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
"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