Thursday, February 23, 2017

Respect and Honor and Gratitude

Over a decade ago, I went to Poland with Amira, my oldest daughter. So many years later, it still remains (and hopefully always will be), one of the most difficult things I experienced. Days were spent going from one cemetery or concentration camp to another. It was hard to see Poland and its people, for all the dead Jews I felt surrounding me.

It was day after day of tears and despair. Sights no human should ever see - ashes...human ashes, still in ovens where they were burned. You tell yourself that you cannot possibly still smell death more than 70 years later, and yet you do. You feel it to the depths of your heart and you beg God to let you leave. I wanted to go home, back to Israel and my baby daughter and my young sons. But I know that my oldest daughter needed me too (though in the end, I needed her as much, if not more, than she needed me).

Going to Poland for a Jew, for the wife of a man who lost all his grandparents in Auschwitz, for the mother of children named after those who died in that very place or nearby, was agony. First, I wanted to go home with all the ashes, all the bones, all the decimated and desecrated gravestones. At some point, I realized it wasn't possible; that there isn't enough place in all of Israel to honor and rebury the remains of over six million Jews (more if you count the tens of thousands of other graves dating back decades and perhaps even centuries.

We got to Warsaw as destroyed as I think human beings can be and yet still breathe. But we were given no rest. They took us to the Warsaw Jewish cemetery. I wanted to crumble; to beg them to let me stay on the bus, or better, take the bus and surrender. I would go back to Israel, gladly admitting that Poland had defeated me, if they would just let me go.

I got off the bus and walked. More graves. More dead Jews. It was never ending. And then I saw an Israeli woman, the wife of Shevach Weiss, Israel's Ambassador to Poland. She came over to us and explained that she came regularly with a group of Polish Christians to clean the Jewish cemetery. It was so large that it was something close to an impossible task and yet they returned and removed the greenery that covered more and more of the gravestones.

We thanked them for cleaning the graves and felt a bit of sunshine, a touch of hope. In a perfect world, there would have been no Holocaust, no desecrated, abandoned, overgrown Jewish graves in Poland, but it did happen and so the best we could hope for was this small measure of human kindness to our murdered grandparents and great-grandparents. My great grandmother had no grave, nor did my great aunts, but there was comfort to be found knowing that at least these graves were being tended.

It's been over a decade since that trip. It comes to mind, now and then. Truthfully, it is always there, just a memory that never dims. I can close my eyes and remember almost word for word, what our guide said before taking us into the gas chambers in Auschwitz, in Maidanek. I can see the mass graves at Chelmno and Tarnow.

But it was the image of those Polish Christians cleaning the graves in Warsaw that came to mind when I saw a picture of Vice President Mike Pence helping to clean a Jewish cemetery that was desecrated in the United States.

There is a special kind of decency in this act. Some will call it politics but in Judaism, there is a concept of "Chesed Emet" - true compassion.

It is said that those who show compassion for the dead are showing the purest form because they offer this compassion with no hope of it being returned.

I know that there are those who will say that this could be considered a political opportunity, but I don't want to believe that. I want to view it as true compassion and not something done for the cameras.

The Poles did not know that we would be visiting that day in Poland so long ago. Perhaps Pence knew he would be photographed; perhaps he even organized it. But it was the honorable thing to do and I respect him for this act of kindness and compassion.

It is an answer, in and of itself. Yes, this is me, says Vice President Mike Pence. I am the Vice President of the United States and I will answer this hatred with love; I will clean and erase the hatred.

I will honor your dead and in doing so, I honor him.

And I pity those who must find the angle, the politics, in this act.

How to Stop Your Heart

This...this is the very reason why I didn't leave Israel for the entire time that Elie and Shmuli were in the army...

I'm far away on a business trip and yet, in the middle of the conference, I can't stop myself from checking the news in Israel. A soldier has been wounded...that easily can a mother's heart stop. Lightly wounded...and so the heart beats a bit. In an area far from where mine is...and so the heart beats again, this time with a little guilt.

Yesterday, a soldier was lightly wounded. I can guess what happened then. Or at least, I can hope. Hopefully, they handed the soldier his phone and told him, "Call home."

"Allo, Ima?" he would say.

"Yes, sweets, how are you?"

"I'm fine. Really, but..."

And that quickly her heart would have tripped. A million thoughts in a fraction of a second. He's calling. It's his voice. He's alive. He sounds okay. Where are you? What happened? I'll be right there.

That fast, would she rush to her car (or find someone who has one). That quickly would she leave work or home; call someone to take care of the younger children or call her older children.

Frantic until she gets to the hospital and sees for herself. Nothing matters until she can hug him, touch him, see him.

