Thursday, December 29, 2005

City Mice, Country Mice

This past week, while the kids were off from school, we decided to take care of some errands in between the various parties and familial obligations. After buying the kids shoes, and before meeting friends, we thought about where to grab a bite to eat, and decided to go to the food court at the nearest mall.

As we were walking in, my ten year old turned to me and asked, "Ima, what is a food court?"

I looked at my kid in amazement; I couldn't believe that he had to ask such a question. It made me stop and think, and I realized that the mall is an almost completely foreign place to him. He's been taken there once or twice to the movies, and here and there to a restaurant, but that's it.

This led me to think about my kids' general experience, and I came to the conclusion that my children are living a small town, 1950's lifestyle - in 2005.

My kids walk to and from school because it is right down the street. They come home to find mom at home. Since we know everyone in our yishuv (village), they ride their bicycles wherever they want, and go to friends freely - I've never had to make a "play date". The library, basketball court, Bnei Akiva clubhouse and grocery store are all within a short walking distance. When they do leave our yishuv, it is usually to go to their grandparents for the weekend. All in all their exposure to the "big city" is negligible - and I wouldn't have it any other way.

My kids' lifestyle is a product, of course, of the choices that we have made as parents. I am a "country mouse" down to my toes - although where we live is probably better described as suburban than country. (My husband takes exception to the "country mouse" image, and has a more pointed description. Native New Yorker that he is, he says that we are raising "a bunch of hicks!").

I infinitely prefer the sound of the wind in the trees and birdsong to the noise of diesel engines and blaring horns. The air is clean, and in the spring the wildflowers are beautiful.

The lure of the city (and the malls) will come soon enough. Right now I am happy that I have to explain such things.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Building bridges...

I found this story on Solomonia, and I think it is really inspiring. Israel at Heart is a pro-Israel advocacy group, and Joey Low, the founder, describes how the Ethiopians brought to America to speak about their experiences in Israel build bridges to the African-American community.
My Favorite Miracle

Those familiar with the story of Chanukah know about the miracle of the oil. The Greeks defiled most of the oil needed to light the Menorah in the Temple, and only a small amount was found. This small amount - enough for just one day - miraculously lasted for eight.

A year or two ago I came across an article (I wish that I could attribute it properly - but I've forgotten where I saw it. My best guess is that it was on the Aish HaTorah website) which points out another miracle that occurred, one so simple that most of us miss it.

The miracle was that they lit the Menorah at all. Faced with the discouraging reality that there was only a tiny amount of oil to use, and that it would take time to produce more, most people would have thrown up their hands in despair. The Kohanim (the priests in charge of the ceremonies in the Temple) didn't react that way - they took the small bit of oil that they had and lit it - giving G-d the opportunity to cause the miracle to happen.

I call this the miracle of hope, and it moves me every time I see it.

A lot of Jews worked very hard to prevent the disengagement from Gaza from happening this past summer. From writing letters and articles, to attending protests and prayer vigils, to campaigning in the Knesset and going door-to-door in Israel - we tried everything short of violence to stop it - and it didn't work. The miracle that we hoped would happen, didn't.

Given the political situation, it seems likely that at some point in the future we will be asked to go through this again.

Will we react with hope or despair?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Newbie blogger asks for advice...

As a newbie blogger (just about a month now) I am still learning the ropes. Today I opened a separate e-mail address under the name westbankmama, and I added it to my profile.

I'd like to ask for general advice about blogging, if anyone is interested in pontificating. The technical stuff will probably go over my head, but I love to learn from others.

How would you finish these statements?

The biggest mistake I ever made blogging was...

The best thing I learned about blogging is...

Thank you in advance.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Do You Know What Today Is?

Today is the day before Chanukah! Happy Chanukah to all of my readers (an exclusive few, I know..)

It is also the day that Daled Amos posted Havel Havelim #50.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Tears of joy, tears of sorrow

I went to a bris (ritual circumcision) today. The father, whose voice shook with emotion, said the prayers with an intensity I haven't witnessed in a long time. The mother, surrounded by friends, stood at the back of the room smiling nervously with the impatience of wanting her baby back in her arms. The grandmother, supported by a daughter-in-law, sobbed quietly into a handkerchief.

When the mohel finished his work, and the familiar thin wail filled the room, the crowd grew particularly quiet.

