Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hitler's Birthday

Hitler's birthday was April 20th...and so, to honor it, the Nazis decided to liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto on April 19th. They entered the ghetto and were astounded to find that they had come under fire. The Jews were not going to be deported without a fight.

After the Romans conquered Judea and pillaged the land and its occupants, they surrounded a mountain on the shores of the Dead Sea. The mountain was named Masada and what happened there has shaped generation after generation of Israelis. Convinced that they had no option but to be captured and turned into slaves, their wives and daughters abused, over 1,000 Jews chose to die. They committed suicide - each father killed his family. Ten men killed all the remaining men. One man killed the remaining nine and then killed himself.

In April, 1943, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto knew enough about Hitler's plan to understand that they could not go along with the Nazi deportations. Still, there was the possibility of survival, and so they fought - and some survived. Not many, but some.

And they held out for weeks, utterly humiliating the trained German forces that were sent to destroy the ghetto.

Masada...the Warsaw Ghetto...these are elements of who we are today. Masada will not fall again - it is a phrase in Israel, an ideology, a promise.

There will never again be a Warsaw Ghetto - perhaps this is not a phrase, but it is certainly a promise.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate...no, not Hitler's birthday, but the last day of Passover, which commemorates our freedom from the tyranny of the Egyptians. We became a people in the desert on our way home to the land that God gave to us.

The best, the truest, the only answer to Hitler can be found here in Israel where we speak Hebrew, where each holiday is tied to the land. Passover is the holiday celebrating spring and rebirth. The trees are blossoming - in my yard, across my city, in each corner of my country. The flowers are blooming all over.

Today we remember; tomorrow we celebrate our freedom.





Friday, April 18, 2014

A Challenge to Missouri, America, and Its Jews

Hours before the Passover holiday began, Kansas City faced a tragedy...and a challenge. A sick, demented, hate-filled, ignorant man named Frazier Glenn Miller opened fire at two Jewish centers and murdered three people. The incredible irony, of course, is that in attempting to murder Jews, the moron ended up murdering 3 Christians, including an elderly woman and a teenage boy.

The mayor of Marionville, from which Miller apparently crawled, is equally hate-filled, demented, ignorant and sick and I would add, incredibly stupid and politically naive. He has been interviewed and instead of representing Marionville well, he took the opportunity, his 15 minutes of fame as mayor of a tiny town of 2,200 people (of which 20% live in poverty, is apparently 96% white, and in ten years, increased its total population by all of 12 people), to ensure that he looked like a fool.

He proudly explained that he has known the murderer for many years and that so long as the people who came in contact with Frazier Glenn Miller were of the same color (and apparently religion), honestly, everything was fine.

In an interview with a local media outlet (KSPR), Mayor Dan Clevenger said:
He was always nice and friendly and respectful of elder people, you know, he respected his elders greatly. As long as they were the same color as him. [He was] very fair and honest and never had a bit of problems out of him.
Fair and honest...so long as you weren't a Jew, a black, Hispanic, or anything that wasn't white, white, white.

The mayor added that he:
...kind of agreed with [Miller] on some things but I don't like to express that too much. There some things that are going on in this country that are destroying us. We've got a false economy and it's, some of those corporations are run by Jews because the names are there. The fact that the Federal Reserve prints up phony money and freely hands it out, I think that's completely wrong. The people that run the Federal Reserve, they're Jewish.

And therein lies the challenge to Kansas City, Marionville, America, and the Jews who live there.

My first comment is that if this mayor is not forced to resign, Marionville and Missouri should be ashamed. If this idiot is re-elected, the town itself should bear the brunt of their misguided choice. If you live close by, don't go there, don't buy anything there. Don't fill your tank with gas there; don't even buy a bottle of water there.

Fire Clevenger if you can, Marionville, before you as a town are labeled by the killer and the mayor who have put you on the map.

And America, search out the leaders among you. Make sure they represent the best and not the worst. Across the political divide, condemn not only the murderer but the mayor who "kind of" agrees with this.

