Hamas War

Monday, September 27, 2004

With the Wonder of a Child

Musings #71
September 23, 2004
The 8th of Tishrei

With the Wonder of a Child

Yesterday I took my granddaughter to get her first pair of real shoes. It was quite an event, our inaugural purchase in the new shopping mall in Pisgat Zeev (the first Jerusalem neighborhood we reach when travelling from Shiloh.) When I bought my own children’s “first shoes” they were all younger, and I don’t remember any of them reacting with the same joy and enthusiasm as Hallel.

First we showed her the display shoe of the style we had hoped would fit, and she grabbed it with a possessiveness, like she had been waiting her entire life for just that shoe. A few minutes later, with the proper size on her feet, we gently pried the shoe from hands and stood her up on the floor. Then she grabbed our hands and tried walking with the bright, red shoes on her feet. In less than a minute she let go and we followed.

It was thrilling watching the total happiness and amazement that radiated from her, as for the first time she could freely wander and such wonders she saw. Everything caught her attention, and when we took her into the large toy store, she wheeled around a variety of doll carriages and little wagons. Later we let her walk into the supermarket, where her enthusiasm over the different colored peppers on display was even more than she had shown over the balloons in the wide corridor. She tried to grab grapes and then was easily distracted when we showed her the colored containers of fabric softeners and detergents. Following Hallel, I, too began to see the supermarket as a beautiful mix of colors and treasures. By looking at the mall with Hallel’s eyes I, too, saw abundance and riches.

Yom Kippur
On Yom Kippur we fast and confess all possible sins to G-d. Then we are to be forgiven, and we become as “new.” Our slates are wiped clean, as clean as that of a child. We are supposed to be changed by the process of tshuva, repentance. What’s the purpose of these weeks of soul-searching, all of the hours of prayer, confession and twenty-five hours of fasting if we’re going to remain the same as before?

As new people we should be looking at the world with new eyes. We should be looking at the world, at G-d’s creations and abundance with the joy of a toddler. By cleaning ourselves of sin we should be washing away doubts and cynicism. We must purify our faith.

On Yom Kippur we imitate the angels, who have no bodily needs and thereby neither eat nor drink. We can handle it for a day at the most. G-d helps us by giving us prayers to say, more than on any other day. It’s like when Hallel needed our hands for her very first steps with her first shoes.

Our challenge is following G-d when he’s not holding our hands. Our challenge is seeing the beauty of His gifts. We must learn to see the world with the wonder of a child.

Chag Sameach and Gmar Chatima Tova to all of you.
Batya Medad, Shiloh

Monday, September 20, 2004

None of My Business

Musings #70
September 20, 2004
The 5th of Tishrei

None of My Business

Even though I’m an American citizen, born in Brooklyn to parents, also, born in Brooklyn, I’ve never voted in American elections, and I have no plans to ever do so.

When I made aliyah, a few decades ago, the minimum age for voting in American elections was twenty-one, and I had just celebrated that birthday (and got married, too.) It was still summer when we boarded the boat, a few months before election day.

Recently, as the next American presidential elections have been “heating up,” there have been all sorts of notices being cyber-distributed urging all American citizens to take advantage of their legal right and vote in the elections. Some include dire warnings that Kerry’s a danger to Israel, while other claim that Bush is the danger, and others, non-partisan, say: “Just vote.”

Some American Israelis say that since we’re taxed, we must vote. Even that isn’t so simple, since very few of us, American Israelis, make the sort of income that is taxed from abroad, and we renew our American passports without any problems. Yes, I still hold an American passport, and when necessary I use it, and we registered all of our children, and they, too have American passports. I don’t see any contradiction in this; there is no law requiring Americans to vote. A sizable percentage of resident American citizens don’t vote, and they’re not breaking any law. Not voting is not a rejection of citizenship. Neither American Law, nor Israeli Law forbids dual citizenship.

My primary citizenship is Israeli, and I don’t feel a moral right to interfere with or influence American life. I don’t live in America and haven’t for over thirty years. In the same vein, I don’t think that those not living in Israel have any rights to interfere or influence Israeli life, and that includes politics. In addition, the top priority of American politicians should be what’s best for America, and therefore, any promises made concerning Israel are suspect. Even with the best of intentions, their job is to promote America and not Israel. We have enough trouble trusting our own politicians, who should be thinking: Israel first, not wondering what will please a bunch of foreigners.

