Monday, July 28, 2014

A Nation Unites

Here are some facebook statuses written and shared by my friends.

1. From Gila:
The father of a soldier who is now in Gaza told how his son was informed on Friday that his unit will not be going home for Shabbat, which was a problem because they did not have any provisions for Shabbat. The father ran to the supermarket to buy some things, as many dips and salads as he could, then he stopped at the shwarma place in Petach Tikva. He asked for a portion to be put into an aluminium tray and explained that it was for his son who is in Gaza without food for Shabbat. The owner said to him "what do you mean for your son? How many soldiers are in his group?" The father answered "70" The shwarma place owner called all of his workers. They prepared all the shwarma they had, brought out all of their meat, fried schnitzels, prepared Moroccan salads and chips and within an hour he and all of his workers had emptied the entire restaurant and given it over to the father. The father just stood there crying and thanking him.

2. From Stanley:
We have an amazing army an an amazing people. Just came back from nearby. We are hosting a battalion who are resting and recovering after coming out of Gaza. Unbelievable, the whole kibbutz is making bbq for them, letting them shower in their homes, hosting them etc. And the soldiers are such nice guys, helpful, polite. In the whole of history having an army billeted on you was regarded as a disaster. Here they are charming guests.

3. From Susan in America:

4. From a soldier on the border
  What's happening here in the staging area [area where soldiers prepare to enter Gaza] is beyond amazing. Almost every hour a car shows up overflowing with food, snacks, cold drinks, socks, underwear, undershirts, hygiene supplies, wipes, cigarettes, backgammon and more. They're coming from the North and the Center, from manufacturers, from companies and private businesses, from Chareidim (ultra-orthodox) and Settlers, from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
  Every intersection on the way down here we get stopped, not by the police, but by residents giving out food. What is amazing is that the entire situation wasn't organized and everyone is coming on their own without any coordination.
  They're writing letters and blessings, how they're thinking of us all the time. There are those who spent hours making sandwiches, so they're as perfect and comforting as possible.

  How wonderful to belong to nation such as this. 

5. From Jerusalem:
If there are any families in the south who want to come for a Shabbat in Jerusalem to get away from it all please let me know. We have families ready to host you. 

6. From David:
We may be sending too much food...

Translation: The people of Israel spoil its soldiers. (Reading from right to left) - Before the operation, After the operation.

7. From Natan Sharansky:
Yesterday I went to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva to visit Gabriel Bennahim, a lone soldier from France who was seriously wounded in Gaza on Sunday. As I walked through the hospital corridors, I saw that all of the soldiers' rooms were full of people – families, friends, adoptive families, and well-wishing strangers. People were roaming through the halls with boxes overflowing with gift baskets, flowers, and letters from children all over Israel thanking the soldiers for defending our home. Truly one family.

Later that evening, I joined the funeral procession of French-born soldier Jordan Bensemhoun in Ashkelon. Jordan came to Israel and joined the IDF as a lone soldier. He was struck down in battle in Gaza on Monday fighting terrorists. We were concerned that Jordan's funeral would be sparsely attended because he had little family in Israel and the public had been cautioned not to travel because of the constant threat of rocket fire. So we helped ensure that his family could come and arranged to have two buses of French speakers who wanted to pay their respects on his final journey. In the end, over 6,000 people came out of their homes and shelters to honor Jordan. Overwhelmed by the massive crowd, Jordan's father asked me, "Do all these people know my son?" That is the secret of Israel. In reality, there is no such thing as a lone soldier.

Friday, July 25, 2014

From A Distance

I've always loved this song. I've always thought it beautiful and haunting and hopeful all at the same time. Bridgitte Raven was recording "From A Distance" in her studio in Israel when the air raid siren sounded.

"Had a little help from Hamas on this one.
Obviously wasn't expecting the siren but when I suddenly heard it through the headphones I ran out but came back to finish the song.
It threw me a bit, especially the booms, but the show must go on." Bridgitte Raven

You can hear it on the recording...

"From A Distance"

From a distance the world looks blue and green,
and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream,
and the eagle takes to flight.

From a distance, there is harmony,
and it echoes through the land.
It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace,
it's the voice of every man.

From a distance we all have enough,
and no one is in need.
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,
no hungry mouths to feed.

From a distance we are instruments
marching in a common band.
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.
They're the songs of every man.
God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance.

From a distance you look like my friend,
even though we are at war.
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
what all this fighting is for.

From a distance there is harmony,
and it echoes through the land.
And it's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves,
it's the heart of every man.

