Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The First Call

The first time your son calls you after entering the army special. It's the moment you know you'll survive this. It's the moment when you realize the earth is still turning, the sun still shining (or, in my case, the moon is still orbiting the earth). Sound a bit grandiose? Okay, so let's bring it down a level - it's the moment you take your first breath, that instance when you are unfrozen.

He went in on Monday morning. We had some messages back and forth but we didn't speak again until Tuesday night. I don't usually brag about my talents...whatever they may be...and am usually uncomfortable when others speak to me about things that I've done or can do. But I'll tell you one talent...and in this, I am possibly the most talented person in the entire world...I can think - faster, deeper, and with more creativity than ANYONE...about horrible things, scary things.

I hate horror movies because I know that whatever I watch will work its way into my mind and I'll think and dream about it for weeks. No, thank you! The world is scary enough.

So by Tuesday afternoon when Davidi hadn't called, I was sure that his phone was broken or stolen. I was mostly convinced that he was physically okay because I know enough about the army to know that they have not yet given these new recruits guns (they haven't), and from stories that Elie told me about his first day in, they barely leave them alone. So, I knew...well, as much as you can KNOW anything (which with the army isn't very much, but go with me here)...I knew he was okay so therefore, logically, if he hasn't called, his phone must have met some fatal accident.

Now, having killed more phones than I am willing to admit...I am very original in how this can be done and let me tell you, from experience, it isn't that hard. So, yeah, I was sure his phone was gone, lost, finished...well, not sure...but maybe, right? Did I mention you should go with me on this?

Well, you don't have to...he called last night, "Ima, I can't talk for long. I only have 6 minutes." They're given an hour to shower, get ready for the next day, call their parents etc. And so he called. He is fine. He's sleeping in a building. I know that doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment but one of the things I was told about Givati is that they sleep (still) in tents - even in the cold of the rain and the winter. It rarely rains warm in Israel. When there is rain, it's a storm. Those gentle, warm rains of summer days and nights - no, not in Israel. The rain comes in with the wind and the cold and then blows out bringing warm winter days...until the next round.

So, having a son sleeping in the tent in the winter...not a happy thought. Especially as...have I confessed this before?...I cook babies. Oh wait, no - not really. I can see all the anti-Semitic sites on the internet ...
"Israeli mother admits to cooking babies in latest proof that the blood libels of the Middle Ages was in fact truth. It has long been suspected that Jews drain the blood out of good Christian children and use it to bake Passover Matzo. Now, one Israel mother admits that she regularly cooked her children."
No, really, I didn't. What I did was smother them, no, no - bad word. Okay, so I was always terrified that they'd be cold - those cute little was I supposed to know if they were cold? You want me to believe those doctors? That if I don't need more than a sweater, they don't either? No way - blankets! Hats! Cover them up and cuddle them...that's my philosophy and I have five beautiful children who survived all that I managed to do to them. Cold...I can assure you that my children were probably NEVER cold...overheated, maybe; sweating under blankets even in the summer...definitely, but cold...never.

Davidi, knowing my constant nagging, knew just what to say. I've told most of my kids, "put on a sweater! I'm cold." And now, I see the army put a building around my son, a roof over his head, a solid floor to keep out the chill of the desert sands...that makes me a happy parent.

His unit is the first Givati group to be housed in...well, houses. No tents for them. (And no, I did NOT call the army and beg them to put a roof over their heads.)

So - in less than 6 minutes, he's fine. He's good. He's happy. He's with friends. I forgot to ask him his commander's name...he's in a building...I didn't ask if it had heating and air conditioning...and he's coming home this weekend! Oh, and his phone is fine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

That First Picture

You'd think with a third son going into the army that there would be no firsts. I should have known that wasn't true. David was my first child born in Israel. He is my third son, my fourth child. In many ways, he's followed the others - the second in Hesder, the fourth to join the ambulance squad.

He was the first to go to a "sleep away" school, the second to be become a Bnei Akiva youth counselor. He was the first to become a trainer for new ambulance volunteers; the fourth to take a course to handle a multiple casualty incident.

Sometimes the second, sometimes the third, rarely the first and always the fourth...that's David. What surprised me yesterday was how much I needed that first picture. It made it real; it filled my eyes with tears.

At first, all I wanted was to make it through the morning without tears - and this is what I succeeded in doing. I didn't cry and I was so proud of myself. He left with a hug and a kiss, easy and fast and I really thought I was fine. And then I saw the picture I had begged him to send me and I began to cry. I still do when I look at it. He's smiling; he's good...and yet my eyes fill with tears.

So I decided that each son is a first, each child a first. And it made me think back to those other firsts.
As I begin again this journey no mother really wants to take...I'll stop for a second and show you the firsts of each.

