#FREEYOURMIND

Welcome back everyone. Hope all is well. Well, at least on a personal level.
It seems like not much else is well in the world. People are dying and fighting and arguing. Protests and counter protests, fueled by hate and anger. Everyone is right, and everyone is wrong, and everyone’s to blame and to pay the price.
To be honest with you folks, it’s getting rather tiresome, don’t you think? Hate, that is.
We see a bunch of celebrities tweet and post their opinion about the fighting in Gaza (though we don’t see them chime in on the massacres in Syria, Iraq, Sudan and other places around the globe). Some go to great lengths to explain why they’re on this side or the other.
The websphere has been divided into three main groups:
The “Pro-Israelis“, The “Pro-Palestinians” and the “people who don’t really care“.
These first two groups launch endless arguments about “Who’s right”. And the arguments vary in terms of length, depth and volume of hate and racism. Photos of varying degree of reliability are smeared on Facebook, Videos of Israelis-criticizing-Israel and Palestinians-criticizing-Hamas are posted as the absolute proof of “this side” or “the other”‘s righteousness.
This has been amplified with the recent feud between the outspoken Russel Brand and Sean Hannity (Both of whom I like, for their tenacity, both of whom I disagree with, for pretty much the same reason).
I have yet to see anyone convinced that one was wrong, as a result of these endless spats.
Which leads me to my point.
I’m participating in the Peace Factory initiative (again – I encourage everyone to join us), and one of the things we agree on there is that there is no “other side”. We simply refuse to see each other as enemies. Why should we? What’s to be gained? And by who?
After spending some time with us, one might ask oneself a few questions. For example:
  • Is it OK to care for casualties regardless of their nationality?
  • Is it OK to want your family and friends to be safe, while wanting the same for people on the other side of the border?
  • Is it OK to wonder and question the effectiveness of violence as a solution for violence?
  • Can we view each others as individuals, regardless of the flag flying over our heads?
  • Can we avoid vilifying each other?
And if the answers to all of the above is “Yes”, then how do we do that?
Well, for one – one can stop participating in the “Pro-Israel/Palestinian” propaganda.
One can be “Pro-Peace” instead. This “title change” is not cosmetic though, be warned. It means that we’re not out there to show how the Palestinians are the root of all evil. We’re not there to show how Israel is the root of all evil. We’re out there to make a connection. To make friends. To communicate.
Because we can either spend our time arguing, trying to prove each other wrong.
Or, we can spend our time trying to build as many bridges as possible between the people.
It’s as simple as that – you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.
The problem these days, as I see it, is that in the heat of conflict, hate dominates the “discussion”. It’s not a discussion at all. It’s fuel for more conflict. It’s firewood for the furnace we’re all stuck in for a very long time. It’s just another turn in the cycle of violence.
If you’d like to help break this cycle, you can do many things:
  • Join the Peace Factory (See at the bottom of this post).
  • Listen to some of the interviews, presentations by some of our organizers (See at the bottom of this post).
  • Resist the urge to argue and fight. In war – e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e loses, so really… what for?
  • Remember – we want peace. The politicians may have their interests in mind, but our interests are to live and let live.
  • FREE YOUR MIND – The media is telling you only what their agenda makers tell them to. It’s always nice to read the paper that echos your point of view. But are you getting any real value from it?
  • REFUSE to see others as enemies – Talk about media – do not buy the propaganda. “Israel” is made of millions of people with many different opinions (Know that joke about every argument between two Jews involves 10 different opinions? It comes from somewhere 🙂 ). They are not all Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian population is not all Hamas. In fact, even Hamas is not one homogenized group. People are people…
  • Do not support the vilification of a nation. Since we don’t buy the propaganda, we know that “Israel” is not evil. We know “Palestine” is not evil. Be part of peace making, not the extension of the cycle of violence.
  • Go out and make some friends! You just might be surprised how it can change your perspective.
Well, I hope that made as much sense as I hope it did. If not, feel free to tell me about it right under this post.
Here are some of the links I promised in the above:
See you Monday with another “Monday Chat” shenanigans! Until then, Peace out,
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Stream Of Unconsciousness

