Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Girl from Da Burg at War, Part II


ll too soon, Dov left for his stint in the army and I was on my own. As soon as he left, I got creative. I took an old plastic tablecloth and taped it over the bedroom window. Okay, so an old plastic tablecloth didn't quite fit the Home Front Command recommendations for adequate protection against poisonous gas, but I figured it was better than nothing.

Next, I took packing tape and taped big X's over every window in the house to keep glass from shattering and falling in on us, in the case of an explosion. I brought rags, bleach, tape, and bucket into my bedroom. This is how it was supposed to go: the siren goes off, everyone goes into the sealed room, adults put on gas masks first, after which we were to place them on our children. The door is closed and sealed around the frame with tape and a rag soaked with bleach is placed along the bottom of the door.

That's if we were supposed to go into the sealed rooms. But we didn't know how or when those attacks were going to arrive. We didn't know if there would be conventional missile heads, in which case it would be better for us to go to one of the two public bomb shelters on the settlement, or if the attacks would be by poison gas or biological agents. If gas or biological warfare came, we were supposed to stay put in our sealed rooms.

But we didn't know if we'd have ample warning and we didn't know how we were to be informed. A lot of reassuring words were issued, but I doubt they made anyone feel secure. Each night I had trouble falling asleep, feeling hyper-vigilant as my bedroom took on the look of a bunker.

The municipality had two social workers come out and teach the women a mini-seminar on coping in an emergency, which I found to be very valuable. I still remember the simple words of wisdom they offered. They explained that there were three basic profiles for response in times of emergency. Some people will become hysterical, others will go into denial, while still others would find their survival skills kick in by instinct. The latter was the best case scenario, of course.

The social workers said that there was no way to know in advance which profile would be assumed and we could only wait and see. Meantime, we were taught how to deal with the hysterical person. We were told not to touch the person or hug him, but to lay a blanket or sweater over his shoulders, offer him a drink, and speak to him in a calm and quiet manner.

Dov managed to call me from time to time. He said that his unit, comprised of seven men from our settlement, all fathers of large families, and all taking basic training together, had been assured that should war break out, they'd be released and would be able to resume their training at another time. That was a very reassuring notion. Too bad it was a lie.

The war did break out and the men were not sent home. I was among the seven women of our settlement who would have to manage alone the dreadful task of suiting frightened panicky children and babies into scary looking masks while feeling none too calm ourselves.

As a teenager, I had slept with my transistor radio on my pillow, close by my ear. I fell back into this old habit. It comforted me to revert to this familiar behavior and to have this white noise as a background to my sleep, but more to the point, having the radio on meant I'd know the minute war broke out. This way, I'd know when to herd my children into the bomb shelters or sealed room. I hoped.

Sleep was a precious commodity in those days. I was always either nursing or pregnant. Crying babies who need to eat every three hours and third trimester woes meant a constant state of sleep deprivation. But now, with war looming on the horizon, even when there was a chance to grab a bit of sleep, I found I could not do so.

I remember that one night I at last sank into a fitful sleep. It must have been around 2:00 AM. About an hour later, I heard someone at my front door and my heart did a quick counterpoint, banging in time with the frantic knocking. I grabbed a robe and hastened to answer the door. It was Sarah, one of the seven women whose husbands were in basic training. She said, "The war has begun. But we are not yet in it. There's nothing you need to do right now. I just wanted to let you know."

To be continued.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Girl from Da Burg at War

W ith things heating up to fever pitch in the Middle East, and as a result of this morning's emergency drill, I was brought back to the time of the first Gulf War, when I lived on an isolated mountaintop settlement in the Judean desert with my husband and (then) seven children. I decided to jot down some memories of that time in installments. It's too long to write at one sitting.

In the days leading up the first Gulf War, my husband and I went into our usual at-odds Gemini/Virgo stances with firm entrenchment. Dov pooh-poohed all the talk about sealed rooms and bombs and said there weren't going to be any bomb attacks and even if there were, they wouldn't reach our little mountaintop in the Judean Desert. On the other hand, I was feeling an urgent need to prepare and follow the instructions issued from the Home Front Command. I am the girl who always read all the instructions before taking tests in school or cooking pasta. I like following instructions and being prepared. It comforts me.

I wanted to get the recommended plastic sheeting to cover the window in the room we had set aside to become our "sealed room" in the event of an attack. Dov refused. He just kept saying it was a lot of horse-pucky and that even if there WERE an attack, plastic sheeting on the windows wasn't going to be of any help.

