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That Moment when I became a Hasbara Troll: A phone conversation with Jewish Voice for Peace

antijvp

 

If you are like me and you comment a lot – I mean a lot – to refute false claims and narratives that are piled upon Israel – you may have felt the virtual masking tape gag your mouth as I did by Jewish Voice for Peace.

In an effort to increase its membership and its own voice, #JewishVoiceforPeace recently cleansed its Facebook page of any facts that counter their lies.

It wasn’t enough to be called a Hasabra troll, with people spewing lies that I get paid to Stand Up for Israel online.

I don’t.

It wasn’t enough to be called stupid, racist, ignorant, bigotted and a hateful Zionist pig by the self-righteous over at Jewish Voice for Peace

I did.

But about a month ago, JVP completely shut down my account. They blocked me from commenting. From “liking” their page. From sending private messages to their admins. And from what it appears, all the others who tried to refute the lies and anyone else who tried to address false claims of JVP’s posts, their tireless garbage of calling Zionists oppressors and occupiers anyone whose comments did not fall in line with their twisted way of seeing Israel, was also blocked from commenting.

The last post I was ever able to make on JVP’s Facebook page was a post on May 11 where, in a sympathetic nod to the fate of teen terrorist Ahmed Manasra as he faces 20 years in prison. They showed the video of Mansra, 13 at the time, lying bleeding in the street of the  Pisgat Zeev neighborhood while people cursed at him. Jewish Voice for Peace in the post called for the release of the poor Palestinian

What the post failed to do – as do many who tell only half-truths about the Arab/Israeli conflict –  was to pull back the lens.

JVP failed to mention that back in October, this kid, along with his big cousin, went on a Jew hunt, taking knives from their mom’s kitchen to go stab some Jews to bring some dignity to their people.

What the post failed to do was to show the security video of Manasra and his cousin, who was shot dead, running through the streets stabbing Jews, including a 12-year-old boy on his bicycle who lost so much blood he had to be put into a medically induced coma to survive.

So, I posted the video.

Shortly afterward, I was blocked from commenting anywhere ever again on JVP’s Facebook page.

But that’s okay.

I am old. Old enough to remember a time of activism long before the invention of social media.

It’s called phone calls.

I remember as a kid making phone calls to “Let my People Go” to the Soviet Consulate. I remember marching in Soviet Jewry rallies.

Look what we accomplished.

I told you, I’m old.

This week, after watching their Facebook page put up post after post of lies and distortions, I called up their office in Oakland, Calif. at (510) 465–1777

I expressed my dismay and disappointment that JVP has decided to censor all dissenting viewpoints that counter theirs on their Facebook page. I asked the woman why that was and she said they take off comments that are hateful, violent and abusive.

I guess being hateful and violent and abusive against Zionists is perfectly fine.  

All I did was post facts.

Hard Facts.

Facts that do not mesh with the Palestinian narrative. Because a narrative is not history.

Unsafe space facts.

And as I talked, I realized what I wanted to say, and it was not as much as what I wanted to say was what I wanted to ask.

What was the thing that JVP hates most of all?

Zionism.

So I asked: Do you know what the Hebrew word Tziyon means?

She replied: No, I don’t.

It means Zionism. Do you know what Zionism translates into, I am talking about the meaning of the word?

No I really don’t.

And I explained. It means excellence. It means treating others with excellence and living up to standards of excellence. It means that Jewish people have the right to live independently in their ancient homeland.

She then said: We have different interpretations of what it means to live in a homeland.

I then questioned her about JVP’s stance on a two-state solution. She said that JVP does not believe in a two-state solution, that all people should share the land with freedom and dignity and that the apartheid occupation had to end.

I said there is already a two state solution. It is called Jordan.

She said she found that remark very insulting.

I said, you may be insulted but it is a fact.

I questioned her more.

She did not know anything about the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

Or the San Remo Conference of 1920.

She did not know that half of the land of the British Mandate of Palestine that was meant to be set aside for the Jewish state was used  to create the country of Jordan the same year that the State of Israel was created.

She told me that she and I held different interpretations of history.

I’m thinking, this is not an interpretation. These are historical dates. Facts.

It was when I corrected her claims that Israel is an apartheid state and I mentioned that 1.5 Million Muslim Arabs live in Israel with full rights, she said she and I had a different interpretation of rights, and she would need to end this conversation.

