Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Report from my brother-in-law in Israel now. interesting read

Report from my brother-in-law in Israel now. interesting read
Greetings from Israel
Beth and I arrived here a week ago not sure what to expect. One of the episodic ceasefire agreements was holding as we landed at Ben-Gurion Airport. The usually lengthy passport line was empty. Incredibly the total elapsed time from landing through immigration, gathering our 300 pounds of bags (don't ask!) and car rental was barely 90 minutes, a record for us. Tourism died for obvious reasons in July. We would have happily spent an additional hour at the airport.
As usual, our dance card has been full since we arrived here. Please have patience as I share a couple of observations:

* Israel is calm. Despite the ongoing threat of missiles and tunnels from Gaza life goes on. People go to work, they raise their kids (and one sees LOTS of kids in Israel) and argue loudly about most everything—particularly the Cairo negotiations. Last Friday Beth and I went to the local mall in Talpiyot, a Jerusalem neighborhood near our apartment to arrange for a new SIM card for Beth's phone (the Israeli cellular phone business is cost competitive compared to America). Friday is Israel's Sunday and most people have the day off. The mall was jammed—and I mean jammed with thousands of people pushing hundreds of strollers. The stores were all busy and no tables remained at the many restaurants. The atmosphere felt festive. Clearly the ability to go out with a lesser threat of missile attack for the first time in weeks was not lost on our neighbors. Smiles, laughter and, yes, even a sense "we can relax a bit" were palpably in the air.
* Timing is everything when in Israel and we fortunately arrived in time to help celebrate the Thursday evening bat mitzvah of Chicago friends' daughter on the beach in Caesarea. Caesarea is one of those incredible sites one finds all over this amazing country. First used as a Mediterranean Sea port by the ancient Phoenicians it continued as a functioning port throughout most of modern history. Romans, early Arabs, Malamukes, Ottoman Turks and the British cherished the port. Today a major power generation station is located just north of the ancient port allowing for oil tankers (mostly Russian oil) to offload directly to the plant. To many people, however, Caesarea is best known as the site of Israel's only golf course! The bat mitzvah was marvelous and the setting gorgeous. I appreciated that the bar at the celebration included Bushmills (drinking the whiskey of Northern Ireland in Israel takes irony to a new level). A little before 11 PM Beth and I made our way through the Caesarea National Park to our car in a remote parking lot. We were amazed at what we discovered: many thousands of Israelis from the surrounding communities turned the park's bars and restaurants into a giant party. The joyous noise was deafening, the atmosphere electric. It was the best end to a bat mitzvah party we ever experienced.
* One the many stories coming out of combat in Gaza has to do with the female paramedics who served in Gaza. These young women in their early 20s trained for years for this eventuality. Their stories are compelling and their heroism extraordinary. One of the paramedics told the newspaper Yediot Ahronot, "For the first five days in Gaza I did not leave our tank. My greatest fear was that something would happen to a soldier from my battalion who I knew. What would happen if I could not save a soldier I knew well? However, I knew that I needed to be strong for my soldiers." Over the past week she has gone to the hospital to visit two soldiers she saved. Another paramedic recounted her attempts to save a mortally wounded soldier in the midst of battle. "At a certain point I knew my efforts to save his life would not succeed but I could not stop trying. I begged the tank driver to move quicker to the border so we could get more help. When we arrived at the border a doctor immediately declared the soldier dead. I broke then. I laid down next to him and cried. I thought of his mother who was waiting for him. When I close my eyes I still see his face. He was a hero of Israel." Jewish tradition states that the continuity and success of the Jewish People depend on the daughters of Israel. And so it does.
* Yesterday, with two Israeli friends, we visited some of the cities, towns and moshavim (communal settlements) along the Gaza border. As you can imagine I have many stories from the day. I want to share just one. In Sderot, the largest city near the Gaza border (from the "red alert" of incoming missiles the inhabitants have 15 seconds to find a secure area) we visited the "Playground", an indoor and secure play area for the children of the region who cannot play outside due to the danger of falling missiles. The Jewish National Fund together with donors from around the world provided the resources to create this wonderful indoor play land. It is beautiful and it is lots of fun. Zalman, one of our Israeli friends, and I played two-on-two basketball with two young cousins from a nearby kibbutz. Thankfully I did not hurt myself and the child-level height of the rim turned me into Shaq! However, the most amazing part of Playground is the secure birthday party room. Imagine: To plan a birthday party for your child in Sderot you need to have the party in a secure site, essentially a bomb shelter. Beth and I cried when we encountered this beautifully sad room.
"Happy Birthday" say Dora and her friends on the wall of the secure area.
Let's all continue to stay as informed as possible about what is going on here. Information is power and we must know the facts. If you have not discovered Ynet's military analyst, Ron Ben-Yishai, I highly recommended you do. His columns are sober and informative; his analysis succinct and helpful. Check him out: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4559275,00.html
Please keep this thought foremost in your minds: Israel is the sovereign State of the Jews. There is nothing to discuss. There is no nuance to this statement. Israel is the sovereign State of the Jews. Everything else is commentary.
For those of you who participated in the "Tablets for Wounded Soldiers" project I am happy to inform you that we, together with other supporters of Israel, have provided over 200 tablets to recovering soldiers. The soldiers and their families are grateful and moved by the support coming to them from outside of Israel. I am told the tablets are in constant use among the soldiers. Should the current quiet continue we will have extra funds to aid the rehabilitation of injured soldiers. I hope to visit some of the soldiers later this week in the rehabilitation hospital. I will share our visit with you.
I send you warm greetings from this dynamic and thriving country.
עם ישראל חי

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