Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gearing Up at the Pina Chama for Independence Day

Every year residents of Efrat and Gush Etzion put together a mega-barbecue at the Pina Chama (Soldiers Hospitality Hut) as a thank-you to the hundreds of servicemen and women who protect our communities from the southern gate of Jerusalem through the Hills of Hebron, from the Lamed Hei (on the way to Bet Shemesh) to Eastern Gush Etzion.
It's an incredible experience for volunteers and soldiers alike, as warm smiles and BBQ smells abound.
I popped by the Pina Chama today to see how things are progressing for tomorrow, IY"H.
Food donations had started coming in, especially dozens of boxes of cookies donated by Gili's Goodies, and more boxes donated by a Friend of Pina Chama. The fridge's humous shelf was filling up, and boxes of soda have begun to arrive.
Everyone is excited about tomorrow's BBQ, from our grillers, to our salad scoopers, to our soldiers who will be coming from near and far.
The BBQ could use more sponsors. Please write to if you can help. 

Let's make it a Happy Independence Day for the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces.

Siren Recalls Terror Attacks at Gush Etzion Junction

I was delivering boxes to the Pina Chama (Soldiers Hospitality Tent) in anticipation for tomorrow Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) Barbecue for the soldiers. (You can still donate to this great day for our IDF soldiers.  :)  - ). Suddenly I realized it was five minutes to 11 AM, the time when the siren is sounded throughout Israel to stop and remember those fallen IDF soldiers and victims of Arab terror since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
In general, Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) has a special meaning to residents of Gush Etzion and their families. It is also the day that we remember the fall of Gush Etzion in 1948 on the day before Israel’s Independence. Valiant as its defenders were, try as they might, the pre-State residents of Gush Etzion were removed from the area (mothers and children), sent into captivity in Jordan, or murdered by vicious Arab Legionnaires.  
Today as the siren sounded, I was surprised to see dozens of young people standing in the middle of the Gush Etzion Junction. I asked one of the Pina Chama volunteers if she knew why.
She explained that many Arab terror attacks against Jews and assault attempts against both soldier and civilian have happened at the Gush Etzion Junction (a hitchhiker’s site). These young people are remembering their friends and family who were killed or injured here.
Here are some of those attacks and their victims, HY"D, (gleaned from the media – please excuse me for all those incidents that I inadvertently excluded):
On Oct 16, 2005 - Matat (Rosenfeld) Adler, 21, and her cousin, Kineret Mandel, 23, both of Carmel, and Oz Ben-Meir, 15, of Maon were killed and three were wounded when Arabs opened fire at the Gush Etzion junction south of Jerusalem. (Another teenager was shot and seriously wounded at the same time near Eli, in Samaria.) The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for both attacks.
In January 2006 – an Arab man stabbed a 25 year-old Israeli man and a 17 year old girl. They sustained moderate injuries. The attacker was shot and injured by an off-duty police officer.
In March 2006 – soldiers caught an Arab armed with a knife at the trempiada (hitching post) at Tzomet HaGush.
In December 2009 - an Arab stabbed a Jewish woman in the back.
On November 25, 2010 – an Arab attempted to stab Jewish hitchhikers at the Junction. He was arrested by the IDF.
In January 2011 – Shots were fired from the thicket near the Junction. B”H, no one was injured.
On October 19, 2011 - just one day after 477 terrorists were exchanged for Gilad Shalit, a female Arab terrorist tried to stab an Israeli at the Gush Etzion junction.
Next time you drive past the Gush Etzion Junction, remember those who lost their lives there, and thank Hashem for those whom He saved.
Kol hakavod to the young people who respectfully stood at the Junction through the siren, even as Arab cars and trucks zoomed by.
How dismaying that in so many places around the country, traffic comes to a dignified halt for two minutes on Memorial Day, but at the Gush Etzion Junction…business as usual. Perhaps next year, police can stop the traffic for two minutes in front of the Pina Chama at the Gush Etzion Junction in order to show respect for Israel’s fallen soldiers and civilians.
For a peek at the Gush Etzion Junction during the siren:

Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) in Beit HaLochem (Fighter's House)

 Last night for the first time I spent Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers and Terror Victims) in a place of soldiers. Every year I have been an audience member at a community program. I sat among fellow residents, regular folks. This year I sat with soldiers, veterans, wounded soldiers, family of fallen soldiers. The atmosphere was totally different. It wasn't a "program", an "event". It was their lives. 
Beit HaLochem is the House of the Fighters. It is a place for soldiers and their families in good times and bad. It is a place of therapy and encouragement. There's a pool with family swim and hydrotherapy; there are chugim (clubs) for children and for veterans in art/music/whatever therapy of all kinds. 
There are also events and sports tailored to soldiers and disabled soldiers, like wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. In Beit lochem everyone is a mensch (a worthy person) - the man in the wheelchair, the woman with the burnt face, the twenty-year-old with the nerve twitch, everyone is a mensch. No one is pitied. No one stares. Everyone is accepted as s/he is. 
We received a special invitation to Beit HaLochem because my son, an injured soldier, represented the other disabled soldiers and spoke at the ceremony. We were told that children were not invited. (B"H, we did not bring children. It would have been too difficult an evening for them.) The MC began the event, "Parents, children, widows, orphans..." This is how a ceremony begins? I had never heard anything like that before. He spoke quietly to the audience, "How can we remember your loved ones? We will try." It was an evening of remembering and comfort. 
There was no need to talk about soldiers giving their lives for the country. There was no need to talk about battles or terror. The people in this room knew about all these things first hand, and didn't need to be reminded. The evening was a giant hug from one person to another, a big shoulder for each person to cry on. 
Someone sang, "My love, I am always with you. Don't cry because of me. I am here." Another read a poem, "The names come to us as they walk in row after row of angels from the desert, from the valleys, from burning tanks and a silent bullet. And Hashem sees the angels and says, 'these are my sons'." 
Beit HaLochem showed a power point with 20 minutes of names, photos and descriptions of fallen soldiers. The when/where/how they fell was shown small on the bottom of each slide. But written larger, there were personal words: he never went home for Shabbat without bringing flowers to his mother...he loved learning...a physics genius...Scouts counselor...always volunteering...fantastic sense of humor...loved by everyone. These are the things that count, and these descriptions were alongside the photos of soldiers who fell in battle or in terror attacks from 1948 to the present. No one moved. Not a sound could be heard but the gentle sniffling in the darkness. Everyone in the Israel Defense Forces Family was represented - the parent who lost a son, the widow, the injured soldier - each read words about other fathers, other widows, other soldiers. 
Idan Amedi, a star discovered on TV's Kochav Nolad, performed with a full heart. Idan is an IDF commander, whose song, "Ke'ev shel Lochamim" (the Pain of Soldiers), became a tremendous hit everywhere in Israel. All those on stage and in the audience were veteran soldiers or the family of soldiers. The evening in Beit HaLochem wasn't a Yom HaZikaron event. It was the essence of Yom HaZikaron in the soul. 
To peek into last night's event:

As we exited Beit HaLochem, I noticed a glass inscription. It is the character of Israel always to pray for peace, even in a Beit HaLochem (House of Fighters). 
"Nation shall not life up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (Micha, 4:3)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Today I am a Boy

