Tuesday, November 12, 2013
A Veteran's Day Post
Although a day late, it's never too late to say thank you.
Many of us have heard and seen parts of the following quotation used in TV and movie titles, but don't know the source:
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
~Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3
I have brothers and sisters all over the world with whom I have a complete unspoken understanding on a wide range of subjects and values. With the words, 'I served...' nothing more needs to be said.
We shared similar experiences. We endured similar trials and measured ourselves against similar standards. It doesn't matter what branch, task, or rank... for a time we served our countries and followed orders (even if we didn't always agree with, or fully understand them). We set aside, for a time, the concept of 'I', and became part of a 'we'. We relied on others, and others relied on us. That reliance was complete and reciprocal. Our lives depended on that mutual trust.
It's all understood with that short opening phrase; 'I served...'.
Thank you, my brothers and sisters, for your service.
A follow up from Ariella
[The following was posted as a comment on the last post, but since several people had specifically asked about the cookies for soldiers initiative that Ari mentioned, I decided to publish her comment here as a new post]
I want to thank everyone who left comments. I really appreciate them. It means a lot to me!
As for the cookies for the soldiers, it's a small but growing orginization that a friend of mine started with his army buddies. The idea was that coming back to the army after a Shabbat at home is always tough so a taste of home always helps. Also knowing that families all over the country care about the soldiers does a lot as well. So every week people make cookies and every Friday they are destributed to soldiers who don't get to go home for Shabbat and on Sunday to those who are returning to their bases.
As I said. It is a small but growing organization and they can always use help.
They can be found on facebook under העוגייה למען החייל. (the name is in Hebrew but they post both in Hebrew and English) and aryeh (one of the founders) can be reached by email:
Again thank you for all the wonderful comments!
Friday, November 08, 2013
Thoughts of a soldier during a very long shmira (guard duty)...
[a guest post by Ariella]
Well I guess I should start at the beginning.
My name is Ariella Bogner. I was born in the US, and in 2003 when I was 9 years old, I moved with my family to an Israeli town called Efrat. I went to a high school in Jerusalem called Pelech, and after i graduated I did a year at a Pre-military Academy in the Jordan Valley called HaEmek. On july 18th I enlisted in the IDF. Five days later I celebrated a decade of living in this country.
As I mentioned, I have lived in Efrat (located south of Jerusalem in Gush Etzion) for the past ten years. Over that time I learned a lot about the history of the place. The battles fought and the lives lost trying to protect my home.
Where I live it is not unusual to see civilians with a weapon or a Palestinians walking nearby... and honestly, I think nothing of either. Another detail in the everyday view is the presence of soldiers. Whether its at the Machsom (check point), trempiadot (bus stop/hitch hiking place), or entrances to the yishuvim, they have always been there.
These are soldiers that came from all over the country to protect the place I love and call home.
And it is because of that, that we love these soldiers like family. There is no such thing as a soldier who is left without a place to eat on Shabbat, or doesn't get a snack or hot drink in the cold or even a cookie (shout out to the 'Cookies for the soldiers foundation') before Shabbat.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that as a kid, growing up here I always admired the soldiers. It's because of these soldiers that where I come from everyone enlists and is proud to do so. We aim for as high as we can go.
So I reported for duty on the 18th of July with a feeling of pride.
I am now four months into my service, a month away from finishing my sergeants course. One of the obligations of my course is that we do haganat yishuvim (protecting of settlements). It basically means that my unit splits up for a week between 15-20 yishuvim and guards them for a week. I ended up in a settlement in an area south of our home in the south Hebron hills.
I can't help thinking that I am here, in uniform, protecting the place I love and for the past ten years have called home. I can't think of a better way to thank all those soldiers who protected my family, friends and home. I can't possible thank you enough. But I'll try.
As my shift came to an end I walked by a school bus and the driver shouted "kol hacavod lachayelet shelanu!" (well done to our soldier) OUR soldier... a feeling of pride ran through me as a lump formed in my throat.
But then again, that's how we always felt about the soldiers stationed near our town. OUR soldiers... our kids, brothers, sisters, parents... whatever! That have always been ours.
