Sunday, November 22, 2015

Caliber 3: Anti Terror Trifecta

Recently, I worked to equip myself with the tools, once again, to protect myself and my family as I go to the grocery store, bring my kids to their basketball practices, go out to work and attempt to live what should be an ordinary and peaceful day, each day, as a working mom raising six boys.

I have now completed a trifecta of anti-terror courses. The trifecta includes a three hour defensive driving course, a one and a half hour private counter-terrorism gun training and a two hour hand-to-hand self-defense course to defend against stabbings.
Yes, I certainly feel better prepared for the day-to-day events unfolding around me in Israel right now.

I feel more confident.

I feel more knowledgeable.

But boy do I feel weary.

I’m weary of the constant attacks, including the shocking news recently when an 11 year old stabbed a security guard on the Jerusalem Light Rail.

I’m weary of the constant and never-ending threat.

But what are we to do? As my friend so eloquently wrote recently, “It’s difficult to have to be so physically vigilant while simultaneously feeling so emotionally weary.”

Yet, we carry on and prepare ourselves as well as we can and we continue to live our normal, happy, healthy lives to the best of our abilities.

I’m fortunate to have an academy five minutes from my home where they have amazing resources available to help me, and others, to be better prepared. Caliber 3 was established in 2002 by Col. Sharon Gat and has become a leading counter-terror and security academy in Israel. They work closely with the IDF, Israeli Police, local rapid response teams and government agencies. They also work with tourists who want to get a taste of life in Israel, and they work with regular people like me.

They offer Krav Maga for children and adults, shooting classes at all levels, safety and awareness classes and this defensive driving course.

I’m scared of many things, and at the top of the list is my fear that something will happen while I’m driving. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could get stoned, have Molotov cocktails thrown at us, find ourselves facing a man-made barrier on the road or encounter a violent riot or protest.

With these fears in mind, I decided to take this three hour course.

About a dozen of us showed up with our cars and got ready behind Caliber 3. In the class, we discussed how to back out of dangerous and impassible situations, how to get an injured passenger out of the vehicle, how to swerve around obstacles in the road (both forwards and in reverse), how to drive through fire, how to deal with objects being thrown at us (in this case water balloons) and how to quickly change a tire and get back on the road.

The course was highly professional and informative.

What struck me throughout was, first of all, how sick it was that I was taking this course. I thought to myself, where else, in the entire, world do people need to be taking a course like this?

And why should we have to?

The other thing that struck me was the shared stories and the background that we brought to the course. When the instructor explained a topic, there was always someone who said, “Oh, you mean like the incident that happened in Kiryat Arba last week.” Or “Well, on the Tekoa road when this happened….” And there were nods all around each time. There was a real, concrete, this-already-happened story to share for every situation. Typically, if you take a self-defense course or a shooting course, you don’t have prior experience with these exact situations at the tip of your tongue.

But here, you do.

And that is the difference. Because we are all sharing in this collective horror here in Israel; and we are all following every single story as it unfolds.

Fortunately, our lives in Israel are extraordinary. They are rich beyond imagination, overflowing with blessings, crowned by a glorious four- thousand year history and bursting with hope for the future.

Thank Gd this is true, since our current situation is anything but ordinary.

We must constantly remind ourselves that we are here, living out the promise offered to Avraham Avinu thousands of years ago; that our children are living their heritage and that our lives here matter.
Because sometimes the day-to-day struggles and the trifecta that I carry can become very heavy baggage to bear.

But bear it I do, and we do, for a better tomorrow. For a chance to continue living in our Land and continue offering our children the promise of a better tomorrow – but one where we are prepared for the situation today.

Note: This article was first published at the Israel Forever Foundation website.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bnei Akiva Saved My Son's Life

Posted today on the Times of Israel website. I'm putting it here for those who might not see it and for my records.

