Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31


Tel Aviv

Day 15 of the war

The supermarket in my suburban Tel Aviv neighborhood was packed today. Thursday. Getting ready for Shabbat. And the feasts after Ramadan. If you wanted to swap recipes with store workers, your choices were Hebrew or Arabic, judging from the headscarves. I didn’t need to go to the West Bank after all to see the two cultures are merged here. No need to go further than the local Supersol. Actually we did have to go further, Supersol was out of chicken. Surly butcher said they haven’t been butchering chickens for a week. Because of the war, we thought. Oh no! Until we went to the Mega-store across the way, which has enough chicken for all of Shabbat. People can be jerks, anywhere. 

We could have and should have shopped in Jaffa, a classic Arab city within Tel Aviv, with its clock tower, minaret, beautiful port, and moaning businessmen because the usual Tel Aviv tourists, Jews, and Arabs aren’t spending the usual amount of money there this summer.

All this disruption, because of a Middle East moral majority? Bible battles and Crusades have long moved over, but yesterday in Somalia a lady was killed for no veil - by a band of armed thugs, not a government. That is the new battle field? Women and children are being killed, but only for their own good? What else explains hiding bombs in (UN) schools? Or as reported by an Italian journalist eye witness, bombing the UN Shati refugee camp? 15 kids in the UN school, 9 in the Shati camp. There are 197 other schools the UN hasn’t cleared yet. The Israelis believe the UN reps in Gaza suffer from battered wives syndrome.

There was also, in a UN school, a tunnel, not for commerce. Another tunnel was discovered by the IDF in the basement of a mosque. On IDF video, you can see a prayer room, a utility room filled with digging tools, and finally the mouth of a 14 meter tunnel. This one also not for commerce. The cherry on top is, again, on the bottom: in the basement of the Gaza City hospital, underneath the old and sick, sits Hamas HQ. Bet you didn’t know that!

Despite the horror, 95% of Israelis are pro-Operation Protective Edge, even in the start of the third week. Even though they cry here for Gazan civilians in the same way they grieve over names they know here. And ones they don't know, matched to handsome faces of young men who will never become parents. The background to the scrolls is the tooting of their phones. Every Israeli throughout the world has the app that shows where the newest alerts are, an advisory of every bomb lobbed onto a town or a city or a Bedouin village. Here the bomb toots are sometimes drowned out by actual booms, last night just south of Tel Aviv, today to the west, daily multiple times near Gaza. So Israelis are all pro-Operation Protective Edge. And they never agree on anything.

Are Gazans who voted for Hamas still on board? If their bombs killed 15 kids in a UN school, and 9 in the Shati refugee camp, do they put that in the context that it is for a greater good? Is this a moral crusade? Or is it about money? Or power?

None of the above reasons is good enough to endanger children and the sick. Israel will soon stop the operation, which is a war, when the bombs stop and the death tunnels are dismantled. That can’t take too much longer, although we pray the boys will be more careful and  not get blown up by booby trapped ladders like yesterday. Soon, Gazans too will have to regroup, and decide about Hamas.

Like the Lebanese and Hezbollah, after the second war with Israel. Hizbollah claimed victory and indeed killed too many of our boys, but though Nasrallah taught the Gazans about booby traps and tunnels, he has not joined this war, though he was loudly invited. Nasrallah in Lebanon publicly stated years ago that he did not calculate well the price of destruction and would not have attacked Israel if he had.  Except for about 5 rockets from some fringe groups, it has been quiet in the north this month, as it has been for 8 years.

This is what the Israelis hope to achieve in the south.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30

Air Force Base
Green Line


Day 14 of the war

This morning we drove Sara back to base, then stopped for coffee. Sara told me she had to sleep through the sounds of screaming jets when the IAF sent nonstop planes up to make sure the Syrian’s civil war next door didn’t spill over. It hasn’t, though Syrians are still killing each other, 170,000 and counting. Makes the current (wait, they are both current), the nearby (wait, they both border Israel) the southern border conflict seem puny. Small it may be, but the Gaza conflict engulfs all of Israel in it. Physically, the rockets hit south to north. Emotionally, because when we stop off the road for coffee and try to adjust to the sound of the loud the planes booming even from here, I remember that one fallen soldier came from this town. I wonder which house on the hill is his. There are no readable signs, such scars are invisible from the main road. It has been a week since that soldier, so the official visiting and mourning period just ended; day one of a new reality for that family.

Sara is cool as a cucumber in this conflict, though she is related to a soldier, knows dozens of others and spends her days living and working on an air force base large enough to have entrances in two towns, as a physical trainer to pilots and others who fly and manage the planes we hear that roar louder than the booms of the intercepts we heard at 3am in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, even though sound travels better at night. No wonder the new Wonder Woman is Israeli, ladies here are heroes!

