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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Whose "Honor?"

Even the New York Times' overseas addition couldn't bury this story:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by southwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of Parliament this week to spare him their outrage.

"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said Saturday. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

Such as: murdering young defenseless women by beating them, shooting them, then burying them while they are still alive? Oh, yeah, that kind of immoral act is okay because, remind me again? Oh, yeah, the men did it to protect society against "immorality." Apparently wanting a say in who you marry is "immoral" but kidnapping and murdering the defenceless is not......

The women, three of whom were teenagers, were first shot and then thrown into a ditch.

They were still breathing as their bodies were covered with rocks and mud, according media reports and human rights activists, who said their only "crime" was that they wished to marry men of their own choosing.

Hit the link for the whole story, if you have the stomach for it.

Gazans For Obama

This story ran in Al Jazeera first, but the Jerusalem Post print edition (not the internet, as far as I can tell) also ran a full feature on it:

Gazan Youth Use Internet to Phone-bank for Obama

According to a report by Al Jazeera English (hit the link for the video) Palestinian youth are using the Internet to run an informal phone bank to call voters in the US before every primary in order to convince them to vote for Barack Obama.

The organizer of the international phone-banking initiative, Ibrahim Abu Jayab, age 23, brings a group of 17 friends to a cybercafé in Gaza before every US primary to use Internet telephony to randomly call numbers in the state where the primary is being held and ask citizens to vote for Obama. Mr. Abu Jayab’s motivation for taking part in this action is that he believes that as president Senator Obama would have a positive impact on the Middle East peace process.

Given the prevalence of pro-Israel sentiment in American public opinion and the generally negative media portrayal of Palestine, it is not clear whether receiving a phone call from a Palestinian youth would encourage or discourage and American voter to support Obama, but the perspective of international phone advocacy, facilitated by low-cost internet telephony tools like Skype, presents an intriguing (and little-explored) are of digital activism.

THIS will certainly improve McCain's chances! All McCain needs now is for Osama bin Ladin to endorse Barack, and Obama's finished. What are these people thinking?! As a general rule, Americans don't much like anyone associated with "terror" and Gaza is certainly painted with that brush in the Average Joe's mind; and secondly, Americans loathe having "foreigners" (usually snotty British types from BBC and that ilk) tell them how to vote.

So now we have "terrorists" calling Yanks at home and telling them to support Obama? This is a really bad idea, and if Obama's campaign people are behind it, then they're incredibly stupid.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thanks For Nothing, Kadima!

Old News: Major General Claudio Graziano, force commander of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), took questions from reporters on on the situation in Lebanon [August 16th].

Mr. Graziano, blaming Israel and exonerating Hezbollah in regards to abiding by Resolution 1701, said, "Hezbollah is one of the parties that agree with 1701 and support 1701."

"We have been able to maintain the ceasefire and fulfill the larger part of the mandate," Mr. Graziano said, claiming that UNIFIL has been successful. Mr. Graziano denied allegations made by Israeli intelligence sources and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that Hezbollah had rearmed, including south of the Litani River.

Today's News: Hezbollah shot Lebanese army helicopter because they mistook the Lebanese Army Helicopter training exercise for an Israeli incursion.

Today's photo:
(courtesy of the Jerusalem Post)

Will the idiots allegedly running the country please step aside and allow us new leadership which really DOES "get it" and will act to protect us from the burgeoning military threats of Hezbollah and Hamas, instead of playing diplomatic patty-cake with organizations which have never discarded their mandate to destroy us?


I hate comment moderation only because when subjected to it on some blogs, I have found that I am censored (Daily KOS is a prime example of a blog that routinely publishes largely comments that agree with them, allowing only a few lame, weak or crazy comments in opposition, the latter no doubt the "showcase" token conservative answers).

However, like Gila, I have been forced to do this because of a troll. Not a normal troll but a total wack job. Bear with me, please. I will publish all comments of all persuasions but not ramblings totally unrelated to anything mentioned in my blog or linked blogs or any blogs at all.....the troll comments that necessitate this are sort of the Blogosphere version of "tagging" and I find it both annoying and vaguely ominous.

The silver lining is that since I have to moderate comments, I can get rid of that stupid word verification thing since any spam has to get by me first.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I seldom wander onto topics that are not about living in Israel BUT I can't help myself this morning.

Anyone know just WHAT is going on in the Old Country??! This story broke:

DENVER -- Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel...Police on the scene refused to tell ABC lawyers the charges against the producer, Asa Eslocker, who works with the ABC News investigative unit....A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order...The sheriff's officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the Brown Palace Hotel, a central location for Democratic officials. Later, he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street...Eslocker and his ABC News colleagues are spending the week investigating the role of corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors at the convention for a series of Money Trail reports on ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson."

This information came from ABC News' website, albeit I rearranged one sentence for clarity. Check the site for the exact story.

I am wondering what exactly is going on here?

Since when does anyone "own" the sidewalks? The sidewalks are public. In order for the police to make an arrest, the officer needs probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. It is customary (but not legally required) to tell the arrestee what crime(s) he/she is being arrest for. The news story says the reporter was arrested for trespass, interference and refusal to follow a lawful order.

I can hardly wait to see this in court.

Trespass? Not if he was on a public sidewalk with his camera crew.

Interference? With what? Maybe with the squeaky clean poor-working-class image the DNC tries to preserve, but this recovering Democrat figured out long ago that they are ALL silver spoon babies who will say anything to get elected. Certainly not interference with anything else, unless the story omits something crucial.

Refusal to follow a lawful order? I doubt very much that telling a citizen to get off the sidewalk is a lawful order, but I don't know Denver's laws like I know California's. Maybe there is some wierd law that says sidewalks are private property and cops can lawfully shove people into traffic.

If not, I see a really big lawsuit following this bogus arrest.

Who says the Democrats are the party of the common people, opposed to corporate interests, in favor of blind justice?

Just goes to show you that any political party, Right, Left or Middle, is unscrupulous and underhanded when its own ox is being gored.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Muslims Cut Off Water Supply To Serbians

Today on the Internet:

August 25, 2008 – 1:49 pm
Restrictions of the regional waterworks that is under control by Kosovo Albanian separatists has left the Kosovo Serb enclaves in Gracanica, Susica and Novi Badovac where some households have been without drinking water for 20 days.

Serbian Ministry for Kosovo-Metohija says that it is following the situation and that is has managed to increase deliveries of water for technical use but not for drinking.

Documents are being gathered that will provide financing so that the water problem can be permanently solved.

Suspicious of this, I went searching and found another link which purports to be an English translation of from International Serbia Radio, but other than that, there is virtually no mention of this anywhere.

Can you imagine the outcry if Israel cut off water to Gaza for 20 days? It would be world-wide front page headlines.

When Moslems do it, everyone yawns. When Israelis do it, everyone screams bloody murder. I guess we should be pleased--the world apparently expects Moslems to act like barbarians and for Jews to 'play nice' like civilized folks, even when we're being bombed and blown up by the barbarians.

