th, in anger and anguish, I wrote of the deepest of pain:
I thought of so many messages as I drove back from Nof Ayalon tonight. 

The first was to the killers - congratulations, I wanted to tell them. You successfully murdered three children. What brave men you are, what heroes you are. Your mothers are proud of you...and perhaps for that I pity you most. With mothers like that, no wonder you grew into the twisted animals you are. 

They think you are heroes; they think you are brave. It doesn't really take much bravery to murder three children, but never mind...you'll have to be very brave now because the most successful and brave men, the real heroes in this world, our sons, will be hunting you now.
You won't last long. It may take a week, a few weeks, it might even take months. You'll live these last days, weeks, or months hiding like the sniveling cowards you are. 

There will be true justice. Perhaps it will take 18 days before you are caught, one day for each of the days you made these families and these nations suffer. But whether man's justice takes days or weeks or months or years, God's justice is eternal. When you meet God; then you will understand. Then and only then, will you pay the price for what you have done. Gilad, Naftali and Eyal are with God now, in a better place, loved and cherished...your future, God knows.

I hope, I pray, I beg our soldiers to kill you in the firefight that will come.

And so the next message is to Israel's soldiers. Please, please find a way. I don't care what the world says now - let them die. We have no death penalty in Israel; the only one we have ever put to death in 66 years is Adolf Eichmann for crimes against the Jewish people.

So please, find a way, this time, let them die. Don't bring them to "justice", to Israel's courts. They'll be convicted and sentenced to life in prison - where their wives will come visit and they'll breed more children in hate. They'll study in prison and get a university degree and they'll watch the World Cup. And then some stupid Israeli leader will release them for another kidnapped victim...or worse, the bodies of the kidnapped victims. 

In those seconds when the battle rages, may your aim be true. The world will condemn us no matter what we do - better they condemn us for the deaths of these murderers, than they condemn us for throwing them in jail and then when the murderers declare a hunger strike, demand that we release them. In those seconds, when you have them in range, end it. For Naftali. For Eyal. For Gilad. For their mothers. For Israel. End it.
And this is what they did - with the help of the terrorists themselves who opened fire when they were surrounded; who gave our soldiers no choice which was, ultimately, the best choice of all. Their aim was true. They ended it. For Naftali. For Eyal. For Gilad. For their mothers. For all of Israel.
And the final message is to the Israeli government. We are watching you. We need to believe in you now. You know the anger and the pain of Jewish blood being taken this way. Act now. Do something - stop this from happening again.
This remains my final message, my final challenge. There is no more we can do for the three boys, other than to hold on to the love and the unity that in their deaths was born. But in their memory, our government can pledge that no one will ever thing Jewish blood is cheap again. We promised we would hunt them down...and we did. For this ending, there is a new beginning - a new year.

May the memory of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali always be blessed; may their families know no more sorrow, and more, may they know our gratitude. In their grace, with their faith, they led us through what was, without question, the worst moments of their lives. May they go from strength to strength with our love.

The Roller Coaster Falls

Cruising along today, busy and happy...and now I just felt my stomach fall. It's probably nothing...or it could be everything. It depends on the whim of an evil dictator in Syria; it depends on the madness of mad men. So close to the holidays, I think, who needs this. Why now?

This morning, a Syrian jet crossed into Israeli territory on its way to bomb Syrian rebels...Israel's early warning system was alerted and the jet was shot down by a Patriot missile. You have seconds to decide the potential threat coming at you - this morning, Israel's fighters or computers or something decided the threat was real and had to be challenged. It was...

Now what?

It could be nothing - they're involved in a war in Syria. Maybe they won't notice? That was a joke.

But maybe they'll decide war with Israel over one jet that flew over our territory is not advisable. Or, they could decide what a perfect opportunity to try to divert the world's attention.

I don't know - all I know is that I was cruising along on the roller coaster heading happily to holidays and family time and cooking and friends...and then suddenly there was nothing below the rudders and the roller coaster began to descend.