America is not Israel’s savior. It doesn’t even treat us as a trusted and respected friend. The “financial aid” America gives Israel is nothing more than coupons to support/subsidize American industry, in the process weakening our own struggling economy. Even the so-called support for Israel’s establishment wasn’t simple. The story of Truman’s old Jewish friend struggling to get an appointment to beg (shades of Esther and Achashverosh) for his promise of support is no secret. Don’t forget how Kissinger encouraged Nixon to delay delivering military supplies during our most difficult days of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when Israel’s survival was in doubt. America is not a trustworthy friend.

Whenever Israel does something to defend itself, America chastises us, telling us to do the Christian thing and turn the other cheek, even though they, themselves, have no compunctions when bombing those who may be supporting their enemies.

Jay Pollard wasn’t the only American defense employee* tempted to inform Israel of secret information it was supposed to have received according to various treaties. He is jailed in the most difficult of conditions for giving information to an ally, while enemy spies have been “lightly” punished or deported. Pollard’s punishment is without legal precedent and totally out of proportion to any other in American history.

The bottom line is that I don’t consider the American government my government. Any influence it may have on Israel comes from Israeli weakness. The Americans can only control us if we let them. I only vote in Israeli elections, and I search hard for candidates who are independent of foreign control.

Those Americans residing in America should vote, and Americans living abroad who feel that it’s important to vote, should vote, too. I am not writing this to convince anyone not to vote. I am just explaining why I’m not voting. If Americans elect a person of extremely, high moral character, it will be good for America and good for all the world, including Israel. The problem is finding a successful politician with that trait.

(*There are others who just didn’t inform Israel and therefore weren’t prosecuted and are unknown by the general public.)

Batya Medad, Shiloh

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Rosh Hashannah Reflections

Musings #69
September 19, 2004
The 4th of Tishrei, Tzom Gedalia

Rosh Hashannah Reflections

Using all our senses…
V’karev pizurainu mebain hagoyim… And (G-d,) gather our scattered remnants from (Exile) the nations…” This is one of the lines that’s repeated a number of times in the Rosh Hashannah prayers. To paraphrase and interpret, we are commanding G-d to return Jews, scattered all over the world, Home from the galut, exile. This Rosh Hashannah, as I heard and sang those familiar words, it hit me how easy it is to sense the progress of the return.

Let’s start with the sense of hearing. Just listening to the various accents leading the dovening, Birkat Kohanim and making the brachot during the Torah reading in our little shul, it was clear that in Shiloh we have immigrants from North America, North Africa, Europe and further. Smell and taste are sensed from the foods cooked and served for the holidays, and everyday. There was lots more than gefilte fish coming out of the local kitchens here. Culinary delicacies from Yemen, Morocco, Russia, France, New Zealand and more vied with modern Israeli specialties. Seeing all of my neighbors of various colors and features is an easy way of remembering that Shiloh is a magnet for “pizurainu,” “our scattered remnants.” And as for touch, it’s real, not an illusion; as my friends and greeted each other, we could feel the moshiach getting closer.

You and Us
This year, while I was dovening, I found myself noticing something in the language of the prayers. We pray directly to G-d, using the second person, as if we’re talking directly to a friend. It’s unlike many languages that dictate that when speaking to someone distinguished, one speaks in third person. This has me confused, as it is considered proper nowadays to use third person when speaking to a rabbi. I wonder when this third person to a rabbi talk began. It doesn’t seem Jewish. If we can speak directly to G-d, then we should speak directly to other men, even distinguished rabbis.

Judaism is klal, community. We doven in the plural linguistically and literally, as we’re supposed to doven in a minyon. In our prayers we ask G-d to help us, in the plural, not singular. The focus of Rosh Hashannah prayers is the People, the Nation, not the individual. We beseech Elokeinu, Avinu, Malkeinu, Our G-d, Our Father, Our King.

“Zachrainu l’chaim, Melech chafaitz b’chaim..” “Remember us for life, the King who desires life.” During the Ten Days of Repentance, from Rosh Hashannah to Yom Kippur, we add extra requests to the “Amidah—Shmoneh Esreh,” the “Prayer of the Eighteen Blessings” said three times a day on weekdays and a fourth on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and holidays. As the prayer opens we ask for Zachrainu l’chaim from the “Melech chafaitz b’chaim” Remember to give us, as a People, life, because You, G-d, are a King who desires life.

