Sunday, August 29, 2010

What Happens When an Israeli Enters Kalandia or an Arab enters Kfar Sava?

What happens when an Israeli enters Kalandia is this:

Two couples and their five children, the oldest aged six and the youngest 11 months, in two different cars accidentally made a wrong turn this past weekend. They passed a checkpoint, but soldiers were only checking who was trying to enter Israel, not those trying to enter Kalandia, a Palestinian city moments away from Jerusalem. They realized their mistake almost immediately - so apparently, did the Arab residents of the city. As reported by YNET:

Said one Israeli father: "A minute after we passed the checkpoint we saw cars with blue license plates and realized we were at the wrong place. We made a u-turn but then the Palestinians realized we were Israelis. I locked the doors, but my brother-in-law didn’t make it on time. They opened his car doors, threw stones and started climbing on his car. We ran, we couldn’t drive towards the exit, but we realized we had to stay in motion. We drove back and forth at least five times."

His wife continued: "A few moments earlier we dropped the kids onto the car floor. Had the child still been sitting there, you would have been publishing his picture today. We prayed, they knew we were there and they waited for us each time we drove passed. They had giant rocks and murder in their eyes. It's not fear, its crazed horror one cannot imagine. I was afraid they'd yank the kids out of the car."

Two important facts need to be added: the families were in contact with the IDF, which apparently chose not to go in and get them out but rather waited while staying in contact and trying to get them out via other avenues. One must assume they were afraid a full riot would further endanger the families. Second point - one of the men had a gun with him. He chose not to open fire believing that was best for everyone.

And the second question - what would happen if two Arab families entered Kfar Sava, an Israeli town?

The answer is that they would be able to go shopping, have lunch, and return home safely. That, dear friends, is the Middle East in a nutshell.

Obama Coming to Israel?

President Barack Hussein Obama has announced that he is now willing and interested in coming to Jerusalem. My first thought was to beg him not to come. Jerusalem is a very old city and, to be honest, not well planned. Some cities and schools cancel for snow days; we have big-shot days. These are days when foreign visitors come to our capital and in so doing, honor our country while incapacitating the city for hours.

Generally, we don't mind it. We accept it as part of living in this beautiful city, the capital of our country. But now I hear Obama may want to come to Israel. My first thought was to tell him not to bother. I have no faith in his politicking. I have no belief that his grandstanding is good for Israel. I have heard his message and am not interested. He says he wants peace for this land. But only on  his terms, and his terms are dangerous for Israel. So, my first thought was to tell him not to come; my second thought was to tell him what to see.

I have no doubt the government will take him to the Western Wall, there to snap his picture looking serious and devout. They'll take him to Yad VaShem, there to look sad and contemplative. But these are not the places I would have him see, not the people I would have him meet.

