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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Paris

Today could be a historic day if world leaders and civil society will continue to stand united against religious extremism in general and radical political Islam in particular, the branch of Islam that has been responsible for many terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States.

That the French have finally awakened to the curse of global terrorism because their values have been attacked may raise cynicism, perhaps rightfully so. So does the overrated participation of both the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas in the Paris rally: The first was surely motivated by the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris, particularly the murder of fellow Jews in a Kosher market, as likely as he was by the upcoming elections in Israel; the latter needs international support for his attempt to create the Palestinian state through unilateral means.

But that Muslim leaders gathered with Christians, Jews and followers of other religions to reject radical Islam is encouraging – as a first step in the war against global terrorism – if this is in fact what we are seeing in Paris today.

The images emerging today from TV screens are indeed powerful. They bring hope that perhaps the world, or at least parts of it, has finally got it. That it suddenly understands the scourge of extremism, providing that the hype from Paris will not subside tomorrow or the day after, and that the root causes of terrorism will also be addressed.

Lost in the hype is a piece of news in today’s papers of a 10 year old girl who was used by Nigerian insurgents as a suicide bomber, killing herself alongside 20 others, and wounding many more.  

The use of children as potential suicide bomber is not new. Hamas hat tried that before. And there are other means by which terrorist groups use children: Most of the 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who had been abducted last year by Boko Haram are still in the hand of their kidnappers. That too has been missing from the voices in Paris, not to mention last week’s possible killing of 2,000 Nigerians by the group. But the rally is not over yet at the time of this writing, and may be these atrocities will be mentioned too.    

The phrase “not in my name” uttered by many Muslims, whether ordinary citizens or leaders from Arab and non-Arab Muslim societies, sounds good. But unless it becomes a movement, it will remain an empty slogan. The movement needs to include not only civilian and military leaders, but also, most importantly, Imams from the Middle East, Africa and the West.


Till that happens, today’s rally in Paris, impressive and moving as it is, will be a fleeting episode in the “fight” against the latest wave of fascism the world is facing.


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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

9/11 memorial and Museum

Earlier today  (Wednesday) I visited for the first time the 9/11 Memorial and the Memorial Museum. Its awesomeness overwhelmed me.
     I went there with my cousin and his friend who are visiting from Israel, where the culture of memorializing the Holocaust, fallen soldiers and terror victims, is prevalent. Though used to this ethos they too were overawed.
     As we stood by the South Pool of the memorial the friend was visibly upset about the ease with which visitors can lean on the black marble that contains the names of the 9/11 victims. He thought that doing so was tantamount to desecrating the victims.
    “Don’t you feel that way?” he wanted to know.
I didn’t. On the contrary. I felt that whenever a visitor touches the marble, whenever he or she rubs an engraved name however randomly, they create an instant connection to that name. Touching those engraved letters that forms the name of a person whose life was lost so abruptly in that terrorist attack affects one emotionally in an instant.
      “What do you feel when you look at the pool?” he wanted to know.
    “Continuity, triumph” I said. The movement and sound of the circulating water made me feel that way. Life goes on.  The human spirit cannot be defeated in spite of the enormity of the tragedy.
    “Interesting though,” he said. “I don’t feel that way. I feel hopelessness.” The smaller inner pool in the center of the larger body of water reminded him of people jumping to their death. Plunging to an abyss from where there is no way out.
            Either way, the memorial’s architects accomplishment was immense.
     Inside the museum my cousin was disturbed by its enormous size. He felt it was too impersonal. What moved him most was a small item on display: the wristwatch of one of the victims. Or the photo of the people walking downs the survivors’ staircase. I explained that the size of the museum was equivalent to the area where the building stood. It was built over their foundations. He understood but he wasn’t convinced. He needed a small quiet corner to reflect on what happened that day. To meditate. To feel the heartbreak in a more intimate setting.
     That was before he saw the heart of the exhibit. The artifacts. After two hours in the museum I had to leave without visiting that section where he went and to where I’ll return. I haven’t spoken with my cousin yet to hear his impression of that part. I’m sure we’ll both find it hard to sleep tonight.


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The General Assembly and Rosh Hashannah

My neighborhood is tumultuous these days. Streets are closed and sirens are shrieking ceaselessly as heads of states and foreign diplomats are arriving in New York City for the 69th UN General Assembly.

