Iron Dome system intercepts missiles – but not in Jerusalem ChameleonsEye /
A New Reality,Life,War

First siren

When I was growing up in California, I had a terrible fear of being caught in the shower when an earthquake hit. What would I do, stressed my pre-teen self; would I run out into the street stark naked in order to save myself? How would I live down the embarrassment? Or would I risk injury or even death out of prurient prudishness?

Fast forward to November 2012 and, although Israel has its earthquake worries too, the bigger concern this week is missiles from Gaza. And my shower nightmare just came true.

The missile alarm sounded in Jerusalem Friday afternoon, just as I was finishing my pre-Shabbat shower. The siren in our area is not super loud, but it was unmistakable as I switched the water off and grabbed my towel. I heard my wife Jody calling my name and then the slam of the front door as she headed down to the shelter with the kids and the dog, leaving me alone in our bathroom.

I have never heard a missile siren before. We made aliyah three years after the first Gulf War when Saddam Hussein lobbed 42 Scuds at Israel. No sirens – other than the annual memorial blasts on Yom Ha Zicharon and Yom Ha Shoah – have rung in Jerusalem since. I didn’t expect to hear one this time either: we have assured ourselves for years that our enemies would never want to risk hitting sites holy to the Muslim world. I guess the rules have changed.

I decided that I would not run out in just a towel. I entered my bedroom, threw on a t-shirt, reached into the underwear drawer and was about to pull on my pants when the siren stopped.

Now what? Jerusalem is supposed to have a minute and a half from the time the siren goes off and a missile lands. So if the siren is silent, there’s no more reason to rush, right?

The official response is that one should stay in the shelter for 10 minutes. Accordingly, I should have still high-tailed it to the room with the reinforced concrete. But I didn’t know that yet.

My movements slowed. I continued to get dressed, but I felt no sense of urgency. The fear that the siren triggered had been sublimated into something else – what was it? Fatalistic acceptance? A calm calculation on the odds that a missile would land exactly where I was standing in my bedroom? Shock?

By the time my shoes were tied, Jody and the kids were coming back upstairs. Ready to go to shul? I called out.

My curious calmness continued once in the synagogue space. Shouldn’t I be scared? Others were visibly shaken. There were still tears being wiped away. What was wrong with me?

Near the end of the Kabbalat Shabbat service I noticed something unusual. I had been holding a piece of paper with the prayers on it. There were sharp crease marks where my fingers had been gripping the edges. It looked like I’d tried to take a punch at something. The Sabbath Bride? God?

We all slept that night in suitable attire for a midnight run, slippers lined up by the door to the bedroom. There was no additional siren. There might never be. (Didn’t the IDF say they’d taken out nearly all of the long-range missiles?) But for at least one moment, I faced the shower nightmare of my youth and survived. How my psyche will hold up is another matter entirely.


Israeli biker nears finish line for cancer research

As ISRAEL21c reported back in June, 24-year-old Israeli Tom Peled was poised to begin a cross-country biking trip from Los Angeles to New York in support of the Israel Cancer Research Fund.

On October 21, Tom Peled will roll into his final stop of Bike for the Fight, which was inspired by the death of his father from cancer in January 2011.

Bike for the Fight bracelets

“We already rode 2,400 miles and raised $80,000 for cancer research in Israel!” he wrote us last week. “But more than just numbers, we have had unbelievable experiences with so many people that were touched by what we are doing.”

Often joined by groups of cyclists from the communities he passed through, Tom met the Israeli ambassador to the United States and appeared at campuses across the country. An auction prize of spending the final week with him and companion bikers Roey, Eran, and Luca was won by Dror Malo, a Microsoft Israel employee and one of Bike for the Fight’s biggest supporters.

Tom reports that everyone is asking if there will be another ride. “The amount of seeds we are planting, funds and awareness that we are raising for cancer research, and the amount of people we move and touch with what we are doing – it has all become bigger than us, bigger than we could ever imagine, and there is no stop,” he replies. “Bike For the Fight is finishing this journey in a week, but New York is not going to be our last destination.”

You can read Tom’s blog here and follow him on YouTube.

Citri at his university office, surrounded by photos of his late wife and son, along with other diagnostic kits he’s invented. Photo by Lorena Sabater

Supreme scientist, to the very end

I received an email from Prof. Ami Citri informing me of the sad news that his father, Prof. Nathan Citri, passed away at home in Jerusalem just before Rosh Hashanah.