It's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves.
This is the song of every man.
And God is watching us, God is watching us,
God is watching us from a distance.
Oh, God is watching us, God is watching.
God is watching us from a distance.

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Are At War & I Am Proud To Be Israeli

I've not written for a week as the situation here has deteriorated and so has my mood.

On a personal level I have a traumatised child here. I hesitate to even write this as families on the border with Gaza have been running from rocket attacks for the past 14 years. We have had 3 air raid sirens and coped with them admirably. However, I am not in control of what the other kids say at kindergarten. The kids with older brothers and sisters who have friends with even older brothers and sisters.... and so things trickle down to even the little ones.

DD, who was already sleeping in my bed, will not now go to sleep in the bedroom if I am not there. She wakes up in the night and tells me she's scared of the baddies but she won't tell me what exactly because, "it's too bad, I can't tell you." Twice this week she was supposed to go to a friend to play after day-camp and cried that she didn't want to go, so they brought her home instead. And the frequent questions about rockets, what they do, baddies, where they are, etc... For all my lighthearted carry on attitude events have not gone unnoticed.

I am no longer concerned about our own safety. Rockets to Jerusalem were obviously not cost effective and seem to have stopped (although they're still raining down all over the south and centre of the country). Now it is a far worse situation. We had hoped to avoid a ground invasion at all costs but after 3 cease fires where we cease and Hamas fires, terror tunnels found as far as 1.5km into Israel and even under a kibbutz dining hall, rockets found hidden in an UNWRA school which UNWRA handed back to Hamas, and Gazan citizens told to ignore Israel's warnings that they send before firing (we want to destroy weapon stores not kill people), there was no other choice.

So now our boys and our men, my students, my friends' sons, brothers, and husbands, fathers, colleagues, neighbours, are risking their lives for our safety. Over 20 families have so far been plunged into despair. I was too frightened to call one of my friends last night as 13 soldiers from her new son-in-law's brigade were killed yesterday.

This is a war against Hamas, a recognised terrorist organisation funded by Iran and no less dangerous than Al Quaeda funded by Iraq. When America was brought to its knees on 9/11 and London was attacked on 7/7 four years later, America, Britain, France and Germany invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. That was approximately 3,052 civilians killed in the US and UK. Since then:

Between 2001-2014, some 21,000 to 23,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan.

Between 2001-2014, 20,000 to 30,000 civilians were killed in Pakistan.

Between 2001-2014, 133,000 to 147,000 civilians were killed in Iraq.

All these civilians were killed by U.S., French, British and German forces.

data from

So don't talk to me about disproportionate retaliation.

I read this in a DailyMail comment (serves me right for going there): "Hamas rockets don't actually hurt anyone." - They are metal missiles with sharp edges, about 1m long and packed with explosives. What do you mean they don't hurt?! Over 1,500 of these have been fired into Israel in the past three weeks.

About the poor Palestinians. I'm not being facetious. They are poor indeed. When Israel pulled out of Gaza 9 years ago, we left working agricultural farms and were offering to provide training for their continuation. We left hotels, houses, factories. All this, along with billions in financial aid from Europe and the US, could have gone toward building a Palestinian utopia. Instead everything was destroyed. They have a long Mediterranean coastline - beaches for tourism (look at Sharm El Sheik for example), a port for exports (Israel did not start sanctions on shipping from Gaza until it was used to import weapons for destroying Israel), a delsalination plant could have been built so that water shortages will never be an issue. There was money for all this and more to spare. It was all used by Hamas to buy weapons of destruction.

The Gaza-Egyptian border is permanently closed because Egypt is scared of Hamas. No one mentions the Egyptian border when Israel is accused of locking the Gazans in. This is doubly ironic when Israel sends daily supplies of food and medicine across the border and Gazans cross into Israel for work and medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.

Now their homes, schools and hospitals are being used to store these weapons. Hamas knows it cannot win a weapons war against Israel with their unpredictable rockets, over 100 of which have fallen inside Gaza itself, but it can win the PR war if only thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians are killed. It was a coup for them when their own rockets destroyed the main electrical cables into Gaza - 70,000 civilians without electricity. The UN wasted no time announcing an impending humanitarian distaster. However, Israel fixed the cables so that we could continue supplying free electricity. Yes the Palestinians in Gaza are poor indeed.

