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

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

      Links to the Author's blogs:

      Adar Bet 10, 5771, 3/16/2011

      Words that Break the Heart


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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