Hamas War

Thursday, December 30, 2004

A comment on Arutz 7 re"Better Jailed than Buried"

The Musing "Better Jailed than Buried" has been up on the Arutz 7 site for a couple of days. This readers comment is something to add to the sorry situation.

so whats new?
Alas Batya this is nothing new. I just read the other day about that poor soldier Zviki which I shall paste his whole story as written by Moshe Feiglin as I dont see it anywhere on INN. I hope it comes through. Zviki By Moshe Feiglin: Yefim Kortzki could not understand how he had remained alive. A unit of the Golani Brigade, comprising 24 half-tracks and three tanks, began the climb towards Tel Faher during the battle to liberate the Golan Heights. The fortunate ones who reached the approaches to the objective stormed forward and fought like lions, exposed to the light of day, and facing superior forces deployed in well-dug-in positions. Fourteen commendations and two medals for bravery were awarded for this battle. There were few survivors. Yefim's luck ran out at the end of the Six Day War when his jeep, fitted with a recoilless gun, encountered a mine and he was gravely wounded. But Yefim isn't the kind of man who gives in. Despite his grave disability he refused to accept financial aid from the Ministry of Defense. "The country doesn't owe me anything", he explained. He was hospitalized for more than a year. After being discharged he immediately started working, built a wonderful family, and continued to fight the daily war of existence with his own efforts. Over the course of the years the effects of his serious injuries became more marked, and he is now confined to his home, and every movement he makes causes agonizing pains that recall for him the terrible events of that battle. I visit Yefim every Shabbat. A ray of hope emerged despite the terrible pains and the nightmares of yesterday. Nine years ago his son, Zviki, joined the IDF. Yefim passed on to his son all his Zionist ardor, his belief in the State of Israel, and in the IDF. Zviki is something. He is hard-working and talented, and stunned the senior officers who encountered him. He finished an officer's course and then advanced rapidly through progressive ranks, leaving a trail of reports of excellence in his wake. As a young officer he filled a number of positions usually given to people several ranks above him. In everything he did he introduced improvements and was well liked by those both above and below him. Zviki saw his future in the army. He joined the ranks of the regular army and was scheduled to start a course of studies about two years ago. When Yefim saw Zviki this made his day.But Zviki was too good for the State of Israel. One Shabbat, when the battalion commander took a vacation, he left Zviki in command of the battalion. Zviki was patrolling with a single jeep when he suddenly received a message. In the Arab village of Nazlat Zid a car bomb was being prepared to make an attack on Hadera. This was at the peak of the terrorist attacks, the distance from the village to the target was short, and there was no time to organize additional forces. Just Zviki, his driver, and an additional soldier, blocked the path of the car bomb intended to attack Hadera. Zviki didn't hesitate and entered the village.It was Shabbat. There were no people in the area apart from the residents of the village. So why was there a demonstration blocking his path? Obviously, this apparently spontaneous demonstration, was intended to delay him and thus permit the car bomb to leave for its destination. Zviki got out of the jeep and called on the demonstrators to leave the place. Naturally, no-one obeyed him. He fired in the air and this still had no effect. Time was pressing so Zviki did something that was customary at that time. He took careful aim and fired at a brick wall in a nearby house. He clearly saw the place that his bullet had hit. Now the demonstration dispersed and Zviki rushed to patrol the village. The car bomb was no longer there, and thank G-d had been caught in a nearby village. When Zviki left the village he saw that a crowd had gathered. The villagers pointed to an injured person in a vehicle. They claimed that he had been hit by a bullet. Zviki helped as best as he could and brought the vehicle with the wounded person to a nearby medical unit. As a result of pressure applied by the Betzelem organization, Zviki was brought to trial. The prosecution had no real proof. The body of the injured person had been taken away by the Arabs and buried a long time earlier, and no-one could prove that he had been killed by a bullet. It is quite likely that as in other similar cases, local Arabs had killed the person and used the body for propaganda purpose. But why should the military court concern itself with such explanations, when precedents have already been established by the Supreme Court, and Leftist media person Ilana Dayan is breathing down its neck? A window frame, without the glass, was produced as proof that Zviki's bullet had exploded it. (It's worth mentioning that a bullet from an M16 rifle, as used by Zviki, leaves a hole, but the rest of the glass remains intact.) Zviki request to return to the village and locate the place where his bullet hit the wall was rejected. Two very difficult years ensued for Zviki and his parents. They had spent all their money on lawyers and appeals. Nothing was of any avail. Even his final request to receive a pardon from the CGS was rejected. He was reduced in rank, the studies promised him were cancelled, and this morning Zviki entered the military prison where he will serve his six months sentence. This is the prize given by the State of Israel to a devoted, talented officer who gave nine years to serving in the IDF, years in which a person builds his future. For his courage in facing alone an incited crowd, and terrorists planning to perpetrate an attack on Hadera, the State of Israel should have awarded Zviki a medal. But this is not what happens in the Israeli era of reversal of values. Zviki, an excellent officer wearing a kippah from Karnei Shomron, was just the prey the establishment was waiting for. I have visited Yefim every Shabbat for many years. Over the last two years I have seen how his world has collapsed around him in ruins. He is incapable of understanding how the same State in which he believed and for which he gave everything, can do such a thing to him. I tried to explain to Yefim that it isn't the State. Someone has stolen the State from us, but one day it will be liberated. But Yefim doesn't want to hear this, and is sinking into depression. I have avoided publicizing the affair until now. Zviki has been taken captive by people who have covered their eyes with a red sheet. I didn't want them to know of the connection, but it's now all over. Zviki is in jail and Yefim is more broken in spirit than in body. This man with a broken body, who lives on drugs against pain that would have killed a normal person, is starting tomorrow a sole demonstration opposite the entrance to the General Staff HQ in Tel Aviv. He intends to sit there in the rain and cold, and I fear for his life. And Zviki? Thank G-d, Zviki is beginning to understand what his father is unable to accept. "You must appeal to the Supreme Court", one of the lawyers tried to persuade him. But Zviki had already understood that he had been caught in the claws of the monster. He now recognizes what he is up against. "What's the point?", he replied, "It will only mean that in another two years I'll be in the same situation, but with bigger debts". Zviki will be released in another six months. He will be an asset for any entrepreneur. He will study and work industriously, and faithfully, and will be better than others. "In another two years", I said to Yefim, "you and your wife will thank the court for finding Zviki guilty. You will thank the CGS and the other spineless officers who turned their backs on him. You will thank them, because without them Zviki would have stayed in the army and wouldn't have realized even part of his capabilities." We shall in the end release the State from its captivity, and it will then need first-rate people like Zviki. It will thank them when it is released from its captivity.

