STREET ART AS A COVER-UP

Imagine a big, ugly, grey concrete wall being put up in front of your home. Imagine not being able to carry on with your life as you always have. Imagine not being able to go to work, send your children to school, visit other family members.If you can imagine all of those things than you know how the Palestinians in Israel feel about the wall.To make it slightly more bearable and more acceptable to the eye, a group of artists have been busy decorating the wall with art. Here are just a few examples of what is happening…. the site also has links to street art in other parts of the world.Enjoy! Scroll all the way down to see all the pics…. Link

THREE VERY SPECIAL LADIES

As one goes through life, one meets people in different ways. Some in person, some on the Internet. Common struggles brings these people together to become friends. Here are three such people in my life…
One is Nola. A gem of a person. We met here in Jerusalem when she was on one of her many Solidarity Missions. She has been designated the Ambassador for Children in the Middle East.
If you visit her Website, you will understand why….
http://www.inspiredpath.com/

Another such person is Mirah. We went to the same High School and we both grew up in the same neighbourhood. We did not know each other at the time, but got connected through a High School Website. She visited Israel recently and we had a lovely visit together. Visit her Blog on this site….
http://mirahsreflections.blogspot.com/

Last, but not least is Dianne. We met at another blogsite. It was a site dominated by right wing fanatics and racists. Our common views brought us close together. We have not met in person yet, but hopefully will real soon. She also has a blog on this site… visit it as well….
http://dustydoggie.blogspot.com/

Get to know my friends…. let them get to know you as well.
Shalom-Salaam!

WE ARE ALMOST BACK TO NORMAL

Finally! The cycle of a months’ long Jewish holidays have come to an end. The month of October saw Jews throughout the world celebrate Rosh HaShana (New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Succot (Feast of the Tabernacles).
All this while, our Muslim cousins were observing the Holy Month of Ramadan. That will culminate this week with a three day Feast called Eid Al Fiter.
Then… we will really be back to normal…. until December when the Jews will celebrate Chanukah (The Festival of Lights) for eight days, while our Christian neighbours celebrate Christmas.
Living in the Holy Land is one big celebration of life!
To learn from each other is wonderful, to celebrate with each other is even better.
Shalom-Salaam!

ARAB/JEWISH RELATIONS IN ISRAEL

I want to share a recent experience, but I must give a background story first….As most of you already know, I live in Israel. I am Jewish by faith.I live in Jerusalem, not far from the local university. As a result, I am always meeting students from abroad and from all over Israel. My home has always been an open house to many of these students and they frequently come for meals, to watch TV or to use the Internet. I love this exposure to young people, it keeps me young.About six years ago I met a young law student from the northern part of Israel. We became quite close friends after a very short time. He is a Palestinian Muslim. This in no way ever was an issue to our friendship. He was living in the dorms of the university when I met him, about a block from my home.
When he finished his studies he had to move out of the dorms. He called me that day saying that he had to speak to me. We arranged for him to come over to the house. He had an idea, but by the time he got here he informed me that what he was thinking was nonsense and could never work.I finally convinced him to tell me what his idea was and to let me be the judge if it was nonsense or not. He thought that he could move into my home, but then realised that it was a dumb idea, impossible, unheard of….. I asked why he thought that. His reply was that he is an Arab and I am a Jew and we cannot live together because of that. I asked him if he had a problem with me being a Jew; he said he didn’t. I told him that I had no problem with him being an Arab.He moved in with me that very day. I told him that I was not in a landlord mode, so if he moved in with me he would be treated like a son, not as a tennant. He had no problem with that.He was very happy to be able to remain in Jeruslem and was fortunate enough to start up his own private law practice.
About a year later the Intefada started here. I was not sure what the situation between us would become as a result. He was also unsure.The horrible situation only brought us closer together and we both understand fully the plights of either side of the struggle.His family has accepted me as a full fledged member of their family. I go to his village often and am more than welcome. My family has met him and they adore him as well and he is always welcome in their homes.
Two years ago he was married to a lovely young lady from his village. Because of the situation at her workplace she was not able to move to Jerusalem at the time, so he remained with me and she stayed in his parents home. He went there every weekend and every other chance he got.Last year they became the proud parents of a gorgeous little boy, my grandson. Two months ago, twin girls were born. Our living arrangements remain the same because of the work situation, he is with me during the week and with his ‘other’ family on weekends. It is difficult for them, but there is no alternative at the moment.
A group of visiting American journalists and psychologists heard about the two of us. They wanted to meet us and interview us. We agreed and we all met in the home of his parents in an Arab village in northern Israel about a year ago.They were fascinated by our relationship and closeness despite all odds against us. They made us feel very special. I never felt we were doing anything special, two human beings, two friends living in the same home as family. What seems so special about that? But he is an Arab and I am a Jew and it cannot be, its impossible, unheard of. I find that very sad, it should be the norm, not something special.Anyhow, because of these latest developements,meeting with the journalists, we have now become Israels hottest tourist attraction… it’s a great feeling!

