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May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘family’

What Can Happen on a School Trip?

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

My daughter Aliza had a school trip these past two days. It’s an Israeli thing – something I have always loved. They…we…take our children to the land; to see the amazing places, sites, views. This year, they took them on an overnight trip to Haifa. She came back dirty, exhausted, starving. She showed me the pictures she took – the coast of Haifa and the mountains, the flowers…

The first thing she wanted – after food – was to show me the pictures. She was so excited. She and her friends posed for each other – and, “I can totally see you in me,” she said.

It’s strange to hear a child say that – that she can see me in the pictures of her. Listening, not just to what she said, but the order in which she said them, convinced me yet again that the mind of a 13 year old is a most amazing thing.

She started with what was special to her – but, as you’ll see – pretty much the opposite of how a parent would rank the events of the trip. To her, it was about what she saw, what she did. To me, it became more of a national identity, more of an example of the politics that can affect our lives in the strangest of ways.

One day last week, I had a normal business day – telephone calls with clients, two potential new projects, firming up plans to speak at a conference in England in June (wow…okay, that’s not normal for me), two meetings, and then shopping.

Somewhere late in the day, I heard about the drone from Lebanon being shot down. It was all background noise.

Aliza came home well into the night, anxious to talk, to tell me about the last two days of her life. Her trip unfolded before me in a combination of complaint and wonder. She enjoyed the beach; hated where they slept. She liked the flowers; hated the food. She slept in a tent and she was FREEZING. And the food, back to the food.

“It was disgusting. There were ants in the bread,” she told me.

To which, her 17 year old brother responded, “That’s good, we had cockroaches.” (…which I sincerely hope is not true).

She began by telling me that the girls were given the choice of two hikes – either the “easy” one or the “hard” one. Those that took the hard one were rewarded with ices. Those that took the easy one, got to enjoy time on the beach. Aliza chose the beach (if you have time, see A Candle and a Wave).

And as she was talking, it hit – hours ago. Mid-afternoon, she was on the beach. Near Haifa…where the Israeli air force shot down a drone that they believe was launched from Lebanon, probably intending to spy on Israel or, perhaps, worse.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s helicopter was flying north when the drone was identified. The first thing the air force did as it scrambled jets to intercept the drone was to order the prime minister’s helicopter out of the skies above Israel.

And while they were doing this – my daughter was not far. It clicked as she was talking about the beach – and when it was happening, in those moments when the Israel jets were flying and my daughter was there below…I had no clue, no warning, nothing.

Her mind had moved on to the next part of her trip…mine tripped behind. “Did you hear planes?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Did you hear a boom?” I asked her.

“No,” she answered.

She went back to the story of the beach, how clean and beautiful it was, how nice the water felt. She was amazed by the number of shells she found on the shore and complained that they were told that the shells were part of nature and protected.

They could take rocks and pieces of broken glass that had been smoothed over time by the sand, but they could not take any shells.

She sat on thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of shells as her friends took a picture and she told me about the magnificent view from the upper hills of Haifa.

And she told me about how she walked across a bridge and how it was so scary – another picture there as well.

And then, she told me about how an Arab driver had thrown rocks at the girls and how one was hit – or her friend said she was hit. And how the girl was crying on the phone when she spoke to her parents.

“Where was your guard?” I asked her – trying to get the story without showing her that I was getting more and more upset.

“He wasn’t a guard,” she answered, “he was a madrich (counselor)” – which is fine – he was armed. On with the story, my heart begged her.

“He was in the back.”

“What good does it do if he was only in the back?” I asked her. Dumb, I thought to myself – WHY am I asking a 13-year-old where the guard should be?

“There were two of them but only the one in the back had a gun, but they stopped the driver and they were talking to him.”

“Why didn’t they call the police?” I asked her. I have to tell you, getting the story from a 13 year old can be very frustrating.

From what I gather – the guards detained the Arab who had thrown the rocks but while they waited for the police, the driver left. The guards didn’t pull their guns and threaten – but then again, they were surrounded by about 60 young girls who kept coming over to their crying friend to ask if she was okay. So, all in all, their not pulling out their guns was probably a good thing. There’s no way of knowing what the Arab had done and it probably ended for the best. Though scared, Aliza’s classmate was not hurt – and yes, what about the next time? I don’t have an answer for that one.

The police did come and speak to the girls – no idea how the story ended other than that everyone is fine; Aliza is home safe, tired, dirty (taking a shower now) and looking forward to a LONG night of sleep.

