Saturday, May 18, 2013
We wandered and wandered for what seemed like an eternity.
In 1948 a miracle occurred. The nations of the world -- the same nations that arehistorically guilty of many of the atrocities mentioned above -- agreed to give this broken and beaten people a Land. Or at least some of it.
Almost immediately after Israel's independence was announced, the six surrounding Arab nations attacked.
Miraculously again, we defeated them. Since then we have been under constant terror from our Arab neighbors.
They have made an oath to conquer Israel and "push the Jews into the sea."
But they do not scare me.
Our army is stronger than theirs. We are far more advanced. And most importantly, G-d tells us He is watching over this land from the beginning of the year until the end.
What terrifies me however, what makes me curl up in my bed stricken with fear, is the enemy within us.
I look upon my nation and I am disgusted.
I see Hareidim cursing and spitting on soldiers. Sometimes going so far as hitting them.
I see what's called "Dati Le’umi" teenagers retaliating against Arab attacks in vicious ways which contradict the foundation of the Torah.
I see the Leftist Jews who seem to be more concerned with Arabs being "content" than with Jewish lives. They seem to be blind to the truth -- even after a bomb blows up a bus in their neighborhood.
I see right-wing Jews who have hate in most of their sentences when speaking about politics or our neighbors or any opposition to their ideals.
I see many of the American Jews who seem to have forgotten what happened in 1939 in a democratic country where Jews were also "accepted as equals." They seem to disregard any obligation they may have to help their nation become stronger and see no reason why their yearly check to the JNF doesn't quite cut it.
I see Sephardim who still feel anger towards the Ashkenazim and Ashkenazim who still resent those Sephardic "immigrants."
I see a government that is afraid to stand up to the West and is therefore a puppet in their hands.
I see great men of the Rabbinate remaining silent and closed-minded to their nation’s spiritual needs.
I see brothers hating brothers. Children being hurt, and the elderly being mistreated.
I see all this and I am disgusted.
And then I see my reflection and I become even more disgusted.
Who am I? What have I done to better the world? I'm a great critic, that's for sure. But am I a great person? If I died today, would I have made a difference? Will it be said about me that I helped fix the world, or that I G-d forbid destroyed it?
Instead of judging maybe I should be asking if there is anything I can do?
Friday, April 19, 2013
Yom HaAtzmaut fun? Did you have a barbecue? Did you play music? Did you dance?
National pride in Israel takes on a new meaning during this time of year. Everyone is connected to the powerful surge that flows through the Land. The flag blows differently, as if it knows what day it is. Everyone is smiling, feeling the energy, the passion for the Land. Some dress in "Yom Tov" clothes to honor the power of the day. Some dress in silly clothes, covered in flags and an Israeli cowboy hat. On this day, even the darkest parts of Israel become alive and beaming with Zionist strength.
Maybe because this country is still young and this type of passion will die out in the future? Maybe because a majority in this country has served in the army or other national service?Maybe Jews just like to party? Or could it be the brilliant juxtaposition of Yom Hazikaron that leads directly into Israel's Independence Day?
We stand in unison as the siren wails. We think about our beloved sons and daughters who fell in battle for the sake of this sliver of Earth; and then the sun sets, we wipe our tears, and wave in our independence.
People cherish more what they pay for. So before we celebrate, we focus on one point:
How much did this barbecue cost?
And that makes the party, the love, the pride, that much stronger.
I love you Eretz Yisrael. Happy Birthday! I love you my Nation. Thank You Hashem for the kindness You have done for us. Sixty-five years and counting!
Monday, April 15, 2013
The terrain is difficult but they carry me on the old stretcher the whole way.
I know it's heavy, I've carried it many times.
One of them closes his eyes trying to hold back the tears.
He is Yoni, he's my best friend.
We arrive at base just as the sun begins to rise.
My friends place me in a room filled with other Israeli soldiers.
Many of whom I served beside.
Yoni spends a few minutes with his head on my chest.
He keeps repeating the same thing he screamed at me on the battle field: "Wake up."
Only now he whimpers and sobs as he says it.
I'm brought to Har Herzl.
