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The Brownsteins in the Land of Israel

Chapter 13:

Getting A Car

February 9, 2004

Dear Friends,

Sorry for the long delay.  As usual, there are a few comments and letter followed by my feature story and then some extremely important letters sent to me after the most recent (and, God willing, the last) bombing here in Jerusalem on January 29th.  Frankly, the bombing letters sent to me are much more important than anything I have to write.  I greatly appreciate your time in reading this entire presentation.


Your Letters

And, again, Billy Baynu, from Derech Eretz wrote of my last story "Cheated!", "Dear Richie, I read your story 'Cheated!' last night, right after I received it.  It was really great how you told it like it is about those damn Moslems and Christians in Jerusalem.  You tell 'em Richie.  They should all go back to their own stinking countries.  Burn down the churches and mosques, too, while you're at it!  But then a funny thing happened when I was talking to Mom about it.  She had just finished reading it, too, and she said that it wasn't about hating people at all, but it was about tolerance.  She said that you were mocking people who are tired of foreigners!  Mom said that you were speaking like a racist, but that you really didn't mean it.  She also said that the reason you mentioned those other cities at the end was to show that one man's bigot is another man's object of bigotry.  She even said that the reason you called the story 'Cheated' was just to make us think at the beginning that you really felt cheated, but that you don't feel cheated at all.  Mother suggested that I should reread it because I obviously didn't get it at all and she was embarrassed for me.  I told her that I read just fine and that Rich's chronicles are not tricky, but very simple about his day-to-day life in Israel.  I told her, 'I've known Rich for 40 years and he is not a serious dude.  He just likes to write subtle humor.'  I was a little bit confused when she then suggested that the $100,000 she had spent on my college education seemed to have been somewhat wasteful.  I just shrugged and went back to my videogame.  Please tell Mama that my Harvard education was worth every penny!"  Hey, Billy: listen to your mom.

My dear friend of 25 years, Rachael Andres, wrote of my last chronicle, "Cheated!": "I was worried for a minute...that you had gone over the deep end.  Thankfully a little of the liberal Rich(ie) that I know and love is still there."  I'm glad I didn't disappoint you, Rachael.

Some other people, too, were confused about which video production I was responsible for.  For anybody who is still confused, click on this link (and be patient).  My dear friend of 25 years, Jamie Black, wrote of it: "The video had your signature on it.  I don't know how else to describe it.  Your sophistication, intellect, edginess, sarcasm.  It was just you.  A grown up version of you, but still you."  Thank you, Jamie.

I also have been keeping up a little page on the website called “The Jew Of The Day.”  It is a lot of fun.

Also, sadly, I went into my post office (Chapter 3: An Address, Maybe?) the other day and finally noticed Tamar sitting in Meir's chair: First Chair, like in band.  It dawned on me that she had been there often lately, so I asked Tamar about Meir.  She said, "Didn't you know?"  "Know what?"  "Meir died about three months ago." "How?"  "An electrical shock in his home.  It was very sad."  I thought of what Baruch HaGever told me in his store across the street.  Very sad.  Meir was a nice man.

Lastly, a personal note.  Last month marked the end of my 41st year in the beginning of my 42nd year.  Normally I wouldn't make a big deal out of a birthday, but this year seems somewhat special.  For example, this is the second birthday I spent in Israel.  The first was my 20th, during winter break of my sophomore year at Reed College.  I woke up on that  fine Jerusalem morning, bought and downed a beer, and hopped a bus to the practically barren "resort" city of Eilat on the Red Sea.  This year I also celebrated in Jerusalem over dinner at Burger's Bar with my wife, my two children, and my niece Elana (and with a Diet Coke).   Also, on the day of my birthday, I completed reading the entire set of Kahati Mishah, concluding a three-year daily project.  And my 41st year also marked the end of one dream, and the fulfillment of another: the dream that ended was a result of the sale of half of my 13-year-old business, The Transcription Company; the fulfillment of a dream was the realization of 25 years of Zionism, marked by moving my family and myself to Jerusalem and becoming Israeli citizens.  And, finally, as has been a tradition for the last seven years, all of the Brownstein children had our annual vacation together (i.e., my brother Jeb and his wife and two kids from Baltimore, and my sister Jois and her husband and their two kids from Portland, and my family).  In the past we went to places like Mexico on a cruise and to Palm Springs.  This year we all got together in the Red Sea resort city called Eilat.  I am blessed with the most supportive and loving wife and siblings I could ever have wished for.  