We are fighting against terrorists and make no mistake, if they are allowed to continue operating they are not going to stop at destroying Israel. Israel is an easy target - it is a western outpost in the midst of hostile neighbours (some less hostile and we do 'enjoy' a cold peace with Jordan and Egypt, though not any actual support), it is small, and the world has a tendency to hate Jews and want to annihilate them every few hundred years.

9/11 and 7/7 followed by years of quagmire war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, should have taught the West who the baddies are. But still there are larger rallies protesting against Israel defending itself (and ultimately everyone) than there are rallies against the atrocities in Syria or Nigeria.

I started to get upset by the ignorance of many internet users, even though I have had wonderfully supportive and kind messages from my blogging friends. I watched incredulously as British politicians bashed Israel - where were they on 7/7/2005? I don't begin to understand the motives of non-Moslem moderates who in every other area of their lives enjoy the fruits of Israeli innovation and technology - laptops, mobile phones, medical innovations, kindles... watch the video below and see if you can realistically boycott Israel.

I started to get upset but then I rose above it. I am proud to be Israeli. I will continue to try to educate those who don't get it and pray that their ignorance does not in the end allow us all to be destroyed.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rocket Attacks: The Musical

I have posted this before but it's worth watching again.

Four years ago a kindergarten teacher in Sderot wrote this song for her pupils who were showing signs of traumatic stress (withdrawing inwards, bed-wetting, regression, etc...) after constant rocket attacks from Gaza. These children have 15 seconds to reach a safe area before the "BOOM!" And the "TZEVA ADOM" (Code Red) can come any time of the day or night

This is one class performing the song for the camera but the sirens are sounding all over the south of Israel several times a day and night. It's often the bravado that gets to you the most. This makes me cry every time.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Snippets From The War

We are on edge. Every speeding motorcycle, a car revving up or changing gears, even the wind howling in the trees, can make you jump up ready to make a run move with urgency to the bomb shelter or safety zone (i.e. under the stairs or other such safer areas). You can imagine how a police or ambulance siren taunts us. As of this weekend, the ambulances have switched to ice-cream van music instead of a siren. This could pose another sort of trauma to mothers with toddlers but this is possibly the lesser evil. Or not.

We have silent radio stations (The Silent Wave). There are wavelengths for each city that you can tune into and they only sound the air-raid siren when it occurs. Some areas have fewer or quieter sirens it seems. It's also hard to hear if you have all your double glazed windows shut, the A/C on, and music (not from the radio) on in the background. On Shabbat when many people don't listen to the radio or tv at all, they leave the silent wave on all day. Deep sleepers are also advised to use it at night.

And of course you can download the siren app to your ipod or smartphone.

No-one steps into the shower without first hanging a towelling robe on the back of the door. Slippers or sandals are placed next to beds. Pyjamas are back in vogue, even for the young and sexy. I won't go into other toilet issues but it's not relaxed.

Jokes in our house have become topical. On our way downstairs this morning DD joked: It would be funny if the siren went off now when we're already on the stairs and half way to the shelter.
Me: Yes that would be funny. We could say, ha ha we were coming down anyway!
DD (giggling): Yes, ha ha we were nearly there anyway!

I can hear the children in the school playground opposite. By far the best and most popular game is to imitate the sound of the siren to see if anyone is fooled. What a hoot eh? (Pardon the pun.)

Yesterday evening we had our third siren in Jerusalem. DD was half way down the stairs before I'd even put down my laptop. As I descended I heard my neighbour call her away from the front door and into the shelter. "What were you doing by the front door," I asked her when I got there, "did you forget where you were going?"
"No, I wanted to see if I could see a rocket."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Second Siren To The East...

...and keep praying until morning.

This morning I called DD's swimming teacher to see if her lesson was still on. It was. We went to the pool, they had the lesson and then, as usual, DD and her friends play in the pool for about another hour. They were in the large children's pool, about 80cm deep and with a life guard on duty. The parents sit round the edge on deck chairs, chatting and keeping an eye on their kids.

It's noisy with about 40 kids in the pool, 40 more in the main pool (olympic size doncha know), and another 20 kids in the enormous paddling pool for toddlers just beyond the children's pool. And I'm chatting to my friend.

Suddenly I see a surge of mothers heading toward the pool with stricken looks on their faces. I didn't hear the siren (I need to get the phone app asap) but I knew straight away what it was. I too jumped up and surged toward the pool, grabbed DD and ran for the shelter.

We didn't actually make it to the shelter as there were too many people filling the underground(ish) corridors leading to the changing rooms. It felt safe enough there so there we stayed for the obligatory 10 minutes. However people were already saying they'd heard the boom and seen the smoke.