I can see my grandfather's plot from here, it's only one section away.
I came here so many times before with my father.
Now he and my mother and my three siblings stand together crying over my new white headstone.
A rabbi from the army sings: "Kel Malai Rachamim" as is tradition.
My new headstone is so fresh compared to the ones next to me. On it is written the day I was born and the day I was killed.
My army serial number is also engraved on it.
It's funny that was once a number I couldn't wait to forget, and now it will be with me for eternity.
That makes me proud.
We sure talked about that day a lot. He curses at me for ditching him and making him do it alone. He puts a stone on my grave kisses it and walks away.
Years pass. Yoni visits me regularly.
He's fatter now.
He tells me he found a girl and that he thinks hes gonna marry her.
I could swear he told me he was never gonna do that! "One girl for my whole life? No way!" he would say confidently, every time the topic came up.
A decade passes.
It is Yom HaZikaron today.
Har Herzl is packed with every type of person imaginable.
My family stands around, as they do yearly. They tell stories and talk about me.
Eema still cries, every year. Abba keeps strong. I know he is broken too but he has to stay strong for the family's sake.
He has a young boy next to him.
He tells me it's his son! He's named him after me, he says.
He sits with him and talks to him. Telling war stories.
He keeps pointing at my grave and saying: "I got to fight next to that hero."
His son listens to his daddy's stories entranced.
Yoni takes something out of his pocket and puts it on his sons neck. It's my old dog tags! He kept them all these years!
I'm so proud to have been able to do what I did.
I am now surrounded by my heros, including my Sabba.
I got to be part of protecting my nation and my country.
Would I do it again you ask... I would, with a smile.
For another post on Yom HaZikaron from this author check out: The Eternal Soldier.
Friday, April 5, 2013
As the winds of Pesach blow by, along with them blow the yearly fiery discussions of whether avoiding kitniyot (legumes, rice, etc.) should be removed as a tradition for Ashkenazi Jews or not. I have seen blogs, status updates, and even a Facebook group or two espousing their approval or disapproval in varying levels of passion, from mildly humorous to "rabbi-damning."
I myself stand with one foot on either side of the line. On one hand, my young revolutionary rebel side says: "To hell with this seemingly irrelevant tradition!" On the other hand, my young humble side has to look to our great spiritual leaders whom I trust year round, and see that the majority of them refuse to give up this age-old Ashkenazi tradition. For whatever reason, one can only wonder why. Maybe the fear of uprooting a tradition may confuse simple-minded Jews to believe that all traditions we don't understand or which don’t appear to have a clear reason are up for debate? Maybe there is something more, another detail which the vast Jewish Internet Society has missed? Who knows?But the fact remains. Therefore, for now, I must look jealously at my Sefardi friends as they enjoy a very rich and legume-filled Seder.
As I was scanning the many internet arguments on this topic this year, I saw one common denominator amongst the "Get Rid of the Tradition" crowd that I found interesting.
Perhaps their main point of argument with the tradition is the division it causes between Jewish families. For example, some Ashkenazi family members may be advised that they are not be permitted to eat with Sefardi family members.
At first glance this seems very noble. The Jewish people are furious at something that is distancing them from their fellow Jews!
I have but one challenge for all of us: Is this "achdut hunger" present all year? Do we always spend this much energy trying to knock down barriers between Jew and Jew? Do we always try to bridge the gap with those different from ourselves? Are we always ready to put aside our traditions or lifestyle so that other Jews will be more comfortable around us?
I guess I'm really asking this: Is it our love of our fellow man that makes us want to cast this tradition aside, or our love of Bamba?
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Patrol: "Go ahead, Radio Command."
Radio Command: "The cameras have detected two walkers closing in on the border."
Patrol: "We're en route to the site."
The patrol quickly jumps into the hummer. Lunch will have to wait. One soldier takes his last bite of noodles before grabbing his gun and climbing into the hummer.
The hummer speeds along the dirt path heading towards the site. Each soldier trying to get in the proper headspace that this could be the real thing. These could be terrorists coming to cross the security fence and slaughter a sleeping family or kidnap a soldier.