We continued after coffee to a moshav farm community, like a kibbutz, in an area of Israel where Jewish and Arab communities dovetail. Mall next to minaret. Residents know each other, work together, buy goods from each other, share food. It is not the first time; Jews and Arabs have lived together over the millennia. It is not a different time or a different place. It is now, in Israel. This morning. Yesterday. Tomorrow. Before this war started. After it will end.

Coming away from this pastoral area where Jews and Arabs both live, I realize that day 14 in, I don't know what this war is trying to achieve.Why do we let the agenda be hijacked by those who want a fight? The air force is darn impressive, but letting peaceful masses dominate would be more impressive, and the pity is, that is most of us. But here we are.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29


Day 13 of the war

Phone Waves

Eric called! Just as Sunday's news of Friday's sighting was wearing thin (it even sounds long), today Jacques' phone rang. Eric managed to borrow another phone. Now knows we are both local, which he called unnecessary but 'adorable' - basically Eric sounds exactly like - Eric. He is outside Gaza for a few hours, but as yesterday's news showed, 'near' Gaza is not at all safe. There is nothing he doesn't know, the stories of the dead and wounded lead these soldiers everywhere they go, and we hope it makes them extra focused and extra careful. We know Eric and the other soldiers are worrying, ironically, that their parents are worrying and they try to call home to allay our fears. But he says soldiers are taking care of each other out there.

The Garin Tzabar program announced it is offering the lone soldiers whose home bases are kibbutzim in the south the chance to relocate to a safer kibbutz up north. Eric's kibbutz, Ein HaShlosha, for example, has a tunnel underneath it, just as Nachal Oz. That gave me hope of an imminent leave. But Eric just chuckled, and said no one is going 'home' until this it's over. Another week. I hope.

July 29


Tel Aviv

Day 13 of the war

Yesterday's re-escalation gave early grim results. A rocket killed 4 soldiers. Another died in Gaza. And a tunnel infiltration allowed an RPG - this is a war - to be shot from kibbutz Nachal Oz - a farm community that has these day to be guarded by soldiers. The RPG hit its aim, the guard station and 5 soldiers died. The terrorists didn't make it into the kibbutz, and a terrorist was killed trying to steal a dead soldier's body, to use for psychological warfare against his parents, or if were really lucky, for ransom. Absorb that for a minute. 

I keep hearing the Givati unit is not inside Gaza, but this update always covers every sub-group but Eric's. He is apparently busting tunnels, important work as we saw yesterday. Each one is a death tube. One soldier died in Gaza yesterday. But 9 more soldiers died outside Gaza. 4 died on an Israeli road. 5 guarding an Israeli kibbutz. 10 soldiers in all yesterday, every one a hole in a Jewish mother's heart. We pray the rest stay focused. And safe. 

Where is the world? All around. And all over the place. Good things to read: Thomas Friedman, who started writing about the Middle East years ago as a naïf, has figured it out. Read his last pearl: Order vs Kaos (remember Maxwell Smart?). Today's New York papers have good stuff. David Brooks in the NYT wrote "No War is an Island" which gives you a wide enough lens to make sense of this war. It is not easy to see, because today's NYT op-ed page features David Grossman, an Israeli who is still stuck in yesterday's paradigm. Blinders are exposed beautifully in a must-read article by Bret Stephens in today's WSJ: "Palestine Makes You Dumb." You can google these articles even if you don't subscribe. 

Through Sara who isn't reporting back to base until tomorrow, I offer a spoonful of sugar to make the news go down. Soldiers at the front are experiencing a huge outpouring of love. A burger restaurant in Tel Aviv catered dinner. Macy's has fewer new towels on its shelves today than the IDF. And of course there is a Halloween-sized pile of candy. 

Thank you for the pictures of the NY rally. I'd say only in American but worth mentioning that a flash mob in Vienna, Austria demonstrated what it must be like to be going about your day and then suddenly having to take cover in 15 seconds, by lying prostrate on the ground, heads covered, ankles crossed. 

Israelis appreciate support from abroad and remain themselves supportive of a war which Netanyahu, in his state address at 8pm last night, called just. Israelis agree it is necessary, and they strongly support a PM who has thus far avoided big missteps. If the war effort stepped up yesterday, it is because there is not grounds for peace unless Hamas is demilitarized. Israel has real hopes for this in a second round of diplomacy, aided by newly-aligned Egypt, and its BFF, Best Friend Forever, America. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28

Monday pm

Tel Aviv

Day (long) 12 of the war

Maybe it was Kerry aligning with Turkey/Qatar against local Egypt/Abbas. Maybe Hamas was just waiting for the end of Ramadan. Or maybe Hamas needed to cover up the fact that it just now shelled its own hospital, killing10. And hit a refugee camp. Both were failed attempts to bomb Israel.

