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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Please let this be the last time...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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!] *
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:
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Sunlight is the best disinfectant
In the past I've shared my opinion regarding Israel's current President. Specifically, I've pointed out that he doesn't seem to fully grasp the scope of the duties that the President is expected to carry out... and the limitations of the office's powers / responsibilities.
Just in case he happens by this site, I'll (once again) provide the broad strokes:
The President of the State of Israel is not supposed to involve himself in partisan politics. In fact, to ensure the apolitical nature of the role, Israeli law states that the president may "neither intervene politically nor express personal views on issues that divide the public". [source]
Personally, I can't think of any issue which has more potential to divide the public than negotiating the terms and conditions of a potential peace accord with the Palestinians.
Today, President Peres announced that he had secretly negotiated a peace agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back in 2011. In the interview he complains that when he brought the draft agreement to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Bibi rejected it.
Here's the article.
I have a few problems with this.
First and foremost is the fact that negotiating with foreign powers, particularly those hostile to Israel, is the exclusive domain of the Prime Minister (or whomever he designates). Holding secret negotiations with the PA is, by law, completely outside the scope of what the President is allowed to do.
Once we get past the problem of the President involved in negotiating the terms of a political agreement, we are faced with the additional damning fact that these negotiations were unsanctioned and carried out in secret without the knowledge or approval of the elected government.
President Peres seems to have a history of conveniently forgetting that Israel is a democracy with laws and statutes. He is quick to accuse others of being anti-democratic when they don't agree with him, but does not seem to feel that he, himself, is bound by the laws of the land.
His most serious breach of law was when he and Yossi Beilin (then Foreign Minister and Deputy foreign Minister for foreign affairs, respectively) began the 'Oslo Process', a set of illegal negotiations with the PLO without the knowledge or approval of the government. These negotiations were illegal because the PLO was defined as a terrorist organization, and Israeli law forbade such contact with an organization so defined.
Once the Oslo process was so far progressed that it would have been nearly impossible to back-track did Peres and Beilin bring then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin into the loop, and presented him with a fait accompli. For Rabin to have rejected the draft agreement would have made him appear anti-peace (just as Peres is now attempting to make Netanyahu look anti-peace for having rejected Peres' latest secretly negotiated agreement).
Israel's leftists makes a big show of supporting democracy and the rule of law when they perceive that anyone on the political right appears to be motivated by ideals or principles not enshrined in the letter of Israeli Law (such as when there is friction between adherence to Jewish law and adherence to civil and/or military law).
Yet when it comes to advancing their own agenda, Israeli law is often treated as a body of suggestions.
I am tired of secret negotiations which are presented to the public as 'done deals' so that anyone who finds the methods or content objectionable is immediately labeled 'unpatriotic' or 'anti-peace'.
I have never met a single Israeli - right or left wing - who is anti-peace. I mean seriously, ask yourself this: What parent, if given the choice, would prefer to have their children serve in a wartime military than one tasked with maintaining peace?
There is an old saying that 'Laws are like sausages... it is best not to see how they are made'. And to a certain extent, I agree that, in politics, one expects that a lot of back-room horse trading will take place between lawmakers.
But laws can be repealed or revised to suit the changing political mores and preferences of the population... while treaties negotiated between states and powers are binding and not so easily set aside. So to conduct so critical aspect of Israel's long-term foreign policy in secret, without the knowledge or guidance of the elected government, is anathema to democratic values.
Yet this is precisely what Shimon Peres has done throughout his career. He sees no problem with admitting that he violated the rules / limitations of his own office, and has the chutzpah to complain that when he did so, the sitting Prime Minister didn't roll over and eat the fruits of his poisoned tree.
Secrecy has its place. But if we Israelis will have to live with the results of some future peace accord with the Palestinians, it is paramount that we are aware of what is being negotiated in our name.
If we've learned anything from the failed Oslo Accords, it is that any deal hatched in darkness is doomed to failure once it is brought out into the light of day.
Sunlight truly is the best disinfectant.
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Remembering to remember
[A guest post for Israel's Memorial Day by my daughter, Ariella]
Stop. Everyone off the bus. It's in a minute.
Everyone understands. Everyone gets up and files off the bus quietly.
As we gather on the sidewalk I look around. Soldiers and civilians stand as one. The soldiers start to put on their כומתות (berets). I'm one of them.
And then it starts.
The siren wails loudly for all that we have lost, and in that moment everything stops. Nothing else matters. No matter where you are from, who you are, you are connected. To the loss. The pain. The remembering. You remember someone you knew, someone important and special who used to be the world.
