Middle East 1:44 AM 5/25/2013
Middle East 9:28 PM 5/25/2013
Middle East 1:10 AM 5/25/2013
Life Lessons with Judy Simon
Torah Tidbits Audio
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:
Tammuz 6, 5772, 6/26/2012
I'll start off by saying that I really don't understand where some of these titles come from - but what can I do...I'm just the typist here. My brain says to the fingers - type it and they do...so don't blame them, please.
I didn't walk among kings last week, but I certainly walked among presidents, ministers, generals, former generals, and ambassadors. They walked somehow above the rest of us, occasionally stopping to speak to someone here or there. They were hustled in, hustled out. We were the audience, the children - told to stand (as if we did not know); told not to leave our seats for security reasons. We were a bit awed, a bit nervous. They are but men, flesh and blood but when someone like Gabi Ashkenazi stands a short distance away, you hesitate to approach. When Peres comes into the room, your mind fills with questions and you wonder if you should ask. I did approach; I did ask. I pushed myself by reminding myself that I have as much right to share in the sunshine of this world as they do, to question what my country is doing and where it is going. It is the future of my children; I am their mother.
After two full days, I was ready for the quiet that is my home. I woke Friday morning to the task of making challah and as I kneaded the dough, I thought about the week. My success of the day was not measured in international agreements brokered among diplomats and journalists, but on whether my dough would rise and if the bread that would be baked would be sweet enough.
Hours later, the table set, two of my children received their father's blessings and we watched as he cut the bread and gave each of us a piece. It was delicious - this fantastic recipe I got from Lauren months ago. I've changed it a bit - added mostly whole wheat flour, increased the honey by a bit. I braided six strands, which makes a lovely loaf - and we enjoyed it and it was as I was kneading and later as I was eating it that I thought about how we are grounded, as kings and presidents are not.
More than the simple task of making bread is the concept here. We can walk among presidents and kings all week long, but it is only as we ground ourselves on Friday and enter the Sabbath do we approach the True King. These men who spoke have voice but no real power. They do not determine the present and future of Israel, nor do the rockets that hit our land, even on Shabbat. As we entwine the strands of dough, we are entwined with our land, our people, our faith and most of all, with God. It is this act, of preparing the challah and caring for our families that Jewish women have done for centuries, millennium.
All week long, we can forget that. We can listen to politicians suggest that Israel can make peace if is surrenders this, concedes this, gives up that, forgets that. We can listen to academics play with lines on a map wondering if they notice, perhaps, that the line just happens to go through someone's living room, and we can wonder about whether this man's perceived crisis is really more about him than about us. And then we can come home, add yeast and flour, eggs and water and honey and salt, We can watch the dough rise, a promise that Shabbat is coming soon.
And we can bake it, letting the house fill with the most amazing scents. We can thank our married children as they stop by to bring a salad for us, or as they call and wish us a peaceful Shabbat. We put the freshly baked bread on the table, light the Shabbat candles as we close our eyes and pray for peace. No, not the peace of these kings and politicians, but true peace that comes from the heart and in the heart.
And then, as the candles burn and we sit around, we have that first taste of the challah and know we have been truly blessed, truly grounded and truly honored to walk with the King.
Tammuz 4, 5772, 6/24/2012
Shortly after I picked Elie up from the Gaza War, after weeks of not seeing him and barely talking to him, I was anxious to finally get to talk to him, to hug him, and to listen. On the long drive home, we began to discuss the war and the war's ending. Obama had been elected and Israel was clearing the field for his entry into office on January 20, 2009. Israel didn't want Obama's first words to be condemning Israel for the war and Washington had made it clear they wanted the war over.
Every soldier that left Gaza and went home was happy to be seeing his or her family - and most knew, as Elie did, that it wasn't over. "Ima," he told me, "they didn't let us finish." I was never sure who "they" were - the Americans or the Israeli government. But I knew, as he did, that the war had not really ended Hamas' missile capabilities or their desire to strike us.
For the last 5 days, Israel has been hit by 150 rockets. People have been injured. The ignorant and often anti-Israel commenters ask how many people in Israel have been injured or killed. This is the numbers game they play. I can answer them or ignore them. The answer, as far as I know, is that at least 6 people have been injured: one critical, one moderate, the rest lightly. This doesn't, of course, include dozens treated for shock, doesn't include the physical damage and worse, the mental terror each resident feels when the siren wails.