I'm just a little sick of the double-standard. I'm not advocating that we act like barbarians--just that the world hold the Moslems to the standards the rest of civilization is expected to follow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thugs In Tzitzit

Yesterday's highlights from the Jerusalem Post's Israel section:

Member of 'modesty squad' indicted

Yeshiva students attack Ein Gedi park rangers

In the first instance, self-appointed vigilantes of the ultra Orthodox persuasion broke into a divorced woman's home, apparently at the behest of her ex-husband, and brutally beat her for the "sin" of seeing other men. Her ex-husband complained that she was acting in an "immodest" fashion.

First, let's get something straight. He is her ex-husband. He has no standing here. What he thinks is irrelevant. What she does is NONE of his business.

Second, this really had nothing to do with her alleged behavior. The ex-husband PAID these thugs to beat her. It's really an attenuated form of felony spousal abuse, and the ex-husband should go to prison along with the baseball-bat-wielding thugs.

This isn't about religion. It isn't about modesty. It isn't about community standards. It's about controlling a woman. It's about exerting control on a woman who is not under a man's control because she is out of her father's house, and has escaped her husband's strictures. (Imagine what it must have been like to live with him while married?!) It's about a man's rage that his ex-wife has moved on and is living her life without him. And all those men in Israel who nod their heads and agree that "she had it coming to her" are his guilty accomplices.

In the second instance, a group of B'nei Brak yeshiva students decided to have a bonfire at Ein Gedi in a drought year. The ranger approached them and asked them to put out the fire as it is against regulations. Their response: yelling, shoving the ranger, and throwing rocks at him. When he called for other rangers to help, they were treated to the same physical attacks and verbal abuse.

Why do I suspect alcohol played a prominent role in this outdoor adventure?

In the last couple of weeks, the newspapers' comments sections, letters to the editor, and guest posts have been rife with the pros and cons of giving the haredi school system an "out" from the basic curriculum. Haredim want their children to study everything Jewish and nothing secular (like math, science, history, geography, philosophy, etc.). Their reasoning has been that the study of Torah, Talmud, Rashi, and the works of Jewish sages down the centuries produces studious, ethical, well-reasoning adults who will live their lives in the righteous fear of H"S and with a sense of Ahavat Yisroel.

If today's headlines are the result of such education, I see the haredi school system as a total failure.

I see a system that educates its children to believe that they are entitled to live off the taxes paid by the less stringently religiously educated population, because they believe that they are the elite, and perhaps the only "true" Jews in Israel.

This is turn breeds a human being who believes that he is above the laws of the State and can hence beat, punch, pummel and kick a physically weaker women of the State into submission to whatever demand(s) he makes. It produces yeshiva students who feel that respect for those charged with the protection of State lands have no right to order them to comply with the State's laws in this regard, and that physical violence is an appropriate reaction to being told to obey the law.

I am observant. I am not haredi, but I respect the choice of those who wish to live a haredi lifestyle, just as I respect the choice of those who wish to live a chiloni lifestyle. Their relationship with G-d is their business, not mine.

However, I live in Israel with everyone else here. NO ONE is above the law, and if the haredi community continues to inculcate in its citizenry a disdain for the laws of the state, and a contempt for the non-haredi population that is the majority of this state, then I will support any politician who strips the haredim of their special privileges. Your children WILL serve in the military or National Service, or go to jail, and after jail they will never qualify for child allowances, free health care, or mortgage assistance. (BTW, I think this should be the law now for everyone who doesn't serve, not just haredim.) Your schools will have a secular curriculum in addition to any courses you deem necessary to educate haredi children in Jewish learning, or lose all state funding, and become private schools supported by the parents. Anyone can study at yeshiva as long as he can pay the full tuition the yeshiva charges, because the state will no longer subsidize these yeshivot or pay their teachers' salaries. Haredim will be proportionally represented in the Rabbinute rather than have the exclusive chokehold they have now. Every graduate from a haredi high school will be expected to work for a living and pay taxes like the rest of us. Like Rashi did. Like Rambam did. No free rides.

You are not something special and its high time that you are reminded that you are merely part of Am Yisroel. The kind of behavior highlighted in today's press is the reason so many people have contempt for religious people and observant lifestyles. No one admires a thug or a gangster, but most understand the origins of such people. When you wear a kippah and tzitzit, and act like a thug or a gangster, then you are guilty of chilul H"S.

Shame on you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Kids On The Block

Everyone please visit the link above and welcome two of Israel's best-known writers to the JBlogosphere. They've been here for several months and you may have read them already, but if you haven't yet met Haim Watzman (author of Company C and A Crack In The Earth, both of which I am proud to own) and Gershom Gorenberg (whose columns I've read, but not--yet--his best-selling The Accidental Empire)*, go over and introduce yourself.

Ah, g'wan! They're liberals. Go pick a fight (grin). But remember what Trep said: "Be nice." We're all Israelis and Jews together in this little slice of land, so disagree politely, if you disagree, or simply go there to take a break from my rants.

Have fun!

*Bakadiary disclosure: I am best friend's with Gershon's sister's friend, and my husband has worked for her law office, so while I have never personally met Gershon, he's one of my landzmen from the Old County.

Professor Halper's Useless Exercise In Ego Gratification

Prof. Jeff Halper, a former anthropology lecturer and the head of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, was the only Israeli aboard the human rights boat which made its ways to the Gaza Strip shores on Saturday. In a phone interview with Ynet, Halper spoke about the reasons which motivated him and other left-wing activists to try and break the siege on the Strip: "There are people here yearning to live in peace with us, yearning for freedom."

Right. That's why they elected a theocratic thugocracy with a genocidal agenda and they fire weapons at us on a nearly daily basis. If that's how they express their "yearning to live in peace with us" I'd hate to see what they do when they decide they want to go to war.

It's hard for me to understand why a people "yearning to live in peace with us" can send their kids to "summer camps" where they are trained to use weapons and indoctrinated to kill Jews.

It's hard for me to understand why a people "yearning to live in peace with us" can attend worship on Friday and listen to their religious leaders spouting venom and hatred against Jews.

It's hard for me to understand why a people "yearning to live in peace with us" can't openly demonstrate in the public square for the return of Gilad Shalit as a 'confidence building measure' towards Israel.

It's hard for me to understand why these people "yearning to live in peace with us" rejoice with candy, gunfire and cries of jubilation every time an Israeli is killed by their rockets.

These people, "yearning to live in peace with us," are arming to the teeth with money provided by Useful Idiots of the EU/NGO persuasion, along with infusions of cash from Iranian and Saudi sources who are competing with each other to see which of them can buy Hamas fastest.

