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June 27, 2016 / 21 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘mother’

A Soldier’s Mother: The Danger of a Politician with a Big Mouth

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

The danger of a politician with a big mouth and a larger ego is that he will place himself and his opinion above the needs of the country. Rather than serve the country, this type of person tends to inflate his own self worth and take advantage of the privileges of office. Worse, he endangers lives and security by offering options that really are not on the negotiating table – most likely because there isn’t actually a table on which we are negotiating and there’s currently only one chair in the room. The chair is marked with the only people willing to be there unconditionally – and that would be Israel.

It has always been recognized that only the standing government has a mandate to determine the future of its people, especially in a democracy. This has been true throughout the centuries; it is true today in Israel. Yitzhak Herzog is a very dangerous man because he believes he is entitled. His entitlement comes through his blood, he will tell you. He is, after all, the son of Chaim Herzog, a general and former president of Israel. He is the grandson of the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland who then became the first Chief Rabbi of Israel. He is, the grandson and son, a rather pathetic and pale shadow of these great men, ever seeking stardom and importance.

To be a thriving democracy, which Israel most definitely is, you must have a strong opposition, unafraid to challenge the path the government chooses to take. What you cannot have, is one that seeks to subvert, undermine, weaken the government, and therefore the country itself. This and much more, Yitzhak Herzog has done in the past and yet again more recently when he took it upon himself to enter negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Who is Yitzhak Herzog to reach an agreement that Israel would surrender land and our capital? He has decided that Israel will pay financial compensation to the descendants of Arabs who chose to run away so that their brothers from five nations could invade the tiny and vulnerable new entity called Israel?

Will he also pay, perhaps out of his own miserable pockets, the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were robbed and expelled by numerous Arab nations? These are the Jewish refugees that came to Israel with practically nothing and we clothed them, fed them, housed them until they were able to pull themselves up and become active, vital, thriving, inseparable parts of our society today. Will Herzog compensate them?

I would expect such idiocies from Barack Obama but I think even he would be surprised at the absurdity of a standing member of the Knesset having the nerve to attempt to negotiate without any power behind him.

Forever ready to twist facts, Herzog doesn’t deny that he circumvented the legally elected government but haughtily declares, “In my contacts with the Palestinian Authority president during 2014, I made efforts whose goal was to reach understandings that would have prevented the wave of terror whose arrival I foresaw, just like I’m making efforts now so that this extreme right wing government’s abandonment of the initiative for a regional conference won’t bring the next war down upon us.”

Really, Herzog? You foresaw a new wave of terror? Gee, after so many previous waves I guess that makes you practically a prophet, huh? Who would have thought that without an agreement of utter capitulation from Israel, the Palestinians would revert to violence again. You’d think after 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982…2001, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, they’ve have learned, right?

And if you think Bibi Netanyahu’s government is “extreme right wing”, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. If the violence continues despite all our efforts to achieve peace, believe me, Israel WILL turn to the right.

Abandonment of the initiative for a regional conference, are you serious? What initiative? What regional conference? The one that is regularly held without Israel? The ones that have been consistently rejected by Palestinians?

There will be another war, on that Herzog is correct. But it will not be brought on by the actions of the Israeli government but rather by the unwillingness of the Palestinian leaders to truly accept that only through negotiations will there be compromise.

But perhaps the best response to Herzog’s inept attempt to thrust his opinion on the people of Israel can be found in the Palestinians’ response to Herzog’s pathetic efforts, “We didn’t treat it as if it’s something that can be implemented, since obviously the one who makes the decision ultimately is the Israeli prime minister.”

Roger that, Yitzhak. You’ve been defeated again.

Paula Stern

A Soldier’s Mother: Random Acts of Being Israeli

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

There is something that I have always noticed about Israelis but seem to forget to write about. It’s a characteristic many don’t see at first glance or worse, fail to recognize the base behind the action. The action changes from day to day, situation to situation, but the base is always the same. Israelis are actually very kind people.