At this point of the ritual, an honored guest is asked to announce the name of the newest member of the Jewish tribe. There is usually an expectant hush, as everyone leans forward in curiosity.

This time the moment had a different feel to it. We waited, half in dread, half in hope, because we all knew ahead of time what the baby's name would be.

A year and a half earlier, an Arab terrorist approached a house in one of the settlements in Samaria, and shot through the front window. In addition to wounding a teenage girl, he killed this baby's uncle.

As expected, a trembling grandfather pronounced the same name he had chosen 47 earlier for his firstborn - this time for his grandson.

More tears, cries of "Mazal tov!", and the start of joyous singing, and this particularly poignant ritual came to a close.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The squeeky settler gets more patrols

In addition to the usual spam that fills our e-mail mailbox, we receive notices from people who live in our yishuv - we have our own group list.

Today's mail contained a call for houses for an upcoming bar mitzvah (people regularly lend others their homes to put up guests), the special hours for the library for the week of Chanukah, a few political jokes, reminders about upcoming shiurim (Torah lessons), and these two gems.

1. Due to the fact that there were two pipe bombs found on the road by an adjacent settlement, there will be a special meeting with the army representative for our area (don't ask me to interpret the Hebrew abbreviation for his rank, all I know is that the guys in green are ours). At this meeting we will basically ask for more patrols.

2. Due to the fact that there were two pipe bombs found in our area, a group is being formed to take action.

OOOOO - Action.

Calm down guys, it sounds more exciting than it is.

In case our meeting doesn't bear fruit, and more patrols aren't implemented, we will meet early in the morning to block the road. The Arab cars and delivery trucks won't be able to get through to the nearby village, someone will call the police, the army will negotiate, and we will then leave the road. Enough heat and light will be generated by this action (who knows, we may make it to the next breathless Peace Now report on settler oppression of Arabs - no mention of the pipe bombs, of course) so that the army will send more jeeps out.

I am not blaming the IDF for this scenario. They unfortunately have their hands full, and they have to constantly assess what is happening on the ground to decide where to put their troops.

What bothers me is that the actual presence of these pipe bombs is not enough justification for more troops. We have to make a point of politely but firmly complaining, and if that doesn't work, we have to go through this charade on the road.

The powers-that-be only go into CYA mode (I won't translate THAT abbreviation for obvious reasons) when the Arab residents of the area are inconvenienced, and not when the Jewish residents are threatened.

Such is life in my little corner of the world.
Remember how good things were supposed to be after disengagement?

Remember how good things were supposed to be after disengagement? According to the left, after those &$%#@ Jews were kicked out of their homes things were going to be great.

Those of us opposed to disengagement knew better, but were dismissed as alarmist. A quick look at some of the news headlines today shows that we "orange people" were right. (Orange was the official color of Gush Katif and was used in ribbons on cars and bracelets that many of us still wear.)

Haaretz reports on the latest kidnapping in Gaza, this time of two foreigners working in a private school.

Ynet describes the how Defense Minister has warned of a new Gaza terror wave. It seems that instead of kissing babies before their elections, they want to ....well, let's just say that they are not praying for our babies' health (they should live and be well, bli ayin hara).

This, of course, is in addition to the kassam rockets which fell near a power plant in Ashkelon and in an army base south of Ashkelon yesterday.

How do you say "I told you so" in Yiddish? I'm tired of saying it in English.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Havel-Haveilim #49 is up at SerandEz...

A lot of good stuff to read, 1st Anniversary Issue.
A Visit to the Gush Katif Refugees
Batya at Shilo Musings went to visit those kicked out of Gush Katif and has a good report here.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Remember Platforms? (No, no, not the shoes!)

In a country where mudslinging has been made into a fine art, it is hard to get a clear idea of where the candidates stand on the issues, mainly because the reporters, mindful of their ratings, would rather report on the insults flying back and forth.

The primary race for the Likud has not been an exception, and it is a real shame. The platform that Moshe Feiglin and the others in Manhigut Yehudit - the Jewish Leadership Faction, have put together is clear and straightforward and would attract a lot of Israeli voters to the Likud if it would receive the publicity it deserves.

Those surfing Ynet recently on their Current Events Forum forwarded questions to Moshe Feiglin, which he answered concisely. The interest generated by him was so great that the moderator had to apologize to the many people posting questions which could not be answered.

