This time of year in Israel is a time of sadness and a time of joy. We commemorate the murder of six million Jews in Nazi Europe and we commemorate the deaths of our children in times of war and the terrorist murders of our people during periods of "peace." When our sadness reaches a crescendo as the sun sets on Memorial Day, we pause, raise our flag from half mast to its highest height, and joyfully begin to celebrate Israel's Independence Day.
There was a time in Israel when any yarmulka was a negative factor in attaining a senior position in a company. When I first arrived in Israel some 38 years ago, the situation for senior religious employees very much reminded me of my days in America when I was looking for a computer job 42 years ago in New York City.
Fifty years ago, when I served as the director of Bnei Akiva of New York, I wondered how my relationship with Bnei Akiva would develop. Today, years later, after coming on aliyah to Israel in 1973, I find that I still cherish my Bnei Akiva past and still enjoy the friendships that were developed so many years ago.
Hashmonaim is a community in central Israel blessed with wonderful neighbors, and lovely houses and greenery. However, it has few commercial enterprises. It is a typical bedroom community, and most of those with jobs drive out each morning and return home each evening. Some commuters even get on a plane Sunday evening and do not return until the following Thursday or Friday. Yet, those who remain behind each day enjoy some of the most wonderful experiences available. The community is warm and friendly, with a strong social support system. Many families share meals on Shabbat and rotate between the many invitations available each week. The children practically live in each other's homes and enjoy the community almost as much as the adults do.
One morning recently, I woke up to find that someone had plastered our yishuv community with signs proclaiming, "Join the Likud Political Party." The signs and subsequent Internet and SMS messages informed us that party workers would soon be around to sign us up.
Today is a very special day; it is the fourth day of Chol HaMoed Sukkot; it is the first day of the end of the building freeze in our community. Will the freeze end or will the cute trick of the Arabs work? They demanded a 10-month building freeze in Judea and Samaria, and then they waited nine months before they decided to sit down to start negotiations with Israel. When they finally did sit down, the first declaration of the Arabs was that the freeze must continue. The world leaders promptly agreed and declared that it is only right that if the Arabs finally agreed to negotiate, Israel should freeze building in Judea and Samaria. "How could we evil Israelis start building again when the Arabs so graciously agreed to talk to us?"
Israel Independence Day is a national holiday in Israel. This year it falls on Tuesday, April 20th and is celebrated either publicly or within the family circle. The ceremonies begin eight days earlier with Holocaust Memorial Day. One week later, we commemorate Israel's fallen soldiers and terror victims on Memorial Day. As the sun sets, the national flag is raised from half-mast, the music begins to play, and the festivities begin in honor of Israel's 62nd anniversary.
Every time a Muslim terrorist commits an atrocity, the insane reaction of our liberal societies is to punish everyone collectively. Several years ago, a terrorist tried to detonate an explosive hidden in his shoe. As a result, every airline passenger is now required to remove his shoes and pass them through an x-ray device. It is common in airports to see long lines of passengers walking barefoot or in their stocking feet, queued up and waiting to have their shoes checked. Instead of forcing all Muslims to fly barefoot, every single passenger is inconvenienced to avoid racial profiling.
When Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak attempted to break the link between the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva and the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), few of us were surprised. Ehud Barak is the head of the Labor Party who seems to be using this anti-religious "weapon" in order to make a political comeback for his failing leftist party. His anti-religious position is well known, and his attempt to discredit Rabbi Eliezer Melamed and the Hesder Yeshiva movement is not unexpected. In the past, other politicians have used their opposition to religion to improve their political status, and Barak knows that he and his party are falling apart.
We have now lived in Israel for more years than we lived in the USA, and our joy in living in Israel knows no bounds. We are living in our homeland with our people. We loved America and are proud to be American citizens, but Israel is our home. We strive each day to keep our focus on the wonderful things that life in Israel offers. We are happy that Israel and the USA are allies and help each other. Unfortunately, we are often upset and concerned by the political situation and by the attitude of the world to the Jews.
Pesach, the holiday of freedom, is over but in Israel we have several other holidays of freedom immediately following Pesach. Unlike the rest of the world, Israel takes Holocaust Memorial Day very seriously. Not only is there an official, government-sponsored ceremony at the Kotel in Jerusalem, but many large and small communities also commemorate the day. We remember the six million who were murdered and gratefully acknowledge that we are alive and free, despite the terrible attempts by many nations to eradicate us.
More than 1,000 days have passed since the unprovoked abduction of a Gilad Shalit, a young Israeli soldier, by the Hamas terrorist government of Gaza. Unlike the Arab terrorists being held in a "country club" atmosphere of the Israeli jail system, with TV, library facilities, exercise rooms and other amenities, Gilad is being held in primitive conditions. He is not even allowed to meet with Red Cross representatives.
The Israeli elections are over. New Knesset members have been sworn in. Ehud Olmert resigned several weeks ago, and his party will not form the new government. Despite all this, Ehud Olmert is still the Prime Minister of Israel!
In America elections usually involve two major parties and two or three minor parties.
That was what we were promised - "one united religious political party." It did not last too long.
Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy for the Four Great Powers, told an interviewer that PM Olmert has already made a deal with Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Arab Authority.
Last week, I raised my hand holding my little red voting card and voted myself out of office.
There is a great scene in "Fiddler On The Roof" where a donor gives a beggar one kopek. "Why only one kopek?" asks the beggar. "I had a bad week," replies the donor. "If you had a bad week," responds the beggar, "why should I have to suffer?"
Many Americans may wonder how it is possible for Ehud Olmert to still be prime minister of Israel after having resigned on September 21.
Two Israeli soldiers have been returned from captivity - dead!
Have you noticed that some problems just won't go away?
Having recently celebrated Israel Independence Day, I wonder why so many Jews refuse to pray for the State of Israel and for our Jewish sons and daughters who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Do you understand the daily rocket attacks against Sderot, Israel?
When things get bad, I must remember that thousands of people in Israel are doing wonderful mitzvot daily, and we cannot become discouraged.
In recent weeks, there has not been much good news from Israel. Many of us had expected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign due to the police investigations against him, but he has brazened them out.