Posts filed under ‘Inspiration’
How to make the right
It’s the most important thing in our lives
By RALPH DOBRIN
Author of “How to Avoid Armageddon,” available through Amazon
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make the right decisions or come to fully rational conclusions all the time? Well, there is a way to do this, at least most of the time. It’s a simple procedure that can be applied to just about any question or problem, big or small, whether it’s about a personal matter, a business issue or an international conflict.
The procedure involves asking ourselves two questions:
1. Necessity? Is there a real necessity for whatever it is that we are considering, why and to what extent is it necessary?
2. What are the disadvantages or possible risks involved?
There are some cases where two other questions should be asked:
1. Are there any moral issues involved?
2. Are there any feasible alternatives?
The order of these questions is not binding and can be changed. But there is one cardinal rule and it is complete honesty throughout the process. Answers to all questions should scrupulously follow all the principles of truthfulness. In order to do this we need to get all the relevant facts as accurately as possible. However, unequivocal answers are not always forthcoming, or some answers that we get are not proven, or they are mere speculation or questionable. All this has to be taken into account throughout the entire process.
To see how this procedure works, let’s take a simple, mundane question that involves most of us. Eggs!
Medical experts tell us that eggs cause high cholesterol that can lead to serious health problems. On the other hand nutritionists say that eggs are a good source of protein, B vitamins and a number of important minerals. Now, let’s assume that I have a great liking for eggs in any form – fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelettes, french toast, egg salad, etc. So, whose advice should I heed? Can I continue eating eggs to my heart’s content, or should I cut down on my egg consumption or avoid eggs altogether? [By the way, this article is not meant to promote or discourage egg consumption. Eggs in this case, merely provide a familiar subject to illustrate the procedure that is necessary if we want to understand how to make sensible decisions.]
So, to get back to our eggs, and the first question: is there a necessity? Well, there seems to be a necessity in the form of our great fondness for egg dishes. Also, eggs provide significant nutritious benefits. All this indicates necessity.
Next, in addressing what disadvantages or health risks there are, we will find a lot of cautionary material by medical experts. We will also find that there are some experts who qualify their cautionary remarks by saying that depending on the person’s medical condition and metabolism, and the conditions of the egg-laying hens, moderate egg consumption can be acceptable. Yippie! So, I check my cholesterol and triglyceride levels and if they are high, this would indicate severely limiting my egg consumption, according to what my physician suggests. However, if my overall levels are low or at a level that is considered acceptable by my doctor (when he takes into consideration my overall physical condition), I should be able to indulge in my fondness for eggs, as long as annual or bi-annual tests keep showing satisfactory levels.
However, in my candid quest for answers, I learn that cholesterol and triglyceride levels are not the only medical factor to be considered. I find that in many places that use modern poultry factory farming methods, hens are crammed into battery cages in large sheds holding hundreds and even thousands of birds under the most insalubrious conditions. Furthermore, the hens are subjected to antibiotics, vaccines and other drugs to prevent disease, hasten maturity and increase egg production. So, another question arises: do such intensive conditions, together with the drugs administered, pose any additional health risks, to which my physician hasn’t seriously related?
I will need to spend quite a lot of additional time studying the subject in depth. But I can save a lot of time by resorting to a technique that is useful whenever we can’t get a clear-cut answer. It’s called the scale of likelihood. It’s a scale grading the validity of any claim or notion, or the chance of something happening – ranging from “definitely” to “probably,” “possibly,” “unlikely” or “definitely not.” So, I can ask myself which adverb on this scale fits our question: “Do the conditions under which egg-laying hens are raised, pose any possible health risks?” If my answer, candidly reached, is “unlikely,” then I might be able to disregard this issue. But if I think that “probably” or “possibly” are more likely conclusions, then I should factor this into my final decision regarding any additional health risks to eating eggs.
However, we should bear in mind that officials and health experts speaking on behalf of the egg producers and any organizations affiliated with them, including even the Agriculture Ministry, will possibly try to assure the public that the eggs are absolutely safe for consumption and provide maximum nutrition. While one shouldn’t immediately suspect people’s level of honesty, we can consider that their statements might be biased and therefore justify double-checking with other sources. With Wikipedia and countless other internet sites, finding all the relevant facts is much easier nowadays than ever before.
The third issue to be taken into consideration is morality. Considering the densely-crowded, cooped-up existence of the hens – unable to move more than a few centimeters or flap their wings or even stand steadily on the wire-mesh floor of their cages, amid the incessant noise and stench of ammonia from their droppings – that is part of their lives, I should ask myself if the hens are kept under conditions that cause them no suffering, or am I unwittingly or cynically, enjoying produce that results from cruelty – possibly in the extreme? It’s a moral question that I should consider or I can choose to ignore. But I should remember that ignoring any relevant fact or factor, is an aspect of dishonesty. It’s dishonest because by ignoring a relevant fact or factor I am distorting a situation. Can I ignore a moral question and still consider myself a decent person?
But even acknowledging the possibility that extreme cruelty is involved here, and if we assume a health risk for me personally, one thing is clear: it’s going to be very hard for me to stop eating eggs because of my fondness for them.
Which brings us to the fourth question on our list. Are there any practical or feasible alternatives? Is there any alternative to battery-cage, factory-farmed produce? The answer is a resounding yes! There are free roam eggs or organic eggs that are laid by hens that are free to strut around the barnyard and peck to their heart’s content. That could solve the question of morality. (Eggs under such conditions are also said to contain less risky ingredients and have more nutritious value. On our scale of likelihood this seems a valid assumption.)
But now another question presents itself – the cost! Free-range and organic eggs can cost about twice as much as factory-farmed eggs produced in battery cages. So, can I afford the extra outlay in money?
Clearly, in order to come to a decent decision I need to weigh up all these factors as honestly as possible – my desire for egg dishes, my health, morality and practicality. I must remember, however, that objectivity, while very important in coming to any conclusion, can sometimes demand a concentrated effort. In this case, my taste buds might impede on my objectivity. In a similar way, a tendency to miserliness, even though my budget might easily afford the extra expense involved in using free-run or organic eggs, could outweigh the other factors regarding health and morality. However, I should be mindful of the fact that by taking all these factors into consideration, I will have a much better chance of making the right decision, regarding my health and – if it’s important for me – my morality. By the way, there are some issues, where it might not be necessary to consider all four issues.
