This opinion piece in Ynetnews sums up what Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terrorist victims) is all about. I always turn on the radio for awhile to hear some of the stories, and inevitably turn it off very quickly. I feel that I should hear about the families that have suffered loss, and I do – but after a bit it becomes too sad. It reminds me to be grateful – and I am.
23 Dec 2012 Leave a Comment
Today is the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet – a minor fast day in the Jewish calendar. It is also called the Yom HaKadish HaKlali in Israel. This means that today is the official day of mourning for Jews who do not know the exact date of their relative’s deaths, and they say Kaddish for them today. Most of the people who fit this unfortunate category are Holocaust survivors, and the day is sometimes used to educate the younger generation in Israel about Holocaust history (usually in the Orthodox community, since it coincides with a fast.)
Today, in contrast to past years, I would like to share a interesting video about the survivors of anti-Semitism and persecution from another part of the world – specifically from the Arab countries. They call themselves the “forgotten refugees” – since there is very little written about the million Jews expelled from the Arab countries around the time of Israel’s independence in 1948. Very little is written also about the riots and massacres carried out before the expulsions.
03 May 2012 Leave a Comment
Eight years ago an Arab terrorist murdered Tali Hatuel and her four daughters. They were gunned down in their family station wagon on their way out of Gush Katif.
Two years after the attack I wrote a piece in my blog called Remembrance Day for Little Girls.
The only postscript I can add to this sad story is the happy news that David Hatuel and his second wife have welcomed four new children into the world.
There are many things that I love about living in Israel – but the best thing I think is the knowledge that I am here along with so many other wonderful Jews.
18 Apr 2012 Leave a Comment
Ten years ago, on Passover eve, a terrorist blew himself up at the Park Hotel in Netanya, killing and injuring many. Another terrorist infiltrated the yishuv of Elon Moreh in the Shomron and killed many members of the Gavish family.
These two incidents prompted the IDF to train women to shoot M16 rifles. I signed up to learn to shoot, and I wrote about it on my blog (then called Westbankblog) four years after that. I am reprinting that blog post here:
Four years ago, during the intermediate days of Passover, a terrorist broke into the Gavish home in Elon Moreh and killed four members of the family. After analyzing the details of the incident, the army came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to train women to use the weapons that were issued to their husbands. Soon after Passover the first training session was on offer in our yishuv.
The day chosen for our first round of training was Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The symbolic significance of the day, commemorating another group of Jewish civilians who were forced to take up arms in order to defend themselves, was not lost on any of the twenty women gathered a bit nervously in an empty classroom.
One of the members of our yishuv, whose job it is to train young men for the IDF, was chosen to teach us, and became our “drill sergeant”. The first thing we learned that day was how to take apart and put together the weapon in our possession. The only thing I remember from this lesson is that there is a small part of an M16 called in Hebrew a “pin Shabbat”. This tiny piece, about the size of my thumb, is called that because, “if you lose it, you have to stay on the base for Shabbat”. The next, and probably most important thing we learned, was the concept of “neshek shishim maalot” – “weapons at a 60 degree angle”. This injunction meant that we had to place our weapons facing 60 degrees upwards, except when given express permission otherwise. At first this was a polite request, but when one or more of us made the mistake of pointing the M16 at another person it became a shouted order, and we quickly learned the correct Pavlovian response. We then learned how to check the chamber to make sure it was clear, how to cock the rifle, and how to set and unlock the safety. At one point we were told to line up outside in a row, with our weapons at a 60 degree angle of course, and our instructor for the day went down the line, checking us one by one to see if we had mastered these simple skills.
I am usually a calm person, but for some reason as our instructor made his way closer to me I became suddenly nervous that I wouldn’t know where the safety was. I gave a quick look on the side of the gun, and was both delighted and relieved to see S-A-F-E-T-Y etched into the black metal. With a heartfelt “G-d Bless America!” uttered under my breath, I passed this small test with flying colors. We then learned the different positions for shooting (lying on our stomachs, kneeling on one knee, and standing upright). We then had to practice shooting (without bullets of course) for a little while, and our first day of training was over.
The second day of our training was scheduled for a Friday afternoon in a wadi (dry river bed) not far from our settlement. The army was notified, of course, and this time a number of men accompanied us, in addition to our instructor. The atmosphere was a bit more relaxed, with the inevitable jokes bandied back and forth. One man quipped that “You have no idea how much this new skill will improve your marriage, ladies!” – which was greatly appreciated by the few men who had gathered to see how their wives did on the improvised firing range.