Monday, December 27, 2004

So Much To Say, So I Wrote These Few Thoughts

Musings #91
December 25, ‏2004
The 16th of Tevet

A Few Thoughts

The Right to Feel
I was about to start this with “Many years ago…” then suddenly I realized that the word “many” is terribly subjective. My concept of “Many years ago…” is less than that of my parents, and my own children’s is certainly less than my own. I have no problem respecting it.

Food that is indelibly salty to me is absolutely tasty and delicious to others. Music that gets on my nerves is fantastically popular with other people. That doesn’t make any of us wrong.

So why are the feelings of the holocaust survivors living in Gush Katif less valued, legitimate, kosher, than those who run Yad Veshem? The survivors in Gush Katif are feeling a terrible deja vous, like they’re back in the time of the Nazis being herded out of their homes into danger, and possible murder. While the Yad Veshem crowd is still insisting that millions “perished;” the “m” word not escaping their lips.

No one forced anyone to wear an “orange star,” and it really bothers me that the campaign was derailed. Obviously it hit a nerve, and that means that their message was getting across. It’s a shame that the Gush Katif residents stopped the campaign, because I would have fought for them. Their pain and memories are no less haunting and legitimate than those of the “survivor celebrities.”

Another Campaign
More and more people are trying to figure out how the Prime Minister, a former general, known for his patriotism and courage, is sitting idly by while civilians in cities and communities are being bombed daily. I don’t have anything nice to say.

Thank G-d there is a G-d. There is no other explanation for the miracles that happen daily and nightly in Gush Katif, Sderot and surrounding areas. For years we’ve marveled at the miracles of the Gulf War. Statistically it’s impossible for there to have been so few casualties. That’s how we know it’s G-d. G-d goes against nature.

And is that why Arik Sharon is getting more and more stubborn and hard-hearted about the good patriotic citizens in Gush Katif? Is it the same hand of G-d that hardened Pharaoh’s heart, hardening Sharon’s? Sharon and his advisors think that a few more bombs, and the good Jews will run gratefully into the “camps” he’s setting up for them.

