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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Blowing Mom & Dad's mind!

One of these days I really expect my parent's heads to simply explode from the frequent shocks I throw their way!

Longtime treppenwitz readers may remember a journal entry I wrote during my parent’s visit last year entitled ‘The Smoking Gun’. If you’re interested you can go back and read it… but the post basically talked about the ‘tension’ (for all parties involved) which resulted when my Liberal East Coast Jewish Parents (there has to be an acronym in there somewhere!), arrived in Israel to find their oldest son going about his everyday life with a pistol tucked into the waistband of his otherwise preppy attire.

Needless to say, wackiness ensued.

Once mom & dad had come to grips with the fact that being armed was not a rejection of my liberal upbringing, but rather a pragmatic reaction to the current facts on ground, they were immediately thrown another curve ball:  A good friend from our community stopped by one Shabbat afternoon for tea with an M16 assault rifle casually slung over his shoulder.

At the time I simply watched with amusement as my mother struggled to act nonchalant in the face of this new development, and sure enough; as soon as he had left, mom blurted out, "Why was your friend carrying a machine gun???"

Again, I was very impressed when she and my father calmly accepted my explanation that he was a member of our town’s emergency response team (Kitat Konenut, in Hebrew), and that most towns in ‘the territories’, as well as many within walking distance of the ‘Green Line’ (some 300 in all), were forced to maintain such anti-terror response teams.

Well, during the year since their last visit I was asked by the commander of Efrat's emergency response team (a Major in an elite combat unit of the IDF reserves) to serve... and I had accepted.

In addition to being issued a small arsenal of equipment (M16, ammunition, flak-jacket, helmet, radio, etc.), and having to undergo one or two days of live-fire training per month at the local army base, all members of the team are expected to carry their weapons when they are in the community but away from their house.

The fact is, my IDF-issued M16 (and other equipment) spends most of its time in a well-locked closet. I don’t take it to work… and if I’m at home, or around the neighborhood running errands there isn’t really a need to bother taking it out of its safe hiding place.

The only thing that I have to keep with me 24/7 (even on Shabbat) is the small radio/telephone on my belt that connects all the members of the team and the local army commanders.

However, on Shabbat morning when I am away from home for several hours (in synagogue), it is expected that I’ll have the M16 with me. In addition to taking a 15 minute shift of guard duty outside the synagogue during the course of morning services (something most of the man who have served in the army do), there is the assumption that if (G-d forbid) there is any kind of infiltration or attack, the members of the response teams will not have to first run home and get their weapons before responding.

There have, unfortunately, been enough attacks on towns and cities throughout Israel that it’s hard to find a flaw in this rationale.

Truth be told, I didn’t really give much thought to how this would all play out with my parent’s visit because, well, when you are a husband/father living in a community where there exists even a nominal need for an anti-terror team… ‘what mom & dad might think’ isn’t the main thing on one's mind.

As I said, I really didn’t give much thought to how all this would play out with my parents… that is, until the first Shabbat they were here.

As I walked into the living room on Shabbat morning carrying the M16, I looked at my mother’s shocked expression and thought to myself, "Self… this is probably a discussion you should have had with mom & dad sometime during the past couple of days."

Yes, I am a bit of an idiot sometimes.

To give proper credit to my parents, they took my rushed explanation in stride, and even managed a few jokes about it during the course of the day ("Is this supposed to make me feel safer now?").

If someone were to ask me if I thought the emergency response teams around the country were an adequate defense against a determined terrorist, I would have to say ‘no... of course not’.  I honestly don’t think there is very much that can interfere with the trajectory of a person who has made the decision to become a human missile.

However, I think the combination of the IDF, the police, the network of emergency response teams, and armed civilians is the only defense we can muster here in this part of the world.

The new security fence will certainly reduce the need for many of these other lines of defense… but I don’t think it will completely eliminate their necessity.

I hate that my children have become accustomed to seeing soldiers and guns everywhere. As a society we have made it more palatable by glorifying the elite units of the IDF and linking patriotism with military prowess. But the very thing that requires the omnipresence of the Israeli Army is the very same thing that requires the police and border patrol to equip and train themselves as para-military units… requires the towns and cities within striking distance of areas under Palestinian control to maintain emergency response teams… requires many civilians to carry pistols tucked into their khakis, jeans and purses!

‘Normal’ societies who aren’t surrounded by terrorists don’t have to live like this!!!

The only thing that will make it possible for liberal guys like me to stop shocking the bajeezus out of their mothers will be for a profound sea change to take place in the societies that create and honor terrorists.