I don’t know about you folks, but my mind (as is many other’s in my vicinity) is full of war and peace. Much of the first, and frustratingly less of the latter. When the cannons roar, the muse may be silent, but the stream of consciousness is making our brains ache. So, instead of trying to eloquently put together a coherent post, I decided to let you into my head for a few minutes. I hope you’re strong enough to find the way out, because… well it’s my head.
We can only move one step forward at a time. From black to white. White to black. The value of life – not just the obvious – has never been so low. We’re cheap. Bought by the pleasant stroking of our collective genitalia right after the bell tolls. We’re kids, regardless of our age. Petulant brats, sent to their rooms and told to “sort it out”, while invisible adults set the board for the next game of thrones. 
It gets darker from here. I’ll let you out before it’s too late. Before you find out what I really think of human kind.
Mahatma Gandhi once said:
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
So I guess we may still have hope after all. Right?

Have a nice weekend everyone.

When the cannons roar some people aren’t silenced

Welcome all.

Today, a midst the darkness that descends on the middle east yet again, while the spirits are low and the nerves are irritated, I wanted to share a few small, but significant rays of light.

It’s very easy to despair. It’s very cozy when you’re entrenched in traditional paradigms.

But even when the cannons roar, one must remember that one is never alone. Even when it seems from one’s small corner of the globe that everyone hates the other, this is not the case. Even when the bombs are falling, it’s important to remember Martin Luther King’s simple, but so true quote:

We must learn to live together like brothers, or perish together as fools.

In the past few days and weeks, every facebook account in Israel and Gazza is filled with anger, hate, despair.

But I wanted to show that there are those who still believe that war is not the answer. People who refuse to view their neighbors as enemies. People who will not surrender to hate and despair, and are looking to reach out and touch people “on the other side”.

I highly recommend visting the links at the bottom of this post. I also wanted to share a few examples (out of many) of people who reach out to their so-called-enemies with love and compassion. I wanted to show that not all hope is lost and that people as opposed to politicians are sick of war, death and suffering.

joujou

 

roni3

anat3

 

PLI1

PLI2

Musical

As I wrote above, these are but a few examples.

The people in the middle east, the “silent majority” for the most part, want to live and let live. These folks are not silent. They speak up so Israelis and Palestinians know they are not alone. We all suffer from war and we all could only benefit peace.

Here’s what we are all asking our leaders:

ceasefire1

halas

Some interesting articles about the Peace Factory:

Promote peace:

 

Better than a thousand hollow words

Welcome back folks. It’s nice of you to drop by again.

Today, I want to share a conversation with you. Just a normal Q&A, back and forth, chitchat between two people.

One of them is me. The other one, we will call M.I.F for reasons which will become apparent as you read.

This conversation took place in Facebook, as many these days do. Between two friends who have never met in real life. In light of this, the nature of the conversation is of course, trying to understand who the other person is. What he likes, dislikes and to try and get a peek into his views of the world. Just 2 guys talking here. Also, please excuse some grammar and spelling errors. Both of us speak English as second language.

Here goes:

Gil: Please recommend three places to visit in your country.

M.I.F: To Americans, Israelis and perhaps British, I recommend the following. I said America and Israel cause they have a bad image (perception) of Iran. Not all of them but I know many of them do. These three countries can meet the real Iran. We like guests. We’d especially welcome Israeli people, because in the past, before the Islamic revolution of 1979 many Jews lived in iran and also thousand years ago there was a really good relationship between Persians and Jewish people. Even now in Iran, there are many Jews, Muslims, Christians, many atheists and then Zarathustra live in Iran. We want peace with America and Israel, don’t listen to the media outlets, maybe about 70% Iranians are the friends of peace and they do not agree with this Islamic republic of Iran, and about 70% of Iranians disagree with these Islamic rules and this regime in Iran. They are not happy with that because before 1979 Iran was a free country like the west and we NEVER, EVER had any Islamic rules in Iran and these Islamic rules came to my country from Arabic countries. You can read about this also and make sure my words are correct. Any way, I would welcome all guests to Iran and i hope to see a good relation again between Iran, Israel and America.

