Friday, October 24, 2014

The Silent Intifada

Many of us remember the first Intifada - a preplanned mass "uprising" which released a wave of violence throughout Israel. It was conveniently...oh so conveniently, blamed on the fact that a Jew dared to visit the Temple Mount, Israel's holiest site and the place where Arabs regularly, five times a day, turn their backs to face Mecca. The Jew was Ariel Sharon, that's true, but if he had not gone, it would have been something else.

The Second Intifada was even more violent and deadly. Rocks and firebombs were replaced by suicide bombers and horrible, brutal, barbaric attacks throughout the country.

We've been threatened with a Third Intifada almost since the last one ended...though if it ever really ended, few can tell. I often tell people that the Third Intifada is sort of like Israel's War of Attrition - not officially a war, not officially an intifada, but an endless stream of deadly attacks.

Those who officially proclaim the Intifada in this absurd world in which we live in, have never made it official and so we have been stuck in that middle ground where someone counts between 2 and 3 but doesn't really want to get there...and so they count..."two and one quarter...two and two fifths...two and three sevenths, two and four and five elevenths..."

And yet, as many of us know, the Third Intifada has definitely come to Israel but has been given a different name. It is being called the Silent Intifada.

Jews know a lot about silence. It nearly killed us all just a few generations ago and we have been fighting it ever since. We are used to the silence of the western world, of the Europeans who fear angering the growing number of Muslims in their midst and the Americans who are prisoners of a government that cares almost as little for them as it does for Israel.

But this Silent Intifada is even more nefarious because it also involves silence here in Israel, by those who should know better. It began years ago, when a rocket that hit an empty field became an insult, rather than the act of war it was.

It involves the silence of the security forces, limited to helpless gestures such as videotaping rock attacks rather than responding as any normal security force elsewhere in the world would when faced with a similar threat.

In involves the silence of the politicians - perhaps for different reasons, but wrong nonetheless.

At the highest level, the silence is a sad acknowledgement that the world really doesn't care about Jews and Israel, so why discuss the vast majority of potentially deadly attacks that are stopped before injury. The rock that doesn't hit; the firebomb that thankfully was thrown at a protected car. The bus that was hit but the driver managed to maintain control and get his passengers to safety.

The rocket didn't hit the school, only the yard. The driver wasn't seriously injured and the car can be repaired. The light rail in Jerusalem was only damaged, no one was hurt, so please, let's not talk about it. Don't mention the tear gas that was thrown, the Arab that stabbed a guard.

We have to mention that little Chaya Zissel Braun was murdered, but we'll rush to put it in context. We'll talk about the general calm, the relative calm, the returning calm and the calm we have to work for. We'll talk about potentials - potential agreements, potential ceasefires, potential dreams...potentially fatal for those silly enough to believe that silence can drown out the rhetoric, the hate.

The Silent Intifada is perhaps the most dangerous yet because, for the first time, loyal Israelis who genuinely love Israel, like the Mayor of Jerusalem, heads of security and police, and even the Prime Minister of Israel, are taking part in it.

Violence will win, if those who have the power to speak, choose silence. It was wrong in 1939 and it is wrong in 2014.

Pain No Parent Should Experience

There is a pain no human should feel, certainly no parent. There is agony beyond words that promises to never end. There are images no human should see, certainly no parent.

This is the last picture taken of a three month old baby girl who was the joy of parents who had waited, no struggled 13 years to bring a child into their family. Taken not long before she was killed, this picture of Chaya will forever bring a world of emotions to her parents.

They will cherish every moment they had with her and mourn so many, many, many others they never will. It is incomprehensible to them and to us that they will have to continue on without her. It is, at this moment, more than they can bear.

And then there is this image, it too is one no parent should have to see and no human can bear to look at. It is what it looks like, the body of an infant, once it has been prepared for burial. The sign announcing her name is almost as big as her whole body. Eternally tiny, eternally mourned.

May God watch over little Chaya Zissel Braun. May He do the impossible, as He so often does, and find some way to comfort parents who are inconsolable.

May the life of this child always be remembered for the joy she brought her parents forever more than the pain in which she left them.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Lessons of Temporary

I meant to publish this during the holiday but in the end, didn't get a chance. The fact that I didn't get a chance is a blessing in itself because I spent much of the holiday with family.

We had one great outing to the north, a barbecue with the family at my daughter's home...all in all, a wonderful holiday. I'll get back to counting my blessings, but in the meantime, here's a post about the Sukkot holiday we just celebrated in Israel. Sukkot.... Sukkot is my favorite holiday - I love it. Most of the others seem to come with so much baggage; requirements that are more emotional than physical.

Rosh Hashana comes with the weight of Yom Kippur to follow.

Yom Kippur is about ripping your soul out and then putting it back inside hopefully cleaner, lighter, better.

