Holocaust Memorial Day

bds or the bibleThis years opening remarks at Yad Vashem by Reuven Rivlin, president of the State of Israel carries great importance. He mentioned several times in his speech the idea how humanity was created in the image of God; how our relationship between people should be marked with sensitivity that when we look at each other we are in fact looking at God. It seems that God hoped for a society where we would raise people up on a pedestal and cherish life. Somehow this ideal has been lost. In university I was taught over and over again the value of science and that religion was the opium of society. But where does science tell us how one should interact with other people that is so lofty as mentioned in the Bible? And with all the achievements that universities have realized, why are people mistreated and denies the most basic values as life itself?

Hitler explained that he was motivated to obliterate the Jewish people “because they cursed civilization with a conscience.” But in truth God gave us the Five Books of Moses to be a model of this ideal of sensitivity and respect between people and serve as messenger for others.

Israel today is one of the most dynamic societies in the world. Far from perfect, constantly threatened by hate and war, plagues with problems like all other countries, we still manage to thrive. So what’s the secret? Perhaps its our growing ability to work with others and respect difference. If you live in Israel, you can’t avoid Russians, Yemenites, French, Ethiopians, religious, secular and more. We have learned to respect and cherish life together.

It seems to me that the B.D.S. movement is not so much about boycotting the Jewish nation, peace, human rights or the Palestinian cause but rather the boycott, divestment and sanctions against the ideals God hoped for civilization.

May the memory of those murdered by the German Nazis find eternal rest in the Garden of Eden. Amen.

Click on the picture or this link to see this outstanding video.




Standing Up For Our Soldiers

I remember many years ago on Memorial Day a radio host asked the following question to its listeners, “Who are the real heroes? The soldiers of today or the soldiers who fought in previous wars?” There seemed to be an agreement that the soldiers of today were the real heroes. The rational was simple. Back in the day, it was clear to all who the enemy was. He had a country, flag and uniform. You didn’t have to think. Israel was on one side and the enemy on the other. But in the early 1980’s things changed. The enemy didn’t have a uniform, country or flag. Governments like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria trained militant groups to fight their cause. It was cheaper and more effective. Targets moved from military to civilian. Israel also set a precedent by signing the Oslo agreement with a terrorist organization; namely by turning the PLO into a potential partner for peace. In a single moment terrorists became politicians with a legitimate cause. The PLO began inviting NGO’s and film crews to bring the plight of Palestines to the attention of the world. In turn, our soldiers required a new type of advanced training to deal with groups of militants who fought with cameras.

Three weeks ago our soldiers were faced with a far greater threat. Our Prime Minister and Defense Minister called into question the integrity of our soldiers after a video appeared on YOUTUBE by an organization whose activities are under investigation by police showing a soldier shooting a terrorist lying on the ground. Even before an investigation was launched, our Prime Minister was already Facebooking his friends about the video.

My concern is that our soldiers are being tried similar to terrorists. Because our legislation has not evolved, terrorists are even using Israeli law to their advantage by suing soldiers who cause them bodily harm. The danger is obvious and undermines the armies’ ability to fulfill its mandate. Our 18 year old high school graduates are required to act in accordance with standard military rules of engagement. Unfortunately because commanders are under political influence, rules of engagement have become blurred. New inductees now meet regularly with lawyers and advocacy groups that try to encourage soldiers to keep their heads high and that even if the government and army turns on them for carrying out their duties, lawyers will do their best to keep them out of prison. Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Yaalon sweeping support of B’tselem accusations have many soldiers terrified. Maybe B’tselem will finally get a real donation from Hassan Rouhani and not his usual monthly donation of 36 dollars.