And then all at once it ends. Just as suddenly as it began. And we all get back on the bus.
But none of us are the same. We all remember.
Monday, April 07, 2014
It's a Small World After All
Zahava and I started out our married life in an apartment in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. And like many of our contemporaries, when in due time our firstborn came along, once the short maternity leave was over, we had to find a safe, reliable daycare situation.
After some asking around and many interviews, we settled on a daycare in a private home run by a middle-aged widow who called herself 'Auntie Ro-Ro' (short for Rosalie). Auntie Ro-Ro's place was just a few blocks from where we lived, and was immaculately clean and full of toys, books and educational games. Best of all, Ro-Ro had a fixation with safety and security that was somewhere between eccentricity and obsession. In short, exactly the kind of place first time parents dream about.
Auntie Ro-Ro only accepted a few kids at a time, and we felt truly lucky to have found a place with her for Ariella.
Among the other children at Auntie Ro-Ro's was a little girl named Yakira who was the same age as Ariella. Yakira's parents also lived in the neighborhood and, like us, were young and just starting out in life.
Here's a picture of Ariella and Yakira at one of Ariella's birthday parties (Yakira's the little blonde girl):
(That's my younger sister there on the left)
Anyway... life marches on. When GIlad was born, he joined Ariella for a short time at Auntie Ro-ro's. But before long we left New York for Connecticut, the kids got bigger and went to school... and our brief sojourn in Brooklyn became a fond, but faded memory.
We enjoyed our time in Connecticut, but by the time Ariella and Gilad were 9 and 7 respectively, we were off again, this time to Israel.
Ari and Gili quickly adapted to their new surroundings, language and culture... and among the pleasant surprises we found in our new community was that Yakira's family had moved to Israel (directly from Brooklyn), a few years before us.
Fast forward a bunch of years and Ariella was finished with high school and off to the army. She decided to pursue a challenging combat support basic training, followed by a commander's course; all for the small chance to win one of the few coveted spots as a drill instructor at a very special base in Israel's north.
Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that this special basic training base/course was designed by the army to give young men from 'troubled' backgrounds (meaning anything from criminal offenses, to broken families to severe learning and/or discipline issues, etc.), who by most standards were deemed completely unsuited for military life, a last chance to join that great equalizer of Israeli society; the IDF.
All of the drill instructors at this special base are specially trained, hand-picked female soldiers who not only are expected to be stronger,faster, and better than their trainees at every task... but are also required to be hard as nails and as patient as saints.
Unlike most basic training courses, the drill instructors at this base are not allowed to mold their charges through yelling or intimidation. Rather, they take these young men, many of whom have never experienced discipline or success in any form in their lives... and through consistency and sheer force of will, show them how to succeed and become disciplined soldiers.
Naturally some are beyond the reach of even the most enlightened attempts to help them. But most of these soldiers go on to meaningful jobs in the IDF, and some even end up serving in combat and leadership roles. In short, they serve with distinction and finish the army with the abilities and tools to work, study or pursue anything they want...a situation that would have been nearly unthinkable at the time they were drafted.
Ariella was selected to be a drill instructor in this special program, and has now graduated her first group of soldiers.
But the reason I've shared this whole story today is the complete surprise that awaited Ariella when she reported to this special base: Who should be there to greet her with hugs and screams of "Achoti" ("My Sister!"), when she arrived, but Yakira... the little girl who had been her playmate all those years ago at Auntie Ro-Ro's daycare in Brooklyn.
Here they are together on their base (where they continue to serve together):
Obviously, growing up in the same Israeli town, Ariella and Yakira were friendly and had overlapping social circles. But they had been in different youth groups, had gone to different middle and high schools and had no clue the other was interested in this special army program.
So even though we live in a relatively small country, you have to admit that the odds of these two girls ending up being hand-picked for the same job in the army, and end up serving on the same base, is rather remarkable.
It really is a small world after all!
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The trials of an oblivious Israeli abroad
I got back to my hotel a couple of hours ago from a long business meeting here in a rural area of south India. I had my dinner of tuna, cup-o-noodles and a diet coke on the room's patio (it's actually more of a cottage than a room) while watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean.
Once it was completely dark out, I went back into the room, closed the sliding glass doors... making sure to draw the curtains so I wouldn't wake up in the morning to find monkeys staring in at me from the patio (something that happened on a previous visit to this place).
