Tuesday, May 31, 2016

It's Time to Kill Muslims

Now that I've got your attention - and no, I don't do this often...but if the title is enough to make you wonder if I've lost my mind and what the heck I'm talking about, that's good. That means you know me enough to know that I DON'T talk that way...but there are those who do, every day and yet Bernie Sanders wants Americans to consider and support these people...support their leaders who are saying this, in any event - their religious leaders, their political leaders.

This is what they say...only for them, it isn't a message about killing Muslims, which you correctly would find abhorrent, but about killing Israel and Jews, which amazingly enough, too many people do not.

So - if I've got your attention by calling for the murder of innocent Muslims the world over, please now watch this video...because it is the same thing no matter what innocent person, religion, country, race is targeted...

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Son Going to War Soon

You'd think after having so many sons go into the army, I'd know everything there is to know and yet I am constantly learning more. A few months ago, I started hearing about "Shavua milchama" - translated as "War Week."

It is something that comes right near the end of the second module of basic training. They put the "new" soldiers under "war" conditions, deprive them of sleep, force them to carry rations with them and live, day and night, as it would be in war. The thinking is, if they can expose these young soldiers to the worst conditions they can expect, in a real war, there will be other surprises but at least the soldiers will adapt more easily having experienced this short, intense experiment.

"What happens if it is too much?" I asked David. He gets headaches sometimes if he doesn't sleep enough. Mistakes can happen. I'm a bit frightened by the whole thing. If I could write a note to his commanding officer to get him home, I'd have used up a notebook of paper already.

"You keep going," David answered.

"But what if you can't?" I asked him again, fear creeping into my voice.

"Then you keep going."

Today, Elie also left for a week of Reserve duty. Again, I have two soldiers in. Elie is taking part in a huge training exercise up north; David has gone south into the desert. Both will sleep outside and deal with the heat of late Spring in Israel. Elie took brownies; Davidi took sandwiches but thought he wouldn't have room to take anything else.

Neither is going into battle.

This feeling in the pit of my stomach, nerves mostly, is silly. I have told so many people - the goal of the army is to train these young men and women and turn them into a cohesive, strong fighting unit. In the first three months, their goal is to instill a sense of discipline - orders. Everything is regulated. The goal of these past few months is to ensure that they are trained to the level needed to release them into the army as a full partner and working element. In the first part, they tried to "break" the old and in the second, they work hard to rebuild the "new".

David has lost weight but gained so much strength. He looks taller, though he is already the tallest in the family. "It's the boots," he responds when I ask if he has grown. But boots or not, he walks taller and is so much more confident of his abilities.

He is adored by his little niece, who runs to be held by him. She does not like beards and so will even refuse to kiss her own father at times and yet, she doesn't hesitate to hug and kiss David. On Shabbat, I had several good hours playing games with three of my children and one of theirs. We ate. played with little Michali and enjoyed her endless comments and orders. We are putty in her hands, to the amusement of her father and mother.

And then this morning, it was back to work, back to the army and a son going to "war" leaving me grateful that at least in this war, I don't have to listen to the radio, pray each moment that a missile has been fired and search to find out where it landed or if anyone has, God forbid, been hurt.

This is a war my son wages mainly against himself - to show himself and others that he can function on almost no sleep, in terrible heat, in buildings and in the field. I hate the army for putting him through this...and I am grateful that they do. It is the "final" test that he has to get through. He and his unit will be walking over 100 kilometers in the coming days...much of it carrying stretchers because an integral part of the Israeli army is that we do all that is humanly possible to bring our wounded out.

I've been to "war" twice - one of my greatest prayers in life is that I never have to go through this again...happily, this is the first time I was made aware of this "shavua milchama" - and as Davidi is my last solder, this is the last time I'll have to endure this particular worry. So, for the next bit, I'll type and document and email and be so grateful that this is only an exercise...that later this week, Elie will return, later next week, Davidi will return. Grateful that no civilians will be running for cover; no missiles will be launched, God willing, at Israel.

Soon, in the coming hours, my youngest son will go to war...please, please God, may it be the only war he ever knows in his life; may he come home hot and tired and sweaty and even hungry...but safe, and sound.

Do you have Sixteen Minutes and One Second Left?

To your day? To your week? To your shift? To the time before you go home or before you go to work?

If you do, please take those sixteen minutes and one second and watch this. It is, quite simply, the answer.

The answer to what? Now that is the question.

Is answers, in just sixteen minutes and one second, all of these questions, and more:

  • What is life...and how should we live it?
  • What is the difference between a survivor and a victim?
  • Why does Israel continue to live, to survive?
  • How can the Palestinians heal themselves enough to become a people of compassion, of life?
  • How can you, how should you, live your life after something terrible happens to you?
  • How to survive a terror attack?
  • Are all Arabs/Palestinians/Muslims terrorists?
  • How does it feel to be dying?
  • What do you do when you are surrounded by death?
  • How do you define courage?
Read those questions, and then please, watch this video:

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Her Future is My History

Guest post by Alexandra Markus
Reprinted with permission

I saw this post and as I read it, I realized that for the most part, it's what I would have written in the days and weeks before I moved to Israel almost 24 years ago. In a very real way, her future is my history. I was older than she is now; I had already given birth to three children, well on my way to the five God has granted me, but the thoughts...they are hers...but mine too.

My children are the children she dreams of having - and I pray that she will be as blessed because truly, as she writes, that is my life. My children walk this land with pride; they do not live in fear.

Read this, if you ever wondered why I came to live here in this land; read this if you were wondering why so many are coming today. Read this and be proud of this young woman, as I am...and I think deep down, I'm hoping to gain another kid (if she'll let me)...so many boys, it's probably time to adopt another girl, isn't it?

Guest post by Alexandra Markus:

People wonder why I want to live in Israel and be Israeli.

I want to be Israeli because I want my children to be Israeli.

I want them to not have pennies thrown at them at school.

Or to watch their friends wince amidst the cries of "dirty Jew!" as they get pinned to the ground, beaten and tortured.

I want them to be Israeli so that they don't feel like they have to hide, to live in the cloistered ghettoes of Hampstead and Cote-St-Luc, hiding from antisemitism and shielding their children to the best of their abilities from a life of prejudice.

I want my children to be Israeli so that they can run and play freely, raised by many mothers and fathers, where they can just go over to someone's house for shabbat and feel looked after with love and belonging.

So that they can study math and science at a higher level than they do in Europe and North America, while still learning of their people's ancient traditions.

I want them to be Israeli so that they could bathe in the environment of "anything is possible," of "if you can dream it, you can do it" that made start up nation possible.

I want them to be Israeli so that they can serve in the IDF proudly and nobody will question me for letting them gain resilience as they put their lives in danger to defend Am Israel.

I don't want my kids raised around Jews who are afraid or ashamed of their homeland, who are raised on media where antisemitism/antizionism is accepted and validated.

I don't want them to have their national loyalty questioned when I hang an Israeli flag over my window.

Finally, I don't want them to feel like they have to vote for politicians based solely on their Israel policy, rather than their domestic portfolio and foreign policy, because they feel like they have no choice.

