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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘soldiers’

A Soldier’s Mother: A Quiet Unyielding Anger

Monday, September 12th, 2016

It’s been 15 years since one of my children called me to the television to tell me something had happened. There were bombing attacks in Israel on a regular basis; many brought to my attention when the cartoons they watched back when we had a television were interrupted.

First there was a map of a city somewhere in Israel with a voice explaining about early reports of an explosion. There was never a question that it was terrorism; never a thought of who had caused it. It was only really about what city was hit this time, how many were hurt, and how many funerals the next day would bring.

I walked to the top of the stairs after I was told about “something,” only this time, there was news from America, and an image of the World Trade Center. It took me a second to understand. It wasn’t Israel. It wasn’t a bomb. It wasn’t a bus. It was New York. It was a building. A building I knew, I’d seen, I’d been in. The World Trade Center. A Plane. They didn’t know the cause of the “accident”, they said, but I did. It wasn’t an accident. I knew. I knew it and I longed to reach across the ocean and tell them they had to stop pretending. They had to take it seriously. They had to understand.

That which has hated us, hates them too. That which reaches out to murder my people had crossed an ocean to murder theirs. Wake up, I cried inside. Say it. Say it already. Terrorism.

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.

And as I waited for them to admit what I knew without question was the truth, I discovered inside myself a tiny emotion that has filled me with shame for all of the last 15 years. My first reaction to the attack on the World Trade Center was horror, but the second was some small sense of…not happiness, never happy, but “good” – good only because now I thought America would finally understand what it was like to live with the agony of terror.

I listened with disappointment and almost pity as the news broadcasters bantered around about how a plane could have come to crash into one of the tallest building. “Silly man,” I almost shouted, “Terrorism. Come on, you can say it.”

And then, in horror, as I watched, the second plane hit. I started to cry as the shocked voices could be heard through the television; I started to pray, “Oh God, I didn’t mean for this. I didn’t want this. I just wanted them to understand, not this.” My children looked at me, trying to understand. I stopped crying and told them it was time for a snack. I bribed them with cookies and milk upstairs in the dining room; I brought them crayons to color and did everything I could to keep them away from what we loosely called the “TV room”. The television droned on and I would slip away, or sit on the steps and watch half-turned so I  could watch my children and keep them far from what was happening in the distant city where I had met their father, fallen in love, married, and brought three of them into this world.

Two towers on fire, rescue workers rushing in, people panicking in the streets as the Pentagon was hit next; all planes ordered to land. Suddenly, there was a loud sound and I watched in horror again, as the south tower crumbled into itself. And then the northern tower. The people, I thought. oh God, how many were inside? How many didn’t get out?

Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil — the very worst of human nature — and we responded with the best of America.

They kept saying “as many as 50,000 people” came to work each day. I remember them saying that another plane was missing and last tracking said it was heading towards Washington; the White House was evacuated. The count down was running as to when it would hit Washington and the potential targets. Then, reports of a plane crash in Pennsylvania…was it the fourth plane? No one knew and so they kept waiting for it to hit Washington.

Hours and hours of horror. I don’t remember it growing dark here in Israel or putting my children to bed that night; I do remember praying for the injured; even praying there would be injured and not just endless bodies to recover. I remember sitting and crying as I listened to George Bush.

Each year, like tens of thousands of people all over the world, I remember what I was doing on September 11. And I watch the videos. And I pray for the families. I light a candle in their memory – all of them, everywhere they died.

Last year, in shock, I listened as the United States approved the Iran Deal – what a joke, I thought. They are rewarding the very people who perpetrated 9/11. That’s how they commemorate the day?

This year, I am filled with sadness as never before. The United States stands on the edge of a more dangerous world than ever before. What Hitler did in 6 years of war, Iran could now do in minutes. The Soviet Union, the evil, repressive, totalitarian society which imprisoned its own people is no more; Russia today is weaker, divided, and still searching for ways to return to the glory that was their former incarnation.

