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      A Soldier’s Mother
      One mother’s journey through the Israeli army with her sons

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      Paula R. Stern is CEO and founder of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company offering documentation services and training seminars. She made aliyah in 1993 when her oldest son was 6 years old. In March 2007, her son Elie entered the Artillery Division of the Israeli army and Paula began writing about her experiences as A Soldier’s Mother. The blog continues as Elie begins Reserve Duty and her son Shmulik is now a soldier. She recently opened a publishing house, helping other authors fulfill their dream to publish.

      Links to the Author's blogs:

      Adar Bet 10, 5771, 3/16/2011

      Words that Break the Heart

      There are things that happen that threaten to break your spirit, your drive, your ability to cope. How, I want to ask God, how can we bear this horrible thing? When parents are killed, leaving behind orphans, that is a horrible crime. But the children. How can you bear to think of an 11-year-old murdered. My youngest is 11 - she is so full of life, smiles, always talking. She calls me to tell me about her day. Endless energy, life.

      How can you bear that a three year old has been murdered? Stabbed in the heart. How is it possible? And the baby...God, the baby. How could anything even close to human slit the throat of a three month old baby? What sickness, what depravity, what evil, what hatred those beings must have in them. I cannot call them human. I cannot. Yes, I know all about how the Nazis said the Jews were not human and this attitude helped contribute to the ability of Nazi Germany to destroy as ants and sheep, more than six million of my people. But what did the Jews do to the Germans?

      Nothing - the Jews did not throw rocks and firebombs, rockets and missiles. They never murdered Germans as the Arabs continue to try to kill us. No, never - I do not believe a unit of Jews went into a German home and slit the throat of a baby. No.

      There are things that happen that threaten to break your spirit - and there are the images that break the heart. Of the clenched fists, of the baby, of the father, of the mother. It is so hard to imagine, so hard to accept and move on.

      But I managed, I really did. I cried a little; I released my anger a bit more - here and on Facebook and Twitter helped. So, really, while I almost broke...I didn't, until now completely break. Not when I had to talk to Aliza and listen to her, not when Shmulik told me to lock the door, not even when I saw the pictures. Not when I read the hate messages on CNN and other sites blaming Israel. Not when people post to Facebook asking for proof that the Palestinians handed out sweets in Gaza to celebrate the terrorist attack (why lie about such, when the proof is there in the photos?). No, none of this broke me to the point where I just couldn't talk or listen or think.

      Sad as it is, I've seen this before, suffered these tragedies. Each touches the heart, but doesn't break the soul. Each comes close, but even as it comes close, you know you'll go on tomorrow. It is the reality of life here and I know I would never, could never change it.

      The words that broke my heart came not from those who hate, but from one who loves. Not from our enemies, but from the purest of souls. I listened to the funerals. I heard Ruthie and Rav Udi's brothers and father and though I cried, I did not break. Perhaps the concept of breaking is strange, and so let me explain it in other terms.

      When I went with my daughter to Poland for 8 days, we walked into gas chambers and though I cried, I did not break. For me, breaking was the moment when I turned to my daughter and said, "I can't. I can't stay here any more. I need to go home. Now. Please." It was the moment I stood in a small Polish village and heard about the hatred - not of 1941 when the village people murdered their Jewish neighbors in Jedwebne. That angered me, saddened me, brought me to tears. But what broke me was listening to how, in 2001, they were still denying that they had done it, still insisted it was the Germans, who were not even in the town at the time. And then there was a memorial celebration after Poland (but not the town), admitted that it was the neighbors who had killed the Jews that horrible night, and not the Germans.

      I listened to how the townspeople tried, in 2001 to disrupt the ceremony and how even today, generations and decades later, they still deny. I realized in that moment how hopeless it all was and I broke. I told my daughter and the organizers of the trip that I just couldn't, couldn't stay. Please, let me go to the airport and I'll wait for you there. We were leaving that night anyway. Please, I just couldn't take any more.