I want to raise my Israeli children in Israel because I want them to be absolutely sure where "home" is.

The Meaning of the Fire

On Lag b'Omer (starting last night and ending tonight at sundown), all the pyromanics, and by this I mean most of the men and a lot of women and pretty much all the children, in Israel have a huge celebration and set bonfires. By the morning, the country smells of smoke...ah, but the night is glorious.

For weeks before this day, children are seen gathering wood, even from places that don't want the wood gatthered. Contractors know to hide whatever they don't want burned; families look at their couches and wonder if this wouldn't be a great time to literally burn the old one and get a new one. Broken chairs and beds become a treasure, old newspapers something to be saved.

Yesterday as I was driving into the gas station, I saw something in the distance. The army sets up a "camp" a few times a year in the deserts around my city. I can see the tents from the distance...but this time, I saw a group of soldiers almost running down a hill opposite the camp. I thought of the many long hikes Davidi is taking now. Over the months that he's been in the army, the training has intensified and he is now "walking" over 30 kilometers.

Photo Credit: Paula (me)
I had my good camera with me and so I zoomed in and took the picture...and then I looked and realized...they are carrying wood. They too will have a huge bonfire and celebrate Lag b'Omer and how spectacular it must have been.

Massive piles of wood are set up and then set afire. Why? There are a two main reasons - one would be that during the 50 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot, around the year 100 CE (yes, that's rightt, almost 2,000 years ago) a plague raged among the population, but stopped on this day.

Photo Credit: Paula (me)
A second reason is that a great man died over 1,850 years ago on this date. His name was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. His life was all about light - bringing the light of truth and understanding, of compassion and love. He wrote the Zohar, a collection of writings that are the foundation of Jewish mysticism.

So each year, on the day he died, Jews celebrate his life - yes, even 1,850 years later.

The fire is light, a symbol from mountain top to mountain top that we have returned to our land, reclaimed it, redeemed it. And just as we have returned to it, we have returned it to its glory.

Yes, it is the celebration of a man's life, but it is also the celebration of our nation. We light the bonfires as a symbol of the life we have built here, from mountain top to mountain top, we proclaim our love of the land.

In the last few weeks, there have been countless arson attacks  - fires set by Palestinians...this year and for most years, at the most dangerous and vulnerable time of the year. It is the beginning of the dry season; the underbrush has grown during the rainy season and our forests and grassy areas are particularly vulnerable. It's hot and the wind that comes as a relief, also is a dry one - dangerous as it spreads the fire.

Photo Credit: Real Jerusalem Streets
The fires we build for Lag b'Omer, are carefully arranged, doing the most we can to prevent them from going out of control.

And Lag b'Omer is also a celebration of our collective memory - we live in an ancient land, beside walls built thousands of years ago. Certainly monthly, sometimes weekly, and even once in a while daily, we find ancient treasures dating back as much as three thousands years. Can you imagine touching stones that were placed by your ancestors? My daughter goes to school in a city where Sarah died 3,875 years ago...and I have been to her grave countless times.

The bonfires are a reminder, to a people that really don't need one. Remember your past; celebrate it. We do; we did.

For a really great blog post explaining Lag b'Omer, see: The Muqata's latest post.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tasting the Torah

I have a confession. I am a cookbook-aholic. I don't know how many I have - more than three bookshelves worth...probably more than four. I love cookbooks. I read them, I scan them, I devour them. I am an expert, at least for what works for me.

I want pictures! The first time I made a lemon meringue pie, I did it from a cookbook, working blind. I followed the instructions, mixed the ingredients, cooked it, stirred it, baked it. And then, when it came out partially brown, partially white on top, I said to my mother in disappointment, "oh, look at it."

And she answered, "That's the way it is supposed to look!"

So I cut her a piece and I took a piece for myself. "Oh, that's weird," I told my  mother.

And she answered, "That's exactly how it is supposed to taste!" She loves lemon meringue pie! I learned that day two things - one, I don't like lemon meringue pie so much and two, I really like a cookbook that shows you how to the thing is supposed to look like at the end.

In my never-ending quest for the perfect cookbook, I came across Aviv Harkov's A Taste of Torah. Wow.
It has everything I could want in a cookbook, and more. The design of the book is nothing less than brilliant! It has 54 recipes, one for every Torah portion of the week (in Hebrew, a parsha) that is read throughout the year. Each recipe comes with a picture!!! And details how to create it, and then something amazing...it also includes a "Dvar Torah" - a small lesson that can be shared at the Shabbat table. And wait, it isn't finished, it also has what it calls a short "bedtime" story - another example of the lesson being taught in th weekly parsha.

You can't imagine the thought that went into this book - both in terms of content and design. It is stunning but more, it is so incredibly usable. From the first page, I knew I was in love! My family loves "black and white cookies" - these were a favorite in the US before we moved to Israel and whenever we find them here, we grab them up. In this wonderful cookbook, Harkov shares the recipe and a picture, and then he does something even more special. These cookies, writes Harkov, "show how light and darkness can be separated in a delicious way." And then, this theme is picked up in the Dvar Torah, which speaks of how God separated light and darkness during creation. Finally, the entry concludes with a story from the former Soviet Union. Light and darkness, and lovely cookies.

As for lemon meringue pie, Harkov offers a recipe, a picture and a story. He likens the meringue to "the cloud covering theTent of Meeting."

I can't wait to get started - cooking around the year and learning so much. This is a cookbook I am going to love for a long, long time!

If you want to learn more about the book - click the link on the left side.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Harold from Livingston

So, years ago, I lived in a small town in New Jersey...okay, that probably doesn't help because NJ has tons of small towns, right? I lived there after I got married and overall, it was an amazing place to spend the first decade of our lives, bring three children into this world, and enjoy the home we had created. It was comfortable enough, but not too comfortable that we would have considered staying long term. My heart was in Israel, but more importantly, I wanted my children to grow up in this land...and I am forever grateful that they have.

Packing to move to Israel was hard, but far harder was leaving some very dear friends behind, quitting a job that I had come to really enjoy. We left that small town, left family and friends and found a home more amazing than I could have dreamed. We made many friends, live in a truly beautiful, warm and friendly city and community and have watched our children grow tall, strong and more incredible than I could ever have imagined. Years later, Nefesh b'Nefesh, an organization that helps American Jews move to Israel, would be created and claim the slogan, "Living the Dream," but I've been living that dream for 23 years and counting.

Before moving to Israel, I used to write a lot for local Jewish newspapers and later on the Internet. Then we came to Israel, and I continued to write...and work...and raise my children.  And then, my daughter got engaged and I was really happy...and my son was drafted into the army...and I was really scared. And so, I started to write my guts out...in a very literal sense. Writing has given me two things:

One, is a way to scream out all of the emotions I feel - the greatest of joys, the honor of seeing my children grow, the pride, the wonder. And the fear, the terror, the anger, the frustrations, and so much more.

At first, the screaming was, I thought, done in an empty room where only I could hear it. I could knock my head against the wall, and say, "stupid, stupid government" and so much more. And then one day, the second thing happened...