After days of lulling quiet-ish, sirens rang out in the north where rockets fell short, and in the south a  rocket hit land and killed 4 soldiers, while another soldier died in Gaza this afternoon, making the total 48 soldiers, and 3 civilians. Immediately following the sky attack from above, there was activity from below ground, as a band of terrorists entered Israel from a camouflaged tunnel the IDF apparently missed. So far the IDF got 4 terrorists, and is searching to make sure there weren't more.

We are not back to square one. Israel has made huge progress in exposing and disarming Hamas. They averted the initial sea attempt at Zikim, by a system of border scanning - dozens of female soldiers stare at computer screens aimed at every border - which paid off in a big way as enemy divers were stopped at the shore. While other terror tunnel infiltrations cost the life of 6 soldiers, so far all big Lucky Strikes from tunnels have gotten stuck in the box and hoped for attacks against civilians right in their homes has not - yet - come off. Since the IDF has been inside Gaza, it has so far avoided dastardly booby traps inside what look like private houses.

Every day of fighting breaks apart the terror organization, but endangers lives on both sides. The terror fortress took millions of dollars and five years of work to build, and it will take apparently a few more weeks (?) to uproot.

We are however, for now, back to chaos.
July 28


Tel Aviv

Day 12 of the war

Yesterday, Sunday, started out rough, but got better. After we send a brave lone soldier off, I got a phone call from a strange Israeli man, turning my brain on red alert. Call turned out to be recorded by a marketer from our new cellphone service (what they learn from America!), driving home hard what Israelis, who sadly have long experience in this matter, have been telling me daily: no news is good news. 

As the day wore on, Jacques and I had a nice café breakfast at the innovative and organic Café Louise (in Tel Aviv and Haifa, highly recommended). We tracked the news over café afuch (Israeli cappuccino, Europeans have nothing over folks here in the coffee department), and the ceasefire, like a rocky romance, was on again off again, seemed fundamentally to want to stick.

Even better, I was surrounded by news from soldiers yesterday, mostly friends of Sara. They are at the front: men and women in green/khaki/blue/white see the war from a viewpoint I only wonder about. Here is what I gleaned from soldiers.

In Hebrew on Facebook an IDF combat soldier posted a paragraph to pass around. He was baffled by the ‘melancholy’ families and friends feel inside Israel. At the front he feels like he is getting the job done, slowly and steadily every day.  The catch, and in war there is always a catch, beside the “hard fighting,” was the “use of children.” What does that even mean? I tried to match it to an account from a soldier Sara knows who, at the time the Haifa American combat soldier fell (still breaking my heart), was firing at the enemy when a 10-year-old boy was pushed into the arena. A Hamas son, a Hamas nephew. He was shot, according to our boy, by a Gazan. But really – it doesn’t matter, which is what the Israelis have been stating, even screaming, all along. Children in Gaza are war props put on offer by their own families, so no wonder we are melancholy, even in victory. Fear not, the Gazans did not waste the life of this 10-year old boy, they photographed his dead body for many long minutes. If they are lucky, you saw it on the news.  When our boys come back home, and the war is over, the news will pour out and we will know more.

Israel isn’t saying how many tunnels are left, or what comes next, and there is wide speculation in the press. Follow the IDF on twitter. David Lerner, an Israeli and a Brit, is a clear spokesman and he has released several on-the-scene videos, in Hebrew with English subtitles. In them, all dressed in protective gear and armed, the Israelis look scary, fierce, but they are not, they are our sons, thousands of Eric’s, in a very trying position. Gazan sons start military training (instead of summer camp!) by age 10 so that kid being photographed was, in Hamas-world, a soldier. This is not a world to be emulated, or honored. It is a world where we see IDF soldiers in a video pointing out heavily booby trapped buildings set next to their schools, prepped for Israelis to enter, trip the wires, and blow up, school an all, for the benefit of CNN and John Kerry.

Our boys’ job is to not fall into booby traps. But the creativity of the juxtapositions is mind boggling. You know the U-pipe under your sink that always leaks, no matter where you live? One Gaza family does not have that worry. Under their kitchen sink is the entrance to a tunnel. Refrigerator, pantry, cutlery drawer, tunnel.

The ceasefire did largely hold during the day, if you discount relatively occasional rocket fire into Israel. Despite an imperfect calm, war news has slowed down since Saturday. Not stopped. 43 fallen. But indeed the job does seem to be getting done.

