Ten Years Since the Start of the Oslo War

During a time when some Americans are actually debating the idea of allowing a mosque to be built near Ground Zero, it is important to see Islamic terror for what it really is. Unfortunately here in Israel we do not need to “imagine” it – many of our citizens have lost loved ones or have survived attacks themselves. One particularly intense period of Arab terror in Israel was during the years 2000 to 2005, during the Oslo War.

In September 2000, on Rosh Hashana, the Second Intifada (what we call the Oslo War) started. Arabs started riots all over Israel, supposedly in response to Arik Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, although evidence shows that this was planned months previously.  I remember that after the holiday was over the IDF recommended that those living in Judea and Samaria should refrain from leaving their homes for a day or two.  We missed our nephews’ bris in Jerusalem because of it.

This event ushered in a period of Arab terror in Israel that has left an indelible mark on many people’s personal lives, and a scar on the Israeli psyche.

Some “highlights” of the Oslo War:

The beginning – the war started on September 28, 2000. The destruction of Joseph’s Tomb in Shchem (Nablus) occurred on October 7, 2000.  The lynch in Ramallah, on October 12, 2000 – a mob of Arabs literally tore two IDF soldiers apart for the “crime” of driving into Ramallah. The following five years had so many terrorist attacks that the information needs to be organized in a graph. A major terrorist attack that traumatized all of Israel was the massive suicide bombing of the Park Hotel during the Passover seder. (Make sure to scroll down to see the pictures of the mostly elderly victims).

Israel’s response: Fighting back, and taking care of the wounded

Fighting back: After initially quelling the riots that September, the acting Prime Minister of the time, Ehud Barack,  did not formally use the IDF to protect the citizens of Israel, although the intelligence services were always working to give warning when they suspected an attack was coming, and some targeted killings of terrorist leaders were ordered. The country reacted to this relative passivity accordingly, and elected the most hawkish Prime Minister in decades, Arik Sharon. After the massacre of Jews at the Park Hotel in March 2002 Sharon finally used the IDF to go into the Arab cities in Judea and Samaria in what was called Operation Defensive Shield.  (They had so many reserve soldiers volunteer to fight that they had to turn some back). In the following months Sharon did not hesitate to order many targeted killings of terrorist leaders, the most famous being the bombing in July 2002 of the house of  Salah Shihada, the leader of Hamas at the time.

The IDF always continues to hunt the terrorists, even if it takes years to capture them . On September 26, 2007 they captured the last one responsible for the lynch in Ramallah.

Treating the wounded: Due to the unfortunate amount of experience in dealing with traumatic injuries, Israeli doctors and medical staff have become experts in treating mass casualties.  Israel is also very experienced in treating PTSD in both adults and children. Other practical responses to our experience with terror is the redesign of certain public spaces. Bus stops, for example, are now built with “preforated” metal sides and rooves. This design reduces the injuries caused by the shock wave caused by an explosion. (Near where I work they just constructed a school bus stop this way).

Our culture also reflected the mood of the time, and a very popular song of the period was a rendition of “Rachem”. May Hashem hear our prayers so that we never need to go through a time like this again.


Straight Talk About That Mosque Near Ground Zero

If you haven’t seen this video yet made by Bill Whittle at Pajamas Media, it is a must see. The money quote for me was when he said, “..weakness not strength, and cowardice not courage starts wars…”.

The Latest From Latma

Latma has a new music video out – scary but funny at the same time….

Compare and Contrast

I came across an interactive site comparing different countries as part of a Newsweek series about the best countries to live in. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Israel ranked 22 out of 100, and I decided to see where our neighbors ranked.

The nearest competitor was Jordan, ranked 53. Egypt came in at 74, and Syria at 83.

Some of the statistics were no surprise. Israel, with very little natural resources, has thrived economically because of three things – G-d’s blessings, our brain power, and our democratic freedoms (and considering how tough it is to run a business here, I wonder just how well we would do if the red tape was really cut….).

