Friday, August 01, 2014

When all isn't fair in... war

Throughout the current conflict in Gaza, the world has been scolding Israel over the lack of proportionality in the way we have been responding to the unprovoked attacks against us.

European leaders and UN shills have been stressing two main talking point in all their public statements:

1. The 'primitive' nature of the weapons that are being used against us as compared to the sophisticated offensive and defensive tools in our arsenal;

and

2. The disproportionate number of casualties on each side.

Heck, the New York Times even offers a handy box score in every article related to the conflict... y'kmow, so fans tuning in can quickly get a sense of how the game stands.

[Screenshot from today's Times]


Image


The clear message being conveyed is that since their weapons are so crude and inaccurate, and our technological advantage so great... that we should somehow be able to handicap the conflict in such a way as to level the playing field.

In other words, with such a lopsided death toll, something just doesn't seem cricket in the way Israel is playing the game.

What they fail to appreciate (or more likely, willfully ignore), is that, despite having rules... war is not a game. The rules are meant to preserve humanity and protect non-combatants... not ensure a close and exciting match for the spectators.

There is nothing in the Geneva Comventions that requires a better equipped military force to give a head start or handicap to a belligerent adversary with lesser means.

There are, however clear rules regarding the deliberate use of civilians as human shields, and intentionally exploiting schools, hospitals, ambulances, residential dwellings and houses of worship as weapons depots and launch pads.

There are rules that require combatants to wear clearly identifiable uniforms and insignia to distinguish them from non-combatants.

There are rules that prohibit the use of false flags (e.g. enemy uniforms) during attacks, and there are rules that prohibit carrying out attacks under a flag of truce (i.e. during a cease fire that has been offered and accepted by all sides.).

And most cogent to the events of today, there are rules governing the status and treatment of combatants captured, taken prisoner and / or who surrender during hostilities. Such persons are considered Prisoners of War, not kidnap victims.

Yet, throughout this (and all previous conflicts), Israel has been expected to not only offer a handicap, but to play by a different set of rules altogether!

The terrorists in Gaza fire thousands of missiles at our civilian population and the world borrows from the Palestinian lexicon to label it 'resistance' and 'militancy' instead of unprovoked belligerency and terrorism.

They use their own people and civilian infrastructure as shields for military installations, but the world only takes notice when those installations are targeted in our retaliatory strikes.

They dress their combatants in civilian clothing, and the world only notices the blurring of that distinction when tallying up the daily body count (with anyone dressed in street clothes counted as a civilian death).

They ask for, and receive, humanitarian ceasefires... and the world sees nothing wrong with the fact that they use those ceasefires to launch unopposed sneak attacks.

Their captured combatants are treated as Prisoners of War with the Red Cross given full access to assess their conditions and treatment. When one of our soldiers falls into their hands (captured during a cease fire!), the world shrugs and calls him a kidnapping victim, with no rights or expectations of humane treatment, instead of calling him a POW.

I'm not suggesting that Israel abandon it's humanity or disregard our moral / ethical responsibility to try to safeguard non-combatants who are, through no fault of their own, caught in the crossfire.

But there comes a point in warfare where one side declares through word and deed that no quarter will be offered to combatants... and both sides have to assume that none will be given.

That time has, IMHO, arrived.

Israel must continue to hold itself to the highest standards of conduct. But if our enemies are not expected to adhere to modern norms of warfare, I say we have to wage war on their terms... at least in terms of how we treat their combatants.

Without going into specifics, I think we should be guided by a few bits of wisdom passed down to us by a man who knew a thing or two about warfare... and how trying to make it neat, honorable or fair would do nothing but prolong the agony for all involved:

“Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster”


“War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”


"War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want."


~William Tecumseh Sherman~


General Sherman understood then, as we must make the world understand now, that war isn't fair. War is hell.

Posted by David Bogner on August 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Turnabout is fair play

When Fatah and Hamas signed their unity deal back in early June, the European Union, the United Nations, the United States, China, India, Russia and Turkey all agreed to work with it, and ignored Israel's objections.  

Although Israel was completely against any unity deal that included an unreformed terror organization such as Hamas, everyone tried to sell it to us by pointing out that there were no actual Hamas members in the unity government's cabinet, and that once the unity deal was signed, Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority would became responsible for both the West Bank and Gaza.