And, of course, I'd like to thank all of you who sent birthday wishes and also who made it possible for us to live our dream here in Israel.  Thank you.


Feature Presentation

Getting A Car

It is not an exaggeration to say that living in Los Angeles is almost impossible without a car, especially if you have a family.  Fortunately, cars are relatively cheap in America (except for insurance).  Conversely, one can very easily get around here in Jerusalem by foot, cab, and bus.  Oh, and also, cars are very, very expensive here, as is fuel.  The main reason that gas and cars are expensive here is because they are both heavily taxed.  For example, there is a 125% tax on all new vehicles!  If, however, you are a new immigrant, that tax slips down to only 75%, which is a fleeting benefit for new immigrants.  Although it exists now, that is only by a thread and is vanishing momentarily.

It used to be that the Israeli government subsidized many items for immigrants in an effort to entice people to make their life here.  But then some bean counter in the Ministry of Finance figured out that the revenue gained by taking away these benefits outweighed what the new immigrants were receiving.  In other words, those of us who could pay for a new car or a new living room set would do so regardless of the benefit, even if it meant buying a little less fancy.

So, about two months before we were about to leave America, reports started coming in that the auto benefit was going to be eliminated as of July 1, 2003.  That would have been very unfortunate, considering that we planned to arrive on July 15, 2003.  I even considered coming ahead of my family to buy a car in order to retain the benefit, but I thought better of it, because, as you will see, that would have been impossible.  Happily, though, as our arrival drew nearer, we started to get information suggesting that the benefit would last until the end of 2003.

Upon arriving, I came to the conclusion that a car was a completely unneeded expense.  Of course, that was when it was 85° every day.  On the other hand, my wife Sara, who is very wise, suggested that perhaps our days of walking the children to school and ourselves to Ulpan would be slightly less romantic once it started to rain virtually every day and the temperature hovers between 40° and 50°, with a healthy wind for a kicker.  And, sure enough, as the weather started to turn, my wife made it very clear that I was living in a dream world if I thought that we could get by without a car.  She was right, of course.

So, once I shook myself into reality, I started to visit a few dealerships.  But they all said to me, "Don't bother looking for a car until you have a license.  And you probably won't get a license until after the general strike is over, and that might not be until 2006!"

Undaunted, after talking to friends who'd recently gone through the licensing gauntlet to get the skinny on the hoops and ladders I would need to circumnavigate, I learned that the first stop would have to be a really tiny hole-in-the-wall office -- seemingly completely unaffiliated with the State -- in downtown Jerusalem.  There I went to present my California driver's license, Israeli ID card, immigrant card, and some cash.  In return, I received a form with my picture and my information on it.  I asked what to do next.  They said I needed to have my vision and health checked and that this form would be my scorecard in this very Israeli version of a treasure hunt.  Squinting at the form, at first I was annoyed that they were making me jump through these silly little hoops to get something so rightfully mine.  But then, realizing that I had no choice, the half-full part of me rationalized that it was probably better to make sure that all the people on the highways in Israel be physically able to handle a vehicle.  In fact, as I walked to a heavily trafficked "doctor's office" -- which is brilliantly situated across the street from the form factory -- I was actually somewhat delighted that such care was being showered upon us.  Big Brother with a heart.

