Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Politics – March 2017

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If our life as humans shall have meaning, we need to love and need to be loved no matter where we live. 

Elderly people reach out and hold the hand of people who speak to them. Imagine holding hands while we argue. Our life will be different.

There are very few things that should not be confined to certain boundaries. Kindness is one of them.

Israel and the USA compete who will legislate the more shameful law. The competition is going strong, and there is no winner in sight.

~Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Reflections on February Newsletter
Israel’s Leadership
Another Unfortunate Law
MESG Ambassador Forum
My New Article - President Trump and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Peace Movements
Book Review - The Politics of Fear by Ruth Wodak
Standing in the Threshold of A New Era
Novel - The Art of Hearing Heartbeats 
Monthly Quotations
Monthly Poems
Poetry Book - The Four Corners
Movie of the Month – Lion
My Visit to New York

Light Side

Reflections on February Newsletter

Abraham Silverman wrote from Edmonton, Canada:

You make the case that the word "occupation is almost non existent in Israeli discourse". Occupied from whom. I researched the word "occupation" and everything I came to understand clearly suggests that Israeli control of the territory formally occupied by Jordan does not fit the classic interpretation of the word "occupation" . Is it just possible that occupation fits well with a particular political bent? I agree that the Regulation Bill is ill conceived and my hope is that Israel's Supreme Court will strike the bill. I do however understand the distress of Israel's legislators having to watch fellow Jews evicted from homes that they have lived in for many years. I believe that it imperative that Israel's law makers find a way that ensures that no Jewish homes be built on privately owned Arab land. 

And you are not alone in your wish for a 2 State Solution. It is the wish of much of the free world. A Jewish Liberal Democratic State living in Peace next to a Palestinian Liberal Democratic State. Sounds familiar? And what are the chances that this may happen anytime soon. If Israel where to unilaterally abandon Judea and Sumeria and east Jerusalem with some land swaps without recognition from the Palestinians that Israel was the National Home of the Jewish people and without the right to secure the eastern and western borders of the Palestinian State, would it take more than 5 minutes for the terrorists to take control? I think this is what is called a rhetorical question. 

It is my strong belief that as Jews we must stand together to keep Israel strong, and have faith in its leaders to keep Israel safe because if God forbid there where ever a shift in military supremacy in favor of the Arabs who doubts for a moment that every Jewish life in Israel would be at risk. 


My parents, Israeli-Jews, taught me to protest against evil-doing.
In 1985, I came to witness for the first time the evil of occupation.
Since then, Like Old Cato I have been protesting against the Israeli occupation.

The name you wish to call this phenomenon is important because it conveys your agenda.
I do not know a better term.

My first judge is my conscience. It is my conscience that instructs me: Raise this issue. Do not be silent. We know how awful silence can be in the face of evil. Silence is what evil needs in order to flourish.

As human beings, as Jews, we should recognize this evil and see that it is stopped. The sooner, the better.

The occupation is first and foremost bad for the Palestinians. It also undermines Israel. It excludes Israel from the community of full-fledge democracies and gives it bad name.
If Israel is indeed dear to you, you should call to end the occupation.
As long as the occupation continues, Israel’s existence will be questioned.
As long as the occupation continues, the hostile camp to Israel will grow and gain strength.

The settler movement in Israel is highly motivated and dedicated. Its ideology is blunt and one-sided. Its leaders care about the holy trinity of Am (People) Israel, Eretz Israel, Torat Israel. They do not see the other and have little appreciation for their needs. This movement has been working tirelessly to become an integral part of the government, to hold key positions, and to influence Israeli politics. Their politics is politics of fear. They persuaded many Israelis that the settlements are essential, that they are the first line in protecting Israeli security. If they are removed, Hamas will take over and terror will return swiftly to the streets of Tel Aviv.

Politics of fear can be very effective. It blinds people of the needs of the other. Our interests come first, say the Israelis, and they ignore the Palestinian misery. Better they suffer than us. But I think that as long as the Palestinians suffer, we will suffer.