And America, weaker as well. Divided, isolated and much ridiculed by the world. You play a dangerous game of denial; terrorism has been relegated to being less dangerous than lightning, getting hit by a bus, or meeting death at the “hands” of a lawnmower. This is what people post to Facebook…because terrorism is not their main concern, perhaps not even a concern at all. They laugh and joke about the bus and the lawnmower. Are they laughing today? Probably not, but they will laugh again tomorrow and deny the dangers, just as they did that mourning as the first tower burned.

The numbers are manipulated, 9/11 erased because by factoring it in, the numbers would be so much scarier, or perhaps not. Maybe 15 years later, the pain has lessened, the horror of watching those towers collapse somehow faded?

I don’t know. I can still cry each time I think of that day. The World Trade Centers were relatively new when I started college and we all made fun of them. How ugly we thought they were; how modern and without character. At Columbia University, the buildings were older and so dignified. Years later, I can confess that as a student living in New York, I never liked those towers. They represented a world dedicated to money and business when I was learning about things that seemed so much more important – life, history, humanity.

And then they came down and I have missed them terribly. For years, I missed the innocence I felt was stolen from America on that day. I mourned for the families, but for the nation as well.

I haven’t been to America in 18 years. The timing was wrong, my family was growing. Finances. Life. One son in the army and then another and another. From far away, I have watched in sadness. I hurt for what America has become. Racial intolerance still shocks me. The first best friend I ever had was a young black girl in my class (no, she wasn’t African American then, she was black) and someone called her a nasty name and she looked about to cry. I turned to her as we walked past those nasty children and I asked her if she was black. It had never occurred to me that she was, or that her parents and siblings were. It wasn’t in my vocabulary; not something I noticed. She said what she was. My friend. My neighbor. Sherry. She nodded in what I now think was a rather solemn way and said that she was black. I remember answering, “Oh.” And then remembered I wanted to tell her something about what happened in school. We never discussed her race again; we never discussed my religion. We were two little girls with a love of dolls and playing house. We walked home from school together that day, as we always did because she lived in an apartment on the other side of the open court where we played together. And the next morning, we walked back to school, and home and back and home and back. Until a year or two later, she and her family moved away.

I have always loved that I didn’t know that my best friend was black because it was completely and entirely irrelevant to who we were. Yesterday, I read a long story about “the Falling Man.” Over the last 15 years, the media has been obsessed with identifying this man who was captured falling to his death. Paragraphs and paragraphs of how reporters went from family to family, going through lists of names as if identifying him was some holy grail.

Ultimately, said the article, they think they know who he is. Yes, but what about the wives and children you harmed by invading their privacy and showing a picture of a man seconds away from his death before their eyes? All that 9/11 is about, is lost to people such as these. It isn’t about Sherry being black or the name of that man. It isn’t about each individual,

It was never about that little black girl or her best friend, the white girl who lived across the courtyard. It was never about that man falling. It was always about America.

I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a Power greater than any of us.

There are those that say 15 years on,  Al Qaida is weakened…other than a few massive terror attacks here and there. There are those that say they know how to make America great again…and those who ridicule that statement simply because of who made it.

There are black people dying in the streets of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York – daily. Literally, every day. There are cops, police officers being murdered – murdered and their deaths considered a just response in a violent and racist society. Where have you gone, America?

I look at the images of the burning towers and I remember listening in shock, as President George Bush addressed a nation in pain. I had never liked him before…until that speech. Sometimes, when you make a wrong turn, all you can do is go back and correct your error. After 15 years, America, you need to go back.

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world. Thank you. Good night. And God bless America.

Listen to this speech. Read it. Look at the unity. Listen to the voice of a leader. It was the first time I thought that George W. Bush had really stepped up to meet the challenge. It was a speech like none we have heard since. Forget the economy, forget the politics. Listen to the speech of an American president – perhaps the last one who cared more for his country than his party.
Text of President George W. Bush’s speech, September 11, 2001.

Good evening.

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.

A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil — the very worst of human nature — and we responded with the best of America. With the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it’s prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington D.C. to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks. The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow. Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.

The search is underway for those who were behind these evil acts. I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a Power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.
9/11 attack on Twin Towers: Will Obama use next week's anniversary as a platform to attack the Assad regime?

