Archive by Author | stacylynngittleman

Please, no cheesy touristy selfies here

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Another year.

13 years.

It took us a while to get here, but finally, a fitting memorial has been built to nearly 3,000 victims or more who were snatched from this earth, from all who loved them on this horrible day here at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

I finally made my way to the 9/11 memorial this summer. I was simultaneously taken by the beauty and the heavy leaden feeling of grief as I stared into the waters that seemed to fall forever into an abyss.

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I know there are some who want to come here, but have not the strength to stand here.

I found some names of those I knew, if only peripherally. Like Mark P. Whitford. A firefighter. A fellow high school classmate  a few years younger than me who wrestled for my dad. Just another NYFD firefighter who died trying to save lives. I remember falling to the floor in shock when my dad told me he had been killed.

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For those who lost someone here, and for all native New Yorkers, this place is very personal. Very intimate and very sacred.

So, visitors to NYC, take note.

We are so happy to have tourists in town.

But this is not just another tourist attraction. Don’t turn it into such.

This is a homicide area.

This is a memorial.

This is a mass grave.

So when you come here, please.

No cheesy selfies.

And please, when you come here and take photographs, please don’t smile.

Channeling Anger into Healing: IsrAID is first to respond in Floods, Earthquakes, Tsunamis

eight Israeli volunteers from IsrAID cleared out and cleaned up damaged basements of Detroiters affected by last month's floods.

I still don’t understand where all the Israel bashing comes from. Ignorance? Brainwashing? Plain old Jew hatred? 

Against all odds, Israelis, especially those living in the south just kilometers from the Gaza Strip, refuse to become vengeful or embittered by terrorism.

The evidence?

Within days of the flood that besieged many Detroit residents, Israeli NGO IsrAID came to town to help. Taking the skills in teamwork and collaboration that come with years of serving in the IDF, IsrAID volunteers have been on the ground all over the globe where there has been natural disasters: Japan. Haiti. Indonesia. And the United States. 

Here is a brief story I wrote about them in this week’s issue of the Detroit Jewish News. 

Lending a hand to the cleanup efforts of last month’s flood, eight Israeli volunteers with disaster relief agency IsrAID left their own war-ravaged country and set their eyes, hearts, and hard work on healing flooded neighborhoods in Metropolitan Detroit. Some got on a plane here just days after finishing their military service and will be cleaning out basements and restoring stability to the lives of flood victims for the next two weeks.  

Beth Shalom in Oak Park has become the temporary home for the volunteers, where over half the congregants there have had damage to their homes due to flooding, said Rabbi Robert Gamer. The volunteers sleep and eat at the synagogue on air mattresses, linens, towels and toiletries donated by community members. The synagogue men’s club, the Jewish Community Center, the Salvation Army and other charitable agencies prepare their meals.

“These floods have become big news around the world and Detroit has many connections in Israel,” said Rabbi Gamer, who hosted the volunteers for a Shabbat dinner at his home. “My congregation is thrilled that they are here to help those in need. We often think about us helping Israel but here Israel is helping us.”

Nevonel Glick, 27, of Tel Aviv, IsrAID program director and the lead volunteer coordinator in Detroit, said the volunteers, highly trained in the art of efficiency, coordination and teamwork after their service in the Israel Defense Forces, help break the downward spiral of depression and hardship commonly experienced after a natural disaster by helping flood victim. Glick has been with IsrAID for over six years guiding relief projects in Japan, Haiti, the Philippines, Kenya and several places in the United States, including New York City after super storm Sandy.

Unlike some of the poorer countries he has, Glick said IsrAID understands that relief work in the United States does not need Israel’s doctors or search and rescue teams. What victims of natural disasters here need is a path back to financial and emotional stability.

 “After a disaster hits, the victim can be stuck in this downward spiral of depression.” Glick said.  “All your possessions from many generations may have been lost. Your house is damaged and you don’t know where to start. IsrAID volunteers understand this and we are here to remove that load off your back, both physically and emotionally, moving the victim from utter chaos to a clean house, a clean slate.”

