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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:

      Iyar 2, 5770, 4/16/2010

      Kam You Get Any Dumber

      I was, reluctantly, reading an article published in the Haaretz news site about Anat Kam, the idiot woman who stole 2,000 secret and top secret documents while working for a top level military commander...and now wants the world (or at least the courts) to believe she didn't do anything wrong. 

      Kam you get any dumber than these statements?

      She said she stole sensitive military information because: "certain aspects of the IDF's conduct in the West Bank that I thought were of interest to the public." Really, this naive, stupid 20-year-old girl thought she had the right to decide what was of interest to the public? Amazing, the arrogance.

      Anat Kam says she turned to Israeli journalists (as opposed, one would assume, to Israel's legal system) because "the censorship would not allow the publication of information classified as top secret or that is dangerous for publication." Gee, can you imagine? A country not allowing the publication of top secret and dangerous for publication items...who would have imagined that?

      She talks of her wish to "serve" the nation: "I didn't have the chance to change some of the things that I found it important to change during my military service, and I thought that by exposing these [materials] I would make a change." Gee, again...here I was thinking that the purpose of national service was to SERVE the nation...not change it, not reform it into the nation you, in your incredible ignorance and arrogance, think it should be.

      It is nice to see that at least one judge realizes the seriousness of what Kam did and that she must be stopped. The more I hear, the more I am convinced that she should be charged and convicted of, at least, espionage, theft and whatever else is possible and, once convicted...based on her own admissions thus far, she should be sentenced to the maximum penalty allowed by law. Kam must learn SHE does not decide for the nation of Israel. SHE was not elected, selected, or chosen in any way. The one trust we gave her, she betrayed. Now it is time for justice.

      According to the Haaretz article (www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1162458.html):

      The state has decided to prosecute Kam for the most serious crimes of espionage: passing on classified information with the intent of harming state security, charges which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

      Kam faces other charges, including gathering and possessing classified materials with intent to harm state security, which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
      Presiding Judge Ze'ev Hammer wrote that "in order to inform the public of several aspects of IDF action in the West Bank, or to investigate war crimes in the West Bank, there is no need to gather and steal thousands of classified documents from the IDF which deal with the various military planning and action."
      "Kam admitted during her investigation that her computer is not guarded and that she did not take interest into where the Haaretz reporter Uri Blau would store the documents or who would have access to them," Hammer added.

      "She disrespected their [the document's] safekeeping and the importance and secrecy of the information," Hammer added.

      Nisan 24, 5770, 4/8/2010

      A Message to Anat Kam, from Israel's Soldiers

      Anat Kam calls herself a journalist. Her interest is in telling a story and selling copy. The more she sells, the more her editors value her.

      Anat Kam is a 23-year-old Israeli woman who betrayed the position she was given during her army service. She served as the assistant to the bureau chief of OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh between 2005 and 2007. During that time, she copied or stole some 2,000 classified documents that, according to the Jerusalem Post, "contained top secret information concerning General Staff orders, personnel numbers in the Central Command, intelligence information, information on the IDF doctrine and data pertaining to central sensitive military exercises, weaponry and military platforms. The files also contained details on what the Central Command does in the event of a major escalation – how it deploys forces to the West Bank and where it stations them there. (http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=172658)

      What she did with the documents is even worse. She gave them to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau, who is now hiding out in London, refusing to return other documents he is suspected of holding. This in itself is a crime - holding stolen, property...no?

      What is interesting to me is the glorification of this woman, this thief who ran to the media after betraying the trust she was given. Perhaps even more interesting is how quickly her lawyers and others want to claim that accusing Anat Kam of treason is a betrayal of all Israel's media and that she is honorable...no, she is not.

      According to Yuval Disken, Chief of Shin Bet (Israel's military intelligence organization), the leak “posed a direct and real threat to the lives of IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens.”

      I came home from work today full of anger at this woman's deceit and the idiocy of those who run to defend her without knowing much of the facts. Only Kam and Blau, those they showed the documents to, and the investigating teams know the full extent of the damage.