9/11 attack on Twin Towers: Will Obama use next week’s anniversary as a platform to attack the Assad regime?

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

Thank you. Good night. And God bless America.

Paula Stern

A Soldier’s Mother: A Really Important Secret about Israel (Sh! Don’t tell anyone…)

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

I have a secret to tell you about Israel. You may not know this…and you won’t know it if you read the news.

Today, a building collapsed – or, to be accurate, an underground, four-level parking lot in one of the center’s of Israel’s thriving hi-tech community. Within seconds, literally seconds, emergency calls were generated. The Home Front Command mobilized, the IDF sent their search and rescue division, including search dogs.

So far, no secret. This is what was the top news in Israel and is likely featured in media around the world.

Here is the secretAs Israeli rescue forces dug through the rubble, endangering their lives in the face of potentially further collapses, every one of those workers and most Israelis knew something that won’t appear in mainstream media. Those in desperate need, those screaming out from below the rubble begging Israelis to come help them, were definitely foreign workers or Palestinians. You see, very few Jews actually work in construction in Israel.

The area under question is a building. A single building site. We sent a 60-member national reserves search and rescue unit. We sent 45 specially trained crew members from three different battalions. We also sent another 33 rescue workers from the Home Front Command Central District.

It’s a very sad truth. The work is hard and the pay relatively low for those living in Israel. For Palestinians, the salary is worlds above what they could earn in their own areas and they are grateful for the conditions and the work.

What you saw was a wounded person being carried by seven or 8 rescue workers and medics. As they begin to move, the ground is not level and at least one person almost stumbles and several more rush in to grab the stretcher and assist.

Now, remember my secret. There’s a really good chance that the man lying on that stretcher, having just been pulled from the rubble, is a Palestinian. Do you see any hesitation among the Israelis?

Today, these human beings needed help and our highly trained emergency teams did not hesitate. There are emergency forces in the fire department. This was a civilian building. And yet, no one was fooling around. They called in the guys we send around the world. This is an area in which we excel and one that we share readily with others.

They rushed to the aid of the construction workers, knowing with a very high probability that they were helping Palestinians.

Will we be thanked? Nope, not once.

Will the UN pass a resolution praising our response? Nope.

Will President Obama congratulate us on our humanity, our compassion. Yeah…not.

But you see, it doesn’t matter because what we did, we did because we truly are a society that operates with a simple principle. When a human being is in danger and we have the ability to help, we do.

We have offered help to Turkey, to Syria, certainly to the Jordanians and the Egyptians. We provide constant assistance to the Palestinians – medical, financial, and more.

Today, we simply rushed in to save lives where lives needed to be saved. Nothing else mattered – not their religion, not the color of their skin, not their gender, their economic status. Nothing.

I am very proud of my country at this moment. The best of Israel came shining through today because that’s the kind of nation we have created. Surrounded by enemies, we remain true to a commitment to cherish lives, save lives.

Paula Stern

A Soldier’s Mother: An Apology Deserved

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

There is a concept that is “holy” to those of us who grew up in the west hold dear. It is, in many ways, the foundations of the difference between “us” and “them. It would be great to believe that there is no “us” and “them” but we all know there is – so let’s stop playing that game.

There will be an us and a them until one of two things happen – either they overtake us and overpower the values we have; or we convince them that life is better than death, light is better than darkness, peace is better than war, love is better than hate. It really really really is that simple. Until one side is victorious in convincing the other that their way is correct, there will always be an “us” and a “them.” Perhaps from the time of Cain and Abel; perhaps from the time the ancient Egyptians enslaved the ancient Hebrew. Certainly from the time the Romans believed they had the right to overpower and exile, there has been an “us” and a “them.”

I don’t believe I will ever think that murdering innocents is correct; that firing on a city is justified. I will never accept that the only way to live is to force others to think my way – and I will never find justification in the use of a suicide bomb, opening fire in a restaurant, entering a home and stabbing a child to death.