MY FAMILY IS DIVIDED (A poem about the wall)

I recently wrote this poem, it reflects what the Palestinians might think of the situation…

MY FAMILY IS DIVIDED

A wall has been built,
I cannot see my neighbor
I know not when he needs my help
I know not when he is hungry.

My brother’s child cannot come for an afternoon snack
I cannot bring it to him
The wall is in the way
Dividing families and loved ones.

“They” told us the wall is for protection.
From what?
Must our children go hungry?
Must we be jobless?

“They” say we are the enemy.
Is going to work a crime?
Is going to school a crime?
Try to tell a child that hunger is a good thing.

If the wall stays up
There will be an enemy
Uneducation and hunger leads to resentment
Resentment will lead to revolt.

Learn from your history my friends
Learn that walls are not the solution
Learn that unity is strength
And learn that justice triumphs over evil always.

FENCES DO NOT MAKE GOOD NEIGHBOURS

The Wall….

I was once a proud Jew. I was once a proud Israeli. Today it is difficult to be either. We were once the people that pioneered in change. We were once the most progressive element of humanity. We cared, not only for ourselves, but for all around us as well.We were the mightiest force to support the changing of the guard in tsarist Russia; supporters of the new revolutionary movements of 1917. This was to herald a new era in that land, an end to pogroms and anti-Semitism, that was our hope, not necessarily what became of events.

We took those ideals with us throughout the world. We became the backbone of the trade union movement in the new world. We were doers, not out of selfish reasons to better our own lives, but for the benefit of all.We were instrumental in getting rid of the apartheid regimes in South Africa. We marched with greats like Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States, Nelson Mandela in South Africa. We risked all; our lives, our livelihoods, for humanity.Despite centuries of oppression and hatred towards us, we cared. We were not idle talkers, we were doers. Our voices were heard and changes were made.

We were kicked out of countries; we were forced to accept alien gods as ours, we were marched into ovens, yet we remained a powerful force against this happening to others. Our convictions were strengthened with every blow taken against us.For thousands of years we rejoiced in our festivals, celebrating freedom, victory over tyrants, deliverance. For thousands of years we dreamt of one day returning to our own land.That dream has become a reality, but has become a nightmare for those that dwell among us. No longer are we the forces of progress. No longer are we the champions of justice. Instead, we have allowed a situation to develop which has turned us into the monster that tried to destroy us.

Fences were built throughout Europe to keep us apart from others. Rituals were forbidden with the hope that assimilation would result. Despite the odds, we survived as a people.Today it is us that build the fences, demolish homes, it is us that separate families, and it is us that have become the oppressor. Yes, there are problems, yes there are enemies. An entire people are not the enemy. We have devils among us as well, the Kahanes,(rascist founder of the Jewish Defense League) the Baruch Goldsteins (murderer that gunned down over 40 Muslim worshippers in the tomb of Abraham, in Hebron 10 years ago) may their names be erased from memory. They have their Hamas, an organization built on hatred. They have their Islamic Jihad. To deal with these organizations is one thing, to collectively punish an entire nation is another, and definitely unacceptable.

