Sunday, October 28, 2012
I was three years old when it was delivered, so I can't claim to have any first hand recollection of the speech I've posted below. But nearly every year since I have been eligable to vote I have found a printed or recorded copy and reviewed it in its entirety.
Yes, anachronisms abound in the text and much of the rhetoric is dated. But the ideas... the concepts, still feel fresh.
This speech, delivered 48 years years ago (almost to the day), launched a politician's career, even though it didn't sway the voting public as it could / should have.
Read it. Take ten minutes and read it start to finish. It may be that it will reaffirm what you already believe (one way or the other), and that's fine. It may change your mind, and that's fine too.
But the reason I think it is so important to present this here is to remind everyone that the problems being discussed today are far from new, and the solutions being proposed (by both sides) are older than most of you reading this today.
It doesn't matter who delivered the speech or who he was stumping for (I'll reveal both at the end in case anyone cares). What matters is that the issues of that era are the same issues we're wrestling with today. Yes you can 'like' or 'dislike' a candidate. But you fixate on the men and ignore the messages at your (our) peril.
A TIME FOR CHOOSING ('The Speech' – October 27, 1964)
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you and good evening. The sponsor has been identified, but unlike most television programs, the performer hasn't been provided with a script. As a matter of fact, I have been permitted to choose my own words and discuss my own ideas regarding the choice that we face in the next few weeks.
I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course. I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines. Now, one side in this campaign has been telling us that the issues of this election are the maintenance of peace and prosperity. The line has been used, "We've never had it so good."
But I have an uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn't something on which we can base our hopes for the future. No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector's share, and yet our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in. We haven't balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We've raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world. We have 15 billion dollars in gold in our treasury; we don't own an ounce. Foreign dollar claims are 27.3 billion dollars. And we've just had announced that the dollar of 1939 will now purchase 45 cents in its total value.
As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We're at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it's been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it's time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.
Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to." And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.
And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man.
This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I'd like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There's only an up or down—[up] man's old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.
In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the "Great Society," or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a greater government activity in the affairs of the people. But they've been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves; and all of the things I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say, "The cold war will end through our acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism." Another voice says, "The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state." Or, "Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century." Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President as "our moral teacher and our leader," and he says he is "hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document." He must "be freed," so that he "can do for us" what he knows "is best." And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government."
Well, I, for one, resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me, the free men and women of this country, as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government"—this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.
Now, we have no better example of this than government's involvement in the farm economy over the last 30 years. Since 1955, the cost of this program has nearly doubled. One-fourth of farming in America is responsible for 85 percent of the farm surplus. Three-fourths of farming is out on the free market and has known a 21 percent increase in the per capita consumption of all its produce. You see, that one-fourth of farming—that's regulated and controlled by the federal government. In the last three years we've spent 43 dollars in the feed grain program for every dollar bushel of corn we don't grow.
Senator Humphrey last week charged that Barry Goldwater, as President, would seek to eliminate farmers. He should do his homework a little better, because he'll find out that we've had a decline of 5 million in the farm population under these government programs. He'll also find that the Democratic administration has sought to get from Congress [an] extension of the farm program to include that three-fourths that is now free. He'll find that they've also asked for the right to imprison farmers who wouldn't keep books as prescribed by the federal government. The Secretary of Agriculture asked for the right to seize farms through condemnation and resell them to other individuals. And contained in that same program was a provision that would have allowed the federal government to remove 2 million farmers from the soil.
At the same time, there's been an increase in the Department of Agriculture employees. There's now one for every 30 farms in the United States, and still they can't tell us how 66 shiploads of grain headed for Austria disappeared without a trace and Billie Sol Estes never left shore.
Every responsible farmer and farm organization has repeatedly asked the government to free the farm economy, but how—who are farmers to know what's best for them? The wheat farmers voted against a wheat program. The government passed it anyway. Now the price of bread goes up; the price of wheat to the farmer goes down.
Meanwhile, back in the city, under urban renewal the assault on freedom carries on. Private property rights [are] so diluted that public interest is almost anything a few government planners decide it should be. In a program that takes from the needy and gives to the greedy, we see such spectacles as in Cleveland, Ohio, a million-and-a-half-dollar building completed only three years ago must be destroyed to make way for what government officials call a "more compatible use of the land." The President tells us he's now going to start building public housing units in the thousands, where heretofore we've only built them in the hundreds. But FHA [Federal Housing Authority] and the Veterans Administration tell us they have 120,000 housing units they've taken back through mortgage foreclosure. For three decades, we've sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan. The latest is the Area Redevelopment Agency.
