July 29, 2012

38 Years Strong

I'm a couple of days behind on this...but I want to wish a very 
Happy 38th Anniversary 
to these two crazy kids.

Mom and Dad, you have taught me what it truly means to love. 
The last 38 years have brought you through hills and valleys, 
but you've made it through with a sense of humor and a deep commitment to each other 
and the family you built together.  
I can only hope to have a marriage half as brilliant, and (one day) be the kind of parent you have been to me.
I love you both more than I'll ever be able to express.

I cannot wait to embrace you in merely a month's time.
Until then, keep on keepin' it real.

Oh, and can I borrow the car when I'm home?

July 24, 2012

What else should you be doing right now?


I should be doing homework. Story of my year. 
The thing is...I'm almost always doing something else that's worth procrastinating for- seeing a new place, making a new friend, falling in love...this weekend it was getting out of Tel Aviv. 

Things lately have been stressful- beginning a new (and more intense) semester at school, writing final papers from last semester, dealing with a devolving roommate situation, ending said situation, moving in with Itzik (a blessing, but still an adjustment), planning my trip home to the US in August, babysitting during every possible 'free' moment that I have (this ginger is poooor)...and that's maybe half of it. So, this weekend when Itzik's mom let us borrow her car for a couple of days we took the opportunity to get a change of scene...

The Bahai Gardens in Haifa have been on my Israeli Bucket List for sometime, and Haifa is about a 40 min drive out of Tel Aviv, so after running some errands we headed North. Haifa is built on a slope, and the gardens sit at the top, with a view down to the sea that will knock the wind out of you (if the climb hasn't already...#thankgodforcars). 

(this street cat is living the good life behind the gilded gates of the Bahai Temple)

(I waited here for Mr. Tumnus)

After taking in the view we drove South again and stopped in Caesarea, and after showing Itzik the aqueduct (can you believe he'd only been there once?! when he was a kid! the things you take for granted when you grow up in the land of the Bible, I guess...) we went for a lovely and delicious meal on the shore while the sun slowly fell. 


(Bacon and mushroom pizza. Not kosher. So delicious.)

(Even fancy restaurants have feline beggars. We named this one Junior. He had a diabolical glint in his eyes.)

Honestly, it's been a hectic time for me, and there are moments when I feel like my rope has frayed almost completely. But this day reminded me- I live in Israel. I'm in love. I am blessed.

July 15, 2012

Losing Our Sons

The following is a review I wrote of the film Losing Our Sons, which was released 
earlier this month produced by Americans For Peace and Tolerance. 

For the trailer, click here.

To see news coverage of the film and its subject matter, as well as more information of the film check out the following links:

A feature in USA Today
Information on the fight for a Purple Heart for Andy Long
In USNews


Fighting terrorism should not be a partisan issue.” Daris Long

Partisanship in Washington (and American politics generally) is quite possibly at an all-time high, and the matters which have polarized the right and left are manifold. Particularly at the height of campaign season, our leaders are name-calling and bickering over trivial social issues and neglecting (willfully or otherwise) many subjects which put at stake the very security and freedoms which grant us the right to bicker.

Losing Our Sons is a frank and harrowing portrayal of an issue which has become a “third rail” of sorts in the American political landscape- the radicalization of American Muslims, and the parallel failure of our civic and national leaders to address the problem. The film makes the serious assertion that the media and important governmental bodies have, at the public’s risk, fallen victim to the slippery slope of multiculturalism in a post-9/11 society and, as a result, missed (if not outright ignored) warning signs of a clear and ongoing threat to our national security.

This unsettling scenario is examined through the stories of two young American men, whose lives collided on June 1, 2009 when one would die at the hands of the other. Private William (Andy) Long was shot that day by Carlos Bledsoe (who was, by then, going by Abdul Hakim Mohammad) outside of an Army recruitment center in Little Rock, Arkansas. The stories of Andy and Carlos are told by their fathers, Daris Long and Melvin Bledsoe- both of whom grieve for their sons while fervently proclaiming that their personal tragedies must be a lesson for the rest of us.

Melvin Bledsoe, with a relatable and sympathetic manner, voices his son’s transformation from a good-humored, industrious teenager to the angry, violent, self-proclaimed soldier of Allah. Mr. Bledsoe describes the journey his son took after his religious conversion at the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) and the pain it caused him to watch his son’s personality and convictions shift rapidly. He says of Abdul Hakim, “He seemed to get very angry when he would see a United States soldier in uniform…he thought that maybe they all hated him, for no reason…this was not the son we raised.” Bledsoe also levies some serious allegations against the state and federal authorities for knowing what was happening to his son well before June of 2009.