And this time it was me.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
A bit of nostalgia
This video from the early 50s landed in my inbox this morning. Watching it over breakfast I couldn't help but be charmed by its innocence... and amazed by how far we've come. I have no complaints about my own arrival and absorption into Israeli society.
Hat Tip to Ari Greenspan
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Boycott Israel if you must...
A surprisingly cogent response to a nagging question:
Friday, September 13, 2013
The other shoe
Anyone want to venture a guess what sort of statement was made yesterday afternoon to the press?
And I quote:
"Syria President Bashar Assad said Thursday that Israel should be the first to disarm from weapons, since it has nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. He added that all countries in the Mideast should be held to international protocol in order to achieve stability in the region."
Notice he didn't say 'also'. He said 'first'... as in 'Syria isn't going to do anything until Israel is forced to do it first'.
Russia knew it (and maybe even planned it). America never even saw it coming. Rookie move by Kerry to offer such an opening; even rhetorically. And foolish for Obama not to have slammed the door quickly by issuing an immediate clarification.
[Hat tip to Roni Brandl for spotting it first]
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Let me tell you how this all plays out in Syria
No, I don't have any special powers of prophecy... nor do I have access to secret intelligence that would give me an inside track as to what will happen in Syria.
What I do have is a voracious appetite for both history and current events. Anyone with access to both, and the curiosity to occasionally compare the two, will have a pretty good idea of what is about to happen.
Just to allow those returning from summer vacation to catch up, let's review:
On August 21st, somebody launched rockets armed with a nerve agent at a suburb of Damascus, killing upwards of 1400 civilians.
According to US reports, the rockets were fired from areas controlled by the Syrian Army. And at least to this point, of all the factions currently fighting in Syria, only the Syrian government is known to possess chemical weapons.
Of course, Syrian President Assad claims that it was one of the anti-government rebel factions who fired the chemical weapons, and the Russians and Chinese have blocked US-led efforts to drum up support at the UN for a limited military strike to punish Syria with for breaching one of the few sacrosanct 'norms' of modern warfare.
Flash forward past the dwindling international support for an attack, past by President Obama's decision to seek congressional support for a military strike on Syria... and it was getting pretty hard to decide who was more isolated/embattled by the crisis; the Syrian or US government.
Then, by a mere offhand remark/slip of the tongue, US Secretary of State Kerry served up a potential alternative to a military strike. When asked if anything could be done to avert a US strike on Syria, he said, "Sure, [Assad] could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week...without delay and allow the full and total accounting for that, but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done, obviously."
Although Kerry's remark was meant to be rhetorical, the Russians immediately latched onto the idea and launched an initiative of their own to convince the Syrian government to do pretty much what Kerry had suggested, albeit without a specific time-frame.
Okay, so now we are at the stage where the powers that be are fine-tuning the language on the newly minted 'Russian Initiative' to give it some teeth in terms of both timing and verification... but the other shoe has yet to fall. And that other shoe is where the cigar blows up in Israel's face:
I predict that everyone will sign off on the Russian Initiative to have Syria turn over all of it's stockpiles of chemical weapons to International control (and eventual destruction). The wording of the final agreement will be very stern, and will have a fairly short time-frame for compliance. The consequences of non-compliance will also be spelled out in equally serious language... and the Syrian government will soberly agree to sign on the dotted line.
But then......... just as the document is about to be signed, and the international inspectors/collectors are en-route to Damascus, President Assad (at Russia's urging, no doubt) will drop the other shoe: He will demand that Syria's compliance be linked to Israel's compliance to the exact same terms.
Assad will state that if the international community is really serious about ridding the region of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and not just giving lip service to the idea, Israel must also be forced to open up its chemical, biological and nuclear facilities to international inspection, and to turn over everything for destruction.
At that point, the success or failure of the Russian Initiative will be laid entirely at Israel's feet. All of the word's superpowers will align in a rare show of unity and demand that Israel must - for the sake of regional and world peace - abandon its longtime stance of ambiguity regarding WMDs, and agree to the same terms as are being imposed on Syria.