All this and more goes through my mind as I sit here thousands of kilometers away enjoying a business trip in a distant land. So so different...

Fascinating sessions, wonderful and friendly people. One is outraged that I, as an Israeli, would ever feel uncomfortable traveling. Two people have come over and told me they read this blog...and I love that. I love being here.

I need to stop checking the news. I write to David and he sends me pictures of where he is. My children are posting pictures to me of my grandchildren, reminding me of my world (not that I could forget it for a moment). The connection to home burns so brightly, so strong.

So does the worry of being so far from home. I wonder how many more times my heart will stop before I return.

For now, it's enough to have a brief WhatsApp conversation with David. He's fine. He's okay. It's has to be...each day, every's everything.

Who is your God?

Have you ever been asked that question? More, have you ever been asked that question where you know the person is possibly not monotheistic, certainly doesn't believe in YOUR God? In a place so different that you worry any word could offend and so you think, really think, before you speak.

India is an amazing land of amazing contrasts - the people, the land. You can, within minutes, go from such luxury to unimaginable poverty. In a single day, I met a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu. Someone from Europe, someone from Asia, someone from America.

The land is so different, the air, the smells. The smiles, the gestures and body language. So different that you find yourself amazed by the similarities while celebrating the unique. And you can see cows walking on highways as cars swerve around them, and monkeys sitting on the fences near a park. The dresses of the women are so colorful. India is a celebration of colors, blended in impossible combinations that break all the rules and dazzle the eyes. The people are so helpful, so kind. 

And for once, for all my travels over the last few years, I am in a land that respects my country. Endlessly, I am told that Israel and India have a strong alliance; that the military strength of Israel is respected and honored here; that I am from a good land, a blessed one.

“Very good,” says one man after hearing I am from Israel.

“Israel. Strong country,” says another. Does he realize how tiny we are?

Mostly, I meet Hindus; sometimes, I meet Muslims. Everywhere, there are armed soldiers on alert; I thank them as I exit the airports and tourist sites. I do it at home; why would I not do it here?

I am on my way from Delhi to Bangalore. The flight I booked has a stopover in Ranchi. I have learned over the last few years that each country and perhaps each city has its own rules. In one country, they insist on stamping your passport, even when you are merely passing through. In India, they are very security-conscious and so when you get off the plane in this tiny airport, you walk in a big circle...down a flight of stairs, around and around on the first floor, through a security check, and back upstairs, soon to board the next plane through the very same gate I entered almost two hours before.

There is a line for men and a line for women. It is an interesting thing to be a woman in India, especially a white woman, though I have never really thought of myself as being white other than in India. I walk through the streets and the men stare, as do the children. There are about 150 - 200 people in this lounge, predominantly male, though there are some women. I am the only white woman here. 

They look at my passport, wondering where I am from. I have chosen to travel on the Israeli passport, rather than on my American one. It is a statement I make to myself as much to others. I am confident that as an American, I will be accepted any place (though I'm happy not to have to discuss the American elections). But, as an Israeli - that is the challenge.

In Amsterdam, I was asked if I had another passport when I handed in my Israeli one. Why? I asked the man. He mumbled something about it being easier and no, it wasn't really a problem. He wasn't happy when I instructed him to use the Israeli one after having admitted that I did indeed possess an American passport.

In India, the Israeli passport is met with smiles, perhaps especially among the security forces. I walked through the line for women, where they have generously put up curtains to provide privacy and a female security guard to do the checking. She looked at the Israeli passport and said, "Israel?"

Yes, I answered.

"Are you Christian?" she asked. Strange question but easy enough for me to answer.

"No," I answer, "Yehudi." It continues to make me smile that the Indian word for Jew is the same as the Hebrew one. Yes, I am a Yehudi. I am a Jew.

"Yehudi," she repeats. "Who is your God?"

I'll tell you my answer in a moment; but first I'll tell you that I asked her in return what her religion is. She is Muslim and her God is Allah.

My God has many names; each representing different attributes of God. There are names we never say; names we say only during prayer. There is the term we use in every day language, which refers not so much to a name, but simply means "the name" - My God is Hashem - The Name. Once, when introducing Himself, God referred to himself simply as "Ehiyeh sh'Ehiyeh ( or: I Am That I Am).

Who is your God? Over an hour later, I am still pondering that question and how I could have answered it. I avoided historical lessons that came to mind. I almost said that my God is the God of Abraham but didn’t. I almost started with the negatives – how unlike Allah (or at least the interpretation of Allah made by too many), my God does not ask for martyrdom, for suicide and terror.