Passover carries the weight of history, not to mention all that cleaning. It's about plagues and matzo and really heavy things... Sukkot carries a message but it is light and fun. Outside, free. Sukkot is a reminder that no matter where we are, God isn't far away.

We spend our lives building strong homes to withstand the rain, the wind, time...and rockets from Gaza :-). Sukkot tell us that all this building is folly. We are always, forever, under the skies - open, vulnerable. After a summer spent feeling very vulnerable, Sukkot comes almost as a relief. What's a little cold, a little heat, perhaps some ants and some bees, compared to sirens and rockets? At one point during the war, sirens rang out in our neighborhood. The first time, I fell apart.

Simple as that, embarrassing as that. My youngest son, trained by Magen David Adom to be calm in an emergency, handled my breakdown brilliantly. My youngest daughter was outside somewhere - I was terrified for her and found it unbearable to go into a bomb shelter when I didn't know she was safe. The second time, we all shuffled off nice and easy - it's so different when you're heart isn't divided and breaking into pieces.

The bomb shelter is safety - secure. And that's what the Sukkah is too - the winds can come, the rain, the heat - but the message remains. The strongest buildings can be knocked down...the Sukkah remains. We put ourselves in God's hands, trusting...and are freed.

We trust that God will protect us, that the Sukkah is our temporary shelter - and we are protected. The Sukkah teaches us that all that we have created is meaningless and that ultimately, it is God and not the army, Iron Dome, the stars, fate, whatever, that determines our destiny.

The Sukkah represents peace - and it is peace that we are so missing in this land. And yet, the peace that we seek too often is a false one, and that too is a message of Sukkot. In many ways, our homes built of cement and stone are false homes; unable to protect us from the greatest of dangers. Our attempts to make peace with our neighbors are false because, like the buildings, they offer only an image of what is real.

Peace is not bought with land; homes, real homes, are not built of stone. And that, ultimately, is the message of Sukkot. The Sukkah is real, not fake. It is our home, our protection. The real peace we make is one that is built on a true desire to get along - with our spouses and children, our neighbors and our enemies. Real protection is believing and having faith.

 Trust it, go into it, believe in it. Dwell in it and when, eight days later, we leave it, keep it in your heart.

Murder is A Natural Response

According to Hamas, the murder of a three-month-old baby girl is, "a natural response to crimes of the occupation and invasion of Jews in our land." Note the use of the word "Jews" - no, not Israelis, not settlers, but Jews. A natural response is, by definition, something expected, something almost normal. It's natural to laugh when you are tickled, natural to cry when peeling an onion. And, according to the twisted logic of Hamas, it is natural to murder an innocent child because...because... You know what, I won't play this game. I won't try to understand...but I will ask a question.... If murder is a natural response to something that supposedly began 40-60 or more years ago, isn't murder the natural response to the kidnapping and murder of three children? No, not in my book - not in my religion - not in my world. Murder is not a natural response to is, rather, a sick and demented reflection of a culture that worships death.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Showing Restraint?

A very common demand that comes from the Europeans and the Americans is for Israel to show restraint. When all other nations would fire, we are told to wait. When others would flatten their enemies and care nothing about the innocent behind whom they hide, Israel is told to wait.

Here is an example of restraint. Soldiers in a fortified observation post in Jerusalem, pinned down by Arab rioters. They throw rocks, pound the post with firebombs and even grab the metal and shake it with their rage.

Not one bullet is fired from the position. This was filmed yesterday and moments ago, an Arab drove his car into pedestrians at Ammunition Hill - where I wait for the train nearly every day, where my children catch the bus to come home...nearly every day.

Three people have been wounded, including a baby...the driver attempted to flee the scene but was shot by police. This is what happens when you show restraint. This is what happens when you allow our enemies to think we are simply too weak to respond, rather than choosing not to respond.

This is the first face of restraint below...the second face, is that of a young child fighting for his life. Nine have been wounded - a baby, two critical, two moderate, four lightly - at the bus stop where we wait to come home...

Updated: Baruch Dayan Emet...the baby has died of his wounds. May God avenge his blood.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's NOT About the Settlements, Stupid

Ever see something and know you have to react?

Happened to me at about 3:00 a.m....

An article on Times of Israel, a site that has, more and more, taken a dangerous turn to the left. The latest article was more balanced than I expected, given the suggestive title, "It's the Settlements, Stupid."

But, despite many correct points, ultimately, as expected, the article wound around to the wrong conclusion. It's not about the settlements, it's about Israel.

It's About Israel, Stupid

The Europeans and the Americans are condemning us…again. The United Nations is upset with Israel…still. The Arabs are adamant – it’s the settlements that are the deterrent to peace.