      The organizers would not let me go. "We have one more stop - Treblinka." I broke there; I broke before the crematoria in Auschwitz, and I broke with the words of Tamar Fogel. 

      It was, finally, the words of Tamar, only 12-years-old, who came home Friday night and realized something was wrong. Her words that made me feel so broken, so lost. It was Tamar who ran to her neighbor Friday night when she realized something was strange, something was wrong. She returned together with him and entered her house. It was Tamar who found her parents and her two young brothers, who miraculously survived when the terrorists failed to find the two young boys amidst the bloodbath they had created.

      Little Tamar, who has experienced more horror in her short life than anyone should ever know. With all the dignity and faith she must have gotten from her parents, it was Tamar who broke my heart with the simple promise, "I will be strong and succeed in overcoming this. I understand the task that stands before me, and I will be a mother to my siblings."

      I rarely, if ever, agree with anything said by Ahmed Tibi, a member of the Knesset representing one of the Arab parties. This time, I do. He said, "The murderer shames his nation. What did that criminal think when he looked a three-month-old baby in the eye and stabbed her?"

      Well, I think criminal is the wrong word, and no, I do not recognize the Palestinians as a nation - they had that chance 60 years ago and chose to miss that ship and all the others that have sailed since. But he is correct - the murders bring only shame to his people, his society, his culture. There is no martyrdom here, no honor, only shame.

      The pride of Israel, the beauty and grace, come from a young girl, suddenly and without mercy or warning, now thrust into the role of "mother." May God grant Tamar the blessings of the childhood she still deserves, the innocence, the love.

      May she know only love from this day forward and know no more pain.

      And may God avenge the blood of her parents, her brothers and her baby sister.

      And please God, heal our hearts and souls so that we can continue to build our land, our homes, our lives, here in this wonderful, amazing land you have given to us.

      Adar Bet 6, 5771, 3/12/2011

      A Choking Anger

      "Did you hear?" Elie said when I came to the table moments after the Sabbath had ended.

      "No, what?" I asked.

      "Bad news," he said. And then he told me. "Two parents and three children. Stabbed. Itamar."

      "Killed?" I asked, already feeling the horror starting to mount inside me.

      "Yes," he answered quietly.

      "Oh, God. Oh, God," I kept repeating. "Oh, God."

      The anger, the rage that comes is almost more than I can stand. It chokes you. It fills you, infuriates you. What animals, you want to scream to the world. "Animals," I said out loud to my husband and my son, who was and is a soldier. "Animals," I said again. It is a horrible thing to call a person an animal and yet what other word can you use? What sets us apart as humans is our ability not to feed off others, and yet only humans murder for the sake of murder. Perhaps we are even less civilized than the animals if we can butcher a child, an infant, a baby.

      I quickly opened my computer. We stopped having a television in our home when we moved more than a year ago and, in truth, I rarely miss it. I love having my children find other ways to amuse themselves. But tonight, I could use a television to see and learn more quickly what is happening now. But there is nothing happening now, not really.

      As always, there is confusion in the early reports. It seems, in the early morning hours or perhaps very late last night, Arab terrorists sneaked into a house in Itamar and stabbed a husband and his wife, an 11-year old, a 3-year old, and a 2-month old baby. Perhaps the baby was only 1 month old. It isn't clear, the reports differ. Does it matter? I cannot comprehend what it takes to stab an infant, a child, two children. A woman asleep, a man unarmed.

      What bastard religion calls this a thing of honor? What society hands out candies and celebrates such devastation and horror? They are celebrating in Gaza today - handing out sweets. They are so proud of their brave and honored brother, who showed his manhood...by stabbing a helpless infant.

      It is hard to be an Israeli tonight. To sit here and know that life was stolen before it was every fully attained. Harder still to imagine what a young 12-year-old girl is experiencing now. She was the one who returned from visiting with friends to find her parents and two of her siblings murdered. She found two other siblings and took them to neighbors to get help. Yesterday, a family with six children; today, three orphans.

