Monday, April 27, 2015

Bragging about Israel

On Twitter and on this blog, I've had some complaints. Apparently, it bothers people that Israel is bragging (if that's what we're doing)...about the help we are sending to Nepal.

I've tried to explain - we are a nation constantly accused of doing the worst things imaginable, today's modern-day Nazis, some call us...a claim the Germans, especially, love to use because in attempting to make us look bad, in some twisted way, they think that makes what they did explainable, excusable, whatever.
So, since the world loves to assume the worst, we tend to work harder to offer a balanced picture. Those who condemn Israel, amazingly, don't speak of Syria, the Congo, Yemen, and so many other places where men and women are tormented, abused, murdered....only Israel, always Israel.

So, what is the world doing for Nepal...what has it done so far, days after this horrific accident?

Well, the London Guardian posted this:

  • The UK government has announced that it will donate £5m to help the rescue effort in Nepal
  • John Kerry said the US will pledge $1m to the aid effort (they WILL also send word on when).
  • Australia has also pledged a Aus$5m aid package.
  • Pope Francis led prayers in St Peter’s Square for the dead, displaced and injured in Nepal and surrounding areas.
  • India, Sri Lanka, the UK, China and others are all sending disaster response teams to assist in search and rescue.
Let's see how BBC handles it:
  • China, India, the UK and US are among those sending aid from abroad.

  • Both countries [China and India] have sent emergency teams to Nepal, along with Pakistan, which said it was dispatching four C130 transport planes carrying a 30-bed hospital.
  • Other countries, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand are also contributing aid, alongside international agencies.
And BBC added a list of dead or missing foreigners:

  • Australia: 549 Australians registered as traveling in Nepal, 200 confirmed safe
  • Bangladesh: 50 nationals, including members of the country's under-14 girls' football team, evacuated. No information on exact number of nationals in Nepal
  • China: Four nationals dead in Kathmandu, Xinhua news agency reports
  • Colombia: Seven nationals missing
  • France: French authorities have located 1,098 nationals, but another 674 are still not in touch
  • India: Five killed in Nepal
  • UK: Several hundred Britons believed to be in Nepal. No reports of casualties but some missing.
  • US: Three Americans killed
  • Victims from other countries include a dead Estonian national and a Japanese man killed.
  • UK: Dozens of Britons among the missing

What's missing from these reports?

Well, from the last part, Israel has been searching for 250 missing Israelis...earlier today we were down to about 120 missing, last count, we're still missing about 50. Why are we less important than the other nations? Colombia is missing 7...but Israel isn't worthy of even a mention...

And what else is missing from both of the above?

Well, while the pope is praying and the others are planning and WILL send aid...this is what Israel has DONE:

  • A Boeing 747 jumbo jet sent by El Al has landed in Kathmandu, bringing an IDF search and rescue mission of over 200 soldiers from a specialized search and rescue team and their equipment to the earthquake-ravaged area. It's already there!
  • Israel had rescued and brought back to Israel, some of its citizens.
  • Some of those helicopters bringing people off Mt Everest were commissioned by Israeli insurance companies...four of those taken off the mountain were Israelis.
  • Four other airplanes are expected to land in the city during the night - meaning, many hours ago, packed with equipment and people, they FLEW to Nepal. 
  • A full field hospital, which will be operational within 12 hours of landing.
  • The search and rescue team consists of 60 members. It is capable of operating in three separate locations simultaneously. It's on the ground there now!
  • The IDF delegation rented two Boeing 747s to carry personnel and 95 tons of supplies. 
  • The field hospital will include "pediatric, surgical, internal medicine, neonatal, and radiology departments as well as a maternity ward and emergency and operating room,” The IDF said in a statement.
  • The hospital would be able to treat about 200 patients a day...starting in less than 12 hours from NOW.
So BBC feels it is relevant to mention a 30-bed field hospital WILL BE set up by the Indians...but not a 200-bed field hospital with advanced medical equipments including an on-site radiology department?