I answered simply, “My God is Hashem, He is the God of the Yehudi.” He is the God of the Jew. She said again, “My God is Allah” and I smiled and said, “Many people think God is God, no matter what name you give him. Our God is Hashem.”

There was nothing else to say; I went to catch my flight.

It was such a simple question and it was, perhaps, the hardest one I have ever been asked. Who is your God?

My God is a God of honor, a God of love. My God protects my land and my children. My God travels thousands of kilometers (miles) so that He is here with me in this distant land. Or perhaps, it is better to say it differently. My God was there as my plane took off and left Israeli air space. He was there with me briefly when I had a layover in Turkey. He was here when I landed in New Delhi; here when I visited the tourist sites and met with different people.

Here with me on the plane as it flies to Bangalore, and I believe, with complete faith, He will be there waiting when I arrive.

Does it matter what name we give? What name we use? 

Who is your God?

My God is, quite simply, God. Elokim. He is a God of hope, of prayer. He is with me everywhere I travel, every moment of the day. I walk in a land of many gods. They are mounted in the taxis and on the walls. My God is One. My God is The Name. my God is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob. I am a Yehudi.

Here in a distant land, the truest name is here - for who I am and for God. He is What He Is...what He has always been, and what He always will be. He is the God of Israel, forever loved and trusted to watch over His people.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Look Back at Ten Years as A Soldier's Mother

On February 13, 2007, I decided that I wanted to experiment more formally with this thing called "blogging." There was no WordPress, no other real blogging platform other than Blogger. I decided to go for it and with the first screen, I was stuck.

It asked me the name for the blog I wanted to create. I didn't know what to write. There were two major things happening in my life. One I was anticipating with such joy; the second I was intentionally trying not to face.

My daughter, first child, was getting married. She was (and is) beautiful and ecstatically happy. Her future husband was (is) so gorgeous and sweet and I love his family. But what would I write about - the wedding was one month away, most of the planning done and anyway, how much can you write about a wedding long after it happens.

The second was my oldest son, second child, being drafted into the army. That was to be for three years, involved more unknowns and so I chose that as the topic. I would be, whether I wanted to be or not, a soldier's mother. And so...ten years ago today, I started writing.

The wedding was amazing but it left me with nothing else to focus on, nothing left to delay me from facing reality.

The first picture when he came home was of him smiling and I began to think I might survive this thing called the army.

He became a Commander. He went to war and I thought I would die of fear. I cried. I prayed. I wrote...

And then the war ended and he came home and he was fine. Really fine. "We did what we had to do," he told me and his only complaint was that he felt the army had ended the war too soon and would have to go back.

Elie finished the army and began to think about his life after this service the same week my second, Shmulik went in.

Shmulik served in Kfir and after a while was assigned to be the Base Commander's personal driver.

I loved him working with this man, this leader and knew he would teach Shmulik and watch over him and the years passed very quickly.

Towards the end of his service, still a soldier, Shmulik got married and his whole unit came and danced at his wedding.

Things settled down. Shmulik finished his army service and settled nicely into married life. Amira had her first son and I learned the wonder of being a grandmother to her amazingly beautiful son.

Elie got married and I got a break of a few years when I was a soldier's mother, but not really. A few months later, Elie's prediction came true. Israel had not done Hamas permanent damage and they were up for another war. Elie was called in, but thankfully, this time, it ended more quickly.

 Two weddings. A grandson. Then a granddaughter as Elie and his wife had a baby girl.

Then another grandson, when Amira's second son was born.

The break was too short. I started dreading Davidi going into the army weeks and weeks and weeks before he went in. He too agreed to go into a combat unit and though I wanted him to go into Artillery, he wanted something else.

He was given the choice of Givati and he took it and so for the last year before this 10 year "marker" as a soldier's mother, I've had a Givati son.

The day I took him to enter the army, I promised myself I wouldn't cry in front of him, and I didn't. A few hours after I dropped him off, he sent me the first picture of him in uniform and it was then that I broke down and cried.

He's been in the army more than a year now...and mostly he's doing great...and I'm doing okay.

That's his younger sister. She was just 7 years old when her oldest brother went into the army, too small to be afraid, or so I thought.

And yet...

One day, a soldier had been shot in the north in a training accident and she overheard and thought it was Elie. In a terrified voice, she asked if Elie was okay and we quickly reassured her - not Elie, not an attack.

And we were more careful around her. Today, she listens to the news and keeps herself aware of what is happening. She's very proud of her brothers, as am I.

David was 11 when Elie went in. He was a month short of 13 when Elie was called to the front and we weren't sure that Elie would be home in time to celebrate David's bar mitzvah with him.