Others will point to people being killed on the Palestinian side. This is true. This is what happens in war and especially when you go out under a sky that is patrolled by satellites and aircraft, and shoot a rocket at one million people. Faster than you can load the next rocket, hopefully, your position will be identified, targeted and hit. Yes, you will die, or at least be seriously injured by the missile we launch at your position.
If civilians are lucky (or smart), they will not be in the area (or they will flee quickly). The honest ones will call you a martyr, which is a synonym for a terrorist firing the rocket, the bomb maker, and the one who supplied the missiles. These are our targets.
The deceitful will speak of a 2-year-old Palestinian child killed by Israel, while the medic will privately admit to a BBC reporter that the child was killed by a Gaza rocket that misfired and landed on their side. A picture will be posted - and the picture will be a lie - taken from another time, another place, sometimes even another conflict. And those who want to believe, those who don't understand, those who are ready to ignore and those who never really liked those Israelis, those Jews...will believe.
They won't see that the numbers are meaningless if, within the 15 "people" - (or whatever the number is currently), 14 of them were firing rockets, Hamas trainees, etc. No country, no organization, no people have the right to shoot rockets at 1 million people - and this is what Hamas has done...150 times in the last few days.
Elie's words come back to me - a bit naive, a bit like a young man thinking he can solve the problems of the world. I don't remember now what I said to him, how I answered. No, Israel did not "finish" the job in the Cast Lead Gaza war of 2008/2009. Hamas was left with the potential to continue firing. We all knew it was a matter of time.
In this latest round, as in the past, a school was hit, a home. People have been injured, property damaged. If Gaza is upset about the number of innocent casualties on their side, they have but to do one of two things:
Stop shooting rockets from within civilian areas - this may lessen the small number of innocents that may be injured accidentally. No, Hamas will never do this because they know that if we can identify a target within a crowded area and we aren't sure we can take it out, we won't. And so they use their mosques, their homes, their hospitals, their wives and even their children to protect their weapons and their fighters.
At the recent President's Conference in Jerusalem, Shimon Peres was asked about the rocket fire. His response was simple. "Either they will have to stop, or we will have to stop them."
At some point, Israel has to do more than just stop them until the next time. At some point, we will have to finish the job and eliminate Hamas' ability to fire on our people...or perhaps, just eliminate Hamas.
Sivan 30, 5772, 6/20/2012
I went to the President's Conference in Jerusalem today - it's a three day conference for thousands of people with huge name presenters...and some surprises. I heard a lot of people, saw a lot, whatever. Some annoyed me, some impressed me, one inspired me today.
There were several very moving speeches but by far, the most inspiring was Keren Leibovitch. She came to the stage moments after Dr. Ruth and Yossi Vardi left. Their banter back and forth was often funny, sometimes more explicit than necessary, and overall, didn't really leave me with anything other than wishing I'd filled my water bottle with cold water before entering the hall. The ever-efficient staff of the convention center quickly came out and removed the chairs, a small table and flowers. What now, I thought...and then, Keren wheeled herself out onto the middle of the stage.
She introduced herself and then turned sideways to face the back projection wall and asked them to run a video. I could start the way she did - by showing it (if I could find it). She told us how old she was...or I think she did. But more importantly, she told us that she'd spent 3 years in a hospital after being injured during her army service and during that time, her ambitions were focused on getting home and learning to move around with a cup of coffee. Injured is a ridiculous term here, actually. She suffered massive damage to her back, leaving her 90% paralyzed in her legs. The inspiration comes from realizing that despite her injuries, she chooses to live, to strive, to challenge and challenge again. She is married and has a set of twins that are about 4 years old...and another set of twins that are about 2 years old - all boys, she explained with a smile...all boys.
Keren is an inspiration because, as she said, she has learned that failure is only a step towards success. She asked everyone, "please do not be afraid of failing. it is the step you take to success. I am the best in the world for what I do." And for who she is - a true inspiration.
What I didn't yet mention, but what we learned in those first few seconds, was that Keren is an Olympic gold medalist...several times over. They ran the video, and the huge hall filled with cheers as she gracefully beat all the competition. She won three gold medals for Israel in 2000 in Sydney Paralympics, and more four years later in Athens. While all the other athletes were able to stand and dive into the pool, gaining that extra momentum, Keren has to push off the wall because she is unable to stand. She won the first gold; won the second; and won the third because she believed in herself. She even had them run the video showing her finally breaking down in tears after she'd completed all her races - and won them all! Oh, and she didn't just win - she broke a world record (twice in that one day...first in the morning in practice, and then again during the actual competition).
