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August 31, 2016 / 27 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘military service’

‘Miriam’s Song’ Speaks to the Soul of the Nation of Israel About Loss

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

The reviewer’s copy of Miriam’s Song has been floating around the house for days. It was passed from hand to hand during the holidays and scanned by family members over the Sabbath. Photos of national icon and author Miriam Peretz are scattered throughout the book: Miriam with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with President Reuven Rivlin … even in a hug with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Each time the promise was made to pass it on ‘when the review is finished.’ The list of readers demanding that book is as long as the entire apartment.

And yet.

It was ready for review a while ago. But how does one describe the world of a whisper, a prayer, a cry filled with grief, a confident embrace of support for countless others and yet a scream of defiance too?

Miriam's Song, the best-selling account of a mother of two sons who lost their lives in combat, translated now from Hebrew into English.

Miriam’s Song, the best-selling account of a mother of two sons who lost their lives in combat, translated now from Hebrew into English.

Miriam Peretz does all that and more in her account of how she managed to survive the loss of her two sons in combat — one after the other, both serving in the Golani Brigade — and her husband whose heart she said “could simply stand no more” and yet motivate herself to move on and lead others.

The mother of six speaks of her children, all of whom served and serve in the Israel Defense Forces, most as members of the elite Golanis.

Sons Avichai and Eliyasaf, Miriam and Eliraz, z'l.

Sons Avichai and Eliyasaf, Miriam and Eliraz, z’l.

She speaks of her childhood, how she immigrated to Israel with her parents as a child from Morocco, her years growing up in the south and her struggle to learn how to become an educator. Her courtship and marriage to her wonderfully patient, wise husband.

That first moment of pride seeing her oldest son in uniform, watching him grow to become an IDF officer. The first life-crushing experience when an IDF delegation came to say he’d never come home again, alive.

The battle faced by her life partner with a life-threatening illness that drained his vitality but not his determination – until the last moment when he too could fight no more.

The day she learned her second son was determined to follow his older brother’s footsteps: could she deny him his dream? And yet, the price she paid for her willingness to allow him that chance, the day she stood at the cemetery facing his newly-dug grave alone, without the support of her husband beside her.

The dilemma of no longer knowing which grave to visit “first” on Memorial Day: the guilt she felt that day. It is this last that perhaps is the most heartbreaking of all: for in this, Miriam is but one of thousands. How many wives and mothers and daughters join her in this horrific nightmare – whose grave to visit “first” this year at Mount Herzl’s military cemetery on Israel’s Memorial Day?

Father? Husband? Brother? Son? Daughter? Sister, Wife? Mother?

There they lie, our courageous, fearless veterans of every defensive war our battered but unbowed nation has ever fought. Without any hesitation they don their uniforms, shoulder their weapons and set off to their units with a chuckle and a grin, maybe a hug for the little ones, a whispered reassurance for an older child or a mother or a wife. None of them ever know when or if they will return. That is written Upstairs in the Big Book.

Hana Levi Julian

Obesity Becoming ‘National Security Issue’ Says US General

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

An American armed forces commander in charge of recruiting says obesity is becoming an issue of “national security.”

U.S. Maj.-Gen. Allen Batschelet, director of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, says 10 percent of those who come to enlist are turned down due to their weight.

Moreover, if the trend continues, Batschelet warns there won’t be enough qualified potential soldiers in the U.S. military because up to half of young Americans are likely to meet criteria for obesity by the end of this decade.

“Just under three in 10 young people 17 to 24 can join the Army today – and the other armed services for that matter – and the single biggest disqualifier is obesity,” Batschelet said in an interview with CNN. “Ten percent of them are obese and unfit to the point that they can’t join the service. It’s really very worrisome.

“We think by 2020 it could be as high as 50 percent,” he continued, “which means only 2 in 10 would qualify to join the Army. It’s a sad testament to who we are as a society right now.”

According to a report in the Journal of American Medicine, more than one third of adults in the U.S. meet criteria for obesity, and rates are rising.

“I don’t know that’s fair to call it a crisis just yet,” Batscheler said, “but I think it’s quickly approaching one. It really becomes a national security issue.”

In the State of Israel, the issue is rarely if ever raised, because most recruits begin the draft process at age 16, while they are in the 10th or 11th grade of high school.

Since military service is mandatory in Israel, the draft is just another step in growing up for most teens. The first part of that process is a comprehensive medical and psychoeducational evaluation to determine the potential recruit’s military “profile.”

It is this evaluation that tells the army personnel whether or not the recruit is actually fit for duty. Those who are deemed to be questionable for any reason are then placed on a “B” list and scrutinized more closely.

Obesity could be considered such a factor – but it is more likely that such a recruit will simply be referred to the local HMO clinic nutritionist for closer followup. Males will most likely end up peeling off those pounds in basic training, assuming there are no other medical conditions; females will be followed up at the clinic and then at the base, where basic training, counseling and a lot of exercise will likely help her to get back on track.

Weight is not considered a reason to skip military service in the State of Israel, where chocolate spread is a typical bonus with bread at breakfast and midday snack times. Fresh vegetables and fruit are always available as well, of course…

Hana Levi Julian

What Disturbs Me Most about the New Coalition

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

I don’t know if anyone’s happy with the new government, at least not in the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu parties.  There weren’t too many ministerial pickings left over after Bibi handed out the goodies to Livni, Lapid and Bennett.