After 12 days, we understand kids aren’t calling home because cellphone batteries are long dead. Instead soldiers who get outside Gaza are sharing news of sightings. A soldier-to-soldier phone chain.
And someone in the chain apparently saw Eric on Friday! There were other good sightings, a FB photo of our re-equipped soldier back with his unit, enjoying spoils from home. A friend of Sara’s from the kibbutz. All this news from Sara’s soldier network did more to relax me than any blogging. They are connected, brothers in arms. And suddenly Gaza seemed like the University of XXX , with undergrad and graduate aged soldiers passing each other on the way to and from missions, waving, exchanging greetings, comparing beards.

The pulsing of a new Red Alert siren on my phone has started to feel shocking again, provoking a strong outrage that is really a gentle whisper that we expect a return to normalcy.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27


Tel Aviv

Day 11 of the war

Optimism is short lived.  It should have been an easy Sunday start to a work week here, given the 24 hour ceasefire announced at midnight last night. But it is a humanitarian ceasefire, which aside from being an oxymoron, means no differences are resolved. There are still tunnels and rockets and Hamas leaders hiding under populated areas of Gaza and firing upon populated areas of Israel.  The morning started with volleys in the south, and just now the cellphone pulsed:  rockets in Petach Tikva and Hod haSharon, both of which I visited yesterday. They’re nearby, and both are heavily populated. There’s their siren. There’s their intercept. Boom.  During yesterday’s humanitarian ceasefire, Israel neutralized 4 tunnels.

With that backdrop, we took a soldier, back from a sort of humanitarian leave of his own, to the train. Our soldier friend thinks it important to create safety for Israelis, and early this morning he went to re-equip and rejoin his elite group. I gave him a hug and felt like I was sending another son off to war. Collectively, we have sent thousands. The driver behind us stopped to hand over a bumper sticker that says we love and appreciate our soldiers. I have a rented car from Hertz; I think I need somewhere more permanent to put it.

We thought this would be over by now, but there are 20,000 (19,500 now) Hamas soldiers, equipped with thousands of rockets in perhaps dozens of tunnels, and Israel find itself up against a well-equipped, well-trained Hamas army without the benefit of a bona-fide government, just thugs hiding in Gaza City, the Tel Aviv of Gaza, where overflowing fruit stands feed a million people living above a series of well-lighted, man-height tunnels dug over 5 years with millions of dollars and UN cement. Hamas won’t relinquish them without a fight. Israel could use air power to get the job done, American style, but prefers to put its men at risk because it is more ‘humanitarian.’ As the mother of Israeli soldiers, that word is less and less clear to me.
I read this morning that the US faces a Middle East dilemma in neighboring Syria, as photographs of mass torture of political prisoners have come to light. A clear war crime, except Assad is more ‘humanitarian’ than the Sunni ISIS group who opposes him. Will that word ever ring true again?

Even the ultimate ‘humanitarian’ organization, the UN, has red in my ledger. They finally got their heads out of their backsides, looked around and found there were rockets hidden in their schools, both of them. Could happen… But they handed them back to the terrorists. Said it was protocol. They missed the rockets in the hospitals too, as well as the accompanying launchers. It was a set. Fictional spy novels have nothing on this region’s reality. If you look more closely, it gets better. The UN missed the rockets in schools and the hospitals because it was busy, providing Gazans essentially with all the services a government normally does. All of them. Which basically means they freed Hamas up over the last five years to fully focus on its job, to build a killer “Underground” system, which we finally realize stretches under Gaza end to end, with UN cement.

So with or without the US and/or the UN, we are still here, waiting and counting: 42 ended lives, 42 destroyed tunnels, neck in neck.

I have been here so long soldiers back from vacation need to re-equip. I have been here so long that I need to recolor, which gives me a new metric for counting: will I return to gray before war is over? The gray enemy is steadily gaining, especially these days, but I am pretty sure I can last 3 weeks. Hope I don’t have to reload before peace time.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26


Tel Aviv

Day 10 of War

Kalaidoscope Shabbat. Cabinet deliberated as we sat down to Friday night dinner last night, and woke up to an 8am to 8pm ceasefire the next morning. The usual quiet of the park on a fine July sabbath day was superimposed with the stillness of no sirens, no war news. 

Instead, Israeli TV featured Gazans shopping in overflowing fruit stands of yellow, red, green, purple, orange, all the splendors of nature. Gazans seemed normal, even jovial. And why not? The figs here are especially delicious this year; no one told nature there is war. Gazans stopped buying fruit at sunset, as Hamas declined to extend the ceasefire, even to midnight. In Tel Aviv, after the calm of this summer Saturday, expecting the ceasefire to extend, dinner crowds were deeply relaxed and mellow. At 8pm Hamas declined to extend the ceasefire even to midnight, as called for, so diners continued their meals with siren alerts from around the country pulsing edgily on their cellphones in the background, the 'usual' these days.

Many soldiers got to go home on leave today, but they will all be called back. I had no news today, which I know is good news. But still...

