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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA




July 4th signifies for me both sadness and renewal. It was on this day 42 years ago in Israel - on American bicentennial - that my father passed away. After seventeen years of suffering a serious heart disease he succumbed to excitement when he saw on TV the bold Israeli rescue operation in Entebbe, Uganda. I was in Washington DC that day, unbeknownst to my family in Israel, and therefore unreachable. When my sister finally reached me the next evening, it was too late for me to fly to his funeral: The Israeli orthodox burial society, which is controlled by the Israeli Rabbinate that is in turn controlled by the Religious Ministry, refused to wait for me because I was a daughter not a son.  Had I been a son, expected under Jewish orthodox law to recite the Kadish prayer for the dead - a right that is denied under Jewish orthodoxy to women – they would have delayed my father’s funeral until my arrival. Heartbroken and outrageous, I mourned with my American husband and young daughter in New York.

Seven years earlier I was an activist in Israel, demanding rights for certain Israeli war widows, of which I was one. When in 1969 the Israeli government offered me a two-year position in New York, wanting most likely to send me away before I activate my threat to take my case to the Israeli High Court of Justice (equivalent to the American Supreme Court), I hesitated. “Go, it can be the chance of your life,” my father encouraged me, though it was hard for him to part from me. He was the only one in my family to persuade me, and I took his advice. 

I have done well in America. I remarried an American man with whom I had hoped to return to Israel, but that did not work out. I gave birth to a lovely daughter, earned a PhD in Political Science, became a college lecturer, a neutralized citizen, a Fulbright scholar, a writer, a grandmother and a memoirist. My father’s foresight was prescient.

The America I arrived in was not a unified country. Division over the Viet Nam war enhanced political partisanship, and anti-war demonstrations were met by state-sponsored violence, like the shocking Kent State killings. Richard Nixon, who was at the onset of his presidency when I arrived, had to resign five years later over his scandalous abuse of power. But the bi-partisanship in America was not the polarization America is experiencing under the Trump administration. And though Nixon acted criminally, taking advantage of American values and politics, he certainly understood them:

Unlike President Trump, who shuns non-Norwegian migrants, cages and separates families of illegal immigrants who seek a better life in America, in 1971 Nixon submitted legislation to the 92nd congress that is diametrically different. He proposed to “improve our immigration laws and to enlarge upon our national tradition as an open nation and an open society, which would, among other reforms, provide:
--A higher percentage of immigrant visas for professionals, needed workers and refugees.
--Additional visas for the Western hemisphere, with special provisions for our nearest neighbors, Mexico and Canada.”

Unlike President Trump, who has no well-defined foreign policy and lacks strategic skills, Nixon understood foreign policy, and was a brilliant strategist. He would not have given Jerusalem to the Israelis without using that gift as a strategic asset to promote peace in the Middle East. Like other US presidents succeeding him, he would not have met the North Korean leader without receiving something in return, and undoubtedly would not have canceled military exercises with South Korea, tarnishing American credibility.

No American president would have planned to meet his Russian counterpart, the master manipulator Vladimir Putin with out preparatory negotiations. And no US president would plan to meet Putin alone.  Likewise, no US president would offend his country’s NATO allies, partners to US global strategy since the end of WWII.

And I have yet to address the genuine threat to women’s reproduction rights under the current reactionary administration.

Surely some readers would say: “if she doesn’t like it here, let her go back to where she came from.” But America is my country and I value its principles and ethics. I wish my grandchildren and their generation will be living in the America I had known.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!


Sunday, July 1, 2018

THE SILENCE AT THE MILITARY CEMETARY

My blog with the above title was published last Sunday in the Times of Israel. To read please go to

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-silence-at-the-military-cemetary/