I realized that I had an audience, people who were listening. Friends and even strangers come over to me and thank me for "writing what I've been wanting to say" and "you gave my thoughts words" and wonderful things like that...

While I lived in NJ, I worked for this amazing doctor. I sort of ran his office and without either of us realizing it, I learned quite a bit about people and how they think and even about myself. I had more patience to deal with his patients (no pun intended), than I expected. I was challenged with the opportunity to run his office, organize workflows, meet and interact with dozens of people, often in crisis. And when I told him that I was leaving to fulfill my dream of living in Israel, he was gracious enough to wish me well as I went off to live in a land that he too loves very much.

So...earlier today, I shared a post with my mother. She is going through a rough time, feeling a bit overwhelmed and as I thought how to reach her, I remembered once long ago, how she reached me. You gave me a gift, when I was a teenager, I told her this morning, and now I give it back to you. The gift was a poem which has helped shape my attitude towards life, in many ways. You can read it here: It Really Is All in the State of Mind. After I read it to her, she smiled and I realized that I wanted to share it with others...Facebook post time.

My friend, the doctor, saw the post and left a comment. He has a friend - named Harold, who lives in Livingston, NJ. My friend ate at his house for Shabbat lunch and they got to talking about favorite columnists and Harold said the kindest, most wonderful thing, "My absolute favorite is this blogger on Arutz Sheva." And guess what...it's ME!!!

Is that not cool? Truth is, it's such an amazing compliment to me and so I thank Harold and I offer him the "shoutout" that MH asked me to offer. Writing is, by its very nature, often a solitary thing. I write something because it comes from my heart and rarely know what impact it will have, or where it will go.

I've gone to weddings and had people tell me, "I loved your article" or "My father, who lives in sent me your article! I told him you're my neighbor!"

I don't write to impact on others...wait, that's not true...now I do. But I didn't start this blog with anything else in mind other than to find a way to come to terms with my oldest son going into the army. I write now because I want to share the experience, yet again, of having a son serving this land.

So, this is a shoutout - but more, this is a thank you to Harold of Livingston and so many others who have reached out to me, or even just read what I've written. It means so much to me to share the life and the land and the family that I love so much and I worry sometimes that I overstep myself and might be offending some people. Not my intention, but sometimes an inevitable outcome.

So - shoutout to Harold and to everyone who shares my words, my thoughts. It means so much to know that I am no longer in that empty room, that there are so many sharing this journey.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Out Come the Flags...

On the houses, from the windows, on the cars, from the balconies. All over Israel, Israeli flags are flying. A few minutes ago, just 45 minutes before the beginning of Yom Hazikaron, Israel's Memorial Day for our fallen soldiers and those who lost their lives in terror attacks, I heard a drill going.

Slowly, the country is counting the minutes until the siren that begins a 24 hour period of intense mourning. We mourn this year for over 24,000 victims of this endless war waged against us. Soldiers and civilians, men and women, children, parents, wives and husbands, grandparents, infants.

Soon, the siren will sound. Already, the stories have begun to be told. Of Hadar Cohen, who was only 19 when terrorists attacked a border guard. Without hesitation, Hadar stepped forward and shot the terrorist and as she focused on taking her shot and saving her friend, another terrorist was focusing on her. Her parents have become part of the family of bereaved families.

And Ezra Schwartz, an American student who was visiting Israel and was shot in a terror attack. His mother has come to Israel to take part in the ceremonies and the national day of mourning.

And soldiers who died in the Yom Kippur war...tomorrow, David will stand beside the grave of one of these soldiers during the siren. I hurt for him, for what he will feel and for what the families feel.

The next 24 hours in Israel are among the hardest in Israel. We know that tomorrow night we will celebrate. We will smile and sing; we will watch the fireworks and celebrate our Independence Day.

But before we do, we will mourn with all our hearts. We will listen to the families tell us of their loss, of the amazing family members who live on in their hearts.

The neighbor was drilling, just 45 minutes before Memorial Day begins, so that he could hang a flag from his balcony.

It joins dozens of others on our blocks - on the houses, on the cars.

I won't go to the ceremony this year. It is something I give to myself. I have a soldier in the army. I work hard to hold my tears back, to stop the endless worry for his safety.

All other years I go and I pay my tribute to those who have fallen. For these few years, I stay home. I stand and think of those we have lost during the siren, but I don't go.

I will listen to the stories on live broadcasts and watch and learn.

Of those who fell in 1948, and those who fell in all the wars since. I will listen to the children - some of whom never knew their fathers.

And I will mourn and I will cry. But I will hold on to the knowledge that after tomorrow, another day will come.

But for now, in a few minutes, we will light the memorial candle in our house, we will listen to the siren, and we will remember them.

My Nakba

Guest post by the amazing RM Bellerose (Ryan)

On Thursday, I will celebrate Israel's 68th Independence Day - each one a hard-won victory, a never-ending triumph over enemies that have never wanted peace, are not willing to talk or compromise. In fact, our very existence in "their" neighborhood is a constant affront to too many of them. Not all, but still most.

On Thursday, as I celebrate with my family, too many Palestinians will be mourning the Nakba. The Arabic word can be translated as "disaster" or "catastrophe". Nice, huh? Meanwhile, back at the farm, tens of thousands of Palestinians (including the family of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestine Liberation Organization Palestinian Authority) use our doctors and hospitals, our buses, our electricity, the roads we built, the schools we support, the universities we subsidize.

I am angered when I hear the word "nakba" - if Israel did not exist, thousands of people around the world would not be here today because when a real disaster happened - in Haiti, in Kenya, in Nepal, in the United States, in Canada, in Turkey and so many other places, Israelis flew to save lives and lessen the catastrophe. No, on Thursday when the Palestinans mourn their Nakba, it is important to remember that the nakba is as imaginary and non-existent as the Palestine they claim to want. Neither exists and the world is better off for that.

I saw this post on Facebook by an amazing man that I have never met, at least not in person. He is a Native American. I grew up supporting the Native American cause, hating what the greedy white man did to the indigenous population of North America...and then, more recently, I heard about Ryan and began reading his thoughts. He is pushing Jews to realize our own great truth - that we too are an indigenous people fighting for our homeland.

With permission, I offer you Ryan's "My Nakba" - which is so very much what I would have written if I had been smart enough to think of it.

My Nakba 

I want to tell you about my nakba.

My invented, ridiculous, ignorant, regressive and cowardly Nakba.

My Nakba is the arabs who stab little old ladies and 13 year old boys.

My Nakba is the Rabbis for human rights who act like dhimmis in the name of peace.

My Nakba is the woman who writes for the times of Israel but spouts anti Israel propoganda and she insults the victims of terror.

My Nakba is the children who stab other children hoping one day they too can kill a jew.

My Nakba is an old woman who plants a seed of hate deep into her children knowing she might never see it grow but she plants it anyway because she has a granddaughter and she thinks that one day her grand daughters grand daughter might kill a jew.

My Nakba is rolling fields, filled with garbage by arabs who cannot be bothered to put it in bins. its empty half built homes built with euros skimmed from aid meant for the poor.