Israelis and Palestinians are like Siamese twins: their lives intertwined; they need to separate but face difficulties in finding the way. They need help.

I do not believe in black-and-white slogans, and in politics of all or nothing. I believe in compromise. I believe in finding a fair solution, one that is fair to both sides, not only one. I believe in peace. And because peace is a precious commodity, it comes with a price. Both sides need to pay a heavy price in order to make their lives sustainable.

I believe that ignoring the evil of the occupation disserves the best interests of Israel.
I believe that ending the occupation is in Israel’s best interests.
I believe that Israel and the PA should start negotiations to diminish the occupation until its elimination, step by step.
I believe that establishing peace is vital for the sustainability of Israel in a very problematic region.
Without peace with the Palestinians, Israel’s existence will be questioned.
I love Israel. I want it to flourish in tranquility and to see it leading normal life, outside the bloody cycle of endless wars. Enough blood has been shed. We humans abhor coercion and embrace freedom. Ending the occupation and achieving peace are the keys to Israel’s security and future.

Israel’s Leadership

How does an Israeli know when the present leader is facing serious opposition?
When new contenders enter into the ring. Like sharks who sense blood, they lurk in, feeling the leader’s increased vulnerability and wishing to exploit it.

Former Chief of Staff and Minister of Defence Moshe Yaalon announced that he is establishing a new party with the intention to contest Israel’s leadership.

Omri Bar-Lev announced that he will challenge Herzog over Labour’s leadership. When I was active in the Labour Party during the 1980s, I used to know his father, former Chief of Staff Haim Bar-Lev, a man I respected a great deal. Omri, like his father, is not blessed with explicit charisma. He is not an eloquent and entertaining speaker. Like his father, Omri is blessed with integrity, sharp mind, ability for calculated decision-making, sensibility and decency. We say in Hebrew: Still waters run deep. The Bar-Lev family fits this slogan perfectly.

I should note the growing popularity of The Jewish Home Party leaders, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Their radicalism pays off. Israel has continuously been moving to the right.

Another Unfortunate Law

I have been one of the scholars who joined the anti-BDS movement early, already in 2005. I have witnessed its damage to Israeli interests and I suspect that I have been a victim of it a number of times. I am a proud Israeli who never hides my identity and love for the country. My strong objection to Israeli politics does not detract this eternal love.

Fighting bans with bans is not prudent. It is bound to backfire. I object to all bans as I find them destructive rather than constructive. On March 6, 2017, the Knesset passed a law barring entry to foreigners who have publicly supported the movement. This law would further isolate the country. I suspect that many friends of Israel, who object the settlement enterprise, will be included in the blacklist and be barred from entering Israel. Many friends of Israel, while objecting to the BDS movement and to sanctions against Israel at large refrain from any engagement with the occupied territories settlements. Many Israelis do exactly the same.

I wish to share with you the following statement, issued by a thoughtful Israeli scholar, Professor Ilan Troen, who is the President of the international Association for Israel Studies. Many members of the Association are American and Israeli scholars, including myself.

Statement of the Association for Israel Studies
on the “Entry to Israel Law”

The Association for Israel Studies views with deep concern the “Entry to Israel Law” passed by the Knesset on March 6.  This law is dangerous to academic freedom and harmful to our members, Israeli scholars as well as those who study Israel from abroad.

The AIS, chartered in the United States, is the most significant international scholarly society devoted to the academic and professional study of Israel. We pursue the free and informed inquiry of all aspects of Israel society, and engage in disseminating our findings in hundreds of institutions across the world.  While we hold to diverse views on Israeli history, politics and culture, we all uphold a free and unfettered exchange of ideas in the best traditions of academic freedom as practiced in enlightened and democratic societies.  

We are committed to non-discrimination against Israeli academicians and institutions by supporters of BDS, and many of us have leadership positions in the struggle against it.  This law undermines our ability to continue to do so.  