With any decision, the keyword is truthfulness and we should realize that truthfulness means a lot more than not lying to others. Truthfulness means refraining from undue exaggeration or half-truths. It means not indulging in the deliberate disregard of facts and factors that might be relevant to any issue that is being discussed or considered, and It means not kidding ourselves through wishful thinking or denial. There is also the obverse side of falsehood and that is how we relate to what others say to us and the degree of gullibility that we evince.
Clearly, there is a lot more to the subject of truthfulness than what the vast majority of people realize. But following all its principles, can provide us with the key to usually making the right decisions about most things, and generally enabling us to have a less stressful, more successful, happier life.
There’s a short, vitally important addendum to this article: Never before has knowing how to make the right decisions been more important because the future of all humanity depends on more and more people learning this essential lesson. The key, as we have so often said, is truthfulness. And that demands first and foremost, being absolutely honest with ourselves.
Living in Jerusalem for fifty years, I have known quite a few people with a lot more than average talent, but who remained largely unknown to the general public. During my years as the publisher of the monthly “Your Jerusalem,” it was part of my job to follow the endeavors of writers, musicians, actors, artists and people in sports, as they tried to win recognition … and remuneration.
Also, like most people I am familiar with scores and maybe hundreds of famous personalities who became household names, many despite mediocrity. Specifically, I think of those unkempt, quirkily-dressed and tattooed performers who can strum a few chords on a guitar while yelling or croaking crude inanities and shaking their bodies as though possessed by a dybbuk. A large number are hopelessly trapped in drug abuse or alcoholism. Yet many have become immensely rich due to millions of people adulating over their cacophony.
Watching a group of them on TV the other night, I got to thinking about David Herman also known as Ben Reuven. Formerly from England, he’s a song writer, singer, author, poet, publisher, entrepreneur and an activist for a number of causes, who has been living in Jerusalem since 1966.
Actually, the first time I heard David sing I was very dismayed, perhaps even disgusted. It was July or August 1973 and he was standing on the stage at the David Yellin Teachers’ Seminary in Jerusalem. In the audience were about a hundred English language teachers. There he was, a tall, nice-looking young fellow, strumming his guitar and going through a repertoire of songs. He had an unusually fine voice, with perfect timbre that one could imagine angels swooning over. The audience, especially the women, seemed delighted. Later, one of the women said to me, “Gosh, he has such a wonderful persona!”
So, why the dismay and disgust on my part? Well actually, that was my initial reaction. The last thing that David should have been doing was croon away at those teachers. He was my partner in a new publishing venture that was his brainchild – English News, which was a monthly newspaper produced especially for Israeli high school pupils of different grades, written in simplified English with a glossary on each page.
We were about to launch our first issue. I was to handle production and distribution and David looked after sales and promotion. We shared writing and editing duties. He was planning to go around the country and address English teachers at their annual seminars and try to persuade them to subscribe. This was his first such encounter.
However, there he was singing some songs. True, he put on a pretty good show. But I was wondering how on earth he expected to make any sales in this way. Actually, at first, when he had taken to the stage, he had talked briefly about the idea of providing pupils with learning material that would interest them, explaining that it included news, events and developments and articles of special interest to teenagers. His sales pitch was not bad, but instead of closing his presentation with a clinching, persuasive flourish like any decent sales rep, he had reached for his guitar and began that crooning. Then, after he finished singing, to my astonishment, dozens of the teachers crowded around him, some of them adoringly, to order subscriptions for their classes and in some cases entire schools.
By coincidence The Jerusalem Post had launched a similar publication for Israeli pupils at exactly the same time as us. Clearly, they had an enormous advantage over us, with their editorial and administrative staff, printing facilities and promotional infrastructure, while David and I were starting with a ridiculously low investment of about a $100 that was to cover printing of promotional materials, traveling expenses and phone and postage costs. We worked from our respective homes. Amazingly, we broke even with our first edition. It seemed that we would manage to survive even against the formidable opposition of an established publishing house.
However, the day after we picked up the second edition from the printer, disaster struck … for the entire country in the form of the Yom Kippur War. Both of us were enlisted. Hazel, my wife, in between looking after our two small children, kept up the clerical work, dispatch of orders and also typed out articles that I dictated to her from a foxhole in the desert over an army field telephone after midnight every night, and which she would send to the printing firm. (This was long before computers, desk-top publishing and cellular phones.)
I’ll never understand how we managed to survive that tumultuous first year. But somehow, with a tremendous struggle we did. By the end of the second year, David had drummed up over a whopping 25,000 subscriptions! The Jerusalem Post, as far as I know didn’t come close to that number of subscribers, and despite all its huge advantages over us, stopped their school publications for a few years.
David and I remained partners for over two years before I sold out my share. Over the years we have stayed in touch. David subsequently worked under the name of “Good Times,” publishing a set of simplified English newspapers for the lower grades. He also published a version in Arabic for Jewish students, which was probably the best way to make their Arabic studies more interesting.
Very few people realize that over the years, David reached hundreds of thousands of Israeli pupils all over the country and undoubtedly had an influence on their lives through his educational publications. He also published a series of ten Hebrew booklets by Dr. Adam Ackerman dealing with Jewish and Israel history.
Always on the lookout to promote new talent, in 1978 he discovered a 15-year-old kid, Uri Fink, and published the well-known Sabraman comics in Hebrew and English. He hopes that eventually the Sabraman stories will be produced as an animated film. Meanwhile, Uri Fink went on to become one of Israel’s premier cartoonists.
A poet in his own right (see poem below), David published a collection of stories and poems by Israeli writers in English in Israel called Shalom We Are Here, giving an opportunity to many talented but unpublished writers to reach the general public. He also published a compilation of letters by Israeli pupils called Why I Love Israel and wrote two novels, Bestseller and The Golden Eggs of Sacramontes.
