Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thanks for asking

Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day
Psalms 91:5

Since the official start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, I’ve received many emails, SMSs, Facebook chats, and even telephone calls asking me ‘how are you holding up’. We have received invitations for weekends, dinner, the whole summer if necessary!
So here’s my answer:

I’m fine.

Beer Sheva has been relatively calm during this go-around. We haven’t been able to figure out why. There have been days when we have had no sirens, no rockets. It’s eerily quiet. This leaves us time to watch the airplanes and helicopters overhead. Without the sirens, we can hear – 40 km from Gaza – the booms of artillery.

My house has a ‘safe room’; a room built of re-enforced concrete. It’s safe and we can get to it easily from anywhere on the property in less than the minute we have before the rockets fall. We also have Iron Dome, which we can both hear and see firing. Many of our friends don’t have safe rooms in their homes and have to crouch in a hallway, or hide under the stairs.

So, of course I’m fine.

My oldest son was called up on the first day of the operation. His reserves unit is always called up immediately when there is any sort of fighting in Gaza. They replace the regular army guys in their regular duties guarding on this side of the border.
He’s been doing guard duty more or less where they keep finding those pesky tunnels.
He’s been gone for three weeks.
His wife and baby are refugees in the center of the country.

I’m fine, thank you for asking

My second son learns in Ashdod. Ashdod, about 25 km from Gaza, has been pummeled by rockets – sometimes seven or eight times a day. His Yeshiva is not in a permanent building, but in mobile homes. There are no actual ‘safe rooms’, so the city brought in ‘migoonits’, which are basically hollow hunks of concrete. He has about 20 seconds. 

a migoonit
Honestly, I’m fine.

My third son was just drafted to the army. He’s in a combat unit and will undergo training for the next several months. If he survives, he will then be a full fledged soldier, ready to go to battle.

I’m fine.

My youngest daughter is too nervous to go down the street to buy milk. We've sent her to stay with family in the center of the country so she can remember what it’s like to be outside.

But I’m really fine.

My oldest (can’t leave her out) has been caught during a siren in the street, in the bus, in the car, in the supermarket, in the shower. It’s unnerving, to put it mildly.
Everything is fine.

Every day, I get up early. It’s too hot to sleep much. I check my email, watch the news, eat breakfast, and get to work by 7:30. I’ve missed a few days to stay with the youngest. She can stay by herself, but it’s unpleasant to be alone. (Work is also unpleasant, so it’s a good excuse.) I go shopping, I do the laundry, I wash dishes. Of course, I don’t remember what I’m supposed to buy, and I forget to wash the pan, and I mix the socks with the towels. But hey.

There are large swaths of time when I don’t cry.
There are no swaths of time when I’m not almost crying.

I find myself on the verge of tears at the darndest moments; talking to a friend on the phone, in the shower, at the supermarket.

My throat closes up, I suddenly can’t catch my breath, my hands shake.

The checkout person asks me if I’m a member of the supermarket club, and even though I am, I shake my head no because I can’t tell her my number (and my son on the border has my card) because if I open my mouth, the catch in my throat will unleash the tears that have been stored all day. I hold up one finger when she asks me how many payments I want.
I’m doing fine.

Spoke too soon, gotta dash, siren.

Iron dome to the rescue.

So, of course I’m fine.

Despite what it seems, I am not falling apart.
There is no falling apart going on.
Tears – in this case –are not a sign of despair.

I am filled by so many emotions that the overflow is manifested by tears. That’s all.

Love and pride, and hope and honor, and gratitude and awe, and grief and sorrow and – yes – fear and dread and rage.

But not despair. Nor gloom. Nor hopelessness nor helplessness.

We are so blessed.

Blessed to live in our Land, which has an army, and a flag, and an elected government; 
blessed to be surrounded a People who care so much that the soldiers are complaining they have too much food, and too many socks;
blessed to belong to a People who care, not only for the soldiers, but for the families of the wounded;
blessed to be a witness of countless miracles;
blessed to be checked up on at least once a day to see ‘how are you holding up’.

So yes, my voice trembles, and my hands shake, and my eyes – and heart – are full.

But that’s just me, being fine. 

Thanks for your concern. And please, keep thinking of me, and sending me hugs and strength. And chocolate wouldn't hurt either. 

But, hey, really, I'm fine. 

He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand guard over our Land and the cities of our God, from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.
May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.
May He lead our enemies under our soldiers' sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for the the verse: For it is the Lord your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you. 
Now let us respond: Amen. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A few days ago, the rock band Pearl Jam’s lead singer Eddie Vedder digressed in the middle of a concert to rant on about “those who go across borders and take over land that doesn't belong to them.”
Logically and obviously, I thought that he was talking about Hamas's ongoing attempt to blow up Israeli towns, cities, and farms. Hamas leaders have said over the years that they want to take over Israel.
Mahmoud Al-Zahar, co-founder of Hamas, once stated that he dreamed "of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it".
The Hamas charter states that "our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious" and calls for the creation of an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel, and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel.
Hamas cleric Wael Al-Zarad during a television program said that the Muslims will only stop killing Jews "with their [the Jews] annihilation, Allah willing, because they tried to kill our Prophet several times."