Elie - - as he entered the artillery division. The first picture of him in uniform was when he came home ten or so days later. He'd told me about the uniform, but this was the first chance I got to see him in it. Note the white t-shirt - these are the "travel" uniforms, dressier than the others.

Shmulik - - entered one of the ground forces units as Davidi has. In Shmulik's case, it was Kfir and he sent me that first picture from the bus - it looks like he took it himself...and he didn't smile.

And finally yesterday, David sent me his first picture. I can't really explain what made me cry. The truth is...he's smiling, he's happy. It looks like a bunch of them stood together and took that picture - a joint one of all the boys from his yeshiva - all going into the army together and then he cut his picture out and sent it.

It's kind of funny because it looks like his beard is really long (when really, it's the hair on his neck that looks like it is part of his beard). He doesn't look nearly as tired as I expected, given that he only went to bed in the early morning hours of the night...and then was up again at 6:00 a.m.

In many ways, he is a combination of his brothers - he's got the look of Elie, with the blue eyes; the shape of Shmulik's eyes. He is completely his own person in so many ways and somehow he looks so much older than he did in the morning when he left with a backpack on his shoulder, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.

Suddenly, the boy from the night before has emerged as the man he will be. I can see that man in this picture and it startled me a bit. I wasn't ready to see him and I also didn't realize how beautiful he would be.

I must have looked at this picture a hundred times already and each time I keep thinking simply that he is mine and I'm very proud of him.

On Facebook, Shmulik wrote him a most beautiful note. It isn't easy, it seems, to watch your younger brother go into the army, step forward to protect this land. It isn't easy, I can tell you, to send three sons to the army not knowing where they are, what they are doing.

At the end of the day yesterday, I thought to myself, one day down. The first picture is I begin the countdown to the one I want to take on his last day in the army - safe, healthy, happy, tall, beautiful...and still mine.

May God watch over David Levi ben Penina...and all the soldiers of Israel.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Well, He's In

This morning I knew it would...bright and early. We quickly loaded the car and drove off. On the way, we picked up another young man who is also beginning the army today. It was not a time to speak of serious things, and we didn't. It wasn't the time to speak of feelings, and we didn't.

It was filled with silly conversations - like whether you gain or lose time when the estimated time reported by the GPS changes. Silly but really there is little time for anything else, little interest.

I dropped them off - they walked off together, David and this young man who left his family in the United States to come to Israel to serve in the army. Hours later, I sent David a message asking how he was doing - his answer was that he had barely begun; that they had loaded them on a bus destined for the next stop, having finished the medical checks and paperwork.

It will be a long day for him but there is one thing that is different this time than last time. Actually two. The first is that though I expected to sob my eyes out after he left, I didn't cry at all. I'm not sure why. In the end, I got a hug and a kiss, said I would see him in a few days, and drove off. The second thing is that I can cheat...I can see when he goes online. It's a little thing, silly even, but it is a comfort.

In the meantime, as I sat wondering when I would speak to him again, the news flashed that there had been a terror attack moments from my office. Elie is there today and I knew that he would run towards the attack once he was notified, as a first responder. And that's what he did. By the time he got there, two Arab women...girls really, as they are/were only 15-16 years of age, had been neutralized - one dead, one in critical condition. They had stabbed a man...who, as it turns out, was an Arab man in his 70s and then, as security officers closed in on the area, they were both neutralized.

I called Elie and he is fine. He got to the scene but others were already there taking care of the wounded man and there was not much to do. So life in Israel today is as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow. More attacks, more sons and daughters stepping forward to serve their country. More parents worrying.

As I told my day almost less day to worry by day...each and every day, starting today.

And finally, more because I promised myself than because I feel the need, I will copy here the words I wrote on the first day I became a soldier's mother (Induction Day):
There is no ceremony, no great moment, just a gentle slide into a new world. He went in his direction without hesitation; I reluctantly went in mine and I tried all day not to think of where he was. Or, more importantly, I tried not to think of where he wasn't. From the time my children were born, almost without exception, I have known where they are. Perhaps not to an exact location, but close enough to know that they are within reach, within a short drive or call away. Now enters a time when more often than not, I won't know where he is, what he is doing. I will have to trust that no news is good news, that he is ok.
My son is a soldier in the army of Israel. Why that makes me want to cry, I can't explain when it is something that I have accepted, something in which I feel pride. For now, the fear and worry that threatens to push the pride aside will be my personal battle in the next day and week and year. My son is where I have always wanted him to be, doing what he must do. It is something that Jews have been unable to do for thousands of years - to defend their land and their right to live here. My son is a soldier in the army of Israel.

