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Memory shapes personality – of people and of nations.

Recently I’ve been contemplating the significance of collective memory. In Passover the Jewish people are commanded to remember how God delivered us from slavery over 3000 years ago. Not how our ancestors were freed from slavery, rather how each and every one of us was personally delivered from slavery. This is a very different, very personal perspective and one of the major difference between the Jewish people and all other nations. Collective consciousness is purposely expanded to encompass our Jewish brothers and sisters in other countries, across generations and spanning centuries. What happens (happened) to them happens (happened) to us. This awareness shapes Jewish consciousness, teaches values and drives actions.

Today my thoughts are on the significance of personal memory. Sima Maschkowski (mother of my beloved Lenny), passed away this morningSima Maschkowski.

Sima was one of the kindest people I have ever met. The core of her being was kindness and love.

I know because Alzheimer’s disease stripped her of everything else.

What do you know when you can’t remember anything?

By the end Sima didn’t recognize the home she lived in for over fifty years. She had no idea where she was. A gregarious and lively person, Sima could no longer recognize her neighbors or long-time friends. Sima who loved pretty clothes didn’t remember how to get dressed on her own. She, who loved fresh fruit and spices forgot about food and didn’t remember how to eat on her own. She even forgot that she loved having hot coffee in the morning and in the afternoon.

Sima often confused the names of her son and grandchildren. She would call one by the other’s name. And when she couldn’t recall the name she’d say: “Hello my Prince!”

Even when she started forgetting how to talk Sima knew that she loved her family with a passion. She recognized the people that belonged to her and the only thing she cared about was their happiness. When she was unable to do anything else she sat for hours, looking at pictures of her family and saying to them: “Bless you, God bless you.”

Alzheimer strips away everything. Knowledge acquired throughout a life becomes inaccessible and inapplicable. Everything stays inside the brain but the person is unable to pull it out and put it to use in the appropriate time or way. Social skills and norms evaporate. Language disappears. Slowly it becomes harder and harder to connect with others.

Memory shapes so much of who we are. Like an onion stripped of its layers, less and less remains. When there are no more layers the onion leaves scent / flavor. Even without its layers, the essence remains.

Some people who have Alzheimer’s disease become violent and aggressive. When Sima had nothing left, she was kind. She was unable to demonstrate her kindness, she just was. That was her essence.

Born in India in 1928, aspired to be an educated, dignified lady, like the English ladies. Much of what she learned she taught herself by reading, practicing writing and emulating those she admired.

After the Second World War, Jews from Israel came to the Jewish community in India, bringing them news of the Holocaust and of the need to rebuild the Jewish nation in the land of Israel. As a result, Sima decided to leave her comfortable life in India and make Aliyah. Her mother was against the idea of her only daughter leaving to go so far away but Sima adamantly told her: “6 million Jews died. I have to go to help the people and build the Land.”

Today this is a dramatic and frightening move to make, the bravery it took then is difficult to comprehend.

In Israel Sima learned to be a nurse. Another way to help people. Remembering people she helped made her happy until she was no longer able to remember.

Sima loved children, especially babies. She used to bring toys to a poor family in the neighborhood and give them to the children when the parents weren’t around. She wanted to give without making the parents feel shame. She just wanted the children to be happy. Sima never looked for credit for the kind things she did. It is only because others saw her actions do we know about them today.

Sima married the love of her life and had one son who was the jewel of her eye – until her grandchildren were born. One jewel became three and everything centered on them. When they were happy she was happy.

Love and kindness is the essence of Sima. That was the connecting thread throughout her life and it is the memory she leaves behind for those who were blessed to know her.

What shapes your consciousness? Or mine? What is the essence we will leave behind?

Not to speak is to speak.

Thank you Senator Marco Rubio for speaking for Israel, American values and freedom.

Before the elections, I hope the people of Israel hear this message.

This is a campaign sign for one of Israel’s religious, ultra-orthodox Jewish political parties – Shas. The name of the party is in Hebrew, the face is that of the party leader and the text is in Arabic.

Election campaign sign

A Jewish, religious party reaching out to Arab voters? Yup.

It might be mind-bending to those who see the world in black and white, try to categorize and stigmatize entire populations however, in ADDITION to the Arab parties that run in Israeli elections, the secular parties that Arabs sometimes vote for; there is a segment of the Arab population that votes for Shas.

Why?

Because the Arab parties have traditionally been so wrapped up in anti-Israel politics that they forget to take action to better the lives of the Arab citizens of Israel that voted for them. Shas, the religious Jewish party that aims to better the lives of everyone, especially those of lower socio-economic standing, has earned the trust of some Arab voters.

