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Monday, December 26, 2005

You did a good thing last night!

[Sorry to anyone who tried to comment on this post today.  Typepad locked me out of my own tempate, and it locked all of you out of everything else.  Hopefully this is fixed... but if anyone has recommendations for new a host (not Moveable Type), I'm all ears.]

Imagine for a moment that you are a 19 or 20 year old boy or girl and you are standing on a cold, windswept hillside, fully exposed to a driving mix of rain and sleet.  Your army-issue four weather clothing lost whatever insulation value it had about 15 minutes after climbing out of the truck that dropped you and your fellow soldiers at this isolated check-point.

Even the non-regulation 'fleece' jacket you are wearing under your heavy ceramic body armor and ammunition harness is soaked from the steady stream of water that drips from your helmet straps down the side of your neck... and your fingers feel as stiff and cold as the M-16 they are holding.

Other roadblocks that are closer to Jewish settlements have a bit more traffic and garner the occasional friendly face and hello... but you are standing at a roadblock in the midst of 6 or 7 Arab villages and the traffic at this hour is almost nil.

As the occasional car pulls to a stop at your roadblock you lean forward to speak to the driver and inspect the vehicle's interior.  This small shift in your posture takes you by surprise each time as a small torrent of icy rainwater cascades off your helmet and down the back of your neck.  It seems like the stream makes it all the way to your soggy boots each time this happens because your socks squeeze an odd bubbly stream of water out between the sole and upper each time you shift your weight from one foot to the other.

The only thing that makes this watch remotely bearable is the promise that in exactly 23... no, make that 22 minutes you will be switching places with one of your friends who is huddled nearby in a makeshift 3-sided tent that keeps the worst of the wind and rain from extinguishing a small can of burning diesel fuel that was set alight for light and warmth.

With the sunset a few hours ago the holiday of Hanukkah has begun, but it won't be until after midnight when you get back to the base that you can even begin thinking about simple pleasures like self-pity over not being able to enjoy your mother's potato latkes... or your neighborhood bakery's heavenly sufganiyot.  Right now just keeping your teeth from chipping as they chatter together is more than enough to think about.

After another 15 minutes of staring off into the darkness a car's headlights emerge out of the driving rain and a late-model gray station wagon pulls to a stop next to the pond-sized mud puddle that is your roadblock.  Hours of mind-numbing experience at these check-points has allowed you to mentally label this car as 'safe'.  This profiling method isn't fool-proof of course, but the driver's Ashkenazi features, pressed shirt and the way the water is beading on the recently waxed car all send a subliminal message that this is someone that probably doesn't require a closer inspection. 

In your mind you've already dismissed this bearded settler and gone back to trying to mentally dodge raindrops when you notice that the car hasn't continued through the check-point and away into the darkness.  Instead the driver is handing out several big bakery boxes wrapped in large plastic shopping bags... and the unmistakable aroma of fresh sufganiot joins the preferred boxes as they pass through the open window.

Magically, a couple of your fellow soldiers emerge from the shelter of the flapping tarp and you watch in the flickering light of the diesel-fueled campfire as they quickly take charge of the unwieldy bakery boxes... and just as quickly disappear back into the tent to enjoy the sufganiyot. 

As the driver starts to roll up his window against the horizontal rain he says 'Hanukkah Sameach' (happy Hanukkah) and something else in American-accented Hebrew about reading the note inside the boxes.

The next 7 minutes pass impossibly slowly as all you can think about is getting out of the rain and biting into a warm sufganiyah.

When it is finally your turn to retreat 'inside' the meager protection of the flapping tent you are delighted to see that your friends have saved you three sufganiot in the bottom of the oil-stained cardboard box.  As you bite into the first one and the rich flavors of Ribat Halav (caramel) and oily dough mix in your mouth, you notice a note in the box and remember the driver's parting words.  The note, which the others have already read, says (in poorly constructed Hebrew):

"You may be cold... and you may be tired... but don't think for a moment that you are alone as you do this important work.  People from all over the world... Jews and Gentiles... right wing and left, who read a 'blog' called treppenwitz, appreciate what you are doing and wanted to do this small thing in order to wish you a Happy Hanukkah.  www.treppenwitz.com "

Since a shooting last week when a husband/father of 5 was murdered driving along this isolated stretch of road, several checkpoints have been put back in place.  Roads leading in and out of Palestinian villages that were recently opened in a humanitarian gesture to the local populations have been bulldozed closed again.  Because the terrorists continue do everything in their power to drive a wedge between the two populations, the Arabs living in these areas are once again forced to live under closure... and the IDF is forced to redeploy young men and women to stand exposed and vulnerable in these inhospitable spots.

I may have been privileged to be your messenger as I was coming home from work on the first night of Hanukkah... but you were the ones who made this wonderful gesture possible!

