Life as seen and felt with my Israeli eyes.
Read how every day experiences & special occasions are really lived in Israel by someone living here and not by the media
*This is NOT a political Blog*

Aug 16, 2010

Five years to the disengagement.

Exactly five years ago I was sitting home watching tv and feeling helpless. My country, the place I chose to call home was going to what I believe has been the most traumatic era since it was established in 1948 and I was sitting home. 
The reason I was at home is not because I didn't want to be out , fighting for what I believed (and still do) was right, but because I was paralyzed I actually couldn't believe we were doing that to ourselves. We were actually evacuating Israeli citizens from their houses  believing that it will bring peace. 
Thirty years before, the Israeli government actually sent those civilians that people like to call settlers or colonialist ( i call them pioneers) to live in the  Gaza strip. The Gaza strip was liberated by Israel during a war that Israel didn't open and since the government wanted to secure that beautiful piece of land, they figured the right think to do was to create settlements, towns, farms and living areas. 
And so, thousands of families were encouraged to move there. They build houses, neighborhoods. they created probably the most prosperity agricultural area in Israel and they didn't complain, not even once. When Palestinians  threw rockets at them on a daily basis, when their kids were murdered, wounded , when  going to school or work was like playing a Russian Roulette, they didn't complain. They were there on a mission, they believed in that mission and they knew that sometimes, we pay the price.
What they never expected was to be stabbed in the back by their  own Government. They have been taking death, wounds, and fear for years but they never expected it to be from their own brothers.
2005 was the summer of the disengagement, when  tens of thousands of Israeli IDF soldiers were sent on a mission to evacuate their own brothers from their houses so we could give the territory to the Palestinians hoping for peace.
2005 was the summer when the Israeli society was about to break into pieces, the year where a civilian war could have started.
2005 was the summer when 19 year old boys and girls were sent on a mission to destroy what  other built.
2005 was the summer where a whole generation of kids almost lost their faith in god and in this country we call Home.
It could have been the end of the Israeli brotherhood but it wasn't/ It wasn't because those who lived in the Gaza strip decided that no matter what, we are all brothers, we can fight, we can have arguments and even almost hate each other every once in a while but they decided that the bond between us is stronger than the differences.
So they fought passively. They didn't help the soldiers evacuate them, but they didn't really resist. They cried, they felt betrayed, they yelled, they refused to leave their homes but they didn't hurt anyone.
That summer, the Israeli government took every single civil right they had. It took their homes, their freedom of speech, their economy, their security but they didn't take their faith in god and they didn't take their pride.
Five years later and most of them are still living in trailers as the government didn't find a solution for them. Five years later and kids that grew up barefooted and free are now getting used to live in tinny little rooms in the city. Five years later and the wounds of that terrible summer are stil trying to heal.
But sadly enough, five years later and peace has never seemed as far away as it does today.
In the same place that school and synagogues stood, today Hamas shooting machines stand. In the same place  where hothouses used to stand, now rocks and rubbish stand.
I have lived through the 2nd intifada, when getting on a bus in Jerusalem was  like gambling with your life. My university suffered from a suicide explosion, 2 buses exploded by my high school when I was in school. I could have been in almost every one of the suicidal attacks in Jerusalem in the early 2000's.. but the only time that i remember as traumatic, the only time that made me consider for once, leaving this land- was summer of 2005

Apr 18, 2010

Israel's Memorial Day- Iom Hazikaron

Exactly two hours ago a one minute long siren was heard all over Israel. It was a very well known siren. It wasn't scary ,people didn't run looking for shelter. The siren didn't mean we were being attacked. It was a different sound, a sound that every Israeli knows. It was the sound of sadness. People stood still  for a whole minute and dedicated it to those who lost their lives to make sure we could have ours. 
Cars stopped in the middle of the high way, people stood still while walking , children kept silent while playing. Israel stood still to honor 22,682 people who lost their lives.
Memorial day is  one of those days that affect everyone, it's not only the sad documentaries on Tv or the nostalgic songs on the radio. In Israel the sad reality is that there isn't one person who hasn't lost a brother, a father, a mother, a sister or a friend during  Military service or to a terror attack. 
So during 364 days we go on with our lives just like any other country but then for 24 hours everything stops and the sadness starts to spread around this little country. It starts with the siren, lowering the flag, ceremonies, then meeting old friends from back in the day and remembering those we've lost. Then there's the cemetery big ceremony, visiting families of people who died and it goes on while you drive and all you hear on the radio is sad songs or while you walk on the streets and you see people caring a different look. Everyone is quiet, everything looks so different during these 24 hours. It's just something that words can't explain. it's a feeling you carry in your heart, like a knot in your throat that won't go away. That's Memorial Day in Israel. It's a day were we share our sorrow and our eternal gratitude to our dead soldiers.
It's not a day for politics, it's a day were we think about 18-21 year old children that put their lives on hold to serve our country knowing that they might never go back to the lives they had.
Cynicals and anti- Israelis love to call our soldiers names. They enjoy seeing those soldiers as murderers  or as political people but they forget that in this small country you don't choose to go to the army. You don't get payed for it either. In Israel military service is mandatory and it's not just an obligation but it's a privilege we have. After more than 2000 years where  we didn't have a place to call home, now we have a State and that State is surrounded by enemies and lately it seems like not only our neighbors but also those we used to call friends  don't really like the fact that we are here.
So in Israel when a teenager goes to the army he doesn't see it as a job, he sees it as a way to ensure that his life and his beloved ones will be safe.
Funny, but sad.. people all around the world love to think about the IDF (Israel DEFENSE force) as a big blood drinking army.. but they forget one small detail: Israel has NEVER started a war. The IDF is called that because it's main job is to protect and not to attack. Israel haters often forget that no 18 year old wishes to kill people, 18 year olds   prefer to study, to have fun with their friends, to be in love, to make love, to make big plans.. just to live life. 
But the reality in this small place is that we can't. When we turn 18 we have to give 2-3 years of our life to be make sure that nothing happens to our home.
So today I am sad and so is everyone around me. Today we cry ,we remember and we cherish each one of those 22,682 soldiers that gave up their dreams so we could go on living ours.
Today we join together in a prayer and we hope that not one more life will be added to that list. Today we honor those lost lives by living ours