Receiving a set of ear plugs and a clip with ten bullets for each round of practice firing, we then proceeded to fire at targets from the three positions that we had learned. A last drill consisted of firing from an upright position “b’lachatz” – “under stress.” This stress consisted of our drill sergeant screaming near our ears while we were firing. I supressed a smile at this – I am a mother of boys, and trying to concentrate on a task while someone screams nearby is not exactly a new experience! All in all I did much better than I thought I would, and went back home sweaty but satisfied – to my boys’ wide-eyed admiration.
If I stopped the post here it could be seen as just a cute “private mamma” post, but there is a more serious denouement to the story that I want to share. It seems that after learning this new skill, I found a strange weight settle on my shoulders. I started looking at my home differently – doors and windows took on an additional dimension, and became entry points for intruders. I found myself imagining all kinds of frightening scenarios and how I would react to them, which basically boiled down to various ways that I could get myself and the gun between the terrorist and my children.
After about a week of this strange experience, something dawned on me – “this is how combat troops think”.
I know, I know, the veterans out there are probably thinking, “who the hell does she think she is! She learns to shoot a gun, spends a few “Walter Mitty-like” hours fantasizing about being a heroine, and she thinks that she knows what it is like!”
I fully realize that what I was imagining was only a faint glimmer compared to the reality of what combat troops go through in the line of duty, but this tiny peek into their experience enabled me to perceive something from a completely different perspective – and to change some mistaken impressions that I had picked up in the liberal environment in which I had grown up.
I cringe to admit it now, but when I was young, I thought that most conservatives were just unbelievably paranoid – seeing boogeymen under every bed, and much too eager to go to war. I’m embarrassed to say that I also picked up the arrogant belief (not from my parents, though, who had great respect for the armed forces) that those Americans who volunteered to enlist in the army were macho show-offs who just needed to prove how tough they were.
I didn’t need to learn to shoot an M16 twenty years later in order to know that the young liberal I was was wrong and incredibly naive. I had learned on my own that there really were people who wanted to murder my children in their beds (and blow up people on line for pizza and fly planes into office buildings, for that matter). But learning how to shoot the gun, and imagining myself actually using it do defend my loved ones, did teach me something new. I learned that there is absolutely nothing wrong, and in fact everything right, about using your strength, and skills, and courage to protect others who are weaker than you are – and that whatever pride you may feel at this is completely justified. I can now say thank G-d for those “macho show-offs” who became veterans – because without them I may not have had the priveledge to grow up in safety in America and become that naive and ungrateful liberal. I thank G-d for the IDF soldiers who protect the woman I am now – less naive, proud to be a conservative, and profoundly grateful to the veterans of both of the countries that I love.
My “obsessive” thoughts about terrorist intruders gradually faded, and I am happy to report that the doors and windows of my home have reverted to being just doors and windows.
One thing has changed permanently, though. I don’t touch the M16 as if it is a dead and dirty thing anymore. I handle it with the respect it deserves – as a very dangerous, but unfortunately necessary, tool.
posted by westbankmama at 4:58 PM
16 Apr 2012 1 Comment
I haven’t been blogging lately because of Passover cleaning and preparations. Now that we have put our Pesach dishes away and are eating bread again, I hope to have more time….
This period of time in Israel is what I usually think of as Jewish History “Month” (it really is 7 weeks long…) Although most Jewish holidays reflect some sort of historical event (with the exception of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur), this time of the year has many significant days, each with its own connotation.
Passover is of course the time when the Jewish people became the Jewish people, as we were liberated from slavery in Egypt. A week after Passover, we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day here in Israel, corresponding to the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Ceremonies take place both in the evening and on the day itself, and a siren goes off in the morning signalling everyone to stop and stand for two minutes of silence. There are programs on the radio and television and special newspaper articles written about the Holocaust. On the day itself you can usually hear recorded interviews of Holocaust survivors themselves.
A week after that is Yom HaZikaron – Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terrorist victims. Ceremonies are held both in the evening and during the subsequent day, and a siren again signals the time to stop and stand for two minutes of silence. There is always a moving ceremony in the evening in our yishuv. There is usually a video clip made on one aspect of the day. Last year they interviewed a man who lost a brother in one of the wars, and he spoke about how this affected his family and his own decisions about where to serve in the army.
The sorrow of this day is followed by Yom HaAtzmaut – Israeli Independence Day, usually including fireworks and mass consumption of barbequed meat. Practically the entire country is outside fanning the flames (except for those who use their gas grills). If the Maytag man in America was the loneliest person, this “honor” goes to the strict vegetarian on Yom HaAtzmaut in Israel.