Sharon won’t get his wish. We are stronger. We may not have jails and tanks and physical weapons, but we are a “stiff-necked people.”

A revolution is being planned in Israel’s education. It sounds like a nightmare. Ten’s of thousands of teachers are to be fired, and class-size is to be reduced. Now, you don’t have to be a CPA’s daughter like I am to see problems with the numbers.

The Dovrat Commission thinks that if they offer the teachers a little more money, the teachers, the better ones of course, will stay in school double the hours, five days a week. They think that parents will pay extra money for extracurricular activities for their kids on Fridays. Only the largest schools will be financially stable. Religious schools will be required to drastically reduce the hours for Jewish studies or they’ll lose government support.

I really don’t like writing all this depressing stuff. And I didn’t even mention the soldier thrown out of an officers’ course, because he said that he could never pull a Jew out of his home. The army told him that such opinions disqualify him from being an officer. Strange that when left-wing air force pilots signed a letter that they wouldn’t drop bomb on civilians sheltering terrorists, that was considered ok. His father, an immigrant from the former USSR, was sure that he had left such a totalitarian society.

Basically all these stories are the same. We’re going through a very difficult time, fighting a war on many fronts. And the biggest and most dangerous is the one for our hearts and minds. They’re trying to destroy us, to weaken us, but they won’t succeed.

Shema Yisrael,
Hashem Elokenu, Hashem Echad
Baruch Shem Kavod Malchuto Li’olam Va’ed
Ve’ahavta et Adoshem Elokecha,
b’chal levavcha uv’chal nafshecha, uv’chal me’odecha…

“Listen, People of Israel
The Lord is Our G-d, the Lord is One
Blessed be His Name, whose glorious Kingdom is forever and ever
And you must love the Lord your G-d with all your soul and with all your might…”

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Copyright(C)BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

quick note

There's some parshat shavua (Torah Portion of the week) and Tanach (Bible) musings on me-ander.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Clashing Symbols!

Musings #90
December 22, ‏2004
The 10th of Tevet

Clashing Symbols!

In deep pain, opponents of “disengagement” are wearing “orange stars,” and from the way the media and many politicians are acting—so shocked, scandalized and horrified, you’d think that they were pelting innocent civilians with rocks, or shooting at people traveling in cars, or stabbing people to death or even strapping explosives to themselves to blow up, murder, everyone in the vicinity.

Oops, the politicians, international leaders and media don’t get that outraged at the murder of innocent Jews. They keep shoving our other cheek out in case the terrorists need easier targets. There’s a lot of misplaced anger here. I wish these same politicians, diplomats, historians and journalists would just listen to themselves. Who are the victims? Why are they so deaf and callous to Jewish pain?

Many years ago, when I was in high school (Great Neck North), I tried to publicize demonstrations to give religious freedom to Soviet Jewry. My fellow classmates, mostly Jewish, first insisted that they were only interested in American issues, like civil rights, and Russia was much too far away for them to relate to. The following year they were enthusiastically demonstrating for Biafora, in Africa. Nothing’s changed.

Nadia Matar’s being attacked for saying that the transfer, uprooting, destruction reminds her of the Nazis. She was raised in Europe and grew up hearing of the murder and persecution of Jews. Nadia’s an idealist, a Jewish idealist, who sees Jewish survival as Jews in our Eretz Yisrael as the most important ideal. I identify with that.

What I don’t understand is Yaakov Amidror, the retired IDF general, the first religious general, who was brought into the TV studio to serve counterpoint to Nadia. He stated and repeated that in principle, he agrees with Nadia, that Sharon’s “disengagement” withdrawal, destruction plan is the worst possible policy for our country. But he stated that he supports it, because a democratic government voted for it. Nadia, in the studio, and I, watching a repeat of the interview, were equally dumbfounded. Where are his values? Where are his ideals? Are there any absolute truths in his life? If he found himself living or serving with a group of people who democratically voted that the kitchen would be traif (not kosher) would he eat traif just to obey the majority?

Four terms keep repeating themselves in the arguments: democracy, Nazi, anti-Semite and civil war. Key words, as I’d tell my students.