Towards the end of the prayer we add a strong request that summarizes the theme of the season, the theme of all of our Yomim Nora’im, Days of Awe prayers:
B’Sefer Chaim, In The Book of Life, bracha v’shalom, blessing and peace, u’parnasah tovah, and good livelihood, n’zachair, v’n’kataiv l’fanecha, may we be remembered and inscribed before/by you, Anachnu v’chal Amcha Beit Yisrael, We, All of Us, All of Your People, Family of Israel, l’chaim tovim, ul’shalom, for a good life and for peace.

We are praying not for ourselves, not for our private, personal desires, not even just for our family and close friends. We are praying for all of G-d’s people, all of the Jewish people. All are included in our prayers, even if they themselves aren’t praying. Anachnu amcha, we are your people G-d, and our prayers are joint prayers as a family, Beit Yisrael. L’chaim tovim, in Hebrew the word “chaim,” life is in the plural. Life is complicated and consists of many different aspects; they should all be good. Ul’shalom, peace, the true peace, not a false, artificial one, that isn’t peace at all.

For all this we pray directly to G-d.

Batya Medad, Shiloh

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Take the Hint

Musings #68
September 10, 2004

Take the Hint

Sometimes things are very obvious. This morning was a perfect example. It was freezing cold, even though the sun was bright. A brisk wind caused waves in the pool, so it looked more like a lake. I was the first swimmer at the pool this morning, even though it was almost a half hour after opening. The lifeguard, fully dressed, was shivering under her blanket-like towel. This year it was easy for us to take the hint and accept the the pool’s closing for the winter.

A year ago, when I realized that I’d be teaching fewer hours, I was able to quickly offer my daughter some of my newly freed time to help her with her baby, my first grandchild. I wasn’t looking to reduce my hours, but I quickly found something even better to do with my time, teach English to the cutest, sweetest and certainly smartest baby ever.

In the spring of 1967 when Israel found itself facing war, it had no plans of liberating (or conquering) any lands, Biblical or otherwise. It was facing the battle of survival. After six days* of fighting, when the war was over The Jewish State found itself possessing its Biblical homeland, Shechem, Shiloh, Beit Lechem and more. But instead of taking the hint and immediately returning to our ancient cities when the Arabs were accepting their fate and our rule, Israeli politicians were so “embarrassed” by our victory that they began to search for ways to give those gifts from G-d away. Actually, they had trouble finding a taker.

The only people in world history to have had been sovereign in Judea and Samaria were the Biblical Jews. The only other rulers were foreign imperialists, the last being Great Britain which handed it to Jordan in 1947/8. Jordan didn’t really want it and didn’t develop it at all. And I’m not going to elaborate on the fact that Jordan itself has no ancient national history. It was “invented” in the twentieth century when the British were enamored with Arab sheiks. I admit that it’s a simplification, but factual.

Throughout Judea and Samaria all of the modern infrastructure is Israeli, post 1967. Until well into the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s there were periodic announcements in The Jerusalem Post that (name) Arab village near Ramalla (for example) was just hooked up to for water or electricity or modern telephone service. Even when we moved to Shiloh in 1981, the nearby Arab villages still used generators, and the lights all went out by midnight. When Jews returned to Shiloh in 1978, the community was given a local (Arab) phone line. You had to speak to the operator in either Arabic or English; the connections were manual. It wasn’t until 1982 that modern phone lines were put in. Remember, that was the eve of the cell phone age. Under Jordanian rule, the Arabs in Judea and Samaria were living in conditions from the previous century.

Then, there wasn’t much opposition to Israeli rule; everyday life and the standard of living were improving rapidly. If the Israeli left hadn’t kept “hocking” everyone “a chinik” that Israel should let the Arabs rule, things would have settled down peacefully. All the Arabs needed to know was that we were here to stay, and things would have been very different.

We didn’t “take the hint.” We didn’t enthusiastically and quickly populate all the historic land G-d gave us. The agriculture business quickly realized the potential of the Jordan Valley and the Sinai for growing food for export and quickly began to establish farming communities. On the Golan Heights communities were established for the security of the kibbutzim in the valleys below and for their agricultural potential. Judea and Samaria were to be left “judenrein,” so it could be given as some sort of “compensation” to the Arabs.