At least I didn't have to worry about getting gas masks, since the Home Front Command sent people out to us to issue them and train us in their use.

Another concern I had related to the flimsiness of our home. We lived in what Israelis call a caravan: a trailer set on cinder blocks. This is the typical accommodations of the Israeli settler until such time as permanent housing is built. Caravans are made out of plastic with an asbestos exterior. I had no confidence that we would be safe inside this space no matter whether the attack would be conventional, biological, or gas.

The Home Front Command wanted us to choose an inner room to serve as our sealed room; one with no windows was preferred. No such animal exists inside a caravan. I decided to designate our bedroom as the sealed room.

Dov wouldn't cooperate with my preparations. He just kept rolling his eyes as I transferred dry goods to glass jars with lids, filled bottles and jerry cans with water, and moved them into our crowded little bedroom along with all the masks, tents, bedding, toys, and books for our 7 children.

My youngest was a newborn nursing infant. He was three months old when the war did at last break out. Though we'd been shown a film about caring for infants in their gas-proof tents the movie didn't do much to assuage my feeling that I was a major character in a sci-fi movie. The tents had a built-in sleeve with a glove so that I could reach in and calm the baby, but not pick him up or make skin-to-skin contact. I expressed and froze milk after each time I nursed him so that I would have a store of frozen milk at the ready.

Then Dov got his "tzav." He got notification that his basic training in the IDF was to begin. "Oh, great," I thought, "Dov goes into basic training on the eve of the war, right after I've had a baby, and I don't even have a frigging plastic sheet for the window."

Dov and I had, at that point, never even spent a night apart from each other in all our married life. But it looked like I was going to be on my own should war break out. Well, not quite alone: I'd have SIX LITTLE KIDS AND A BABY to care for. *sigh*

Everything at this point in time took on an eerie tinge of unreality and frightened expectation. Just before he left for the army, even Dov began to think that he should prepare me as well as possible. I have a memory of him taking me around the house and showing me a few things to do with the Uzi, such as how to shoot around corners and bedroom doors. He also practiced with me a maneuver in which, should I hear the enemy break into the house, I'd flip the bedroom mattress up against the wall and get down low behind it with the kids.

Hmmmm. This was beginning to resemble an action movie, only it was the real deal: the girl from Pittsburgh at war.

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Can You Cure David? (Or: Can You Draw Thumper?)

M y friend Bernie Newman likes to argue. He likes to argue with anyone who has a modicum of debating skills. He sends me these emails intended to "engage" me on topics he knows will arouse my ire.

The other day, Bernie sent me an email with the subject line: "This is pretty interesting." The email contained a link to the following article:

He knew this article was a shoo-in for pissing me off.

But he was wrong.

This article was filled with so many spurious untruths that I didn't think it worth my time. I looked to see Bernie's source—the original sender of the link—and saw it had been sent to him by an acquaintance, I'm guessing a relative, named David Newman. Through the wonders of Facebook, I had read David's ranting liberal responses to Bernie's libertarian-leaning-to-conservative views. Aha! I thought. No wonder.

Bernie sends me these links with no comments. Sometimes I bother to waste my time refuting the crap he sends me, other times, I just click delete. The ideas contained in this particular article were those espoused by someone who has no interest in the truth—someone who buys propaganda hook, line and sinker—someone whose guilt has been aroused because he has been hypnotized by Jew-hating propaganda and thinks that the only way to assuage said guilt is to malign his own people. I can't do anything about David's "condition."

So, I told Bernie: "This is so filled with bullsheet I can't possibly begin to respond, nor do I wish to waste my time doing so."

Bernie tried some subtle flattery about my writing skills, having my finger on the pulse being so close to the source as I am in Israel, told me I sell myself short, and so forth.

My BS meter began to tick. It was LOUD. At last the light went on. Bernie wants me to refute David so he can rub my rebuttal in his face.

I wrote Bernie, "It occurs to me you want to have my rebuttal so you can rub it in David's face."

Bernie responded, "We-ell, I wouldn't put it just like that, but…EXACTLY!"

I'm sorry to disappoint you Bernie, but David is not interested in the facts and will blow them off and respond with more and more numerous statements from Jew-hating Jews citing these statements as though they were truths. The only way to combat this crap is to keep pointing out the lies, one at a time, as they pop up, to be vigilant and persistent. This is a national Jewish psychosis. Psychosis requires psychoanalysis, maybe drugs. Facts don't cure this malady, but can keep others from coming down with the disease.