And there you have it.

Because JVP does not want to bother with history.

Or Facts.

Or the truth.

But that is where we come in and that is where we, Jews, have gone oh so wrong. If the folks at JVP truly are Jewish, they are the Jews are are the product of a weak Jewish education that dismisses learning history at the price of convenience and reduced hours of instruction.

So, call JVP. If you’ve been blocked. Find a post you strongly disagree with them. And now that they’ve blocked you, just call and tell them what you were going to write.

Just do it with civility. And you had better come knowing your stuff.

Because they certainly don’t.

 

Let the Children Lead us. Mourning together, mourning in isolation

israelrallyLast week, the whole world – rightly so – mourned for France. 

Skyscrapers were lit the color of the French Flag. 

Many  changed their Facebook profile photos to the Eifel Tower in a peace sign. Many of you draped your faces in the French Flag or showed old photos of you perched high atop the Eifel Tower or standing in front of the Lourve

You were horrified at this act of terror. 

You cried for the victims. 

A week later? 

Maybe it is because many of you have no real connection to Israel. 

Maybe it is because you never traveled there. Have family there. Maybe it is because you do not speak the language or simply cannot identify. 

Whatever the case, when Jewish blood spills, unlike last week, you were – for the most part – all silent.

For the most part, you are all demonstrating what most of us already know: we are completely alone. 

And you should feel ashamed of that.  You have no idea how that hurts. Yes, it fucking personally hurts your Jewish friends who are sitting in their houses, stunned, functionless, to learn one of our own, a boy who could have been our own son, friend, boyfriend, brother, was murdered today just because he was Jewish.

There are not many of us. But Israel, I want to tell you what I saw in Detroit last Sunday: some of our own young sons, no more than 16, organizing a pro-peace, pro-Israel rally that was attended by hundreds. They wanted to say: israel – we are here. Our numbers are small but we care, we cry  when you cry.  We are here.

Here is my story about the Israel Rally in this week’s Detroit Jewish News: 

When three local Jewish teens recently witnessed a pro-Palestinian rally on the corner of Maple and Orchard Lake roads, they decided to counter it with their own rally for Israel at the very same spot in the low setting November sun last Sunday, Nov. 9. About 200 Israel supporters capped off a very busy “Fall Fix Up” Sunday by waving Israeli flags, singing and dancing to Israeli music, and visibly showing their support for the Jewish State.

Several weeks ago, Ben Rashty, a student at Frankel Jewish Academy said he was driving to meet some friends for dinner when he passed a “large, well organized anti-Israel rally.”

“From my car I heard them chanting very cruel things about the land of Israel and its people, said Rashty, of West Bloomfield, who has immediate family in Israel and traveled there many times to visit. He pulled into a parking lot and started calling friends to gather on an adjacent corner to counter their protest.  With only minutes to respond, Rashty was only able to get five friends to come out with Israeli flags, stand on an adjacent corner, and sing the Hatikvah.

He decided that was not enough.

“The Arabs were cheering with joy and celebration as if they had ‘won,’” said Rashty.

Rashty realized that planning a counter rally on his own was more easily said than done. So he called on the help of some of his school chums Nisim Nesimov, and Cole Levine. Together, they created a Facebook event, made flyers and spoke to leaders in the Jewish community for publicity. Rashty also contacted the West Bloomfield Police Department to notify them for planning and security, he said.

A big challenge of getting numbers to the rally was it coincided at end of the community-wide “Fall Fix Up” sponsored by Jewish Family Service.  But people came. They traded in work gloves from the day’s work assignments out on Belle Isle, the B’nai David Cemetery, or helping homebound seniors for Israeli and American flags as they pulled into Shops of Old Orchard parking lot.  Passersby in cars honked in support as rally participants waved Israeli and American flags, sang, and danced.

Debbie Szobel Logan, 57, a freelance writer from Bloomfield Hills, came to the rally with her husband Stuart Logan, 59, to “be counted and show their vocal support for Israel.”  She said she did not realize that teens had organized the rally until she arrived.

“It was so heartening and gave me so much hope to learn that teens cared enough about Israel to organize this rally,” said Szobel Logan. “I see and hear so much virulent anti-Israel rhetoric from unsurprising and surprising sources. It was important for me to contribute to the numbers and visibility of pro-Israel supporters, and it was thrilling to see all the smiles and waves from people passing by in their cars.”