My son takes horseback riding lessons in Elazar, the town in Gush Etzion right next to ours in Neve Daniel. And the horseback riding area is right at the front of the yishuv, overlooking highway 60 and the beautiful rolling hills beyond. Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in a quiet nook, reading an article and watching my beautiful son develop confidence when the noises started.

The ambulances flew past, the unmarked cars zoomed by.
No. Please Gd. Not again.

But I didn’t want to look. So, I tried to continue reading my article for a few minutes, and watch the horses prance by.

Zoom….more ambulances…more unmarked cars.

And the pull became too great as I braced myself, and went to the news on my phone. As I read the news I did a mental check, making sure that I knew where all of my children were. And fortunately, today, I did.

Terror. Terror again. Terror at our Tzomet. At the spot that I drive once, twice, three times a day. That my children drive by on their school buses. Shooting at cars standing in line, waiting to get through the intersection – a traffic jam that I sit in almost every afternoon. Typically at this exact hour.

And as the tears began, and the anger welled, I realized that my son’s life was spared today by Bnei Akiva. Because you see, this weekend is the culmination of a month’s worth of activity that the Bnei Akiva kids have been doing. And last night was their “Lila Lavan” where they stay up most of the night practicing their dance for a performance coming Saturday night and painting the walls of their club house to present to us on Shabbat. And because of Lila Lavan, my 9 year old wasn’t stuck in the traffic at the exact moment of the attack that he’s stuck in with his carpool every single Thursday. He didn’t have basketball practice.

And this time, he was spared.

But of course, others were not. A few of our neighbors were behind the cars that were sprayed with bullet fire. They were in the same traffic jam that Ezra Schwartz and Rav Yaakov Don were in. Why were they spared? Why weren’t their cars sprayed with bullets, and yet the cars in front of them were?

These are the questions that haunt us. The ones that we can’t answer.

Besides tears, and screams and moments of desolation, what can we do with ourselves?

Last night, they modified the Lila Lavan a bit, saying tehillim (prayers) and having a quiet song session in the beginning. But then, fortunately, they went on with the festivities. And I found myself sitting at home praying that they wouldn’t take this away from my children. Yes, many of their friends are friends with Rav Yaakov Don’s children, and yes the pain and lack of separation from these tragedies is never ending. But my kids also need — so desperately — to be kids. And to continue on through their tears and their fears BEING kids.

We see this in so many ways here. Last week, Sarah Techiya Litman lost her father, Rabbi Yaakov Litman, and her brother, Netanal, in a terror attack while the family was driving to her fiance’s community for Shabbat. They were to be married three days later, and instead Sarah spent the week sitting shiva. But, in an incredible move, they have rescheduled the wedding for this Thursday, just days after she gets up from the seven day mourning period, and she and her fiancĂ©, Ariel Beigle, have invited the entire country to join in their simcha.

This is who we are.

So I was happy last night to place a sign by the front door that said “Don’t lock out your brothers!” to remind my three Bnei Akiva boys not to lock each other out throughout the night as they came and went with their festivities.

And this morning, I awoke with a mission. I bought bouquets of flowers and dropped them at the home of a friend who witnessed the terrorist attack yesterday; I brought them to the home of a friend battling cancer, and I brought them to my own home to bring a desperately needed ray of sunshine into the house.

And then, at the grocery store, I bought more cookies and drinks to deliver today to the soldiers who are tirelessly trying — trying their best — to keep us safe. My son and I will go to the spot of the attacks in a few minutes to hand out drinks, to offer cookies and to stand strong. To stand strong in the location — yet another location among so many – where we have been attacked for being Jewish and Israeli.

We will mourn (as the funeral for Rabbi Yaakov Don is taking place right now with thousands in attendance), we will cry, and we will try to carry on. We will protect ourselves and use caution. But all the while we will continue living here, in Israel, and getting up from the ashes to create, to do acts of kindness, to love and to build.

Because that’s what we know how to do. And that is how we have continued to be who we are for the thousands of years of our existence.