Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Words of wisdom from a 'man' of experience
Now that Yonah is enjoying the undisturbed sleep of the just, I rarely get to enjoy a treat which was once a standard part of our morning routine. He used to come down to our bedroom and sneak into my bed before the sun crept over the horizon. And when I finally got up and began my morning 'ablutions', he would lie on his back with his hands laced behind his head, watching each small detail of my morning routine.
I pretended not to notice, but it was endlessly entertaining to watch him in the mirror as he unconsciously pantomimed my motions as I brushed my teeth... spread on sunscreen... buttoned my shirt... put on my watch. He was clearly cataloging each of these skills so that he would be able to do them exactly as I had when it came his turn to get up and go about his morning routine.
But since Yonah's been sleeping later, it is a rare thing for him to make more than a brief appearance in the kitchen for a rushed hug and kiss before I dash out the door.
This morning I got one of those (now) rare early morning visits.
As I came out of the shower and began getting dressed I heard soft giggles and noticed him occupying his traditional spot on my side of the bed with his hands laced jauntily behind his head and his legs crossed one over the other.
I made a big show of being surprised and asked him if everything was OK. He said "The sound of the garbage truck outside my window woke me up so he wanted to see if it woke you up too" (yes, he explained it exactly like that!).
I shook my head soberly and told him that I couldn't hear trucks on the street from my bedroom... but explained that it was nice of him to come check on us.
As I got dressed, Yonah mirrored some of what I was doing and chatted along quietly about inconsequential things. OK, maybe he wasn't chatting so quietly because Zahava had to shush him a couple of times... but I digress.
Anyway, before I put on my shirt Yonah noticed a couple of deep purple bruises on the inside of my left arm and asked me what they were. I explained that I'd had a little mishap yesterday and that this 'Petzah' ('boo boo') was the result. He asked a few pointed questions about how the accident had happened and whether I had cried... and when he was satisfied he understood exactly how I'd gotten my 'petzah', he decided to offer his condolences. He shook his head from side to side... made a 'tsk tsk' sound with his tongue and said, "Yeah, I hate when that happens".
I suppose when it comes to falling down and getting scrapes & bruises, my little four-and-a-half-year-old 'man of experience' felt he was on safe enough ground to offer me words from his vast expertise.
Did I mention I'm loving being able to actually have a two way conversation with our youngest son?
Monday, July 07, 2008
Yeah, I know... this whole 'showing up empty-handed' thing is getting old. I'm working on a secret project (shhhhh). Honest. I'll let you in on it in a few days. A week, tops.
Anyhoo, since you made the effort I suppose I should put something up...
Sunday, July 06, 2008
The use of deadly force
[This post was written over a year ago and shelved because I thought it wouldn't be of interest to anyone else. Considering the discussion over Thursday's post, I've decided to dust it off and bring it up to date. This post should not be considered a substitute for knowing the laws in Israel regarding the use of guns. You can find a nice summary of the laws here.]
This post was written by a 'gun toting settler'. By this I mean that I make my home over the 'green line', and I carry a gun during pretty much every waking hour of the day.
I really only started carrying a gun because my daily commute takes me through some potentially problematic areas at odd hours of the day and night. But, once I was granted a gun license I decided that the safest place for the gun was tucked into the back of my pants and not sitting in the house. Anyone who thinks that kids can't figure out how to get into a gun safe should read some statistics on accidental shootings.
I also decided that I was every bit as likely to encounter a terrorist in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv (meaning not very likely... but a small chance, none-the-less) as in the south Hevron hills, so I decided to follow the advice of the instructor who administered the licensing test at the range. He said that anyone who has a gun license should be a responsible citizen and carry all the time.
As an aside, due to the fact that she is home alone for most of the day and that she has to drive alone (and with the kids) through potentially problematic areas, my wife also carries a gun (although you would never know it if you saw her on the street).
So yes, we are gun-toting settlers. I'm just letting you know up front so you understand the source and weigh what you read here accordingly.