Suddenly happy, a minute later I entered this cramped office.  I bumped into a few people who seemed to be waiting in front of me.  As I started to eke out to the receptionist something that she hears 500 times a day in at least five languages (Hebrew, Arabic, English, French, and Russian), almost without acknowledgment she said with a classic Russian accent, "Sit down. Two minutes.  Sit down."  I sat down.  A minute later she showed me to a room where a virtual teenager in a white jacket told me to look into a special machine and to tell her which line had the smallest letters I could read.  My lasered eyes didn't fail me.  Then she flicked a switch and showed me some colored boxes in the machine.  "Tell me," she said yawning, "what three colors do you see."  "White, green, and red."  "Green?" she said in mid-yawn, with a double-take that would have made any Hollywood director yell, "Print!"  Guessing, feeling somewhat nostalgically patriotic and historically color deficient, I said, "Oh, green?  I meant, um, ah, blue.  Blue.  Red, white, and blue?  Right?"  "Right," she said, almost smiling, while signing my paper, " red, white, and blue.  Go across the hall to the doctor."

Boy, they really are tough here; that eye exam was one of the most grueling 15 seconds of my life.

Across the hall I found a 50-year-old Russian doctor in a white lab coat, unbuttoned to mid-chest, with rolling tufts of gray hair bulging through the fabric.  He told me to sit down and took my paper.  He said to me in very dingy English, "You healthy."  “Yeah.”  "Okay, sign here."  Once back out on the street, my nascent sense of confidence in the selection process began to falter and wither away, like the buttons on the "doctor's" coat.

My informants then told me that it is virtually impossible to get a license without first spending time with a driving instructor.  On one hand, having driven since the Ford Administration, I felt like having to pay an instructor 100 bucks was a bit of overkill.  But then, realizing I had no choice, the half-full part of me rationalized that it was probably an ideal policy to make sure that everybody behind the wheel knows how to drive.  (As if my flash memory had just been reprogrammed and the literally dozens of visions of motorists bobbing in and out of truly lethal situations had been magically erased.)

So I called the "teacher" who was recommended to me.  He asked, with a tired Soviet accent, if I had "paper".  I thought so.  I described what I had.  No.  I needed to go to “license bureau,” which is very close to my neighborhood, to get "paper".  Once I got "paper", I should call him back and he would schedule "lesson" with me and schedule my actual driving test for me as well.

So I went to "license bureau" and took a number and waited 30 minutes to watch a woman look over my California driver's license and other documentation and ask a few questions.  Satisfied that my California driver's license was valid and had not lapsed, she gave me "new paper".  Back at home, I called teacher who told me that he would drop by in a few minutes, honk the horn, and that I should run outside and hand him "paper".  Leaning in from the passenger side, I asked instructor when we would be able to conclude ordeal.  He was fabulously noncommittal!

About a week later teacher called me and told me that "partner Uri" would be taking me for test the following day.  I was to meet at hotel near my Ulpan just after class.  "By the way," he asked, " stick or automatic?"  I went for it all.  "Bring on the stick!"

So the next day Uri's learner's car stopped in front of hotel and he said goodbye to a 17-year-old girl who had just tormented him for the last hour through the extremely narrow streets of Jerusalem.  I got in and off we went.  For the next 20 minutes, until we got to testing site, the only comment Uri made about my driving was that it is better to "keep car in gear" when going downhill, as opposed to trying to save gas by coasting.  Hey, whatev'.

So we arrived -- in gear -- at testing site, which is a building and parking lot.  Uri tells me to park car in front of where the test is going to begin.  I comply.  Then he says, "I'm going to show you test route."  Cool.  "Okay, go."  So I start to go -- forward -- like, "go" to me means "go".  So then Uri, as I start to "go" , slams on his instructor's breaks, stalling out the car. "Hey, Uri," I look at him.  "I thought you said go."  Uri pointed to sign straight ahead, the symbol round with a horizontal line through it.  "That means no enter.  You would have failed test.  You Americans never think it's worth taking lesson... until I stall you out."  Thanks Uri.  You dah man; I'm just dumb American.

