Friday, August 1, 2014

Israel and Gaza, after more than 24 days

If what follows upsets you, feel free to leave now. (Please do not think this is directed at any one person. This is a culmination of my thoughts over the past few weeks and the response I have seen from a variety of sources.)

After more than 24 days of conflict in Gaza, I am saddened that so many have fallen victim to the lies and half-truths put out by the "pro-Palestinian" propagandists. Where is the outrage for the atrocities in Syria or ISIS in Iraq? Why the leveling of such anger on Israel? The Hamas charter (look it up, read it) clearly states that their purpose is almost single-fold, to kill Jews. Their children's TV programming teaches children to hate and want to kill Jews (google search, there are many videos documenting this). Their leaders have come right out and said they want to kill Jews (youtube).

The Palestinians in Gaza had every opportunity to make their state and succeed in 2005 when Israel pulled out (taking every Jew out with them). Gaza was Jew free. The Israelis left behind greenhouses and infrastructure that could have been used to advance the Gazans. Hundreds of millions in aid has poured into Gaza. What have they done with it? Squandered it to build terror tunnels and buy rockets.

They want to scream about a wall (much like between the US and Mexico) that was only erected after numerous suicide bombers and terrorists came into Israel to kill civilians, Jews. If crazy Canadians were coming across the border and blowing up buses in the US would we just sit back and take it? Or would we do something to protect our civilians, like build a wall? Heck, we built a wall along parts of Mexico's border to keep out people who mean us no harm! (Ok, drugs and drug dealers too) Still far less extreme than suicide bombers and terrorists. We, in the US, would do no less than what Israel has done, do what it can and has to do to protect its citizens.

But, back on point, now Hamas has been firing rockets into Israel, using tunnels to commit acts of terror against a civilian population and capture hostages, and everyone is all up in arms against Israel for fighting back?!?! Hamas has broken EVERY ceasefire these past weeks. Hamas has forced civilians to protect its fighters and weapons (aka, human shields). Israel has CALLED OFF attacks when they have seen civilians present. It is a war started by Hamas, continued by Hamas and I, for one, will not be swayed by the sudden influx of concern for the "poor Palestinians" who elected a terrorist organization as their government.

Do I feel for the people in Gaza? ABSOLUTELY. I feel sorry that they elected Hamas as their government, knowing that Hamas would do what they have done. I feel sorry that Hamas is now using those people as human shields to keep Israel from fighting back against the terror attacks. I feel sorry that anyone has died (though the numbers that have been coming in are showing fewer women and children and more men within the age range of fighters - and can be listed as "civilians" because they aren't in military garb - yeah, "none" of them are fighting the Israelis, right? (please note my sarcasm)). I want to Free Gaza as well. I want to free Gaza from Hamas. I want to free Gaza so the people there can actually use the aid they receive to build a better life instead of terror tunnels and rockets. I want to free Gazans from being used as human shields by a government intent on their destruction and death for the purposes of a photo op.

It is inhumane to call for peace in this conflict while not saying a word against other atrocities currently going on in the middle east (Syria and Iraq to name just 2, but do a google search, there are many more, every single day). The numbers of those dead in Gaza is far less than those in Syria. (I won't even go into the history of Hamas to fraudulently inflate the numbers of civilians living in Gaza, the numbers of those who have died in conflicts - again, google!)

And, to top it off, NO ONE is perfect. Everyone can point to that 1 person who did this or that which was wrong. We all have those stories. Israel is no different. So many are trying to place Israel in a position of having to be absolutely perfect and any deviation from that is reflected on the whole. One IDF soldier does something stupid and boneheaded and that is broadcast and put on the heads of every IDF soldier. Did we do that? I seem to recall some pictures of Muslims in Gitmo wearing dog collars and being used as props in pictures. Did we, as citizens, then place that image on the head of every single one of our American soldiers? No, we did not. Yes, every army has its "bed seeds" who are dealt with accordingly. But let us not hold another army to a higher standard simply because they are not us. Do not condemn another's entire army for the actions of a few.

The same goes for the civilians. Are there Israeli's calling for the death of all those in Gaza? Yes, I am sad to say their are. Are there Gazans calling for the death of every Jew is Israel? Yes, there are. Should we then put that on the heads of every Israeli or Gazan? No. Not every Israeli or Gazan feels that way.

Do we want this fighting to cease? YES! Enough people have died. But as long as one side (Hamas) continues to call for the death of all Jews and continues to fight, Israel has every right, and duty, to defend itself against the attacks of the terrorists.

AGAIN, Please do not think this is directed at any one person. This is a culmination of my thoughts over the past few weeks and the response I have seen from a variety of sources.

You now know my thoughts and views. Do not be surprised by what appears on my wall. I will defend Israel as long as she needs to be defended and in this regard, in this conflict, Israel is not the bad guy. Israel is doing what needs to be done to prevent further attacks on its civilians.