Gil: What kind of music do you like? Any favorite artists?

M.I.F: I love sonati (traditional Persian music). I listen to rap, rock, Reggae, and all kinds of music. I don’t hate any kind of music, If that music gives me a good feeling i will listen to it (lol). My favorite artist is Homayoun Shajarian, a Persian singer who sings sonati, and also the Persian rapper (hichkas). I like 50 cent, Bob Marley, Eminem, and many other artists.

Gil: What sports do you like (If you do)? Any favorite teams? Athletes?

M.I.F: I love cycling as I was a cyclist, cars racing, swimming and many kinds of sport, my favorite team is the biking team of Astana, lotto, Columbia htc team etc. My favorite athletes are Marco Pantani, Alberto Contador, Mark Cavendish, Lance Armstrong etc.

Gil: What was the last movie you watched? Would you recommend it?

M.I.F: As i love comedies, my favorite movies were Dictator, Ted, The hangover, American pie etc. I recommend these movies if you didn’t see them (lol).

Gil: The lonely island scenario. What book would you take with you?

M.I.F: (lol) Weird question. If i was there, I think i wouldn’t need Quran(koran) or any holy book cause there is no Allah or god in that time to help me or any different god from different religion. This is my belief. I’d want a book about: how can i live in The lonely island and what can I do and what do I need and how can I run away from this hell (lol). Also, to spend my time with other books, I prefer to read the beautiful Persian poems from Maulana Rumi, Saadi, Hafiz, Omar Khayyam, Ferdowsi etc. I love Omar Khayyam and I think his book is good to spend my time. Let me write one of his poems:

 Khayyam, if you are intoxicated with wine, enjoy! If you are seated with a lover of thine, enjoy! In the end, the Void the whole world employ Imagine thou art not, while waiting in line, enjoy!

Meaning: In life devote yourself to joy and love Behold the beauty of the peaceful dove Those who live, in the end must all perish Live as if you are already in heavens above

Gil: Who was (or is) your greatest inspiration?

M.I.F: My inspiration person is Cyrus the great father of Persia (Iran) from 2600 years ago. When he said respect to all people with any beliefs and anyone is free to choose his/her religion or way and many beautiful words he said on his first charter of human rights in the world about 2600 years ago. He was a great man. I also love Maulana Rumi the Persian (Iranian) poet when he said: Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen. Not any religion or cultural system. I am not from the East or the West, not out of the ocean or up from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not composed of elements at all. I do not exist, am not an entity in this world or in the next, did not descend from Adam and Eve or any origin story. My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless. Neither body or soul. I belong to the beloved, have seen the two worlds as one and that one call to and know, first, last, outer, inner, only that breath breathing human being. or one of other poems of him is:I profess the religion of love, Love is my religion and my faith. My mother is love My father is love My prophet is love My God is love I am a child of love I have come only to speak of love. Etc.

Gil: What did you (or do you still) want to be when you grow up?

M.I.F: Well I am happy with what I have and so it should be. I have my 2 shops as I’m 21 years old. It’s true, we say people have many dreams to have all they want and each one of us has different wishes. Some can and their dreams will come true as they work hard for their wishes and some can’t because they didn’t try, or maybe their life changed by other things and they couldn’t do something to make their dreams come true. This world is too weird. My dream is peace between everyone. Each one of us, different countries, and I’m trying to help this world to be in peace. A big/hard wish but I hope slowly this wish will come true too, and many wishes I have which are not just about myself, but rather about the world or even my land Iran. I’m not selfish so i don’t have too much dreams for myself. I am happy with my life.

Gil: If a movie was made about you, who would be playing your part?