For the next 20 minutes Uri and I tour the other cool little traps that overconfident Americans wouldn't notice.  Then we go back to testing station.  Uri goes in and returns five minutes later with Vladimir.  (Did I mention that 1.3 million Russians have immigrated to Israel in the last 10 years and constitute one quarter of all Israelis?  Baruch HaShem!)  So, when Vladimir says, "Go", I say to Vladimir, "Hey Vladi, where you want me to go?  That's a ‘do not enter’ sign straight ahead.  Don't you see it?  You don't want me to go there, do you?"  "Uri did good," Vladi smiled.  "Maybe, let's turn right."  Yeah, let's.  Now that we had that clear, once he learned that my wife is from Paris, Vladi spent the next 25 minutes, while I was driving, practicing his French on me.  We got back to testing station.  Vladi said, "Au Revoir."

Uri gets in.  I asked, "So how did I do?"  "I don't know.  You never know.  You can never tell with these Russians!"  Uri smiled.  "I call you at four o'clock to tell you."

Four o'clock came and went about a dozen times before my wife suggested that maybe I should call to see how it went, so I called.  Teacher told me that I passed, but, unfortunately, due to current strike, there is nothing I could do, no place to go to pick up license.  "So what was the point?"  "Hey, you called me!"

Believe it or not, I wasn't sweating it too much because it was still several months before the end of the year, and I figured I had plenty of time.  Sara was a little less, how can I put it, tranquil.  But it wasn't like I could run over to the Prime Minister's house on the way to Ulpan and deal with it.  I pointed out to Sara, who grew up in Socialist France, that strikes are intended to throw people's lives out of whack, or didn't she remember?  Hey Honey, at least in America we have a proud tradition of dealing with strikes by breaking unions and hiring scabs.  Here, they're just learning how to do that.

Then, miraculously, totally out of the clear blue metaphor, about two weeks later, I get in the mail a very official looking little document.  I looked over it again and again, like Charlie gazing at the golden ticket.  "I do believe," I said to my little former Socialist wife, "that this is my temporary driver's license."  There was a place on it with instructions to go to the post office and pay to have the real one sent me.  So down I went to the post office, to Tamar, who verified what I had suspected and told me to pony up approximately 50 bucks.  About two weeks later the real driver's license arrived.  Whoopee!

Now I could start getting serious about finding a car.

Needless to say, cars in Israel are significantly different from cars in America.  The selection is limited and there are almost no options.  The highest "trim level" or version of a model is less plush then the lowest level of an equivalent car in America.

Then there's the problem of buying cars from companies whose home country is either currently or has historically been unfriendly to Jews.  Obviously, this includes all German cars and all cars owned by German companies, which includes Chrysler.  It also includes all French cars, which means no Peugeot (a pretty nice car), Renault, or Citroen.  Fiat, too, is a problem because, although Italy is currently Israel's best friend in Europe, when I went to the Fiat website I found that although Fiats are sold here in Israel, Israel was the only nation where Fiats are sold that is not listed there (a.k.a. subtle, but real, anti-Semitism).  Now, I know the argument about Henry Ford being one of the world's great anti-Semites.  Having owned two Tauruses, one Miata (Ford owns a third of Mazda), and one Volvo (owned by Ford), this is an old argument for me.  In a nutshell, buying Fords was a matter of ignoring the attitude of one man as opposed to the attempted genocide by the people of Germany and their willful collaborators in chronically anti-Semitic France.

That being said, I actually wasn't interested in a Ford at all.  What I really wanted was a good, old-fashioned minivan, and the Ford minivan is appalling.  So, after ruling out all the above, my choices were very sparse.  In the end, I decided to get a Kia Carnival, which has a turbo diesel engine.  It cost about $4000 less than the Mazda MPV, and the cost of operation is significantly less.  For example, diesel fuel costs about $.65 per liter; gasoline costs about $1.10 per liter.  The Mazda gets about 6 kilometers per liter; the Kia gets about 10.  So, the overall cost per mile is about $.10 for the Kia and $.28 for the Mazda.