And Jews of America - learn something from history. It is so easy to wash this away, to dismiss this man, this mayor, perhaps even this town. No good follows such naivete. These are the lies that Hitler told the Germans - that Jews rule the world and are the root of all evil. We can forgive the mistakes of many German Jews back in the 1930s. I mean, who in their right mind could believe that man could be evil enough to build gas chambers, right? Systematically hunt down and exterminate an entire people? No way...the world would never allow it.

Well, now we know. Because too often, the world is filled with Clevengers who look at a hate-filled man and see not the potential for murder, but respect for his white elders. People who will excuse the greater evil for the current status...until it explodes in their faces. This time, it was three innocent Christians who paid the price. It could easily have been a dozen - Jews and Christians. No one was safe from Miller's gun and no one is safe from Clevenger's racism.

Marionville will live up to the challenge or not. At some point in the future, if the media wills it, there will be a short article saying he resigned, was defeated, or was re-elected. But there are hundreds, perhaps thousands and even tens of thousands of other Marionville's in the United States and around the world.

Reports have been in the media that a city in the Ukraine has ordered its Jews to register and list their property or face deportation. Though reliable sources say this is a hoax, John Kerry has confirmed it...now isn't that strange. Whether true or not (this time), it still says something that so many believe the story and are outraged...so the question will be - are they outraged enough in the Ukraine to get up and leave before the hoax-this-time becomes reality-next-time?

From the safety and peace that is part of life in Israel, I can tell you that I don't understand. Aliyah isn't easy - I know because I did it. And I did it 20 years ago without Nefesh b'Nefesh, an amazing organization that will help you build a bridge and even walk across an ocean.

Is aliyah the answer? Yeah - really, it is. There are no Millers here, no Clevengers either. What...what in God's name...keeps you there?

Do you think you are too young or too old to come? Infants have been brought by their parents...great grandparents have come to be with their children, their grandchildren.

Language? Most people speak English...somewhere, someone will help you. It's great if you know Hebrew, but if you don't - there are millions who speak Russian and English, tens of thousands who speak French and Spanish. The Jews have come home from Arab lands and aliyah from France is rising rapidly.

Missouri is a lesson - more than Miller...look at Clevenger. They are so stupid they don't even realize there is something wrong with what was said. No, Jews don't rule the world; don't run the US economy (it would likely be in better shape if we did); and we don't drink Christian blood either.

Honestly, I don't expect much from Marionville.

I expected more from Missouri, the birthplace of Harry S. Truman, who recognized the Jewish State of Israel a mere eleven minutes after it was declared on May 14, 1948.

As for America - I think the tide has been turning for some time. We have many supporters; many who love Israel and will stand by the Jewish people because they respect who and what we are, because they carry a love of Israel as the Holy Land but there are those who hate us and carry the hatred of centuries within them, as we carry our past within ourselves.

And finally, to my fellow Jews in America...what can I say that I haven't already said? What words would convince you, sway you, move you to come here, to visit, to live.

When you cannot proudly display a Jewish star or an Israeli flag for fear, when you have to protect your synagogues and Jewish schools...what is the purpose of your life there? When a man opens fire to kill you and his mayor calls him "nice and friendly," what more do you need to convince you that where you were born is not where you should live?

They don't want you there, and we do want you here. My grandfather went to America because there was no Israel that was safe for him; the British had blocked immigration and so he left his family in Poland and went to America. My grandfather went to America seeking freedom and a good life, but never forgot he was a Jew.

We were a typical American Jewish family - ranging from Reform to Conservative until I broke away and became Orthodox...the only one of nine.

Four out of nine of his grandchildren have married non-Jews; one openly practices as a Christian and despises everything related to the heritage she renounced. Do you think, for one minute, that my grandfather wanted them to live the lives they live today? Do you think he would have approved of who they married and the President many of them all but worship?

His grandchildren are raising fifteen great-grandchildren as Jews...one carries his name, Meir.  Eight of the fifteen are Israelis because two of his granddaughters came to live in Israel. So far, four out of four of their children have married Jews.

