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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:

      Cheshvan 8, 5771, 10/16/2010

      Chaim, The Lone Soldier, Comes for Shabbat

      I couldn't resist that title - this one's for Chaim.

      The "Protectzia" worked - Chaim was able to go visit his family in the United States over the holidays. I was so happy for him; felt the same desperation that he just had to go; and such joy that he went. He called me the day he returned, and that too was a wonderful feeling. It's nice to know he loves us as much as we love him.

      After getting this break, he had to return straight to the army and so this last Shabbat was the first chance he got to come over. It was also a Shabbat where we were happy to welcome another lone soldier. I don't have permission to tell his story - I can ask, but I didn't yet, so I'll just say that his mother contacted me after reading this blog. We've been in contact a long time now...and I've heard and watched from afar.

      This was the first time he came for Shabbat and we were happy to have him. Shmulik drove into Jerusalem and picked up both guys close to Shabbat. We enjoyed meals, quiet times, talks. Perhaps I'll write about our second guest another time, for now I'll write about Chaim.

      He looks wonderful - happy, healthy, beautiful. He's a calming force when he comes to the house - somehow he has patience for everyone. This week, he gave a short Dvar Torah at both meals. A Dvar Torah is a few words of wisdom about or from the weekly portion of the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible). There are some people who speak long and others who speak profoundly in just a few words. Chaim is a master at saying something meaningful in short sentences. 

      I was tired and focused on serving food and seeing everything was on the table. I listened, loved it, and now can't remember what he said, other than remembering that I smiled after each one. I pushed him into doing the second one (he did the first one on his own). I would have let him out if he hadn't stepped up for the second one, but he did and I was glad in the end.

      This week's portion was especially meaningful at our table. It was "Lech Lecha" - the portion that speaks of God telling Abraham to leave his home and come to Canaan, the land of Israel. He spoke of blessing Abraham and giving him a great nation. See, I'm remembering what Chaim said just by writing this. 

      What was special was the Chaim tied it into almost everyone there at the table. We were the "old-timers" having been in Israel for 17 years. Two of our children were born here and know no other world. Chaim, our other lone soldier, and the family who joined us all came in the last few years. Like Abraham, we all picked ourselves up and moved to a far off land, to this land. Abraham was told that God would bless him. And, he was told that God would make his name great. 

      There was, Chaim explained, other text in between these two promises - and the break was important. It signifies the time we have in this life to fulfill God's plan, to make ourselves worthy. Not to be sacrilegious, but it reminded me of a Garth Brooks song (did I ever mention I love country music?).

      There's two dates in time
      That they'll carve on your stone
      And everyone knows what they mean
      What's more important
      Is the time that is known
      In that little dash there in between

      In some ways, this is what Chaim was talking about - it's what you do with your life that counts, more than the dates of birth or death. And this is what Chaim and our other guest, and Elie and Shmulik and Yaakov have done or are doing. They've dedicated some part of their life to doing something important - that little dash in between.
      So serious, I've become...so let me go back to Shabbat. Major decisions loom ahead of both of these soldiers who visited our home this weekend. Each takes a path that has already taken them so far from the ones their parents envisioned for them. And on this path, they came and graced my home. It was a wonderful Shabbat - the Shabbat of lone soldiers, Chaim dared me to write...and so I have. And yet, with all of that, it's a funny name we give to these guys - lone soldiers...and yet we don't leave them alone, don't let them be lone. 
      The other family who came today had asked if they could bring their lone soldier - but he had to cancel at the last minute; a neighbor wrote to me and asked how I'd gotten my lone soldier - they want one too. Abraham left his home and all that he knew...to come home to a special land that was promised to him - a land of milk and honey. Chaim has done the same in many ways and he brought me onion powder and chocolate! 
      (Thanks, tons - to Chaim's mother - and to J.'s mother - my sisters in this soldiers' mother business, for sharing your amazing guys with me.)

      Tishrei 20, 5771, 9/28/2010

      Jumbled News and A Clear Message of Triumph

      Sometimes, the news jumbles together and you wonder how it is possible not to learn a lesson from the very clear path it builds for you. There is a truth, even in the lies our enemies tell. A truth so bitter, so real, that our leaders refuse to listen, even if it means our deaths.