Lately there has been a lot of noise among the gun-toting settler crowd about the draconian rules of engagement associated with the use of deadly force here in Israel. Oddly enough, there has also been a lot of noise from the anti-gun crowd about the alarming number of Israelis (I assume they mean people like me) who are walking around armed.
See? Nobody's happy!
But sadly there are a lot of people on both sides of the issue who aren't sufficiently informed to be able to argue the point intelligently.
The law says you can use your gun only if you, or someone nearby, is in imminent mortal danger. That means a) There is someone who has a weapon (gun, hand grenade, Molotov cocktail, knife, etc.) that can be used to take your life or the life of someone nearby; b) They have the clear intention of using that weapon immediately; and c) They have the ability to do so.
Just as those late night investment fund ads usually caution: "Past performance is no guarantee of future results", one can't legally assume anything about the way an individual or group will act based on what you think you know about them. You have to actually wait for them to act. And to justify using deadly force, that 'act' must place you or someone else in imminent mortal danger.
Mortal Danger = the person(s) you are about to shoot must have the ability to kill (not just injure), and must give an unmistakable indication that they intend to do so.
Imminent = Right this very second. Not five seconds from now and not five seconds ago. Now.
If you have time to yell instructions to someone... shoot warning shots in the air... aim and fire at their legs, etc., you are going to have a hell of a time convincing the police that the danger was imminent and that you had no other choice but to fire.
There is also the overriding requirement that there be no other way of preventing the other person(s) from trying to kill you and/or whoever is being threatened except by using deadly force. Again, the full description of the laws can be found here, but for our purposes that should suffice.
Whenever I have renewed my pistol license and gone through my safety refresher course, I have been reminded by the instructor that I am not a policeman who can draw my gun and begin issuing instructions to a bad guy. That is not why I'm allowed to carry a gun. I can take out my gun and aim it at someone only when I have already arrived at the conclusion that I have no choice but to kill them. Full stop. That means all the criteria above have already been met before I pull the thing out.
Another thing that I have been told every time I've gone to renew my gun license is that if, G-d forbid, I am ever forced to shoot someone - even a 100% clean/kosher/by-the-book justified shooting. - I'd better get myself a good lawyer because I am certainly going to be detained by the police... and jail time is not out of the question.
Here's where it becomes important to separate reality from the fantasy most people get from TV and films.
Even in the wake of a real terror attack where you popped the bad guy and saved the day... the authorities aren't going to arrive on the scene, slap you on the back and congratulate you on your marksmanship. They aren't going to take in the dead terrorist and decide you were justified and send you on your way. They are going to take your gun... and likely take you into custody. Because, guess what? You are the primary suspect in a killing, and the cop on the street isn't authorized to decide if that killing was justified or not.
The way it was explained to me, a 'satisfactory' outcome will be that the authorities will have a strong suspicion that I had a choice, and will only pull my gun license for a year or two. More likely I will have to do anywhere from a few months to a few years in prison if the evidence is ambiguous. And if the evidence is in any way damning, serious jail time could be in the cards.
I hear you (some of you anyway)... this didn't seem particularly fair, right? I was told to look at it from a different standpoint. The nearly impossible burden that is placed on someone who has to decide whether or not to use deadly force is designed to do everything possible to discourage them from pulling the trigger.
Given a choice between killing someone you perceive as a threat or not killing them, a person's prejudices, life experiences and fears can come into play far too easily. What the law wants you to be thinking before you even raise your gun, much less pull the trigger, is 'would I rather be killed or be arrested, interrogated, sued and potentially sent to jail?'
Also, not every scenario takes place on Jaffa road in front of the media. what if someone attacks you on a dark road... at night... when nobody else is around? Worse... what if all of the potential witnesses are unsympathetic (i.e. Arabs or fellow attackers)? When you put it like that, a lot of people will suddenly come to the conclusion that they don't really need to shoot... that they, and the people around them, have time to take cover or drive on... that the other person might only want to scare them and not necessarily kill them.
