Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's just an eye

We just got back from visiting injured soldiers at Bellinson Hospital in Petach Tikva. As usual, when my husband suggested it, I was nervous to go. I am not good with the unknown. What would I say to them? Did they want to talk to a total stranger -- particularly one who's Hebrew leaves more than a little to be desired.

Now that I am back, I can honestly say that I have never been so moved in years -- maybe not in my whole life. Nothing sticks out in my mind as being as important and memorable as the last two hours.

There were parents and friends everywhere, with the patients and milling around in small groups outside the soldiers rooms. At first glimpse it was more like the Food Court in the mall on Friday afternoon than a hospital. There were wall-to-wall people all holding food. There were friends bringing in pizzas and burgers. There were mothers with home-baked goodies. There were abandoned salads sitting on ledges.

It struck me, not for the first time, that Jews really do not know how to cope -- good or bad -- without food.

The first patient we visited happened to be our neighbour. We didn't know he was injured but I must say it made for a softer landing  into the labyrinth they call a hospital. Not to digress but Voldemort would never have found Harry Potter in the maze that is Bellinson. Okay, back on point, our neighbour is going to be fine.

Next we ventured out into the hallways, popping by rooms to visit other soldiers -- the non-English speakers. Every one of them greeted us with a smile and happily engaged, to the best of his ability, in conversation. Their parents and friends couldn't thank us enough for coming, but in truth, it is us who were (and should be) thanking them. When you say that -- particularly to their parents -- they hug you. It means so much to them that you truly understand what their child has given to keep you safe.

And then there was the guy who lost his left eye. He was surrounded by friends while his parents and sister were outside the room. His head is shaved on one side and you could see a very long scar that now traverses a significant section of his skull. The doctor who saved his life is a friend of mine. He told us that the difference between life and death in many of these cases is less than a half a centimeter. I almost fainted right then and there, but all I could think was "who am I to be falling apart on you?"

"It's just an eye," I said to my doctor friend, after we left the room. No, I would never say that to the kid who lost his eye -- he didn't look like he was feeling that way at all. His parents did. His sister did. His girlfriend did. But that observation really summed up our visit.

I wasn't being flippant. I was being a parent. A pragmatic parent.

It isn't that his eye doesn't matter -- it does. But, as any adult can tell you, life can go on pretty fully without an eye. You can still read the words on your ketuba. You can still have children and watch them grow up. You can still read to your children and to yourself. You can still admire your partner.

As my own son gets closer and closer to his induction date in March, I find myself having these crazy thoughts. "Well, you don't really need two (fill in any body part that comes in a pair)," I rationalize this sort of logic in the middle of the night. What the hell has happened to me? When did I start thinking like this?

I brought my children into the world with all their parts -- all working. I ran to the doctor countless times when they were small just to make sure that all their parts continued to work. And here I am looking at other mothers' sons so relieved that they have some working parts. "At least they are alive," I hear my subconscious whisper and I really mean it.

So there's the truth: I am just thankful that these boys are still alive. In Israel people understand these things. Girlfriends don't leave you because a little physical piece is now missing. Yes, it is just an eye, or just a leg, and just an arm. They are not the most important things that comprise a person.

These regular, yet remarkable boys, have served their country with great bravery. May they all go on to live very full lives knowing that their countrymen are safer because of what they sacrificed. I am honoured to have met them.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Moment of reckoning

So here we are. Exactly where we knew we would end up even though many of us had convinced ourselves otherwise. We knew the ceasefire wasn't a real ceasefire -- even before Hamas sent its first round of Enjoy-the-Ceasefire rockets within an hour of its commencement. They weren't consulted (yeah right) so they weren't playing.

We citizens of central Israel, meanwhile, have become very adept at integrating warning sirens into our day:

  • We pick our grocery stores according to the best shelter arrangements by location (it's all word-of-mouth and is based on size, friendliness of store staff, toilet arrangements); 
  • We decide when the best time of day to shower is so that we don't end up wet and running to the shelter in a towel; I know some teenagers who have this all figured out. I'm too old to care about getting caught in public in my towel.
  • We get really peeved when the sirens go off when we are watching a good movie while riding the stationary bike at the gym; Ten minutes to get to the shelter, wait out the boom, and get back to the gym really disrupts the story line of a TV movie.
  • We try to figure out if it is worth the drive to Tel Aviv to see a dance performance at 7:00 pm because that is another popular bombing time; I mean who wants to get dressed up just so you can pull over on the side of the highway, jump out of the car and lie on the pavement in your good clothes?
  • We wonder if we need to wear pajamas in case we have to jump out of bed in the middle of the night for another shelter rendezvous. Okay, towels are one thing but nudity is a totally different story.
  • And when the guy painting your house mentions that his son is one of the Iron Dome soldiers you want to kiss him and thank him for contributing his sperm to such a worthwhile project.