There should be no doubt that this law will have a chilling effect on students wishing to seek an education in Israel, colleagues anxious to engage in research, and those wanting to participate in conferences.  It will create the absurdity that the Association for Israel Studies will no longer be able to hold its meetings in Israel.

There can be no checkpoint of ideas. Security forces and defenses are essential for deterring actual attacks. But it is fantasy and misleading to think that interrogating academics at the country’s gates contributes to national security. Ideas, good and bad, have no borders and can be spread by modern communications and social media.

There are also personal consequences.  As one of our members wrote: “I am a staunch opponent of BDS, but I have signed a petition favoring boycott of products from the West Bank settlements.  Will I, who lived in Israel for 12 years, was Chair of a department at an Israeli university, served in the army, and have defended Israel in numerous public fora, be allowed to enter the next time I want to visit my daughter there?”  Similarly, non-Israelis may not be able to participate in family affairs because of their views.  

Our American members and the American public accept that advocating for a boycott – however strongly we object to BDS -- is an exercise of free speech, and punishing or threatening to punish someone for that is a violation of rights.

Israel must not become an isolated entity open only to those who ascribe to official policy.  Israel has endured economic and cultural boycotts and produced a vibrant economy and culture, and has maintained an animated public sphere with lively debate.  Such a self-imposed quarantine can surely only diminish this fundamental prerequisite to democratic discourse.  

This law is not only an encumbrance to academics, it is a danger to the vitality of Israeli life.  It serves to isolate Israel more effectively than any of the BDS activities have been able to achieve.

Professor Ilan Troen, President, Association for Israel Studies
Stoll Family Chair of Israel Studies, Brandeis University
Lopin Chair in Modern History, emeritus, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

MESG Ambassador Forum

I invited the Turkish ambassador to the UK to deliver a lecture in the Middle East study group. The ambassador decided to send the Political Counsellor instead. Mr Sercan Evcin entered the fray quickly. Former Vice Chancellor David Drewry asked him poignant questions about academic freedom in Turkey. Mr Evcin explained the draconic laws, enacted prior to Erdogan time in office, that enable dismissing academics from their position.

Mr Evcin brought with him a photo album titled 15 July. This highly invested album shows in pictures the events of 15 July 2016, when a coup d'état was attempted in Turkey against state institutions, including the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Mr Evcin emphasised time and again throughout the visit the trauma inflicted on the Turkish population and specifically on himself and his family. He spoke at length justifying taking all measures to eradicate the  Fethullah Gulen organisation which he described as a very powerful and insidious organisation whose people infiltrated power positions in Turkish society.

Mr Evcin dedicated his lecture to two issues. He spoke at length about the need to subdue and to eradicate DAESH and other terrorist organisations. Fighting terrorism is a high priority for Turkey.

Mr Evcin spoke about Turkish contribution to the global coalition in the fight of terror and about Kurdish terror. He said the Turkey opposes any form of terrorism notwithstanding which country and which aim they support. He said: no terrorist organisation is a friend of Turkey. In his mind, Hamas is not a terrorist organisation although he acknowledges that it does fire rockets on civilian populations, an act which he regards as an act of terror.

Mr Evcin said that Turkey shares 911 km border with Syria and that that border yields serious problems, including terror and refugees. In his opinion, the Syrian civil war will end via international efforts to which Turkey wishes to contribute. He thinks this may take a long time, referring to the Cyprus conflict that has been lasting for 40 years with no solution in sight. Mr Evcin said that Turkey took 3 million refugees. This puts quite a burden on Turkish economy. Europe did not fulfil its promises concerning these refugees and provides relatively little support to accommodate them. He said that a special committee was formed to study and recommend practical steps to solve this crisis, including a gradual process by which the refugees (sometimes Mr Evcin referred to them as “guests”) will become Turkish citizens.