But, beyond all logic, Vedder apparently was referring to the Israeli defense of its citizens during the current Operation Protective Edge!

So, for his edification, I am reposting parts of a blog from 2012’s Operation Pillars of Defense with added emphasis.

"The land on which Kfar Darom was settled was purchased by Tuvia Miller in 1930. In 1946, he sold it to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and a religious kibbutz was established on the evening after Yom Kippur that year as part of an 11 point settlement drive. The other 10 settlements built on the same night were: Nirim, Urim, Hatzerim, Shuval, Mishmar-Hanegev, Be'eri, Tekuma and Nevatim in the Northern Negev, and Gal On and Kedma further south. The first eight are today all in range of Gaza’s missiles and most have sustained damage.

During the War of Independence, in 1948, Kfar Darom, along with Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and other settlements in the Northern Negev, was overrun by the Egyptian army. While Yad Mordechai and the others were retaken by Palmach forces during the winter of 1949, Kfar Darom was not, and the area – which later became known as the Gaza Strip – was lost to the Egyptian army.

In other words, land in what is known today as the ‘Gaza Strip’ but used to be known as part of Egypt and before that as part of the British Mandate of Palestine, was actually legally purchased by a Jew and sold to the JNF to be a kibbutz. To the best of my knowledge, the Egyptians never bought the land; legally, it still belongs to the JNF.

[The same, by the way, goes for Gush Etzion, areas of the city of Hebron  (the cave of Machpela in Hebron was, of course, purchased by Avraham Avinu) and much of what is erroneously named the West Bank.]

Could somebody please let Vedders know that history didn’t start last week, or even last month. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 to be rewarded not only with approximately 15,000 (no typo) missiles but also with imbecilic comments like his. I won’t take the easy way out and call him anti-Semitic.

He’s just ignorant.

I find it abhorrent that so many celebrities who are - and have every right to be - ignorant of a particular subject, talk anyway.

It would be like me talking about rocket science or veterinary medicine. Just because I know what a rocket or a elephant look like, doesn't make me want to stand up on a stage and shout that NASA should be doing more to put elephants on the moon.

Same nonsense.

I can understand anti-Semitism. Really, I can. Unwarranted and hatred you don't have to explain is easy, it’s common, and it’s cheap. Anti-Semitism seems to be in style now. It’s a thing. So why not lash out at Jews willy-nilly?

But why would anyone get up on a stage and show, for the entire world to witness, his own ignorance? Is ignorance a thing too?

To borrow a phrase from another ignorant musician: while nobody needs thought control, maybe you do need an education.

Just because someone doesn't know the facts, doesn't make them go away.

I was taught “Better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re stupid, than open it and prove it.”

In the meantime, Israel has been bombarded with over 600 missiles aimed at babies, grandparents, teachers, farmers, rabbis, doctors, and even elephants.

Ignorance is not a thing.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Protecting More than the Edge

We are determined to lay a significant blow on Hamas’ terror capabilities and infrastructure, eliminate any threat on Israeli sovereignty emanating from the Gaza Strip and restore stability to the southern region
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner 

This is not the time for quiet. We have a bank of various targets. An Iron Dome [missile battery] will be needed in every Israeli home
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum

On Monday morning, the first day of Israel’s Protective Edge campaign against Hamas’s missile attack on Southern Israel, a woman came to my desk at work to ask where the safe room was on that floor. There had already been a siren in Beer Sheva early that morning, and she had a meeting scheduled later with about 15 people in the conference room next to my department.

A safe room is a room that has been fortified with extra concrete to withstand a direct hit from an incoming missile. According to Israeli law, all private residences must have one safe room in the house, and all public buildings are required to have one safe room on each floor. This law came into effect about 12 years ago. Unfortunately, the building I work in is about 15 years old.

I looked the young lady in the eye, and said, “Sorry, there isn't a safe room on this floor.” She was shocked. “So what do we do?” she asked. “Pray”, I answered. 
She was not amused. 

A shelter in Sderot

What happens when there is no safe room or shelter

I took her to the two areas on my floor to which people run during a missile attack due to lack of choice. One is an internal stairwell that is behind a locked door and has a small window but quite a distance away, and the other is a hallway close by the conference room with a concrete ceiling but with a large glass window wall. She looked around. “I guess a little prayer wouldn't hurt,” she sighed.

