Wednesday, May 28, 2014
It's that time again...
Close the door to your office... turn off the lights... put a box of tissues within easy reach... and press play:
Partial Transcript / translation:
Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.
[The open square of the Temple Mount.]
[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]
Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.
Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.
[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]
[Yelling of commands to soldiers.]
[More soldiers’ footsteps.]
The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.
We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.
Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!
All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.
Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.
[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]
Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.
Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.
Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance but don't touch anything in the houses, especially the holy places.
[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]
Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?
Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.
Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]
Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and bulids Jerusalem]
[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]
Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel:
El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen!
[Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.]
[Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.]
Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!] *
Friday, May 16, 2014
Echoes in Time
Yesterday my older sister posted an old photo on her Facebook page showing me and our younger brother, Benjamin.
Once I got over the initial shock of seeing what a fashion disaster I was back then, I started trying to figure out how old I was... and by extension, how old Benjamin had been.
Turns out that we were the same age as Gilad and Yonah are right now; 18 and 10, respectively.
Never one to pass on an opportunity to poke fun at myself, I asked the boys to pose for a similarly posed photo... with Gilad wearing a pair of my Navy shorts from back when I was 18 or 19.
Here you go:
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Sunlight is the best disinfectant
In the past I've shared my opinion regarding Israel's current President. Specifically, I've pointed out that he doesn't seem to fully grasp the scope of the duties that the President is expected to carry out... and the limitations of the office's powers / responsibilities.
Just in case he happens by this site, I'll (once again) provide the broad strokes:
The President of the State of Israel is not supposed to involve himself in partisan politics. In fact, to ensure the apolitical nature of the role, Israeli law states that the president may "neither intervene politically nor express personal views on issues that divide the public". [source]
Personally, I can't think of any issue which has more potential to divide the public than negotiating the terms and conditions of a potential peace accord with the Palestinians.
Today, President Peres announced that he had secretly negotiated a peace agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back in 2011. In the interview he complains that when he brought the draft agreement to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Bibi rejected it.
Here's the article.
I have a few problems with this.
First and foremost is the fact that negotiating with foreign powers, particularly those hostile to Israel, is the exclusive domain of the Prime Minister (or whomever he designates). Holding secret negotiations with the PA is, by law, completely outside the scope of what the President is allowed to do.
Once we get past the problem of the President involved in negotiating the terms of a political agreement, we are faced with the additional damning fact that these negotiations were unsanctioned and carried out in secret without the knowledge or approval of the elected government.
President Peres seems to have a history of conveniently forgetting that Israel is a democracy with laws and statutes. He is quick to accuse others of being anti-democratic when they don't agree with him, but does not seem to feel that he, himself, is bound by the laws of the land.
His most serious breach of law was when he and Yossi Beilin (then Foreign Minister and Deputy foreign Minister for foreign affairs, respectively) began the 'Oslo Process', a set of illegal negotiations with the PLO without the knowledge or approval of the government. These negotiations were illegal because the PLO was defined as a terrorist organization, and Israeli law forbade such contact with an organization so defined.
Once the Oslo process was so far progressed that it would have been nearly impossible to back-track did Peres and Beilin bring then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin into the loop, and presented him with a fait accompli. For Rabin to have rejected the draft agreement would have made him appear anti-peace (just as Peres is now attempting to make Netanyahu look anti-peace for having rejected Peres' latest secretly negotiated agreement).
Israel's leftists makes a big show of supporting democracy and the rule of law when they perceive that anyone on the political right appears to be motivated by ideals or principles not enshrined in the letter of Israeli Law (such as when there is friction between adherence to Jewish law and adherence to civil and/or military law).
Yet when it comes to advancing their own agenda, Israeli law is often treated as a body of suggestions.
I am tired of secret negotiations which are presented to the public as 'done deals' so that anyone who finds the methods or content objectionable is immediately labeled 'unpatriotic' or 'anti-peace'.
I have never met a single Israeli - right or left wing - who is anti-peace. I mean seriously, ask yourself this: What parent, if given the choice, would prefer to have their children serve in a wartime military than one tasked with maintaining peace?
There is an old saying that 'Laws are like sausages... it is best not to see how they are made'. And to a certain extent, I agree that, in politics, one expects that a lot of back-room horse trading will take place between lawmakers.
But laws can be repealed or revised to suit the changing political mores and preferences of the population... while treaties negotiated between states and powers are binding and not so easily set aside. So to conduct so critical aspect of Israel's long-term foreign policy in secret, without the knowledge or guidance of the elected government, is anathema to democratic values.
Yet this is precisely what Shimon Peres has done throughout his career. He sees no problem with admitting that he violated the rules / limitations of his own office, and has the chutzpah to complain that when he did so, the sitting Prime Minister didn't roll over and eat the fruits of his poisoned tree.
Secrecy has its place. But if we Israelis will have to live with the results of some future peace accord with the Palestinians, it is paramount that we are aware of what is being negotiated in our name.
If we've learned anything from the failed Oslo Accords, it is that any deal hatched in darkness is doomed to failure once it is brought out into the light of day.
Sunlight truly is the best disinfectant.
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Remembering to remember
[A guest post for Israel's Memorial Day by my daughter, Ariella]
Stop. Everyone off the bus. It's in a minute.
Everyone understands. Everyone gets up and files off the bus quietly.
As we gather on the sidewalk I look around. Soldiers and civilians stand as one. The soldiers start to put on their כומתות (berets). I'm one of them.
And then it starts.
The siren wails loudly for all that we have lost, and in that moment everything stops. Nothing else matters. No matter where you are from, who you are, you are connected. To the loss. The pain. The remembering. You remember someone you knew, someone important and special who used to be the world.
And then all at once it ends. Just as suddenly as it began. And we all get back on the bus.
But none of us are the same. We all remember.