It’s not the settlements. It’s the rockets; it’s their intransigence. It’s their stones, their firebombs, their knives. It’s our naivete, it’s our inability to stick to our convictions and demand peace for peace. It’s their tendency to use violence and our tendency to make excuses for it. It’s their media and it’s our media. It’s their cultural norms and it’s our cultural norms. It’s their leaders and it’s our leaders. The one thing it’s not, is the settlements.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Count your Blessings - Day 32

Today's blessing is something we take for granted...water.

It is an amazing gift - always. I always drive my kids crazy about taking water with them - a small 1/2 liter bottle...more or less. My older kids have mostly accepted this; my youngest one as well. Davidi, on the other hand...well, I still have work to do there.

Everywhere I go, I take a bottle of water with me.

Israel is, especially in the summer, a hot and dry country - water!

Water is the rain we receive as a blessing each year; water is how we water our plants and so necessary to watch our land thrive.

Water cleans away...


Monday, October 6, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Day 31

Right and wrong are often measured against each other, as are good and evil. It's an ageless philosophical discussion - without evil, is there really good? Without wrong, can we truly understand right? Without our enemies, can we really measure the true meaning of our friends?

I'm not sure I go along with all this negativity - that we have to have evil to understand good, that we have to have death to celebrate life, that we need to be pummeled by our enemies to be grateful for our friends.

But in having enemies, we sometimes have blessings. Long ago, I wrote that one blessing of having our enemies close is that we have our sons close to home as well as they fight to defend our land. Another blessing in having our enemies close is that we cannot ignore, even for a single day, the reality in which we find ourselves.

Our enemies help shape the image we have of ourselves. We see them dance when we mourn and we know that is not our way. We see them demand the return of killers - even those who have slaughtered children, and we know that is now our way.

We see them fire rockets at cities, not caring where they land. We hear the fireworks they fire in the air when we find the bodies of children they murdered. This is not our way, we think to ourselves, with such gratitude.

Our enemies covet our land but more, they covet what we have accomplished in 3,000 years of devotion to a way of life, a land, our God. They fail to understand that they too could establish themselves as a light unto other nations. They could fly around the world and help others; develop such amazing technologies that make the world better. They could have the best doctors, raise the most caring of children. All this they could have, if they value what we value and do what we have done.

They take our words - exile, diaspora, genocide - but they have not experienced this, know nothing of what these words really mean. Genocide is not the death of a few hundred in a war you waged against your enemy; genocide is the systematic murder of people who have done nothing. The Jews of Europe did not have tunnels under their homes; did not take to the rooftops to protect rocket launching sites.

The Palestinians make a choice, every day - as we do. They choose where to spend the billions of aid money given to them (on tunnels for smuggling and attacking; on luxury homes and cars for their leaders; on bunkers for Hamas to hide).

The Germans put us in ghettos in Europe - and we turned them into places of enlightenment. We established the schools because we knew, even facing such harsh conditions, children needed to be taught. We created charity funds because there is always someone who needs more.

Our enemies teach us compassion (not that they learn it). And so we feel, honestly, for the innocents that die in a war we didn't choose, yet again. When your country is fired upon daily, you do not have a choice and so we did what we had to do this summer. But we regret...we regret that Hamas cares as little about their own people as they care for ours.

Our enemies teach us perseverance - so long as they continue to hate, to attack, to fight...we have to as well. As Benjamin Netanyahu said long ago - if the Arabs stopped fighting, there would be peace. If we stopped fighting, there would be no Israel.

Our enemies teach us respect - of life, which they lack; of women, which they never show. They have taught us the value of our own democracy - real elections in which the outcome is not fully known until the votes are counted.

Our enemies teach us about living in an open society where men and women are more equal than not; where women can drive and vote and smoke and walk alone or with friends. They teach us that we are free and live in what can be called a very western society.

Our enemies teach us about tolerance, because they are not. They do not tolerate those who do not conform to their societal rules and so women, homosexuals, Jews, Christians and others are abused regularly. This is not how it is here in this land I love so very much.

There are many more examples I could give why having enemies can be a blessing. As hard as it can be, at times it helps clarify why you are as you are and what you don't want to ever be.

So, today's blessing...our enemies. May God bless them...with enlightenment, with freedom, with conscience. May they learn the value of life - ours, and their own. May they cherish their children enough to make them live and our children enough to let them live.

May they understand that helping others is the best way to live; demanding and begging others to help you not always good at all.

Dear Sweden

Dear Sweden,

The nation, the government, some of the people, the land...
You are idiots.

Sweden has stepped forward to recognize the independent State of Palestine - an impressive and bold action that shows their imagination is quite healthy, if not their sense of spatial time and reality.

A rabbi from the Swedish city of Malmo was attacked by men who hurled objects at him from a car and used anti-Semitic pejoratives.

