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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:

      Shevat 11, 5773, 1/22/2013

      My Vote - As Israel Speaks

      ...in the truest democratic sense of the word. We are choosing from no less than 32 political parties (I think I even heard 34). You can't say we aren't diverse. We have several religious parties, several secular and even anti-religious parties. We have several Arab parties, nationalist parties - left wing and right wing. We have a party promoting the legalization of marijuana and parties that focus on social issues.Someone asked me if Israelis were forced to vote or they had a choice...we so have a choice and we choose to vote. Pick your issue - and there is a party for you. Our government is formed by the party with the most votes - its leader will be our next prime minister.

      Of course. that isn't a given. The President - mostly a figurehead, has the power to choose another party with less votes if he thinks they have a better chance of getting a majority of the other parties to agree.This time, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Bibi Netanyahu will win big enough to remain in office. But it is also assumed he doesn't have a chance of winning big enough not to have to deal with smaller parties. Some of the smallest parties may not cross the minimum 2-seat threshold. It's exciting; it's fun - it's Israel at its best. Today, people are urging each other to vote - no matter who - make your voice known.

      I've been debating who to vote for - which party to support. Ideologically, I'm limited to about 2.5 parties. I came to Israel with the firm belief that Likud was Israel's best choice. As soon as I moved to Israel, finally having the right to vote here - I joined the Likud party.

      Although technically, I left them a few years ago, they had long since abandoned their own mandate and beliefs. It is with great relief that I never even bothered thinking, never mind regretting, that I would not vote for Likud this time around.

      Yesh Atid, run by Yair Lapid, is a party that I detest. I am smart enough to know that the anger I feel towards them is present at a level higher than they deserve. I was urged to listen to Yair Lapid speaking before an audience of Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Kiryat Ono. I found him insulting, patronizing and obnoxious. Oh, sure - he's handsome and charismatic - but he is so filled with himself, it's hard to see that Israel will ever have a greater place in his mind than his own opinions. No vote for Yesh Atid.

      Shas is one of the Ultra-Orthodox parties that Yair Lapid detests - and his endless attacks added to the dirt of this election. Sadly, he isn't completely wrong. Shas has engaged, once again, in a disgusting campaign of negativity. Their spiritual leader, a great rabbi whose words are often taken out of context...often speaks words that shouldn't be said. Shas does some amazing things at the community level - if only they would spend more time promoting the good things they do rather than attacking others. If I ever considered voting for them - which to be honest, I never have - two remarks would have cost them my vote this time around. The first was when Rav Ovadia Yosef said that if there is a forced draft - he would tell his followers to send their children out of Israel. This concept of not serving while benefiting from the state bothers me no end. His second comment was that those who support Bayit HaYehudi are not Jews. I don't need Rav Yosef telling me who is a Jew but I've wasted enough time on a party known for its corruption and rationalizing political positions based on the money for which it can sell its support. No vote for Shas...HaTnua, Labor, Meretz, Kadima - I'll throw them all together and I'll throw them all out easily. They are, for the most part, ignorant or ridiculously naive when it comes to Israel's position in the Middle East. They demand social justice but have no real platform and more - when they had power, the situation wasn't any better so they have no right to claim they know how to improve the situation.

      As for security and Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, a former Chief of Staff of the army - I can only assume delusional is a better word for the weakness he would have us show to our enemies. Or, perhaps like the others, interest in his own sense of importance makes him willing to risk Israel's future for political gain? Whatever the truth - no vote for these parties.I could go on - as I have over the last few weeks - or make it simpler. There remain two parties with whom I agree - Bayit haYehudi (Jewish Home Party) and Otzma L'Yisrael (Strength to Israel). I would vote for either (or both, if I could). I have to choose one and so I went and I listened, I read, I thought.Bayit HaYehudi will work to pull Bibi Netanyahu to the right; to force him to remember and answer to his supporters, the bread and butter of the Likud party. They are also likely to get a large number of votes - currently as many as 12-14 seats in the Knesset. But...by being in the coalition, they will be forced to support measures I don't agree with - measures they don't even agree with.

