Wednesday, December 31, 2008


There's something surreal about being a Jew in Israel on a bus driven by an Arab with both of us listening to the same radio announcer discussing the war on Hamas.

I wonder if each us was wondering what the other was thinking?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Contrary to the song of the same name, sometimes war is good for something. In this case, letting Hamas know they can no longer rain down rockets on Israeli cities unchecked, risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Firing back is never a good thing, but sometimes it is necessary. I'll let David Bogner's comment on his blog speak for my feeling on this:
"are you serious? ... I have a deal for you. What if I decided to sit in my car across the street from your house and get good and drunk every day. When your kids get off the school bus I get to shoot in their general direction. My state of inebriation and lack of aiming will almost guarantee that I'll miss your kids every time. I may mess up the paint job on your house, but who cares... you have to repaint at some point anyway, right. What's that? You don't want to take that chance with your kids? So why is it you are OK with Israeli kids living under fire every day? What you REALLY need is to be dragged from your comfortable Brooklyn apartment and flown to Sderot where you will be chained to a sign post in the center of town for just one day. When the sirens start going off (as they do every 20 - 30 minutes) you can take comfort in the fact that "there had not been a single Israeli death from rocket fire since June". The odds are with you, right? RIGHT?! Idiot."
Anyway, this is mainly to let you all know that we are safe and, at the moment, far enough away from where the action is. And if anyone has read about the Palestinian Arab who stabbed 4 people in Modi'in Illit, that is a town called Kiryat Sefer (it's also known as Modi'in Illit), across the highway from us. It is not Modi'in. We are, thank G-d, out of rocket range, although we have been hearing all the jets taking off from nearby. We knew the Operation had started on Shabbat when we heard all the jets, although we couldn't confirm until Shabbat was over. It's a little strange actually being here while an action is going on, but to be honest, it almost feels less real here, because life for the rest of us is going on as "normal."

Except we're all praying a little more and listening a little harder.

Prayer for Soldiers
May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sderot in peacetime

1-tzeva adom, 2-tzeva adom, 3-tzeva adom, 4-tzeva adom, 5-tzeva adom, 6-tzeva adom, 7-tzeva adom, 8-tzeva adom, 9-tzeva adom, 10-tzeva adom, 11-tzeva adom, 12-tzeva adom, 13-tzeva adom, 14-tzeva adom, 15-


That is the amount of time you would have to get to a shelter to protect yourself from an incoming rocket if you lived in Sderot. Or last Wednesday, Ashkelon. Or Netivot.

I have wanted to visit Sderot for a while, and when I heard that Connections Israel, an organization that arranges for Chanukah and Purim gift baskets for residents in Sderot, and for IDF soldiers, had arranged for a trip to Sderot last Wednesday, I signed up and dragged our friend David along for the ride (I didn't really have to drag him; he was just as interested as I was).

Why did I want to visit Sderot, which has rockets falling on it on a daily basis? I'm not entirely sure. I'm angry that our government has done nothing serious to stop these attacks.* I'm angry that the world isn't unified in its outrage over indescriminate bombing of a sovereign nation. That the masked men who are firing these bombs are referred to delicately as "militants" rather than the terrorists they are. I'm angry that an entire generation of children are growing up with PTSD, where wetting the bed at age 11 is a common occurrence. A generation of children who don't know what it's like to freely play outside in the open in a playground. I've seen videos of residents of Sderot who state that they the rest of Israel doesn't know they exist, and even if they do know, they don't care. I wanted to tell them that we do know they exist, and we do care.

The media distorts everything, so I wanted to see for myself how the people of Sderot live, what Sderot is like. I'm an Army brat; growing up on Army bases you get used to hearing cannons and various weaponry, so I know what a rocket can do. But to read articles about Sderot and the Kassam rockets, one could easily get the impressions that a Kassam rocket is no more dangerous than a mis-aimed bottle rocket. "Homemade." "Inaccurate." "Short range." These are just some of the terms used to describe Kassams.

Let me tell you, "Homemade" "Inaccurate" and "Short range" missiles can kill and maim just as easily as factory-made, computer-guided, long range missiles can. It's not just the physical damage, either. Spending every day with half an ear tuned to listening for the Tzeva Adom alert, half an eye scouting out for the nearest shelter, and having to interrupt what you're doing to run to a shelter every time you hear the alert will make a mess of your nerves. Stress levels are through the roof, and that damages your body from the inside.