I pray for a day when my children will be as shocked by the idea of me carrying a gun as my mother was.


Posted by David Bogner on May 3, 2005 | Permalink


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The whole thing is an issue b/c you are still dealing with liberal guilt feelings after all these years.

It seems to me that most of the anglos that particpate in kitat konenut on these yishuvim are just the modern orthodox or religious zionist versions of the charedi hatzoola volunteers with all the walkie talkies and keys - big overgrown children who need to play with toys. These guys get ruffled and offended easily and are probably missing a few screws as well. All the karate and GI Joe macho stuff is a cover for some serious unresolved BT issues.

If the above sounds like a few of your fellows KK mates - well I'm more familiar with certain yishuvim than others.

Posted by: oysvurf | May 3, 2005 2:09:28 PM

oysvurf... You may have a point about my liberal guilt, but I have to say you are way off the mark regarding the kitat konenut in my community. First of all the 'anglos' do not make up a majority of the membership... and second of all there is only one guy that comes even close to fitting the description you offered. He doesn't realize it but many of the guys poke fun at him and call him 'ninja' when he's not around. In any event, based on my 4 years in the military I can say without hesitation that it isn't unusual to have one or two 'GI Joe' types(as you called them) in such an environment. Not everybody joins for pure and holy reasons.

It would frighten me to learn that what you describe is true anywhere... even as an exception to the rule.

Posted by: David | May 3, 2005 2:23:07 PM

wow, it's just impossible to stay away

Posted by: Maria | May 3, 2005 2:41:07 PM

"not a rejection of my liberal upbringing, but rather a pragmatic reaction to the current facts on ground" is a good argument for the conservative side of every issue: lower taxes, business deregulation, a strong military, unopressive environmental regulation, and very lax bee hive enforcement. One day, you'll realize that you're a conservative. This won't be a rejection of your liberal upbringing, it will just be a decision that issue by issue, your parents are wrong.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | May 3, 2005 5:46:40 PM

Maria... You should be studying! [shakes accusing finger in your direction]. Seriously, I don't want to be responsible for you not passing your exams and having to spend an extra semester in school! :-)

Doctor Bean... Actually my parents are right a hell-of-a-lot more often than I would care to admit. It's like the saying that is often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain::

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

You also forget that I am neither a liberal nor a conservative... but rather that rare bird called a centrist. If that is too hard to get your head around, you can think of me as either a responsible liberal or a conservative with a conscience. :-)

Posted by: David | May 3, 2005 6:09:26 PM

I have a hard time allowing myself to be labeled as a member of any political party anymore. Life is too complex to be one or another, I tend to think of myself as an independent.

At the risk of sounding snobbish, I expect that most thoughtful people do something similar because life is not black and white and traditional positions in both parties are now held by members of both parties.

Not sure if that makes sense, but....

Posted by: Jack | May 3, 2005 7:40:41 PM

You've described a very nice sort of meeting of worlds sort of encounter that never really happened for me. You're lucky it happened!

By the way, did you ever consider that sharing these details might be a security risk? I mean, we don't want the terrorists to know what they're up against, do we?

But I guess its ok cause from reading this they'll think that they MIGHT be up against a rookie neo-conservative not really wannabe hot-head. But then again they MIGHT be up against some real kkk-like battle ready G-I Joes.

Posted by: Andy | May 3, 2005 10:46:58 PM

sorry that it has been a while since I posted, I am not sure if you heard what happened to my apt over yom tov.....

Posted by: Faye | May 3, 2005 10:58:29 PM

"I pray for a day when my children will be as shocked by the idea of me carrying a gun as my mother was."

Amein, kein Yehi Ratzon (May it be His will).

Posted by: Tonny | May 4, 2005 12:32:02 AM

ditto to Tonny.

My sister (married with four kids) and I are planning to make Aliyah in the near future. My mother basically freaked because she's a born and raised Israeli. She keeps telling us we don't know what it's like to worry at night whether your husband/son is coming home. I want to tell her that G-d willing that won't be the case in the near future!

Honestly though, is life in Israel really that mellodramatic?

Posted by: tmeishar | May 4, 2005 2:27:03 AM

I pray for a day when my children will be as shocked by the idea of me carrying a gun as my mother was.

From your fingers to G-d's ear.

Posted by: Carol | May 4, 2005 2:33:31 AM

Israel is a country that desperately wants to be normal, but is in a very abnormal situation surrounded by abnormal neighbours... There was a brief period in the 90s when everyone thought that maybe normality is indeed upon us. But it wasn't. Yes, life in Israel can be melodramatic, when things like sitting in a cafe or riding a bus cause you to wonder if this will be your last latte.