Counting your Blessings - Day 18

No time to write today - busy at work with a client...

Oh wait - there it is - today's blessing. Work.

It is a blessing to have the means to purchase what your family needs; to have a purpose and to accomplish something. Family is everything; work is just an added bonus.

As a technical writer, I am especially blessed because almost on a daily basis, I get to see and learn and help spread the news of some amazing innovations that regularly come out of Israel. Medical devices that save lives...or at least make them easier to live. Fun things that enrich and entertain. Complicated technical things that make everything more efficient, more effective.

Even when it is boring - it isn't because we get to sit with wonderful engineers and developers - some here in Israel, others in far off lands. I came in to work early this morning, feeling the pressure to finish my work and get home early so I can begin cooking for the holidays. Others came in and I heard the sound of typing or conversations in the distance.

And then I sneezed. "Good morning, Paula!" someone called out.

I laughed. "How did you know it was me?"

And so began a short conversation with one of the women in the QA department (Quality Assurance). I love working here - they are hammering away and three separate cranes are all in movement outside my window.

So today's blessing on this very busy day...is work.

May the coming year bless you with all the work you need...and leave you time to cherish all that your work enables you to buy.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Counting your Blessings - Day 17

God gives us one day each year to mark our progress. Michali just celebrated her first birthday - it's amazing what she's accomplished - she's learned to smile, to roll over, to sit, to crawl, to walk, even to begin to talk. She actually even has begun to learn sign language. That's all in one  year.

For the rest of us, the change from year to year is so much less pronounced. Our hair grows a bit grayer, our eyesight gets a bit worse...no wait, that's too far down the road...so let's back up...

Last night, Amira's husband Haim scheduled a surprise birthday party for her - he bought the most amazing cake. His brother and sisters came to decorate the apartment with balloons and we got there early enough that Aliza could help too. Amira walked in after a successful shopping spree with her mother-in-law and was very happy and surprised.

So, today's blessing is the concept of a birthday, of celebrating the moment you came to this world, bringing joy to everyone else...and so, in the years that follow, all those who feel that love, look for ways to return the appreciation and love right back. It is a uniquely human thing - remembering the day, even the hour and the moment we are born. We spend our lives measuring the years...all starting from that day.

Beyond the balloons and the cake - is the laughter, the song, and the love that go along with it. For many years, we had two birthdays in September - Amira and Lazer - last year, Michal joined us in September as well - a triple-blessed month.

We celebrate at least the Hebrew birthdays and sometimes the English - this year, we seem to be celebrating both - in a few days, we'll celebrate Amira's Hebrew birthday, and then Michal's - and the cycle of birthdays will begin again.

Because it only comes once a year, the concept of a birthday celebration is one blessing we sometimes overlook and that's a shame. Birth is an incredible experience for the parents...even if it is the child that forever celebrates the day.

I often teased my kids that they should be wishing me a happy birthday since it was on this day that I gave birth - some years, I even got them to do it!

If you have a birthday - stop and think of what the year has given you - what blessings you have received, what miracles you have witnessed. My birthday doesn't come for another few months but already I know that this past year will be a year I am unlikely to forget - just over a year ago, I had my operation - months of physical therapy have returned me to almost the same mobility I had before I fell. This year, I was in a terrible car accident - the car was totaled, and I walked away with such gratitude.

This year, I was granted a beautiful granddaughter - and a chance to watch my grandson grow out of his baby years and into this amazingly bright little boy. Oh, it hasn't been all good  - war on the national front and war on the personal front have left their mark and a deep sadness inside that I fight all the time but I'm grateful for the concept of a marker each year.

A birthday ago...where were you? Where are you now? Where are you going? Without a birthday, how would you remember the milestones that come with age?

I met my future husband at 17; our first date was on my 18th birthday. We married when I was 22...and on it goes - a lifetime measured each year by the simplest of days - the first we each spend on this earth.

Happy birthday little Michali; happy birthday my beautiful Amira.