Earlier this year the Knesset approved an amendment to the existing law which has become known as the 'Shai Dromi Bill'. Here's a quote from the news that sums up the background nicely:
"The legislation, named for the Negev farmer who in January 2007 shot at a group of people who broke into his farm to steal livestock, killing Khaled el-Atrash. Dromi was charged with manslaughter, a move that caused a public uproar. In the ensuing year, bumper-stickers appeared on cars nationwide bearing the phrase "We are all Shai Dromi," expressing a lack of faith in the police's ability to stop property crime, particularly in rural areas. "
According to the published report:
"Unlike earlier restrictions on criminal liability in cases of self-defense, under the new law a property owner does not have to face "a real danger to his own or another person's life, freedom, bodily welfare or property" to justify shooting. However, "the provision will not apply if the [property owner's] act was manifestly unreasonable under the circumstances in order to repel the intruder or enterer."
While the bill passed with a large majority (44-7), in fairness it should be pointed out that not everyone was happy with the outcome:
"MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) described the bill as "a death penalty for property crime". "Thieves and robbers should be punished, but we should not allow property owners to determine an immediate death sentence," said MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), who mounted a fiery opposition to the bill from the Knesset speaker's podium."
It may surprise you to know that I agree with MKs Gal-On and Tibi. The law, as written, leaves a little too much wiggle room and lacks some important guidelines. While I seldom refer to Jewish law when it comes to the laws of the modern state of Israel... I feel this is a case where Halachah provides some guiding wisdom from which this new law could have benefited.
Under Jewish law, a clear differentiation is made between someone who breaks into a house during the day and one who does so during the night. Someone who breaks in during the day cannot be automatically assumed to have violent intentions since the likelihood is that they expected to find an empty house. But someone who breaks in at night MUST be assumed to have violent intentions since people are generally home asleep at night. In the latter case Jewish law actually describes the night-time burgler as already having the status of having blood on their hands, and requires the home owner to kill them so as not to put himself or whoever else is in the house at risk.
I'm sure wiser people can elaborate on that so I won't flog an already overly-long post.
When I sit down and think about all the things I've written here, I question my sanity for walking around with a gun. After all, who needs this? The terrible responsibility that comes with the gun license seems to far outweigh any potential benefit.
But then I think about events like those that took place last week... or the attack earlier this year in the Dimona mall, and suddenly I realize that there is a compelling reason for as many responsible Israelis as possible to be armed (as stated in my last post).
One of last week's commenters made reference to a terror attack from the mid '80s that took place on King George street. It actually happened right in front of Richie's Pizza (where I was working back then). A couple of terrorists had emerged from a store across the street with a shopping bag full of hand grenades. They calmly walked out to the middle of the street and began tossing the grenades at the crowds on the sidewalks. By some miracle none of the bystanders were killed. Even more miraculous, within seconds of the first explosion the terrorists were both laying dead in the street. They had been killed by armed bystanders. One of them was even finished off by a civilian whose pistol had jammed and (foolishly, IMHO) decided to run out and club the terrorist to death with his jammed weapon.
I don't entertain the idea that the prospect of armed Israelis serves as a deterrent since most terrorists seem to be perfectly willing to die trying to carry out their attacks. But you can't even compare the scale of the carnage between what has typically happened here in Israel, and if (G-d forbid) something similar were to be attempted in London or New York where the only people walking around with guns are the thinly stretched police.
So, for those who felt that my last post we too 'touchy feely', or that it 'nit-picked' about how to describe the killing of a terrorist instead of simply celebrating the terrorist's death... well, this one was for you.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
A few thoughts on yesterday's attack
In case you've been living without access to news for the past 24 hours, there was a terror attack yesterday in Jerusalem. An Arab from one of the villages on Jerusalem's periphery (who therefore had an Israel ID card) turned the bulldozer (technically it is called a front loader) he was driving on Jaffa Street as part of the ongoing light rail construction project, and began ramming, up-ending and crushing cars and buses along with whoever happened to be in them.
When the rampage ended, three people were dead (not counting the terrorist) and more than 60 people were injured. The terrorist was first wounded by a police officer and finally shot and killed by an off-duty soldier and another police officer. According to multiple eye witnesses, the driver was shouting 'Allahu Ackbar' (allah is great) throughout his 500 meter rampage down one of Jerusalem's main streets.