So I went into the Kia dealership, and Natasha happily took my deposit.  Right afterwards, a friend from Ulpan called me and said that he just got the identical car through a broker who saved him approximately $1500.  I called the broker who faxed me over the information to confirm that he was for real.  Then I called Natasha and I asked if the dealership could meet the price.  Unhappily, they did.

(That same day, I was shopping for wine in downtown Jerusalem.  I found some that looked pretty good, so bought six bottles.  About an hour later, near my home, I found the same wine for seven bucks a bottle cheaper!  I was livid.  I had just squandered over 40 bucks!  Never mind the fact that two hours before that, I had just saved $1,500 on the car.  As my friend and mentor, Rich Markey, is fond of saying, "Go figure.")

Anyway, at that point it seemed like there was only one thing left to do: get the car.  Normally I wouldn't have really cared about the timing.  A week here, a week there.  There's a strike going on, easy, easy.  Except.  Except.  Except my brother and sister and their families were coming from America for our annual get-together.  Somehow I needed to get my family to Eilat, which is about 250 miles from Jerusalem, and I had hoped to be able to load up the old Kia for a four-hour sing-along.  The alternatives to driving were not terribly appealing: take a cab an hour to Tel Aviv to wait an hour through security to fly a half-hour to Eilat; take a taxi the whole way; rent a car; or take a bus.  As you can see, driving my family in our brand new Kia diesel minivan was far better than any of the above choices.  But several weeks had gone by without any sign of Customs reviewing my vehicle for release and, frankly, I was almost out of time.

So I called Natasha at the Kia dealership and reminded her that my grandmother was from Dnipropetrovsk.  And I asked her if there was any way that I could take delivery of the car in time for the trip.  Tasha seemed very sympathetic, but told me that it was out of her hands.  She explained that once Customs has the paperwork, the dealership is absolutely forbidden from contacting Customs.  I said to her that I would be more than happy to make the call myself, thinking that calling Customs was an impossibility.  To the contrary, she practically leapt at the opportunity to give me the number.  But Tasha also told me not to get my hopes up.

As soon as I got a chance, I made the call.  Not surprisingly, they were closed because of the strike and the message said to try again the next day, Friday.

That I did, successfully speaking to Boris, the Customs guy.  I told him that I had a problem.  He told me that there is a strike.  I told him that my car was being held there and that I needed to have it released.  He listened.  I gave him my ID number.  He looked up the car.  I asked him what the story was.  Boris said there is a strike.  I asked him what needed to be done in order to release the car.  Boris told me that if he decided to release the vehicle it would be done in a matter of minutes, but that he'd been at work now for close to an hour, it was Friday, and he was going home.  He suggested that I call him at 9 a.m. on Sunday (the first workday of the week in Israel).  I thanked him and told him to have a good Shabbos.

At 9 a.m. on Sunday I called Boris and asked him if he had any more news for me about my car.  He said he would release it immediately.  I thanked him profusely and the 30-second conversation was finished.

I immediately called Tasha and told her the good news.  Tash said, basically, not so fast!  Huh?  Apparently it would take several days to get the car street-ready once they received it, including putting on the mandatory alarm with satellite tracking system that is required by all Israel insurance companies.  I told her that I really didn't have several days and that I would really appreciate whenever she could do for me.

The next day Tash called me to invite me to the dealership to take delivery.  After she ran me through all the buttons and manuals, she said to me, "Richard, may I ask you something?"  Sure, Tash.  "What did you say to Customs that they released the car?"  It took me a moment to realize that this kind of cooperation during a strike -- or maybe at any other time in Israel -- would be considered unusual or perhaps even gracious.  So I turned to her and said, "Tash, can I ask you a question?"  Sure.  "What did I say to you that made you rush my car through so quickly yesterday?"  She hesitated and then answered, "You told me that you needed the car."  I smiled, and said to her, "Which is all I said to Customs, too."