Below are some of the main points of the Manhigut platform, (more specific details here), and some of the questions and answers given on the Ynet forum.

Family - Strengthening the traditional family structure through legislation and tax benefits.

Education - A comprehensive curriculum that includes a daily hour of Jewish heritage, Jewish history and Jewish identity for every Jewish child.

Security - Reversing Oslo and the Road Map. Declaring sovereignty over all areas of the Land of Israel that are in our hands.

Justice - Electoral reform to ensure that the Supreme Court justices are elected by representatives of the people and reflect their values.

Some question asked on the Current Events Forum on Ynet

Q. As a secular Israeli, why should I vote for a religious Jew?

A. Moshe Feiglin: The truth is that the concepts of "religious" and "secular" are no longer relevant, and I only use the term as a last resort. I do not define myself as "religious" and Judaism is not a religion.

I think you should vote for a believing Jew to lead our country, and that if you don't, our country will continue to disintegrate - no matter how good the intentions of whatever other leader is chosen. Without a perspective of faith in G-d, it is impossible to face the challenges of Israeli reality. Without faith, there is no real answer to the simple question of what we are doing here and why shouldn't we move to Uganda or New Zealand?

I am not asking you to change your lifestyle, I am simply offerring you leadership services of a different kind - leadership that is grounded in 4,000 years of history and not just in the past 50 years. I am offering leadership with vision and the courage to make our vision reality.

Q. As a Likud voter, I would like to know what is your security strategy?

A. Moshe Feiglin: My security platform is based first and foremost on the justice of our cause. As soon as we lost our feeling of justice, we brought terror and additional security threats upon ourselves. Once, my reserve army unit was able to keep order in all of Shechem (Nablus - ed.). Today, all of the elite units put together cannot do do, because we do not believe that we are right.

I believe that true Jewish leadership can significantly reduce the amount of forces needed for security because we will once again make our enemies feel threatened.

Israel's security policy must be aggressive (as when Begin attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor), and not a policy of defensive walls, separation fences, bullet-proof vehicles and Arrow missiles.

We must strive for a standing army that is strictly voluntary. If something is threatening our country, we must attack and not relay on existential dangers to the coming generations because we feared to deal with them.

For more questions and answers click here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Get A Clue Award Goes To...Envelope Please

The movie Paradise Now, which depicts suicide bombers in Israel, has been nominated for the Golden Globe awards in the foreign film category, and has been well received internationally.

But the film has been, shall we say, a bomb in local theaters. Only a few thousand Israelis have seen the film since its premier in November.

The producers, pressed for a reason, claim that "apparantly Americans are more progressive".

It appears that common sense is not common enough in movie producers. It never occurred to them that the idea of glorifying suicide bombers would be somewhat offensive here.

Most people in Israel have unfortunately either experienced the tragedy of a terrorist attack or know someone who did. And these guys can't figure out why the public doesn't want to see their movie.

As a friend of mine says, its time for a clue-by-four.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why Do They Hate Us?

A recent article in Ynet proclaims that according to a recent survey, it was found that the left in Israel hates the settlers - those of us who live in Judea, Samaria, and, until last August, Gush Katif - more than they hate the Palestinians. To most of us this is inexplicable, but unfortunately not surprising. Why do those on the Israeli left hate their fellow Jews more than people who continually try to kill them in suicide bombings?

Greater minds than mine have pondered this subject. Dr. Kenneth Levin, clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege, was interviewed by Frontpagemag, and explains some of his theories. He discusses Israelis and Jews in general, and their move to the left both historically and in modern times.

Another explanation of the seemingly irrational thought processes of the left is provided by neo-neocon, in an answer to a comment on her blog. She discusses the left in America, and their irrational hatred of President Bush, but many of her points can be applied to the left in this country.

What is most frightening, though, is the fact that this irrational mindset is so predominant here in Israel. The media is almost completely left-wing. Americans complain that the MSM there is also left-wing, but they do not realize how much worse it is here. Imagine an America where everyone reads the New York Times, and there is no Fox News to counter the left wing agenda on television!

Thank G-d for blogs. Perhaps we can fight this hatred, one internet surfer at a time.
New Web Site Up - Former Gush Katif Residents Turn to Blogging

For those of you who read Hebrew, and are interested in reading blogs written by former Gush Katif residents, this is the place.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jewish Blog Carnival...

