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July 25, 2016 / 19 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘soldiers’

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

Lone, But Not Alone: Lone Soldiers In Israel

Monday, May 16th, 2016

What causes young Jews from all over the world to come to Israel and enlist in the Israeli army? Perhaps it is an echo of “Lech Lecha” from the time of Avraham Avinu? Perhaps it is Jewish pride. Perhaps it is for adventure. Whatever the reason, in the IDF, lone soldiers are a special breed.

Ari Friedman

Ari Friedman

The term “lone soldiers” refers to ordinary conscripts who lack a support network: orphans, Israelis whose parents are abroad for part of or all of the year, Israelis who come from broken homes; chareidi soldiers whose parents have disowned them and those young men and women who come from abroad to enlist in the IDF.

Rosh Tzurim in Gush Etzion is a popular kibbutz for religious lone soldiers. It offers a rural setting close to Yerushalayim and has a small community of approximately 200 families. Each lone soldier is assigned to two or three families, who host them for meals during Shabbatot and chaggim.

Most of the English-speaking lone soldiers who live in Rosh Tzurim seem to gravitate to our home. For instance, there is twenty-year-old Binny Ovadia from San Diego. “I was always interested in the idea of being drafted into the IDF,” Binny stated. “I had many friends who served and I heard a lot of stories, so the idea was floating around in my head for a couple of years prior to my draft. My family was very surprised that I decided to enlist, and, for a while, they were against it. As time went on my family started supporting my decision.

“The families that have taken me in and the kibbutz in which I live have really changed, in a positive way, my experience in the army. Having meals taken care of by other people frees up my time while off base and allows me to go home without the stress of having to prepare three meals for Shabbat,” Binny said.

Binny described a bit of army life. “The army is what you make of it – like most things in life. I’ve gone entire weeks sleeping an hour a night, marching through the rain and knee-high mud, carrying 40% body weight for days on end, and marching 70 kilometers in sixteen hours… Being in the army means doing everything from polishing boots and making lunch, to arresting people, doing riot control and ambushes.”

Sasha Rulev, who was born in Khmelnitsky in the Ukraine in 1994, was inspired to enlist in the army “to thank the land and those who help guard me.” He serves as a combat soldier (parachutist) and is presently on the Gaza border. He and his mother communicate via email or Skype. While she was initially against his joining the army, she is now proud of him.

Last May, Sasha attended an event celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Adopt a Fighter Organization. The army had flown in the mothers of twenty lone soldiers. It was so heartwarming to see the video of twenty soldiers, including Sasha, standing unsuspectingly on the stage as a group of mothers suddenly came towards them. Sasha had not seen his mother for three years!

Religion plays a large part in Sasha’s life. “Religion really helps me during the hard times. It gives me koach,” he explains. He was in the army for Yom Kippur and he was not optimistic that there would be a minyan, but almost all of the soldiers came to services.

What Sasha dislikes in the army is the political side. “There are times when we would like to do something, but our hands are tied. For instance, when I was stationed in Chevron, leftists would come and try to provoke us, but we were not allowed to do anything about it.”

Adena Hershberg

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

A Soldier’s Mother: My Nakba

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Guest post by the amazing RM Bellerose (Ryan):

On Thursday, I will celebrate Israel’s 68th Independence Day – each one a hard-won victory, a never-ending triumph over enemies that have never wanted peace, are not willing to talk or compromise. In fact, our very existence in “their” neighborhood is a constant affront to too many of them. Not all, but still most.

On Thursday, as I celebrate with my family, too many Palestinians will be mourning the “Nakba.” The Arabic word can be translated as “disaster” or “catastrophe.” Nice, huh? Meanwhile, back at the farm, tens of thousands of Palestinians (including the family of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestine Liberation Organization Palestinian Authority) use our doctors and hospitals, our buses, our electricity, the roads we built, the schools we support, the universities we subsidize.

I am angered when I hear the word “Nakba” – if Israel did not exist, thousands of people around the world would not be here today because when a real disaster happened – in Haiti, in Kenya, in Nepal, in the United States, in Canada, in Turkey and so many other places, Israelis flew to save lives and lessen the catastrophe. No, on Thursday when the Palestinians mourn their ‘Nakba,” it is important to remember that the nakba is as imaginary and non-existent as the Palestine they claim to want. Neither exists and the world is better off for that.

I saw this post on Facebook by an amazing man that I have never met, at least not in person. He is a Native American. I grew up supporting the Native American cause, hating what the greedy white man did to the indigenous population of North America…and then, more recently, I heard about Ryan and began reading his thoughts. He is pushing Jews to realize our own great truth – that we too are an indigenous people fighting for our homeland.

With permission, I offer you Ryan’s “My Nakba” – which is so very much what I would have written if I had been smart enough to think of it.

My Nakba,

I want to tell you about my nakba. My invented, ridiculous, ignorant, regressive and cowardly Nakba.

My Nakba is the Arabs who stab little old ladies and 13 year old boys.

My Nakba is the Rabbis for human rights who act like dhimmis in the name of peace.

