How Do You Jew An educational, informational, conversational blog and (someday) podcast about Judaism, Jewish practices, customs, and rituals, Israel, and whatever else we decide to talk about.

July 31, 2008

Hope for humanity

Filed under: entertainment,fun,Good News,Israel,music,travel,video — howdoyoujew @ 13:08

I refuse to admit that I’m overstating things when I say this makes me feel better about the human race, at least for four and a half minutes:

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Spotted in the comments:

my son died in iraq 7 weeks ago, and this video allowed me to sleep through the night for the first time. i was able to let go of my anger for just a few hours. unfortunately, it’s back – thank you mr. bush.——tisa

July 17, 2008

A Day In Israel: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 – 13th of Tamuz, 5768

0830 We got up and started getting ready for our day. This included a light breakfast for us and Hadarya.

0900 My friend, roommate, and rabbi Scott, called to tell me that Channel 10 News was covering the prisoner exchange in the north, in case I was interested. I was, of course, so I turned on the (fancy flat panel) TV in our flat and started watching.
Within a short time, the feed switched to the Lebanese side of the border, where the Hizballah spokesman began his remarks in preparation for the exchange. With the posturing typical of Arab representatives of years ago (and still all too common today) when the Arab leadership spoke of pushing the Jews into the sea, he spoke in grandiose and pompous terms about the “war of aggression started against” Hizballah by Israel in 2006, and the “intense international pressure” Hizballah withstood regarding the prisoner exchange. Despite the pressure, he said, on their own schedule, his organization was now ready to turn over the captured Israeli soldiers, Ehud “Udi” Goldwasser and Eldad Regev (he of course did not use Goldwasser’s nickname).

A bit of background is appropriate here: the 2006 Lebanon War was in fact instigated by a Hizballah ambush on the convoy Goldwasser and Regev were part of, along with a Katyusha rocket attack on northern Israeli civilian targets timed to coincide with the ambush. The IDF operation in Lebanon to try to neutralize Hizballah, which lasted just over a month, cost hundreds of lives on both sides of the border, and failed to accomplish its secondary objective, returning the kidnapped soldiers (I will not address here whether the primary objective of neutralizing Hizballah, was accomplished or not).
Israel’s policy and military code has always held that we do not leave a man in the field of battle, be he wounded, dead, or otherwise, so the only kind of negotiation Israel has ever undertaken with terrorist groups has been in the form of prisoner exchanges. These deals have historically been ridiculously lopsided, partly because it is rare for Israeli soldiers to be captured by the enemy in any condition, and largely because Israel places such a high value on the lives of its soldiers and citizens. Thus, we have in the past released dozens, sometimes hundreds of prisoners in exchange for one or two or three missing or captured men.
Two things stood out about the deal for Goldwasser and Regev: First, we didn’t know for certain whether our men were dead or alive. We knew from forensic evidence at the scene of the ambush that they’d been seriously wounded, enough that IDF officials publicly stated that they needed immediate medical attention in order to survive. We obviously had no way of knowing if Hizballah provided any, let alone adequate, medical care to our men, so the nation, and the two families, were left mostly in the dark these last two years, although IDF Intelligence had told the families that the two were “most likely” dead.
More significantly, the second thing that made this deal different is that, for the first time, Israel had agreed to release a captured terrorist with blood on his hands, that is, one who had murdered Israelis. This had always been a well-defined and well-known line that Israel didn’t cross in prisoner exchanges with any party, but our position in this case was weakened by a variety of factors. Thus it was that in exchange for the two soldiers whose fate we did not definitively know, we agreed to release Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze terrorist directly responsible for the deaths of four Israelis, including two children, in an attack on the northern coast city of Nahariya in 1979. In addition to him, four other Lebanese prisoners and the remains of 199 Lebanese killed in fighting with Israel were included in the deal.

Back to the morning of the exchange: After the Hizballah rep announced they were returning the soldiers, a reporter shouted out, “Are they alive or dead?” and the terrorist representative said, “You will see in a moment.”
It was then that a couple of goons pulled a black coffin out of a waiting vehicle and laid it on the ground in front of the assembled media and Hizballah and Red Cross personnel. Then they brought out a second coffin.

The Israeli commentators on television who were narrating and translating the action were noticeably moved and shaken by the revelation that the two reservists, who were just 31 (Udi) and 26 (Eldad) when they were kidnapped, were dead. Among other comments, they pointed out that it was impossible to tell (at least at that point) when the soldiers had actually died, but that hardly mattered.

I sat and watched the coverage for over an hour: I saw the same footage over and over again of those coffins being laid on the ground by people unfit for the task; I watched cutaway live footage from outside the home of the Regev family in the small town of Kiryat Motzkin; I listened to the commentators and pundits talk until they had nothing more to say; and I cried.

I started crying very unexpectedly (at least I didn’t expect it), and very hard, and I kept crying for several long minutes as that footage of the coffins played over and over again in the living room of our rented flat in Jerusalem with my wife and toddler daughter watching me. My lovely wife brought over a box of tissues, and my darling daughter noticed rather quickly that something was wrong and began saying, “Aba…Aba!” in a plaintive, sympathetic tone that made me fall in love with her all over again for the umpteenth time this week. (I wrote out a draft of this entry in longhand before typing it, and choked up as I wrote that last bit, and I just got teary AGAIN typing it in.)

1030-ish We left the flat and got a cab to the city center, where the Jerusalem office of the Ministry of Interior is located, to begin the process of registering Hadarya as an Israeli citizen and applying for her passport. We got new passport pictures taken at the kiosk (the Hebrew word for bodega) next door to the office, and went upstairs to wait in what I was sure was going to be the first of many long lines that day. My suspicions were not helped by the receptionist, who told me that we’d first have to go to one office for the citizen registry, then go to another area entirely for the passport application. But I knew the nature of the bureaucracy we were dealing with, so I went along with it, knowing we could always split the two tasks up and come back if it took too long.

We got into the first office after a not-too-long-at-all 10 minutes, and sat down to explain to Malka the clerk what we needed to do. While she remained somewhat surly throughout the process, I’ll just say that we left Malka’s office less than half an hour later, with my new Israeli ID card supplement papers listing my correct and current marital and parental status, and with Hadarya’s passport application already in the pipeline, with the passport expected at my aunt’s in Ra’anana (the only permanent address I can reasonably claim in Israel) within a week – that is, in time for us to get it before we leave back for the States. Malka didn’t HAVE to process the passport app in addition to the citizen registration; she chose to help us out, I know not why. But it is not my place to question such acts of charity; I merely accept them when they are given.

Around lunchtime We walked the block and a half to the Ben Yehuda promenade and enjoyed lunch at McDonald’s, a singular pleasure we can only partake of in Israel. We then walked up and down the busy shopping thoroughfare and did what tourists do, but with the added flavor and advantage of some authentic Middle Eastern bargaining and haggling over prices. This helped us complete much of our gift shopping for family, friends, and ourselves without feeling like we spent too much money.

1530 After yummy frozen yogurt with mix-ins, we headed back to the flat and met up with the Meltzers for a trip to Malha Mall for dinner (and a movie for the Meltzers; Hadarya can’t sit through a feature film yet) and some more shopping. Jenn scored a couple of beautiful new hats for shul, we had kosher KFC for dinner, and Hadarya cavorted with a couple of dozen other kids at a little play area in the mall before we left to go home for bedtime.

I realized on the way home (and on the nightly stroll through the neighborhood putting Hadarya to sleep) what a powerful, emotion-filled, fun, difficult, hot, typically Israeli day it had been, and I felt so at home.

Powered by WordPress