'Trust us', they said.  They assured us that the mechanics of the agreement would do away with the status quo whereby the Palestinians had two separate governments; one ruled by Fatah in the West Bank and the other by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and would create a situation where the Palestinians spoke and acted with one voice.

So here's my question:

Now that the Palestinians (notice I'm no longer differentiating between Fatah and Hamas... as the unity deal is still very much in place), have committed a host of actionable war crimes, including (but not limited to) repeatedly:

  • targeting Israeli civilians with missiles
  • attempted kidnappings / terror attacks against Israeli civilians
  • using Palestinian civilians as human shields
  • storing and firing weapons from within schools, hospitals and mosques
  • engaging in combat operations while wearing enemy (IDF) uniforms and insignia
  • carrying out all of the above under a flag of truce / during a cease fire

... how is it that we aren't demanding that Mahmoud Abbas and the entire PA unity cabinet be brought before the International Court of Justice to answer for these war crimes?

It seems to me that if all the entities and countries I mentioned above gave us their assurances that Abbas and the PA Unity Government would now be solely responsible for the actions of the Palestinians... we should be able to hold them to that, no?

Forget the current and past Hamas leadership.  We can pick them off at our leisure in targeted strikes wherever and whenever we wish.  

But after all the years that Israeli government officials and senior IDF officers couldn't travel abroad for fear of being arrested and thrown into the dock at the Hague based on Palestinian accusations, isn't turnabout fair play?  

After all, if they can't be held to the agreements they sign with one another... how can they be expected to honor any agreements they may sign with us?!

Please show your work.

Posted by David Bogner on July 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Deliberate Oversimplification

When the US or any other 'real' country makes the decision to embark on a military operation, the world may agree or disagree with their goals and/or objectives... but they generally stand back and watch to see how things will turn out.

However, no matter how legitimate the casus belli (the act or event that provoked or is used to justify war) Israel provides, the moment we make the difficult decision to launch a military operation, the US and other world powers ignore the seriousness of the provocation or legitimacy of the objectives, and immediately start focusing on how to stop the fighting as quickly as possible.

It doesn't matter that months (or even years) of violence were inflicted on Israel before we made a decision to respond with force. As soon as Israel responds, the world suddenly and miraculously awakes from its slumber and becomes fully engaged and focused on one thing: making Israel stop.

I live in a real country with a responsible government that takes the job of protecting its citizens quite seriously. We are not some kid wandering around the playground picking fights or 'not playing nicely with others'.  We don't want or need adult supervision to weigh and make considered decisions. And we certainly don't want or need some parent or authority figure to symbolically grab our wrist and drag us to a 'time out' the moment some 'squabble' erupts.

By necessity of the region in which we live, we have an extremely capable military.  But our achilles heel is that we have a very low tolerance for casualties.  Each of member of our armed forces is someone's son, husband, father, daughter, wife or mother. We do not send our soldiers lightly into harms way. The concept of 'cannon fodder' is alien to is. Every single casualty is a national tragedy. We know it... and so do our adversaries.

I mention this because when our government makes the difficult decision to launch a military operation, we do so only after all other options have been exhausted. And we do not appreciate being treated like impetuous playground ruffians or squabbling children who have to be reined in.

It is the height of paternalistic arrogance for the US and other countries to reflexively assume that we need adult supervision, and the height of ignorant hypocrisy for you to routinely use military force as an instrument of foreign policy while denying my country the most basic right of self defense.

In the current conflict, the time to attempt to be a playground monitor is long past (if it ever existed). You sat on your park bench sipping coffee with the other oblivious 'grown-ups' while we had our lunch money stolen, sand thrown in our eyes and our nose repeatedly bloodied.  You don't get to suddenly pop up and intervene when our antagonist's crying begins to disturb your pleasant afternoon in the park.

Although we hold ourselves to a higher standard than our antagonists, we will not tolerate such skewed prejudices from you.  If you don't demand adherence to the norms and conventions of warfare from our enemies, don't lecture us about international law.

We will act with maturity and restraint... and within the boundaries of international law and civilized behavior;  Not because you try to restrain us, but because we know what is right and can make measured, informed decisions without the need of adult supervision.

Now go back to whatever you were doing before you noticed the sound of fighting. This doesn't concern you.

And if you really want to act as if you are the only grown ups within earshot... well, you should have been paying closer attention for the past few years as we were being victimized by the neighborhood bullies.

This is our fight. We'll let you know when we're done.