There are rules and there are exceptions. Our enemies, especially those from within our society, yearn for the exceptions so that they can declare they are the rules. But that is a lie, slander, libel. It is a vicious attempt to destroy the foundation of our society and so these random acts that happen nearly daily must be told, shared. And so I will.

A few days ago, we drove north and while in Tiberias, along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret), we tried to find a bakery. It was getting late and we were worried that we’d lost a chance to buy some snacks. We stopped and asked a young man who was carrying packages. He told us about two places, one behind us, “the best” he informed us, and another that might have what we want a bit ahead of us and to the left.

“Give me your phone number and I’ll walk to the bakery over there and if it is still open, I’ll call you.” And he did. And it was open. And he was right; the pastries were fresh and delicious. A random act of kindness.

Yesterday in an underground parking lot, a long line of cars were waited while the machine ahead failed to allow one car to exit. Next to me, in a parking spot, a car started to go in reverse. I honked my horn afraid that he would hit the side of my car…the last thing I needed when I was trying to rush home to my grandson’s first birthday party (happy birthday, beautiful little baby). Just to my left was a man standing. The cars had parked so close together that he was waiting for his friend to pull out enough to let him get in the car.

He signaled that I should roll down my window, which I did. He handed me a cookie, told me not to worry, that his friend wasn’t going to him my car, and then instructed me to say the blessing for a cookie. Random acts of kindness.

This morning in a store, an older woman was reaching up for a container of ice tea. A young man reached out and took it off the shelf, and then he took the basket of purchases she was intending to make from her arm and asked her if she wanted anything else. She said that she was finished and so he walked her to the cashier. I thought perhaps that he worked in the store, but after putting the basket on the conveyor belt, he turned around and returned to take down a bottle of soda for himself. Yet another random act of kindness, unsolicited, given simply because it would help someone else.

A few weeks ago, on a horribly hot day, a truck filled with water was sent to the Western Wall and water was given freely to any and all. A few months ago, a man and his son were murdered in cold blood in a vicious terrorist attack just days before his daughter was to be married. Palestinian ambulance drivers were the first on the scene but left when they realized the victims were Jews. By contrast, my sons serve on Israeli ambulances and regularly treat Arabs. When the daughter rescheduled her wedding to the young man she loves, she asked all of Israel to escort her and celebrate her marriage. And Jews came from all over – from the US, from Australia and from all over Israel to be with a bride on her wedding day, when her father couldn’t be there.

Two years ago, during the war, a father jumped out of a car during a missile attack and crouched around his infant trying to protect him; and was surprised when seconds later, another man rushed out of his car and bent down in front of him – further shielding both father and child. An act of kindness in the midst of war.

In the last few days, it was published in various places that an injured soldier who had risked his life during the last war was being denied the government benefits needed to renovate his home because it is located 32 kilometers north of Jerusalem instead of 32 kilometers to the west. Within days, people donated double the amount of money the family was seeking to raise and more, the government was shamed into announcing that funds would be released immediately.

In the hospitals in Israel, men and women walk through the halls and ask family members if they need sandwiches, or food for the coming Sabbath. If you say yes, they will bring you a cooler filled with grape juice for the Kiddush (blessing of the fruits of the vine), challot (sweet rolls), fish and casseroles, and hot soup in a thermos. No cost and often it comes with the whispered prayer that your loved one has a complete and speedy recovery.

Each time there is a natural (or man-made) disaster, Israelis mobilize within hours. To Nepal, the Philippines, to Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, even to places in the US, Israelis fly without hesitation. These too are acts of kindness.

Next time you hear someone describe large numbers of Israelis as extremists, remember that out of such people comes regular acts of immeasurable kindness. And measure too one other fact. When Israelis are accused of extremism, it is most often simply because they want to live in one particular place or pray in another. That’s right – pray. A Jew can be arrested for saying “amen” on the Temple Mount, and a “leading journalist” can condemn Jews for walking through the Muslim quarter while ignoring the Arabs who can and do walk unmolested, unharmed, and uncondemned through Israeli city streets regularly.