And thank you God - for birthdays...today's blessing.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 16

Sunday morning is reality time in Israel - it's back to work, back to school. It's the farthest morning from Saturday, the longest stretch before the next Sabbath comes. It's a lot to survive till the next island of peace.

But Sunday brings the added blessing, the promise of a week in which to accomplish so much. What you didn't finish last week, you'll try to do this week. Maybe this will be the week...if it wasn't last week.

Sunday in Israel is a promise that time continues, even if your heart aches. Right now my heart is aching a lot. But it's sunny and bright in Israel; I have a lot to do this week - and Wednesday night begins the holiday of Rosh Hashana - the beginning of a new year.

So today is doubly special - a new week in which a new year begins. This past Shabbat was the last one for the Jewish year. 5774 is about to end...so Shabbat was about endings - but Sunday is about beginning...so today's blessing is just that - thank you, God for Sundays.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Count Your Blessing - Day 15

Shabbat is a blessing in and of itself - brought each week as a measure of sanity and peace. I could easily pick Shabbat as the same blessing each week, but within that one blessing are so many others.

One of them is the blessing of food. All the rest of the week, we eat and run, run and eat. Shabbat is the one time we make a point of not eating and running. Meals are long and begin and end with blessings. We start with Kiddush, the blessing over the wine (in our case, grape juice because we are so not drinkers).

Each week, I bake challah - beautifully shaped and so delicious. It's sweet, and soft and we heat it up so it is warm too. My husband loves soup - and so that too is part of our weekly meal - many weeks we have fish; this week we had mushroom blintzes with mushroom sauce first.

It doesn't really matter what the food is - it is a blessing nonetheless. So today's blessing is as simple as that. Food.

Yes, food offers the nutrition that we need to survive - but it is so much more. It touches so many of our senses - smell and sight - even touch. It brings pleasure to your heart when you eat a full meal but more when you see your family eat and enjoy the food you have prepared.

Elie "fights" over the end of the potato casserole (kugel) that I make each week. If anyone gets to it before him, "Who ate my piece?"

Last week, Lazer got there first - no problem, Elie turned the Pyrex dish around and carved out the other corner end of it. Davidi loves wings - no matter how many I make, he always wants more. Little Michali loves the squash in the soup...and the turkey.

Aliza was at her school for this Shabbat. She came home to tell me the food was TERRIBLE...and then had a bowl of soup that I'd left warm for her. Food is not the answer to all things; can't achieve world peace and all that but sometimes, it's a simple and easy way to sit down and enjoy time with your family.

So yes, blessings for the nutrition, but also for the simply pleasures of smell and taste...and time.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Truth About Gaza Casualties

Count Your Blessings - Day 14

Today's blessing is my granddaughter - whose first birthday is today.

She is sweet and adorable. She's cuddly and cute. She has started to walk and even say a few words - Mama, Abba, and Bamba - the Israeli peanut butter treat on which most Israeli children are raised.

Beyond the simple marvel of a child, and a granddaughter at that, is the miracle of turning a young man into a father. I watch Elie cuddle her, feed her, comfort her, change her. There is nothing he hesitates to do - he is protective, gentle - in short, Elie with another whole side to him.

He is teaching her to say thank you by handing her food and then telling her "thank you."

One of the most amazing blessings in life is the gift of a child. From the minute they are born, they hold in their hearts the ability to create you anew, as Michali has recreated Elie and as I'm sure my children recreated me; and they have the power to destroy you a billion times over.

They destroy you the first time they tell you they hate you; they destroy you just a little the first time they manage something completely on their own and you know they don't really need you quite so much. They destroy a little piece of you when they become taller and stronger and when they begin to think it is their job to take care of you; and they destroy you a lot when they are angry at you.

Grandchildren recreate you as grandparents, let you marvel at how they have recreated your children. It's only a bit over 3 years since I became a grandparent - first to Amira's son and now to Elie's daughter. Too soon to know if a grandchild can destroy you too. So far, it's been easy.