      The US government announces its condemnation and outrage. Small comfort there when all too often, they demand we remove the very checkpoints that help protect against these attacks. France has condemned the attack and urges restraint. Why? Why should we restrain ourselves? Are they restraining themselves in Gaza as they dance in the streets and hand out candies? Did they restrain their hands as they stabbed this small Jewish baby?

      Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned any violent act towards civilians, "regardless of the circumstances," and yet it is his own organization that claims responsibility for this attack. He cannot even bring himself to name the place and the people - his standard general comment only infuriates more.>

      There are no words that can adequately describe the anger and the rage I am feeling and so there is no comfort. The world will forget, as it always does - each orphan, each infant. It sickens me beyond words. Already, comments are being made on CNN news chats saying that Israel is responsible for the killings because of the stalled peace talks. How, I wonder, can someone blame Israel for two terrorists who jump a fence, enter a house through a window, and murder, in cold blood, a couple and their children? How can you blame Israel for the deranged action of a terrorist capable of stabbing an infant to death and the society that supports and encourages such actions?

      No, it is wrong. It is an abomination. It is beneath everything we know as humanity. And there can be no peace, none, with a society that celebrates this horror. For now, as I check the news stations, I try to find something that can console, something that can comfort. Tomorrow, there will be funerals.

      And through the blinding agony comes one thought. This is not 1940; this is not Europe. We are not helpless. There is no more that we can do - but even now, there are those who are acting. There are those who are finding the clues to the identities of the murderers.

      Quietly, in the days to come, they will be hunted. That is, after all, what you do with animals - you hunt them. It is not a popular thing to say; it is not politically correct. We will hunt those who butchered an infant, two children and their parents. They will be caught. Perhaps they will be arrested. Perhaps they will resist. They will be caught.

      That is the only comfort I can find as I sit here and think of these murders. We cannot bring this family back; we cannot remove the horrifying pictures that will forever be engraved in the eyes of a 12-year-old girl. But we can find these martyrs of Islam and make sure they never do this again.

      Soon, very soon, their families will know that Israel is not helpless; that despite Obama and Clinton, despite France's concern for restraint and Abbas' meaningless words, the Jewish State protects its own. Perhaps the UN will condemn us - no matter. Others will criticize us on CNN - we do not care.

      My response is the hunt is on and it will continue until these people are brought to justice. Somewhere, deep in my heart, I hope they resist. Then, it will be God who declares their punishment.

      May God avenge the blood of these innocents.

      Adar 27, 5771, 3/3/2011

      My Security Guard

      Shmulik needs to earn more money than the small amount the army pays him as a soldier. He gets food, clothing (well, uniforms anyway), and free buses, which he largely doesn't need because most of the time he goes to and from base as S.'s driver. But he's getting married and so there are many more things he will need.

      He started last night working part time as a security guard at the local mall. That means he stands there and checks people's bags as they enter the mall, checks car trunks, etc. He came home last night after a 6 hour shift earning minimum wage looking so incredibly handsome - even more, perhaps, than he does in the army uniform.

      Doing security at the mall will be easy and fun for him. On his breaks, he gets to walk around and see what's new in the mall. He's always been a shopper - he loves clothes and fashion, as does his future wife. They are beautiful together and each has more clothes than most of my other children combined. But it is his right to buy things for himself and truthfully, I hope he always will treat himself (and his wife and God willing, his children) to the good things life has to offer.

      It's fun at the mall because he is working in a city where he has lived for 10 years, where he grew up, where he went to school. Already on the first day, he met people he knows. It is a formality, to some extent, but he has to check their bags and cars too.

      That is the light side of being a security guard - talking to people you know, looking at new things or drinking some hot chocolate on a break. There is a terrifying side to being a guard and that is the side I push away. It seems silly, after being a soldier's mother, to worry about something as common as a security guard.