The Jerusalem light rail travels from a mid-southern point on the west side of the city (Mount Herzl), to the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev in the north, eastern side of the city. It is regularly attacked (stones, firebombs) in only one place – the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat and occasionally attacked in another – the Arab neighborhood near the Damascus Gate (stones, tear gas, and even a stabbing attack).

And beside the train, there have been attacks in two other stops – both perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists who came from the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat. Jews are not stoning the train, ramming random Arabs standing waiting for buses. Israelis are not stabbing people, blowing up buses…ours or theirs. Instead, our army fights to find a balance and too often that balance limits our soldiers to a dangerous level.

Blind are the people who live in fear in Israel; uneducated and manipulative as well. We live in a society of kindness and if that kindness doesn’t stretch entirely into the Arab community (beyond our hospitals that treat them, our budget that pays for their schools, our shopping malls that cater to their purchases, and our streets and trains and highways that are shared with them), the reason could well be found not in our hearts, but in theirs.

We are a kind and open society. So long as a Jew (no, not a blond one that dresses like a tourist and speaks with an American accent, but an obviously Jewish – even, can you imagine, a religious Jew dressed in modest attire that quickly proclaims his or her identity…so long as THAT Jew cannot walk safely through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem and the Arab villages throughout our country, there can be no peace.

Israel is an open society, not just a kind one. Last week, Israel surprised itself – over 200,000 people walked the streets of Tel Aviv declaring that homosexuality does not bring a death sentence. Women drive in our country, serve at the highest levels of government. Children are cherished and protected, the first to be rushed into bomb shelters.

Israelis are free – free to speak, free to live, free to travel – even free to use the very foundations of our freedom to attempt to undermine the very society that feeds them, supports them, defends them.

Israel has proven itself, again and again, to be a kind society. When the Palestinians can say the same, let’s talk.

Paula Stern

Bereaved Mother at Knesset NGO Law Debate: ‘Foreign Countries Are Funding Terror’

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Devorah Gonen, whose son Danny was murdered by a terrorist while he was hiking near Dolev in Judea and Samaria, told the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday that the attorneys for her son’s killer were funded by foreign countries. “These funds encourage murder,” she said. “The terrorist knew he would be defended [in court] and that his family would receive funding. The terrorist is still alive, and his family will get a generous support, and I am left with the ‘privilege’ of being a bereaved mother. Foreign countries are funding terror. You must take the consequences of the foreign funding into account.”

The Committee debated a bill requiring NGOs that receive more than 50% of their funding from foreign governments to declare this fact in every publication and at meetings with public officials. The government-sponsored bill had been returned to the committee for hearings and amendments after passing a first reading in the plenum.

During the meeting, MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) argued that an NGO may receive small donations from a number of countries and one large donation from one country, so the legislation “would not help us know how the donations are distributed.”

MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Camp) told the bereaved Gonen: “I sympathize with your feelings and feel the pain of the tragedy you experienced. However, the State of Israel receives billions from foreign countries, and it uses these funds to wage wars which kill people.”

MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) added that “government funds are transferred to NGOs for the purpose of building [Jewish] outposts from which terrorist operations emanate. This money is not transparent, and it is kept confidential in the Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations.”

Committee Chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (HaBayit HaYehudi) said representatives from foreign embassies in Israel had asked to participate in the meeting, but he requested that they take part in next week’s debate instead. However, a representative from the Dutch embassy was allowed to audit the meeting nevertheless.

David Israel

A Soldier’s Mother: Trying to Be Normal

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

In December, 2002, bombs were exploding regularly in Israel and at some point, I sat down and wrote an article. I called it, “Trying to Be Normal” and after it was done, I read it and thought it was so different from my usual style. Ten years later, I found it again after an attack on Jews in Bulgaria and now again, I reprint it…
Trying to Be Normal

There is a point when sadness turns to anger, when the body ceases to be numb. Even though you dread it, you know that point will come. First there is the shock that it has happened, yet again, on some sunny day pleasant Spring evening when normal people don’t think of despair. Then, the shock gives way to an endless need to see, to hear, to watch.

In part, you watch because you believe that if you can just see it, somehow it will be more real. But, of course, it never is. So you give up on believing that it is normal to feel this way or that way and you accept that you just need to see it. You’ll worry about normal tomorrow because normalcy doesn’t exist today.