M.I.F: I’d prefer that I act in that movie (lol) because I think I can be a good actor and that movie will be more appealing, as it’s my life and I can act all feeling so true, and it will be just the true feeling in each part of my life in that movie.

Gil: What do you value the most about your friends?

M.I.F: Friends always help each other. With my good friend, we help each other, we have fun, When he or she is sad I’m sad, the valued thing with the real friends is that they don’t leave you alone and in the lonely moments they are with you.

Gil: What do you consider the most important lesson life taught you?

M.I.F:As I’m silly sometimes, I do stupid things. Don’t  laugh (lol). I’m sure you did too because we are all human and each one of us do the wrong things sometimes. All of humans, even the biggest persons. Experience – that’s what we get, sometimes. When I make mistakes, I will not be sad about it, maybe you can’t believe that, but I will be happy because it will be experience and is like a medal for me. Or an achievement (lol). It’s true and I’m not kidding. We should never be sad for making mistakes because any mistake is a step towards victory. I believe that we should never give up.

M.I.F: Which places do you like to visit? which place you choose for living (except the place you living now)?

Gil: I appreciate the greatness of nature Vs. the contrasting humbleness of men. For that reason, places that interest me are places where that contrast is evident. Examples include the grand Canyon in the US, the Amazon, Antarctica. I will likely not make it to most of these, but would be happy to see some. If there’s one place I’d like to live it’s the Golan Heights at the north of Israel. A beautiful place.

M.I.F: Which pet would you like to have? which pet wouldn’t you like?

Gil: As far as pets, I’m a dog person. I had a few and loved them. Currently taking a break from pets as I have enough on my plate. I don’t particularly like cats (Sorry internet :)) and I’d never keep a wild animal captive.

M.I.F: Out of the books you read, what are your favorite books?

Gil: Good thing you asked in the plural form, as I have quite a few. The books that really had an impact of me include: 1984/George Orwell, The Man In The Maze/Robert Silverberg, Lord Of The Rings/JRR Tolkien, Otherland/Tad Williams and Foundation/Isaac Asimov among others.

M.I.F: Which behavior don’t you like with people?

Gil: I will phrase it that way, people who do not have capacity for compassion. I feel sad for these folks. No matter what happens in our lives, there’s always someone who might have it less fortunate.

M.I.F: Which person is your biggest inspiration person? and why?

Gil: I’d have to say that on a personal level, my father was and still is my biggest inspiration. A person who’s done his best to be positive, honest and hard-working, who put his family’s needs ahead of his own. A person who fought Cancer for years, so he can see his kids reach a stage in their life where he could let go. A person who did not need anyone’s approval to be a good person. Another person who I’ve always thought highly of is Martin Luther King who showed that non-violence can achieve great things and overcome great wrongs.

M.I.F: What kind of music do you like to hear?

Gil: I love Rock music of many kinds. Some of my favorites include Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana and many many more. I’m also a big fan of Israeli singers who mix rock, and other western styles with middle eastern influences. Look up ‘Ehud Banai’ (Who I believe is from a Persian descent) in YouTube 🙂 Another Persian Israeli singer is Rita. Whether I like her style or not, her voice is simply amazing.

M.I.F: What are your dreams and wishes?

Gil: I am very modest in that regard. I believe I share the great dream of being happy. I do my best to be happy at all times, regardless of circumstances. I find that negative feelings tend to invite more such feelings into our lives. Outside of myself, I hope that people will find a way to live with each other in peace. So many lives, so much energy, money and resources are directed towards hate… it makes me wonder how can we not see that directing these to peaceful and productive existence would make this world so much better.

M.I.F: What is your purpose in life? And tell me about ultimate goal in your life.

Gil: This is a question I am still trying to answer myself 🙂 My ultimate goal in life is to try to live in peace with myself and others.

M.I.F: Which person did you want to be? and why?

Gil: As a youngster I wanted to be a DJ on the radio. I love music and always wanted to be the one to share it with people. These days I just want to be the best me I can possibly be.