Though well past 90 and officially retired from the Hebrew University since 1989, Nathan Citri had never stopped seeking simple solutions to intractable world health problems. Together with Ami’s mother Naomi, who died in 2011, Prof. Citri invented a prototype for bedside kits that detect and identify “superbugs” from blood or urine, yielding lifesaving information within minutes rather than days.

He’d taken the prototype to England to get the ball rolling on developing the kit. When I came to his home to interview him earlier this year, he’d related how the expert with whom he met there predicted it would take a couple of years for the product to be commercialized. “Look at me,” he had told the expert. “I don’t have that kind of time. We need to do this right now.” And so the kit was fast-tracked toward getting the European CE Mark of approval.

I had asked him for his secret to longevity, and his smile faded. He refused to speculate on that, he told me, because he could make no sense of the topic. His parents and teenage sister were murdered by the Nazis – he had escaped to Palestine through the Youth Aliyah rescue project in 1937 – and in 1995 his beloved elder son from his first marriage, Yoav, was killed in an accident. Photos of Naomi and Yoav hung above his workspace, where he was involved in developing yet another medical diagnostic kit until shortly before his death.

Ami Citri, a neurobiologist who this academic year began a double appointment at the Hebrew University as an assistant professor at the Silverman Institute of Life Sciences and at the Safra Center for Brain Sciences, said in the email that there was no funeral for his father.

“Since my father committed himself to science in life and death, his body was returned to the Hebrew University Medical School,” he wrote.

Our sympathies go out to Ami and his half-sister Miki, a social worker at Hadassah University Medical Center.

Depression sets in at 43 seconds

Depression sets in at 43 seconds

So, there I was at the Olympic Building – National Sports Center in Tel Aviv, having just visited the Olympic Experience Museum when it was announced that judoka Arik Zeevi was up next.

Excitement was in the air. Workers left their offices to congregate where there was a television. Everyone here knows Arik. They know how hard he has trained. They all have something nice to say about him as a person, not just an athlete.

Moments earlier I had seen a hologram of Arik telling visitors to the Olympic Experience exhibit how the most important moment of his life was when he won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics and how he hopes to bring another medal.

I was invited to watch the U100-kg. match with one of the senior staffers, who I had been chatting to about the exhibit I had just seen (and which I am writing about for ISRAEL21c). What better place to watch Israel’s greatest judoka than at the Olympic Building?

And then, just as the match between Arik and Dimitri Peters of Germany began, it ended.

43 seconds.

The people in the Olympic Building went into shock.

While Arik was crying in London, his fans felt his disappointment in Israel.

The despair at the National Sports Center was not just about Arik’s missed medal. People here were sorry that this was how such a great person and skillful athlete would be remembered at the end of his career.

People mumbled words like ‘unbelievable’ and ‘I just don’t believe it’ as they went up and down the stairs, back to their offices.

I wanted to tell them to go to the second floor Olympic Experience exhibit. Inside the third room, Arik’s hologram image sends shivers of pride through the room when he speaks about his medal win in Athens and how the fans in the stands impulsively belted out the Hatikvah in his honor.

There is a feeling of disappointment, no doubt. But Arik is much more than one misjudgment — even if it was made in a crucial fight.

Arik brought glory to Israel throughout the years in judo. We should remember that.

Israeli flag at Olympic Village

A capital crisis

By fifth grade most schoolchildren know the capitals of the world. So, when the BBC independently divided Jerusalem and earmarked ‘East Jerusalem’ as belonging to Palestine (which, it notes, is not recognized as a modern state), it made sense why Israel took offense.
In fact, a student who checked into the BBC website for geography information three weeks ago would have found that East Jerusalem is the capital of yet-to-be-declared-an-official-state Palestine. A click over to Israel, which the BBC admits is a recognized state, and the same student would have found that Israel is the only country in the world without a capital city.
Although slight adjustments have been made – East Jerusalem is no longer being called the capital of Palestine but rather the ‘intended seat of government’ – Israel is still lacking a capital.
So, the Israeli Olympians took part in a video titled, ‘Viral Response to BBC’s Map: Olympic Team Salutes to Jerusalem.’

Last week, the Prime Minister’s Office turned to the BBC to get Jerusalem listed as its capital on the British network’s Olympic Website but was refuted.
And so, according to the BBC, Israel is a country with its ‘seat of government’ in Jerusalem. But to make sure the broadcasting company is not accused of taking sides, heaven forbid, that remark comes with the stipulation that “most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”
The Olympics are supposed to be about sportsmanship and fair play. At least the Games are being conducted outside the BBC’s studios.