Fences do not make good neighbours as the old saying goes. Fences deprive people of livelihoods, deprive people of medical facilities, deprive people of the life, we as a people dreamt of.We in Israel can be the showcase of tolerance and understanding. We can be the leader of nations in the elimination of hatred and distrust. As individuals, as a people, as a nation, let us truly reach out and get to know our cousins. Let us reach out and allow them to speak their piece to us, let us listen, let us compromise, and let us survive together. Only then will the present madness come to an end. If not, we as a people will come to an end. We have come a long way; let’s not allow that to happen. Let us continue on the road to progress and justice. Let me once again be the proud Jew and Israeli I once was.

ROSA PARKS IS DEAD AT 92

Rosa Parks died today at the age of 92. A woman who changed the direction of things with a simple action; she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. An action that would not bring any attention to itself if it occurred today, but in 1955 there were specified sections on busses in Montgomery, Alabama for Black riders. Her simple action resulted in her arrest, which sparked the Civil Rights Movement as we knew it. It sparked a year long boycott of busses in Montgomery, a boycott that eventually resulted in the desegregation of seating arrangements.
One simple action from one person. Those that came to her support included greats like the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His personal involvement in her case gave him the boost to become the leader of the entire movement at the time.
One simple action from one person.
Our lives have been bettered by having a Rosa Parks live in our time. She was truly a gift to all that cherish freedom. We have been blessed to have her live among us.
May she rest in Peace and may her memory be an inspiration to all of us.

PUT RACISM TO REST

This is a reprint of an article I received from a friend. As racism continues to reveal its ugly head throughout the MiddleEast and the United States, I thought it would be an appropriate addition to my blog.

Race to Our Credit
By Tim Wise

Sometimes it can be difficult, having a conversation with those whose political views are so diametrically opposed to one’s own.But even more challenging, is having a discussion with someone who simply refuses to accept even the most basic elements of your worldview. At that point, disagreement is less about the specifics of one or another policy option, and more about the nature of social reality itself.

This is what it can be like sometimes, when trying to discuss the issue of white privilege with white people. Despite being an obvious institutionalized phenomenon to people of color and even some of us white folks, white privilege is typically denied, and strongly, by most of us.

Usually, this denial plays out in one of two ways: either we seek to shift the focus of discussion to our status as members of some other group that isn’t socially dominant (so, for example, whites who are poor or working class will insist that because of their economic marginalization, they effectively enjoy no racial privilege at all), or we retreat to the tired but popular notion that all have an equal opportunity in this, our colorblind meritocracy.

Denying ones privileges is of course nothing if not logical. To admit that one receives such things is to acknowledge that one is implicated in the process by which others are oppressed or discriminated against. It makes fairly moot the oft-heard defense that “I wasn’t around back then, and I never owned slaves, or killed any Indians,” or whatever.

If one has reaped the benefits of those past injustices (to say nothing of ongoing discrimination in the present) by being elevated, politically, economically and socially above persons of color, for example–which whites as a group surely have been thanks to enslavement, Indian genocide and Jim Crow–then whether or not one did the deed becomes largely a matter of irrelevance.

Of course, what is ultimately overlooked is that denial of one’s privilege itself manifests a form of privilege: namely, the privilege of being able to deny another person’s reality (a reality to which they speak regularly) and suffer no social consequence as a result.

Whites pay no price, in other words, for dismissing the claims of racism so regularly launched by persons of color, seeing as how the latter have no power to punish such disbelievers at the polls, or in the office suites, or in the schools in most cases.