They've just declared Rice County, Kansas, a depressed area. Rice County, Kansas, has two hundred oil wells, and the 14,000 people there have over 30 million dollars on deposit in personal savings in their banks. And when the government tells you you're depressed, lie down and be depressed.
We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they're going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer—and they've had almost 30 years of it—shouldn't we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?
But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater. We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we're told that 9.3 million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less than 3,000 dollars a year. Welfare spending [is] 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We're spending 45 billion dollars on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you'll find that if we divided the 45 billion dollars up equally among those 9 million poor families, we'd be able to give each family 4,600 dollars a year. And this added to their present income should eliminate poverty. Direct aid to the poor, however, is only running only about 600 dollars per family. It would seem that someplace there must be some overhead.
Now—so now we declare "war on poverty," or "You, too, can be a Bobby Baker." Now do they honestly expect us to believe that if we add 1 billion dollars to the 45 billion we're spending, one more program to the 30-odd we have—and remember, this new program doesn't replace any, it just duplicates existing programs—do they believe that poverty is suddenly going to disappear by magic? Well, in all fairness I should explain there is one part of the new program that isn't duplicated. This is the youth feature. We're now going to solve the dropout problem, juvenile delinquency, by reinstituting something like the old CCC camps [Civilian Conservation Corps], and we're going to put our young people in these camps. But again we do some arithmetic, and we find that we're going to spend each year just on room and board for each young person we help 4,700 dollars a year. We can send them to Harvard for 2,700! Course, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency.
But seriously, what are we doing to those we seek to help? Not too long ago, a judge called me here in Los Angeles. He told me of a young woman who'd come before him for a divorce. She had six children, was pregnant with her seventh. Under his questioning, she revealed her husband was a laborer earning 250 dollars a month. She wanted a divorce to get an 80 dollar raise. She's eligible for 330 dollars a month in the Aid to Dependent Children Program. She got the idea from two women in her neighborhood who'd already done that very thing.
Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we're always "against" things—we're never "for" anything.
Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.
Now—we're for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we've accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem.
But we're against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments to those people who depend on them for a livelihood. They've called it "insurance" to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified it was a welfare program. They only use the term "insurance" to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment is 298 billion dollars in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble. And they're doing just that.
A young man, 21 years of age, working at an average salary—his Social Security contribution would, in the open market, buy him an insurance policy that would guarantee 220 dollars a month at age 65. The government promises 127. He could live it up until he's 31 and then take out a policy that would pay more than Social Security. Now are we so lacking in business sense that we can't put this program on a sound basis, so that people who do require those payments will find they can get them when they're due—that the cupboard isn't bare?
Barry Goldwater thinks we can.
At the same time, can't we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen who can do better on his own to be excused upon presentation of evidence that he had made provision for the non-earning years? Should we not allow a widow with children to work, and not lose the benefits supposedly paid for by her deceased husband? Shouldn't you and I be allowed to declare who our beneficiaries will be under this program, which we cannot do? I think we're for telling our senior citizens that no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds. But I think we're against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program, especially when we have such examples, as was announced last week, when France admitted that their Medicare program is now bankrupt. They've come to the end of the road.
In addition, was Barry Goldwater so irresponsible when he suggested that our government give up its program of deliberate, planned inflation, so that when you do get your Social Security pension, a dollar will buy a dollar's worth, and not 45 cents worth?
I think we're for an international organization, where the nations of the world can seek peace. But I think we're against subordinating American interests to an organization that has become so structurally unsound that today you can muster a two-thirds vote on the floor of the General Assembly among nations that represent less than 10 percent of the world's population. I think we're against the hypocrisy of assailing our allies because here and there they cling to a colony, while we engage in a conspiracy of silence and never open our mouths about the millions of people enslaved in the Soviet colonies in the satellite nations.