UPDATE: It is midnight, as just announced: ceasefire will indeed extend, midnight to midnight, another 24 hours. Maybe during that time I'll hear a tired, friendly voice from the front. 

But Dad is still holding out for a hug. 

Goodnight from the Holy Land, it was really a much better night indeed, and I am hoping for a real shavua tov, a good week and a safe resolution. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

June 25

Friday pm, Tel Aviv Beach

You can't let yourself get numb to war. Every death affects a neighbor. My kid is there. Lots of kids are there. They're talking ceasefire again. I want a ceasefire. But I also know stopping in 2012 to let Hamas build tunnels, stopping early, is how our soldiers and gullible Gazans got here, now.

Wake up and smell the wet cement. Make Hamas build useful structures in Gaza, above ground, or let someone else do it. Statehood under Hamas did nothing for ordinary Gazans. Now their leaders are hiding in underground in armed bunkers or abroad in luxury hotel rooms. Their people huddle in crowded UN tents. There's plenty of room in empty, lighted tunnels. And Israeli citizens have almost perfected a technology to detect terror tunnels without risking their precious citizens' lives. 

What is religious ideology without humane leadership? I mean, really, which government would you rather live under?
July 25

Friday afternoon

Tel Aviv

Last night’s optimism has diminished. Search for tunnels continues under fire. 42 so far. How many more are there? 33 dead soldiers, the latest a reservist, married, father of 3. How many more will there be? There are 8 gravely wounded reported today. A friend’s nephew was sent back to Tel Aviv with a torn ligament, which happened when he was operating a Caterpillar earth mover. Bet he never thought he'd do that in the army. Soldiers meld with the Army Corps of Engineers in this war. Today’s injuries happened in a tunnel dug deep inside a private house that was itself half built under ground to accommodate it. A private house.
Bombs been bounding over central and southern Israel since daylight. Man was wounded in the middle of Tel Aviv, as Hamas, alias Lucky Strikes, still hopes to hit a jackpot. Meanwhile the IDF instructs combat soldiers, and deploys  its “Iron Chief,” to contain civilian damage, on both sides. If it is a lopsided war, it is in this sense mostly.
Israeli Homeland Security goes over Red Alert Siren protocol on the radio. Signs pointing out shelters have proliferated. Electronic traffic scrolls over highways reporting traffic jams have added an extra scroll to remind drivers what to do if (when…) a siren sounds while you are driving. If an incoming bomb screeches toward you from the sky, being in a car feels the most vulnerable, trapped in a tin can, and being at the beach gives you the best view of both the rocket and the (hopefully) Iron Chief intercept, but beaches always have the best views.‘Where were you when the siren went off’ is a running source of jokes by now, joined by a widely shared video skit of a terrorist who pops out of a tunnel to ask a Jew for directions and is told to dig a U-turn and make a right. This has been going on long enough to make war humor video skits.

Bought 2 loaf cakes and a sleeve of macaroons from Rolladin Bakery to bring to Shabbat dinner. Still have to make a fruit salad. Hey, you gotta eat.
July 25


Day 9 of the War

Woke up to good news. Humanitarian ceasefire. That's a 5-day period when there's no shooting but also no agreement for a lasting calm. By the end of breakfast, news clarified there are still negotiations.

What is the mood here? Already yesterday one could feel the tide turning. The sirens were aimed at high value targets as a last chance of  success: the nuclear energy plant in Dimona, the biological research facility in Rishon, the major city of Tel Aviv, and the crazy barrages in areas next to Gaza to intimidate. Hamas was aiming for shock and awe. A lucky victory would have propelled their oppressive rule. 

Once the IDF got the population out of an area, got it to abandon the human shield stance it was ordered to take and initially complied with, once soldiers got in and looked around, it was so clear - to all locals - and finally to more and more world politicians - what neighbors Israel is dealing with. Missiles and launchers found in a second UN refugee school! Missiles and launchers in their hospital! When the IDF couldn't get the terrorists to stop shelling from the hospital, they made sure it was empty, and had to destroy a hospital to stop rockets. Such a sad state of affairs, all around. So how do Israelis feel? Sad it took 32 lives, including 2 Americans and a Frenchman, to deter rockets and cross-border kidnap attempts. Clear about the necessity of discovering and busting up tunnels. 32 dead. 31 tunnels. Would a ceasefire allow the IDF to keep looking for tunnels? Can the IDF increase the 31 without adding to its 32 and to Gazan casualties? Will Hamas comply? They've acted like thugs. They rule Gaza like a gangland. Gaza deserves better. 

Israelis can't live with that next door. They feel the price was high but that the job must be finished. They want to aim for a long period of quiet, based on mutual prosperity. Israel has always been ready to help the Gazans build enterprises. Israelis excel at making the desert bloom and flourish. And Gaza is not scrubland. The Strip is fully lined by the nicest beach property in the area, with the whitest sand. It's stunningly beautiful there. Bet you didn't even know that. 