I could go on for days. If you made it to the end, congratulations. (I apologize if this is muddled and not coherent, I am working on about 4 hours of sleep last night and about the same the night before)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pesach is coming!

So here's some Fountainheads for you to enjoy as I draft my next blog post.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Family Ties

What happens when you are a person who has always tried to put family first, only to find that a part of your family does not feel the same way? This has been a problem we have been faced with over the past few months.

We do not have a big family. I was an only child to a single mom growing up. My husband just had one younger brother, his mom, dad, and step father.

When we first discussed conversion with our families the response was good, for the most part. My mom was wonderful. She took the news in stride and did her best to try and understand our new faith. She read books, she asked us questions, she even attended services with us. She was always engaged in helping us learn more as well by telling us about something she had read or heard. While we didn't really have any deep discussions on why we were converting, I could feel her acceptance by her actions. She was as excited about Ya'akov's bar mitzvah as we were, even helping to make kippot for the family, before her passing. That excitement, understanding and love never wavered. Quite the contrary, her interest in our conversion spurred us to an even greater excitement about conversion and our chosen faith.

Then there is the other side of the coin. My in laws. While my mother in law initially appeared to be happy (I attribute this to the fact that my husband was not religious for quite awhile and she was just happy he had "found religion" - it's a southern thing), over time her reaction changed to ambivalence. Yes, we had found a religion we were happy with, but she made no attempt to learn more, at least not that we could tell. There were no discussions on faith, no evidence of having read more about it, no questions about practice or even why we were converting. While I hoped for more, I was simply happy that she didn't disown us.

Then there was my brother in law. He took a different route. He ignored it. At least that's how it appeared to me. He was much like my mother in law in regards to his actions. There was no apparent attempt to learn more or even ask us questions concerning our choice.

Still, silence, I thought, was better than cutting us off from the family.

For awhile things were going well. Then it all changed. My mom passed away and her enthusiasm for learning more ended the family involvement in our faith. (As a side note, having family support is very helpful to new converts) So we were left with just my in laws and their superficial knowledge of Judaism (we go to service on Saturday and don't work that day, if they know more than that they have never let on to me this knowledge).

I won't go into the details of the falling out between me and my in laws, but suffice to say, they did not see the importance, or significance, in Ya'akov's bar mitzvah. To me it appeared that they believed it to be just another day, but Ya'akov got to stand in front of everyone. So when they did not come to his bar mitzvah, it broke my heart, and Ya'akov's. He had planned and worked so hard, he was already missing that his grandma wouldn't be there, he wanted the support of his memaw and papaw and uncle. I watched as my son would look towards the door, every time it opened, waiting with baited breath for his memaw to come in the door. I watched as the tears built up in his eyes that she was missing his big day. On a day when we all should have been happiest, the tears of sorrow were falling.

Then I waited. I waited for my in laws... I waited for them to show some sign that they understood the heartbreak they had caused by not coming. I waited for them to show some sign that they understood the importance of the day. I waited for them to at least call and congratulate Ya'akov. I waited for them to call to apologize to him. I waited...

Should I have been the first to call? Maybe. But after watching the hurt my son went through, I could not bring myself to talk to those who had caused him that pain. So part of the rift in the family may be my fault. Maybe I should have been the first to pick up the phone. 

Now it is March. Ya'akov's bar mitzvah was in October. The contact with my in laws is minimal and strained. At least my mother in law does call, infrequently at best. I have no contact with my brother in law as his response to the entire situation was to blast us on facebook and on his blog, attacking myself, my husband, our family and our faith with his hatred and anger (because we did not call to wish them all a Merry Christmas).

How do you respond to being, effectively, shunned by your family? I have gone the route of becoming more involved with our synagogue. My synagogue family has helped me through the struggles of the past few months. The loss of my mother, the shunning by my in laws... my friends at shul have been there with a hug or a shoulder to cry on when I have been at my lowest. They have been there for the birth of our fifth child and the excitement around planning Yitzhak's bar mitzvah.

I miss my family. While I can forgive the things that were said, hard as that is as some of the things said broke my heart to a million pieces, but I cannot forget. The old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but name can never hurt me" is incorrect. Words can hurt just as badly as sticks and stones and the pain from those words goes deeper and lasts longer than most physical actions. So now I am trying to move on. To learn to live this new experience without the support of my family. I still have some aunts and cousins (my mom's side), and while we are not close, they do not judge us based on our faith and they do not seek to hurt our family with words.

I will continue on. One day I hope that my in laws will see us as the loving family we really are and not make jokes about us or treat us or our chosen faith with disrespect. I pray that day comes soon but if recent events are any indicator, I will be praying for many years to come. Until that day, I will hold my husband and children closer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Purim is the story told in the book of Esther. Simply put, Esther is taken to be a part of the harem of the King of Persia. The King loves her more than the others and makes her the Queen. The king doesn't know that Esther is a Jew (because Esther's uncle, Mordecai, told her to hide this little tid bit from him). Haman (the villain)is the king's adviser. Haman did not like Mordecai so he set out to try to destroy the Jewish people.