Here - in no particular order - are the three thoughts that followed me down into a fitful sleep last night, and which were still waiting patiently for me when I opened my eyes this morning:
1. More guns. Many, many terror attacks that occur here in Israel are ended by the armed intervention of bystanders, off-duty police officers and soldiers. Army officers used to be required to carry pistols, but a couple of years ago the IDF made this optional. The result has been that far fewer responsible Israelis are walking around armed today. I think they should not only reinstate this requirement, but they should extend the requirement to senior NCOs as well and encourage both groups to obtain civilian gun permits when they leave the service rather than sell their guns (yes, unlike the assault rifles issued to combat troops, pistols carried by soldiers are privately owned). They should also require off-duty police to be armed at all times. There can never be too many responsible armed citizens on the street while we continue to face the ongoing threat of random terror.
2. House demolition. Yeah, it feels good (in a vengeful kind way) to authorize the destruction of a terrorist's home. And it certainly sends the 'armed resistance' crowd (and their supporters) into a lather when the bulldozers show up to raze a 'militant's' home. But does it have any impact on future terror attacks? I doubt it. We've been seeing more and more 'middle class' Arabs with jobs, wives and kids lining up to murder Israelis, so the thought of having one's house razed doesn't really compare to all the other stuff they are already willing to give up.
Don't get me wrong... I'm still all for bulldozing the homes of terrorists. And there is some cosmic symmetry in this case since the terrorist used a bulldozer in his attack. But I think it is silly to suggest that the policy is in any way a deterrent. It is a punishment, plain and simple... and a damn fine one.
3. Crediting the kill. There has been a fairly gruesome trend in recent years of naming and publicly praising those who, in an official or unofficial capacity, kill terrorists. Not only that, but they are endlessly interviewed by the media and the scenario is played out over and over and over like some macabre hail Mary pass that was caught just as time expired in the fourth quarter. While there is certainly something heroic in being in the right place to act and having the presence of mind to do so... death should not be such a popular part of our culture.
As a people we Jews don't hunt for sport. We slaughter animals for meat in the most humane way possible. We even have laws prohibiting the consumption of meat and milk together out of sensitivity for the fact that we might inadvertently come to broil a calf in its mother's milk! I can't help thinking that this 'post- pigua wrap-up' that has occurred after many attacks in recent years has begun to glorify the blood-sport of 'bagging a terrorist'. This was driven home yesterday as the media repeated over an over that one of the people who shot the terrorist was the brother-in-law of the man who shot and killed the Merkaz HaRav terrorist... as if this was part of some heroic terrorist-killing dynasty!
There is a quote attributed most often to former Israeli Prime Minister Golde Meir that went something like "'We may someday forgive Arabs for killing our children but not for making our children killers.' " I think this perfectly sums up the kind of sober solemnity with which we must regard the taking of a human life... even if that life was unquestionably and utterly forfeit from the outset.
I'm sure there is more stuff floating around up there this morning, but the big kids are sleeping in this morning (sing it with me: "Schooooooool's out for summer!) and Yonah needs to be woken for gan.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
I feel like sharing
Aside from the underlying reasons for private celebration that were described in yesterday's post, your heartfelt good wishes and comments were like whipped cream and a cherry on top of an already delicious
sundae Root Beer float.
So as long as we're sharing the love over here, I feel like I should also share something that I've been enjoying lately.
A friend recently turned me on to a web site called 'Tropical Glen.com' which is basically a well organized on-line jukebox. The music is organized by year (top 100 songs from each year), era, genre, etc. To begin listening, you simply select one of the 8 or 10 songs listed for that category and then let it randomly play all the rest of the songs while you do whatever else you were going to do anyway.
Best of all, unlike many of the streaming audio sites that tend to gobble up significant bandwidth while you are listening, this one seems to have a very light 'touch'. Just before each song plays it uses a second or two to download the file into a temporary location... and when the next song is about to begin it downloads that one over the top of the first (at least that's how it appears).