The United States itself has provided millions to the PA this year alone:

"The United States remains the largest single state donor to the Palestinian Authority. We have provided $562 million in total assistance in 2008, surpassing our pledged level of $555 million. This includes $264 million in project assistance through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL); $150 million in direct budget support - the largest single tranche for funds provided to the Palestinian Authority by a single donor country; and $148 million in contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2008/07/107534.htm

The Palestinian Authority is providing the bulk of its budget to Gaza, it claims:

In an interview with the Dubai-based al-Arabiya satellite channel, Fayyad said the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the West Bank were "politically and geographically united territories despite Hamas' coup against the legitimacy." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose security forces lost control of Gaza in fighting with Hamas last June, deposed the Hamas-led government and appointed Fayyad as the prime minister of a caretaker government which rules the West Bank. Fayyad explained that his government has spent 58 percent of its budget on Gaza Strip "to ease the life of the people and enhance their living conditions." http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-02/03/content_7560965.htm (Thanks, Dave!)

Halper went on to explain Israel's motives: "All these restrictions, they're not just for security reasons, they're symptomatic to something much, much deeper."

Reeaallly, Professor? Do tell! Could it be a vile Zionist plot to take over Gaza? Hardly--we just gave it back two years ago with the assurances of the world at large, including our own obtuse government, that giving back Gaza would reap a 'peace dividend' by showing the Palestinians we were serious about peace.

Maybe these restrictions are about war, Professor (how can someone so stupid end up with a doctorate and a teaching post?). Maybe when a hostile entity wages unceasing war against your civilian population, the government has a duty to do Something -- and rather than carpet bomb the Gaza Strip, which would kill all the wrong people, Israel has done to Hamastan what the rest of the world did to Saddam Hussein and is now trying to do to Iran. Economic sanctions against a government openly trying to kill your people and destroy your state is a perfectly legitimate tool of statecraft.

Economic sanctions give a rogue government two choices: comply with international standards, stand down from war footing and threats OR face economic ruin.

Hamas has always had a choice: recognize Israel, end terror, and adhere to previous peace agreements made with Israel OR continue their war footing and war preparations, continue indoctrinating their children in hate and Islamic imperialism. If Hamas were to choose the former, the economic situation in Gaza would change; however, Hamas has opted to starve its own captive subjects while failing to provide jobs, infrastructure, food and trade because the international funding it receives (as "humanitarian aid") is directed entirely to its war machine.

So what did all this showboating by Halper accomplish?

A giant ego trip, that's what. It was a blip in the print media locally; it got no coverage on the international broadcast news (unless it was Al Jazeera--I think that's the only station I didn't see).

What did the Palestinians in Gaza say about it? They asked, quite rightly, "Where's the beef?":

Palestinians: Leftist boats didn't bring enough food / Ali Waked

Gaza disappointment: Palestinian source tells Ynet local residents disappointed by small quantities of food brought in aboard leftist 'peace boats'; some people left beach in disillusioned after realizing boats were mostly carrying activists.

I feel sorry for the Palestinians waiting hopefully on the beaches. They really believed that these 'activists' were coming to help them, when in fact, it was a bunch of self-absorbed poltical groupies showboating for the press about how good and noble they are for coming to Gaza.

Poor Palestinians -- they failed to grasp that for people like this, it's All About Them and has nothing to do with really helping anyone in any practical manner.

All that money for rockets, ammo, guns (prostitutes, drugs, and cigarettes, too)and concrete to reinforce bunkers---but not a dime for food for your people, for investment in agriculture, for teaching peace, for building medical clinics, for updating the sewage treatment plant, for building a tourist industry on the coast's nicest beaches, for building your own power plant and desalinization facility.

No, their terrible yearning for peace and freedom has been trumped by their addiction to weapons of war and the rhetoric of hate.

Halper claims to be motivated by humanitarian concerns? When was the last time he was in Sderot, bringing the world's attention to the victims of Hamastan's Blitz by leading a convoy of "human rights workers" to break the seige of Sderot?

How about it, Professor? What was your Ph.D for, anyway? Hypocrisy, I gather.


I had originally described Jeff Halper as a former anthropology professor at a prestigious university in Israel, based on accounts in the press and in the blogosphere recounting his credentials. I have since been corrected and I am delighted to remove the erroneous information in light of this email clarifying Jeff Halper's status vis-a-vis the prestigious Israeli university:

September 14, 2008

To whom it may concern:

Please note that Dr. Jeff Halper was never a “professor” at {deleted} University. Many years ago, he was an outside lecturer (“adjunct lecturer”) for a total of two semesters, and as such, he cannot claim that he was a “faculty member” of our institution, much less a tenured professor.

Therefore, we strongly object to the repeated assertions that are travelling around the internet (e.g., http://www.blogger.com/profile/12570980519532246704) that he is a “former faculty member” or “professor of anthropology” of {deleted} University, or any like claim.

We request that you remove all references associating Dr. Jeff Halper with {deleted} University from your internet site(s) and that you refrain from doing so in the future.

Thanking you in advance for your kind cooperation.

{deleted in order to protect the university in question, as requested}
Office of the Rector
{deleted} University
{deleted}, Israel

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Hit the link above for the best-written piece ever on what constitutes a community.

It made me tear up. It made me remember our own debts of gratitude, and it answers a question someone else posed recently -- we weren't always frum. But "community" is the reason we became members of a frum community.

The Husband was married once before. We had custody of two of the three daughters from that marriage. He and his first wife had made aliyah, living first in Jerusalem and later on a kibbutz in the Arava. He loved it and thought it was the perfect place to raise his secular Zionist family. The first wife hated it; hated being in Israel and after five years, she convinced him to take her "home" to California, where she promptly divorced him (and what was it you didn't understand about Community Property law, motek? asks Baka Diary snidely)

The two oldest girls came to live with Abba after a few years. In the meantime, the ex-wife, oppositionally defiant to any wishes of her Ex, began to do the California Multi-Cultural Remix: this week we will visit a Mormon Church to hear their choir, next week we will go the Catholic Church to appreciate Gregorian chant, and the week after we will visit Spirit Rock to get in touch with our Inner Buddhist...you get the drift. Crystals and astrology entered the picture also, along with heavy doses of mostly useless MFCC counseling.

The last Jewish thing these kids experienced was a Pesach meal prepared the spring after their emigration from Israel to the U.S. The following winter, their mother put up a Christmas tree to "celebrate winter" because that's "what Americans do."

By the time 4 years had passed and the older girls (10 and 16) voted with their feet to move in with Abba, they were multiculturally bewildered and totally clueless about their own Jewish heritage.

They had also absorbed the message that the only important thing in life was to get married. To anyone. Getting a husband was what made your life. Making your own life, making a Jewish life, making a Jewish family was never in this lesson plan.

By the time they came to live with us, it was too late. Too many years of "Be American" (read: be assimilated, be whatever the man-of-the-moment expects) had taken its toll.

To their credit, the older girls sensed something was missing. They had lived in Israel. They knew the secular kibbutz take on the chagim and the history it represented. They appeared to enjoy preparing Shabbat at home, albeit with the caveat that it was Friday night, and they expected to be able to go out with their friends to parties and football games. Our compromise: bring your friends to dinner at our house, celebrate Shabbat, then go.

The younger girl approached us about koshering the kitchen. I actually talked to Gittel Rice, the wife of the local Chabad rabbi, about this. I was willing -- the Husband wasn't ready to kosher the kitchen.