But he was - he came home the day before looking strong and happy and safe.

I had my three boys there, all smiling and my world seemed so much calmer. David was adorable; Shmulik so big and  heading to the army too soon. Elie was home and that simple fact freed me to enjoy the day.

Along the way, Elie brought Yakov home. Yakov brought Chaim, and suddenly we'd adopted two brothers who became ours.

Yakov married and has three daughters.
We're still waiting on Chaim but he's done really well for himself and so I'll leave it to his mother to nag him about bringing home someone special.
At one point, both Elie and David were going to base. Elie had been called for Reserve duty; and David was in his first year. Without shame, I forced them to post for a picture together and I didn't really care that they weren't too happy with me (more like benevolently accepting that they had to let me take the picture.

We all get together when we can, though it's never often enough.

A few weeks ago, Shmulik's wife gave birth, and now we have little Lavi, sweet and precious, and we're watching him grow.

How do you sum up 10 years that changed your life again and again? Ten years. Over 2,000 posts, Over a million visits.

But more...Three marriages. Three sons, two adopted sons and one son-in-law into the army, all but Davidi already out. Four grandchildren. A house sold, a house bought. Cars bought and sold. Trips taken, even the dream of a cruise.

A lovely 7 year old child, now a beauty of 17. Three wars. How many missiles? How many UN condemnations? How many betrayals by nations of the world...but how many miracles.

I think the answer is that you don't sum it up and you accept that every day is a gift; every day a miracle.

If I have learned anything in the last decade, it is that you have to spend every day being grateful; never taking it for granted. You look at the pictures; you hug your grandchildren, knowing how fast they grow.

And you pray with all that is inside of you that they will all continue to smile, all continue to live their lives in health, in safety - as a family, as a community.

As a nation, a people. As a world. At the end of the day, look at your children and pray, as I do, that the day closes and opens with them smiling.

Thank you, God, Thank you for the miracles of the last ten years.

NOTE: At the request of their very wise parents, no grandchildren were displayed in this post. And if some day way in the future, they come here and read this words - to them I's not my fault. Ask your Ima and Abba. They said no...if it was up to me, a day wouldn't go by that I wouldn't show your picture everywhere, to everyone.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I Hate Roller Coasters

You know that part of the road where you go up and then suddenly go down and your stomach takes a second to catch up? You know that feeling when you get to the edge of the fall of a roller coaster and then begin falling? You don't know how far you will fall; you just know that you weren't ready. All the time in the world to think, to prepare, and there you are, at that point so much earlier than you expected.

Israel has just been attacked from three fronts in the last few days. A rocket landed in the Golan Heights, fired from Syrian territory earlier in the evening last night.

And then, later in the evening, air raid sirens wailed in Eilat without warning and four missiles were detected. Iron Dome shot down three while the fourth exploded in open fields. Yesterday, Gaza fired a rocket at Israel - it landed in the Ashkelon beach area.

Two things can happen now, and it's impossible to predict which. It's been 2.5 years since our last war (Protective Edge/Tsuk Eitan). That one took place just two years after the previous one (Pillar of Defense/Amud Annan). That one was four years after Cast Lead. I think that was four years after the Second Lebanon War. It seems our enemies forget their defeat rather quickly and though we all know the outcome, they are itching for a fight yet again. So, in a matter of days or weeks, this could escalate, again, to war.

Or, as often happens, Israel might strike back strongly. A not-gentle reminder that we are not interested in war, but will not hesitate to defend our land and people. Maybe, the message will be delivered and maybe Hamas and Hezbollah will pull back.

Stupid is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. One could easily dismiss our enemies as being stupid. I mean, come on, they've been attacking us for almost 70 years (and actually before). They've succeeded in making us suffer and cry. We are a nation that cries easily and perhaps that makes them think we are weak.

The sad reality is that we are strongest when we cry; more united, more determined. There is no nation on earth that is invincible but the nation of Israel, when pushed against the wall, comes pretty darn close. Push us, attack us, and you will not like the results.

Under normal circumstances, we'll listen to the world (sadly) and we'll pander and dance and hesitate because ultimately, we keep testing whether finally our enemies have awakened to the truth - that life is worth living, worth celebrating and death is not a glory, a goal. But attack us, push us, harm us and oh my goodness, at least be smart enough to run, to hide. Of course, that won't stop us, but never mind.

So - war or de-escalation? What will come in the next days? I'm praying that they will back down; that the rockets and mortars and missiles will stop. My son is on the border and I can't sleep or breathe if I think about how close he is, of missiles being fired towards him. Been there, done that...oh God, I don't want to do that again.