There is a small break until Lag B’Omer, when those industrious children can finally burn their bonfire, after collecting wood for the past month. Ten days later is Jerusalem Day, when we celebrate the unification of Jerusalem that happened due to the Six Day War.
A week later we celebrate Shavuot, the time when the Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai.
This seven week period of time is very intense in Israel. Our identity as Jews and Israelis is strengthened by the commemorations of both ancient and recent historical events, and there is a feeling of being part of a “nation”. Growing up in America I always felt patriotic, but at the same time I felt “different” as a Jew. Here in Israel the patriotism I feel is complete. There is a joy in seeing the Israeli flag flown everywhere.
29 Feb 2012 Leave a Comment
It is one year since the massacre of five members of the Fogel family from Itamar. Today the Bet Midrash built in honor of the family is being dedicated.
The following video was made by a young women from Australia (hat tip, Israel Matzav).
11 Sep 2011 Leave a Comment
People around the world will remember the tragedy of 9/11 today. Here in Israel we remember too. MK’s and the deputy foreign minister will hold a ceremony this afternoon at the memorial.
Stand for Israel has a nice post up about the memorial to the victims which was dedicated two years ago. The memorial is located in a beautiful spot in the Jerusalem forest and is deeply moving in its simplicity. The American flag turns into a memorial candle, and the names of the vicitms are included. You can see this on the video below:
On a personal note, I remember feeling the very weird sensation of being worried about friends possibly hurt in America. We know someone who works very near where the Twin Towers used to be, and it took us a few days to get through to him. Reassuring others that we are ok is our usual mode. Being worried was very strange.
I also remember the feeling of shock at the videos of the planes flying into the buildings. How many times did I say to myself that “these things don’t happen IN AMERICA”. But, of course, they did. G-d willing they will never happen again.
In case you’ve forgotten (since it is not politically correct anymore), here is a reminder about the reaction of others. You know, the enemy.
17 May 2011 8 Comments
While this past Sunday’s events took most of the headlines, the day was marked in a different way by my neighbor. Sunday was the 11th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, and was the day seven years ago that Arab terrorists killed Tali Hatuel, a woman eight months pregnant, and her four young daughters. They shot her and her children in cold blood as they were traveling in their station wagon. Tali was my neighbor’s sister. Five years ago I wrote about their yahrzheit here.
Seven years ago there were some in Israel that thought peace would be on its way. Arik Sharon was going to move all of the Jews out of Gush Katif, and the Arabs were going to get what they (supposedly) wanted – the “end of the occupation”. The Jews were kicked out of Gaza, and……..the Arabs burned the synagogues to the ground, looted and destroyed the greenhouses, and continued firing rockets, this time into Sderot and the kibbutzim near the border with Gaza. 10,000 Jews were displaced from their homes, and instead of bringing peace it just served as a reward for the terrorists.
Now the Arabs are again calling for a state of their own, in the pre-1967 Israeli borders. Supposedly, if they get that, then they will negotiate a peace agreement with the Israelis. There is only one catch though. On Sunday they rioted in many places in Israel, a terrorist killed one and injured 17 in Tel-Aviv, and other Arabs from the surrounding countries tried to storm our borders and in one case succeeded. This was all on the day they call the Nakba – which commemorates the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, before there were any Jews living in Judea and Samaria. If they still commemorate this date by trying to kill Jews in Tel-Aviv, then why would anyone think it will be different if we give them territory in Judea and Samaria?
Whatever happens in September in the UN will not change the reality here in Israel. The Arabs hate us and want to kill us and completely destroy the State of Israel. It is part of Islam, and Hamas states this openly. They are planning to attack us again, and we will fight back and win, again. The only question is when, and how many Arab countries will pile on.
09 May 2011 1 Comment
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs keeps a list of the victims of Arab terror since September 2000, and unfortunately it keeps growing. The latest victim is Daniel Viflic, 16, who died when the Arabs in Gaza fired an anti-tank missile at a yellow school bus.
Today we remember the soldiers of the IDF who died to protect us, and the victims of Arab terror. May their memory be a blessing.
08 May 2011 Leave a Comment
Jameel has taken a break from his miluim (reserve) duty to write a great post about how it feels to serve in the IDF reserves on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. Go on over and take a look. A Soldier’s Mother gives her perspective on this trying and emotional day.
Esser Agoroth hosts this week’s Havel Havalim, 315th edition.