Liat, liat, as they say.....for his daughter's sake, he was willing to go half-way: separate meat and dairy meals but NOT separate plates (after all, we had a dishwasher, right?).

It wasn't enough. The older girl, convinced by her gentile aunt (the Husband's half-sister) that a husband was waiting for her in the American military, joined up and ultimately married a fine man, albeit not a Jewish one. They divorced without children nine years later.

The younger girl went from SuperReformJew to wanna-be gang girl in short order, after being dumped by her Jewish boyfriend for good cause. She banged out of our house with f$#@-expletive-deleted on her lips before finishing high school, determined to live on her own and not have to follow our "stupid #$@% rules" (like, curfew, no underage drinking alcohol at private clubs in San Francisco, no drugs).

So, in the midst of all this drama, I'm also trying to raise the Boy with his assorted medical problems. We'd visited all the synagogues in the area, and none were to the Boy's liking. "Can we go now?" he asked in highly distracted, unhappy fashion.

I took him to Chabad. At Chabad, he was a part of the small community. No one insisted he sit still. He could sing, bang on the bima, walk around, and be himself. He loved it--and asked to come back. We went back, and eventually went back regularly, and eventually the Husband ("I'm not going to daven with a bunch of fur-heads every week")came too, at the woeful request of his then-little Boy. "Abba, all the other kids have an abba to cover them with their tallit. Nachman had to do it for me. Won't you come to shul with me so I'm not alone?"

The Husband was still dubious, but he went for the Boy's sake...then the Husband got cancer.

Okay, I told G-d, this is just a tad Bit Too Much! Problem teen, assimilated stepdaughter, special ed with medical issues child, and now THIS?!

The Husband had his operation. He was going to be in the hospital for a while. During that time, not one person in my office offered to help us. Not one person in our former synagogue offered to help us. Not one person in the middle daughter's Other Synagogue (the one all her friends went to, so of course we had to have a membership there, too) offered to help us except for our next-door neighbor and good friend.

Everyone at the Chabad synagogue simply pitched in. No one asked us if we needed help--everyone just did whatever needed to be done. Women announced that they would pick up the Boy from Gan Israel summer camp, take him home and feed him at their place so I could stay at the hospital; kosher meals were made and delivered with notes wishing us well; men came to visit the Husband in the hospital. One Israeli friend who davened at Chabad infrequently called his cardiologist to get the inside scoop on doctors, and then steered us to the perfect cancer surgeon. The morning of the surgery, the guys got together a minyan to pray for the Husband's recovery. This kind of help continued the entire week the Husband was in the hospital and during his recovery for months afterward at home.

The Husband, always the kind of guy who thinks that men should be strong and never need anything from anybody, was rudely disabused of this notion by cancer. No man is an island, and this lesson was learned best at our little Chabad community where no one is allowed to be an island--we're all part of the greater whole.

He was touched and surprised by the outpouring of help and support. "This is the kind of community I want my son to grow up in," he told me during his recovery. "This is where I want him to be bar-mitzvahed."

He believes he made a mistake through his own ignorance in raising his girls as secular Zionists, which gave them no framework at all for dealing with California's soft prejudice of multiculturalism, where all cultures are equal so no culture, no identity has any value.

The sole Jewish reference point these girls got in California public school was antiSemitism (yes, even in uber-liberal Marin): middle daughter was pushed off a bench in 6th grade and told, "We don't let Jews sit here;" oldest daughter was subjected to "Jew jokes" by one boyfriend's cronies ("They're just kidding around, don't be so sensitive," he told her).

My favorite incident was when a boy swiped her change off the lunch room table. "Hey, give that back," she demanded. "Just like a Jew," he sneered. "Always about the money."

"Yeah, I'm a Jew--but you're a thief," she retorted caustically.

So the Husband concluded that raising his son in a more time-honored and traditional Jewish setting, where history, texts, Talmud, chaggim, Chesed, Tzedakah and Torah are all valued would both give our son and us a sense of belonging to a warm, caring, committed and wonderful Jewish community, while guarding against the rampant assimilation of America. "Then you need to be a part of this community," I told him, not unkindly. "It means being there for the minyans, being there to do this for other people, being there when people are sick, or need help, and being there for prayer."

He meant it. We koshered the kitchen. We bought kosher food and had two sets of dishes and pots and pans. We came every Shabbat. Then we moved up a step and stayed with friends in the community for Shabbat so we weren't driving. The we stopped eating out...then we sold our home and bought another that was three blocks from Chabad House. He didn't always make Shacharit during the week since his weekday often started at 0400 or 0500, but he did make all the minyans on Shabbat, and as many evening calls to prayer as possible.

The Boy grew up there and was Bar Mitzvahed there. For a special ed child with multiple physical limitations who found learning difficult, this was a small, special community of caring adults, many of them grandparents themselves, who were happy to share their knowledge of Judaism with our son (and a good thing, too, since we were learning right along with him). Other kids excelled at soccer, or Little League, or mountain biking, all pursuits our child could never begin to engage in. Instead, he engaged in Judaism, and grew into a love of Jewish law and learning, and a pride in being Jewish that in no way detracted from his love of being American or Israeli. His study and participation in this small congregation gave him a level of confidence we don't think he would have found anywhere else.

I owe a terrific debt of gratitude to the people of this special community, and I thank Baila for reminding me how important it is to acknowledge it.

So, thank you, Baila. And thank you Yisroel and Gittel, Hillel and Chana, Yisroel and Penina, Reuven and Lori, Reuven and Pescha and Aviva and Ephraim, Keren and Avi, Dov and Penina, Eli and Mendel and Shalom Dov Ber and Morah Mushke, and Nachman and Steve and Harriet and George -- we are this year in Jerusalem, and we rejoice in being here, but you know what? What you made in Marin is exceptionally special, and I haven't found its like in "community" so far.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Freckles Are NOT Cute

I have a confession to make. I don't tan. At best, I freckle heavily. At worse, I burn and blister.

My introduction to the California sun was a birthday party for a fellow 7-year-old. The supervising moms took us to Half Moon Bay where we cavorted on the beach all day. My own mother was hosting my brother's birthday party, but allowed me to go with a large bottle of Sea & Ski and instructions to the Supervising Mom that I HAD to have sunblock.

These two moms were supervising what must have been at least 12, maybe more, kids. Needless to say, in the excitement of being at the beach, having a party, lots of new friends and classmates, I didn't remember the sunblock and neither did the other moms.

I came home colored like a parboiled lobster. I don't recall blistering, but I do remember spending the next three days in bed, very sore, very sunburned and very sick.

I've been wary of long spells in the sun ever since.

Instead of having one of those perfect, golden California tans, I had dots. "Oh, but freckles are soooo cute!" my friend's parent would coo. "So Doris Day!" Ugh. Gag me.

The Beach Boys were hot. Miniskirts were hot. The "Mod Look" with its straight long blonde hair was hot. California girls had a number one hit song named for them--we were supposed to be hot.