As the numbers rise, as they almost always do, sadness comes next. It is the feeling of being haunted and hunted, hated to such an incredible depth that you don’t think they, whoever they may be, can overcome their hatred. The waste of it all, the lives lost. The old, the young, the parents, the orphans. The perfect ones, the good ones, the brave ones. Frozen in time, leaving you to move forwards through the grief and the sadness alone.

The brutality of the attack makes you so depressed. How could someone do such a thing? How is it possible to shoot a baby, target a little boy? How can a human being explode himself intentionally next to a teenage girl, stab a pregnant woman, lynch a 67-year-old grandfather? Such anger they must have, such hatred.

Faced with the cruelty, you realize that you are as much a prisoner of their hatred as they are and that begins to call forth the anger. You cannot be the master of their feelings, but shouldn’t they find a normal way to express their anger? You’ve been angry, you’ve hated, but you didn’t explode yourself, you didn’t shoot anyone. Is this the only way for them to get what they want? And if it is, do they have any right to it?

If you can only birth a nation on the blood of innocent children, what worth will that nation have, what compassion for others? How can it take its place in the family of nations when it is born out of hatred and death and cruelty? But that is their politics and today is for your dead and wounded. Today, Tonight, it is too much to worry about their dreams for tomorrow when yours wait to be buried. Isn’t it normal to focus on your own grief, you wonder? And again you remember that you no longer know quite what normal is, and that too brings forth the anger.

The anger is like those first moments when the circulation returns to a leg that has fallen asleep. It’s a tingling sensation, unpleasant, sometimes dull and sometimes sharp. The more you explore it, the more painful it becomes. Is it better not to move, not to feel? Is it better to get it over with quickly by releasing it or hold it inside? Wouldn’t it be a relief, just once, to scream and cry and release all the frustration and anger? Wouldn’t that be normal?

You think of bombing them back, of horrible pain inflicted with the hope it will ease your pain. The thoughts bring you no comfort because you don’t want to be like them, you just want it to stop. This isn’t about revenge. Revenge won’t bring them back, won’t erase the pain, the tears, the empty chair in the classroom that will forever be his chair, her place by the window.

You’ll sleep tonight, thinking that by tomorrow, maybe the anger will go away. But of course it won’t. Tomorrow brings the funerals, the women wailing, the fathers standing staring off into the distance with their haunted eyes and devastated glances. A grandfather crying over the loss of two grandchildren cripples you. They haven’t slept, you can see the exhaustion, but maybe that’s merciful.

They are numb, beyond the anger, but not beyond the pain. Such anguish will never go away. How can it? It just isn’t normal to go on after having such horror thrust upon you. Today, you’ll go with the flow, and tell yourself to just get through the funerals one by one. You’ll cry a little, or maybe a lot. It won’t help, but you have to anyway.

The anger can consume you if you don’t know when to let it go. The funerals continue, and the stories of who they were and what they were able to accomplish before their lives were cut short will bring you to your knees. You will know in death someone that you probably never had a chance to meet in life. Their dreams lay shattered in pieces on the buses and in the streets of our cities, in the stores and cafes and even on foreign shores, and you have to walk over them, or you’ll never move on, move back to normal.

The newspaper shows their pictures and so you hesitate to throw it away. A pile of newspapers with names and faces that haunt you. The young mother that left behind two children, the middle-aged couple that left nine orphans. It was his birthday, and soon his wife will give birth to the child he will never see. Another generation being born, already touched by the sadness.

You stare at the faces and when you close your eyes, you can still see their smiling faces. But you can’t smile now, and that too is normal. Often, in the midst of the sadness and the anger, comes the thought that it could have been much worse. It seems there is always a grenade that didn’t explode, a rifle that got jammed, a plane that didn’t get hit, a bomb that was found.

There’s the fact that most of the people were able to move away in time or the weather was bad and so less people came to the mall. There’s the bus driver who miraculously shoved him out the door, but an old woman died anyway. So you play a game with yourself and convince yourself that it is normal to be relieved because it could have been worse.