Daris Long, a veteran of several wars himself, introduces us to his son- a precocious youngster, and a fallen soldier, whose murder goes- as of yet- unrecognized as an act of terrorism from a self-proclaimed jihadist. Daris and Janet Long, through their grief, lack any hesitation in identifying the real culprit for their son’s death as radical Islam, and the terrorist networks who operate within our borders to recruit those like Carlos Bledsoe. Mr. Long, also, points to the failure of our civic and political leaders to properly address the issue as a result of political correctness. His words hang heavy- “…as long as they turn a blind eye to it while it’s just out there to see, I can’t bury my son.”

The film places these powerful testimonies within the context of geopolitical events and domestic political developments which unfolded over the last three decades. Specifically highlighted is the civil war in Somalia in 1992 and ensuing American involvement under the first Bush administration. Policy decisions under the Clinton White House regarding immigration of refugees from Somalia resulted in an influx of refugees from these Muslim countries, one of the results being demographic changes of many American cities, including Nashville, TN. It was here that Carlos Bledsoe became involved with the ICN, a path that would lead him to a Yemeni training camps and back to the US where he lay plans for and carry out his own personaljihad.

The assertions made in Losing Our Sons regarding the motives and methods of leaders (like Awadh Binhazim) within American Muslim communities are inherently alarming, and the documents presented to validate these claims reveal a picture which can only be described as downright unsettling. The film puts forth evidence of questionable leadership within the growing immigrant/refugee populations, and the subsequent increase in the instances of homegrown terrorism (i.e. the Fort Hood shooting of November 2009 and the Christmas Day bomber of December 2009).

If this is not concerning enough, the simultaneous failure of our leaders to heed the warnings about these imported Wahhabist clerics (offered by experts like Zhudi Jasser, Ayan Hirsi Ali, and others) and the actions of those being reared by them, reveals another disconcerting layer to the picture. Daris Long and Melvin Bledsoe- alongside the voices of concerned moderate Muslims- have given testimony which seems to be falling on deaf ears.  Our leaders and civic institutions seem wholly unwilling to call the enemy what it is.

The hatred and anger which led to the death of Private William Long on June 1, 2009 did not appear in a vacuum. It was engendered in a young, impressionable young American man through the teachings of extremist Muslim leaders in his community who masquerade as “moderates” and deflect any serious inquiry about their nature with the rhetoric of “religious freedom” and “free speech”. Our political leaders should be cognizant of this. They should be worried that we won’t re-elect them if the don’t do something rather than what will happen to their carreers if they do speak out. In the words of Daris Long, “fighting terrorism should not be a partisan issue.” 


July 10, 2012

Independence Days

(photo taken from the IDF's facebook wall)

I have failed as a blogger to commemorate in a timely manner the independence days of both Israel (May) and America (July). So I'm going to try and hit both birds with this one stone.
Welcome to my Independence Days blog post!

In May I celebrated Israel's independence day by decorating my apartment and the walkway outside with festive flags and balloons. My neighbor/new friend Jessica and I decided to go to the market and Jew-out our building. It turned out really nicely.

Jessica and I are both Americans who moved to Israel and were celebrating our first Israeli Independence Day this year, and it was really lovely to have someone to get so excited about it with. We're both here because we love Israel, we support the State of Israel, and it was strange and exciting to feel patriotic about a country that I've CHOSEN to live in. I hope you enjoy our decorations as much as I did.

The 4th of July (last week) was a completely different experience for me. As an American living abroad, I'm learning that Americans and America don't always have the best reputation. Even here in Israel. Of course, the bond between Israel and the US is an important one, politically. And there's for sure an American/Western influence on Israeli society. But Americans have, I think all over the world, a reputation for being fat, lazy, spoiled, and self-righteous. Its been a difficult lesson to learn firsthand. Especially when my boyfriend makes sarcastic comments about it. Anyway- the holiday...
it didn't feel like a holiday to me. Probably because here, it isn't one, and I'm so used to feeling like I have to apologizing for being American. Unlike Thanksgiving, I didn't feel like I needed to celebrate the 4th of July, cause there was no way that it could really be the same. But, some friends from school threw a bbq in a park that evening, so I grabbed a few beers and decided to give it my best shot. And it was actually really fun. 

Mostly it was awesome cause I got to use sparklers! 
My parents never let me use those when I was growing up. In your face, Mom and Dad! I didn't get hurt!

After I tired to playing with fire, Libbie (my FAVORITE American around) came out and we went with Noa for burgers and french fries (does it get much more American? No.) at Mike's Place- the "American" bar on the seafront. It was lovely. All in all, the day helped me remember what truly makes me feel good about being American- pyrotechnics and greasy, cheesy food. 

I'm looking forward to both during the month of August, when I visit America for a month and can soak up all the grease and fun the good 'ol U-S-of-A has to offer.