The hummer arrives on the site. There they are. Two silhouettes walking toward the fence.
Patrol: "Radio Command, come in."
Radio Command: "Go ahead, Patrol."
Patrol: "Requesting permission to fire in the air to scare them off."
Radio Command: "How far are they?"
Patrol: "50 meters and closing."
Radio Command: "You are a green light for firing in the air."
Five more appear. One sprints towards the border. The commander jumps back out of the hummer. The sprinter turns around and sprints back to his friends.
Suddenly you see that these are teenagers. They're having fun. They know we can't really do anything. More than that, they know we won't. We shoot in the air but they know we won't shoot them.
We are the Middle Eastern version of Buckingham Palace guards. Any young Gazans who don't have their own soldier toys can play with the IDF.
Walk toward the fence and three hummers filled with battle-ready soldiers will jump out, fire in the air, and then stare at you. But don't worry, they won't do anything to you.
We, as soldiers, have to always treat them as a threat. We can never get careless. Three months it's just teenagers having after-school fun, and suddenly it's a Hamas operative with an RPG.
They toy with us. Take advantage of our moral military. They know that our hands are tied.
I have but one question: When In all of history has the oppressed people been able, because of the "oppressing" country's laws, to mock and play with its military?
Thursday, March 14, 2013
IFL (Israeli Men’s Tackle Football League) Super Bowl, my father, the Head Coach of the Judean Rebels, stares bleary-eyed at his playbook.
He has to create new plays and strategies if he is to have any hope of taking home the victory. He chuckles to himself as he scratches the names of his fierce running back Ari "Mighty Mouse" Levin, his other powerful running back Didi "DiDog" Segal and his star quarterback/safety/receiver Dani "Cap'n Crunch" Eastman off the roster. They most likely won’t be attending the big game.
How does a coach even begin to prepare when he loses a vital part of his team? He knows however, that this is the reality, and he feels nothing but pride for his young players.
Why would three star players, dedicated to the success of the team, miss the Super Bowl, you wonder?
They will be making a commitment to protect and serve their nation even if it means missing the biggest game of the season. Even if it means ditching out on their team. Even if it means making their coach stay up into the wee hours of the morning trying to figure out what the heck he's going to do.
Robert Kraft, young men (and women) have the opportunity to compete in a professional full-contact league and even drink from the cup of champions from time to time. But then, whether they're ready or not, the country calls them up. They are needed now, and they must put their dreams and aspirations on hold, for the threat of war is all too imminent.
My father also knows that if that war would ever come, G-d forbid, besides three of his four sons – and the fourth would probably return from America to join his brothers -- being called up to fight, two thirds of his team would be as well.
And as a fan I say: PLEASE FIGURE OUT A WAY TO COME TO PLAY!! We shall pray...Where is Tim Tebow when you need him!
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The only way the Jews celebrate is together, "as one man with one heart."
As the week-long celebration after my wedding comes to an end, I had the opportunity to look back on my very special day.
It was a traditional Jewish wedding. We had a chuppah, we had a catered meal, and of course, there was plenty of lively dancing. I wore a black suit, my wife wore a beautiful self-designed dress, and at 21:30 the wedding ended and everyone went home. Nothing unusual.
However, after I had time to think over the experience, I saw that I was merely a character of the grand play: "The Potential of Am Yisrael."
At the chuppah, I stand with eyes dancing through the smiling faces staring back at me. I see Sefardim and Ashkanazim. In the back, my brothers from the army -- many of whom are irreligious -- stand wide-eyed at as this religious ceremony plays out. There are Chareidim standing proud in full garb. There are multi-colored kippot making a wave of color flow through the crowd. There are children and grandparents. I am staring at Klal Yisrael. Nothing separates us. In this moment, with the mountains of Yehuda in the background, I see my nation as it was always meant to be.
As the dancing began, I was overtaken by the love showering down upon me. Around and around I was swirled. Again, the many faces of different Jews flashed before me.
One of the wedding guests told my mother: "This is Klal Yisrael."
How did I merit to be part of such a special people?!
Thank you for all who participated in making such a G-dly experience.