Concerned about historical justice, David founded the Raoul Wallenberg Jerusalem Committee in the 1980s, and organized demonstrations calling for his release from the Gulag and sending petitions to the Kremlin leaders. He also wrote a series of songs about Wallenberg and other Holocaust rescuers, which appears on the CD Beacons in the Dark. On the centennial of Wallenberg’s birth (4 August 1912), he organized a large event at the Jerusalem AACI, which included a moving message from his niece Louise von Dardel.
Here is a link to a song that David wrote and recorded in honor of Raoul Wallenberg in 1988.
Another prisoner for whom David has written a song is Jonathan Pollard. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcuw55fCrww&feature=related
Altogether David has put 37 of his songs on the Youtube, some together with an old friend and song-writer Mike Graff and almost all produced by Yaacov Goldman. Three years ago (2009) he appeared on Kochav Nolad (Israeli version of American Idol), with two of his songs Jerusalem Rock and Ciao Ciao Christopher Columbus. David was easily as good as any of the other contestants, but the judges, while full of praise and admiration, didn’t quite know how to relate to the elderly, bearded, kippa-wearing, fellow with a bright English smile, singing in his mother-tongue. So he didn’t make it to the finals. The judges apologized.
Not a man to readily submit to relegation, David organized his own song festival, especially for English speaking performers. The result of his efforts was the IsraPop Anglo Song Festival.
David Herman, who sings in Hebrew, English, French, Spanish and Ladino, describes his music style as “Afro-Hasidic,” because he mixes traditional Hasidic tunes with African beats. He has a wide range of styles in mind for the future, including rock, country, protest songs, blues, ballads and Broadway pieces.
David earned a degree in modern languages at Cambridge University and specialized in French and Spanish. He was chairman of the University Israel Society. Coming to Israel in 1966, shortly after marrying, he was one of the first residents in Jerusalem’s Abraham Stern Street, where he lived for the first few years and where we launched English News together. Today he makes a living through translating. Here is one of his poems.
TO THE LEADERS FROM THE PEOPLE
Written a few days before the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia
You’ve had your fun with missile and gun
Since history began to pursue man
With a daily dose of death,
And now this game must end
Or life will.
Give us at least a prospect of peace
At the close of the twentieth century,
Give us nights that are nightmare-free
And days for being happy
Just to live.
Give us respite from the armory of death
From armies that disintegrate,
From the beast of conquest,
From the agony of the maimed,
From the threat to existence.
Give us the chance to know what life means
Far from the fear of dying;
Lead us not to annihilation.
Ban forever the sacrifice of man,
For you can.
If you do not, be warned:
The people will rise and unite.
In their will for peace
They’ll shatter the shadows of death.
Because they are sick to the quick
Of slaughter for causes
That cause greater conflict.
They are sick of the names
They are told do them good,
Of the “isms” that are schisms,
Of the slogans that end in mass murder.
Be warned. We do not need you
Unless you fight for peace.
We are not children to be led
Blindly to massacre. Victory is
An empty word except
When it means Humanity.
There is one side now- Mankind.
Be kind to Man
At the close of the twentieth century,
Or Man, the Mother, Father and Child,
Shall find a way to have his say
And impose Peace and depose Death.
Speak for us, leaders. You know
Where we stand, so understand.
Remove the blocs that block the path
And give us Peace today, not tomorrow
For we are tired of waiting.
Speak, leaders, speak in our name
For Mankind is one
In its cry for Peace
For peace on earth
At the close of the twentieth century.
Copyright David Herman, Jerusalem, August 1968
The leaders have not learnt
Or heard the peoples’ ceaseless cry for Peace
Deaf to their pleas
Blind to the brutal lessons of recent history
And mankind’s blood-bespattered past
They still pursue power’s vainglory
They still amass death’s lethal weaponry
To better outgun their bitter foes
Oblivious to the welfare of mankind
And man’s future existence
On Planet Earth
Which their futile domination quests
May easily destroy
When will they learn, our leaders,
What their peoples so clearly see,
That in this our fragile earthly existence
There is but one ideology that really counts
The ideology of Humanity!
Oh Lord, Leader of Leaders,
When will the voice of the ordinary people
At last be heeded by the leaders
By the millions sick to the death of history’s carnage
Yearning to live lives of peace undisturbed
In Your world of the 21st century?
Completed August 2012
David Herman: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to ensure the future of Israel and the planet
The key is actually very simple
By Ralph Dobrin
In Israel and all over the world, there are a lot of very serious problems, some of them even existential. Clearly, unless these problems are properly dealt with, the future for everyone could be very grim indeed. Now, I believe that the best way to deal properly with any problem is by facing it as objectively and as truthfully as possible. And this is the key to ensuring the future of Israel and the entire planet. Sounds naïve? Overly simplistic? Ridiculous? Well, let’s think about it!
If we examine any serious problem, especially if it’s a conflict, we’ll often find that it was the opposite of truthfulness – it was falsehood – in some form or another that was a factor in starting it, and that falsehood is also a factor, often even a major factor, in blocking the way to any decent solution.
The Israel-Arab conflict is a classic example. While there have been valid claims and understandable grievances by the parties involved, it was falsehood that played a definite part in igniting the conflict over 90 years ago, and to the present day the falsehood continues, with exaggerated and unfounded claims, half-truths and blatant lies, that create false perceptions, distrust, contempt and deep enmity between Arabs and Jews. And all this untruthfulness has made any real peaceful resolution to the Israel-Arab conflict quite impossible
BEWARE OF POLITICAL SNARES
With any issue that has a political bearing – especially if there is a nationalistic factor involved – most people tend to stick adamantly to their old ideas and sentiments, no matter how things change or what new information emerges. Bring up any issue with a political bearing and any tendency to objectivity quickly fades in favor of denial, wishful thinking and other forms of cognitive dissonance. Even normally level-headed, intelligent, honest people can easily have their ability to think objectively and comprehensively, noticeably diminished. Whether right wing or left wing, liberal, conservative or centrist, it doesn’t matter – intellectual integrity and rational thinking are often seriously compromised. Not always, not with everyone, but all too often.