I'm on the edge of the roller coaster again. It is a place I have been so many times in the last 10 years and still, I wasn't prepared. It comes so fast. You're going along, congratulating yourself on really handling things well. You've got lists and places to go and meetings to attend. You've settled into a regular schedule. He comes home; you back him brownies. She leaves for school; you go to dinner with the grandchildren. It's really all very simple, until you reach that point, and your stomach just falls.

Is war coming in the next few days? In what other country is that question asked as often as we ask it here?

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Politics of Silence

I'm tired of politics.

No, really.

I want.

I want to write about what is important in life. Today I got to hold, kiss, hug, each of my four grandchildren. Does life get any better than that?

My computer is set to default after two minutes or so of inactivity to a slideshow of recent pictures taken of most of my family. At two recent events celebrating the birth of my youngest grandson, there was a photographer and we took a lot of family pictures. I'm looking forward to adding those pictures into the same folder. Does life get any better than that?

It was freezing cold here in Israel. The January rain came in a vengeance in the last few days of the month. But today was warm and sunny. We opened the house and let the warm sunshine in. By 4:00 p.m. it was getting cold again, but still the house seemed brighter, fresher, cleaner. But it was starting to get cold; the sun was getting ready to set. So we closed the house, lowered the plastic shutters.

And as the night came around, I bounced back and forth between social media (primarily Twitter and Facebook) and last minute things I wanted to finish for work. Amira came around with her two precious sons. They joined Elie and his beautiful daughter for dinner in my living room. Three innocent children who know nothing of politics, violence what worldly tensions. Michal has grandparents who live in the US, so she knows there is a place called "New York." To her, it is a place of love and warmth. None of them know anything about a place called the United Nations, or even the White House, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

After dinner, Yosef and Aharaon went home with their mother, amid hugs and kisses and the knowledge they live only a few kilometers away. Michali went to sleep and Shmulik called to say that if I wanted to come over, I could see my newest grandchild, baby Lavi. So I drove a few kilometers and got to hold little Lavi as he slept and dreamed baby dreams in my arms.

As the hour grew late, I returned home. Back to my computer, back to politics. And somehow I realized I had reached the point that I couldn't write anymore about Trump and Clinton, America and Europe and immigration and refugees. I've had enough.

I'm tired of politics...

And the problem is that deep down I believe that even silence is a political decision. And I've never accepted silence as a viable solution, a real alternative to speaking what you believe to be right.

And yet...and yet. I'm tired of the anger, the hatred, the seemingly irrational leaps people are making. No, he didn't ban ALL Muslims...he didn't even pick the nations from where...TEMPORARILY...he wants America to stop immigration. The facts are so different from the fears but you can't stop people bent on hate and you can't stop people bent on fearing.

So, at least for now, I'm going to go back to posting about what I love to write - my country, my people, my family. I return to where I started and where I've never left. Enough politics - at least that which takes place on distant shores. Enough.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Beyond A Post Gone Viral

What do you do when something you write touches a nerve and goes around the world tens of thousands of times? Well, I guess you smile, wait out the attention, and write something else. That's what I do. I wrote about myself as a Jew, as a woman, and it struck a nerve. Mostly, I was amazed by the positive comments and more, how easily the negative ones were shallow and angry.

But I long to close my eyes and ears to the Trump administration. He has a lot of work to do in America and I wish both the new president and the country only good things. Americans need to understand that ones they are hurting by this divisive attitude (and action) is more themselves than anyone else. Ultimately, the choice is theirs - their country to build or destroy.

As much as I enjoyed the "fame" of the moment, I long to get back to the personal, back to me, back to my life, my country. My eyes turn inward. It is Thursday and I'm overwhelmed with work. I haven't written much about the personal side of life and I miss that.

So...David is stationed on the ON the border. And Shmulik has had a baby boy. He's precious and sweet and I marvel as I watch my children hold their nephew (and son), and when Elie's little daughter informs me that she has a cousin and his name is Lavi and when he's bigger, he'll have another name...even though he already does. His name is Lavi Avraham.

Lavi means a lion, a cub. And he is named for my husband's father, who was named David Levi. We have spent the last month watching him grow, watching Shmulik and his wife turn into parents and our family dynamic switch to bring in their precious son.

I'm deep into the annual conference madness (MEGAComm - and here's something I've never done. Let's see how many people from my professional life read my blog...if you are reading this and want a discount between now and January 31, contact me and I'll give you a 50% discount!) and planning another trip to India for a conference there (sorry, not my conference so I can't offer you a discount).

