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Before Israel

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When you read these words, I’ll be probably on my way to Israel already, to visit family, friends, and the old country. While I’m not making Aliya, it’s certainly feel like I do; in the sense that I haven’t been in Israel for so long, according to my “book-of-visits,” that it does feel – no matter how much I try to convince myself that it does not – like a “Return to the Homeland.” Or חזרה למולדת. Emotionally it feels this way, you see, even if I’ll be there for just short of three weeks.

I used to go more often, in the first years after I’d left the country. Mind you, it was never that I left the country “for good,” really. It was more like one big road trip across the sea and ocean to the land of new opportunities, with a new American wife. Will see what happened, I told myself, see if we can fulfill some dreams. And here I am still, thirty years later, older but hardly wiser. And now that I’m getting on in years, and the boys are striking it good on their own, both in Israel and in America, and money is fixed and in short supply, it simply that much more difficult to embark on such a long trip.

In fact, the last time I was in Israel it was on the sad occasion of my father’s death; also on Chanukah, as it happened, only then it came at the end of November. He just turned ninety-year-old, but I was not there for his birthday, as I’d promised I would be. And now I remember it every day, as I talk to him daily. And it is why I’m eagerly looking forward to this trip, when together with my adapted brother we will visit his grave in the kibbutz; there in the Jezreel Valley, under Mount Gilboa, where I grew up. A village and a childhood I miss so very much. Even though I know that the place I left behind is no longer the place I left behind. It is a “community” now, whatever that means. A “Bed and Breakfast,” as a friend who came back from a visit once observed. And yet for me it is – always will be – home.

Because home is where the heart is, isn’t that how the saying goes? Or where you left your heart. Where all the memories permanently reside. But of course, I have plenty of memories from my crazy days in Tel Aviv as well, after leaving the kibbutz, and later on upon returning from my studies in London. And there in Tel Aviv my family now lives, including the new arrival, a granddaughter, whom I’m yet to hold in my arms. She is the daughter of my Israeli son and his bright and beautiful wife. How sweet that’s going to be to see them all, and celebrate Chanukah together. And for me, to learn how to be – even if for such a short time – a grateful grandfather.

And of course – first and foremost – my mother still lives in that city. And even though she had experienced the horrors of the Holocaust, and all that had followed, she is reaching another milestone, as she turns ninety-year-old while I’m there. How cool is that, I ask you. And also the most important reason for my visit, my friends, to make sure I see her one more time. Enjoy each other’s company, talk things over, make a lasting peace if possible. As my Israeli son had pointed out when visiting me here two years ago: It’s better to see her while she’s still alive, even with her health deteriorating, than to come over for the funereal service. Well said.

I will meet and visit with my sister, of course, in the hope of spending some quality time together, help each other in preparing for the years ahead. And then there’s a woman friend in Tel Aviv as well, going back to those crazy days in Tel Aviv of the early eighties, both of us in the filmmaking business back then. We will meet, and hopefully reconnect. Who knows what we will find in in our hearts. Feeling young never gets old, they say. I will see, too, what’s new on the streets and cafes in Tel Aviv. I hear and read that the city, very much alive and crazy back then, is even more so now. A modern metropolis by the Mediterranean Sea, where every wave that comes ashore creates a ripple effect of renewal for the city itself and its people.

A “perpetuum mobile” of sorts, that what is. And so it is for me: a perpetual motion. Maybe a renewal awaits me there as well. Who knows. A new adventure. A new discovery. This is not a political visit, my friends, I promise you that. It’s a personal visit. Will I remember the road not taken? Of course I would. Reevaluate the road I had taken? You bet I would. I hope you’d forgive me this once for being so personal, and look forward with me for my report – After Israel – when I come back. Shalom.

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Animal Farm: a White House Story

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Or how I was forced by real, yet surreal events and frightening circumstances, to join the resistance once again. Either way, the message being written on the wall is very clear: Things are not normal in today’s America, following the election and its aftermath, and we shouldn’t pretend—though some good, and not so good people suggest we do—as if they are normal. But hold on a minute, let’s backtrack a bit here for the sake of clarity, and out of the need to bring you all up to speed, so that we can read from the same page. In short: learn how a bad joke became such a sad story.