The problem is that very few of us olim really considered the implications of Hamas being so irrationally suicidal that the Israeli government might actually have no choice but to introduce a ground war. Don't bother saying you knew it was coming -- I am out there everyday with the rest of you and I can tell you that there was a lot of sidewalk discussion about soldiers sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Truth be told, we didn't mind.

And then it happened. 

I know I wasn't the only one refreshing Google News for the millionth time yesterday when the news bulletin popped up. I felt like I had just hit a brick wall going 90 miles an hour. Somehow you can feel total panic and numbness at the same time. And then as the numbness starts to subside, fear begins to fill the void almost instantly. Nature really does abhor a vacuum.

Then as you try to regain any inkling of clear, rational thought, you start to remember everyone you spoke to the previous week who mentioned that their son was sitting near the border with Gaza awaiting instructions. 

All of a sudden the war is real. All of a sudden you are scared -- not for yourself, but for the implications for all of us. All of a sudden your clever mental adjustments for sirens fall away and if you are me, you start to cry. I am not a big crier, but it just overcame me. I couldn't help it and I couldn't stop it.

So as we go into Shabbat -- July 18, 2014 -- I wish all of Israel quiet. I wish all the members of Hamas to be swooped up in the Islamic version of The Rapture so they can all go straight to their 72 virgins and I can go back to my otherwise wonderful life here. I really do not want to lie on the ground in my good clothes.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I am past my super-saturation point

I am just not built to keep my thoughts to myself. I can't help it. When people say things that really upset me, I try as hard as I can to stay quiet. I really do. Generally, I am successful but once in a while, when emotions are running high due to circumstances beyond my control, I just bubble over and explode. I am at that super-saturation point now.

First, before I get to what is bothering me, I would like to thank all my friends and family who have written to inquire about our well-being over this past week. That was very nice of you and I appreciate it. I would also like to thank my mother who has called me more in the past week than she has the past year.

Now for the people that I would like to disappear off the face of the Earth. In no particular order because I think you are all ignorant, misinformed and deluded individuals.

1. Those armchair Israel supporters outside of Israel who say the most ridiculous things -- all the while trying to sound like they either know what they are talking about or act like they are really concerned about what is happening here. Stop giving me and everyone I know "likes" on Facebook when we post about the war. And for heaven's sake, stop posting your own crap concerning a ground invasion into Gaza. Did the IDF ask for your input? I didn't think so. So stop giving it.

I can't say too much because I don't want to start my own personal Holy War, but I will say this. If one more person who supports Israel, from outside the borders of the State, insists on posting their opinion on a social media site that I follow concerning what the IDF should do, I am going to get on a plane and come throttle you.  I ran an ad hoc survey in synagogue last night and everyone agrees with me (lefties and righties) that if you continue to do so, they would be happy to join me. Trust me, it will go a lot faster if I have help.

If you do not have a horse in the race, then just shut up and be supportive. We are not interested in your opinions or your "likes". Your input is cavalier and you pride yourselves without cause. It's not your sons, sons' friends, friends' sons, etc... whose lives are at risk. You have no right to say anything. If you actually want to do something useful, write a letter to your government officials telling them how they can influence the situation (they won't, but you will feel better and I won't be so upset with you). Better still, go collect money and toys for people in the southern communities of Israel who are too busy running to their bomb shelters to write any letters. There are definitely ways you can be helpful; lots of them. Giving your thoughts on military strategy is not one of them.

Now in the name of balanced commenting, one of my friends suggested that when Jews outside of Israel give money to Israeli causes they fully expect to be able to give their accompanying opinions.  Let me just nip that whole idea in the bud; stop expecting something in return for your money – it compromises the quality your generosity. And if you can't give money without giving opinions, then keep your money. We don't need it. There is no comparison between the importance of your donation and the value of our children.

2. The western media – take a look at a few of the most recent doozers. and BusinessWeek. Essentially what both articles say is that Israel has an unfair advantage over the so-called Palestinians (SCP) because we have the Iron Dome. And we are losing the battle for international support because of it. First of all, FYI, we don't care. We aren't in the battle to begin with. And second, what would you expect your government to do if you were being attacked constantly by a bunch of madmen? If the government has to call everyone it knows in far flung locations before it makes a move, we will be suitably dead and then we will surely gain heaps of international praise.

I really could say more but if that doesn't say it all, I don't know what will. If being the only democracy within at least a thousand mile radius doesn't give Israel credibility, nothing will. The only kind of Jews the world likes are dead Jews. I have said that before and if necessary I will say it again. If you don't believe me just check The New York Times, the Grand Pooba of anti-Israel bias in the guise of a respectable newspaper  with fair reporting. I just can't wait until all the radical Muslims move into your neighbourhoods and want to impose Sharia Law on you or want to wipe you off the face of the Earth. I'm not joking. I can't wait.

3. The rude woman in Sobeys grocery store in Thornhill, Ontario, who, six years ago, interrupted my conversation to say: "I overheard you say you live in Ra'anana. chatter.... chatter.... chattter....Well, Ra'anana isn't really Israel." Rude lady, whoever the hell you were, I am sitting here now while my totally Israeli son is on his way back to his totally Israeli yeshiva in the West Bank (at 11:00 pm Saturday night) and I am stress eating my totally Israeli popcorn that I bought in my totally Israeli grocery store, so you can bite me.