      I sat with Elie to speak of other things and then we discussed this. My son summed up my feelings beautifully and so I present a message to Anat Kam from the soldiers of Israel...whom she betrayed, "I hope she goes to jail for ten or fifteen years."

      Yes, I do. I do not support Anat Kam. If she felt that the army was doing something wrong, she had other avenues besides prostituting herself to the media. She is a "journalist" - no, she is a wanna-be journalist.

      Her lawyer says she is a "young Zionist." I'll give you the young...but no - Zionism is about the dream of fulfilling and maintaining the Jewish homeland of Israel. What Anat Kam did was all about fulfilling and maintaining Anat Kam at the expense of our soldiers, our sons, our future.

      If she is guilty of what everyone suspects she has done...I hope she gets a good, long sentence to contemplate her crimes.

      Nisan 23, 5770, 4/7/2010

      Out in the Cold

      I'm so glad I started this blog...


      Yes, I'm happy for all the comments and support I've received.


      Yes, I'm happy for the support I seem to be giving others.


      But I'm happy for me too. When I go back and read the start of Elie's service, I remember, I hear, I feel what I felt then. Sometimes, I'm embarrassed a bit; sometimes I smile and wish I could reach back and comfort that mother the way other mothers are reading this and learning and feeling and understanding.

      Last night, Shmulik called during his free hour. They were camped out "somewhere" in a tent, in sleeping bags. They'll be awakened at some point, and start shooting practice. I asked him all the right questions, if he was tired, if he was cold. He has a coat they gave him and a sleeping bag. He's out there in the desert...though a different one than Elie was...and I smiled.

      Gone was the fear, the worry. He'll be okay. It will toughen him. Even if he's a bit cold...that's really okay. He's okay. See how far I have come, I thought to myself. I didn't think of rocket attacks, of Arabs sneaking up to the encampment. I didn't think of Bedouins and wild animals...I didn't think. I just asked him if he would be home this weekend, smiled when he said he thinks he will be, said our good nights, and went to sleep.

      I really did. Look at me. I am the mother of an Israeli soldier and I'm good. I didn't worry. This is what it is all about, I thought to myself this morning. This is where so many were, when I was so afraid last time. They smiled at me, tried to reassure me...and now I understand. It is something each mother must feel...and overcome.

      Just as Elie learned the night; just as Shmulik felt the cold...I have to conquer the fear and worry. I have been given perspective and it is liberating. It is so different the second time around.

      I can be there for Shmulik in a way I never could for Elie because I was following Elie, pointing out worries and concerns and unsure what to expect. Each time he left, it was to an unknown world...now that world is more known to me. No, I don't imagine I can understand so much of what Shmulk is feeling, but I can listen to him with a different ear.

      I question him to give him a chance to explain to me; not with the same blindness I had before. I know they set up guards; I know it wasn't really that cold. I know that if this boy can sleep in his underwear in his room in the winter, he can sleep in a uniform, a coat and a sleeping bag in a tent in the desert and be safe.

      That mother has grown and I'm not really laughing at her...I envy her the journey she took. It was a hard-won battle filled with real terrors. My fears were not unjustified or wrong. They were right - an outpouring of my love for Elie just as my understanding this time is a show of my love for Shmulik.

      In many ways, comforting me helped Elie gain perspective, gave him a support line behind him. He knew that I worried, that I was there. Shmulik is such a different child, always has been. He's the sweet one who bought me those endless presents on his way home from school - the flowers he'd picked that were flattened and half dead; the earrings (when I didn't even have pierced ears); the "gold" necklace that was chipping off even before I'd put it on.

      He was the "cuddler" while Elie was the tougher one. Shmulik has gotten tougher too now, stronger, more sure of himself. And yet, Sunday when I drove him to the mall to catch the bus, it was Shmulik who leaned over to give me a kiss, where I always had to corner Elie and give him one.