*Six days, yes, like the six days of creation, followed by Shabbat, the days of the moshiach—the days to come, redemption. My neighbor, Rabbi Michael Brom, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Shiloh, frequently mentions the signs posted all over Israel after the war: “Todah Rabah L’Tzahal,” “Thanks Very Much To the Israel Defense Forces.” We were supposed to thank G-d. Even the most committed atheiest admits that our victory in 1967 was a miracle; Tzahal was just a tool, the “hand” of G-d, doing G-d’s work. We sinned, because we didn’t thank G-d sufficiently.

Today we are suffering, not only because we didn’t thank G-d but because we didn’t use the gift G-d gave us. The process of establishing yishuvim always involved fighting the authorities, lots of pressure and procedures until permits were given. We failed; we sinned. We have to repent. We have to do more to settle all of the Land of Israel. G-d gave us a gift. We must recognize that G-d gives us the good, and we are responsible for the evil.

Shannah Tovah and Gmar Chatima Tovah,
Batya Medad, Shiloh

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

To Feel The Earth Under Our Feet

Musings #67
September 5, 2004

To Feel The Earth, Ha'Aretz Under Our Feet

Just a year ago, after our neighbor, Avihu Keinan, was killed in a badly planned army action, his father, Moshe, vowed to march to the Israeli President, Moshe Katzav in Jerusalem, and he did. Less than three weeks after Avihu was buried in the Shiloh Cemetery, Moshe, accompanied by hundreds of others, walked from Shiloh to The President’s Residence and set up a succah there. During Chol Hamoed Succot, many, many more people, ordinary Israelis, tourists and other bereaved parents came to encourage him and support his struggle to change the perverse morality that is endangering us all.

Avihu was killed, because the military operation was planned with priority on protecting Arab civilians, rather than enable our soldiers to fight the terrorists in the most effective ways possible. Avihu was an expert in hand-to-hand combat, but he wasn’t given a chance. A couple of weeks ago as I watched Israeli Judoist Arik Ze’evi use his superior physical and mental strength against his opponent, I couldn’t stop thinking of Avihu. Arik Ze’evi won a medal, because he was allowed to fight fairly. The perverse morality pervading our politicians and military prevented Avihu Keinan from fighting, from killing the terrorists, from staying alive.

Last year all who marched with Moshe agreed on one thing; we must make this march an annual event. The “Od Avihu Chai March on Jerusalem” will, G-d willing, take place on Tuesday, Chol Hamoed Succot, the 20th of Tishrei, 5-10-04, 8am from Shiloh.

In order to truly possess our land, we must walk it, feel it beneath our feet. Last year’s march was indescribably exhilarating, even for those who were only able to walk a small portion of the route, even for those who were busy setting up the water and nosh tables on the way and for those who stood on the roadside and sidewalks cheering and encouraging.

For the past few years “security considerations” have been keeping us in our ghettos and protected vehicles. Twenty years ago, we thought nothing of taking young children on hikes and marches throughout YESHA. It was safe; we felt comfortable and secure wherever we went. Today we’re always warning our children to stay inside the fences, and as a result we are losing our Land.

I remember the afternoon less than ten years ago, as my neighbors and I were turning into Beit El to go to the gas station. We saw some Israeli teenage boys on the main road waiting for rides. I was tempted to have the car stopped and yell at them to get into Beit El, which was safer. Minutes later, terrorists shot at them and one, David Boim, HaYa”D, was murdered. I was so upset with myself, why hadn’t I told them to get back in? They shouldn’t have been so “irresponsible.”

A few hours later, when the army finally allowed us to continue our journey home to Shiloh, I noticed a group of teenage boys playing soccer just outside of Beit El. They were Arab boys, the same ages as the Jewish ones who had just been shot at while innocently waiting for rides. Suddenly it hit me. Our boys, the Jewish ones, weren’t “bad” waiting out there on the road. We are the bad ones, so easily and quickly abandoning our Land.