When we returned outside I saw the smoke lingering above South Jerusalem where Iron Dome had intercepted and blown up Qassam Rocket. (It's only a matter of time before the new superhero movie and merchandise hit the cinemas.)

100 disgruntled kids left the pool early with 50 shell shocked mums. We stopped for hot dogs on the way home to compensate. And we got home just in time for the moonlight movie (if there is an air-raid the shelters are here, here and here). This week it was Shrek Forever. We almost had to leave in the middle as DD was too scared of the dragon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Notes From The Back

I'm nowhere near the front so here are some notes from the back...

1. Last night at about 10pm the air raid siren went off in Jerusalem. I grabbed a sleeping DD and my door keys and we ran down three flights of stairs to the communal bomb shelter. We didn't stop for shoes or dressing gowns but the neighbours were similarly undressed so we just laughed and bonded. We heard the booms, waited the 10 minutes, returned home, and got on facebook (obviously).

2. Whilst downstairs, one of the neighbours started arranging the chairs and talking about bringing down boxes of bottled water and food. So I guess we have a house-mother. :)

3. I don't have tv but my friend told me that they were broadcasting children's programmes at 10.30pm.

4. I went to sleep wondering whether to bother getting up if there were a siren in the middle of the night. I know that some friends with more than one sleeping child couldn't manage it. You only get 90 seconds to find cover in Jerusalem. On the other hand, they say the stairwell is safer than nothing. DD and I are sleeping in a back bedroom with a very small window that is unexposed (faces another wall). And the outside wall is on the east side of the building i.e. the opposite side to Gaza. I left the window open as there is less pressure to implode the window if' it's open.

5. This morning I made sure DD knew what to do if there is siren while she is at day-camp. She does - run to the reinforced room. I also told her that if we hear the siren outside she has to get on the floor and curl up into a ball and I have to lie on top of her.

This photo is from Israel 2012

6. Came downstairs to find all the bikes, buggies and other junk have been moved out of the bomb shelter. I put DD's bike in our storage room for the duration. At school all the shelters had been opened. I received an email from my college saying where all the shelters and reinforced areas are. If you are in the classroom block you are advised to go down to the basement and lie on the floor with your arms over your head.

7.  Diet's out the window. Last night I attacked and demolished DD's crisps. Friends on fb and twitter have reported raiding the chocolate supplies. It seems 9 out of 10 people head for the fridge on returning from the bomb shelters. Hamas has a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Are We At War Yet?

Tonight air raid sirens have sounded throughout the south of Israel and even as far north as Jerusalem, although the Jerusalem sirens are now said to have been a false alarm.

Four weeks ago, three Jewish Israeli teenagers were abducted on their way home from school. They were killed almost immediately it turns out, although we weren't told that at the time. We were led to believe that there was hope of them coming back alive.

What did this false hope do? What was it for? How did it shape events? I have no answers, only questions...

1. The kindest theory is that the Israeli authorities did not want to give up hope on the strength of gunshots heard on the telephone call from one of the boys, followed by cheering from the abductors, before the phone was disconnected. A weak theory but still a theory.

2. Another, harsher, theory is that under the guise of searching for our boys we had carte blanche to go into Arab areas and arrest 500 suspected (or known - depending on who you hear it from) terrorists.

3. It certainly brought the Jewish world together in a unity unseen for many years. We prayed together, we lit candles, sang at midnight vigils, wrote blogs, signed petitions, wrote letters, we cried together, we tore our hearts out. Is this a unity that was manipulated in order for the necessary support if we decided to destroy Hamas once and for all?

4. Is this justified? If we go to war we have to win. If we lose one war there will be no more Israel and we will become millions of refugees or dead people, again. Though I feel manipulated I would certainly want any measures to be taken that would save all our lives.

5. Is going to war justified? If we do it's not because three boys were murdered. This tragic event could be the catalist but the war will be because of constant rocket attacks fired from Gaza onto civilians in Israel over the nine years since we pulled all Jewish presence out of there. (Though we had to withdraw, there was no choice.)

One week ago Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a 16yo Palestinian boy was abducted and murdered. Another senseless and tragic loss for his family and friends. I'm writing his name this time. (See this post from Sunday and the comments from Caz below.) We hoped that it was not a revenge attack but it was. Six Jewish Israelis were arrested and charged.

Am I crying and breaking my heart over Muhammad's death. No I'm not. I abhor it and feel sad and angry for him and his family in the way you feel for any senseless and brutal murder that you read about in the news. I did not 'know' him like I 'knew' Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal.

