Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Definition of “Cease-Fire”

cease-fire  [sees-fahyuh r]  
1.a cessation of hostilities; truce.
2.Military . an order issued for a cease-fire.

UMMMM I think we need to add one more:

3. Hamas. a possibility of throwing slightly fewer rockets

You see, this is my “red alert” app since 15:00, when the latest cease-fire was supposed to start:

A Smile in the Stairwell

    The day had been relatively quiet in the center of the country, but at 10:13 PM, as I was ladling out some soup for supper, the sirens started their own late evening “lullaby”. I quickly checked that the gas was off, covered the pot, and dashed for the stairs.
     Most of my neighbors suffice with entering the stairwell, and going down a floor or two. I often go down to the underground shelter. However, the last bit of stairwell before the shelter is near the glass entrance, and thus a very dangerous place to stand. As I entered that area, I saw an older man slowly going down the shelter stairs, and there was a woman waiting to go in behind him.
     At this point, time was running out, so I yelled at the lady “You’re near the glass! Come up a floor in the stairwell, away from the glass!”.  Simultaneously I did an about turn and ran back up a half floor, away from the entrance-way.
     The lady , who I didn't know, followed me. I turned and gave her a smile. “You were passing by on the street?” I queried. She answered, “Yes, I was passing by in my car, and stopped when the siren sounded.” She then pointed to her not-so-modest clothing and blushing,  added  “I guess you guessed from my manner of dress.”
    “Actually I assumed that because you’re not one of my neighbors.” Her reaction of visible relief was palpable. I hadn't even noticed her dress (which wasn't all that bad) until she had pointed it out.
       After  we heard the two missiles being neutralized by the iron dome, we waited a few moments, and I started going upstairs. “You should wait a few more moments before going out to the street”, I warned her. “Debris could still fall…… but you’re welcome to come up for a cup of water… or even coffee.”

    “Thanks, but I’m fine.” She replied, flashing me a smile in the stairwell.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Winning Over the Terror Within

    One of the most striking events of the last few weeks was the funeral of Staff Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli. A dual US-Israeli citizen, originally from California, he was a “lone soldier” (ie, a soldier with no family living in Israel). At his funeral, thousands who did not know him came to express their thanks, and support for his grieving family.
    This moring, I turned on the (radio) news, and caught the tail end of the previous program. Someone who had been at the funeral (and apparently who has written a song about it) said (approximately) the following:

“What is terror? Terror is the sowing of fear and hate. Hamas wants us to hate and live in fear. Instead they are bringing out the ‘ahavat chinam’ (love of our fellow man) in us.”

   Unfortunately, this is only partly true. Yes, there is a very large consensus in Israel that we are behind our troops. We pray for their safety, weep over every loss. For most people, there is no such thing as skipping the hourly news updates. There is also a widespread unanimity that this time we need to take enough action that we will not be replaying this movie in another two years… and that the constant “dribble” of rockets aimed to our south needs to be stopped.
   But here’s the rub. “Everyone and his uncle” has a different idea of exactly how to achieve this. And this has brought out a certain ugliness, discord, and polarization between various segments of Israeli society.

   So I call on all of us to not let Hamas reap the victory of building an internal divisiveness amongst us. Let us answer their terror with trying to hear our neighbors, our colleagues, and encouraging more “ahavat chinam”. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Walk, and the Tragedy at the UN School