It won't matter that Israel has never even hinted at the use of such weapons (much less confirmed their existence), and that Syria has actually used them; quite frequently, as it turns out. Israel will be painted into the same corner as a pariah regime. And when we refuse to comply (as we surely will), the failure to punish Syria will be blamed not on Russia, China, the UK, US or even the UN Security council... but rather on Israel.
This is one time that I pray I am wrong.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Alone with the dishes (reprised)
[I wrote this post back in 2004 to describe the mental preparation that goes into this period between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. I haven't been able to improve upon it. yet.]
One gets to do a fair amount of thinking late at night… alone with the dishes. Zahava does her fair share of the dishes, but for the big jobs… particularly after dinner parties, large Shabbat/holiday meals, etc… I’m the guy left surveying the wreckage and not knowing exactly where to begin.
So it is (for me) with the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.
For me, they are like the aftermath of an enormous, wild dinner party… one where invitations were extended to far more people than the house could comfortably accommodate…. the kind of rollicking soirée that is talked about and savored for months.
But such a party comes with a price to pay.
Rosh Hashanah (for me) is roughly analogous to standing [aghast] in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room surveying the damage.
What was I thinking?
Every horizontal surface is stacked high with dirty glasses and dishes.
Half-empty bottles of merlot, syrah and chardonnay stand abandoned beside empty bottles of bourbon and scotch.
The sinks overflow with greasy dishes, and the dessert service (dishes, tea cups and saucers) seem evenly distributed between the dinning room table and the various kitchen counters.
Linen napkins sit balled on (and under) chairs, and glasses of every description seem to wink at me from wherever the wandering conversationalists abandoned them.
On Rosh Hashanah I stand slumped in that imaginary doorway trying to make the insurmountable seem… well, surmountable. Trying to place the soiled contents of my slovenly year into some kind of framework where things can be addressed in an orderly fashion.
Anyone who has been left to clean up after a big dinner party understands the daunting nature of the task. At first glance it seems the house will never be clean again.
But then I pick up that first wine glass (with the half-moon of lipstick on the rim) and place it in such a way as to demonstrate to the long departed guests and sleeping house that this spot on the sideboard is where the crystal will be gathered.
And so Rosh Hashanah begins (for me)… nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.
Several circuits of the house bring more dirty wine, whiskey, and water glasses than I ever knew we owned, to join the first there on the counter.
Then, emptying one of the sinks of its precariously balanced contents, I draw a basin of hot soapy water.
As the sink fills, I designate other places for dishes and for cups and for saucers… each to each… all according to size. Warming to the familiar task, I take comfort in the muffled sound of the water under its foamy cloak… almost like a prayer.
And so Rosh Hashanah continues (for me). Nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.
Next the sterling flatware and serving pieces are gathered into a soup pot full of soapy water, and the linen napkins are bundled with the tablecloth into the hamper in the laundry room.
With the leftovers put safely into the refrigerator and the trash bundled to the bin, the place is starting to look more sane… not one iota cleaner, mind you... but the illusion of order has begun to emerge from the chaos.
Now pots and pans of every shape and size are filled with soapy water and placed on the stove and sidebaord to soak. Measuring cups and carving knives are placed beside legions of serving platters. Spices are returned to their places and canisters of flour and sugar are placed back on their shelves… each gestures creating a bit of space… and again, that comforting suggestion of emerging order.
And so Rosh Hashanah ends (for me)… nothing having been washed just yet… but the insurmountable beginning to seem… surmountable.
I stand now in the spiritual doorway between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur… balanced on the threshold between what I have created during the year…and what I have consumed. I haven’t yet washed a thing, although some of the bigger problems have been identified and have been placed in to soak. The glasses all sit with their fellows and the dishes are stacked according to size. Everything still bears the smudges and smears of too much fun… too much indulgence.
But now as I look around, the task seems manageable… surmountable.