I thought about writing more, but honestly my bullshit tolerance is full,

So I am gonna tell you the truth about Israel,

Israel is not perfect, but it is the one place I've been that actually strives for perfection.

Israel is filled with people who agonise over their morals even when it means that they end up harming their own cause. but they won't change because they truly believe God is working through them to make the world better.

Israel is a beautiful place where people don't stand in line, but help mothers hold their crying babies while they search for change for the bus.

Israel is a crazy place where nobody ever learned how to park properly and if they did, they just don't care.

Israel is a place where they expect you to be as tough and resilient as they are and they suffer no fools gladly.

Israel is a place where a guy wearing trendy clothes and carrying the most modern technology is speaking a 4 thousand year old language, and praying exactly as his great great great grandfather did.

Israel is a place where a woman is encouraged to speak her mind.

Israel is a place where I dont feel out of place even though I am not Jewish.

I know some of you will laugh at the first part of this post especially after you watch a certain bloggers "speech" you may have missed the irony of the introduction to that speech, you may not have understood the subtle undermining behind the florid language, but now maybe you might.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

London is Doomed

Doomed...just doomed.

They went to the polls, as democracies will do...and...well, let's just say that if what they chose reflects how they feel, every Jew in London should be buying a ticket out now.

Their choice was Sadiq Khan. And who is this man? Well, for those who believe terror is wrong, that hatred is not the right choice, here are some highlights of this man's life:

  • He was a ‘legal consultant’ for  Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to conspiring to murder US citizens  as part of the September 11 terror attacks. When we use the term "legal consultant" - that means Khan had a choice, and chose wrong.
  • Sadiq Khan also chose to represent Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and a man well known for his hatred and extremism. Though, Farrakhan was banned from the United Kinddom for calling Judaism a‘gutter religion," Khan still believed Farrakhan deserved his services.
  • Khan also shared a platform with terrorist Yasser al-Siri, who called for the corpses of American soldiers to be dragged through the streets.

Are you proud of this victory? Muslim extremists should be, peace loving human beings...not so much; Jews, not at all.

London has fallen...and not just the bridge...

Tuvia Tenenbom - Catch the Jew - is Coming to Maale Adumim - TONIGHT!

I'm so excited to be organizing this event...

I loved the book he wrote - Catch the Jew...

I have never read a book that I disagreed with and loved so much at the same time. It is a book that everyone should read - left wing, right wing...oh my God, especially left wing.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I got angry. In the end, as tears left my eyes as I read the book, I had one great urge - to speak to Tuvia and tell him - NO!!!!! You. Are. Wrong.

I still believe he is wrong. But I also know that he wants to be wrong. My greatest fear is that there's even a chance that he is right...but I am comforted by the believe that wrong or right doesn't apply in a world that is based not on logic, but on faith. More precisely, a world controled not by man but by God. Ultimately, if you believe God is in control, we're in good shape. It's man we have to fear.

So, I wrote a review...The End of Israel and I asked Tuvia to come to Maale Adumim...and he is!!!


Sunday, May 8 - Pnei Shmuel Synagogue (102 Mitzpe Nevo - also called the "Down" shul) at 7:30 p.m.

Come hear Tuvia speak - ask questions, make comments, buy his book!

So excited to host Tuvia and hoping many people will come and hear him speak. He's got a message for Israel (and I think Israel has a message for him)!

I Failed Again...

I'm not handling this soldier thing nearly as well as I think I handled it the last two times. For one thing, what fears I had, I usually managed to either joke away or hide completely from my sons. They knew they were loved; they knew we missed them when they weren't home, and they knew we worried. But mostly, they talked and I listened.

When Elie told me he was going to war, and it was clear there was going to be at least one war, I spoke to him calmly on the phone as if it was just another day. Only when I got off the phone did I cry. I was so proud of myself.

With my youngest, I fail completely. I cried even before he went in...the worst of all tears - the ones that bring tears to your son's eyes as he realizes what this is costing you. In tears, I told him that I couldn't live if something happened to him and with watery eyes, he promised me nothing would happen to him.

Friday night as we sat around the table, David began giving us a basic overview of his unit in war...the various roles his position would involve. There could easily be times that he would be at the front of the front, times he could be in the middle, times he might be in the back. I told him that even the back was too far front and he should call the army and tell them I don't agree.

But as it became clear what he would do, how he was being trained, my eyes filled with tears even though I asked them very nicely not to. David was speaking to all of us, his eyes more on his father as he answered a question. From across the table, Aliza saw my tears and I could see she was trying to think of  a way to stop them...then Davidi saw them and pretty much started to lie his way out.

The good news is that on a checkpoint, where they will be assigned soon, his position would be definition require him to be further back but in war...

I want to tell the army that I can't do this anymore. I want to tell them that I am screaming inside now, even with there being mere tensions on the border, not all out war.

I am counting months, figuring out where Davidi will be, when he will be considered "combat-ready." I am counting on the words of his commanding officer that if war breaks out this summer, Davidi's unit, still fresh from training, won't be sent in. The look on David's face when I told him that makes me believe his commanding officer is as well versed in the ability to lie to parents as Elie's commanding officer who told me Artillery soldiers guard from the perimeter and never go in...

My emotions are so out of control when it comes to David. I've begun to buy him massive amounts of chocolate, as I've watched him lose weight...he so doesn't need the chocolate but at the rate they are exercising him, at least it can't really hurt him.

I want to say I'll do better; I want to say I will not cry in front of him again. When I found out I was pregnant with my youngest child, I prayed to God. What right do I have to ask you for another perfect baby when you've given me four already...even that was too much to ask...and here I am asking for another! I was terrified while I was pregnant with her in a way that I never was with the others.

That is how I am today...what right do I have to ask God to let my third son pass through this experience unharmed after he has granted my prayers already twice...and yet it is what I pray for first in each thought. I wake with the thought; I sleep with the thought.

I have just finished a book that was harder for me to read than any other. It was a magnificent book, beautifully written, inspiring...a mother who lost two sons...two sons...Miriam Peretz. The book is called Miriam's Song and I'll write about it soon. She sent four sons to the army (and at least one daughter, I believe)...even after losing one in the army, she still managed to send another and another and another.

And still, after losing them, she writes of the positives, of faith, of love, of how much others have been inspired by her sons and how often she speaks to families, soldiers, students about the wonders in our world.

I salute her, I am in awe of her and though I will try to emulate her, I know that on Friday night I failed miserably. 

Today, He Would Have Been 30...

Today is Michael Levin's birthday - he would have been 30 years old. Instead, he will always remain the young, beautiful young man who chose Israel...twice.

Once, he came to serve in our army, defend our land. He joined the Paratroopers and excelled. Like most lone soldiers, Michael was given a chance to go visit his family for an extended visit during his service. While there, war broke out with Lebanon, after Hizbollah attacked and kidnapped two of our soldiers. The north was being bombarded with dozens of rockets daily. Michael told his family he had to come back - he chose to fight in a war, chose to join his unit in Lebanon.