IsrAID helped Shelly Legg, 61, of Oak Park, a woman out of work on medical disability who found herself with not only a flooded basement and a loss of personal possessions, but now without a car, nor the means to purchase a new one.  Last week, the volunteer crew helped her sort her possessions between what could and could not be salvaged, tore up and disposed of the basement flooring and wood paneling and drywall which black mold had already started to grow. Next, they thoroughly disinfect and dry the basement for future renovations.

According to Glick, this work saves such a homeowner between $3 to $7K. He expects the team to be able to clean approximately 1-4 homes per day depending on the size of the home and the extent of the damage.  

Glick said that his work aligns his Jewish, Israeli and global identities because the work is something he is proud to stand behind. Speaking for some of his volunteers who live in southern Israel, which has endured the brunt of the rocket attacks, the work lets them “channel their anger and frustrations into something good and healing.”

“Disasters foster a lot of unity and resilience and coming together,” said Glick. “It puts things into perspective in my own personal life. Every place we go, we get back more than we give.”

Summer in Israel: a self-portrait

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The Hebrew written in the black and white portrait above is from Genesis 22:17: 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his[a] enemies

The words above are headlines from this summer. 

The rest I will leave to the viewer’s interpretation. Look at this portrait. What do you see? Leave your comments below. 

Awash in Water – Detroit’s Jewish Community Responds to Flood

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It was the flood disaster minus the hurricane. Talking to folks for my story reminded me of the frustration suffered by my parents and so many others after Sandy. I want to thank all of them for sharing their stories, and for the Jewish agencies like NECHAMA and Jewish Family Services who are working tirelessly to all people affected by this historic flood. Here is my front-page story from this week’s Detroit Jewish News. 

Awash In Water

Posted on August 21, 2014, 9:05 AM . Filed in featured, Uncategorized. Tagged , . Be the first to comment!

Flooded Detroiters find aid through agencies and synagogues.

Spencer Cherrin of Huntington Woods stands in his flooded basement. Damaged prayer books there will be taken to Congregation Beth Shalom for proper burial.  Jewish organizations in Detroit and around the country rose to the needs of last week’s flood victims as rapidly as the waters rose in the streets and basements.

They provided hands-on assistance, from hauling out damaged carpets and soggy sofas from basements flooded with smelly sewage to offering financial assistance and loans.Congregation Sharey Zedek in Southfield had a free, warm Shabbat dinner waiting for its members tired after a week of cleaning up. In the first week of responding to Detroit’s historic flood caused by torrential rains on Aug. 11, there was no shortage of an outpouring of help to Jewish families in Ferndale, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge and hardest-hit Huntington Woods.

By Thursday morning, Nechama, a Jewish nonprofit disaster relief agency based in Minneapolis, had boots on the ground in Detroit. They quickly collaborated with Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit as well as other area nonprofits in the general population to help the disabled, elderly homebound and economically disadvantaged in the secular and Jewish communities.

Nechama Field Operations Specialist Mark McGilvery drove through the night to arrive in Detroit the morning of Aug. 14 to mobilize a team of volunteers who could be ready to work as early as last Friday.

“We are like a Home Depot on wheels,” said McGilvery, referring to the trailers stocked with a large amount of supplies and clean-up equipment they are able to bring to populations affected by natural disasters. Nechama, Hebrew for comfort, has the capacity of training and mobilizing Jewish organizations in Detroit and around the country rose to the needs of last week’s flood victims as rapidly as the waters rose in the streets and basements.

They provided hands-on assistance, from hauling out damaged carpets and soggy sofas from basements flooded with smelly sewage to offering financial assistance and loans.

Congregation Sharey Zedek in Southfield had a free, warm Shabbat dinner waiting for its members tired after a week of cleaning up. In the first week of responding to Detroit’s historic flood caused by torrential rains on Aug. 11, there was no shortage of an outpouring of help to Jewish families in Ferndale, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge and hardest-hit Huntington Woods.