      They are everywhere, all the time. Every mall I go to involves opening my car trunk, sometimes my glove compartment. It means opening my purse when I walk into the actual mall and sometimes answering the silly questions, "No, I don't carry a gun" even as I realize it really isn't a silly question at all. But more than the answer, is that the security guard is listening in those few seconds, deciding if I pose a threat or could have been used to pose a threat.

      They hear the American accent, they see a woman in her middle years. Let her go, their brain says as their eyes shift to the next person. Now their eyes are Shmulik's eyes - those amazing dark brown eyes that are the deepest, darkest of colors. Eyes that dance with humor and warmth. My Shmulik now stands between the people in the mall and any danger that comes to threaten them.

      Years ago, I wrote about The Israeli Guard. Here's that article. It was written 7 years ago but is still so true today.

      The Israeli Guard 
      (written in 2004)

      The guard at my third grader's school can be fearsome. He stops you at the gate and questions you. What is your name? Why have you come to the school? Who is your child? Who have you come to meet? He's been known to ask for identification and other than students and teachers, no one walks through his gate unless he knows who you are and that you should be where you want to go.

      He’s bearded and dark and won’t unlock the gate until you answer his questions. He is bundled in a warm coat, as he sits outside for hours at a time, in a small security booth beside the locked gates of the school. He doesn’t allow children to leave the protected area without a note during school hours and I’ve seen him call to a child running towards him in a costume and mask, demanding that the child stop and reveal his face before approaching.

      Recently, I caught him off guard. The man is a fraud. Under the dark and serious image he projects to protect his children, is a smiling man who knows most of our young ones by name. After driving my son to school, I was about to put the car in reverse when I watched his dour face transformed. Gone was the serious man standing by the locked metal bars. I’d never seen him smile before, never laugh.

      As a child approached with a soccer ball, the guard faked to the right, moved to the left, and quickly intercepted the ball, kicking it swiftly back to the boy before it could enter the school gate. A goal prevented, a child enthralled. This is clearly not the first time they have played this game. The ball bounced and the child aimed again, and for the briefest of moments, the game continued as the guard let the ball fly past him and the child roared “GOAL”!

      The guard laughed and did a “high 5” with the child as he sailed on his way to school, having conquered mountains a full 10 minutes before the school bell. He greeted my son by name, and gently slapped several other boys on the back as they passed. He motioned to the last stragglers to hurry before the bell. He pretended to run in place as the bell rang, signaling to the children that they should hurry. And, after the last child passed through, he locked the gate and returned to his booth.

      Yesterday, I had a meeting at the school. I approached the guard booth with a smile, but none was returned. Somber expression on his face, he questioned me as I approached. Who are you? Why have you come? I wanted to tell him I knew his secret. I’d seen him smile and play with the children and he clearly wasn’t as tough as he pretended. But somehow, I was as intimidated as he expected me to be. I answered his questions and entered. I thought about him again later in the evening when I passed the checkpoint to enter our local mall and waited while the security guard opened my glove compartment, asked if I had a weapon, and then searched the trunk of my car.

      In Israel, security is an ingrained part of our lives. What would be considered an invasion of our rights in any other place is accepted as normal here. We open our bags, allow guards to run security wands close to our bodies, open our car trunks without a second thought. We slow down at checkpoints, stop and answer questions…all with the hope that our little inconveniences help guarantee the safety of all around us. It’s become so normal for us that we seldom point this out to strangers and so the inconveniences we accept to make our lives more secure are ignored by most of the world.

      We’ve gotten so good at this, we look past the guards. They are a brief obstacle on our way to buy milk, a short delay when we enter the mall, the reason we stand in the cold for an extra few seconds before entering a restaurant. They guard our children, protect our schools and yet sometimes, all we hear are the gruff questions. It’s only on rare glimpses that we see that behind the uniform, behind the job, there is a person full of life, full of concerns, full of dreams.