It’s a funny thing to send your child on a school trip – what can happen right? You worry about them being cold or hungry. You worry about them not sleeping enough or perhaps falling during the hiking. Scrambled air force jets shooting down a drone; an Arab attacking them with rocks…that doesn’t cross your mind.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Murder by Rock Throwing is Still Murder

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

News item:

In a groundbreaking decision, a military court found a Palestinian man guilty of murder for throwing a rock at an Israeli car, causing it to crash and killing the driver and his infant son.

The court at Ofer military prison on Tuesday found Wa’al al-Araji, 25, from Halhul, to be directly responsible for the deaths in 2011 of Asher Palmer and his 1-year-old son Yehonatan.

Palmer was driving from his home in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba towards Jerusalem when Araji and accomplices drove towards them in the opposite direction in another vehicle. As the two cars passed each other, Araji hurled a rock that smashed through the windshield, knocking Palmer unconscious. The car swerved off the road, killing its occupants.

The decision was unusual in that the Military Advocate generally does not seek a murder charge against stone-throwing Palestinians, even when their actions cause fatalities. However, the panel of three judges said that, in this particular case, there can be no doubt that the accused intended to kill and had practiced perpetrating similar — although less deadly — attacks in the past.

As I pointed out at the time of the murder,

Every single day, hundreds of rocks, blocks, stones, etc. are thrown at Jewish vehicles in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Arab towns or neighborhoods inside the Green Line. Sometimes photographers are informed in advance that there will be exciting opportunities to view the heroic resistance to occupation. Throwing ‘stones’ (sometimes as big as a person’s head) is what Palestinian Arab adolescents do for entertainment. Even the great Columbia University ‘scholar’ Edward Said symbolically threw a stone across the Lebanese border at Israeli soldiers.

Stone-throwers are rarely caught. In this case, it was several days before the police even admitted that a crime had been committed. And just a few weeks ago, there was a similar incident in which a three-year old girl was critically injured.

Sentence hasn’t been pronounced yet, but al-Araji faces the possibility of a life sentence. Unfortunately Israel does not apply the death penalty to terrorists, who are sent to prison where they are permitted to take correspondence courses and enjoy other benefits until they are released in exchange for hostages taken by other terrorists.

While in prison, he will be paid a salary by the Palestinian Authority, which, when he gets out, will treat him like a hero, a ‘political prisoner’ like Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi or Mahatma Gandhi. Don’t be surprised — consider the treatment received by mass murderer Ahlam Tamimi, responsible for the Sbarro’s Pizza bombing in which 15 lives were snuffed out (including 8 children).

The release of prisoners has been an important demand made by the PLO, and at times has even been given by Mahmoud Abbas as a precondition for negotiations with Israel. It is an integral part of the Arab narrative that what they do — what we call ‘terrorism’ — is justified, akin to self-defense, a legitimate ‘resistance to occupation’.

At least, that’s the Western translation of their narrative, often dressed up in neo-colonial theory in which the ‘colonized’ are justified in resisting the ‘colonizers’ by any means (academics particularly eat this nonsense up).

Probably in Arab minds it is more like “they took our land and our honor, and we will get it back by killing them, especially the children they value so much.” That might be a little raw for Western sensibilities.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

The Noise that Drowns Out all Peace

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Followers of the Passover story can rightly wonder why frogs were such a terrible plague. Was God really showing His power to the Egyptians by sending against them an army of reptiles? Would the nation that would eventually produced Cleopatra, who purportedly killed herself by grabbing a poisonous snake, really have cared?

But the true plague of the frogs was how the din of their incessant ribbetting robbed the Egyptians of all peace. We who inhabit the modern world have a unique understanding of the utter agony represented by a world that is never silent.

When the United States invaded Panama in 1989 to oust General Manuel Noriega, he took refuge in the Vatican Embassy. The United States Army brought huge loudspeakers and blasted AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” in order to drive him out of his refuge, a tactic that was also employed by the FBI at Waco.

Forty years ago John Lennon made the observation that when he grew up what was always heard in the background of homes was the soothing crackling of a fire, only to be replaced by the incessant noise of televisions that are always blaring in the background.

That noise has actually so much closer today with ear buds that pumps music directly into our eardrums. The net result is that we are rarely ever afforded any peace.