Each time you see them, the world becomes brighter with the simple movement of their arms spreading out to reach for you. Happy birthday, Michali - we love you SO much!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In the Merit of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal

There are no words I can add to this video...except maybe one...Amen

Count Your Blessings - Day 13

Yesterday, I took the bus to work. That freed me to look around, rather than at the road. I got on the bus later than most, was fortunate to get a seat so I can't complain that the seat I got was facing the rear of the bus. I was especially blessed because just sitting there as we drove out of Maale Adumim, circled the access ramp to the main highway, and then climbed up to and in to Jerusalem, I identified, I felt - three separate blessings. So here they are:

Maale Adumim - the city is so beautiful and I love it very much. It sits there perched high on the mountains to the east of Jerusalem and it is a wonderful place to live. I was struck again by its beauty as I watched it grow smaller in the distance. To live in a place you love, is truly a blessing and so I am blessed many times over. I love the house we bought several years ago; I love the neighborhood in which I live. I love the city I came to live in a bit less than 15 years ago, and I love beyond words the country in which I live.

As far as places go, you can't get much more blessed than that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Is He Asleep...or Dead?

This morning I came into the office building where I work. It is a very interesting place - everyone in Jerusalem knows about it. Location-wise, you almost can't beat it.

It is minutes away from Central Jerusalem - a wonderful, easy 5 minute walk from everything. The train stops right in front of the building. Inside there's a world of stores - a fantastic printer that we love to use, a fully-stocked music store, two places that sell, fix and do everything with watches.

A few years ago, there were three sex shops. One was deep in the basement below all the stores. Christian missionaries decided they'd clean up the building and so they spent a fortune buying out that basement sex store owner...who was so happy to take so much money, and purchase himself an even bigger store in the center of the building. Yeah, dumb idea. There are a lot of lawyers in the building, many floors of government offices, some nice cafes, a post office, etc. It also has a permanent and apparently growing native population of cats that have free rein of the building.

The lower level of the complex is a confusing mixture of stores -  a shopper's delight - and a business nightmare. And on top of that, some very interesting characters. One is a woman who seems to believe that cats have a God given right to eat, sleep and do their business where they choose - and that they naturally have more rights than people who pay tens of thousands of shekels to rent the stores because these cats, and the generations before them that she has been feeding for 17 years, have something equivalent to squatter's rights.

So she feeds them inside the building and threatens anyone who attempts to remove the food - that would be several cleaners, me, Elie, Amira, and anyone else she sees near her precious friends. She has harassed us several times (Elie has a delightful video of her ranting). I'm to be thrown in jail and cursed by God, if she has her way.

She can see that I'm a religious woman and so she has informed me, as God's chief right hand adviser apparently, that God will punish me and my children if I dare to harm the cats (which, for the record, I have never threatened to do). All I asked her to do was to feed them outside the building - as the City Inspectors have said she should do.

She informs me that the first Mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah is against being cruel to animals (um...it's not, I promise you. It's about being fruitful and multiplying and I actually think God was talking to Adam and Eve, not the cats). So, in the meantime, the building is battling the cats and for the most part, losing.

Then there are the dozens of people who violate the law and smoke in the
center of the building - all day long. Several of these are people rent or own shops here and so, when I complained because I can't stand the smell of smoking, they get very angry. Apparently, the very strict laws that Israel has passed in the last few years don't apply if you rent/own and if you really want to smoke...One guy told me that since he owns the stores on both sides of one hallway, I wasn't allowed to walk down that hallway. Yeah...that.

And then there was today...when I came in and found a body on the steps near my office. I stopped and looked for a second. Another woman was in front of me - she looked up, saw the young man sprawled there and decided to ignore him and go in her office.

I assumed he was asleep - but really didn't think it was my place to check and so I went to the main information/security desk. That's my office there to the right of the...body. I really didn't want to walk past him. When I got to the information/security desk, I had a very funny conversation with a woman who explained that she can't check because she was alone. This is security? There might be a dead body lying on the floor in the center of the building but you can't check because you have to stay in the glass booth and answer questions? All those cameras you're looking at - how come you can't see the kid?