He fell in battle in 2006. He was 20 years old...today, he would have been 30. My oldest child is 30. She is married with two precious-beyond-words sons. She has a husband that we adore. She has made a home here in this land. Michael never had that chance.

My oldest "adopted" son is Yakov. He chose to come to this land and serve in the army; now he lives here with his beautiful wife and three amazing-beyond-words daughters. They have built a home here in this land. Michael never had the chance to take a wife, bring children into this world.

In his memory, a whole organization was created to help similar young men who come to this land to join in the dream of Israel.

This week, we will mourn for the loss of over 24,000 people who died in the battle for this land. It has never been easy; it has always been right.

For most of the year, we never question that sacrifice; we don't really question it this week either. But on Tuesday night, a siren will sound and all over Israel, people will cry - for ones who were lost, for the ones who serve now. On Wednesday morning, the siren will sound again and for two minutes, people still stand at attention, having stopped in mid-step, wherever they are.

In all the military cemetaries, tens of thousands will come...and next to each grave, there will be a soldier. He will stand there, alive and proud, and the families come to visit their sons and daughters. I thought once that this was cruel, even it was meant as a tribute. But in reality, it is an act of kindness. In their grief, they are reminded that there is life. They often offer the soldier a bottle of water, some sweets, if nothing else, they offer their gratitude. This year, David will stand next to a grave. For one mother, it will be a reminder that her son was not forgotten.

On Wednesday, all of Israel will remember Michael Levin. Today, on what would have been his birthday, I'm sure his family is thinking of him. I hope they know that we are too.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Who Am I?

The thing about comments on a blog is that the blog owner has a bunch of choices. The first choice is whether to allow unmoderated comments. As any Israeli can tell you, no Israeli blog and few Jewish blogs are safe from harassment and so, the first choice for most is pretty obvious - we moderate all comments.

The second choice is how to handle comments that are less than complimentary either to the core issues you present or to a stand you have taken. More than once, I have had people ask me in anger why I didn't put their comments through - and the answer is always the same...because I don't have to, this is my blog, my life and I present it as I live it. Take it, leave it, love it, hate it - it's mine.

Sometimes, I put comments through and then answer them; sometimes I leave it to others to respond. Sometimes, I choose not to put them through at all...my right.

Sometimes, I post them, like this: Mahmood Says...

Sometimes, I put them all together... like this: Comments on Comments...

A few days ago, I posted Six Million Tears. today, Anonymous # 478 (or is it #479?) sent me this:
As a Jew living in Germany, by choice. I ask you this - who are you to condemn a whole people? Who are you to pronounce them without forgiveness, damned for ever? My family bled and suffered and died there, and yet we are still here. And we have chosen to never forget, but to find future and hope. Who are you to pronounce Judgement? You are not G-d!
I put the comment through but decided I needed more space to respond, and so I do that here.

You say you are a Jew living in Germany by choice, I'll confess that this is a choice I do not understand but I wish you well there. I will pray for your safety because I have many doubts and concerns for the Jews who live in Europe.

You ask me who I am to condem a whole people? I will be honest and say that it is not I that may have condemned them but, if anything, that would be their actions, their choices. If they are to be condemned for all time, I doubt I have the power to be the one to do it.

Who am I to pronounce them without forgiveness, damned forever? Well, Judaism is different than other religions. While other religions grant individuals to pronounce God's forgiveness, we do not. We believe there are two elements of forgiveness. The first is God - who are we to think we can grant God's forgiveness? I certainly didn't do that. God is the true and ultimate judge and I would be a fool if I believed that I could speak for God. The second is the person or people who are wronged. I cannot forgive the Nazis for the murders they committed. The only ones who can forgive that are dead. They murdered the ones who could grant them forgiveness. They also need forgiveness from those they wronged but did not kill.

I can tell you to his dying day, my grandfather never forgave the Germans...sadly, he never forgave himself for being unable to earn enough money in America to bring his mother and sisters to safety. To his dying day, my father-in-law never forgave the Germans...and sadly, he never forgave himself for not being near when the Germans came for his parents. My mother-in-law never forgave the Germans either, but worse, she lived her entire life under the shadows of what she survived.

You say your family bled and suffered and died there, and yet you are still there. If I were to say what is in my mind, I would say you are a fool. But my heart tells me I should be more diplomatic, more understanding. I don't know what keeps you in Germany - is it money?  Is it allegienece to the Deutschland? Whatever it is, it's a mystery to me.

My family and that of my husband bled, starved, were gassed and cremated. Those that survived gathered together and looked for the farthest places they could get to - Australia, Palestine, the United States. They wanted Palestine but the British blocked them; they got some visas for Australia but were not willing to be separated from their siblings and so lied and said they too were denied. And when the visas finally came through, they fled Europe for America.

You say you will never forget but choose to find future and hope and I commend you for that. I hope you will work hard to educate your friends and neighbors so that they too never forget. As for the future and hope - I live in a land filled with both; they are forever on our minds and in our hears.

And finally you ask who I am to pronounce judgment - and I tell you that I have not. I have simply said what I believe, what I felt when I was in Germany. It was a thought that crossed my mind. I found the Germans to be wonderful, interested, caring people. That was, for me, a wonderful thing. I went expecting to be challenged, to feel threatented. The first time I saw German eyes drop down and look at my Jewish star, I wondered if I had been wrong, over-proud, in wearing it. When he raised his eyes and said in a questioning tone, "Israel?" I felt my body clench but refused, in my mind, to back down and so, almost defiantly, I answered, "Yes!"

I did not expect him to smile, but he did. I did not expect the other Germans next to him to smile either, but they did. One turned to me and said, "hava nagila" and another said "shalom aleichem" - and I too smiled.

And so, going to Germany was a revelation. I have come far from where I was a few years ago when I wrote, They Put Her in a Gas Chamber. I can tell you now that I will never get to where you are.

And finally, you said that I am not God. I am very aware of that and never claimed to be. All I am is a person with a voice and an opinion. You don't have to like it, and I'm fine with that. But I will tell you who I am...

I am a granddaughter to a man who suffered for decades; I am the wife of a man who watched his parents struggle to live with what was done to them and what they suffered. I was a daughter-in-law for just over 10 years and listened as, for the first time, my mother-in-law began speaking about the Holocaust, describing the life in the camps and the life they had before. I am a mother of five amazing Israelis, two who have served, one who is serving now in the army of Israel. I have sent two sons and a daughter to Poland to face the nightmare of walking into a gas chamber.

I am a Jew. I have stood in the gas chambers of Maidanek and Auschwitz; I have seen the ovens and the ashes. I have walked on the places where they were murdered; I have cried where some remain buried in mass graves.

I am an Israeli, forever aware that it is our job to be on watch; knowing that if the day should come, as it has too many times in the past, that the Jew in Europe will have to flee, we stand here in Israel ready to open our doors and more, ready to send our sons. We have flown into Yemen and Ethiopia, we have smuggled Jews out of Russia, Iran, Iraq...we will do the same in France and Germany and England, and even the United States if we have to.