When the Heart Rages

One of the best compliments that you can give to a writer is that they have spoken your words, your thoughts. I hear it sometimes and each time this gives me such pleasure. I tend to write as often as I can and so rarely do others have the chance to speak words for me. I should let this happen more often.

Today, with great thanks, I share a guest post of a friend, a scholar, a wise man who deeply cares about others.

He is a guest blogger on Times of Israel and once again, Times of Israel has decided to take the coward's path by refusing to publish the following article. Arabs are rampaging and murdering in our land but God help us if we take a moment and rage ourselves.

Never mind the fact that our rages are most often restricted to words and prayers while theirs are most often restricted to bombs, stones, axes, knives, ramming cars, and other tools of murder and violence.

This friend dared to express the anger that is in the hearts of many in Israel. Apparently, a site that fancies itself as the "marketplace of ideas" refuses to sell what Israel is buying this week... 

Guest post...

When the Heart Rages

The heart rages. Yes, I am mad and yes, the people of Israel are up in arms. And these are some of my thoughts.

Because I no longer care! I do not need to be PC. I do not need to dance around the words...the time has come to really say what needs to be said: Islam is a religion of hate. Arabs want to murder Jews. Arabs who claim they want a Two State solution are liars, cheaters, thieves and con-artists. There NEVER was an Arab Palestine and there NEVER will be a Palestine...NEVER!

Those who think that there will be peace are living in fantasy land. Those who feel Jews and Arabs can live peacefully side by side are deluding themselves. It cannot happen. And do not think for one moment, Sons of Ishmael, that stabbing and killing a 21 year old girl or shooting an 18 year old boy is going to change all that. You think people are going to wake up one day and say “Hey, they stabbed enough Jews, let’s give them a state”?? Are you out of your mind?

And it is time for REAL action! It is time to take severe action against the families of all murderers. First, all of the immediate relatives of the murderers should be deported. I hear Canada is big into refugees, so give them a call. Secondly, all of the Imams who either incite or who do not say a word of condemnation: put them in jail. Silence in the face of all this atrocity is acquiescence (wait, that is not so legal...I do not care).

Then, any Arab known to pose a threat to a Jew for any reason, put him in jail--no due process, no appeals. THE FREEDOM OF EVEN ONE ARAB WHO POSES A POTENTIAL THREAT TO A JEW IS NOT WORTH THE LIFE OF A SINGLE JEW! NOT ONE! (How to implement? How to figure that out? I have no idea. But the IDF KNOWS who THOUSANDS of them are...we see them getting arrested overnight every day. A full scale “invasion” of neighborhoods harboring Hamas operatives or supporters of ANY Islamic/Arab terrorists with the goal of getting them off the streets needs to happen.)

You think that is radical? It is what they are doing in France right now. And Brussels (where terrorists are sprouting up like mushrooms) is on a race against the clock to find cells who are currently looking to put an “operation” into action.

Yes, it is time. It is time to take radical action and get those who seek our death OFF THE STREETS.

And yes, I rage. I am angry, as I said at the outset. Yes, I and others will calm down soon. But it does not detract from the message. We need to do something, and soon.

Someone shared a beautiful thought with me. There are four slots with four parchments with verses from the Torah in the Tefillin worn on the head. This indicates that we can THINK in any direction we wish to think. In the Tefillin worn on the arm, there is only a single parchment with verses from the Torah, because, at the end of the day, we can only ACT in one way. 

We do not take vengeance, we do not act in violence and in hate...we take action to protect our people.

May G-d avenge the blood of those who have been murdered, and may He send a complete healing to those injured.

The Last Supper...

Sorry, I couldn't resist that title and most thankfully of all, it certainly wasn't.

We went out to dinner tonight with almost all our children and two of our in-law children and two of three of our grandchildren. We missed Elie and Lauren and little Michal - my fault...I left the planning too late and plans made couldn't be changed and it's hard with a young child. There are ages when they are "portable" and ages when they are less so. So, almost all of us went out to dinner for the purpose of gathering for one last supper before David goes to the army tomorrow.

We came in four different cars...Amira and her husband and two boys; Shmulik and his wife; my husband volunteers for the police so was supposed to come late but his training session was canceled and so he arrived in our older car while I drove with David and Aliza, the first car to arrive.

On the way there, I couldn't believe it - Davidi was teasing Aliza - laughing and shining his flashlight into the mirror and back into her eyes. She screeched as only a teenager can; he laughed even harder.

It was, I knew, a release of tension - a letting go, and a holding on at the same time. The boy was there, I realized. He'd come with us to the dinner and I cherished seeing him again, knowing that in the days to come, the man will be what will be shown to the world. I tried to be stern and not laugh, but it was impossible. "How old are you?" I asked him - and he smiled again, as he swiveled the mirror to take aim.

