Monday, October 24, 2011

The Gates of Jerusalem

I have to admit, I am rather captivated by doors and gates. I find them
artistically beautiful, architecturally intriguing.....and I am certain that if they could speak, they would have fascinating stories to tell.
Jerusalem is full of enchanting doors and gates. One of my dreams of owning my own home here in Jerusalem is to have a bright blue fence and gate or door ..somewhere at the edge of town but not too far out..a little garden.  In my dreams for sure.

Most stories about the Gates of Jerusalem are about the Old City Gates (e.g.. Jaffa Gate) or about historical gates of Jerusalem. Some are about the artistic gates of places like beautiful Ein Karem.

This story is about everyday gates in my neck of the older untouched part of the City..(although that is changing a little...the neighborhood is slowly becoming "gentrified" and soon some of the interesting charm of yesteryear may disappear.)

The area is not economically poor but it is not upscale or well to do either..just common everyday homes and streets of Jerusalem - mostly a community of  Jewish immigrants who fled neighboring Arab countries such as Iraq. There once was a train running just at the edge of the apartment buildings...the tracks and emek (valley) still there. Often on a Shabbat afternoon, I walk the length of it. On Lag B'omer, it is alight with bonfires and at other times, simply a gathering place for fun.  In the next neighborhood those tracks and grasses have given way to beautification; it does look very nice and modern, and I think we are next for the development - one reason I wanted to capture some of the common but charming pictures of my streets before they disappear.

Many of these gates are afterthoughts. In the earlier days it seems there was only a low stone wall at the edge of a property. When it became necessary to gate the property, the arch to hold the gate, the gate itself, and the subsequent fencing on top of the stone wall were all added later and of different materials.

Some gates and walls have been remodeled and are stylish but some are very makeshift - funny and funky. Additionally, there are those that are thought out and symmetrical with the whole landscape and those that are innovative and modern.  Each is unique - almost no two alike and all are interesting.  Each innovative creation (or lack thereof) gives a snaphot of the various owners (though not necessarily the current one).  As I walk though my area, I often wonder what the story was for this one or that one. I surely  wish these gates and walls could talk. oy voy voy...what would we hear??

I have included a few here on the blog main page, but please go to my picasa website for a slideshow and/or album of many more.   Enjoy !

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gilad Gilad - ברוך שובך - Welcome Back !

We are rung dry again as a nation. Torn between moments, torn between emotions. Hetze Hetze - Half Half. Elated that our son and brother Gilad has come home to us at last; distraught that the price paid was the release of terrorists with blood on their hands.

There have been so many articles written, so much debate. But as always, I will write my piece from the inside out. I am sitting at my computer feeling the palpable relief and joy from a day of watching Gilad come home at the same moment as I am hearing the celebratory fireworks of the arab villages around me - those who are delighted in the release of the terrorists. I cannot easily describe what that feels like. Each explosion of their celebration cuts into my heart. The moment feels like an oxymoron.

I am one of those people who believe this was the right thing to do...hands down. It was an enormously tough decision for Bibi Netanyahu. He was surely between the proverbial rock and a hard place, but in my opinion, he showed extraordinary leadership to do what he did. At the same time I understand the grief and feelings of betrayal families whose loved ones have been murdered must be feeling at this moment. Their pain must be terrible, reopening wounds that never heal anyway.  There were 2 terrorists he allowed released that horrified me and I found their freedom to be completely inexcusable. I don't understand his reasoning,, but I am not the PM (thank God) and perhaps there are things I don't know about it.  I most certainly don't agree with everything Bibi does; nonetheless, today I am proud of Israel.

It was, I believe, a window of opportunity that presented itself and had to be acted upon quickly. Hamas was humiliated by the apparent success of Abbas in the UN - they had to do something to bring credibility to their "organization." Even though they appear not to want to be in the "game", nothing could be further from the truth. If they were going to remain one of the players, they would have to capitulate on some of their demands. At the same time, Egypt's military, trying desperately to hold on to power before the Muslim Brotherhood gains a bigger piece of the pie, and before Hamas relocates from Syria to Egypt, had another window opened. Israel HAD to act. We held firm on the big guns that Hamas wanted, and they had to give in. Hamas never gives in. They were desperate...and we had to move in at that moment.

The political right is considerably upset about a perceived victory for Hamas, even Fatah, and terrorism in general. They are certain this will result in more terrorism, emboldened by the release of the murderers, these terrorists, they are certain, will not hesitate to return to their vile deeds. I am neither stupid nor naive. I live here. I have been shot at by Palestinian terrorists, their bullets shattering glass at my feet, pushed off the road by arab terrorists wanting me dead in the ravine; and without going into detail I have been in the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon. I realize the potential as well as the next person.

But we cannot live on feared future scenarios, nor the exaggerated bravado of terrorists and their leaders. Our strength is in the fact that today we cared enough about one soldier's life to risk. That's it. Today we should be proud. When the Israeli officer goes to battle he does not send his men to fight, he goes first and says "follow me." Don't be fooled by the loud voices that want to distract. Today Israel said "follow me" and whether they voice it or not, the world, even our enemies took notice.

Miki Goldwasser, whose son was murdered by Hezbollah terrorists, said this: "Today is our victory day. The day where we decided that our values and our confidence in the righteousness of our way shall guide us. ..they did not win, and they know it."

In fact, Hamas itself, and Islamists throughout the Arab countries, recognized the strength that Israel displayed, the morality of the value placed on human life, and were envious. Two of many statements issued by our enemy were these: "This is a pillar of Israel's strength - to wage a war to free one man, to free a thousand prisoners for him." and "I wish I were Gilad Shalit; I wish my country cared so much about me"

One could argue about all the fine points. The critics  have screamed to high heaven about how terrible this "deal" could Israel this, and how could Israel that?  ....telescoping in on only one segment of the unfolding drama. Tunnel vision. They are so caught up in their despair and criticism that they fail to see that Israel did a good thing.

But even worse...they are so caught up with their future prognostications of doom that they failed to see the face of one of our sons. Though etched in signs of an awful reality that we will never know...there was an unmistakeable look of wonder on Gilad's face.  There was that smile that must have felt like a dream. Physically weak and exhausted, emotionally struggling to maintain, Gilad's courageous and explicit answers to the cruel and heartless interview forced upon him by Egyptian journalists was the real picture of what happened today.

We can argue all the fine points tomorrow. But today Gilad was kulanu כולנו - all of us..Am Yisrael - the people of Israel ..full of wonder and as if in a dream. We are proud of you Gilad and so happy and relieved to see you home safely.

And I am proud of Israel.  Am Yisrael chai - עם ישראל חי - the people of Israel lives !