Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pillar of Defense

I wrote this at 4:30 in the morning. I was lying in bed attempting sleep while simultaneously dodging the mosquitoes in my bedroom when I realized though my eyes were closed and the light was off, I was writing and formulating a post in my head. So I got up, and wrote it all down.

Every so often, I think about 'Amud Anan' - Operation Pillar of Defense. The 8 day IDF operation in the Gaza Strip that happened last November
Before I made Aliyah, before I moved to Israel, I along with most people that I know, would sit in America and hear about the war, the terror attacks, the deaths and it would be a distant thing. Something that happened in a different country, to other people. Not to me, not to my friends.

I remember the week of the Gaza Operation vividly. I barely slept. I was on my computer the entire day watching the updates stream in from around the country. I had the radio on listening to live sirens in the south, knowing that as I heard the siren, people just 40 miles away had 15 seconds to get to shelter. 15 seconds in middle of the night, to shake the sleep out of your eyes and grab your kids. 15 seconds to run to the closest bomb shelter. 15 seconds to take cover. 15 seconds to run to whatever safety you can find.
How long does it take you to wake up in the morning? From when your alarm rings until you are coherent. For me it takes a lot more than 15 seconds. But 15 seconds is all that they had.

I would sit in my dining room reading the updates -- IDF missile strike on site of rocket launchers. Siren rings in Ashkelon, Ashdod and surrounding areas. Waiting to hear the injuries.
I would hear the siren on the radio, getting chills every time it rang, knowing that somewhere very close people were frantically running to safety. I get chills just writing about it.

My friend and I organized a worldwide campaign on Facebook for the safety of our soldiers and of everyone in Israel. We reached over 45,000 people. People invited to take on an extra good deed to help guarantee the safety of the people of Israel. Strangers from all around the world were pledging to do extra acts of goodness and kindness, things that they aren't regularly inclined to do. As these promises flowed in, I knew that every time the siren rang, these promises were keeping the soldiers safe. The soldiers that are my friends. The soldiers that I go out drinking with every week. The soldiers that my family has opened up our home to.

Every time the siren rang, I would think about these soldiers and where they were, what they were doing so that I could sit in my dining room relatively safe. Every time I would think about these soldiers, who watched every missile fly overhead, I would find myself struggling to breathe.

I read a letter my friend wrote to his wife as his unit was preparing to go into Gaza. He had called his parents and said goodbye to them. Said that he was sorry he had caused them so much grief when he was younger. And then he sat down and wrote this beautiful letter to his young wife, less than 6 months into their marriage, and placed it in the pouch that held his dog tags.
I read this letter a month after the operation was over. I was sitting in a bar in town, crying. No shame, tears streaming down my face. As I am crying now thinking about this letter, about what the implications of such a thing means.

My sister was in Tel Aviv for school, and was walking back to her dorm with a friend when the siren went off. They were standing in the street, 2 seventeen year old girls from America, with no clue what to do.
The missile landed a few blocks from where they were standing. My sister said she felt the ground shake on impact. Just a few blocks away from her. No one was hurt.
We heard that a missile landed in Tel Aviv, for the first time since 1991 and frantically called her and told her to get on the next bus home. The siren rang 2 more times before she could get on the bus. She brought with her 5 girls from her school, all Americans who were scared out of their minds. Jerusalem is the center. Jerusalem is safe.

Hamas released a video threatening attacks in public places such as bus stops, cafes, the shuk. I was terrified to leave my house. I stayed by the safety of my computer and my constant updates.

I was taking a shower Friday afternoon and had a full blown panic attack for fear of a siren going off while I was in the shower, fear that I would be trapped in the bathroom. This of course was a ludicrous idea because why would the sirens go off in Jerusalem? I texted my friends in America and laughed saying I don't know if I would be able to deal with the sirens ringing through out Jerusalem.
Not 20 minutes later, my dad had just left to go synagogue and I was setting up the tables for the 30 guests we were going to have for the meal. I was in my dining room sitting down for a minute. My friend was sleeping on the couch. My sister's friend was in the bathroom. When the air raid siren went off in Jerusalem.

It took what felt like a minute for it to sink in, but in reality was maybe 3 seconds. The siren was ringing and my mother and I looked at each other and I yelled 'Mom! That's the siren! We have to go to the bomb shelter!'
The world started moving again. My sister's friends all running down from the bedroom, my friend jumping off the couch, spilling a drink on the way, my 83 year old grandmother who had no clue what was going on, all of us running down the steps to the shelter in the basement.

