If a bumper sticker can communicate…

March 16, 2008

Walking through a residential Jerusalem neighborhood today, I spotted this Israeli bumper sticker I thought I’d share:

Israeli bumper sticker
“Ze lo yigamair ad she’nidabair”
“It won’t end until we talk”

While I’m not so interested in bloodying myself with Palestinian Israeli politics at the moment (it’s too pretty of a day), I do want to mention how true this statement is for any conflict – especially our own personal ones.

For instance, how often have I thought I disliked someone until I had a meaningful conversation with them? We all go through this and it seems that we all forget the power of communication until we find ourselves doing it.

Just can’t communicate that enough!


Newsflash: No money in mediation.

March 11, 2008

In class yesterday we were discussing the ethical dilemmas with making mediation an obligation from the courts. The subject turned to mediators’ payment and how some courts are trying a new approach, making the first meeting with the mediator an obligation, but free for the disputants. That way, they don’t have to focus on the money in that first introduction but rather on the possibilities offered by the process.

One student rightly mentioned that there seemed to be a neutrality issue there; that the mediator had the incentive to convince the disputants that mediation is worthwhile because then they can get the case afterward (and get paid). My professor laughed and said, well, there’s not much money in mediation anyway (in Israel). Anyone who is a mediator is also doing something else to earn a living… Thousands of people take the mediation certification course and only a handful are actually practicing – and after that, only a handful are making a living off it.

Hmm… Not so encouraging, but I think I was prepared for that anyway. Mediation has a long way to go as a career field in Israel. I think it has to do with the general public learning what it means and why its beneficial. Lately I have been thinking about alternative kinds of manifestations of my conflict management degree, including online dispute resolution projects.

The gift of perspective.

March 10, 2008

Last night I attended the burial of a 91-year-old rabbi who could boast perfect health but was involved in a tragic accident last week in New Jersey. The reason I was there, really, was because that rabbi was the father of my own hometown rabbi, who I have known and respected since… forever.

Anyway, if you don’t know the whole circumstance of his untimely death, you can read about it here. In short:

…Rabbi Zev Segal, 91… headed to Livingston, N.J., on an errand.

He never arrived.

On Thursday, Rabbi Segal was found dead inside his car, submerged in the Hackensack River.

The authorities here say that Rabbi Segal… may have driven his car… off Duncan Avenue, which dead-ends into the Hackensack River… (nytimes)

Perspectives… I think it’s important to not get too caught up in the tragedy of his death but to remember the amazing things for which he was known. He was a major rabbi in the New York area and committed his life to attaining many goals for observant Judaism, including leading a large congregation in New Jersey.

To put this in another perspective: At his funeral, it was made known he had expressed his wish that at his funeral there should be no time spent on eulogies, but instead spent on reciting the tehillim prayers.

After the burial, I waited around to pay respects to my own rabbi, this man’s son. Of course, funerals are not comfortable or happy places, but they are usually enlightening if you let them be.

He walked over to me and offered the following, his own perspective:

The death was in fact not a tragedy at all (he smiled when he said this), but one last job for him in this world. When he went missing, it is said that over 200 Jewish volunteers searched for him in the New York-New Jersey areas for over 24 hours. Hundreds – if not more – Jews spent time praying for his safe return. Hatzolah, a Jewish-run emergency service, organized worldwide, was on top of the search mission before the New Jersey police came on the scene. They were complimented by how organized and efficient they were. If this is not a kiddush Hashem – a display of good behavior honoring God – than what could be?

Now, I’m usually skeptical of religious rationalization, but when it comes to significant life events, the truth is, after seeing the peacefulness in my rabbi’s eyes as he shared this insight with me, I felt completely engulfed in comfort and peace. It was a kind of human spirit overtaking my sadness.

When you take a step back and manage to gain perspective on something – happy or tragic – I believe it adds to our humanity. The human experience is guided by perspective and it is our job to shape our skill for gaining it so that it comes to us with ease as we grow older and, hopefully, wiser.

It’s a gift we are born with, but too many of us lose sight of it… Perhaps that is something else we can take from this tragedy – that it needn’t be a tragedy at all if you see it through the right perspective.

Is there really a ‘separate but equal’?