I had frizzy, kinky, curly brown hair and freckles and my parents didn't let me wear mini-skirts. One of my biggest arguments with my mother was why I couldn't iron my hair to get that British Mod look. My mother had the grace not to tell me that looking like Paul McCartney's girlfriend was going to take a lot more than ironed hair.

Only once in adulthood did I manage to lay down a tan. It was summer, I was clerking full time for my law office, and I took my lunch hour in a near-by park where I stripped down to the bathing suit I'd worn under my dress suit, and laid in the sun for exactly 15 minutes every day. Having been confined for most of the year to classrooms and offices lit by fluorescent tubes, I had the pallor of a fish belly. I figured a daily short walk and a bit of sun would do me good. After two months of 15-minute increments in the sunshine, I actually acquired a nice tan. It vanished with the fall of the autumn leaves, leaving me more heavily spotted than before.

Since arriving in Israel, I've spent more time in the sun than at any point previously in my adult life. First, sans car, we walked everywhere. Even after we got a car, walking was still a pleasure and we walked to stores, to Moshava Germanit, on Shabbat, from ulpan, for exercise, to see the Tayelet, to Talpiot when we didn't want to fight traffic or struggle for parking.....and each trip brought me a bit closer to looking like a map of the constellation Andromeda: little brown spots EVERYWHERE.

Yossi's little girl tried to tell me that being "white" was considered beautiful in this part of the world. "Ah, motek," I told her regretfully, laying my arm next to her baby-smooth beige arm, "I'm from California where women spend a lot of time in salons and on beaches trying to get the exact color you've been born with." Her eyes widened. This was clearly a new and revolutionary idea. I added that most California girls would prefer to have her peach-beige color rather than my conglomeration of spots. "What's prettier?" I asked her, "Your nice smooth beige tan, or skin with all these spots on it?" "I would be pretty in California?" she asked tentatively. "You are beautiful in all the world, not only in California," I assured her. [And she is--we've already warned Yossi that he's going to have to beat off boys with a baseball bat in about six years.]

Yossi himself assures me that I am fortunate to have the most handsome husband. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband.....but we're a bit, well, older, and somehow I was taken aback that Yossi would see anything special about his looks. "He is so blond! And he has blue eyes!" Yossi explained. The Husband was a surfer dude in his youth.

"Yossi, where we come from, blond hair and blue eyes are a dime a dozen--there's nothing special about it," I remonstrated.

"Here, it's special," he insisted. "This is the Middle East, Sarah. There are not a lot of people with blond hair or blue eyes."

Okay, it's not Michigan. Still, I have seen a large number of fair-haired and light-eyed people here, and many of them are in the Palestinian Arab population, not merely the Ashkenazim.

However, none of this tacit approval of "fairness" did a thing for my on-going battle with the sun. Sunscreen to keep out ultraviolet rays, to protect against skin cancer, to moisturize against dryness...and to stop the proliferation of these freckles!!

Last week I was in Superfarm and saw sun screen on sale. Sun screen at summer's end is always a great deal--often 50% off. Since my supply was running low, I bought a bottle.....and after reading the label, realized that not only was it a sun screen, but it was also a "self-tanning" lotion. In other words, a dye.

And you know what? It works! I have a tan that would be the envy of any California beach bunny, even if it is artificially induced. No more freckles!

*photo courtesy of http://www.fiftiesweb.com/tv/howdy-doody.htm

Friday, August 22, 2008

Kessef In My Coffee

I had something official to do downtown involving some bank, agency or lawyer a few weeks back. I hadn't realized how badly my Hebrew had deteriorated in the year I've taken off from ulpan during our Construction Project until I stopped in Arcaffe for coffee.

Now, I happen to really, really like the coffee at Arcaffe. The place is spacious, relatively quiet, the music is usually a quiet jazz and the tables are actually big enough to work on. Yossi came with me, since banking and officialdom generally require Hebrew skills quite a bit above Kitah Aleph.

I've figured out how to handle simple transactions in Hebrew, like ordering coffee in its various permutations. I can even bluff my way through some transactions, like the multiple offers of things I don't need at the cash register on my way out of the grocery store. I understand the offer, but not necessarily the details. I know how to ask to have groceries delivered, and how to ask for either regular or multiple payments on my credit card.

But on this particular morning, Arcaffe's cashier asked me a question I'd never heard before. We'd ordered cappucinos, which go by the name cafe hafuch (upside down coffee) here.

"Do you want kessef in your coffee?" she asked me, as if this was routine.

"Kessef?" I asked back, astounded. I looked frantically at Yossi. "They put money in the coffee here?" I queried, incredulously.

Yossi almost fell over laughing.

"Ketzef, Sarah, ketzef," he managed between gasps of laughter. "You know, foam."

Uh, yes, I'd like foam on my cappucino.....although for just a moment, I had this appealing mental image of a ten-shekel piece sitting in the bottom of my cup. Put kessef in my coffee, I'll drink here every day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ahmadinejad Can't Get It Up

Okay, I stole the headline from Israelinsider's quote of a US official. But it was too perfect not to plagiarize, uh, borrow. This is the story itself, below:

Iran's attempt to launch a dummy satellite into orbit earlier this week was a "dramatic failure" that fell far short of the country's assertions of success, Reuters quoted a US official as saying on Tuesday.

"The attempted launch failed," the official said. "The vehicle failed shortly after liftoff and in no way reached its intended position. It could be characterized as a 'dramatic failure.'"

On Sunday, Iran said it had put a dummy satellite into orbit on a home-grown rocket for the first time, using a technology that could also be used for launching weapons. Iranian television showed the rocket on its launch pad, but did not show the actual lift-off. "The failed launch shows that the purported Iranian space program is in its nascent stages at best - they have a long way to go," the US official said.

Satellites, nukes, missiles -- is the entire Corps Diplomatique unable to connect the dots here?

The First International Jewish Bloggers Convention

Okay, I was there. Not to promote "agenda driven blogging" or to engage in "Hasbara" as some of the Elitists On The Left seem to claim:

On The Face's author Lisa Goldman told the press that she has no interest in attending the conference: "I'm more interested in the complexities of Israeli life than in blogging about aliyah-related themes," she said, adding she would have preferred a conference for Israeli bloggers where Arabs could participate, also. {Bakanote: this was proposed at last night's Conference--an Israeli Bloggers Conference as well as a Jewish Bloggers Conference}Furthermore, she said the conference "seems to be politically slanted," with a preponderance of bloggers who represent right-wing or center-right views. "I prefer a holistic approach," Goldman said. "I don't like agenda blogging."

Uh, no, Goldman is the very soul of agenda-driven blogging, as Aussie Dave so neatly pointed out [http://www.israellycool.com/2008/08/12/the-egos-have-landed/]

Shmarya Rosenberg, whose Failed Messiah blog is critical of Orthodox Judaism, also slammed the convention. "At first glance, the conference seems stacked in favor of Orthodox bloggers with right-wing political leanings," he told AngloFile. "I think what Nefesh B'Nefesh is doing is deceitful. A true Jewish bloggers' conference would be both open to all Jewish bloggers and far more balanced." [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1009650.html]

Guess what? It WAS open to all Jewish bloggers, and had these cyber-snobs bothered to come, they would have lent the Conference the "more balance" they claimed it lacked. (It didn't, BTW--there were a lot of left, secular bloggers present).

