Category Archives: Israel

Remembering Safed

I remember Safed, the historic Upper Galilean town of Jewish mystics, chiefly for its wide stone staircases. We traversed them, my Israeli friend Yan and I, in the gathering twilight of a warmish day in March, 2011 spent driving from one attraction to another. Yan preferred getting it all in; I wished for more time in one place.

And I got that time in Safed. I can still picture the staircases and the people who surrounded us going up and down the steps, until we found what we were looking for, through a darkening alley, a very old Sephardic synagogue whose name I don’t remember. With its baby-blue bima in the center of the room with the canopy effect of the wooden ceiling painted with sky scenes.

Built after the many Jews who came in 1492 when they were expelled from Spain, not before, though some had lived there all along—which is to say despite the Roman expulsion hundreds of years before.

The holy city of Safed, it’s called, the home of the sparks of Kabbalah mysticism. Perched on a mountaintop about three thousand feet above sea level and on its slopes, it is also the highest city in Israel. You could lose yourself in its narrow, one-way cobblestone streets and narrower cobblestone alleys and we almost did several times.

The ancient city lingers in memory almost nine years later and it always will.

Jewish Birthday of Trees

“Tu Bishvat could easily have faded away after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, since there was no longer a system of fruit offerings or Temple priests to receive them. However, the kabbalists (mystics) of Tzfat (the city of Safed) in the Land of Israel in the 16th century created a new ritual to celebrate Tu Bishvat called the Feast of Fruits.”

So, technically, the birthday, or new year, which begins in the evening of Sunday, Feb 9, and ends in the nightfall of Monday, Feb 10, is only about fruit trees. But the rabbis have extended it to all trees wherever they may be. Including the big grandfather tree off the porch at the mini-rancho.

Via Yahoo

The Palestinian donor machine

“The notion that humanitarian aid to the PA reaches the Palestinian Arab people has no basis in reality.”

Abbas, who has called President Trump a dog and a son of a dog, is a thief. He steals the aid for himself and his supporters. The result is a rich Palestinian elite, thanks to the unwitting generosity of European and American taxpayers, while the Palestinian people go begging.

Via Jerusalem Post

Second of the third

My friend Russell Wheat crossing a rice paddy on patrol west of Saigon sometime in 1968-69. A brave man doing his duty.

The leader of 3rd platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade was wounded in both legs and sent to Japan where he recovered and was sent back to the field to complete his tour. He was the lucky one.

How this 2nd Lieutenant of Military Intelligence got to be leading an infantry platoon is a story worthy of our famous funnyman. He told it to me and a few others at breakfast at our Infantry OCS class reunion in San Antonio in 2005. I took notes.

It seems that in late 1968, after graduating from OCS and completing MI Basic, he got a cushy job in G2, division intelligence, 1st Logistical Command, Long Binh, north of Saigon. Sometimes he was a briefer to generals and other visiting dignitaries. He was, of course, known for his humor.

Sometimes it edged towards the smart-ass. The culminating instance was a briefing for a major general and his orbiting entourage of colonels, majors and captains. 2Lt Wheat closed out the strategic and tactical briefing by enumerating some weapons recently captured. One was an AK-54, the machine gun version of the AK-47. But the general didn’t know what it was and he interrupted Wheat to ask about it.

Wheat was in a mood. Obviously. “Sir,” Wheat recalled saying, “the AK-54 is an AK-47 with seven years of service.”

Silence. The humorless general visibly ground his teeth. His face got redder when someone in the back laughed.

And thus our Wheat reported for duty to Bravo Company, 2nd of the 3rd of the 199th, which operated west of Saigon to the Cambodian border. He was assigned to 3rd platoon. I asked him once how many of his men were killed. He stiffened. “Not an inordinate number,” he replied.

Two years after the reunion, I ran across a Google link to a pdf of the Methodist Children’s Home, a Waco orphanage. There I found that Wheat was a frequent donor and in 2007 had donated several thousand dollars “in memory of thirty-seven men of 3rd Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry, killed in action in Viet Nam 1968-1969.”

In 2011, when I visited Israel for the first time, Wheat, a church-going Methodist whose father was a Methodist minister, asked me to place a prayer paper “memorializing” the 3rd Platoon in a crevice of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a Jewish tradition for two thousand years. I had an Israeli friend take a picture of me doing it and sent the picture to Wheat.

Maybe the thirty-seven are the reason Wheat, a native Texan and graduate of the University of Texas, made a post-war career at the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Marlin, south of Waco. He had failed at medical school before he was drafted. He retired directing a lab at the hospital.

He was found deceased shortly before Christmas by a Methodist pastor making a wellness visit to his home in Canyon Lake. He was 81.

Pumpkinflowers

A good book, whether novel or memoir, or a bit of both, by Matti Friedman, an Israeli soldier turned journalist writing about their forgotten war. The pumpkin being an outpost in Lebanon and flowers being IDF radio speak for casualties.

Friedman was an RTO, in our army’s parlance for radio-telephone operator, who sometimes carried the radio on his back. His unit were combat engineers but they often operated as infantry.

Via Amazon

Front-line Trump

Hundreds of rabbis, including the chief rabbis of Israel, have signed a letter to President Trump declaring him blessed for recognizing Israeli sovereignty.

“The presidents of the United States have had the merit of standing at Israel’s side, of partnering in the realization of the prophetic vision of the return to Zion and the rebirth of Israel. A rare privilege has now presented itself to you: To be the first American president to blaze the trail for recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and now, over the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria.”

Trump, they said, will be remembered in Jewish history as a “man who stood on the front-lines, unafraid.”

Via United With Israel

Al-Baghdadi, Rapist

“He spent his days as leader raping women the group had kidnapped while his men died on the front lines.”

A far cry from the anti-Trump NYSlimes WashPost characterization of the slain ISIS leader as an “austere religious scholar.”

Via The Jerusalem Post