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Unmasking the real Israel

Naomi Ragen writes:

Dear Friends,

Rabbi Stewart Weiss, the author of the piece below, is the father of IDF soldier Ari Weiss, who was lost in battle in suicide-bomber city (some call it Nablus) protecting the Jews of Israel from its enemies. I met the Weiss family some years ago when they hosted Passover in a hotel in the Galilee. They make me proud to be part of the Jewish people. They make me proud to be living in the land of Israel. And they fill me with strength and hope for the future.

Just as an aside, I'm not surprised that Effie Eitam, head of the Mafdal, paid Rabbi Weiss a shiva call and left him his home number. What a mentsch. And as a politician, a rare bird indeed. I've had the pleasure of speaking to Effie Eitam personally and he has my deepest admiration. As usual, the leftist press in Israel is doing its best to paint him as an extremist. It's a lie. He is humane, warm, honest, with two feet on the ground. And as a former general, he really knows Israel's security options. He is the father of eight, who lived in the Golan Heights. He was brought up secular, and chose to become religious. But he is not, like so many who return to religion, extreme and intolerant. The opposite. We are lucky to have him as part of our political scene.

Please read what Rabbi Weiss has to say. It's a privilege, and the best medicine in the world for all the ails us.

Every blessing,

Naomi Ragen

Unmasking the real Israel

BY STEWART M. WEISS

Will the real Israeli please stand up? Is it the gruff, tough ruffian who cuts you off in traffic, endangering life and limb -- his and yours -- for the sake of one car-length? Is it the rude and pushy person who mysteriously appears at the bank or post office -- just as you are about to finally advance to the clerk -- and cavalierly informs you, "I was here."

Or is it the driver who pulls off the road to help you with the baby carriage, all the while telling you what a cute baby you have; or the supermarket clerk who runs down the street chasing you to return the NIS 10 change you forgot when you checked out?

Over the last month, since our son Ari was killed in battle in Nablus, I have had the opportunity to encounter the Israeli, and the Israel, you never -- or rarely -- see; certainly the Israel you almost never read about. It is, I can report, an Israel with a huge heart, a towering soul, and an inner desire to do good.

>From the moment we received the horrendous news about our hayal, we were shielded in a protective bubble of love and care that defies description. Within minutes of the army's dreaded knock on our front door, hundreds of friends took it upon themselves to attend to our every need, from providing three meals a day, to cleaning our house, to seeing to it that we are never alone.

The entire Ra'anana community, led by Israel's most popular mayor, Zev Bielski, became mother hens and big brothers who took us under their wing and stood by our side.

>From near and far came amazing gestures of sympathy and solidarity: The local Starbuck's -- the only kosher Starbuck's in the world! -- sent dozens of specialty coffees to our home each day of shiva. A neighborhood synagogue set up a "mobile sanctuary" in our living room so we could pray at home.

Baruch Hadaya Jewelers in Jerusalem took the bullet casings used in the "21-gun salute" to Ari at his funeral and made out of them, at no cost, commemorative rings for all the family. A 10-year-old boy from Hashmonaim, who watched the funeral on TV, saw our 10-year-old wearing a torn shirt (as required by Jewish law) and sent him a new T-shirt in the mail.

Christians from Montana send dolls to all the children.

We were overwhelmed with acts of kindness, and generosity of the spirit, from people we had never met before. Dozens came to visit us, expressing solidarity through the beautiful Hebrew expression, "I share in your pain." Included among them, alas, were many who had themselves been victims of the Palestinian Terror War against the Jewish People. They, more than anyone, know what it means to suffer and to sacrifice for this great nation of ours.

POLITICIANS CAME, too, to let us know we were not alone. President Moshe Katsav held our nine-year-old daughter's hand and animatedly asked her about school; Natan and Avital Sharansky cried with us and invited us to Shabbat dinner at their home; Effie Eitam hailed our son as a hero and left his home number in case we needed to call.

Pointedly, only the politicians of the "Right" -- Likud, Yisrael Ba'aliya, Mafdal, etc. -- took the time to visit.

Those of the "Left" -- Labor, Meretz, Shinui, who frequently boast of their supposed love for human rights and the need for national compassion -- never bothered to make contact with us at any stage.

Most impressive of all was the IDF. They mobilized into "battle mode" to guard and guide us. Ari's unit -- sent letters by their commanding officer "ordering" them to now make us part of their own families -- surrounded us like a wall of green.

Battle-trained generals came to sit with us, and several were even caught shedding a tear. The Chief of General Staff, Moshe Ya'alon, spent an hour telling us how many lives had been saved by Ari's final mission.

I look out on all of this love, all of these expressions of unsolicited kindness, and I am absolutely convinced that we are a nation like no other.

I have an unparalleled courage, a unique stamina, an irrepressible spirit. And we are, deep down, at heart, a genuinely good people who care mightily about each other. Yes, at times we let our baser instincts and our weaker sides prevail, and we lapse into petty bickering and behavior. But, when it really, really counts, we rise to the occasion and embrace the finest values of the human condition. And that is why, despite the heartaches and the losses and the setbacks we suffer, despite facing a cruel and despicable Palestinian people who seek our destruction, despite losing our own brave and beautiful son, I am absolutely certain that we shall triumph in this war and in all future wars. And I know that Ari -- whose death has sparked such an outpouring of positive emotion around the world -- did not die in vain.

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana

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Naomi Ragen
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Last update: 11/5/02; 9:46:36 AM.