I think we're for aiding our allies by sharing of our material blessings with those nations which share in our fundamental beliefs, but we're against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world. We set out to help 19 countries. We're helping 107. We've spent 146 billion dollars. With that money, we bought a 2 million dollar yacht for Haile Selassie. We bought dress suits for Greek undertakers, extra wives for Kenya[n] government officials. We bought a thousand TV sets for a place where they have no electricity. In the last six years, 52 nations have bought 7 billion dollars worth of our gold, and all 52 are receiving foreign aid from this country.
No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So governments' programs, once launched, never disappear.
Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth.
Federal employees—federal employees number two and a half million; and federal, state, and local, one out of six of the nation's work force employed by government. These proliferating bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards. How many of us realize that today federal agents can invade a man's property without a warrant? They can impose a fine without a formal hearing, let alone a trial by jury? And they can seize and sell his property at auction to enforce the payment of that fine. In Chico County, Arkansas, James Wier over-planted his rice allotment. The government obtained a 17,000 dollar judgment. And a U.S. marshal sold his 960-acre farm at auction. The government said it was necessary as a warning to others to make the system work.
Last February 19th at the University of Minnesota, Norman Thomas, six-times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said, "If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism in the United States." I think that's exactly what he will do.
But as a former Democrat, I can tell you Norman Thomas isn't the only man who has drawn this parallel to socialism with the present administration, because back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his Party was taking the Party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And he walked away from his Party, and he never returned til the day he died—because to this day, the leadership of that Party has been taking that Party, that honorable Party, down the road in the image of the labor Socialist Party of England.
Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the—or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.
Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate these issues. They want to make you and I believe that this is a contest between two men—that we're to choose just between two personalities.
Well what of this man that they would destroy—and in destroying, they would destroy that which he represents, the ideas that you and I hold dear? Is he the brash and shallow and trigger-happy man they say he is? Well I've been privileged to know him "when." I knew him long before he ever dreamed of trying for high office, and I can tell you personally I've never known a man in my life I believed so incapable of doing a dishonest or dishonorable thing.
This is a man who, in his own business before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan before unions had ever thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He took 50 percent of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension plan for all his employees. He sent monthly checks for life to an employee who was ill and couldn't work. He provides nursing care for the children of mothers who work in the stores. When Mexico was ravaged by the floods in the Rio Grande, he climbed in his airplane and flew medicine and supplies down there.
An ex-GI told me how he met him. It was the week before Christmas during the Korean War, and he was at the Los Angeles airport trying to get a ride home to Arizona for Christmas. And he said that [there were] a lot of servicemen there and no seats available on the planes. And then a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, "Any men in uniform wanting a ride to Arizona, go to runway such-and-such," and they went down there, and there was a fellow named Barry Goldwater sitting in his plane. Every day in those weeks before Christmas, all day long, he'd load up the plane, fly it to Arizona, fly them to their homes, fly back over to get another load.
During the hectic split-second timing of a campaign, this is a man who took time out to sit beside an old friend who was dying of cancer. His campaign managers were understandably impatient, but he said, "There aren't many left who care what happens to her. I'd like her to know I care." This is a man who said to his 19-year-old son, "There is no foundation like the rock of honesty and fairness, and when you begin to build your life on that rock, with the cement of the faith in God that you have, then you have a real start." This is not a man who could carelessly send other people's sons to war. And that is the issue of this campaign that makes all the other problems I've discussed academic, unless we realize we're in a war that must be won.
Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we'll only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he'll forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer—not an easy answer—but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.
We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now enslaved behind the Iron Curtain, "Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skins, we're willing to make a deal with your slave masters." Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one." Now let's set the record straight. There's no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there's only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second—surrender.
Admittedly, there's a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face—that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand—the ultimatum. And what then—when Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we're retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary, because by that time we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he's heard voices pleading for "peace at any price" or "better Red than dead," or as one commentator put it, he'd rather "live on his knees than die on his feet." And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don't speak for the rest of us.
You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin—just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it's a simple answer after all.
You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is a price we will not pay." "There is a point beyond which they must not advance." And this—this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater's "peace through strength." Winston Churchill said, "The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we're spirits—not animals." And he said, "There's something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.
We'll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.
We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.
Thank you very much.
A Time for Choosing, also known as The Speech, was a speech presented late in the 1964 U.S. presidential election campaign by future president Ronald Reagan on behalf of Republican candidate Barry Goldwater.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner deserves cherem
According to recent statments made by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, "A woman must not serve as a knesset member. It's immodest." He went on to also say that women's right to vote should be banned, but in this day that could be overlooked.