      Few of us could describe what a guard looks like moments after we pass by, and yet they stand between us and murder on a daily basis and sadly, sometimes they sacrifice their dreams to save our realities. Haim Smadar was a school guard in Jerusalem. He was 55 years old when an 18-year-old Palestinian woman came to attack the school where he worked. Haim stopped her, protecting the children he had promised to protect, but losing his life in the process. He once promised his wife, "Shoshana, if a suicide bomber ever comes close to my school, he will not get past me. With my own body, I would stop him." And he did.

      Alexander Kostyuk was a 23-year-old security guard from Bat Yam. He was killed and another 13 were wounded in a suicide bombing outside the train station in Kfar Sava. There is no question that many more would have died that day, if Alexander hadn’t put himself between innocent civilians waiting for a train during rush hour, and a suicide bomber determined to kill as many as he could.

      In March of 2002, a Palestinian terrorist detonated his bomb as he walked into a cafe, crowded with some 50 patrons. Miraculously, the bomb did not go off. The terrorist tried again to detonate himself, but by then the security guard had realized what was happening and stopped the terrorist.

      Just two months later, another suicide terrorist targeted a popular Kfar Saba shopping mall. The security guard stopped the terrorist from entering. This prevented more extensive casualties, and yet the guard and one civilian were killed, with another 70 were wounded.

      In yet another example of extreme bravery, Staff-Sgt. Noam Apter found himself in the kitchen of a school under attack. The 23-year-old paratrooper was on leave from the army at the time. He was right by the door and could have fled the scene unharmed. Instead, he locked himself into the kitchen with the terrorists, giving dozens of students who were in the midst of their Sabbath meal, the opportunity to flee. Noam was shot in the back, but precious time was saved.

      Their sacrifices highlight the dangers so many choose to face each day. What makes them special, beyond the job they do, is the humanity that they continue to show, despite the strain. The security guard at my son’s school is charged with protecting hundreds of children every day. The minute they pass through his gate, he is the only thing that stands between a potential suicide bomber and our children.

      He takes this job very seriously, as can be seen by the questions he asks, the way he watches when we approach his position. But he takes the children very seriously as well, and so he learns their names, hurries them along so they won’t be late, takes the time to show them the person behind the uniform, the man behind the job. It is yet another sign that more than four years into this Intifada, with rockets falling daily and the threat of terror still on the horizon, we have not lost our humanity, our ability to care, to smile, to be concerned for each other.

      January, 2004

      Shevat 23, 5771, 1/28/2011

      A Generation Fading

      We got a call two days ago that my husband's aunt had passed away in Canada. Her children would be flying to Israel briefly to bury her here in Jerusalem. We would meet them near a major intersection in Jerusalem and drive together in a chain of cars to the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, there to part with a much loved aunt. 

      The Mount of Olives is an ancient cemetery, often desecrated by local Arabs. From 1948 - 1967, the Jordanians held this area. When it was reunited in 1967 with the rest of Jerusalem, Israelis and Jews the world over were horrified to find that the Arabs had broken uncountable numbers of tombstones, turned them into a latrine, and rubble. 

      What harm these centuries of dead Jews had done to the Jordanians and local Arab population is beyond understanding but they were an affront to Islam, a testimony to our historical ties to this land and so were smashed, broken, and damaged beyond repair. 

      Slowly, for the last 40 years, we have been reclaiming, fixing, repairing new damage of ongoing vandalism and hatred, and burying our dead there once again. This was where our cousins chose to bury their father last year; where we came again in great sadness to now bury their mother. 

      We saw many Arab youth working in the cemetery as we were leaving. They were laughing and playing tag as others worked with cement to repair some of the graves. There was no supervision; no one watching over them. Why? I asked Elie. It was not a respectful way to work in a cemetery in such an important place, but it was clearly for these Arab laborers, just a day's work...and an unsupervised one at that. 

      "They break the stones at night," Elie said, "and then we pay them to fix them." 