And the London Guardian thinks the pope praying and financial aid will save lives more than equipment and trained rescue workers?

CNN? Well, hey, at least they got around to mentioning Israel..."China, India, France, Italy, Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, Taiwan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Switzerland, Norway, Singapore and South Korea were among the nations sending aid and search and rescue crews."

What's wrong with this? Well, it's better than the others, but still lacks proportionality.

China and India are right next door, as is Pakistan. But France, Italy, Britain, Canada, Australia, etc...they have the means...and yet they don't have five planes of aid on the ground right now...they haven't delivered 95 tons of aid.

And so, if you leave it to the world news, you'll never know what Israel is doing in Nepal...

Brag? Isn't it interesting that no one is accusing any of the other nations of bragging...perhaps, that has less to do with their attitude and more to do with their actions. The EU is sending money? Italy is sending money? Will money pull people from the rubble? Will it repair broken bones? The bragging was done in front of the microphones, where politicians ran to announce how much money they would send. What Israel has, once again, delivered is action. Our soldiers and doctors and rescue teams rushed into action and the only reason they weren't there 18 hours ago was because the airport in Nepal wasn't cleared for the landing.

Take a look at this, Frank  - and tell me we don't have a right to be proud and share what we are doing!


Israel's Radio

Israel's radio broadcasts are, in so many ways, a slice of Israeli life. I started listening to the radio shortly after moving to Israel...I thought that somehow it might help me absorb the language faster, the culture more deeply.

The first time I realized that the radio here in Israel isn't just about reporting the news was during a weather was towards the end of summer here and it was, as it often is, unbearably hot.

"It's 40 degrees in the shade," explained the weatherman (40 degrees Celsius is 104 degrees Fahrenheit). Hot...

"That's it, folks," responded the news broadcaster, "you heard him. Stay OUT of the shade!"

It took me a couple of seconds to realize, to smile. I have been their faithful fan ever since.

If you are driving at exactly 5:58 a.m. - they open the morning with the Shema prayer..."Hear, Israel. The Lord, our God, is One!" and that follows with the next paragraph...

You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them  to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
And then, as if that wasn't enough to remind you that we are, despite some rather idiotic people in the world who refuse to see it, a Jewish state, at 6:00 a.m. the broadcast welcomes you to the day.

Normally, it will tell you today is Monday, the 8th day of the month of Iyar and the 27th day of April. For 50 days, from Passover to the holiday of Shavuot, we count the we have for thousands of years...each day by the day and then by the number of weeks.

So, this morning, in addition to using the Hebrew date and the secular date, the announcer also said, "Today is the 23 day, which is three weeks and two days, of the Omer."

And than, as if that isn't enough to show how connected we are with the roots of our tradition, they began speaking to an Israeli in Nepal. Today, Israeli helicopter teams worked to evacuate climbers off the frozen face of Mount Everest, including 4 Israelis.

Today, five planes of aid, rescue workers, medical personnel, and equipment landed in Nepal. Over 200 IDF soldiers from the search and rescue division are there desperately trying to save lives. Dozens of doctors are working to set up a field hospital that will be as fully equipped as any normal hospital.

Today, more than a dozen rescued Israelis were flown home on El Al planes, including several infants who were born to women who had agreed to act as surrogate mothers for couples in Israel who were unable to conceive.

And finally, one returning Israeli quoted the well known phrase, "Every Jew is responsible for the other."

So, that was Israel Radio today...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Israel Heading to Nepal be more accurate, they are already there...once again, one of the first teams on site.

Here's a look back at more of what they've done...where they've gone in the past...all to fulfill the single most basic concept of Judaism...when you save a single is as if you have saved the entire world.

Israel, my small country...

At this moment, two full planes of Israelis and supplies have been airlifted to Nepal to set up emergency hospitals, to rescue, to help.


Friday, April 24, 2015

The Gift of the Sabbath

Once in a while, I am completely overwhelmed with the simple joy of Shabbat. I know that I should be every week, but too often, Shabbat is a refuge from the rest of the week, from computers, from phones, from work. It's that, but so much more.