Posted by David Bogner on July 28, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

STFU

Reports from unnamed U.S. Official have emerged stating that the document John Kerry circulated was not meant as a ceasefire proposal, but rather just a draft meant for comments. The fact that it omitted Israel's security needs and provided a windfall for Hamas... not to mention that Kerry engaged with Qatar and Turkey to try and hammer out the deal, is neither here nor there.

The unnamed source went on to complain in the most strident tones that Israeli reactions to the document, and to Kerry's efforts were "inaccurate and insulting".

Since the US seems to be sticking true to form and playing the outraged and insulted cards to cover for yet another feckless foreign policy blunder, let me offer something to be truly insulted about (though sadly, quite accurate):

The only accurate statements issuing from the US State Department and White House are related to the tragic nature of the civilian casualties and suffering in Gaza. But what they both fail to grasp is that the casualties and suffering are entirely Hamas' responsibility. If the US wants it to stop, they are pressuring the wrong side.

Don't have any leverage with Hamas? Not our problem. That doesn't mean we have to always be the only grown ups in the region. The US government needs to STFU and let the IDF provide the only kind of diplomacy to which Hamas is likely to respond.

Israel's responsibility, aside from its primary responsibility to protect its own citizens, is to do everything possible to minimize the civilian toll in Gaza. And anyone who understands even the tiniest bit about military technology knows that after three weeks of nearly non-stop bombardment of legitimate military targets that had been deliberately embedded deep inside Gaza's civilian infrastructure, 1,031 deaths (many of whom were combatants or willing human shields) is a tragic, but minimum number of casualties that serves as a testament to Israel's morality and caution... and to Hamas' brutality and inhumanity.

The only thing Kerry's floundering efforts this weekend accomplished, was to inadvertently align Israeli, Palestinian Authority and Egyptian assessments that he is, at best, a blithering idiot, and at worst a duplicitous supporter of a Turkish and Qatari-backed Hamas victory.

There. Now they can be offended.

Posted by David Bogner on July 28, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Letter From My Daughter

To my dear brothers,

I'm writing from a feeling of deep pain. A pain that I hoped you'd never feel but know you already have.

I was told of a death. Someone close. Yuval. A run in with terrorists. Not even in Gaza but in Israel. In our territory. And suddenly I understand that we are fighting for our home. Not territory but our right to exist.

So many times we say "please let it be someone I don't know... Just not someone I know". But somebody does know him. And love him. And feels how I feel now. Until it all reaches me... Well, it was just a matter of time.

But my dear brothers, that's not what I wanted to say. Not to say that it finally hit home. But to remind us (and mostly myself) what and for who we are fighting for. I'm grasping for the right words and suddenly I remember a song. That we all know. A simple one. It rings in my ear and beats in my heart.

To be a free nation in our country
להיות עם חופשי בארצנו

We have not yet lost hope and faith
עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו

(from hatikva- our national anthem)

You are our hopes, dear brothers. Brothers by blood. Brothers in pain, in our souls and in our hopes. We are the whole. Every soldier and soldier. Every brother and sister. One family. One nation. One heart.

In two days I will be in Israel for eleven years. The tenth year I celebrated by enlisting. This year I celebrate with the pride of being your sister. Wearing my uniform. Living in this country. I think back and look at my friends in the states.

How twisted my reality looks compared to theirs. Maybe they have it better... but even with all the pain, I wouldn't give up my life and reality for even a second. My life. My house. My land. My brothers.

So dear brothers, fight. For yourselves. For our fallen. For our homes. For our existence.

I love you all.

Yours,

Ariella
A soldier
A commander
An Israeli.

Posted by David Bogner on July 22, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

No clear link...

Actor James Garner died today at age 86. The New York Times is reporting that, for the moment, there is no clear evidence linking his death to the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has claimed more than 400 lives so far.

Posted by David Bogner on July 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A Letter to My Former Home

[A guest post by Zahava]

I have the best friends and former colleagues a girl could ask for. Over the past several weeks, as the situation here in Israel has intensified, I have been overwhelmed by the support shown to me by friends and former colleagues from the pre-Aliyah chapter of my life. This support is so meaningful and so appreciated – thank you to those of you who have reached out – your love and concern fortifies us.

Often these notes of support come with questions about what is really happening over here. Nearly everyone has expressed frustration with what is accessible to them via mainstream media – the perception is that that the facts have been distorted to support various political agendas. As such, a number of friends have asked me to elaborate on ‘the reality on the ground’ from my perspective.