Posted by: Naomi | May 4, 2005 4:14:56 AM

Jack... Not to sound too flip, but I find that labels are largely meant to convey status... whether we're talking about clothing, religion or politics. They don't really help the person wearing them... and tend to confuse or even delude the people reading them.

Andy... In a word; No. They can stand on a hilltop and watch us train if they are really interested in details. There are very few secrets in our part of the world.

Faye... Cliff hang much? No, I didn't hear anything? I hope everything is alright!!!

Tonny... See that right there is where the Black Baptist churches have it figured out! Everyone should have a few people saying stuff like "Amen", Yes Sir" and "Praise the Lord!" after they say something profound. I could so get used to that! :-)

Tmeishar... No... it is no more melodramatic than anywhere else in the world. If your mother is a Sabra she should know that each corner of Israel has its own issues and problems... just like every corner of the US. Mother's (and fathers) worry... that's universal.

Carol... And the choir says 'Amen'. :-)

Naomi... They serve Lattes on buses??? What line is that? I need to take public transportation more often! ;-)

Posted by: David | May 4, 2005 9:10:05 AM

Jack... Not to sound too flip, but I find that labels are largely meant to convey status... whether we're talking about clothing, religion or politics. They don't really help the person wearing them... and tend to confuse or even delude the people reading them.

I sense a song or afterschool special, perhaps a special reading and discussion of Dr. Seuss and the Sneetches. ;)

I agree that they are often meant to convey status, but
labels are what we make of them. For better or for worse they help us to identify groups that we wish to be a part of or disassociate from.

I think that there is a need for them, the real question is how we handle them.

Posted by: Jack | May 4, 2005 9:34:37 AM

Again I find myself compelled to post my hearty support of your participation in your local militia. Please, people. Liberal: anti-gun, conservative: pro-gun? That's reductionist bullsh*t.

Carrying an AK-47 in the U.S. is an act of violence against your neighbor. There has been no sustained threat that would be deterred or eliminated by carrying such a weapon. And the wielding of the weapon would impose a threat greater than that of any danger it was meant to suppress.

In David's neighborhood, the threat is very real. It is a rational response to carry such a weapon. David is a responsible citizen who is dedicated to preserving life, observing necessary safety discipline.

Context is *everything*. People who only see in black & white experience only a small spectrum of life in all of it's complexity and beauty.

Posted by: christopher | May 4, 2005 9:38:53 AM

David - you are correct - I should have not used the word "anglos". There are many Israeli "ninja" types as well (I have to think about whether I like your term or my GI Joe term better :-) ). I was describing a certain type of personality - and it just seems that there are many guys who are always talking about what weapons they have locked up at home, etc. etc. Look - even you who are so careful that you lock the gun at night and don't ALWAYS take it out for short errands, will use a phrase such "based on my 4 years in the military" - a common phrase heard in israel to justify God knows what. I hear that sort of phrase all the time from kitat konenut guys. Just try raising any issue having to do with security with any of these guys and it falls on a deaf ear. How many politicians have been elected for their "military experience" - even at the local level (hint, hint) and then turned out to be hopeless or even deviant leaders.

So yes, many a guy raised in a pacifist liberal household finds machal, or mechina kadam tzvait or whatever to be more attractive at age 18 and signs for for a tour of duty+++ and takes the bagage with him into adult life. The yehsiva bochur from Brooklyn who never had any liberal gun issues does his shlav bet painting fences and doesn't get all hung up about not being able to hit a target.

Look it's the nature of medics to join Zaka and Hatzoola and GI Joe types to join the kitat konenut. It's their weekly poker game. I'm just pointing out some sociology here - not being critical. When the GI Joe types start setting hypocritical religious standards or the educational curriculum you'll hear me louder and clearer.................

Posted by: oysvurf | May 4, 2005 10:23:29 AM

Jack... I will not label in a bar, I will not push this joke too far. I am not sure if labels hurt, but I prefer them in my shirt! :-)

Christopher... OUCH! I'm in a militia??? I guess I'll have to buy a cabin out in Montana and get to work on my manifesto! :-) Seriously though... If (as I suspect) you are responding to the first comment in this thread, the person was addressing a legitimate issue. Namely; in every arena, be it ambulance, paramilitary, military, police, etc., there are people who sign up for less-than-altruistic reasons. They like the toys or excitement or 'glory' or whatever. My point stands that these people rarely make up any significant portion of the group and tend to be marginalized by those who are involved for the 'right' reasons. By the way, I'm looking forward to hearing what the final arrangement will be with your next teaching position.