If you want to really understand Israel, President Obama, here are the places you must see:
  • Masada at dawn, as the sun rises above our country. Masada is a part of our psyche and it would do you good to understand this. Stand up there and look around at that desolate mountain top and understand our history, our connection, our determination and yes, our desperation. We will not surrender our country to those who would destroy not just the State, but the culture and religion we cherish. We are Jews. We have stood on this land and chosen to die rather than be enslaved by foreign and alien values. 
  • Nitzan. This is where the people from Gush Katif have settled temporarily. Little more than a refugee camp, Nitzan is the single best example of why unilateral moves are meaningless and destructive to Israel. Nitzan is the fulfillment of Ariel Sharon's dream of peace and I have little doubt that another Nitzan will be the result of your peace dream.
  • Golan Heights. Before you pressure Israel to surrender the heights, see the land of Israel laid out before your eyes, there in the valleys below. Understand the strategic significance of the pressure you would place on us and the murder and damage that the Syrians could so easily achieve if this small but important land buffer were ever to be placed in their hands. 
  • Maale Adumim. Come see the wonder we have built from barren desert lands. See the thriving mall, a city of more than 40,000 people, the incredible flower beds and palm trees that blow gently in the wind. Come see the schools that fill this city, for thousands of children of all ages and understand the absurdity of a line drawn in the sand 62 years ago; one that lasted only 19 years and has been meaningless for more than 40.
  • Abu Ghosh and Daliat HaCarmel. Come see these thriving cities: one Arab, one Druze. See that we can live with our neighbors, when our neighbors choose to live with us. See city streets filled with Israelis shopping and visiting and understand that it is not we who are the obstacles to peace here.
  • Hadassah Ein Kerem, Shneider Medical Center, Soroka Hospital - it doesn't matter which one. Go to one of our hospitals and greet the patients there. Try the children's wards and see the love our nurses and doctors give to all our patients - Arab and Jew alike; Palestinian and Israeli. Think, President Obama - think of one hospital in any Arab country where you are likely to find anything that compares to the wondrous generosity of an Israeli hospital. You can't, of course, and you likely never will.
  • Drive along the Security Fence: You will learn something amazing, something you probably don't know. The Security Fence, for most of its distance, is not a wall at all. Much aligned and misinterpreted by many, the Security Fence becomes a wall only in areas where the proximity between Palestinians and Israelis puts Israelis in danger. There, in those areas, you will see how close Arab homes are to the wall and perhaps someone will point to the place where Israelis have been injured by rock-throwing, and perhaps, perhaps, someone will mention little Noam and the exact place where the little 7-year-old girl was when she was murdered as her father drove. Her 3-year-old sister was badly injured in the attack, along with her brother and grandfather. And if you go there, though I doubt your security forces would allow it, maybe you will understand why the wall is sometimes a fence and the fence is sometimes a wall.
  • The Temple Mount: I'm sure they will take you to the Western Wall, clear the place so no one will see you except for that all important photo-op looking up to the heavens beside the wall, or stuffing a piece of paper into the crevices of the ancient retaining wall of our holiest site. But I'd rather they take you up to the Temple Mount itself. From there, see the freedom of religion the Arabs have up there and more, notice that it is one of the few places in our land that have been declared Judenrein - Jews can only go up there at certain times of the day, their every move limited. Not a single prayer can be said up there on our holiest of holy sites lest we inflame the anger of the Arabs. This is the people you would have us make peace with, President Obama - a culture that cannot even tolerate the whispered prayers of another's religion.
  • Kayaking: By now, after these many heavy sites, you must think we are a most serious nation, President Obama and maybe you too need a break. So go kayaking on the Jordan River - we all do it in the summer and early fall. It is our relaxation, our fun. But even here, there are things for you to see. Look at the people and how they love this land, how they marvel at it beauty and take whatever time they can to hike, swim, walk, climb here. Watch how the people call to each other - though most have never met. They will help you if you need it, steer your boat in the right direction, fish out an oar or fallen hat. If you forgot plates for a meal, ask someone and if they have extra, they will give you. Matches, even food. If you see a group of soldiers, watch how people come up to them and offer them cold water, snacks, smiles. Watch Obama, watch a people who have a connection beyond any you could ever imagine.
  • Eilat's shoreline: I doubt they'll let you go snorkeling, though we have some amazing underwater sites, but just stand on the shore and gaze towards Jordan. Look at the crystal clear waters. This is another of our greatest treasures and another place we flock to for vacation and relaxation. Across the water, you'll see a huge Jordanian flag flying over the Jordanian city of Aqaba. It was a gift from the people of Israel. Notice how close the Jordanian city is, close enough to get hit by rockets aimed at us. Close enough to see Egypt, from where the rockets were fired. Look there in the distance - not so far, but a world away. That's Saudi Arabia over there. This is such a small geographical area and yet it is so packed with history and reality. When you want to start drawing lines on a map, maybe seeing how close we are to our neighbors might have some impact.
  • Mt. Herzl Cemetery: This is one of our military cemeteries here. For you, ask them to close a section and go by yourself. Look at the names, look at the years they died and calculate their ages. This is what this never-ending war has cost us. We do not need you to preach to us the importance of peace. We live it, we face it. It haunts us and devastates us. We want no more of our sons to die. We want peace more than you. Your telling us that this is the time is an abomination because we know you are wrong. You are wrong because you are too stubborn or blind to accept that one nation cannot make peace alone. And we are alone, Mr. Obama, more alone now that you are president.
  • Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron: No, I know that your security forces would never let you go there and yet, I wish you could. For one simple reason. Stand there before the graves of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rifka, and Leah. Stand there and understand. This is our land. We were given it by God and even you can't take it from us. Abraham bought the land where he is buried - it is probably the oldest documented real estate deal in history. He bought that land to bury his wife and his children, in the land that God gave to us. You don't have to agree. You are a dot in the history of man; long after you are gone, we will be here in this land - as we always have been, as we always will be. Go to the grave on Abraham and maybe there, finally, you will understand. Yes, they built a mosque on Abraham's grave, as you would likely have them do near the grounds of the World Trade Center, but we as a people have outlived the ancient ones and the modern ones. You can come as a friend or you can come as an enemy. You can come as a Christian; you can come as a Muslim. It makes no difference why you come or when. It matters only that we will be here - always.
There are so many places to see in this amazing land but if you are going to come, President Obama - see the real Israel and meet the real Israelis. If you are coming for the oh-so-pure and political, please don't come. I hate to have to cancel class and I can't stand the traffic and you won't learn anything anyway. So really, please don't bother us or yourself. Stay in Washington and keep telling us how to make peace here. It will be as meaningless as your coming here, but at least you'll save the gas and our inconvenience.