Then the guilt comes because you realize for that family, it was worse. They now live with a nightmare beyond any that a normal person could imagine and so the sadness, that never quite left, pushes away the anger. The anger won’t help and the sadness won’t leave. After the funerals, the sun shines or the rains come and wash the streets.

If you pass that bus stop, there are candles and flowers, but the broken glass is gone. They are already rebuilding the restaurant, newer, stronger. This time the gate might keep them out, or maybe not. Maybe a small memorial will be put there, but the carnage is what you remember, the old facade under the new paint and glass windows. The picture in your head doesn’t match the image before you and your eyes insist on focusing on what you see, not on what you imagine.

And you wonder why that is normal too. Human nature pushes you to move on, when you know there are those that can’t. When you stop to think about it, you realize the basic truth, the normal truth, is that until they learn to stop hating and killing, you will continue to be shocked, and saddened, and angry.

You will survive this. For a short time, you may change the routine of your life, avoid buses as much as possible, stay home, lock your doors. You may keep a radio playing and tell your children not to go to the mall.

But soon, that too will stop because the one great truth is that you want things to return to normal… until there is the shock that it has happened, yet again, on some sunny day when normal people don’t think of despair.

May God avenge the blood of those who were murdered today tonight in Jerusalem Bulgaria Tel Aviv and may their loved ones be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Paula Stern

A Soldier’s Mother: Her Future is My History

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

{Guest post by Alexandra Markus. Reprinted with permission from Paula Stern’s blog, A Soldier’s Mother}

Paula Stern: I saw this post and as I read it, I realized that for the most part, it’s what I would have written in the days and weeks before I moved to Israel almost 24 years ago. In a very real way, her future is my history. I was older than she is now; I had already given birth to three children, well on my way to the five God has granted me, but the thoughts…they are hers…but mine too.

My children are the children she dreams of having – and I pray that she will be as blessed because truly, as she writes, that is my life. My children walk this land with pride; they do not live in fear.

Read this, if you ever wondered why I came to live here in this land; read this if you were wondering why so many are coming today. Read this and be proud of this young woman, as I am…and I think deep down, I’m hoping to gain another kid (if she’ll let me)…so many boys, it’s probably time to adopt another girl, isn’t it?


Guest post by Alexandra Markus:

People wonder why I want to live in Israel and be Israeli.

I want to be Israeli because I want my children to be Israeli.

I want them to not have pennies thrown at them at school.

Or to watch their friends wince amidst the cries of “dirty Jew!” as they get pinned to the ground, beaten and tortured.

I want them to be Israeli so that they don’t feel like they have to hide, to live in the cloistered ghettos of Hampstead and Cote-St-Luc, hiding from anti-Semitism and shielding their children to the best of their abilities from a life of prejudice.

I want my children to be Israeli so that they can run and play freely, raised by many mothers and fathers, where they can just go over to someone’s house for shabbat and feel looked after with love and belonging.

So that they can study math and science at a higher level than they do in Europe and North America, while still learning of their people’s ancient traditions.

I want them to be Israeli so that they could bathe in the environment of “anything is possible,” of “if you can dream it, you can do it” that made ‘Start-Up nation’ possible.

I want them to be Israeli so that they can serve in the IDF proudly and nobody will question me for letting them gain resilience as they put their lives in danger to defend Am Israel.

I don’t want my kids raised around Jews who are afraid or ashamed of their homeland, who are raised on media where anti-Semitism/antiZionism is accepted and validated.

I don’t want them to have their national loyalty questioned when I hang an Israeli flag over my window.

Finally, I don’t want them to feel like they have to vote for politicians based solely on their Israel policy, rather than their domestic portfolio and foreign policy, because they feel like they have no choice.

I want to raise my Israeli children in Israel because I want them to be absolutely sure where “home” is.

Guest Author

Dafna Meir: The Ultimate Jewish Mother

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Last January a fifteen-year-old Arab entered the religiously observant Jewish settlement of Otniel in the Judean Mountains, carrying a butcher knife. He headed for the home of the Meir family.