Here in Israel, four out of five of my grandfather's great-grandsons have served in the IDF and the last will be enlisting soon enough. Two of his three great granddaughters have already served this nation - one in the army and one in national service, and the last will serve soon enough.

Each and every one of my grandfather's eight Israeli great-grandchildren live their lives as Jews, proud and strong. They stand upright and wonder at the logic of staying in a land other than their own.

These are the statistics of American Jewry - confirmed by Pew reports; it is the truth we all know.

If this can happen in Kansas City, it can happen in Brooklyn. And next time, I doubt the Jewish community will escape the murderer's bullets or the mayor's latent anti-Semitism.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

So...Some Updates

Haven't done this in a while...so, here's where we are at...

Amira and Haim were with us for the Seder. Their son asked the four questions and delighted us all. They invest so much in their son and each time I think a child that age couldn't possibly learn what they want to teach him, he proves me wrong.

Elie will be doing some more Reserve duty in the near future - not sure when or where. I heard something about a day and something about a week. He's in America visiting his in-laws and having fun with his wife and daughter.

Shmulik was asked if he wanted to serve his Reserve duty in the Rabbinical division. What that means, Elie explained, can be gruesome and I'm happy he declined. He's taking a computer management course and I hope it will help him get a good job in high-tech; in the meantime, he has steadily risen in his position as a security guard and now sometimes is in charge of the security of the entire mall when either of two other people aren't there.

Davidi is still on the line between where he wants to go next year. He is leaning towards a new Hesder program that he and the other 39 boys they select would get to shape into an amazing program. He hasn't decided exactly what or where. In the meantime, he continues to volunteer regularly for the ambulance service (MADA - Magen David Adom), is a counselor and one of the senior volunteers in the Jerusalem area.

Aliza has decided to remain in her current school and I couldn't be happier. She's more motivated and hopefully more dedicated. She has yet to understand how smart she is and often backs down. It isn't easy being the youngest and a teenager, but she's making her way through.

My oldest grandchild will turn 3 in about a month - he is sunshine and blessing and I am constantly in awe when I see how much he learns, what he knows, and the essence of the boy inside. He adores his cousin, Elie's daughter, and often speaks to her and want to play with her.

My youngest grandchild is just over 6 months and doing all that she is supposed to do...and more. She started teething early, produced her first two teeth, and smiles with all her body.

Life is good - blessed and wonderful. It won't last, but for now, I have all my children living close by and coming often. I try to focus on now and not think what it will do to me when they choose to move further away. You have to let your children go...either way, they'll go. So, if you let them go, they'll come back to you willingly and with love and never feel they had to break away to develop into the people they need to be.

Overall, internally, it is quiet in Israel. There are many storms on the horizon - there always have been and there always will be. So the best thing of all is to focus on today, and today is good.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lessons for Our Children

Wow, what a title - how can you live up to a title like that?

I guess I'll start with a disclaimer - nothing I write here means I am negating all the other lessons we want to teach our children. Always, they should learn the value of kindness, of faith, of responsibility. All the days of their lives, they should know that who they are makes them part of a greater whole. Where they live was not an accident but part of destiny...theirs, and the Jewish people as a whole.

Way heavier than I wanted to get into but good to get that out front. So beyond all the heaviness in life, we are going camping tonight. I love camping and more, I love the memories my children carry with them. Before he flew to America to be with his in-laws, Elie and I talked. He's been amazing over the last few days, calling often and sending pictures of the baby. I've gone from seeing her almost daily and having her all to myself at least once or twice a week, to not seeing her at all for almost a week now.

How can I begrudge Lauren's mother this precious time...and I don't, not at all, but I'm missing her...them...a lot and Elie's calls are helping. Before the holiday (Passover/Pesach), I told him about the progress that I had made. The night before the seder, I had already cooked three trays of chicken, two trays of vegetables and made two different salads.