Perhaps, they will never accept that these things are abhorrent, wrong, unacceptable for any and all reasons. One of the fundamentals of Judaism is the concept that my life has the greatest value…as does yours. If you threaten me, try to take my life, I am completely justified in taking yours first, or killing you to save myself.

What I cannot do, is kill another to save myself. That is not allowed in Judaism. If murdering innocents is the only way to get what I want, what I need, even to save my life, I am not allowed. There, that is it. That is the difference. That is the basis upon which we have built our world.

An extension of that, in a way, is the belief we have in ourselves and in each other, that we will all choose life, that we are all innocent until proven guilty.

A few months ago, a soldier named Elor Azarya shot a terrorist. According to a distorted video, part of the story came out. It would seem, from the misguided and morally bankrupt video of a B’tselem activist, that the soldier shot an innocent man – we know that to be false. The man on the ground had just stabbed a soldier – innocent, he was not.

It would seem that the man on the ground was not armed. This too, the soldier could not have known at the moment the terrorist was shot. So says, finally, senior military experts. What they are now admitting is what I noticed from the start.

The commanders did not secure the area – their mistake. The commanders did not neutralize and check the terrorist – their mistake.

Into their errors, entered a young soldier. What that soldier thought and did cannot be judged lightly by others – certainly not by those who were not there, those who rely on a manipulated video that tells only part of the story. It is wrong for those people to judge, especially wrong for them to slander the soldier, to say that he should “rot in jail” or that he is a “murderer.”

Within days of the incident, an Israeli military judge put aside any claims that this was murder. They thought, at best, it could be termed manslaughter.

Today in Israel, the trial continues – and commanding officers who were there are coming forward to verify that there was justification, that there were concerns.

Two things have to happen now.

First, media outlets such as Haaretz and the Times of Israel, and specifically, journalists such as Gideon Levy and Sarah Tuttle Singer have to apologize to the soldier. Their words were a declaration that the soldier was guilty until proven innocent – and that is outrageous. And now, not only outrageous, but wrong.

Second, the Israeli government has to free the military to do what it has been trained to do – to fight the enemy and while doing so, monitor itself to be the moral compass of our nation. There is no military in the world that is more moral than the Israeli army. We do all that we can to eliminate injury to civilians but we are fighting an enemy that thrives on terror and pain – even that of its own people.

If they place their missiles inside their cities, that does not lessen our moral obligation to protect our cities. We have no choice but to fire into that building, that city. What of the concept presented above, that I have no right to save my life by taking the life of an innocent person?

There is no contradiction. If we warn the civilian population in Gaza that we are about to bomb a target or an area and they choose to surround it and protect it with their lives and the lives of their children (which happened several times during various conflicts/operations/wars), they are no longer innocent bystanders. With their bodies and their lives, if they choose to protect terrorists, they forfeit the right to be called innocent.

Elor’s commanding officers are appearing in court to say that they too had concerns, given the way the terrorist was dressed, that he could be hiding explosives, that he could post a threat. That fear, and the terrorist movement triggered Elor to shoot. If he was wrong than what we have is the wrongful death of a combatant in a war situation – a war triggered by the very man who was killed. That Arab chose to stab a soldier in Hebron. Had he not attacked the soldiers, he would not have been lying there; he would not have been shot. Elor did not open fire in cold blood to kill an innocent man; he opened fire on a confirmed terrorist who could have been armed with an explosive and was moving in an area where other soldiers and medics were around.

If he was wrong in shooting – blame the commanding officers who did not secure the site; blame the commanding officers who did not protect the perimeter. This is Israel, where the commanding officers step for forward and lead the way. I personally know of an incident in which a commanding officer took responsibility for neutralizing a terrorist who died of gunshot wounds fired from no less than three different directions and more than a dozen angles. One officer stepped forward and said that he killed the terrorist. Elor’s commanding officers must do the same.

On March 27, 2016, I posted an article to the Times of Israel condemning an unnamed journalist/blogger for  rushing to condemn an Israeli soldier before any facts were in. Four days later, the Times of Israel proved the post. Their claim that they are the “marketplace of ideas” was a lie. I was accused of “threatening” and “endangering” the life of the woman who had called for our soldier to “rot in jail.” No threat was made; I didn’t endanger anyone. All I did was share what she said (and show how it went against democracy, against decency, against Israel).