March 7, 2008

So much for optimism in the midst of tragedy. I just found this article on Ynet news:

Poll: 51% of Israelis want separate secular, religious neighborhoods

A majority of the Israeli public believes religious families ought to live in separate neighborhoods, and even cities, to their secular counterparts, according to a new weekly poll new poll conducted by Ynet and the Gesher Organization.

When asked where a national religious family should ideally reside, 51% of respondents indicated that separating the various religious factions would be best. 29% of respondents indicated that religious families ought to live in their own specially designated communities, where as 22% supported the establishment of segregated oreligious neighborhoods within “religiously diverse” cities.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked… I would have thought that most ultra-religious would opt for religious-only communities, and sure enough, according to the survey, the majority do:

When breaking down this survey data according to religious affiliation, it appears that haredi respondents favored segregation most, with 61% of haredi respondents indicating that they preferred to live in separate communities and neighborhoods.

Not sure where the numbers fall for secular populations; personally, I’ve found that secular citizens fall under a scale of possibilities, from religious observance-tolerant, to religious observance-friendly, to religious observance-intolerant, to religious observance-spiteful.

I just don’t think ‘separate bu equal’ works, although I guess that depends what exactly you are trying to accomplish. Without any contact, the differences and view points are only going to deepend, widen and get more intense. What about those mandatory times when we must be unified? How is this one Israel, then? How does the nation stand any chance again enemies without any union?

And, perhaps, forget enemies for a moment: Where is the Jewish value of brotherhood? If the religious communities close themselves off, how do they expect other Jews to love the religion? Where is the good example? And how can secular Jews, with liberal values, expect to be followed in tolerance when they don’t show it?

But there’s always a middle ground, no matter how small. According to the survey, 33% respondents answered that they would favor joint communities with both secular and religious inhabitants.

That would be where I fit in. I’ve chosen to live in a mixed community, myself – majority secular, but religious-friendly – and I hope to raise my children here so that tolerance is ingrained in their mindset. That’s an extremely important value to me and look forward to a future where that only gets easier and easier. But if this survey has any grain of truth to it, well… It’s just more work for me and the rest of the 33%.

Any partnership – however unlikely – needs communication.

March 7, 2008

Last night, Jerusalem experienced a shooting massacre by an East Jerusalem Arab resident at a religious Zionist yeshiva towards the center of the city. Eight boys, between the ages of 15-26, are dead and dozens are wounded. This was the first terror attack in Jerusalem since April 2006 and it completely caught us – at least, regular residents – off guard.

I’ve been a hawk about the news since it happened, and just learned something new, and somewhat positive, amidst all this terrible information. Apparently, the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian security forces hold meetings every few months in order to discuss strategies of keeping both sides safe and at bay to avoid conflicts or flare-ups:

After a week of violent demonstrations in the West Bank in response to IDF activities in the Gaza Strip, IDF commanders and PA security chiefs met Thursday to review the recent incidents and to reach mutual agreements on preventing further flare-ups.

Such meetings between IDF and Palestinian security counterparts are held once every two to three months, and this meeting was scheduled long before the recent flare-ups. But hours before the two sides met, IDF troops were hard at work overnight in the West Bank, intercepting a truck filled with a material that can be used in producing explosive devices. (jpost)

It’s nice to see that there is at least some mode of communication between the security forces on both sides; I guess there is a mutual need for that communication which is why it exists. If I can even call it this, it’s at least a minute bit of comfort after last night’s tragedies. Although, if I think about it for another second, and consider the celebrations in Gaza last night, I suppose the IDF and PA communication doesn’t add up to very much.

Yesterday was actually Jerusalem’s first day of spring, weather-wise. There’s something about the weather getting warmer and the terrorist attacks starting up. The words “third intifada” are creeping from people’s lips.

It’s going to be a long season this year.

University update: good choices.

March 3, 2008

I’m feeling pretty positive about the way things are going right now. I made an excellent decision with the two courses I’m taking – what a great way to top off my last year in grad school.

Basically, I had a choice between taking an easier class in something I have already studied in my BA, with an American professor and one paper to write, or taking two classes with more work but way more interesting topics.

After long hard debate (and some stress, of course), almost deciding to go with the former (just to get the degree done in one piece), I chose the latter at the last minute.

When I make bad choices, I tend to reprimand myself, and when I make good choices, I really go all out on the praise. Well, praise away, self, because so far I am actually learning solid topics and feeling good about it.