That is who I am, that gives me the right to have my opinion. I wish the Germans well. But I have lived and will live with the Holocaust...and therefore, so will the Germans.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

In My Little Country Today - May 5, 2016

Today, in my little country, we cried buckets; we examined a wound that will never heal, exposed it to the world and watched it bleed again. We stood at attention for 2 minutes as air raid sirens wailed from mountain to mountain, across the cities, through the valleys. It reached into the depths of our souls as cars quickly pulled to the side of the road and people stood in silence, left to meditate, to pray, to think, perhaps only to feel.

Without question, the biggest "story" in my country today was remembering the Holocaust, but there were other stories - unconnected and yet entirely part of the larger story. In several places, rocks were thrown at buses and cars. And one other thing happened...several times.

Yesterday, in my little country, Arabs fired five mortars at soldiers near the Gaza border. Today, again, they fired five more into our country and Israel discovered another tunnel that has been dug under the border and into our land.

It's very tense here in my country as we try to figure out whether this was once again Hamas stretching its arms and having a little "fun" or whether this is the beginning of the next escalation and war.

Where are you now?

Life in Israel is interesting... I've got a 16 year old traveling home from school on a public bus on a road that is often attacked. We've been blessed, so very blessed, that she's never been on a bus that was hit. She's come up at least twice to the site where terrorist has just rammed soldiers or people waiting for a bus. Other than the ambulance, thankfully, she hasn't been subjected to seeing horrific sights that would haunt her. My phone beeped.

Once again, rocks have been thrown at a bus on the same road. I'm worried...even knowing from the message that everyone is fine doesn't mean someone is not scared and so not wanting to scare my daughter but wanting to know if all is fine on her bus, I write to her, "How's it going? Where are you now?"

Her trip takes her about two hours, taking one bus to Jerusalem and then another to our city. She answers right away, "Somewhere on a bus. Where are you?"

I answer, "somewhere in the house".

She responds, "oh, very nice :-)"

I hadn't really gotten my answer whether it was her bus or not so I finally decided to just be straight with her, "Was your bus hit with rocks? (is that better?)"

Her answer, "No, why?"

I told her that a bus had been hit but that there were no injuries. She asked me where the bus was and I told her it was on the road she had just traveled. Her response, "oh, okay."

There is something infinitely sad about a child not being fazed at all by an attack on the road where she was. 

Can it ever really be enough? Too much?

Part of me wants to apologize for flooding your this blog with images a nd names and thoughts of the Holocaust. I can almost feel people saying, "enough already" and "yeah, we got it" and then I think...

Of my husband...who never knew what it was to have a grandparent and now he is one...what his grandparents missed out on is immeasurable; what he missed out on...he is only now beginning to understand.

Of Gavriella - she is in my mind and my heart today...

Of Shaye and Chaim Eliezer and Yehoshua and Shmuel and Benyamin Elimelech...of Esther Chaya...of Pereleah...of Raizel and her two daughters...of 300 nameless relatives...of six million...six million...

Of Poland. Of Germany. Of Israel...bound forever in painful memories...

Of my children - each one tied to the Holocaust through a name, a memory...

Of my mother-in-law who lived her life trying so hard to stay out of the light, to raise her children always in fear of the Nazis coming back to harm her children, as they had stolen her parents and grandparents, her sister and brothers.

Of my father-in-law, who used humor and strength, who dared to defy and still, thankfully, survive, who lost his parents and grandparents, a sister and brothers, who named his children for a lost and stolen generation.

Of all the survivors who live with what happened more than 70 years ago, as if it happened yesterday or worse, might happen again tomorrow.

Of all the children in Israel today, who are being taught - once they beat us, starved us, gassed us...once, but never again.

Never again can be just words, or it can be a solemn promise. Today, it is a solemn promise so I'll apologize if I am overwhelming you with posts on this one subject...

How many times can she write about this? How much of the day will it consume her? I guess we'll find out...

Can you imagine utter silence for ELEVEN YEARS?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

We Have Risen From the Ashes of a Broken World

Guest Post 

A Message from a Soldier in Israel
(written and then shared with his mother, HaDassah Sabo Milner, reprinted with permission

My son Naff, a combat engineer in the ‪‎IDF‬, just wrote this and sent it to me, on the occasion of ‪‎Yom HaShoah‬ - Holocaust Remembrance Day:

Today is a day where we remember. A day where we look back on one of the darkest periods of our history. A day that, as I get older and understand more and more, is not just about mourning what we lost, for me today is about looking back on the horrors of the past to remember where we were and at the same time look at how far we've come.

We have risen from the ashes of a broken world and we didn't fix it. Fixing it wasn't good enough - we created a new one, a better one, one where I can serve, for the first time in two thousand years, in a Jewish army, and commit myself to the sentence that everyone uses today "never again".

If I could go back in time and visit my great-great-grandfather in the camps and tell him "Sabba, I'm your great-great-grandson and I live in the land of Israel, but not only do I live in the land but I also voted last year for a Jewish government and on top of that I serve in the first Jewish army in two thousand years". What would he say? Would he believe me? Probably not, that's why I see today as a day to measure how far we've come as a nation to show the world you can kick me down but I will get up over and over again.

Have a meaningful day, people, and I want to thank all the people who don't just use the words "never again" one day a year to post to Facebook because it's what's done. I want to thank the people who stand behind those words every day even when it gets hard. It's because of people like that that we've gotten this far.

עם ישראל חי

Gavriella...who did not survive

On Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel...I remember, I mourn...

Slowly, as the candle burns in my dining room, I think of those who perished, those who were murdered in a Holocaust that remains as agonizing and bitter today as it was when it happened. That's the truth - time does not dull the memory - not of those who truly remember.

One by one, I think of those we can identify, those names we know.

May God bless the memory of Gavriella...for some reason, her murder haunts me the most. I wanted to name my first daughter after her, but my mother-in-law was afraid to have a baby named after her little sister, who was murdered by the Nazis at age 12. She was afraid that Gavriella's fate, of dying young, could in some way impact on my baby and I honored her request and named my beautiful baby after my grandmother instead.

I wanted to name my second daughter after Gavriella, but my mother-in-law had passed away, and so Aliza was named after her. More, even though I didn't really agree with holding the name back, I felt I could not do it after my mother-in-law had asked me not to.

And so the name and the memory haunted me and then, when my daughter-in-law and son were expecting, they asked us for names boys...and girls...and when it came to a girl's name, Gavriella was the first name that came to mind. I gave them others. She is their daughter; the decision was theirs.
My granddaughter is named Michal Gavriella and when she was born and I heard the name that she was given, I felt that we had stolen the name back from the Nazis, that we had redeemed it.

Michali is growing in this land of ours, beautiful and happy and so amazing...she is the best response to what was done to Gavriella.

I pray that somewhere in the heavens, Gavriella knows that she has not been forgotten. That though she was denied this land, her namesake dances and sings and plays in this land, here where the Nazis cannot touch her - not the Nazis that killed Gavriella, and not the Nazis that even today, still try to hurt and kill Jews.

May God bless the memory of Gavriella and may our people never again be without the means to protect ourselves and may God, above all else, stand over us and protect us.