On the other hand, people of color who refuse to buy into white reality–the “reality” of the U.S. as a “shining city on a hill,” or the “reality” of never-ending progress, or the “reality” of advancement by merit–often pay a heavy toll: they are marginalized, called “professional victims,” or accused of playing the race card.

Consider the common charge of conspiratorial paranoia hurled at any person of color, for example, who dared to point out the racially-disparate voter purging that took place in Florida in 2000, or in various places in 2004. White reality is privileged at every turn, so that if whites say something is a problem, it is, and if whites insist it isn’t, then it isn’t.

Those of us who are white remain thought of as sober-minded, and never as given to underestimating the extent of racism, making a molehill out of what is, in fact, often a mountain, or playing our own race card, the denial card, which far and away trumps whatever pallid alternative people of color may occasionally find in their own decks.

In other words, privilege is not merely about money and wealth. It is not merely something that attaches when one is born with the proverbial silver spoon in one’s mouth. Rather it is the daily psychological advantage of knowing that one’s perceptions of the world are the ones that stick, that define the norm for everyone else, and that are taken seriously in the mainstream.

Whiteness is so privileged in everyday dialogue that one need look no further than our nation’s post-election discourse to see how it operates.

So, for example, one after another commentator in the wake of election night pontificated, without hesitation, that the outcome had been a referendum on “moral values,” and the result of high turnout amongst evangelical Christians, who overwhelmingly voted for President Bush.

Yet what this analysis ignored is that it was only some evangelicals who overwhelmingly chose to re-elect the President, while others voted to do exactly the opposite. Indeed, black evangelicals voted eight to one against Bush, meaning that the mainstream talking heads, as usual were privileging the white perspective, and universalizing the particular behavior of white folks, as if it were the standard for everyone.

So too with the so-called “red state, blue state” divide. Fact is, the divide is less one of geography than race: a majority of whites in the blue states (including California and New York) voted for Bush on election day, while the vast majority of blacks and the majority of other persons of color in the red states voted against him.

But part of white privilege is never having to examine the peculiarity of white behavior (or even acknowledge that there is such a thing as white group behavior at all), and so naturally, this racial aspect of electoral division remains unexamined, and the more comforting perspective (for whites at least) that there is merely a split based on residence remains largely unchallenged.

But it’s more than that. Even more important as an example of white privilege–the kind that adheres to all whites, not just the rich–is the ability to avoid being stigmatized by the actions of others who just so happen to fall within the same racial group as you.

While people of color bear the burden of disproving negative stereotypes regularly–when interviewing for a job, taking a standardized test, or merely driving in the “wrong” neighborhood, where they are presumed not to belong–whites rarely if ever have to worry that the actions of others like us, no matter how horrible, will stick to us or force us to prove that we are somehow different.

For example, whites can screw up on the job, run entire corporations into the ground, rip off the Savings and Loans to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, cut corners on occupational safety and health in the workplace, or scam millions from employee pension funds, without the rest of us having to worry that such incompetence or outright dishonesty will result in whites being viewed suspiciously every time we seek to climb to the top of the corporate ladder.

White men in Lexuses (or is it Lexi?) will not need to fear being pulled over by police on suspicion of transporting documents confirming their latest fiscal shenanigans.

When Martha Stewart conspires to cover up a stock dumping scam, white women across America do not cower in fear that somehow they will be viewed as dishonest and predatory as a result. Nor white men thanks to Ken Lay.

If the President of the United States mispronounces every fifth word out of his mouth, none of us white folks have to worry that someone will ascribe his verbal incompetence to some general white illiteracy. But honestly, do we think that if this President were black, or Latino or Asian Pacific American, or indigenous, and mangled the English language with the regularity of the actual President, that no one would make the leap from individual to group defect?

Why is it that when the white President of the University of Tennessee overspends his expense account by millions, using public funds for expensive rugs, home furnishings and lavish chartered plane trips, no one suggests that perhaps it’s time for the school to pick a black or brown chief executive, but when the black President of historically black Tennessee State University is seen as mismanaging that school’s resources, voices all across my hometown of Nashville began to whisper (or even say quite loudly) that perhaps it was time for TSU to get a white President?