Anyone who wants to love Israel can find ample reason to do so. But the desire has to come from inside. I can't make David love Israel. His Jewish spirit, his "neshama," is ill.

I can't cure David.It would take me maybe 20 years to sift fact from lies in that article. Still, I don't want to leave Bernie with no ammunition whatsoever. I didn't want to leave him naked in the face of his opponent or with that much egg on his face. A friend is a friend. So, I will devote just a bit of time to this. Not much. It's not worth it.

Of course, instead of picking my brains, Bernie could have done what I did and remembered that GIYF (Google is your friend). But never mind.

Let's start with this statement: "In the words of Hebrew University political scientist Yaron Ezrahi, “After decades of what came to be called a national consensus, the Zionist narrative of liberation [has] dissolved into openly contesting versions.”"

GIYF. I knew that Israeli elections are close and split right down the middle. So, I googled election history and found a site where you can see the election results for all of the elections in the history of the State of Israel:

If you look at the election results, you see that starting in 1977 the votes are split and the results are close. This is even more striking in the results of the 1981 elections and the pattern continues and is consistent until the most recent election of 2009. The electorate is split right down the center and whatever issue is huge at the point of election sways the vote by a few points and decides the outcome.

But even then, if the elected party can't form a majority government, the vote goes to the other party. That's what happened in 2009. Livni won, but couldn't form a government. So, Netanyahu won by default. Elections are cutthroat and close. Jews answer a question with a question, so why would anyone think there would ever be a consensus in Israel? Yes, that's a question, too.

There is no consensus in Israel. True. But it's not recent and it's not even about liberation. What does that even mean? Liberation. That's not an issue. Liberate WHOM?? This statement assumes someone is being oppressed. But there is no oppression. More propaganda. I will treat human rights and so-called oppression in the State of Israel further down the page…but meantime:

I admit it: there IS a consensus in Israel. We all want peace.

The lack of consensus is only about disagreement on how to arrive at peace. Does anyone in this day and age believe that half of the Israeli people DON'T desire peace?? C'mon…do you think we enjoy being blown up and so forth?? It's about HOW TO GET THERE. How do you arrive at peace?

Land for Peace? Didn't work, doesn't work. But half of the people are still willing to try, while others say we've gone above and beyond proving that Land for Peace is a stupid idea. We threw our own people out of their homes in Gaza, now it's a launching pad from which Arabs can target Jews and the Arabs still won't give our state recognition.
What about this statement: "Among American Jews today, there are a great many Zionists, especially in the Orthodox world, people deeply devoted to the State of Israel. And there are a great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included."

This statement implies that Zionism precludes respecting the human rights of Palestinians when nothing could be further from the truth. Israel has bent over backwards to give Arabs the same human rights it bestows upon its Jewish citizens. Instead of spouting bullcrap, David should better take a look at the truth of how Palestinians are treated in the Zionist state. I googled and found the following (David could have done the same, but doesn't care enough to do so):

Here's another really cute idea with no basis in fact, but must give David paroxysms of orgasmic delight: "Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled."

The late Rabbi Meir Kahane once said, "I don't hate Arabs. I love Jews."

You see, David, It's not about hostility, it's about being prudent. I get onto a bus in Israel and I check under my seat for suspicious objects and report them to the driver if I find them.

Fact: Arabs travel without fear on Egged buses, Egged being the Israeli bus company, but Jews do not DARE travel on the Arab-owned bus lines because they fear for their lives.

Fact: Arabs blow up buses. I am not hostile to Arabs, but I am a mother of many and a wife and I value my own life. I will let Arabs on my buses, but I will check to make sure they don't leave bombs under my seat.

I will try to avoid the social company of Arabs wherever possible because they have a known track record for violence. But I will not deny them the use of our public transportation, even though this makes taking the bus a nightmare. It also causes a disparity in who will die as a result of bus bombings. The rich have cars, so they are safe. The middle class and poor people are forced to use buses and so they are canon fodder.

And now, dear Reader, I leave it to you to continue the argument. To be frank, I have a lot to do today: laundry, cooking, and living my life as a mom, not an Israeli monster of mythic proportions. If any of you want to make the effort to use Google because David and Bernie have not, feel free!