    This morning I had decided to go walking in Tel Aviv. There had been fewer rockets attacks and thus less chance that I would have to lie on the ground somewhere. (If caught by an air raid in a non-built up area, or while riding the bus, I would need to prostrate myself on the floor to help avoid shrapnel injury; for TEN minutes…..)
   I was about to leave at eleven AM, but exactly then the quiet was broken, and there were, in a few minutes, several rockets over the area. (The booms were pretty loud.) I considered not going, but since I would be in a built up area 97% of the time, I decided that I didn't give a #%&*#** and went anyway. I stayed within running distance of buildings as much as feasible, but I guess Hamas had used up their quota for Tel Aviv for today because until I returned there were no sirens (IN MY AREA; IN THE SOUTH THEY HAD SEVERAL SIRENS, AS ALWAYS).
    The walk was not as nice as I had hoped it would be. I was on the beach area very little (not enough buildings). I also pittied the store owners in the area. The normally bustling boardwalk was not quite a ghost town, but customers were VERY sparse.
    However, while living under air raid threat is disquieting*, I am thankful that I am not a Palestinian.  I just now heard about the numerous civilians killed at the UN school. I don’t care what “side” you are on… it is a tragedy. That said, I will wait until the Israeli Defense Forces makes an inquiry before jumping to any conclusions….
      However, even if an Israeli shell hit the school, it seems that the school had been used by the terrorists. (If so, I trust that we will have the camera footage to prove that.) And even the head of the school admits that they were warned to leave. (Why they did not do so in time remains to be explored.)
     UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commented the other day on Hamas using the UNRWA schools to store weapons:  "those responsible [ie, Hamas] are turning schools into potential military targets, and endangering the lives of innocent children, UN employees working in such facilities and anyone using the UN schools as shelter."  Unfortunately, today’s scenario proved him right.
   Yes, it is a tragedy. It is a shame that this occurred. It is a bigger shame that Hamas seems Hell-bent to stick to their radical ideology, and their desire to destroy Israel. If they desired peace, we would have had it ages ago.  

*In Tel Aviv it is disquieting. In the “sfala” and southern areas of Israel, the constant barrage of rockets makes normal life absolutely impossible.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Walking tests, Sirens, Weights, and Geocaches

Today's aerobic walk was a real comedy of errors.
I had decided that since I was fed up with walking in Bnei Brak (it is NOT very scenic compared to the Yarkon Park or the Tel Aviv coastline...) I would take the bus to Tel Aviv. There I could walk along the built-up part of the Tel Aviv port, as well as the next-to-buildings side of the Yarkon park up to Namir road.  95% of this route would have buildings within a 90-second running distance.  Add to that the fact that there had been no sirens in Tel Aviv for about 24 hours, I felt I could risk it. I wasn’t going to walk in the open areas of the Yarkon park, after all. I was itching to go, and considering the very low level of risk, I was not going to let unwarranted fear (or Hamas) to rule over my life.
   In addition to the above, I wanted (for an online group I am in) to do a one-mile walking test. I do these tests periodically, always along the same stretch of the Yarkon Park. And while that area was off limits to me (ie, an open area with NO buildings), I decided that I would do the test in the other, built-up end of the park. Maybe the results would not be exactly accurate, but it would be good enough, considering.  I felt good about this, as I had told my friends not to expect me to do the walking test, as my running track was shelter-less.
   I took a bus most of the way to the port; I got off about a forty minute walk away, in order to “grab” a geocache. The cache was blessedly easy to find, and I was off walking down an avenue in the direction of the port. On reaching the port area I was enjoying the view when the air raid sirens started screeching away. I dashed into the nearest building, and a couple exiting from an office told me “This way!” as they (make that “we”) dashed down the stairs to an underground parking area. The area filled up quickly as tourists and locals hurried to safety.  In sort order we heard two missiles being shot down. At that point one man tried to leave, but he was restrained verbally by someone who reminded him that we need to spend ten minutes in the shelter, until all the debris from the rockets and anti-rocket  hardware would fall. So we waited, and people slowly relaxed from the tenseness that had been there a few moments before.  When  I finally was able to leave, I saw a bunch of ten year olds,  exiting from a different building. They were starting to set up chairs for what appeared would be their lunch break, chatting away. If you had not been there you would never know that they had just emerged from an air raid shelter.
    From there I turned north, striding  along the sea shore……. and on reaching  the glatt kosher coffee store there, I bought a coffee “to go”, just to give them some business. (Business is down there due to the “situation”.) Then I passed a sports store, and I remembered that my 4 kilo weights are getting too light for certain arm exercises. So I entered the store, bought a 5 kilo weight, and, in addition, an itsy-bitsy one kilo weight for when I will be allowed to start doing weight lifting with my left arm. (Two months ago I had surgery on that arm due to torn tendons.)  As I exited the store, 6 extra kilos weighing down my back pack I swiftly realized:
1)      There is no way that I will be able to get accurate results on a walking test, schlepping along an extra 6 kilos of weight.
2)      If a siren would sound again, those 6 kilos just might make running to shelter a *bit* more difficult!
    I decided not to fret. When I reached the Yarkon park area (where the buildings would be running distance, rather than closer, as previous to then), I simply held my (expensive) phone in hand, and decided that I would merely pitch my backpack into some bushes if needed (ie if there was a siren).  [I trusted that no one would haul it off all that quickly anyway, and the contents were not all that expensive.] I DID time my walk… it was definitely longer than my previous score of 16&1/2 minutes, but was a decent (considering) 20 minutes. What DID strike me was this: if a measly 6 kilos can slow me down that much, HOW in heaven’s name, did I manage to even MOVE when I weighed 80 kilos more than I do today!?!?!?! (After all, 80 kilos = 13 times 6 kilos!!!)