      As I drove to work recently, I listened as the news reported that Abbas was telling Israel that we had to choose between peace and settlements. It is a formula that might make sense, if it was the settlements that prevented peace. It is a lie that might fool the most ignorant but for those who understand that we have not built for 10 months while Abbas made no effort to make peace, it is yet another abomination. We have done so much; Abbas has done nothing but avoid negotiations, set preconditions, and spin truths into the most horrid of lies. 

      For 10 months, we caved into Obama; to the US, the UN, the EU, and worst of all, our own desperation to believe that peace can be shoved down the throats of the Palestinians despite their very clear message that they worship death and violence, not peace and harmony. For 10 months, Netanyahu wanted us to believe the impossible – that you can dance alone to a tune only he hears; that you can convince those who seek to confuse, that honesty is the better road. For 10 months. For 10 months there was nothing. Nothing but rockets, stone throwing attacks. Nothing but accusations, preconditions, demands.

      So, having done nothing but wait until the last possible minute to even agree to talk to Israel, the Palestinians are now positioning themselves to say that it is Israel that has not done enough, not cared enough, not sacrificed enough. It’s true, they laugh to themselves, for 10 months nothing…and for how much longer can we watch Israel dance while we laugh on the side? I have no sympathy for the Americans who come to the party so disastrously ignorant. I have no compassion for the Blairs of the world who cannot comprehend a world, a culture that raises its children to martyrdom. We are finished, I want to scream at Abbas. Your lies won’t work. But they do, and I am left to wonder, again and againt.

      Obama – for God’s sake…how stupid can you be? How can you look at our country and believe we have not done all we can. Now in these last 10 months? Five years ago when we destroyed the homes of 10,000 people for nothing? You want us to give more? Tell that to the orphans, the widows, the bereaved parents. 

      Abbas says Israelis much choose. The anger encompasses the brain at times, chokes you beyond words.

      That was the morning. In the afternoon, there was a conversation with an Israeli aboard a boat heading to Gaza – a flotilla with a message; he said. And what, the newscaster asked, what was the message? My mind flashed, as it often does, to Gilad Shalit – it makes sense – they are trying to grab the attention of the world to focus on Gilad. They sail to gain the attention of the world, to turn it to the cause of the naval blockade – the ongoing, illegal captivity or our son, Gilad.

      I was so busy hoping they would succeed, it took me a few moments to realize the treachery, the deceit, the horror. No. Not Gilad – not for these publicity-hungry, self-hating Jews who dared to talk of “true Judaism” as they desecrated Jewish law, ignored it, debased it. They want to show their solidarity, these stupid idiots, with the beleaguered Palestinians; they want to break the naval blockade and declare themselves heroes. They dare Israel to stop them – in the name of Judaism because those who sailed in the name of Islam already failed. But there is no difference between the Judaism of these people and the Islam that pushed the last flotilla to violence. I would not trust these self-proclaimed “peace activists” any more than I trust the last group of thugs. 

      They sail for the Palestinians, but not for Gilad. The anger grows as an ache deep inside; how blind, how naïve, how destructive, how wrong.

      And then in the evening, I got a call from my son who was with the army in Hebron hours before. He is fine. He’s left the city, though he may go back. Slowly the mind takes in the information. Another shooting attack; indiscriminate; meant to kill. Another pregnant woman – but this time a miracle. Though the woman was shot, her husband was able to continue driving until he got her to help; she delivered her son in health and safety – a miracle.

      What lessons do we learn this day of such jumbled news?  So many confused thoughts; so much anger. The journey of the day took me through the feeling that the world will fall, yet again, for Abbas’ lies and Palestinian propaganda and past the idiocy of those who are blind enough to help our enemies but care nothing for our own. It ended with the wails of a newborn baby boy, born of a terrorist attack that might easily have claimed his life and those of his parents. But a birth, a joy, a message that comes clear and washes away the anger. Tell your lies, follow the wrong path, but know that at the end of the day, there is a rebirth, a dedication.

      I don’t know what the parents will name this child – perhaps Baruch, for blessing – for truly he is blessed. Perhaps David, who led his people in strength and war. Or Chaim, for he lives to triumph and show the world the determination of his parents and his people.