A slight young woman with an enormous happy smile answered his knock. Dafna Meir, the lady of the house, was always ready to open her door and her heart.

Unfortunately, this time the visitor did not seek her help but the death of her children. Wielding the knife, he stabbed the short woman in the chest in order to get her out of the way. But Dafna Meir would not allow him to achieve his aim. With her bare hands she fought him until he ran from her house.

Her children were safe. Dafna lay dead at her doorpost. She had given her life to save them.

The thirty-eight year old mother of six, two of whom were adopted, no longer “enjoyed life,” as reported by her grief-stricken neighbors. Her famous sunny smile no longer lit up the Otniel atmosphere. An Arab teenager, under the influence of vicious Jew-hating propaganda, tragically extinguished Dafna Meir’s joyful life.

“She was a happy woman, joyful, optimistic, driven, responsible, loving,” one of her neighbors, Yishai Klein, related. “Everyone in the settlement who was in pain knew they could call her 24 hours a day.”

Dafna Meir “was a woman who enjoyed life, the wittiest woman I know,” added Liron Steinberg, a personal friend. “She always looked for how to help. If it was to take two foster kids, or as a nurse in the neurosurgery department. I work as a social worker in the Beit Hagai youth village and she would always invite home kids who didn’t have anywhere else to be,” she concluded in tears.

Dafna herself had been an adopted child. She grew up in Rishon Lezion where at an early age social services removed her from her ill-functioning family and placed her into an institution. Later she was sent to a boarding school in Kibbutz Tirat Zvi, a Bnei Akiva religious kibbutz.  Dafna completed high school there and then served in the army, where she met her husband, Natan.

After their marriage, they settled in Otniel and built a family of six: four biological children, Renana 17, Akiva 15, Noa 11, Aanava 10, and two adopted, Yair 6 and Yaniv 4.

At the time of her marriage, Dafna was determined that no matter how many children she gave birth to, she would foster additional children. Her dream was to take in children in need and provide them with a happy life.

In addition to motherhood Dafna Meir worked as a nurse in the neurosurgery department of Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba and as a pre-marital counselor for brides.

Buried in the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem in the person of Dafna Meir is a brilliant example of Jewish motherhood tragically victimized by Arab hatred.

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

A Soldier’s Mother: Who Am I?

Monday, May 16th, 2016
The thing about comments on a blog is that the blog owner has a bunch of choices. The first choice is whether to allow unmoderated comments. As any Israeli can tell you, no Israeli blog and few Jewish blogs are safe from harassment and so, the first choice for most is pretty obvious – we moderate all comments.

The second choice is how to handle comments that are less than complimentary either to the core issues you present or to a stand you have taken. More than once, I have had people ask me in anger why I didn’t put their comments through – and the answer is always the same…because I don’t have to, this is my blog, my life and I present it as I live it. Take it, leave it, love it, hate it – it’s mine.

Sometimes, I put comments through and then answer them; sometimes I leave it to others to respond. Sometimes, I choose not to put them through at all…my right.

Sometimes, I post them, like this: Mahmood Says…

Sometimes, I put them all together… like this: Comments on Comments…

A few days ago, I posted Six Million Tears. today, Anonymous # 478 (or is it #479?) sent me this:

As a Jew living in Germany, by choice. I ask you this – who are you to condemn a whole people? Who are you to pronounce them without forgiveness, damned for ever? My family bled and suffered and died there, and yet we are still here. And we have chosen to never forget, but to find future and hope. Who are you to pronounce Judgement? You are not G-d!

I put the comment through but decided I needed more space to respond, as so I do that here:

You say you are a Jew living in Germany by choice, I’ll confess that this is a choice I do not understand but I wish you well there. I will pray for your safety because I have many doubts and concerns for the Jews who live in Europe.

You ask me who I am to condem a whole people? I will be honest and say that it is not I that may have condemned them but, if anything, that would be their actions, their choices. If they are to be condemned for all time, I doubt I have the power to be the one to do it.

