Several months ago, Karen and I attended a Shabbos for grieving parents. There I met Glen Holman whose story of the life and death of his daughter Nechama Liba Z”L, brought me to tears on more than one occassion. It’s odd, several times I tried writing about Glen and his wife and Nechama, but each time I gave up in despair, feeling that I was not doing justice to the thoughts and feelings of these lovely and brave people. Over the past few months, Glen has became a regular reader of Seraphic Secret. He often writes to me and his letters are always sensitive and insightful. The other day, Glen told me that he has started his own blog about Nechama Liba. It is powerful and I want to urge everyone to go to this blog and see what this fine man has to say.
It is 2:30 AM, and I cannot sleep because Karen is dreaming of Ariel; she moans in her sleep from wounds that will never heal. Three times before we went to bed, Karen, with tears slipping from her eyes, said to me: “Where is he? Where is Ariel?” Of course I had no answer and Karen does not expect one, but still, I feel that I should have something to say besides, “I don’t know, I just don’t know.”
It is 2:35 AM, and I cannot sleep because Offspring Number Three has just learned that a close friend from NY is extremely ill and — for God’s sake, my child has already lost her brother. Must she endure it all over again? Every so often a well-meaning idiot will tell me that “God never gives us more than we can bear.” When I hear this outrageous cliche I really feel like punching the person who says it. Where did they get such a stupid idea? In fact, HaShem gives us more than we can bear on a daily basis. Yes, we manage to live through these terrible experiences, we manage to endure, to survive, but we are never the same, and we are often diminished by the suffering, irrevocably harmed. I do not believe that suffering is noble or holy; it is just awful.
It is 2:40 AM, and I cannot sleep because Karen is preparing for Pesach and every shelf cleaned, every corner mopped, every book opened and dusted for crumbs only brings home the fact that Ariel will not be sitting at the Passover seder with us. He will not be reliving the Exodus from Egypt with us. He will not be giving us his sharp and penetrating insights into the Haggadah. He will not be smiling at the Passover table, enjoying this wonderful holiday. Ariel’s last Pesach was in the hospital, in the ICU where he was forced to celebrate the seder behind an oxygen mask. Our Passover table was a little slab of formica on wheels that was hardly big enough for two matzos. We recited the whole Hagaddah, but it was an effort for him and at the end, he fell back into an exhausted sleep.
It is 2:45 AM, and I cannot sleep because David, Karen’s brother was just here in LA with his lovely daughter Jennifer. Living in Israel, they are deeply concerned about the plan to withdraw from Gaza. David knows what anyone with half a brain knows, which is that no good can come from this withdrawal. The Arabs will see it as a capitulation to their violence, just the first in a series of retreats designed to destroy the state of Israel. Does no one realize that when the Arabs speak of so-called occupied territories they are not talking about Judea and Samaria, they are, in fact, talking about the entire state of Israel? I read the Arab press. They don’t even bother to disguise their genoicidal plans.
It is 2:50 AM, and I cannot sleep because numerous sleazy professors at Columbia University, once dubbed The Jewish Ivy League, have built a Middle Eastern Studies department on a foundation of lies, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Americanism. And there are still people in my community who are enthusiastically paying over fifty-thousand-dollars a year for the priveledge of sending their children to this corrupt institution. Are Jews so starved for status that they actually see nothing wrong with paying the salaries of the very people who want to destroy you?
It is 2:55 AM, and I cannot sleep because I am writing two scripts under intense deadline pressure and I have not been spending as much time as I should writing the next volume of The Hebrew Kid. I’m also afraid that I will never be able to make the second book as good as the first. I wrote The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden while Ariel was still alive. He helped me. He inspired me. He made me a better writer with his criticism and insights. But now he is gone and I suspect that I’m not as good a writer anymore. Without him, the imagination stalls.
It is 3:00 AM, and I cannot sleep becasue I am sitting in the dark in my bedroom with my computer on my lap typing this blog. I am afraid to go to sleep because I dream of Ariel most every night and when I wake up my face is wet with tears.
Here’s a blog by another father who lost a child. His daughter was killed while serving in the National Guard. Deeply moving.