As I stand listening to the soft ahhhhhhhhhh of the soap bubbles as they settle in the sink, I am ready for Yom Kippur. I know what has to be washed… and I know (hope) that after the necessary amount of work I will find myself at the end of Yom Kippur’s fast with the dish towel in my hands, surveying the sparkling china… the lovingly polished sterling… the immaculate crystal… each in its place, and the house looking (and feeling) ready for a fresh beginning.
May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year.
Monday, September 02, 2013
I find it telling that the Arab League and Turkey (many of whom receive sizeable military aid/equipment packages from the US and other western countries), are coming out strongly in favor of a US military attack on Syria... but have no intention of lifting a finger to help.
In fact, Turkey's Prime Minister has made several public statements to the effect that a few days of firing missiles at military targets won't be enough. He wants the US to intervene militarily to remove the Assad regime.
My question is this:
Why the hell do the US and other western powers give military aid to these clowns? Why do Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have the latest jet fighters and helicopters provided by the US and Europe. Why do these countries have well-equipped armies, navies and air forces on someone else's dime if there is no expectation that when push comes to shove, they will join a coalition led by their benefactor(s)?
I've heard the old saw that 'It isn't a reasonable or ethical request to expect Muslim countries to join a US attack on another Muslim country!'
Oh really? Why not?!
Have we really all bought into their bullsh*t that Muslims are some sort of special class of humans, and to expect them to take a stand against one of their own would be tantamount to fratricide?!
Puleeze! They have no trouble slaughtering one another at the drop of a hat when the mood strikes them.
Are we really saying that we have zero expectations of these countries after all that has been done for them? Are we really okay with them, once again, standing by like some schoolyard mob pushing the hapless combatants forward, yelling, "Fight, fight, fight...", all the while staying safely on the sidelines and enjoying the spectacle?
I think the time has come for the western powers - particularly the US - to take a close look at who they supply with military aid, and make that aid contingent upon rolling up their sleeves and providing some support (troops, planes, ships, airfields, refueling tankers, intelligence, etc.), whenever a fight breaks out.
Fail to step up just once? Kiss that fat aid check good-bye.
I don't really care that this risks pushing them into the sphere of influence of Russia or China. I'd rather Russia and China be bled dry by these leeches.
Bottom line: If these countries aren't willing to vote with the west at the UN... side with the west on global issues... share their oil with the west at an equitable price...and above all, put some skin in the game when the west really needs them to have our back... they aren't really in the west's sphere of influence in the first place, now are they?
Sunday, September 01, 2013
That about sums it up
One of the few things that most people can agree upon regarding Syria is that there are few, if any, good choices... at least as far as foreign intervention of any sort goes. Yet that doesn't stop people from holding forth very loudly and criticizing both action and inaction (often in the same, convoluted, rant).
I've actually taken to challenging taxi drivers, office pundits and amateur political analysts in cafes when I hear them carrying on about what should and/or shouldn't be done vis-à-vis Syria.
Like placing a piece of sheet music in front of an electrical guitar player, there is apparently no faster way to get a know-it-all to turn down the volume on their opinions than to ask them to 'play the melody' of their so-called solution.
It turns out pretty much everyone is big on criticizing what is or isn't being done, but when asked to outline specific alternatives (and the consequences of those alternatives), they get very quiet, very quickly.
To be clear, I don't envy President Obama his current position, having haplessly painted himself into a corner with last year's ill-advised 'red line' speech, and now having had to take a step back and pull Congress into the corner with him to wait for the paint to dry.
I think that, probably for the first time, Vice President Joe Biden - standing off to the side while Obama slowly twisted in the wind - was genuinely relieved to hold an office with few, if any, real responsibilities.
As private citizens, we hope/trust that the free world's elected leaders have access to better intelligence, advisers and resources than we do when tackling the big problems. Surely what looks like a Gordian Knot to us down here must have some sort of solution when viewed from the lofty heights of power... right?
So it is frustrating to hear the leader of the free world admitting in a globally broadcast speech that he wants to ask around a bit more before deciding what, if anything, can be done to punish Syria and keep them, and other despots, from repeating such a massacre.