   So that was my “saga” for the day!

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Son's Facebook Post..&. NOW is the Time

   A few days ago one of my sons posted an item to facebook.  The source of the item was a left-wing Israeli newspaper, and it seemed to indicate him being against Israel's actions up to that point in Gaza. 
    Immediately several of his Israeli friends posted some very nasty comments, including "death to the leftists", and cursing him and his "neturi karta" family. [The "neturi karta" group is a very small anti-Israeli Jewish Orthodox group. It is not representative of the general attitude of the Orthodox community, even of those who do not "hold" by the Israeli government (like Satmer).]
    I know my son well enough to doubt that he meant his post the way it was being taken, and in the end, I was correct in this.  I wrote a comment, mentioning three things:
1) I was pretty sure that the post was not meant as it was being taken
2) statements like "death to the leftists" are loathsome. Groups like Hamas like to kill people who disagree with them; we need not fall to this level.
3) My son's family are NOT "neturi karta", and even my son who does not "hold" by the Israeli government, is NOT pro Arab, and is worrried and concerned for all the Jewish  residents of aretz (Israel). He said Tehillim (Psalms) daily for Gilad Shalit, and was heartbroken over the death of the three teens. [I have no doubt that he will be saying Tehillim tomarrow for the safety of the soldiers who are entering Gaza.] 
   The reaction was swift in coming. ... further explosive statements, name calling.  [This is typical of online discussions. People VERY RARELY listen to each other online. It tends to generally be a simple shouting match.]
   At this point my son noticed the hornet's nest that his post had caused. He posted an explanation, and shortly afterwards deleted his post. (This was probably because he wanted both not to be misunderstood, as well as to keep his crazy mom from mixing in.....).

*    *    *    *    *    *

    I feel very strongly that right now as Israeli troops are entering such a dangerous action, we need G-d's favor.  Sinking to the level of prejudice, hate, and name calling is not going to endear us to the Almighty. Now is not the time to be divisive, but to unite. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Magic Dancing Smartphones (in Israel)

How to teach your cell phone to dance:
1) download an application to notify you of air raids
2) set the application to all areas (of Israel)
3) set the application's sound setting to "vibration"
That's it! Hamas will do the rest!