"Is he asleep?" she asked me.

"I hope so but I think you should check." I said again. "You're all alone here?"

"Well, someone is making the rounds."

You'd think she'd figure this out...but okay, I decided to help her. "Maybe you should tell him to go check...NOW???"

So she did - and a few minutes later, the security guard came and woke the boy up.

But honestly, I thought to myself, this has got to be a comedy - a whole movie could be made about this building.

Next time I get frustrated, I'll tell you about rumors of bodies buried in the cement and the rabbi's curses. Stay tuned.

America is Doomed

I watched this video, that had been posted to Facebook and appeared on my newsfeed. Two-thirds of the way through, I stopped the video and shared it with my Facebook contacts under a post saying "America is doomed."

After hitting Share, I went back to watch the rest. I have to tell you, at the very end, I gasped as if someone had punched me in the stomach and my eyes teared. Of all days...

Count Your Blessings - Day 12

Today's blessing is the morning prayer we say - Modeh Ani - and the wisdom behind it. Each morning, this prayer reminds us that the day itself is the blessing  and we are grateful to have awakened to it.

This morning, I woke up and the first words I said were a prayer taught to children as early as possible. My young grandson already knows this and many other prayers by heart.
מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ
Translation: I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

The funny part about this blessing being what I chose today is the timing. We rarely go out ... something we keep meaning to change, and we rarely go to movies. We don't have a television so a movie is an especially nice change of pace.

We went to a movie two nights ago called, "Before I Go to Sleep" - basically the story is about a woman who each night goes to sleep and in the morning has lost all memories of who she is - she doesn't remember her husband, her age, even her name. So throughout the day, she learns about herself and then loses all that she has learned by the next morning when her brain tells her she has awakened beside a stranger.

The movie opens with her confusion, and the man explaining his name, her name, her age, and what has happened to her. I won't go on with the story but it reflects a bit on today's blessing. In sleep, we essentially lose control of our surroundings, of all that is happening - or, since that may well be our state throughout the day if we acknowledge that we really can't control everything in life anyway, let's say rather that in sleep we lose our awareness of what is around us.

So the first thing we do when we open our eyes, is thank God for returning ourselves, the essence of what we are, our souls, back into our bodies.

So today's blessing is a reflection of that - each new day, each morning we are granted is  blessing.

There is a fascinating medical aspect of many things in Judaism - not the reason why but the confirmation that it is best, even on the physical side. One example of this is meat and milk. Of all the religions, I believe we are the only ones commanded not to eat them at the same time. So no cheeseburgers or hamburgers with a glass of milk for us. On the flip side, if you are ever told to take iron, the instructions will warn you NOT to drink milk with it (or even several hours after it). Just Google "iron and milk" to see many links verifying this.

Another example of this is the Modeh Ani prayer we say each morning. If you say it in Hebrew, there are 12 words. According to an article published in 2012, there was a neurological conference. Reporting on what happened there, The Huffington Post wrote:
In a United States convention of neurologists from all over the world, one of the main topics was the phenomenon of people fainting upon getting up from bed (when they wake up from sleeping). One of the speakers was Professor Linda McMaron of Great Britain and she gave a lengthy speech regarding her study on this issue.
She elaborated that after many years of study and investigation on this subject, she came to the conclusion that the fainting is caused by the sharp transfer between laying down and standing up. Professor McMaron said that it takes 12 seconds for the blood to flow from the feet to the brain. But when a person quickly stands upon waking up, the blood gets "thrown" to the brain too quickly and the result is fainting. She suggested that each person, even one that does not have a tendency to faint, upon waking should sit on the bed, and count slowly to 12 to avoid dizziness, weakness and/or fainting. Her speech was rewarded with loud applause and enthusiastic feedback.

Another professor, a Jewish man, asked permission to speak. He said, "In our tradition, we recite a prayer of thanks to the Creator of the World for meriting us to wake up healthy and whole. The prayer is said immediately upon waking up, while one is still on the bed and sitting down. There are 12 words in this prayer and if one regulates himself to say it slowly with concentration, it takes exactly 12 seconds to say it. ... 12 words in 12 seconds."