Yes, I can already hear some of you saying that in a democracy like the US, the Executive Branch can't act alone. The President has to consult with the people's elected representatives; the US Congress.
And I accept that answer.
But I can't help wondering why Obama didn't consult Congress two weeks ago while the bodies of the victims were still warm... or a week ago when his intelligence sources had concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Assad's regime had indeed carried out a massacre using chemical weapons.
So, lacking a ready solution from Washington, London or Paris, I've been scanning the media for someone - anyone - to offer sounder opinions than I've been hearing on TV or forming for myself. And I've been coming up empty.
I can't conceive of a good plan, for action or inaction, that will have the smallest impact on Syria's (or any other player's) potential future use of unconventional weapons. Short of performing an Etch-O-Sketch-esque reset of the whole sandbox (not a reasonable option at present) there just aren't any good plans.
But I did get a chuckle out of an observation, quoted in today's New York Times, provided by a Syrian citizen after watching Obama's speech on TV:
"... for Homs resident, Abu Bassam, 31, the only possible response was black humor.
“Man, I wish Bush was the president,” he said. “He would have reacted right away. He may have invaded Cyprus or Jordan instead of Syria by mistake, but you know he would have done something at least.”
That about sums it up.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Lending the UN a Modicum of Moral ClarityAt a time when the UN Security Council is having difficulty forming a consensus as to whether the deliberate killing of as many as 1300 Syrian civilians - many of them children - with nerve gas, warrants explicit condemnation, muh less a clear directive to actually investigate... it is reassuring that Israel can offer itself as a unifying force; crystallizing the UN's resolve to act with haste and moral clarity to address the pressing issue of suburban apartment construction in the West Bank.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Some Unsolicited Thoughts from an Olah Vatikah on Her First Day as a non-Olah Chadasha/10 Signs Your Klita is Going Well
[A Guest Post by Zahava]
Welcome new olim!
It is with a profound and combined sense of gratitude, pride, surprise, and joy that I spent some time this morning thumbing through the pix of today’s new olim over at the Nefesh B’Nefesh FB page. In many ways it feels like just yesterday that my family and I stood in your shoes –- feeling simultaneously exhilarated and shocked by our new reality. It was, to put it mildly, quite an emotional experience.
I well remember the charge of excitement mingled with more than a touch of nervousness. What had I done? I had thought I was prepared before we left, but upon landing –- despite the warm and sincere welcome -– I was suddenly unsure that “sane” was an appropriate description of my mental status….
10 years later, I am still exhilarated and shocked -- exhilarated because I still truly believe that living here is the best choice for me and my family, and remain somewhat in awe that we get to “live the dream” -- and shocked because it simply doesn’t seem possible that 10 years have already flown by!
But, 10 years have elapsed since that incredible day that we alit from our charter NBN flight and became Israeli citizens. When I take an honest look at the many memories that have been collected over the past 10 years, I realize how much we have all grown.
In no particular order, and by no means a complete list, here are 10 signs that my family and I have successfully made the transition from completely American to Anglo-Israeli:
10. Ability to hear the breaks between the words when listening to Adi Ashkenazi! (She is hilarious, btw!)
9. Successful anticipation/prediction of the contents of a can of tomato product BEFORE opening it and without consulting a dictionary –- and it is CORRECT! (Let’s just say we had a lot of “tomato-surprise” dinners!)
8. Gratitude to the point of giddiness when it rains – even when you are freezing your tush off!
7. Solid white albacore seems dry.
6. Ability to UNDERSTAND Adi Ashkenazi! (What can I say, she is really funny – and so are Asi and Guri)!
5. The automatic answer to any question involving directions is “yashar, yashar v’aaz tishol!” (Straight, straight, and then ask!)
4. The ability to refrain from throttling someone whose answer to you is either “y’hiyeh b’seder” (it’ll be okay) or “aval lo kara klum!” (but nothing happened).
3. A tourist, even after hearing you speak in Hebrew, asks if you speak any English.
2. Your idea of “special occasion” clothing for your youngest son is a white shirt, blue shorts and sandalim – and you are genuinely shocked that your family in the States expected him to be in a suit.