Sunday, December 24, 2017

WHY I DIDN’T TALK ABOUT MY RAPE FOR THREE DECADES

As a rape survivor decades agoand as a lecturer in Political Science, who concentrates on global affairsto me the most remarkable development of 2017, is not the ascendance of Vladimir Putin to the most powerful men in the world, the North Korean or Syrian debacles, or Donald Trump’s alarming isolationist doctrine. Surely, these are important issues, which I do not minimize. But no development this year impressed me as mush as the expansion of the #MeToo movement and its success: No longer will powerful men in any industry will use their authority to sexually abuse their subordinates without thinking about the consequences of their deeds.
And yet, in spite of the movement’s accomplishments people will continue to ask, as they have been doing from Anita Hill to the #MeToo accusers: why has a victim of rape or another act of sexual misconduct waited for years or decades to tell her or his story? By posing this question they are deliberately raising doubt about the accuracy of the accusation or the character of the accuser. Worse yet, in many cases the victim is afraid to be blamed for her or his own rape. This is why they may still hesitate to come forward. I know that from my own experience:
Aaron, a high-ranking military man, had been my fallen husband’s best friend. He and his wife, Rachel, became my trusted friends too, and I saw in our closeness the stuff that makes everlasting friendships. After my husband was killed in the Arab-Israeli Six Day war, short of my sister and her husband, Aaron and Rachel were the couple closest to me.
Nearly two-and-a-half years into my widowhood I was living in New York City, working for the Israeli government. Just then, invigorated with my determination to rebuild my life, I was numbed by another blow.
Aaron arrived in New York, part of a group that accompanied then Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. Assigned to be Aaron’s interpreter on a trip to upstate New York, arranged for him by a well-known Jewish organization, I found it natural to accept Aaron’s suggestion that I sleep in a spare room in his spacious suite at the Carlyle Hotel. The following morning we were to be picked up early, and doing so would save time.
After spending part of the evening in an official outing with the group I arrived alone at the hotel and went to sleep in one of the bedrooms. But at two in the morning I was awakened by Aaron’s banging on the suite’s door. He was supposed to have his own key. When I opened the door after changing back into my day cloths, Aaron was angered by the long time it took me to open the door. Had that happened years later, with my acquired experience I would have left the hotel right then. Better yet, I would have never agreed to sleep there. But I had trusted Aaron as if he were my brother.
When I went back to my room, he followed close behind me and stopped the door with his foot. There was a strange smile on his face, of a sort I had never seen before.
“Aaron, what are you doing?” I asked, pretending to be calm, though my heart was pounding with fear.
“I’m coming to your bed to sleep with you,” he said. He pushed me into the room and then onto the bed and started to kiss me.
He did not pay heed to my pleas or my screams, and I tried to push him off with all the strength I had. But he fought back like a vicious animal. He was a tall, strong man who weighed twice as much as I, and my violent struggle seemed only to arouse him more. Cruel and terrifying, he was a rapist like all other rapists, whether in hotel rooms or in dark alleys.
“Rachelwhat about Rachel?” I cried frantically when none of my tactics worked.
“She said that with you it was all right.”
“Yigal, remember Yigal. He was your best friend!” I pleaded, as if my departed husband were in the next room. As if I were calling him to save me from his friend, who had turned into a beast.
“He’s dead,” I heard the devil say.
My husband was dead, and I was a piece of meat, no longer his widow but merchandise that exchanged hands. Beastly hands. Inhuman hands.
I did consider charging Aaron with rape but refrained from doing so, fearing that I would be accused of provoking my own rape. No one would believe me, I thought in panic. What was I doing in his hotel room to begin with, they would ask.
I was also concern that the publicity of the case would crush my parents, and that they would not survive the knowledge of what had happened to me after the unimaginable losses I had suffered already. Not only was I widowed, but traumatized by seeing my husband burnt beyond recognition and hearing his deafening last breaths, I lost our unborn baby.
I was also certain that Aaron, holding a high position in the military and defense establishments in Israel, would abuse his power even further. Nothing was beneath him, I assumed, my mind running wild imagining an army of false witnesses he would be able to recruit, who would assassinate my character in court.
Only my sister and her husband and a handful of close friends knew about the rape. It took me nearly thirty years to be able to talk openly and publicly about that experience. When I was finally ready to acquire whether I could still press charges against Aaron, he was dying of a dreadful disease.
Because of changes in the attitudes toward rape and other sexual harassment, thanks to brave women and men who did not hesitate to openly declare, “We have been victimized and we will be wronged no more,” survivors are speaking up. But many more still fear what I had dreaded: Being blamed for my own rape and being smeared.


Friday, December 8, 2017

This post appeared in the Forward On Nov. 1 2017. Please read. 



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Memoir




It's finally out. After a decade of writing and rewriting, editing and re-editing with the help of recommended qualified editor; after doubts and reassurances, and after translating the book into Hebrew and publishing it in Israel (under the title No Laughter In Winter) two years before its final English version was completed, on June 29, I published my memoir in its original English language, in the US.  

Completing the book was an incredible journey of hard work, despair and delight, tears and laughter. But mostly it was a journey of rediscovery and pride.

I am proud of being the granddaughter of my ultra orthodox grandmother, who was a feminist and an activist decades before these words were recognized in her community; proud of being the daughter of my parents, and a member of two extraordinary families; proud of taking part in building my nation-state of Israel; proud of enduring unthinkable losses and challenges; proud of being able to love deeply, to hope in the midst of darkness, to fight for what I believed was right, to rebuild my life, and to acquire a strong sense of self.

I poured my guts out, putting on paper my most intimate experiences for strangers to read. I did it not for sensationalism – I would have revealed the names of a few famous characters who were intimately involved in my life if scandal and melodrama were what I sought in order to sell my book. Rather, I did it out of candor. I had a story to tell and I could only do it openly and honestly.   

I hope that my story inspires you.

Available in English on www.amazon.com in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere

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