I was raised to be a good American, and democracy was a major ingredient. It’s hard to say when I fell out of love with democracy, but now I no longer think it as an infallible necessity. There are subjects that are not for democratic vote, and one of them is religion, and another is certain social issues. A group of people shouldn’t be able to justify their bullying of another group by claiming “democracy.” Yes, bullying. That is what’s going on here. The residents of Gush Katif are being bullied by the wealthier more influential and powerful Israelis, all in the name of democracy.

The Jews being threatened, persecuted, are countering that they feel like they are going to be destroyed like Jewish communities were by the Nazis during the Holocaust. For the past sixty years, ever since it became common knowledge what happened in Nazi Germany and most of Europe, Jews have sworn “never again.” Jews will never bow to pressure to give up their homes, property and businesses. Jews will never go “like lambs.”

And now, what is happening, and here in Israel? Jews are being ordered to give up their homes, businesses, property—and this travesty is taking place in our Holy Land! In the name of democracy? Hitler was also put in power via democracy. In Gush Katif there are Holocaust survivors who thought they finally found their haven, their heaven on earth. Some of them, wearing their orange stars, visited the Knesset and were attacked for their feelings and opinions. See;

In Hebrew the term “civil war” is “war of brothers.” Those of us who say that we will oppose the expulsion of Jews from our homes are being told that we are causing a “civil war.” We are supposed to go “like lambs to the slaughter.” We have no rights. The government even proposed a law that would incarcerate us for three to five years for opposing expulsion of Jews from their homes, but thank G-d it was eliminated from the bill. In simple words, the government is starting a war against Jews, but we have no right to self-defense. Can a Jew be an anti-Semite? In frustration this term is also being used. Who would have thought that Jews would be calling each other “Nazi” and “anti-Semite?” They’re must be better words to use. For sure “Nazi” should never be used; it was for a specific country and time. And instead of “anti-Semite” another word must be used. The wrong words and symbols damage the cause.

I don’t agree with President Katzav’s reason for opposing the wearing of an orange star. He said: “There is no justification to enlist, in the public struggle against theevacuation, the star which constitutes a memory of the most horrific andawful period in the history of the Jewish people.… They must focus their struggle in the realm of the permitted, the legal and the legitimate.”

In all honesty, I think that in a very crucial way, today’s situation is no less “horrific and awful.” And that’s because today Jews are planning on evacuating other Jews from their homes; Jews are destroying Jewish schools and businesses. Jews are planning “camps,” “compounds” and jails to detain Jewish refugees. Jews are planning on confiscating weapons from Jews, leaving them defenseless, while at the same time armed police and soldiers will be sent to throw them out of their homes.

President Katzav suggests that we “must focus” our struggle on “legal and …legitimate” methods. But according to the proposed law, it will be illegal to protest! If the orange star bothers people and makes them think of the Nazis, then it’s doing its job. That’s the whole point.

When I began writing this, I wasn’t sure what I’d do, but especially after reading President Katzav’s statement, the star looks more and more legitimate. Will I wear an orange star? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just take out “my ripped flag.”

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Copyright(C)BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.

Just a note:
This is the ninetieth numbered musing I’ve written. It’s hard to believe that the few thoughts, feelings and phrases that I jotted down and sent to a small number of people, when grieving at the murder of Shmuel and Gila, have evolved into a column that many people read all over the world. When I wrote that first “musing” I never thought that it would be more than one quick note, to express my feelings.

Here is the opening:
Musings #1

June 23, 2002
The 13th of Tammuz

Not Amusing Musings

Social Calendar
Just last Sunday, with the announcement of five engagements in Shiloh in addition to a number of up-coming weddings, the talk was on how to prevent two weddings on one night, or “too many” within a couple of days. Such problems, such pressure…

Late Wednesday night, after midnight, I sat in the home of the grandparents of a classmate of one of the brides. Her grandmother and aunt were anxious to prevent a scheduling conflict, not of a wedding date, but of a probable funeral. Gila’s grandfather, mother and uncles were in Abu Kabir (Israeli forensic center) along with the father of Shmuel from next door. An Arab terrorist blew them up just a few hours before.

Gila, once considered an Israeli Olympic hope in gymnastics leapt onto the front page, not as a medal winner, but as a victim of a perverse, sadistic terrorist. Shmuel, the second child of gentle, modest educators, who just three weeks before impressed one and all as he eulogized his best friend, Avi Siton, (haya”d), was permanently silenced by that same Arab bomber.



Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rather Be Jailed Than Buried

Musings #89
December 21, ‏2004
The 9th of Tevet

Rather Be Jailed Than Buried
“Yoter Tov BiKelleh MeKever”

Twenty-three years ago, when we were rather new to Shiloh, I remember hearing my neighbor say that she had instructed her husband that she’d rather see him jailed than buried. Unfortunately that’s a choice many have made, and things aren’t getting any better. There are quite a few Jews imprisoned or tangled in legal quagmires due to the fact that a Jew in danger who ends up killing or injuring an Arab is severely prosecuted and punished. The only way to prove self-defense is to be dead or very seriously wounded, and then you still must prove that the Arab started it, and you had no other way to stop him.

When I was run over in a terror attack, less than ten years ago, the police spent a lot of time and money trying to prove that it could have had been an accident and weren’t interested in hearing the testimonies of the survivors. In addition, the young men who shot the terrorist dead were interrogated, and it took a long time until they were finally cleared of murder charges.

This “catch 22 situation” is no joke. There are many who believe that it is the reason why the soldier Kfir Okayon was killed in April 2004. Just a few days before he had been reprimanded and threatened by the army with punishment for pointing his weapon at an Arab who wouldn’t cooperate when being inspected for arms and explosives. Trying to “obey orders” and being gentle with the terrorists cost him his life.

Recently, another absurd story was in the news. Almost ten years ago, in the spring of 1995, during at time of terror attacks, Avraham Ofir, then an IDF soldier, came across an Arab vehicle that refused to stop for inspection, and when the vehicle crashed the Arabs fled, ignoring requests in Arabic to stop. You don’t need even half a brain to infer that they were acting suspiciously, and were most probably terrorists. Therefore Avraham shot them when they ran into a house.

For this he was demoted and worse, and not long ago his nightmare resumed as the state began legal action against him. And not to keep you in suspense, the Tel Aviv District Court withdrew the indictment against him, on charges of killing an Arab fugitive – charges for which he was tried in a military court nine years ago. Details can be found in the following news story.

There’s an organization that helps people who get into those “Twilight Zone” situations. It’s called “Honenu.” The person who runs it is Shmuel Meidad (no relation) of Hebron. It’s the only civil rights organization that supports Jewish civil rights. Unfortunately it is very busy. Many people need them, because the police, law and the court system here look for ways to make us pay for our self-defense.

I recommend contacting them for more information by calling: 02-960-5558 or cellphone 852-869-3999. Or by email at

I pray that none of us, nor any of our friends and family will ever need their help. One of the ways of protecting ourselves and our dear ones is to help Honenu.

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Copyright(C)BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.


Saturday, December 18, 2004


Musings #88
December 16, ‏2004
The 4th of Tevet

We’re in Big Trouble!

"It's hard to beat a person who never gives up."- Babe Ruth

There’s a lot of wisdom in sports, sportsmanship and sportsmen. Babe Ruth was right. Our politicians have given up, so we’re in big trouble.
If our politicians are leading us anywhere, it’s not where I want to be. That’s for sure.

This past week, I was at the Begin Heritage Center for the Begin Prize Ceremony. It was a very inspiring evening. The winners were all people who had done something above the norm. Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that facilitates aliyah from North America, doing what the Jewish Agency and Israeli government should be doing, won the Begin Prize. The initiators of that organization had a dream to help North American Jews make aliyah. They didn’t give up, and today hundreds of Jews are successfully living in Israel due to their assistance.

Special recognition was also given to two extraordinary people. The first was a man who has captured the hearts of many by his rare and remarkable generosity. Eric Swim, an American, who donated one of his kidneys to Moshiko Sharon, an Israeli boy. Little Moshiko was dying. The call went out throughout the world that Moshiko needed a kidney. Rationally and logically, there was very little chance that a kidney would be found, certainly not from a live man. But they had a dream, and reality caught up with the dream. They didn’t give up.

And, what a donor! When Mr. Swim spoke to the crowd, it was clear that he had no idea why we all found him so admirable. He spoke with simple faith and ended his words with a chapter of T’hilim, psalms, in Hebrew. As he struggled reading a language he barely knows, most of the crowd recited along with him, and the rest wept.