Sivan 14, 5772, 6/4/2012
Once again, the Palestinians are spreading their lies and once again, it is so easy to prove them wrong. They seem to not understand that pictures printed 4 years ago are traceable...So here's the latest - @occpal posted her tweet accusing Israel.
Of course, sadly, there are people stupid enough to believe anything. Here's @yoqmeam thanking @occpal for the picture and saying that I'm the idiot for believing what the "Zionist" regime tells me. Well, I'm wondering who the idiot is now.
So, I did a little research. Here's the link that @occpal wants to share about the supposed injury of a Gaza baby and a massive explosion identified - look at the date - yup, that does say today...Look at the picture very carefully - do you see those straight lines?
Here, let me help - let me zoom in on the picture. I've left the date in the top corner so you can see it:
Now do you see those lines to the left and right? Now look at the picture below from December, 2011 - no, not Gaza - a Colombia oil pipeline - no, not Israel, and not an Israel air craft strike...same buildings to the left, same lights to the right. Same explosion...the only truth here is that this explosion happened 4 years ago and the Palestinians have once again been busted for trying, yet again, to fool you. Don't let them! Here's the picture - note the date...location, etc.
No matter where the picture is from - it is very clear that once again "The Voice of Palestine" is trying to delude you into thinking the picture was from June 3rd 2012 - it clearly is not, as it appears on the Internet dating back at least 6 months - if not more. What is also clear is that there are people, even fools and perhaps idiots - who want to believe what they want and will not only believe whatever they want, but have the nerve to call others idiots.
So, @yoqmeam - who is the idiot now?
Sivan 2, 5772, 5/23/2012
For now, I'm in a place that years ago I never imagined I would be - safe on the other side, looking back. Now, with my two older sons out of the army, with Yaakov safely married in the States and Chaim in his studies, I can be glad they were in. I can say that they grew as people, as Jews, as Israelis, as men, as sons. Now, when it is safe.
Every once in a while, I meet a mother of a son about to go in - a mother not born in Israel, but one like me who came later in life with a son who is now about to begin the journey, or a mother who struggles through this period while she is there in America and her son has come alone. It is a strange feeling to be here, knowing they are just at the start. I met one such mother last night - I've known her for years but this time she told me her son was finishing high school and this time, it was across that divide that I began remembering those first days, those first fears.
It's so easy - as it was for others before me, to be on this side and talk. Of understanding and accepting that you take each day, one at a time; that he can't call you and you can't call him whenever you want. Of knowing that just because he says he will be home, it means nothing until he walks through that door and you see him. The memories come so fast; they've never really gone away.
Of the times he called and told me he was cold and I thought it would kill me. Of the time he called and told me his head was killing him and he was still out in the field and I wanted to drive for hours to get to him. Of the time I called his commanding officer and said that I wanted to come and take him to the doctor and please, please could they make sure he was okay. Of the time he told he he wasn't where I thought he was and I knew that meant he was in danger and war was coming. Of the time he called to say he couldn't come home as planned and I knew something had happened but not what that would mean for him.
Of all the times and all the worries and all the fears. From this side of the divide, with them safe and even married and on to the next adventures in their lives, I know two things, I believe two things and hold on to them.
The first is that soon enough, my friends will, God willing, be standing here beside me, remembering their own fears and worries, and grateful, so very grateful to be here. The time will go fast, I want to tell them, but in truth, time is time and it really doesn't go faster or slower because want it to.
And the second thing I know is that this mountain on which we stand doesn't protect you from the next time. As Elie came out of the army, I stood here on this side and yet a week or so later, I was back there on the other as Shmulik began his journey. With lightening speed, the security of this mountaintop can be stripped away from you, all it takes is another son or daughter going in. Now, here I am again on the best of all mountains and this time, I've been here for almost a year and I have still more time to rest and be happy.
But more and more I am realizing, in less than two years, I'll be going back there to where they are now, on the edge of the great divide. It's a hard place to be, standing there. From there, you can see so clearly to this wonderful place where I am now. You know what it looks like. As they begin, there in that place, they can see me now and a part of them longs to be here with me. But it is as if a cloud has settled over the land between these two mountains. The void is the valley below. The journey from that mountain top of concern to this one of pride and gratitude.
It is a valley through which I would accompany them if I could and yet it is one each mother travels alone. With hugs and love, I can only tell them to have faith, to always look up and know we are here waiting for them to join us.
May the sons and mothers who begin that journey have safe travels all the days in the valley and may they know the pride and gratitude of those of us who wait here on the heights.