Casse Croute Tunisien

tunissignIt’s hard to imagine that some people look for an excuse to travel to Ramle. Believe it or not, I’m one of those as well. Years ago my in-laws took me to the open market (shuk) by the bus station to get some fresh vegetables and meat. It’s an old style market, a cross culture of old Israel. It’s a nice feeling. After a while they suggested we stop and get a bite to eat. Off to the side in one of the alley ways, stands a small
inconspicuous little restaurant. I knew I was in the right place. I sensed I was among people who knew where to find great food prepared by great people.
Haim Bokobza and family brought the Tunisian sandwich (Casse-croute Tunisien) from Tunis to Ramle. In an interview he mentions that he’s kept the recipe just like he was taught by his mother. In each bite you taste the culture and love as if you were transported back to North Africa. Each person that comes in feels suddenly special as if Haim and family are preparing special for him or her. You sense that everything they make is fresh, made from the finest spicetunissanwichs in order that each bite sizzles in flavor. To my surprise, the sandwich is made up of basic ingredients. Cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, tuna and some type of roll. Most people prefer with the Tunisian harissa spice on top for the real authentic taste. But even without, its just as good.
Five years ago I was transferred to a new division in the army as part of my reserve duties. I was quite concerned until they told me that my new base was a five minute walk from the old Ramle market. At that moment my comrades in arms could only wonder why I had a smile. But some secrets are worth divulging.

Click her to read and view a clip by Ynet.

Thanks to Jonathan Gold of the L.A Times for the inspiration to write about my favorite restaurants.

Betting on Dinosaurs

This is a follow up to a previous post, What U.K. Women Need to Know…

The student union of University College London, the UK capital’s largest higher-education institution voted to officially adopt the Boycott Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaign 14-4 against Israel.

The question I have for potential students  around the world who are looking for a under graduate and graduate program with the goal of becoming a productive member of society is, Would you choose a university that has a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement against Israel?

Its quite amazing how often Israel makes the front page of most newspapers, disproportionate to any other country around the world since 1948. It’s also amazing that the number of Nobel Prize winners, the number of R&D labs by Fortune 500 companies that invest in Israel is also disproportionate.

bds lucSomething is going on Israel. Each under graduate and graduate student needs to look carefully to try and understand why only Israel is being boycotted? Thomas Friedman in 2008 wrote an article ‘People vs. Dinosaurs’ where he wrote, “Question: What do America’s premier investor, Warren Buffett, and Iran’s toxic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have in common? Answer: They’ve both made a bet about Israel’s future.”

The reason for Israel’s growing success is because it uses its greatest asset – people, men and women. Its not a perfect country but it is certainly civil. Unlike the rest of the Middle East and most of Asia where women are taken out of the equation altogether, Israel is willing to vote for a women Prime Minister and anyone else that will advance our country.

As Warren Buffett wrote last week in his shareholders letter for 2015, “Under CEO Mark Donegan, PCC has become the world’s premier supplier of aerospace components…  Mark’s accomplishments remind me of the magic regularly performed by Jacob Harpaz at IMC, our remarkable Israeli manufacturer of cutting tools. The two men transform very ordinary raw materials into extraordinary products that are used by major manufacturers worldwide. Each is the da Vinci of his craft.”

Think twice before you choose a university. You could be betting on dinosaurs and not your future!

International Women’s Day

kofiannanThese words were shared by Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the U.N. on February 28, 2005 as part of the Commission for the Status of Women.

Since the founders of the United Nations noted their faith in “the equal rights of men and women” on the first page of the UN Charter 60 years ago, studies have shown that “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

“No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, or to reduce infant and maternal mortality,” he said in remarks to the opening of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which is meeting through next week to review progress in the 10 years since the Declaration and the Platform of Action was agreed at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 in China (Beijing+10).

“No other policy is as sure to improve nutrition and promote health – including the prevention of HIV/AIDS. No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation. And I would also venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended.”

The high-level, two-week CSW meeting also marks the 30th anniversary of the first summit on women issues in Mexico City.

What was needed now was the scaling up and targeting of the solutions that the Millennium Project Task Force on Education and Gender has recommended, he said, including providing primary and secondary education for girls, investing in infrastructure beneficial to women, increasing their role in policy-making and guaranteeing their rights to sexual and reproductive health, property ownership, inheritance and equality in employment.

In addition, the Task Force had called for redoubled efforts to combat violence against girls and women. “That means, leadership in showing, by example, that when it comes to violence against women and girls, there are no grounds for tolerance and no tolerable excuses,” Mr. Annan said.