The problem with this somewhat self-satisfied elitist "I'm too good to mix with THEM," approach, is that these are the very bloggers who opted out of coming. NBN didn't NOT select them--if you wanted to attend, you simply had to go to the website and sign up. Just come. The registration didn't require anything more than entering your name and URL.

I'm old enough to remember that theme of the Sixties: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

It is disingenuous to the extreme for someone with secular and/or left-wing credentials to choose not to attend, then to go to the press to vilify the rest of us as "Right wing" or "Orthodox" or "agenda driven" or focused solely on "aliya-related themes."

Sorry. You chose not to come. You chose not to come and to brand the rest of us without ever meeting us, without reading our blogs, without knowing who we are or what we write about. Most of us do write about the complexities of living in Israel, including everything from politics to education to Palestinians to shopping in the souk. But you don't know this because you don't read anyone that's different (or supposedly different) from you. YOU are part of the problem.

You, Goldman, Rosenburg et al, are elitist snobs whose supposed critical thinking skills are hampered by your knee-jerk dismissiveness of anything and anyone that doesn't conform to your narrow secular-left world view. You're like the orthodox Catholics of the last century who eschewed anything on their church's list of forbidden books, forbidden movies, forbidden thoughts and forbidden opinions. Your Leftisecularism is your Faith, and anyone who deviates from it is a heretic that you dismiss as irrelevant or demonize as different.

I'm sorry you didn't come. I particularly would have liked to meet Lisa, as I admired her Lebanon War coverage. And I'm sure she would have liked to meet the pro-Palestinian blogger I know who was there, as well as two of the secular Tel Avivian bloggers who were on the panel, as well as the extremely interesting African Jewish blogger who told me more about African Jewish history than I've ever heard before!

You know what? You guys on the secular left need to stop singing Hosannas to yourselves and your self-appointed-politically-correct agenda, and get out more with the rest of us. Build some bridges instead of tearing other people down.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Palestinian Ethnic Cleansing

Israel has once again engaged in a futile attempt to end the conflict, only to find that the Palestinian price for "peace" is the destruction of Israel.

Tuesday, Haaretz newspaper leaked the peace plan: the offer was ALL of Gaza (which has been Judenrein since 2006) and 93% of the West Bank, with the remaining 7% to be taken from Israeli territory.

The Palestinians said, "No."


Because the Palestinians are demanding (1) land for a contiguous state (i.e. land that connects Gaza and the West Bank, to be taken from Israel's central territory); (2) all of Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine; (3) the "Right of Return" for all refugees claiming descent (undocumented though it is) of any Arab who happened to live in British Mandatory Palestine for 2 years or more.

Saeb Erekat, the PA's token Christian spokesman, stated that "the peace process was aimed at fulfilling the resolutions of the United Nations and the terms of the Road-Map, which call for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, and which does not have any settlements in it."

In fact, NO U.N. resolution and no term set forth in the Road Map actually says this, but apart from Erekat's usual mendacity, let's look at these three issues.

Let's take this last point first.

The Palestinians are demanding the ethnic cleansing of every inch of land over the Green Line: no Jews are to be allowed to live in Gaza or the "West Bank". Despite centuries of Jewish life in the Old City, which was majority Jewish, the Palestinians are calling for the Old City to be "Palestinian" by virtue of Jordan's ethnic cleansing of its Jewish population in 1948.

Israel has an Arab population of approximately 20%, yet we are not calling for the expulsion of Arabs to the West Bank and Gaza. The idea of using the Green Line as the "border" of Palestine gives the PA two choices--incorporate the Jews of the West Bank as Palestinian citizens OR negotiate the borders to exclude the Jewish towns. The Palestinians refuse to do either - they are completely comfortable with the expulsion of all Jews from these areas.

"Settlements" is the word with which the PA demonizes Jewish suburbs built across the Green Line, that archaic and unworkable armistice line drawn, as a temporary measure, in 1949. Yes, there are isolated watch-tower and caravan outposts that dot the West Bank, but they are easily negotiated as they contain few people who could be absorbed into other communities. However, what sticks in the Palestinian craw are not these isolated outposts, but the large suburban neighborhoods and cities which have thriving populations, industrial parks, schools and number tens of thousands of people.

We're keeping these. Sorry. The Arab world collectively turned down every attempt to negotiate for decades, so we built homes on the most defensive high ground adjacent to and over the Green Line. Gilo has replaced the Arab artillery batteries that used to fire down into Jewish Talpiot. French Hill controls the heights from which Jordanian Army soldiers fired into northern Jerusalem neighborhoods. Har Homa, built on land purchased by Jews prior to 1948, means that no Arab army will overrun Ramat Rachel and Arnona ever again. Hashmonaim has replaced the guns once aimed by Jordan at Israeli passenger planes taking off from Ben Gurion airport. You don't like it now? Tough -- you should have talked to us back then, before we started building.

How about Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine? It's "Palestinian land" I hear all the time.

No, uh, it's not. The City of Jerusalem was never ceded to the Palestinians by anyone--not by the United Nations in 1948, not by the Jordanians between 1948 and 1967, and not by the Israelis since then. Be glad some of the more naive of our leaders are prepared to talk about sharing this city -- most of us believe that Jerusalem has always been the holiest city of Judaism, and we remember all too well the Arab practice of excluding Jews from the holy places, the desecration of our graveyards and synagogues, the expulsion of the ancient Jewish community in the Old City. No, we're not really prepared to surrender it all to the PA so that Hamas can make it the Jew-free capital of its Caliphate.

Part Two of the Palestinian Ethnic Cleansing plan: the "Right of Return." Not only are NO Jews allowed to live in the proposed Palestinian state, but all of their alleged conationalists living in Arab-imposed camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria are to be allowed back to "settle" in Israel proper.

What happened to "no settlers?" Silly me! That's supposed to mean no JEWISH settlers--Arab settlers are supposed to be welcome with open arms so they can live on the dole, supported by the Israeli taxpayer, and spread sedition and revolt learned in their jihadi camps. Yes, that's what we need -- 4 million wanna-be suicide bombers living INSIDE Israel.

First of all, these folks aren't "refugees." They are the descendants of anyone who lived in Mandatory Palestine for two years or more -- the guy could be from Iraq or Egypt, but if he lived in Jaffa for 5 years, working for the railway under British Civil Service, he meets the UNWRA special definition (not used for any other refugee group) as a "Palestinian refugee."

Assuming you can swallow this definition, we're not talking about these folks. There are in reality only about 230,000 of the original refugees still alive. The four million-plus figure comes from their descendents.