It's been a good week here. Already work-wise, next week is shaping up to be overwhelming. I've got meetings in four different cities and too much work piling's almost scary how much there is...(though I'm not complaining...I'm really not). But this past week was quieter, easier. I took all of Yom HaZikaron, not just half of it. So it meant a week in which I mostly didn't work for two days, mostly concentrated on the house, the family, my thoughts.

Yesterday was great - we did almost nothing, and I loved every minute of it. We went to the fireworks; we had a barbecue; I made pizza and everyone ate almost all of it. In short, it was almost perfect. Not completely. There were important elements missing, but I've been missing these things for so long now I've almost gotten to the point of painful acceptance. That's the way it is when things are out of your control...and when are they not?

So, for the most part, I concentrate on what I can do, what I can change. Don't ask me what I'm talking about...please. The person who can change it, won't; the person who could make it better is as much responsible for making it bad...I've done what I can do and if a person can say that, that's really the end of it.

Enough mystery - that was yesterday. Time with my husband, great food. And yesterday after all was said and cooked, Elie and Davidi roasted two chickens on the grill for our I've got even less I have to do today.

I've got brownies and potato kugel in the oven (strange combination but they aren't fighting at all). I have a table full of challah and challah rolls waiting to go in...soup on the stove, the rice for sushi already made.

Elie's daughter came up a while ago and saw the challah rolls and said, "lalla."

The gift of the Sabbath often starts on the preparation and the anticipation.

And all day long, people have been dropping books off by my front door for the next Maale Adumim Book Swap (learn more about our Book Swap idea here). It's been an amazing concept for more than four years, raising tens of thousands of shekels for charity...and the excitement and dedication of the people in my community, surrounding areas (Jerusalem, the Gush, Beit Shemesh, even as far as up north near Beit Shean) staggers the mind. In just a few hours, people have brought over 250 books to my door and we are well underway and likely to expect close to 5,000 books...again!

The next Book Swap will be held on Sunday, May 3 beginning at 7:30 p.m.!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Stone

Last night, David came over and asked me if I had the pictures he had taken while visiting Poland with his school last year. I didn't think twice about it. I downloaded the pictures from my computer to his flash drive and got back to what I was doing...

Earlier today, while on Facebook, I saw that he had changed his cover page to one of the pictures he had taken on that trip. If you read Hebrew, you will see three words, translated, it says, "Proud to be a Jew".

What isn't clear, unless you know the background, is that David saw the stone from some distance away and using his camera, zoomed in and took the picture.

What isn't clear, is that the picture rests on ashes...human ashes. It was taken in the Maidanek concentration camp, which has a "Mountain of Ashes."

My first reaction to being told that we were approaching this was to believe it was symbolic...that quickly turned to horror when I realized it was exactly as it was named - a mountain of ashes, Jewish ashes, all that remains of the bodies of thousands of Jews murdered and cremated there.

My final reaction remains - who builds a mountain of ashes, who turns it into a "tourist" site?

I wish they had buried the ashes, given them at least that small amount of respect - a fraction of what they are due. I still wish Poland would wake up one day, ask themselves what they were thinking...and bury it all...leave the huge, empty concrete pit and building where the ashes are and simply put up a sign..."Here there was once a mountain of Jewish ashes...the ashes have been buried. If only the hatred that caused it and the agony that resulted from it, could be buried as well."

Last week, we commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day. Two nights ago, we remembered the fallen soldiers and terror victims in Israel - 23,320 of them since the re-creation of the State of Israel. Today, we celebrated Israel's independence day...and somewhere in the midst of all of this, my son quietly went and posted, "Proud to be a Jew" on his Facebook page.

In six months...God help me...six months, my youngest son will enter the army of the State of his brothers, he will likely go into a combat unit. He is tall and handsome with the same amazing blue eyes that we once thought were a genetic impossibility when Elie was just a toddler.