The result is a fantastic listening experience that shouldn't piss off your IT dpeartment or slow down what you are doing on your computer. It even has a search-able lyrics database, so if you are one of those people who sits at your desk singing, "Scuse me while I kiss this guy" along with Jimi Hendrix while those around you cringe... well this should sort you out.
There is a small downside in that you can't download/buy the songs you really like directly from the site (at least so far as I've been able to discover). And although you can pause songs during play (so you can shoo the noisy kids out of the room while you rock out), you can't 'rewind' to the beginning of the songs that you want to hear a second time. Considering it is free, I guess I shouldn't really complain.
So go ahead and have a listen.
If you need me I'll be making my way through the '77, '78 and '79 song lists today. But if you see me nodding my head and doing what Billy Crystal called 'the white man's overbite' (in 'When Harry Met Sally') - that embarrassing trait we Caucasians have of putting our upper teeth over our lower lip when we dance or listen to good music - please don't interrupt. I'm cruisin' through the soundtrack of my high school years.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Many of you who are regular readers are familiar with the story of our four-and-half-year-old (tfu tfu tfu) son Yonah. He has had to deal with some sensory 'issues' and has been undergoing intensive work with a range of therapists to overcome a range of resulting behavioral and learning problems.
You may remember that last year he underwent a sleep study that revealed that he was experiencing serious episodes of apnea, a fancy term which basically means he was waking up a lot... more than 30 times per night, as it turns out.
You may also recall that the doctors felt strongly that the likely culprit for the apnea was the fact that his adenoids and tonsils were overly large.
In due course Yonah was scheduled for surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids, and then we watched helplessly as he went through an unusually long and painful (but full, thank G-d) recovery.
OK, now that everyone is on the same page... here is the long-overdue update on Yonah.
First it should be mentioned that immediately after the surgery, we began pumping the surgeon for information on what he'd found. Like most parents, we did not take lightly the decision to put our child under the knife, and were especially anxious to hear that we'd done the right thing and that the surgery was indeed necessary.
The surgeon told us that Yonah's tonsils were large, but that his adenoids were unusually large. Then he stopped himself and said "Did I say unusually large? Let me correct that. They were huge... enormous... gigantic!"
In a follow-up visit, we asked the doctor about the fact that we'd noticed almost immediately that Yonah's speech was much clearer and that he was much more responsive to people and things in his environment. "Was there any chance", we asked him, "that his hearing had been affected by the over-sized adenoids?"
The doctor thought about it and said, "You know... with adenoids as large as he had, I think there is almost no chance that they weren't interfering with his hearing!"
Like magic we watched as, day by day, Yonah became more interactive and conversational. He went from frustrated grunts and monosyllabic responses to direct questions, to being an inquisitive chatterbox... asking us about things he'd overheard and even about idioms we used that he didn't understand.
The highlight (for me, anyway) came one Friday morning when I was out running errands in Jerusalem. I'd taken Yonah along so that he wouldn't be underfoot at home while the big kids were doing their chores. Yonah had been so well behaved that I decided to treat him to lunch at his favorite falafel joint ('Falafel Daron', located at the corner of Emek Rafa'im & Rachel Imenu, if you must know). We'd gotten our food and were sitting at a table near the door with Yonah's back towards the street.
Shortly after we'd tucked into our meals Yonah looked up suddenly and said, "Abba, I hear our car!" I looked over his head and, sure enough, idling right outside the door was the exact make and model of car that we own. His hearing had become so sharp that he'd cataloged the sound of our car and recognized the sound when he heard it nearby!
All of the people at his Gan have commented on what a different kid he has become. He is cheerful and engaging... laughing all the time. He is much more curious about people and things around him... and is making huge strides in almost every area. It's all pretty miraculous.
One of the professionals who has been working with us throughout Yonah's odyssey put it best:
"Well of course there's a dramatic improvement across the board. The kid hadn't had a decent night's sleep in his entire life! Nobody can function properly under those circumstances!"
Add to that the fact that he couldn't hear what was going on around him up until the surgery, and well... this is like getting a great big do-over. We feel like we've been granted a free upgrade to Yonah 2.0!