About the Israel-Arab conflict, there is a great deal of false misinformation that is spread around the world by the media, by governments and by political and ideological organizations in Israel, among the neighboring Arab countries and farther abroad. Much of this misinformation is generally adopted as the basis for policy by other countries and international organizations that try to influence what happens in this part of the world, but which invariably damage even further, any chance that there might be for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
It is this same pattern of falsehood – actually it’s a general failure to face all facts honestly – by so many people in the Middle East and all over the world, regarding the Israel-Arab conflict, that is also preventing humanity as a whole from dealing more sensibly and effectively with all the other serious existential issues that threaten the future of our planet – such as pollution, climate change, demographic turmoil, economic instability, rampant militant jihad and a lot of other serious issues – that keep getting worse because they are not being addressed honestly by all parties involved.
As far as Israel is concerned, in order to contend with its enormous threats and challenges, the nation needs to make the right decisions regarding every aspect of its national well-being and security. And that is possible only if the people running the country, and the general public, get their facts straight and come to honest, rational conclusions about those facts. But getting the facts straight is possible only if people, as a rule, follow all the principles of truthfulness.
For this, it’s essential that first we our get facts straight and our perspectives clear. Otherwise much of our thinking will be based on false, misleading data and mistaken assumptions, and on such a basis it’s impossible to deal properly with any problem. Problems will probably get worse. And here’s the clincher. Only complete truthfulness can enable the objectivity and lucid discernment that are necessary in order to get our facts straight and our perspectives clear, so that we can figure out the best possible solutions for our problems.
ARE PEOPLE GENERALLY HONEST OR NOT?
So, the keyword is truthfulness. Actually, I think that most people will not tell an outright lie under normal circumstances. But apart from outright lies, there are many other ways that people are untruthful or not entirely honest, even among the most respectable members of society. There’s a lot more to the concept of truthfulness than merely refraining from lying. Incidentally, truthfulness and “truth,” while connected are not the same and we don’t need to go into any deep philosophical theories regarding the full meaning of the word “truth.”
Truthfulness means telling the truth in the sense of being honest about what we’re saying; it also means avoiding undue exaggeration and refraining from expressing half-truths or indulging in selective omission of relevant facts and factors. Furthermore, a truthful person will not make any gesture, facial expression or action with the express purpose of deception.
A common form of untruthfulness is when we hoodwink ourselves – through wishful thinking or denial. We sometimes cling rigidly to old ways and ideas, no matter what happens or what new information emerges. Many people automatically block themselves off from anything that might not tally with their perception of things – no matter how logical or convincing. We sometimes make claims or conduct ourselves in accordance with these forms of cognitive dissonance, without even realizing that in actual fact, we are lying to ourselves.
There is an obverse side to all this. It is gullibility. While excessive cynicism is not an ideal attitude, one should nevertheless be alert to falsehood expressed by others – including and especially when what is said or claimed, might initially appeal to our sentiments. We should always ask ourselves questions such as: does what is being said really make sense? In what context is it said? Is it a half-truth? Is it consistent with what had been said beforehand? Does it have any political, religious, ideological or commercial connection?
In the limited framework of this blog, I don’t have space to mention all the ways that people twist, mangle or hide the truth. There are many more ways, which I deal with in my book. In many cases people don’t even realize that they are lying or pandering to falsehood.
However, it is abundantly clear that falsehood in all its many aspects, together with gullibility, are the major causes of muddled, illogical and flawed reasoning – on an individual basis and also at a broader, higher level by governments and other public offices in all countries, and especially in the United Nations. That’s why many of the big problems in our world are never resolved and even get worse.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
Obviously, it is the ultimate folly for humanity to continue in its present dangerous course. Never, throughout history, has there been such a need for clear, sensible thinking and wise action. However, encouragement can be taken from the fact that it had been clear, sensible thinking that enabled humanity’s present ever-growing understanding of how the world functions on a physical and biological level. Most, if not all, the great discoveries and inventions from Archimedes’ Principle to crop rotation, DNA, the microchip, flush toilets and countless other examples of human ingenuity would have been impossible without uncompromising truthfulness regarding every question, detail and stage of each issue.
The overriding challenge for all humanity today is how to employ that same uncompromising truthfulness in the quest of dealing properly with the pressing existential issues mentioned earlier. How are we to maintain a high level of truthfulness among people and nations, regarding disputes, rivalries and conflicts – that are understandably, emotionally charged? How can the cold, self-serving imperatives of industry, finance, politics and government be addressed truthfully by all the interested parties and the public? How can truthfulness become a prerequisite in the workings of the United Nations and other international organizations purportedly working for the good of humanity?
There is only one clear, obvious answer. We need to announce – and keep announcing – the simple fact that the key to all these questions is truthfulness – and explain, suggest, even demand that it be learned and practiced everywhere, starting from us ourselves and the people close to us. Every section of society must eventually be imbued with this insight, including leaders in every field. Clearly, this won’t be easy and it will take a lot of time. And time might be running out.
Everyone knows the avenues taken in promoting any idea: Being in contact with all forms of the media, presenting talks and seminars at schools, places of work and every possible public venue, appearing on radio and television and utilizing all the internet tools such as Facebook. Indeed, because of the immediacy offered by modern communication systems, promotion can be facilitated much quicker than ever before.
Also, we should remember that over the years many concepts that had once been totally unthinkable, eventually became widely acceptable. Such as men with long hair and ear-rings; or explicit physical intimacy in movies, or single women intentionally having babies, to mention just a few previously totally taboo concepts. So, if these things could become mainstream norms for society, then surely it should be possible to promote truthfulness, which is actually a rather simple concept, not to mention the fact that it is absolutely essential for the future of humanity.
A group is being formed in Jerusalem to get this hallowed work started. If you’re interested I can be contacted through Facebook.
My book, “How to Avoid Armageddon” is available in some bookstores in Jerusalem and through Amazon or Kindle.
FOLLOWING IN PAUL’S
By RALPH DOBRIN
Early one morning in May last year my wife and I were on a plane headed for Riga, Latvia. Flying always makes me a little anxious, so I usually take a good book or magazine. But the book that I had brought with me was in my overnight bag, which was in the rack above our seats. To get to it, I needed to ask the passenger next to me in the aisle seat, to let me get past. A middle-aged guy, suntanned and dressed very casually, he looked rugged and weary, and he stood up slowly to let me squeeze past him. I got my book out of the bag, which I returned to the rack. I thanked him, squeezing past him again and plonked down into my seat. I began to introduce myself but he had closed his eyes. I began reading my book, but after a few minutes, I realized that I suddenly needed to go to the toilet. Luckily, he opened his eyes and I gestured apologetically that I needed to get up. Again, he stood up tiredly and allowed me to clamber past him. When I returned from the toilet he was slumped with his eyes closed again. But he sensed that I had returned and let me get past, immediately getting low in his seat and closing his eyes.