He said the prayer slowly in Hebrew: Mode Ani Lefanecha Melech Chai Vekayam, Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati Bechemla Raba Emunatecha -- "I thank Thee, O living and eternal King, because You have graciously restored my soul to me: great is Your faithfulness." The auditorium burst into a standing applause that roared throughout the auditorium.
 And, as a second blessing for the day - I will bless the labor of women. Twenty-nine years ago today, I was in labor...actually, since Amira was born at 12:15 a.m. - most of my labor was on the 16th, but just 15 minutes into the new day - September 17, she was born and so, a second but more important blessing for me personally...was...is...always will be - my beautiful birthday girl - Happy birthday and mazel tov, Amira!

Evidence of Israel Being Apartheid

...won't be found on my blog because, having lived here for 21 years, I can tell you that Israel is anything but apartheid. In fact, most people go out of their way to ensure that there is no prejudice shown or expressed.

Almost daily, I ride the Jerusalem light rail and, nearly every day, I see at least one and often several young Arab men (and women) who get on the train and do not pay. The way the system works is that you can buy a plastic "debit" card that you fill with points and then swipe it past the machines. The machine deletes one point and tells you how many are left. It's the honor system...unless you get caught. So regularly, there are inspectors who enter the train along the path and meticulously go person by person. They never go directly to anyone - even if they suspect them of not paying.

Only once did I see a man rise from his seat and rush past the inspector - the man was Jewish and explained he had forgotten to swipe it. Another time, I saw an inspector approach an Arab teenager. As soon as the teenager was asked to present his ticket, he pushed the inspector, walked past to the machine, and swiped his card.

Today, I saw three Arabs who did not pay; yesterday in the evening, I saw one yesterday in the morning I also saw one. A few days ago, I saw a young Arab couple smiling and talking - neither had bothered to pay for their ticket. They traveled only one stop, so I guess they didn't feel they were obliged to pay. When they got off, there was an inspector there, who was about to get on - he asked for their tickets and the couple started arguing. I don't know what happened, as the train pulled out of the station.

Yesterday, on the way home, one stop passed where the train was attacked with tear gas in July. We heard the impact of something (most likely a rock) hitting the side of the train. A woman said she saw two Arabs on the side and had seen one throw something. It hit the window - I can't tell you if it cracked the "rock-proof" glass that is designed to crack but not shatter. Almost every window has at least one area that is cracked on every train I ride.

Over 85 reports of rock throwing have been reported in the last 260 days - and that probably doesn't count ones like yesterday where it was a single rock, ignored by the driver and security.

And through all of these incidents and violence, on almost every train, Arabs safely ride the train from their homes to work and shopping and back again. The streets are full of shoppers now - Jews, Arabs, Christians, residents and tourists. All are safe; all are treated equally; all are respected.

That they do not respect the train or the city in no way effects how they are treated. Despite riots that crippled the train and forced several neighborhoods to be cut off the path (because the Arabs had rioted, burned the tracks, the stations and machines), the track was repaired and the train now runs again through two Arab neighborhoods.

Regularly, the train is attacked as it passes through these two neighborhoods. Jews who want to go to the neighborhood beyond the two Arab ones often get off early and switch to buses rather than risk going through and getting stoned.
“Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Jews
are not under any circumstances”
Cafe in Belgium, July 2014.
(Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism)

A trip to any hospital in Israel - every hospital in Israel, will find Arab nurses, Arab doctors and thousands of Arab patients. Many outside Israel throw around the ridiculous label of apartheid when speaking of Israel.