A Letter to Gilad

Dear Gilad,

Today was your 24th birthday. A day you should have spent with your family. Today was also my husband's birthday. Yesterday, my youngest two children wrote their father letters and when he left for the synagogue, we slipped the letters under the plastic lining of the table so that as he ate his dinner with his family, letters of love and good wishes surrounded him.

This afternoon, we gave him presents and birthday cake and best wishes for a happy and wonderful birthday. He starts this new year as he spent his last one - together with his family, surrounded by his sons and daughters, having built a life, a home, here in his land.

Today, Gilad,  you weren't home. Your friends, those who served with you, have mostly left the army, as you probably would have if you had not been taken that fateful day in 2006. It has been more than 1,525 days since you have been taken. Your family waits for you, living in some strange limbo that is almost as bad as death, and so much worse than any other nightmare one could imagine.

I feel guilty when I think of you, Gilad. My son went to the army a year later than you, and already he has finished and a second has begun. I watched my son serve for three  years - all while you were in Gaza, held there in silence and pain. I went to each ceremony and thought how blessed I was, how lucky, and each time, as I stood there watching so many soldiers, I thought of you, of where you are. I watched as my son went to war and prayed that each artillery shell they fired at Gaza would not hurt you. I prayed you would be safe...even more, I prayed and prayed and prayed that a soldier would turn some corner in Gaza, enter some building, and find you and bring you home.

I have no words I could offer your mother and father, your brother and sister, your grandparents, a nation that wants you home desperately. Sometimes, I am a child and I want to stomp my foot and demand that Israel send in troops and bring you home. But the adult in me knows that if this were possible, you would already be home.

Sometimes, I am a mother, and I want to demand my country, our country, do all it can, release all it can, to bring you home. But the adult in me, the Israeli in me, knows that this is not possible. Even if it were to actually bring you home, and there is no guarantee that it would, it means many others will die. Those who are released will see it as a victory, and plan more attacks. This has happened so many times in the past - released terrorists are caught again after they have killed again. It is a surrender to terrorism and so many others, soldiers like you, tell me that it isn't the way.

Sometimes, I wonder if you know how many people are praying for you, if you have given up hope. In my weakest, most frightening of moments, I wonder if you were one of my sons, would you know that I would walk to the ends of the earth to try to save you - as your mother and father are doing. And if you were mine, would I have the courage, as your parents have had, to rise each morning and keep fighting for you, even against people like me, who believe we must find a way to bring you home without surrendering 1,000.

Gilad, I don't even know if you know that today is your birthday, that you are 24-years-old. This is your fifth birthday in captivity. Each year we pray it will be the last, and yet this is the fifth. So much has happened to me in these past years - my daughter's marriage, two children finishing high school and going into the army, we moved houses, bought cars and sold others. So much and still you remain where you are.

Others who went into the army with you, boys your age are getting married and starting their studies or traveling the world while you remain in limbo, a day older, but not a day happier. I don't know if you are a day closer to coming home and perhaps that is the worst of all tortures.

Gilad, dear Gilad. You are an innocent in all of this. You chose to serve your country, demanded that they put you in a combat unit when you could have been assigned to something easier. You were on our side of the border when they crossed into Israel and grabbed you. You'd fired no weapons, done nothing wrong. I hope the strength that drove you to want to serve as a combat soldier is still with you, that you know that your parents, all Israelis, pray for you every day and long for you to come home.

And Gilad, I have to confess, too, that I don't have a yellow ribbon on my car as many Israelis do. You probably don't know about the yellow ribbons - they are a sign of missing you, a sign that so many think of you and have not forgotten you. I wanted to put one on my car, but it didn't make sense to me because those that hold you will not care about my car.