There’s something that really bothers me about this coalition.  I felt it in my kishkes, and I had trouble saying what it really is…

There’s something inherently undemocratic in a government coalition which aims to change the lives of a large and growing sector of the country/society while refusing them the rights to join the coalition and help draft the laws to make the changes just and possible.

Yes, I’m referring to the forcing of Haredim to be drafted into the IDF.

Now please get me right.  I am not in favor of their (Haredi) universal policy idealizing a life a just learning Torah.  I don’t see it as Jewish.  It’s not.  It’s more like the Christian monasteries and nunneries with the crucial difference that the Haredim marry and are encourage to have lots of children.  It’s also a Christian, not Jewish, belief that “men of the cloth” shouldn’t bear arms, serve in armies etc.

But I don’t think its just nor moral for some sectors of society to try to legislate major changes in the lives of others.  It unfortunately smacks of the early days of the State of Israel when religious immigrant children were sent to secular Aliyat Hanoar schools and worse.

The making of changes must be done gradually and with the cooperation of the affected sector of society.  That means the the only fair, just and democratic way to increase the draft of Haredim must be done with their cooperation.  In recent years more Hareidim have joined the army, and more Hareidim are studying key secular subjects and professions and working.  This will take time.

Blocking Hareidim from the government coalition means that the government will seem like (or actually be) a dictatorship, rather than a democracy.

Netanyahu, Lapid, Bennett and Livni are making a big immoral and undemocratic mistake.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Batya Medad

Ed Koch and New York’s Fighting Generation

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

The last sentence on Ed Koch’s tombstone reads: “Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II.”

The preceding two lines engraved on the headstone of the former New York City mayor, who died on February 1 at the age of 88, declare that “He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith. He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people.” The stone also includes the first line of the Shema in Hebrew and English.

Unfortunately, the Koch obituaries in New York City’s three major daily newspapers devoted just one or two flimsy sentences to his pivotal wartime experiences (1943-46), and none even mentioned that he fought in the outstanding 104th (Timberwolf) Infantry Division for a month in the fall of 1944.

Additionally, at his funeral at Temple Emanu-El on February 4, none of the eulogists, who included former president Bill Clinton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Israeli consul general in New York Ido Aharoni, discussed Mayor Koch’s World War II service. Only Koch’s law partner, James F. Gill, said in passing that Koch served “as a soldier in World War II.”

Ironically, an “appreciation” of Koch in the Forward by Jonathan Soffer, a history professor and author of Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, erroneously stated that he “joined the 104th Infantry Division, and fought against the Wehrmacht in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany in the spring of 1944.”

In reality, the only fighting in the “spring of 1944” in northwest Europe occurred during the season’s last two weeks beginning on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the Americans, British and Canadians stormed ashore in Normandy.

But the Allies were then bottled up in northern Normandy until the last week of July 1944, when the American-led breakout (Operation Cobra) occurred, and the Second, Third, Fourth and Sixth Armored divisions swept down the Cotentin Peninsula and demolished the entire left flank of the Wehrmacht’s defenses. By early September, in conjunction with the Franco-American invasion of the French Rivera on August 15, 1944, the American-dominated Allied armies had liberated most of France.

Ed Koch’s 104th Infantry Division, commanded by the highly competent General Terry de la Mesa Allen, first entered combat in late October 1944, when it was assigned to the Canadian First Army. In Citizen Koch, a 1992 autobiography, Koch provides a brief and confusing account of his combat record, writing that his “frontline duty was curtailed after about three months by another accident.”

But since the 104th Infantry Division entered combat on October 23, 1944, and since Koch said his “combat duty” ended in November 1944, he could not have been on the frontlines for more than five weeks. It’s important to realize, however, that many 15,000-soldier American infantry divisions suffered severe casualty rates in their battles with the highly skilled Wehrmacht in northwest and central Europe between June 6, 1944 and May 8, 1945. The website of the 104th Infantry Division’s Veterans Association states that 34,000 men served in this division, which means it had 19,000 replacement soldiers.

The commanding officer of the Timberwolves, General de la Mesa Allen, was even more intense than General George Patton, his superior officer in North Africa and Sicily. In these campaigns between November 1942 and August 1943, Allen ably led the fabled First Infantry Division, and his assistant division commander was Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who would win the Medal of Honor for his uncommon bravery and competence with the Fourth Infantry Division on Utah Beach on D-Day.

A month after D-Day, General Roosevelt, son of the 26th president, died of a heart attack and is buried in the Omaha Beach Cemetery next to his brother Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed twenty-six years earlier flying for the U.S. Army Air Service in World War I. Another great New York City mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, also flew in General John J. Pershing’s Air Service in World War I. (My maternal grandfather, David Schneiderman, and his brother Reuben, born on the Lower East Side in 1892 and 1894, respectively, were among the 250,000 Jewish Americans who served honorably in World War I.)

The Koch obituaries in the major New York dailies also omitted the fact that on April 11, 1945, the Timberwolves and their brother division, the sterling Third Armored Division, liberated the notorious Nordhausen/Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp, where the Nazis built the V-1 and V -2 rockets that wreaked such human and physical devastation on London in 1944 and 1945.

Mark Schulte

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/ed-koch-and-new-yorks-fighting-generation/2013/02/13/

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