This is a difficult endeavor – especially given that when our nation’s security situation is tense, my own mood can be easily swayed by momentary events. In developing responses, I try to incorporate my understanding of what is happening based on composite information from reliable local media outlets as well as weaving in aspects of my own personal experience.

I have written several such responses over the past few weeks. The following, at the moment, best represents my thoughts.

Thank you so very much for reaching out to me — it is very nice to receive support from friends in the States.

You are correct — things are unpleasant — but not nearly as bad as currently portrayed  in the press.

It has been a crazy month or so — and it is certainly no fun scrambling for the bomb shelters when the air raid sirens go off.

Western media seems to have missed the more nuanced aspects of life here — and even some of the not-so-nuanced things.

I think the most difficult aspect of understanding the current situation is the foreign media’s attempt to create a link between the current operation in Gaza and the kidnappings of the 3 Jewish Israeli boys. 

There is no connection.

Yes, the kidnappers are part of the Hamas terror structure. But bringing those perpetrators to justice is a separate matter from the operation in Gaza. Also separate, is the investigation against the Arab Israeli teen who was murdered -- an investigation which to date has yielded more substantial results than the former. The suspects in the murder of the Arab teen have been apprehended, and the entire country has vehemently denounced this horrific act. When convicted, these offenders will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We will name no streets after these despicable people. We will not glorify them.  They are, simply put, no heroes of ours.

The current operation in Gaza is nothing more than the most recent attempt to stop rockets from being launched at our civilian population. Since the end of the last operation in 2012 there has been a slow but steady escalation against our southern cities which goes largely unnoticed by anyone outside of Israel — until we have the temerity to try and stop them. THEN, the global community has lots to say.

Since the current operation against the rockets was initiated, of course, Hamas and other terror organizations have ramped up their efforts and have been indiscriminately firing in all directions, as far as their arsenal will allow them.

On the Israeli side, we are fortunate that our government values our lives. Due to a major change in building codes during the 90s all homes built after 1995 have their own reinforced safe-room. In addition there are public bomb shelters everywhere. In the southern cities, public shelters have been augmented with a scattering of large-bore concrete pipes to open areas in which people can take cover. And, thank G-d for good technological ingenuity, someone developed an app which sounds an alarm each time there is a launch. Many municipalities have also instituted an SMS service for their residents advising appropriate action when an air raid siren is sounded in the area. These are the key reasons why our casualties are far more limited than on the other side. 

The situation is hardest on school-aged kids. Yonah is no exception -- it has been incredibly traumatic for him. Dealing with his anxiety has become very difficult. During the search and rescue efforts, he was terrified of being taken — didn't want to sleep in his room. When the rockets started falling in our region, his anxiety only intensified (can't really blame him). Thankfully, the schools have their guidance counselor staff on-hand this summer in anticipation of exactly this type of difficulty — we are doing our best to help him diffuse his anxiety, but it is devastating to watch him suffer.

Something positive, which I suspect is going largely unreported in the western media, are the voices which have emerged from some segments of the Arab Israeli community. A few brave and outspoken people have been interviewed in Israeli media. They have spoken out in support of the 3 boys' families; in support of the State; against the rioting in response to the Arab teen's murder; and against the rockets from Gaza. Some have proudly stated that their children serve in the army and that they see themselves as Israeli Arabs – they do not support, nor do they want to be governed by a Palestinian government. 

Sadly, there have been instances of anti-Arab riots and activity. However, there has been broad and unified condemnation for such behavior across every segment of Israeli society — politically, religiously, and demographically – especially from within Judea and Sameria. We will not accept these acts and attitudes.

As a result of all of this, there have been several gatherings by Arab and Jewish groups — both to protest the kidnappings and murders and to attempt to bolster the fragile relationships that exists between them.

During the search and rescue efforts, there was a multicultural prayer gathering at the bus stop where the boys were taken – it was comprised of a small group of local rabbis, imams and lay leaders.

Earlier this week, there was a joint break fast for Ramadan and our fast of the 17th of Tammuz (date which begins our three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem) meters away from the abduction spot. These are just 2 such events — there have others.