Rioting has erupted in Arab (Israeli and Palestinian) towns and villages throughout the country in protest. Millions of dollars of damage has been done that will take months to repair. vehicles have been stoned, more people, including more teenagers, have been hurt.

There are are number of Jewish responses to Muhammad's murder. They range from guilt ridden apologies to the Palestinians, to breast thumping in anguish over how Jews could be so brutal and callous, to racially listing the ways we are still morally superior and they are still animals, to anger at the f***ing stupidity of a revenge murder.

To the apologists I sympathise. There were also Palestinians who came to comfort the families of the three Jewish boys and there are many who yearn for peace as much as we do, who just want to live a quiet life in safety and prosperity.

To the breast thumpers I say, 'grow up. We have Jewish murderers and extremists too, have you never read the news?'

To the morally superior I don't know what to say. There is certainly a difference in the reactions of those on either side who seek publicity. And even then, it is usually a core of leaders who shape public reaction and a load of followers who, well, just follow. Though this is no excuse, some of the followers are very young, and I too have been a follower in my time. However, I wouldn't paint everyone with the same brush. We prayed together except for the six who went out and murdered a child. They celebrated the three Jewish murders except for the ones who came to cry with their grieving families. Maybe we can all unite against extremists everywhere? And also, there is a time and a place and this wasn't it.

To the angry, I am with you 100%.

To the six Jewish murderers I say, 'how is another young death going to change anything for anyone on either side? All you have done is bring the whole country down with you.' I'm not one to use foul language as a rule but I'll say it again, 'as well as being animals of the lowest order you are f***ing stupid morons who deserve the worst punishment there is.'

These are my personal thoughts on a Monday night in Jerusalem. I am not a politician, a journalist, a political analyst, an historian, a mover and shaker, or someone with any influence. I am one of the people just going with the flow because I have no choice and hoping for the best.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Hols Week 1: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

It's been a crazy week so here's a round up...

1. We had a fruit and vegetable garden party at storytime in which we heard stories about fruit and veg and then we planted tomato plants to take home. See the pictures.

2. DD has day-camp until 2pm but already various friends have arranged play-dates so that we have someone home for lunch and play until 5pm twice a week and DD goes to a friend for the same twice a week. It works out even better than the 120GBP they wanted for the afternoon session from 2 - 4pm.

3. Since the Arab boy was found murdered last week there has been rioting in Jerusalem. We stay in our neighbourhood and surrounding suburbs mostly. I've just read that the rioting has spread to Israeli-Arab towns throughout Israel. They are protesting the murder although it has not been confirmed that it was in fact a revenge murder by Israelis (praying that it wasn't but waiting until making judgments). However, I don't understand how destroying their own towns is a punishment for us - seems a bit illogical.

4. Grandma has gifted us a pass to the pool for the month of August when there is no day-camp and DD's swimming lessons are finished.

5. A rocket from Gaza flew over my friend's house and landed in the garden next door. There is non-stop firing from Gaza over the border atm and we have many close friends in the south of Israel. There were two hits in Sderot over the weekend and one rocket intercepted on its way to Beer Sheba.

6. I finally took myself in hand and have lost 5lbs in weight this week.

7. My friends and I are around 50 years old so most of my friends have children in their 20s. This means that when we retaliate with any military action it's not just fighter planes hitting a target or ground troops arresting terrorists, it's my friends' sons who are the pilots and the soldiers. Not all of them obviously but enough to be nervous every time. It's lose-lose, sit and take it or send your sons in to fight back. It's crap actually.

8. DD has a swimming lesson on Thursday late afternoon and then she and friends stay to play in the pool for another hour or so. Then we get hot-dogs and chips, or pizza and ice-cream for supper. This week we arrived home to find that the moonlight movies have started in the open space behind our building (kids' movie projected onto a white wall, bring your own blanket and popcorn). And there are weekly music concerts at the Zoo. All great except that why does everything have to be on a Thursday night FFS?

9. We went to a delightful musical show of Disney songs on Friday. It was a Mama Mia-like original production whereby songs from different movies were written into a cute story of self discovery. DD hasn't stopped singing and dancing as if she is living in her own private musical since we left the theatre.

10. Whilst grading for Israel and seeing about 40 students for their final assessments, I don't actually have to prepare lessons and teach. That is a major drop in stress factors.

11. We have a lodger till the end of July. It all helps.

So that's week 1 in a nutshell. I hope everyone else is having a good one!