Globally and across the country, pro-Israel supporters have rallied throughout the fall to show solidarity with Israel as it faces the latest wave of terror and calls to boycott Israeli products and academics in Europe.  Recently, the European Union announced it would start labeling all products created in Judea and Samaria with a special label.

“Everywhere you look in the media there is a lot of anti-Israel propaganda popping up in an effort to destroy the Jewish people and Israel,” said Rashty.  “I felt it was a vital time to hold this rally to show our community’s support.”

 

 

 

 

This is what Hatred Looks like on a Billboard

americafirst

It is getting way close to home now. 

This month, Detroiters traveling down the Southfield Freeway around eight mile get treated to this huge billboard: 

americafirst

Why now? Why now, when Israelis are facing stabbing attacks on the streets of their cities each day? Why now when the world, as represented by the United Nations, is delegitimizing Israel further by considering and even passing resolutions that Judaism’s claims to its holiest sites are bogus and they are Mulsim sites? 

Most will speed by the billboard and only see those big words. They will not pay attention to who sponsored a group: a blatantly anti-Semitic organization that actively denies the Holocaust by refuting the claim that gas chambers existed; seeks to hold Jews in America accountable for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and promotes the lie that American Jews send American troops to their death. (http://blog.deiryassin.org/page/2/

Here is my article on the topic, including an interview with American Jew Henry Herskovitz, who has asked an Ann Arbor synagogue to remove the Israeli flag from its sanctuary and who protests outside of it each Saturday morning as his fellow Jews go to worship inside. Please sign the petition that asks Lamar Advertising not to take any more money to advertise hatred here

An intensely anti-Israel organization— whose local advisory board member has led Shabbat morning protests outside an Ann Arbor synagogue for the past 12 years — has placed a billboard at Eight Mile and the Southfield Freeway that reads “America First … NOT ISRAEL.”

“This billboard was placed to do one thing: To drive a wedge between Israel and the American people,” said Heidi Budaj,
Michigan regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. “It follows the age-old adage that falsely accuses Jews of not being loyal to the countries in which they live.”

The $3,000-a-month Lamar Advertising billboard is paid for by the advocacy group Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) and will be on display until Nov. 15. The organization is trying to raise funds to keep it up for successive months.

Since 2012, DYR placed similar ads in 12 major cities across the country intended to, according to the ADL’s Budaj,  “unravel the legitimacy of U.S.-Israel ties.”

DYR, with an address in western New York, is headed by Paul Eisen, a pro-Palestinian British Jew who believes Israelis committed slaughter of Arabs to drive them out of their villages during the 1948
War of Independence. He styles himself as a Holocaust denier.

Henry Herskovitz, a Jewish Ann Arborite and a member of DYR’s board of
advisers, said, “While the ADL is accusing us of creating a wedge, we think the wedge
already exists.” Since 2003, he has led an anti-Israel vigil Shabbat mornings outside
Ann Arbor’s Beth Israel Congregation. Herskovitz’s main grievances against
“the Jewish supremacist state” include the lack of separation between church and
state, no voting rights for Palestinians and penalties of the Israeli court system —
including prison time — for questioning the “standard narrative of Holocaust.”
Herskovitz added, “There is no closeness between the U.S. and the State of Israel. The
only reason Americans think this is true is propaganda put out by the Jewish lobby.”

A motorist, Robert Shaw of Oak Park, spotted the ad on a recent drive, pulled
over, snapped a photo and placed it on his Facebook page. The post was shared so
widely on Facebook that it was picked up by national and international media, and
there is now a fundraising campaign to place another ad to counter the original’s
“disturbing” message, he said.

“I fully believe in First Amendment rights because that is what makes America
strong,” Shaw said. “But freedom of expression must be tempered with common
sense and dignity toward others.”

Roni Leibovitch of West Bloomfield felt the ad was not a political statement but
an attack on American Jews. He set up an online petition asking the billboard company
to take it down.

In the first five days, the petition, accessible at chn.ge/1M0niLB, got some 800
signatures. It says, in part, “Please remove this billboard which causes hatred of
American Jews, and feeds off the same kind of dual-loyalty accusations which
were leveled against the Jews by Nazis in the years leading up to the Holocaust.”

DYR, bases its name upon Deir Yassin, one of the most controversial battles during
Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. There are conflicting reports on the circumstances
that left more than 200 Arabs from this village dead.