Besides the benefits to society of investing in women, the most important fact was that women have the right to live in dignity and with freedom from want and fear. At the five-year review of progress on the Millennium Declaration in September he hoped leaders would take urgent action to achieve the Declaration’s goals, he said.

Ten years after the Beijing Conference women were not only more aware of their rights, but were better able to exercise them, Mr. Annan said. “Life expectancy and fertility rates have improved. More girls are enrolled in primary education. More women are earning an income than ever before.”

New challenges had emerged, such as the odious but ever-increasing trafficking in women and children and “the terrifying growth of HIV/AIDS among women, especially young women,” Mr. Annan said.

Nonetheless, the past decade had shown that these challenges were not problems that lack solutions, he said.

“We have learnt what works and what doesn’t work,” Mr. Annan said.

Shiny Eyes

benjzanderI love YouTube!   Because I don’t have a TV, you miss out on a lot of conversation between friends about what was on the previous night. My wife saw this video and ended up sending it to all her friends. To date, it is the best video I’ve seen so far on YouTube.

Benjamin Zander is today a conductor in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, teacher and widely sought after speaker. His fame came quickly as he demonstrated his dedication and perseverance in the world of classical music. But it took him several decades to realize that as a conductor he really doesn’t  do anything besides waving his hands. He plays no instrument. Just stands in front of the orchestra. The question he had to struggle with was what his true purpose was as conductor?

Once he was able to answer that question, this led him to become a world renown speaker on the true purpose of a leader. Leadership or conductor is about taking a wide range of people with different backgrounds, personalities, aspirations and cultures and harness there complete talents to achieve the impossible. The leader gets his power from making other people powerful.

No one should forget that leadership is about interaction between people in all situations. As Benjamin Zander points out each word we say between people can have a transcending effect.

Check out this truly amazing talk from a very special person. Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music



A New Voice, Old Problems


Wlliam Ury tell a wonderful story about a man who leaves his herd of 17 camels to his three sons as their inheritance. To the first son, he leaves half the camels; to the middle son, he leaves a third of the camels; and to the youngest son, he leaves a ninth of the camels. The three sons get into an intense negotiation over who should get how many, because 17 doesn’t divide by two, or by three, or by nine. Tempers become strained, so in desperation they consult a wise, old woman. She listens to their problem and says, “Well, I don’t know if I can help you, but if you want, at least you can have my camel.” Now they have 18 camels, so the first son takes half of them, or nine camels; the middle son takes his third, or six camels; and the youngest son takes his ninth, or two camels. Nine plus six plus two adds up to a total of 17 camels. There is one camel left over, so the brothers give it back to the woman. (TED Ideas 2017)

One of the most common questions that is asked about the Middle East conflict is whether their will be sustainable peace between Israelis and Arabs?

William Ury, co-author of “Getting to Yes” and many other classics on conflict resolution knows a lot about the Israeli-Arab conflict, being involved in the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in the 1980’s and having served as a mediator in conflicts around the world. Prof. Ury is convinced that peace is a possibility!  Along with his colleagues they came up with the idea called “Abraham Path” as a healthier way of understanding the greater commonality between the three main religions as oppose to our differences. Jew, Christians and Muslims are all connected to Abraham. Abraham was known for hospitality, kindness and respect. The goal of this organization is to encourage people to walk side by side the path of Abraham and find the commonality through Abraham’s teaching.
It’s a perspective worth learning about.

I have since read a wonderful book called ‘Not in God’s Name’, by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks that addresses the growing violence perpetrated in the name of God. In the most subtle way Rabbi Sacks shifts our eyes to words in the Bible that seem to be overlooked in narratives we know so well. These are words like love, brotherhood, family  and Notingodsname blessing. How is this possible ? In part it has to do with education and intuition. When we learn about the siblings in the Book of Genesis, intuitively one can think that if one is chosen then the other is rejected, one is loved and the other is not. Rabbi Sacks points out consistently throughout the narrative, that choseness and love are part of one whole. We are all loved by God and chosen for different tasks. His book touches on the Quran and the New Testament. His insights are a new opportunity towards mutual understanding and respect. If only we will listen to voices of common sense.