We had just a very very small taste of what people here go through. We walked past the firehouse and had to turn around and go back when we heard the first alarm. We continued on our journey, and had to turn around and go back when we heard the second alarm. You don't get very far when you have to keep stopping and going back to where you started. We experienced these life-threatening interruptions just twice in about 4 hours. I jumped out of my skin at the second Kassam that fell close enough to shake the walls of my protective shelter. I can't even begin to imagine what it would do to someone day in and day out.

Yet, when we stopped for lunch in the centre of town, where evidence of fallen Kassams is everywhere, people were out, waiting for buses, ordering food, buying goods at the bakery, standing around chatting with each other. They make sure life goes on. Some people are there because they have nowhere else to go. How do you sell your home to make a new life elsewhere, when bombs are raining down around you? Some are there because they are adamant that Sderot is their home and they won't leave. Still others are there because they believe they are Israel's front line. If they leave, Hamas will just move the bombing further into Israel. I heard this in an interview with an 8-year-old girl. At 8, she feels the weight of the protection of the entire country.

Cars pulled over when they saw us to wish us Kol Hakavod (lit: "all the respect") for coming. Others called us "heroes." I wanted to say that spending 4 hours in their world was not being heroic - I can go home to my safe home, far from falling rockets. The residents of Sderot live with this every day, they struggle with this every day, they drop everything to run to shelters every day, they will have to figure out how to deal with the consequences of traumatic stress disorders on them and their children in the future. They are the heroes.

Speaking of 8-year-olds, the one thing I did not see anywhere during this Chanukah break was children. One of our hosts took us to his home, where we met his some of his children. But outside, where in Modi'in or Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or Kiryat Sefer we'd see tons of kids playing outside, running around or riding their bicycles, or mothers pushing their babies in prams, in Sderot, I did not see a single child outside.

It's just not safe enough.

*Today, Israel started Operation "Cast Lead" in Gaza to finally, b"H, put a stop to this bombing. The name "Cast Lead" is from a poem by Hayim Nahman Bialik, referring to a "dreidel cast from solid lead." May G-d keep our soldiers safe and their aim true, and bring them success in this Operation.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nes Gadol Hayah PO!*

One of the amazing things about being in Israel is being able to visit the sights of the many occurrences in the Torah. Being able to look out our windows at the hills of Judea. Being able to touch the walls that Herod built around the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which no longer exists. The remaining piece of the retaining wall is known as the Western Wall). Being able to celebrate holidays with other people who are celebrating the same holiday, rather than being the odd man out.

It never occurred to us, though, that in our choice of town in Israel, we would be celebrating our first Chanukah in Israel in the very spot where the makings of this holiday took place. Very briefly:
In the 2nd century BCE (Before Common Era), when the Greeks ruled what is now Israel, the ruler Antiochus forbade Jewish observance. Jews were not allowed to study Torah, keep Shabbat, give their sons Brit Milah (circumcision), eat kosher food and the Greeks put statues of Zeus and other gods in the Temple in Jerusalem - all in an attempt to assimilate the Jews completely into Greek culture.

A group of Jews, led by Mattityahu HaCohen, and his sons - most famously, Judah Maccabbee - rebelled against the Greeks. Despite being grossly out-armed and outnumbered, the Maccabim prevailed. When they went to clean and purify the Temple, they found only one cask of oil with seal of the Cohen Gadol, or high priest. This oil would only be enough to light the Menorah in the temple for one night, but miraculously, it stayed lit for 8 days, which was long enough for more purified oil to be located.

In honour of this miracle, we light our menorahs (or more accurately, a Chanukiah. A Menorah has 6 branches, a Chanukiah, 8) for 8 nights.
The Maccabim fought against the Greeks in the area that is now known as the city of Modi'in. The graves of the Maccabim are in the forest across the highway from my house. I can see the forest from my balcony. It took 2 minutes to drive there (it was another 20 minutes to remember exactly where in the forest the graves were, but that's another story).**

I started the first night of my first Chanukah in Israel reciting the prayer for the Righteous over the graves of the actual people whose courage and commitment to the laws of Torah thousands of years ago gave us this holiday. I lit my Chanukah candles overlooking hills that contain artifacts from the Hashmonean period, the period of rule by the Maccabees.