Like His Father, My Son

    I want to share with you something that happened a few days ago, that I had wanted to write about, but this got pushed aside by “war” blogging.
    One of my married sons called me; I suspect to be sure that I wasn’t freaking out from the rocket attacks. After talking a few minutes about shelters, politics, and the like, he gave a little laugh and said “Mom, you won’t believe what my son did yesterday. He did something fitting for me once to have done. He lit a fire.”
     This son as a child had an absolute fascination with conflagrations. He was an excellent student, a very well-adjusted kid… but he LOVED looking at flames.     As an example:
      I used to have a friend who came to visit me nearly every Friday evening, after the Sabbath evening meal. Once we were sitting in the kitchen, sipping some tea, and I mentioned that I was a bit concerned about my son and his over-enthusiasm with anything that was lit. She was “poo-pooing” me, until my “pyromaniac” son entered the kitchen. At that moment, the lit fire on the stove (under the cholent pot) happened to let off a few extra flickers. My offspring’s immediate reaction to the spark was to start singing a bon-fire song, “Bar Yochai”.   “Hmmm…. I see what you mean” my friend admitted.
    Anyway, amazingly enough, my son grew up to be an exceptional fellow,  and today is not, to the best of my knowledge, lighting fires in the Jerusalem forest or committing any acts of arson.
    So returning to the phone call of a few days ago….. it seems that my grandson lit an area full of thorns, causing a fire. Luckily it was in a place where the flames could not cause much real harm, and it was extinguished fairly quickly.  My dear son was pondering about how to handle the situation……

    I hate to admit it, but as long as things are kept under control, and dealt with, there is a certain amount of grandmotherly pleasure when one of our grandkids pulls a stunt that their parents used to do (or easily could have done). The feeling of “Gee, now my kid will realize what I put up with, with him….” is, I think, a hope that our grown children will realize that our role as parents was not that easy. It’s almost a prayer that they will forgive us for any lapses or mistakes that we made, as they comprehend just how easy it is to not be a perfect parent.

The Dream

     I usually don’t remember my dreams. Even after Ricki’s death, when all my family members shared dreams where they had seen her, I was a bit disappointed, wondering what was “wrong” with me that I had no dreams to share. I finally made peace with this, realizing that I probably just didn't remember any dreams I had, and that even if I did not dream of her, it meant nothing about my feelings for her.
    But last night, not too long after falling asleep, I woke up in muddle of thoughts. I had dreamed that I was striding down a street in nearby Ramat Gan when an air raid siren sounded, and had started looking for a safe shelter. As I awoke, I quickly realized that there was a good chance that there had been a sounding of the air raid siren (since we often dream about sounds we hear while asleep).  IF this was the case, since I wasn't hearing the warning screech at that moment, it meant that I was in the near-to-the-end-period of the 90 seconds I had to reach safety.  So I ran to the stairwell, and when I saw there were no other neighbors there, I gratefully realized that it had been just a dream, and my adrenalin levels started climbing down the ladder that they had been scrambling up.
    So  then, before returning to sleep, I finally downloaded to my smartphone an application that sends alerts in case of a missile attack. I even left the application on “silent”, I just wanted a list of recent alerts, in case I ever again have a doubt about whether I need to dash for safety. In addition, I can see on it when the towns my kids live in have had a siren. [An extra tool to help me be a more worried mom and grandmother……]

[But, by the way, they DID throw rockets at us already this morning. I woke up VERY well to that (real) siren, thank you!]

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Taste of Life Under Rockets

      Amazingly, except for when the air raid sirens sound, life here in the Tel Aviv area has been going along fairly much as usual. [Note that in places where there are more sirens than here this is not so. It is hard to live a normal life when you need to drop everything several times a day to go run for your life...]   

Some Basic info:
Very old buildings have no shelter whatsoever, and the residents of these buildings need to run outside to a public shelter. If this is not feasible, they would go to the stairwell of the building. Newer buildings have, by law, a reinforced “safe roof” in each apartment. For parents of young children or those with elderly  parents, this makes getting to shelter (like at 3AM) much easier. My married son who lives in Beit Shemesh has such a “safe room”, and he has chosen to put his kids to sleep there…..which makes middle-of-the-night- sirens much easier.