Now I feel much better.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What next? Strangling newborns?

Never, in a million years, did I think I would be writing this post.

In my wildest nightmares, I have never -- not for even a split second -- imagined that there were Jews who could murder innocent children in cold blood. My first reaction when I heard that 16-year-old Abu Khdeir had been murdered by Jews was that it must have been a mistake that would soon be uncovered; that in fact, it was some Arabs who wanted to make it look like Jews had done it. But frankly, I was sure that within a few days the Israel Police would expose the TRUTH. I really believed that. I even voiced that sentiment out loud in the past few days, since this second, horrific crime took place. My personal conviction was that Jews simply don't behave that way; they aren't wired that way!

Apparently I am as misguided as my long-dead paternal grandmother who believed that there was no need for jails in Israel (this was in the 1970s) because Jews didn't commit crimes. When she said that, 30 odd years ago, I thought it sounded suspicious and I chalked it up to her inflated, idealistic Russian-Polish-Jewish view of The Land of Milk and Honey.

Now I am forced to admit that I am as dupe-able as she was.

The problem is that I don't think I am alone. I have spoken to several people who are just walking around gobsmacked. They were barely coming to terms with the deaths of the three kidnapped boys when they were suddenly faced with reconciling themselves with the news that six Jewish young men (I use the term "men" loosely) decided they would take a national crisis in hand and personally mete out justice to the Arab population. They believed themselves to be sufficiently qualified to make decisions on who deserves to live and who deserves to die. Of course, they didn't have the guts to go after the real Hamas culprits; no, they went and picked on two innocent children who were younger and weaker than they were -- one was luckier than the other. Very impressive.

And in doing so, they have managed to kick an already precarious tinderbox off its shaky legs. Wow, I can't imagine what kind of egos were at work whereby they decided they were suitably qualified to guide Middle East detente. The truth, as well know now, is that they didn't decide anything -- they weren't smart enough. They behaved with animal instincts, which is exactly what animals do. Just a bunch of pathetic yahoos out to appease their basest instincts.

The most recent news report I read, I think in the London Telegraph, says that Israeli authorities have stated that they are going to send the whole evil crew off for psychological testing.

What for? They are seriously disturbed human beings with limitless delusions of grandeur (sheesh, I can diagnose them from here and I only took Intro to Psych). The only way to communicate with the likes of them -- and any other total idiots considering a repeat performance -- is to treat them exactly as Israelis expect the police to treat the Hamas scum who killed the teenage Israeli hitch-hikers the week before.

They are all rabid animals. And they all deserve to be put down like rabid animals.

I am ashamed to be a member of the same tribe.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The mourning after

Judaism, for those who observe it, comes with a very clear set of rules of how to mourn the loss of a family member. Seven days of shiva, 30 days of the shlosim and a year of avelut. Each has its own set of restrictions and behaviours that, in their own way, bring great comfort to the mourners.

But what does one do when the mourning is not for a family member, yet not a stranger either? This is the situation in which many Israelis find themselves right now.

We are not the immediate families of the three kidnapped boys who were discovered dead outside Hevron last week. But we are also far, far, far from being complete strangers. Many of us feel like they were the next best thing to our own sons and the situation in which they found themselves could have been the horrifying situation in which any one of us might have found ourselves. Emotionally, it hit waaaaaayyyyyyyy to close to home even though we never met them. We all have children, friends, or friends of friends, who did.

We can't help ourselves when we read every last morsel of news that might shed some clarifying light on the situation. It's not because we are voyeurs but rather because we are trying to understand how something like this could happen. Many of us have cried ourselves dry of tears with each new piece of information.

Even the Jews outside of Israel, who were originally saddened by the turn of  events, have gone back to their routines. You can't blame them. It wasn't their loss. But it was ours.

Personally, I feel uncomfortable about getting back to my blog routine. Normally -- when innocent Israeli blood isn't being shed -- I have more than enough happy and funny content to fill these pages at least once a week. Life here never ceases to amaze me.

This past week, as we all continued to do our best to be happy at the simchas we attended and with the guests around our Shabbat tables, the conversation was never more than 30 seconds away from the boys and the predicament in which we, Israeli Jews, find ourselves right now.

It's not like we can discuss it with others outside our little world. As I said last week, no one really cares or cares to understand.

This past Shabbat I bumped into the daughter-in-law of my neighbours. She, her husband and their very cute little baby live in the Arab quarter of the Old City -- a risky and idealistic venture at the best of times. The riots of the past week have left them homeless. They went out for a quick dinner with the baby (thank heavens) and literally could not get back to their home -- at least not alive. So here they are, stuck in Middle Israel, with the clothes on their backs, a roof over their heads, and not much else.

It's really not time to stop mourning yet.