Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Four Letter Word

Warning: This entry is emotional and highly subjective. If you don't like politics, I suggest you stop here.

For me, Nazi is a four letter word.

One of the things which never ceases to frustrate me is the struggle for legitimacy via usage of other nation's tragedies to coin one's own experiences, as if you could compare and equate the suffering. I find it infuriating when the Palestinians use the term "Holocaust" when they discuss nakba. I don't like it when the term "apartheid" is bandied about, as it deligitimizes their experience by making it common, unconsciously minimizingthe pain, suffering and humiliation of the South African's who initially had the term applied to them.

But what really gets me is when the term Nazi is used. It is so ridiculously overused and has lost its meaning over the years. I think the all-time low was the Seinfeld "Soup Nazi" episode. I realize that it was not meant to minimize the Holocaust, but never the less, it degrades the term and softens the severity which accompanies the mental image which the terminology invokes. My sensitivity to the issue has been heightened due to my work at Yad Vashem, and I have respect for the complex issues and meanings which certain terms contain, especially after spending the past year working with students who span the Jewish denominational board. The word nazi is short for Nationalsocializmus, the National Socialists party, whose doctrine was based on Hitler's Mein Kampf, a vicious political ideology emphasising the necessity to eliminate the Jewish people. When I hear nazi, the image that comes to mind is of an individual who is a small, hateful person, whose intentions were compelled by racial motivation and hatred of non-aryans, especially and specifically Jews.

I write all of this as a reaction to the Ynet article, when a Machsom Watch activist called an IDF soldier a nazi:

Soldiers told Ynet the incident occurred at the beginning of the month at a checkpoint near Tul Karm. A Machsom Watch activist approached the soldier as he asked two Palestinians to queue for inspection and launched a verbal attack against him. "She promptly approached him and swore at him, told him he is a 'Nazi' and a 'beast'," soldiers told Ynet. Soldiers who were present at the checkpoint at the time said their comrade acted according to IDF regulations and the activist's reaction was inexplicable and "degrading." "There are a lot of situations where we carry on as usual and don't respond, but this was too much and he was offended," soldiers said.
Police said they are currently searching for the activist who is wanted for interrogation. In the written apology sent to the soldier's commander the Machsom Watch activist wrote that hearing the soldier giving instructions to the Palestinian was "unbearable."

How dare this woman equate the men and women who risk their lives defending Israel with the monsters who tried their hardest to annihilate the Jewish people. Is it difficult and at times degrading for Palestinians to go through checkpoints? Absolutely. Is it a necessity for the safety of Israeli citizens, whether they be Jewish, Muslim or Chrisitian? Absolutely, for suicide bombers don't discriminate. I would love to see a peaceful border, where people could pass freely and safely from side to side, be they Israeli or Palestinian, without worry. But it's simply not reality. Galgalaz (Israeli radio) reported today that there has been a sharp rise in the number of attempted terror attempts. The checkpoints serve the purpose of keeping all Israelis safe, and put our boys, my brothers, in harms way as they are the ones which physically prevent tragedy and terror.

Our army is one of the most humanitarian in the world. IDF officers have even met with Machsom Watch activists, to speak with them regarding ways of improving checkpoint conditions. There are even checkpoints being set up which allow Palestinians to pass through without ever being in contact with an Israeli soldier. What other country would go to such lengths for a people who wish to destroy them?

Instead of harrasing our boys, the Machsom Watch activists should be thanking them for keeping their ungrateful, sorry asses alive.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Meme Strikes...

It was just a matter of time... I've been A-Z Meme-ed by Dot Co Dot Il

Accent: We all have accents, mine happens to be neutral East Coast American. You can't exactly place me...

Booze: oooh, tough one. I'd narrow it down to Barbar, Archers, anything with Kahluah, and the occasional tequila slammer if I'm regressing.

Chore I hate: Any type of cleaning or organizing. Ask the hubby, poor guy gets stuck with most of it.

Dogs/Cats: My parents have an adorable doggie named Bob, who I still consider to be mine, and I'm working on the hubby to concinve him of the merits of a Lab Retriever.

Electronics: TV, VCR, DVD, Laptop and a newly aquired Ipod which can hold up to 15,ooo songs.

Favorite Perfume/Cologne: Ralph Blue, Chanel Chance, Gap Dream and Issey Miyake cologne.

Gold/Silver: I would do platinum if they had it in Israel, but white gold has been a favorite of mine since I declared at the tender age of 10 that I would have a silver wedding band, since I didn't like yellow, and was then introduced to white gold.

Hometown: It's a bit confusing, I suppose I would say Pittsburgh, as that was the last place I lived in prior to Aliyah, but I've bounced around a bit in the last 9 years. I would have to say that Jerusalem is and will always be my hometown, regardless of where I live.

Insomnia: When I started my job, all the time. Now, only occasionally, but I'm a light sleeper so I can't remember the last time I slept through the night.

Job Title: Program Coordinator, Freelance Yad Vashem tour guide, private English tutor, full time student and I'm pretty sure that's it.

Kids: Nope, we are still able to whisk ourselves off to a weekend getaway based on our whims and desires... Not that we've ever done that. Yet.

Living Arrangements: Living in a stunning, renovated apartment which hubby and I designed (if I do say so myself) in an old Arab house in Baka, which still has the original well underneath it!

Most Admired Trait: Where to begin? I suppose my gift of gab is a good starter.

Number of Sexual Partners: I plead the fifth, as my mother reads this on occasion.

Overnight Hospital Stays: Excluding birth and quite a few daytime procedures, just one, when I had tubes, tonsils and adnoids removed when I was 6. At least I got a week of school off!