From the River to the Sea; from the Ghetto to the Free

Almost every year, I post or share this video.  It is, as the pilot would say later, the perfect example of the transition the Jewish people have made from the ghetto and the concentration camps, to the free people of Israel.

I can't watch it without starting to cry. I can't tell you how many times I have watched and listened...and each time, as I hear the pilot begin to speak, and I see Israeli fighter jets fly over Auschwitz as a tribute to the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, my eyes fill with tears, my heart hurts.

There are many videos of the Holocaust - this one is not so much about the Holocaust as a memorial to it. It's been more than a decade since I was in Poland, since I entered a gas chamber and the lingering feeling of death. Every step was agony - to walk on blood and bones, to feel that every inch was covered in death and a thousand showers would never wash away the horror.

Tonight, as I sit here, a memorial candle burning nearby, I check the news. Five mortars were fired at Israel today...no, that's wrong... "were fired" is passive and there was nothing passive about this action.

Earlier today, the Arabs fired five mortars at Israel today. Perhaps they know our minds are remembering but what they don't know is that even when we cry... We watch, we see, we guard.

In the heavens above us, six million souls form a ring if protection as mighty and as precise as the greatest weapons we have developed.

Today our defense, our entire defense is the sum total of several amazing things - first and foremost is the protection of the God of Israel. Second are the prayers and faith of an entire nation. Third are the angels - souls of generations of Jews who never lived to see the miracle we live every day. Fourth are the amazing sons and daughters who have committed years of their lives to watching over our people, our land.

Watch our sons fly over Auschwitz - a message to the souls of six million. If we had been around, we would have moved heaven and earth to save you and so today, we do the only thing we can do - we remember you, we honor you. We bless your memory and keep it alive.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Most Polite Way to Tell Someone to Get Lost

I have watched this video at least 10 times. First it was in anger, until I got to the point where Office Alon Tal comes on the scene. He is calm. He is firm...and he follows the law perfectly and without hesitation.

So often dealing with extremists, anti-Israel activists, etc. is an exercise in futility but more it is an opportunity to see them lose their cool, demand and demand, but not answer back. They love to throw around claims and "facts" and build whole mountains on a lie.

Officer Alon Tal didn't give them that chance. He answered comment for comment politely.


A Givati Proposal

This was posted two years ago - it happened at the Swearing In Ceremony - similar to the one we attended a few weeks ago for David.

A Givati soldier proposes - it opens with the soldiers promising to protect the people and land of Israel and then it shows one soldier...one young man...and one young woman...also a soldier...and then his friends, who celebrate with him.

Watch this...so beautiful...

Monday, May 2, 2016

Six Million Tears

Near the end of World War II, my grandfather took his family to the movies in America. On distant shores, a war was being fought and the movie began with a newsreel of what was happening. They reported the murder of Jews, of concentration camps and my grandfather began to cry - "they've murdered my mother," my mother remembers him saying.

They murdered my great-grandmother, Raizel. They murdered my two great aunts. They murdered hundreds of my father's relatives - most with names we'll never know. They murdered all four of my husband's grandparents, and his uncle Binyamin Elimelech (for whom Elie is named). They murdered my husband's uncle Shmuel (for whom Shmulik is named). They murdered Yehoshua, who sacrificed his life to save his younger brother. They murdered Chaim Eliezer (for whom my husband is named). They murdered little Gavriella (for whom my granddaughter is named).

Six million times, they killed them, gassed them, beat them, starved them, humiliated them, denied them life, denied them food, denied them dignity. Six million dead...more than 1.5 million children murdered. We've cried rivers of tears in their memory; we've lit enough candles to light the blackest night.

We've promised never to forgive, never to forget...even if the world denies what was done, we remember.

This is as it has been for 70 years...even more. This time, it seems so different for me. I have a new perspective. I have been where I never thought I would go and the experience remains with me.

Six months ago...I went to Germany - for professional reasons and perhaps, deep down, some personal ones as well.

It was a very difficult visit for me and in one very key area, I felt different. I have anger against many who persecuted the Jews...from the ancient Egyptians who enslaved us to Amalek who ambushed us, from the Romans to the Crusaders, from those who rioted in countless pogroms to those today who attack Jews simply because they feel they can.

What I feel for the Nazis is timeless, endless and without bounds. It is a hatred so deep, it borders on poison. And yet, I am well aware that the poison can run in two directions...and so I try very hard to ensure that I live my life in a positive way; that I raise my children in hope and not despair, in strength and not in weakness.

They must know what the Nazis did, and know that the answer to preventing the next Holocaust was never in the hands of the Germans, or the Europeans, or the Americans. We will trust no one with that task, other than ourselves.

And so my trip to Germany this last November, which coincided with my birthday...and Kristallnacht...the Night of Broken Glass when, in 1938, the Nazis rampaged through Germany burning Jewish books, synagogues and homes, beating Jews and announcing to the world that their leader had a plan,

I spoke with Germans - many of whom silently looked down to the Jewish star around my neck. Like me, they chose, mostly, not to speak of what stood between us - symbolized by that star. Some asked me if I was from Israel and without any hesitation, I assured them that I was.

Not one made a nasty comment; several expressed support for Israel; one responded by saying "shalom aleichem" and another "hava nagilah." I smiled and was polite and held myself back from asking anything because I found there was nothing to ask.

I left Germany with a greater understanding than I've ever had before. This Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel, which comes this Thursday, will be very special for me because for the first time, I admit that the Germans are as trapped as we are, even if they don't fully know that.

They live in a world without forgiveness - no, I'm not even speaking of mine or anyone who is alive. Every Yom Kippur, Jews all over the world are blessed with an amazing gift from God, the opportunity to ask and be forgiven, to start fresh. We are told that we must approach those that we have wronged and do what we can to repair the damage, apologize, learn from our mistakes and finally to move on.

The Germans are stuck in a world without forgiveness because they murdered the very people from whom they must received redemption and pardon. We can't give it to them - so whether we are willing to give it or not is irrelevant. They live, quite simply, in a world without Yom Kippur, forever.

I learned that I do not hate them; if anything, I pity them this reality. The Holocaust will always be that silent presence in the room when Jew and German meet. They will forever walk that tightrope, one that brings instant contempt if they dare to cross any lines or forget their role.

Each Yom Kippur, we Jews are "born again" into a new and better world - ours to honor or disgrace, ours to try harder this time and make up for what we failed last time.

As Yom HaShoah approaches, I will light a candle for the six million, I will remember Shaye and Raizel, and Yehoshua and Shmuel and Binyamin Elimelech and Chaim Eliezer and Gavriella and I will think too that the power to stop the next Holocaust is in the hands of their great great grandchildren, their great nieces and nephews, where it belongs.

No matter where you are, please light a candle Wednesday night or some time on Thursday and ask God to bless the memories of those who were murdered...in the sanctification of His name.

