June 16th, 2014

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Back From Memorial Service

Yesterday I flew up to Boston to attend the memorial service for my old friend and mentor Robert Seidman. My parents were also there, so I saw my father for Father's Day.

I lasted about 3 hours. Bob had many friends, children and grandchildren. All of the stories were different, but the picture of the man that emerges is remarkably consistent. A man who uniquely wed passion and intellect, who had lived through some of the fiercest fighting in the Navy in WWII (Murmansk Convoy, Pacific Theater) and therefore, perhaps, for whom nothing else was going to disrupt his cool. A man who at age 94 was still working to change the world for the better, while taking time to sing sea shanties with his grandchildren and start teach his great grandchildren how to appreciate sailing by strapping the carseat to the mast.

Some of the stories I had heard when I was young came back to me. At the time, they hadn't meant much, since at age 10 my conception of WWII was limited. But I remember one casual story from Bob: "Always appreciate when you get to see someone. You never know if you will ever see them again. One evening before going into battle I had dinner for my officers. The next evening, 8 of the 10 people at dinner were dead."

Bob's experiences in the terrible crucible of war had not embittered him. They had given him the power to enjoy each precious moment God grants. As I said at his memorial: "When I think how easy it is to get discouraged, to give up and stop fighting, I remember Bob. He had seen the worst life could offer. He had fought the good fight time and again. But he never stopped. When I try to think how can I inspire the next generation to carry on the fight, I remember Bob."

And there was singing. It was so much a part of Bob for all of us. We concluded with "If I had a hammer" (and learned that he and Ann had been friends with Pete Seeger -- which is not at all surprising in retrospect). And that was Bob. A hammer of justice, a bell of freedom, and his life a song about love between our brothers and our sisters all of this world.

There is a line from the end of Return of the King that I kept thinking afterwards. As the Fellowship ends at the Gray Havens Gandalf tells Merry, Pippin and Sam: "I will not say, 'do not weep,' for not all tears are evil." And it is a sadness blessed without bitterness.

Farewell, my friend, my teacher. I do my best to pay it forward.
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Am I The Only One Who Doesn't Think the PA Took The Teenagers?

The kidnapping of 3 teens in Israel seems fairly out of character for Hamas-- in that if they had taken them I would have expected either a claim of credit or for the teens to have turned up dead by now.

I would have anticipated that a strike like this would be followed by a demand for the release of the current hunger-striking PA prisoners -- either accompanied by the dead bodies of the teens or not. The previous kidnapping by Hamas (and by Hezbollah) were kidnappings of military personnel. The distinction is fairly important. Israel does not swap for civilian hostages, but they do engage in prisoner exchanges.

Based on extremely limited data, my speculation boils down to:

1. The incident has nothing to do with Palestinians. It was a random act by some psycho.

2. It was a lone-wolf or splinter group that for some reason have not claimed credit.

2a. It was some external group that has not previously operated in Israel, like ISIS, that is trying to score a major coup by taking the war to "the Zionist entity."

3. It was a planned operation by Hamas or allied group that was disrupted by the massive search and response or by realization that one of the victims is an American citizen.

4. It is an act by an Israeli provocateur to trigger a backlash against Palestinians, similar to the incident with the grave desecration some years back.

But the longer this goes without any clear indicator of Hamas involvement, the less likely it seems. Again, unless there is some kind of intel that the Israelis have that they haven't made public.