The Jewish blog carnival Havel Havelim #48 is up. So many blogs to read, so little time...
Where Do We Go From Here..Part 2

Those of us who identify with what is called "national religious" here in Israel (roughly speaking Orthodox Jews who send their sons to the IDF and their daughters to do a year of national service) have done a lot of thinking since the disengagement plan was implemented in August.

For some this thinking is mixed with a lot of bitterness and anger - bitterness at the perceived betrayal of politicians who changed their viewpoint midstream, and anger at the political system that had no way to competently address this occurrence. For most of us there is bitterness and anger at the use of the IDF to carry out the controversial step, and confusion as to where our loyalties lay now.

For some this thinking takes the form of "soul searching" - trying to figure out if there was a mistake made, and if so, what was it and what can be done about it.

A recurring meme in the "soul searching" category is the image of the leader running too fast ahead of the group he leads. Geva Rapp used this meme in a talk he gave on the Sabbath a few weeks ago in our settlement. A career officer who recently retired, Rapp is at the forefront of a group that engages in what we call here "Panim el Panim" - or face to face meetings. He organizes people to knock on doors and talk to people here in Israel about the importance of Jewish identity and values.

His point in using this meme, is that while the national religious camp forged ahead and built beautiful communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, we "left behind" most of the nation.

In my opinion he has a good point, in that it is important to strengthen Jewish values here in Israel. I'm not sure that going door-to-door will necessarily accomplish this, but it certainly is a worthwhile effort.

My main problem, though, is with this meme itself. It smacks too much to me like the nitpicky parent who looks at a test paper with a 97 on it and says, "nu, what about the other three points?"

If you take the people of Gush Katif, for example, it seems a bit ridiculous to say to them, "Well, you built communities, and schools, and incredibly successful businesses from nothing, while at the same time enduring terrorist attacks and daily mortar shelling, but, geez man, you forgot to convince all of Tel-Aviv that this is a good thing!"


This is the country where the national heroes were the kibbutzniks who made the desert bloom. The people of Gush Katif shouldn't be blamed because the post-Zionist left seems to have convinced the nation that this is not heroic anymore.

A different meme is in order. I am open to suggestions.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Interesting Bits from the Hebrew Press ....which are not available in English
We receive Makor Rishon, the Hebrew weekly associated with the "center/right" in Israel. It covers, of course, the news of the week, and contains the usual sections available in every weekly - editorials, culture, sports, and a financial section. In addition it has a special magazine for kids, and periodically a special magazine for women.

Unfortunately it is not available in English, which is a great shame, because it would serve as a good counterpoint to the leftist slant in Haaretz, Ynet, and Jerusalem Post. (The Jersualem Post has a number of reporters identified with the right wing, but to those of us who read both the Hebrew and English press, it is apparent that the overall slant is left of center).

I thought to summarize some things I read over the weekend which would serve to contrast what is written in the other newspapers.

First of all, the polls. Makor Rishon uses Maagar Mochot, under Professor Yitzchak Katz. His findings (after Tzachi HaNegbi left the Likud) are as follows:

Kadima 41, Labor 16, Likud 16, Shas 10, Arab Parties 8, Yisrael Beitenu 6, Shinui 5, Ichud Leumi 5, United Torah Judaism 5, Meretz 4, Mafdal 4.

His findings regarding Labor and Likud are very different than the ones reported in Haaretz, where Labor receives 23, and Likud 12.

He breaks down the Russian vote as well. 43% report a preference for Kadima, 31% are unsure, 24% want Yisrael Beitenu (Avigdor Lieberman), 10% Likud, 6% Shinui, 5% Labor, 2% Ichud Leumi.

A piece written by Avinadav Vitkin is ironically titled "Cannon Fodder". After the recent shelling of the western Negev, where mortars reached as far as Netivot, he went to Kibbutz Alumim to visit the soldiers in charge of firing into Beit Chanoon, the area in the eastern Gaza Strip from where the shells have been launched. He spoke to the commanding officer and to some of the soldiers under him.

They are all anxious to use the skills learned in their training, and are proud of the fact that they are able to fire within two minutes of getting an alert. But, according to the commanding officer, "If there is a person, or even a cow in the field, we must hold our fire. Our job is to get the citizens [of Gaza] to put pressure on the terrorists."