Israel is a wondrous land of contradictions and ever-present miracles.  Israel can be fitful and frustrating.  But, most of all, Israel is a land where people are always ready for two things: to be treated roughly by anyone who crosses their path and to be exceedingly generous when they are not treated roughly.  I'm thankful to have learned this lesson after only six months in my homeland.

Anyway, thanks for reading this far.

For a strikingly different perspective on getting an Israeli driver's license, I highly encourage you to read my wife's short piece about her unique experience by clicking here.

I appreciate and look forward to your comments and greetings.

As you know, we are in the middle of a membership drive, so please get me the e-mail addresses of people whom you want to add.  (Let them know ahead of time, so I don't get in trouble with the spam police).

Please stay tuned for Chapter 14: “Class Lessons.”

All the best,  



Rich Brownstein

PO Box 8130

91081 Jerusalem


Phone: 011-972-2-6733-491




No cars were harmed in the photography of this reenactment.

All characters except Billy Baynu are purely fictional.

If you want to add someone to this list, or remove yourself, just e-mail and let him know.

Please freely distribute to those with too much time on their hands. 



Rich's Chronicle Index E-Mail Rich Rich & Sara's Family Page


My wife, Sara Brownstein, wrote the following the day after the January 29, 2003 Jerusalem bus bombing.

We opened the cages of the beasts yesterday.  Can a wild beast do something meaningful with freedom?  No.  Nothing.  Except to kill again and again.  That is what they did, tearing our flesh apart, drinking our blood and claiming that their despair can only be expressed this way.  Personally, I know a few good places they could go in case they feel the need to blow themselves up out of frustration.  But I forgot: it wouldn't work if the blood they suck isn't Jewish.  The satisfaction wouldn't be the same and the world would even voice some protestations.

Yesterday plunged into despair every Jew in the world.  I was at home when Rich called.  He sounded frantic and I couldn't understand what he was saying.  Then, I heard the word "Pigu-a".  Where, when, how many. That is all that matters, nothing else; no speeches are needed when you hear the dreadful word.  Rich didn't know yet the details.

I started to think about our friend Isabelle, who is visiting, who left 15 minutes before towards that direction.  I couldn't reach her and I got very worried.  Our niece, Elana, who lives a block from the blast called me to let me know she was okay.  Her voice was trembling and I could feel she was holding back her tears.  The thought Jews were dying at this precise moment made me dizzy and nauseous.  I hung up. I couldn't find the strength to say a hearty B"H'', that my loved ones are safe.  What about my other loved ones, the ones I would never have a chance to meet.  I knew that somewhere, somebody else was receiving a phone call and that their world would collapse around them.

I called some friends that I know who go there or live nearby.  I heard from Isabelle.  She was okay, B'H''.  I decided to go to the Kotel.  As I was taking my purse, the phone rang.  It was Batya's school.  Her teacher told them the news and she felt the need to talk to me.  She was scared and I could hear her sobbing.  I told her I was okay and Daddy and Yehuda.  I told her to be strong.  I told her not to fear.  I told her that HaShem was with us.  I told her, I don't know what I told her.  I just was focusing on not crying, not to rush to pick her up now and hide under our blankets.  Just stay calm and reassuring.  Just convince her that everything will be okay.  Ha kol yiye besseder.  Everybody is saying it right now, crying and sobbing.  It will be okay, but when?

I kept repeating to her to be strong.  When I told her the word  'Chazak",  "strong" in Hebrew, she automatically continued with the following words we said when we complete the reading of one Book of the Torah.  " Chazak, Chazak, Venischazeik!"  "Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!"  She then laughed and thanked me, she felt better.  I was glad I stayed home.  I decided to stay at home in case I needed to pick her up earlier.  I thought of Yehuda, hoping they wouldn't tell the little ones about the news at school. I thought about Michael, the young guard in front of Yehuda's school and I begged him in my mind to keep his eyes open.