      Last night, my second son slept in the deserts of Israel with a gun. No, he doesn't know it well enough to use it, has only begun to learn and yet, and yet...

      May the God of Israel watch over our sons and daughters as they sleep and as they defend and may He grant us mothers the wisdom to learn, to grow, to love, to trust our children as they serve our land and our people.

      Last night, Shmulik slept in the cold...but his heart is warm, his home just a few days away.

      Adar 29, 5770, 3/15/2010

      Allow Me to Explain: A Response to Arab Threats

      Each time Israel does something the Arabs do not like, there are two responses they issue. Sometimes, I feel like they reach into a hat and select one. It is always the same - either they are going to end the peace process...to which I desperately want to ask...WHAT peace process...or, they are threatening yet another Intifada.

      For those unfamiliar with the term - an Intifada is a fancy word for mindless rioting and terrorism. Intifada is a code name for firebombs and stone attacks...but worse - suicide bombers in our malls, our buses, our restaurants. Intifada means - open season on murder...the more innocent, the younger, the better.

      This week, the threat cards are being played for two reasons. The first is that Israel is daring to approve new apartments for families in our capital, Jerusalem. The new apartments would be in the north of Jerusalem (not the eastern areas as some inaccurate news outlets are reporting). The apartments would be built on unoccupied lands - open fields, directly adjacent to and within the area of Ramat Shlomo - a neighborhood I can see from my office window.

      No, I'm not saying the Israeli government was particularly adept in how it handled the announcement, but there was more politics than reality in the US response and condemnation and a fair amount of stupidity in the US failure to understand the facts on the ground.

      More curious, however, than the Ramat Shlomo fiasco...is the second reason why the Arabs are threatening yet another Intifada. In 1948, the beautiful Hurva synagogue was destroyed during our War of Independence. That was in May, 1948 after the United Nations voted to divide Palestine into two states - a Jewish one and an Arab one.

      The day we declared the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and named that country Israel - five Arab nations invaded, promising they would push the Jews into the sea. They called out to the Arab residents and told them to leave their homes, to get out of the way of the incoming Arab countries and by and large, they did. They left...but the rest of their plan didn't work. Israel not only held onto the land promised to us...or most of it, we even captured much of the land that would have been an Arab state. This is the price of violence and war...when you choose war, sometimes you lose. They lost.

      The synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem was lost...as was the entire Old City. Where for thousands of years Jews have prayed...suddenly, we were denied access to our holiest of sites, the last remaining wall of the Holy Temple, last destroyed in 70 CE (actually the Western Wall is actually a retaining wall and not part of the Holy Temple structure itself).

      There were no cries of religious intolerance from 1948 to 1967, no international demands that Jews have access to the Temple Mount. US presidents and Popes didn't decry our inability to worship...nor did they care that hundreds of graves, centuries old...were destroyed, their tombstones broken, scattered, and used to build latrines by the Jordanian army.

      The Hurva synagogue lay in ruins...when Israel recaptured the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, our leading general, Moshe Dayan, did a very stupid thing...stupid because the world took our generosity for granted, our sacrifice was for nothing. The Temple Mount is the site where our two Temples were built, the site where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. Christian belief says it is the site of the ascension and Muslim tradition credits Mohammed with ascending to heaven from there as well. On that fateful day in 1967, Moshe Dayan gave the Temple Mount to the Arabs because on the ruins of our Temple, they had built a mosque (a common practice that they repeat on top of many synagogues and churches to stake their claim).

      In any case, after Jerusalem was again in our hands...we opened the city to all religions. For 19 years, we could not pray or touch the Western Wall and yet not even 19 days have passed where we have blocked Arabs from tending to the place. Sometimes, like today, when the Arabs are pulling their latest Intifada card and promising violence, there are restrictions -but still, thousands of Arabs are allowed where Jews are not.

      So for the last 60+ years, the Hurva synagogue ruins have filled the place...but slowly a few years ago, Israel began rebuilding it - as fine and beautiful as it ever was. It is located in the middle of the Jewish quarter - a good 5 minute walk from the Western Wall and the Temple Mount...that is fact - I have walked the path many times.