By Thursday morning, Nechama, a Jewish nonprofit disaster relief agency based in Minneapolis, had boots on the ground in Detroit. They quickly collaborated with Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit as well as other area nonprofits in the general population to help the disabled, elderly homebound and economically disadvantaged in the secular and Jewish communities.

Nechama Field Operations Specialist Mark McGilvery drove through the night to arrive in Detroit the morning of Aug. 14 to mobilize a team of volunteers who could be ready to work as early as last Friday.

Suzanne Rosenthall’s basement in Huntington Woods“We are like a Home Depot on wheels,” said McGilvery, referring to the trailers stocked with a large amount of supplies and clean-up equipment they are able to bring to populations affected by natural disasters. Nechama, Hebrew for comfort, has the capacity of training and mobilizing volunteer crews as large as 100 to help with debris cleanup and tearing out drywall and waterlogged flooring materials. McGilvery said his organization expects to stay in town for at least two weeks volunteer crews as large as 100 to help with debris cleanup and tearing out drywall and waterlogged flooring materials.

McGilvery said his organization expects to stay in town for at least two weeks or maybe longer depending on the need.

“A natural disaster like this is something new to us,” said Dan Trudeau of Jewish Family Service in West Bloomfield. “We are relieved to have the expertise of an organization like Nechama that could mobilize and put together tremendous relief efforts as quickly as they did.”

Trudeau said within the first days following the flooding, JFS received phone calls from nearly 50 community members, most JFS clients, experiencing flood-related problems and requesting help cleaning out their basements flooded with sewage backups. Callers also reported loss of major appliances, furnaces and hot water heaters. Trudeau said he expects the number of incoming calls to increase.

“Our family case management supervisor said they had 10 calls in 45 minutes on Thursday afternoon,” Trudeau said. Most came from families in Oak Park and a few from Southfield and Huntington Woods.

Last week, streets in these areas were deluged with huge piles of sour-smelling debris at the ends of driveways awaiting city garbage pickup.

Rabbi To The Rescue
Rabbi Robert Gamer, also of Huntington Woods, found it a challenge to care for his congregants at Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park while he also cleaned his family’s flooded basement.

In the days following the storm, he spent mornings in shorts and a T-shirt ripping out basement flooring and hauling a ruined couch to the curb before changing into more rabbinical attire to comfort congregants who recently lost a loved one as he officiated at a funeral. He also spent a great amount of time reaching out to his congregants, most living in Huntington Woods.

According to Gamer, around 40 to 50 families of Beth Shalom had flooding. Prayer books in basements may have been water-damaged, so Beth Shalom is collecting prayer books to ensure they receive a proper burial in a Jewish cemetery rather than ending up in a landfill with other debris.

Lev, Pelli and Mia Mechnikov stand in front of what is left of their basement playroom.“We were disappointed that some of our siddurs and mahzors were lost in the flood,” said Daniel Cherrin of Huntington Woods. “However, I am grateful to Congregation Beth Shalom and Rabbi Gamer for providing the valuable service of properly taking care of damaged prayer books. It provides a difficult but great lesson for me and my children in dealing with damaged religious items.”

Gamer said, “It has been an emotional week. It has been hard on my young children. We lost some major appliances. We lost some wedding and baby pictures of our kids; but in the end, we are fortunate. There are many much more worse off than we are.”

On Sunday afternoon, Gamer invited all to come together for a hot dog roast, right in his driveway. Beth Shalom supplied the hot dogs, drinks, chips and watermelon.

Rabbi Aaron Starr at Congregation Shaarey Zedek said 35 congregants impacted by the flood attended a Shabbat dinner at their shul. The CSZ Sisterhood as well as Quality Kosher Catering sponsored the dinner.

“Our affected congregants worked hard all week at the frustrating task of cleaning out flooded basements,” Starr said. “It was the least we could do at the end of that week to provide them with a warm Shabbat dinner that nourished both body and soul.”