No one else in the world gets refugee status because your grandfather was a refugee. The world-wide practice is and has been that if your grandfather was a refugee, but his children and grandchildren were born, schooled, employed and live in, for example, Lebanon, then THEY are Lebanese. But the Arab-and-British dominated UNWRA has a vested interest in keeping these people "refugees" -- it keeps the conflict alive, doesn't allow the 'refugees' any closure or any future in their now-native lands, and keeps open the possibility of a mass invasion of and hence destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

Then there is the novel Palestinian demand for a 'contiguous state' which in PA parlance means a land corridor linking the West Bank and Gaza.(Please note: the PA insists that Israel isn't allowed ANY land over the 1948 Armistice Line, but the Palestinians blithely demand Israeli land that was never theirs for a "land corridor." Can you say "double-standard?" Or "chutzpah?")

Excuse me, that's Israeli land. We have towns, villages, farms and people living there.

Besides, what IS this all about anyway? The Palestinians NEVER had a contiguous state, even under the UN Partition Plan of 1948--Gaza and the West Bank weren't connected then, either, albeit the territories were a bit closer. See what you lose when you opt for genocide?

The PA insists it can't be a functional state without contiguous borders.

First, allow me to point to the United States, which has Alaska well-separated from the Lower 48 by Canada. I don't recall the US ever insisting that Canada surrender the AlCan Highway to the US in order for the US to be "contiguous." Likewise, Great Britain manages to do fine with Northern Ireland on a different island from England.

Second, live with it. You aren't a functional state now, and despite billions of euros and dollars being pumped into the PA and Gaza in the guise of humanitarian aid, and infrastructure, and law enforcement training, etc., all anyone sees are your Arab subjects living in poverty, with insufficient hospitals, insufficient sewage disposal, insufficient health services, gang warfare disguised as political differences, and schools and summer camps dedicated to war and hatred -- giving you a strip of Israeli land so you can funnel more terror to the West Bank isn't a solution.

Once again, the Palestinians are proving the old adage: they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. PA spokesmen always warn that the time for peace is running out -- yes, it is. Every offer by Israel is met with a non-negotiable Palestinian demand which the Arabs know will never be accepted as to do so would lead to the demise of Israel. This "peace game" that they are playing as the Good Cops, while the Bad Cops running Hamastan arm to the teeth, is just a ploy.

The only question is: when Hamas takes over and opens the next war, will it be Kadima's ineffective leadership at the helm, or someone with the the intelligence to see through this 'peace game' and the strength of character to decisively end this charade?

*photos of Jerusalem suburbs Ramot and Gilo courtesy of Jerusalem Shots

Monday, August 11, 2008

What Will We Think Of Next?

Eating too much and the resultant obesity is very much a Western, first-world affliction....no one in sub-Sahara Africa is obese except for the corrupt leadership of certain countries and their elites.

Folks have resorted to bariatric surgery to reduce food intake; extreme dieting; specific medications and/or injections, all looking for the Holy Grail of weight loss.

Leave it to Israel to come up with the simplest solution:

It's a device which makes it difficult to wolf down your food. It forces you to take smaller bites and thus eat more slowly, allowing your stomach time to tell the brain, "Hey, stupid, we're full already!"

Apart from the weight loss benefit, I think it may find a marketing niche among those parents with teens who like to inhale their food and rush from the table....just a thought....

*photo and news article at Israel21C [http://www.israel21c.net/]

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Myth of Palestinian Concessions

Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayed announced today that the international community was now required to exert pressure on Israel to work toward achieving the two-state solution. The Palestinians, he stressed, won't make any more concessions.

What did I miss? WHAT concessions? What exactly have the Palestinians conceded? Their militias are still producing suicide bomb belts and trying to enter Israel in order to murder us; they are stockpiling advanced weaponry in Gaza and boasting (still) of eradicating the 'Zionist entity': IDF forces have found and dismantled rocket factories in Jenin and Nablus; PA education and media still spout hatred and racism about Jews in general and Israeli Jews in particular; 8,477 rockets or mortars have been fired into Israel since 2003; in 2008, up through June 30th, rocket and mortar attacks number 2,363. In Gaza, Hamas, following in the footsteps of Arafat's Karine A precedent, is still smuggling in Iranian-supplied weapons and ammunition.

After years of relentless pressure from the West and the Leftists of Tel Aviv and Europe, Israelis conceded that a two-state solution to answer the needs of Palestinian national aspirations would be just. We were, and are, educated to believe that if we surrender the concept of "Greater Israel" then the Palestinians will surrender the concept of "Greater Palestine." Instead, Palestinian schoolbooks still incite hatred of Jews and educate students to embrace war rather than peace: all of Israel (not just the West Bank) is referred to as "The Occupation" and Palestinian school children are taught to refer to Israel as "Palestine."

We've left Gaza, trading "land for peace" and that concession has resulted in more war. We've reduced checkpoints in the West Bank and the PA's only response has been that we didn't reduce enough (despite their efficacy at intercepting suicide bombers on their way to Jerusalem) and to complain that we haven't released enough prisoners.

How many POWs did the US release to Japan and Germany while WWII was raging? How many German POWs did Britain return to Germany during that war? WHAT insanity makes the western world think that releasing men and women involved in mass murder or attempted mass murder will lead to peace in this incessant war of attrition which the Arabs are waging?

Someone show me the concessions that the Palestinians have made. They refuse to surrender their demand that Israel accept millions of Arab "refugees." They are paying lip service to the idea of a 'two-state solution' while laying the educational and military foundation for Jewish genocide and the creation of a Palestinian state "from the River to the Sea" in Arafat's words.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Camp For My Camper

Thank G-d for Camp Shutaf. If you are the parent or teacher or friend or family of a special needs kid, then you know all about "summer camp rejection."

Of course, if your child is a whiz at cooking or computers, there are day camps and sleep-away camps to enhace their skills in these endeavors and keep them off the streets in the summer.

There are sports camps, swim camps, all kinds of camps for regular children who don't suffer from any medical or learning disabilities.

Children with medical and emotional issues also have specific camps that address their needs. There are camps for the blind and visually impaired. There are camps for children undergoing treatment for cancer. There are camps for children with AIDS. There are camps for children who have lost loved ones to terror. There are summer camps for children who are autistic.

This is all good.

However, as the mother of a child who has mild cerebral palsy, vision impairment and epilepsy, my camper was routinely excluded from most camps.

We sent him one summer to a well renowned day camp in our home town and pulled him out when he was bullied by a group of children who threw rocks at him and taped a sign that said "Kick me" on his back.

Most of the other camps we contacted didn't want him. Hmmm, he wears a brace? He has poor vision? Cerebral palsy? Learning issues? He needs medication? SEIZURES??! "I'm sorry, we don't think our camp would be a good fit for your child."

I happen to hate that phrase. It is the polite, politically correct way of saying, Hey, we're not taking a kid with all the problems your kid has---our insurance carrier would kill us!

Even more prestigious, national camps for children with 'life-threatening diseases' who generally are equipped to handle medical issues, blew us off with the explanation that they are geared only for children with a specific disease such as cancer.