My New Article

“President Trump and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”, E-International Relations (10 March 2017)
The article analyses President Trump’s stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It discusses the decision to relocate the American Embassy to Jerusalem, arguing that this is a correct and bold decision. It further explains why Israel’s Legalization Bill hinders the prospects of two-state solution. The piece denounces the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, arguing that Israel and the Palestinian Authority should start negotiations to diminish the occupation until its elimination, step by step. This is essential for establishing peace between the two sides. Bringing the occupation to an end is a vital milestone on the road to peace. The article further discusses three options for President Trump to pursue, arguing that the most realistic and less bloody option was and remains the two-state solution. The article ends with the hope that President Trump will succeed where his predecessors had failed and bring peace to the Middle East.

Peace Movements

President Trump sent his envoy Jason Greenblatt to Israel and Palestine in order to examine ways to move the peace wagon forward. Both meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas were described as positive. Netanyahu said, “I can’t tell you we reached an agreement, but I think we heard each other out in a serious and friendly way and I think we will probably conclude this effort.” Netanyahu also said that he made clear to Greenblatt that he intends to build a new settlement for the former residents of Amona, an illegal outpost that was recently evacuated. The settlement would be the first new government- approved settlement built in the West Bank in more than 25 years.

President Abbas told Mr. Greenblatt that he is ready and willing to work with him in order to find a solution to the lingering conflict. It is not going to be easy. The vast majority of Palestinians believe US President Donald Trump’s policies will ramp up Israeli-Palestinian tensions or contribute to stagnation, according to a poll published on Tuesday. Only 9 percent believe Trump will be able to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. President Abbas accepted President Trump invitation to the White House in the near future.
Greenblatt’s visit is said to be the first of what will become many visits to the region. It seems that Trump understood what the goal should be. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was told by administration officials that the new US leadership was seeking a two-state deal.

President Trump is said to visit Israel in the first year of his presidency.

Book Review - The Politics of Fear by Ruth Wodak

The Politics of Fear by Ruth Wodak, London: Sage, 2015, 238 pp., £22.00 (paperback), ISBN 978-1446247006
Critical Policy Studies, Vol. 11:1 (2017), pp. 119-122.