In conclusion, thanks again for reaching out to me — and for having the wisdom to understand that things are not always as they appear. We are going about our daily lives as best we can. As a friend recently pointed out — we are laughing a little harder at jokes that aren't really that funny; we are eating a little more ice-cream than is good for our waistlines; we are drinking a glass of wine with week-day dinners, not just on the weekends; and we are indulging our kids more than usual — but we make the best of an awful situation because this is our home and we can't conceive of living anywhere else.

All the best,

Zahava

 

Posted by David Bogner on July 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Those who ignore history...

... are doomed to repeat it.

There is no pleasure in saying 'I told you so'... only profound sadness.

The horrifying situation in which my country finds itself is a direct result of previous leaders failing to heed the the stated intention of our enemies, simply because it would mean admitting their political opponents might be right.

Click here to listen: Rabin on the impossibility of missiles from Gaza

[Translation: "The horror stories of the Likud are familiar; indeed they promised us also Katyushas from Gaza. Already a year, the Gaza strip is mostly under the control of the Palestinian Authority, there has not yet been any Katyusha and there will be no Katyusha, et cetera et cetera et cetera. All the chattering; the Likud is deathly afraid of peace. The “peace cowards”, this is the Likud of today. This is not the Likud of Menachem Begin of blessed memory, who dared, and took initiatives, and was willing to pay a painful price to advance peace. The Likud of today is deathly afraid of peace, and therefore, it reacts in a way that is truly childish."]

And yet, even today there are naive people, here and abroad, who can look into the camera and innocently bleat, "Nobody could have known this would happen. We had to act as we did. We had to give peace a chance".

Peace doesn't happen by chance, and it doesn't arrive simply because you want it badly enough. It can only be achieved when all sides in a conflict have more to gain from the cessation of hostilities than its continuation.

But sadly, the international community has created a self-perpetuating model where terror organizations have nothing to gain from peace, and everything to gain from war.

Each time Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah or any of the other terror organizations instigate a war against my country, the international community lines up to pour millions of dollars in aid into their coffers to help the poor victims of 'Israeli aggression' rebuild.

But mysteriously, the money doesn't reach the people who need it. Infrastructure isn't rebuilt. schools and hospitals that were cynically used to store weapons and to house combatants remain in ruins... and the aid money is skimmed, funneled and syphoned into the Swiss bank accounts of terror warlords who sit out the wars in luxurious splendor; the privileged guests of foreign despots.

More than ten times the amount of money donated to rebuild all of Europe under the Marshal Plan has been thrown blindly at the Palestinian 'leadership' without requiring a scrap of accountability or transparency. 

Needless to say, despite the staggering infusion of funds, the Palestinian people remain trapped in poverty and squalor, with no infrastructure, not prospects and no hope... victims of 'elected' kleptocracies that they can't (or won't) overthrow.

Israel can't create its own peace partner, and no amount of wishing on the part of the international community can place one across the table from us. 

The only thing that can bring the Palestinians peace is for the people to finally rise up and demand a better life for themselves, not just from Israel... but from their own leaders.

Everybody deserves to live in peace! 

But peace doesn't come simply because it is deserved.  It comes when all sides have too much to lose from its absence.

Posted by David Bogner on July 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Please let this be the last time...


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Posted by David Bogner on July 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Calling a spade a spade

I have so far successfully resisted the temptation to weigh in on the current conflict. And I will continue to hold my tongue for the simple reason that I have nothing helpful to say beyond the following which I shared a few days ago in a more intimate online setting:

I want to ask that people refrain from contemplating and/or assigning blame. It is unhelpful. I cringe when I hear people say they are 'pro-Israel' or 'pro-Palestinian'. This isn't the world cup or some zero-sum game where you root for a side. Wanting anyone to win implies that you also want the other side to lose.

In a just, peaceful solution (as my country has so far achieved - tenuous as it may be - with two of our neighbors), both sides should win and nobody should lose. And by 'win', I mean both sides should enjoy the benefits of peaceful coexistence. That can't happen so long as anyone (here or around the world) actively works and prays for anyone's victory or defeat.

If you can view current events through that mindset, it quickly becomes clear who wants peace and who can't exist without war.

I encourage everyone to follow the news and think critically about what you see. There are state actors involved in the current conflict as well as non-state terror organizations (as defined by the US, EU and UN) that do not represent any state and, in fact, would cease to be relevant the moment a just and lasting peace would be achieved. Don't forget that essential fact for a moment as you scan the news!

That said, I can't remain silent in the face of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's most recent hateful, anti-Israel rhetoric.