Dinner was a wonderful treat - a few hours of talking. Yosef, Amira's oldest son, was cuddled by just about everyone but I had to turn away when Davidi hugged him as we were leaving. His siblings wished him well - there aren't many words that can be said at a time like this and so you rush through it.

I don't remember packing for either Elie or Shmulik. I'd have to ask them if they did it on their own or I helped. We got home late and so I told David to bring me everything. I would pack things up while he got ready and this way we'd both get some sleep before we have to get up early to leave for the drop-off point.

He brought me all the new clothes, the various things that need to be packed, and a basket full of his laundry. I folded everything and handed him back the things that aren't going. They will give him uniforms to wear and he will come home wearing it. From home to base and base to home, he will be a soldier and will wear the uniform. I told him to put the folded laundry neatly in his closet.

He thought that was rather amusing. Apparently, he prefers to keep his clean laundry in the basket and doesn't bother with the more civilized use of shelves. "Put them on a shelf," I told him. I'm half inclined to go up and check if he did.

So he's all packed and soon he'll go to sleep...we are hours away...I hope he will sleep...I'm not sure I will.

It's after midnight - I can't even say that he will become a soldier tomorrow. It's so easy to deal with tomorrow...but now it is today and the time has come. Today, he will be a soldier. Today he will leave home and put on the uniform of the State of Israel. Today it begins. The army is merciful - for this first time, I know that he will be home in just five days.

I won't think now about the times that he will go when I won't know. I won't think now...and I will not cry in front of him. I won't...please God, give me that much strength at least.

Let me hug him and smile and let him go...tomorrow I can cry...just not today.

Anyone who thinks that we Israeli mothers are happy that our sons become soldiers is insane. There is pride, of course, but there is no joy. I can't say I would give anything to avoid this moment because that's not true. There is no avoiding it...not until there is, when a 21-year-old girl was stabbed and murdered...when five were injured yesterday and five murdered in terror attacks the day before...there is no peace in the near future.

And so son will become a soldier so that maybe in the tomorrows that come, other sons won't have to.

Please God, watch over David Levi ben Penina - may he go in safety and health and may he return in safety and in health each and every day until he too can take off the uniform he will put on in a few hours.

Please God, please...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

This is Ezra

Guest Blog by Moshe Matitya - with my gratitude. He said it better than I could. For me, only four letter words could come to mind. My thanks for his eloquence.

This is Ezra

He was American. He was 18. He was murdered this week by terrorists in Israel. This is what the US State Department said to Israel this afternoon after several innocent civilians (including Ezra) were killed by terrorists in Israel: "[We] continue to urge all sides to take affirmative steps to restore calm and prevent actions that would further escalate tensions."

And this is what the US State Department said to France after innocent civilians were killed by terrorists in France: "These are heinous, evil, vile acts. Those of us who can must do everything in our power to fight back against what can only be considered an assault on our common humanity."

Why the different tone? Wasn't Ezra's murder a "heinous, evil, vile act"?

In the case of attacks on innocent Jews and Israelis, the State Department wants "all sides" to "restore calm" and "prevent actions that would further escalate tensions".

In the case of attacks on innocent French people, however, the State Department wants to see everyone "fight back" against "evil", and is strikingly unconcerned about "restoring calm". Nobody is urged to "prevent actions that would further escalate tensions"; to the contrary, such actions, in the case of France, are actually being *encouraged*, for the sake of "fight[ing] back against what can only be considered an assault on our common humanity".

I would like to amplify the point made in Marne's post, by asking the inverse questions:

* Why does the State Department not urge "all sides" in the ISIS/France conflict to "restore calm"?

* Why is the State Department not worried about actions against ISIS that "would further escalate tensions"?

And even more to the point:

* Who, exactly, are the parties mysteriously described as "all sides" in the State Department's response to the terror attack that killed Ezra Schwartz? Evidently, these "sides" are (1) the Israelis, who were targeted in the attack, and (2) the "Palestinians", who carried out the attack, and whose leadership both incited the attack and praised it after it happened.

In other words, the State Department is addressing its comments "even-handedly", asking "all sides" -- the victims *and* the terrorists -- to "restore calm" and to "prevent actions that would further escalate tensions".

So why, then, does the State Department not make such a similarly "even-handed" appeal in the wake of the attacks in France? Why does it not urge "all sides" -- the French government and ISIS -- to "prevent actions that would further escalate tensions"?

The answer to this question can be found in the State Department's description of the attacks in Paris as "an assault on our common humanity".

Israelis, in stark contrast -- and even non-Israeli Jews, like Ezra Schwartz -- evidently do not qualify, in the State Department's view, for inclusion in "our common humanity".