Who am I to pronounce them without forgiveness, damned forever? Well, Judaism is different than other religions. While other religions grant individuals to pronounce God’s forgiveness, we do not. We believe there are two elements of forgiveness. The first is God – who are we to think we can grant God’s forgiveness? I certainly didn’t do that. God is the true and ultimate judge and I would be a fool if I believed that I could speak for God. The second is the person or people who are wronged. I cannot forgive the Nazis for the murders they committed. The only ones who can forgive that are dead. They murdered the ones who could grant them forgiveness. They also need forgiveness from those they wronged but did not kill.

I can tell you to his dying day, my grandfather never forgave the Germans…sadly, he never forgave himself for being unable to earn enough money in America to bring his mother and sisters to safety. To his dying day, my father-in-law never forgave the Germans…and sadly, he never forgave himself for not being near when the Germans came for his parents. My mother-in-law never forgave the Germans either, but worse, she lived her entire life under the shadows of what she survived.

You say your family bled and suffered and died there, and yet you are still there. If I were to say what is in my mind, I would say you are a fool. But my heart tells me I should be more diplomatic, more understanding. I don’t know what keeps you in Germany – is it money?  Is it allegienece to the Deutschland? Whatever it is, it’s a mystery to me.

My family and that of my husband bled, starved, were gassed and cremated. Those that survived gathered together and looked for the farthest places they could get to – Australia, Palestine, the United States. They wanted Palestine but the British blocked them; they got some visas for Australia but were not willing to be separated from their siblings and so lied and said they too were denied. And when the visas finally came through, they fled Europe for America.

You say you will never forget but choose to find future and hope and I commend you for that. I hope you will work hard to educate your friends and neighbors so that they too never forget. As for the future and hope – I live in a land filled with both; they are forever on our minds and in our hears.

And finally you ask who I am to pronounce judgment – and I tell you that I have not. I have simply said what I believe, what I felt when I was in Germany. It was a thought that crossed my mind. I found the Germans to be wonderful, interested, caring people. That was, for me, a wonderful thing. I went expecting to be challenged, to feel threatented. The first time I saw German eyes drop down and look at my Jewish star, I wondered if I had been wrong, over-proud, in wearing it. When he raised his eyes and said in a questioning tone, “Israel?” I felt my body clench but refused, in my mind, to back down and so, almost defiantly, I answered, “Yes!”

I did not expect him to smile, but he did. I did not expect the other Germans next to him to smile either, but they did. One turned to me and said, “hava nagila” and another said “shalom aleichem” – and I too smiled.

And so, going to Germany was a revelation. I have come far from where I was a few years ago when I wrote, They Put Her in a Gas Chamber. I can tell you now that I will never get to where you are.

And finally, you said that I am not God. I am very aware of that and never claimed to be. All I am is a person with a voice and an opinion. You don’t have to like it, and I’m fine with that. But I will tell you who I am…

I am a granddaughter to a man who suffered for decades; I am the wife of a man who watched his parents struggle to live with what was done to them and what they suffered. I was a daughter-in-law for just over 10 years and listened as, for the first time, my mother-in-law began speaking about the Holocaust, describing the life in the camps and the life they had before. I am a mother of five amazing Israelis, two who have served, one who is serving now in the army of Israel. I have sent two sons and a daughter to Poland to face the nightmare of walking into a gas chamber.

I am a Jew. I have stood in the gas chambers of Maidanek and Auschwitz; I have seen the ovens and the ashes. I have walked on the places where they were murdered; I have cried where some remain buried in mass graves.

I am an Israeli, forever aware that it is our job to be on watch; knowing that if the day should come, as it has too many times in the past, that the Jew in Europe will have to flee, we stand here in Israel ready to open our doors and more, ready to send our sons. We have flown into Yemen and Ethiopia, we have smuggled Jews out of Russia, Iran, Iraq…we will do the same in France and Germany and England, and even the United States if we have to.

That is who I am, that gives me the right to have my opinion. I wish the Germans well. But I have lived and will live with the Holocaust…and therefore, so will the Germans.

Paula Stern

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/a-soldiers-mother-who-am-i/2016/05/16/

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