For those reading this who are white, ask yourselves, when was the last time you felt the need to stand up and apologize for a crime committed by another white person? Better yet, when was the last time you felt the need to do this for fear that if you didn’t, your community would come to be viewed as inherently violent and dangerous, and perhaps be attacked as a result? And when was the last time someone suggested that our failure to openly condemn white criminals implicated us in their wrongdoing?

Yet what of the recent murders in Wisconsin by a Hmong immigrant, who killed six white hunters when they confronted him in a private deer stand? Not only did bumper stickers crop up within days reading, “Save a deer, shoot a Hmong,” implying that the shooter was somehow representative of a larger group evil, but more to the point, the Hmong and larger Southeast Asian communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota (where the shooter was from) rushed to distance themselves from him.

This distancing was, of course, only made necessary because to not do so would put others like them at risk, in a way no white person has ever been put at risk because some of our number occasionally kills folks.

Likewise, nearly a decade ago, when a Hmong woman in the Twin Cities murdered her six children, her status as a racial and ethnic minority was front and center in discussion of the crime–anger on talk radio was pointed at the Hmong as a group, or Asians more broadly, for example–but a few years back, when Andrea Yates killed her five kids in Texas, or when Susan Smith drowned her two boys in a South Carolina lake, no one attacked her as an example of what’s wrong with white folks these days.

Even when some white teenager commits a racially-motivated hate crime, as happened recently in Simi Valley, California where four white youths beat two black kids to a pulp, the white response is one that seeks to demonstrate that their town is not racist (as if geography alone ever commits an aggravated assault), rather than hoping to prove that all whites aren’t that way. The latter possibility would never enter their minds, and why?

It’s why in the aftermath of 9/11, you could hear one after another white person demanding to know, and being treated as reasonable for asking it, “where are the moderate voices in the Arab Muslim community prepared to condemn terrorism,” all because nineteen out of 1.5 billion Muslims on Planet Earth flew planes into buildings. Yet one cannot fathom anyone being taken seriously if they were to ask, “where are the moderate white Christians,” in the aftermath of Oklahoma City or any of a number of abortion clinic bombings.

It’s why whenever this issue is raised, white folks rush to insist that we’re “just individuals,” and want to be thought of as such, rather than as whites. Indeed, we often believe that to even point out our racial identity is racist, as it groups us unfairly and diminishes our “humanness,” or “Americanness.”

Of course, the irony in such a position is that it is only members of the dominant group in a society who could ever have the luxury of viewing ourselves, or expecting to be viewed by others as “individuals.”

That’s the point: no one else has ever been able to assume they would be viewed that way, because at no point have they been, nor do they get to be so viewed today, as the aforementioned examples demonstrate all too clearly.

To even say that our group status is irrelevant or should be is to suggest that one has enjoyed the privilege of experiencing the world that way (or rather, believing that one was). In other words, it is the result of a particular social arrangement, whereby some and not others have been seen as individuals no matter the actions of others within their group. There is, of course a phrase for this arrangement.

White privilege.

And until it is eradicated, dug up and discarded root and branch, there can be no legitimate discussion of “colorblindness” or simple individualism. Nor can we be taken seriously as a nation when we hold ourselves up as an example to other nations of what freedom and democracy are supposed to look like.

