Monday, February 25, 2008

The Amazing Bus Drivers

Reprinted from A Soldier's Mother

Yesterday, while driving to a special course in the north, my son received a phone call from one of the other participants in the Commanders Course telling him (as the soldier responsible for knowing where everyone is) that the soldier had forgotten his backpack on a bus. He was calling to tell Elie that he was going to try to catch another bus to catch up with his backpack.

Elie gave him permission simply by telling him to update him to let him know what was happening. In yet another very Israeli story -after the phone call, the soldier jumped on the next bus and explained to the driver what had happened. Soldiers get free buses and trains to almost anywhere in Israel and so they don't hesitate or worry about the number of rides they take.

When the driver heard the story, he quickly radioed ahead to the bus in front, telling him about the soldier's backpack. The bus promptly pulled to the side of the road and waited for the second bus to catch up so that the soldier's backpack could be returned safely. There are so many stories like this in Israel.

Recently, a young child fell asleep on the bus ride home from school. He woke up, looked around, and realized he had missed his stop. Suddenly frightened, the young child started to cry, at which point other passengers asked what happened and alerted the bus driver. Without hesitation, the bus driver turned the bus around and took the boy to his stop. He then turned the bus around again, and continued along his route.

Another "famous" bus story had to do with one of Israel's leaders. When the bus driver realized that a former prime minister had boarded his bus, he insisted on driving the astonished leader to his doorstep, even though it was off the usual bus route. Embarrassed at the attention, the leader tried to argue with the bus driver, but the applause of the people on the bus made it clear that they agreed with the driver.

The drivers yesterday, the one who called and the one who stopped, might not have had to turn a bus around for this soldier, but certainly they warmed his heart by making sure he and his backpack were reunited. With their help, the soldier quickly retrieved his property, jumped on another bus in the opposite direction, and was barely late for the start of the day's activities.

Elie told me this story as if it was something natural and logical but I found it enchanting and just one of the many reasons why I'm so happy to live in this country. This is truly Israel.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Helping the Right Way

There are many forms of charity defined in Judaism and many performed in Israel on a daily basis. There are people collecting in the streets, even in the restaurants and malls. I've been in businesses in Jerusalem when a young high school student walks in and the store owner takes a piece of merchandise and hands it over to be sold for charity and my children have been drafted to go house-to-house to collect.

But what happens when the people who need your charity don't live in your city or have access to you directly. The answer for 10,000 people recently was to pick themselves up and go to Sderot, a city under constant and daily bombardment by rockets and mortars shot at them from Gaza. The government has done virtually nothing to alleviate this daily occurance. Short of a large and perhaps prolonged ground operation, the army can do little more than pick off rocket launchers as they are found.

The highest form of charity, we are told, is to not just give someone something...but to help them give something to themselves, to help support them in such a way that they can make their own livelihoods with pride. Better than giving someone a fish to eat, for example, it to teach them to fish.

So - this past weekend, 10,000 Israelis made their way to Sderot and made their purchases there, enabling the beseiged people of Sderot to know that they have earned not just their daily bread, but a place in our hearts. There isn't much we can do to help them - we ordinary Israelis. We can't stop the rockets (only our government can do that...if they ever get around to doing it), but we can show the people of Sderot that they are not forgotten, that what they experience is very much a part of our lives too. We know when they hear the Code Red and though we don't run to shelter with them, our hearts go out to them and we too breathe easier only after we hear that the rocket has landed and no one is hurt.

Sometimes, in Israel, the real Israel is one that reaches out in the best possible way - and that was surely the case this past week when 10,000 shoppers took the time to go to Sderot and shop!

From Israel National News:

10,000 Shoppers Flood Sderot in Solidarity Shopping Spree
by Hana Levi Julian and Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

( At least 10,000 shoppers flooded into the rocket-battered city of Sderot on Friday in a pre-Sabbath shopping spree to show solidarity with the residents and inject some much-needed cash into the local economy.

The organizers, a volunteer group from Modi'in, provided the visiting shoppers with a map of Sderot marked with the locations of shopping centers. Shoppers were asked to divide their expenditures among several businesses and to specifically strengthen the smaller shop owners. "Just travel in the city," organizers said, "get to know it and its residents, and in that way you'll find more places of business [to patronize]."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Our Doctors...Doing What is Right...turns Wrong

You have to understand Dimona. It's a small city, only about 40,000 residents. It's located very far from Israel's main cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Things are slower there, more relaxed. There's never been a terrorist attack in the city; most people wonder if people even know where Dimona is...and the residents like it that way.

On Monday, February 4th, that changed. Two suicide bombers attacked our southern city of Dimona. The first was dastardly enough as to plant himself in a populated area and set himself off. He was killed, though in Israel we don't count him among the dead. His choice to die, to glorify death. His choice to love death, as Nasrallah says his people do. This bomber also killed an elderly woman who was doing nothing wrong; just using the bright and sunny morning after a week of rain and wintery weather, to do some shopping. Many others were wounded. People rushed to help them, as always happens here in Israel. Even a doctor who was there ran to help.

One of those on the ground, wounded from the initial bomb blast, it seemed, was a young Arab man. The doctor didn't hesitate - that's Israel. He quickly opened the young man's jacket to see the nature of the wounds, and found a nasty surprise. The young man was not an innocent victim as the others laying on the ground were. He was a second terrorist bomber, hoping to wait a few minutes until another crowd gathered itself to help the wounded from the first attack. Then he, like his fellow murderer, would die - and kill as many Israelis, as many Jews as possible.

People screamed, people ran in all directions. "Run away," people screamed. "There's another bomb." Into the mass hysteria, Police Chief Inpector Kobi Mor stepped forward and quickly eliminated the second terrorist. Initial reports spoke of three dead in this attack, but we don't count the terrorists as human casualties.

May their names be forgotten, their memories be cursed. May God comfort the family of 73 year old Lyubov Razdolskaya, who was murdered and send a speedy recovery to the many injured, including Lyubov's husband, who lies in critical condition in the hospital.

In the worst of our days, this is Israel.