Haman told the king, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people's, and they do not observe the king's laws; therefore it is not befitting the king to tolerate them." Esther 3:8. The king told Haman to do what he wanted with the Jews. Haman's plan was to exterminate the Jews.

Esther spoke to the king on behalf of the Jewish people, though she had not been summoned before the king (an offense during the time). But she fasted and prayed to prepare herself to talk to the king. She saved the Jewish people and instead it was Haman and his sons who were exterminated.

Now we celebrate Purim on the 14th day of Adar (Hebrew calendar). The 13th of Adar was when Haman had planned to exterminate the Jews.

The day before Purim is a minor fast day, in recognition of Esther's 3 day fast, we fast from sunrise to sunset.

On Purim, we are commanded to read the Megillah, the scroll of Esther. During the reading we stamp our feet, boo, hiss and shake groggers (noisemakers) to drown out the name of Haman.

Something else we do for Purim is drink. We are to eat, drink and be merry. In the Talmud it is said that a person is supposed to drink to the point where we cannot tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordecai." We also dress in costumes and have carnivals and parades. It is a fun holiday to celebrate the story of Esther.

It is also traditional to make gifts to charity and friends at this time. Personally, I enjoy making hamentashen.

Hamentashen are cookies that are filled with sweet treat and shaped like triangles. This year I made raspberry, apricot, almond, poppy seed and chocolate hamentashen. My family and I will share these hamentashen with our friends and neighbors (who seem to look forward to this holiday as much as we do).

Purim doesn't have the same work restrictions that Pesach, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah have but many people do treat the day a little differently. This year Purim goes from sunset Saturday until nightfall Sunday. So we are going to a Purim party at our shul Sunday morning.

Now to figure out some costumes for the kids... D'vorah wants to be Queen Esther. That won't be too hard. But the other children are having trouble deciding and we are running out of time. :-)

Some of our hamentashen this year. This batch is raspberry. The triangle shape is supposed to be the shape of Haman's hat (though some traditions say it is a reminder of his ears which were said to be pointed)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Long time, no blog

My family has been going through so much since I posted my last blog. We have experienced many life events this past year.

The worst was not long after posting my last blog, my mother found out that her cancer had spread. Two years ago she went through a mastectomy and chemo following a diagnosis of breast cancer. She wasn't cured. Her cancer had gotten into her lymph system. It was only a matter of time before it spread. We hoped we had longer but we did not. The cancer spread to her lungs, her bladder, her kidneys and her bones. Much of this went unnoticed until breathing became difficult. In June she was diagnosed as terminal and given 3 months to live... she made it 6 weeks.

Two weeks after her diagnosis, my husband and I moved her into our house with us and the kids. I was pregnant with our fifth child, already caring for four children (13, 11, 6 and 1 and a half), and became the main caregiver for my mother as well. Those last 4 weeks were tough. My mother's health decreased dramatically and very quickly. Her sister and a couple of her nieces were able to come and visit her before she passed away. She went into a coma and the day she passed away her other sister called and I held the phone to my mom's ear so that she could say goodbye.

Before my mom passed, my husband and I decided to find out the gender of our new baby. We had never found out before but we thought it important that my mom know if she was going to have another grandson or another granddaughter. With my due date being December 25th we knew it was unlikely she would live to see her fifth grandchild. At the end of June we found out we were going to have our fourth boy. We asked my mom to help us name him. She also made him a crochet afghan, something she has done for all of our children. Ilan was born December 29th and wrapped in the love she passed on in the afghan.

My mom passed away August 31st. The day before my 36th birthday. She was 66 years young.

Enter life event number two... Yaakov (now almost 14) was bar mitzvahed in October. He took on the responsibility to uphold the commandments handed down in the Torah. He did a wonderful job! He read his haftorah but he also did 4 Torah readings. My husband even had a Torah reading during the service. We could not be prouder of our oldest! He has been a blessing to watch as he grows to love G-d and the Torah as much as my husband and I.

Life event number three... the birth of our fifth child, fourth son. He is beautiful and perfect. He is loved by the entire family. Even our (now) second youngest (not quite 2) wants to love on the new baby. And then there is the brit milah (or bris), the ritual circumcision. Eight days after a son is born he is circumcised and receives his Hebrew name. The mohel set everything up and my husband actually did the cutting of the foreskin. Our new baby is recovering very well and there were no complications. We were all surrounded by our friends from our shul.

So that is a little of what has been going on since my last blog post. A lot has happened this past year. I look forward to 2014 and hope it is a better year than 2013. We have another bar mitzvah coming up, Yitschak has his bar mitzvah in September. After that we have a few years before D'vorah will have her bat mitzvah.

I am sorry for my lengthy absence and I will try to be better about blogging more often. :-)