Five-day humanitarian ceasefire is not off to a great start. My daughter attended a wedding yesterday, well timed to coincide with a day of no casualties. The soldiers attending saw an arch that was a chupa instead of a wide tunnel opening. Today that same area, Ga'ash, was just now fired upon, along with heavily populated neighborhoods north of Tel Aviv, including the shiva house of a fallen American soldier. While Israelis are steadfast in Operation Protective Edge they are glad to have Egypt as a diplomatic ally in this war; Egypt understands Hamas, and they don't like what they see. They keep trying to broker an agreement, though ceasefire agreements with Hamas haven't always held. In fact they never do. But today we are more optimistic here. The IDF defended this country and 'operation bring Dad here after the first week of war, just as it ends' just may have worked. My phone is glued to my side and I have 2 extra chargers. Maybe it'll be a Shabbat with shalom, sundown is still hours away. Maybe Jacques will even get that hug he said he won't leave without. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 24

Thursday Tel Aviv

Day 8

Second Week of the War

Counting and waiting. This starts week 2 of the war. No word from our son for two days, but the wisdom here is that no news is good news. My husband arrived here on the flight with Bloomberg, much better than counting and waiting alone, though the strip felt calmer today until the UN school. Not sure yet what happened there yet. We went to the mall to take care of a pesky cellphone problem. Small country the saleswoman remembered my husband: the one with the boy AND the girl. While there my husband heard his first siren since 1973, Yom Kippur war. In 2014 we have the Iron Dome, took care of everything, as usual . except for some small debris that hit ground on the corner of Dizengoff and Jabotinsky. When rocket hit Yehud, near the airport, the one that caused the FAA and European flight bans - I heard the usual interceptions, and one thud that was duller, rougher, ouchier. Still, one  injury and damage to a house. Not so bad. So when Kerry flew here, as CBS put it, defying  the FAA ban, his courage was matched by Bloomberg, my husband and hundreds of other Jews and tourists from 10 destinations just while I was there. How empty was the airport? I got a pretty good parking spot, but I didn’t manage a first row spot. Still on my bucket list! El Al might be sorry the ban was lifted, every flight of theirs was booked solid and they were raising their already high summer prices. Thanks, America. When Delta cancelled my flight, my husband just decided to come here instead, and we count and wait together. Today there were no soldier fatalitie announced on the evening news. 

Kerry quickly moved from Tel Aviv on to Cairo to talk Ceasefire. Israeli TV today said it would agree (again) to a ceasefire if Egypt can agree with Abbas (Egypt stopped talking directly with Hamas terrorists, but I met a college kid here who never heard of Abbas, only Abu Mazen, his nom de guerre.) To me a ceasefire sounds elusive. And a permanent agreement… I wish them the best. With a daughter paying shiva calls, and a son on the front, this can’t end soon enough for me. Let's see what week 2 brings, and I do hope there's a stop to violence by next Shabbat. Here's to no week 3.
July 23


Tel Aviv

Day 6 of the war

No early siren today! Because heavy IDF fighting and bombing markedly slowed bombing back into Israel, while huge quantities of heavy munitions, including medium range missiles were removed and destroyed by the troops. But 2 died, 3 were badly wounded. What are we, is Eric, fighting for, beside our lives? Apparently for already-won rights of mothers and sisters. Because who/what is 'Hamas'? Peek vicariously inside it, via Mr. Erdogan's Turkey, Hamas' good buddy, in this week's article (July 22) in the NYT. Here is short excerpt.

"Turkey's Culture Wars"

"...billboard with the Brazilian actress and model Adriana Lima advertising a hair-removal product — until, one recent day, she appeared in a full burqa. Someone had covered Lima head to toe in black spray. Next to the image, a mysterious hand had scrawled: “Do not commit indecency!”
... Turkey’s women clash over rings, ... tattoos, not to mention head scarves and skirt lengths. As the country becomes more polarized, the cultural gap between those who support the government and those who oppose it widens. environment where modern women ... feel more and more squeezed... An atmosphere of social inequality and intolerance persists. In cultural battles, women suffer more than men. Just like their counterparts who were forced to discard their head scarves so many years ago, uncovered Turkish women are feeling uncomfortable and unwanted in their own country."

(The only good part - if we now have to cover up, we could stop worrying about our hair.)

Google "Turkey's Culture Wars" for the whole article to sense a society cycling BACKWARDS. It wants the world to ride with it, in an age of spreading conservative Muslimhood. Hamas is well armed, but there are other hot spots. For example, Paris is bring affected from this cycle, from the outskirts in.

