Back in the 1970’s, I remember watching a television report about the civil war in Lebanon. Etched in my memory was an interview with a nameless woman who described how she lived when her street was targeted by snipers picking off ordinary civilians at whim. Her words went something like this: We go out in the early morning, because at that time the snipers are still sleeping. And then in the heat of the day, because they are tired, she said matter-of-factly. Her words struck me with horror not so much for their content, because after all what was the poor woman to do; she had to go out sometime to buy food for her family. No, what chilled my bones was that this had all become the new normal for her. She had accepted the situation, and it had become …
…continue reading The New “Normal”
I’m not sure the people who need to hear this will ever hear it, but I want my conscience to be clear that I said it to them.
Dear Human Rights Activist, Leftist Liberal, Crying-for-the-poor-children, Israel-hating, Hamas-forgiving, marcher, celebrity, news anchor, journalist, writer, media star, politician, head of state. We have seen you marching along the streets of Europe, America, and the Middle East with your signs and kafias and Palestinian flags. We have heard you screaming to whoever will listen that Jews and Israelis are murderers, war criminals, and baby killers.
You think you are telling us who we are. But actually, you are telling us who you are.
You are telling us that you are ignorant.
That you don’t understand that Hamas is a terror organization that took over a territory that Israel removed all its settlers from a decade ago and with good will turned over to …
…continue reading This Is What You Are Really Telling Us
No place is safe, not Jerusalem, or the coffee houses of Tel Aviv or the port city of Haifa. Distance is no longer a factor. The rockets go everywhere, undirected, carelessly, to fall on hospitals, nursery schools, summer camps. Miraculously, they are diverted and destroyed, again and again and again.
Three faces. They could be my sons, or yours. They peer out at us wherever we go. There are special prayer sessions at the synagogue, reminding me of those days when we prayed for the safe return of Nachshon Wachsman, my friend and neighbor’s boy.
We wake up each morning, and nothing is new, nothing is known, until, at a wedding by the sea for the son of good friends, caressed by warm sea breezes, beside a flower-bedecked table, Esther Wachsman leans over and whispers in my ear: “They found …
…continue reading We Are Not Like Them
I’m sitting here in Jerusalem after a week of heartbreak over three murdered teens, followed by almost three weeks of sirens, bomb blasts, and finally, the funerals of young IDF soldiers, of whom one-third are students who should be taking their final exams instead of risking their lives. I’m reading on the internet about what a horrible person I am as an Israeli and as a Jew, and what a terrible, immoral country I live in.
All this criticism comes mainly from the European press: The Guardian, the BBC, papers in Italy, Norway, France, and don’t forget America: The New York Times, CNN. And I’m thinking: Gee, the British should understand. After all, they lived through the blitz, Nazis raining bombs indiscriminately down on them, the way Hamas is raining bombs down on us. And when the brave pilots of the …
…continue reading Don’t Cry for Us Israelis
There is a well-known French saying: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” meaning “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” This is certainly true in regard to the so-called “peace process.” In April of 2001 – before the terrible events of September 11 – I wrote an article titled “Do the Palestinians Deserve a State?”
Except for changing “Yasir Arafat” to “Hamas,” every single word in the article is as true today as it was thirteen years ago, despite all the well-meaning efforts of countless clueless diplomats and naïve do-gooders.
You can read the article here and judge for yourself.
We don’t need their permission, and we aren’t going to ask for it. We aren’t going to let these moral midgets claim the role of moral yardstick against which we must measure our behavior. We, who gave the Bible to the world, spit on them and their pretensions.
I was at a wedding last night, a beautiful affair by the sea celebrating the longed-for marriage of our dear friends’ eldest son with his lovely bride. The vows were said under a chuppah, just as the sun set over the blue ocean’s gentle waves behind them.
Another Jewish family beginning, I thought in joy as I watched the beaming bride and groom and their happy families.
We sat down by tables set with fresh, delicious food, my dear friend Esther Wachsman sitting down next to me, leaving …
…continue reading A Wedding and Three Funerals
Whatever we do, we need to be prepared to wake up and start all over again, continuing to build despite all the destruction.
There is a movie that came out years ago called Groundhog Day, in which the main character is stuck in time and cannot move forward. No matter what decisions he makes, what activities he pursues, each morning he awakens to the exact same scenario.
The recent kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer feels exactly like that of Nachshon Wachsman and so many others before him. The same innocent trip home interrupted. The same car with the haredi-looking passengers offering a lift. The same terrified parents realizing the child isn’t home when he said he’d be home. The same national trauma, public prayers, government and army warnings to the enemy. The same hand-wringing deliberations on …
…continue reading Our Weakness and Our Strength
Whenever my husband and I wander around Jerusalem, it never fails that something extraordinary catches our eye: an Ethiopian ceremony in the Liberty Bell Park, everyone dressed in white robes; a religious man and his toddler sitting on a park bench next to an Arab family sharing their sunflower seeds and toys.
“I wish everyone could see this,” we often said. Finally, I talked my husband Alex into using his talent for photography and his technical skills to create an app that would allow us to share these moments with everyone in the world who, for a few moments every day, could feel the solidarity and joy that comes with being a part of this Holy City.
It was not easy. But now finally, I’m happy to say, our app JERUSALEM ONCE A DAY is ready to download! Please …
…continue reading Jerusalem Once a Day
Italy, while not the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, has certainly earned its place on the list. Anti-Jewish prejudice and anti-Semitic episodes almost doubled in Italy in 2012.