I was surprised at the difference in life expectancy though – in some cases people in our neighboring countries can expect to live 10 years less than we do!!!

The difference in literacy also surprised me…

Praying for the Basics

We are now one week into the month of Elul, the Jewish month before the start of the new year. Our job this month is to review our actions over the past year and resolve to do better in the coming one.

One thing that I have tried to do over the years is to improve my davening (praying). At some point I realized that I needed to add some requests to my daily prayers, and that things that some people take for granted are not necessarily “part of the package”.

When I married I prayed very hard under the chuppah (the traditional marriage canopy) that we would move to Israel. I didn’t even think to pray for children! In my naivete I assumed that children would be a natural part of the package. Then I hit infertility, and I learned my lesson.

Later I continued to make the same mistake. I assumed that if westbankpapa and I “did all the right things” then our kids would turn out ok. At one point, after the problem of teenagers “going off the derech” (not continuing to be Orthodox) became obvious, I read a Jewish magazine devoted to the topic. Some of the articles had advice on how to raise your kids – but one article by a very prominent Rabbi knocked my socks off. He said that how are kids turn out is 50% due to our shalom bayit (“peace in the home”, or how we get along with our spouse) and 50% prayer. I quickly added another very important “basic” to my prayers.

Somewhere along the line I finally learned my lesson, and I pray for a lot of things now that I never did before. I pray for good health for my family, I pray for brides with good midot (character traits) for my sons (21, 15, and 14 – never too early to pray…), for shalom bayit in my family, and I pray for parnassa (material wealth).

This past week I added a new twist to the last. There is a very personable young man who works near our store in the industrial zone of the yishuv where I work. He has organized a group of us to say “Parshat HaMan” every Sunday morning. This is a prayer for material wealth, that quotes the portion of the Torah that discusses the manna that G-d sent down to the Jews wandering in the dessert. The prayer is heartfelt, and it is a wonderful experience saying it along with the others of our group – who are not all religious, but are mainly traditional. None of the men besides the one who organizes the tefilla wear kippot (one even sports an earing), and except for two of us the women do not dress in the traditional modest way. But we all work for small businesses, and we all know that our parnassa cannot be taken for granted.

Soccerdad is Back…

Soccerdad is back – at least to the world of HH.

The Perfect Fit

This past Friday we took our teenage sons to do some important errands.

First, we went to exchange our gas masks. We have known that a war is coming for quite some time, but this past week, when the Lebanese army shot at IDF soldiers at the border and killed one of them, we knew that things were heating up very quickly, and the time to really prepare is now. The last time we received the masks  my kids were about 7 and 8 years old. The boxes were “decorated” by them with watercolors – an exercise in the school to take away some of the fear engendered by them needing to have them in the first place.

Now both of my kids are in adult sizes. Westbankpapa, in his usually thorough way, asked each son to try on the sample masks to make sure that the size was correct (adult sizes come in youth, medium and large). Both needed medium in the end. I got a chill looking at them with the masks on – the sort of feeling that makes you want to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over your head. The last time we received the masks, I related to them as “just boxes” that I would then put on top of the closet to gather dust (which is what they did, thank G-d). Seeing my kids try them on and learn how to adjust the straps made me see them for what they were – a protection against chemical warfare.

We then went to the nearest mall to do some clothing shopping. My kids are skinny but getting taller by the minute, and they have finally reached the smallest of men’s sizes in trousers (with a good belt tightened to the last notch….). They have also reached the age where they are extremely picky about what looks good, although they do ask me my opinion also. They know that they can choose “cool” clothes but not ones that make them look “sleazy” – and they always need me to approve their t-shirts before buying one (I read them what is written in English). Slogans like “Dry wit” is ok, “free beer” isn’t!

They still need some dress shirts for Shabbat – for that they will go with westbankpapa sometime this week. Now I just need the schoolbooks…..