The fact that the terrorists fire from civilian neighborhoods brings into question the effectivity of the IDF's response. Yaniv, the commanding officer, adds "What can you do, it is not humane to fire at civilian targets".

Another soldier approached Vitkin quietly and voices his complaint. "Write that this is useless. We are not firing in order to hit anyone."

Yariv the commander adds "What we really want to do is ambush the terrorists when they come out to fire".


To read Makor Rishon in Hebrew...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

So Where Do We Go From Here?

Israel Harel has an excellent editorial in today's Haaretz, analyzing the situation in the Likud now. Sharon's leaving has hurt the overall electoral power of the party, and this will take time to recover. The ideology of the party, however will be strengthened in the long run.

He has some advice for us (those of us living in settlements in Judea and Samaria) also. Patience. We are in for a very rough period of time, but we will prevail in the end.

I agree with his analysis. I take it one step further, and think that the national religious camp has to do what Moshe Feiglin and others of Manhigut Yehudit have been saying for years - join the Likud. Depending on and voting for the small parties was fine when the Likud embodied the traditional Jewish values - we had the luxury of emphasizing a stronger stance based on our religious viewpoint. In today's climate, when even traditional values are fading from a significant portion of the population in Israel, we have no choice but to focus our energies on educating those who want something Jewish for their children, but don't know how to do this.

Littlegreenfootballs has posted a photo essay of a survivor of a terrorist attack. The pictures are difficult to look at, but inspirational all the same.

Good luck, Kinneret.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Hills Are Alive, With The Sound of...

I took the toddler I am watching to the playground this morning. I put him in the baby swing, and he immediately started to sing "naah nehh" in his sweet little voice. (His version of "nadned" the Hebrew song that kids associate with playing on a swing).

To the left of the playground is the elementary school in our settlement. The bell rang, and kids started to race out of the building for recess. The happy noise of a soccer game and jumprope chants added to the solo performance of my little swinger.

Our yishuv is situated in one of the hills in Samaria. On the hill directly north of us a contractor started to build a series of houses, but went bankrupt before they were completed. The result is a group of concrete shells, complete with openings for doors and windows. The army uses this area for combat training - as it is the perfect setting to practice fighting in a simulated urban environment.

This morning they were using it again, so the noises of "at-at-at-at" and muffled booms added some percussion to the other sounds I was hearing.

As if on cue, the muezzin in a nearby Arab village (another hill, northeast of us) started his musical call to prayer...

This wierd mixture of the sounds of children playing, soldiers training and the Arab call to prayer should have been disturbing. Strangely enough, it wasn't.

Listening to all of this together I couldn't help but think of what a unique place I live in and I felt suddenly elated. I was reminded once again of how fiercely I love both this country in general and my little piece of it in particular.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The more things change, the more they stay the same..

There was another terrorist attack today. A suicide bomber tried to enter the same Sharon mall in Netanya that another suicide bomber attacked a few months ago. This time, a woman recognized that there was something not right with a man near the entrance, and that he was holding a bag in a strange way. She screamed for police, they grabbed him and pressed him against an outer wall of the mall and unfortunately he was able to detonate the bomb.

We should hear better news.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Well, it's that time of year again. We have reached the last part of Chodesh Irgun - loosely translated as the "kick-off" month of Bnei Akiva, the youth group that my kids belong to. During this month the kids repaint the walls of their clubhouse, which requires a lot of elbow grease, and usually entails a few water fights. "Morale" is another requirement, which entails each group proving that they are the best - by screaming slogans at the top of their lungs. Practicing the skit for the Saturday night finale is also mandatory, which means a lot of late nights for my fourth and fifth graders.

In short, it is a difficult time of year for mothers who want their kids to do their homework, eat regularly, and get a normal amount of sleep.

Since I did not grow up with Bnei Akiva, the usual nostalgia that softens most mothers' attitudes to this period is not available to me.

I get through this time by telling myself that it is just one more cultural adjustment that I have to make. After all, one of the main reasons for moving to Israel was that I wanted my children to grow up here - the best place on earth to be a Jew.

Through the years I have had to adjust to many things (my three year old insisting that he wouldn't call me "mommy" anymore but would now use the Hebrew word "Ima" was just the first of many small sacrifices).But, all in all, what we've gained here in Israel far outweighs the little things that we have "lost".

Just don't ask me to sing the anthem.