      From the site of the Hurva synagogue, you walk between numerous stores, down about 100 steps...perhaps even more. You walk across a large, open plaza...and only then do you approach the Temple Mount...and yet, the Arabs are threatening another Intifada because we dared to rebuild the synagogue.

      They say we are trying to "Juda-ize" Jerusalem and I am torn between anger and amusement. There is no reason to make something that is inherently Jewish...Jewish again. Jerusalem - was founded...by the Jews, sustained and nurtured...by the Jews. It is our city, our capital, our promise, our destiny.

      We have been prepared to share it and live in peace but where we were driven from it once, we never will be again. Tonight in Jerusalem, we celebrate the rebuilt and reopened Hurva synagogue.

      For this, the Arabs threaten. Hamas even says it is grounds for war. End of peace process...Intifada...war - I wish someone would tell the Arabs that their ongoing threats are useless and prove their lack of credibility.

      But more, I wish the world would tell the Arabs that it is violence that got them where they are today - trying desperately through hatred and terrorism to get what they could have gotten 60 years ago with a simple positive answer to the United Nations.

      That boat sailed long ago - or rather, that boat was torpedoed by the Arab nations and lies in ruin below the sea. If there is a peace process, it will not be served by threats and if they do not learn to live with the Hurva synagogue rebuilt on the very spot where it stood 60 years ago...there is no hope.

      There will be another war, another Intifada, another wave of terrorism. I am as convinced of that as I am that the US administration will continue to grovel whenever and wherever it can. I have seen one son go to war. It is more than any mother should have to see and yet I come to realize that it is very likely war will come to my family again.

      I don't know when or why, but judging from the past, it is likely the reason will be as senseless as today's threats. We rebuilt a synagogue the Arabs destroyed 60 years ago...on land that is ours, always has been and always will be. The Arabs can learn to deal with it, or they can threaten us.

      Just as there are always two responses from the Arabs to pretty much any occurrence in the Middle East, there are two realities they must learn. The first is simply that we will rebuild and, if we have to, we will fight. the second is that time runs in only one direction - forward. You cannot rewind the clock - not a day, not a month, and certainly not 60 years.


      Adar 23, 5770, 3/9/2010

      A Second Induction Day: Shmulik Enters the Army

      It is rare that life puts you in the same situation twice...even three times...while also giving you the opportunity to measure so easily where you are, where you were, how far you have come. If I hadn't written this all down the first time, I don't know that I'd be able to compare. Memory fades. It's been three years less two weeks. On March 25, 2007, Elie entered the army of Israel. My oldest son, my first soldier and my first real encounter with that massive machine known as the Israeli army.

      Well, the day has finally come - arriving with a mixture of so many emotions and unspoken fears. Elie packed his bag last night - as ready to go as he has been for some time now. Perhaps over the weekend, he was a little more playful, a little more "around" us than usual, but this morning, it was all business.

      This time it is Shmulik. He packed his bag last night with Elie's guidance. He's prepared to be gone two weeks, though we are relatively certain he'll be home in just 4 days for Shabbat. He wasn't around so much over the weekend. For more than two years now, he's been very serious about a young woman. They want to marry and likely will. He went to the local religious boys' high school; she went to the local religious girls' high school. We lived one block away. He was at her parents' house, though she came to visit us Sunday night for a birthday party for Shmulik.

      We got in the car, found the place a short 20 minutes later. There were a few other cars parked in front of the building, each with a young man sitting in the front beside a parent. No one got out to talk to anyone else, each holding those last few minutes. You don't want to speak any great words of wisdom - there aren't any left to be said. You can tell him that you love him, but really, he knows it already. This isn't like school, where he can call if he needs me to come and pick him up. His experiences are now his own and we are left behind in real life, as much symbolized by his walking alone into the building after a few quick words and a refusal to give me a kiss (typical of a teenager boy). I sat outside with nothing to do but go back home.