And -- following the State Department's logic to its conclusion -- since Ezra Schwartz and the other victims in Israel are not part of "our common humanity", the assaults upon them -- as opposed to the attacks in Paris -- were *not* "heinous, evil, vile acts". And for that reason, the State Department sees no imperative for anyone to "fight back" against this assault -- quite the contrary, in fact.

Sad update: a short time ago, a 17-year-old was stabbed to death by yet another Arab the same place where Ezra was murdered last week. May God avenge her blood and may her family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may they know no more sorrow.

One More Day...


Tomorrow, I will have another soldier in active service, in a combat unit though not yet combat ready. Tomorrow they will give him a uniform, perhaps even a gun (no bullets, not yet, but first he will learn the feel of the gun, the responsibility for its care, its use).

Tomorrow, my youngest son will enter the army. Tomorrow.

I want to write about another terror attack last night in which 5 people, including a young girl, were stabbed...about a town terrorized and in lock down for hours until police and security found the terrorist hiding in the yard of one house. How they announced there would be no school today if the terrorist was not found because we do not risk our children.

I want to write of a horrible attack in Mali, in which 20 people were killed - including one Israeli who was there consulting on educational programs and of how Brussels is on alert, saying they have credible intelligence of a planned terror attack there.

I want to write about Jonathan Pollard - finally free and yet not free. He remains a prisoner of a country that made and broke an agreement and then spread falsehoods. He was never accused of treason. He was never convicted of selling secrets. He never betrayed the United States. In fact, all he did was pass military intelligence reports to an ally that was supposed to receive those same reports through official agreements. The US government violated those agreements and then violated a plea bargain agreement it made to keep secret its treachery. And now, rather than release Pollard to finally spend the last years of his life in Israel, he is forced to remain in a land that does not want him and in a place that he does not want to be for secrets that are 30 years old.

I want to write of the coming of winter here in Israel; of the beautiful rain storms we've been having.

I want to many thoughts in my head and yet only one fills the moment. David. He's too young.

...he's not really.

He's 19, almost 20...just as Elie was, just as Shmulik was...just as thousands of other Israeli boys were and are but to me he is just too young and this day came just too soon.

He's my baby.

...but he's really not. He's the tallest of my sons...a baby he's not. He's been volunteering for the ambulance squad for more than four years. He now teaches others about first aid; he's seen horrific accidents, had people die while he tried to help save their lives.

Givati infantry logo
It should be easier this time. I keep telling should be easier. Elie looked over the list of things it is recommended that David buy; Shmulik gave him some things. Each of his brothers - by genetics and by love - are offering their advice and support. Yakov is excited that David will be going into his unit - another Givati soldier.

"Are you nervous?" I said to him quietly during Shabbat lunch. There's no reason to explain - it is as much in his head as mine. He waved his hand - a signal for a bit. I don't know if that makes it better or worse.

During dinner we spoke of his dog tags, given to him months ago. I asked him if he knew where they were...if he was sure. Later he brought them down. They are a terrible thing for a mother to see, to hold. There was a discussion about how Americans use dog tags versus how Israelis use them. A conversation no mother should hear. For them, they are words; words that make the future less scary. For me, they are part of a picture I don't want to see...ever.

There are no words for these hours. They are horrible. Part of me wants the clock to stop so that I don't ever have to face that moment; part of me knows that I'm making it so much worse for myself and he'll be fine and the best thing would be just to get to that moment so that we can all see it is really just a part of being Israeli.

He really will be fine. He knows more...I know more...we all understand. He will go on Monday where he will be given a uniform. He will probably sleep there...or they'll take him to a base somewhere in Israel. He'll call me. Maybe he'll even send me a picture. By this time tomorrow, my stomach will have settled; my tears will have dried. The next few months are all about training. That's all. No one will be sending him to battle; no gun fights. His greatest danger will likely be dehydration and exhaustion...and he's strong and capable and the army watches over them, forces them to drink, to rest. The training is intense, but gradual. There's really nothing to worry about...other than everything that I'm worried about...

I will again be a soldier's mother, even though somehow during this break between Shmulik and Davidi it felt like I never really stopped. Elie received a call up for his next Reserve duty. In January, I'll have two in for a brief time. There are many who have two in all the time; I met a woman who was buying clothes for her 6th soldier...I know a woman with 8 boys...who is only now beginning.

I got off easy, I guess...three boys...this is my third and final journey on this roller coaster. I've never liked roller coasters...I don't need the thrill of the fall...I'm more for cruising along and seeing what there is to see.

The advice I have given to so many now becomes mine for the coming day at a time. Today he is home, packing, talking to friends, hopefully cleaning his room. Today he is fine; he is safe, he is mine and mine alone. Tomorrow he becomes a son of all of Israel but tomorrow is a lifetime away right now. he is mine.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Three Days...and Wondering

Was it this bad the last time? Was my stomach hurting so much and was I so close to tears each time I looked at him?