Today he managed to ignore the fact that Israel heeded a 9:00 AM cease fire while Hamas continued to fire more than 50 unanswered missiles into Israel civilian population centers.

Instead, when after four hours of unabated bombardment Israel resumed military operations to protect its citizens, Erdogan accused Israel of "perpetrating a 'massacre' of Palestinians" and of "committing 'state terrorism'".

But the bit that shattered the last of my resolve to stay silent was his statement this afternoon in which he compared Israel to Adolf Hitler (according to Turkish daily, 'Hurriyet'). [source]

Okay, here's the deal, Recep. As a Turk, you should know a thing or two about Genocide... and about shame.

Specifically, you should be able to differentiate between legitimate self defense and the stated intention to wipe out an entire people. After all, your country murdered a million and a half innocent Armenians in 1915 and created the model on which Hitler built his own grand vision for genocide.

In fact, in his 22 August 1939 speech prior to Germany's invasion of Poland, Hitler famously said:

"Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter – with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It’s a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me. I have issued the command – and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad – that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks to-day of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

For reasons that have thus far evaded me, the world continues to tip-toe carefully around using the 'G' word in reference to Turkey's massacre of its Armenian minority.

So let's call a spade a spade: Turkey committed Genocide. And they need to face up to their criminal past and national shame. Only then, like Germany, can Turkey accept responsibility and educate its citizens against ever contemplating such evil again.

Accusing Israel of perpetrating genocide is monstrous, and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan is indeed a monster; a throwback to a time when dictators and despots could bend the world to their will with deceptive words as much as unspeakable deeds.

As an afterthought, I would add that I am deeply ashamed of the civilized portion of the world that sits by and raises no objection to such monsters and their vile pronouncements... and even allows them the veneer and cover of membership in legitimate organizations like NATO.

Posted by David Bogner on July 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Jumbled Thoughts. In No Particular Order.

[A guest post by Zahava]


The past two days have passed in a state of semi-suspended reality. I know I am not alone in finding myself ‘stuck’ –- in the middle of a task, and yet completely disconnected to the task at hand.

Over the past two days, the country has experienced a bit of a reverse Memorial-to-Independence paradigm shift, as we felt a fervent and unified hope collapse into an equally fervent and unified mourning.

The remarkable families – Fraenkel, Yifrach, and Shaer – have exhibited kindness and courage that must serve as bar for to each and every one of us to strive to reach. Individually, we must internalize their example. We must take upon ourselves the responsibility to speak and act positively -- even (or perhaps, especially) in the face of adversity. And if we succeed, we can, and we will accomplish much.

To my olah eyes, the most tragic casualty of the Disengagement from Gaza was the cataclysmic rending of the fabric of Israeli society. Left and right nearly succeeded in amputating the battered limbs from a shattered national body. The events of the past 20 days have, if nothing else, proven that ideological and political differences can be set aside, that our heart do beat as one – and, perhaps even more importantly, that we need both hands/wings to achieve our goals.

Our rich theological and historical liturgy is filled with examples and admonishments on how we must conduct ourselves. Mishne Torah, Pirkei Avot, and Kohelet are but three sources which urge us to examine and understand our place in the continuum better known as human existence.

Mishne Torah; Hilchut De’ot teaches us that our primary attributes require balance – a moderate meeting place which the Rambam calls the ‘middle road' or 'golden path'.

Pirkei Avot reminds us that we will be treated and judged as we ourselves treat and judge others.

And Kohelet lamentingly reminds us that divine and earthly dominions, while occasionally joined, are more often separate.

While it is profoundly human to yearn for vengeance, it is, simply put, is not ours to exact.

Justice, however, is most definitely our dominion. Not only is it our right, it is our obligation. We must define it. We must enforce it. And we must uphold it.

The State of Israel has a legal and a moral obligation to protect the property and lives of her citizens.

In families, when there is dissent between siblings, the parents – in an effort to be expedient – often call upon the older child (generally the stronger and the more secure) to ‘walk away.’ A responsible parent must, however, later investigate the root cause of the dissent. The parents must ensure both children understand their individual roles and provide each child with an understanding and the tools to avoid similar conflict in the future. When parents fail to do this, they simultaneously encourage the instigator and punish the peacemaker.

Within the dynamics of a family unit, when the parents fail to properly address the instigator, it sadly often falls to that older, stronger child to enforce his own brand of justice. This usually occurs in the absence of the parents, and though often less effective, usually suffices to settle differences.