NOTHING CAN JUSTIFY HATRED

Since the barbaric bombings in London last summer there have been outcries for revenge. Against who??? Probably the same bastards that orchestrated the horrors of 9/11.There have been excuses given by some idiots almost justifying these actions. NOTHING can justify the killing of innocent human beings. Nothing!Britain’s involvement in Iraq was given as one excuse for the bombings in London.Bullshit!Hatred is responsible for the bombings in London. Hatred is responsible for the terror inflicted on American soil on 9/11.It is the doings of a very well orchestrated plot against humanity. A plot so evil that the people whose name these horrors are being done in are suffering. The Palestinians in Israel are today looked at with suspician. The Iraqi labourer in Bagdad is looked at with the same suspician. Islamic residents in the western world are viewed as the enemy. Calls for ‘an eye for an eye’ are forcing them into hiding. Are they the ones who are behind this? NO! It might be that these horrors were committed by people claiming to represent the Islamic world. That is just not so. No more than the horrors of World War Two were committed by people representing Christianity.Hatred has no bounds, no nationality, no religion. It is something that grows out of ignorance, frustration and total disregard for reality.It is wrong for us to seek revenge against those that are innocent. We must wage a struggle against the real enemy, those hiding out in caves like the animals they are. They must be sought after, caught and eliminated for the good of all of us.No excuse can justify their contempt for humanity, and no excuse can justify blaming those that are innocent.

HOW RELIGION DIVIDES US

I think many of us have a hard time ‘accepting’ all of the rules and regulations of whatever religion we might follow. In Judaism, many of these laws are interpretations of Scripture, handed down by various Rabbinical ‘Authorities’, rather than from the Source itself.One of these ‘laws’ regulates who may do the work of a Jew on the Sabbath. It is forbidden for observant Jews to work on the seventh day, to drive in a vehicle or to use electricity. The Bible itself says that ‘even your donkey shall rest on the Sabbath’… but the Rabbis say that a non-Jew can perform certain tasks. This person in Eastern Europe was referred to as a ‘Shabbos-Goy’… an ugly, bigoted expression that has always made my skin crawl. It is a concept that I never accepted and never will.Many public institutions in Israel and in other Jewish communities hire non Jews for the sole purpose of being available on the Sabbath. Most hospitals and hotels have, what is known as, a Shabbat elevator. These stop at every floor, making it unnecessary for the person to press any buttons.About three years ago I was at a hotel with a friend of mine. At dinner time we were waiting for the ‘Shabbat elevator’ to take us down to the dining area. It never came….. My friend went to the reception area to see if there was a problem, and returned with a ‘Shabbos-Goy’…I was furious…. Not because there was not a Shabbat elevator, but because my friend insulted me by returning with this person. It was an indication, that after a 20 year friendship, he did not know me at all. I told him to take the stairs and I would meet him in the dining room. I told the ‘button pusher’ that his services were not necessary as I would do it myself. He rode with me and we talked… he was a Muslim from a nearby village. His name was Muhammad. He instantly became my friend and his reaction towards my attitude made him feel like a human being, not like a ‘Shabbos-Goy’. I have been a guest at that hotel many times since this happened, Muhammad always makes sure I receive the best service available. I have been to his home, met his family, he has been to my home and met my family. Last year he was married and I was invited to his wedding, where I was seated with his parents at the family table. Yesterday he called to tell me that they were expecting a son shortly and insists that I be the child’s Godfather. This is a position usually reserved for a member of the family. I was so honoured by the offer and accepted without hesitation.All this because I treated this young man as a human being, as an equal to myself. He thought that was something special, and that I was special…this is what saddens me, that this is not looked at as the norm…. hopefully one day soon it will. It is one of the roads to peace… acceptance of one another.