For the past few days I’ve been reading a fascinating book, Generation Kill, by Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright. About the Iraqui war, this book stands out from so many others because of the writer’s ability to understand and bond with the soldiers he’s with. Wright was embedded with the Marines of First Recon, an elite unit who were the tip of the spear of the American push into Baghdad. The book is filled with powerful scenes of every day Marine life: the crushing boredom punctuated by sudden bursts of unimaginable violence, the stupidity of some commanding officers, the “everyday heroism” of a bunch of foul mouthed 19-year- old kids from America.
One of the aspects of life in Arab countries that is rarely if ever commented on by the mainstream media is the prevalence of homosexuality. It is not politically correct to point out that in Afghanistan it’s all too common for tribal war lords to fight bloody battles over possession of some poor twelve-year-old-boy. When I lived in Israel, I often witnessed and commented on the obviously sexual relationships I was seeing between Arab men and young boys. My Israeli friends would laugh and just nod their heads for it was common knowledge that Arab men live lives so segragated from women that homosexuality is considered an acceptable release. But of course Arab societies make believe that it’s just “healthy affection.” Perfectly understandable, I suppose, when you consider that the Imams will and do have homosexuals publicly beheaded. Generation Kill is the only book honest enough to make reference to this hidden side of Arab life. Here’s a short excerpt about the staus of women in Iraq and a description of some really smooth Iraqui hustlers:
…the most striking feature of the neighborhood is the hard labor performed by women. Covered in black robes, they squat beneath the sun in the empty-lot gardens, harvesting crops with knives, while children crawl at their feet. Others trudge past carrying sacks of grain on their heads. The division of labor exists even among children. Small boys run around playing soccer while little girls haul water.
“Damn, the women are like mules here,” Peterson abserves.
“If we’d have fought these women instead of the men,” another Marine comments, “we might have got our asses kicked.”
The other culture shock for the Marines is that several [Arab] men seem to be hitting on them. One asks Garza to lift up his glasses. When he does, the man leans forward and says, “You have pretty eyes.”
Another of them asks a Marine if he likes boys or girls. When the Marine says, “Girls,” the man makes a face and says, “Girls, bah!” Then he points to a young man standing nearby, makes an obscene gesture with his fingers and says, “You go with my friend, you like.”
Generation Kill is a fine book and if you want to get a feel for the chaos of war, this book does a superb job.
I’m listening to a beautiful CD by a group called Buried Beds. Is it a law that rock groups have to give themselves really stupid names? In any case, their music is melodic and lovely and their song “Camelia” is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard. The lead singer is a woman, so if your hashkafah precludes you from listening to a woman’s voice, well, it’s back to The Miami Boy’s Choir for you. By the way, I like TMBC, but every once in a while I really need a break from all the oy-yoy-yoy.
I’d like to recommend two particularly powerful blogs, both by fiercely intelligent (is there any other kind?) Jewish women. On The Face is by Lisa, a Canadian living Israel. Her multi-part series, How Lisa Came to Israel should not be missed. It is a small masterpiece.
Nice Jewish Girl writes a poignant blog about the search for love and marriage, about the price paid for being shomer negiyah, about faith and doubt and crushing loneliness. If this blog does not bring tears to your eyes, well, there just might be something missing at your very core.
Congratulations to the YULA (Yeshiva University High School Los Angeles) boys for winning the Red Sarachek Basketball Tournament. By now everyone in the Yeshiva high school world takes it for granted that YULA boys are a powerhouse basktball school. What’s not as well known is that the YULA girls are also a supremely talented team. This year YULA girls were invited to their first yeshiva girls tournament in Boca Raton. The YULA girls walked away with the First Place Tournament Championship. People have asked me why the YULA kids are so good. Do we practice more out here in California? Do we have great gym facilities? In fact, YULA boys do not have a gym and the girls just have half a gym. No, the reason our kids are so good is actually quite simple. YULA girls and boys play their regular basketball season in a secular league where the competition is brutal. If yeshiva kids only play other yeshiva kids, well, no offence, but how many frum kids do you know who have gone pro, much less been recruited to college on a basketball scholarship? On top of the basketball wins, this past year the YULA delegation also won the Model UN in NY. As one YULA student slyly commented to me: “All the yeshivas really hate us now.”