On Tuesday I walked on Second Avenue, not far from the UN. The streets swarmed with Federal agents, NYPD cops, many UN personnel and visitors wearing their ID tags, and delegates, some of whom were interviewed by TV reporters. Nearby a group of South Koreans was demonstrating against President Park, Falun Gong members demonstrated against the Chinese government, and across the street a group of Iranian shouted slogans against the regime in Teheran. Drowned in the commotion was a lone, elegantly dressed woman in her 50s, who was carrying a big sign against Hamas, Muslim terror and Iranian nuclear arms. Not far from her stood a man holding a sign saying that the Jews control the world. Another of the many reincarnations of the infamous 1903 The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, I thought.

The next day, as I was preparing to welcome the Jewish New Year, in his inaugurating speech, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned the world that its “fasten seat belt” lights is illuminated. The official agenda of the world meeting concentrates around the issues of the threat and barbarism of ISIL, events in the Ukraine, the spread of Ebola and climate change. But the Secretary General elaborated on additional and related threats to peace and security, including: the plight of refugees and displaced people, the spread of extremism not only in the Middle East, but also in Africa, the depletion of human rights, and more.

The fourth address that morning was President’s Obama’s “right makes might” speech. The President, too, emphasized the dangers of ISIL and spoke about the US’s leadership role in eradicating that scourge.

For the Jewish New Year we wish each other a year of health, prosperity and peace. This year, in the aftermath of the war in Gaza, and the Middle East facing the savagery of ISIL, peace is on the mind of most Jews. But the blessing we recite on the eve of the holiday that our enemies, haters, and those who wish evil upon us shall be eliminated, resonates particularly relevant to all of humanity.


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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Gaza

I haven’t written for a while. Away in Israel during the month of June, and busy for the past two months with the last editing sequence of the Hebrew version of my memoir, I was too busy to write. That, in spite of the events that precipitated the current cycle of violence that is raging between Israel and Hamas. Then the war broke out and I was reluctant to write about it. Not only because much has been already written and spoken about the war, but also because I find it too hard emotionally. It brings me back to the day I was widowed during the 1967 war. As if time hasn’t passed. As if I haven’t successfully rebuilt a fulfilling life for myself.

But I can’t remain silent. Not after the odd ceasefire proposal that Secretary of State John Kerry submitted to the parties on Friday. 

To be sure, there have been enough reasons to speak up, from the moment three innocent Jewish Israeli teenagers were abducted in the West Bank on June 12, by two Palestinian terrorists disguised as religious Jews, and the Israeli government’s response to the kidnapping. I was in Israel then, affected by the grace of the missing children’s parents.

Two weeks after their abduction their  slaughtered bodies were found. That followed by the horrific murder of a Palestinian boy by a few misguided avenging extremist Israeli Jews, and all hell broke loose.

Israeli cities have been bombarded by Hamas with thousands of rockets and missiles to which Israel had no choice but to respond. Additionally, Israel discovered over thirty underground tunnels Hamas had built in order to penetrate Israeli towns, for the purpose of abducting and killing Israelis. That discovery has suddenly posed a strategic challenge for Israel it hasn’t known before.

Israel is facing a cruel, stubborn, sardonic enemy that is gaining from the suffering of its own people. That is how terrorist organizations operate. They rely on political gains resulting from widespread sympathy after massive retaliation that is expected from the party they had harmed in the first place. You can read about such tactics in any introductory textbook on the subject of terrorism.

Still, no human being can be oblivious to the horrifying pictures that come out of Gaza. They are not helpful to American interests, nor to Israel’s. But American cities are not bombarded and hundreds, if not thousands of terrorists that could infiltrate US borders through underground tunnels do not threaten its citizens. Witness the outcry in Congress over the infiltration of undocumented youth through American borders. Can you imagine what the US would do if the infiltrators would be terrorists that openly call for your country’s destruction rather than undocumented immigrants?

That is why Israelis are so upset with Secretary Kerry’s ceasefire proposal. It took into account all of Hamas’s demands, neglecting Israel’s legitimate concerns, and it designated Qatar and Turkey, two countries that are extremely hostile to Israel, as emissaries.
You do not have to be a right wing Israeli to be shocked by such a proposal. No one who knows me can accuse me of being one.


The suffering needs to stop. The pictures of Israeli mothers and fathers burying their sons, and those of pregnant widows, like I was so many years ago, break my heart. So do the images that are coming out of Gaza. In spite of that there is no moral equivalency here.


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Monday, May 5, 2014

BLOG HOP: Write On!