Elie told me that he remembers me always doing that - how we would sit down to a Passover meal the night before the holiday had even begun. I love that he remembers it that way because I remember more the frantic last minute cleaning and the agonizing long night that left me exhausted by the time we came to the seder table. I like his memory better.

Years ago, we were all up north camping and we heard a news report that said there was to be a meteor shower that night over the skies of Israel. We couldn't have planned it better. So we dragged mattresses and sleeping bags outside of the tent and all prepared to watch nature's show. And that's when some of the kids remembered our doing something similar - pulling mattresses out on our balcony to watch another meteor shower years before.

I want them to remember these times - to someday pull mattresses out on their balconies for their children and tell them how they remember doing that when they were little. So, last week I called around in the north to see where we could go camping for two nights. Too late to have done this, as expected, most camping sites were full and so I got this idea.

First I told Aliza and Davidi, then I told Amira. We're going camping in a place that offers all the comforts of home - bathroom, showers, electricity, mattresses, even free WiFi. Yup...our backyard. We are blessed with a really big tiled area. We're going to put down rugs and pillows, set up tents, have a barbecue and music, and sleep outside. And, if we are really lucky, Amira's almost-three year old son will remember this night well into the future.

So the lessons for our children that I started with...so many...first, the comforts of home...they can be found inside of you and you can take them anywhere, everywhere. To the north, to the south, even just outside to the backyard.

Second, you can make fun, have fun anywhere, everywhere - take it with you, enjoy life. I want my children to be happy, healthy, smart, kind....and more, I want them to build memories, to have fun.

So, tonight we are going camping - outside below the moon and the stars. We'll barbecue and Haim will play the guitar and our grandson will run around and wonder why we are sleeping outside when our beds are so close. But well into the future, I can only hope that my children will take their children outside to sleep under the stars, and their children and theirs.

When I was 16 years old, I came to Israel for the first time. At night, I looked up and  saw thousands and thousands of stars in the dark Israeli sky. It was the first time I understood God's promise to make the Jews as numerous as the stars in the heavens. I found three stars and watched them each night. They were mine, I decided.

A few weeks later, amazed to see them in the US skies, I pointed them out to a friend, "you mean Orion's belt?"

Yes, totally embarrassed that someone else had claimed my stars first, I decided it didn't matter. It might be Orion's belt, but it was my sign, my connection that under the same stars lies the land of my heart. It took me another 16 years or so to get here and in the 20 years since, I often look up at the three stars and smile.

So, tonight we are going camping - outside below the moon and my stars.

May God bless the land and stars of Israel, and my children (Amira, Haim, David and Aliza and YD) who will sleep below them; and my children (Elie and Lauren, Shmulik and Naama, and MG) who won't.

Monday, April 7, 2014

CNN and Me...

CNN and I have an understanding of sorts. I agree not to watch them, listen to them, visit their site, or read anything they write...and we're good to go.

Whenever I break the rule (I have to admit they thankfully leave me alone), I suffer increased blood pressure, headaches, and general symptoms related to sudden, intense anger. I can't stand CNN. In fact, the only media I can't stand more is BBC.

And yet...BBC did a really decent job with the show on which I appeared.

And yet...CNN did an amazing job reporting on the Israeli field hospital, doctors and Israeli rescue teams in Haiti.

And yet...CNN produced this video of what it is like on the Israeli-Syrian border and more importantly, how quickly long-held misconceptions are falling away as Israel, welcomes Syria's wounded.

(It seems that the video is not available to US viewers - what you see is a CNN reporter on the Israeli-Syrian border - first showing that we can hear and see the fighting from our border). Then, switching to the only field hospital on Syria's border...in Israel, and how we treat wounded Syrians who come seeking aid. We do not question them, we fix them...and then send them back (if they want to go). The CNN reporter shows it as it is...including both his own and the wounded Syrian's amazement at the humanity Israeli shows.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pollard for the Terrorists...

No, I'm not against the trade. Twenty-nine years of this injustice is long enough. But my first thought on this is...