The final recipient was Israel’s top female athlete, Keren Leibowitz, the winner of seven medals, including five gold ones, at the Olympics for the physically handicapped. Giving up, even after being seriously injured in the army, is not in her vocabulary.

One of the speakers, Salai Meridor, Chairman of the Jewish Agency, quoted Herzl as he spoke about the recipients to the crowded auditorium. “Im tirtzu, ain zu agadah,” “If you truly wish it, it’s not make-believe.” And right before our eyes, we saw people whose dream became real life.

There are people in our very special country who have the strength to dream and make their dreams come true. That’s why it’s so disturbing that our government is filled with weak, faithless people. How can it be? Even those who seemed strong and idealistic before assuming office changed and lost their faith and confidence. I wonder if it’s like what we see on television. There’s the old comedy, “Yes, Minister,” the old British TV show that depicted the behind the scenes workings of the British government, run by the civil servants, the unseen clerks and secretaries. But I have trouble believing that Arik Sharon could be manipulated and controlled by some civil servants.

Then there’s another TV show, ‘’The Agency,” that depicts the inner workings of the American CIA. This program features technology that seems more science fiction than reality, even in the twenty first century. One memorable scene showed a clandestine medical exam of a foreign visitor while he was meeting a CIA official. Somehow, as he sat in the comfortable, innocent-looking office chair, all of his vital signs were measured, and if I’m not mistaken, he was also x-rayed. All of this, while he believed that he was just talking. Is someone zapping our politicians’ brains? Are they being controlled by ___? This is starting to get very spooky.

Or are our politicians just “burnt-out,” like many professionals? Are they tired of bucking the world? Are they looking for praise from those who had previously rejected them? In that sense the two who made the most radical changes, Menachem Begin and Arik Sharon, have the most in common. They were the most reviled by the media and international leaders before becoming prime minister, and then, all of a sudden, they proposed policies that they had been totally against previously.

Our greatest Biblical leaders, Moshe Rabenu and Shmuel HaNavi (Samuel the Prophet), also had trouble with the pressures trying to get public support. They both complained to G-d about the difficulties in leading the Jewish People, but in the end they prevailed. Moshe led us to the Land of Israel, and Shmuel crowned our first two kings, Saul and David.

I have a little advice for our politicians:

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

As said by American President Harry Truman’s friend, Harry Vaughan, Time, April 28, 1952 *

*Results from Internet Collections: 20th Century Quotations

Batya Medad, Shiloh

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A Peek Behind the Scenes, People in the News

Musings #87
December 6, ‏2004
The 24th of Kislev

A Bird’s Eye View
Close Up
A Peek Behind the Scenes

Even though I’ve been living in Israel for almost thirty-five years, speak and understand Hebrew, follow the news and politics, sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on things. Names appear on the news, and they’re strangers to me. And for an Israeli, that’s not good. Yes, one of the big differences between the America I was raised in and the Israel I live in is that Israelis “know everybody.” It’s not only because Israel’s a small country, it’s also because there’s a social and class fluidity like nowhere else on earth. Even most politicians and their families are accessible, at least compared to other countries.

Regardless, I certainly don’t know everybody, so when my husband suggested that we go to a Shabbat organized by Arutz 7 where MK Effie Eitam was to be the special guest speaker, I immediately said “yes!”

I was very curious. Only a very, few years ago Effie Eitam was expected to become the big power in Israeli politics, the person who due to the dynamics of his life bridged the religious, secular and the army, would unify, inspire and rescue us from “the situation.” A number of political parties vied for his support and were willing to offer almost anything if he would only join. I remember learning that 1951 in the United States, there was similar excitement and competition for Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became a popular U. S. president. Would Effie Eitam be Israel’s Ike?

The winner was the “Mafdal,” the NRP, the National Religious Party. Within a short time, it became clear that MK Eitam was not proving himself a national political leader. He was not the first former general to find that national and party politics are much more complicated than the army hierarchy.

Until that Shabbat I had never heard him speak and only knew about him what was written in the papers. I listened carefully, and it all began to make sense. It’s no secret that I believe that a leader must have “vision.” He or she must be someone who strongly believes in something and can attract people to follow. MK Eitam gave a long speech, which began with some personal and family background, and he was glowing; he was riveting. You could easily see his personal strength. But then he continued by detailing all of the difficulties Israel is presently facing. His solution: “We must get together and find a solution.” Honestly, this is close enough to a translation of what he said for me to frame it in quotation marks.