      More, I've been betrayed by Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud more than once. The first time was when Ariel Sharon promised me security for my vote and then took my vote and used it to implement the so-called Disengagement Plan that resulted in our expelling 9,000 Jews from more than 20 beautiful communities. The unilateral move, which Bibi Netanyahu voted for, brought us the Lebanon War and that in turn, brought us the Cast Lead War. My son knows war because Likud (and then Sharon's new party Kadima) showed weakness and stupidity.I don't want my vote used, abused, betrayed. And I want to vote this time for a party that won't promise ridiculous things to get my vote. Okay, Bayit HaYehudi, to its credit, didn't promise ridiculous things.

      By contrast, I got a call from Bibi (okay, it was a taped spam message that I have to assume Likud inflicted on as many phone numbers as they could get). Bibi told me he was going to deliver security and lower housing...yeah, I believe him...not.By contrast, Aryeh Eldad jokingly said he was "a lousy politician because I can't promise peace, gas will be free, birds will fly backwards...and there are no taxes on words."But the first crack in my supporting Bayit HaYehudi was when I realized that they will get what they will get from Bibi whether they have 12 votes or 14. And to go against Bibi, they need a party to the right, an alternative, a warning. Betray me and I will go to this other party, we can say to Bayit haYehudi...if there is a party to go to - Otzma L'Yisrael.I want to finally vote for a party not based on politics but belief.

      Otzma L'Yisrael - Strength to Israel - is comprised of people who simply are. There is no pretending and little grandstanding. They will not shift with the wind, float to the left.They are against a Palestinian state for the simple reason that they believe, they understand, that a Palestinian state will be used as a launching ground for phase 2, the complete destruction of Israel. They are not trying to deny Arabs the right to pray at the Dome of the Rock, nor do they call for its destruction - they simply demand that Jews too have a right to pray at their holiest site.They are not racists when they declare that Israel is a Jewish state; nor are they racist when they say that Israel is not an Arab country. There are 20 other Arab lands; this one is not. Their leaders have introduced petitions for important laws on the social front. Aryeh Eldad is a doctor by trade. He has petitioned to allow us to choose our doctors, our surgeons. I voted. I went to vote in the only real democracy in Israel. I waited in line for 20 minutes - everyone in a jolly mood simply because we are enjoying our freedom.

      As I left, there was a young woman from Channel 10 doing a poll. She asked who I voted for and I told her - I voted for the strength of Israel, for the strong. I voted so that Bibi won't betray my vote. I voted because I live in a land I love, a free, democratic country and to keep it that way, we need a spectrum in the Knesset. We need a counter as strong on the right as there is on the left. If Arabs can have their seats in the Knesset - and they do, we too can have a voice. As I drove home, I saw a friend's son putting out fliers for Shas. Seriously? I asked him and he made a face. "How much are they paying you?" I asked him. "Forty shekels an hour," he grumbled.I smiled back and said - here, give me three fliers - I'll throw them out when I get home. He smiled and handed them to me. Shas, you are SO in the wrong neighborhood. I live among those who are religious Jews, proud Israelis.

      We are the Dati Leumi - the national religious. When I was 13 years old, I read a book and fell in love with Israel, the wonder of our return to this land. I read, I learned, and as I did, I decided there are two parts to being a Jew - Torah and Israel. To fulfill the truest meaning of both parts, to be whole inside in heart and body - is to combine these.Today, among friends and neighbors, in more joy than you can imagine, I voted. I voted for Israel to be strong. Otzma L'Yisrael.

      Tevet 3, 5773, 12/16/2012

      From Sandy Hook to Netiv Meir; From Maalot to Newtown

      Thirty-eight years ago, Palestinian terrorists attacked a school in Ma'alot and murdered 22 Israeli school children. It was so different than the horrible massacre that just took place in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and 7 adults were murdered. I have no words to ease the pain of parents who have lost children, those who have lost their beloved relatives - not then, not now, not ever. In Ma'alot, we knew the motive - it was hatred and a belief in a radical interpretation of Islam that allowed, encouraged, and blessed murdering infidels, even if they were children. Perhaps especially if they were children.

      What we understood in Ma'alot, we cannot comprehend in this tragedy. In Newtown, we are lost. Why? What makes a human being do such a thing? There was anger after Ma'alot; but here, there seems to be only tragedy. There is such sadness and pain for the families, for the community, for all of America.
      If there is any comfort to be found for those in Newtown, it is the universal mourning that takes place today throughout the world. Even from the family of the young man who did this. From the father, Peter Lanza, these words must offer comfort.