M.I.F: Tell me about the biggest and important thing you learned from this world.

Gil: There are many great lessons I learned (and I have plenty of room for more). Perhaps the most important thing I learned was to understand that I’m responsible for everything in my life. To realize that nothing in the past could be changed and that the future is not here yet, therefore, I can only change what I do in the present. Because of that realization, I choose to avoid falling into the pitfall called regret, forgive myself and others and do my best at present time.

I hope you enjoyed our conversation. To complete Buddha’s quote in the title

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.

I hope you did not find any of these word hollow. Each one of these, and so many more that are spoken every day, are meant to bring about the goal of many in the middle east – Peace.

My Iranian Friend could not be named in this forum to avoid persecution in his homeland.

I’m grateful for your cooperation my friend!

We both met on Facebook as part of the Israel-Love-Iran group and one of the goals of this group is to encourage communication between people of these two countries. I wanted to share this, and encourage others to have more of these! We are not our leaders, we are not politicians, we’re people and as you could see above, we have no problem with each other.

Feel free to share this post, spread the word. Hopefully one day, we could meet in Tel Aviv or in Tehran and chat over some coffee. Until then, Peace, Shalom, man solh raa arezou mikonam.

Come on and ride on the peace train!

What have you done for Peace lately?

Until next time,

Another Brick In The Wall (Burning Bridges)

An open letter to Mr. Roger Waters.

Dear Mr. Rogers,

I don’t know you personally, but growing up I was a big Pink Floyd fan. I think that The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Atom Heart Mother are simply artistic masterpieces and that no musical education is complete without them. Even though, I think The Wall is not on the same level as the aforementioned albums, I still believe it’s an important piece of musical history. It’s actually a corner stone in terms of artistic statement.

As a teenager, I listened to The Wall countless times and have watched the film again and again, finding new nuances every time. I admit  that the effective use of symbolism affected me and helped shape the young individual I later became.

It may have been my misconception, but I did view you as a person who looked past the obvious, a person who didn’t look at a group of individuals as a “crowd” but just as a group of individuals. A man who did not judge a book by its cover. A supporter of democracy and freedom of speech, freedom of expression. Sensitive to human rights.

I forgot to mention, Mr. Waters, that I was born and raised in Israel, in a perfectly normative family and attended the public school system, which is the mainstream in my homeland.

That is why I was so surprised to learn that you spend quite a bit of energy to promote a boycott of my country. That’s why I was shocked to read that you’d attack fellow artists for their connections with Israel. This is why I was so disappointed to see a hero of mine, judging our book by its apparent cover. I was rather appalled by the use of symbolism you chose for a Berlin show of The Wall, where a floating pig had the star of David printed on it. Just to give you an idea – the star of David is not the symbol of the state of Israel. It is the symbol of the Jewish religion. So by presenting it the way you did, you (unintentionally, I will wish) did something rather unfortunate.

I will not try to convince you that you’re pointing a finger at the only democracy in the region. Nor would I try to ask why you would want to harm a country of more than 7 million people just because you read about a few radical individuals, who are considered as radicals by most of the country. I wouldn’t even venture to go into the “who’s right” debate. First, because I have criticism of my own to my government and second, I don’t believe I’ve seen one example where arguments over the internet did any good.

All I want to say, Mr. Waters is that you of all people, should be the last one to demand that other artists do not pursue their happiness and careers.

Neil Young played a fantastic concert with the members of Pearl Jam in Israel. I was there. I didn’t hear Neil justify any deed done by any government. Nor did the members of Pearl Jam jump up and down covered in the blue and white flag. They came to play music for people, to make them happy. And if you read Neil Young’s lyrics, you know what they say. You know the topics.

Scarlett Johansson is not “undeniably cute”. She is a fantastic and acclaimed actress with her own mind. I don’t know why you would jump at her and demand she stops a business connection she has with a factory that employs both Jews and Arabs.