Phobia: I don't like elevators. Not the closed space, the mechanism itself. I use them, but reluctantly.

Quote: Know Thyself (Socrates)

Religion: Modern Orthodox, also know as Dati light or the "grey zone".

Siblings: Twin brother who is 1 minute older than I am, little brother who is twenty and have ing his swearing in ceremony for a commando army unit on Thursday and my baby sister who is 14, in 9th grade, and has an attitude. She gets it from me :)

Time I Usually Wake Up: To damn early.

Unusual Talent: I can bend over backwards and grab my ankles. It's amazing what a minor case of scoliosis allows you to do!

Vegetable I Refuse To Eat: Olives. Nasty, gross, smelly things. They are only good for oil and minor forms of torture.

Worst Habit: Nail biting. Which is why acrylics are such a great investment.

Xenophobia: Are you kidding me? I could strike up a conversation with a brick wall if I needed to. Now if the wall were to answer back, we may have a problem.

Yummy Foods I Love: Too many! But to name a few, there is Ben & Jerry's Half Baked, stuffed grape leaves, anything chocolate, kubbeh chamusta, rare sirloin stake, hot chocolate cake....

Zodiac Sign: Taurus

Whew, this thing takes time! I tag Gila.... You're it chicka!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Year Older, A Year Wiser

Happy Birthday to me!!! 23 and counting...

Monday, May 15, 2006


In his Nobel Prize speech, Elie Wiesel speaks of the paradox between the need to remember versus the necessity to forget. This came to mind when I heard of the death of Daniel Wultz, the 16 year old American tourist who died of wounds he sustained during the Pesach suicide bombing.
I felt pain for his parents and family, for the immeasurable agony they are suffering, and thought of his friends and classmates. Those innocent teenagers, who never thought they would ever undergo an event like this. They are feeling loss, pain, numbness, anger and so many unvoiceable emotions which they are just beginning to process.

I know. I was one of those teens when my classmate and friend, Yael Botwin, was murdered almost 9 years ago in a triple suicide bombing on Ben Yehuda.

September 1st, 1997, I began 9th grade at a high school in the center of Jerusalem, a 2 minute walk away from Ben Yehuda. On September 4th, I was one of the last people to speak to Yael before she was murdered. I had planned to go to a Ben Yehuda cafe with friends when class let out at 2:30, but they had to go home. So I decided to go by myself, and read a book over a cup of hot chocolate, until I discovered that I had forgotten my book. I always had a book with me, it was extremely rare for me to leave the house without one. So I cut short the conversation I was having with Yael, and began to race for the bus stop. As I ran up the hill, there were three enormous bands, which shattered the car windows around me and reverberated throughout my being. I, in my innocence, thought it was a sonic boom. The time was 3:05. I had told my mother that I would be on a 4:00 bus. I got to the bus stop and the screaming and crying began. My bus had been passing Ben Yehuda as the bombs went off, and thus wasn't held up by police. I sat there numbly, as one of the passengers explained in broken English what was going on. I tried to call home one someone's cell phone, but the lines were jammed.

When I got off the bus half an hour later, my mother was waiting for me. A friend of hers had seen me as she got off a few bus stops earlier, and called my mother, who had been sure I was dead or wounded. We called my father (who was in the States on business) and grandparents to let them know I was ok. At 9PM, a classmate called, crying hysterically. It was then I learned that Yael had been murdered. My mind frantically raced, trying to recall which one she was, out of the 6o girls I had met in my first 4 days of high school.

The next day, my school was prepared with a commemorative banner with her name and picture, a psychologist and transportation to the funeral. When I walked in and say Yael's picture, I realized it was my new friend, the slight, brown-haired and soft-spoken girl with the gentle smile, whom I had broken off a conversation with just the day before. I sat crying in my classroom, being comforted by two classmates. One of them asked, "Is this your first one(suicide bombing)?" In response to my silent nod, she sadly smile and said, "Don't worry, you'll get used to it." That, out of the mouth of a 14 year old. I remember frantically thinking that I couldn't and would not ever get used to it.

I fell into a lethargic depression, telling my parents that it was my fault she had been killed. If I had spoken to her for even one more moment, not broken off our conversation, she would still be alive. It was my fault. My parents sent me to counselling, unable to convince me that I had nothing to do with it, that I couldn't have known, and that it was not my fault.

A few days after the funeral, a few of us went to Ben Yehuda to the site where she had died and lit a Yizkor candle, left letters and cried. All this in my first week of high school, less than a month after I had made aliyah.

A month later, I began an ulpan for teenagers. On my first day, I got lost and asked a woman passing by for help. It turned out to be Yael's mother, walking her little sister to school, which was right next to the ulpan. I couldn't get the words out, couldn't say that I had known her daughter, as I still was firmly convinced of my guilt.

This September will mark 9 years. In those 9 years, I've graduated from high school and university, studied at yeshiva, done sheirut leumi and gotten married to a wonderful man. I still think of Yael, as I began lighting a second candle on Friday nights in addition to the one I already lit, for Yael and my NCSY youth group counsellor Rafi Estrin, who died a week after Yael from Cystic Fibrosis. I light for my friends who will never have the chance to light. Over the years, I've added more names to my second candle, and it has taken on even more meaning once I married, and that candle came to represent my partner as well.

I pray for Daniel's friends and classmates, for his family. This sort of death tears you apart and never leaves you. You learn to push it into a corner in your mind, but it crops up when you least expect it, tearing at your heart, and catching in your throat. It will forever change the 16 year olds who were part of Daniel's life, perhaps even more so than my short relationship with Yael changed me.

For at 14, I had lost the innocence of immortality. I have never forgotten how precious life is, and how quickly it can be taken away.