Cultures should blend, not clash. I want a croissant AND Turkish coffee. It's early days yet... Keep those good thoughts coming.

July 22


Tel Aviv

Day 6 of the War

After the funeral in Haifa there is, as customary a daily Shiva call to the house of the berieved, to sit with them for 7 days during the worst of the shock.As soon as the expected morning siren is over, Sara and her friends will head over to the shiva house.  At the funeral the fallen soldiers' parents could not speak, nor could the girlfriend who had found 'the one' but the aunt and friends more than made up for it. At the funeral the next day at Har Herzl in Jerusalem of the second fallen American Lone Soldier, the mother from Los Angeles, who had never been to Israel before, summoned the courage to speak. She said that being in Israel, she now understood her son's inspiration and deep commitment, and preferred to hold the week of shiva in a hotel room in Jerusalem rather than carry her son's body back home. He was resting where he belonged.
Such sacrifice, such unspeakable sadness, but the Caliphate had decided to fight, and thus so must we.

July 21



Day 5 of the war

Monday blues
Good moooorning Tel Aviv! Every day starts with sirens. Luckily not too early. By afternoon Sara's friends were in-gathering so when the doorbell rang I thought it was them. There stood three 14-year olds holding big plastic bags. I asked for English but got slow Hebrew instead. They were collecting supplies for Golani soldiers at the front. (Which is one whole hour away by car.) I donated.

The next time the bell rang, it was a breathless friend. She saw the flashes of bombs in the sky and rushed inside to safety. We all heard the booms as the bombs were intercepted, over Rishon. (Hey, we have friends in Rishon!)

Sara's in-gathered friends put on dress uniforms for a trip to Haifa's military cemetery for Sean's funeral at 11pm. Lone soldiers from throughout the country attended. Maccabi Haifa attended. 20,000 Israelis and Americans attended. I attended. A dark event, in the dark. They made 2 housekeeping announcements. No cell phones (naturally) and, in the case of a siren please crouch low. As if there was room. The Aron took 30 minutes to get through the crowd.

We all donate. From the US, I give online via FIDF (Friends of the IDF), they reach Israeli soldiers in Gaza. Tonight we mourned an ultimate sacrifice in Gaza. Crying with all the mourners, I know we had no choice. Tunnels were dug under a family's living room in a farm community. We need Tzur Eitan, Operation Protective Edge. In the midst of which, as it did for Haitians across the world after their earthquake, Israel provided an emergency field hospital for Gazan Arabs - who haven't accepted a tiny Jewish country in the Middle East. They should. Seeing Sara and her friends, and all the soldiers, I see our future. As a high-tech, modern, prosperous democracy, Israel gives many gifts to the world. As a Western country in the Middle East (see The Green a Prince, opens Sept 12) this is the front line of a fight for our continued western way of life and liberty - made possible by support from the United States, and by the Israeli Defense Force.
July 20


Day 4 of the War

Woke up w a jolt this am with first thought toward our soldiers under heavy fire in Gaza, followed by the 20 who have fallen which include 2 American lone soldiers, and 2 civilians hit by Gazan rockets inside Israel, a Bedouin in a field and a man bringing food for soldiers stationed at the Erez crossing. We haven't heard from Eric since Thursday am and while we read that his group uncovered 13 tunnels on Friday, we know nothing for sure except that no news is good news. The worst news is the names scrolling nightly on TV. Haven't seen death rolls like that since 9/11. Before that, the first Lebanon war. Here is where it stops being shock and awe to uphold a cause and turns into private hell. Sara's garin today will visit Raanana to comfort a female combat soldier from their kibbutz garin whose boyfriend was one of the two Americans. Sara could use some comforting herself... the funeral is waiting until his parents land from Texas. His girlfriend's from Long Island, her parents will be here too.
Shock, awe. Heartbreak. I'm sure we saved civilians by being careful but we also became more vulnerable. Oddly the country is soothed, as USA in 9/11, by a feeling of patriotism. We are fighting for a cause. Of course so is Hamas. (See the Green a Prince!!!) Major difference, to me, is method. You smile and grimace to see Israel's field hospital in Gaza for treating wounded Arabs. Their women wail and their men dance. We should listen to their women. They sound like us.
Good fences make good neighbors everywhere not just here. So does prosperity. For now there are tunnels instead. And a cash-strapped Hamas more prepared for war than ever. The world's huge investments of cash aid were used on resources like arms, war training, and expensive kilometers of concrete reinforced tunnels laden with 1,000's of arms and rockets. Nonproductive for society. Which as a banker...
So alongside wasted foreign $ aid, this is what we in the region keep count of these days: number of nights at war, number of booby-trapped houses that cover entrances to 60-foot deep, rigged tunnels stretching kilometers (500,000 shekels per) to inside Israel, and, worst of all, we count dead and wounded. Mighty grim meters.
Sorry. Siren. Back now. Forgot one more thing we count - Booms! Just now 5 - a high number - last licks? We hope so, for all sides. 
July 19