Because so many of you were nice enough to click-through and visit the advertisers on the lower right hand side of this site... and others made outright donations using the little orange & gray 'Spoil Soldiers' Paypal button... the first cold, rainy night of Hanukkah was made a bit more comfortable for soldiers at 4 different check points along my route.  I hope to continue this as long as the need exists.

Thank you one and all for making this gesture possible.  You did a very good thing!

[Note:  Since the Typepad server crash last week my template has been acting a bit strangely.  Some people have said that they no longer see the ads.  Please let me know if you experience this problem.221_16_5_111

Posted by David Bogner on December 26, 2005 | Permalink

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i wish i coulda done that...

Posted by: Tonny | Dec 26, 2005 1:59:49 PM

your ads are actually the only ones I care to click once in a while, because I am against commercial advertising on personal blogs. Maybe one day your efforts outgrow the tipjar button and make it into a paypal-driven tipjar. I'd gladly donate.

A propo tipjar. There's one thing I don't understand, and Typepad's explanations don't really enlighten me on that one. I understand they have now introduced "tip jars" that their bloggers can add to their sites, and they seem to be (or not?) connected to this "make money with your blog" campaign.
What I don't understand is, what is the buttons' function when it is just a graphic without a link? I.e. it is not clickable and doesn't lead me somewhere.

Hag Sameach!

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Dec 26, 2005 2:50:19 PM

The tipjar isn't clickable for me either. I don't think it ever was, because I always thought it was just a label for the ads - otherwise I would've given outright. (And it's not on the individual pages at all.)

You're a good man, David Treppenwitz. :o)

Posted by: Tanya | Dec 26, 2005 3:54:30 PM

Ok, I'm losing my mind. It's there now, and it works. And look, little pink bunnies...

Posted by: Tanya | Dec 26, 2005 3:58:24 PM

mademoiselle a. ... The typepad tipjar that was labeled 'Spoil an IDF Soldier' functioned intermittently and had some serious formatting issues. I finally decided to take it down today and replace it with a paypal button that simply says 'spoil soldiers'. Typepad is seriously testing my loyalty lately...

Tanya... You aren't imagining things. Like mlle a., you have simply been experiencing my unstable typepad template. I finally decided to yank the typad button and put up a little orange and gray paypal 'spoil soldiers' button. I don't expect many people will use it since it is easier and cheaper to just pay an occasional visit to one of the advertisers (when the ads bother to show up that is). :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 26, 2005 4:07:01 PM

A good decision - with paypal, the control is entirely in your hand (as long as your site and paypal's is up & running).

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Dec 26, 2005 4:27:35 PM

cannot get through!!Have tried twice.
Would love to donante !
Great idea
will try again.
Chag Urim Sameach
God bless
Savta yaffa

Posted by: yaffa glass | Dec 26, 2005 5:49:19 PM

What you're doing is a beautiful thing... This post was incredibly moving.

Posted by: Irina | Dec 26, 2005 7:34:36 PM

No, what you did was a good thing.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 26, 2005 8:58:30 PM

David, that was beautiful.

(I can't see the ads anymore.)

Posted by: Rahel | Dec 26, 2005 9:22:19 PM

Beautiful. All around.

No adds here.

Also having touble even getting this response through. Trying again ............

Posted by: scott | Dec 26, 2005 11:54:06 PM

Beautiful. All around.

Posted by: scott | Dec 26, 2005 11:56:52 PM

Thanks for the soldier's eye view. I think the messenger deserves more credit than he is giving himself, though....well done, David. Kol HaKavod...

Posted by: mcaryeh | Dec 27, 2005 12:21:21 AM

Great idea. A suggestion - can you make the "spoil soldiers" button a bit larger? I scrolled right past it the first time...

Posted by: westbankmama | Dec 27, 2005 1:23:55 PM

I have tears flowing from my eyes...this post was so beautiful. You are doing an amazingly wonderful thing for the brave soldiers protecting our homeland. Been away from my computer over the "holiday" break so I am catching up on your posts. Chanukah Sameach! Enjoyed my 1st caramel sufganiyah of the season yesterday...yummmmm.

Posted by: Essie | Dec 28, 2005 7:04:54 PM

Awwww!!!! You did a good thing! (like you didn't know) Chag Urim Sameach.
-Faye

Posted by: Faye | Dec 29, 2005 3:31:40 AM

kol hakavod, mr. bogner!!!! such humility is most admirable, as is your concern for your fellow jews. keep it up- you set an example for all of us to follow!

p.s. it hasn't rained at all since i arrived here! it's just been freezing cold (at least in the north, where my group has been touring). off to yerushalayim for shabbos and the rest of my time here. stay well.

Posted by: tnspr569 | Dec 30, 2005 1:18:22 AM

I read your blogs faithfully. Keep up the great work. Your December 26th blog was especially inspiring. I love Israel, and you give me a window into everyday life in this country of my dreams.

Posted by: Dina | Dec 30, 2005 6:42:50 AM

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