I am not proud of this, but I totally lost my mind. We were standing in the basement, 12 of us in this tiny room, listening to the air raid siren, not knowing what is going on.
I couldn't breathe. I couldn't get enough air into my lungs. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't understand such hatred for an entire nation. Why would someone want to kill me? I had only just moved to Israel. What had I done to deserve this?
What are we supposed to do against such reckless hate?

The siren stops ringing, the allotted ten minutes are up, and we all file upstairs. I crack open a bottle of wine and go outside. I went to see if the world outside had changed, because the world that I was living in had been rocked, the naivety that I was experiencing had washed away.
We see people walking in my peaceful neighborhood. We ask our neighbor what we are supposed to do now. He said to do nothing, to go make our meal. What are you afraid of?

Soon after that we had our guests arrive, people mentioning the siren casually. I stood up and made a joke about going to the shelter in an orderly fashion if the need arises again. And life went on.

I slept on the couch that night, afraid to sleep in my room on the upper floor for fear of not waking up in time. I tried to stay up as late as I could, because I wasn't sure I could handle being woken up by the sound of the siren. My father closed the metal shutters and sat with me until I fell asleep.
I prayed. I prayed for my friends on the front lines, for my family, and for my country.

Sunday morning the siren went off again in Jerusalem. By this time I was a pro, something that had completely unraveled me the first time was quickly taken into stride. I grabbed my coffee, the radio and the dog and went down to the basement.
Another miss. And time went on.

I left my house, walking through the streets picking out potential shelter, and imaging what I would do if the siren rang right at that moment, regardless of where I was.

Throughout the 8 days of the operation, over 1400 missiles were fired into Israel.

I was walking to school a couple weeks ago and thought I heard the beginning of a siren. I frantically looked around and saw that there were only glass store fronts, my constant vigilance had relaxed and here I was caught unawares. Then I saw the motorcycle whining as it struggled to get up the hill, and I started breathing again.
To this day, I lie in bed and every night I hear a motorcycle revving up the main road in the distance and my heart starts pumping, the adrenaline starts flowing.

I know that no matter how much time has passed, the week of the Gaza Operation will never be forgotten, because I sit here nearly a year later and remember it as if it had happened yesterday.

I am no longer naive. The news isn't about people in a far off land that I don't relate to. The news is about me. The news is about my friends. The news is about my country.

Watch this video -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygb6VrW8WZw

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Facebook Etiquette

Do you want to know what pisses me off?

Well obviously you do at least on some level because here you are reading my blog.

A lot of things piss me off actually, but right now I am just thinking about one.

I really hate when people try to dictate how much I post on Facebook. It is my Facebook page. I control the amount of statuses that I make per day. I control what things I share with my friends. I control what comments I make, what pages I like.
Do you see what name it says when I make a status? Whose picture you see?
So why are you trying to make as if you have any right to tell me what I should or should not post or that I should limit the amount of statuses I make a day.

Back in the beginning days of Facebook (for me that was 2007) it was pretty simple. You were friends with someone because you wanted to see what they posted and you wanted them to see what you posted. Now in 2013, things have gotten a little more complicated. Facebook etiquette and all that.

But as Facebook has advanced it has made it really easy to still be friends with someone and not have to see everything that they post. You have the option to hide all of my posts. You have the option to hide only my statuses. You also have the option to hide my pictures. You even have the option to hide a particular status or photo if you found it offensive after you have seen it.  All of this without me even knowing that you aren't an avid reader or follower of the things that I post. You just need to smile and nod if I happen to reference a specific status to you on a later date. Yes, you - the random Facebook friend I don't really talk to.

So after Facebook has been so nice and polite to give us all the option to follow proper Facebook etiquette, why am I still getting complaints from people that I post too often? You don't want to read my statuses or see my pictures? Please do us all a favor and hide me. If that is too complicated for you and you don't think you handle it, then by all means go ahead and delete me. But do not complain to me that I post too much. Do not write on my wall mockingly about what I am posting or how often. Because at that point I will just go ahead and delete you before you delete me.
I had a friend who posted an article on my wall from one of those rag bullshit news websites that said that a man killed his neighbor because he posted too much on Facebook. Everyone in court could sympathize with him, so therefore he wasn't committed for murder. Needless to say, I deleted her. Jokes like that aren't very funny.

So let's be honest here. The reason I am still getting complaints is because people don't want to hide me for fear that they will miss out on some of my incredibly witty statuses.

My brother actually just told me that he keeps 'hiding' me on Facebook but then someone will mention something brilliant I said, so he'll check it out and 'unhide' me. Until the next time that he deems my posts annoying. So much back and forth without me even knowing about it. Don't worry, I understand the struggle.