      And in the newly patched cement on some of the sides of the graves, I saw Arabic writing; even in this, there is disrespect. A marking of what is ours to somehow claim it as theirs. This too, goes without notice, apparently. Before the funeral, we met the train of cars in a busy intersection of "West" Jerusalem, the modern, bustling city near our offices. 

      We waited a short while and then began driving to the cemetery together. On the way there, as we neared the Old City of Jerusalem and its ancient towering walls, a security jeep got in line at the end of the chain of cars. 

      As we drove in what is commonly referred to as "East Jerusalem" by the media, we got stuck at a light, the train broken in half by the traffic light. The security jeep pulled up next to us and smiled reassuringly. The light changed and we continued; the security jeep pulled back to the rear of the trail. 

      A few minutes later, we pulled up near one of the entrances to the cemetery. There are other entrances and we hesitated whether to turn in or not. The rest of the cars ahead of us were already out of site; the cars behind us waiting on our decision. The security jeep pulled next to us, signaled that we should follow, and lead us further down the road to the correct entrance. 

      We pulled in and exited the car; the two armed guards in the jeep exited and took up positions watching as the mourners walked up the mountainside following my husband's aunt to her final resting place. 

      Surrealistic that the guards were there; a testimony of the need for security even in death. The view from the Mount of Olives is stunning and beyond words. The ceremony was short and sad. Our cousins buried their father here not long ago, now they came for only a few hours, to bury their mother. 

      She was an amazing woman, both in terms of how she lived her life and raised her children, but also in what she suffered to achieve it all. She was a survivor of the Nazi camps, of a horrible plan to rid Europe and the world of its Jews. It started in Germany, spread like the cancer it was to Poland and beyond. Relatively late in the war, it came to Hungary and to the Jews there. It came late, but it came with a vengeance and a determination that had been forged by years of hatred and murder. 

      This hatred came to my mother-in-law's town in the early months of 1944. They took her brother and killed him. Elie bears his name, a living reminder that we triumphed and not them. They took my father-in-law and his brothers. One died in the forest, urging his cousin to leave him because he was too sick to go on. Shmulik bears his name, a living reminder that we survived and will never forget. 

      They took my mother-in-law, her mother, her sisters. Her mother and young Gabriella were murdered. My mother-in-law and her older sister survived the initial selection. Kloty (her Hebrew name was Breindel, but everyone called her Kloty) had a problem with her hips. I think it was something that happened during her birth and so others hid her, afraid that Mengele would choose her for experimentation. No, I won't give him the honor of calling him Dr., though he was a medical practitioner. 

      To me, calling someone a doctor is more a recognition of having achieved a certain level of knowledge or learning. So Mengele didn't get his hands on Kloty, though even without this, she suffered all her life from the pain in her hips. She had operations. She had difficulties and yet she always had a smile whenever I saw her and a positive attitude. Someone tried to console Kloty's daughter by reminding her that her mother had survived Hitler's Holocaust. But, I told our cousin as I met her near her mother's grave, that Kloty didn't just survive the war. She lived. She chose life. She chose to build a family and live. 

      And now, she is gone and I am left with such sadness. My mother-in-law passed away more than 15-years-ago and still leaves a void in our lives. Her brother passed away a few years later, and now the last of that family is gone. Kloty was the oldest and it is hard to believe the day has come when they all are gone. We still have aunts and uncles, thankfully, on my father-in-law's side. For that matter, my husband still has his uncle's wife on his mother's side who is thankfully with us, but there was something about Kloty being here that kept a part of my mother-in-law alive for me too. 

      People are saying that the survivors are dying; the generation that could bear direct testimony to the horrors that man did inflict on man is almost gone. Those who survived were children at the time; and each year we get closer to that day when they will all be gone. 

      For our family, today was one of those days. With such great sadness, I realized as I returned to my office, they are leaving us and in their leaving, they are giving us a terrible and tremendous responsibility. They have carried the memory of what was done to them; they were haunted by it to the end of their days. They suffered in their health and fought to overcome. Now we have to remember. Now we have to remind the world. 