Today and in the months since her cruel words were published (and yes, another of my posts from the Times of Israel was rejected because I had “published” it on a closed group on Facebook, so I can use the term “publish” when speaking of a Facebook post), she has continued with the rhetoric against this soldier, never once accepting that she lacks the knowledge or the right to determine the outcome of a trial without making a travesty of justice.

The Greatest Threat to Israel Today remains those who want us to surrender, to weaken ourselves, to hold ourselves to a standard above all others, even if it means paying the price for that standard with our blood and the blood of our children.

An apology is deserved. That it will never be delivered (at least not in a sincere and honest fashion) is the greatest of insults – not to Elor Azarya, but to the very foundations of the country we have built here.

Each day, more and more, I believe that Elor will walk away from this horrible time in his life, stronger for having had the courage to deal with the pressure placed upon his young shoulders. The only open question is whether Israel will walk away nearly as strong.

Paula Stern

New Management: Liberman Says Soldiers Shouldn’t Have to Consult a Lawyer on the Battlefield

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Israel’s still relatively new Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) on Monday distinguished himself from his predecessor in the most decisive way, when he stressed that both the medic Elor Azaria who is on trial this week for shooting dead a terrorist who had already been neutralized; and the soldier from the Netzah Yehuda battalion who may go up on charges for shooting a psychologically impaired Arab who stormed–albeit unarmed–an IDF post outside Ofra, are innocent until proven guilty.

The statement, which contradicted former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s all out attack on Azaria only a few hours after anti-Zionist NGO B’Tselem released a video showing the shooting, before an investigation into the matter had been launched, was a more decisive note of change at the Defense helm than even the 50 sorties Liberman had sent into the Gaza Strip the other day, only 15 minutes after a single Hamas rocket had fallen in the town of Sderot.

The loud and clear statement from the Defense Minister that he will back his soldiers rather than sic lawyers at them will likely go a long way to improve IDF morale, because, as Liberman reminded reporters on Monday, “In the State of Israel, in a Democratic country, only the court has the right to convict, not the media. And as long as a man was not convicted he is innocent.”

Liberman also told the reporters that “soldiers cannot go out on a mission with an attorney attached to them. Which is why sometimes they make the right decision, sometimes they don’t. But we can’t have a situation whereby every soldier would be asking for legal advice before they go out on a mission.”

Liberman’s comments were made on a day when the Elor Azaria defense was doing exceptionally well, calling to the stand a witness that had been on the prosecution’s list but was not called up. Soon enough it became clear why the prosecutors chose to skip him — a platoon commander in Azaria’s company, he fully supported the medic’s version that the terrorist on the ground was suspected of carrying a suicide belt under his coat. In fact, the witness told the court he had advised Azaria’s platoon commander to open fire on the terrorist on the ground should he appear to be trying to detonate a bomb.

A sapper who testified earlier for the defense was critical of the manner in which the terrorists were being handled, as the order to move their bodies was given before the sappers had a chance to examine them for hidden explosives.

Since much of the trial hinges on Sgt. Azaria’s state of mind, and whether or not he really believed the terrorist on the ground posed a danger after being neutralized, both testimonies have boosted the defense’s case.

David Israel

A Soldier’s Mother: Separating the Sportsmen from the Children

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

The Olympics are, for much of the world, an exciting opportunity to watch what can arguably be called the largest, most diverse and clearly most global competition that takes place just once every four years. For Israelis, the Olympics comes each time with tremendous emotional baggage. I was 12 years old when the Israelis went to Munich. I remember clearly being told that there had been a terror attack and Israelis were being held hostage.

From that moment, the sun stopped shining, the world stopped turning. My completely focus was on Munich…and then, the Olympic committee ordered the games to continue and I was torn between anger deeper than any I had ever felt and utter shock. How…how could they play games while men’s lives were in danger.