Susan Kirschner, executive director of Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park, said congregants “totally stepped up to the plate” in volunteering and reaching out to fellow congregants after the flood. Congregants sponsored a free Shabbat dinner attended by 80 members.
Members also baked desserts, so much that there will be enough for Oneg Shabbat for many weeks to come. Rabbi Arturo Kalfus spent the greater part of last Friday delivering challahs to congregants most affected by the flooding.

“This flood has taught us that we need to come together when disaster strikes,” said Kirschner. She added that several rooms in the synagogue’s basements had been flooded, including a teacher resource room, but the damage had been minimal and the temple’s organ was still in working order.

And in an effort to raise awareness for relief efforts from Jewish Family Service, JN columnist and caterer Annabel Cohen set up a grill and donated 500 hot dogs to flood victims in Huntington Woods on Sunday.
Flooded homes also mean a flood of business for disaster recovery companies.

Cynthia Maritato Schick of Pleasant Ridge said she was fortunate enough to have connections to companies that do basement cleanup and flood restoration. Recovering from her third back surgery, she said it would have been impossible to do the cleanup herself. She was able to get a fast response from Absolute Services in Brighton.

“Our phone has not stopped ringing since Tuesday,” said Mindy Long, an estimator with Absolute Services, who said they had an overwhelming influx of calls and a wait list of customers that goes into the hundreds. “Just this morning, when I checked our answering machine we had 28 calls overnight.”

Jodi Fox snapped this photo from her home on Kingston Avenue in Huntington Woods.

flooding in Huntington Woods, where 75 percent of homes had flooded basements.

Financial Aid
David Contorer, executive director of Hebrew Free Loan in Bloomfield Township, said his agency is here to help people get through “wrinkles that life throws our way.”

“In our 119 years in operation, we have never seen such an unprecedented disaster as this flood in Detroit,” Contorer said. “But Hebrew Free Loan is here to provide interest-free loans up to $7,500 to members of the Jewish community, whether you have lost your car or wish to refinish your basement.”

Those interested in applying for a loan can call Hebrew Free Loan at (248) 723-8184Monday through Thursday or begin the application process online at http://www.hfldetroit.org.

Bat Mitzvah Plans
Overall, flood victims maintained a cheery outlook that “things could always be worse.” They know personal belongings they lost are “just stuff,” but they still are in a state of mourning for sentimental and priceless possessions that money cannot replace.

Daniella HarPaz Mechnikov of Huntington Woods was one week away from celebrating the bat mitzvah of her daughter, Pelli, when raw sewage water seeped into her family’s basement and rose to nearly 3 feet. In addition to furniture, photos and other mementoes stored in the basement were the new shoes she and her daughter were supposed to wear for the simchah.

“You know what was also floating around in the basement? My rain boots,” Mechnikov said. “I’m lucky my neighbor let me borrow his big fishing boots so I can get down there and clean.”

Though she has a rider on her homeowner’s insurance policy for sewer water damage that should cover the cost to replace her furnace and appliances, Mechnikov is uncertain when the family will have the money to restore their finished basement.

“Still, you just have to take a deep breath and put things in perspective,” Mechnikov said. “After all, I have a brother in Tel Aviv who has been running to a shelter for cover all summer. It could be worse.” 

JFS is seeking donations to help families recover from the flooding. To donate, go to http://www.jfsdetroit.org/support-jfs. Donors can indicate they want to support flood relief in the comment box. Nechama is looking for donations as well as local volunteers. Call (763) 732-0610 or sign up to volunteer at www.nechama.org and click on the Detroit Area Flood Response link.

By the Waters of Babylon, Michigan

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It has been a while since I have written anything outside of a letter to my kids at camp, or a few articles for my work.

This summer I’ve been reading more than writing.

I can’t say I have been reading for pleasure, as most of my reading has been the unending news and commentary on the news from the Middle East.