ISRAEL IS A CHESSBOARD

Disclaimer: This was written without reference to historical documents, it is simplified and represents only my thinking on the situation.For centuries, the land we know today as Israel, was dominated and controlled by foreign powers. It is not an area rich in any natural resources needed for any countries survival. It has no oil, it had no agricultural worth, it had no industry. So WHY was this the case? The answer is quite simple; its’ situation on the map. On one side you have the Mediterranean Sea, To the south is the Red Sea. It borders with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The land mass itself is about the size of one of America’s smallest states, Rhode Island.At one time it was inhabited by Jews, who for the most part in the beginning were members of various tribes. Two of the world’s major religions were offshoots of the Jewish religion, Christianity and Islam. Both of these shared a common background, both of these shared a common God.After the Roman takeover of the land, centuries ago, the Jews, for the most part, were forced to leave. Religious convictions however always gave them hope that one day they would return to the land promised them by their God. They lived throughout Europe in the main, until in 1492 the Spanish throne threw them out of Spain. Most of those Jews wound up in North Africa, finding themselves living under governments dominated by Muslims. Similarities in their faiths, and their common ancestry created a situation of compatibility. The Muslims looked at them as “the people of the Book”, while the Jews saw the Muslims as cousins. For hundreds of years they lived together in harmony.The Jews that remained in Europe were not as fortunate. They were often seen by their Christian neighbours as killers of their Savior, money lenders, and evil elements guided by Satan that must be carefully watched and not allowed to get in influential positions. This mentality eventually led to the slaughter of millions of Jews throughout Europe in recent history.At the end of the war, hundreds of thousands of remaining Jews were left homeless and stateless. Their attempts to immigrate to other parts of the world were not welcomed. Britain, Canada and the United States virtually had their doors closes to these people.Starting new lives in Palestine was the dream of many, but the land was then controlled by the British Government. The government of the Soviet Union, not known as a lover or friend of the Jews, saw this as an opportunity to literally ‘kill two birds with one stone’. They could attempt to put an end to British imperialism and at the same time get the Jews out of their hair by getting Palestine into the control of the Jews. They proposed this at the United Nations and were successful in getting the British expelled from the area. The Jews were now free to return to their historic homeland and create a country. The land was divided by the UN resolution, giving the local Arab population one part, the Jews the other. The Soviets saw this as getting their foot into this very strategical land mass, both sides, the Jews and Arabs, merely being pawns in their chess game. The cold war was staring and the United States was not going to let the Soviets to win this game, so they chose a side to control. Financial assistance and military protection made the US the Jews their pawns, leaving the Arabs to be the pawns of the Soviets. With the ending of the cold war and the eventual demise of the Soviet Union, a situation of check-mate occurred. The ‘game’ was supposedly over. The Soviets now found themselves in a position of bankruptcy, having lost control of their vast Eastern European empire. The Americans now found themselves in the position of ‘taking care’ of both sides in Israel. Most of the Arab world enjoyed the chess game that had taken place; it allowed them to create a situation where the Palestinians continued to look like the victim. This created the necessary anti Israeli sentiments that united them. Their non willingness to help the Palestinians indirectly helped the Israelis. The chess game was over, but these two peoples were still very much on opposite sides of the board. Foreign intervention finally convinced the Israelis that steps must be taken to help the Palestinians get control of their areas. Concessions were made giving them vast areas that could be under their administration. A leadership was elected, a leadership that did nothing to help their cause. A leadership that allowed terrorist organizations to grow and eventually dominate the political scene. As a result, both sides found themselves in a position of defending themselves from each other, a position that did not allow either side to go forward with their plans of living together.Today we find a situation where the United States and other foreign powers financially and militarily support both sides. A new leadership was elected by the Palestinians after the death of Arafat, a leadership more willing to talk with the Israelis and compromise. But again, concessions would have to be made. That is where we find ourselves today, Israel is ‘giving’, Palestinians are ‘taking’. It could lead to peace. It could lead to more confusion and wars. But both sides have to take that chance. Both sides deserve to control their own destinies. Mistakes will be made by both sides, that is to be expected, but hopefully the end result will be two nations living side by side in peace. As my disclaimer said, this is not necessarily historically correct. These are my own personal random thoughts on the situation. So I ask not to be taken to task if I am wrong on situations, but rather I ask you to read what I think and what I hope will be a situation that we can all live with.

