Posted in Fighting WorldSuck, Living in Israel

To You, With Love From A Fellow Human

To the invaluable human soul behind the screen reading my words,

I want to talk to you about this week. Sunday the semester starts, and that’s not enough time to recover from the emotional impact of this week’s events. It’s not fair. Yesterday, a crazy person killed a baby with a car. Today, both Jews and Arabs threw rocks at each other. We’re all upset. Nobody can focus. It’s a terrible, horrible situation.

I want you to know that no matter what you think, no matter who you are, I feel your pain. Because pain is not something which belongs on any side of the political spectrum. Pain is human. As are all of us. So why can’t we stand together, hold hands, comfort each other?

If you’ll stick with me for just a moment longer, I’d like to share with you some beautiful words I heard from a speaker about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict several weeks ago. His name is Ali abu Awwad. It begins with the definition of hope.

“Hope is a place where people create, not just expect,” he says.

Ali Abu Awwad preaches non-violent action. Take action, but not violent action. His first experience of this concept was participating in a 17-day hunger strike in prison, as a protest against the separation of families inside the prison. He wanted to be reunited with his mother. This kind of action, he says is something powerful – it’s fighting with your humanity, more than violence, more than your political rights. “Non violence is to be an artist for your humanity.”

What is the most powerful tool of non-violent action? “Non-violent action causes the other side to see their own actions.” It creates a mirror for your opponent, rather than fueling his violence. “By not giving legitimacy to their violence, you create a safe place for them to give up.”

At 31, Ali’s brother was violently killed by an IDF soldier. The pain of loss and mourning led Ali to realize that there is no revenge good enough. Taking the life of another person can not ease the pain and will not bring back his brother. What keeps a person who has lost something so huge from turning into a murderer? Ali says that even though he lost his brother, his dreams, his land, and his rights, one thing he didn’t lose – his mind. When his brother was killed, a group of bereaved Israelis asked to come and meet his mother. For the first time in his life, Ali witnessed an Israeli person cry.

Israelis can cry? He asked himself. He was shocked. Before this incident he couldn’t imagine that Israelis could cry.

And what about forgiveness? How can you forgive someone for killing your brother? But Ali says he learned about forgiveness from a Sount African mother who told him, “Forgiveness is not giving up your right to justice, but giving up your just right to revenge.

It couldn’t be more clear that Ali does not believe war is any kind of solution. “Palestinian freedom has to go through Israeli hearts, not bodies.” He impresses the interdependence of the two nations by saying, “If Israel is not secure, Palestineans will never have freedom – but if Palestine doesn’t have freedom, Israel will never have security.”

And since then, he’s been an activist for Palestinian rights. He marches and speaks in favor of non violent action. One incident he told of stood out to me. When speaking at an Israeli school in the West Bank, one of the students, a nineteen year old, called him “a babboon.” Ali flattened him with heart-piercing dialogue, appealing to his humanity and commanding his respect. The student fell silent and later approached him, apologizing for his words and admitting that he had never met a Palestinian before. “I never imagined Palestinians had feelings.”

Do you see the striking parallel in these two stories? Each is a tale of a human experience, a raw encounter with our more basic instincts and our ability to overcome them in order to be civilized. Each tells about a person who had never met someone so different from them, but then learned that the other is human just as they are.

Ok, time to wrap things up. I just want to say to my friends at school, my neighbors in the dormitories, my friends in the West Bank and my friends far away in the United States and everywhere, at the end of the day, we’re all human, we can all cry, and that’s okay….

I’m going to leave you with a final quote from Ali, about what he sees as the definition of peace:

“Peace is the courage to engage in each other’s rights.”

Much love and wishes for a quiet weekend,

Liora Sophie

Posted in Fighting WorldSuck

Keep Moving Forward – On Holocaust Education

I have a confession to make.

I don’t like the holocaust.

I don’t like thinking about, reading about, or talking about the holocaust. I don’t like hearing disturbing jokes about the difference between Santa and the Jews. I don’t like confronting the horrors in our past. I admit it. I don’t like learning about the holocaust.