A zinger of a quote in which he tries to explain himself:
"It's not just about arriving at the voting station, placing the vote and going home. That's fine. The problem is that there are events in which women must know who to vote for, and these are public events which are immodest and bring men and women together."
Mind you, this Rabbi is masquerading as a leader of the religious Zionist community when in fact he has openly adopted some of the most backward and misogynistic positions of the most extreme Chareidi communities.
I would also remind readers (see posts here and here) that this is the same Rabbi who openly endorsed the blurring of the picture of a murdered female terror victim in a publication that is distributed to synagogues in Israel... because it is immodest.
The laughable part of his most recent statements is that he tries to justify them by referencing the teachings of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, one of the forefathers of Religious Zionism.
My friend and fellow blogger Jameel pointed out some time ago that Rabbi Aviner ruled against reading one of Rav Kook's recently translated books for the simple reason that it had not been edited by Rav Kook's sons. Rabbi Aviner said, "You will misunderstand Rav Kook if you read an unedited version of it. Rav Kooks unedited works are like unripe fruit. It is like a rooftop without a guardrail, and one could fall..."
If a self-described leader has so little faith in those he perports to lead, he should admit his failure as a leader and step aside.
Let me say for the record that this so-called Rabbi does not represent any form of religious Zionism of which I would want to be a part. I would not eat any food for which he vouched for the kashrut (including in his home), and I would consider any religious ruling he made non-binding unless subject to the review and 'haskama' (concurrence) of a more learned Rabbi whose judgement has been tested and found to be sound.
In fact, for expressing such hateful and derisive/divisive statements which would be more at home in Iran than Israel, I would say he deserves Cherem; to be cut off from the Jewish community which he strives so mightily to tear assunder. I would also not want to pray in any synagogue which knowingly gave him so much as an aliyah to the Torah.
This man's ideas represent the speck of decay that has the potential to rot the entire bushel of fruit.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Teach your children well...
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Secrets? What Secrets?
Maybe it's because I've read too many spy novels while on business trips, but when I read in the newspaper the other day that Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad had undergone a liver transplant in Belarus... well, it kinda made my Spidey sense tingle.
Obviously I wish Mr. Dagan a full and speedy recovery, and admit that anyone should be entitled to seek medical treatment anywhere he/she feels it will be provided quickest and with maximum efficacy (not always the same thing... but given how many people die waiting for organ transplants, I won't quibble).
But I have to wonder how it is possible that the former head of one of the foremost spy agencies in the world - a man who quite literally knows where the bodies are buried, as well as who buried them there - was allowed to be placed under general anesthesia in a foreign country?
I'm just saying...
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Riding For The Dawn
From a geographic standpoint, Gush Etzion is a rather large, sprawling area in the Judean hills south of Jerusalem containing 22 Jewish towns and villages. But from a social standpoint, it is an interconnected, close-knit community where everyone seems to know everyone else.
Unlike some of the more far-flung/remote areas of the country, it is not uncommon for boys and girls from various communities in Gush Etzion to marry one another. And likewise, bad news and tragedies often bring together members of multiple communities in our area.
The very word 'Gush' in Hebrew means block, and to tell the turth, I like that I live in a region that has such a sense of connectedness and cohesion.
But the result of all this inter-connectedness is that news, whether good or bad, moves at lightning speed through the gush. Email lists, telephone calls, facebook and chance meetings in shul or while shopping bring news about just about everything and everyone... to the extent that I have a sense of what's going on with many people who I have never actually met.
Such was the case with the Frankl family from the neighboring community of Neve Daniel. The parents, Yarden and Stella made Aliyah shortly after we did. I've had heard their names mentioned in casual conversations over the years because we have many mutual friends. Also, early on Yarden was the baseball coach for the team for which Ariella and Gilad played. But I'm not sure I would have recognized them if I ran into them.
I probably wouldn't have heard much more than the ocassional mention of Yarden, Stella and their family if not for the fact that last year Stella got sick. It began with stomach pains, but a trip to the emergency room and a few tests later it was revealed to be late stage stomach cancer. The prognosis was terrible.