Oysverf... I have to reiterate that it is wildly unfair to impugn the motivation of an entire group based on your (perhaps) correct assumptions about a small minority of its members. I mentioned my military experience not to brag or give extra weight to my observations, but rather to point out that I am not some cowboy American with a gun fascination that is finally getting his jollies by playing soldier. In my limited experience here the only people I have seen who seem to be participating in the emergency response team for less-than-idealistic reasons are just those kind of people. Again, from what I've seen they are the exception and not the rule. There are a lot of good people quietly giving their time and energy to ambulance teams and emergency response teams throughout Israel. I hope you will rethink impugning all of them because of your limited observation.

Posted by: David | May 4, 2005 12:18:37 PM

I don't think i impugned. At least I didn't mean to. But yes, there are some social aspects to all the orthodox Jews on EMT squads and volunteer fire departments. I once read an article discussing it as some sort of escapism from the rigidity of Orthodx (expecially Ultra-Orthodox) life. Some of this is definitely playing out on the community emergency squads - I see that first hand.

Posted by: oysvurf | May 4, 2005 2:14:02 PM

Oysvurf... Just so we're on the same page, here's the definition of the word impugne:

verb {T}

to cause people to doubt someone's character, qualities or reputation by criticizing them.

Not only have you done just that in every single one of your comments, but as I have gently tried to steer you away from making sweeping (and offensive) generalizations you have made ever more ridiculous assertions. It is not only irresponsible to make generalizations about "all... orthodox Jews on EMT squads and volunteer fire departments", but to try to justify it with vague "I once read an article discussing it..." sort of proofs is the laziest form of intellectual dishonesty in which one can engage.

In 18 months of keeping this journal I have written two posts specifically dealing with guns (this one being the second). If that makes me a 'ninja' or 'GI Joe', so be it. In all that time I have had exactly two occasions to be uncivil with a commenter... and you are that second person.

If you are interested in exploring issues or sharing opinions you are welcome here any time. But if you insist on this libelous line of thought which impugnes a large group of people that volunteer thier time and energy to save lives, then I would suggest that there are other blogs where you will feel much more comfortable.

Posted by: David | May 4, 2005 2:46:13 PM

I wasn't able to find the article on the internet. If I have time, I will try and post it. It may not be there. My assertions are also borne out by anecdotal evidence from friends and relatives who serve in various EMT roles (both fulltime and as volunteers) and as volunteer firemen in various less homogeneous surroundings than a small, mostly religious town. (Some of these friends display some of the characteristics I noted - both consciously and unconsciously).

My use of the word "all" was not to imply "all of" but rather in the colloqiual sense of "the many in disproportionate numbers".

I looked back at my posts and don't see anything that is sweeping or ridiculous. Nor anything that is intellectual laziness. I would take back the "few screws lose" line, but nothing else. This is just what I have observed and read about about kitat konenut guys, Chassidic EMT guys and Orthodox Jewish volunteer firemen. It's a sociological observation. SOME of these people have issues (especially about always getting defensive about things)- that's all........

My friend - who is an Orthodox Jewish volunteer in one of the above arenas for over 20 years - who just walked in as I was writing this confirms this. The GI Joe/Ninja volunteer guy on the squad type exists, and SOME of the people involved in these areas are overgrown children playing cops and robbers, and SOME of the Charedim involved with these activities use it as a vehicle to breach their restrictive surroundings

I am very grateful for the efforts of all of these volunteers. I know that they save lives and save local taxpayers money. (A friend on a fire squad once told me that real estate taxes would have to go up a few grand per house in his area if their were no volunteer fire department)

You seem like a nice guy, but your reaction to me was certainly to "type" from my perspective. הפוסל, במומו פוסל If in 6 months from now you forget everything I have written but remeber the "few screws lose" line out of context, you will CERTAINLY be playing to type.....
and I would add that NOWHERE in my posts did I suggest that YOU were like that. You reacted as if I suggested that.........

Posted by: oysvurf | May 4, 2005 5:22:49 PM

Oysvurf... First off, you seem to be both new to blogging and Netiquette, so I will assume you are not aware that using all caps is like shouting. If you did then the 'playing to type' accusation might cut both ways. hmmm

Now, I find it interesting that it took you almost half of your tirade to back away from the 'most' and 'all' theory and scale things back to simply 'some'. However, you continue to use "anecdotal evidence from friends and relatives" and "sociological observation" (big words for "I could easily be making this stuff up") to bolster your case... and they have as much weight here as they would in a newspaper article, a term paper or a court of law; meaning none..