UNDERSTANDING RACISM

Why do some people have problems comprehending that racism hurts someone? No where is it written that we have to love everyone, nor is it written that we have to accept others as our equals. But it is written, in various laws guiding our behaviour that all people are to be treated the same, as equals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic origins. It is the basis of the democracy that governs countries like the United States.When a section of the population is not treated as an equal, then all involved suffer as there is no equality at all unless it pertains to all citizens. Again, let me say that nowhere is it written that you must love your neighbour who might be a different colour than you are or pray in a different church, or not pray at all. But in order for you and your neighbour to be a part of the community you live in, respect, compassion and civility must be practiced. It is written in various texts that we are all equal, that we were all created in God’s image. Those of us that adhere to those beliefs should try to practice them. Every time one discriminates against someone, the situation continues. The children ask “Why did that man call me that”? Another generation of bigotry is born by one action. Humanity is at the highest development we have ever been at; we have conquered many diseases, we have journeyed to other planets, we have accomplished things that our ancestors did not even dream of. But can we live in harmony with our next door neighbour?It’s time to at least try.

THE ROOTS OF PREJUDICE AND HOW TO COMBAT IT

Today is the first day of a week long holiday in Israel It is called Succot, or The Feast of the Tabernacles. We eat all of our meals in little booths and the ceilings are usually made of tree branches, allowing the sky to be visible. It is a reminder of the 40 years we roamed in the desert and dwelled in such structures. It is actually quite a fun holiday and a very community oriented one, it is one of my favourites.I had some flashbacks this morning to my Succot celebrations in Brooklyn as a child, they were much different than here. Here there is a Jewish community and an Arab community. In the neighbourhood I grew up in, there was a Eastern European Jewish Community (Ashkenazi) and a community made up of Spanish Jews and Jews from Northern Africa (Sephardi). Both communities had their own traditions and practices, but basically both were members of the same religion. One of the major differences between the two communities at the time were language, the Ashkenazi Jews spoke Yiddish; a language with Germanic roots, while the Sephardi Jews spoke a language called Ladino; a mixture of Hebrew and Spanish.What I remembered this morning was the following;The Synagogue of the Sephardi community was situated very close to the home of my grandparents. They used to build a large enough booth to accommodate their entire congregation. As a child, I used to help them with the preparations. I remembered my grandmother screaming at me from her window to get away from them, not to play with their kids…. I could never understand why. It seemed that part of her ghetto mentality was to distrust anyone that was in any way different. These people were different than we were, as mentioned; they spoke a different language and, for the most part, had darker skins than the Ashkenazi Jews. The younger generation, like myself did not see these differences as our common language was English and skin colour was never an issue with me or my immediate family. I therefore could never understand my grandmother’s logic, or lack of…. So I secretly maintained my friendships with the kids there. Today, I started thinking about prejudice, why it exists, how to overcome it…. It seems to exist because of ignorance and fear, two very real factors. How to overcome it? Learn about each other and the fear factor will be eliminated. Very simple! It worked in my case.Things are different today, in Israel at least. The Jewish community celebrates together. We have a common language, Hebrew. There are still some remnants of the old world prejudice, but for the most part it’s gone. Now to overcome the prejudices between the Jewish and Arab communities here. My way is to open my booth, as well as my home, to ALL members of the community, both Arab and Jew. The Moslems are fasting now for Ramadan, but many do join us in our booth for the evening meal. It’s the only way to guarantee an end to the hatred… live together!So, instead of fearing the differences of the others, my philosophy is to say VIVA LA DIFFERENCE! Let us all live together as neighbours and brothers.Shalom-Salaam!

ATTEMPTS TO CREATE HARMONY IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE

I am originally from the United States. I have been living in Jerusalem, Israel for 21 years and have dedicated all of those years to try and create an atmosphere that will lead to a just and permanent peace in this area. Israelis and Palestinians have more in common that the outsider might see… I will attempt on this blog to show those similarities and show why I am so confident that one day we will live in peace together.
I know it can be done!

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