Even today harsh interrogations methods against terrorists involves keeping them up for days by constantly blasting music which drives them to the bring of insanity. Many argue that this is a form of torture.

The inability to ever shut out noise is a plague. But beyond the pain caused by the utter lack of peace there is the further consideration of the drowning out of the inner voice of conscience.

Each of us is immersed in a culture that throws various voices at us. Hollywood and the fashion industry hits us with the aesthetic voice, telling us that what most matters is beauty. Best to spend our time in front of a mirror and at a gym. Wall Street and Madison avenue hits us with the monetary voice which tells us that the most important thing in life is money and affording the material objects that will bring us pleasure. Washington and politics hits us with the power voice which tells us that the most significant thing in life is acquiring dominion over others. And the NFL and NBA hits us with the physical voice which whispers that life has meaning through great athleticism. We should be spending our time on the sports fields.

But beneath all these noises which are so central to the fabric of modern life and its aspirations is the inner voice of conscience which whispers to us that we are born for lives of compassion and goodness. It’s nice to be pretty. But it’s even nicer to be nice. It’s wondrous to be sporty and adventurous. But even more spectacular is to teach our child how to throw a spiral and catch a ball. Through doing so we grant our children a feeling of significance. It’s a blessing to be wealthy. But even more important is to live lives of charity and humility where we make others feel that they matter too.

There is no human being that is born without that voice and to the extent that it is lost it is because it is drown out by all the other voices that surround us.

The Egyptians, like all human beings, had an innate sense of morality and fair play. So how could they have enslaved a helpless people? Because the soul’s voice of fraternity and brotherhood was drown out by Pharaoh’s voice of dominion and power. As the Bible related, “Look, he said to his people, the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” The Egyptians allowed the foreign voice of the will to power to override the voice of sensitivity of compassion. In this sense, the racket of the frogs-plague was an external manifestation of what had already occurred. The Egyptians could no longer hear the inner song of their own souls. They could only hear the clamor of the artificial, external voice that slowly erodes our spiritual peace.

The Close-Knit Communities of Judea and Samaria

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Community is one of the concerns that many people consider when they scout out their potential new home in Israel. They are wondering if they will make friends and find neighbors who speak their language. Who will fill in for the lack of nearby family? Who will they spend their holidays with? Will they find help and support, while adapting to their new surroundings? Will their kids make friends?

Some people choose to start off in a place where they know that many Olim have settled before them. Some towns are known to have a high number of Olim from English speaking countries. Places like Efrat, Raanana and Neveh Aliza are some of them.

Although these are legitimate concerns, there are conflicting opinions on the value of starting off in an English speaking atmosphere. On one hand, it does offer a soft landing into the expected culture shock. Yes, you are coming from Western countries into a westernized Middle Eastern country. You will need some time to adjust to the weather, language, and societal issues – and it is nice to have people nearby who can relate to what you are going though, and who speak your mother tongue.

But do be aware that you might be paying a price for the comfort that you seek. Rents might be higher in some of the towns mentioned, but that’s not the only disadvantage. If you condition yourself to get by in English speaking surroundings, will you be stunting your integration into the Hebrew speaking society around you?

When I was a teen growing up in Maalot, the father of a good friend of mine was a man who had come to Israel from Morocco thirty years earlier, but who was know to all as “Oleh Chadash.” Due to his putting off learning to speak Hebrew for many years, when addressed by someone in Hebrew, he would say “Oleh Chadash” and excuse himself from the need to take part in any conversation. He had already achieved an important position in a local government agency, but still, his earlier procrastination in learning the language was not forgotten. Don’t be afraid to speak – even in broken Hebrew. Israelis will appreciate your effort, and will help you along.

Admittedly, though, community is important. It is one of the factors that has brought many people – Israelis and Olim – to come to live in the small towns of Judea and Samaria. In these places, the concept of community is very real. Everyone knows everyone, and although each family is responsible for our own homes and well being, we hold many common interests. People take an active part in local committees and events.

From the outside, many Yeshuvim in Judea and Samaria might look similar, but actually, each one has its own very special footprint, its unique micro-culture, and you, by making your home there, will be a part of forming that society.