We explored other options and found that Gan Israel, run by Chabad, was perfect for him: small, Jewish, and campers his own age. Not only that, but our rabbi, a real sweetheart, was not afraid to accept a Jewish child with seizures and limited vision. As he grew older, though, he outgrew Gan Israel and the camp in our county was too small to continue alone--it merged with the East Bay Gan Israel. As we both worked, schlepping him to the East Bay every day was out of the question.

We sent him to a wonderful camp in Napa County with a one-week session for teens his age run by Lighthouse for the Blind. There, he got to do the whole 'overnight' camp thing amid a staff geared not only to vision issues but to all medical issues. He got to go canoeing, horse-back-riding, hiking, cooking and sitting around a bonfire singing in a setting where the staff was prepared for anything. Unfortunately, the camp session was only one week. The good news was that although the food wasn't kosher, the camp would accomodate anyone's dietary needs---so our huge trunk full of ready-to-eat kosher meals they took in stride.

Then we made aliyah.

I heard a lot about kitana (summer camp)in the summer. The first summer, the Boy went to ulpan and hung out at home. Ulpan was too much like school; home was too much like hanging out too much with the computer and television and never getting out and doing anything. Towards the end of the summer, I was taking him to the pool a lot.

I was facing this summer with some dread: I simply wasn't prepared in my lousy Hebrew to apply to camps and get rejected in a language I haven't yet mastered. Then I found out that because Israel has special education schools, the schools have kitana through July! Wow! Yes, its on the campus, but its more summer camp than schooling: trips, museums, visits by paramedics, soldiers and fire-fighters.

Then I read the Jerusalem Post one day and found out that other parents, smarter and more can-do than myself, faced the same problem with their special needs children -- and they decided to do something about it. They started their own summer camp for kids who have mild physical and learning disabilities.

It's called Camp Shatuf ("Partner") and it meets daily at Ein Yael in southern Jerusalem for three weeks in August. August happens to be the month that the special education schools' kitanot are not in session -- so parents have 4 weeks with their special ed children at home who have nothing to do, and have no appropriate camp options for them.

Camp Shutaf, on the other hand, is geared towards children aged 6 to 14 who have mild to moderate learning issues or disabilities. For those over 14, such as the Boy, there is the option of being a "junior counselor" instead of a camper. Nor does Shutaf limit its openings only to children with special needs--by design, it is inclusive and both campers and junior counselors with no disabilities are welcome.

At first, the Boy was not thrilled with having his four-weeks-in-front-of-some-electronic-gadget curtailed by what I described as his "first job." However, when he explained to his tutor what he was doing, he received such an enthusiastic endorsement from his tutor that the Boy began to think maybe this would be a good thing to do. His tutor told him what a mitzvah it is that the Boy would be doing work to benefit other children and make society better, and so grudging acceptance turned into enthusiasm.

Last week, he went to orientation with another boy who lives in our neighborhood and who does NOT have any disabilities. The two boys happen to share the same name, and his new partner told our kid that he worked as a junior counselor last year also. "It was so cool I decided to do it again this year," he assured our son.

The Boy came out of his orientation all fired up for camp. He got a terrific review from the menahelet and from his madrich, who both told me that our son is "really awesome" and "absolutely amazing" in the best sense of those words.

Sounds like camp is off to a positive start.

Kol haK'vod to Miriam Avraham and Beth Steinberg, the women who went all out for their kids, and for ours!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Felonious Parenting

Inured at this point to threats from Hezbollah, Hamas-Fatah civil war, Iran's ceaseless preparations to eradicate us nuclearly, I was nonetheless stunned to see the following on Channel 10 tonight (the story is from tonight's internet Jerusalem Post):

Aug 3, 2008 18:48 | Updated Aug 3, 2008 18:52
Home Alone, the Israeli Version

A three-year-old girl was forgotten at Ben-Gurion International Airport Sunday, when her parents flew to Paris with only four of their five children.
Just like in the famous movie Home Alone, in which an eight-year-old boy is mistakenly left behind when his family flies to Paris for a Christmas holiday, the two parents from Israel, who were on their way to an annual vacation in Paris, forgot their young daughter.
The crying child was found wandering the duty free shops with no adult supervision.
Police at Ben-Gurion noticed the wandering child among the thousands of passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport and managed to calm her down and identify her. After looking for her name in passenger lists, police realized that the parents' Sun D'or flight to Paris had already taken off.
According to police, the parents did not realize that one of their children is missing until the pilot of the plane was notified. The airplane staff counted the passengers and realized that one of the passengers indeed was missing. Eventually they informed the parents about their forgotten child.
The child was flown to Paris, where her parents were waiting for her, later on Sunday on an El Al flight. She was escorted by a special cabin attendant.
The parents will be questioned by police on their return to Israel.

"Home Alone" was supposed to be a comedy, but this isn't funny......"The parents will be questioned by police on their return to Israel"? I sure hope so. HOW do you misplace your child when leaving the airport for Paris, anyway?

Let's see--you bought 7 tickets, 2 adult and 5 children. This means you had to process and obtain 5 boarding passes. This also means that you presumably, after getting aboard the airplane, had to strap in and seat-belt buckle (or at least check) 5 children.

How the $#@% didn't you notice that your 3-year old girl wasn't there? (For the record, Channel 10 said she is four, but so what?)

The young female police officer who found and comforted the little girl was interviewed on Channel 10. She didn't describe the little girl as "crying" -- she described her as "hysterical."

I understand that. When we lived in Boston, I was three. We lived in a townhouse apartment complex in Brookline whose townhouses sat in a horseshoe shape around a large central yard. Behind our row of townhouses, there was also a park and a bicycle/walking path in the midst of what seemed, at age 3, to be a vast tundra. One day, I was playing with my two best girlfriends, and for whatever reason, I went next door to my home to get something. My parents weren't there. My parents were ALWAYS there. Maybe not Dad, because he worked, although not on weekends. But Mom was ALWAYS there -- and they were both gone. I looked out front. Not there. I went next door to my friends (their Mom was always home, too) and crying, explained that my parents had run away and left me. The two friends took me to the park behind us, and we looked all over, even by the woods, and couldn't find them. By this time (and I remember it clearly) I was hysterical -- that sense that only a small child can have that one's parents have forgotten you and left you all alone in the world. At three, you feel like your universe has just unraveled and you are alone and unloved in the world.

My parents came back, of course. They'd walked a block or two down the street to get an ice cream cone in one of their few moments of spare time together, knowing I was perfectly safe and having fun next door with my friends.

But that sense of abandonment, that uncertaintly, that moment when your trust in adulthood is shattered, stays with you forever. Your heart is broken, and while it mends, it is never without that scar.

And just how much information are the police going to get from a three-year-old girl after her parents and siblings and French relatives spend the next few weeks indoctrinating her so that she believes (1) its all her fault and (2) anything she says will get Ima and Abba in trouble so it's better if you say "I don't know" and "I don't remember."

There ought to be a law for people like this entitled Felony Parenting. I just hope a social worker is assigned and takes a hard look at this family.

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