Tel Aviv

Movies to see in wartime? Easy: The Green Prince (thriller/documentary of book "Son of Hamas"). Watching it today, Shabbat, while living through this war is particularly powerful - but wherever you are, this movie zooms you in to this exact neighborhood, exposes harsh behavior on both sides and yet underlying humanity broke through. May it spread! A must see. (Way better than the book!) Five stars.
July 19


Tel Aviv

Day 3 of the War

What to read in wartime? Hard to find a book that suits the surreality. Adventure books are trumped by the news on TV. Summer beach reading, too frivolous. I've settled on Wolf of Wall Street, another crazy, alternate, insane reality. Perfect distraction - it's only money... Found it in my son's room, read and well worn from living his army bag; my turn.

July 18


Tel Aviv

Day 2 of the war

Friday 6pm, just stepped into shelter again. 5 intercepted rockets. Israelis and their dogs are almost louder than sirens and exploding missiles. 

Operation Protective Edge's number one aim is to take care of the large number of tunnels (next time Gazans might make real estate investments above ground to the benefit of civilian populations) since the bombs are being "dealt with" by Iron Dome. Except the ones strapped onto the backs of donkeys and pointed toward our soldier.  Clever? Cruel? Certainly surreal. No news from Eric as long as he's in Gaza  

9pm  New excitement: Visited a new bomb shelter - in Rishon le Zion - during Shabbat dinner at friends. Way to meet their neighbors, and their dogs. Now this could become a macabre travel log!

Shabbat SHALOM.

July 17, 2014


War. As much as you think you're mentally prepared, you're not. Even after the kidnappings went 'viral' and a simmering situation seemed ready to explode. Even after Hamas terrorists refused two Egyptian cease fire agreements, and settled in to launch rockets all over Israel, over Tel Aviv in such numbers that it began to seem weirdly normal to hear them and just assume the Iron Dome would catch them, even then, when war breaks out, it's a shock. It's all-encompassing. At 10pm on Thursday, July 17th, a happy day, my husband's birthday, it began. I was in a car with my daughter, frustrated by the two guys in front of us who just stopped in the middle of Dizengoff Street, to switch drivers we thought, and then just ran off. We didn't even hear a siren, that time. We also ditched our car and waited on the sidewalk, near a concrete wall, until we were sure that - once again - the Iron Dome had intercepted the big volley over the big city. We didn't actually know the ground war had started in concert with this bombing, though we should have been prepared, based on the quick phone conversation with our son that morning. But we are rookies, too naive to realize what he was saying as he tried to adhere to protocol. Still naive, we headed home, stopping for a bottle of tequila and a tank of gas. Prescient. Jacques caught us by phone in the gas station. The Americans announced first. The Arab media second. The Israeli media third. 

Home, we are settled in to basically pray all night for the safety of Gazans and the IDF who has been defending us from the air, the sea and now on the ground. After ten days of closed-eye Gazan launches (they hit the West Bank, I am guessing by accident!), a failed sea breach and a thwarted tunnel run, this had no simple way to conclude, and we are praying this ground effort returns calm for the Israeli civilians and the IDF who are forced to defend them, and the Gazan civilians, who are trapped in their gangland area by violent thugs posing as a government. Gazans deserve better (as eloquently stated by Hillary Clinton when interviewed by Jon Stuart the other night) and frankly so do their neighbors, Israel and Egypt. Here's to peace, cooperation and prosperity in this neighborhood! Finally. Is that too much to ask?

We received the war opening not with a bang, just with booms, thanks to the interceptions from the Iron Dome. Boom. Boom. Boom.  Praying for IDF as they defend us from these rocket attacks.

July 1, 2014, New York, NY

Israel. where I visit often, is a safer, less violent country than the United States. Because this kind of violence doesn't occur regularly in Israel, the kidnappings and then murders of three Jews, and then of an Arab, blew up into a national scandal. And because this is Israel, it blew up into an international scandal, and then a war. But keep in mind, it was shocking because this kind of street violence almost never happens here, so it still has the ability to shock.

Nonetheless, in the US where certain neighborhoods have been long lost to wonton murder, you usually don't get the approval of the mothers... Read what Bret Stephens wrote; the Palestinian mother's comments were widely shown on Hebrew networks.

I am a mother on the other side of the fence, literally. While most high school grads from tony suburbs go off to college depending on their SAT scores, my two kids, yes, both of them, decided college could wait until they'd done a tour in the Israeli Defense Forces. The more I think about the state of the world, the more I think they were right. And the prouder I am of them. May their world become a less violent place, and soon.