My only grandson got his hair cut today.
Perhaps that doesn't sound like big news to you, but for religious Jews, a boy's first haircut is a monumental event. His days of "running wild and free" are over. His hair is trimmed, just as a tree is pruned to help it grow strong and well. He trades in his heart-stopping waves for a more mature look. And he receives a kippah and tzitzit to symbolize his entrance into the world of Jewish learning.
My grandson was given chocolate letters of the alef bet (made by his aunt Rivky) to munch on - symbolizing our hopes that he will absolutely devour Torah learning and become a great talmid chacham (scholar).
My son made a meaningful and lovely speech, appropriately filled with Torah thoughts, gratitude and good feelings. 
My son explained more about the tree analogy. "A tree needs the four basic elements in order to survive - earth, water, air, and fire (sun)...Earth in which a tree must be firmly rooted. People need to be rooted in a strong home, filled with Torah values and morals in a supportive growth environment."
"Without water, a tree will whither and die. The Torah is compared to water - mayim chayim. Moshe said, 'May my teaching drop like the rain.' (Deut. 32:2)"
"Air for all the elements a tree needs to breathe and thrive. The Torah says that Hashem breathed life into Man. The Hebrew word for breath - neshama - is the same as that for soul - neshama. Our spiritual life force comes metaphorically by way of air and breathing."
Lastly, "a tree needs the warmth of fire (sunlight) to survive. And humans need the warmth of their community and family to thrive and grow."
My son blessed his son, "May you always stay connected to your roots and learn from your grandparents and great-grandparents before you, may the Torah provide you the nutrients you need to succeed and thrive, and may the fire for doing maasim tovim (good deeds) and avodat Hashem (the service of G-d) always burn within you."
May the words of my son and daughter-in-law be blessings for your child as well.
Pass the Scissors
It was time for the child, who passers-by always noted, "He's beautiful enough to be a girl," become a true boy.
The scissors were passed around, and everyone took a a centimeter from my grandson's beautiful golden hair. The doll boy stood very happily, devouring his lollipop and snack bag. And when he had had enough of relatives and friends snipping away at him, he just sat down and quietly made everyone understand that the party was over.
All his little cousins received candy bags in the shape of tzitzit, and even got a chance to cut the big boy's hair too (with some help from their parents).
When the ceremony was over, a professional groomer finished the job. At the end, he looked like a handsomer version of England's Prince William as a three-year-old.
Mazel tov to our little man, as well as his parents and his entire family, who came from near and far for this moment. And may you have much nachas (pride) from all of your children.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

And the Israeli Groom Wore Israeli Shoes

How many Greeks does it take to unscrew a light bulb? I don't really know. But here's another one. How many relatives does it take to buy a pair of shoes for a chattan (a groom)? That I can tell you - five (the parents, the aunt and uncle, and the little sister). And they each had an opinion (believe you me :) ).
I know, because that's exactly how many of us went yesterday to get my son, the chattan, shoes for his wedding. 
We visited three well-recommended shoe stores where he tried on dozens of well-recommended shoes. He needed a 45 Medium, which seemed not to exist anywhere. The shoe salesmen showed in 44 Wide, 45 Narrow, 45 Wide, 44 Very Wide. 
"It's crunching because it's too wide." "Don't worry, you'll get used to it." 
 "It feels too tight in the front." "Don't worry, you'll get used to it." 
"It's hurting my feet." "So... my shoes are hurting my feet too." 
We didn't just try John Smith Shoes. We tried Rockports and Hush Puppies. Nothing was just right. So, we gave up and went out for hamburgers. That always makes a shoe shopper feel better. Suddenly as the small Mall in which we were eating was winding down, I wondered if there were any shoe stores inside, even if they were closed. 
My husband decided to run up the already halted escalator to see if there was anything on the second floor. He SMSed me. "They're open." And we all ran up to a tiny shoe store. 
8:33 PM, the salesmen greeted our entourage with true consideration. Again, he tried things that were too big, too small, too tight, not right. Then the sales woman brought out a pair of shoes that she "had a feeling about." 
 And BINGO!! They felt fine. They fit fine. And on top of all that, they were made in Israel. 
Wow. In a world where just about everything is made in China, here were wonderful shoes for our Israeli groom and they were actually made in Israel. 
Oh-man, Oman! 
I'd like to thank the Oman Shoe Company for manufacturing sturdy and comfortable shoes for my son. Founded in the city of Jaffa in 1963 under the name "Tunic shoes", the company moved in 1977 to Tel Aviv, and was renamed Oman Shoe Industries Ltd. Their specialties were work shoes and men's shoes. While they do import some Italian designs today, Oman still produces comfortable and good looking shoes in Israel today. 
Hooray for black shoes that are blue and white.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Science of Jockeying for the Right Aisle