Operation Protective Edge (in Hebrew צוק איתן – loosely translated as a Firm Cliff – is much more poetic) is in its third day. Almost 400 missiles have been launched into Israel in the past 72 or so hours. There have been sirens all the way from Zichron Yaakov in the north to Yerucham in the South. Both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have been targeted. The Israel Air Force has hit more than 600 targets in Gaza, blowing up bomb factories, rocket launchers, and the homes of Hamas leaders. Sometimes, those leaders were at home. 

A firm cliff in Southern Israel

It’s summertime in Israel; hot, humid, and raining missiles. Summer camps are closed; university exams are cancelled; people have been advised not to travel but to stay close to safe areas. 

Missiles over Southern Israel courtesy of  MailOnline
40,000 soldiers have been called up for emergency duty, one of whom is my son.

The foreign press is going wild. Israel has to find a way of achieving peace with its neighbors. Israel must show restraint and not allow the hostilities to escalate. Israel must not show disproportionate response.

(I still haven’t figured out what the proportionate response is when someone shoots a rocket into your wedding ceremony, or bombs a day care full of 5-year-olds, or, for that matter, indiscriminately shoots missile after missile after missile – each with the potential to kill dozens of people – intentionally into residential areas at times they know they can do the most damage—when the kids are going to or coming from school.)

This movie, we've seen before.
Been there, done that, even got the T-Shirt (which apparently is so old it's been thrown out).

No need to go to the dark side. We've got cookies too. 

After my son was called up yesterday, I went into cookie mode. I made cookies for him to take with to the army. It’s the least I can do. (I made 1000s of cookies when he was doing his regular service.) An improvement on the last time he was called up for emergency service 18 months ago during Pillar of Defense. Then, I simply cried.

There is no reason not to cry this time around; same missiles, same bad guys. I guess I’m simply all cried out.

There is, however, one difference this time around. Friends around the country are not inviting us to their place for a ‘respite from rocket fire’. They have their own rockets to contend with.

The whole of Israel is under attack.

So, Jews abroad, listen up!
I know this story is boring. You’re asking why can’t we all just get along.
Here's the deal: the whole of Israel is under attack by evil people who attack babies and grandmothers.
The whole of Israel includes those Jews who live in New York, or Paris, or London.
When Hamas is allowed to indiscriminately attack a Jew in Israel, it is much easier to indiscriminately attack a Jew in Brussels and shoot him dead.
When Tel Aviv is targeted, the Jews of Winnipeg will feel it.
When 2 million Jews in Israel are under attack, 10 million Jews abroad are threatened.
Make no mistake. We are a strong and moral people. We will stand firm. We will win this battle – again.

But it will be easier with you.

Make yourselves aware of the real story and not the CNN version.
Make your voices heard.
Stand tall.
And send cookies.

Most importantly, take a moment to say the prayer for our soldiers:

Prayer for Members of the Israel Defense Force

He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Force, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our God from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.
May Hashem cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighting men from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.
May He lead our enemies under their sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is Hashem, your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you.  Now let us respond: Amen.

They need cookies

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Choose Life

We need never be ashamed of our tears. 
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

For 18 days (chai/life), I didn’t cry.

I didn’t laugh either.

I didn’t speak much.

For 18 days, I didn’t sleep without dreaming.
I went to work. I went shopping. I did laundry. I watched a lot of TV.
I prayed.
I said Tehilim.

Last night, the proverbial damn broke.
I cried. And wept. And mourned.
Along with the rest of Am Yisrael.

Soaking our already-blood-soaked land with our tears.

Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach, and Gilad Shaar – may their memories be blessed, and their blood avenged – are the latest (and may they be the last) victims in a very long line of Jew hatred. Murdered because they were alive, they join millions of Jews throughout the centuries who have been slaughtered simply because they were breathing.

There seems to be no end.
And so we weep. Until it seems that we will drown in our tears.

But make no mistake.

"You see us crying. This is because our hearts are full of love, because we are human beings. Don't make the mistake of interpreting our tears as weakness of spirit. We are strong, we are here, and your day will come”, eulogized Uri Yifrach, father of Eyal.

I take solace in that I belong to a people whose hearts are full of love and not of hate. 

We solve problems, not cause them.

I belong to a nation that builds and not one that destroys

We do not celebrate death by giving out candies. We do this.

My people save the lives of anyone in need.

Our soldiers are trained to help, wherever help is needed.

no matter the pain

no matter the irony. 

Rachel Frankel, mother of Naftali, spoke of the murders “This was not a random act of cruelty. They went out to hunt, and G-d chose you to be the poster children of the opposite, of good and of love." 

We are a nation of goodness and love; a holy people.

"We will learn to sing without you", she said.

Though this is a heartrending declaration, I am heartened that we are a people who sing to G-d—even in our deepest grief.

I am proud to belong to a nation that chooses life – that celebrates life! – even when we are surrounded by those who celebrate death, both ours and their own.

I call today upon heaven and earth as witnesses for you. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deuteronomy 30:19).