What borders does this mythical country have? What is their national anthem? (The Martyr's March? Ode to Death and Destruction? O Say, Can You Fire a Rocket?). What steps have they taken for peace? Oh, and how do you feel about a "country" that worships its murderers and terrorists and dances at the deaths of innocents?

The Swedish Ambassador to Israel, who believes we should be impressed because he is trying to learn Hebrew (oh, joy), believes that "The reports in Israel ignored the true depth and complexity of the issue as well as the bigger picture."

Malmö’s former mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, who left his post in February, 2013 after 28 years in office, has blamed the rise in anti-Semitism on Jews and has advised them to distance themselves from Israel to remain safe.

I see, so like, in Stockholm they can see the situation in the Middle East more clearly than we here in Israel - what arrogance. What makes you think that you understand the situation at all, never mind more clearly than we do? Was it your country under the rockets this summer? Have you had buses blow up in the streets of your cities? Now, here is where a writer thinks...wait, how much do I know about Sweden? I'll be honest - not much and more than I need to :-)

So I did a quick Google search "bus explosion Sweden" just to make sure that I hadn't missed some major news items...

So the terrorist who blew up the bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria was from Sweden and in 1978, among the casualties of a bus bombing attack by Palestinian terrorists in Israel - there was at least one person from Sweden. I guess I was wrong - that must make them experts on the Middle East....not.

Classic anti-Semitic sentiments, such as Jewish control of the world’s banking system and media, permeate Swedish culture – through comedians or musicians – but are either ignored, defended, or glorified by media types as being enlightened. The Algemeiner, Sept, 2014

Magnus reiterated that his country "wants to continue in good and productive dialogue with Israel." Heck of a way to start that goal, Magnus - by rewarding the Palestinians who just fired 5,000 rockets at us this summer and are now doing their best to launch another intifada. Stoning attacks daily - including, again, last night on the light rail in Jerusalem? Yeah, moderates.

"Good and productive dialog"? By recognizing unilateral actions in exchange for...nothing? Again? By recognizing a country that has no borders? Tell me, is my home inside this entity you have dubbed a nation? By offering to welcome them among the family of nations? This group that has elevated suicide, martyrdom, and murder to a fine art? That is what you recognize?

Magnus adds that the statement from the Swedish government "came as the peace process has been on hold for some time, and we want to help the sides return to negotiations."

To be fair, it's kind of hard to have a peace process in the middle of a war, so please, give us a break. You want to help the sides return to negotiations? I see - and where were you during all the months Israel had a building freeze and the Palestinians refused to come to the table? Where were you when they decided to form a unity government between Fatah and the terrorist Hamas leadership in Gaza? Now you want to help the sides? By deciding on the end game before any negotiations would come about?  

On April 16, 2014, despite a rise in anti-Semitic attacks, the district of Skane, where Malmo is located, declined the Jewish community’s request to increase the number of security cameras around Jewish buildings.

One cannot ignore the political benefit for the Swedish government in taking this anti-Israel stand. After all, the Muslim population in Sweden is Malmo alone, the population is 30% Muslim. Magnus denies the politics and then admits to it, "The Social-Democratic party has for years said it would support Palestine and won the elections." Yeah, we noticed.

And why did the Swedish government single out Israel and the Palestinian issue to address rather than the ongoing massacre of people in Syria or the latest brutality of ISIS? 

Why did the Swedish government, who tried to soften this absurd decision by saying that they are seeking to encourage "mutual recognition" ignore the very mutual part of their comment - they are offering recognition of "Palestine" yet say nothing of the fact that half the Palestinian leadership refuses to recognize Israel at all, and the other half agrees, under certain conditions, to deign to recognize Israel if we agree to strip ourselves of our identity - maybe they'll recognize Israel, but never Israel as the Jewish State.

And the timing of this announcement? Right before Yom Kippur...coincidence, really. Not politics. And anyway, the Swedish Ambassador tried to explain "it was part of a very long speech." Actually, if you ask me, it was more a combination of political greed and the growing power of anti-Semitism in Sweden than anything else.

Like I said, Sweden, you are idiots.

Perhaps the scariest fact is that anti-Semitism in Sweden is rated as relatively low compared to the much larger and more populated countries - then again, there are only 15,000 Jews in Sweden.

(First printed on the Times of Israel site)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Most Talented Guest

We were very honored over the Rosh Hashana holiday to have a special family as our guests - the wife is a painter (see some of her work in the video below) and the husband is a wonderful Chazon (leads the prayers for the holidays) and sings at weddings (even can conduct the entire ceremony).

They have some gorgeous children who came along - polite, sweet, helpful...a complete are some of this songs -

First - the blessing said for a girl on Friday nights... (the boys is similar, but mentions men as role models rather than the four matriarchs mentioned in the blessing for girls).

And this is another beautiful song and video - English translations included:

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