Everything was suddenly clear. He’s a wonderful, talented person but not a national political leader. He was depressing the minute he got into political topics. We, or more accurately, he’s in a classic Peter’s Principle bind; he has risen to his level of incompetence.

There was another featured speaker that Shabbat, Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky, the Rabbi of Gush Katif. I knew very little about him, but I was curious for a different reason. He’s my neighbor’s brother. Where Effie Eitam radiated confusion and uncertainty, Rabbi Yigal radiated confidence and pride. Listening to him, it was easy to become convinced that living in Gush Katif is an enviable privilege. He personified the stories my friend tells about their mother.

My friend tells of how when she was a child, not only did she not have any idea that they were poor, but the school teachers thought that they came from a very wealthy family. Once a teacher visited their home to tell her parents that it wasn’t right to flaunt their wealth. My friend and her siblings were much better dressed than their classmates, during a time of great poverty in the early days of the State. The teacher was speechless when she walked into their home, which was too small to be called a proper apartment. The late Mrs. Kaminetzky used to take apart the second hand clothes sent to them, and then she sewed the fabric into beautifully styled, perfectly fitted “new” clothes.

Rabbi Yigal’s “spin” on the admitted difficulties facing Gush Katif and the rest of the country were so positive and optimistic, like the attractive, stylish clothes his mother sewed from others’ rejects. Rabbi Yigal’s confidence and plans were the antithesis of MK Eitam’s. He is a leader. I have no doubt that he’s one of the main reasons Gush Katif is strong and vibrant today.

I returned home with added confidence and optimism. As the political situation gets more complicated and difficult, it’s good to know that there’s someone to follow.

Batya Medad, Shiloh

Friday, December 10, 2004

Monday, December 6, 2004

Traveling by Bus or Only in Israel!

Musings #86
December 4, ‏2004
The 22th of Kislev

Traveling by Bus
Only in Israel!

We don’t have a car. There are many reasons, and there’s no point in going into them, but let that suffice as an introduction.

For quite a few years, some people think that traveling on Israeli public buses is too dangerous to do. There are foreign student programs that officially forbid the students to take Israeli public transportation, convinced that terror attacks on buses are daily events. Terror attacks make the headlines, but statistically you’re safer on the bus than in a private car. Accidents happen everyday.

There are advantages to traveling on a bus that can neither be matched nor measured. Just the other week, I saw something special. A young woman who could have been between sixteen and twenty-five was writing in the hand of the old woman next to her. They were sitting across from me, so I couldn’t help but observe. At first they seemed to be playing a game, like my friends and I did at some point in our childhood, probably when “The Miracle Worker” first came out. Then I noticed the additional responses of the old woman; she gestured and made sounds or spoke, but the girl only wrote in her hand. The stranger sitting besides me had noticed, too, and me asked what they could be doing. My guess was that the old woman had once been able to see and hear, but now she’s without those senses, and we had been observing a loving conversation between a grandmother and granddaughter.

Another different, only by bus event, was last Thursday. After finishing teaching in Beit El, I was in a rush to get to Jerusalem. (See
http://me-ander.blogspot.com/2004/12/old-friends.html) The bus/’tremp” stop is usually packed with students rushing to get home on Thursday afternoons, and last week was no exception. No bus was scheduled, and I was trying hard to memorize faces, never my strong point (I always lose memory games), to make sure no one got ahead of me on line. Then suddenly an empty Egged (public) bus pulled up.

Sprightly, for an old timer, I got in and asked where he was going. “Jerusalem, I was supposed to be finished for the day, but I got an emergency call from my boss that there are a lot of soldiers in the Beit El army base who need to get home, so I was asked to do one more run.” Then he drove us around the bases picking up soldiers, frequently driving up to them as they were shlepping their heavy bags to the official bus stops. He mentioned that it reminded him of the days he drove a school bus and made every effort to find the young children so they would get to school on time. I told him that this is the same thing; these are young children, too. And they were. Later, he opened the door for me when we stopped at a red light just outside of the Jerusalem bus station to save me time. (Please don’t let this get to Egged management or the traffic police! He could get into trouble.)

Every once in a while when I’m walking in Jerusalem, suddenly I hear a bus insistently honking. Then I realize that I’m the target, though I’m safely and properly on the sidewalk. I take a look and see the driver waving and smiling, one of the regulars on the Shiloh route. Yes, they think of us passengers as friends.