And then word that the Germans had mounted a rescue…some rescue…I would learn later. Three of the hijackers survived and all of the hostages were murdered? You call that a rescue? The Olympics were never the same for me. I barely can watch them. For all of these forty plus years, even a moment of silence was denied to these men who had come ready to join what was supposed to be the ultimate symbol of hope and peace.

This year, I was happy to see that they had finally agreed to recognize the murdered Israelis and the opening ceremony was set to be a great event. Only the Lebanese children didn’t want to play nicely. They refused to allow the Israeli team to board the bus.

I’m proud of the Israeli team for refusing the Olympic committee’s attempt to divide the group and spread them among the other buses, and I’m baffled at what idiot thought to put the Lebanese and Israeli teams together in the first place.

Then, a Saudi child refused to enter a judo competition because he was set to compete against an Israeli and now, a Syrian child has refused because he might have to shake the hand of the Israeli boxer in the ring.

Since it is clear that these actions were part of the will of their teams, I am baffled as to why the Olympic committee is not automatically disqualifying these teams entirely from the competition.

Why are they allowing politics to take front stage at the Olympics?

Ultimately, as I watched Israeli’s champion, Sagi Muki compete in the semi-finals, I saw a man, a sportsman and more, I saw grace, maturity, and respect as he entered the competition, and lost.

The Olympics really isn’t about winning or losing. It isn’t really about the medals. It is about coming together, putting aside the politics of nations and sharing what should be the love of competition, the fun of the sport.

Shame on the Lebanese, Saudi, and Syrian children who will, perhaps, one day grow up and hopefully recognize how utterly childish they were, there in front of all the world to see. Congratulations to the Israeli team for acting with dignity and self-respect, for making us all proud.

It really isn’t about how many medals you win or you don’t win; it’s how you enter the competition and how you leave it. Sagi, we are all proud of you…you are a champion simply for how you behaved and we in Israel salute you!

As for the Saudi who refused to challenge you – hey, he probably knew he was going to lose and didn’t understand that the dignity and honor of the competition is all in that moment when you simply enter the playing field.

Paula Stern

A Soldier’s Mother: The Hypocrisy of Israel

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

As a technical writer, I can tell you that the hardest part of documenting a product is when it is a moving target, when the parameters keep changing. As a parent, I can tell you that if your rules keep changing, you’ll never really be able to get your children to listen to you. As a voter, I can tell you that the more a politician changes his/her position, the less likely it is that I will vote for him or her.

As an Israeli, I condemn any attempt to deny the followers of a religion access and the right to practice their religion on their holy sites. We as a nation would never enter the Bahai Temple in Haifa and remove all the Bahais. We have never attempted to close the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to Christians (and our police regularly enter only to stop Christian sects from killing each other (as told to me on three separate occasions by Israeli police).

We have only closed off the Temple Mount to Muslims after incidents of violence and even then, for very limited times and usually only restricting access to young males and not the entire Muslim population wishing to visit.

But when it comes to the Jews, our government rarely hesitates to block our access, restrict our rights, humiliate and insult Jewish visitors. And worse, the rules are arbitrarily enforced and constantly changing at the whim of the Jewish police and Arab WAQF who watches and waits to pounce because there is little more that can drive them to violence than the site of a Jewish man or woman whispering a prayer. Even moving one’s lips is enough to get you thrown off the Temple Mount…if you are a Jew.

When you expect rules to be followed, but keep changing them, the less respect you deserve, the less likely it is that anyone will uphold them.

The Jewish people have been fighting for centuries, for millennia, to be free – free to live in our land, free to worship our God, free to raise our children and practice our religion. And we have been successful throughout the world. The Soviet Union has collapsed and the Jews can now freely come here and, for the most part, practice Judaism if they choose to be there. Such it is in most of Europe, North, Central, and South America.

Really, it is only in Arab countries, Muslim lands, where Jews are restricted. For the most part, they have left; only small pockets of Jews remain. Syria has no Jews; Afghanistan might have one Jew left. Egypt has less than 40 and Yemen less than 20. There are reportedly around 35 in Bahrain and less than 10 in Iraq.