      "Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured. Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so. Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired."

      It's impossible for Israelis not to think of Ma'alot when we hear about Newtown; impossible not to think of children becoming victims in a place where they are supposed to be safe. And for me, it brought back a thought I'd had a few weeks ago. I had wanted to write about it then, but I didn't have time to get to a computer and it slipped my mind.

      A few weeks ago, Elie picked up Aliza and my heart stopped. He was joking; she was laughing and still I felt such pain. He has picked her up since she was an infant, but never the way he did this one time, with his arm hooked under her legs. 

      It reminded me of a picture from Maalot, of a brother, who was serving in an elite combat unit, who had raced north when he heard his teenage sister's youth group was being held hostage in Ma'alot. She and her group were sleeping in the school when Palestinian terrorists went in and caught the world's attention. 

      There were 115 hostages, including 105 students, teenagers from the city of Safed being held in the Netiv Meir school in Ma'alot (the same name as my son David's school in Jerusalem). The terrorists threatened to kill the children if Israel did not release 23 convicted Palestinian terrorists. Twenty-three, can you imagine? At the time, it was so many; today it would be considered so few. Then, they asked for 23 in exchange for over 100; it's just over a year ago that we released more than 1,000 for Gilad Shalit. 

      That is what happens when you give in to terrorists - but back then, in 1974, they were holding children. What could we do? Golda Meir announced the decision to negotiate. At that time, the decision was almost unprecedented. She explained, that Israel "cannot wage its wars on the backs of its children."

      The Palestinians had come to kill and death was their goal more than the hostages and they opened fire. When the terrorists hurled grenades at the teenagers, some of them managed to jump out of a window, a ten foot drop to the ground. One of the wounded was a 15-year-old girl named Tzipi Maimon. Waiting below was her brother. Somehow in all the confusion, he saw her jump, ran to her, picked her up and carried her to safety. The pain, the terror, is clear. I cannot let my mind think what thoughts were in her brother's head, what agonies he suffered while waiting helplessly outside that school. He was a combat soldier trained to respond, trained to act, to do; and he was forced to wait, to watch. 

      The picture of Tzipi Maimon in her brother's arms came to mind when Elie picked Aliza up and I tried hard to push it away even as I told him to put her down in a voice that sounded, even to me, strained and upset. No one was hurt; they were both playing, laughing even. I don't even remember why he picked her up - he really never does anymore. But I wanted him to put her down; I even told him to; I'm not sure if I explained why but the image of Tzipi Maimon went through my  head and it made me sick to think of Elie ever holding Aliza that way. 

      It also shows you how images remain - even almost 40 years later. Ma'alot is a wound that will never heal - that is the reality of Ma'alot and it will be the reality in Newtown. We will never forget the images, the agony, the pain and yes, the sacrifices and the miracles - not then, not now. What you learn is that there are tragedies that stay with you all your lives.

      In 1974, I was about the same age as the Ma'alot hostages, as those who survived. They have gone on to have families of their own, quietly remembering that horrible experience. I wasn't there but I remember the hours of waiting, knowing the terrorists had booby-trapped the school and though I was, essentially, a child at the time, I remember the panic and horror of knowing that those being held, those being terrorized, were the innocents of the world.

      May the survivors of the Sandy Hook school be blessed with the knowledge that God watched over them and may they dedicate their lives to living and being happy. May the wounded, of body and soul, be granted a full and speedy recovery.

      May the families of those who died find comfort somehow in the knowledge that God will care for their loved ones in a better place than this world could ever be, that many are grateful to the teachers and principal who tried to protect the children. And may the Lanza family also find comfort for what they have lost.

      No Palestinians ever expressed shame or pain for what their relatives did in Ma'alot. I hope the families of the victims and survivors will find comfort in the knowledge that no one celebrates what was done in Newtown. 

      From around the world, we mourn with them. From a country that understands so much what it is to have someone attack their children, we send our love and our prayers.

      Tevet 1, 5773, 12/14/2012

      If you talk to them, what would you say?

      It's an interesting question my mother asked me.

      An international media organization has contacted me - no one would ever accuse them of being pro-Israel; few would even really consider them balanced when it comes to coverage of the Middle East. They want to ask me about my life, my blog, where I live, and what I think. They want me to talk about E1 - not that that topic would take long...hill, no building, no disruption, next...