May God bless the six million; may God bless those who came from them, those who stand on our borders, watch over our waters, fly our skies and defend our people. Am Yisrael Chai.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Elie was drafted into Artillery. It was a soft landing for me...or at least I thought it was at the time. Elie's commanding officer, Ohr, came and told me that Artillery soldiers always fight on the periphery. In war, he explained, they need to be many kilometers behind the front lines; in non-war (no, I can't write peace) situations, they hold the lines outside while Golani and Givati and Paratroopers go into the villages...Arab villages. It was a lie. But I bought it and by the time I realized it wasn't true, I had settled into a better understanding of the army.

Shmulik was drafted into Kfir but before he could finish the advanced training, he was moved into a combat support role, rather than combat, because he was experiencing terrible migraine headaches. He was given an amazing commander and role model and completed his service with that officer. While he could easily have been in dangerous situations (and I know he was in dangerous places), there was no advance warning that there was danger or that tensions were rising.

Now Davidi has been drafted - into Givati...Givati is one of the units of ground forces. Once, there was Golani, which focused on the Golan; Givati, which focused on the south; Paratroopers...I'm not sure where they focused...and now there is Kfir, which focuses on Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Only, that's not really true - Golani can often be found in the south; Givati can be in the most dangerous places up north.

But for my family, Givati is where we started - our first real encounter with the army; and Givati is where we will end - God willing when Davidi turns 40-something and finishes with miluim. It's a circle, in a way, perhaps several of them. Yakov went into Givati and was a sharpshooter; Chaim went into another division of Kfir at the same time as Shmulik and was also chosen to be one of the unit's sharpshooters...and now Davidi has been chosen to go into Givati and like his two adopted brothers, given the task of sharpshooter.

Givati scares me to a depth I can't admit to David. I didn't know enough when Yakov was in to be scared and truthfully, back then, we didn't seem to be going to war every two or four years. I started to cry when I heard David was going in to Givati; worse, I did something no mother should do...I cried in front of my son and told him if something happens to him, I'll die. I will. I can't go on
without him. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. And so he was comforting me, saying words that we all know are meaningless - but what else could he say to a mother whose eyes are filled with tears. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

I don't want Givati. I think they are amazing, brave...I don't want my son to be amazing and brave. They are strong. I don't want him to be strong either. I do...I know I do...but Givati. They don't hold the perimeter...okay, Artillery didn't either; it was a lie. Elie came home one time and told me, "Ima, they have some really tall buildings in Kalkilya."

"Why do you know that?" I asked him; knowing the answer already. Ohr lied to me.

But with Davidi, I knew from the beginning. There is no pretense. Givati goes in. Givati doesn't hold the perimeter...ever. Davidi's commanding officer came to visit us. He was actually Davidi's commanding officer's deputy commanding officer and his name is Shaked. Shaked didn't lie...not exactly. He told me that if there will be a war this summer, David's group will be sent to a checkpoint to relieve other Givati soldiers so that they can go into Gaza, if needed. He said Davidi's unit wouldn't go in. Not this summer. I don't know if it is a lie yet but I know under certain circumstances, it could be.

And even if it is the truth this summer, what of next summer? And the one after that?

The tune for Givati's "anthem" goes through my brain at the strangest times. "I have heard the sound of the wind," Givati soldiers sing. "It is the spirit that is named Givati." My son hears the sound of the wind. My son dreams Givati; he breathes Givati.

Years ago, Elie's unit was involved in a terror attack. He wasn't there but more than 20 boys were wounded, some seriously, when a young Arab got mad at his family for not allowing him to marry his cousin and so, to express his disappointment and anger, he rammed the family vehicle into Elie's unit. Even knowing that Elie had been "busy" doing something else and so wasn't with them at the time of the attack, I found little comfort. As I sat alone in the middle of the night with tears running down my face trying desperately to find some balance before facing others, I heard, for the first time in my life, my heart screaming.

I looked around wondering why others couldn't hear it. It was so loud but it was a sound only I could hear. That was what I realized as people came over and asked me silly questions. I'm the only one who can hear my heart screaming. Then...and now, sometimes, my heart screams...David is in Givati doing well. He meets each challenge...next week, they walk more than 30 kilometers over a few hours; he is climbing, scaling, shooting...and my heart screams. I didn't want Givati; I want to believe the lies and Shaked didn't really lie.

By son now dreams Givati; my son now breathes Givati.

Givati "Anthem"

Facing the light of dawns and spring sunsets 
I have heard the sound of the wind [also spirit]
It is the spirit that wanders around 
It is the spirit that is named Givati 

Those who dream Givati, those who breathed Givati 
Those who walked with us down the paths 
They repeat the name Givati 
And again they recite the name Givati 

With Givati we continue forward 
And today they return and carry with them the comradeship I swore upon 
They return to the map from desert and sea 
 And carry the spirit of Givati 

Those who dream Givati, those who breathed Givati 
Those who walked with us down the paths 
They repeat the name Givati 
And again they recite the name Givati 
With Givati we continue forward

Bombs and Stuff

My youngest son is on his way back to base. We were very blessed this year to have had him home for both the first and last days of the Passover (Pesach) holiday. He went back to base in between (armed with his rifle and 18 home-made cupcakes). They weren't enough to keep him from starving, apparently.

There are many things that I can accept as a mother of a soldier. But the two things that break me are the thoughts that my son is either cold or hungry. Last week, it was hungry. He came home on Thursday. I arranged to pick him up midway and have him join us for a brief visit with my parents. For the first time that I can remember, he asked me to bring food.

Each week I ask him what he will be doing. He's finished the basic training and is now qualified to guard and go on a checkpoint. He's in the middle of the advanced training. Last week, it was very hot in Israel, a taste of the summer that is fast approaching.

The Israeli army is very aware that hard training and hot weather don't mix well. Sometimes, they train in the middle of the night - war, after all, is not just a day time affair. Sometimes, they can't train at all and so where possible, the army switches the schedule of training around. Israel does not just teach a soldier to fight; it teaches him (or her) many other things - information about our enemies, the region, the terrain. More, it teaches them about our country and why they fight, why we have no choice.

Many of the places where they have taken David are sites that he has visited, sometimes several times. But not all soldiers attended religious high schools, not all learned close to Jerusalem. He has been to Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust Memorial (and research) Center. He has been to the Western Wall (the Kotel), more times than he can count, even as an infant, as a young child, with his youth group, after his trip to Poland, and with the army.

The army often uses the holidays as a chance to ease up on the training and give the new soldiers "culture" days. This time, Davidi's training continued. There is a special training base for ground forces - units have to sign up well in advance; a sudden opening is not to be wasted, so last week, David's group went there.

As seems to be the custom, his phone was off for most of the week. The one chance I got to speak with him was via WhatsApp. He recorded me a message - often faster than writing.

I asked him what he was doing on the excessively hot days. He responded that they were learning.

What are you learning? I asked him.

"Bombs and stuff."

Bombs. And. Stuff. I can't think of many mothers in Israel who would want to hear that, or feel totally calm once they did. Bombs and stuff. All I can think of in response (which I didn't say) was that once you are learning about bombs...what other stuff is left to worry about?

The weekend came and went, with a lot of fun. The holiday is over; back to school, to work, to the army...what he's learning about this week...God knows.

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