I needed to do something meaningful.  I emptied half of our closets and brought clothes to a wonderful Rabbi in our neighborhood who takes care of children in need.  It helped a little bit.

But somewhere, in my mind I couldn't help to think about another little girl, who felt the urge to talk to her mother to feel reassured and who would never have a chance to hear her voice again, ever.


 My 18-year-old niece Elana Brownstein, who is in Israel for her freshman year of college, wrote this letter the day of the bombing. 

She is an amazing young woman and I am very proud of her.


January 29, 2004

Dear Friends and Family,

At approximately 8:30 this morning a Palestinian Authority Policeman/Homicide Bomber denoted his explosives on a bus, murdering 10 and injuring an additional 65. Egged bus #19 was traveling from Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem to Hadassah Hospital on Har Hatzofim when the shrapnel-packed bomb exploded a mere block and a half from my Jerusalem dorm room where I have spent the past 5 months.

The majority of my group (Nativ), including myself happened not to be in the dorm at the time of the explosion as we were touring a Charedi (Ultra Orthodox) school several neighborhoods away from our Rechavia (Jerusalem neighborhood) home. Some of my friends, however, remained in our dorm and experienced the horror. The dorms shook, ambulances with deafening sirens overwhelmed each block of the building's 5 street intersection, and the trauma was in close eye shot of the Nativ roof balcony.

We returned from our tour at around 11am at which time I hurried to the mostly cleared out scene. A few ambulances and police vehicles remained while private cars were still unable to pass on Azza Street. ZAKA (emergency relief volunteers) were searching for body parts in tree branches as I passed by. Media crews, onlookers, and emergency workers enveloped the area. Not many people were speaking. No one had anything to say. There was nothing to say. There is nothing to say.

Feeling helpless all day with my emotions running high, I decided to visit the scene once again, this time with candles and tehillim (psalms) in hand. I lit 10 candles - one for each of today's victims and recited verses of tehillim (one for each victim) for nearly an hour. I don't ever remember crying as much as I did today and tonight. As I stood reciting tehillim and weeping, an Israeli woman came to me and embraced me for a long moment and whispered "Yihiyeh Tov, Yihiyeh Tov- It will be okay, It will be okay." After some time, I returned to my dorm room feeling a little bit better knowing that I did the only thing I could in such a helpless situation.

While I knew that coming to Israel during this trying time in our nation's history would be difficult, I never imagined that something would hit this close to home. Nonetheless, I feel proud to be a Jew, living (even if temporarily) in the state of Israel among my brothers and sisters. Thank G-d, everyone I know is okay, and my immediate family is safe. My extended family though, Am Yisrael (the Jewish people), lost 10 innocent members this morning. May their memories be for a blessing.

B'shalom V'ahavat Zion (With peace and love for Israel),


Elana Brownstein


Please feel free to forward this to anyone who might benefit from reading it and I would love to hear back from you if you have a chance to write.


My dear friend Rabbi Shraga Simmons, who is and, wrote this letter the day of the bombing.

He is an amazing man and friend.


On Jan. 29, the day of the bus bombing in Jerusalem in which 10 people were killed, I spent the day with a friend who was visiting from America.

"Ten families!" my friend said over and over, shaking his head in bewilderment. "I just think of each of those people kissing their kids goodbye in the morning, and then heading off to work. Murdered in cold blood."

My reaction to the bombing was far less emotional. Perhaps after nearly four years and 1,000 dead, I had stopped reacting. Somehow, the pain was too great to bear and I had tuned it out, in order to go on with my life.

"Ten people!" my friend kept repeating throughout the day.

It gnawed at me the fact that I was not distraught over the massacre.

And then I got the news.