The New York Times report said more than 40 were captured and 70 women and
children were released. No hint of a massacre appeared in the report. According
to http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org, many of the Arabs who were killed were fighters
disguised as women or civilians. The DYR website says the event was an outright
massacre of innocent Arab civilians. DYR claims it has received support from
far-leftist British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, according to London’s Jewish
Chronicle. Corbyn is running for British prime minister. *

2 November 5 • 2015

“Just Another double Murder.” Here is proof that #NPR no longer even tries to hide its anti-Israel bias

NationalPalestineRadio

Sukkot. The Feast of Booths. In Hebrew, the fall Jewish holiday is also known as “Zman Simchateinu,” the time of our joy.

Sadly, this week has been anything but.

It has been a season of Jewish blood.

It has become a season of terrorizing Jews in their own Jewish homeland.

It has become a time of complete isolation for Israel and the Jewish people, when at the United Nations not even the United States, with Kerry boycotting Netanyahu’s speech, stands strong with Israel.

Last week, I watched in horror as the Palestinian Flag, the same flag that was waved in triumph by throngs of celebrants in Judea and Samaria on 9/11 – was raised in recognition at the United Nations.

I was disgusted yet hardly surprised, at the raising of this flag, when Abbas announced in his speech to the United Nations as Abbas said his people are no longer held to the stipulations to the Oslo accords, as if they ever did have peaceful intentions of co-existence.

A shred of me was hopeful. If these people really want a nation, than perhaps that wavering flag would signal them to show the world that they can indeed conduct themselves with peaceful dignity. That they are ready to do the hard work it takes to create a country. That they are now more concerned with building up a nation of their own rather than destroying another.

In the morning, I woke to the news – on my Facebook feed, that a Jewish couple   driving home from a Sukkot celebration were murdered by Palestinians in cold blood as four of their children sat in the back seat.

So, I turned on #National Public Radio and I waited to hear the coverage. Surely, after they dedicated so much coverage to another senseless death in Jerusalem when Israeli extremists torched an Arab home in Jerusalem, killing a baby and burning other family members.

I waited.

Yes, the news cycle was a crowded one: another mass shooting. Another hurricane barreling towards the East Coast. Th endless war in Syria.

But surely, there must be some time to dedicate 1 minute, 30 seconds to report the murder. Especially since Abbas’ Fatah Wing declared full responsibility immediately following his scathing speech at the UN General Assembly.

Nothing.

So, I called NPR on it.

I questioned them directly in a message on their Facebook page. Here, I screen captured the exchange:

NationalPalestineRadio

Does this lift any doubt just how blatantly biased NPR is towards Israel?

Are you really still a supporter of NPR?

If It came to it, would you hide me?

hiddenchildren

hiddenchildrenI’ve got an uncomfortable question to ask you.

I feel weird asking it because I am not the kind of person to ask for a lot of help. Hell, I even feel bad asking a neighbor to for an egg or a cuppa sugar to save me from pulling my boots on and heading out  to the supermarket on a snowy day. Or asking you to pick up my kid at band rehearsal if I drive the other way, would you drive the other?

But this is a biggie. A total solid.

If things in this country got very bad for me, your Jewish friend;

if it came to it where laws were put in place forbidding people to do business with Jews, for going to school with Jews, for being treated by Jewish doctors or seeking counsel from Jewish lawyers; if Jews were forbidden from riding in public transportation or eating in restaurants, or going to movie theaters:

Would you hide me?

What about just my kids?

In the height of World War II, there were the few, brave righteous gentiles who imperiled their own lives to hide Jews in their basements, a large closet, a ditch under their barn, and most famously, in an Amsterdam attic. Some of their stories can be viewed here in a video created by the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

Pretty dark and drastic, perhaps fatalistic and Pollyannaish all at the same time just a few days away from Valentine’s Day, right?

I know. Sorry if I am freaking you out.

Yet, I am beginning to have my doubts just how many would say yes.

It is evidenced by the alarming silence, or maybe apathy, or maybe just news fatigue I have witnessed ever since this summer.

And I know, for my Facebook friends, you are probably sick of all the stuff I have posted since this summer, starting with the horrible war between Israel and her neighbors in Gaza, followed by the outrageous double standard displayed in media coverage. You are just probably sick to death of me and have most likely hidden all my rantings from your newsfeed.