But I had some sandwiches and dried fruit in my bag in that rack above our heads, that my wife and I had planned to eat early in the flight. He seemed to sense that I needed to do some clambering again and he opened his eyes. I smiled at him. He smiled back and stood up. We had established a rapport.
Sitting down with my bag of victuals, I offered him a sandwich, which he seemed happy to accept. “I’m Rafi,” I said and he responded, “I’m Stan!” We chatted in English. I couldn’t make out his accent.
“Do you live in Israel?” I asked. “Oh no,” he murmured wearily. “I live in Germany. But I’ve been traveling around Israel.” Now, over the years, I’ve encountered hundreds of folks who’ve just been traveling around Israel and I know how to ask all the appropriate questions.
But with Stan Malina, it was clear that my usual questions about “What did you see?” and “Where did you stay?” were somewhat incongruous. Stan had not traveled in the usual way by tour bus or hired car. Neither had he stayed at any hotels. Explaining his mode of transport, I understood his tired look! The man had ridden around the country on an old 7-speed bicycle. He had pedaled over a thousand kilometers up and down hill and valley, under the blazing sun, and he had pitched his tent most nights in fields, forests, camping sites and public parks.
An Apostolic pastor, Stan Malina was gathering material for his 5th book in a series called, “Cycling On All Trails of Apostle Paul,” published by Christian Publishing House. He had started this present route in Beirut, Lebanon, ridden south to Tyre and Sidon and back to Beirut (part of the return trip by minibus), before flying to Amman in Jordan, where he stayed for a night before descending to the Jordan Valley and crossing the Allenby Bridge into the Palestine Authority territory and then into Israel.
For eleven days he pedaled more or less in the wake of the trails of the Apostle Paul. He relied on leg muscles, great stamina and boundless faith. I use the word “faith” because, despite being part of a nation known for its ability to plan carefully and for preciseness, it seems that Malina did very little planning on a daily basis. He would set out each morning on the next leg of his journey, with one or two water bottles that might last him a few hours in the harsh Middle Eastern heat. Also, he carried very little food with him – sometimes just a packet of potato chips. Understandably, he wanted to cut down the weight of his luggage and provisions, which without food and water came to about 20 kilograms – a significant load to contend with when cycling hundreds of kilometers, often up very long, steep hills. But limiting his food and water supplies could have been very dangerous because he didn’t always know how far he’d need to ride before reaching a place to replenish his supplies or have a decent meal. In the Middle East, one can succumb to dehydration very quickly. That can be fatal if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. In addition to this easy-going approach, in the evenings, he would just rely on luck to find a suitable spot to put up his tent and have a few hours of slumber.
Malina describes heart-warming encounters with Muslim and Christian Arabs and Jews. Each time he needed advice on directions, or where in the middle of a deserted stretch, to find a store selling food or bottled water, or a place to pitch his tent, fortuitously, someone would always appear and answer his questions and sometimes even share a meal and a fireside in a park or offer a room for the night. He also writes about a number of times that he encountered kindness and consideration with Israeli soldiers.
Stan Malina had already written four books on the trails of the Apostle Paul and a number of other titles on the subject of belief. His wife Sandra, formerly from Durban, South Africa, has also written four books on similar topics.
He rode with a South African flag, in honor of his wife Sandra’s birthplace and the sponsorship he received from South Africans.
The trip took Malina to scores of places mentioned in the Bible. At each place he stopped to take photographs and contemplate. He was able to relish the experience or envision a biblical event or acknowledge that Paul had been there, with yet another aspect – the sheer beauty of some of these places. His itinerary, apart from his days in Lebanon and Jordan, commenced in Israel with an arduous 30-kilometer climb up to Jerusalem from the Jordan Valley, (scaling an altitude of 350 meters below sea level to 750 meters above).
From Jerusalem he took a bus to Haifa, and resumed pedaling from Acre to the Lebanese border at Rosh Hanikra, from where he began the ascent up the steep, seemingly endless hills of Galilee, presenting Stan with yet another daunting physical challenge. From there he headed for the Sea of Galilee, blue and calm and surrounded by abundant greenery, evoking numerous scenes from the New Testament. He rode through the Jezreel Valley, visited Megiddo, Caesarea and Antipatris; then on to Jaffa, Ashdod and Ashkelon. When he approached Gaza he felt relieved that the Apostle had evidently not been there, and mused: “The people of Gaza have a great need of Gospel, but who is going to bring it to them?”
In the last part of his trip Malina rode hundreds of miles through semi-desert and desert country, visiting Beersheba on his way to the Dead Sea, passing Massada, Ein Gedi and Qumran. Then he connected with the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, which he had heroically contended with at the beginning of his Israel visit. But this time he opted for a ride on an empty bus back to Jerusalem, where he spent a few days with a friend Yoel Mendel, touring the city and nearby Bethlehem, which he visited twice and where Sunday prayer service at the Immanuel Evangelical Church, turned out to be a highly edifying experience.
The book offers many insights. Written by a pilgrim who pedaled a thousand kilometers, much of the time alone with his own thoughts, he could savor the special lesson inherent in each biblical and historical site that he visited, although he suspected that many places where not on the exact spot referred to in the Bible. There are many fresh observations in this book. For instance, he writes at length about the Apostle Paul, about his earlier lessons by the great sage Gamliel who taught tolerance. Yet, despite these teachings, as Saul of Tarsus, he confronted the new Christians who initially had been his fellow-Jews, with great vindictiveness – until his conversion on the road to Damascus.
Malina is not naïve about the political realities of the Middle East. During his trip he had encountered a number protest demonstrations by Arabs. On several occasions he felt it prudent to distance himself from the angry crowds. Fairly well acquainted with the conflict, he says: “I felt irritated when I thought how the world only sees one side of the Middle East conflict – always accusing Israel.” He adds: “The Middle East conflict is like magnifying lens of world conflict, between ungodly and biblical.”