      I've seen media twist words before - I'm not naive. I know the way the game is played. I've seen instances where reporters leave out parts of a statement to make it seem so different than what was intended. Should I open myself up to having my words distorted, to allowing them to take the beauty of where I live and turn it into something wrong, ugly, even stolen?

      Years ago, I took a reporter around Maale Adumim and then to the Jewish communities in Gaza. She had once worked for this very media organization now asking to interview me. I took her to the home of a woman who has two children who were injured in terror attacks. The reporter didn't ask about how her children were coping with their injuries and their trauma...she asked how it felt to live in a house that was stolen?

      No, this woman didn't live in a house that was stolen, not even on land that was occupied. She moved here more than 20 years ago and bought an apartment. She made it a home and raised her children here. There was so much she could have spoken about, but that first question was so telling. It was phrased with cruelty and ignorance, with the reporter's agenda clear to all.

      Before we left the city, I was already regretting my decision to take her to Gaza. I wanted to show her the amazing things Israel does. In Maale Adumim, I took her to a beautiful new children's park nearby - built in sections so that children of varying ages can play, so many safety issues addressed - soft ground under climbing equipment, things that could withstand the sun, railings and fences and benches for the parents to sit and watch. Surrounded by gardens and paths where it is pleasant to walk, it's a gathering place all week long for so many.

      She didn't compliment the park's planning  - she asked why Palestinians can't come there. She asked why the Palestinians don't have similar parks in THEIR neighborhoods in a tone that made it clear she blamed us, that it was OUR responsibility to build for them the things they didn't bother building for themselves. I told her she should ask them. The money we pay in taxes goes to building parks here - where does the money go in Palestinian areas, and what happens to the parks and schools we do build in their areas?

      In Gaza, I took her to several families - to a man who lost an arm in one war and then several fingers on his remaining hand when he was attacked years later by a terrorist. He told her of the body of a young mother that he found in a car on the side of the road - and how the terrorists had sat in waiting. The dead woman was bait for whatever target came next. They relied on the goodness and caring of the next person to stop and see if she needed help. He was badly wounded, saved more by a malfunctioning grenade than the soldiers who followed and eliminated the terrorist.

      I took her to the greenhouses to show her the incredible farms and produce and to meet other people and see other places. And finally, I took her to the home of a family who had lost a son in war and was about to not only lose their home but would be faced with digging up their son's grave and having it moved rather than leaving it to be desecrated in Gaza. It was the one time I begged her not to ask anything about politics, "please, don't do that to them - don't ask them about stolen land and how it feels to lose their home..." She was very good, actually, and I appreciated that she simply asked them to tell her about their son.
      In the middle of the night we spent there, mortars were fired at the village and we heard the explosions. There wasn't enough time to run - not even the 15 seconds they have in Sderot. I listened to the explosions and waited for the ambulance sirens. After a few minutes of quiet, I smiled in the dark and thanked the Arabs for showing her what life was like for too many Israelis - then and now. In Hebrew, the hosts apologized in the morning and I laughed, "did you fire the mortars?" They smiled and wished me a good day. I turned to the reporter and said it was time to go.
      A bit shaken, she asked me to confirm that she had been awakened by the firing of mortars or rockets nearby. "Yup," I answered without hesitation. "Yes, indeed."

      The time I finally lost my ability to watch her be a journalist in silence was when I was taking her through the beautiful zoo in Neve Dekalim, past the animals and the green lush gardens there. I had let the people speak for themselves but realized there was no one to speak for that place, the animals, the young children who had taken the time to paint such beautiful murals on the walls, for Shauli the Camel, and so much more.

      As she took pictures and interviewed the zoo keepers to ask what would happen to the animals, I remained quiet, feeling the anger growing inside and finally I asked her if I could speak. We walked quietly and as we did, I began.

      "What harm does this zoo do to anyone?" I asked. "If it wasn't here, do you think there would be peace?"

      "Why can't the Arabs come to the zoo? Why don't they have one?" she asked me.

      "Because," I answered in anger, "when they come into this community, they come with weapons. They come to kill and so no, they cannot come to see animals when in coming, some would use it as a chance to murder people. If they made peace, they could come to the zoo but if all they want to do is kill us, then no, we can't safely let them in."