When my writer/friend Linda Rosen invited me to join this blog hop, first I was overwhelmed. I hesitated because of my busy schedule, concerned that I’ll have something else to do in addition to teaching, grading, writing, editing, and what not. But being thankful for the opportunity, I immediately accepted Linda’s kind invitation, thinking about the chance she has offered me to become part of a community of bloggers. You may already know Linda from our blog connection. Nonetheless, let me introduce her to you:


Linda Rosen lives in New Jersey with her husband.  When she’s not teaching fitness classes or working with private clients, she enjoys creating stories for readers to devour curled up in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea.  Her unpublished novel seeking representation, FLOURISH, was a semi-finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She has been published in 201 Family Magazine and The Dying Goose. She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association, NYC chapter, co-coordinator of Great Group Reads for National Reading Group Month, and has a website, www.linda-rosen.com, which links to her blog, The Literary Leotard.

As for me, Since 1986 I have taught a wide variety of courses in Political Science at Queens College. Throughout my academic career I have been actively participating in numerous conferences and I have been an invited guest speaker to many lectures.
In 1995-1996, as a Fulbright scholar, I went to Israel and the Palestinian Authority for my post-Doctorate project, interviewing Israeli and Palestinian women affected by conflict and war. I presented my finding both in writing and lectures.
In 1996 my book Israel on the Road to Peace: Accepting the Unacceptable was published (Westview Press), as were my book reviews, book-chapters, and articles. Currently I am writing a women’s fiction. As I mentioned earlier, I hope my memoir will be published both in English and Hebrew soon enough.
I live with my husband in New York City. I love music and the opera, ballet and the theatre, but mostly I love to spend time with my two lovely grandchildren. I intend to return to my painting sometime in the future. And when I will find the time I will go back to my painting.


1) What am I working on? I have just completed my third version of my memoir No Laughter in Winter, and sent it for yet another round of editing. My Hebrew version of the book is with Orion Publishers in Israel. Hopefully the book will be published by the end of this year, or early next year.
My task now is to work with the editors of both versions of the memoir. In between I hope to return to my women’s fiction (no name yet).

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? I guess every memoir is unique because each tells a story about an exceptional life experience.  We all use the term “voice,” using our own and giving voice to others. In my memoir I not only tell my own tale of love, loss and triumph, but I give voice to women who have suffered the consequences of war and its aftermath; young women who had been preyed upon by men, often experiencing the double standard with which their societies have judged them.

My women’s fiction tells the story of a fiery aging woman who refuses to live by the rules.   

3) Why do I write what I do? When a friend, to whom I was lamenting about the difficulty of publishing my book in the traditional route, asked me why is it so important for me to publish my work, to which I dedicated six or seven years of writing, rewriting and translating, I answered: “Because I have an important story to tell.” I have known for years that I’ll tell my story. Most importantly, it is a story I believe in.

4) How does my writing process work? I’ve written academically, but creative writing is completely different. No advisers, no “readers.” No one taught me how to write creatively. I just write, then rewrite, and write again, till I say to myself “it’s time to know when to stop.” Since English is not my native tongue, I am not always sure about the exactness of the words I choose: Is this the right use of the word? Is there a better one? Should I try to be more sophisticated? Is simplicity the answer? Then I follow my intuition, while allowing myself to make mistakes, as I am certain you’d notice. I have become much more self-forgiving when I make them, and I go on. As for style, I like the combination of long, sometimes run on sentences, and very short ones. I like to use color and smells, and detailed descriptions.

I’d like to thank Linda again for inviting me to be part of this Blog Hop, and to introduce my friend Barbara Sutton Masry to you.



Barbara is a screenwriter and a playwright, but she also writes short stories. She produced and co-wrote the short, “A Wake-up Call.”  She served as assistant producer for the historic, award-winning short, “Equality” about the first women’s liberation march and the prize-winning short, “The Most Dangerous Animal.”  Her full length feature, “A Wake-up Call,” is in development with attachments from the actors, Mira Sorvino, Dermot Mulroney, Ashanti, Peter Jacobson, Dan Hedaya and Amanda Setton.  She has a second feature in development,” Love Potion No. 10,” a romantic comedy. 

 Previously, Barbara was an educator and community activist while playwriting and producing. She produced her play, “Rewriting Her Life,” as an Equity Showcase at The 411 Space in Manhattan, and in Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Summerfest.  Her play, “Kika” was given a reading at the cell theatre in honor of the League of Professional Theatre Women’s 30th Anniversary. Among the plays she has written and produced,  “A Fettucini Affair” was published by Samuel French.   Other plays include the musicals, “Womansong” and “Suburban Serenade.” She has also written and produced shows for Cable TV and the videos, “My Paris, “ and “A Day in Pre-K.”  Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, and other Long Island newspapers.  She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, NYWIFT, (New York Women In Film and Television,  IFP, (Independent Feature Project) and The League of Professional Theatre Women.  She was named to the Town of North Hempstead Women’s Roll of Honor.   Her website is: awakeupcallfilm.com.