Concentrating on anything else has been challenging. Even the weekly meditative practice of clipping coupons before going grocery shopping can be distracted by another worrisome report about another hateful demonstration popping up in Europe.

So, there I was in the dairy aisle in a Detroit suburban supermarket without my Greek yogurt coupons when I hear …..

“You know, the news, it gets more terrible with each passing day …. Yes, they are beheading children… they fled with nothing….

….yes, I was born in Baghdad

…. I have no homeland to return to

… but what can you do, what can you do?”

The horrors of the world these days, they are never far away.

Especially in Michigan.

You see, only second to California, Michigan is home to the largest community of Iraqi immigrants in the United States. Half of them are Chaldean Christians. Studies from Data Driven Detroit, the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, and the Chaldean Federation revealed metro Detroit’s Chaldean population hovers between 100,000 and 120,000. Nearly 60% of that population owns a business.

The Chaldean people, one of the most ancient people on the planet. They are even mentioned early on in the Torah, the ancient city of Ur was part of the Chaldean empire, the city which was the hometown of Abraham, the guy who smashed the idols, the father of all three major faiths.

But getting back to present day ….

I felt so badly for this poor man.  I wanted to express my sympathy, to let him know that people were listening and caring about the persecution of his people who are speaking out against the brutality ….

But he stayed on the phone.

And I had to pick out my yogurt.

So I circled around the aisles a bit more and did catch up with him at the check-out aisle.

He was off the phone.

“Look, I am sorry if I overheard your conversation, I just wanted to express my sympathies and sadness of what is going on in Iraq.”

He turned to face me and I noticed the gold cross pinned to the lapel of his brown suit jacket.

He waved his hand towards me as a sign that it was no problem that I was snooping on his conversation. He eyed my Star of David, the one I got in Italy, made of Merano glass, and then we spoke.

“Listen to me. These people. They are barbarians. They chased my people out of their homes with nothing but the clothes on their back. They are killing children by chopping off their heads, stealing the women. And for what?  They are following the instructions of their prophet Mohammed, exactly to the letter in their Quran. They kill anyone who is not Muslim.”

My mouth hung open, shocked at his bluntness as what most of us would be labeled “Islamaphobic” for saying.

He looked at me again. He unloaded his two bottles of  Coffeemate and his large container of dates and he continued.

“The Israelis? You are the only people who know how to deal with their mentality, they only respond to force. I grew up in Baghdad with Jewish friends. They were scholars and merchants, doctors….”

“Yes… I know there was a Jewish community there-“

“Yes, for 2,500 years, there were Jews in Iraq. And then, in the 50’s, Iraq kicked most of them out, drove them out,” and then he said something profound.

“You know, my Jewish friends said to me before they left…. something to the affect ‘They are kicking us out today, on a Sunday. They will kick you out by Tuesday.'”

I nodded in total agreement. I feebly mentioned to him that I had read a book, Farewell to Babylon … but why would he have to read such a book about the exile of Iraqi Jews. after all, he lived it.

He misunderstood.

“Ah yes, there is that psalm, we share with you, “By the Waters of Babylon, we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion….”

Right there, as I unloaded my greek yogurt and Multi-grain Cheerios, I was having a moment of deep spiritual connection with this stranger.

He went on to tell me that Jews and Chaldeans literally share the same blood line, before he moved up to pay. Before I knew it, I realized that the cashier and the bagging clerk were smiling,  also listening intently to our conversation. When the man started to speak Arabic with them, I realized then they were also Chaldean.

You can learn a lot and connect with hurting people in a grocery store.

Next Monday, I will continue to learn more about my Chaldean neighbors as I attend a joint program with the Jewish and Chaldean communities of Detroit, as we build bridges of understanding and stand together against hate and terror.

Stuck on Israel

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Last night, I volunteered at Detroit’s evening of Solidarity with Israel. After attendees passed through a strict security screening process, I gave them each a sticker bearing the logo shown above. Fellow volunteers gave out over 2,700 stickers to Israel supporters.