      And then I asked her, "but why don't you ask the Arabs why THEY don't build a zoo? Why they spend money on rockets instead of playgrounds and zoos and hospitals? Why do they find it acceptable to shoot rockets at us? And what do you expect us to do? Not only do you not want us to shoot back, you think we should open our homes up despite the security threat! You think it is okay for them to shoot at us, but not okay that our zoo is closed?"

      And more, I told her in the anger that was boiling inside me, "okay, so we'll destroy this zoo; we'll move the animals to other zoos all over Israel and we'll ruin the beautiful communities these people have built...will THAT bring peace? We'll evacuate all the Jews from Gaza - and what will happen? Do you think the Arabs will be happy and use their money to build zoos and parks? Will the poor Palestinian children across the road who don't have a playground like this, suddenly get one?"

      Instead, I told her, what was most likely to happen is exactly what did happened a few weeks ago and has been happening for most of the 7 plus years since we left Gaza: rockets on Askhelon, Ashdod, Beersheva and even Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

      And now I have a choice - I can talk to this international media organization and answer their questions. I can show them E1 and ask them how building up the mountain would cut off a four lane super highway that offers both Jews and Arabs free movement to points north and south, east and west. I can show them my beautiful city and I can point to the barren mountains that surround it on all sides and say - THAT is what these hills looked like before we built here. No one lost anything; nothing was stolen.

      I could tell them they were talking to the wrong side. We are the ones building the parks and the zoos and the schools. We built the bowling center, the gardening shops, the furniture stores, the fire station and the ambulance squad that covers a huge region treating Arabs and Jews equally.

      No, don't ask us why we build parks and schools, I could say...ask the Arabs why they don't. Ask them why they need to come to OUR health centers for real emergencies and why their ambulances have to be stopped and searched and don't accept any answer other than the truth - when you put weapons on an ambulance - you force Israel to search them.

      Ask them why my sons who regularly volunteer for the local ambulance squad have to wait for an army escort to go into the Arab villages to help injured or sick Arabs who need medical treatment. Ask them why they oppose our building on barren hills. If their claim to having lived here for generations were true - why didn't they build?

      And if they oppose our building - what gives them the right to build? Ask them how it is possible that Isawiya has almost doubled in size in the last few years and ask them why we had to build the bypass road because they were stoning cars - and the bypass to the bypass road because the attacks had escalated and they were shooting, attacking with rocks and even throwing washing machines and couches down on the cars below.

      Ask them why they opened fire and killed a monk from near Jericho on his way to Jerusalem...and ask them why they sent a suicide bomber up the road. We were lucky that time - a brave police officer paid the ultimate price when he suspected the car and driver and pulled it over. The driver blew himself up, killing the Bedouin policeman on the side of the road - I heard the explosion and just knew it was a bomb. I heard the sirens - and it was Israel that built a memorial site near where he was murdered.

      What would I say to this news agency? This is my home - we have made the desert bloom, as we were promised. From a barren hill, we have created such beauty. Don't ask me why the Palestinians don't have playgrounds like we do - ask them. And if they claim poverty - look at the cars they are driving...the BMWs, the Volvos, the large cars and buildings and more.

      And if you come into my city, take a moment to look in the mall - see how many Arabs DO come into the city every day, to work, to shop. And ask the Arabs why it isn't safe for me to go into their neighborhoods as they come into mine. Ask them about my neighbor who was lynched and his body partially burned.

      Ask them why they never have to worry about being lynched in Maale Adumim.

      Ask them why in the last few months, Arabs have come and stabbed a security guard at the gates of our city and another came up and said he was going to attack. Ask them why they don't feel they have to build a security fence around their neighborhoods and hire full-time guards at the gates to protect them.

      And ask them why, if we are the aggressors, why it is OUR homes that have bomb shelters and not theirs.

      So many questions, so many thoughts - but maybe I'm not the right person for this. I can only show what we have built, the gardens and flowers. I can show them the lake in the desert that we built - silly and charming at the same time but I can never answer why the Arabs haven't channeled their resources into similar things for them and I can never answer why our enjoying the fruits of our hard work is wrong.

      If I talk to them...what would I say? This is my home, my land. By God, by right, by history, perhaps by might, but most of all, by love, this is my home.