Three years earlier, Malina had toured Israel with his wife, Sandra. They had traveled around the country by car. On this trip, despite the grueling ordeal in pedaling hundreds of kilometers, sitting on a less-than-comfortable saddle, contending with thirst, hunger, heart-breaking inclines and relentless sun, he nevertheless concluded that touring by bicycle has many advantages. Perhaps only an avid cyclist or pilgrim can appreciate this sentiment.
“Tensions Around Israel” is easy to read, informational and replete with photographs and useful footnotes. It can be ordered at: http://www.malina-home.de/books where all Malina’s other books are also available.
Former slave sets the record
These are the words of SIMON DENG, a former Sudanese slave, in his address at the Durban Conference in New York.
I want to thank the organizers of this conference, The Perils of Global Intolerance. It is a great honor for me and it is a privilege really to be among today’s distinguished speakers.
I came here as a friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I came to protest this Durban conference, which is based on a set of lies. It is organized by nations who themselves are guilty of the worst kind of oppression.
It will not help the victims of racism. It will only isolate and target the Jewish state. It is a tool of the enemies of Israel. The UN has itself become a tool against Israel. For over 50 years, 82% of the UN General Assembly emergency meetings have been about condemning one state – Israel. Hitler couldn’t have been delighted!
The Durban Conference is an outrage. All decent people will know that. But friends, I come here today with a radical idea. I come to tell you that there are peoples who suffer from the UN’s anti-Israelism even more than the Israelis. I belong to one of those peoples. By exaggerating Palestinian suffering, and by blaming the Jews for
it, the UN has muffled the cries of those who suffer on a far larger scale.
For over fifty years the indigenous black population of Sudan – Christians and Muslims alike – have been the victims of the brutal, racist Arab Muslim regimes in Khartoum. In South Sudan , my homeland, about 4 million innocent men, women and children were slaughtered between 1955 to 2005. Seven million were ethnically cleansed and they became the largest refugee group since World War II.
The UN is concerned about the so-called Palestinian refugees. They dedicated a separate agency for them, and they are treated with special privileges. Meanwhile, my people, ethnically cleansed, murdered and enslaved,
are relatively ignored. The UN refuses to tell the world the truth about the real causes of Sudan ’s conflicts. Who knows what is really happening in Darfur? It is not a “tribal conflict.” It is a conflict rooted in Arab colonialism well known in north Africa. In Darfur, a region in the Western Sudan, everybody is Muslim. Everybody is Muslim because the Arabs invaded northern Africa and converted the indigenous people to Islam.
But in the eyes of the Islamists in Khartoum, the Darfuris are not Muslim enough. And the Darfuris do not want to be Arabized. They love their own African languages and dress and customs. The Arab response is genocide! But nobody at the UN tells the truth about Darfur.
In the Nuba Mountains , another region of Sudan, genocide is taking place as I speak. The Islamist regime in Khartoum is targeting the black Africans – Muslims and Christians. Nobody at the UN has told the truth about the Nuba Mountains. Do you hear the UN condemn Arab racism against blacks?
But what you find on the pages of the New York Times, or in the record of the UN condemnations is “Israeli crimes” and Palestinian suffering. My people have been driven off the front pages because of the exaggerations about Palestinian suffering. What Israel does is portrayed as a Western sin. But the truth is that the real sin happens when the West abandons us: the victims of Arab/Islamic apartheid.
Chattel slavery was practiced for centuries in Sudan. It was revived as a tool of war in the early 1990s. Khartoum declared jihad against my people and thus legitimized taking slaves as war booty. Arab militias were sent to destroy Southern villages and were encouraged to take African women and children as slaves. We believe that up to 200,000 were kidnapped, brought to the North and sold into slavery.
I am a living proof of this crime against humanity! I don’t like talking about my experience as a slave, but I do it
because it is important for the world to know that slavery exists even today. I was only nine years old when an Arab neighbor named Abdullahi tricked me into following him to a boat. The boat wound up in Northern Sudan where he gave me as a gift to his family. For three and a half years I was their slave going through something that no child should ever go through: brutal beatings and humiliation; working around the clock; sleeping on
the ground with animals; eating the family’s left-overs. During those three years I was unable to say the word “no.” All I could say was “yes,” “yes,” “yes.”
The United Nations knew about the enslavement of South Sudanese by the Arabs. Their own staff reported it.
It took UNICEF – under pressure from the Jewish-led American Anti-Slavery Group – sixteen years to acknowledge what was happening. I want to publicly thank my friend Dr. Charles Jacobs for leading the anti-slavery fight.
But the Sudanese government and the Arab League pressured UNICEF, which backtracked, and started to criticize those who worked to liberate Sudanese slaves. In 1998, Dr. Gaspar Biro, the courageous UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan who reported on slavery, resigned in protest of the UN’s actions.
Today, tens of thousands of black South Sudanese still serve their masters in the North and the UN is silent
about that. It would offend the OIC and the Arab League.
As a former slave and a victim of the worst sort of racism, allow me to explain why I think calling Israel a racist state is absolutely absurd and immoral.
I have been to Israel five times visiting the Sudanese refugees [seeking refuge] there. Let me tell you how they ended up there. They had fled Arab racism, hoping to find shelter in Egypt. How wrong they were! When Egyptian security forces slaughtered twenty six black refugees in Cairo who were protesting Egyptian racism, the Sudanese realized that the Arab racism is the same in Khartoum or Cairo. They needed shelter and they found it in Israel. Dodging the bullets of the Egyptian border patrols and walking for very long distances, the refugees’ only hope was to reach Israel ’s side of the fence, where they knew they would be safe.
Black Muslims from Darfur chose Israel above all the other Arab-Muslim states of the area. Do you know what this means [in terms of differences in culture, religion and language]? And the Arabs say Israel is racist!
In Israel, black Sudanese, Christian and Muslim were welcomed and treated like human beings. Just go and ask them, like I have done. They told me that compared to the situation in Egypt, Israel is “heaven.”