There are people who claim that there’s apartheid here in Israel, that the Arabs suffer severe restrictions. They are half right. There is apartheid, but it’s the Jews who are discriminated against. We are the ones whose movements are restricted. Every time I go to Kever Rachel I’m especially reminded of it. Arabs, Moslems, Christians walk into Beit Lechem freely, and we sit imprisoned in an armored bus, waiting for a soldier weighted in bullet-proof apparel to escort us the few meters to the tomb. We are not “free in our own Land.” “…lihiyot chofshi b’artzeinu.”

Last year, when I was marching with Moshe, I had a taste of that freedom. I’m looking forward to doing it again, though I have no idea of how much of the route I’ll actually do by foot. I highly recommend that everyone join, even if it’s for a short distance, or helping set up rest stops, or just cheering on the roadside, or sponsoring the “rest stops.” For more information call the Shiloh office 02-940-1111 or 0545-649-140.

Batya Medad, Shiloh

Monday, September 6, 2004

The Have’s and Have Not’s

Musings #66
September 3, 2004

The Have’s and Have Not’s

The world is divided between those online and those off. It seems like forever since, like just now, I sip my morning coffee while checking my email, writing these musings or tests for my students or just reading the news from the screen. Email has made it possible for me to establish, renew and strengthen relationships with relatives and friends far away, in different time zones and life styles. “Lists” and “groups” have introduced me to people I would have never known. And these “musings,” amazingly popular over the world, are rarely seen by those who don’t get them via the internet.

Though I’m generally one of the “have’s,” for a week I was a “have not.” Our computer was “in the shop” getting a “transplant” of sorts. I struggled against severe withdrawal symptoms, was almost oblivious of the news, worried that my close relatives far away would think I was the sick one and afraid that lost letters would cause people to think that I had snubbed them. All that was rivaled only my extreme anxiety of how I was going to cope with the hundreds of letters once the computer was back on. I’m embarrassed to admit that most of the six hundred plus (including the yahoo accounts) were probably deleted as my eyes crossed and closed uncontrollably and the “mouse,” so hyper-excited to be back at work, somehow deleted two per click.

Now our computer has a bigger memory, but it “forgot” all the addresses we had been collecting over the years. It’s missing the “spell check,” so don’t be surprised if there are some really dumb mistakes that can’t pass for innocent typos. I had gotten used to sloppy typing, knowing that the computer would signal my mistakes with a wavy red line. Now I have to be very careful, or you’ll discover the truth—my spelling’s atrocious!

I must admit that I was amazed at how easily I found other things to do during the too many daily hours I usually spend in front of the screen. Being a “have not,” even temporarily, is easy to get used to. It is amazing how easily I turned myself off from what’s going on. Even that horrific double terror attack in Beersheva seemed to just pass me by. All those innocent bus travelers murdered by self-propelled human murder weapons, and I was almost oblivious.

Israel is in danger! And most of us are just “fiddling,” like Nero as Rome burned. It’s amazing that as tiny a country as Israel is, most Israelis succeed in keeping themselves in small, defined areas and are oblivious to what’s happening just down the road. Almost everyone has “maps” indicating where they “go” and “don’t go.”

Even within the yishuvim, we survive emotionally by erecting walls to keep out fear. Just normal day-to-day life with our families, work and finances are all that many of us can handle. We’re just ordinary people. We “demonstrate” by keeping to regular routines of work, childcare, gardening, healthcare and all of the normal activities we would have to do if we lived in Tel Aviv, Paris or Toronto.

Now after a week’s “vacation,” I’m back on line. I’ve turned on the loudspeaker in order to broadcast again. We all have a job to do. We each must find a way to fight for Israel’s survival. Israel is being strangled by a high cement fence. That fence is not going to protect us.
Arabs will be allowed in to Israel for work, medical care and other reasons. The “world” is more concerned about inconveniencing the Arabs than protecting Jews. Mohatme Gandhi’s grandson was recently in Israel and condemned Israel for that “crime.” He didn’t condemn the Arabs for the terror attacks against us. That’s the way it is. We shouldn’t expect help from others only from ourselves, and that means you and me.

This week’s parsha Portion of the Week is Ki Tavo, “And it shall come to pass…” which includes a very graphic description of what will happen if we don’t obey G-d. It is so horrendous that the person who reads the Torah is supposed to lower his voice. If we follow G-d’s commandments we will be blessed, if not….. G-d forbid!

It’s up to us, our decisions and our actions.

Batya Medad, Shiloh