1. Your kids celebrate that day which signifies them having lived more than half their lives in Israel!
Welcome home “NBN Olim Class of July 23, 2013!” The entire Treppenwitz (NBN Olim Class of July 23, 2003) family wishes you a successful and soft klita!
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Lie down with dogs... get up with fleas
According to a news report, an 'observer' from the self-described Human Rights group 'B'tselem' has filed a complaint about being shot in the thigh with a rubber bullet while filming a violent confrontation between Palestinians hurling stones and Israeli Border Patrol officers using non-lethal crowd dispersal measures (tear gas and rubber bullets).
To be clear, I am all for neutral observers filming interactions between civilians and military/police personnel. It is an extra layer of accountability, in addition to existing laws and rules of engagement, that can help reduce or even prevent abuses by government forces... while discouraging civilians and/or irregular combatants (terrorists) from filing spurious charges against official forces who are acting lawfully.
The problem is that B'tselem long ago abandoned any pretense at neutrality/objectivity. Their cameras are invariably pointed at the Israeli military, police and settlers, while systematically editing their footage in such a way so as to only show Palestinian civilians acting peacefully, waving flags and chanting.
I've personally witnessed violent confrontations here where B'Tselem photographers stood amongst the Palestinians who were throwing stones and molotov cocktails... yet their cameras were pointed only at the Israeli's, apparently in hopes of capturing their violent reaction. And there are countless cases of violent clashes being 'made to order' by the very presense of B'tslem cameras.
I won't get into analyzing the mindset that motivates a certain segment of Israeli society to stoop to such levels of self-loathing that they aid and abet groups that have openly dedicated themselves to Israel's vilification and destruction.
Shame on B'Tselem for abandoning their original mission which, as I stated at the outset, was not only laudable, but IMHO, essential. Their current actions are so one-sided and biased as to be indistinguishable from acting as human shields from behind which violent and illegal actions can be carried out against Israeli government forces and citizens with impunity.
And as far as I'm concerned, this B'tselem 'observer' put herself in harms way and got exactly what she was looking for; harm.
If you align and embed yourself with people carrying out illegal/violent acts, you can't cry foul when you get winged by one of the non-lethal tools at the disposal of the military and police forces whose job it is to confront such acts.
As Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Poor Richard's Almanac, "qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent" ("He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas").
Friday, July 19, 2013
She hasn't lost her shine
I was basically useless at work yesterday. All I could think about was Ariella being bounced around the IDF processing center like a shiny silver ball in a pinball machine. I knew she could hold her own and stand up to most any abuse. But I didn't want it to be at the cost of the light that shines from within her.
Finally at the end of the day when I was on my way home from work, a single photo hit my cell phone.
I needn't have worried.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
We dropped off our little girl today...
I feel like my whole life has been spent dropping Ariella off.
I can still remember dropping her off at nursery school, kindergarten and grade school. We dropped her off at youth group events, at friends' houses and at the mall. We dropped her at high school, at her navigation and survival courses and at her mechina (pre-military academy).
What every one of those drop-offs had in common was that no matter what... no matter how focused, excited, frightened or ambivalent Ariella might have been about where she was going... she always looked back... just as she had on that first day of nursery school... and smiled. Some kids look back to seek reassurance and courage from their parents. Ariella always seemed to peek back over her shoulder in order to reassure us... as if to say, "Don't worry, I'll be just fine."
But nothing prepares a parent for dropping a child off at an army induction center.
This morning at 7:30 AM, Zahava and I dropped our little girl off on Ammunition Hill, to begin a challenge/adventure that will last two years, perhaps more.
When we arrived, there were dozens of other families already milling about outside with their draft-age children. And although many of the 'kids' knew each other and spent a lot of the time hugging old friends and trying to act like this was just another day, all the parents could do was look at one another and smile with our hearts in our mouths.
After about half an hour (after all, the army is all about waiting, right?), a voice came over the loudspeaker telling everyone to come inside. As we filed inside, the 'kids' were asked to show their teudat zehut (national I.D. card) and tsav giyus (draft notice) to a Sergeant stationed at the entrance.