I've started to paint - I need to write about that..and get ready to go soon for my two hours of peace in a sea of demands. It's part of exploring if I have talent...don't get excited, I'm still not convinced this wasn't a one-off, but I do love looking at the apple I painted and have to find the landscape I want to do next.

And finally, I yearn to drive around Israel and just look. I miss this country, outside the walls of work and family and all the other things going on.

It's fun to get a lot of attention but it's awkward because that post wasn't to much about who I am and who I am not. There were two things that touched me most about that post. The first was where I explained who I was - but in many ways, I saw from hundreds of comments that those words didn't really impact on others, when in many ways that was one of my major messages. The second part was, for me, the most important part, and that too didn't seem to carry as much of the message I wanted to deliver as other parts (for those who want to know what I'm talking about, it was the last three paragraphs of that post.

But life isn't always about fun. Next week...soon, I will have international guests fly in to Israel and I'll take them around and talk about my country. I don't yet know where I will take them or what they want to see, but just walking the land calms me.

Beyond a post that went viral, is a life to be lived, a family and a land to be loved. I can't blame others for not seeing me beyond my words, but I can blame myself if I get lost in the words and forget the life. I long to touch the sea, walk the land. Soon...soon I will steal a day and get in my car and drive and drive and drive. I'll get out of the car and stand on the mountain and look at my country. I'll look to the heavens and thank God that the land I walk is mine.

Beyond the politics, there is life. And life is to be celebrated.

May God bless the beautiful land and people of Israel.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Not a Feminist, A Humanist

I'm not sure why I started this but there's one more thing I'd like to say...yesterday, I posted an article, explaining Why I am not a feminist.

And wow. thousands of hits later...I have one more thing to say...I actually thought I was a feminist a long time ago, until I sat in that class and listened to women who called themselves feminists and realized I was not like them. So, if they are feminists, I guess I'm not. And I'm okay with that because after meeting them and many others throughout my life I realized that perhaps I am better called a "humanist" -

I don't believe women are superior to men; nor do I believe men are superior to women.

I don't believe that women can do everything that men can do physically and I know that men can't do everything women can do physically.

I believe men are physically stronger (most...certainly not all) and it would be stupid for a woman to think she is stronger and take on a man in a physical battle, unless she has been trained to take advantage of her smaller size.

I don't believe either gender is innately more intelligent, inherently kinder. I believe firmly, despite any accusations to the contrary, that men and women are created equal...different, and thank God for that...but equal.

Yes, oh yes, a woman deserves to be paid the same rate as a man for the same work; and with the exception of maternity leave, should have the same rights and conditions.

I believe a woman should have the right to control her body...and I believe she should not have an abortion except under some very clear conditions. Long ago, a Jewish newspaper asked me to write half of a spread on abortion. I was to write the anti-abortion part and I told them I was willing to write an article on abortion but not according to their script. They accepted and I sat down to battle through my thoughts. I do not recognize the right of 9 men (or however many women might be on the Supreme Court now) to decide what I can do with my body and so I am pro-abortion - as is Judaism. No, not pro-abortion, let me correct that. I believe that there are conditions under which my God, my religion, and my beliefs would not only allow a woman to have an abortion, but mandate that she should.

If the Supreme Court outlawed abortion, they would take that ability, that choice away. That's what I wrote - the US government doesn't have the right to decide what a woman does with her body.

But so many times over the years, feminists have come to tell me what I think - it happened today, several times. I am against equal rights for women, said one rather idiotic woman. I can't possibly empathize with a woman who has been raped...said another.

And on and on it went, reaffirming my firm belief that no, I am not like these women who accuse ME of extremism and then spout hatred and their own form of militant extremism against those who don't agree with them.

If anything is more clear to me today than yesterday, it is that too many in the US seem determined to hold on to the anger, the fear, the negativity and it is your loss, your demise.

The easiest response that many took to attempt to discredit my thoughts was to say that I was an outsider, a Jew who only speaks with Jews, who can't possibly understand life in America. Never mind that I was born there, lived there more than half my life. I didn't vote for Clinton, so I must not be a true American.

Jokes on you - I didn't vote for Trump either, but never mind. 

No, I'm not a feminist and had I been in the States yesterday, I would not have marched with the women and yes, they should really look into that pro-Sharia, pro-Hamas woman whose egging them on and track the money...who funded those rallies?

But that is beside the point. What is my point? Very simple. America, you have a new president. Like him, hate him - it doesn't make a difference. In four years, you can elect another. But if you continue to hate and work to undermine him, I have little doubt you will end up like the former Soviet Union, a foot note in history and little more.