No sooner had I settled in at the desk to start typing up my report of the day's meeting, when I suddenly heard a series of loud pops from not too far away. There was a brief pause, and then more pops - bangs, actually - and then a series of loud explosions that were close enough to change the air pressure slightly; each one feeling as though someone had elbowed me gently in the stomach.
Then the power went out, and I found myself sitting in the dark staring at the glowing screen of my iPad, which was the only thing in the room emitting light.
Although less than 10 seconds had passed since the first pops had caught my attention, it felt like I had been sitting with my mind stuck in neutral for the better part of an hour... vaguely aware that something was not right, but not mentally engaged enough to sort out what, if anything, to do about it.
Finally, when the lights went out, my mind clanked into gear and I started to run through a checklist I had heard in dozens of briefings but had never believed I would ever need to employ:
- Run to check that door is locked, latched and dead bolted: check.
- Turn off light switches so that my room wouldn't appear occupied should the power go back on: check
- Check lock on patio doors: check
- Push dresser against door: check
- Sit on floor on the side of the bed away from patio doors so nobody outside the room can see there is anyone inside the room: check
- Take out cell phone and card with my list of emergency numbers and start dialing security officer at the nearest Israeli diplomatic mission (Mumbai): ch...
As I was about to hit send on the cell phone, a new series of pops and explosions shattered the silence... but from my new vantage point sitting in the dark on the floor, I could clearly see through the sheer curtains that the sky over the beach was lit up with a multi-colored fireworks display.
I dropped the phone onto the floor, leaned my forehead against the bed and sucked in a ragged breath... suddenly aware that I hadn't been breathing.
And then the power came back on, accompanied by the various beeps and boops of my various electronic gadgets starting to charge again.
As I climbed shakily back into the desk chair, I noticed the hotel activities flyer sitting next to the desk blotter.
And there at the end of the day's planned activities... after the yoga and meditation classes... after the spa and health club hours, treatments and sessions... after the list of restaurants and the hours that meals would be served... was an invitation to come to the beachside bar to enjoy a complimentary cocktail while watching a special fireworks display.
Holy crap, I really need to pay closer attention to the hotel activities flyer.
It turns out the short power outage was simply a case of unfortunate timing, but not that uncommon an occurrence in a resort that is situated in the midst of tropical jungle.
For the first time that I can remember... I treated myself to a couple of little airline bottles of overpriced hooch from the room's minibar. Let my company accounts manager try to argue with me over the expense. Have I got a story for him!
Sunday, February 16, 2014
The Glory and Splendor
I don't know about the rest of you, but I've been truly enjoying the pageantry, traditions, rivalry and commentary over the past week or so.
There are some storied names to follow, as well as new faces hoping to write their own page in history... but enough time has gone by that it all seems fresh and innocent again.
Best of all after a long cold winter are the images of bright sunshine on green grass... shirtsleeves and ball-caps... and the sharp slap of horsehide on leather.
Wait, what? You thought I was referring to the Winter Olympics in Sochi? [~yawn~]?!
Nah... I was talking about the fact that pitchers and catchers reported to spring training camps. And once again, all is right with the world.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Palestinians Planning New Airport
It's really a bit much... the people who refined airborne terror to an art-form, are planning an international airport. I mean, let's face it, back in the 1960s and 1970s few people bothered to use the cumbersome terms 'Palestinian Hijacker' or 'Palestinian Terrorist' because of the obvious redundancy.
But you have to admire the overreaching ambition of the Palestinian Authority in planning an airport which will presumably be named for their founding father; Yassir Arafat.
The Yassir Arafat International Airport. Kind of trips off the tongue, doesn't it? For short it will be called YAIA (sort of like the last sound passengers might make as they tumble through the debris of their exploded aircraft). I can hear the reservation agents asking departing passengers: "Will that be hijacking or non-hijacking?".
The grisly irony is almost too much... kind of like Jeffrey Dahmer (if he were still alive), opening a chain of fast food restaurants.
Then again, this plan isn't all that surprising or ironic... if you take into account that the same entity that sent terrorists to slaughter the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics has been welcomed with open arms into the family of Olympic nations.
The upside of all this is that the European powers will be forced to show if they are really pro-Palestinian or simply anti-Israel. The proof will be in how many (if any) of their national carriers commit to booking regular air service to and from YAIA.
Let's see how far this actually goes... and if the donated funds for the project actually make it to the ground, or are diverted to PA officials' Swiss bank accounts. I'm betting on the latter.