I wasn't smart enough to be afraid, to be worried, to be emotional six months before Elie went into the army...that only started six weeks before. I learned as quickly as I could, what it was to be a soldier's mother. You'd think it would get all that is right and just in this world, it should get easier...and yet it doesn't.

I know that there is nothing to buy yet, nothing to think about or do, really. Technically, because David went in as part of the Hesder program, he is already a soldier. He can get discounts on trains and at the movies, even at the zoo we visited over the Passover holiday. He was even given dog tags which he was smart enough to place out of my view - too much, way too much for me now.

I saw the picture of the stone and the ashes a short time ago...somehow the picture, David, the days we have commemorated and celebrated all come together. It is what we are all about - as simple and perfect as that. We are proud of who we are and even proud of the long road we have traveled to get back to here, where we have been and dreamed of being for more than 3,000 years.

Loving Israel in Video

I heard about the making of this video long before I got a chance to see it. When I did see it, I looked for the scenes I knew would be there - Chaim kayaking on the Jordan River, water-snappling, and yes, skydiving!

Watch the movie - he's the first person to appear (after the opening one of the guy skydiving which I don't think is him...right, Chaim?)

I had expected to see Chaim...but I loved the scenery and the tone and feel of the whole video. What a great job they did of showing the beauty of Israel and how much we love it here.

The funny part is that before I got a chance to search for a link that I could post here - someone in the States sent it to me...probably not even realizing that we had a "stake" in the video.

I'm so proud that my family adopted Chaim and his brother, Yakov...wait, before Yakov calls me, to set the record straight, we adopted Yakov first and he's our favorite older adopted son...and then Yakov brought us Chaim with a smile and a "he's my brother." And so we responded, as anyone would, simply by saying that this mean Chaim is ours too.

So - enjoy the video and if you aren't in Israel already...watcha waiting for?

What's Wrong with American Jewry....

At first glance, amid preparing for our family barbecue and celebrating Israel, this would seem to be a strange topic to write about on a day where the sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the temperatures, usually so hot, are amazingly refreshing.

And yet, there it was on my Facebook page - the perfect answer to what ails American Jewry. No, it isn't assimilation, though that too is a shocking result of how American Jews have been raising their children for generations. It isn't intermarriage, yeah, that too. Those are symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself.

Over 30 years ago, an uncle (three out of four of his children have married non-Jews, one converted to Christianity, two got divorced, one intermarried a second time) told my sister, "I don't like what you people are doing over there."

"You people" were Israelis to him and rather than learn about Israel and what Israel was doing, my uncle chose the easy way out. He listened to the media and bought the story. He'd even been to Israel one time, more than some of his kids ever accomplished.

The "You People" attitude is what's wrong with American Jewry. That's it. That simple. So long as Israelis are - you people, American Jewry will continue on its path to oblivion.

How is Temple Israel in Boston helping to celebrate Israel's Independence Day? Well, not with fireworks and parties, that's for sure. What they've done, instead, is invite two notoriously anti-Israel speakers from two notoriously anti-Israel organizations - New Israel Fund and JStreet.

According to the Americans for Peace and Tolerance this is not the first time this "temple" has taken the less traveled least for Jews who supposedly care for Israel. "Last year, Temple Israel’s Rabbi Ronne Friedman invited to the synagogue his personal friend and anti-Semitic former Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston, Suhaib Webb. Imam Webb has claimed that animosity toward Jews is understandable and last summer proudly and openly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a group Israel banned as a Hamas charity," the organization posted to their website.

So JStreet and New Israel Fund will have the floor at "Temple Israel" tomorrow. They are, as far as I am concerned, welcome to it. The bigger question for Rabbi Friedman and the rest of the people who go there is who will attend similar programs in a generation or two, when their children are all gone, no longer proud Jews, probably not even Jews at all.

No Israeli was invited to speak (and even if these two characters have Israeli citizenship, that doesn't make them Israelis), and there is likely little Israel in Temple Israel. Today here in Israel, we celebrate the rebirth of our nation after 2,000 years of exile. For 2,000 years, Jews accomplished the impossible - while our bodies were in exile, our hearts and souls remained connected to our ancient and now modern homeland.