From a Soldier’s Mother to a Martyr’s Mother

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Mariam Farhat died recently in Gaza. She had 10 children, six sons. Three of her sons died committing terrorist attacks for Hamas; one is in an Israeli prison. The night before her 17 year old son, Muhammed attacked a school and murdered five students, Mariam joined him in a pre-suicide video in which she wished him well on his journey to be a martyr. She was so proud of him. When she heard that her son had died, she handed out sweets and proudly proclaimed, “Allah Akbar” which translates to Allah is great in Arabic (and sounds awfully close to “Allah is a mouse” in Hebrew).

After Israel withdrew from Gaza, Mariam visited the village where her son had killed people and took a piece of the outer fencing to mount on her wall as a symbol of his life…I mean his death. Another son was killed while driving in a car with a rocket which exploded when an Israeli jet identified the target. Israeli lives were saved; Mariam had herself another martyr.

In case you haven’t figured out how I feel about her, let me share some of her words:

“I protect my sons from defying Allah, or from choosing a path that would not please Allah. This is what I fear, when it comes to my sons. But as for sacrifice, Jihad for the sake of Allah, or performing the duty they were charged with – this makes me happy. There is no difference. This is Islamic religious law. I don’t invent anything. I follow Islamic religious law in this. A Muslim is very careful not to kill an innocent person, because he knows he would be destined to eternal Hell. So the issue is not at all simple. We rely on Islamic religious law when we say there is no prohibition on killing these people. The word ‘peace’ does not mean the kind of peace we are experiencing. This peace is, in fact, surrender and a shameful disgrace. Peace means the liberation of all of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. When this is accomplished – if they want peace, we will be ready. They may live under the banner of the Islamic state. That is the future of Palestine that we are striving towards.

And more…here is an interview with Mariam – in her words.

She died in a hospital of health complications at the age of 64 – lung ailments and kidney failure.

There is something incomprehensible to me in this story; something that makes me wonder if I have anything in common with this woman. I am a mother of three sons. I have watched two grow and marry and my greatest fear for them would be the very thing this woman wished on her sons. She wished them to die – yeah, sure – as a martyr…whatever the heck that is.

Muhammed was 17 years old. She encouraged him to die – her greatest fear was not his death, but that he waste the opportunity of not dying as part of an act to murder others.

As a writer, I am forever trying to adhere to the laws of grammar and to use (and sometimes abuse) them for the good of a post, article, or manual I write. And here, I add a paragraph and laugh at myself. I don’t even want to mention my son David in the same paragraph as Muhammed. Davidi was raised with love – not just to receive it, but also to give it. He was taught that he is part of a community and so he volunteers with a local youth group and with the local ambulance squad.

Davidi, my precious Davidi is 17 years old. He’s tall; he’s so beautiful – and he goes out all the time, not waiting for a chance to attack, as Muhammed was taught from the time he was 7 years old. Instead, Davidi goes out with ambulances, trying to save lives…and in truth, the lives he saves are sometimes Jewish lives and sometimes Arab lives. This woman dared to call herself a mother?

I thought to write a message to this Mariam but in the end, the truth is that she turns my stomach. I cannot call her a “mother” because she thinks being a mother means only the act of giving birth. There is so much more to being a mother than that. If you are blessed, as I was, your births are not to difficult and you move on – on with that baby that wants to learn so much. What you teach them is what counts so much more than the physical act of having them leave your body.

Can a Therapist Destroy a Marriage?

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

According to an article on the OU website by Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, the answer to the question asked in the title of this post is yes. The specific culprit according to Rabbi Slatkin is individual therapy. A therapist will counsel only one spouse in a marriage. That – he says ends up becoming an advocacy for that spouse instead of a balanced approach to finding solutions to a troubled marriage.

While I think that is an oversimplification (as I think would Rabbi Slatkin) there is merit to his argument. But if one is to read the comments to his article one would think that this internationally renowned relationship therapist was guilty of professional heresy.

Most of those commenting on this article are themselves professionals. But I think they mostly missed his point. He did not say that individual therapy is never effective or beneficial. What he said is that it can and often does leads to erroneous conclusions about the client’s spouse… and that the marriage could be saved if both husband and wife were counseled together. And as a result divorce is encouraged when in fact that marriage might be saved.

Of course it isn’t individual therapy alone that is the problem. A lot depends on the cultural biases of the therapist. For example, if a couple begins their marriage committed to a specific religious way of life and later one of them decides to alter their commitment in ways that contradicts what they agreed upon, a therapist with a cultural bias against the pressures of religion may support that spouse’s desire to break the bonds of that religion in favor of self actualization. This also breaks the commitment made at the beginning of the marriage. If this is done without any input from the other spouse – it rises to the level of professional malpractice.