Ruth Wodak is one of the foremost scholars in the field of linguistics and politics, a prolific writer whose scholarship has gained her an international reputation in academic circles and beyond. Much of Wodak’s work has been devoted to the study of political extremism (Krzyżanowski and Wodak, 2009; Richardson and Wodak, 2009 are recent examples). This new book from Professor Wodak should be of interest to all who are seeking to understand the threat of political extremism in Europe today.
In The Politics of Fear, Wodak analyses the rise of populist right-wing parties and immigration policies across Europe from a discourse-historical perspective. Wodak attempts to trace, understand and explain the trajectories of populist right-wing parties from the margins of the political landscape to the centre. She elucidates significant differences between Western and Eastern European rhetoric and explains elements of rightwing populism which include division into “good” and “bad” people, shifting blame by scapegoating, offending political opponents (ad hominem argument), legitimizing politics of exclusion, talking for “the people” (ad populum argument), dramatization and emotionalisation, insistent repetition, exaggeration, and promise of salvation and liberation. Characteristics of rightwing populist ideologies include strong leadership, opposing “those up there”, chauvinism, revisionism, nativism, antiintellectualism, dehistorization and homeland rhetoric.
Chapter 1 introduces right-wing populism, tracing the historical developments of populism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Right-wing populism is defined as a political ideology that rejects existing political consensus and usually combines laissez-faire liberalism and anti-elitism (p. 7). Chapter 2 provides factual background about the rise of such populist parties and reviews sociological and political science literature on right-wing populism. Wodak analyses election results since the 1990s, arguing that no single argument would be sufficient to explain the success of right-wing populist parties. Leaders of such parties tailor their propaganda to the specific circumstances in their respective countries.
The third chapter presents the discourse-historical approach (DHA) to critical discourse studies, and focuses on specific discursive strategies used by populist parties. Wodak explains EU scepticism after September 11, 2001, the appeal to security considerations, and the construction of European ethno-nationalism that refutes sameness and that stresses distinction and distinctiveness from other nations and ethnic minorities in order to draw a rigid line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (p. 54).
Chapter 4 tackles a timely concern: immigration. New policies defining and restricting immigration are proposed in national and international forums. We witness heated debates across Europe about citizenship, language tests related to citizenship and immigration, and the construction of the immigrant as ‘the post-modern stranger’. Wodak discusses identity construction and the reinvention of nationalism, arguing that we are now witnessing normalization of exclusionary rhetoric. Nationalistic and exclusionary tendencies are reinforced and reproduced by right-wing populist parties such as the Austrian Freedom Party, the Italian Lega Nord, the German NPD, the Swiss SVP, the Hungarian Jobbik, and the British UKIP in election campaigns and in everyday politics. The success of these parties influence mainstream parties in a shift to the ‘right’: a normalisation of ever more exclusionary and racist rhetoric can be observed. Wodak identifies striking similarities in the propaganda of populist right-wing parties promoting fear, distinctiveness and anti-immigration sentiments.
The rise of anti-semitism across Europe is discussed in chapter 5. Wodak analyses anti-Semitic stereotypes and strategies of blaming and denying (I have nothing against Jews, but…). She considers the particular harm of Holocaust denial and explains why it incites hatred (on this issue, see also Cohen-Almagor 2008, 2009, 2013, 2016). Wodak concludes this chapter by delineating the strategy of provocation as employed by the radical right and the role of conspiracy theories that help construct victim-perpetrator reversal.
Chapter 6 presents the many faces of right-wing populist leaders and politicians. Wodak discusses the leaders’ authenticity and charisma, and the ways they use the media. Her analysis uses the concepts of ‘frontstage’, ‘backstage’, ‘habitus’ (a system of psychological, embodied and pre-reflexive dispositions that is constitutive of a field) and ‘positioning’ (p. 127).
Chapter 7 discusses the gender ideologies of such parties and the discourses designed to discipline and regulate women’s bodies in right-wing populism. Conservative family values, homophobia and anti-abortion campaigns have become an integral part of some right-wing populist movements in Europe as well as in the USA (the Republican Tea Party). Wodak rightly notes that strong, charismatic male leadership is frequently highlighted as a salient characteristic of right-wing populist parties but in many of these parties we find women in leadership positions. Marine Le Pen (French Front National), Pia Kjaersgaard (Danish Peoples Party) and Barbara Rosenkranz (Austrian FPO) are examples. Women can be as authoritarian as men and they are accepted as leaders notwithstanding their gender by the parties which usually consist of majority of men (p. 155). This chapter includes interesting discussions about the Swiss debates about minarets (pp. 158-160), the British debate about the burqa (pp. 160-163), the Austrian debate about the headscarf (pp. 163-165), and the American debates about abortion (pp. 165-166).
The final chapter discusses what Wodak terms “the Haiderization of Europe”, how the ideology of exclusion has been normalised in Europe and became mainstream. The politics of this populist, charismatic leader who died in a car accident in 2008 were adopted by Strache in Austria as well as by other European right-wing populist parties.  Scapegoating, blaming the victim, victim-perpatrator reversal, trivialization and denial are among the common discursive strategies used to convince voters in many parts of Europe of what is termed “necessary” political measures of legitimizing exclusion and restricting immigration. Wodak observes renationalizing tendencies as new walls are being erected in Europe to protect the traditional national state. She writes that the answers given by populist right-wing parties are oriented backward, toward a nostalgic, parochial and traditional values, “trying to turn back the wheel of history and social development” (p. 183). She concludes that an inclusive politics of well-being should replace the politics of fear; the language of ‘we’ should replace the ‘us v. them’; solidarity should replace distinctiveness; observing the dignity of the other should prevail over racism. Wodak strives to conclude her sombre book with some optimist language of hope. She calls upon us to learn from the past and not to fall into the many traps that populist right-wing parties are setting.
Throughout The Politics of Fear, Wodak uses vignettes and discourse analysis of specific illustrative texts that explain the topics and advance her argument, making this book accessible and engaging. Wodak focuses on the discursive construction of national and transnational identities, and on the analysis the ‘politics with a new face’. The data - analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively - consist of a range of genres including party programmes, newspapers, TV documentaries, posters, interviews, merchandize, online propaganda, photos, speeches and election campaign materials.
This book is rich with examples and interesting insights regarding timely and intricate questions. It is thought-provoking and informative, full of incisive insights and sharp observations, providing a meticulous analysis of the rise of right-wing parties. It is a must-read for scholars and students of linguistics, media and politics wishing to understand these dynamics that are shaping and re-shaping our political space in this age of immigration and transition.