A few years ago, before I became an English teacher, I sold bagels (maybe someday I’ll tell you about it). The bakery/office/main restaurant was on Jaffa Road near the central bus station. My workday ended just before a bus home, and in those days the bus passed The Bagel House a minute after pulling out. A couple of days after starting the job, I left late but managed to hail the bus, picture it—or maybe you had better not—as it traveled on busy Jaffa Road. The driver was nice and stopped for me. I told him about my job and its location, and then the driver offered to pick me up everyday as he passed the shop. So for the six months I worked there I was given limousine service from work to my front door in Shiloh in the biggest limo you’ve ever seen.

Believe me, I’m not the only one who benefits from the kindness of Egged bus drivers. One of the most touching things I’ve ever observed was on the 13 bus when I used to travel it a couple of times a week to tutor a young woman who was severely injured in a terror attack and then miraculously recovered and wanted to resume her education. But this isn’t about her. It’s about another regular passenger on the 13 bus, a woman who very obviously suffered from a serious neurological and/or psychiatric disorder. It didn’t matter who the driver was, but all the drivers I encountered when she was a passenger treated her with full respect. They conversed with her and cared for her and made sure she was comfortable and arrived safely to wherever she was going. It was a beautiful lesson in chesed, kindness, giving. I learned a lot watching them, and I always left the bus feeling better about the world.

“Do not despise any man, and do not dismiss anything; for there is not a man who has not his hour; and there is not a thing that has not its place.”
Pirkei Avot, Ethics of The Fathers, Chapter 4, Mishne 3

Batya Medad

Thursday, December 2, 2004

another un-numbered, re: Savitsky/OU

An “un-numbered musing”
December 2, 2004
The 19th of Kislev

Following is my reply to the OU/Savitsky response, the official response and further reflections.

Dear Mr. Savitsky,
Thank you for responding, and I hope that someday you, too, have the great pleasure and privilege of making aliyah and living in our very unique country.

Batya Medad

OUCommunications wrote:
Dear Batya Medad:
After receiving many emails regarding my interview in The Jerusalem Post, I want you to know that I have placed an ad in Thursday’s editon of the Post which will read as follows:

I deeply regret the remarks I made concerning past motivations for aliya which were reported in the Friday, November 26 edition of The Jerusalem Post, and I apologize for them. I am sorry that these remarks, which were part of a lengthy discussion on aliya and many other topics, denigrated—albeit unintentionally—those who have made aliya over the years. As newly-elected President of the Orthodox Union, I will continue to acknowledge their courage and idealism, and to use their example to encourage others to follow in their footsteps. Indeed, promoting aliya was a key theme of our Convention in Jerusalem this past weekend.

I request mechila (forgiveness) from all whom I offended, and hope I may look forward to working closely with the entire community of olim to increase and enhance aliya in the future.

This unfortunate incident has caused me tremendous personal anguish and I hope that I have learned from this experience and that I will be able to represent the OU in a positive manner in the future. Thank you for taking the time to communicate with me.

Stephen J Savitsky
President, Orthodox Union

I think that it’s time to “let it be,” as the saying goes. There were a couple of very tense days as soon as Mr. Savitsky’s interview came out in The Jerusalem Post. It almost felt like a “war,” or at least the sort of “sibling rivalry” I’d never personally experienced.

There is no doubt that there’s a “tension” between us immigrants and the ones who stayed behind, or tried aliyah and left. The rapid and strong, powerful response against Savitsky, most probably, shocked us all, most of all those like him who think/thank of us as troubled, incompetant “moochers” who had to flee “problems.”

I must admit that it wasn’t a pleasant few days, though exhilarating in the rapid networking among those of us on line and in the support we received from abroad. Not everyone’s justifying his or her lack of aliyah by putting us down.

We may not have the trappings of kingly salaries, but we don’t need the help of pr experts and committees to get out of trouble. We’re tough and prickly, just like the “classic sabra,” soft, sweet and sensitive to slights on the inside. And I guess, that despite the identifiable accents most of us still have, we have become real Israelis.

We’ve proven our point, and the OU/Savitsky composed an excellent apology, and G-d willing he and the rest of them will join us in Israel, as olim.

More than enough said.

Shabbat Shalom,
Batya Medad