      Or perhaps, though it is not my place to name him – perhaps they will call him Israel. I hope they will – for it was Israel that rejoiced in his birth last night as we put aside the anger and the lies to celebrate the most important part of our religion – life.

      May God bless this baby boy, son of Netta Zucker. May he be welcomed into the covenant of Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob and may he be granted a long and happy and healthy life here in our land…the land that will remain ours, despite Abbas, Obama, the idiots on the flotillas, past, present and future. 

      May God bless this boy with life.

      Tammuz 22, 5770, 7/4/2010

      Abbas and the Kotel - A Study in Nerve Factor

      Several Israeli Internet sites are reporting that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has stated that in a final agreement, Israel can keep the Western Wall, the Kotel, located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Suddenly, it seems, Abbas believes he can determine what remains in our hands and in his mind, he has generously offered Israel...what we already own, unquestionably, without doubt, through history, through right, through might.

      To put this in terms better understood by others - this is the same as offering the French a deed to the Eiffel Tower, telling President Obama he may keep the White House. Abbas may as well tell the Russians that Red Square can remain in Moscow and telling the British that through his generosity, Queen Elizabeth may continue to reside in Buckingham Palace.

      If I have not yet shown the absurdity of Abbas' words, I can come up with hundreds more...just look at any country and promise them...what they already own.

      The Western Wall was the western retaining wall of the Holy Temples. It has stood more than 2,000 years and will stand longer than Mahmoud Abbas. It was built by the Jewish leaders of their day, to serve the needs of the Jewish people as they worshiped God in their land. If Abbas were to offer to return the Temple Mount - the land upon which our Temples once stood, where today there sits two mosques - that would be a real offer. Not because he has a legitimate claim to that land, but because we were stupid enough to hand it back over to their control in 1967 and since that time, our access to that holiest of places has been restricted, limited, and often denied by successive Israeli governments who fear upsetting the Arabs.

      From 1948 - 1967, to the deafening silence of most of the world, Jews were denied complete access, while since 1967, Arabs have had almost free access while it has been under the security control of Israel. They have enjoyed complete religious freedom up there on our Temple Mount, even to the point that Jews are not allowed today to pray - even silently to themselves, if they dare move their lips in silent concentration.

      As for Abbas' less than generous offer - it should be treated with the ridicule and absurdity it deserves. He has no legal, moral, physical, or logical right to offer President Obama sovereignty of the White House...and that has stood less than 200 years. How much less is his right to offer the Jewish people what has stood on our land and in our hearts for 2,000 years.

      Tammuz 12, 5770, 6/24/2010

      When Words Fail...Gilad...Four Years

      Today it is four years since that horrible day when Palestinians infiltrated into our land, attacked and killed our soldiers, and dragged Gilad off.
      Sometimes, you become overwhelmed by the sadness, by the futility of fighting against the wind. Sometimes, you know there is nothing you as a single person can do to change even this small thing. Sometimes, you want to do it all...and know there is nothing that can be done at your level.

      I am not a leader of a country, not even of my own home. I am not a politician who can sway crowds with a speech or rock countries with my demands. I am a mother whose heart cries today for another mother. I salute Aviva Shalit, her courage, her strength. I pray for her son every day and today, more than any other.

      When words fail, perhaps all that is left are pictures. Today it is four years since that horrible day when Palestinians infiltrated into our land, attacked and killed our soldiers, and dragged Gilad off. Four years without a mother's hug, a mother's soothing voice. Four years. I have watched my son enter the army...grow, develop...and come out safe. All that I ever begged of God during that time. I have seen my second son enter the army and I am watching him grow, praying desperately for his safety.

      All I can give Gilad today is my prayers for him. Be safe, be healthy, may you know the world over today people are praying for you, sending their love and hope and most of all, may you come home soon.

      The only thing that has changed since this video was made...is that another year has passed. Another year, without Gilad:

      Tammuz 9, 5770, 6/21/2010

      The Women of Islam and the New Flotilla

      Today, I write of my anger, my confusion, my concerns, and perhaps above all else, my inability to understand the simple formula that runs this world. It is no longer politically correct to hate Jews. At least that much we have accomplished since Hitler rules the hearts and minds of Germany and in so doing, led our people to the brink of disaster and the world into the valleys of war.