Not that there aren’t often other problems pressuring a troubled marriage. But a therapist that focuses too much on the personal autonomy of a client may inadvertently be destroying a salvageable marriage. That is much more likely to happen when there is no input from the other side.

This does not mean that every therapist that practices individual therapy in troubled marriages will make bad decisions. Nor does it mean that in some cases freedom from some of those strictures isn’t warranted. But without full input from both sides – a fair and unbiased evaluation of a marriage is impossible. It is therefore easy to understand why Rabbi Slatkin feels so strongly about it.

It is also true that there are incompetent therapists who give bad counsel a couple when treated together. So the bottom line for me is competence. But I also share Rabbi Slatkin’s concern.

Tangentially there is something else I find troubling. Often when a Rav is consulted about getting therapy he will recommend that only a religious therapist be consulted. Being religious is nice but it should not be the primary concern. Again, competence should be. As long as a therapist has respect for the ways of others and is not judgmental about the strictures of their religion – the therapist’s religion or level of observance should not be a concern. I know some pretty bad frum therapists and some top notch secular therapists. The suggestion that a therapist be first and foremost a religious Jew is bad advice.

Getting back to Rabbi Slatkin – his goal is keeping marriages together. And for good reason. Divorce can be devastating on children in so many ways. Including but not limited to their Yiddishkeit. It can also permanently affect the way their children see marriage… as a negative state of being. It can also cause them to go OTD. It can affect their progress in school and their social skills.

Rabbi Slatkin is therefore very upset that divorce is so often the solution recommended by individual therapists who urge their clients to free themselves from the bonds of marriage.

The fact is that a good marriage does take a lot of work. It takes a lot of compromise and sacrifice. There is a lot less me-ism and a lot more we-ism. When two worlds collide in a marriage it can cause a giant explosion. And there are always two worlds. No two people are exactly alike. They each bring their own baggage to a marriage. And often when two people get married they do not always look for the most important qualities in each other that will make the marriage work. Like temperament and the ability to compromise. Or compatibility of ideals.

Bill Clinton as Father of the Year

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

The news that Bill Clinton was chosen as father of the year by The National Father’s Day Council has brought for the scoffers. Really, the dude with Monica Lewinsky? The man who humiliated his wife?

They’re wrong. A man can be an imperfect husband and still be a great Dad. In fact, it’s become something of a national crisis. There are way too many men who love their kids more than their wives when, in truth, a healthy marriage dictates that the relationship between the parents always has to come first.

Countless wives who have come to me for counseling complain that they are married to indifferent, unromantic, selfish husbands. Yet, when I ask them, “Does he neglect his kids the way he neglects you?,” the majority of the time they say, “Actually, no. He’s a great Dad.” Even women who have divorced their husbands and told me what miserable marriages they were in will then tell me that, remarkably, their ex continues to be an engaged and loving Dad.

I’m reading The Patriarch, David Nasaw’s magisterial book about Joseph Kennedy. What the biography shows is that Kennedy was a deeply anti-Semitic, compulsively adulterous, misogynist. But boy did he love his kids. A man who put making money before almost all else, the exception was dropping everything whenever his kids were ill. To be sure, there were horror stories like the lobotomy of his daughter Rosemarie. But by and large, though he was an awful, philandering husband who  his wife with endless affairs, he was extremely attached to his kids.

Which brings us to Bubba.

A few months ago, while I was sitting at the JCC in Manhattan at a lecture that featured my friend Rabbi Marc Schneier of Westhampton and was moderated by Chelsea Clinton, I was suddenly disturbed by a rush of men with noodles coming out of their ears. Bill Clinton came in and sat in the seat right in front of me. His daughter was on stage and he wanted to see her. He arrived very quietly and was clearly there to show his daughter support. Then, this past Summer, Clinton toured a country very close to my heart, Rwanda, for his Clinton Global Initiative. In so many of the pictures he is walking around with one hand on his daughter’s shoulder. Not even his biggest critics deny that he is a loving and involved father who has given his daughter great confidence in herself as a woman, even as he has, most assuredly, caused her pain by acts of unfaithfulness that hurt her mother, all the more so because they were so public.

The two are not incongruous. You can be a great father even if you’re not exactly the greatest spouse.

Of course, it’s best to try and be both.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/bill-clinton-as-father-of-the-year/2013/01/13/

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