      This time, Shmulik's meeting point was much farther away - about an hour's drive. Last week and for the last few month's I've been working on a national conference of technical writers. It's the fifth conference in four years and was attended by more than 200 people...and as expected, it left me exhausted and even sick. I'm too sick to drive and take him...and so Elie volunteered. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. Give them "alone" time to talk about what the army is really like and cut the goodbye time. He doesn't need all that emotion. I spoke to him a few minutes in the morning and yes, I couldn't hold back the "I love you" but added "Give me a call later today" and "I'll speak to you tonight."

      I didn't know what with Elie - that I WOULD speak with him later that first day. But Shmulik will have time to call and the army will encourage them. I don't know where he'll sleep tonight; when he'll be moved to his new base. I know he will be given a uniform today, supplies that he needs. Socks, undershirts, a belt. It will be okay - he goes in with a group of 9 other friends who have learned together already for almost two years.

      In short, we know only what the army is ready to tell us - and this is how it begins and how it will likely continue for the next 3 years. My son is a soldier in the army of Israel. Why that makes me want to cry, I can't explain when it is something that I have accepted, something in which I feel pride. For now, the fear and worry that threatens to push the pride aside will be my personal battle in the next day and week and year.

      I don't feel the need to cry this time and the fear is so much less largely because I know that I don't have to fear today and probably not tomorrow and probably not even for the next week or two weeks or even the first month. He has 8 months of training ahead of him - that's when the real fear begins...or so I tell myself this morning. I won't check the statistics that tell me that in the past year, after the Gaza War ended, we lost more soldiers in training than in attacks.

      I won't think about that...I'll focus only on today...each day, for the entire length of his service. The relationship I have now with Elie is so different than the one I had when he went in. He is so much more thoughtful, patient and giving. He was a boy when he went in...impatient and often short-tempered. Last night, I came home from work and went straight to bed. It was Elie who came and asked if he could make me food and brought me tea. That was an outcome of his serving in the army and the relationship that came from his being away from home.

      Now Shmulik leaves and I can only hope for the same. They are so different in personalities and it is the differences that worry me. Elie is a fighter and a leader. He learns his rights and makes sure he gets them. He analyzes, he thinks, he determines, he decides...and he doesn't suffer needlessly (nor does he suffer fools).

      Shmulik is the gentle one in so many ways. Physically, he is a bit shorter than Elie - opposite Elie's blue eyes, Shmulik's are the darkest of browns, his hair almost black. We have never figured out where Elie got his blue eyes from (only reassured beyond all doubts that he was really ours when our third son was born with the same blue eyes), but there is no doubt Shmulik got his eyes from my husband's mother.

      Beyond the physical difference, there is another that does concern me. Most children are very connected to their bodies and with the first, tiny bruise, they come running for a kiss and comfort. You'd need a magnifying glass for some of the "boo-boos" my children came to me with...but not Shmulik.

      One Friday night, he came home with a brand new pair of beautiful pants...torn at the knee. I couldn't believe it. I gave him a hard time and told him to go upstairs and change. He returned in short pajamas...and only then did I see that his knee was cut and still bleeding.

      "What happened?" I asked him, no longer caring about the pants. He's slipped on the grass while walking through the park with friends and landed on glass. I asked him why...why hadn't he told me. Who cares about the stupid pants? I told him, you have to tell me when you get hurt.

      If Shmulik complains, he has a raging fever or a massive headache. I so much prefer the situation where the child complains on all things...to the one where the child complains not at all. That is my greatest fear, I think, with Shmulik.

      I trusted Elie to tell me if he needed me. I would run to Shmulik every bit as fast...but I need to know he'll call me. I need to have that trust. So that is my challenge this time around. Last time, it was to battle the fear of the unknown. Now I know so much more...

      My son is where I have always wanted him to be, doing what he must do. It is something that Jews have been unable to do for thousands of years - to defend their land and their right to live here. My son is a soldier in the army of Israel.

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