Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Kiddush in the Doar!?!

Along with the comings and goings of our family and the occasional 'political analysis' we always like to keep in mind those, 'only in Israel moments' and yesterday gave us a perfect example.

I have been making regular trips to the post office in Efrat lately to mail information packets for work and had noticed that the woman who is the most regular clerk at the Efrat doar (post office) was quite pregnant and looking ready to head to the hospital at any time. Yesterday morning I dropped off Romi at school and headed over to the doar to mail some packets before heading into work. I walked in and was struck by the array of baked goods, candies and drinks spread across the little ledge that is generally used to fill-out shipping forms and address labels.

'Hmmm, this is strange...the post office is not usually the place where one goes for a home baked snack.'

At first I didn't make the connection between the 'kiddush table' and the pregnant mail clerk and then I noticed a small handwritten 'Mazal tov' sign taped to the window where the clerk sits. This particular branch is run by a young couple (the pregnant woman and her husband) and the husband was happily sitting there doing the work of the post office. Everyone who came in wished him a mazal tov and some even walked behind the counter to give him hugs and kisses. Then a loud commotion came from the back and a small group of men could be heard singing and celebrating as they made their way from the back of the post office into the public area in the front...

The husband smiled and continued going on with his business as if this was all quite normal, encouraging everyone who came in to mail a letter or pick-up a package to have a quick snack and join in his simcha!!

I have visited many, many post offices all over America and even some in Europe and I am quite confident that this type of thing could only happen in Israel where the simcha (joyous event) of one person the the simcha of everyone.

Mazal tov on the birth of your daughter Yael and husband (I don't know his name)....may she grow to build a bayit ne'eman v'yisrael and give you much nachat!

Thanks for bringing simcha to the simple act of going to the post office.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Where's the Balance?

As Muslim protests over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in Denmark and Norway grow more violent, I continue to return to one simple question...'where's the balance?'

What do I mean? Not a day goes by when virulently anti-Semitic cartoons depicting Jews in the most obscene, grossly stereotypical ways do not appear in the Arab and often in the European press. Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias in the media has become so widespread that a cottage industry of organizations (Honest Reporting, MEMRI, The Israel Project and more) have cropped-up over the past five years whose sole goal is to fight this scourge.

Never once have have crowds of Jews massed outside of Arab or European Embassies demanding that the people responsible be beheaded (as happened in Pakistan today); or threatened to kidnap citizens of a particular country if there wasn't an official apology issued by the government of the offending paper (as happened over the weekend in Nablus); or torched 'the offending' foreign embassies (as happened in Beirut and Damascus).

Where is the US State Department who said today, 'The publication of cartoons that incite religious or ethnic hatreds is unacceptable' when the incitement is against Jews and Israel? Why is it that followers of Islam are allowed to regularly incite against Jews and Christians, publish violent threats and carry out religious base violence against others but when the shoe is on the other foot, the world is asked to apologize?

Does no one see the hypocrisy? Where's the outrage? Unfortunately, I only have the questions and am left wondering as no-one seems to have the answers.

Friday, February 03, 2006

And the Angels Wept....

Upon waking and checking the e-mail this morning at 6:30am I was stunned to learn of the death of First Sergeant Yoseph Yitzach Goodman z'l (Yoseph Yitzach ben Chanah v'Mordechai). We know Yoseph's parents and Romi teaches two of his siblings in Efrat, so when I told Romi she was quite shaken. Our plans for the day were immediately shelved and we headed off to the funeral in Efrat.

Yoseph, 20, was killed in a tragic training accident when his parachute became entangled with that of another paratrooper. Yoseph was unable to release his emergency chute and fell to his death (see article in the Jerusalem Post). Yoseph was a member of an elite paratrooper unit and it was clear from the outpouring at his funeral that he was loved by all.

We arrived at the shul in Efrat which was full to well beyond capacity; however, like the Beit haMikdash during festivals, the shul seemed to miraculously expand to ensure that there was space for everyone. The members of Yoseph's unit entered and took up positions lining the wall of the bimah (pulpit) at the front of the shul. The site of these young men (most look more like boys) stoically standing there as they mourned the loss of their friend and colleague brought tears to my eyes.

Yoseph's parents are among the earlier families to settle in Efrat and they own the local pizza place. We first met his mom a month or two after we made Aliyah when we were eating at their restaurant and she took the time to come over to chat with us. Some of you may recall the story of a nice woman making Romi a 'glossary' of Hebrew terms that she may need during labor and delivery (being the mother of 9 she had quite a bit of experience in that department)--well, the woman was none other than Ann Goodman.

We later met Mordechai Goodman, Yoseph's father, in ulpan in Gush Etzion. Mordechai is a bit of local legend for his athletic exploits in the American Football League here in Jerusalem and for being 'the Pizza Guy' in Efrat. After being in Israel for over 20 years Mordechai had re-enrolled in ulpan to work on his Hebrew and it was a pleasure having him in class and being exposed to his unique view of the world.

Mordechai and Ann spoke beautifully at the funeral in shul. Mordechai spoke of the time when Yoseph was 3 or 4 and some kids came to tell Mordechai that he was in a field collecting rocks in a bucket. When Mordechai approached him to ask just what he was doing, he simply replied, 'I heard that the Arabs are throwing rocks at Jewish cars so I am collecting rocks and we are going to go throw rocks at Arab cars'. Yoseph's leadership, dedication and love for Am Yisrael were apparent at an early age and it took some doing for Mordechai to explain to him that is not how they were going to handle the situation. Mordechai then went on to ask the question that all parents who lose a child must ask of HaShem...why couldn't I have the choice to give my life and let me son live? The question brought the heretofore quiet sniffling to grow to loud sobs from around the room.

Ann's speech was unbelievably touching. She said that she wanted to say only three things. 1) She loved Yoseph and he was all that a mother could ask for in a child. 2) She thanked Hashem for giving her 20 beautiful years with her boy. 3) She asked Yoseph for forgiveness for anything that she had done wrong to him in those 20 years.

After the eulogies were complete, the entire assembly followed the Goodman family out to the truck where the simple coffin sat draped in the blue and white of the Israeli flag in the back of a military transport truck. As Mordechai loudly and clearly recited the Kaddish it started to slowly drizzle and thousands of people silently walked behind the truck, escorting Yoseph out of Efrat. The prossesional continued via car to the military cemetery at Har Herzl, the final resting place of Israel's heroes. As we slowly continued on to Har Herzl, the rains strengthened and were mixed with hail and ice as we all ascended the mountain through the rain and mud. It appeared that all of the 1500-2000 people who were at the funeral in Efrat had continued on to the burial at Har Herzl and were joined by hundreds of clean cut young men and women of the paratroopers in their maroon berets and brown boots.

Brig. General Elazar Stern, head of military manpower, spoke beautifully, Mordechai again recited Kaddish and then we were shaken as the military rites of the 21 gun salute broke the silence of the assembled mourners.

The scenes we saw today are something we hope to never have to see again, but the warmth and love expressed by an entire community was something to behold as we said goodbye to a special young man--a loving son, a respected big brother and friend and a hero of Israel.

May we only know simchas.

Shabbat Shalom