Going shopping after the holidays is kinda stressful, not really remembering what you've got in the freezer, but knowing that despite the yogurt, cottage cheese, fish and leftover extra-cheesy matza-sagna in the fridge, the kids say there is nothing to eat. Nothing! Yes, after opening every drawer in the pantry, fridge and freezer, they usually cry out in anguish, "Ema, I am starving!!!!" So you run to the supermarket and you try to buy stuff that you know the family will like. You wagon is full of who-knows-what, and now... You've got to get on line. That's the hardest job of all - jockeying for the correct aisle in the supermarket.  You start counting wagons - four here, three there...but those three are all overloaded, five... but the first one's about finished.  The clock is clicking away. Your feet are hurting and it doesn't seem that you're making any headway. Time to switch lanes. But this time you have to be smarter, so you start guesstimating the number of items in the wagons around you. Whether you guesstimate by volume or piece is a whole separate part of the science. The lady with the screaming baby has about 63 things, depending on whether the cashier counts each baby food jar separately. The older couple have 48, but they're taking their time. You take a moment to wait and watch. You make your move to the "best" aisle. And then you just pray. Good luck to everyone on their post-holiday shopping. Life is full of challenges, but we grow from them - even the supermarket challenge.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wonders inside and outside of My House

I found two memos that I had written into my phone a few weeks ago. At first I was going to erase them, but they meant enough to me at the time to take note, and I thought, "How wonderful that sometimes life can seem so normal and serene that we can take notice of two quiet and eternal moments."
Tra La
The first flowers of spring popped out in front of my house yesterday. When I saw them, I became as excited as if I had seen an amazing wonder - the pyramids of Egypt, the hanging gardens of Babylon or the waterfalls at Tel Dan. Now that might seem odd. I've B"H seen decades of seasonal changes. And I've seen many a winter turn to spring, but after a cold and B"H rainy winter, seeing a yellow bud popping up in front of my fish pond hit me hard (in a good way)!!!  I love the spring and all the hope it brings. And I am grateful for the signs that show that despite the doom and gloom that are detailed daily, there is beauty in the world. Sometimes it is right in our own little garden. The flowers that bloom in the spring Tra la.
A Beautiful Sight inside My House
My dearest mother ad 120 (until 120) put my grandchildren to sleep tonight. She put them into pajamas and hugged them and laughed with them. I am filled with gratitude to Hashem for allowing my grandchildren and my mother to have this experience. B"H, I wish it on everyone we love. Thank You, G-d.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pre-Pesach Injuries

Erev Pesach is unfortunately the time of more accidents and emergency room visits than any other. People are rushed, pressured, overworked and overtired. In an atmosphere like that anything can happen, and unfortunately does. So when a Pesach accident happened to my friend, I met lots of other Pesach oops-ers in the emergency waiting room. There were also other unfortunate incidents. Across from us sat an 18 year old girl and a woman that I assumed was her mother. They were chatting calmly until for some reason it seemed that things were not quite regular here. I asked the girl what was wrong with her. She had just been stoned on an Egged bus going in Route 443 to Modi'in. Doctors were afraid she had glass shards in her eye. Her friend was hurt more seriously and was still being treated for a gash in her head. These two girls, bnot sherut, are national service volunteers.  Between Modi'in, a yuppie secular-religious city, and Beit Choron Arabs stoned their bus. Do you remember that the Army did not want to open 443 to Arab traffic, but the High Court of Justice demanded that the road be open to all, or it would not be fair to the Arabs living in the area. So they were forced to open the 443 and the busy road has become dangerous for Jewish drivers. Sigh. Such a sweet teenager, waiting patiently to find out if she had glass in her eye, while sitting and worrying about her friend. There is something wrong when a mother sends her daughter to do national service for the country and ends up sitting in the hospital with her all night. I don't know what else to say. Sad.