As nations go, two or three hundred years is not really a long time. There is nothing written in stone that says the United States will stay united, democratic, free. I always thought the Soviet Union would never be strong enough to destroy the amazing land of my birth. I wonder now whether the same can be said of the Americans themselves. I see such anger, such bitterness, such fear, such hatred. 

Black lives matter...but so do white lives, red lives, blue lives, children's lives, women's lives.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I'm Not a Feminist

When I was 20 years old, I took a course at Columbia University for the easy A I expected (and got). It was called "Women and Religion" and was presented by a Jewish woman who declared on the very first day that she was a "witch." It was attended by many different young women, though I only remember one.

Her mother was Catholic; her father was Jewish. By Catholic rule, she was a Jew; by Jewish rule, she was not Jewish (I won't say we rule that she is a Catholic - we simply say that according to Jewish law, which is matriarchal, she was not a Jew).

Her response to this was that she hated both religions; all religions. The class had little to do with "Women AND religion" and everything to do with "Women AGAINST religion." I thought about dropping the course but I really needed that filler course and so I decided to continue and take it as a philosophical experiment. I never argued back in anger because I really felt more pity than anything else.

I tried to paint images of my religion as loving and open and they condemned it for animal sacrifices that haven't taken place in over 2,000 years.

I tried to show how Judaism was very advanced for its time, that in a world that mostly enslaved and abused women, Judaism was teaching women to read, certainly giving them equality in ways that were foreign to most other religions.

I tried to show them that you can have separate but equal and equal but different, but they bought nothing and ridiculed everything.

At the end of the class, the witch...I mean the instructor...announced that all grades were final, papers done, everything marked and now, as a last exercise of the last class she wanted to go around the room and have everyone freely and without consequence, speak about what they had learned.

The non-Catholic/non-Jewish girl spoke of how repressive and reprehensible religion was; others spoke of male domination, the fallacy of believing in one God or even many gods. I wanted to pass but they wouldn't let me and so finally, I agreed to speak.

I looked around the room and then explained, "I learned that I am not a feminist." That enraged a few of them - but the teacher quieted them and asked me to continue. And more or less, this is what I said to them...

I am a Jew. I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew. I was also born a woman. Never once in my life have I felt those two collide or contradict and I pity anyone who feels that they do.

I am not less; I am not inferior. I don't view myself that way and I won't let anyone think of me that way.

But when the Nazis came to murder me, my Christian sisters of the world didn't rise up to save me - they stood with their Christian brothers and fathers and sons. When the Crusaders came, same deal. When the Cossacks came and set fire to the synagogue in which my grandmother hid, no woman rushed forward to put out the flames.

A feminist will tell me that I'm being persecuted but the only way I've ever been persecuted is as a Jew and my "sisters" never once stood up for me because in their eyes I was as much as Jew as my father and brothers.

I am a Jew.

At that point, I got up, thanked the teacher and walked out of the room and to her credit, she gave me the "A" I had earned.

Yesterday, women marched in Washington. The marches were sponsored and organized, in part, by a Muslim woman who supports Sharia and is anti-Israel.

I am the CEO of my company. I have never been discriminated against as a woman. I have applied for dozens of projects and never once been made to feel as if the decision to take my company or not rested on my gender. Dozens of years ago, an Orthodox rabbi asked me to address a very large shul and give a lesson to the entire audience - from the center of the men's area.

I felt some 30 years ago, that those women needed to feel miserable to feel fulfilled. I didn't and so I walked out of that class and went out on a date with a man who would later become my husband. A man with whom I have raised five children. A good man. An honest one. A man who doesn't do the dishes nearly enough, but takes apart the car or the dishwasher or the air conditioner, my computer, or refrigerator whenever it breaks. A man who has never treated me as an object or said anything sexually inappropriate to me (or any other woman).

I have never understood violence. I didn't spank my children (okay, I think I spanked my first two a very few times and then realized it didn't accomplish anything) and no, I do not equate spanking children with violence but I still don't believe in it.

I have never attacked anyone, never set fire to anything (inappropriate). I have never thrown anything at anyone (other than a ball in a game and even then I missed).

I do not understand violence. I do not understand the marches yesterday. (And yes, I am aware that hundreds of thousands of people marched without violence...I don't understand that but respect everyone's right to rally...I just wish I understood what they hoped to accomplish and more, I wish that the rally-rouser wasn't who it was).

I would not want anyone to look over my life and judge me for things I did or said 30 years ago...or 20...or 10 as a means of deciding whether I am capable of doing my job today. I do not understand attacking Donald Trump for what he SAID while giving Bill Clinton a pass for what he DID.