So, is Israel a racist state? To my people, the people who know the meaning of racism – the answer is absolutely not. Israel is a state of people who are the colors of the rainbow. Jews themselves come in all colors, even black. I met with Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Beautiful black Jews.
So, yes … I come here today to tell you that the people who suffer most from the UN anti-Israel policy are not the Israelis but all those people whom the UN ignores in order to tell its big lie against Israel: we, the victims of Arab/Muslim abuse: women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, homosexuals, in the Arab/Muslim world. These are the main victims of UN Israel hatred.
Look at the situation of the Copts in Egypt, the Christians in Iraq, Nigeria and Iran, the Hindus and Bahais who suffer from Islamic oppression, and the Sikhs. We – a rainbow coalition of victims and targets of Jihadis – all suffer. We are ignored, we are abandoned. So that the big lie against the Jews can go forward.
In 2005, I visited one of the refugee camps in South Sudan . I met a twelve year old girl who told me about her dream. She wanted to go to school to become a doctor. And then she wanted to visit Israel. I was amazed. How could this refugee girl who spent most of her life in the North know about Israel ? When I asked why she wanted to visit Israel, she said: “This is our people.” I was never able to find an answer to my question.
On January 9 of 2011 South Sudan became an independent state. For South Sudanese, that means continuation of oppression, brutalization, demonization, Islamization, Arabization and enslavement. In a similar manner, the Arabs continue denying Jews their right for sovereignty in their homeland and the Durban III conference continues denying Israel ’s legitimacy.
As a friend of Israel, I bring you the news that my President, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, publicly stated that the South Sudan Embassy in Israel will be built – not in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. I also want to assure you that my own new nation, and all of its peoples, will oppose racist forums like the Durban III. We will oppose it by simply continuing to tell the truth! Our truth!
It’s Adar! Be Happy!
By DOUGLAS GREENER
According to Jewish tradition, “When the month of Adar arrives, happiness increases.”
Oh sure. It’s the dead of winter; our enemies are polishing their resolutions and sharpening their knives; the Iranians are building nukes; the Arab Spring is withering under Islamic ice. What’s there to be happy about?
Here are seven good reasons. Sometimes you just have to look at things from a different angle.
Our striving for social justice is bound by economic reality. I hate to say it, but our good neighbors the Greeks give us proof every day that an unbridled welfare state will eventually collapse in chaos if it can’t pay its bills. For years, the Greek government maintained a wonderful system of “social justice” for all Greeks — on borrowed money. Similar scenarios may be taking place for Portugal, Spain, Italy and even France, where they seem to believe that retiring at age 62 is in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Our own government may need spurs from time to time, but they seem committed to increasing social benefits at a pace that will not destroy our highly-praised economy.
Our neighbors are not getting their act together. I know, my mother also told me that nice guys don’t take pleasure in other’s misfortunes. Sorry, mom. I would rather our neighbors grind each other up than turn their attention to us. Liberals all over cheered the “Arab Spring.” They’re still cheering, but they have to be shutting their eyes and stopping up their ears. In Libya, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, all beacons of a better future a year ago, their societies have reverted to what they do best: repression, violence, economic failure, and radical Islamism waiting around the bend. The Arab League, composed of countries the same or worse, is impotent as ever. In “The Kite Runner,” the hero’s father, an outspoken Afghan skeptic, tells his son that, “Israel [is] an island of ‘real men’ in a sea of Arabs too busy getting fat off their oil to care for their own.” There might have been a time when we began to doubt this, but it seems to be sounding true once again.
Isolation? In your dreams! Despite the torrent of warnings that Israel’s policies of self-defense and self-interest are causing us to be isolated in the international community, the opposite is true. Where it really matters, Israel’s standing and trade are growing. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement celebrates when an Israeli lecturer is interrupted, a supermarket chain stops selling Israeli hummus or a European workers’ union sells its Israeli stocks. But at the same time, Israel is signing multi-million dollar business and defense deals with China, India, Russia, and other countries which count in the real world. As our relations with Turkey plummeted, those with Greece and Cyprus improved beyond anybody’s wildest dreams. Israel sits on more UN agencies than ever before, and the Security Council just condemned attacks against Israeli diplomats. And from out of nowhere, Canada has arisen as a strong supporter of Israel, constant as the North Star. Israel’s medical and security experience is sought after and our entrepreneurship is dissected and copied.
The Jerusalem Light Rail line is off and running. Although its speed and frequency still have to be improved, the Light Rail is a beautiful, new way to get around Jerusalem. (Full disclosure: I live exactly at one end of the line, so the Light Rail was made for people like me.) At first I thought it would just be a bus ride on rails, but it’s a whole different experience. The medium is the message. You get on the Light Rail and you’re in a world clean, quiet and smooth. People speak to each other more, including Jews ands Arabs, something I never see on the bus.
Some three decades after the Israeli wine revolution began, it’s now time for beer. You can’t keep up with the new boutique breweries opening all over Israel. Most of the beer they’re making is pretty great. Even if you’re one of those who “don’t like beer,” the new Israeli beers can change your mind. And as the beers get better, we’re drinking more of them. Researchers will tell you that beer is about as healthy as wine — and, if you ask me, it tastes better.
We have a former president in jail. This should make us happy? The Egyptians also have an ex-president in jail, but he’s there because a violent revolution with hundreds killed, kicked him out of power. Ours was convicted in a court of law by due process. There’s no reason for us to feel shame or guilt over this; only satisfaction that the system worked — at least in this case.
It’s been a miserable, wet winter. Funny thing: these are the kinds of winters that Jews actually pray for! Without them, we’d be living in a desert, so count your blessings. What did Al Jolson used to sing?
Though winter showers may flood your car,
They bring the flowers that bloom in Adar!
I’m not sure this is going to bring a month’s worth of happiness, but it’s a good start.
Based on talk on how to prevent a doomsday situation
A new stage in humanity’s
By RALPH DOBRIN
Author of “How to Avoid Armageddon”
Can be ordered through Amazon
This is the third part my talk, whose full title is: “How to solve your problems … and save the world”? In the earlier installments we offered the key to avoiding and solving most of our own personal problems, through the understanding and practise of truthfulness as a way of life.