On the flip side, I had someone friend request me because her friend told her that I make really funny statuses. So I guess that's a win. Honestly, I am not sure if we are still Facebook friends. She too may have gotten annoyed.

So the conclusion is, you don't want to see it, delete me or hide me. But leave me out of your decision making process. Because I couldn't give a crap.

Don't hesitate to subscribe to my blog! I'd love to see who is actually reading it! :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Reasons Why I Love Israel

This is a collection of some of the reasons I love Israel. Some of them are general, and some of them are specific to me. This is a growing list, and was compiled over a couple weeks worth of observation.

Reasons why I love Israel:

1. The taxi drivers don't mind having a personal conversation on the car speakers. He just told us to be quiet so that the person he was on the phone with wouldn't hear us.

2. Everyday the coffee at Waffle Bar is a different price.

3. The guy at the fish store wished me a Shabbat Shalom on a Monday.
That happens everywhere. No matter what day it is, the people in the stores always wish you a Shabbat Shalom.

4. I was in the grocery store ready to pay and I had to wait for this old man to finish blessing the owner, before he would ring up my vegetables.

5. You can drive by a falafel store and shout out what you want from your car, and the person who works there will bring it to you.

6. I know I have truly adjusted to living here when I walk in middle of a busy road without checking if the cars are stopping or not.

7. Every evening the guy who owns this little store gets strangers from the street to come inside and do afternoon prayers.

8. These guys sit outside every day and just hang out with each other. They all were probably in the same unit when they were 18 and are still friends.

9. I was in the vegetable store and one of the workers just broke out in song and everyone in the store joined in.

10. Despite the multiple 'No Smoking' signs that are all over, people smoke everywhere.
I was in a cab that had 3 different signs and the cab driver was smoking a cigarette.

11. There was a giant crowd of people by the late night bus, and so a couple people brought out instruments and were jamming.

12. There is a pair of guys that are always playing in the shuk. They sit there all day, people join them, buy them beer and come and go. Once I was there and there were 8 different people all playing together. It always makes me smile to see them

13. Everyone walks around everywhere carrying large rifles and you don't see anyone shooting up a school here. Coincidence? I think not.

14. This was overheard at my Shabbat table
"Guns? Who needs to carry around a gun? If something goes down then you hit the nearest Magavnick on the head and take their gun. Thats what they're for...walking armories."

(Magavnickim are officially border police. Who don't stand on the border. So are therefore useless)

15. On Lag Baomer the entire country smelled like bonfires. You couldn't go anywhere without smelling it.

(Lag Baomer - Jewish celebration marking the anniversary of a Rabbi's death)

16. The bus driver stopped the bus, blocking the entire road so that he could go inside and get a shwarma.

17. I was at a restaurant and my lemon came with a sticker on it. 

18. Its perfectly acceptable to drink beer first thing in the morning. During my 10 minute walk to Ulpan, I saw 5 different people doing it. 

19. This isn't such a good picture but for me this kind of sums up Israel. The 4 soldiers sitting next to the 4 old guys who are in the park everyday playing poker. And in 60 years that is who they will be because that is the nature and way of Israel.

20. Every time you drive out of Jerusalem, you have a gorgeous view of the Judean Hills. It never gets old. 

21. I took my grandmother to the dentist and it was on a high floor of the building overlooking Jerusalem. This was the view.

22. Some guy tried to convince me he's from America. Where in America? Lake-town. 
Nice try dude, nice try!
I told him next time, with the next girl, to say Manhattan.

23. I was standing outside, waiting to get into a concert and some girl grabbed my friends Smirnoff Ice while simultaneously saying - Give me some, I am thirsty.

24. One night some Israeli tried to buy me in the shwarma shop. He pulled out a 20. But then 2 minutes later he was too cheap to buy himself a 6 shekel cola. 

25. People will have huge screaming matches about the smallest things, regardless of the time, place, or the people watching.

26. These are ultra religious Jews who play classic rock music. They always have a huge crowd, and they always play in front of the Intima shop. (Local Victoria's Secret)

26. Yom Yerushalayim. One day a year to celebrate Jerusalem. People come from all over the country and fill up the streets of the Old City and Jerusalem. 

27. Israeli Independence Day. It means so much more here, than it did in America. 

28. I was at the Golani swearing in ceremony at the Kotel and there is nothing quite like it. The fathers and grandfathers watching with pride, as the soldiers swear to protect Israel and its people, the mother crying when her son receives his gun.
And best of all when all the soldiers and the entire crowd sing HaTikvah together, it reminds me of why I truly love Israel.

       Sometimes there are the days that I don't know what I am doing or why I am here. Those days happen often. But then there are the moments, like all of the ones above, that remind me.