My Nakba is the woman who writes for the Times of Israel but spouts anti-Israel propaganda and she insults the victims of terror.

My Nakba is the children who stab other children hoping one day they too can kill a Jew.

My Nakba is an old woman who plants a seed of hate deep into her children knowing she might never see it grow but she plants it anyway because she has a granddaughter and she thinks that one day her granddaughter’s granddaughter might kill a Jew.

My Nakba is rolling fields, filled with garbage by Arabs who cannot be bothered to put it in bins. its empty half built homes built with euros skimmed from aid meant for the poor.

I thought about writing more, but honestly my b.s. tolerance is full,

So I am gonna tell you the truth about Israel:

Israel is not perfect, but it is the one place Ive been that actually strives for perfection.

Israel is filled with people who agonize over their morals even when it means that they end up harming their own cause but they wont change because they truly believe God is working through them to make the world better.

Israel is a beautiful place where people don’t stand in line but help mothers hold their crying babies while they search for change for the bus.

Israel is a crazy place where nobody ever learned how to park properly and if they did, they just don’t care.

Israel is a place where they expect you to be as tough and resilient as they are and they suffer no fools gladly.

Israel is a place where a guy wearing trendy clothes and carrying the most modern technology is speaking a 4 thousand year old language, and praying exactly as his great great great grandfather did.

Israel is a place where a woman is encouraged to speak her mind.

Israel is a place where I don’t feel out of place even though I am not Jewish.

I know some of you will laugh at the first part of this post especially after you watch a certain bloggers “speech” you may have missed the irony of the introduction to that speech, you may not have understood the subtle undermining behind the florid language, but now maybe you might.

 

Paula Stern

A Soldier’s Mother: Out Come the Flags…

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

On the houses, from the windows, on the cars, from the balconies. All over Israel, Israeli flags are flying. A few minutes ago, just 45 minutes before the beginning of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for our fallen soldiers and those who lost their lives in terror attacks, I heard a drill going.

flag1

Slowly, the country is counting the minutes until the siren that begins a 24 hour period of intense mourning. We mourn this year for over 24,000 victims of this endless war waged against us. Soldiers and civilians, men and women, children, parents, wives and husbands, grandparents, infants.

Soon, the siren will sound. Already, the stories have begun to be told. Of Hadar Cohen, who was only 19 when terrorists attacked a border guard. Without hesitation, Hadar stepped forward and shot the terrorist and as she focused on taking her shot and saving her friend, another terrorist was focusing on her. Her parents have become part of the family of bereaved families.

And Ezra Schwartz, an American student who was visiting Israel and was shot in a terror attack. His mother has come to Israel to take part in the ceremonies and the national day of mourning.

And soldiers who died in the Yom Kippur war…tomorrow, David will stand beside the grave of one of these soldiers during the siren. I hurt for him, for what he will feel and for what the families feel.

The next 24 hours in Israel are among the hardest in Israel. We know that tomorrow night we will celebrate. We will smile and sing; we will watch the fireworks and celebrate our Independence Day.

But before we do, we will mourn with all our hearts. We will listen to the families tell us of their loss, of the amazing family members who live on in their hearts.

The neighbor was drilling, just 45 minutes before Memorial Day begins, so that he could hang a flag from his balcony.

flag3

It joins dozens of others on our blocks – on the houses, on the cars.

I won’t go to the ceremony this year. It is something I give to myself. I have a soldier in the army. I work hard to hold my tears back, to stop the endless worry for his safety.

All other years I go and I pay my tribute to those who have fallen. For these few years, I stay home. I stand and think of those we have lost during the siren, but I don’t go.

I will listen to the stories on live broadcasts and watch and learn.

Of those who fell in 1948, and those who fell in all the wars since. I will listen to the children – some of whom never knew their fathers.

And I will mourn and I will cry. But I will hold on to the knowledge that after tomorrow, another day will come.

But for now, in a few minutes, we will light the memorial candle in our house, we will listen to the siren, and we will remember them.

 

Israel flag half mast

Paula Stern

A Soldier’s Mother: London is Doomed

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Doomed…just doomed.

They went to the polls, as democracies will do…and…well, let’s just say that if what they chose reflects how they feel, every Jew in London should be buying a ticket out now.

Their choice was Sadiq Khan. And who is this man? Well, for those who believe terror is wrong, that hatred is not the right choice, here are some highlights of this man’s life:

  • He was a ‘legal consultant’ for  Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to conspiring to murder US citizens  as part of the September 11 terror attacks. When we use the term “legal consultant” – that means Khan had a choice, and chose wrong.
  • Sadiq Khan also chose to represent Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and a man well known for his hatred and extremism. Though, Farrakhan was banned from the United Kinddom for calling Judaism a‘gutter religion,” Khan still believed Farrakhan deserved his services.
  • Khan also shared a platform with terrorist Yasser al-Siri, who called for the corpses of American soldiers to be dragged through the streets.

Are you proud of this victory? Muslim extremists should be, peace loving human beings…not so much; Jews, not at all.

London has fallen…and not just the bridge…

Paula Stern

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/a-soldiers-mother-london-is-doomed/2016/05/08/

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