In the 66 years since Israel’s Independence, during times of conflict and crisis, the global community has, for purposes of expediency, required Israel to be more 'grown up'... to walk away.... to take the high road. All because we are stronger and more secure. What the world seems to have forgotten, however, is that being stronger and more secure doesn’t make us wrong, nor does it negate the need to hold perpetrators of acts against us accountable.

Moreover, we are not without our own internal moral compass. The dirt on our recently filled graves remains loose and unpacked, and already there are audible Israeli voices crying out for measured and proportional reactions, cautioning against collective punishment, and begging us to recognize the suffering of those who seek to cut us down in our youth and in our slumber. Two Israelis, three opinions – we already have a functioning internal mechanism with which to measure our response.

If the international community spent as much time fostering ‘collective cooperation’ on the part of the Palestinian people as it spends admonishing Israelis against ‘collective punishment’, the Middle East – or at least our extremely tiny corner of it – would be an entirely different place.

If instead of interfering with and obstructing search and rescue efforts, the Palestinian people had assisted in these efforts, a 19 day search yielding vioolent confrontations and arrests might have been a 3 day search yielding a spirit of cooperation and a fraction of those arrests.

That would have been justice.

There have been terrible realities borne of the past 20 days. So too there have been glimmers of goodness and hope.

Yes, we have seen Palestinian Arabs rejoicing in the streets – mothers so racked with hatred that they embrace death for their own children as a means of depriving us life for our own. This sadly and tragically is not new.

What is new, what we must seize, cherish, and nurture, is the quiet awakening within our own diverse citizenry. For the first time, we are hearing voices of Israeli Arab men and women – some teenagers -- speaking out against terror, and claiming their rightful place in Israeli society.

66 is a ripe old age for a country's infancy. The time has come for the Palestinians – the government and the people who elected them – to be held accountable not only for their interactions with Israel, but for how they envision and plan for their future. At a certain point the world must tell them that they can't place the blame for their stunted national aspirations entirely at Israel's feet.

But national aspirations are their problem and their responsibility. We can only do what is right for us.

Israel is a vibrant, diverse and democratic compilation of over 8 million citizens. We are simultaneously nascent and ancient; strong and vulnerable.

We defy odds. Unified, we are far, far greater than the sum of our mighty parts. Am Yisrael Chai.

Posted by David Bogner on July 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Are you afraid?

[a guest post by Ariella]

Someone asked me if it makes me scared. No. I'm not afraid.

What I feel can't be described in a word. It's a bunch of different things but afraid is not one of them. Sad? Yes. Upset? Yes. Furious? You bet your ass. But not afraid.

But that's the way we are, we Israelies. We hurt. And we grieve. And we fume. But we do so quietly... and life continues, or else they win.

You ask what I'm fuming about? We'll besides the obvious, I hate the fact that my ten year old brother lives in this reality. That my mom can't come to the phone because she is busy consoling him. That he is old enough to understand. To hurt. That he IS afraid.

That my friends and I already know to do head counts when we hear that there was a shooting. To make sure we are all safe.

That I know too many stories, friends, families and names.

But I'm a twenty year old living in Israel. And I guess all this is all just part of the everyday life here.

But ask any other 10 year old, 18 year old or 20 year old in any other place in the world:

Are you afraid? The honest answer should not surprise anyone.

Posted by David Bogner on July 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 23, 2014

The first day of the rest of my life

Hi, my name is David Lindsay Bogner... and I'm fat.

[all together now] Hi David!

The funny thing is, I've always been slim. In 7th grade I was so skinny I started browsing around the store at the mall where they had all those protein supplements endorsed by bodybuilders.

I didn't have the cash or stomach for those awful shakes, but I did start trying to build up from skinny to 'slim'.

In 8th grade I went out for football, got cut, but stayed on the team anyway as a pity case... the coach's pet. The practices beat the snot out of me, and probably would have killed me if I hadn't broken both thumbs on one memorable (but failed) attempt at a fumble recovery.

By the time I got to high school I was lifting a bit. Nothing organized, but I was hanging out with the jocks and pumping enough iron to see a small improvement in muscle tone, if not size.

It was while working out in the school weight room that I got the idea to join the wrestling team. I'd heard the workouts were brutal, and all of my friends on the team were totally ripped. The coach accepted me to the JV squad at the 155 pound weight class (a mark at which I could binge eat and still safely come in at 5 pounds under), and although I wasn't a particularly dedicated (or skilled) wrestler, the workouts did their job... by the end of the first season I had successfully graduated from skinny to slim.