With a daughter and five grandchildren who live in Paris (long story, blame Sherut Leumi who sent her to teach Zionism in Toulouse and did nothing to protect her from handsome, charming, Orthodox Parisian men…) I don’t get to Italy very often. So it was with some surprise and I must admit delight that I accepted an invitation to be a guest speaker at Torino’s 2014 Salone Internazionale del Libro, the largest book fair in Europe outside of Frankfurt.
The invitation was issued by the founder of the fair himself, Italian bookseller Angelo Pezzana, a well-known human rights activist and perhaps Israel’s most devoted friend in Italy. Naturally, I assumed he must …
…continue reading Our Italian Friends
Fear of ostracism—not lack of conviction—prevents some haredi men from enlisting.
A day before the haredi “million man march” called to protest the new drafting of yeshiva students, I sat in my synagogue in Jerusalem’s German Colony as Rabbi Benny Lau got up to speak. This rabbi is no stranger to the haredi world; he is the nephew of the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Meir Lau, and cousin to the present Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, David Lau. But the congregation was not surprised to hear him lash out with vehemence against the planned protest. Calling it a hillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name, he declared that those who participated were ingrates to a state that had educated their children, provided subsidized medical care to their families, given them discounts on municipal taxes and protected them from their enemies.
When the …
…continue reading “I Want to Serve, but …”
Ukraine’s problem with its Jews is nothing new. My great-grandfather, sick of the endless pogroms and unflagging hatred of the local populace, was acutely aware of this when he and his family immigrated to the United States in 1909.
But it is hard as a Jew not to feel involved when reports emerge that worshipers leaving a Passover service at a synagogue in Donetsk were handed leaflets calling for all Jews over 16 years of age to register at the pro-Russian local municipality or face deportation and loss of businesses and property. Add to that last week’s fire-bombing of a local synagogue in Nikolayev, a Black Sea port city of approximately 500,000 located in southeastern Ukraine about 110 kilometers from Odessa, as well as a similar incident this past February at the Giymat Rosa Synagogue in Zaporizhia, located 400 km. …
…continue reading In My Grandfather’s Footsteps
Why would some of the top educators in the haredi world fear apostasy in those students exposed to secular life? Is their education so poor, their faith so weak, that any exposure at all will see their beliefs wilt like hothouse flowers brought out into the fresh air?
I gave a lecture on literature last week in the library of Kibbutz Magen, right near the Gaza border.
The Eshkol Regional Council in the northwestern Negev, in which the kibbutz is situated, has been bombarded by rocket fire from Gaza for years, its workers getting killed, its kindergarten a near miss.
Still, despite the recent trauma of renewed hostilities from Hamas terrorists, they took time out to sit and listen to me talk about women writers of the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskala), and the role of religious women in Jewish literary …
…continue reading Rebels Without a Cause
Whether it is a tolerance for radical and objectionable political views, or a lax and forgiving response to dangerous and illegal behavior, sometimes the compassionate thing to do breeds a culture of forgiveness towards wrong and evil that contaminates and weakens our attempts to live moral lives, creating only more misery.
I came across a video someone sent me on Facebook about a haredi grandfather in B’nai Brak whose five year-old grandson was left accidentally in a hot car by a young teacher and neighbor who was asked to drive him home as a favor. The child died. The grandfather, a G-d-fearing and compassionate man, now made it his task in life to embrace the newly-married young teacher and to encourage him to get on with his life. “My grandson is gone,” he says. “But X is still alive and …
…continue reading Compassion
Even if I don’t have the guts to let the whole, sordid truth hang out, perhaps incidentally my books have encouraged others to do so. If that is true, then I am glad.
I received a letter the other day from a reader. As with all respectful letters I receive from readers, I read it in its entirety and answered it. Because I don’t have permission to reveal the author’s name, let’s just call her Chava from Brooklyn:
I just finished reading your latest novel, The Sisters Weiss. While I enjoyed parts of it, I found you to once again defame the ultra-Orthodox community. Why would you use your skill as a platform to denounce your own people?
I too am a child of Holocaust survivors. My parents remained religious despite their atrocities and losses, and are resilient, …
…continue reading Mirror, mirror
Several high-profile Israeli rabbis have come under fire for less-than-holy schemes
On November 17, 2013, to the disgust and embarrassment of Jews all over the world—but particularly religious Jews in Israel—Israeli police arrested the former chief rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger. The former occupant of the highest official rabbinic office of the land and also a dayan, or judge, on the Rabbinical Supreme Court, Metzger was accused of receiving bribes, money laundering and fraud amounting to millions of shekels. He is accused not only of pocketing money earmarked for charity, but also of accepting bribes to forge or falsely sign religious documents.
What I personally found most disturbing was the allegation that four and a half years ago, when Metzger surprisingly supported the outrageous cancelling of hundreds of conversion certificates issued by a religious panel headed by Rabbi Chaim Druckman—thus, …
…continue reading The Wonder Workers
Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday that fits right in with Jewish values: blessing God communally for getting you through hard times.
This year for the first and only time I can remember, Thanksgiving comes out on the first day of Hanukka.
When we got off the plane in 1971, wanting so much to be Israelis, we never gave much thought to hanging on to the American in us. But just by chance, my husband’s birthday and our anniversary were just a day apart in the last week in November. So, from the very beginning, we decided to give thanks for both those occasions by enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner.
At first, it was only the two of us, so we looked around for a hotel that would be roasting turkeys for tourists. We found these amazing buffets at eye-watering prices at …
…continue reading Thanksgivings