What this and other events scheduled at this "synagogue" prove, is that the so-called leadership of Temple Israel have risen above most Jews in the world, managing to lose their bodies, their souls and, in all honesty, one has to wonder about their minds as well.

So knock yourselves out, Jeremy Ben-Ami (a name I have always loved, so incredibly inappropriate. "Son of my people"? Not by a long shot) and Danny are, in every sense of the word, what is so wrong with American Jewry and ultimately, the ones who will pay for your ignorance and self-hatred is not Israel but your own children and whatever is left of their Jewish souls.

Also from the Anti-Israel Event

Yesterday We Cried, Today...We Celebrate

I LOVE fireworks...always have and I hope I always will.

So - take a moment and smile - Israel is dancing today!


The flags are flying all over; families are taking to the hills to barbecue. I've got potato salad cooling in the fridge, noodle salad almost done. Israel...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Mountain of Sorrow

Today is like a huge mountain in front of have to get over it to get to the other side. You work, you travel, you do what you do on a normal day...just knowing that it's almost no use - because no matter what you accomplish, there's that mountain there. Only this is a special mountain. In most cases, the sooner you start something, the sooner you can finish it. If you start driving 10 minutes before you planned to, chances are, you'll get to the end of the road just a bit sooner; if you start climbing a path, no matter how rough, the more you move, it would seem the less you have ahead of you. Logical, but not for this mountain.

Today in Israel, before us we have a mountain of sorrow, of sadness, of pain, of loss. We can start climbing today or tonight. Many in Israel have already started; even more climb that mountain almost without end every day of their lives and at some point began to understand that the mountain will, in many ways, always be with them, their path to traverse, their challenge. Sometimes, for them, today and tomorrow are a bit easier because all of Israel walks beside them, holds them in our hearts and listens as they speak of sons and daughters, husbands, wives, parents...our hearts break with theirs, but theirs stay broken.

For most of Israel, we know the mountain's end will come in sight tomorrow night around 8:00 p.m. We know the two hardest times of all will be tonight at exactly 8:00 p.m. and tomorrow morning at exactly 11:00 a.m. At those times, we will stand in silence while our hearts cry out. Our thoughts will go to those we knew, those who are no more. Or we'll think of their families. Or we'll pray for our own sons and daughters. This year, we'll think about the three teens - Eyal, Naftali and Gilad. And the 67 soldiers and civilians who died during the war this past summer. We'll think of Shalom Yohai Sherki, who was run down and killed last week in Jerusalem in a terrorist attack and of the four rabbis axed to death, and the baby, little Chaya Zissel Braun, who was only three months old when she was murdered. On and on, 23,320 times we will mourn this year.

The other side of the mountain is a huge celebration simply that we are still here 67 years later. We'll get over this mountain of sorrow, already knowing on the other side is Israel's 67th Independence Day. What other country in the world celebrates their independence day as a mark that others haven't succeeded in destroying us!

So, tomorrow night all over Israel, there will be fireworks and barbecues and celebrations. There will be laughter and tears of happiness, parties in the streets and such an outpouring of sheer and unlimited joy. But first, the mountain. Today, already, we are dreading the coming hours.

Memorial day in Israel begins tonight at 8:00 p.m. We will remember those who have fallen so that the next day, we can celebrate. We will remember those who were murdered simply because they lived here (or even were just visiting).

There are no barbecues in this country tomorrow, no celebrations, no sales. Unlike some other places, we mourn our dead to the depths of our souls. There are no parades of veterans, like the one that passed my front door as a child in New Jersey. Here, for the most part, the mourning is done quietly. People try to be just a bit more there for the friends and families. Each year, there are more names added. This year, the first after Operation Tsuk Eitan (Protective Edge)...which was a war, not an operation despite what the official title might be...67 more lost...67 years of independence.