Mostly I find that anyone today who is teaching holocaust studies is aiming to terrify the student and impress upon them the level of horror which occurred in Nazi Germany in World War 2. People don’t like giving out dry facts; they have to be biased, painful and frightening.

But really, I have had my share of horror in holocaust studies. I’ve heard enough to be convinced that I’ll do everything I can to make sure it won’t happen again. I have holocaust related nightmares from time to time. I’m done with being scared. Seriously. I know what happened, OK?

Although I don’t rule out our responsibility as people to educate ourselves and the next generation. I often ask myself, how can I learn about the holocaust in a way that makes sense to me? How can I teach the holocaust without hurting myself too much?

I was recently having a conversation with the a friend of mine whose mother-in-law was rescued during World War 2 by a Non-Jewish man in France. As I understand, this man, at an enormous risk to his life, arranged for many Jewish children to be hidden in the homes of French residents during the Nazi invasion. Many. Not one Jewish child, many. To him, saving the lives of these children was as natural as saving his own. He did not see them as Jews – he saw them as nothing but people. People who deserved to live, simply because they were people.

This, according to Nomi, is the message we should take from the holocaust. We, all around the world, should learn to emulate this man’s behavior, or at the very least his philosophy. PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE no matter what shape, size, or color, and they do not deserve to be starved and slaughtered and godknowswhat else the Nazis did to the Jews back then. We must learn to see humans as humans. We must learn to recognize that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone looks, sounds, eats, drinks, talks, walks, drives, shaves, or thinks different from you. People are people.

And this is where I feel I fit into holocaust education. Instead of focusing on the horrors that were done to us and the torture we went through, we can educate ourselves by counteracting what the Nazis thought of us – as sub humans – and treating all people equally. Instead of focusing on the wounds of the past, we can look into the future and change the way we see ourselves and everyone in order to ensure that this will never ever happen again. And I mean this, guys. I really mean it. When I say people, I mean everyone – even if they’re not Jews. Tall, short, male, female, pretty, ugly, thin, fat, black, white, brown, beige, yellow, purple, Jewish, Christian, Muslim(forget it, I’m not naming all the religions here, you get the point), American presidents, celebrities, royal, smart, stupid, rich, poor, believers and non believers alike.

If we can learn to see people as people, we will never be in danger of treating them as less.

Posted in Living in Israel

Stand With Israel, Chances Are You Owe Us One

Being a university student means occasionally getting emails from the Dean’s office. But how often do they say something like this:

“Due to the security situation, students wishing to host relatives and friends from the South of Israel in their dormitories may file a request.”
Only in Israel would the Dean’s Office give permission to students to host their families in the dorms. How awesome is that!
 
The IDF has “recommended” to evacuate the south of Israel due to a bazillion rockets being fired in the vicinity. It’s recommended because a bazillion rockets can be quite a nuissance to civillians trying to study or meditate, etc. It’s not manditory because the Iron Dome takes care of most of them. We listen to the news and hear that rockets were fired and caused damage to a house, but fortunately the people were not home at that time and no one was hurt. Hundreds of rockets fall every day and hardly anyone gets hurt.
 
I deliberately avoid reading the news as much as possible. I started to hear about the unusual amount of rockets by facebook posts. Following the IDF’s suggestion, many of my friends have posted that there is spare room in their home for those who need to come and stay. The fact that Israel is a Jewish state means that all of the citizens are one big extended family. Rick Riordan says, “Families are messy, immortal families are eternally messy.”
 
Galgalatz, the IDF redio station is playing songs selected by individuals in the south. Wedding halls in central cities are clearing their schedules so that couples who were planning to get married in the south don’t have to postpone the celebration. That’s what we do here in Israel, when there’s an outside threat. We stick together and prove how awesome we are. I think the Iron Dome has already proven that by minimizing the victims of 500 rocket firings to 4 people. But we’ve tolerated these rockets for seven years, and at some point we just get tired of it. 
 