After we lit and our friend David HaCohen led us in some Chanukah songs, since we had rented a car, we went shopping around town. Every store had a Chanukiah, lit with a first-night candle and everyone was wishing everyone a "Chag Sameach!" (basically, festive day). There were even a few stores giving out free sufganiyot (jelly donuts).

I have to admit, I'm a bit in awe of my first night of Chanukah. It's not considered a major holiday; in fact, it's not even a Torah holiday, but when you put it all together, I think my first night of my first Chanukah in Israel will stand as my favourite holiday moment ever.

Chag sameach!

*If you look at a dreidel, there are Hebrew letters written on the sides:

נ ג ה ש
נ - nun, ג - gimmel, ה - hay, ש - shin
Nes Gadol Haya Sham - A great miracle happened there.

But here in Israel, we say,
נ ג ה פ
Nes Gadol Haya Po - A great miracle happened HERE!

**There's an archeological dispute over the graves. A set of graves were found in this forest, Yar Ben Shemen, that are currently identified by the State of Israel as the graves of the Maccabim. Archeologists believe that another set of graves in another part of the forest are actually the graves of the Maccabim, and that the first set of graves are not accurate to the time period. They won't be excavated anytime soon, for all sorts of political reasons. Logic, science and the Book of Maccabbee lead us to agree with the archeologists.

A monument to the modern-day Maccabim who died in the war in 1948,
very near the location of the graves of the ancient Maccabim.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Seven things about me

Since I'm too brain-dead to think of anything to post that actually pertains to this blog (we went on a tiyul today that I hope to muster up the brain strength to write about soon!), I'll respond to the tag for this meme from Kelli at Children Mentioned (the same Kelli of the Jeremy & Kelli who found us our wonderful apartment. Twice.) btw, Kelli specifically tagged me, not Morey or me, which is why I'm responding. And I could never get Morey to do one of these anyway*.

Here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people (if possible) at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

Seven things about me that you probably could care less about ;)

1. I have never lived in one place more than 3 years until I moved to Vancouver, with the exception of 4 years in the same house in Bedford NY. By one place I mean, the same home. In Vancouver, I lived in the same house for 7 years - an eternity for me!

2. Because of blogging, and reading other people's blogs, I discovered that I'm not a freak who can't stand my hair in my face, elastic on my wrists, lace touching my skin, or not having a heavy weight on my legs when I sleep; I actually have sensory issues.*

3. I dream in colour. I dream in extreme detail. Strangely (and sadly, in two cases), sometimes my dreams come true. I also have a recurring dreams. I'm tempted to write one of the recurring dreams (although it's more like a mini-series than recurrant) into a book of some sort.

4. I have wanted to move to Israel for over 20 years. I wish I hadn't waited so long. But I guess it was supposed to happen this way.

5. I have been drawn to observant Judaism since I can remember. In my non-religious family, I pushed for a Chanukiah, I wanted to observe my Bat Mitzvah, even though no one else had had one (my one-year-older cousin celebrated her Bat Mitzvah a year before me). I have suspicions that it might have something to do with being sent to an Orthodox day school for kindergarten and half of first grade (my father was in Vietnam and my mom and I lived with my also secular grandparents. For some reason they decided to send me to a Jewish school.)

6. Ironically, my very first kiss from a boy was in that same Orthodox day school.

7. I hated high school. I positively adored nearly every minute of school, right up until 8th grade, when I moved back to the US, after living in Germany (and attending American dependent schools). Then I hated nearly every minute of school (there were exceptions. Thank you, Mrs. Schneider). So much so, that I threatened to drop out if I wasn't allowed to graduate early. My last year, I doubled-up on all my classes, and graduated in January. I loved my senior year. I had four English classes with papers and short stories due every week. I had a serious photography class. A teacher offered to buy one of my photos, and one of my short stories was submitted by a teacher to a magazine. And I had a solo in the school chorus' production of Handel's "Messiah" (okay, forget the piece. Focus on the solo. Besides, it's all from Isaiah, which is our book anyway.)

So now I'm supposed to tag seven people, but my list is short as most of my blogging buddies have already been tagged, or I know them through my anonymous blog, in which case, I ain't taggin' 'em here:

1. Evenewra
2. Jay at Picture This
3. Al at Bokashi Blog
4. *And because I love futility, Morey

and that about wraps that up. :)

*edited to add: this was not a self-diagnosis from Dr. Google. This person's symptoms sounded exactly like my issues, so I asked a doctor. Always follow-up, never assume, just because you read something on the internet ;)