So tonight we'll climb that mountain together here in Israel. We'll cry for all we lost, all we had to give up, all of what will never be...and for all of tonight and most of tomorrow, we'll grieve so deeply we'll never really believe there is another side to the huge mountain in front of us.

For now, there is nothing more...23,320 soldiers and terror victims since the founding of the State of Israel...23,320....

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Gavriella Is Dancing in the Heavens

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. On a collective level, we are mourning for more than 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. On an individual level, we each remember members of our own families as well.

I don’t know all their names…that is the saddest part of all, I think. Their memories live on but in a blur because we know my grandfather had two sisters that remained behind in Poland, but we aren’t quite sure what they were called. I can’t really tell you why that is so important – other than that it is. Without names, they are part of the six million…but still lost.

A name is the most basic thing of all. It doesn’t define you but it is uniquely yours. Even if in some later or earlier generation there was another, still it is yours and yours alone for the time you have it. Without a name, there might have been an earlier generation, but there never will be a later one…the name is lost.

Of all the relatives, there are two that haunt me most. My husband lost all four of his grandparents to the Nazis – but we have their names. Today there are seven Shayes, several Esthers. Yehoshua lives on in my husband’s cousin; Shmuel lives on in our son.

The first name that haunts me belonged to my mother-in-law’s oldest brother. She asked that we give our first son his name, and we did. We know that her brother was the first of the family taken by the Nazis…just before the Passover seder in 1944. It seems so tragic to be a newlywed…to take a wife…and then in that wonderful and exciting first month, to be taken, terrorized, separated, and murdered.

I know, I know – tragic doesn’t come close to the horror, fear and anguish suffered by this young couple and the family left behind. My son, this man’s namesake, is 27, has served in the army of Israel and fought in two wars and has fathered a most adorable baby girl…all things the young Binyamin Elimelech Krausz never got to do…

My son’s daughter, my precious granddaughter carries the second name that has haunted me for 30 years. When I was pregnant with our first child, our beloved oldest daughter and mother to our first grandchild, we began thinking about names…if it is a boy…if it is a girl. In my heart, with no ultrasound and no logic, I knew I was carrying a girl.

Boys’ names passed me by with no interest until finally we rationalized that we would have 8 days to come up with a boy’s name but needed a girl’s name “just in case.” I didn’t care. I knew it would be a girl…and she was born on Rosh Hashana. In the end, she is named for my grandmother with a bit of her second name honoring my husband’s aunt…another victim of the Holocaust.

The name my mother-in-law didn’t want me to use was Gavriella, her young sister who died in 1944, because tradition told her that you do not name a child for another who died young. There are many who say you can get around this by giving a secondary name of someone who lived a long and blessed life; others say that when someone dies in “Kiddush HaShem” – in the sanctification of God’s name, there is no issue.

My mother-in-law was afraid and so the name of her murdered 12 year old sister was not given to her first granddaughter, the only one she lived long enough to touch, to hold, to love.

Her second granddaughter was born five years after she died and carries her name but my mother-in-law never lived long enough to see Gavriella remembered. I didn’t argue with my mother-in-law. I accepted that she was resigned to our not using the name. The next two grandchildren born to her were both boys and the issue never came up again.

But the name haunted me…who would stand for Gabriella? Would we forever leave her name behind in the cold ashes of Auschwitz while my children and others would be born into the sunshine of Israel. I longed for her; I mourned for her. When my youngest daughter turned 12 and celebrated her bat mitzvah, I thought of Gavriella and mourned anew.

As I watched my young daughter grow with her friends, tall and beautiful, free and happy in Israel, it seemed to me that Gavriella’s world got darker and farther away.

And then, my son and daughter-in-law asked us for names for their unborn child…we didn’t have many to give…but almost at the top of my list, the first I thought of…was Gavriella.

A few nights ago, I took a video of little Michal Gavriella dancing to music. Each time the music stopped, my brilliant toddler granddaughter bent down, pressed a button and started dancing again.

And somewhere in the heavens, I dream that Gavriella is dancing too….

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