David went to a party with his friends last night. It was as many of his high school friends that could gather at a restaurant in Jerusalem. The first five are going in - four into combat units: two into Givati (Davidi is one); two into the tank unit; one into a support rule (called Jobnik in Israel).

Everyone is acting so normal...another Shabbat is coming - shopping, cooking, cleaning. Elie and Lauren will join us for one meal; another we'll have on our own - David, Aliza, my husband and me. We'll sleep too much, move too little. We'll eat, then go to sleep early, go to the synagogue, each and go to sleep again. Just the same like always. The food is the same - I've got chicken and potatoes cooking in the oven; I've got soup started on the stove. I have challah rising on the table waiting to be shaped and noodles for a sweet casserole and a salt casserole. In short - it's all the same...and nothing is.

He's got all the clothes that I bought him...he opened a bank account into which the army will deposit a meager salary to "compensate" him for the days and nights he will defend this country for the next couple of years.

It's all so...regular, except deep inside of me. There, it takes a single word, a single sentence typed here to fill my eyes with tears. All the fears you cannot express, all the worry.

They must be insane, that stupid world out there, if they think we love violence and aggression. Yesterday, five people were murdered in this country in two separate attacks. Two Arabs stabbed and murdered two Jews in a synagogue in Tel Aviv; another Arab went on a shooting and ramming spree, killing another three people. Two were Jews; ironically, one was a Palestinian. People are trying to separate the intention to kill the Jews, which we all recognize, from the fact that an Arab was killed and so they use terms like "innocent" - as if the Jews weren't innocent also. Or they write that he was killed "accidentally" - because in truth, the others were murdered intentionally. I guess that one Arab is really Obama's "random" victim who was killed because he was in the "wrong" place at the "wrong" time.

The clock of our lives is so fickle. You can sit for hours wishing the time would fly by, that it would hurry up and be time for something...and then you can beg it to stop, to slow down, to leave you alone in this time. This week flew by; these last few weeks went so fast.

We have him tomorrow...then he's going out to visit with the kids for whom he was a youth counselor. He'll watch them get their "name" - it's a name that stays with them for the rest of their lives. Each year, the oldest group is given a name. Davidi's was "Na'aleh"; Aliza's was "Zion." Davidi already knows the name for this year. He thinks it is a silly name; I think it is wonderful.

On Sunday, I'm hoping I can get everyone together in the evening...and then early Monday morning, I'll take him to the "recruitment" center - or whatever it is called. I'll give him a kiss and tell him to call when he can. He's already refused to send me a picture of him in uniform, "you'll see me in four days." That's right - according to army tradition, he should come home on Friday.

Four days...God, next Friday seems like it will take forever to get here.

Please God, on this Friday before...please watch over him...David ben Penina - may he go in peace and return in peace....he...and all our sons and daughters who serve this land.

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

About Paris...

You see, that's the problem right there. It isn't about Paris...or, to be more accurate, it isn't ONLY about Paris. I think what happened in Paris is horrific, tragic, barbaric. But the same can and should be said with equal ferocity about the Russian plane the was blown up over Sinai, those massacred last week in Kenya, those who have died in Israel, and those who are murdered in the name of Allah or for the glory of any religion or belief.

I have heard family members speak of the moment when tragedy hits their family. It is called "sudden bereavement." Unlike families that have to deal with loss resulting for a painful, long-term illness, this bereavement comes with shock, because it was not expected. It comes with anger, because a life was not lost, it was stolen. While you can never prepare for loss, there is an element of expectation when someone is informed of a terminal illness in a loved one. The suddenness of loss resulting from a terror attack, particularly when the victim was young, adds an element that is difficult if not impossible to overcome. It's the split second in time that you wish, for the rest of your life, you could undo, change, go back and live again and somehow make the outcome different.

If only...if you only you had taken a different bus, a different road. If he had driven faster or slower; if she'd chosen a different restaurant, mall, concert, or day to go shopping. Why did you have to go that night to that bus earlier or later and it would all be different today. If only...if will be forever filled with "if only." Perhaps the saddest truth is that we only live life once and will often spend endless hours rethinking that one moment, the one where we can never go back and change. That moment, that single moment when the life you knew was suddenly gone, taken, stolen, destroyed...and the worst of it is that the reason is so wrong, the cause so incomprehensible.

I mourn for the nation of France, the people of Paris - the victims whose lives were lost, the families who must now learn to cope, and those who were injured. But I didn't turn my Facebook profile to the colors of France because...because...that was the question I asked myself as I watched others. No, they never changed their flag for all the other victims...but suddenly the question wasn't why they were changing theirs but why, they silently accused, aren't you changing yours?