Chezi Goldberg, a friend, father of seven, immigrant from Toronto, and contributing writer to, was among those murdered in the bus bombing.


Chezi, who felt deeply the pain of every Jew, and who dedicated his life to working with "at risk" teens.

Chezi, who warned us all against falling into "numb acceptance" of terror attacks.

Two years ago, after a triple-terror attack on Jerusalem's Ben Yehudah pedestrian mall, Chezi wrote the following essay. Please read it, in honor of his memory. And may we all take Chezi's words to heart.



"If You Don't Cry, Who Will?"


Yechezkal Chezi Goldberg


He walked into shul. I nodded my acknowledgement like I always do. He made some strange gesture, which I couldn't understand. I went on with the business of the prayer service.

A few minutes later, he walked over to me and said, "Didn't you hear?"

"Hear about what?"

"Didn't you HEAR?"

I understood that he was talking about last night's terror attack on Ben Yehudah Mall.

I assumed that he obviously intended that someone we knew was hurt or killed.

"About who?"

He looked at me as if I had landed from another planet. "About who? About everyone who was attacked last night."

I nodded, "Yes, I heard."

"Then why aren't you crying?"

His words shot through me like a spear piercing my heart. Our Sages teach that "words that come from the heart enter the heart." He was right. Why wasn't I crying?

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

He pointed around the shul. "Why aren't all my friends crying?"

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

"Shouldn't we all be crying?"

He was right. What has happened to all of us? -- myself included. We have turned to stone. Some would call it numbness. Some would call it collective national shock. Some would say that we all have suffered never-ending trauma and it has affected our senses.

The excuses are worthless. All the reasons in the world don't justify our distance from the pain that is burning in our midst.

When an attack happens, in the heat of the moment, we frantically check to see if someone we know has been hurt or killed. And then, if we find out that "our friends and family are safe," we breathe a deep sigh of relief, grunt and grumble about the latest tragic event and then, continue with our robotic motions and go on with our lives.

We have not lost our minds, my friends. We have lost our hearts.

And that is why we keep on losing our lives.

When I left the shul, my friend said to me with tears dripping from his bloodshot eyes, "I heard that the Torah teaches that for every tear that drops from our eyes, another drop of blood is saved."

We are living in a time of absolute madness. And yet, we detach ourselves and keep running on automatic in our daily lives.

Last night, 10 people were killed and nearly 200 were injured. Even MSNBC referred to the triple terror attack as a "slaughter."

And still, we are not crying.

Perhaps my friends, we are foolish to believe that the nations of the world should be upset about the continuous murder and slaughter of Jews -- if we ourselves are not crying about it. Am I not my brother's keeper?

The most effective way for us to stop the carnage in our midst is to wake up and to react to it from our hearts. How can we demand that God stop the tragedy, when most of us react like robots when tragedy strikes?

If we don't cry about what is happening around us, who will?

If you don't cry about what is happening around us, who will?

If I don't cry about what is happening to us, who will?

Maybe our salvation from this horrific mess will come only after we tune into our emotions and cry and scream about it.

When our enemies pound us and we fail to react because we no longer feel the pain, we are truly in a precarious position in the battle to survive.

I know a woman who has no sensitivity in her fingers. When she approaches fire, she doesn't feel the pain. That puts her in a dangerous position because she might be getting burnt and not know it, because her senses don't feel it.

If we are being hurt and we don't feel it, then we are in a very risky position. A devastating 3-pronged suicide attack on Jerusalem's most popular thoroughfare should evoke a cry of pain and suffering from all of us, should it not? Unless of course, we have lost our senses.

And if we have lost our senses, then what hope is there?

I turn on the news to hear of more carnage in Haifa. Sixteen dead. Sixteen of my brothers and sisters.

King Solomon said, "There is a time for everything." Now is the time for crying.

May God protect each and every one of us from our enemies so that we will not have to cry in the future.$.asp



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