 Our building, which is “middle-aged”, comes from the period when the law called for constructing an underground bomb shelter for the use of all the building’s residents.  Since we live on the third floor, I am grateful that we (living in the Tel Aviv area) have a full 90 seconds (and not 15 like in some places) to reach the shelter.   The time it takes, from reacting to the siren, and running down four flights of stairs, can easily reach a good minute. [However, my husband, who has Parkinson’s, cannot make it all the way down in ninety seconds, and he has to be content with reaching the middle floor stairwell, which would protect from shrapnel and pieces of rockets falling,  but not from a  direct hit on the building.]
*  *  *  *  *
      [By the way, the main reason for the “lop sided” death statistics shown to the world is because we in Israel have consistently spent money to build shelters in nearly every building, using our resources to protect ourselves. That, plus the fact that we do NOT use our women and children as “protective human shields” for our armaments. It is not because Hamas hasn’t been trying to kill us.] 

 But even here there are some interesting side effects to living under the shadow of missile attacks:
1)  It is nine PM. It has been a long hot sweaty day, and coming back from a brisk walk, I am drenched. I definitely need a shower.  HOWEVER, what if an air raid siren will sound when I am in the shower? I can hardly go dashing down the stairs to the shelter,  in front of my male orthodox neighbors, in my birthday suit.   In the end I decide that since the statistical chances of a bomb hitting exactly my building is zilch, I can settle this once with reaching the middle of the stairwell. So I proceed, but being as careful as possible to be ready at any moment to participate in the Olympic who-can-get-presentably-covered-in 15-seconds competition.
2) I have temporarily given up all my scenic walking to Hertzalia and such. Not only are there no shelters in these open areas, but since it IS an open area (and the iron dome anti-rocket missiles cost a fortune), the area will not be covered by the anti-missile system. Yes, I miss the nature areas, but it simply isn’t worth taking the extra (even if minuscule) risk.  But even in city areas, I am not able to just “go walking”. As I walk I keep an eye open for what type of buildings are around me, and plan my walks accordingly. I will choose a regular street with houses over the playground, and a newer neighborhood over an old decrepit one. I simply try to ensure that I am, at any given moment,  within a 90-second dash distance to the nearest shelter.  
3)   Even with all of number 2 above, walks in the city can be “entertaining”. IF there is an air raid siren in my area, I hear the siren, seek shelter, and prepare myself for the load “boom” that we will hear when (hopefully) the rocket is shot down by the iron dome system. [Actually, there would be just as loud of a boom if the iron dome missed, but so far, thank G-d, I have yet to hear any real falling of a rocket….] 
   However, we receive sirens only when OUR part of Tel Aviv is targeted, but not if the missile is headed to another part of the metropolis. So I can be walking along, trying to have a nice evening walk, when a “BBOOOOOOOMM” assaults my ears, and perhaps I even feel the shock wave from the explosion. Did you ever on a sunny summer day hear very unexpectedly, a huge roll of thunder?  It’s a bit unnerving, like that, but add to that the feeling that someone is really trying to kill you.   And that the falling pieces just might kill some poor soul who could not reach shelter.

4)  Income for many people has gone down, as people stay home more. Even I have had several cancellations, as students stayed home with their kids rather than leave them on their own.

Finally a joke…. People who laugh as Hamas threatens a big barrage of rockets at XXX hour. The joke is:
    Hamas is threatening to send rockets tonight at 8:15 and 10:00. They will broadcast an televised replay at 3 AM for whoever misses it…….

   I would like to add that I DID look at some of the photos from Gaza today. I do NOT want ignore their plight completely.  I do not want to become a non-thinking, prejudiced, type of person.    Yet I must rank my safety, and that of my children, and grandchildren, first……
      (I will just mention that part of the lack of electricity in Gaza is due to rockets HAMAS sent which hit the power lines from Israel to Gaza.) [Also, it is sad about the four kids killed in Gaza today, but  NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin said that Hamas calls the Israel’s warnings to evacuate certain areas psychological propaganda and that they urge civilians not to leave ……… so they should be honest enough to admit that they are largely to blame for this.(Because they told people not to evacuate, and also because they locate army supplies in a city center.)