The use of this term is more a reflection of their ignorance and prejudice than ours. More than 10% of the Israeli parliament consists of Arabs - when, during the dark days of apartheid in South Africa (1948 - 1994).
Wikipedia will tell you that during apartheid rule, "the government segregated education, medical care, beaches, and other public services." Education is not separate in Israel - Arabs attend ALL universities in Israel and are eligible to attend schools in the neighborhoods in which they live, irrespective of whether the neighborhood is predominantly Jewish or Arab. I've already mentioned medical care and other public services and I've often seen Arabs on the beaches and shores, barbecuing just as we were, enjoying the breeze and the beauty, just as we did.
Based on recent anti-Semitic attacks in Germany, Belgium, France and the UK, it is clear that these countries are much more apartheid-minded than Israel. But in all truth, the champions of apartheid in this day and age are the Arabs themselves. Just Google how they treat Jews and Christians who live in their lands...or even their neighborhoods.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

YOU are Next..Don't Listen to Me, Listen to HIM

Count Your Blessings - Day 11

One of the greatest gifts...yes, I'll probably keep writing those words for all of the blessings I write in this series...but....

One of the greatest gifts God gives us, is the ability to believe. I cannot begin to list the number of times people have told me that I have it easy because I have faith.  During the war, when so many expected a missile to come crashing into Tel Aviv, a friend there told me that she was genuinely frightened. I told her that I believed that all would be well and all in all, we were blessed with miracles almost daily.

Pieces of missiles fell in the center of Tel Aviv - and Jerusalem - and no one was hurt. Homes were hit directly with rockets - with people in them...and they walked out of their bomb shelters unharmed. For me, faith is the answer to the question of why Jews remain when so many other nations have vanished.

I don't how anyone could live with the uncertainties of life - if they didn't carry with them faith in God and the deepest belief that He will protect us. While looking for another video, I found this one - it is a very well known song - "I believe." - Ani Ma'amin.

"I believe, with complete faith, in the coming of the Messiah, I believe. And though he may tarry, even with this, I wait for him every day  and believe he will come."

Today's blessing is the gift of faith.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blessings - Day 10

If I find the sun to be a blessing, I find even more comfort in the moon. Years ago, I heard a line in a Harry Chapin song, "he was the sun, shining bright and bitter and, she was the moon, shining back his light a little."

I have, since that song, forever loved the moon and seen so many instances of the glory and modesty of the moon. Often, if there is a great leader, behind him or her, there is someone who is their moon.

The moon guides my land each month and the land is forever tied to it. Our holidays are determined by the moon - and soon, in less than two weeks, Rosh Hashana - the new year, and the first new moon of the coming year, will be celebrated. It is a wonderful holiday full of promise, full of sharing, full of love. Amira was born on Rosh Hashana - the first of our children, new beginnings.

This year, God willing, Rosh Hashana will come in peace. A few weeks and a war ago, a plot was uncovered. On Rosh Hashana, as we gathered to pray for the year to come to be a sweet one, one filled with health and peace and prosperity - hundreds of Palestinians would come through attack tunnels and murder as many Jews as they could while in the north, Hezbollah would open fire against northern Israel with a massive barrage of rockets.

It is doubtful that the Palestinians would have accomplished what they wanted - yes, they were delusional enough to believe that the focus of Israel would be turned enough to allow our destruction. They desecrated Yom Kippur in 1973 by attacking; they desecrated Passover in 2002 when terrorists attacked the Park Hotel in Netanya, murdering 29 and injuring over 140 innocent people...and again just last  year when they murdered a father of 5 as he and his family drove to the Passover Seder. They desecrated Purim when they launched a terror attack in 1996 on the eve of the holiday that resulted in the deaths of 14 Israelis and the wounding of 130 others.

And then, when the war they caused continued because they broke the ceasefire, Israel refused to "honor" one of their holidays and they demanded the world condemn us. Hypocrites that they are...and fools they believe us to be.

So this year, we have more to celebrate than ever because as the new moon arrives in just 10 days...we will know that it is yet another blessing that God has given to us...it will mark not just a new beginning, but truly celebrate that which we hold dear - life.