Ariella's name was duly checked off on the list, and we went in and stood around waiting for her name to appear on a big electronic board.
Like all the other families, we took photos of Ariella... as if by capturing her image at this place and time we could somehow keep her in our pockets and by our side.
Before long, we heard Ari's name called over the overhead loudspeaker, and her name, along with several other soon-to-be soldiers, flashed up on the electronic board.
We took our little girl through the crowd to the end of the large hall where her I.D. and draft notice were checked once more against a list, she was handed a small book of Psalms and a wrapped piece of candy... and ushered through a door to a curving outside walkway. And although we knew that up that walkway waited the beginning of the rest of our little girl's life, we couldn't join her... she had to go alone.
As I said, nothing prepares a parent for such a moment. How could it?
But as my heart was both breaking and bursting with pride, just before Ariella turned the corner and was lost from view, she looked back just like she always had... just a little peek to reassure us that she'd be just fine.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Trying to stay out of this
Even though I still pay taxes (and vote) in the US, since I no longer live there I should probably refrain from weighing in on current events there.
However, I have to say I am non-plussed by the demonstrations taking place in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. A demonstration/protest usually has some goal in mind... some expectation of a changed outcome.
Yet here is a jury verdict at the end of legal proceedings and trial that were conducted under a media microscope. That's the nature of the beast. That's the horse race. The police, prosecutors, attorneys, and judges (and let's not forget the media) all did their utmost to influence the outcome of the trial. But in the end, the decision was left in the hands of a bunch of people too dumb to get out of jury duty. I kid. Sort of.
Seriously, it's an imperfect system. But it's better than most.
But I just wish that the public would grow up and realize that the time to examine (and perhaps change) the rules by which this game is played happens in the voting booth. Sure, some pressure can be brought to bear on elected officials. But for the most part, you ask the policy questions before you vote for someone... not after. Otherwise it just seems like silly buyer's remorse to protest that the race was run according to rules you approved of by voting for this stiff over that one.
What's that? You didn't vote for the people who wrote / upheld the current laws? Well, guess what? The majority of your neighbors did. Welcome to democracy! Better luck next time around.
If you think a law is unjust and should be changed... or there is some gap in the legal code that needs filling... by all means try to elect people who feel as you do, or at least do what you can to influence those already in office. That is an excellent reason to hold demonstrations and do other things to express your outrage.
But to protest the outcome of a jury trial is just childish. It is like calling to rerun the horse race after the last horse has crossed the finish line, just because your horse didn't finish in the money.
And one other thing that troubles me deeply: There is, in my humble opinion, an unmistakable racist element to these sort of protests. After all, I didn't see anything of this sort after the OJ verdict; a flawed verdict if ever there was one!
I guess when the flawed system lets your horse win, you shut up and count your winnings.
But as I said... I'm trying to stay out of this.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Ever wonder what happened to the Blue Meanies?
Yellow Submarine fans can rest assured that the Blue Meanies are alive and well... and living among us.
I present as proof, this photo of a recent European protest surrounding the Snowden affair:
Do you see her?
I love when a plan comes together!
A few days ago I wrote a post about a ten year old girl in Missouri who had had her toy scooter stolen... and how, upon reading about the incident, the crowd from the scooter forum I frequent had stepped up to try to make things right.
Well, here's the end result. I pixelated her face because I don't have her parent's permission to post her photo online. But trust me when I tell you she is smiling ear to ear!
Scooter are expensive, and like any valuable commodity, attractive to criminals. So, naturally, a reoccurring theme on the scooter forum is the near universal problem of theft... and what kind of punishment those who steal scooters deserve.
But of all the stolen scooter threads I've read where we fantasized about the revenge we'd take on the thieves if we could ever catch them... I think this one collective triumph of good over evil is, by far, the best revenge imaginable.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
The unbearable strangeness of... wanting
I must be wired strangely.