What I don’t understand is, why are we on our own out here? Didn’t we send huge aids to Haiti and Hurricane Sandy victims? Listen, world, Israel is there for you when you need us, and you know it. When the Carmel forest was on fire we had some help, so it’s obviously not anti-semitism that’s going on here. So come on, if you’re not going to help us fight, at least be on our side. Chances are you owe us one.
Posted in Living in Israel

Mom, Dad, Couldn’t You Have Used A Better Picture?

So, is he really home?

It seems so hard to believe. Only a few months ago we were watching so many protests which appeared to have no effect at all. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there’s a deal for his release. Before we know it, there are photos of him hugging his family. How did that happen?

Before Gilad was released there were rumors about what sort of bargain the government was going to make to get him home. Seven years ago, the Israeli government traded 400 terrorists for the bodies of three soldiers. I was thirteen at the time, and I remember feeling confused and afraid. Why would the government release so many terrorists just to get dead bodies? I felt scared thinking about all of those criminals running amok. It didn’t seem like a fair deal in my thirteen year old mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy he’s home, and it does seem like it was the right thing to do. It gives me hope to know that sometimes it does happen. But I’m not going to say I like the deal they made. I don’t like to think that one Israeli soldier is worth a thousand terrorists – as poetic as that may sound. I think it’s important to remember that although that was the deal, it does not mean that any one person is worth more than another. That sort of mindset will not help us evolve into a better race. Terrorists, as terrible as they may be, are still humans, and I don’t like the idea that their government is teaching them that they are not even worth one thousandth of an Israeli soldier. Or trying to make it look like the Israeli government thinks that, which I’m sure they will do, because why pass up an opportunity to blame the Jews? It doesn’t seem like a healthy mindset to me.

Gilad Shalit
Mom, Dad, couldn't you have used a better picture?

Back then I was not in favor of letting a bazillion terrorists out of prison to rescue Gilad. I was afraid that it would cost us more than one Israeli soldier. And who knows? Maybe it will.

But right now I feel differently. I don’t feel any more afraid with more terrorists on the loose; there will always be terrorists. But I do feel safer knowing what my country would be willing to do for me to get me home.

Posted in Book Reviews, Mirror, Mirror

Collins, Dr. Seuss, and the Mockingjay

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I’ve finally finished the Hunger Games trilogy. It was like riding a roller coaster. Once you get in, you’re hooked until the end. You’re stomach flips over but the rush of excitement is worth it.

I was fully prepared to be disappointed by Mockingay. I was ready for all of my favorite characters to die, ready for Katniss to never make up her mind who she loves more, Gale or Peeta (I was actually hoping she would end up with Finnick). But the book had much more to give than a story. It has an important lesson to teach us, and although I was not impressed by the plot, I was satisfied by the message the book delivered.

Continuing the holocaust metaphors I pointed out in my review of Catching Fire, I was not at all surprised to find the authorities of District 13 stamping things on people’s forearms. The children gathered outside President Snow’s mansion made me think briefly of the Palestinian civilians the PA uses to guard terrorists. It’s hard to imagine that the things Collins talks about are anywhere close to reality, but they are. Frighteningly close.

I heard a theory once that what made World War 2 unique was not the number of casualties, but the advancement of military technology which happened in those years. The technology revolution was the mark of the twentieth century. People were killed in inconceivable ways. The first and only nuclear bombs were used to end the war. Along this line, the Hunger Games is punctuated with brilliant, terrible inventions.

The thing is, I don’t agree that the holocaust is unique. I think, and Suzanne Collins agrees with me, that if we were capable of doing it once, we are capable of doing it again.

“Are you preparing for another war, Plutarch?” I ask.
“Oh, not now. Now we’re in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated,” he says.

“But collective thinking is short-lived. We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.

“Although who knows? Maybe this will be it, Katniss.”
“What?” I ask.
“The time it sticks. Maybe we are witnessing the evolution of the human race. Think about that.”

We need to start learning from out own mistakes. We need to wake up and start acting to change the future, instead of weeping over the horrors of the past. If we don’t, history will continue to repeat itself. In the words of Dr. Seuss in his book (and my all time favorite) The Lorax,

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

So, yeah.

Think about that.

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