      Kislev 11, 5773, 11/25/2012

      The Bus Driver

      I don't know his name; I probably never will. I know he started work at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday morning and twelve hours later, was still driving - special runs to pick up soldiers from near Gaza and drive them to bases from which they were released back to their lives.
      I know he is a civilian. I know he was very tired when he picked up Elie's unit near Gaza on Thursday evening. I know that he needed to rest and so stopped the bus in Beersheva to give the guys some time in the mall while he took some much needed down time and finally, I know he lives in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv.
      The other thing I know about him is what he did for my son and dozens of other soldiers on Thursday night. He drove them to a central base, where they were to turn in their weapons and be released/checked out of the army. The base is about a 10 minute walk from a major highway, on a small road which few cars need to enter. The bus driver finished his final task of the night as he entered the small road, pulled up to the base, and let the soldiers get off.
      Despite his exhaustion, he realized that once the soldiers were done, they would have to walk that 10 minute walk to the main highway and try to catch buses or rides to get home. It would take hours for some of them. He decided to wait. He told the soldiers to go - give in their guns, and he would wait. He waited an hour - a full hour, this man who had worked more than 12 hours already, this man who had a family and wanted to get home to them.
      When the soldiers were back on the bus, he drove them to the main highway and stopped. If they were going towards Jerusalem, as Elie was, they got off there and waited to catch a bus. Elie caught a ride to the eastern edge of Jerusalem; I drove with Lauren to meet him from there.
      As for those who lived towards Tel Aviv, the tired bus driver told them to stay on the bus. As he drove home, soldiers would tell him where they could let them off to catch the nearest bus or train to get home. This kindness saved them hours of waiting in the cold and the rain.
      It was a kindness that was being repeated in many ways throughout Israel - our thanks to our sons. I'll never know that man's name; never know how to thank him. I can only hope that somewhere he has a son who serves and that someone has or will someday do for him what his father did for mine.

      Tishrei 14, 5773, 9/30/2012

      A Promise and a Reminder

      Sukkot is a holiday that talks to me in ways that few other holidays do.

      I love Shabbat - it is, each week, an island of peace that comes in grace and slowly sneaks away with the promise it will return.

      Rosh Hashana is nice, but it is the base of a mountain of self-reflection that is Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur comes as a day of judgment and atonement - serious, spiritually uplifting, intense it is; fun it is not.

      Passover is so much work, before, during and after, that it is hard to enjoy much of it. Someday, I might find a way to enjoy it, but most years it is mostly torture for me.
      Hanukah might be fun and have some deeper meanings to it, but it has been commercialized and internationalized and simply doesn't touch me the way Sukkot does.

      I could go on, but I don't want to belittle the other holidays, I just want to explain why I love this one. You see, it is yet another promise from God to me - well, to my people. It says to trust Him, that He will take care of us.

      We put our lives in His hands every day without really acknowledging it. When we drive down the highway, when we walk under a building, when we watch our children go off to school, perhaps even when we get on a bus. From the moment we awaken, refreshed and returned to life, until the moment we lay our heads on our pillows, at any moment, our lives could change forever, take directions we never thought of.

      So we rise in the morning and thank God for returning our soul to us from sleep, simply for being awake another day to live in this world and see the miracles He creates. And then we do what we do, only to sleep and do it again the next day. Sukkot is about taking that forgotten trust to a higher level.

      Sukkot says - stop, take yourself out of the comfort of your homes, your air conditioned rooms and return to the basics. Imagine if the roof over your head was not cement and stone, but mere branches of trees. Imagine if instead of your plush sofa and comfortable bed, you sat on simple chairs and slept on a slip of a mattress beneath the stars.

      Would you still thank God for everything He has done for you? Imagine if while you are sitting out there in that hut you've built, the one with the simple roof of branches - imagine if it were to start to rain, would you still be grateful? It's easy to say yes from those air conditioned rooms and so we move out there for 7 days and show ourselves what God already knows. Oh yes, we will be grateful because the cement roof is an illusion; the plush homes a diversion.

      Sukkot is a promise and a reminder. We promise to trust in God; He reminds us He has always been there to protect us and always will be. I love Sukkot. It is simple and basic as life really is. It is we humans that confuse the issues; we who fill our lives with meaningless possessions when the greatest gift of all is simply life and the ability to enjoy.

      Chag samayah - happy Sukkot - may it come in peace and remind all of us that the only security we can ever know, comes from Above.

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