May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Video: A Soldier Remembers

This video Op-Ed (4:31 minutes) features a veteran of the Iraq war who finds new meaning in Memorial Day.

Update | For my Memorial Day 2009 post, Do we find the cost of freedom/Buried in the ground? I borrowed the title from the Crosby, Stills & Nash song by Steven Stills that I first heard in the early 1970s during the Vietnam War. I included the lyrics of the group's classic antiwar anthem and a link to a video (4:32 minutes) of their singing it, with a collage of original photos by a photographer who writes, "one day we will get to the place where there is no more war... of this I am certain."

May 11, 2008

A Mother's Day blog series

When Ronni Bennett launched a Mother’s Day series at The Elder Storytelling Place, an adjunct to her blog, Time Goes By, she posted a new story each day, and today, Mother's Day, she has posted mine!

You can read my story, Happy birthday mother. Where are you? and from there link to the other six in the series.

As I approach my two-year blogging anniversary, I look to this story as the one that most reveals who I am. I have struggled with concerns, probably all excuses, about writing anything private or personal in my blog. Well, not too private or too personal. Yet those concerns vanished as I wrote about my mother, now in her ninth decade.

My mother's astonishing life has been marked by prodigious talents, extraordinary adventures, and exceptional accomplishments. Yet devastating tragedies and losses tripped her soul on her long, long journey to today.

Years ago, while she was fully present in spirit, she told me that she felt like an ancient tortoise.

Happy Mother's Day, mother, and to the many women and men who have mothered me along the way.

Update | May 14, 2010
This year, when Margalit Bernstein...  Brill... Chipkin... Balin would have turned 99, it is instead the day of her funeral. Today, at the funeral, my oldest childhood friend and another dear friend since high school are reading this story, which has become my eulogy for my mother: Happy Birthday, eema. Where are you?

May 08, 2008

Donating Israeli flags to honor elders, country, and faith

For months, Yehudit and her husband, Yisrael, owners of the Weizman-Liman Flag Store and small factory on Tel Aviv’s Brenner Street, have been working nonstop (except during Shabbat, Passover, and the brit milah [Hebrew: covenant of circumcision] of their first great-grandchild). They have been producing flags to fill orders during the seasonal heightened demand in Israel marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day.

The couple loves their country of 7 million people, and exudes a sense of good fortune and privilege to be part of the historic process of the rebirth of the state of Israel in its ancient homeland, the land of Israel.

Last Friday, amid steadily mounting pressures to meet customers' deadlines, Yehudit called me about a commitment I had made to her last month.

Tamar, when are you coming to pick up the flags you promised to bring to the Beit Avot [Home for the Aged] where you volunteer? I want each resident to have a flag and for the Home to have flags everywhere on Yom Haatzmaut [Independence Day].

Not a little ashamed that I forgot and grateful to call such a woman, friend, I hurried to pick up the bundle of gifts.

At the Beit Avot on nearby Yavne Street, I pressed it into Ada's hands. As this director of programs and services gasped and shouted out, we laughed and wept, her expression (captured in the photo) saying everything.

Question: How do I know such righteous people?

Answer: By hanging out with their emissaries.

Yedidia, an Atlanta Torah MiTzion program havruta [Aramaic, study partner], instructed me to visit his maternal grandparents when I returned to Tel Aviv.

Just go to Allenby Street and slightly past the Carmel Market on your right, turn left onto Brenner Street. I forgot the number but go to the first or second building on the right and look for Weizman-Liman Flag Store on the mailbox. Up one flight, and you are there.

Weizman-Liman Flags
Brenner 2 (corner of Allenby)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel. 03/528-5385

My related posts
Israeli-made Bhutanese flags for Bhutanese refugees

May 07, 2008

Israel's Independence Day: From grief to celebration

From Holocaust Day to Memorial Day one week later is not a happy time around here, and the sadness is intensified by the mess our leaders are in.  — Karen Alkalay-Gut, Tel Aviv Diary 

During these days approaching Israel's birthday —
  • I broke my silent reflection on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heros' Remembrance Day, and accepted Stephanie’s sensitive, thoughtful invitation to join her, in Atlanta, in a Skype-recorded conversation with me, now in Israel. My hope is that listeners would reflect on the gruesome realities of the past that threaten everyone, everywhere, always, and resolve to act in ways to help prevent genocide of any people.
  • I remember my cousin Noam Yaakov Mayerson on this Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror. His parents will be arriving soon at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, joining other families and friends at the graves of their loved ones. On August 7, 2006, Noam was killed when Hezbollah terrorists opened fire on an Israel Defense Forces unit in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil.
  • will join Shimon in one of hundreds of ceremonies nationwide this evening when Israeli flags will be raised from their half-mast positions marking the transition from grief of Memorial Day to celebration of Independence. After sunset, the start of a new day, we are commemorating sixty years since the birth of the modern State of Israel in its ancient homeland, the land of Israel.
Tonight, we celebrate what is easy to overlook, scorn, and despise in this dazzling country bursting with the bitter and the sweet.

Happy birthday, Israel. And endless more. Never ending. Everlasting. For eternity.

!יום עצמאות שמח

May 02, 2008

Holocaust Remembrance Day and Vivi's elementary school project

Dear Tamar -- Hi! How are you? Is Tel Aviv nice? In school, we are doing a historical fiction novel. I'm doing mine in WWII. It's about a girl and her family who take in a Jewish family. I would like to use your name as the mother in the Jewish family. If that is okay, please say yes. I can't wait for your response. See you soon. Love, Vivi

Dear Author Vivi!
— I love you, and I love your letter and question. I am THRILLED to be the mother in the Jewish family. I hope "we" are taken into a family as loving as yours. Did I ever tell you that a Catholic convent in Turin, Italy, took in my mother's Italian cousins Miriam and Aviva during World War II? As Jews, their lives were in mortal danger especially during that period. Both girls were almost swayed into the Catholic faith because they were at an age (around yours) when fitting in is s-o-o-o-o important. After the war, they came out of hiding and were returned to their parents. They slowly adjusted to who they were before the war (not that you can ever undo life experiences and be who you once were). In their later years, they both moved to Israel. Oh, I am doing great and Tel Aviv is a really fabulous place. Kisses, Tamar

Dear Tamar -- Thanks so much for being in my book. It's really cool that your relations were taken in by a Catholic convent. But it must have been sort of awkward. And speaking of awkward, I forgot to tell you some big news: Kramers is dead. It's very sad, isn't it? I don't know how he died, but he was at least 14. That's pretty old, for a cat. Anyway, we can't wait until you get back. Love, Vivi

NOTE: Ten-year-old Vivienne is a honors student at a public elementary school for high achievers in Atlanta, Georgia. We have been friends about ten years. Vivi plays piano and flute, is an active Girl Scout, studies ballet, and has performed in the Cherub Choir and Junior Choir at Trinity Presbyterian Church. An adoring younger sister to Caroline, Vivi appears regularly on this blog. Previous posts include —