      Today, those same people who once hated the Jews, understand they cannot go around with the same old lies. They don't work. And so, born of the old hatred, there is a new one. They hate Israel. Israel is, suddenly, all things evil. More evil than Iran, more sinister than Syria. More violent than Sudan, Sri Lanka. More tyrannical than the Russians. We are most likely the single most hated nation in the world. It would be humorous, given our size, if it were not so sick. More, it likely borders on insanity when given how many times we have sent our sons and daughters to foreign shores to help others. Haiti, Kenya, Turkey, Indonesia. We did not question the religions or nationalities of those who needed our help. Nor, sadly, did we question their humanity.

      We risked our lives to save theirs. We donated while their rich Arab brethren sat on their hands and counted their obscene oil dollars.

      We flew to Turkey - as with other places, the first to arrive. We risked our lives to save theirs. We donated while their rich Arab brethren sat on their hands and counted their obscene oil dollars. We were there to pull them from the rubble. Perhaps it is we that are insane.

      Now, a new flotilla is forming and I wonder how dumb we will be this time. As always, Lebanon is quick to taunt. This time, they are sending only women, they say and as if this is some sick child's game, dare to play the "what, are you afraid of girls?" card. As I said, it would be funny if it were not so serious.

      So, let me take a moment and introduce you to some of the women of Islam. Some women who believed that in murder there is salvation; in terror, there is martyrdom. These, perhaps, are similar to those that will go on the flotilla. As the men of the Mavi Marmara prayed for their 72 virgins in heaven, these women will pray to that same illusion.

      Actually, according to a study in 2006, it was found that while the men are praying for their virgins, most female suicide bombers are praying for atonements for their sins. Whatever their past sins, they are nothing compared with the sin they committed in those last moments of their lives. In any case, you will shortly hear more about the women's flotilla, and when you do, please think of these women (and the nameless others that have been and most likely will be...in the name of Islam):

      You will shortly hear more about the women's flotilla, and when you do, please think of these women.

      • Hanadi Jaradat murdered 20 people and wounded over 60 in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa in October 2003. She carefully positioned herself between two tables filled with people to maximize the damage she would cause. Among the 20 murdered people were 3 generations of 2 entire families, including two young children and a baby.

      •  On January 17, 2002, the Israeli teenager Ofir Rahum was kidnapped and murdered with the help of Amna'a Mouna, a journalist and Fatah activist from Ramallah.

      • On August 9, 2001 a suicide attack took place in the Sbarro restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem. The suicide terrorist was brought there by Ahlam Tamimi, also a journalist, originally from Jordan and living in Ramallah. She was also involved in gathering operational intelligence prior to the attack. In addition, Ahlam was responsible for planting a bomb concealed in a beer can in a Jerusalem supermarket on July 30, 2001. To this day, as she sits in an Israeli jail, she is not repentant and has said she only wishes she had succeeded in killing more. She is one of 1,000 being demanded by the Palestinians in exchange for Gilad Shalit.

      • On August 3, 2001 an attempt was made by Iman Asha, a Nablus woman, to plant a booby-trapped package in the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.

      • On August 31, 2001 a booby-trapped package carried by Abir Hamdan, a resident of Nablus, exploded during her journey from Tulkarm to Nablus, apparently as a result of a 'work accident' during preparations for carrying out an attack on a restaurant in Hadera.

      • An academic and a nurse by profession, Wafa Idris was divorced without children due to her being barren, and previously worked at the Red Crescent Society. To save herself the shame of being unable to have children, Wafa blew herself up while managing to murder two people and wound 90 wounded in on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem (Jan 27, 2002).

      • Ayat al-Akhras, was 18-years-old when her two brothers took her to Jerusalem to kill herself. She murdered two people wounded 22 others as she approached a supermarket in Jerusalem's Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood on March 29, 2002.

      There are many, many others - you too can Google and find the names and atrocities. All I want to explain is that when you hear Lebanon is sending a boatload of women to Gaza, remember that it won't be Mother Theresa on those boats. It could easily be yet another Hanadi Jaradat or Wafa Idris. Because sometimes, perhaps most of the time, certainly too often, women are as ready as the men to murder in the name of Islam.

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