It is that question that got me to start writing. To write of terrorism, I have done a thousand times and more. What happened in France was horrible as 9/11, as horrible as every terror attack because it is not about the numbers but the people, the person. Each. And. Every. One.

So why didn't I add the French flag? Because the problem isn't isn't Russia and the plane that was blown out of the skies over isn't Kenya, where 147 people were massacred...and it isn't Israel, where a young bride's world was destroyed when her father and brother were murdered, her siblings wounded and terrorized.

The problem isn't New York and Washington on 9/11, or London, or Madrid, or Bali. The colors of the week are not red, white, and blue, not blue, white and red. Not red. Not blue. Not white.

Terrorism is not about flags of nations but about the pain of the victims, the nations. The profile pictures on Facebook is not a measure of how humane you are. It isn't even a measure of how much you support the French in these difficult times. It doesn't say you hate terrorism; it doesn't mean you are more strongly affiliated with what is right and just. It's just a's a meaningless gesture made between you and your Facebook friends...and honestly, how many Parisians are you friends with? Two? Three? So, good on you that you blurred your pretty picture with the French flag...but what does that mean?

It doesn't save lives; it doesn't offset the horrors of the last few days. And, in all honesty, unless you have a lot of friends in France, it doesn't even really show support for the French people. What it did for me this past week, seeing many turning their profile pictures blue, white, and red, is help me crystallize a simple concept.

Terrorism has become universal. But rather than admit that, too many focus for a moment - ah, it's France, how tragic! No, it isn't is everywhere. What Israelis have suffered for decades has come to the streets of New York, Washington, London, Paris and beyond. It has hit the seas, the skies, the cities and more. That people turned their profile pictures to France in particular, was, for me, an affirmation that people didn't get it. Because it isn't about France. It never was...just as it really wasn't just about Israel.

After days of thinking, I wrote this on Facebook. What amazed me is how many people chose to share it, to thank me for writing it. My thoughts on Paris, summed up, are:

Is the act of being blown out of the sky to either be killed during the explosion, or worse, plunge madly down to earth somehow less tragic than being shot to death in a theater? If no, did you put a Russian flag as your profile when ISIS blew up a Russian plane a little while ago? Ask yourself why not.

Is the horrific carnage in the Kenya attack more horrible than what was done in France...if not, ask yourself why you didn't change your profile to a Kenyan flag.

Is gunning down a father and a son somehow less tragic on the eve of their daughter/sister's wedding and before the eyes of his children, wife (siblings and mother)...and worse, having medical emergency personnel open the door...see you are Jews and tell you to call someone else for help...less barbaric than what was done in France...and if not, ask yourself why the colors of your profile picture are blue, white, and red, but not blue and white.

And if you say it is because the world woke up and was shocked by the French massacres...ask yourself why the world was not shocked by the downing of a plane with over 200 people, the shooting attack that killed 147 people in Kenya, the tears and agony of a young bride who will never have the chance to have her father at her wedding, to hold her first-born child.

Rather than act superior because you changed your profile picture to sympathize with the justifiable horror of the Paris attacks...perhaps you should examine why you ONLY sympathize with those, leaving the rest of us to mourn not ONLY for those in Paris, but those in Israel, those in Kenya, those who died over the skies in the Sinai.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it isn't those who have not turned their profiles red, white and blue (or blue, white, and red) who are the ones lacking in understanding. Perhaps...just perhaps.

Terrorism will stop when the price is too high for the terrorists. In Israel, the Red Crescent approached the victims - a murdered father and brother, in a van filled with innocent children and the wife of the man, the mother of the boy who was just murdered. And then they drove off because they were Jews.

The Red Cross - who has no problems with using the Christian symbol of a cross and no problem using the crescent of the Muslims, refuses to allow Israel the use of the Jewish star, at least, according to the final negotiated solution, in certain areas. The Red Cross backed the Palestinian version - which suggests that the victims were armed. Seriously? The only person who might have had military training (meaning he might have served in the army) and might have been armed (meaning he was licensed to carry a gun but may or may not have had it with him) was dead. The victims were a mother and five children. The Palestinian "caregivers" opened the door, saw Jews, and told them to call Magen David Adom!

Terrorism will thrive until organizations like the Red Cross, the United Nations, the European Union and others refuse to accept excuses and lies. Until then, it will continue - in Israel, in the United States, in France, in England, in Kenya, in Russia.

There aren't enough colors in the world to stop it until we all recognize the disease for what it is. It isn't about France.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Six Days and Counting

I'm back to where I was 8 years ago with a son about to enter the army. I know so much more now than I did then, and still I feel that I know so little. I'm not handling this nearly as well as I should be.