I’ve heard so many foreign reporters talk about “the politics of the [Israeli-Arab] conflict”…

They really don’t have a clue.

Benjamin Netanyahu has one of, if not the hardest job in the world. Arguably, the position of American President is also very hard however, that nation is so large that the effect of even devastatingly wrong decisions are not felt immediately.

Israel is a country balanced on the edge of a knife. Sneeze in the wrong direction and everything goes up in flames.

Every day the Prime Minister of Israel has life and death decisions to make. The results of incorrect decisions come fast and hard – economic imbalance, busses exploding in the streets or towns under siege. Anything can happen.

A few days ago I saw Israel’s Prime Minister speak in front of an audience of his supporters. Next weBenjamin Netanyahu ek the country is going to elections and he has to make sure to get out the vote. It was the non-glamorous side of politics – go out, thank supporters, hug this one, shake hands with that one, make the right joke here, publicly acknowledge the right one there, remember the names, don’t forget anyone, don’t make any mistakes…

It’s slogging, hard work.

The man in front of me was the same man that one week earlier stood in front of the United States Congress and the world to speak for his people, against American capitulation to Iran, for the right of Jews, Israelis, to live without the threat of annihilation.

This man braved condemnation at home and abroad to speak for all of us. To speak for me. To speak for those who pour accusations and hatred on him.

Many Israelis parroted the tune of our all too left leaning media “He’s only going because of the upcoming elections. His speech will be an election speech.”  I believe it is our left wing politicians who taught this tune to the left leaning Jews of America and to American politicians. They will do anything to gain power.

And they fear America.

They believe that it is better to bow before American demands in hopes of not being hated. In hope that when the time comes they will be allowed to escape the inferno. (There were Jews who had this same mindset in Europe too, before the Nazis taught Jews otherwise…)

The Israeli media proclaimed their deep concern that Prime Minister Netanyahu would forever damage the relationship with America by defying Obama and explaining in a public speech that Obama’s choices are endangering Israel and the world. How dare Netanyahu say “NO” to the most powerful man on the planet?!

They called it an “unprecedented breach between the countries”. I didn’t hear a single mention of a man in the office of President allowing himself to show unprecedented hatred towards the leader of the Jewish nation and blatant disregard of our right to live without fear.

The Netanyahu I saw in front of me was not the courageous, eloquent leader that spoke on the world stage. The man I saw was tired. And worried that our nation would be handed on a silver platter to people that do not know how to say NO to America.

Millions of dollars are pouring in to Israel from special interest groups funding the campaign against Netanyahu. There is no better option for Prime Minister so they have not upheld an opposing candidate but rather campaigned that “anyone is better than him.” The marketing machine is well oiled and working in every sector of society to convince people to vote against him.

They say that the cost of living is too high because Netanyahu didn’t do enough to fix it. There is no mention of how strong the Israeli economy is, particularly in comparison with the collapsing economies of other nations across the globe. Yes there are problems. Things are expensive. There are people who don’t have jobs or have part time jobs that do not pay enough. We also have a stable economy and greatly reduced unemployment levels – all due to the economic policies of the Netanyahu government.

They forget that cost of living doesn’t matter one bit when you are not allowed to live. The threats of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic State as well as Arabs that live within Israel and work against this nation in violent and political ways are much more immediate and serious threats than whether or not a person can afford to buy a house. Being forced to rent rather than buy a house of your own is not an existential threat.

The issue of “making peace” with our neighbors is a non-issue. To me it is bizarre that some people, too many people, still prefer to close their eyes to the harsh reality. It is not possible to make peace with someone who wants you dead. It is not possible to live peacefully side by side with someone who feels that your very existence is an affront.

The people of Europe are beginning to learn that “occupied territory”, Israel or even Jews are not the problem. The Nation of Islam is spreading to all territories. Jihad is not about “right of return” it is about the dominance of Islam everywhere.

Watching Benjamin Netanyahu speak, just a few meters in front of me I felt awed by the pressures this man stands under. He has been standing in the breach for Israel, for many years now. Love of power is not enough to take on such a terribly difficult position.

He has said it many times – he is not just the Prime Minister of Israel, he is the Prime Minister of all the Jewish people. He speaks for me. He speaks for the people that love him and for those that hate him.

Netanyahu is not a perfect man or leader. No one is. He has made many plenty of mistakes, done things wrong and alienated a lot of people.

The one things I know for certain is that there is no one who can do the job better.

This is Israel

A tiny country, Israel has and is much more than people realize. And sometimes much less as well.

Take a look at our big, beautiful, exciting, moving and wonderful mess!
This video is an excellent glimpse in to the Land of Israel…

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