I would remain firmly entrenched at 'slim' throughout my years in the navy... during my time in Israel... and even through my university years.

After graduation I went to work, started dating, eventually got married, had three wonderful children with my lovely wife... all while remaining 'slim'.

The problem is, I remained slim only in my head.

Physically, my metabolism had slammed on the brakes somewhere around 22, and the trajectory of my waistline could best be described as one long skidmark up the weight chart my doctor handed me last year on my 52nd birthday.

Every year on or near my birthday, my company pays for a full medical work-up. It is an early morning affair starting with blood work, followed by a full stress test, vision and hearing exams, and capped off by a physical exam so intimate that, for propriety sake, the doc should have to make me breakfast afterwards.

As it turns out, my company springs for a voucher for a free breakfast following the physical, so I get the meal without having to make small talk with the person who has just been handling my junk.

Exactly one year ago today my physical ended with the doc sending me off to enjoy my free breakfast having just informed me that I am officially 'morbidly obese'.

I'm here to tell you that nothing, but NOTHING, kills a free breakfast like those two words.

As I sat watching my food get cold, I was at a loss as to how I got where I was. I had always been slim. Even as recently as this morning when I got out of the shower and walked past the mirror, I was still slim.

But what slowly dawned on me was that I'd gotten to those two words - morbidly obese - one bite at a time. I'd ignored the tire screech of my metabolism shutting down, and kept right on eating as if I was 16. I did that for more than half my life.

And not one person, friend or family, had the decency to tell the emperor that his clothes needed to be sourced from the 'Big & Tall' store.

A normal person would have taken that birthday wake-up call and used it to make some hard decisions. Being something other than normal, I decided to hit the snooze button for 6 months.

By the time December rolled around, I'd added another 5 pounds for good luck.

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but a decision had to be made, and counting the days from January seemed, somehow, easier.

I didn't do anything drastic or jump on any trendy fad diet. I just started watching what I ate. And instead of picking up the phone to call colleagues at work, I got up and walked to their offices to see them face to face.

Then I cut back on the sweets and junk food. And I started watching my secretary's breaks. Whenever she went out to smoke a cigarette, I went out and walked the security track around our campus (exactly a kilometer).

Once I was walking 4-5 kilometers a day at work, I started also walking on the treadmill at home. And I kept watching what I was eating... taking smaller portions and eating slowly enough to feel myself filling up before I was tempted to take seconds.

Today I turned 53, and I weigh 38 pounds less than I did on New Year's Day. But I am still fat.

I have at least 52 more pounds to go before I reach what the medical charts say is the ideal weight for my height. But even then I will still be fat.

You see, I can never again allow myself to think of myself as slim. That word is a license to kill... and it almost killed me once.

I'm writing this here, not because I expect so many people to see it... but because, on my birthday, I needed to see it in print... so I will remember that today is the first day of the rest of my life.

 

Posted by David Bogner on June 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's that time again...

Close the door to your office... turn off the lights... put a box of tissues within easy reach... and press play:

Part 1

Part 2

Partial Transcript / translation:

Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.
[The open square of the Temple Mount.]

[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]

Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.

[Gunfire.]

Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.

[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]

[Yelling of commands to soldiers.]

[More soldiers’ footsteps.]

The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.

[Gunfire.]

We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.

[Gunfire.]

Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!

All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.

Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.

[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]

Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.

Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.

Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance but don't touch anything in the houses, especially the holy places.

[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]

Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?

Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.

Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]

Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and bulids Jerusalem]

Soldiers: Amen!

[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]

Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel:

[Soldiers weeping]

El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen!

[Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.]

[Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.]

Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!] *

Posted by David Bogner on May 28, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Echoes in Time

Yesterday my older sister posted an old photo on her Facebook page showing me and our younger brother, Benjamin.

Once I got over the initial shock of seeing what a fashion disaster I was back then, I started trying to figure out how old I was... and by extension, how old Benjamin had been.

Turns out that we were the same age as Gilad and Yonah are right now; 18 and 10, respectively.

Never one to pass on an opportunity to poke fun at myself, I asked the boys to pose for a similarly posed photo... with Gilad wearing a pair of my Navy shorts from back when I was 18 or 19.

Here you go:

 

 

 

Posted by David Bogner on May 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)