Last night, we did the shopping. Green t-shirts, green thermals. A laundry bag. Socks. It's the third time I've been to the store for this reason and each time, I look at the long list the store has printed - their recommendations for what every soldier needs. And I listen to the store attendants - young men and women who have served, who smile at the list and say, no...he doesn't need that. Or, don't buy that yet. Or, buy this one - it's the best...or it's cheaper and definitely good enough.

With a code word, we tell them what colors Davidi needs to buy. Givati. Yakov was first experience with the least for the ceremonies. We went to Latrun once...or maybe it was twice. It was the first time I met his future bride - who is now the mother of Yakov's beautiful three little girls. I was worried the first time I met her - would she understand and accept Yakov's love of Israel...I had no idea how well she knew him, what an amazing wife she would be. That she would support his need to live here...and so they do.

Yakov smiled when I told him that Davidi was going into Givati. Chaim made a comment and everyone laughed. I'm being so silly about this.

In some ways, the words are easier now because they've already been written. Last time, I felt...this time, I go along knowing that I should be feeling this way. Mostly, though, I feel dread. I just don't want to do this again.

I met a mother in the store watching as her son tried on shirts and got a similar pile of things. I saw her again and told her about a group I'm in for parents of IDF soldiers - this is my 6th she said. Her 6th silly that I feel the need to fall apart with my third.

So since I can't really express what I am feeling...I'll share with you what I it is 6 days before that moment when David walks off and I can't follow; last time, it was 7 days before Elie was going to go.

What I wrote then...where I'm heading now:
I don't believe wisdom necessarily comes with age, but fear certainly does. The older we are, the more we learn to fear. When I was expecting my first child, and my second, and even my third, I was too young to fear, to understand that we aren't always blessed with beautiful, healthy babies. Only as I got older did I realize what an incredible miracle each child was.      --Sunday, March 18, 2007
"Older" means when I was expecting David. I had three beautiful children, I was living in the land I always dreamed would be my home. What right did I have to ask for ask for another child to be born health and whole...and there I was...pregnant and terrified.
Now, with age, comes the reality that just as we are given this incredible gift, we must cherish it and watch over it at all times. This becomes hard to do when the child goes off to a new place, leaving you to wonder and worry.
Elie does not seem to be afraid; this is a stage in his life, an experience. Many boys love the army. It gives them direction, training, companionship and life-long friends. Only we mothers focus on the more serious aspects of where our sons will go and what they will do. We are the ones left crippled behind as they soar in triumph. They are free of their studies, free of daily routine.      --Sunday, March 18, 2007
Davidi too seems calm and aware. He's spoken to his brothers, planned out what to buy, what will happen in those first days.
Life is new and exciting for them. Responsibilities come with trust. The state of Israel puts its faith and its love into its soldiers. They are treated with love as they travel from place to place. People stop to give them rides or hand them candy and food when they are on patrol. It is a love affair that never ages. There are few countries, if any, in the world who can claim the relationship that Israel has with its soldiers. Each is a son of the nation and the whole nation celebrates and mourns together when it comes to our soldiers.      
Perhaps, despite the worries, my son is right. This is an adventure, a new road he will take. I should be excited for him. I should be (and I am) very proud of him. In other countries, 19 year old boys are drinking and driving and focusing on girls. It will be years before they grow up while here in Israel, they are given responsibility, life and death decisions.    
In a matter of a few weeks, my son will come home with a gun and the training to know when to use it and when not to use it. He will be given responsibilities to protect whole communities and our country. All this on the head of a soon-to-be 20 year old. He celebrates this time while I quietly mourn the boy he will leave behind.
                 --Sunday, March 18, 2007
And changing this now for David...As David sees the adventure ahead....
...I take one last look at the boy knowing that all too soon, the army will return him to me as a man, having experienced new and exciting things, having gone where I've never gone, done what I've never done. He'll hold people's lives in his hands and learn things I never dreamed he would need to know.
 They'll teach him the human side of war - our responsibility to avoid civilian casualties when possible and even to endanger his life to protect our citizens (and the citizens of other lands). He will learn how to defend himself, how to recognize the enemy and how to react. All this is new to him and it will change him, as it does each boy because in the end, he will be not just a boy, not just a man, but a soldier too.
I have no right to complain - I like the men that my sons have become and I already love the man inside of Davidi...but here I am, eight years later still dreading that moment when he will go off and I will remain behind...I dread the week until he returns and knowing that in the not too distant future, I will again be wondering where he is, what he is doing and when I will see him again. For now, for the next six nights, he will sleep in my home. I will listen to him settling in his room above mine and smile when he drops something loud enough that I can hear it. These sounds comfort me for now.

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