And worst of all, I do not understand what is gained by attempting to delegitimize Donald Trump. Attack what he does...but denying that he is your president. Sorry. No.

I am a Jew. I am not a feminist. I believe in the equality of women and will fight for my right (and theirs) to be paid equally and treated equally by law. But I don't automatically assume men are evil; religion is wrong; or that one sexual predator is okay but a man who was incredibly disrespectful to women (in speech) is the greatest evil known to man. Apparently, this makes me less of a woman, less of a human least in the eyes of feminists and so, I am not a feminist.

I am a Jew and I lost hundreds of relatives - literally - to Hitler. The Holocaust scarred my husband from birth and continues to scar my children, my people, my country. Trump is not Hitler and any analogy reflects more on your ignorance than on him.

I don't live in the United States - that's true. But many of you don't live in Israel and that hasn't stopped you from judging Israel, from believing Israel needs to act a certain way. You were silent when Obama attempted to influence our elections and furious when we told him (and you) to shove it.

Now you are outraged at why we fail to understand and condemn a rumor that Russia might have tried to do the same thing that we have PROVEN Obama did to Israel...and you wonder why we have lost patience.

At first I was shocked by the anger and the vehemence and the self-induced terror. Then I was hopeful that reality would set in, if not before, then at least following the inauguration.

Now, I begin to see that apparently there is something in you that needs this anger, this all-consuming fear. And so I yield. I will not attempt to convince you or anyone that Trump is nothing more (or less) than a man. I surrender the US to your fears.

But I remain what I am...and what I was, even then, when I was 20 years old. I am a Jew; I am a woman.

And I have grown in the last 30+ years to be so much more. I am an Israeli. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. And I do not fear Donald Trump because the enemies I face are so much more real, so much more violent and deadly.

My enemies blow up buses and restaurants; they stab pregnant women and children; they ram baby carriages. They murder fathers and mothers in front of their children and then dance in the streets to celebrate.

I surrender to your fear. I do not accept it. I do not enjoy it. But I surrender to the fact that you will not let it go.

ON the Border

Not a picture David sent me
I've often written that my sons guard the borders of Israel - all our sons. At this moment, and for the last week or so, Davidi has been very much ON the border. I won't say which one; I won't write where he is. We live in a very beautiful country and so, as always, I asked him to send me pictures. Anyone who knows Israel will recognize, more or less, where he is and so I won't post them to the blog until he moves from there.

I love the pictures and so I tell him so. I sent him a picture of a street in Jerusalem and he asked me where it was and then why I sent it - I told him it was to encourage him to keep sending me pictures, and so he did.

Not a picture David sent me
He sent me one yesterday. I wrote him back that it's very nice. He wrote back that it was a picture of another country and asked if I had noticed the border fence. I had.

I told him to tell his commanding officer that I don't allow him to play so close to the fence. He wrote me back that he was on base.

I wrote him to tell him to tell his commanding officer to move the base!

It's all very cute and funny unless you think about it. We have several borders - a relatively quiet one with Egypt, a rather messy one with Gaza. A relatively quiet one with Jordan, a scary one with Syria, and a fragile one with Lebanon.

War is often only one mistake away, one missile, one stray bullet or mortar.

At random moments of the day or night, the thought of where David returns to me. Each week in our synagogue (and tens of thousands of synagogues around the world, a prayer is said for the soldiers of Israel. For a mother with a soldier on the border, you feel this prayer in your heart. You close your eyes and listen to each word. He is there. Listen to the worlds in the prayer. My son. My baby.
He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our God, from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea to the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.
That's where my son is' that's where our sons are - on the border of the Lebanon (North) to the desert of Egypt (South), and from the Great Sea (West) to the approach to the Aravah (East), on the land, in the air, and on the sea.

Not a picture David sent me
May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.
All this we ask; all this we beg.
May He lead our enemies under our soldiers’ sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is the Lord your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you.

There is something grounding about having your son on the border. I look at the people who marched against Trump and I wonder how they would hold up to real adversity - and I don't mean protesting what a man has done after taking office a day earlier. I push away the anger at the people who are so busy fearing Donald Trump for such absurd reasons. 

I ended the Sabbath thinking about the new president in Washington. I have to confess, I just don't understand. I hated the thought of Obama coming to office and his eight years in Israel fulfilled all that I feared and more. I called him an idiot; I never called him a monster. I didn't take to the streets to burn cars, smash stores and throw stones and bricks at the police.

I watch as friends in the US post about how scared they are and inside myself I feel the anger. Until you have had a son at war, until your son stands before you and tens of thousands of rockets, I have no patience for what you write. Nothing that is happening in America now is a matter of life and death. Really.

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