While the world looks bleak now for all world Jewry, and while radical Islamists spread their fiery hatred for Jews just like the Hitler Youth did in the 1930’s, it soothed my soul to see so many: Jewish, non-Jewish, black and white, coming together for a few hours to support the United State’s biggest ally in the Middle East in her war on terrorism.

By the way, my daughter is still on her trip in Israel. She just returned safely to Jerusalem after a sea-to-sea hike in the North.

 

Last weekend, she did spend some time in a bomb shelter. She heard the Iron Dome obliterate an incoming misile.  But then, after they got the clear, she and a family she was staying with went on with life.

Here is my most recent piece published in the Detroit Jewish News.

A few weeks ago, my parents, husband, son and I were riding down the Belt Parkway in New York to take our 17-year-old daughter to JFK. She was about to embark on Ramah’s six-week Israel Seminar, a trip she knew she wanted to do since she was about nine years old. The news that Hamas murdered the three teenaged boys was less than 24 hours old. Seated in the middle row with my mom, I curled my hand into hers. I just kept squeezing it.
The scene at the departure terminal, though chaotic, was almost healing. Hundreds of Jewish teens about to leave for Israel on one trip or another greeted each other with smiles and hugs.
Expressions on the faces of the parents revealed one thing: we all knew our relatively carefree Jewish American kids were headed to Israel in a time of national mourning. Who could predict that a war would unfold in just days after their arrival?
What have I been doing since she left?
It has been a surreal time. While the program posts photos of the kids having fun on hikes and gazing over the Haifa skyline, while my daughter calls me from Jerusalem telling me about the fantastic time she had working with the children at the Ramah Israel Day camp in Jerusalem, friends in Tel Aviv, Ra’anana and Be’er Sheva post on Facebook about dashing for stairwells or shelters when the sirens blare.
On my wrist, I wear a blue Stand With Us rubber bracelet showing my support for Israel. My watch is set to Jerusalem time so I know the best time to call my daughter. My cell phone has become an appendage to my body. I pray daily for her safety, for all of Israel and her Defense Forces.
I thank Ramah Seminar in Israel for their tireless efforts of keeping our kids safe and having as an enjoyable and educational experience as possible while constantly keeping parents in the loop of the changing security situation. After an extended stay in their northern base in the Hodayot Youth Village, the “seminarniks” finally traveled safely to their home base in Jerusalem on July 15. In fact, a parent conference call to update us on the matzav started just as the IDF launched their ground offensive into Gaza.
But life goes on. I have taken the cue from my Israeli friends who endure this daily threat to keep moving on through routine and simple distractions. If my Israeli psychologist friend, an olah from New York, can help spread calm by teaching Yoga to women in a bomb shelter in Sderot, I too will try to find Zen on my mat. I work in my garden and take walks.
Even as the bombs fall, and the inevitability that she may spend some time this summer in a bomb shelter is very real, I have no regrets that my daughter is in Israel. I will not deny the danger or my worry. I know that this time in Israel will be a transformative one for her that can only strengthen her understanding of what it means to be a Jew and never take our Jewish homeland for granted.
When midnight here rolls around, my mind is already seven hours ahead wondering what the dawning day on the other side of the planet will hold for Israel. If you too have a loved one in Israel and find yourself up in the middle of the night, I’m sleepless right there with you.

Just another rocket fire-free day in the Motor City

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Summertime is usually a carefree time.

Not this summer.

This summer, it has been hard for me to focus on anything that is not Israel. And usually I love thinking about Israel – all the great things it gives the world , memories of my four visits there, and now living vicariously through my daughter, who is spending her summer in Israel.

That’s where the carefree element of my summer has all but disappeared.

It started with the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teen boys. It was followed up with the equally horrible murder of that baby-faced Arab boy.  Then the increase of rocket fire. And now, our soldier’s putting their lives in jeopardy to protect the lives of all living in Israel.

That includes my daughter. And people I met through a sister-city educator program. And my daughter. And friends who now live there. And my daughter.