Because I can't find a reasonable explanation for why certain things bore me to tears... while others fascinate me to the point of sleeplessness and obsession.
Take, for example, a little factoid I recently read about an element called Gallium.
Gallium is an unremarkable element but for the fact that this shiny silvery substance begins liquefying at 85.85°F.
Which means that holding a chunk of Gallium in your hand for a few minutes will allow you to watch it turn into a quick-silver-esque puddle of kewlness... without any of the health risks associated with, say, Mercury.
Oh, and did I mention that you can pick up a nice chunk of Gallium on Amazon for a song?
To be clear, there is absolutely no practical reason I can think of for owning any Gallium. And yet...
Must. Resist. Temptation....
You secretly want to do this...
... you know you do!
[hat tip: Book of Joe]
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
I love the smell of altruism in the morning...
I may have mentioned on one or two occasions that I frequent an online scooter forum for Vespa enthusiasts (although the forum's international membership consists of scooterists and motorcyclists of myriad stripe and brand allegiance).
Aside from the pleasure I get from sharing scooter-related opinions and advice with like-minded people around the world, there is a very satisfying sense of community and civility in this little corner of the Internet that is sorely lacking in most other parts of the online and offline world.
While this forum certainly has a clear set of posted rules governing the behavior of the participants, there are also unwritten rules - an oral tradition of sorts - that has developed organically, which deplores bad behavior in general... and larceny in particular.
When one of the members has a crash as a result of a careless or aggressive motorist, the forum rallies around the member with soothing words of sympathy, advice and 'care packages' of chocolate and such.
And if a member's scooter is stolen (something that happens with alarming frequency, despite security precautions such as alarms and locks), a network of members springs into action to offer advice on dealing with insurance issues, as well as passing around regional lookout notices to help try to recover the stolen property.
But at the end of the day, everyone is expected to be responsible for their own safety, as well as for the security of their equipment. Which means that while we may sympathize with an injured rider and commiserate over a stolen scooter. As adults, everyone is expected to play the cards they are dealt... and, where necessary, ante up.
This past week, an unusual, but heartbreaking photo was posted on the forum by a member.
It seems a ten-year-old little girl in Missouri had been given a mini-electric (rechargeable) scooter, and had parked it for safe-keeping on the front porch of her family's home. This wasn't a real scooter, mind you. It was just a sophisticated electric (albeit, rideable) toy meant to be used in parking lots and on sidewalks.
In spite of the precaution of placing it on the porch, some miscreant stole the little girl's scooter. The next day, the girl made up a large sign which she placed in a prominent spot near her house... and a picture of the sign was posted to the forum:
Something about the sign seems to have struck a note with the members of the forum. Maybe it was the fact that the little girl was responding to her loss in such a positive and mature manner. Maybe it was because of her excellent spelling, grammar and penmanship. Maybe it was just a basic, 'There but for the grace of G-d, go I...', sort of thing.
Whatever the reason, forum members started asking questions such as, "What kind of scooter was it?"... "How much did it cost?"... "Can you show us a picture of what it looked like?".
Apparently the scooter was still so new that the family hadn't had a chance to photograph the little girl riding it, but they posted a picture they found of the exact model and color along with an estimated replacement cost (according to Amazon) of about $250:
Without anyone actually issuing a call to action, one by one many of the hundreds of forum members around the world started chiming in to pledge a few dollars towards replacing the little girl's scooter.
After it quickly became clear that we were well on our way to covering the cost of the stolen scooter, the owner of a (real) scooter dealership in LA, who is also a forum member, stepped up and promised to provide the balance of whatever was needed to replace the little girl's scooter.
All of this took place in the course of just a few days. And ironically, it wasn't even a 'real' scooter that was stolen... just a battery powered, rechargeable sidewalk/parking lot toy.
It made me feel proud to be part of such a community. And it warmed my heart to see that the instinct to perform 'Tikun Olam' (repairing the world), crosses religious, racial, political and geographic lines.
I love the smell of altruism in the morning. It smells like... kindness.
[I hope to post a photo of the little girl on her new scooter once this small corrective action has run its course]