In England, on August 17, 1945, George Orwell published his allegorical, dystopian novella: Animal Farm, a Fairy Story. In my library I still have the old Penguin Modern Classics edition, which I bought and read in London when I first arrived there for my studies (up above is the cover, as illustrated by Paul Hogarth). In the back cover, it says this in part: “The animals on a farm drive out their master and take over and administer the farm for themselves. The experiment is entirely successful, except for the unfortunate fact that someone has to take the deposed farmer’s place. Leadership devolves almost automatically upon the pigs, (naturally, H.D.) who are on a higher intellectual level than the rest of the animals. Unhappily their character is not equal to their intelligence, (get this? H.D.) and out of this fact springs the main development of the story.

You remember the rest of the story, don’t you? Or can find it out for yourself. Now Orwell is known to have written this book about the Russian Revolution in general, and Joseph Stalin in particular. He was a Democratic Socialist, Orwell, and a fierce critic of Stalin and his “cult of personality,” his style of dictatorship; though it was disguised—to the cheers of many European intellectuals—as enlightened, democratic, sun to the nations kind of a regime. Indeed, I propose to you here that all dictators, and all dictatorships, no matter their names and disguises, are inherently the same, and operate according to the same set of rules. Autocratic by nature, they are all alike: From Napoleon (the name of chief pig on the farm) to Hitler and Stalin. No wonder Putin helped Trump win the election.

Now hang on a minute, before you accuse me of jumping the gun here. Trump won the election democratically, you say, fair and square. (BTY: So did Hitler.) Now let’s see how democratically was it, really, and how fair and square. First, while Trump won the electoral collage, Hillary won the popular vote. What kind of a (rigged) democracy is that? Here are some stats: America, by land area, voted 85% Trump, 15% Hillary; by population, Hillary won 54% to 46%, or even by a wider margin, as by now (and counting) Hillary has more than two million votes over Trump. A democracy, you say? Second: The Russians interfered directly in our election by hacking into the DNC, and by illegally spreading that damaging information through WikiLeaks, and otherwise through a sophisticated operation of fake news online (even Facebook apparently got into the act), and now we hear that they might have interfered with the results of the election in three crucial states as well. The FBI, for its part, first joined forces with the Russians by refusing to disclose their attempts to sabotage our “free” election (and probably by not taking them seriously in the first place), and second by the action of the head of the FBI himself, James Comey, who interfered in the election, and had stopped the momentum of Hillary Clinton’s campaign on its tracks, saying he’s reopening the investigation into her “emails affair,” and a week later saying he’s not. You call that democracy? You call that fair and square?

I don’t. But wait: there’s more. Almost every TV network, every newspaper, every social media outlet would gladly tell you that Hillary Clinton is the fifth major candidate in history to win the popular vote in an American election, and lose the election. But guess what, none of them would ever tell you—why, exactly?—which party these losing candidates were leading: Democratic Party or Republican Party. It drove me nuts, so I did my own research on the matter. And guess what: All five candidates who ultimately lost the election, after winning the popular vote, were leading the Democratic Party. (An exception could be made only for the first one, Andrew Jackson, but not really, because after all he was a democrat, and created the party because the election was stolen from him due to a “corrupt bargain.”) So is that a democracy?

I say NO! I say it is a rigged system, par excellence, designed to favor the Republican Party every step of the way. Just as the Republicans did some major redistricting throughout the land in order to assure them control over the Congress for many years to come. While the majority of the American people have voted for the Democratic Candidate, and are leaning towards the Democratic Party, the Republicans will now have the power in the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. What kind of a s system is that? A broken system, my friends, that what it is. For all these reasons and more, too numerous to count here—not the least among them is the character of the “chief pig on the farm,” who is a bigot, a sexist, and a racist, whose first appointment was of a white supremacist (who reportedly had refused to send his kids to school with Jewish kids) as his “Minister of Propaganda”—we must reject the notion of the appeasers. He is not our leader. The system is rigged against us. Therefore—democratically, civilly and disobediently, in the courts and in the streets—we must resist!

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