Ok, I’ll give you that. She is rather “cute”. I even dedicated a post here to her (With all due respect).

In other words Mr. Waters, I think that your intents are pure (I don’t know you personally, so I will not put word in your mouth), but the actions you take are not constructive. You want to build bridges for peace, but you alienate people and cause the chasm between them to grow bigger. Because that’s what boycott does.

In this little humble spot of the internet, I try to send positive messages. So let me reach out to you and say – Let’s build bridges for peace. Not burn them. Let’s work together, and realize that we are not our governments. The people want peace. The people want to live and let live. So rather than punish them, how about you do the opposite?

How about a monumental “The Wall” concert in the region? You Mr. Waters and (if the gods are listening) the rest of the legendary Pink Floyd, performing to a crowd of Israelis and Palestinians and helping mend the wounds of this conflict.

Sincerely yours,

Gil Shalev

Between the lines of peace

Hi all and welcome back to my humble site.

You know, being an Israeli in the US, I repeatedly find myself functioning as an unofficial ambassador. I’m not sure that the Prime Minister would approve of everything that I say. In fact, I’m pretty darn sure he’d fire me at once.

The most common thing I’m asked to comment on is, of course, “the conflict”. You know, that seemingly never-ending conflict of interests between the state of Israel and it’s neighbors, mainly the Palestinians.

So first of all, nothing from what I’m writing about today is the official government line, by any stretch of the term. And secondly, It is not my intention in this piece to start a “whose fault is it?” or a “Who started?” debate. I think this is done on plenty of other websites which, unlike this one, promote division and well… conflict. In addition, I don’t want to be part of the problem. I hope to be a humble part of the solution.

What’s my opinion about the conflict? I would dearly want it to end. Today. Right now if it’s convenient to everyone.

The point of today’s post is that, surprisingly enough (well, not to me. I knew this all along) – so do most of the people (and I’m talking about people here, not politicians) involved in this.

Last Friday, while reading an interesting column on an Israeli newspaper (LINK – It’s in Hebrew… sorry) I was pleasantly surprised to see that what I thought all along, is validated by some pretty interesting numbers. The columnist dedicated a good paragraph to a survey, conducted by researchers at The university of Maryland and presented at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and highlighted some really important points.

Now, it’s a good thing that the writer had read through the whole survey, as statistics could be interpreted and manipulated so easily. One would read through this survey and get the feeling that all is lost, if one didn’t read between the lines – which the writer did.

Here are the points I wanted to bring up:

  • 54% of Israelis and 41% of Palestinians expressed support of a defined agreement that was presented to them. This agreement is based on existing offers that are on the table. Nothing significantly different to what was discussed so far!
  • When the people who disagreed with the above were asked for their support, assuming “the other side” accepts the deal, the Palestinian support rate jumped up by 18% and the Israeli by another 9%! Making it – 63% of Israelis and 59% of Palestinians!
  • Past experience shows that the support of an agreement rises even further after signing, so we’re talking about roughly 2/3 of the population.

If you ask me – THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN.

So why is peace eluding the region?

No, Roger Waters, it’s not because Israel is Nazi Germany. It isn’t.

And no, Mr. Lieberman, it’s not because “The Arabs” don’t want peace. They do.

It’s plain as Yogurt, reading the above, or simply living in the middle east – PEOPLE want peace!

It’s because someone is making money off of our backs! Someone is pulling the strings that bind the politicians on every turn.

Now, we may look at this and do what we always do – nod our heads and say “well, so what?” it’s only a survey. Who’s going to read it?

What’s missing in this equation are leaders with “testicular fortitude”… Leaders who don’t think about the loud and violent minorities who object to a compromise. Leaders who’re willing to listen to the people. The people couldn’t say it any clearer – we want to live in peace with our neighbors.

Let your voice be heard! Spread the word that the people have spoken! Let the leaders know they’re elected to benefit the people.

Speak for peace.

Here’s the LINK to the survey – read for yourself.

Until next time.