So what the Pollard deal proves unequivocally is that his being held had NOTHING to do with treason, spying or justice and everything to do with getting the greatest price the US could off of Israel.

Congratulations America, you just bought yourself 400 prisoners including mass murderers of women, children, grandparents and babies.

And what the Pollard deal proves unequivocally is that Israel is a Jewish State, bound by the values of our fathers. We will pay the highest of prices for our hostages. Yes we will.

Once again, the value of a Jew has been stated. Last time, it was 1 Jew for 1,027 Arabs.

This time, it is 1 Jew for 400 Arabs and the honor of the United States of America.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Decision Time

David is facing a decision - and it is one with which I cannot help him. He has to decide between two programs and three destinations. He went for Shabbat, convinced he would choose the other option. Had a nice time with his friends and the program coordinators and is reconsidering.

One option would give him the possibility to be a paramedic...something he wants. But the army has decided that the investment in training is major and so wants to extend the amount of time paramedics must serve well beyond a year over what it is now. Currently 4 years (a year more than most others serve); to 5 years...

Five years for a boy who is only 18 is huge...he isn't sure.

It's a hard choice...boys his age in America are choosing what college they want to attend, where they'll go for the summer, if they'll buy a car. In Israel, they are choosing paths that will change their lives, shape them into the person they will be.

It isn't easy to watch him make this decision - anxious to offer advice, unsure what to say.

He's studying for tests, going to school, working a few hours here and there, taking driving lessons...and making a huge decision.

It isn't easy.

When Hypocrisy Chokes You

Or maybe, after a while, it just gets to the point where you smile and say, "yeah, they did it again..."


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fine, Sorry

Many, many years ago, my oldest daughter did something that the rest of us considered wrong. She was asked to apologize and she did. Her exact words were "Fine, sorry."

Though she remembers her apology as sincere, I guess the rest of us didn't see it that way and forever onwards, the term, "fine, sorry" has been bantered around our house with the implication that the deliverer was not sincere and was only going through the motions because it was required.

An apology isn't really an apology when it is delivered more to silence the critic than admit any wrong doing. And yes, the value of an apology has a direct connection to the sincerely with which it is delivered. There has to be an awareness of what was wrong in the first place and the intention to do one's best to avoid the same action in the future. To truly elevate the apology to the level worthy of forgiveness, it is also best to do as much as possible to mitigate the damage caused.

As I read a recent apology made over a trip that a portion of Harvard's Jewish students made to the grave of Yasir Arafat in Ramallah, I could hear the, "fine, sorry" tone shouting through each word. The apology is too little, too late, too insincere and suggests no attempt will be made to undo the damage and the hurt caused by this insensitive and ill-advised (read here incredibly stupid) trip.

What bothers me about the apology was the need to attack first and only then say, "yeah, oops, it was a bad idea." But even in that oops, there is criticism. How dare we accuse them of not supporting Israel? Why do you people think they were honoring Arafat?

Wait...they went to Arafat's grave! They felt it important enough to smile and pose so they could show everyone when they got back.

Hello??? Come on, I want to shout at them. You know, if you visit the grave of someone who murdered hundreds of Israelis, we have a right to wonder.
What the Harvard students (and the head of the charity who sponsored the trip) fail to understand is to many of us here in Israel, right and left, blogger and baker alike, the visit shows the growing chasm between Israeli Jews and American Jews. More, it shows the depth of ignorance that even supposedly intelligent people can display when they fail to put in the effort to learn before inserting their proverbial feet into their mouths.

Why did they think it appropriate to pay homage to Yasir Arafat? That is the question they should be asking rather than attacking us and saying the visit wasn't what it clearly was. How can you deny that visiting a grave is indeed giving honor to the deceased? Why else do you go to a grave, if not for that reason?

To adequately counter what was done - heads should, figuratively speaking, roll. What idiot thought that visiting Arafat's grave would help give these students a deeper understanding of the conflict in the Middle East?

There are few things over which Israel as a nation is almost completely united. With the exception of Shulamit Aloni and those who adhere to her misguided and delusional politics, Israelis for the most part remember Arafat for the killer and terrorist he was. The list of attacks he planned and implemented defines who he was and what he did.

And worse, perhaps, than the visit, was the reaction immediately following it. The knee-jerk reaction was to blame Israelis - and Israeli bloggers for misinterpreting the visit. Pardon us here in Israel, but how did going there help these students understand anything beyond what a good search on Google wouldn't give them.

Here, allow me to assist you.

Yasir Arafat was born in 1929 in Cairo - that's right. He wasn't born in Israel (or Palestine as it was called them). Did anyone tell this group that? Yup, the chief terrorist of the Palestinian people...wasn't even born here.

In 1964, three years BEFORE the so-called "occupation," he founded an organization called the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), whose professed goal was to liberate Palestine from the occupiers. I'd like to remind these Harvard students that there was no occupation in 1964, or 1965, or 1966, Not even for the first half of 1967 (at least).

After that date, according to quite a large number of Israelis (like me) and experts on international law those, there was no occupation following the 1967 war because what was won was historically ours in the first place and more, was the direct result of a war they initiated. So, they lost - we didn't occupy...they chose war - again and again and again! So, if the occupation, according to Arafat began in 1967 and that's all the Palestinians want today, why was the organization started in 1964? I never do get an answer to that question...

The fact is, Arafat wanted everything that lies in between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River and to make this crystal clear to these Harvard students, that includes Tel Aviv, Haifa, all of Jerusalem and everything else you saw beyond your visit to Ramallah.

Then...and now, this remains the goal of the Palestinians. Then and now. And that position - from the river to the sea - is what that visit to Arafat's grave was about. You gave the concept of wiping Israel off the face of the map credibility by visiting one of the chief architects of that plan.

Arafat was not a general of an army who fought against an invading army, but a miserable, slimy terrorist who attacked the weakest among us.  Again and again. Oh, he was happy to kill a soldier, but soldiers were armed and ready and so Arafat, sniveling coward that he was, so much preferred our "softer" targets - babies, teenagers, elderly, pregnant women - no one was exempt. This is what you honored.

I could write of Maalot - when Arafat's terrorists murdered 21 children; of Munich when Arafat's missionaries of death murdered 11 athletes. I could write of the massacre of 21 Israelis on a coastal highway; of Leon Klinghoffer, the crippled American Jew murdered on the Achille Lauro. I could write for hours and still not fully explain the evil of that decrepit man. The planner, the murderer, the terrorist - all this was buried in that grave where these students went.

What those students and the picture of them smiling and posing by his grave did reminds me of an incident that happened about 10 years ago in Poland. I had gone with my older daughter to Poland and a contingency of high school girls from around Israel. As I stood near the gates of Auschwitz waiting for our group to assemble and begin seeing the concentration camp where millions perished, I watched as some South Korean tourists approached some of our Israeli girls - the ones holding Israeli flags. Wouldn't it be cool to get a picture with those pretty girls and the Israeli flag, the Koreans must have thought and so they asked the girls to pose for pictures.

The girls stood there smiling as two Koren men stood near them and a third took their picture before switching places so that the photographer could have his picture taken too.

Standing on the side with my daughter watching this, I knew it was wrong and I could imagine those men going back to Korea and showing off pictures of their tour and the beautiful, smiling Israeli girls. I didn't want to embarrass the Koreans, so I quietly said to the girls in Hebrew. "Did you forget where you are? You are in Auschwitz. This isn't the place to pose for pictures. Do you want them to have pictures of smiling Israelis here in Auschwitz?"

The girls looked around them and realized how inappropriate it was, Auschwitz is a place of death not smiles; Arafat's grave is the place of a killer not a place for Jewish students to pose.

If that group of Harvard Jewish students had asked me, I would have said something similar to them. Look where you are, or where they are taking you. How can you be there? Do you want this picture posted on Facebook? Apparently, their education was so lacking...they did.