Only in Arab countries…and Israel, are Jews restricted from where they can travel, where they can pray. And not just pray. In Israel, for Jews wanting to visit the single most holy place in all of the world, the list of what we are not to do is both arbitrary and growing.

Can you imagine a sign such as this one placed at the entrance to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv forbidding entrance to non-Jews?

Tell me, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, what logic are you attempting to convey about the importance of the Temple Mount to others, when you fail to uphold our rights yourself?

Yes, the world should watch the video you are so proud to announce (below) and attend the seminar you are so desperately offer the UN. Perhaps, Mr. Prime Minister, you should consider attending it yourself.

Even as the Prime Minister of the State of Israel…EVEN as our Prime Minister, you do not have the right to stop us from praying on the Temple Mount.  Why can’t you just say that if Jews praying on the Temple Mount offends our enemies, that is simply proof of what is wrong with them?

You are a hypocrite if you call to congratulate our athletes in Rio for standing proud against Arab intimidation there, but fail to show the same pride here. Yes, Or Sasson was correct in offering his hand to the Egyptian athlete, even knowing that there was a good chance that good old Islam El Shehaby was going to refuse to shake it. So why is it wrong for a Jew to pray? What is wrong with you, Mr. Prime Minister?

Let us be free to pray in every corner of our land, as we are free all over the world. Let us return in pride to the Temple Mount, as we have returned in pride to all other corners of our land. Call it. Announce it. Demand it. From this moment onward, Jews WILL pray on the Temple Mount and if the Arabs turn violence, THEY will be removed, not us. If THEY provoke us, the Temple Mount will be closed every mourning for four hours a day – and only Jews will be allowed up there…and Christians, because we are not afraid of Christian prayers…and even Muslims, if they promise not to be violent because we are not afraid of Muslim prayers either. Let all who are prepared to pray on the Temple Mount be allowed to do so in peace. Remove those who cause violence, not those who are the victims.

And if you won’t do it, Mr. Prime Minister of the State of Israel, then remove yourself. I think, Mr. Prime Minister, it isn’t only UNESCO and the UN that needs that history lesson.

And the list of things we cannot do…here it is…at least as of an hour or so ago…

You aren’t allowed to pray, if you are a Jew, on the Temple Mount.

You aren’t allowed to move your lips in silent prayer, if you are a Jew on the holiest site known to our religion

You aren’t allowed to whisper, lest you actually be saying a prayer, if you are a Jew.

You aren’t allowed to bless your people, your family, your children, unless you are a Jew, or a bereaved father who is able to “sneak” the prayer into a guided tour after his child has been brutally murdered, stabbed to death in her bed.

As of this past week, you aren’t allowed to cry, even if you are overwhelmed with the holiness of the place and the amazing opportunity to enter this holy place.

And as of today, you apparently aren’t even allowed to mourn up on the Temple Mount. You aren’t allowed to rip your clothing up there, if you are a Jew, because the guards who honor Muslim sensitivities above all others are Jewish and they know that a Jew in mourning rips their clothes as a sign of their grief.

That’s right. Can you imagine? A Jew is not allowed to whisper, cry, rip his shirt in grief. If he does, an Arab will come over and tell a Jewish policeman…look at him, look what he is doing. Get him out of here…and the policeman will.

This is what we have come to? This is the freedom we have in our land? That even our tears are considered enough of an insult to demand our being denied access to OUR Temple Mount?

Paula Stern

A Soldier’s Mother: Some Advice for Donald Trump

Monday, August 15th, 2016

{Disclaimer: No, I’m not a political analyst; not an expert on any specific political system, government, world. I’ve never won a presidential election but if it helps, I can honestly say I’ve never lost one. What I am is a complex mixture of worlds and places and beliefs and these views are mine alone, my advice for Donald Trump on how to win the election…with no guarantees but plenty of hope.}

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Donald,

I’m watching what is happening and I’m cringing. I am constantly correcting people – that isn’t what he meant…no, that’s not exactly what he said. What he means is…what he hopes is…despite what he said…

So, my first piece of advice is to shut up. I know I could be more diplomatic about how to phrase that but diplomacy right now doesn’t seem to be a strong point of yours and you seem to take pride in that, so I’m going to give it to you straight. You can probably win the election if you just shut up.