      May God bless Breindel bat Yishayahu with all the riches of the world to come and all the good things she deserved. May He comfort her children and all of us. We are losing a generation who defined grace and life and taught us that no matter what others will do to us, it is what we do ourselves that defines who we are. They taught us that to choose life is imperative, but more, to live life is a triumph.

      Shevat 6, 5771, 1/11/2011

      Rockets are Falling Again

      Four yesterday, several more in the past week. It's the build up before the action; it's the question before the answer. How long will the Israeli government allow our people to live under rocket fire? The answer, as always, is in the results. We are waiting, as we always do, for the rocket that doesn't miss, for the mortar that strikes true.

      When it does, it will kill someone, perhaps, God help us, a child, a pregnant woman, a mother, a father, a much beloved grandfather, the grandmother who cooks for the whole family and makes it what it is. It might, again, be a few children playing in a yard. It might, again, hit a school just moments after the children have left the room. It might, again, hit a child, an only child of parents who waited to long to bring him into this world.

      It will crush their lives forever. There is no tomorrow when you lose your today. So we wait until it happens, a bit angrier this time because we have been here before and even though we may have learned part of the lesson, in that we know what will happen, we haven't learned enough.

      According to the IDF 20 rockets & mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip during the first 10 days of 2011.

      We are still stupid enough to care what other countries say, and other countries are as stupid and blind as they were in November, 2008. One hundred and twenty-four rockets and mortars "fell" that November. What a silly word - "fell." Of course they did not fall. They were intentionally launched at civilian areas to maim and murder our citizens. These rockets and mortars were not fired at military targets, but at schools, homes, synagogues, hospitals, the heart and soul of our people, our children.

      Today 171 truckloads of goods entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings, and 2 truckloads of flowers & strawberries entered Israel.

      Yesterday, four rockets were fired at Israel. Today, one rocket was fired at Israel.

      Exactly two years ago, as we were days away from my youngest son's bar mitzvah, I was facing the reality that my oldest son might not be there. He was stationed near Gaza, mere meters from the border and well within the range of the same kind of rockets being fired today. It was a nightmare from which I could not awaken. I spent my days in a daze of fear and tears.

      For many months, even years, I had been trained to be thankful each time they announced that the rocket had hit in an "open area." Suddenly, in the middle of the war, I realized my son was stationed in one of those open fields. What am I supposed to pray for now? I wondered.

      There are no words, even now, to explain what I felt during those horrible days. History will tell you it was really only about 18 days of war. My heart will tell you it felt so much longer. On the last day before my son's bar mitzvah, I got the call from Elie that they were releasing him and he could come home. I grabbed some food, my phone and the car keys and went driving down there, trying to drive slowly enough that I wouldn't break any laws, desperate to see him.

      Most of the last few minutes were a blur to me. I remember taking a wrong turn and wanting to cry. I remember seeing him for the first time in weeks and thanking God for this most precious of gifts - a son safe and coming home. One of the first things Elie said to me on the ride home still rings in my ears.

      "Ima," he said, "they didn't let us finish."

      No, Elie and the other soldiers knew that their work was not done; that Gaza would fire more rockets. There were political reasons for stopping the war, not military ones. Barack Hussein Obama was coming into office and Israel was told to pull itself into order. I didn't hear Obama condemn the rocket attacks yesterday. I didn't hear Obama condemn them today.

      Maybe he too is waiting for a child to die. Maybe only when our blood flows in the streets will our government understand that what wasn't finished two years ago, has come back to haunt us again. For one year after a soldier finishes his mandatory service, he is not called to the Reserves. The catch is that the army does call them that first year and the soldier has the choice of going or not (unless there is a war). Elie's year ends in a bit over two months.

      I can't let myself think of another war yet. But five rockets in two days. The world has to understand -  unless they demand that Hamas stops, this will again be the build up before the action; the question before Israel's strong answer. And this time, this time maybe we will finish what should have been done two years ago.

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