I've put ribbons on my car in the past - but it was because I wanted to send a message to my government, our people and I knew that as the government and others saw the ribbons on my car and on other cars, we could bring about a change. If not a change, at least we were making a statement. An orange ribbon because I believed the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza would lead to more suffering and I believe it led to where you are now, the Lebanon War, and even the Gaza War.

The orange ribbon on my car was put there to beg the government not to take unilateral actions, not to surrender to world pressure. Destroying those communities in Gaza would not bring peace - and it didn't; it would bring rockets onAshkelon and Ashdod and Beersheva - and it did. It gave them the courage to try to kidnap an Israeli soldier - and they did.

I put a gold ribbon on my car to remind my government thatJerusalem is holy and that it is ours. I don't know if the government will listen or surrender to international pressure. But at least the ribbon is there to remind people as they go about their lives.

And then your parents asked us to put a yellow ribbon on our car - so many did. But then I listened to what they were saying, where they were protesting. Your amazing parents walked, Gilad - for days and days - to remind the world where you are and where you belong. My heart broke for them, as it does so often and I thought of the yellow ribbon. Thousands joined them - each was a message to you, Gilad and it was a message that I agreed with. It was a message to our government too - and that was my problem.

I listened and knew that I could not put that ribbon on my car because it was tied to the message of bringing you home at all cost, releasing all the prisoners being demanded. If it were to tell Hamas enough already - release Gilad or they would suffer as they have never suffered before, I'd have put that ribbon on - and most of Israel would have as well.

But Hamas has demanded 1,000 prisoners for you, Gilad, terrorists and murderers who will kill again. They want us to release them to just beyond our borders, not to some foreign and distant shores, but to porous borders that can easily be crossed and violated. We can't Gilad. As much as we want you home - the key to bringing you home does not rest inJerusalem. The answer is not here. The question your parents pose to our government is wrong, the address is wrong. You aren't in Jerusalem; you aren't held by our government and the key to your release is in Gaza with you.

I'm sorry that my government continues to supply Gaza with electricity and water and fuel, while you remain a captive there. Most of all, I'm sorry that you aren't home, contemplating marriage to some wonderful girl, planning out the greatest of all trips, or figuring out what you want to major in.

So Gilad, today you turned 24. There was no cake for you, no presents you could unwrap and marvel over and today again, I didn't put the yellow ribbon on my car. I'm sorry, Gilad. Sorry that you aren't home; sorry that the world doesn't do enough to demand it. I'm sorry, Gilad - for the hypocrisy of the nations of the world, who are cowards enough to abandon a 19-year-old boy and sit in silence as the years pass.

The only birthday wish I can give you is that this be your last birthday in Gaza and that soon, very soon, you will be free to dream and fulfill all life should be offering you.

With love and prayers that you come home soon,
A Soldier's Mother

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

well - this is cool - Jerusalem ferris wheel...

I've always loved Ferris Wheels...have you? If you do - come to Jerusalem to go on what might well be the world's largest!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

This is How We Were Raised

India is, for many young Israelis, the dream vacation that awaits them after the army. They finish three years of national service, perhaps work for a few months and then travel. India is about the most opposite you can get from the army. Where the army is all about routing and discipline, India is about freedom. Sleep when you want, go where you want, eat what you want. Freedom.

What that means, sometimes, is Israelis getting into trouble...and sometimes, being involved in national or natural disasters beyond their planning and imagination. Thus it was with the tsunami years ago; thus it is with the massive flooding now taking place in India and its neighboring countries. The Foreign Ministry of Israel is among the most dedicated in the world to following after our citizens. Special units are ready for anything, anywhere.

When the flooding became apparent, the Foreign Ministry began plans to evacuate some 600 trapped Israelis. When the planes arrived, an amazing thing happened. Not all Israelis agreed to come home. In fact, 30% decided to stay and help. "Some helped lift boulders and evacuate the rubble from the streets. Israelis make up half of all the foreign volunteers, which is truly impressive," says Irit Shneor.

But the true message that came from the Israelis who chose to stay was an even more basic one, "This is how we were raised," says Matan Golan. Yes, this is how they were raised and this is how, yet again, they make us proud.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I am Israel

It doesn't get better than this. History explained...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Would There Be Peace If...

I have listened to so many suggest that if only Israel would compromise, if only Israel would talk, if only Israel...if only Israel...

...then there would be peace.

Do you really believe that?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Doesn't Get More Truer than This?

Sometimes pictures do say so much: