Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dafka, Peace is Coming

If I believed the media descriptions of life in Israel, I would likely shrivel and die in my home, forever afraid to step out the door, consumed with fear that violence and terror would even come into my home without warning.

Few people who live outside Israel have any understanding about my home. It is the most peaceful country in the world. Wow, read that again but don't laugh this time. I have no fear of walking through a long tunnel, no fear that causes me to drive through a neighborhood with my windows up and my doors locked.

Where I cannot drive safely at night, I should not drive during the day. In most places, where a woman is vulnerable to attack, so is a man. The two exceptions to this are in areas where primarily Israelis don't live. Like the discussion of car accidents in Israel, it is not politically correct to single out a particular group as being more likely to be involved than others - just use Google for known statistics on crime in Israel, terror attacks in Israel (and car accidents).

It becomes almost funny how newscasters dance around words to find a way to say what we all know and only in the form of statistics released by governmental or NGOs do we admit the truth. The point is not so much who is to blame, as the fact that the vast majority of Israelis conduct their lives with almost no fear of becoming the victim of crime and though terrorism is a reality here, it is one that does not consume our actions.

We are very much a dafka people. What does dafka mean? It is one of my favorite Hebrew words because it defines so much of what we are...and it is, in many ways, impossible to translate.

Once, in my freshman year of college, I was engaged in a lively debate in class. The professor was loving how involved the students were; the students were loving the open and fast discussion, exchanges of information and opinion. One young woman said something and I, a young woman myself, quickly responded without thought, "Dafka, the opposite..." and before I could go much further, the young woman asked, "Dafka? Huh?" and the professor, who was Jewish smiled and said, "Yes, Paula, explain dafka."

Dafka is when your parents tell you to do something and you, to prove your point, do exactly the opposite. Dafka is when by all that is logical, you should be too afraid to drive on that road or take that train and so you do because, dafka, you won't let them push you away. Dafka is not an action so much as a frame of mind. Logic may tell you to do one thing, but on principle...dafka...you will do something else.

By all that is logical, we should feel like we live in a war zone, but dafka, we feel that we live in the most peaceful place on earth because though we can't trust our neighbors over there, we know that our neighbors over here have our backs.

On Fridays, most of all, we feel that peace is coming...no, not with our Palestinian and Arab neighbors who are once again turning up the flames of terror and war, but among ourselves. For those who are observant, the Sabbath in Israel is a day of quiet, of peace, of prayer, of family and friends.

We ate Friday night dinner at Amira's house. I helped cook part of the mean; she cooked the other half. The only problem with this equation, as my wonderful son-in-law points out with a smile, is that we each typically cook enough for double the amount of participants expected...since we each did that, there was, needless to say, too much food.

Today, we went to the synagogue - a relatively new one in the neighborhood that we have come to love. It is an oasis born out of frustration with other options. Everyone is welcome, the service is meaningful and lively. Many years ago, when we first moved to the neighborhood, we were welcomed by this community in this location. Then it got overcrowded and moved to a larger place and lost itself. Politics and ultimately cruel treatment is what we experienced there amid first the silence and then worse, abuse.

We left there and wondered for a while until the core group that had started the first service we had loved...returned to the same place. Back to the start but in some ways better because this time around, we see what we have and value it.

Aliza is preparing for a trip with her youth group. Davidi has been busy with teaching a first aid course. Each night we gather to light the Chanukah candles as we watch the holiday rush by.

Friday afternoon was disrupted by a rocket fired from Gaza at southern Israel. The rocket landed in Israel, but thankfully in an open field with no damages or injury reported. For weeks, Hamas has been firing rockets into the sea - showing it can fire at will...a bit of taunting that impresses us not at all.

Dafka, we thrive in this land. Dafka, we live. Dafka, we make peace come to us and celebrate. Dafka in a land others think is filled with strife, we find our greatest peace.

In many ways, we are a dafka people - we have outlived the Romans, the Greeks, the Babylonians, the Ancient Egyptians, the Amalekites, the Phoenicians, the Phillistines, the Canaanites. We survived the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the Pogroms, the Holocaust...dafka because we would not surrender, dafka because we celebrate life. Dafka because our greatest strength is the ability to find peace, even when we are at war.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Mischief Maker

I was looking through some pictures that I've been planning to post. Over Sukkot, we drove to the Sea of Galilee. We took two cars, a bunch of the kids, Elie's wife and daughter, Yaakov and Chaim. We took a tent, towels, tons of rafts, a barbecue, food and more.

We thought about going on tractoronim (dune buggies). We thought about going kayaking (which Israelis do in a canoe). In the end, we simply went to a beach and spent a lovely day there.

The pictures are great. A few of Aliza in the sunset, tons of little Michal, a few of the "boys" making the barbecue, etc. And then, amid all the long range shots we took of everyone in the water, this one caught my eye. Aliza must have taken it while on shore...perhaps Lauren. Everyone seemed to be using the camera and the result is a wonderful and colorful blend of images, people, scenery, etc.

Chaim is in the front - he's actually talking to me. I hate pictures of me, so I cut myself out. I'm not sure what Yaakov is doing...I think he's blowing up the pillow part of the raft.

And then, in the back is Davidi. He's floating on a raft while...while...wait...

Let's blow that picture up and see if what he's doing is what it looks like. Yup...he's trying to pull the plug out of Yaakov's raft so the air will go out.

I love the look on his face...

I wish I could see the look on Yaakov's face when he sees this picture.

God, I love these boys...


Your Daughter's Getting Old...

So says Aliza. The funny part is that she isn't talking about her 29-year-old sister, she is speaking of herself. In a few weeks, she turns 15.

I laughed and told her - yup, that's the way it works. Today you are 15, tomorrow 25, then 40 and 60 and then...80. 

"I can't be 80," she said. "I can't have gray hair! Look at my hair!"

She has gorgeous, long hair with gentle waves...

"I can't get wrinkles," she says...as she goes back to humming in the kitchen as she cuts strawberries.

Yes, you can, my love. And with God's help, you'll get many of them...

How is it possible she's going to be 15 years old...and just three days on the English calendar later (two weeks before on the Hebrew calendar), Davidi will turn 19.

He's busy this Chanukah season - once again donating most of his holiday to the ambulance squad. This time, he is teaching 9th and 10th graders what he learned several years ago - the basics of first aid in a 60 hour course.

It isn't possible, but he seems older and taller than before. He got his driver's license and loves driving. So fast...so fast they grow.

My hair is growing gray and I'm getting wrinkles...the cold is hurting my shoulder, vulnerable since last year's operation. I'm getting old...but yes, so are my children. It is one of the blessings in life...wait, I still have to get back to all those blessings...so maybe that's what I'll do now.

Today's blessing is living to get old...to see your children and grandchildren and God willing, your great grand-children get old.

Elie's daughter is 14 months old...she's been learning sign language and teaching us. We ask her if she wants to eat. She is graced with hearing...and yet her wise mother is teaching her to sign...and so she puts her fingers together and moves them to her mouth - eat!

"Do you want more?" we ask her because the sign for more is even cuter than the sign for "eat."  She puts her fingers together and then her hands meet as she says her version of "more, more."

Amira's son is three and a half; he knows almost all the Hebrew and English letters, understands both languages and has a billion things to tell me each time I am with him. He's still young enough that I can watch as he falls asleep.

The greatest blessing...what Aliza has yet to realize...is indeed growing old...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yo Arabs...Got a Car, a Motorcycle, a Knife?

What the heck is WRONG with the Palestinians? The answer is probably well explained by this...

Yo! You got a car? Go kill someone...

Great...just great. Peace partners? Seriously?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Theodore Herzl's - The Menorah

Over one hundred years ago, a young Austrian Jewish writer - assimilated and knowing little to nothing about his heritage, invited the Chief Rabbi of Vienna to his house to discuss a crazy idea that he had. When the Rabbi arrived, the young Jew asked the Rabbi if he would join the family in lighting.

It was Chanukah, and the Rabbi thought he was being asked to join in lighting the Menorah...he was shocked to find that the young man was about to light a Christmas tree instead. The Rabbi stopped the young man and convinced him to light a Menorah instead. It was a lesson that would change that young man's life...and mine. 

This young, assimilated writer was Theodore Herzl, father of what would in time come to be known as Zionism - the dream, the need, the reality of the Jewish people returning to their ancient homeland and recreating the nation that was stolen from them. That was Herzl's crazy idea.

At one point, Herzl thought the solution to the "Jewish problem" was to have the Jews convert to Christianity. Spurred on by witnessing the Dreyfus trial, Herzl realized the impossibility of his initial thoughts.

After meeting with the Rabbi, Herzl began to believe that what the Jews needed most...was what they already had. A combination of the religion and the land. Some mistakenly call Herzl an "apicurous" - a heretic, for lack of a better word, but to be one, you have to know and reject...not just be ignorant.

Herzl was simply ignorant...until 1897 when he publicly declared that there could be no return to Israel, without a return to Judaism as well. He never did get a chance to return to Israel during his life...but because of his foresight, Israel flourishes probably well beyond even what Herzl could have dreamed possible. After that meeting with the Rabbi, Theodore Herzl wrote:

The Menorah

Deep in his soul, he began to feel the need of being a Jew. His circumstances were not unsatisfactory; he enjoyed  ample income and a profession that permitted him to do whatever his heart desired. For he was an artist.

His Jewish origin and the faith of his fathers had long since ceased to trouble him, when suddenly, the old hatred came to the surface again in a new mob-cry. With many others, he believed that this flood would shortly subside. But there was no change for the better. In fact, things went from bad to worse; and every blow, even though not aimed directly at him, struck him with fresh pain, until little by little, his soul became one bleeding wound.

These sorrows, buried deep in his heart and silenced there, evoked thoughts of their origin and of his Judaism, and now he did something he could not perhaps have done in the old days because he was then so alien to it. He began to love his Judaism with an intense fervor.

Although in his own eyes he could not, at first, justify this new yearning, it became so powerful at length that it crystallized from vague emotions into a definite idea which he needed to express. It was the conviction that there was only one solution for this Judennot - the return to Judaism.

When this came to the knowledge of his closest friends, similarly situated though they were, they shook their heads gravely and even feared for his reason. For how could that be a remedy which merely sharpened and intensified the evil?

It seemed to him, on the other hand, that their moral distress was so acute because the Jew of today had lost the poise which was his father's very being. They ridiculed him for this when his back was turned - many even laughed openly in his face. Yet, he did not allow himself to be misled by the banalities of these people whose acuteness of judgment had never before inspired his respect, and he bore their witticisms and their sneers with equal indifference.

And, since, in all other respects, he acted like a man of his senses, they suffered him gradually to indulge his infatuation, which a number of them soon began to call by a harsher term than idee fixe [obsession]. He continued, however, with characteristic persistence, to develop one idea after another from his fundamental conviction. At this time, he was profoundly moved by several instances of apostasy, though his pride would not permit him to betray it.

As a man and as an artist of the modern school, he had, of course, acquired many non-Jewish habits and his study of the cultures of successive civilizations had left an indelible impression upon him. How was this to be reconciled with his return to Judaism?

Often doubts assailed him as to the soundness of his guiding thought, his idée maîtresse [main or guiding thought], as a French thinker calls it. Perhaps this generation, having frown up under the influence of alien cultures, was no longer capable of that return which had perceived to be their redemption.

But the new generation would be capable of it, if it were only given the right direction early enough. He resolved, therefore, that his own children, at least, should be shown the proper path. They should be trained as Jews in their own home.

Hitherto, he had permitted to pass by unobserved the holiday which the wonderful apparition of the Maccabees had illumined for thousands of years with the glow of miniature lights. Now, however, he made this holiday an opportunity to prepare something beautiful which should be forever commemorated in the minds of his children.

In their young souls should be implanted early a steadfast devotion to their ancient people. He bought a Menorah, and when he held this nine-branched candlestick in his hands for the first time, a strange mood came over him. In his father's house also, the lights had once burned; in his youth, now far away, and the recollection gave him a sad and tender feeling for home.

The tradition was neither cold nor dead - thus it has passed through the ages, one light kindling another. Moreover, the ancient form of the Menorah had excited his interest. When was the primitive structure of this candlestick fashioned?

Clearly the design was suggested by the tree - in the center the sturdy trunk, in right and left four branches, one below the other, in one plane, all all of equal height. A later symbolism brought with it the ninth branch, which projects in front and functions as a servant.

What mystery had the generations which followed one another read into this form of art, at once so simple and natural? And our artist wondered to himself if it were not possible to animate again the withered form of the Menorah, to water its roots, as one would a tree. The mere sound of the name, which he now pronounced every evening to his children, gave him great pleasure. There was a lovable ring to the word when it came from the lips of little children.

On the first night the candle was lit and the origin of the holiday explained. Then wonderful incident of the lights that strangely remained burning so long, the story of the return from the Babylonian exile, the second Temple, the Maccabees - our friend told his children all that he know. It was not very much, to be sure, but it served.

When the second candle was lit, they repeated what he had told them, and though it had all been learned from him, it seemed to him quite new and beautiful. In the days that followed, he waited keenly for the evenings, which became even brighter. Candle after candle stood in the Menorah, and the father mused on the little candles with his children, until at length his reflections became too deep to be uttered before them.

When he had resolved to return to his people and to make open acknowledgment of his return, he had only thought he would be doing the honorable and rational thing. But he had never dreamed that he would find in it a gratification of his yearning for the beautiful. Yet nothing less was his good fortune.

The Menorah with its many lights became a thing of beauty to inspire lofty thoughts. So, with his practical hand, he drew a plan for a Menorah to present to his children the following year. He made free use of the motif of the right branching arms projecting right and left in one plane from the central stem. He did not hold himself bound by the rigid traditional form, but created directly from nature, unconcerned by other symbolisms also seeking expression.

He was on the search for living beauty. Yet, though he gave the withered branch new life, he conformed to the law, to the gentle dignity of its being. It was a tree with slender branches; its ends were molded into flower calyxes which would hold the lights.

The week passed with this absorbing labor. Then came the eighth day, when the whole row burns, even the faithful ninth, the servant, which on other nights is used only for the lighting of the others.

A great splendor streamed from the Menorah. The children's eyes glistened. But for our friend, all this was the symbol of the kindling of a nation. When there is but one light, all is still dark, and the solitary light looks melancholy. Soon, it finds one companion, then another, and another. The darkness must retreat.

The light comes first to the young and the poor - then others join them who love Justice, Truth, Liberty, Progress, Humanity, and Beauty.

When all the candles burn, then we must all stand and rejoice over the achievements. And no office can be more blessed than that of a Servant of the Light.

------------------------
I found this article long ago, photocopied from some book. Each time I decided to wait until Chanukah to post it...but long before Chanukah came, the article would disappear again, buried, almost forgotten, sometimes for years...before I would find it again and promise myself, come Chanukah, I would post it. Tonight, we lit the second candle. I've been typing this article here and there for days in the middle of so many things. I'm so happy to finally post it. I've searched for the article for years on the Internet...finding pieces here and there, the story behind it, etc. So glad to post it, finally.

Who guards the Prime Minister...

Watch this video twice - once to see the Prime Minister of the Jewish State of Israel along with soldiers lighting the first candle of Chanukah...and once to watch the security guys swarming around him. I was, at turns, amused, annoyed, and proud...

The Day the European Union Died

I saw this cartoon...and for some reason, thought of the song, Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie - the words "the day the music died" kept going through my head...this truly is the day the European Union died...

That's right - the European Union has passed a vote - according to these...these...intellectually-challenged individuals, Hamas is not a terror organization. I guess sending thousands of rockets into cities, murdering teenage boys, crashing cars into infants isn't terror.

Perhaps it isn't only the world that is flat...

And if there is someone who doesn't remember the song I'm thinking of...here it is:


Sydney Siege Hostages Offer Terms

This video is making its way around YouTube and Facebook...

By his own words, this is an attack by the Islamic State against Australia - this was terrorism. Admit it, Australia - for those who were murdered, for all those fighting to stop terror. Admit it.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What is a Terrorist?

This morning as I drove to work, I heard that a man (one or more) had taken as many as 50 hostages in a cafe in Sydney, Australia. The newscaster spoke to an Israeli in Sydney and asked if the authorities were treating it as a terrorist situation, given the fact that the perpetrator had hostages waving a black flag declaring the allah is great and Mohammed is his messenger.

The Israeli in Australia explained that Australians don't like to use that term for anyone. They are, she explained, very separate from all of this and in fact have never had something like this happen before.

Throughout the day, people came forward announcing that they would not let this incident change Australia and Australians. They were, we heard many times, people who love peace, seek peace, honor peace and this act today was very much a violation of what their society represents...a violation, but not necessarily terror.

Jewish synagogues were being guarded, the Jewish museum and community centers were closed. The American and Israeli embassies were evacuated or put on alert; the large menorah lighting ceremony in the public square...right where the cafe is located. Oh God, I thought to myself...they were probably targeting Jews.


The Israeli in Australia thought it was strange that it took the authorities many hours to establish connections with the terrorist; this would have been done right away, she added. Further, communication with the outside world was not stopped, that too was strange.

Ultimately, two young people were killed and four injured in the gun battled that led to the end of the siege. Australian politicians were quick to assure everyone that the man was crazy...not a terrorist. Maybe he was, who knows. He'd been arrested for sex offenses, for collaboration in either attempted murder or murder of his ex-wife, and other crimes. Clearly, he was, as the Prime Minister pointed out, deranged...but why does that make him less of a terrorist?

A day after, we are left with questions...what is a terrorist? That's one question but the bigger question is why the world is so reluctant to use that word? Why do so many hesitate to call this and so many other attacks what they are?

A terrorist is someone who inflicts terror - as much, and sometimes even more than the desire to hurt or kill. A terrorist is someone who acts for political purposes, not monetary gain, one who acts in the name of a cause, a religion, a goal.

And perhaps most of all, the terrorist targets the innocent. There is no bravery involved, no great martyrdom. The greatest victory of the terrorist is the suffering of the innocent.

This man, who has a history of harming children and women...he was crazy, he was a coward...he was also a terrorist who raised the flag of jihad and wanted to die for allah.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Havel Haveilim...as Chanukah Approaches

Havel Havelim (HH) is the longest running International Jewish blog carnival. Havel Havelim is hosted weekly on various blogs. A wide variety of bloggers share the responsibilities of hosting, and we hope that you'll read, comment and, of course, share the carnival and the various blog posts included. Getting to know other blogs is what it's all about.

An issue of Havel Havelim would not be complete without politics, especially as Israel begins to gear up for yet another election...so, first category up to bat:

Politics, Naturally

Where's the Likud going to end up after this election. Batya offers one idea - Likud in the Opposition.

A Soldier's Mother (yeah, me) chimed in with The Absurdity of Politics.




 
Then, another natural topic would be...

Israel, Always Israel

It seems just as the elections are heating up, the overall security situation here in Israel has gotten that much worse, that much more tense. Incidents of violent, terrorist attacks in Jerusalem have risen drastically...much on the minds of our bloggers this past week.

Read Batya's Any Excuse to Riot on Shiloh Musings.

A comprehensive list of the week and what happened in Israel and around the Jewish world can be found here on Winston's Gaza War Diary

In the Really Unreal radio program, they discuss the political situation as well. Click here for an except and a link to the show on The Really Unreal.

One more from "their side" before I show you some of ours. Read Hamas Let Their Jew Hatred Shine During Anniversary Celebrations

And now for us...here's a wonderful post on Miriam's Words - It's a Beautiful Day offering a philosophy on life we should all adopt.

And, on the lighter side - here's a great post by a new immigrant to Israel in a blog called Heading Upwards. We can all so remember those times. Check out Clean Laundry!

And finally, as we swing into Kislev...we approach Chanukah and so do our bloggers!

On Choosing Life

Now, don't get all depressed, but for the last year plus, I have been following some very special blogs...three families struggling with cancer. In two cases, the family experienced the loss of their loved one...and have recently posted updates...they are doing...living, even doing well.

Read about...

Superman Sam...a year after his passing

Stella - A Year Has Passed

And one more I found recently: Remembering Pearl

The third is the blog of an amazing woman who still struggles with cancer. She is a model for all of us - in her positive nature, her dedication to her children and life, and, in this latest post, her determination to be honest.

And read Ahava Emunah's Goodbye Forever, Denial

Chanukah, Hanukah, Hanukkah and every other spelling!

Now, that I've probably brought you to tears, let's go back to light and happiness...

Let's start with Benjie Lovitt and his amazing How To Appreciate Chanukah Lke A Jedi

And please check out an amazing video, posted on A Soldier's Mother (yeah, here) Jews Don't Fight with a Sword.

The Real Jerusalem Streets gives us one picture of what it's like in Jerusalem as Chanukah approaches and Jerusalem streets announce the Festival of Lights is coming.

And this Chanukah's exciting news, Maccabeats Come Up With Another Hanukkah Hit - "All About That Neis"

And on that note - I wish you a joyous and fun Chanukah filled with light!

Stay tuned - shortly, I'll publish where Havel Haveilim will be published next week.

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