It's not true that life continues
By :Yair Lapid

It is not true that life continues, they always say that but it is never true.
When you lose someone, your life, the way you knew it, would never be the same. Your family is still yours but it is different now. Your parents are different. The way you sit around the table , the way you remember the trip to Greece, with the photo album of all the hilarious  pictures you took, which now changed into a memorial document.
I really don't think that life continues. People keep asking you the same simple questions such as "how are you"? and you know they actually mean either "we know" or "we're here for you". Every time you're sad, they all stop by to cheer you up and you don't know how to tell them you definitely don't need a support –group but you just want to hide under your blanket for an hour.
Who can possibly think that life continues…? even you can never be the same .You are the one who lost a relative .You are the one who watches alone the old TV show which you always used to watch together.
You're the one that when you laugh they say you managed to get over. When you're busy, they say you are really o.k. and if you leave home for more than two weeks, they say you probably ran away.
It's not true that life continues, even your past is being edited. Every time you tell them how you took the bus together on some trip, you find yourself debating whether to mention him as "my brother" or, "my late brother" . Sometimes you just leave him out of the story because you don't want any embarrassing moments.
Sometimes, when  you meet someone who was out of the country for a long time and he asks you how your brother is feeling and you just answer "he's not feeling anymore", it's  you who need to comfort the shocked guy and say that "life continues". but it doesn't.. 
It is not true that life continues, it stops and then re-starts, differently

Why am I here

For a while I've been meaning to start this blog but it just seemed right to do so in what it is probably the most emotional, happy ,sad and proud week in Israel. The week of Memorial day immediately followed by the Independence day.
Every year there is someone saying how drastic is the switch from Memorial day to Independence Day. Just imagine it's 7:59 pm and you are still thinking about all those lives that ended too early and then BOOM 8:00 pm arrives and all of the sudden Israel turns into a huge party house. Fireworks, ceremonies, people singing and dancing in the streets and basically, the happiest day of the year starts just 1 second after the saddest ends.
For someone that doesn't live here this might seem strange,  a very unconsidered switch from sorrow to joy. 
But for us, the ones that live here, it only makes sense. Exactly one week ago we commemorated The Holocaust Remembrance Day.   A day that reminds us not only of the millions of people that were killed just because they were Jewish, Gypsies, Gay or because they had different ideas. As Jews, that day also reminds us that we need a place to call home, a place where we can be sure that something like the Holocaust will never happen again. That we will no longer be murdered just because we are Jews.
Then today comes Memorial day, to remind us of the price we pay for this land we call home. This day gives us an opportunity to thank all those that scarified their lives so we could go ahead with ours, so that we can have a State that will make sure that the Holocaust never happens again.
In exactly 24 hours we will  celebrate Independence Day. A day of joy, a day we owe to those who lost their lives protecting us and making it possible for us to go on with our lives.
So when you live here, all this makes sense, one day follows the other because they are all a part of an historical chain. 
So tomorrow when we celebrate the 62th Independence day .. just before the fireworks start.. a minute before we go out with our friends.. let's take a minute and think about that chain, not in a sad way but with joy. Let's think about our life in this place and how we make it worthy of all the sacrifices that were made for us

The silver platter 
By Natan Alterman

...And the land will grow still
Crimson skies dimming, misting
Slowly paling again
Over smoking frontiers

As the nation stands up
Torn at heart but existing
To receive its first wonder
In two thousand years

As the moment draws near
It will rise, darkness facing
Stand straight in the moonlight
In terror and joy

...When across from it step out
Towards it slowly pacing
In plain sight of all
A young girl and a boy

Dressed in battle gear, dirty
Shoes heavy with grime
On the path they will climb up
While their lips remain sealed

To change garb, to wipe brow
They have not yet found time
Still bone weary from days
And from nights in the field

Full of endless fatigue
And all drained of emotion
Yet the dew of their youth
Is still seen on their head

Thus like statues they stand
Stiff and still with no motion
And no sign that will show
If they live or are dead

Then a nation in tears
And amazed at this matter
Will ask: who are you?
And the two will then say

With soft voice: We--
Are the silver platter
On which the Jews' state
Was presented today

Then they fall back in darkness
As the dazed nation looks
And the rest can be found
In the history books.