The news has been all-consuming. Other news is barely registering with me. Was there some ruling on Hobby Lobby that I should be all fired up about, or sending unaccompanied children back over the border to Central America? What was that again? But, oh, another rocket has been fired into Israel. Another Palestinian child has been used as a human shield by Hamas. Oh, am I supposed to be packing my youngest up for camp?

Over Facebook, I see my Israeli friends posting about running to a bomb shelter, or a miklat,  a safe room,or when there are neither of these things, a bathroom or stairwell shelter.

Some darkly joke about what are the top 10 essential things you need in a bomb shelter. Topping that list includes flashlights, water, ice cream, wine, and chocolate. LOTS of wine and chocolate.

This week, I had to ask the surreal question to my daughter, who wished to visit her friend for Shabbat in Ra’anana.

“Can you please find out if your friend’s family has a bomb shelter?”

Can you imagine asking your American friend such a question before visiting?

Do you have cats, ’cause my kid has allergies.

What can I bring you for dinner? Wine? A salad?

Oh, and does your house have a bomb shelter?

In more peaceful days in Israel, I remember spending a summer working on a kibbutz up near the Golan Heights. I didn’t think twice about going into a bomb shelter, but they were pretty much used as “disco” shelters back in the 80’s. The shelter was a cool place to hang out at night after working. I never associated it as a place to take cover from an attack.

In more peaceful days in Israel, I gave my daughter about 50 shekels for the evening as she set to hang out at night in Tel Aviv with her friend, the one from Ra’anana. They roamed freely the streets of Tel Aviv, got pizza and gelato, and hung on the beach until 11 at night.

Fear free.

Care free.

This Shabbat, my daughter, my intrepid and strong daughter had her first taste of what it is like to sit in a bomb shelter.  She heard the boom of Israel’s Iron Dome shoot down a rocket aimed for where she is, a suburban town near Tel Aviv. In her nonchalant manner, she said it was like going to hang out in our basement.

Last weekend, I tried to snag some of my own carefree moments. My husband took me on a bike ride along West Bloomfield’s trail system.  I felt carefree and peaceful. But every now again, a dark thought crept into my mind. If a siren went off along the path, and we had 15 seconds to take cover, where would we go?

Last weekend, friends who, most likely sensing that I really needed a night out, invited us out to Detroit’s Concert of Colors. Among the many free acts who played at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall was the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars  group that came out of the horrors of war in their native country and helped heal with music.

Indeed, the infectious music was healing and joyful.  Everyone, in every shape, size, color, religion was dancing in joy to the music. I also let myself feel some joy and danced with my husband. The leader of the band was right. He was no doctor, but he said dancing a little bit every day gets rid of all the toxins in your body and makes you feel good. After every song, the leader of the band just wanted to know one thing from their audience: Are You Happy?

And I was.

But there was one guy at the show with a smug look on his face. He wore a beat up T-shirt that read “Free Palestine” in English and I guess Arabic. He didn’t look happy. But I refused to let him make me not feel happy that very moment. Even though, I felt like telling him, that cause he holds dear, well, some of the people who are so dedicated to that cause would have no druther about strapping a bomb to themselves underneath their clothing, walking into that concert hall where we were all dancing in joyous unison, and blowing us all to pieces.

 

The Tragedy of the Palestinians

stacylynngittleman:

yes, you can feel sorry for the Palestinians, but they have chosen their leadership poorly and this is the result. If you need to place blame for civilian deaths and injuries, place it squarely on the terrorist organization that is Hamas.

Originally posted on We Are For Israel:

The United Nations reports that 177 Palestinians have been killed since Operation Protective Edge began a week ago. A quarter of the victims have been children. Palestinian medical sources say that some 1,280 people have been wounded.

All of this is a tragedy. It did not have to happen. Two sisters aged 13 and 11 were seriously injured by shrapnel in a village close to Beersheba earlier today.