Suddenly their names were on everyone's lips. Stella's name was added to countless shul and personal lists of sick people for whom Psalms and prayers were being recited. And as often happens in close-knit places like the gush, overnight this young family became the concern and responsibility of an informal army of friends, neighbors, 'Hesed' (kindness) committees and general well-wishers.
Anyone who has ever had the good (or bad, depending on one's point of view) fortune to see a community mobilize in support of a family in crisis will have an idea what I'm talking about. But as this was happening in the gush, the waves of concern, shared information, offers of assistance, prayers, etc. were crashing on shores far from the Frankl's doorstep.
In this way I became intimately familiar with Stella's illness. And even though we never met, I followed her battle with cancer closely by reading email updates and blog entries from mutual friends.
Against all odds, Stella responded extremely well to the chemotherapy treatments she was given, and after six months she underwent a radical surgical procedure. Miraculously, where once the doctors held out little hope, after the surgery Stella was pronounced cancer free.
The good news ricocheted and caromed around the gush. Those who knew Stella, Yarden and their young family embraced them even more closely (if that was possible). And those, (like me) who only knew of them gave silent thanks to G-d and delightedly placed them in the 'win' column to offset the many prayers which weren't answered (or perhaps they were answered... but the answer, for whatever reason, was 'no').
As a thank you to Shaare Zedek hospital's Oncology Department for their tireless work on Stell'as behalf, Yarden (who is a gifted amateur athlete) began planning a 12+ hour, 260 km bike ride from Israel's highest point (Mount Hermon), to the lowest point on earth (the Dead Sea) and then up to Israel's second highest point (the Frankl's community of Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion).
But before the ride could take place, Stella got some bad news; The cancer was back. It was time to fight again.
Instead of abandoning the idea of the ride, Yarden became even more determined. And while Stella made plans to begin a new course of chemo, Yarden put his ride plans into high gear with a target date of Friday November 9th, from midnight until early afternoon.
In his own words:
The concept of the non-stop, 12+ hour ride is to reflect the journey that cancer patients and their loved ones endure. “Last year, we felt that we were locked in one long dark night,” says Yarden. “All the time we were waiting for the sun to rise, for the dawn of the day when our hopes of defeating the cancer would be realized. For us, that day came after numerous aggressive chemo treatments, radical surgery, and the prayers of thousands around the world.”
“But looking back, we now know that the experience was not just one of darkness. We were on an emotional roller coaster. Where one day we would be filled with hope and the next we would find ourselves at the lowest of low points, hoping to rise up again. I wanted to do a ride that would reflect both the aspect of longing for the dawn but also rising up from the depths. I can think of nothing that would be more symbolic that riding from the highest point in Israel to the lowest and then back up to the second highest.
One of the problems that Yarden had to consider when planning his ride was safety. This was going to be a long ride on some of Israel's most accident-prone roads. A bicylist riding alone at night, and even during the day, on some of Israel's most challenging hills, presented a very real safety challenge.
A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Yarden. I immediately recognized the name, but was suprised to see it sitting in my inbox.
It turns out Yarden had followed along with some of my crazier road trips via my blog, and was wondering if I'd be interested in joining him on his. Specifically, he wanted to know if I would pace/protect him throughout the ride on my Vespa.
Talk about an offer I couldn't refuse!
So, this past Friday Yarden and I did our first training ride together; from the Jordan Valley near the top of the Dead Sea up the grueling hill to Jerusalem. Well, it was a training ride for him. For me it was more practice on how to ride alongside and protect a bicyclist without getting in his way. I think it went well.
Monday, October 15, 2012
It may be the civil libertarian in me, but few things make my blood boil more than seeing physical abuse by police and other officials who are given extraordinary powers over civilians; power that when abused is truly terrifying.
Below is a video filmed at approximately 1:00AM of October 8th (the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah) on a closed circuit camera system within the lounge of a Jewish outreach center for troubled youth in Crown Heights Brooklyn called 'The ALIYA center'.
The silent film shows two New York City policemen (one male and one female), waking a man who is asleep on a couch, then talking to him and then trying to handcuff him.
It is clear from the film that the man is confused as to why he has awoken to be confronted by the police, and he PASSIVELY tries to avoid being handcuffed while explaining himself to the officers.
The man, Ehud H. Halevi, was apparently homeless and appears to have had permission to sleep at the ALIYA center. It is unclear who called the police, but according to sources from the center, the complaint seems to have been mistaken.