I have also posted many petitions asking you to stand up against hatred against the only democracy in the Middle East. I have tried to educate the unfamiliar on the history of the formation of the modern state of Israel, lest you are misled by those who want you to believe that Jews are land stealing colonists with no ties to this scrap of land in the Middle East.

I have tried to make you understand that yes, when some say “I have no problem with Jews, it is just the Zionists we hate” that this is just a thin veil, a code word for Jew hatred.

I have tried to teach you the real meaning of what it means to be a Zionist. I posted petitions asking our government to stop forcing Israel into any negotiations with a party who in its very charter calls for the total destruction of the Jewish state, and Jews in general.

I have shared petitions about lending your voice to speak out against the rapid rise of Jew Hatred in Europe and even right here in our own country as college student governing bodies pass ruling after ruling asking their university administrations to stop doing business with any business that does business with Israel, to stop RESEARCH and PROGRESS if it means collaborating and learning and working with Israeli researchers.

Post after post, I pretty much knew who would share, or who would comment, or maybe who would just click “like.” Same people. Same choir.

Otherwise, silence.

Those who know their history understand what silence in the face of evil brings. That is why I am asking you that very uncomfortable question:

Would you hide me?

It is not only me who feels this way. Just this week, clinical social worker Carla Naumburg, PhD wrote  in “Jewish, American and Scared” how she is making sure that all her ducks are in order: passport, bank statements, title deeds to house and car, just in case she has to flee with her family to Israel. As many French Jews have been fleeing after anti-Semitism in that country has nearly quadrupled over the last few years. I shared and posted about that too, mostly to seemingly deaf ears.

How many of you have dared to tweet #JeSuisJuif?

So, if you are Jewish, please share this post and ask this question of your friends.

If you are not Jewish, check in with your conscience and think back to a time when you (hopefully) watched a Holocaust documentary, or Schindler’s List, or visited a Holocaust Museum, and asked yourselves how the hell could this have happened??  Ask yourself what you are doing right now, in the 21st Century, to prevent this from happening again.

Silence and apathy of the majority of the good allowed evil to take over and murder millions.

Silence and apathy, that’s how it happened.

It is a good thing there is now a place I can go, if it comes to it.

 

 

Identity. In Italy.

muranoglass

This summer, my husband and I celebrated our 20th year of marriage with our first European vacation.  In the cold clutches of the polar vortex, we asked ourselves, what is the one European city known to be one of the world’s most romantic destinations?

Why, Paris, of course!

Gleefully, we dreamt of a Paris vacation. In the evenings, we played a Paris Jazz Café station on Spotify. Without a single semester of French between the two of us, we spoke sweet nothings to each other in fake Parisian accents.

I dug out my college art history textbooks and plotted my visit to the Louvre.

Then we checked in with the news coming out of France, and our dreams crumbled like a stale baguette.

Anti-Semitism in France has been on a steady incline in recent years, even before Hamas’ most recent war with Israel.  In 2012, a survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League revealed that 40 percent of approximately 1,200 French Jews said they avoided wearing Jewish identifiers such as kippot or Jewish stars. For me, all it took was one YouTube video filmed on Jan. 26 with throngs of protesters repeatedly shouting “Jews Out” through the streets of Paris, to rethink our plans.

So, forget Paris. We instead spent 10 memorable days in Italy touring Tuscany,

DSCN0634 Venice,

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and Florence

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eating fresh pasta

DSCN0435DSCN1242and  gelato and drinking wine.

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Italy was far from a consolation prize to France.

However, all that wine did not cloud my awareness that war was still raging in Israel (my daughter spent the summer in Israel), and anti-Semitism was all around us in Europe. Still, I refused to be afraid to be outwardly Jewish. In the Jewish ghetto of Venice, I purchased a star of David made of Murano glass and wore it for the duration of my trip.

In Italy, an appreciation for Judaism’s contributions to humanity on the surface outweighed any animosity towards the Jews.  An orchestra in Venice’s St. Mark’s square played Klezmer music.

DSCN0620In Florence, tourists wait on line for hours to see Michelangelo’s David, the boy would be king of ancient Israel.

DSCN0937

I know he is made of stone, but I can’t help having a crush on David.

Read More…

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. 

Stuck on Israel

detroitsolidarity

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

flashyredcars

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.

 

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