To be clear - it is their right to go to Ramallah. But if they do, they have to accept it is our right to be disgusted by them - and their homage. So long as they (and their parents and those who thought up this ill-advised trip) live in the United States, they have no right to expect anything but our utter disdain for what they did in going to Ramallah.

And if they are sorry...if...I suggest more than a half apology. I suggest they visit the graves of the people Arafat murdered.

Go to David Hatuel, whose pregnant wife and four daughters were shot at point-blank range and explain to him about your curiosity to learn the other side. Apologize to him.

Go to Limor Har-Melekh, whose husband Shalom was murdered before her eyes. She was pregnant when she too was moderately wounded in the attack. You can explain how you didn't mean to honor Arafat when you meet their daughter, who thankfully survived the operation to remove her from her mother's womb, even as they removed the bullets that were fired into her mother's body.

Go to Arno Herenstein, who was seriously wounded and his wife Yafit was murdered, when Arafat's terrorists entered their home and attacked the unarmed couple. Apologize to him because he and other victims like him forever live with what Arafat and his murderers did.

There comes a moment in each person's life when you have to grow up and take responsibility. No one forced those young people to go to Arafat's grave. Each and everyone of them walked onto that bus and into that building. Each one chose to stand beside that grave and have his or her picture taken. When I was 16, I went on a tour and didn't feel comfortable with where the group was going and so I took a break and stayed behind. Don't tell me that every one of those students couldn't have done the same.

What I heard in the apology that was issued was our families infamous "fine, sorry" apology. Israel stands ready to see whether this was a sincere apology or not.

And a final note to Barry Shrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, whose organization sponsored the Harvard College Israel visit. Israel's bloggers were right in expressing the outrage of our country. You attempted to discredit us by warn against "the dangers of bloggers and others who use the power and reach of the internet to distort meaning."

It is the job of journalists and bloggers to make others aware. There was no distortion in the reporting of this event. Your charity sponsored a trip to a killer's grave. Rather than attack the messenger, I suggest you ensure that Harvard's Jewish students never again make the mistake of paying homage to a killer of our people, at least not while they are traveling on your ticket.
Your "fine, sorry" apology not only encourages them to do so again in the future, it gives us every right to question your commitment to Israel. Personally, I hope your organization will take the time to write a note of apology to all those hurt by the actions of this group.

These families have suffered enough - they didn't deserve what your charity did to them.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Spoiled Generation

Aliza is going on a trip with her school. One of the many reasons I love Israel is this annual overnight event. Each year, Israeli schools take their teenagers on overnight trips, out into the fields and nature. They hike, they climb, they explore to the far corners of our land. 

It is a love instilled from the time they are young and remains with them all their lives. The girls in her class have been told they should bring tents. They’ll pitch their own tents; make their own food. My daughter was half amused and half horrified at the opportunity (and 100% anxious to get there!).

“Girls don’t build tents,” says my daughter. “We’re a spoiled generation.”
My first thought was “where did I go wrong?” When have I ever said to my daughters that they can’t do anything, everything? I’ve taken her camping – but yeah, maybe it was my older son who built the tent. We’ve cooked food out in the fields and slept under the stars.

I wish I could have recorded the conversation. I remember some of her philosophizing as she talked about prepared foods she wants to take along. At one point, with her phone in her hand, she said, “We don’t play outside; we don’t actually TALK to people. We’re a spoiled generation. Hello? Whatsapp!”
More than actually being spoiled, though, is I think the desire to be. She wants to be like every child her age, all over the world. And yet, deep down, she knows that there is a part of her that never will be.

Twice her oldest brother has left home to go to war (once, after 8 days, he thankfully returned and the would-have-been war remained only an “operation” and the other time he was gone for weeks).

When she was 3 years old, she had to put on a gas mask and then have it with her for days (…or was it weeks?). She refused when we tried to put it on her the first time.

When she was 7, her world shifted as her older sister got married and her oldest brother left for the army. For weeks at a time, she didn’t see him or talk to him but would greet him at the door with a shout as she threw herself into his arms for the much anticipated hug.