Also, I may have to check with my brother-in-law the lexicographer to see if there really exists a "colloqiual[sic] sense" of the word 'all' that means "the many in disproportionate numbers". Yessereebob, that is certainly one usage I'd managed to miss while getting my BA in English. Most of the definitions I found (notice I didn't say 'all)' looked more like these three I found at Princeton's web site:

1. all(a): quantifier; used with either mass or count nouns to indicate the whole number or amount of or every one of a class; "we sat up all night"; "ate all the food"; "all men are mortal"; "all parties are welcome"

2. completely given to or absorbed by; "became all attention"

3. wholly: to a complete degree or to the full or entire extent (`whole' is often used informally for `wholly'); "he was wholly convinced"; "entirely satisfied with the meal"; "it was completely different from what we expected"; "was completely at fault"; "a totally new situation"; "the directions were all wrong"; "it was not altogether her fault"; "an altogether new approach"; "a whole new idea"

So let's dispense with the shoddy/made-up scholarship? mmkay

You said in an earlier comment, "it's the nature of medics to join Zaka and Hatzoola and GI Joe types to join the kitat konenut". I have to admit that has been bothering me all afternoon. Please rewrite that using parellel construction . The way it stands I'm confused as to why it would be a bad thing for a medic to join a volunteer ambulance corp.

Now let's get down to me, since you seem to think that my anger (yes, it's pretty much anger fueling this little rant at this point) is somehow proof of your theory's validity. I am angry that you find it so easy to glibly malign and impugn (there's that tricky word again) a very large group of mostly selfless people while giving them a back-handed compliment (they are all glory-seeking nut-jobs and barely repressed gun-nuts, but boy am I glad they'll show up to save my ass if a terrorist breaks in or I flatline in front of the TV).

Oh, and ending your screed with "You seem like a nice guy..." is perhaps the most offensive thing I have ever seen written here on treppenwitz. I'll bet you share your drug dealer and carjacking statistics with black folks and then tell them how glad you are that they are 'nice ones' and not like all those others.

Spare me the pop psychology about "If in 6 months from now you forget everything I have written but remember the "few screws lose" line out of context, you will CERTAINLY be playing to type.....". That holds exactly as much water as the rest of you fatally flawed reasoning. What I will or won't remember about this colossal waste of time will depend entirely on how much Bourbon my wife lets me put in my mint julep this evening, and not a wit on whether I have a fetish for men in fatigues.

You've had three chances to behave like a mentch. You're out!

I'm not very proud of this... but you are the first person in 18 months of writing to be banned from treppenwitz!

Posted by: David | May 4, 2005 6:39:52 PM

A Mint Julep? I wasn't sure anyone actually drank those outside of Louisiana and have to admit that I find the idea strangely amusing, but in a good way.

Kind of like the smile I had on my face listening to the Chinese waiters in Tiberias speak better Hebrew than I do.

Posted by: Jack | May 4, 2005 8:14:39 PM

Jack... Yes, you should look into this wonderful restorative. BTW, I use Splenda in place of sugar with no negative effect.

Posted by: David | May 5, 2005 8:25:35 AM

I have a bottle of Old Grandad that I just might have to break open for just this purpose. .

Posted by: Jack | May 5, 2005 9:38:11 AM

I think I "blew my son's mind" on his first visit to me here in 1990, when I told him that the only hitchhikers I would pick up were IDF soldiers with guns, cause they were the safest! After all those years in the USA teaching him by example never to hitchhike or to pick up hitchhikers, never mind the gun issue.

Posted by: savtadotty | May 5, 2005 10:56:13 AM

Savtadotty... I hope your son has since seen the wisdom (and beauty) of your gesture. I'm proud of you that you make a point of giving rides to soldiers!

Posted by: David | May 5, 2005 12:17:07 PM

As a director of an upcoming new group, and a member of quite a few old groups, I understand where he's coming from.

There is not doubt that a good majority of the members of Kitat Konenuts as well as Hatzolohs etc are greatly ego maniacle (sp?). Some have no life, and spend every waking moment either cleaing the truck or brown-nosing it.

It can be said that they should get a life. Are YOU going to provide the psychotherapy or in some parts of Israel - a Job.

On the other hand, who is to say that what they do WOULD be done by someone else, they put in so much time unmatched by those of us with a life. AND who's o say that their work quality is not good.

That is what VOLUNTEERING is all about.

Personally, I don't care about the ego as long as they follow protocol and orders, and most importantly, they don't give us a bad name or make a Chilul Ha'Shem.

Find another topic, this one is begining to bore me.

Posted by: KKNY | Jun 3, 2007 10:55:51 PM

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