Within seconds of Mr. Halevi passively trying to avoid being cuffed, the male officer assumes a boxing stance and begins punching him repeatedly in the head and body. Once the man has been backed into a chair by the male officer's assault, the female officer's joins in with her fists and a metal truncheon. She also sprays pepper spray into Mr. Halevy's eyes.
If the victim in this video had been black we'd be hearing Al Sharpton screaming 'Rodney King' right now.
See for yourself:
Sadly, there is no fitting remedy under existing law for such a terrifying abuse of power. At a minimum the two officers should be fired and brought to trial for criminal assault.
But that is unlikely to happen. And even if it does, it isn't nearly enough.
In a perfect system, in order to be forced to understand the helplessness victims of police brutality feel in such a situation, both officers would be stripped of their protective clothing, strapped in a standing posture to a pole, and the victim (or the representative of his choice) would be allowed to spend the same time as the duration of the original assault using fists, truncheon and pepper spray to exact a brand of justice that is sorely lacking in such cases.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
It isn't what you do...
... it's who you do it to.
Syria has slaughtered tens of thousands of its own citizens in the street and all the world seems willing to do is issue 'strongly worded letters'. But let Israel try to keep the terrorists in Gaza from receiving advanced weapons (while allowing the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid), and suddenly the moonbats are lining up to take part in flotillas to help the poor Gazans break the evil Israeli blockade.
In a 24 hour period of the Simchat Torah holiday this week, the Palestinians fired 55 rockets and mortars into Israel! The only mention I saw was the New York Times negative article about Israel's retaliatory strike.
But let Syria fire four or five mortars into Turkey (A NATO member), and suddenly governments all over the west are lining up to offer condemnations and express their support of any and all retaliation by Turkey.
Ironically, the historically good Israeli-Turkish relations soured because Ankara was shocked (shocked, I say!!!) about Israel's operation Cast Lead which was launched in response to unprovoked cross-border missile and mortar attacks!
If ever we needed proof that we should just ignore everyone and do whatever we need to do to ensure our own security, this is it.
Friday, October 05, 2012
While I wasn't particularly surprised, I was disappointed yesterday to read US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton express her outrage (yes, that was the word she used) at Syria having fired a mortar (yes, that is correct, a single mortar) into Turkey.
Naturally Turkey responded militarily by firing artillery into Syria, and not surprisingly there were no calls by the EU, UN or US for them to show restraint or to consider the safety of civilians in their response.
It is worth mentioning that Hillary Clinton has never used the word outrage in reaction to the thousands of missiles and mortars that have been fired at Israel civilian population centers, and any mention of such belligerent acts is always accompanied by a standard formula that urges Israel to temper its response.
Now this is where some of you jump in and explain why Hillary's remarks were not only appropriate, but the perfectly timed, balanced response necessary to promote peace in our time*.
* Extra credit to anyone who knows where those last four words were last used in diplomacy.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Putting the chol* in chol hamoed
Hard to imagine my former life of two day Yom Tov. While many of my friends abroad were having their second day of holiday and all the restrictions that accompany it, Zahava and I moved the family into a bungalow less than 20 steps from the beach on the sparkling blue Mediterranean.
On the way up the electronic highway signs alternated between traffic updates and the words 'Moadim L'Simcha!'.
Once we arrived we did a quick shopping run to the local supermarket where we bought all kosher food without having to take a microscope to a label, and the Yemenite butcher and Arab checkout girl both wished us 'Chag Samech'.
Several families we are friendly with took neighboring bungalows and we built a shared sukkah fulfilling the requirements of the week-long festival. Several of the secular residents of other bungalows and nearby tents asked to be able to come in and eat their food in the sukkah, and nobody asked what the meaning of our 'hut' is or why we're carrying around branches and fruit.
Last night we had a big BBQ by the beach followed by a kumzitz (singalong) thanks to Gilad and a friend of ours who both brought along guitars.
This morning while we said the morning prayers outside by the beach, a passing secular family smiled and waved on their way out to enjoy the water. And on the way back, the father stopped me to ask if he could borrow my Lulav and Etrog to make a quick blessing.
Even they guy selling ice cream from a cooler on the beach wishes everyone a happy holiday!
Remind me again why it took us so long to move here?
* a play on the word chol, which can mean sand or a weekday, depending on how it's used.