When she was 8, she heard us talking about a soldier who had been  shot and in a voice filled with anxiety asked us if it was Elie. No, we assured her – not Elie. Elie is in the north; this was in the south, we went on to explain. Desperate to get through to her, to calm her, we gave her silly, meaningless details that helped bring back her sense of security for a time.

When she was 9, a false alarm (meant for Beersheva but accidentally sounded in the Jerusalem/Beit Shemesh areas), sent her and her class running for the bomb shelters. She was in third grade and got separated from her class (A Child’s Alarm). That traumatized her for weeks as she kept expecting more alarms because, “I wasn’t ready for the alarm.”  

She asked where we would go if there was an attack and I explained that we have two areas of the house that are protected – the bomb shelter, which is quite small; and another area.

“So Abba [her father] and Davidi and Shmulik [two of her brothers] should go down there and you and me and Elie should go to the bomb shelter because it’s up here.” Elie was in the army and hadn’t been home in more than a month, but she still planned for his safety.

When she was 10, she had a class in school on basic medical care and the rudiments of first aid at a fourth grade level. She had a test explained to me what she was learning.

“ABC” she said.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“Air waves, Breathing, and Circulation”

“They teach you that in English?” I asked her.

“No, but they tell us ABC because it isn’t the same in Hebrew.” Okay. It was cute and I went along with it as she spoke and then my mind stopped and I heard not the cute tone of her voice, that I love listening to, but the words. I asked her to explain it again and then asked if this was the teacher’s explanation or hers. This is what my child told me when she was 10 years old.
“The teacher. He’s really funny. He told us ‘If a doctor says a patient doesn’t have a pulse, but he does, what does that mean?’ ”

She giggled and then answered, “it means it’s a bad doctor.”

And then she went on to explain this ABC thing as: “It’s like a missile hitting a building.”

See, you have a building, she explains. If the missile hits the top of the building, the people can live, but if it hits the bottom, they won’t. So, if the person isn’t getting air, for example, they will die – check the airways first. If the airways are clear, but the person isn’t breathing, you do one thing….I don’t remember now. My brain stopped after the explanation of the building and the missile.

It’s actually a good description – the concept of prioritizing…but the image remains and the wonder. I can’t see any teacher in another country using the same example…and yet it worked. It didn’t distress the children. They live with the reality all the time. They understand what happens when a missile hits and the physics of where it hits a building.

That, I guess, is Israel’s child and listening to my child give that explanation was enough to make me regret, just a bit, the abnormality of it all. I am thrilled beyond all words that we live in Israel, that our lives and futures are in this beautiful land but I regret…just a bit…that a child could be taught…and can understand based on the imagery of a missile hitting a building.

When she was 11, the Fogel family was massacred in Itamar. Their bodies and the two boys who survived the attack were discovered by 12-year-old Tamar Fogel. Somehow, my youngest daughter internalized the trauma and for months she was afraid of the dark, afraid to sleep in a room with a window opened, afraid to sleep if the door to her room wasn’t locked. It took months to slowly undo the trauma, to have her return to the point that she would be willing to be in the house alone or in her room with the window (on the third floor of the house) open to the breeze.

When she was 13, just a year ago she was outside with her friends when she heard a siren indicating an incoming missile. A few other times during that operation, she knew the uncertainty and fear.

She is Israel’s child.
Somehow, the fact that she can live with all these traumas and worries and yet focus on the silliness of building a tent and suggest that she is “spoiled” balances out. She isn’t spoiled. In a year, she’ll choose whether to follow the tradition set by her sister and brothers and volunteer for the ambulance squad. In a few years after that, she will give two years of her life to serve the country in some way.

She will, God willing, marry and raise her children here. She is a lot of things and will be in her life. Perhaps she is a bit spoiled by materialism. On the other hand, I think she is well grounded by all the other things that influence the woman slowly developing deep inside the girl she is today.

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