Of course the numbers hurt on our side are considerably lower than those on the Palestinian side. We build bomb shelters and reinforced rooms in which our families can hide when Hamas fires rockets at an innocent population. By contrast, Hamas uses civilians as human shields and prefers to use the concrete at its disposal to build massive tunnels into Israeli territory in an attempt to infiltrate villages and kibbutzim close to the border for the purpose of murdering and kidnapping.

Some misguided…

View original 125 more words

A Mother’s Love. Too many Questions, no Answers.

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Summer in our house means that the kids in my family get a break from their usual surroundings and, though we will miss them, we the parents take a short break from parenting.

I know that sounds bad to some, that we need a break from parenting so we ship them off to camp. But a wise woman, a mother of five boys, once told me when my children were very young, that one day I will understand: summer is a good time for everyone in the family to have some time on their own in a different place.

Last Friday night, our family of five had our last Shabbat dinner together before we headed to the separate destinations of camp and Israel. And New York. And Italy.

I lit three more Shabbat candles than usual and said an extra prayer.

Eyal, Naftali, Gilad, where are you? Who is watching over you? Who is feeding you? Who is clothing you? Gd in Heaven please give them strength and keep them safe until they are rescued. Please. 

My husband and I held hands with our three children and sang the blessings. We blessed our children. I now have to rise up on my toes to kiss the top of my fifteen-year-old son’s forehead. He has to bend down to put his head on my shoulder when he hugs me. I can feel his shoulders getting broader. Looking down, I wonder how those feet which were once so tiny got to be the size of a mans, with no signs that they have stopped growing.

As much of a man he is turning out to be, I still dote on, and nudge my teen-aged son. A son who can’t seem to eat enough though he remains thin as a bean pole. A son who plays guitar, has formed a band, and has introduced me to a lot of cool music

The kids that night ate heartily. They enjoyed the last homemade challah they would have until the end of August.

We are not Shabbat observant. After dinner, Broadway show tunes played on the Sonos. My children sang and danced loudly together around the family room.

I tried to soak it all in and be joyful, but having the knowledge that across the sea, there were empty places at the Shabbat tables of three families in Israel, my joy was tinged.

We are going on the third Shabbat in which these families will not have their sons home. Kidnapped by terrorists on their way home from school, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal have not been heard or seen since in spite of a vigorous search and investigation from the Israel Defense Forces.

I don’t know what is sustaining these families.  Think about when you lose sight of your kid in a shopping mall or at a carnival. Those few moments are agony. For two weeks, every moment for these families has been agony. Every night their beds are empty must be agony.

I have so many questions.

Where are they being held?

Why is there NO coverage of the kidnapping of these boys in the US media, even though one of the boys has dual US-Israel citizenship?

Why has our President been so silent in this matter?

How could the United Nations be so cruel as to mock the pain of the three mothers, who went to Geneva to testify and plead on behalf of their sons, only to get a response from the UN that there is no evidence of an abduction, that perhaps these “settlers” went on holiday and didn’t tell their parents?

 

Where are they?

Where are they?

And, what can I do?

What else can I do?

I follow every bit of news coming out of Israel on my Facebook feed, sites like the Times of Israel and Israel365

I say special Psalms

Ribbons tied to my tree for the boys? Check.

Create a sign with the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys? Check.

There is one woman I know who is doing more to help the boys more than anyone else I know.

Remember the woman with the five boys? Almost a decade ago, she and her husband and five boys made aliyah. Now, she works as an educational psychologist and is on the ground in the very town from where the boys families live and is helping schoolchildren there cope with this crisis that has taken away their friends or their siblings. You can listen to her being interviewed on a local Israeli radio show.

Therein lies the difference between one side and the other.

We as Jews when it comes down to it, we really care for each other and will support each other because we are responsible for each other. All of Israel is responsible for each other. In the end, it is something we must stand by to know that it will be all right in the end because we care for each other, and we place the value of life of any living human in the highest regard.

It is sad to say that on the other side, that is clearly not the case.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

 

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