Cohen-Almagor, R. (2008). Hate in the Classroom: Free Expression, Holocaust Denial, and Liberal Education, American Journal of Education, Vol. 114, No. 2 (February), 215-241.

Cohen-Almagor, R. (2009). Holocaust Denial Is A Form of Hate Speech, Amsterdam Law Forum, Vol. 2, No 1, 33-42,

Cohen-Almagor, R. (2013). Freedom of Expression v. Social Responsibility: Holocaust Denial in Canada, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 28, Iss. 1, 42-56.

Cohen-Almagor, R. (2016). Facebook and Holocaust Denial, Justice, Vol. 57, 10-16.

Krzyżanowski, M &. R. Wodak (2009) The Politics of Exclusion: Debating Migration in Austria. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Richardson, J. E. & R. Wodak (2009) Recontextualising fascist ideologies of the past: rightwing discourses on employment and nativism in Austria and the United Kingdom, Critical Discourse Studies 6 (4): 251267.  

Standing in the Threshold of A New Era

Intel purchased Mobileye, a rather small Israeli company specialising in devising vision systems for cars and trucks, for a whooping price of $15.3 billion.

I wish to share with you a fascinating article published in the De Marker. The article was written by one of the most important players in Israeli economy, Dr Shmuel Harlap.

Harlap argues that we are at the beginning of a new era, Echo-system of electric vehicles, autonomous and collaborative. The winners among automakers and technology companies will share global travel revenues of more than 16 trillion miles a year. Revenues will be generated not only from fares but also, and perhaps primarily, from passengers’ productivity while driving.

Is this the End of the Internal Combustion Engine?

If you ask the members of the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament, the response will be positive. They are discussing a Members' Bill that would oblige German car manufacturers to stop the production of traditional piston engines in 2030. This means a complete transition to power vehicles using electric motors. Meanwhile, Volkswagen announced the dismissal of 30,000 employees by 2022: a sharp transition from manufacturing conventional vehicles, running on petrol and diesel, focusing on electric vehicles.

In the United States, three manufacturers of electric vehicles are growing in power: Tesla, Lucid and Faraday. General Motors and the Japanese Nissan also entered the market of electric cars while other manufacturers convert production lines to design electric vehicles. Therefore, we can assume that the electric propulsion will gradually replace the internal combustion engine.

Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles are currently in the second phase development. Integrated autonomous systems in vehicles are controlled by human drivers and advanced safety measures are used. According to the currently available forecasts, already in 2021 we will reach the third phase, called "Eyes Off", which will be completely autonomous driving on the road long-distance charges but still require a human driver observation of urban spaces.

The fourth phase in the development of autonomous vehicles, "Mind Off", and the fifth phase, "Driver Off", will arrive later. The fourth phase will still have pedal car and driver, but later the driver and the pedals will disappear. Autonomous cars will develop to such a level that road accidents will become a rare occurrence.

Cooperative Transport

The battle between the drivers of private taxis and Uber and its likes as part of the growing cooperative economy is essentially a battle between the old economy and the new economy. The economic battle has already been decided in New York. The market value of a license to operate a taxi has dropped from $1.5 million in 2013 to $500,000 in 2016.

Novel - The Art of Hearing Heartbeats 

Jan-Philipp Sendker wrote one of the greatest love stories I have ever read. In a sensitive and rich language, Sendker takes us on a journey from New York to Burma, from the material to the spiritual, from the explicit to the implicit, from what we take for granted to the inner questions of the heart.
This is a story about Tin Win, a husband and a father, a highly successful New York lawyer who seemingly had it all who one day he leaves without a word, disappeared without explanation.