May we all be inscribed in the book of life...this special Rosh Hashana and may we remember the gift God gave us...by opening our eyes to the attack tunnels the Palestinians would have used, and the plot they would have unleashed against us! Blessing 10 of 100...the moon.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Traitors of Israel

The worst traitors of Israel are those who claim to love the country and then betray it. Two days ago, an article was published in The Guardian - a virulently anti-Israel rag that masters the art of exaggeration and disinformation. The Guardian is mirroring the information published in Ha'aretz - because, as I said, the worst traitors are not those who live in the UK, but those who live here.

The article in both places claims to present the view of some 43 "senior" intelligence officers and soldiers from Unit 8200. The problem, of course, is that this unit is highly classified and divulging even participation in that unit is enough to be thrown out of it.

By extension, since belonging to that honorable and important unit is classified, any moron can claim to be part of it and short of endangering the whole unit, the IDF will not comment.

Logic would therefore dictate that these traitors of Israel are nothing more than opportunists wishing to damage Israel. The letter starts off with the following:
We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians...
Well, gee, that makes the pretty useless. Who do they want to take part in actions against? People from Micronesia? The fact that they chose to ignore the standard chain of command suggests they aren't even from this Unit because naturally, a non-member couldn't contact a commanding officer from Unit 8200 and complain, right?

One of the traitors, who claims to be a 29-year-old captain named D, was quoted as saying the following...line by line:
What the IDF does in the occupied territories is rule another people.
Well, gee, D, it took you 8 years of "service" to figure that out? Impressive. Yes, the Palestinians are not Israelis. Congratulations to you.
One of the things you need to do is defend yourself from them...
Well, gee D, it took you 8 years to figure that out? Yes indeed - when the local population is attacking homes and murdering children, throwing stones that kill toddlers and babies, flinging firebombs at cars and buses, kidnapping and murdering teens, shooting people as they wait for buses, stabbing people and more... you do indeed have to defend yourself from them.
...but you also need to oppress the population.
See, now D. this is where you use a standard and well used method of propaganda. You start off by making two statements that seem perfectly logical so that people nod their heads in agreement, and then you say something asinine hoping they won't catch you. If you start with fact and then introduce the lie, there is hope that you'll get away with it, whereas if you start with the lie, you are more likely to be caught. Good, show, D - and going to Haaretz, the most anti-Israel paper in the country was another great choice. What other paper would endanger Israel and our relations with other countries to publish your lies and be a tool for your betrayal?

No, we do not "need" to oppress the local population and we don't.

Have you perhaps been in an Israeli hospital in the last 8 years, D.? Have you not noticed the huge number of Palestinians - patients, nurses and doctors there? Oppressed? No, not even close.

Have you been in a store in the last 8 years? Walk down any main street in Jerusalem, and most other cities in Israel and you will see dozens of Arabs at any moment, freely shopping, purchasing, and working in thousands of stores throughout Israel.

On the Jerusalem light rail? Did you happen to miss the hundreds who regularly and without incident ride the light rail (well, without anything happening to them). We on the other hand, are often stoned (85 times in the last 250 days) on the light rail, and I was on a train attacked by tear gas by a young Palestinian who quickly ran off the train towards the nearest Arab neighborhood.
We can’t talk about specifics … [but] intelligence is used to apply pressure to people to make them cooperate with Israel.
 It would be reasonable to assume that the reason that D. can't talk about specifics is because he is nothing more than pathetic traitor that never got into a Unit as honored as the 8200 and was not privy to anything but the drivel that comes out of the papers he has rushed to be quoted in.

The 43 claim they were highly motivated and this claim I believe - though I doubt it was motivated to actually serve the country of Israel. More likely our enemies - that I would believe.

Very rightly, the IDF has responded to the meandering and illogical accusations of these nameless, faceless traitors with a very simple response:
The intelligence corps has no record that the specific violations in the letter ever took place. Immediately turning to the press instead of to their officers or relevant authorities is suspicious and raises doubts as to the seriousness of the claims.
Regarding claims of harm caused to civilians, the IDF maintains a rigorous process which takes into account civilian presence before authorizing strikes against targets.

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