And similarly, it is truthfulness practised by more and more people everywhere that will save the world? Oh come on Ralph, the reader might say. Be serious for goodness sake. How is truthfulness going to solve pollution and poverty? How is truthfulness going to cope with the likes of Ahmadinijad and Zawahiri? Well just think about it. Throughout history it has usually been the opposite of truthfulness and honesty – it has been lies and deceit that bungling, inept leaders, scoundrels and tyrants have used to gain and keep power and to wreak havoc and bring boundless misery into the world.
Even in the more benign democracies of the world, political factors make truthfulness among all the aspirants to power, something very conditional, even a handicap. To a large extent, gaining power, even in these democracies, is a game, a contest in which, very often, the winner takes all. And the gullibility of the general public panders to these games. Consequently, governance – which is really management on a large scale – governance is mediocre at best, and sometimes quite pathetic. In totalitarian states, not only public gullibility enables a self-serving dictatorship, but dread and fear as well. But for the moment, I’m talking about Israel and other democracies.
In our earlier blogs on this subject, we had talked about wishful thinking and holding onto old ideas and concepts no matter how things change or what new information emerges? And automatically rejecting any ideas or even events and developments that might not tally with our own perceptions. It’s called cognitive dissonance. It’s really a form of lying to ourselves. And we mentioned how these very common tendencies can prevent clear and sensible thinking.
Well, with any issue that has a political bearing, cognitive dissonance readily prevails, and often, even normally level-headed, intelligent, honest people can have their ability to think objectively and comprehensively, noticeably diminished. Right wing or left wing, religious or liberal, conservative, centrist, socialist – it doesn’t matter. Bring up any issue with a political bearing and intellectual integrity and rational thinking are often seriously compromised. Not always, not with everyone, but all too often.
If we take a brief, candid look at Israel’s situation we find that Israel faces bigger, far more dangerous challenges, probably than ever before; quite probably no other country in the world faces such colossal threats and challenges. That’s why the people of Israel have to figure out how to make the right decisions regarding every aspect of their national well-being and security. The trouble is that just about every issue in Israel has a political bearing, arousing heated, divisive squabbling along party lines and coalition hanky-panky. And this makes wise, sensible, crucially-needed decision-making extremely difficult, if not impossible. On the other hand, if government decisions were based primarily on honest, objective imperatives, truthfully debated, and based only on what’s good for the country and its people, it would have a better chance of overcoming the many threats and challenges facing us. But for this to happen, integrity and truthfulness must become the dominant qualities among all sectors of Israeli society, because it’s from this society that Israel’s politicians emerge, bringing with them, for better or for worse, all the general mores. For the moment Israeli society has a long way to go before integrity and truthfulness become the dominant qualities among all its sections.
Also compounding the gravity of Israel’s situation is its standing with the rest of the world. It’s interesting that Israel has been condemned – not just criticized – but actually condemned, in the various United Nations agencies and forums far more often than any other country in the world, and that includes some truly repressive, murderous regimes such as Sudan, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Iran, Somalia, etc., etc. And Israel heads the condemned list by far. Also, the media all over the world, including in Western democracies, is quick to pounce on Israel every time it tries to defend itself against military attacks. And there are many Jews in these countries as well as in Israel itself, who see Israel as largely to blame for the conflict with the Arabs. And of course, a major criticism is Israel’s occupation of Judea and Samaria and settlement construction.
What is largely ignored or downplayed by the leaders and people of the world and the media, is the multitude of infractions inflicted upon the Jews of Israel by the neighboring peoples. Over ninety years of unrelenting enmity and enormous efforts, to physically destroy Israel, using military invasions and terror, backed by commercial and academic boycott as well as the cynical manipulation of the United Nations.
Also ignored or downplayed are the incredibly disproportionate statistics. The Arabs outnumber the Jews of Israel by over 50 to one. They are backed by another billion Muslims. They have most of the world’s oil reserves. They have the second largest land-mass in the world, larger than the USA, Canada or Australia. On the other hand Israel, one of the smallest countries in the world, has needed to defend itself in half-a-dozen full-scale wars – all of them with the express purpose of either immediately or incrementally, destroying Israel. One would think that this enormous disparity would arouse some appreciation among the nations of the world and the general media regarding Israel’s desperate struggle to survive.
But no, it is Israel that is castigated, condemned, boycotted – not just by its sworn enemies, but by governments, trade unions, church organizations, municipalities, even highly educated, cultured folks at universities in North America, Europe and Britain, with seldom a word of disapproval towards those seeking the destruction of Israel.
Might all this be a case of double standards and bias? Well, when one also considers that seldom throughout history, or quite probably never, has a country been called upon by the nations of the world to return territories that it conquered in wars of defense, as is the case with Israel, it’s hard not to see bias. And in order to try and make peace with the Arab world, Israel has repeatedly ceded lands it conquered in these wars of defense … and yet with every concession that Israel has made, certainly in the last two decades, the enmity of Israel’s adversaries has kept growing, and peace has become less likely than ever before.
So it seems very clear that bias and double standards have blocked common sense and common decency on the part of many people all over the world. Ordinary people and their leaders and the opinion-makers in the media. But why is this? It’s a big subject, and it can’t fit in the scope of this talk. But briefly, let’s say that the bias and double standards are largely due to the concern for regular oil supplies, international politics and commerce, vested interests in certain journalistic circles and intellectual liberalism that might have tripped over itself, and oh, something to do with feelings about those pesky Jews. But no matter what the reasons, bias and double standards pop up when facts are not faced honestly; when falsehood is propagated and honored. That in a nutshell is the big picture regarding the Israel-Arab conflict, which incidentally got started and is perpetuated, to a large extent through falsehood. And yes, also through an inordinate degree of ignorance.
This series of blogs has been about a most basic value – truthfulness. Something that is clearly not fully understood, appreciated or practised … possibly anywhere. In briefly bringing up the Israel-Arab conflict, I have tried to show the connection between falsehood and conflict. How falsehood can start conflict and perpetuate it and prevent its resolution.
And the terrible thing is that it is this same general inability to face facts honestly by so many people, regarding the Israel-Arab conflict, that is also preventing humanity as a whole from coping adequately with all the other serious, pressing existential threats and challenges to our planet that we had mentioned earlier.