Why does a man who has it all leave everything that he created and achieved, his family and home?

To find an answer to this question, his daughter Julia travels to the other part of the world where she meets an elderly man named U Ba who promised her an answer. But first she needs to hear her father’s story about his life before arriving in New York. His life story, from the remote village of Kalaw in Burma to New York, is the book’s story.

It is a story about love between a man and a woman, Tin Win and Mi Mi, who need not have eyes to see beauty, who need no legs to walk the extra mile, who enrich one another without being together, who endure without questioning, who speak without words, who understand without explanation, who trust each other simply because there is no reason not to even if the explicit alleges there is. This is an extraordinarily powerful love story between two people who give, and give, and give without any expectation, with no demands, no open accounts, no judgement. When one is able to hear the heartbeats of another, no words are powerful enough to refute the truth of the heartbeats.

This is a beautiful book about the power of love, about eastern and western cultures, about the spiritual and the metaphysical. I had difficulties to let the book out of my hands. At one point, I found myself standing at a bus station in a pouring rain, reading the book because I could not let go. This book richly deserves praise and recognition.

***** on Rafi’s scale.

Poetry Book - The Four Corners

Any book by David Weisstub is a cause for celebration. A poetry book is even more so. In The Four Corners, Weisstub offers readers personal insights to his inner feelings and thoughts about religion, relations with God and family, Israel and the Jewish people, love, and the values that guide his life. Weisstub is a well-travelled intellectual and here he provides a glimpse into his thinking as he visited places and met with people. This collection offers something to every person. I read it from start to finish as I could not let the book out of my hands. Enjoy and relish!

David, my dear friend: I wish you many years of tranquility and inspiration. I very much enjoy the products of your mind and imagination.

Movie of the Month – Lion

This film tells the story of five-year old, Saroo, who gets lost in India. While waiting for his older brother, he fell asleep on a train which took him thousands of miles across India, away from home and family. Saroo arrived at the great city of Kolkata, where he must learn to survive alone, and where he was put in an orphanage before ultimately being adopted by a loving, Australian couple.

Twenty-five years later, Saroo decides to look for his family in India. He knows that he travelled for many hours on a train until he arrived in Kolkata. He has a vague memory of the name of his home town. He knows the first names of his brother and sister. He called his mom “mom” and does not know their surname. Later we learn that he did not know the correct spelling of his own first name. His given name is Sheru, which is Hindi for "lion."  With the little information he had and with a handful of childhood memories, Saroo embarked on a challenging three-year journey to find home.

Sunny Pawar as young Saroo is amazing.

The film was filmed in India and in Australia. It is filled with many moving scenes. This film touched my heart. It may touch yours.

**** on Rafi’s scale.

Monthly Quotations



Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime. He spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Germany, 1937.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Monthly Poems

Telling and Remembering

For my son Jonathan on his wedding night

Remember that holiness sought depths to keep a reservoir of peace
Remember that souls revolve in kabbalistic symmetry named by perished kin
Remember that a brother’s love will be revealed in sickness and in death
Remember that a universal will never light the world without self doubt
Remember that virtue must have loyalty to pay the time of day
Remember that cynicism must never obliterate a childish dream
Remember that dignity bereft of honour is as hollow as a zealot crazed with false beliefs
Remember that anthems can become a kaddish  anthologies of grief
Remember that Israel’s reason was called by prophets and not by saints
Remember that dancing to the end of love will build the altar’s precious steps
Remember that all around you is a prayer that your countenance be blessed
And that you hear each other’s voice now and ever
And remember and remember and remember

David Weisstub

Light Side

All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
(Stephen Wright)

Jean Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress,
"I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream."
The waitress replies, "I’m sorry, Monsieur, but we’re out of cream. How about with no milk?"

My Visit to New York

I plan to be in NY between 5 and 9 April and will be happy to meet friends and colleagues.

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


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