Hillary is a walking disaster; probably the worst candidate since Jimmy Carter and she might even be worse because she’s a lot smarter than he ever was. She will mess this up, but only if you let her and if you manage not to mess yourself up more.

So far, you aren’t managing to do that. In some corner of my brain, I respect the fact that you think you can win by being honest and telling Americans what you think. You can’t. They aren’t used to that kind of honesty from a candidate. If you offer the logical opinion that it is insane to open America’s borders without a system in place to protect Americans from the potential infiltration of thousands of terrorists, you are coming off as anti-Muslim.

Why? Good question and more than I can explain now but basically, Americans view politicians as used cars salesmen. Whatever you say is a fraction of the truth and so they’ve learned to filter a candidates words as either greater or lesser than the truth. Whatever direction will make you look worse – that’s how they’ll take your message and put it into that filter. If you say you don’t plan to raise taxes, that means you’ll raise them some. If you say you want to curb something, they’ll take that to mean you plan to cut it entirely.

The reality is, all nations need to protect their citizens and today’s greatest threat does indeed come from extremism. And yes, the most extreme nations in the world today are by an large Muslim nations – Iran, Libya, Syria, to name three. But Iran and Libya and Syria aren’t just across the ocean to most Americans, they are on a different planet.

Americans are worried more about their economy, their health care and day to day issues. If you’re going to talk – talk about what Obama has done to the military; speak about the proliferation of mass shootings – primarily in places where strict gun laws are already on the books. Gun control won’t stop a terrorist – it never has; it never will. You want them to focus on who the terrorist is? Good luck with that. They’ve had 8 years of denial to damage their ability. It’s a workplace accident; a man screaming “Allahu Akbar” as he guns people down somehow might not be a terrorist attack. Give that fight up, Donald, and move on. If you’re elected, you can begin to correct that by immediately recognizing truth and maybe Americans will catch up to you, but not now.

Reality check, Donald. Half the people you need to vote for you are women. You haven’t shown a lot of respect for women as equals in your life and the fact is, other than your daughter, your record with women sucks. So stop trying to defend it. Shut up. Hillary’s got Bill on her side and most women find him and their relationship repulsive. So let your daughter speak on that issue or give up.

You want to make America great but you know what, Americans are asking me what you mean by that. I think they’ve forgotten or maybe they think America still is great. From my experience, most Americans have little understanding of the world outside its borders and despite eight miserable years of Obama, have yet to realize that much of the world thinks America’s day has come and gone and this election is just proving them right. Shut up and maybe find a different slogan. After Americans swallowed “Yes we can” – they’re tired of meaningless words.

Learn. Speak to foreign leaders and ask them to tell you what they think. But listen. Learn to listen. Show pictures of you in the newspapers being advised by military leaders; congressmen and women. Set up meetings; let them talk and you listen. In every picture they take, show yourself LISTENING, absorbing, interested. Not talking. Not telling everyone you know better.

Understand the differences between the 50 states. What is important to people living in Alabama? Missouri? Idaho? Oregon? Meet with people and sit and listen. Ask their advice and talk about them, if you are going to speak at all let it be to show that you’ve learned how much you need to learn. Time is short.

If you stop talking and start listening, you have a chance. Fact is, you’ve surrounded yourself with good people – show them off. You ran that TV show for years. Important rule in being interviewed is not to bad-mouth others. Stop talking about Clinton. Let her shoot herself in the foot. Now’s the time to become Presidential…or lose. Show dignity because somehow Clinton is outclassing you in that area.

That’s what’s missing in this election – neither you nor Hillary strike us, the common people, as caring about us. You need us to vote for you but you’ve forgotten that we have brains, feelings, needs.

America needs you, Donald. Not because of who you are but because of who she is…at least, that is the general conception of most people who are currently thinking about voting for you.

If you want to win this election, you need to convince more Americans to be pro-Trump rather than just anti-Clinton. To do that, you need to do two things – listen to the people, Donald. Travel all around America and listen and secondly, shut up.

Paula Stern

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